Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Chocolate Tres Leche Cake

Well the holiday is here.  It seems as if everyone has their "specialty" when it comes to food for the holiday table.  However, when it comes to bloggers, we always like to dazzle guests with something new.  However, I was advised that someone else was in charge of the baked goods this year and there would only be one dessert.

This did not bother me because of my co-workers.  Such as the guy that apologized for having to eat all the time at his desk, but as skinny as a rail. Others eat what they want and put on the tennis shoes shortly thereafter for a workout.  Then their are the bland eaters, who have ramen noodles every day for lunch.  All of them are always ready with a fork when it comes to dessert.

This recipe is a spin on the traditional tres leche cake.  I have never had the original, but when I came upon a chocolate version, it gave me the right incentive to try a tres leche cake.   Like most tres leches cakes this one was oozing with flavor.  The blend of chocolate, rum and dairy soaked into this chocolate sponge type cake made this cake a memorable one.  Also, the light whipped cream frosting was the perfect topper.

Chocolate Tres Leche Cake
adapted from website

8 egg whites
5 egg yolks
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup water
1 tsp vanilla extract
butter for greasing pans
1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp instant coffee crystals
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 tsp plus 1 pinch salt
1 3/4 cup cake flour and some for dusting pans
1/2 cup unsweetened dutch process cocoa

Ingredients/Tres Leche
1-12 oz can evaporated milk
1-14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup half and half
1/2 cup dark rum
4 oz semi-sweet chocolate chopped
pinch of salt

Ingredients/ Topping
3 cups heavy cold cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1-two to four oz chocolate bar for garnish with curls or grated on top

To make the cake, prepare 2- 9 inch cake pans by buttering the interior.  Then line the bottom of each with parchment paper and butter the face up side.  Then dust the interior with flour and empty out excess.  Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Fill a small heatproof bowl with the cocoa.  Then put the water in a microwave bowl, or a saucepan bring to a boil.  Remove and stir in coffee crystals until dissolved.  Pour into the bowl of cocoa and whisk until there are no lumps.  Let mixture cool 15-20 minutes.

In one bowl, sift together flour, salt, baking soda and baking powder.  Then stir in only 1/2 cup and 2 tbs of the sugar.  In the next bowl (which should be large) whisk together the egg yolks, vanilla extract and the oil. Pour the cooled cocoa mixture into the eggs and whisk, until evenly blended.  Then pour this batter into the sifted, dry ingredients and mix thoroughly.  Set aside.

For the egg white mixture, fill the bowl of a stand mixer with the egg whites, cream of tartar and pinch of salt.  Beat at medium high speed for 2 minutes.   Add the remaining sugar (1/2 cup and 2 tbs) slowly into the egg whites as you continue to beat.  This should take about a minute to blend and then continue to whip for an additional two minutes until the mixture has stiff, glossy peaks.

Fold 1/3 of the egg whites into the chocolate batter, being careful with the blending so as to retain the consistency of the whites.  Once no white streaks remain, add the rest in two increments, following the same process for each addition.  Pour an equal amount of batter into each pan.

Place pans in oven side by side.  Bake for 40-45 minutes and rotate at the halfway mark.  Cakes are done when tester comes out clean.  Cakes should cool in pans on racks for 10 minutes.  Invert and peel off parchment paper and let cool completely.  Then invert again.  Using a serrated edge knife, cut a thin layer off the top of each cake.  This exposes the sponge for the soak and also gives you an opportunity to even out the layers.

Wash and dry the cake pans and place each cooled layer back into a clean cake pan.

Then prepare the soak.  Fill a heat proof bowl with the chocolate.  Then bring the half and half to a boil, either in a saucepan or in the microwave.  Remove from heat and pour over the chocolate and let sit for 1 minute and then whisk to make sure it is blended and all chocolate is melted.  Stir in the rum, evaporated milk, condensed milk and salt.

Using one third of the soak, divide evenly and pour onto each cake.  Let sit for 1/2 hour.  Continue with the process until all soak has been poured on the cakes and 30 minutes has passed between each session.  Cover and refrigerate for 4 hours or freeze for 1 1/2 hour.   After the chilling time, invert each onto a plate over the sink.  There still may be some of the soak mixture that drips off and was not absorbed.

For the filling/topping, beat the whipped cream on medium high for about 2 minutes.  Add the powdered sugar and vanilla and beat until soft peaks form.  Put one layer of the cake onto a cake plate.  Top with 1/3 of the whipped cream.  Then divide the remaining whipped cream in half.  Place the other cake layer on top of the cream topped layer.  Then smooth one portion of the whipped cream over the top and the rest on the sides.  Refrigerate at least 20 minutes for whipped cream to set.  Then garnish the top with grated or curled chocolate prior to serving.

Notes and tips:
1. The longer the soak the stronger the rum, so use the chilling time as a guideline indicating the minimum amount of time required.
2. if you have issues releasing the cake from the pans after the soak & chill time, take a sponge that is rinsed with hot water and squeezed out and wipe over the bottom of the pans.  This make take 2-4 passes but it does help with the release.
3. I used whipped cream stabilizer and followed directions on the label to figure out the amount to
add to the topping.
4. I always measure batter before filling pans for more even layers.  The split batter worked out to
about 3 2/3 cup for each pan.
                         **LAST YEAR: Chocolate Banana Slices***

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Cinnamon Roll Cookies

I am a big fan of cinnamon and nuts, especially when it comes to pastry.  However, the idea of having a special pastry every time I crave the flavor combination would be excessive indulgence.  So what is a person to do?  Looking around for the solution, I landed on the perfect item- a cookie with all the flavor of a cinnamon roll.

This cookie is thick and packed with pecans, brown sugar and cinnamon.  Also, the creams cheese icing is a must when it comes to cinnamon rolls and it was not left out of this recipe. The good thing here is that the icing is put on right before serving.  However, and even more convenient idea is to serve the cookies on a plate with the icing in a bowl for dipping.

Please allow plenty of advance time to make these, the dough does require a lot of chilling time.  The first session is for 1 hour but the second states 1 hour or overnight, noting that overnight is preferred.  Also, leave your cookie sheet in the cabinet, these are actually baked in muffin pans. The recipe makes 2 dz cookies. 

Cinnamon Roll Cookies
adapted from The Cravory in San Diego via

Ingredients/Cookie Dough
3 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup or 2 sticks butter
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
3 cups plus 1 tsp flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 cup brown sugar packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 cup chopped toasted pecans
1 tbs cinnamon
1/4 cup or 1/2 stick of butter
1/4 cup light brown sugar

Ingredients/ Icing Drizzle
1 cup sifted powdered sugar
3 tbs milk
2 oz softened cream cheese
2 oz softened butter
1 vanilla bean (scraped)
Zest of 1/2 orange (optional)

To make the dough, cream together the butter and the three types of sugars in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Once smooth, add one egg and beat for about 30 seconds.  Continue with the process on the rest of the eggs, adding each one by one.  Then beat in the vanilla extract.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, sift together the cornstarch, flour, cinnamon, salt, baking powder and baking soda.

Add 1/3 of the sifted ingredients to the egg batter and mix on low speed until no streaks remain. Add the additional flour in two increments, blending after each addition.  Form dough into a ball and cover with plastic wrap and chill for 1 hour.

While that is chilling, you can prepare the filling.  Melt the butter in a small saucepan.  Remove from heat and stir in the brown sugar and cinnamon.  Lastly, mix in the pecans until evenly distributed.

After an hour, remove the dough from the fridge and roll it out on a lightly floured surface to form a 10X10 square. Spread the filling over the dough evenly.  Then roll it up and wrap with plastic wrap and chill again at least one hour or overnight, preferably overnight.

Once the chilling time has completed, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Grease the cavities of 2 one dozen muffin tins.  Remove the dough roll from the refrigerator and slice evenly into 24 pieces.  Place each piece into one of the muffin cavities.

Put pans in oven and bake until lightly golden, which should take about 15 minutes.  At the 7.5 minute mark, rotate pans for even baking. Remove the muffin tins and place on rack to cool. Cool cookies completely in pan before removing.

Once you are ready to serve these, prepare the icing by beating together the cream cheese and the butter until smooth.  Then beat in the powdered sugar in 3 increments, scraping down bowl after each time.  Then beat in the vanilla bean and the orange zest (optional).  Lastly whisk in the milk until the icing reaches a smooth consistency.  Drizzle the icing on top and enjoy.
                            **LAST YEAR: Coconut Apple Walnut Bread***  

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Crisp Apple Kolachy

I can remember the day when a salesman brought kolachy to a girl at work who had requested that he bring some by.  The salesman did bring some but they were prune filled.  Not exactly what she had wanted.  Prune filled as well as poppy seed are the traditional fillings of this Czech pastry.  Those fillings did not appeal to me either, so kolachy pastries were forgotten about.

However, as I was skimming through a cookbook, I found a recipe for apple kolachy.  With fall here, the apple filliing was a perfect choice. Concerning the dough, my first thought was that the process of making it would involve overnight refrigeration.  In this recipe, the dough chills in less than an hour.  The other thing I was worried about was all the sticky runny syrup that the apples are cooked in.  Then I read that the syrup was only to be used to cook the apples, not baked with the pastry.

Besides the chore of peeling, slicing and coring the apples, the whole process of making these was fairly easy.  It is great when something gives the impression that a lot of effort was made and in reality it was not.  The word "pastry" and "easy" rarely come together, but this time they did.

The cottage cheese in the dough did make the pastries quite flaky.  I had my doubts, seeing the white curds showing in the dough. I have never used cottage cheese in dough and was surprised at the wonderful results. This recipe makes about 16 pastries and is the perfect way to serve up some apple pie flavor to a group without the all the trouble of a traditional pie.

Crisp Apple Kolachy
adapted from Classic Home Desserts

1 cup creamed style cottage cheese (I just used small curd)
1 cup or 2 sticks cold butter cut into 1/2 inch chunks
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp nutmeg or ground mace
ice water, if needed
pearl or sparkling sugar (for topping)

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup unsalted butter
4 medium sized apples (peeled, cored and sliced 1/4 an inch thick)***
***feel free to use more if you prefer a really packed kolachy
1 egg beaten with 2 tbs milk (for egg wash)

To make the pastry dough, place flour and butter in the bowl.  Use a pastry cutter to blend the two ingredients together until it becomes the consistency of coarse crumbs.  Then stir in the mace or nutmeg.  Add the cottage cheese and mix until it is evenly distributed throughout the dough. Your dough should be able to be formed into a big ball.  If not, add 1-2 tbs of ice water so the ball can be formed with the dough.

This particular dough will be slightly sticky, but take care that you do not "over flour" the dough when rolling out or it will make the dough dense.  Lightly dust a flat surface with flour along with the ball of dough.  Pound the dough into a disc and then roll out, forming a 16 inch square. Fold it up like you would fold a business letter.  Then pound it out again and roll. into a 12X7 inch rectangle.  Repeat the same business letter fold and tuck in the uneven edges.  Wrap in plastic wrap and place in fridge to chill for 30 minutes.

To make the filling, melt the butter in a medium size skillet.  Put the sliced apples in the pan and let cook, stirring occasionally, for about 3 minutes.  Remove the skillet from heat and sprinkle sugar on top of apples.  Let cool.  Once the apples are back to room temperature, sprinkle with cinnamon.

Take pastry dough out of the fridge and roll out on a floured surface.  The dough should be rolled into a 16 inch square again.  Then cut the dough into 16 four inch squares.  Place each piece on a flat cutting board or platter and put back in fridge for 10 minutes.

While the pastry is chilling, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Take the pastry squares out and place a few tablespoons of apple slices on the center of each.  The syrup mixture that formed while cooking the apples should remain in the skillet. Once all the pastry squares are filled, discard the syrup mixture.    For each square, take two opposite corners and overlap ( about 1/2 an inch) in the center and pinch the dough to seal.

Place each pastry on a baking sheet about 1 inch apart.  Brush with egg wash and sprinkle with pearl or sparkling sugar.  Bake each pan of kolachy for about 15-20 minutes.  They will be lightly golden on the edges when done.

Remove baking sheets from the oven and place pastries on a rack to cool.  These can be served slightly warm or room temperature.  Also, to really indulge you can add a small scoop of ice cream on top.
                  **LAST YEAR: Sinbads Basra Treats***