Sunday, August 30, 2009

Daring Bakers Challenge....Dobos Torta...sigh

Oh woe is me... if you know me, then you know I have a tendency to sigh - great, loud sighs. So imagine me typing this and sighing. Yep - this challenge left me shaking my head while I licked my spatula and wondered why I was unable to properly follow a recipe.

I'm late in posting my August Challenge. I just lost track of time and baked a whole bunch of other things on my list this past month... leaving this challenge on the sidelines. I will admit that I was so excited when I first received the challenge - a Hungarian speciality - baked in my little kitchen in Ottawa! Yay! Only, it didn't work out as well as the recipe promised. I swear - I tried!!! But alas sometimes it doesn't matter how good the intentions... sometimes, it just doesn't work out :0(

Not to say the result doesn't taste good... I mean, sugar, chocolate and butter combined - it still TASTES good, it's just become a variation of what I had intended.

The August 2009 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Angela of A Spoonful of Sugar and Lorraine of Not Quite Nigella. They chose the spectacular Dobos Torte based on a recipe from Rick Rodgers' cookbook Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Caffes of Vienna, Budapest, and Prague.

This should have been simple enough - a 5 layer sponge-cake with a rich buttercream frosting and topped with thin wedges of caramel. 2 of my 5 layers didn't bake properly. My caramel tasted of lemon. The only thing I was successful at was the buttercream frosting - I mean, whisking sugar and eggs, adding chocolate and then whisking in 2 sticks of butter - yep, rich chocolate frosting was made.. and licked... you have to taste the good rights?

So my end result was a 3 layered sponge cake, with buttercream frosting and pecans. No caramel. No special effects. This means I need to have another go at it another time...

I'll provide you with what I did successfully complete though...

Sponge cake layers
6 eggs, separated, at room temperature
1 1/3 c. icing sugar, divided
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 c. + 2 tbsp sifted cake flour
pinch of salt

Position the racks in the top and centre thirds of the oven and heat the oven to 400F.

Cut six pieces of parchment paper to fit an 9" circle template.

Beat the egg yolks, 2/3 c. icing sugar and the vanilla in a medium bowl with a mixer at high speed until the mixture is thick, pale yellow and form thick ribbons with the beaters are lifted out of the batter (3 minutes).

In another bowl, using clean beaters, beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Gradually beat in the remaining 2/3 c. icing sugar until the whites form stiff, shiny peaks. Using a large rubber spatula, stir about 1/4 of the beaten whites into the egg yolk mixture. Fold in the remaining egg whites, leaving a few wisps of white visible.

Combine the flour and salt. Sift half of the flour over the eggs, fold in, and then repeat with the remaining flour.

Line a baking sheet with one piece of the parchment paper that has the circle template. Fill the circle with about 3/4 c. of the batter (fill in the traced circle with the batter using a spatula). Bake on the top rack for 5 minutes. Remove it from heat and place on a wire rack to cool. Meanwhile, bake the remaining layers, one at a time, 5 minutes each on the top rack. Allow all of the layers to cool completely.

Grab an 8" circle round to trim the layers so that they are all the same size and shape.

While they are cooling you can start on the frosting.

Chocolate Buttercream
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 c. white sugar
4 oz (110g) dark chocolate chips or chocolate finely chopped
2 sticks butter, at room temperature

Bring a large saucepan with an inch or so of water to a boil, bring it down to a simmer. Once the water is ready, combine the eggs and sugar in a large glass bowl. Place the bowl on top of the pot (without the water touching the bottom of it) and whisk the eggs and sugar together (I use my electric beaters for 3 minutes).

Add the chopped chocolate to the egg mixture and continue beating the batter for another 3 minutes (over the simmering water). Remove from the heat, pour into a clean bowl and allow the batter to cool down a little.

Once it's reached room temperature, slowing start to whisk the mixture adding the butter about 2 tbsp at a time - you'll notice that it will slowly thicken. Keep your beater going until all the butter has been incorporated. Place the frosting into the fridge to chill - it will thicken up (leave to sit for about an hour). When you're ready to assemble the cake, remove the frosting from the fridge and allow it to sit for a little bit before using it.

Now this is where everything really fell apart for me (even though by this point I'd already lost 2 of my sponge layers)... I followed the recipe for the caramel and ended up with a sticky lemon syrup - really not the best way to highlight this dessert... so I dumped it and continued to assemble my layers...

I put some of the buttercream on the serving plate and spread it out a little. I then placed the bottom layer on top of it (the buttercream allowed the cake to adhere to the plate and not move). Spread more of the frosting between the layers - cake, frosting, cake, frosting, cake and then more frosting. You'll want to spread some of the buttercream around the sides as well. I then grabbed some whole pecans and placed them on the sides and top of the cake.

Totally not how it was supposed to turn out... but like I said before, it still tasted rich and delicious... even through all the sighs :0)

Friday, August 28, 2009

my 2nd attempt at a cheesecake

It was my friend Sharon's birthday - and I wanted to make sure that not only did she have a fabulous day with her friends, but that she also had a pretty fabulous birthday cake as well. For most people that means 3 things: chocolate, alcohol and cheesecake. I hit all 3 of those requirements in this one. Lots of chocolate, nice and creamy with a hint of liquor - the perfect way to celebrate the big... :0) (don't worry Sharon, I won't tell...)

I used the remaining cookies I had frozen from my July DB challenge (the Whippets - July 27th) so I ended up with enough cookie base for an 8 inch cheesecake AND a smaller one (4 inches)... but if you follow the recipe below you'll end up with just the right amount of cookie base for one 9 inch cake pan.

I also pulled out a bottle of Sabra liquor - a thoughtful gift from my father. Bailey's or Kahlua would work as well... I just wanted to make use of my gift. (merci papa)

Triple Chocolate Cheesecake
1 1/3 c. cookie crumbs (your choice - chocolate, graham crackers, etc. you decide - I used homemade butter cookies)
1/3 c. butter, melted
2 x 250 g cream cheese (block), at room temperature
300 ml can sweetened condensed milk
2 eggs
120 g white chocolate, chopped and melted
2 tbsp Sabra liquor
120 g semisweet chocolate, chopped and melted
1/4 c. whipping cream
120 g bittersweet chocolate, chopped and melted

Preheat your oven to 300 F.

If you're going to be using home made cookies for the base, pulse them in your food processor until they form nice crumbs. Otherwise, just grab your cookie crumbs and blend with the melted butter. You'll want to make sure that everything is evenlyl moistened (add more melted butter if you think you need some). Press firmly into the bottom of your springform pan (or cake pan if you're using a regular one).

Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese with your hand mixer at medium speed for about 1 minute - until fluffy. While the mixer is still running, pour in the condensed milk. Beat until smooth (scrape the sides of the bowl and the remaining condensed milk from the can). Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until everything is blended. Add the Sabra.

Using a double boiler - melt your white chocolate in one bowl and the semisweet chocolate in another.

Now - divide your creamcheese batter in half - putting half in your white chocolate and the remaining half with the semisweet chocolate. Grab your beaters again and beat both mixtures until they are smooth.

Pour the semisweet chocolate batter over the cookie crust. Use a spatula to spread it evenly. Carefully pour the white chocolate on top and spread the batter on top of the chocolate.

IF using a springform pan, grab some tinfoil and make sure that the base is well sealed (so that water doesn't get into the pan). If not, you can skip this step.

Place the pan in a large baking dish filled with 2 to 3 inches of hottest tap water.

Bake for about 45 minutes (35 minutes for the mini one) - you still want the cake to be a bit jiggly.

Cool on a rack to room temperature . Cover and refrigerate until firm.

Once your cheesecake has chilled completely, make your ganache.

In a saucepan over medium heat, scald the cream. Remove from heat and whisk in the bittersweet chocolate until melted and smooth.

Spoon onto the cheesecake and spread over the top (and sides if using a springform pan and have removed the sides). Return to the fridge and allow to cool completely.

Happy Birthday Sharon!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

apples and rhubarb...

I had that left over rhubarb and needed to use it up - well, wanted to use it up rather than freeze it is more correct. As mentioned, when I made my divine strawberry-rhubarb pie i found this pie a little tricky. I learnt a lesson... use more cornstarch... I needed to thicken up my filling.

So I gave it another try - only I swapped the strawberries with apples - after work, the market was closed so I had to make do with what was in my fridge - and I was not disappointed. I honestly just made the filling... and have been slowly eating away at it... I did intend to make a pie crust, but sometimes, you just can't be bothered :0)

Apple-Rhubarb Jelly Filling
3 c. rhubarb, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces
2 apples, cored and chopped into 1 inch pieces
1 c. white sugar
1/3 c. cornstarch
1/2 c. water
1 tbsp lemon juice

Over medium heat, dump everything except the lemon juice in a large pot. Stir everything together to well combine and allow it to come to boil. Turn the heat down to a simmer and cover the pot, allowing the rhubarb and apples to soften up. Once everything thickens up and softens up to your desired consistency (about 10 minutes) remove the pot from heat and stir in the lemon juice.

You can fill a pie with it, top some toast... or be like me, and just eat it by the spoonful. Seriously I ate it by the spoonful. The sour sweet taste just kept me wanting more :0)

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

the "thank you" cupcake

I work with some pretty amazing people. They work really really hard - and have to put up with all sorts of last minute changes and high stress... so whenever I can, I bake "thank you" treats - so far they've been given brownies, double chocolate cookies, and cake. Today I brought in my lemon butter cookies and cupcakes - banana and toffee to be precise :0)

Another reason for these treats is that one of my co-workers is going on maternity leave - a little boy to add to her little clan - and so I wanted to make sure that Vero knows how much we all appreciate her and wish her an amazing year with her little ones.

The recipe was inspired from my Cupcakes recipe book by Sue McMahon. I have to warn you all, I ended up using my scale since her measurements are in grams and ounces... I meant to convert them for all of us North Americans... I just lost track - note: always keep a pen handy for notes and adjustments... lesson learnt!

cupcake and frosting recipes follow - I adjusted from the original adding some roasted walnuts and chocolate chips to the sticky toffee frosting... DELISH!

Banana Cupcakes
100 g butter, room temperature
100 g brown sugar
2 eggs
100 g self-rising flour
1 ripe banana, mashed (I thawed a frozen banana)

Preheat your oven to 375 F. Line a muffin tin with 12 paper liners. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar together until the mixture becomes light and fluffy. Add the eggs and beat into the batter. Add the flour and incorporate into everything using your electric mixer. Once the batter is smooth, fold in the mashed banana.

Divide the batter into the paper liners - about a scoop and a half in each cup. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and cool on a wire rack (remove from the tin).

Sticky Toffee Frosting
100 g butter, room temperature
125 g sweetened condensed milk (about 1/3 of a 300 ml tin)
50 g brown sugar
1 tbsp corn syrup
handful of walnuts, roasted and chopped
handful of dark chocolate chips

In a small saucepan over medium heat melt the butter. Now add the condensed milk, brown sugar and corn syrup - and whisk non-stop for the next 7 minutes. You want the mixture to thicken up and turn a golden colour - but keep whisking it otherwise it'll stick to your pan.

Remove from heat and allow to sit for about 10 minutes - it'll thicken a bit more. Then grab a spoon or palette knife and spoon on top of the cooled cupcakes. Spread evenly and then top with walnuts and chocolate chips.

There it is - a simple way to thank awesome people... and wish Vero a very wonderful year... we'll all miss you!

Monday, August 24, 2009

I scream, you scream, we all scream for... CUPCAKES!

I had a very special birthday to plan for - Jeremie was celebrating his 12th birthday. I knew that I wanted to make something not only delicious, but different. I wanted Jeremie to be really wowed by his birthday treat...

I discovered Ice Cream Cone Cupcakes on the now extinct cupcake bake shop blog and just knew that this was the recipe I was looking for. Quirky and fun and very chocolatey- perfect for Jeremie.

Happy birthday! And for those of you wondering if these are worth it - he ate two for breakfast :0) (I'd say that's a success).

Chocolate Cupcake Cones
24 flat bottomed ice cream cones
2 c. pastry flour
2 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 c. milk
1/2 c. butter, room temperature
2 tsp vanilla
2 eggs

Preheat your oven to 350 F. Place the ice cream cones in muffin tins (1 cone per muffin tin hole) - makes it much easier to bake.

Grab a large bowl and dump everything except the eggs directly in. Grab your hand mixer and beat on a low speed until just incorporated. Turn up to a high speed and beat for another 2 minutes.

Add the eggs, incorporating after each one, then beat the entire batter for another 2 minutes (high speed).

Transfer the batter to a container with a pour spout.

Pour the batter into the cones. I made sure that I stopped filling about 1/4 inch under the lip of the cone - allowing room for the batter to expand as it bakes.

Bake for between 20 - 30 minutes (depending on your oven) - you're cake tester should come out clean.

I'm telling you, just at this point in the process you'll be tickled pink with the result... so let them cool on a wire rack and prepare the buttercream frosting.

Chocolate Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
2 sticks butter (1 c.), at room temperature
5 c. powdered sugar
1/4 c. milk
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 c. cocoa powder

In a large bowl, beat the butter until it's creamy. Add the sugar, milk, vanilla and cocoa and beat until everything is well combined. You want the frosting to get thick but not too stiff - you'll be piping it onto the cupcakes - so don't be afraid to add a little more milk if you need to thin it out a little.

Attach a large star tip to your piping bag. Then scoop the frosting into the bag. Pipe it on to the cupcake cones using a circular motion so that it looks like soft serve ice cream. Top with sprinkles if you have any, or even a cherry on-top!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY JEREMIE!!!!! Enjoy the rest of your cupcake cones!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

the virtual picnic... all thanks to Joy (the baker)

My favourite blogger... Joy (I know, I keep saying it about blogs - but joy the baker is seriously my favourite blog) decided to host a rooftop picnic in LA - Since most of her followers couldn't make it (geographic restrictions) she decided to "host" a virtual one at the same time. I decided I was up to the "challenge" and hosted my own picnic at home, here in Ottawa. On the menu - was Joy's Vegan Chocolate Cake with Avocado. I figured since Joy was the hostess with the mostess that I would bake something in her honour from her site.

I know one person for sure who is going to be excited by this recipe... my sister-in-law Pat and I spent last Sunday comparing chocolate mousse recipes - I use tofu for my mousse, she uses avocado. So I hope that Pat (and anyone else reading this) takes the chance to give this recipe a whirl... something different to shock your friends and family with :0)

Vegan Chocolate Cake with Avocado
thanks to Joy the baker
3 c. cake flour
6 tbsp cocoa powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
2 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. sunflower oil
1/2 c. soft avocado, well mashed (about 1 medium avocado)
2 c. water
2 tbsp white vinegar
2 tsp vanilla

Preheat your oven to 350 F. Grease (or spray) two 8 inch round cake pans and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the oil, avocado, water, vinegar and vanilla - use a wooden spoon and not your electric mixer. Add the sugar, combining well.

In a smaller bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, salt, baking powder and soda. Add to the wet ingredients. Stir everything to incorporate well.

Pour into the cake pans and bake for 35 minutes (or until the cake tester comes out clean). Allow to cool on a wire rack in the pans for 15 minutes - then remove them from the pans and allow to cool completely.

Now to frost the cake. Joy was inspired by Alton Brown's recipe. This frosting really pushes the baking limits - but is absolutely surprisingly good - I know - trust me and try it... and as Kailey said - when you add powdered sugar to anything, it's gotta taste good :0)

Avocado Frosting
2 ripe avocados
2 tsp lemon juice
1 lb (about 5 c.) powdered sugar, sifted
1/2 tsp vanilla

In a large bowl beat your avocados and lemon juice together (use your electric mixers, it makes it all much easier). Beat for about 2 minutes - the avocado will become creamy and will lighten up a little.

Add the powdered sugar, a little at a time, beating at medium speed continuously. Add the vanilla and incorporate well. You can either use it immediately or, place in the fridge (well stored until you're ready to use - same day though).

I let mine stand for 10 minutes on my counter, it thickened up a little. Using a rubber spatula, cover your bottom layer or cake with the frosting, top with the top layer of cake and cover that with with remaining frosting.

The result - a chocolate cake with bright green frosting! Too cool... I think it'll be perfect to try again at halloween :0)

Oh yeah - and the virtual picnic was a BLAST - thanks ladies for joining in the fun! I hope Joy decides to do this again soon

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

heirloom rhubarb pie

As you know, I mentioned that my mini-vacation provided me with some lovely produce... some of which included rhubarb. The history behind this rhubarb is that the original plant was grown by Mel's great-grandfather - transplanted over the years, and now blooming in Mel's aunt Mary's garden. I was lucky enough to be given a huge amount of it... with thoughts of pie in my head I couldn't wait to get home and bake with rhubarb for the first time ever.

Memories of my grandmother's strawberry-rhubarb pie swam in my head... so I trecked over to the market, bought beautiful fresh strawberries (melt in your mouth berries) and rushed home to have a go at it. I found this one trickier than all the other pies I've baked - but the filling was DIVINE (I seriously ate the left over stuff just from a bowl...) and with leftover rhubarb still in the fridge I'm sure I'll have another go at it :0)

My Divine Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie
1 1/2 c. whole wheat pastry flour
2 tbsp powdered sugar
1/2 c. COLD unsalted butter, cubed
1 egg yolk
1 tbsp COLD water

In a large bowl combine the flour and sugar together. Add the butter and using your pastry knife, cut in the butter until it resembles breadcrumbs. Add the yolk and the water and continue the process of blending the dough together with your pastry knife (or all of this can be done in a food processor - a little faster process). Once the dough has come together (but still a little crumbly) turn it onto your counter, gather it into a ball and cover it in plastic wrap. Allow to chill in the fridge for at least an hour.

meanwhile, prepare the filling.
divine filling:
750 g fresh rhubarb, rinsed, trimmed, leaves discarded and chopped in 1/2 inch pieces
750 g fresh strawberries, rinsed, trimmed and halved
1 c. white sugar
3 tbsp cornstarch
zest and juice of a lemon

In a sauce pan over medium heat, combine the rhubarb, strawberries, sugar, cornstarch and lemon zest. Stir everything to combine well, but allow it to cook until the result is nice and thick... remove it from heat and allow it to cool just a little.

At this point you'll want to heat your oven to 375 F.

Take out your pastry dough and roll it out. This pie doesn't call for a pastry top, it's rustic - meaning you'll fold the sides up around the sides, leaving an uncovered centre. I had enough to divide the dough in half and made a mini tartlette with the remaining pastry.

Once your pastry base is rolled out, line your pie tin, make sure that you have plenty of overhanging crust - do not remove it. Pour in your divine strawberry-rhubarb filling... put as much as you like. Then fold up the overhanging crust - about an inch and a half of your sides will be covered.

Place in the oven and bake for 50 minutes (check @ the 40 minute mark) on the top rack - place something on the rack underneath to catch any of the juices that might drip :0)

Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack.

ENJOY!!!! My uncles certainly did... they ate it for dessert and the leftovers for breakfast, the greatest compliment for a baker!

zucchini from Mike's garden

Not only was my vacation in Belle River @ the McGuire's awesome and relaxing... but I got some great local produce out of it as well. Mike sent me home with some zucchini from his garden - already grated and ready to be used!

This morning I woke up ready to bake. I found a zucchini lemon walnut bread from Julie Van Rosendaal's Grazing cookbook - but decided to change it up a little, especially since I've spent most of this summer (actually, let's be honest, this year) baking with lemon. I decided to swap the lemon for chocolate and raisins - yep, another recipe with a twist.

This recipe ended up not only making a loaf, but also a dozen muffins...
Oh, and a perfect recipe to make first thing in the morning if people in the house are still sleeping... no need for any electric beaters or mixers - nice and quiet baking... have people wake up to the smell rather than the noise of baking :0)

Choco - Zucchini Loaf (with raisins and walnuts thrown in)
1 c. whole wheat pastry flour
1 c. all purpose whole wheat flour
3/4 c. brown sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt
1/2 c. buttermilk (milk with 1/2 tbsp lemon juice, sit for 5 minutes)
1/4 c. vegetable oil
2 eggs
2 c. grated, unpeeled zucchini
1/4 c. walnuts
1/2 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/4 c. raisins

Preheat your oven to 350 F. Spay your loaf pan with nonstick spray and line your muffin tins with paper liners - or bake 2 loaves or about 3 dozen muffins... up to you.

In a large bowl, combine the flours, sugar, baking powder and soda and salt together.

In a smaller bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, oil, eggs (beat each one in individually).

Add the wet ingredients to the flour bowl, along with the zucchini and chocolate chips, walnuts and raisins. Stir with a wooden spoon until just combined. Don't over work the batter.

Pour half of the batter into the loaf pan and divide the remaining half among the muffin liners (about a large spoonful in each).

Bake the muffins for 18 - 20 minutes and the loaf for 40 minutes.

Share amongst friends and family... they'll love it (I promise)!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Lemon + butter + cookies = YUMMY!

We all know I love lemons. I think I love lemons more than I love chocolate. I've made my margarita cookies and my lime meltaways - both of which have become fast favourites. But this might become one of my new "go-to" cookie recipes. It's a freezer cookie - the dough gets rolled into a log, wrapped in plastic wrap, allowed to chill and then sliced into thin pieces. All this means is making the dough in advance - but since it's going into the freezer you can make it up to 2 months in advance... just think of it as a baking investment :0)

I found this little gem of a recipe in my grandmother's recipe book (I know, I've used this book several times in the past couple of weeks... I guess we all know where I'm finding my inspiration).

Lemon Butter Cookies
adapted from: The Fannier Merritt Farmer Boston Cooking School Cookbook
1 c. butter
1 c. brown sugar
2 eggs
1 lemon, zest and juice
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
pinch of salt
2 c. all purpose flour

In a large bowl, cream the butter. Add the sugar and beat it well into the butter. Add each egg individually, beating well, adding the lemon zest and juice, cinnamon, cloves and salt into the batter. The cookie dough will be fluffy at this stage. Stir in the flour with a wooden spoon, making sure all the flour is incorporated.

At this point I placed the bowl with the batter in it in the fridge and allowed it to cool a little (about 30 minutes).

Then I removed it from the fridge and divided the dough in half - shaping it into a log over plastic wrap. Grab your plastic wrap, lay it out flat and put some of your cookie dough on it. Pull up the sides of the wrap so that all of the dough is covered and just form it into a log.

Quick and easy - I promise (I was intimidated the first time I tried too - and have since made 3 cookie dough's that require this process). Make sure that the ends are well twist-tied closed and place in the freezer to allow the logs to really chill. This makes cutting the dough much easier.

Allow to cool in the freezer about 2 hours (or more).

When you're ready to bake, preheat your oven to 350 F. Line your cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Remove a log from the freezer and peel off the plastic wrap. Thinly slice the dough. Place them on the cookie sheets (about an inch apart) and bake for about 10 minutes - you want them to be golden.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack.

This amount of dough will make about 60 cookies (good ol' fashioned recipe books... you always get the most out of a recipe right?)

Like I said, you can bake them all at once, or divide the batter into lots of little logs and only bake a dozen at a time. If you have problems with self-restraint I recommend the latter... unless raw cookie dough is your weakness :0)

Thursday, August 6, 2009

bananas, raspberries and chocolate...

I had already decided to bake a banana loaf and bring it to Mike and Barb as a thank you for their hospitality. Then, while I was walking through the Byward Market I saw a pint of beautiful raspberries that were just calling out to me... begging me to use them. Banana and raspberry loaf? Why not? We mix blueberries with bananas all the time, so I figured that would be a real winner.

Then I started thinking that I hadn't baked a chocolate and banana loaf in a really long time... rather than bake only 1 loaf - I thought I'd use my mini loaf pans and make 8 mini loaves - 4 banana raspberry and 4 triple chocolate banana loaves.

Double the fun, double the taste. And since they're mini - they take no time to bake. Which is nice when you don't necessarily want to spend your entire afternoon in the kitchen.

I made 1 batter and then divided it in order to make the different types of loaves. Three easy steps. I promise.

Banana Loaf batter
1/4 c. butter, room temperature
3/4 c. brown sugar
4 bananas (very ripe), mashed
2 eggs
1/3 c. buttermilk (milk with 1/2 tbsp lemon juice)
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
2 c. flour, half whole wheat pastry flour and half all purpose
1 tsp b. soda
pinch of salt

For Raspberry Banana Loaf
1 pint raspberries, rinsed and picked through

For Triple Chocolate Loaf
2 tbsp cocoa powder
1/4 c. dark chocolate chips
1/4 c. white chocolate chips

Preheat your oven to 350 F. Grab your mini muffin loaf tins and spray with non-stick spray. Set aside.

In a large bowl and with your electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar. Add the bananas and mix well. Then, incorporating each egg individually, beat in the eggs. Add the buttermilk and vanilla to really combine.

In a small bowl, combine the flours, salt and b. soda. Fold the flour mixture into the wet batter with a wooden spoon. You want to make sure that you don't over mix the batter at this point.

Now to divide the batter - pour half of it into another bowl. Throw in the raspberries into one of the batters, combine well and then divide into 4 of the mini loaf molds.

With the remaining batter, add the cocoa and chocolate chips and combine well. Pour that into the 4 remaining molds.

Bake in your oven (3/4 top rack) for 20 - 22 minutes (depending on your oven). Remove from the heat and allow to cool in your pans on a wire rack.

This already has me thinking that raspberries and chocolate are a great combo as well... perhaps that'll be my twist for next weeks biking trip with my mom :0)

Monday, August 3, 2009

a trip to Belle River... means packing some treats!

I'm spending a week with Mel and her folks in Belle River. A week on the water - fishing, tanning, reading, just plain ol' enjoying the summer - it seems the McGuires have been enjoying a rain free summer... I should have headed down there two months ago!

I got busy this afternoon planning what I was going to pack for our little road trip - and to bring Mike and Barb (my favourite surrogate parents). I decided to try out a couple new recipes and fingers crossed everyone enjoys them.

The first one was taken from Heidi's 101 Cookbooks blog - her Brazil Nut Butter Cups recipe. Can I just say - having made my own nutella - which I personally think is absolutely delighful - that brazil nut butter is probably one of the greatest discoveries I have made in the kitchen! Seriously - I love almond butter, hazelnut butter, cashew butter... BUT brazil nut butter is absolutely amazing. Now I'm trying to think up of other things I could spread this on... any suggestions are welcome (hint hint, leave a comment).

Brazil Nut Butter Cups
1 1/2 c. brazil nuts, loosely chopped
1 tsp vegetable oil
2/3 c. powdered sugar
1/2 tsp sea salt
10-ounces chocolate (bar or chips)

I placed 10 regular sized cupcake liners in a muffin tin (they're the "cup" molds). Set aside.

Loosely chop your brazil nuts - the nicest thing about this nut is how easy it is to chop - unlike other nuts, pieces of it don't go flying all over your kitchen when your chopping (easy for the clean-up).

Toast the brazil nut pieces in a dry pan over medium heat - you want to make sure they don't burn, so keep an eye on them and toss them around every so often. This shouldn't take you more than 6 minutes to toast.

Remove from heat and allow to cool just a bit (I thew mine into the freezer for 2 minutes to chill them really quickly).

Throw the cooled nuts into your food processor and add the oil. Puree the mixture for about a minute - you'll see that the nuts will start coming together away from the sides of the bowl. Add the sugar and continue to blend. While the processor is doing it's thing, add in the salt. As Heidi mentions in her blog - the salt really brings out the brazil nut flavour - it is an essential ingredient.

Once you have reached that "nut spread" consistency, you can either remove the spread from the bowl and fill a piping bag (to pipe the spread onto a layer of chocolate) OR just set aside.

In a large bowl over a pot of simmering water (about an inch of simmering water) melt about 3/4 of your chocolate. You don't want to over whisk the chocolate - stir it from time to time to just make sure everything is melting equally. Once the chocolate is nearly melted, remove the bowl from heat and stir in the remaining chocolate. By stirring everything together you'll melt all the chocolate.

Take a large spoonful of the chocolate and line the bottom of each cupcake liner (10) with the chocolate. Gently rap the muffin tins on the counter once or twice to ensure that the chocolate spreads out over the bottom and releases the air bubbles. I put them in the freezer for 20 minutes to allow them to completely cool.

Once the chocolate had hardened, remove from the freezer and either pipe or spoon the brazil nut butter on top of it. Don't completely fill the liner - since you still need to top the brazil nut butter with some more melted chocolate. Like the chocolate, it should be about a large spoonful of spread to cover.

Now cover your cups with the remainder of the melted chocolate (again, a spoonful). I returned them to the freezer and had them set over the next couple of hours.

Another recipe with another nut spread... I know... I'm not very original. but they sure do taste good! Next time I'll make these mini... so I imagine I'll probably get 24 mini brazil nut butter cups :0)

Sunday, August 2, 2009

a twisted pie

While having dinner with my aunt Lo she mentioned that my grandmother used to bake not only lemon meringue pie - but she'd also bake a lemon chiffon pie for those of her kids who didn't like that meringue topping... since I've mastered the meringue pie, I decided to attempt the chiffon one...

Thanks to my grandmother's Fannie Merritt Farmer Boston Cooking School Cookbook I was able to recreate a pretty fabulous pie. You're still making a meringue - you're just folding it into the lemon curd filling.

While flipping through the pages I also noticed a couple of options for pie pastry - one of which was called the no-roll pastry... a no-frills, quick and dead-simple pie crust. I think it works nicely with this pie, and certainly comes in handy when you don't feel like chilling your dough and then rolling it out. For those of you afraid of making your own crust - this is the one for you! There really is no excuse not to try it (believe me)...

No-Roll Pastry
1 1/2 c. whole wheat pastry flour
pinch of salt
1 1/2 tsp brown sugar
zest of 1 lemon (save the lemon for the pie)
1/2 c. vegetable oil
2 tbsp milk

Preheat your oven to 425 F.

Grab your pie pan. Sift the flour, salt, sugar and lemon zest directly into your pie pan.

In a bowl combine the oil and milk (whisk quickly with a fork).

Pour the oil mixture over the flour mixture and combine using the fork. You want to make sure that all the dry flour is well combined (not showing).

Press the dough into the base and on the sides of the pie pan. Prick all over the base with a fork. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes. Remove it from heat and allow to cool completely. Turn off the oven - you won't need it any more!

Lemon Chiffon Filling
1 pkg gelatine (1 tbsp)
1/4 c. cold water
4 eggs, separated
1 c. white sugar, separated in half
1/2 c. fresh lemon juice (juice of two lemons)
zest of 1 lemon
pinch of salt

These ingredients will make both the lemon curd and the meringue.

Dissolve the gelatine into the cold water (allow it to sit for about 10 minutes)

In a large glass bowl, beat together the yolks, 1/2 c. sugar and salt. Add the lemon juice. Over a saucepan of simmering water continueally whisk the yolk mixture (use your electric beaters). You'll want to whisk for about 10 - 12 minutes, really allow the curd to become light and fluffy, the colour will become a really soft and mellow yellow. Add the dissolved gelatine and lemon zest and beat for another 5 minutes. Once the gelatine has been completely incorporated into the curd you know you're done.

Transfer the mixture to a clean bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate until it begins to set, but isn't completely firm. The best way to accomplish this, pull it out of the fridge and stir it around every 20 minutes, then return it to the fridge. Do this for about 60 minutes.

At that point, make your meringue. Whip the egg whites until fluffy and then slowly incorporate the remainder of the sugar. Continue to whip until the meringue forms stiff peaks (hold the bowl over your head... if you've beaten them enough you shouldn't have an extra clean-up).

Take a 1/4 of the meringue and beat it into the curd. Once that's well whipped, fold in the remainder of the meringue using a spatula. The result is a really fluffy and light filling. Pour it into your prepared pie crust and chill for at least 2 hours - I chilled mine overnight.

Thanks for challenging me Lo - this one was well worth it!