Sunday, December 22, 2013

Maraschino Snowball Cookies

They say it is all about quality ingredients.  When I think of all the different things I have bought and ordered for the sake of creating something in the kitchen, there is a lot of unique as well as imported ingredients I can recall.  There is probably a blogger in another country that has the same situation.  The grass is always greener so we find ourselves coveting ingredients from another country who regards that ingredient as commonplace.

This particular recipe requires maraschino cherries which are imported from Italy.  I have made cookies before with maraschino cherries, called Cherry Bon Bon Cookies.  Between the two, I prefer this recipe over that.  This recipe has the added flavor of almond but the vast difference in the maraschino cherries is what won me over. The cherries in the US are more of a neon color and are stored in a watery liquid.  The Luxardo ones are black and packed in a syrup. The cherries taste much sweeter and stronger, which melds nicely with almond flavor of the cookie. I am hooked, so there are no plans to go back the red neon maraschinos that are so easy to find in the states.

I am adding this one to my holiday cookie recipes. Below you will find the original recipe as well as the tips and notes.  This recipe makes 2-2 1/2 dozen.

Maraschino Snowballs
adapted from Elizabeth Morris via Saveur Magazine

1 egg 
1 cup or 2 sticks of butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup or about 30 pitted Luxardo cherries, drained
1/2 cup almond paste
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp baking powder
2 cups flour
1/4 tsp salt
2 cups white sparkling sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together butter and powdered sugar.  Add the almond paste, vanilla extract and egg.  Beat until all is blended and batter is fluffy.  Set aside.

Sift together the flour, salt and baking powder in another bowl.  Add 1/3 of sifted ingredients to butter mixture and mix in with wooden spoon.  Repeat the process two more times until all the dry ingredients are mixed into the batter.  The end result is cookie dough that should easily clump together with your hand.

Separate the dough into 30 pieces.  Center one cherry inside each piece of dough and form into a ball. Roll each cookie in the sparkling sugar and place 1 inch apart on the baking sheet.  Bake for about 20 minutes.  Cookies will toast on the bottom and the edges will turn golden when done.

Remove and let cool on pan for 2 minutes and then transfer to a cooling rack to completely cool.

Notes and Tips:
1.  For less leftover ingredients, I doubled the recipe so my can of almond paste would be used as well as the complete jar of Luxardo cherries.
2. The amount of decorative sugar used application is based on preference and method.  In doubling the recipe and keeping about 3 tbs or less in a shallow bowl at any time for rolling only required 1 cup of sparkling sugar.  However, more of the sugar will increase the crunch and sparkle to your cookies.
3. These are a crumbly cookie so they should be bite sized.  They are best eaten by popping a whole one into your mouth.
4. For more color to your cookies, try colored sugar or drops of food coloring to the batter.
5. was the resource for the Luxardo Cherries
                                 **2 YEARS AGO: Hendrix Pie**   

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Gooey Butter Cookies

This cookie recipe is one that has evolved through the years.  The recipe started out with the use of a boxed cake mix and then there was one created from scratch. That recipe used 1 cup of butter and three cups of sugar. Since then, there has been some variations on those two ingredient amounts and additional flavors incorporated such as Nutella and Red Velvet. However, I landed on the recipe created by by Mathew Rice and Gerard Craft of Pastaria Restaurant.  The recipe does cut back on the amount of butter and also incorporates glucose as an ingredient.

Since I have never ate or baked these cookies, the thing I wondered about was the name.  Would they be liquid and creamy inside or is gooey a misnomer?  After making them, I would say a misnomer. The texture of these cookies are right on the border between being doughy and being crisp. Not really "gooey" as the name states. They are fluffy and light, unlike standard sugar or butter cookies.

Even though there are lots of variations on the net, I thinks that the simple butter/cream cheese flavor is perfect when paried with any of the wintery beverages such as hot chocolate, flavored teas and coffees. This recipe makes about 3 dz. cookies.

All of the variations can be found on the net under different blogs and websites, such as Lottie and Doof, Eating up, Tasting Table, Delightfully Dowling.

Gooey Butter Cookies
adapted from Gerard Craft and Mathew Rice of Pastaria

1/4 cup glucose (substitution ingredient is light corn syrup)
2 1/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 lb cream cheese (room temp)
1/2 cup or 1 stick butter (room temp)
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
4 1/2 cups of flour
1 tbs and 1 tsp of baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 vanilla bean
2 cups powdered sugar and more for final dusting

Prepare 2 baking sheets by lining with parchment paper and have a few extra squares of parchment on hand to fit the sheets.  Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Also, fill a shallow bowl with the powdered sugar and put aside for later use.

Sift together flour, baking powder and salt in a medium size bowl and set aside.  Fill the bowl of a stand mixer with cream cheese, butter, sugar and glucose.  Then split the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape the seeds into the bowl as well.  Cream ingredients together on medium speed for about 3 minutes, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl at 1 minute intervals.  Add the vanilla extract and one of the eggs and beat until blended.  Beat in the second egg.

Remove batter blade and bowl from mixer.  Fold the sifted ingredients into the butter/cream cheese mixture until a dough is formed and there are no more dry streaks.  Shape pieces of the dough into balls about 1 1/2 inches in diameter.  Roll balls into powdered sugar and place on prepared baking sheet about 2 inches apart.

Bake the cookies about 12-15 minutes.  The cookies should be firm on the edges and soft in the middle and have cracks.  They should not brown on the edges.  Remove the cookies and let rest on baking sheets about 5 minutes.  Slide the parchment paper with the cookies off the sheet onto a cooling rack.  I was able to lightly transfer them off the parchment paper to a cooling rack by hand, but they are very delicate. A light touch is important if you want to do the hand method as opposed to sliding the parchment.

These cookies are best kept in the refrigerator and served cold. Before serving, as an option, you can dust again with powdered sugar. Store cookies in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one week.
                                    **LAST YEAR: Chocolate Tres Leche Cake**

Monday, December 9, 2013

Fruits of the Forest Pie

There are actually 2 types of fruits of the forest pie, one being fruit and the other being nut.  However the nut version is the more authentic type.

Since there is such a large group of pecan lovers out there, I decided to try a different type of nut pie.  The pie, as you can see, is quite packed with nuts.  It has very little liquid filling, but what is there does impart a lot of extra flavor to the nuts.  It includes nut liqueur as well as nut extract.

A little does go a long way but it is sure to please the nut lovers in the family. I especially liked how the liqueur flavors came through in the taste. There are some important tips to this recipe at the end, so be sure to read it completely before starting.

Fruits of the Forest Pie
adapted from Pie by Ken Haedrich

1 basic pie pastry, single crust refrigerated
1 tbs hazelnut liqueur
1 tbs almond liqueur
1/4 tsp almond extract
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 eggs
2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
5 tbs unsalted melted butter
2 1/2 cups roasted salted mixed nuts chopped

Once the pie crust is firm enough to roll, roll out into a circle 13 inches in diameter.  Roll up around the rolling pin and roll out into a 9 1/2 inch deep dish pie pan.  Make sure it is centered and push the dough into the pan.  Then sculpt the upper edges as desired.  Place in freezer for 15 minutes and preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Remove from the freezer and cover the interior with aluminum foil and place pie weights evenly in the center then bake for 15 minutes.  Slide the rack out of the oven with the pie pan on it.  Remove the pie weights and the foil.  Prick the pie all around the bottom interior.  Lower the temperature to 375 and bake for an additional 10-12 minutes.

Reduce oven to 350 degrees. Add the eggs to a large bowl and scramble with a fork.  Stir in the corn syrup, brown sugar, butter, liqueurs and extracts.

Pour the chopped nuts into the pie shell. Then pour the egg filling evenly over the nuts.  Using a spoon, make sure all the nuts in the pan are completely covered with the wet filling.  Bake for 30 minutes and turn pan halfway. Bake for an additional 10-15 minutes.  The pie should be firm in the center when done.

Serve at room temperature.

Tips and Notes:
1. The mixed nuts must not contain peanuts.  Peanuts have a very strong flavor, so strong that it can be overpowering in baked items or pastries.  I found the brand of Emerald has the mixed nuts without the peanuts.
2. Feel free to eliminate some of nuts, should the amount be too much for your preference, but remember that the liquid filling is sparse due to the amount of nuts.
3. The pie dough I used was a butter shortening mix.
4. The recipe ingredient list has salt, listing the amount to be 1/4 to 1/2 tsp, due to the salt in the nuts I eliminated it from the recipe.
                                **LAST YEAR: Cinnamon Roll Cookies**

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Czech Nut Bars

It is that time of year again...time for the annual LA Times Cookie Bake Off.  I usually look at all the recipes closer to the end of the year because there is actually more variety to vote on.  After reviewing some of the recipes, I landed on this particular one. I thought that with all the shopping and getting ready for the holidays, these bars are perfect for those with little time but still wanting something homemade.

This is basically a shortbread type of bar with walnuts in the batter and raspberry jam in the center.  I do have a lot of recipes with this type of fruit in it but I never grow tired of it.  Paired with some hot raspberry tea, it hits the spot on a cold blustery day.

Czech Nut Bars
LA Times 2013 Cookie Bake Off

2 cups flour
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup raspberry jam
1/2 cup butter
1/8 tsp salt
2 egg yolks

Preheat the oven 350 degrees.  Grease the interior of a 9 inch square pan and line the bottom and two sides of the pan with parchment paper.  There should be some overhang on the two sides to help you lift the bars out of the pan before cutting. Grease the face up side of the parchment paper.

In a medium size bowl, sift together the salt and flour.  Set aside.

Using a stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar in a separate bowl, running the mixer on medium high speed for 2 minutes.  On low speed, beat in one egg yolk for 15 seconds.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat for another 15 seconds.  Repeat the process for the additional egg yolk.

Fold the sifted ingredients into the butter mixture, blending until it becomes a dough that can be clumped together with your hand.  I found the mixture a little dry, so I added 1 tbs of water.  You want the dough to clump so the base can be formed but still be somewhat crumbly for the top layer.  Mix in the walnuts.

Take half of the dough and press evenly onto the bottom of the pan.  Then smooth the raspberry over the top, covering the surface evenly.  Lastly, crumble the rest of the dough on top of the raspberry layer.

Place in oven and bake for 40-50 minutes.  Remove and let cool in pan completely and then remove using parchment paper.  Cut with a sharp knife into squares or triangles.
                                 **LAST YEAR: Crisp Apple Kolachy***

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Chocolate Orange Sweet Rolls

This is one of those recipes from my huge pile of must make. The rolls are a nice spin off from traditional cinnamon rolls.  After making these, my mind started thinking of all the different flavors and variations you could do with this base recipe. Lemon and white chocolate may be next....

The best thing about these is that they are not real bready like a lot of sweet rolls.  The dough is fairly thin which allows for more flavor to come through.  The orange is the prominent flavor with the chocolate being more subtle. This recipe makes 2 dozen rolls.

Chocolate Orange Sweet Rolls
adapted from Bon Appetit (prior to 2007)

Ingredients/ Rolls
4 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tbs orange zest
1 tbs rapid rise yeast
2 eggs
1/4 cup orange juice
3/4 cup milk
3/4 cup or 1 1/4 stick of butter (room temp)
2/3 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips

Ingredients/ Cream Coating
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tbs Grand Marnier or orange juice

1 1/4 cup powdered sugar
3 tbs orange juice

Fill a saucepan with 1/4 cup orange juice, milk and 4 tbs of butter.  Place over medium heat and stir until butter is melted and it heats to a temperature of 120 degrees.  Remove from heat.

Using a stand mixer, whip together the eggs and orange zest. Add the 1/4 cup of sugar and continue to mix until blended.  With the mixer running on low speed, pour a steady stream of the warm orange/milk mixture into the batter.  Remove bowl from stand mixer when all has been mixed together.

Sprinkle yeast into the batter and stir.  Then sift together the flour and salt in a separate bowl. Fold sifted ingredients into the batter.  Once it has formed into a dough, prepare a flat work surface by dusting with flour.  Place dough on the work surface, knead for about 5 minutes and form into a ball.  Oil the interior of a medium size bowl and then drop dough in the bowl and turn 1 time.  Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm, draft free place for about 30 minutes or until doubled in volume.  While the dough is rising, prepare 2 cake pans (9 inches in diameter) by buttering the interior.

Punch down dough and separate into equal halves.  Prepare a flat work surface and a rolling pin by dusting with flour.  Roll 1 piece of dough out into a 12X18 inch rectangle.  Cover surface with 3 tbs of butter, using a spatula or butter knife to spread evenly.  Then sprinkle with 1/3 cup of chocolate chips.  Pat down chips slightly into dough.  Finalize the filling by dusting the surface evenly with 1/4 cup sugar.

Start rolling up the dough into a log, beginning with one of the long sides.  Make sure it is not rolled too tight, for there is another rising time that will help the dough come together more.  At the end of the overlap, pinch the dough together and smooth the seam.  

Slice the log into 12 rolls, each cut 1 1/2 inches apart, taking care that you are not flattening the rolls. The recipe suggests using a serrated knife.  Place the two ends cut side down in the pan and put the other slices in the pan with the cut sides facing up and down.  Make sure the slices are evenly spaced. Cover loosely and let rise again for another 30 minutes. Repeat the whole process with the remaining half of the dough.

During the rising time, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Make the coating by whisking the Grand Marnier (or orange juice) with the heavy cream.  Once the rising time of the rolls is complete, drizzle the coating evenly over the top of all the rolls.  Place pans spaced apart in the oven, and let rolls bake until toasty and golden on top.  This should take about 25 minutes.  Remove and place pans on rack to cool for at least 15 minutes before proceeding with the glaze.

For the glaze, sift the powdered sugar into a bowl.  Stir in 1 tbs of orange juice. Continue to add orange juice until mixture reaches desired consistency.  Spread or drizzle glaze over the top of the rolls.  These can be served warm or at room temperature.
                                  **LAST YEAR: Banana Oatmeal Cookies**

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Peppermint Patty Cake

In thinking back, I do have a number of posts with flavors of mint chocolate.  However, when it comes to all the types of mint chocolate candies, I will have to say that peppermint patties and andes candies are by far my favorite.  Because of that, I definitely made sure that I bought more candies than this recipe calls for.

The cake delivers the exact flavor of a peppermint patty and is very dense and rich.  This particular recipe had several toppings, but I only opted for the cocoa fudge sauce.  In reading the part about the ganache, the recipe stated it would take several hours to thicken so I declined to make it.  The mint syrup topping required 2 cups of packed mint leaves.  That is a lot of mint if you are buying it.  No doubt, if you were trying to use up a lot of leaves from your mint plant, this would be the recipe to go to.

The only real problem issue with making the cake is dealing with dicing the candies.  I tried to dice them after freezing, but they still were soft in the center.  After cutting a few candies I did re-freeze, hoping that the pieces would not melt together.  When putting the candies into the batter, I made sure to sprinkle small pieces all around instead of tossing the big clumps in.  Since the batter is warm when you add the candies,  it does help distribute the diced candy bits more evenly.

Peppermint Patty Cake
adapted from Sweet Dreams

1 cup diced peppermint patties (kept frozen until ready to use)
14 oz of semisweet chocolate (chips or chopped bar)
6 eggs, separated
1 cup butter
1/4 cup plus 2 tbs cream
1 cup flour
1 cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt

Ingredients/Cocoa Fudge Sauce
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup of butter
1 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/2 cup brown sugar

Pepare a 9 1/2-10 inch springform pan by buttering the interior.  Also, line the bottom with parchment paper and butter the side facing up. Then dust with flour.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Fill the lower part of a double boiler 1/4 full of water.  Place the other pot on top and fill with butter, chocolate pieces and cream.  Place over medium heat and let contents melt together and stir until smooth.  Remove double boiler from heat and separate the two pots, setting both aside to cool.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, add egg yolks and sugar.  Beat on medium speed until mixture reaches a frothy, pale yellow color.  This should take about 5 minutes. Then pour in the melted chocolate mixture and stir until all is blended. Mix in vanilla extract.

In another bowl, sift together flour and salt.  Fold into chocolate batter until no white streaks remain.  Sprinkle in 1/4 of the peppermint patties into the mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until evenly distributed.  Repeat process until all candy pieces are blended in.

Pour the egg whites in a medium bowl and beat.  Once the whites are at the soft peak stage, add 1/3 of them to the chocolate batter.  Take care to fold the whites gently into the batter.  Then empty all the egg whites into the mixture and fold in.

Pour the batter into the prepared springform pan and smooth the top.  Place in oven and bake until center is set and hairline cracks form around the edge of cake. This should take about 45-50 minutes. Remove and place pan on cooling rack.  When completely cool, invert onto cake round and remove parchment paper.

To make the cocoa fudge sauce, melt butter in a saucepan.  Add cream, cocoa and sugar and still with a wire whisk until smooth.  Let mixture simmer over medium temperature for about 10 minutes, checking and stirring about every three minutes.  The blend will get thicker as it simmers.  Remove from heat and stir in vanilla extract.  Let cool and spoon over cake slices when sauce reaches room temperature.
                                 **LAST YEAR: Chocolate Pumpkin Layer Cake

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Brandy Apple Cake

Like most bloggers, when the season changes, certain flavors and ingredients come to mind. A little cold snap has arrived and with that came the thought of apple brandy.

This particular recipe makes good use of that ingredient.  Even though the recipe calls for regular brandy, I feel that apple brandy is a better way to tie flavors together. The other complimentary and main ingredients that make up this cake are dried as well as fresh apples, toasted pecans and raisins.  I am not really a fan of raisins in baked goods, but I was more agreeable to them after I tasted the cake.

As you can see by the above picture, there is a more fruit to batter ratio than normal.  The batter is just enough to hold all the spices and bind everything together.  Perhaps this should have been referred to as a bar recipe since there is so little batter.  It is not your big fluffy cake, quite the opposite- a chewy cake. Also, even though once piece is quite tasty as is, the brown sugar brandy sauce is something you should not omit.

Brandy Apple Cake
adapted from In the Sweet Kitchen Cookbook

Ingredients/ Cake
3/4 cup chopped pecans
2 medium or 1 1/2 large tart cooking apples (Rome Beauty, Granny Smith, Honeycrisp)
1 cup dried apple slices or half rings
1 cup raisins
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp cloves
1/8 tsp salt
2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/3 cup apple or regular brandy
2 large eggs
1 cup butter (melted and cooled)
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar

Ingredients/Brown Sugar Brandy Sauce
2/3 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup sugar
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 1/2 tbs brandy
1/3 cup cubed butter

Prepare a 9X13 inch pan by buttering the interior.  Line the bottom and long sides with parchment, leaving a 2 inch overhang. Butter the face up side of the paper as well.  Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Pour the brandy in a small bowl and stir in the raisins.  Let sit for 45 minutes then stir in the dried apple rings.  Do not drain and set aside.

In another bowl sift together flour, salt, cinnamon, baking soda, nutmeg and cloves.  Set this bowl aside as well.

Whisk two eggs together in the bowl of a stand mixer.  In another bowl, blend together both sugars.  Stir the melted butter into the eggs. Add the 2 types of sugars and beat on medium speed for 2 minutes.  Batter should be thick and pale when done.

Toast the pecans in the oven until fragrant, about 5-7 minutes.  Remove and let cool.  Then core each apple.  Peel one and leave the other one ( or 1/2 one if using large apples) unpeeled.  Chop apples into 1/2 inch pieces. 

Reserve out 3 tbs of the sifted ingredients.  Add 1/2 of the remaining sifted mixture to the sugar egg batter.  Repeat with the 2nd half making sure there are no dry streaks.  Add the dried fruit and brandy mixture, pecans and apples.  Sprinkle the remaining flour on top.  Fold the ingredients together until no dry streaks remain and pecans and apples are evenly distributed.

Fill prepared pan with the batter and smooth it out evenly.  Bake for about 1 hr and 10 minutes to 1 hr and 20 minutes.  Cake is done when it starts to pull away from pan and springs back when lightly touched. Place pan on cooling rack for cake to cool.

For the sauce, place a saucepan over low heat and add butter.  Stir until butter is melted and add heavy cream.  Add both types of sugars and continue to cook, stirring until the sugar is dissolved.  Once dissolved, turn the heat up to medium and continue stirring.  Mixture should come to a gentle boil.  Let mixture cook for about 5 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in brandy.

Lift cake out of pan, using parchment paper overhangs. Cut out pieces of cake and place each on a plate and then drizzle the warm brandy sauce over the top then serve.
                          **LAST YEAR: Streusel Topped Babka**

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Chocolate Sugar Cookies

I have a huge bag of dutch processed cocoa.  I think purely the description won me over when I saw it.." luminous, intense red and very flavorful".  The bag is so big it always beckons when I open the cabinet.

My first source in order to find a recipe using this ingredient is a cookbook called Flour.  This particular cookbook makes note that all recipes that have cocoa as a ingredient actually call for Dutch processed.  None of them call for natural cocoa.  However, nothing there appealed to me so I cracked open the Martha Stewart Cookies cookbook.

I found a recipe for a big tasty chocolate cookie.  The flavor was very rich, but in my book the rich taste of chocolate never has its limits.  As far as the texture, the day these are baked they are crisp on the outside and every so chewy on the inside.  Probably very close to a brownie.  However, the down side is that the texture is not everlasting.  I brought them to work and they were very crumbly.  That did not phase the chocolate eaters, for they popped them in the microwave to warm them up which brought all that texture right back.

The recipe does say they last only for 2 days at room temp, so these are not ones to sit in the cookie jar to eat now as well as later.  That is, if you have an aversion to the step of reheating them in the microwave. This recipe makes eight cookies about 3-4 inches in diameter

Giant Chocolate Sugar Cookies
adapted from Martha Stewart's Cookies

1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup or 1 stick of baking powder
1/2 cup vegetable shortening (melted and cooled)
1 egg
1/2 unsweetened Dutch process cocoa powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups sugar

Prepare 2 baking sheets by lining with parchment paper and preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

In a medium size bowl, sift together the flour, salt , baking powder and cocoa.  Set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add the melted shortening and mix on medium speed until blended.  For a final 45 seconds, beat in the egg and vanilla extract.

Then using a wooden spoon or spatula, fold the sifted ingredients into the wet batter in increments.  Mixing in about 1/3 of the dry ingredients in each increment.  Finish blending in the last 1/3 of the flour mixture, making sure no dry streaks remain.  Drop by scoops evenly onto the baking sheet.  There should be 4 scoops per pan, each dough lump being about 2 1/2 inches in diameter and sitting on the pan 4 inches apart from each other.

Place pan in oven and bake for about 18-20 minutes, rotating pan at the halfway mark.  The edges will be crisp when done.  Remove pan from oven and transfer cookies to wire rack to cool.
                               **LAST YEAR: Chocolate Hazelnut Cupcakes**

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Pineapple Squares with Coconut Streusel seems to make me think of warm summer days in California.  Most likely due to the fact we lived right across the street from an orange grove.  Since it has been overcast and rainy, I was thinking back on those days and wanted something citrus for breakfast.  Not juice but a baked good.  However, I wanted something that was less common than a lemon poppy seed muffin.

Looking in a coffeecake cookbook, this particular recipe caught my eye.  I was quite happy with the 3 kinds of citrus included in the ingredients.  Being in the form of a bar and using sour cream as an ingredient did make for great texture.  Also, what better way to tie all the citrus flavors together by topping the bars with a chewy coconut streusel?

One important tip before going into the recipe, taste test the completed bar instead of the components. I did find myself sampling the streusel more times than I needed to prior to putting it on the cake!

Pineapple Squares with Coconut Streusel
adapted from Great Coffeecakes and More

Ingredients/Coconut Streusel
1/2 cup sifted powdered sugar
1/8 tsp grated nutmeg
1 cup flour
1 cup sweetened coconut
1/2 tsp orange zest
6 tbs butter

2 large eggs (whites separated from yolks)
1/3 sour cream
1 (8 oz) can crushed pineapple (well drained)
3/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1/4 tsp salt
2/3 cup plus 3 tbs sugar
1 tsp fresh orange zest
1 tsp fresh lemon zest
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 3/4 cup cake flour
3 tbs orange juice

To make the streusel, start by preheating the oven to 325 degrees. Sprinkle the coconut evenly into a shallow pan and place in the oven.  Toast the coconut for about 8-10 minutes, but remove every two to three minutes and stir to make sure coconut does not burn.  The coconut should turn a golden brown when done.  Remove pan and let the coconut cool completely.  Then break up any large pieces and set aside.

Place orange zest and butter in a small saucepan.  Remove from heat once the butter is completely melted.  Let cool to a lukewarm temperature.  Add the 3 dry ingredients and the toasted coconut.  Let the mixture sit for about 10-15 minutes before using.

For the cake, turn the temperature up on the oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare a 9X13 inch size pan by buttering the interior.

Sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.  Set aside.  Load a food processor with a metal blade and fill bowl with the crushed pineapple.  Run processor for about 10 seconds.  Place pineapple in a small bowl until ready to use.

Cut butter into 1 inch cubes and add to the bowl of a stand mixer.  Then add the lemon and orange zests.  Beat on medium speed for about 2 minutes until smooth.  Continue to beat mixture and add the sugar, one tablespoon at a time until the additions total 2/3 of a cup.  Add one egg yolk and beat for 30 seconds.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the other egg yolk, beating again for 30 seconds.  Fold in the crushed pineapple.

In a separate bowl, mix together the sour cream, vanilla extract and orange juice. 

Add 1/3 of the sifted ingredients to the butter/sugar/egg yolk batter and stir until no dry streaks remain.  Then mix in 1/2 of the sour cream blend to the batter.  Repeat the process, ending by mixing  the last 1/3 of the sifted ingredients into the batter.  Set aside.

Using a wire whisk or a small handheld mixer, beat egg whites until soft peaks form.  Add one tablespoon of sugar and beat for 30 seconds.  Repeat this process 2 times, using the additional tablespoons of sugar.

Add 1/3 of the whipped egg whites to the batter and fold in, only making 20 turns with a flexible spatula.  Fold in the remaining egg whites for about 40 turns.  Transfer batter to prepared pan and smooth out to an even layer.  Sprinkle streusel over the batter, covering top and edges equally. Pat down lightly using a metal spatula to get streusel to adhere to batter.

Bake until tester comes out clean, which should take about 30-35 minutes.  Let cake cool in pan for about 20 minutes.  Should you not want to serve from the pan, recipe suggests inverting twice onto foil covered cooling racks, so coconut streusel is still facing upward.  Either way, cake should be completely cooled before cutting and serving.
                                               **LAST YEAR:Bourbon Maple Bars**


Sunday, October 6, 2013

Chocolate Caramel Candy

I have been thinking about getting a chocolate tempering machine.  They are great for preparing chocolate for dipping cookies into or drizzling on baked goods that need that extra touch.  However, it is one of those gadgets that you wonder if you will ever get enough use to justify the cost.

The recipe here does not require any fancy equipment, but it does deliver a lot of delicious flavor. A mix of different chips melted together makes up the bottom and top layers.  Then the filling in between is a nutty layer of nougat and a layer of caramel.  Consider this to be a homemade version of the famous Snickers bars.  The hardest part of this recipe is waiting for it to chill before eating!

Chocolate Caramel Candy
adapted from Taste of Home

Ingredients/ Bottom layer
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1 cup milk chocolate chips
1/4 cup butterscotch chips
2 tsp butter

1/4 cup evaporated milk
1 1/2 cups marshmallow cream
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup butter
1 1/2 cups chopped salted peanuts

Ingredients/Caramel Layer
14 oz pkg of caramels
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream

Ingredients/ Icing
1/4 cup butterscotch chips
1/4 cup peanut butter
1 cup milk chocolate chips

Prepare a 9x13 size cake pan by lining with foil.  Then melt the 2 tsp of butter and use it the coat the interior of the pan.  Set aside and start making the layers.

For the bottom layer,  fill a saucepan with both types of chips and peanut butter. Place the saucepan over low heat.  Stir constantly until mixture is melted. Then spoon into prepared pan, smoothing out the top so it is even.  Place the pan in the fridge to chill for abut 30 minutes or longer.  This layer needs to set up firmly.

To make the filling, place butter in a small saucepan over medium temperature.  Once the butter is melted, add sugar and milk and let come to a gentle boil. Turn the heat to medium low and stir.  Let the mixture cook for about 5 minutes, stirring constantly.  Remove from the heat and add marshmallow cream, peanut butter and vanilla and mix until smooth.  Fold in the salted nuts.  Remove the pan from the fridge and spoon this filling over the top of the first layer.  Smooth out the top and place pan back in the fridge, allowing for at least 30 minutes for the the layer to set up.

Unwrap all the caramels and drop them into a small saucepan.  Then add the cream and place saucepan over medium heat for about 4 minutes, stirring until all the caramels are melted and mixed in with the cream.  Remove the pan from the heat and set aside.  Take out the pan from the fridge and spread the caramel layer over the filling, making sure all areas are covered evenly and the surface is smooth. Place pan back in the fridge to chill for 30 minutes.

For the top layer,  melt peanut butter in a saucepan over low heat. When completely melted, add milk chocolate chips and butterscotch chips.  Keep stirring until it is smooth and all chips are totally melted.  Pour mixture over the last layer and smooth it out on top.  Place pan in fridge for a minimum of 4 hours.  It will also be fine if left in the fridge overnight.

After the chilling stage, let sit at room temperature 20 minutes.  Pull candy out of pan by lifting up the foil liner.  Invert the candy slab and peel off all the foil.  Invert again and place on cutting board and cut into one inch squares.

1. These are better left frozen until served.  Room temperature turns these into a mess of sticky chocolate and stringy caramel.
                                **LAST YEAR:Chocolate Chunk Pumpkin Bread Pudding**

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Chocolate "Ding Dong" Cake

We all remember the Hostess ding dongs..cakes shaped like hockey pucks filled with cream and coated in rich chocolate.  This is basically a large 2 layer cake version of that.

The name of this cake is actually called a "Salted Caramel Ding Dong Cake."  However, when I think of caramel I do not think of chocolate.  The "caramel" ganache is made with chocolate but it does cook up to a caramel-like consistency. 

One slice proved to be a tasty combination.  Also the sight of the rich chocolate layers filled with a fluffy whipped cream filling did attract a lot of attention.  The last piece of this cake created a secondary request from a group that missed out on the first one, so I went ahead and made it a second time.

Note that this cake is 9 inches in diameter and requires 2 nine inch layer cake pans and also one nine inch springform pan.  Even though it has chocolate in it, melting does not require a double boiler. The cake does have to rest in the fridge for 6 hours or overnight.  This process is prior to the last coat of ganache.

Chocolate "Ding Dong" Cake
adapted from Bon Appetit Oct 2012 Issue


1 cup hot strong coffee
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3 eggs
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 cup or 2 sticks of butter (room temp)
4 oz chopped semisweet or bittersweet chocolate
2 cups cake flour
1 cup unsweetened natural cocoa powder
2 cups sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder

Ingredients /Ganache

1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
9 oz chopped semisweet or bittersweet chocolate
1 1/8 tsp salt
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water


1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 vanilla bean
1 1/4 tsp unflavored gelatin
1 1/2 cups heavy cream

Prepare all three pans by spraying the interior with non stick spray or oil.  Line the bottom of each with parchment paper and then oil or spray the paper.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Start making the cake layers by filling a medium size bowl with the hot coffee.  Then add the 4 oz of chopped chocolate, making sure it is even along the bottom of the bowl and not piled in the center. Sprinkle the cocoa on top and let the mixture sit for about 1 minute.  Stir until all the chocolate is melted and the cocoa is evenly distributed.  Once the mixture is smooth, blend in the buttermilk and vanilla extract, set aside.

Using a stand mixer on medium speed, cream together the butter and sugar.  The mixture should become light and fluffy after about 4 minutes.  Then beat in one egg at a time, running the mixer for about 1 minute for each egg and scraping down the sides prior to adding the next egg.

In a separate bowl, sift together the cake flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Add one third of the sifted ingredients to the butter/sugar batter.  Stir with a wooden spoon until the dry ingredients are completely blended.  Pour in half of the chocolate batter and mix together.  Repeat the process, adding the last third of the sifted ingredients at the end.

Fill the cake pans with the batter, making sure the batter is measured evenly into each pan.  Place pans in oven and bake until tester indicates done.  Cakes should take about 35 minutes to bake.  Remove pans and let cool for 10 minutes.  After the 10 minutes, run a sharp knife around the edge and invert the cakes onto a cooling rack.  Peel off parchment paper and let cool completely and flip over again prior to assembly.  If cakes have a dome or are uneven, trim to a a flat, even surface.

For the ganache, fill one bowl with the 9 oz of chopped chocolate and salt.  Then fill a saucepan with sugar and water, place over medium low heat.  Stir mixture until the sugar dissolves.  Increase the heat to medium high and stop stirring.  Let the sugar cook for about 9 minutes.  At one minute intervals, swirl a wet pastry brush along the upper side edges of the ganache, preventing it from becoming a hard sugar layer.  Also swirl the pan at each interval.  Once the sugar becomes a deep amber color, removed from heat.

Add the cream to the sugar mixture, pouring it in a steady stream and mixing it at intervals. Since the cream is cold, the batter will seize into caramel.  Place the pan back on the medium heat and stir until it reaches a smooth consistency.  Add the caramel mixture and the vanilla extract to the reserved bowl of chocolate and salt.  Let cool for about 5-10 minutes.  The ganache is ready to use once it reaches the consistency of honey.

Place one cake layer in the springform pan and pour 1 cup of ganache over cake.  The ganache will need to set up.  Place the pan with the coated cake layer in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.  Let the remaining bowl of ganache sit at room temperature, covered with plastic.

While the ganache is setting up, the filling can be made.  Fill a heatproof bowl with 2 tbs of cold water and sprinkle the gelatin evenly over the water.  Let rest for 10 minutes.  Take out a small saucepan and fill it 1/2 inch deep with water.  Place it over a medium high burner and place the bowl of gelatin into the water.  Stir and cook for about 2 minutes.  The two minutes should be long enough for the gelatin to dissolve.  Remove small bowl from saucepan and set aside.

Fill the bowl of a stand mixer with powdered sugar and heavy cream.  Then split the vanilla bean and scrape the seeds into the same bowl.  Using the whisk attachment, beat the ingredients together until soft peaks form.  Continue to beat, pouring in gelatin in a steady stream.  Once the mixture reaches a firm consistency, the filling is ready.   Spoon out all the filling and place on top of the chilled ganache layer.  Smooth the filling over the top of the cake layer, making sure it is all even.  Carefully place the other layer on top.  Cover tightly with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator for a minimum of six hours or overnight.

Once that stage is completed, remove the cake from the refrigerator and open side latch of springform pan.  Run a spatula along the outer edge of the cake, making sure that the filling is flush with the edge of the cake layers.  Keep the cake stationed on the bottom of the springform pan but place it on a wire rack set over a baking sheet.

Check the consistency of the remaining ganache.  It should be the same state as when used on the first layer, like honey.  If too thick, rewarm in the microwave, stirring and checking every 30 seconds.  If to thin, place in fridge to thicken up a little.  Once the ganache is at the right consistency, pour over cake letting it drip down sides.  By tilting the cake and using an offset spatula on the sides, the ganache should evenly cover the whole cake.  Chill cake for another hour for the ganache to set up, then it is ready to slice and serve.

Tips and Notes:

1. This cake is moist and fragile when warm, so be careful when inverting after 10 minutes of cooling.
2. The recipe suggests semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, so if you like dark chocolate consider using special dark Hershey brand of cocoa.
3. The recipe states you can chill for 2 days before serving, but I think the chilling can make it dry.  For the best texture, serve it the same day as you pour the coat of ganache over the top.
4. The cake layers do deflate upon cooling.
5. The filling is quite thick but remember that it is sweetened whipped cream, not buttercream frosting.
6. I let the remaining ganache sit covered in the microwave overnight.  Since it is an extended amount of time, you may want to place it in the fridge and rewarm the next day.

                                    **LAST YEAR: Red Velvet Cake Roll**

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Dulce De Leche Cheesecake Bars

We all have those things that we have to have in the kitchen at all times.  For most bloggers, that item usually falls under a certain ingredient.  However, for people that do not cook, it is some type of choice food, beverage or sauce.

Whatever the choice may be, some will always perceive it as being strange. I heard of someone with a whole refrigerator drawer full of bouillon cubes.  That one, I think would probably fall into the strange category by many!  The latest I have come across inspired me to make this particular dessert.

Even though the dessert is made out of Dulce de Leche, it is not exactly what my friend requires to be in the kitchen at all times.  They must have the so called "magic shell" topping for ice cream, caramel flavor, of course.  I do like caramel, but the magic shell is not something that comes to mind when I think of caramel. However, dulce de leche always does.

Anyhow, on to the recipe.  The flavor of dulce de leche can be found in the cheesecake batter as well as the top layer of this dessert.  Besides the tasty double caramel flavor, the bars are a better way to go when serving a crowd.  You get all the taste of cheesecake without as much guilt as a 3 inch thick slice of a standard cheesecake....Oh and as for my friend who enjoyed the bars, they continue to stay in the foods of convenience area-which includes the magic shell.

Dulce de Leche Cheesecake Bars
adapted from Bon Appetit June 2010 Issue

1 1/4 sticks or 1/2 cup plus 2 tbs butter
1/4 tsp cinnamon
2 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
2 tbs sugar

2 tsp vanilla extract
3 eggs
24 oz of cream cheese (3-8 oz pkgs)
1/2 cup dulce de leche
1 cup sugar

3 tbs heavy whipping cream
2/3 cup dulce de leche

Prepare a 9X13 inch pan by coating the interior with a non stick spray.  Then preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  For the crust, stir together all the dry ingredients until evenly mixed.  Place the butter in a saucepan over low heat or a microwave safe dish and melt it. Once completely melted,  pour it into the dry ingredients.  Mix until all the crumbs are coated with the butter.  The crumbs will easily clump together.  Empty the mixture into the center of the prepared pan.  Press the crumbs into the bottom of the pan, making sure it evenly covers the bottom interior of the pan.  Bake for about 10 minutes. It should have a golden hue when done.  Place pan on rack and let cool completely.

For the filling, beat together the cream cheese and sugar.  A hand mixer or food processor working for about 1 minute should thoroughly blend the two together.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and then beat in each egg (one at a time).  Spoon in the dulce de leche and add the vanilla extract to the batter.  Beat for about 10 seconds until the additions are evenly distributed throughout the batter.  Spoon the batter over the crust, and spread until even.

Place pan in oven and bake for about 38 minutes.  The center will be set and the edges will be cracked once the bars are done baking.  Place pan on rack and let cool completely.

The topping starts out with heating together the dulce de leche and cream.  One option is to heat the mixture in a microwave in 30 second intervals, mixing with a spoon at the end of each interval. The other option is to melt the mixture together in a saucepan on low heat.  Once melted, the glaze should be pourable, if not, more cream is needed.  Add just one tsp of cream and then test its pourability. Continue with that process until you reach the correct consistency.  The variance of the cream can be attributed to the different brands of dulce de leche on the market.  Pour the glaze over the cheesecake and refrigerate for a minimum of 1 hour prior to cutting and serving.  For storing this dessert, cover pan and place in refrigerator.

Tips and Notes:
1. Dessert can be prepared 2 days ahead
2. Recipe recommends that the pan of bars be cut into 4 strips by 6 strips
3. Suggestion made to sprinkle each bar with sea salt.
                                **LAST YEAR:Rum Raisin Almond Tart**

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies

Peanut butter is something that is always around in my kitchen.  I usually have not only the creamy but the crunchy as well.  With such an abundance of peanut butter, I thought it was fine time that I bake something with it.

Like most bloggers, we all have something in our mind of what we do like and what we do not like when it comes to certain baked goods.  Regarding sandwich cookies, these did have some good qualities.  The cookies were less greasy than most homemade peanut butter cookies.  I think this can be attributed to the dry oats in the cookie batter.  As far as the filling, it was very creamy-unlike the solid type of filling you get with oreo cookies.  Homemade should always be better anyway.

There are special steps in this recipe and the simple fact that they are sandwich cookies keep them out of the quick fix recipe category. However, I feel that the time is well worth the results.  Be sure to read through all the recipe so you will know how much time is involved in creating these delicious cookies. This recipe makes about 2 dz large sandwich cookies

Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies
adapted from the Dahlia Bakery Cookbook

Ingredients/ Peanut Butter Cookies
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup natural chunky peanut butter (well mixed)
1 cup and 2 tbs butter (softened)
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup sugar
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 2/3 cup old fashioned oats
1/4 tsp salt

Ingredients/Cookie Filling
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbs powdered sugar
1 1/2 cups creamy peanut butter (whichever brand-Jif, Skippy etc)
2 tbs honey
6 tbs butter (softened)

For the cookie batter, place butter and peanut butter in bowl of a stand mixer.  Add both types of sugars.  Then beat on medium high speed for 1 minutes.  Scrape down sides of bowl, beat for another minute and repeat for one last minute. 

Add one egg and beat on medium low speed for 30 seconds.  Do the same with the additional egg. Lastly, beat in the vanilla extract and set aside.

In another bowl sift together baking soda, baking powder, salt and flour.  Then mix in the oats. Using a wooden spoon, fold the dry ingredients into the wet batter until no dry streaks remain.

Prepare 2 baking sheets by lining with parchment paper.  Scoop out a heaping tablespoon of batter and place it on the prepared sheet.  Continue with this process, only making sure that the scoops of batter are not touching.  You will space them properly just prior to baking.  Chill the scooped batter by placing the pans in the fridge for at least 2 hours.

While the scoops are chilling, the filling can be made.  Place all filling ingredients in a bowl and beat for about 30 seconds with a hand mixer to make sure it is all blended.  Then cover bowl of filling with plastic wrap and also place it in the refrigerator to chill.

During the last 15 minutes of the chilling time, preheat your oven to 375 degrees.  Once the scoops have firmed up from the chilling stage, remove pans from refrigerator.  Place each scoop of batter on the parchment lined pan, filling each pan with 8 scoops.  Also, each cookie sheet should be double panned (one baking sheet inside another) prior to going in the oven.

Bake pans of cookies for about 10-12 minutes, stopping at the halfway point to rotate each pan set.  Once the cookie turns a golden hue, remove and place pans on cooling rack to sit for 10 minutes.  Then transfer cookies to the rack to finish cooling.  Once completely cool, they are ready to be sandwiched.

Match cookies by size in pairs.  Take the bowl of filling out of the fridge. Place a scoop of filling (measuring right under 2 tsp) on the flat side of one of the paired cookies.  Press the other, flat side down, on top of the filling.  Repeat the process until all the sandwich cookies have been assembled.

Tips and Notes:
1. Mixing up the natural peanut butter before measuring is important to the texture of the cookies
2. The longer the chill time for the filling the harder it becomes, which could make the assembly process more difficult.
3. Someone raided my stored cookies from the freezer and they still were soft enough to eat.
4. If you want a little extra with your cookie, try adding chocolate by drizzling it on top or dipping one half of each in chocolate before sandwiching.
                                           **LAST YEAR:Peach Tarte Tatin**

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Brown Butter/Cream Cheese topped Carrot Cupcakes

Carrot cake is a classic favorite, yet because of the spices used I have always reserved it for the fall or winter time.  However, when I saw this particular recipe, I had no reservations to delay it until fall. Between the addition of the browned butter to the frosting and the use of curry in the batter, I would have to say this far from your grandma's recipe for carrot cupcakes.  As a food blogger, I try to go beyond the traditional and strive for something new and different.   After all, there is a reason for 31 flavors of ice cream-it would be a sad thing to just have a choice of vanilla, chocolate or strawberry!

This recipe makes 1 dozen cupcakes and be sure to plan for the 8 hours of chilling time for the batter.

Brown Butter Cream Cheese Topped Carrot Cupcakes
adapted from Dahlia Bakery Cookbook

8 egg whites (room temp)
1 3/4 stick or 14 tbs of butter
1 cup finely shredded carrot
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
3/4 tsp curry powder
3/4 cup cake flour
1 cup almond flour
1 3/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp kosher salt
1 1/4 cups packed brown sugar

Ingredients/Brown Butter Cream Cheese Frosting
1 cup powdered sugar (sifted after measuring)
3/4 tsp salt
1 cup or 2 sticks of butter
1 lb of cream cheese (softened)
2 tsp vanilla extract
sparkling or crystal white sugar (optional)

To make the cupcakes, melt the butter in a small saucepan on low heat.  Once melted, increase heat to medium and let cook, stirring periodically.  Cook for about 5 minutes or until the butter turns a golden brown.  Remove and pour into a heatproof bowl and let cool to room temperature.

In a large bowl, mix together the brown sugar and almond flour.  Set aside.  In a smaller bowl, sift the cake flour, spices (cinnamon, ginger, curry) salt and baking powder together.  Then add this to the brown sugar/almond flour mixture and stir until is evenly distributed.

Pour in the egg whites and blend with a wooden spoon.  Once blended, measure out approx one fourth of the batter and add it to the cooled brown butter.  Whisk together until smooth.  Pour the batter/brown butter mixture back into the original batter and mix together. Lastly, fold in the shredded carrot.

Cover and refrigerate batter for at least 8 hours or overnight.  Once the batter has been completely chilled, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Grease the top edge of the muffin cavities and line with cupcake liners.

Fill the cavities with the batter, using a bit less than 1/2 cup of batter per cavity.  Place pan in oven and bake until tester comes out clean.  Cupcakes should be done and golden brown on top in about 25 to 28 minutes. Remove when done and let pan rest on wire rack to cool.  Remove cupcakes once cool and let sit on wire rack until ready to frost.

For the frosting, brown the butter in same manner as stated in the cupcake recipe.  Set aside and let cool to room temperature.  In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together all the other ingredients except the sparkling white sugar.  It should take about 2 minutes on medium high for all ingredients to be blended.  Then turn down the mixer to medium low speed and continue to beat while pouring a steady slow stream of the brown butter.  Once all the brown butter has been added, beat for 30 seconds and then scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Beat for another 30 seconds.  Then the frosting is ready to use.

Frost the cupcakes as desired.  Also, the recipe suggests turning the cupcakes upside down and rolling the frosted top in a bowl of crystal sugar.

Tips and Notes:
1. Just under 1/2 cup of batter almost fills the cupcake cavity to the top, but this is ok because the cupcakes do not rise very much.
2. Room temperature is important when it comes to the eggs and brown butter, your mixtures will blend together easier and better.
3. The amount of salt may seem like a lot for the frosting but that is what gives it the salty sweet flavor combo. However if you are using table salt and not kosher only use half the amount stated.
4. Due to the crystal sugar topping, I wanted a stiffer frosting to work with so I let it chill for about 20 minutes before frosting.
                                    **LAST YEAR: Apple Butterscotch Bundt Cake**

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Peach Amaretti Crisp

When I think of crisps, the oatmeal type is the first that comes to mind.  However, there really are too many other options out there to be limited to one type.  This particular recipe uses amaretti cookies in the topping, something which I had never even tasted until I made this dessert.

While almond is not a flavor that goes with all fruits, this particular topping will be one that I will use when making cherry or peach crisps in the future.  The almond is much more complimentary than any oat topping.

The cookie recipe makes 16 cookies and the crisp is baked in a 2 qt dish and serves about 8 people.

Amaretti Cookies
adapted from Ready for Dessert

1 egg white
1/2 tsp almond extract
1/2 cup toasted almonds
1/4 cup powdered sugar
3 tbs granulated sugar
1/2 tsp flour
pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees and prepare 2 pans by lining with parchment paper.

Place flour, almonds and powdered sugar in a food processor.  Grind the mixture together in the processor until the almonds become a powder.  Set aside.

Using a hand mixer on low speed, whip the egg white until foamy.  Add salt and put the mixer on high and beat until soft peak stage.  Add 1 tbs of granulated sugar and beat for 30 seconds.  Continue with the same process with the additional tbs of granulated sugar, then beat until stiff shiny peaks are formed. Fold in 1/3 of the almond mixture. Add the additional 3rds, beating after each addition. When adding the final measure of the almond mixture, pour in the almond extract before beating.

Then pipe or spoon the batter onto the prepared baking sheets.  They should be about 1 1/2 inches in diameter and be placed about 3/4 inch apart.  Bake for about 10 minutes, rotate pan and then bake for an additional 10 minutes.  Turn oven off and let the cookies sit in oven for 20 minutes.  Remove the pans and let cool until firm and then transfer cookies to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Peach Amaretti Crisp
adapted from Room for Dessert

1/2 tsp almond extract
3 lbs of peaches
1 tbs flour
2 tbs granulated sugar

crushed amaretti cookies from recipe above (about 3/4 cup)
1 cup toasted almonds
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup butter (1/2 cubes, chilled)

Prepare the fruit by peeling and pitting the peaches.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, sugar and almond extract.  Cut the peaches into 1/2 inch slices and toss in the flour/sugar mixture.  Place slices in a shallow 2 quart baking dish, making sure the slices are even and completely covering the bottom interior of dish. Set aside.

For the topping, set up a food processor with a metal blade in the bowl.  Fill the bowl with all the topping ingredients except the butter cubes.  Pulse the dry mixture until the almonds are in small bits with some larger chunks remaining. Drop in butter cubes and run the food processor until the ingredients can clump together in your hand.  Sprinkle topping evenly over peaches and place pan in oven.

Crisp should take about 40-50 minutes to bake.  When done, the crisp will bubble at the sides and the interior be easy to sink a knife into.  Serve warm with whipped cream, creme fraiche or vanilla ice cream.

Notes and Tips:
1. For the filling, the almond extract can be substituted with 1 tsp vanilla extract.
2. The crisp shown in the picture was baked in a 9x13 size cake pan and it only took about 40 minutes to bake.  Using this type of pan is good in a pinch if you do not have the right size dish.
3. The topping can be made in advance and frozen to save time.
                                    **LAST YEAR: Trucker Cookies**

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Creme Fraiche Coffee Cake

The "cake" in the word coffeecake can be a misnomer.  There are some coffeecakes that are made with yeast so they turn out to be more of a bread than a cake.  I like both, but I still favor the cake type.

While skimming through recipes, I came to a halt at this one.  The main point that attracted me was that this recipe included creme fraiche.  Having never made anything with that ingredient, I started wondering what impact this ingredient would have on the flavor and texture.

While the creme fraiche is a great component, the careful balance of the selected spices in the streusel does play an important role as well. The end result is a moist cake that stands between the tight crumb of a pound cake and the lightness of a regular cake.  The coffeecake has a mellow flavor of butter and vanilla that overlaps a crunchy pecan and cinnamon streusel.

The batter is placed in the pan first and the streusel is layered on top. In the baking process, the streusel sinks but leaves some brown sugar behind. The brown sugar bakes into a toasty sweet coating that covers the surface of the cake. This recipe makes one 10 round cake and uses a tube cake pan.

Creme Fraiche Coffee Cake
adapted from Flour by Joanne Chang

1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp ground cloves
3 tbs packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup chopped toasted pecans
3 tbs cake flour
2 tbs butter

3 eggs
1 egg yolk
2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup creme fraiche
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
2 1/2 cups cake flour
1 cup and 2 tbs butter (cubed at room temp)

Prepare a 10 inch tube pan with a removable insert by buttering the interior and dusting with flour.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Blending of the streusel can be done with a food processor by pulsing or by using a pasty cutter by hand.  Place all the streusel ingredients in a bowl and blend by either method. The result will be a mixture that is crumbly in texture.  Set aside.

For the cake, sift together the flour, baking soda, salt and baking powder.  Then stir in the granulated sugar.  Pour into the bowl of a stand mixer.  Run the mixer on low and drop in cubes of butter at 30 second intervals.  The mixture will come together as a coarse meal or as a dough after about 3-4 minutes of beating.  The variation is based upon the temperature of the butter and either texture is acceptable.

In a separate bowl, mix the wet ingredients together ( eggs, egg yolk, creme fraiche and vanilla extract) until completely blended.  Add half of this batter to the flour/butter blend and mix on low speed.  Then turn the speed up to medium and beat for 1 1/2 minutes, scraping down sides at two intervals of mixing.  The texture of the batter will become more fluffy and the color much lighter.

Turn the mixer back to low and pour in the rest of the egg/ creme fraiche mixture. Beat for 30 seconds, stopping to scrape down sides a few times.   Scoop out 1 1/2 cups of the batter and fold it into the streusel.

First fill the tube pan with the non streusel batter.  Smooth the top and then layer the streusel batter on top, smoothing to an even layer.  Place pan in oven and bake until cake gets golden in color and springs back when you touch the top.  Cake should be done in about 1 hour and 10 minutes.   Remove and let cake cool in pan for 3 hours.  Then invert cake onto a plate and invert again.  Slice and serve.

Tips and Notes:
1.  My cake sunk in the middle, extra precaution must be made when smoothing on top layer making sure it is even.  The addition of the batter to the streusel prior to layering is supposed to keep this from happening.
2. Even though the streusel sunk to the very bottom of the cake, it did not cause any sticking to the pan.
3.   Do not let the pan size fool you, the cake does not rise as high as the pan.  The cake should range from 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 inches in height.
                                   **LAST YEAR: Banana Whipped Cream Pie**

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Blondie Pie

While this one will not really get the vote for the prettiest dessert, it can hold its own when it comes to chewy rich indulgences.  My first thought when coming across this recipe was that this was a blondie bar in a pie form.  However, it turned out to be much like the texture of fudge instead of cake like.

The two things that control the flavor in this pie is the white chocolate and the pulverized cashew brittle.  If you are one that loves nut brittles or pralines, than this is the recipe for you.  You may favor a different type of nut in this recipe, but be aware that other nuts do have a stronger flavor.  The author stated that the cashews were more of a balance with the white chocolate than other types of nuts.

A little slice of this goes a long way, so make sure your sweet tooth is ready for this one. This recipe makes one 10 inch pie.

Blondie Pie
adapted from Momofuku Milk Bar

Ingredients/ Graham Crust
3 tbs milk powder
1 cup plus 2 tbs graham cracker crumbs
4 1/2 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
3 tbs melted butter
3 tbs heavy cream

Ingredients/Cashew Brittle
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup plus 2 tbs cashews

Ingredients/Pie Filling
1/3 cup flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup heavy cream
5.5 oz white chocolate
4 tbs butter
2 egg yolks
3 tbs sugar
pulverized cashew brittle (recipe included)

To make the crust, blend the milk powder, salt, graham cracker crumbs and sugar together in a medium size bowl.  In another bowl, mix the butter and cream together.  Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir until all is damp and no dry powder is left.  The end result should be a crumbly mixture that clumps together with pressure from a spoon or your hand.

Put the crumb mixture into a 10 inch pie tin.  Press crumbs evenly along the bottom and sides of the pan.  Then set aside while you make the other components of the pie.

For the cashew brittle, prepare a pan by lining with a Silpat or wax paper.  Pour the sugar into a small saucepan and place the pan over medium high heat.  Use a wooden spoon and stir constantly until the sugar becomes a dark amber color.  This should take about 3-5 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in the cashews.  Make sure all are coated.  Then tip the saucepan over the baking sheet and scrape out all the contents using a heatproof spatula.  Smooth out the brittle onto the pan and let cool completely.

Once cool, remove the brittle from the silpat or wax paper.  Then break the brittle into big chunks and run thru a food processor.  Set aside until ready to use.

To start on the filling, take the white chocolate and break it into chunks.  Place it in a microwave safe bowl and add the butter.  Heat in 30 second increments in the microwave, stirring after each time.  Once all has melted, stir until the butter is fully incorporated into the chocolate.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

In another bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until smooth.  Combine the melted white chocolate mixture with the egg yolks and sugar by stirring together with a wooden spoon. Continue to stir and drizzle in the heavy cream.  Set aside.

Sift together the salt and flour in a separate bowl.  Then mix in the pulverized cashew brittle.  Fold this dry mixture into the wet.

Place the prepared pie tin on a baking sheet and pour in the filling.  Bake for about 30-35 minutes.  When done, the pie will be a dark amber color and be slightly set in the center.  Let cool to room temperature.

Tips and Notes:
1. The recipe strongly recommends using a Silpat.  I used wax paper and had a little trouble peeling it off the underside of the brittle, so if you do not want to have that issue get a Silpat.
2. Use your judgement on the consistency of the graham cracker crust, if you feel it is not moist enough add an additional 1-1 1/2 tbs of melted butter.
3. Should you want to use hazelnuts or peanuts, your sugar to nut ratio of ingredients will be 1/2 cup to a 1/4 cup.
4. The brittle sets up in less than a minute, so act quickly to mix in the cashews and smooth onto the baking sheet.
                          **LAST YEAR: Chocolate Italian Wedding Cupcakes**                                   

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Orange Grand Marnier Cake

Out of the many cakes I have made, this particular one got the most compliments in regards to the lightness of flavor and texture. The icing is made with whipped cream and is less sweet than buttercream.  The orange flavor is a mix of orange juice, zest and grand marnier but it is not overpowering. Between the light icing and the chiffon layers, this cake would be good as a part of afternoon brunch or tea.

Orange Grand Marnier Cake
adapted from Sky High, Irresistible Triple Layer Cakes

Ingredients/ Cake
8 eggs, whites separated from yolks
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup water
2 tbs fresh squeezed orange juice
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1 3/4 cup cake flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tbs grated orange zest
orange food coloring (optional)

1/4 cup Grand Marnier
1/2 water
1/4 cup sugar

1 tbs grated orange zest
6 oz chopped white chocolate
2 tbs Grand Marnier
2 1/2 cups cream
optional toppings- white chocolate shavings or candied orange peel

Prepare 3 nine inch cake pans by lining the bottom with parchment paper.  Leave the pans ungreased. Then preheat the oven to 350 degrees. 

Mix together the egg yolks, orange juice, orange zest and water, set aside.  In another bowl sift together the salt, flour, baking soda.  Stir in just 1 cup of the sugar until blended.  Pour the egg yolk mixture into the dry and whisk until all becomes a smooth batter.   Add the optional orange food coloring until desired color is met, bearing in mind that the egg white mixture will dilute the batter color.

Pour the egg whites into a bowl of a standard mixer. Sprinkle in the cream of tartar.  Beat egg whites until they reach a frothy consistency.  With the mixer on medium speed, continue to beat and slowly add the 1/2 cup sugar.  The mixture should reach a soft peak stage. This is important, any beating beyond this will insure that your cake will be dry.

Scoop out 1/4 cup of the egg white mixture and fold it into the egg yolk/flour batter.  Continue with this process, folding in egg whites to batter until no white streaks remain.  Pour batter in equal amounts into pans.

Bake the cakes until a tester comes out clean, which should be about 16-18 minutes.  Remove pans and run a butter knife around the inside eggs of the pans, releasing the edges of the cake layers. Cool cakes in pans.  As they are cooling, the syrup and frosting can be prepared.

For the syrup,  add the sugar and water to a saucepan.  Place the saucepan over medium heat and let simmer, stirring constantly.  Once the syrup has reduced to about 1/2 cup, remove from heat. Wait until syrup reaches room temperature and then stir in the Grand Marnier.

The frosting starts with a double boiler set up.  Add the white chocolate and 1/2 cup of cream.  Let the chocolate melt in the pan over simmering water. Remove from heat and let this also come to room temperature.  When the desired temperature is reached mix in the Grand Marnier and orange zest.

Then chill a bowl with mixer beaters. Fill the bowl with the remainder of the whipping cream and beat until almost a stiff consistency.  Then fold the whipped cream into the white chocolate mixture.

Peel off the parchment and invert one layer of cake onto cake round or cake plate.  Brush the face up side with 1/4 cup of the syrup and then follow up by adding 1 cup of the frosting on top, smoothing it out evenly. Place the second layer on top and repeat the process.  Then do the last layer and frost top and sides.  If desired, garnish the top with chocolate shavings or candied orange peel.
                               **LAST YEAR: Strawberry Shortcakes**

Sunday, August 4, 2013

White Velvet Cut Outs

After the recent extravagant dessert, I decided to go back to something simple like cut out sugar cookies.  These type of cookies are dad's favorite and make me think of Christmas because this is the only time we had these around the house when I was young.  My mom would always make these type of cookies in the shape of Christmas trees and decorate them with green icing.  My dad, as well as us kids would gobble these up in no time.

These type of cookies can be time consuming, but if you are not into cutting out the dough for these,  you can always shape into a log and slice them. This recipe makes about 7 dozen cookies.

White Velvet Cut Outs
adapted from Taste of Home

4 1/2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
2 cups butter
8 oz cream cheese
2 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla extract

3 tbs butter
1 tbs shortening
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3-4 tbs milk
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
food coloring-optional

Using a stand mixer, beat together the cream cheese and butter until smooth.  Then add the sugar and beat again until mixture becomes fluffy and light.  Add one egg yolk and vanilla extract and mix on medium speed for 30 seconds and then add the additional egg yolk and mix again for 30 seconds.  Use a wooden spoon to fold in the flour, working in 1/2 cup increments.  Once all is blended, transfer dough to a smaller bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Place in refrigerator to chill for a minimum of 2 hours.

Once chilling time is over, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and prepare cookie sheets by lining with parchment paper.  Also set out a cooling rack for the cookies.

Take dough out of fridge and remove about 1/3 of dough from bowl to work with and place the remainder back in the fridge.  Lightly dust a flat surface with flour and roll out the dough to 1/4 inch thickness.  Cut into desired shape (number of cookies are based on using a 3 inch cutter) and place each on prepared cookie sheet about 1 inch apart.  Bake cookies for about 10-12 minutes, rotating sheets at halfway point.  The cookies are done when the dough is set, not when browned.  I removed the cookies when they just started to get golden on the edges.

Let cookies rest on baking sheets for 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack to completely cool. Continue with the rolling baking and cooling process for the remainder of the dough.

To make the frosting, cream together butter, shortening, 3 tbs milk and vanilla extract.  Then place a sifter over the batter and sift 1 cup of powdered sugar into the bowl.  Beat batter until smooth.  Continue to sift in and beat remaining powdered sugar in increments.  The end result should be a light fluffy frosting.  Beat in the optional food coloring until completely distributed for even color.  For a lighter frosting, mix in some additional milk for desired consistency.

Frost cooled cookies and let frosting set before storing.
                                 **LAST YEAR: Almond Breakfast Scones** 

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Fraisier (French Strawberry Cake)

Since the summer berries are in season right now, I wanted to make some type of strawberry dessert.  Also, this time I was interested in making something new instead of the old "tried and true".  I have recently been looking into a pastry cookbook and this particular recipe was one that I had remembered.

The recipe does have a lot of components, however once those have been made, the assembly goes by fast.  The recipe is made up of a sponge cake layer that is split.  The middle consists of an outer circle of sliced strawberries.  Inside is filled with whole strawberries that are covered in the crevasses and on top with a buttercream/pastry cream blend.  Then it is topped off with the other half of the cake layer and decorated with Italian meringue.

The hardest part of the recipe is gathering all the strawberries that are most consistent in size.  As you know, strawberries range from being the size of your fist to thumb size.  Since this dessert is being layered, the size is important.

adapted from Pierre Herme Pastries

Ingredients/ Cake                                            Ingredients/Pastry Cream
6 eggs                                                              3 egg yolks
5 tbs butter                                                      1 cup milk
1 cup sugar                                                      2 tbs butter (room temp)
1 3/4 cup flour                                                 1/3 cup sugar
                                                                        1/2 vanilla bean
Ingredients/ Kirsch Syrup                                3 1/2 tsp pastry cream powder
2 tsp kirsch                                                      or cornstarch
2 tsp raspberry liqueur                                     1 tbs flour
3 tbs water                                                      
3 tbs sugar                                                       Ingredients/Italian Meringue
                                                                        1/4 cup water
Ingredients/Buttercream                                  1 cup sugar
3 sticks or 1 1/2 cups butter plus 1 tbs            3 egg whites
6 tbs milk                                                        
4 egg yolks                                                       Ingredients/Mousseline Cream      
1/2 cup sugar                                                    10 cups strawberries, rinsed and hulled
1 batch of Italian meringue                               1 batch pastry cream (prev recipe)
(see previous recipe)                                         1 batch buttercream (prev recipe)

Ingredients/Less Sweet Italian Meringue
1/2 cup sugar
2 egg whites
2 tbs water

The first step in the process is making the sponge cake.  Prepare a 10 inch cake pan by buttering the interior.  Then dust with flour and set aside. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Place the butter in a small dish and cover then melt in the microwave.  Set aside to let cool.  Set up a double boiler system by filling a pot with water over medium high heat.  Once it starts to simmer, sit the bowl of a stand mixer over the pot.  Put the eggs and sugar in the bowl and beat with an immersion blender or mixer until it registers a temperature between 130 to 140 degrees.  Return the bowl to the stand mixer with a whisk attachment.  Whisk the mixture on high speed.  Continue to beat until the batter is cool to the touch.  The end result should be a light batter that has tripled in volume.

Set aside 2 tbs of the batter in a small bowl.  Then add the flour to the large bowl of batter in increments, gently folding until no dry streaks remain.  Blend together the 2 tbs of batter with the melted butter by using a fork.  Pour into the large bowl of batter and stir until incorporated.  Fill the prepared cake pan with the batter.  Place pan in oven and bake until cake springs back when lightly touched.  Baking time should be about 25-30 minutes.  Remove pan and invert cake onto a rack to cool.

While the cake is cooling, prepare your other components.  To create the syrup, fill a small pot with the sugar and water.   Place over medium high heat and let come to a boil.  Remove from heat and stir in the kirsch and raspberry liqueur.  Set aside to cool.

Start making the pastry cream by beating together the egg yolks, flour and pastry cream powder (or cornstarch) until smooth. This process should be completed by use of a stand mixer and bowl. Set aside.  Then take the vanilla pod and split.  Scrape out all the seeds.  Put both the pod and seeds in a small saucepan.  Add the milk and sugar.  Place the saucepan over medium high heat and stir, letting the mixture come to a boil.  Remove from heat and separate out 1/3 of the hot milk blend. Also, take out the split vanilla pod.

Prepare a cooling bath of ice water about 5 or 6 inches deep in your sink. Go back to the egg yolk mixture at the stand mixer and turn on medium high speed.  With the mixer still running, slowly pour in the 1/3 of the milk blend.  Beat for about 2 minutes to temper the eggs.  Once the mixture is tempered, pour back into the saucepan that contains the remaining milk blend. Put the empty bowl of the stand mixer upright in bath of ice water.   Take the saucepan and place over medium high heat and stir, letting the mixture come to a boil. Once it reaches the boiling point, remove the saucepan and pour the batter into the bowl that is sitting in the ice bath.  Let mixture cool to about 140 degrees.  Place bowl in the stand mixer, cut in the butter and beat until smooth.  Transfer to a small bowl and cover surface of pastry cream with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator until needed.

For the Italian meringue, whisk the egg whites in a large bowl of a stand mixer until soft peaks form.  Set aside. Then heat up the sugar and water in a small saucepan, stirring until sugar is dissolved.  Let it come to a boil, watching the temperature.  Once it reaches 250 degrees, go back to the egg whites and turn the mixer on medium high speed. Continue to beat and slowly pour in a steady stream of the sugar syrup from the saucepan into the egg whites.  Turn the mixer down to medium speed and beat until meringue is cool to the touch. Set aside.

For the buttercream, an ice bath will need to be prepared again.  Using a stand mixer, beat together the egg yolks and sugar.  Set aside once the batter is light and fluffy.  Fill a saucepan with the milk and let come to a boil and remove.  Go back to the egg yolk batter and turn the mixer up to medium high.  While still beating, pour in a stream of all of the hot milk.  Return the batter to the saucepan and cook, stirring often until it reaches a temperature of 185 degrees.  Then place the saucepan of batter in the ice bath, letting sit until batter is cool to the touch.  Once cool, beat the batter with an immersion blender or small mixer for about 3 minutes.  Set aside.  In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat all of the butter until the consistency becomes very smooth and creamy.  Using a wooden spoon, stir the cooled milk blend into the butter.  After completely blended, fold in the Italian meringue.

Place the bowl back in the stand mixer beat the buttercream for about 30 seconds.  With the mixer on low, blend in the cold pastry cream until the batter is smooth. This makes up the mousseline cream. 

To assemble the cake, start by trimming away the top crust of the sponge cake.  Then split in half and place the bottom half (cut side face up)in a 9 1/1 inch flan ring set over a cardboard cake round of the same size.  The cake may need to be trimmed to fit.  Once fitted, brush with half of the kirsch syrup.

Take out the hulled strawberries and slice one in half.  Place each half upright inside the ring, forming an interior circle. The stem top should be face down and the cut side facing the inside of the flan ring. Smooth one cup of the mousseline cream over the split cake inside the flan ring.  The cream should cover all exposed cake.  Then place whole strawberries, stem side down, into the center of the ring.  They should be tightly packed together and all reach the same height in the ring.  Some of your strawberries may need to be cut at the pointed end to achieve that result.  Once all the strawberries have been packed inside, fill all crevasses with the mousseline cream by using a piping tip and covering until you reach the top of the flan ring. Then place the other cake half over the cream layer and brush the top with the remaining syrup.  Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Make the less sweet meringue according to the same instructions as the Italian meringue.  Smooth or pipe the meringue over the cooled cake.  Removed the ring from the cake, pushing from the bottom up.  Then take a kitchen torch and toast the meringue layer on top.  Decorate the top by placing a ring of sliced strawberries in the middle.  Cake will need to be refrigerated until serving.

Notes and Tips:
1. There is a lot of mousseline cream so the pointed ends of the strawberries were not flush with the top cake layer.  For appearances, you may want to have just a layer of the cream to the point where you can still see a little bit of the pointed strawberries showing through.  If so you will have extra cream left over.

2. Should you not have a blow torch, you can achieve a quick toasting of the meringue by quickly cooking the cake under the oven broiler on high.  Watch closely-it browns quickly and remember this is to be a cold dessert. 

3. Filling of all the spaces in between the strawberries is important for the mouselline to pick up the flavor of the strawberries as well as to achieving a great look.  You do not want empty pockets of air inside.
                                     **LAST YEAR: Triple the Fudge Brownies**