Monthly Archives: June 2012
You wouldn’t know it by looking at this blog, but cakes are one of my favorite things to make. I’ve made several decorated cakes for family and friends, and I love watching their faces when they see the cake for the first time. Clara’s not even four months old, and I’m already brainstorming ideas for her first birthday cake. I didn’t think I’d have an occasion to make a cake anytime soon, so I was elated when my friend and neighbor Kristi asked me to make her daughter’s first birthday cake. She wanted a rainbow cake but gave me free reign on flavors and decoration.
This is a standard cake recipe that is slightly more time consuming than normal due to the fact that it has to be divided into six portions and tinted before being baked. The more cake pans you have, the faster this process will go. Other than tinting the batter, this recipe is straight forward and yields a delicious vanilla cake. It uses only egg whites, making the cake incredibly light. So many people think flavor is lacking in white cake, but that is certainly not the case with this one. Instead of using the tablespoon of vanilla extract the recipe calls for, I substituted vanilla bean paste and almond extract. The almond isn’t strong, but it gives this cake that fresh from a bakery flavor. I struggled with what type of frosting to use – Swiss meringue, seven minute or buttercream. I ultimately decided to use a vanilla bean buttercream, and it complemented this cake perfectly. I wanted to give the cake that fluffy cloud look on the outside, and the buttercream was perfect for that technique. Even though the birthday girl wasn’t really into the cake, all the guests seemed to love it. Kristi, thanks for letting me help celebrate Isla’s birthday in such a special way!
Get the recipe »
I’ve had this torte on my to-make list for what seems like forever, but the right event just never seemed to pop up. I don’t necessarily need a reason to bake something, but making something like this for only Eric and I is dangerous. Can you imagine having this whole thing in the house, for you to get a piece of whenever you like? (Actually that sounds nice, but I really would have no self control around this torte.) Thankfully, our friend Dan gave us a reason to celebrate recently when he finished his master’s program. I found out from his girlfriend that he loves the chocolate peanut butter combo, and I knew right away that this would be my contribution to his graduation party. So thanks, Dan, for giving me a reason/excuse to finally make this.
Peanut butter and chocolate are good enough on their own and pretty unbeatable when they’re together. It’s a classic combination taken to the next level with this torte. It’s the definition of decadent – a thick Oreo crust surrounds a light and fluffy peanut butter mousse that’s studded with chocolate chips and peanuts. The whole thing is covered in dark, rich chocolate ganache and finished with even more peanuts. I mean seriously, how much more awesome could it get? This dessert is sure to be a crowd pleaser, and it definitely went over well with Dan’s party guests. Eric and I snuck a taste before the party, you know, just to make sure it was as delicious as it looked. ;) I had another (smaller) slice at the party because it was just that good. I tried to resist, but ultimately ended up giving in. Writing this post has made me crave this like you wouldn’t believe, so I may be making another one soon.
Chocolate Peanut Butter Torte
Makes 1 (9-inch) torte
For the crust:
32 Oreo cookies, finely processed into crumbs
5 1/3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
Small pinch of salt
For the crunch:
1/2 cup salted peanuts, finely chopped
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon espresso powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Dash of ground nutmeg
For the filling:
2 cups heavy cream
1 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
12 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups creamy peanut butter (not natural)
2 tablespoons whole milk
1/4 cup salted peanuts, finely chopped
For the topping:
1/2 cup heavy cream
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/3 cup salted peanuts, finely chopped
To make the crust, preheat oven to 350º. Butter a 9-inch springform pan and set it on a baking sheet. Combine the Oreo crumbs, melted butter and salt in a medium bowl. Toss with a fork to moisten all the crumbs, then press into the bottom and sides of the prepared springform pan. Freeze the crust for 10 minutes, then bake for 10 minutes. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack before filling.
To make the crunch, combine the peanuts, chocolate chips, sugar, espresso powder, cinnamon and nutmeg in a small bowl. Set aside.
To prepare the filling, whip the heavy cream in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment until it holds medium peaks. Beat in 1/4 cup of confectioners’ sugar and continue whipping until medium-firm peaks form. Transfer to a medium bowl and refrigerate until needed. Wipe out the mixer bowl (no need to wash) and replace the whisk with the paddle attachment. Beat the cream cheese and remaining 1 cup of confectioners’ sugar on medium speed until smooth. Add the peanut butter, milk and peanuts and continue beating until combined.
Using a rubber spatula, gently stir in about 1/4 of the whipped cream just to lighten the mixture. Stir in the crunch, then gently fold in the remaining whipped cream. Scrape the mousse into the crust and smooth the top. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight, making sure to cover with plastic wrap as soon as the mousse feels firm.
To finish the torte, place the chocolate in a small bowl. Bring the cream to a boil in a small saucepan and pour over the chocolate. Allow to sit for about 2 minutes, then gently stir with a rubber spatula until smooth. Pour the ganache over the torte, using an offset spatula to smooth it. Sprinkle the peanuts over the top and chill for at least 20 minutes or until the ganache has set. Once the ganache is firm, carefully remove the sides of the springform pan. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.
Source: Baking: From My Home to Yoursvia Annie’s Eats
I remember a time when Eric and I were quite unadventurous when it came to trying new foods. I don’t remember when it changed, but my guess is that it was so gradual we didn’t notice it happening. Brussels sprouts have intrigued me for some time, but Eric wasn’t totally convinced he would like them. I bought some recently, and we weren’t totally in love with our simple roasting of them. We both liked the flavor enough to try again, and I’m so glad we did. Apparently bacon is all we needed to turn these little vegetables into something magical. The moral of the story is – if at first you don’t like the taste of something, try adding bacon. ;)
This pizza is one of the easiest and most delicious meals we’ve made recently. First off, there’s no sauce – just vegetables, bacon and cheese. It’s simple in the best of ways. The brussels sprouts are tossed in olive oil and balsamic vinegar, which gives them a rich, slightly sweet flavor after cooking. They cook just enough to be tender but still crunchy. Add crisp bacon, garlic, shallot and three types of cheese to the mix, and you’ve got yourself a seriously awesome pizza. This is a no-fuss recipe with great results, and we will definitely be adding this to our pizza rotation.
Brussels Sprouts and Bacon Pizza
*Our dough made enough for a 12-inch round pizza, which was actually a bit too small for the amount of toppings we had. The recipe we typically use makes a 14-inch pizza, and that’s what we’ll use next time we make this. If you want a smaller pizza, just cut back slightly on the toppings.
4 pieces bacon
5-6 large Brussels sprouts, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup aged white cheddar, shredded
1/2 cup mozzarella, shredded
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 large shallot, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
red pepper flakes
salt & pepper
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
Preheat oven to 450º. Cook bacon in a medium skillet over medium-high heat for about 4 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel to drain. Once cool, break into bite-size pieces.
Roll out and shape the dough, then place on a cutting board dusted with cornmeal. In a small bowl, toss the Brussels sprouts together with the olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Evenly sprinkle the white cheddar and mozzarella over the dough. Add the Brussels sprouts, garlic, shallot and bacon. Sprinkle on a generous pinch of red pepper flakes and salt and pepper to taste.
Carefully transfer to a pizza stone and bake for about 15 minutes (this will depend on your dough) or until crust is golden and cheese is melted. Remove from oven and top with feta cheese. Slice and serve.
Source: Adapted from Shutterbean
I’ve lamented before about the lack of good Tex-Mex food outside of Texas. Even though Eric and I only lived there just over six months, we were completely spoiled by all the fabulous Tex-Mex food. Since we rarely eat out at that type of restaurant these days (what’s the use?), I’m always on the hunt for good recipes to satisfy our cravings for it. Thankfully, my friend Elly shares this love of Tex-Mex cuisine and has now given me another recipe to enjoy (here’s my previous favorite, also from her).
This recipe wins on so many levels. These burritos are loaded with the Tex-Mex flavor I always crave. Not only do they taste fantastic the day they’re made, they also make excellent leftovers (this is coming from someone who is generally wary of leftovers that have meat). The sauce is incredible. It’s creamy enough to offset the heat of the poblanos but retain the smokiness. Since the burritos are baked, the tops get nice and crisp and prevent them from becoming soggy even when loaded with sauce. If you want to change things up a bit, you can try these with ground chicken or turkey and pinto beans. I had considered making rice or some other side to go with these, and I’m actually glad I didn’t. They were a meal on their own, and not having a side meant I didn’t have to feel guilty for eating two.
Beef and Bean Baked Burritos with Sour Cream-Poblano Sauce
Makes 4-10, depending on size
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 large onion, diced
1 pound ground beef or sirloin
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1 1/4 teaspoons chili powder
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack, cheddar, or cheese of your preference
4-10 tortillas, depending on size (4-5 for burrito-sized, more for soft taco or fajita sized)
2 poblano peppers
2 tablespoons butter
1 jalapeno pepper (optional)
2 tablespoons flour
2/3 cup chicken broth (preferably room temperature)
1/2 cup sour cream (light is fine)
Preheat oven to 400º and lightly grease a baking sheet with cooking spray. Heat a large skillet over medium heat, then add the oil. Once the oil is hot, add the onion and cook for 3-5 minutes or until the onion begins to soften. Add the ground beef and break up with a wooden spoon. Continue cooking until the meat is cooked through, then drain off any fat if necessary. Add the garlic and tomato paste and cook for about a minute. Stir in the beans, water and spices and add salt to taste. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until most of the liquid has been absorbed.
Place about 2 tablespoons (or more, depending on size) of cheese at the end of each tortilla. Top with a generous amount of the beef and bean mixture. Roll into a burrito by folding the left and right sides in and then rolling away from you. Place the burrito seam-side down on the baking sheet and repeat process with remaining tortillas, cheese and filling. Lightly spray with cooking spray, then bake for about 20 minutes until the tortillas are golden and crisp.
Meanwhile, prepare the sauce. Roast the poblanos, either directly over a gas flame or under the broiler, until the skin is charred. Place in a small bowl and cover with plastic wrap until cool enough to handle. Peel the peppers, remove the stem and seeds and dice.
In a small saucepan set over medium heat, melt the butter. Once butter has melted, whisk in flour and cook for an additional minute, whisking constantly. Slowly whisk in the chicken broth and then add the poblano peppers. Continue to simmer, whisking frequently, until sauce has thickened. Stir in the sour cream and add salt and pepper to taste. Heat through, then spoon sauce over the burritos.
Source: Elly Says Opa
Cookies are one of my favorite things to make on a whim. They’re simple and usually make a lot (this is both a good and bad thing). If I have a craving for something sweet, chances are I have everything I need to make a batch of cookies. I was searching for ideas for something to make for a neighbor that just had a baby when I remembered this recipe. I first tried it almost two years ago, but I had completely forgotten about it since then. I think the reason is because these cookies require an overnight chill before being baked. When I get the urge to bake cookies, that usually means I want to eat them as soon as they’re done baking. They don’t have the nearly instant gratification that comes with other cookie recipes. Thankfully I thought about this ahead of time, which gave me something to look forward to the next day.
These cookies are different than others I’ve made because they’re gluten free. The recipe uses finely ground almonds in place of flour. Being a lover of all things almond and almond flavored, that aspect appealed to me immediately. I haven’t tried it yet, but I think they’d also be great with ground hazelnuts. These cookies are incredibly rich and chocolaty, almost like a brownie. They only use five ingredients, and if your pantry is well stocked, you’ve probably got all of them on hand. I did increase the heat from the original recipe, finding the higher heat to yield a better cookie. I also made these slightly larger than the original recipe, and I think this size is perfect. Even though they require time to set up overnight, these cookies are well worth the wait.
Chewy Chocolate Almond Cookies
Makes about 2 dozen
8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
3 tablespoons butter, softened
1/3 cups granulated sugar, plus additional for rolling
3/4 cup finely ground almonds or almond flour
Melt the chocolate in a glass bowl set over a pot of simmering water or in the microwave. Once melted, add the butter and stir until thoroughly combined. Using a hand mixer, beat the eggs and sugar together in a medium bowl until light, 1-2 minutes. Gently fold the egg mixture into the chocolate, then fold in the ground almonds. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350º. Using a 1 tablespoon dough scoop, portion out dough balls and roll in sugar. Place on a lined baking sheet 2 inches apart. Bake for 10-12 minutes, just until cookies are set. Cool on baking sheet for five minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
*Note that you can make smaller or larger cookies, but you will need to adjust your baking time accordingly.
Source: Adapted from Tasty Kitchen
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