Thursday, March 31, 2011

april fools

I always hated April Fools day, even as a kid. I just hate being made fun of. I'm very uptight that way. I'm not one to play tricks on people either. But it's a holiday, and I just must celebrate it! So no fish, no fake whatever. But just simple, simple April Fools.

Could a dessert be simpler? I've had fruit and whipped cream many times, but it's the first time that I combine the two and have an actual fool. It tastes the way you would think. Fruit and cream. But the addition of a bit of sour cream to it makes it different. Really good. And after taking the pics, I crumbled a store bought meringue nest into mine to make a Mess. Now that was good. Especially since my strawberries and my whipped cream weren't too sweet. Yum. A great way to use the last of the strawberries I had stashed in the freezer last summer! Can't wait for June!

Strawberry April Fools

frozen strawberries, thawed

1 cup whipping cream
1/4 cup sour cream
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 tbsp sugar

In a small pot, bring the strawberries to a boil. Put a spoonful of cornstarch in a small bowl and add enough water to dissolve it. Add some of the cornstarch slurry to the strawberries, little by little, letting it thicken before adding more, until desired consistency is achieved. Chill in the fridge.

In a medium bowl, combine cream, sour cream, vanilla and sugar. With a hand mixer, mix on low speed until slightly thickened, then at medium speed until thick, and at high speed until the mixture holds stiff peaks.

Fold strawberries into the whipped cream, and crumble in meringue nest if desired.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

broken glass jello

My daughter is graduating from... pre-preschool today. Basically, a 10 week program to prepare 3 year olds for school next year. For me, it was just another activity to keep her busy, and get her playing with other kids her age. She loved it! It was one day a week, and she would have gone every day if she could have.

So, to celebrate, we're having a potluck snack. Now, Cha loves the program, and I like going because I get to talk to other adults for 75 minutes, but I have a snack issue. I have to pack a snack for her school in the morning. That I understand. Then she comes home and has lunch. (She always asks for a snack first though.) Then, on Tuesdays, she has that program she's graduating from. It's from 12:45 to 2 p.m. And I have to pack another snack. She just had lunch! But that's nothing. On Thursdays, she has a relaxation activity at 6:15 pm, until 7:30. And I'm required to bring a snack to that too! All they do is eat! OK. I'm done ranting...

So, a snack, for a potluck, for a preschool graduation. I was considering making something that looks like graduation caps, but everything I saw kinda looked like caps, but you had to know... So I gave up on that idea when I saw this. Broken glass jello! Isn't it cute?

Jello is not something we eat here at home. Cha has had it a few times at Chinese restaurants and at my mom's house, but that's basically it. And I'm sure all kids like jello. And the recipe couldn't be simpler. I mean, how hard is it to ruin jello. ;)

Broken Glass Jello
adapted from The Food Librarian via Montcarte

4 small boxes (3 oz. each) of Jello in different colors.
1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
2 envelopes unflavored gelatin

1. For each flavor, dissolve one box of jello in one cup of boiling water. Pour into a container and chill.

2. After chilling the four flavors, cut them into small blocks.

3. Carefully mix the blocks in a 9 x 13 pan.

4. In a separate bowl, sprinkle 2 envelopes unflavored gelatin into 1/2 cup cold water. After the gelatin blooms, add 1 1/2 cup boiling water and dissolve. Add the can of condensed milk. Stir and cool. Pour cooled milk mixture over jello and chill overnight.

5. Cut into blocks or shapes and serve!

And then, after I cut it, and everything, I quickly realized that jello is really not the ideal snack to be serving to 3 year olds at a potluck... So I quickly scramble around and made mini vanilla cupcakes topped with vanilla icing and colored sugar... Boring! But, of course, they all disappeared within minutes. Lesson learned.

Monday, March 28, 2011

chocolate dulce de leche pretzel tart

Yesterday was Baked Sunday Mornings. Not the first, but the first since I became aware of this baking group. Basically, they are baking their way through the second Baked book, Classic American Dessert Reinvented, and every second Sunday, all the bloggers that participated post their dessert before noon. Simple enough, right? I love the Baked recipes, so obviously, I joined the group. And for the past two weeks, everybody's been baking the Malted Crisp Tart.

I fully intended to bake it too. I was going to make it into individual tarts. And I was debating whether to buy little tart pans, or use the mini cheesecake mold pan that I have. And then I realized that no one I know likes whoppers or maltesers. And I don't really enjoy Rice Krispies, especially dry. *shudder* In all the post I read trying to figure out how many mini tarts the recipe would make, all the bloggers were saying how this recipe dirties every single dish in the house. And as we know... the Bourbonnatrix doesn't do the dishes. So I decided to skip this recipe.

But I had read about tarts for a good week, and now... I wanted a tart! And I actually have a pan that I've used exactly once, at the only Christmas dinner I ever hosted, 5 plus years ago. So a tart I was going to have. Thankfully I found a nice tart picture on one of the food pics galleries. Amandeleine to the rescue! An amazing looking pretzel-chocolate-caramel tart. You've got crunchy and creamy, salty and sweet, chocolate and caramel. What else could you want?

The recipe is simple enough, but there's a lot of waiting for stuff to chill. Combine ingredients for the crust. Chill. Roll it out. Chill. Bake it. Let it cool. Brush with melted chocolate. Chill. Prepare ganache, fill the crust. Chill. Now here, she would make caramel. I'm just going to open a jar of Dulce de Leche. Spread on ganache, sprinkle with more pretzels and drizzle with leftover ganache, and then, guess what? Chill. Then you can eat it. And apparently, it keeps for 2 days covered in the fridge!

Chocolate Dulce de Leche Pretzel Tart

Adapted from Amandeleine

Pretzel Crust
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 cups coarsely crushed thin pretzels plus an additional 1/4 cup for topping
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 large egg
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted
3/4 cup whipping cream
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 jar Dulce de Leche

Crust: Beat the butter with 3/4 cup of the pretzels and the powdered sugar at low speed until creamy. Beat in the flour and egg. Add the remaining 1/2 cup of pretzels, being sure to leave some pretzel pieces intact. Flatten the dough between 2 sheets of plastic wrap (dough will be very sticky) and refrigerate until chilled, at least 30 minutes.

Roll out the dough between the sheets of plastic wrap to a 12-inch round. Peel off the top sheet and invert the dough over a 11-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Leave the plastic wrap on to press the dough into the corners and patch any tears by trimming the overhanging dough and pressing it into holes. Refrigerate the shell for 30 minutes or until firm.

Preheat the oven to 350°. Line the shell with parchment paper and fill with pie weights (or dry beans in my case). Bake for about 30 minutes, until nearly set. Remove the parchment and weights and bake for 10 to 15 minutes longer, until the tart shell is firm; cover the edge with foil if it darkens too much. Let the shell cool completely. Brush the melted chocolate over the bottom and up the side and refrigerate for 10 minutes, until set.

Ganache: Meanwhile, bring cream to boil in heavy small saucepan. Pour over chopped chocolate, let stand a few minutes and whisk until smooth. Spread 1 cup chocolate filling in prepared crust. Refrigerate until firm, about 45 minutes. Reserve remaining filling.

Spoon Dulce de Leche over ganache, leveling with a spatula. Sprinkle 1/4 cup crushed pretzels over caramel. Pipe or drizzle reserved chocolate filling decoratively over caramel and pretzels (if chocolate is too firm to pour, warm slightly over low heat). Refrigerate tart until caramel is firm, at least 1 hour.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

the daring bakers make meringue filled yeasted coffee cakes

Ever since I discovered the wonderful world of food blogs, I've wanted to participate in the different challenges. So one of the first thing I did whenever I set this blog up, was to sign up for the Daring Bakers, and March is my first challenge! So excited!

The March 2011 Daring Baker’s Challenge was hosted by Ria of Ria’s Collection and Jamie of Life’s a Feast. Ria and Jamie challenged The Daring Bakers to bake a yeasted Meringue Coffee Cake.

Such a good challenge, because just as I found out what we would be baking, I was looking up King Cake recipes to make for Mardi Gras. Now I realize that this is not a recipe for a King Cake, but I decided to make my first coffee cake pretty much as directed by Ria and Jamie, but to decorate it King Cake style. There's always next year to bake up a traditional King Cake!

The dough is a bit like a brioche, or cinnamon bun dough. I didn't flavor the dough in any way. I made the meringue and topped it with cinnamon sugar, and chocolate chips. Rolled it up, shaped it, let it rise (not enough), slashed it, forgot to egg wash it, and baked it.

Then came the fun part. I made quick glaze of powdered sugar and milk, brushed it on, and went crazy with the traditional colored sugar typical of a King Cake. I love the way it looks! I also like the crunch of the sugar on top too. Really good!

For the second one, I used a lemon filling, based on the sticky lemon rolls (kinda like a cinnamon bun, but with lemon instead of cinnamon) that I've been bookmarking like crazy, but never made. I mean, meringue and lemon, just go together, right?

Even though they were a bit dry, both loaves were gone way faster than they should of been. And frankly, I didn't even want to share them. They were that good.

But then, reading the comments of other Daring Bakers, I thought I'd try the recipe again, and see if I could get a better end product. And I did!

Really, the only difference was using less flour, letting the dough rise twice before rolling it out, rolling it out without flour and letting the loaves double their size after being shaped. All stuff I should have done the first time around.

On my second try, I made a cinnamon brown sugar filling for half the dough. For the other one, I flavored the meringue with instant espresso, and sprinkled crushed Coffee Crisp bars on top of it. My husband really liked the cinnamon bun one, and my parents loved the coffee flavored one. All four are winners in my book.

Filled meringue coffee cake
Makes 2 round coffee cakes, each approximately 10 inches in diameter
For the yeast coffee cake dough:

4 cups flour
¼ cup sugar
¾ teaspoon salt
1 package (2 ¼ teaspoons) active dried yeast
¾ cup whole milk
¼ cup water (doesn’t matter what temperature)
½ cup (135 g / 4.75 oz.) unsalted butter at room temperature
2 large eggs at room temperature

For the meringue:

3 large egg whites at room temperature
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon vanilla
½ cup sugar

For the chocolate cinnamon filling:

2 tablespoon granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips or coarsely chopped chocolate

For the lemon filling:

1 cup sugar
zest of 2 lemons
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Egg wash: 1 beaten egg


Prepare the dough:

In a large mixing bowl, combine 1 ½ cups (230 g) of the flour, the sugar, salt and yeast.

In a saucepan, combine the milk, water and butter and heat over medium heat until warm and the butter is just melted. (I did this in the microwave)

With an electric mixer on low speed, gradually add the warm liquid to the flour/yeast mixture, beating until well blended. Increase mixer speed to medium and beat 2 minutes. Add the eggs and 1 cup flour and beat for 2 more minutes.

Using a wooden spoon, stir in enough of the remaining flour to make a dough that holds together. Turn out onto a floured surface (use any of the 1 ½ cups of flour remaining) and knead the dough for 8 to 10 minutes until the dough is soft, smooth, sexy and elastic, keeping the work surface floured and adding extra flour as needed. (I did all this in the kitchen aid mixer)

Place the dough in a lightly greased (I use vegetable oil) bowl, turning to coat all sides. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel and let rise until double in bulk, 45 – 60 minutes. The rising time will depend on the type of yeast you use. (I put mine in a plastic container with the lid on, but not snapped shut.)

Prepare your fillings: In a small bowl, combine the cinnamon and sugar for the filling. Measure out the chocolate so you can sprinkle it after the cinnamon sugar.

In another bowl, work the lemon zest in with the sugar with the tips of your fingers until the sugar resembles wet, soft sand. Stir in the lemon juice.

Once the dough has doubled, make the meringue:

In a clean mixing bowl beat the egg whites with the salt, first on low speed for 30 seconds, then increase to high and continue beating until foamy and opaque. Add the vanilla then start adding the ½ cup sugar, a tablespoon at a time as you beat, until very stiff, glossy peaks form.

Assemble the Coffee Cakes:

Line 2 baking/cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Punch down the dough and divide in half. On a lightly floured surface, working one piece of the dough at a time (keep the other half of the dough wrapped in plastic), roll out the dough into a 20 x 10-inch (about 51 x 25 ½ cm) rectangle. Spread half of the meringue evenly over the rectangle up to about 1/2-inch (3/4 cm) from the edges. Sprinkle one of the fillings evenly over the meringue.

Now, roll up the dough jellyroll style, from the long side. Pinch the seam closed to seal. (I didn't do this.) Very carefully transfer the filled log to one of the lined cookie sheets, seam side down. Bring the ends of the log around and seal the ends together, forming a ring, tucking one end into the other and pinching to seal.

Using kitchen scissors make cuts along the outside edge at 1-inch intervals. Make them as shallow or as deep as desired but don’t be afraid to cut deep into the ring. (I did this after the second rise.)

Repeat with the remaining dough, meringue and filling.

Cover the 2 coffee cakes with plastic wrap and allow them to rise again for 45 to 60 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).

Brush the tops of the coffee cakes with the egg wash. (I forgot to do this for the first one.) Bake in the preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes until risen and golden brown. The dough should sound hollow when tapped.

Remove from the oven and slide the parchment paper off the cookie sheets onto the table. Very gently loosen the coffee cakes from the paper with a large spatula and carefully slide the cakes off onto cooling racks. Allow to cool.

Just before serving, dust the tops of the coffee cakes with confectioner’s sugar as well as cocoa powder if using chocolate in the filling. These are best eaten fresh, the same day or the next day.

Although the only time I had ever used yeast was to make no knead bread, this recipe was pretty straight forward. Came together very nicely in the kitchen aid. I didn't even have trouble rolling it out, and that's accounting for my hate of the rolling pin. I think I rolled it much thinner than the other bakers, judging by the pictures I saw. Meringue whipped up nicely too, no problems there.

With the chocolate one, I think I didn't let the yeast do its thing on the second rise. There wasn't much action there.

With the lemon one, the filling was way more prone to catastrophe, it being so liquidy. And I didn't pinch the seams closed. It oozed out everywhere. So there wasn't much lemon flavor left in the cake, as it was all over the cookie sheet. So glad I chose the rimmed on to bake this one on! The cake was still really yummy though.

Totally worth the time it took to make them. A great challenge! Can't wait for the next one!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

maple apple crisp

I've been craving apple crisp lately. I don't have a go-to recipe, so I don't make it very often. My mom used to have a typewriter-typed recipe on one of those filing cards in a box, but I think it was lost, and since then, some apple crisps, but not necessarily very good ones.

I had bought a bag of Empire apples at the store a while back, and thought I would use those, but I couldn't find them anywhere. I assume my husband has been eating them, even though he is an absolute Granny Smith type. So is my daughter. So the Emprire apples were gone, but a bag of sad looking Granny Smith remained. I guess that's why he's been eating the red ones.

I know that apple crisp is more of a fall dish, but whatever. I tried to make it more spring like by adding some maple flavors. I know for some maple is also a fall flavor, but here, where maple syrup is locally produced, it's definitely a March flavor. I never even consider using it in baking in the fall. On pancakes and stuff throughout the year, but not in baking.

Maple apple crisp

5 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and sliced
1 tbsp lemon juice
3 tbsp maple syrup
1 tbsp all purpose flour
1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 envelope maple brown sugar flavored instant oatmeal
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
6 tbsp melted butter

1 tbsp melted butter
1 tbsp maple syrup

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Toss sliced apples in lemon juice and maple syrup. Add flour and cinnamon, and toss so apples are evenly combined. Spread in a 8 or 9 inch baking dish.

In a medium bowl, combine dry ingredients, and drizzle with melted butter. Stir with a fork until mostly evenly coated with the butter. Place topping on the apples. Drizzle with melted butter and maple syrup. Bake for 45 minutes, until topping is golden and apples are tender.

Results were delicious! I like cooking with Granny Smith because the apples retain their shape, and don't go to mush. They were cooked through, but still a bit crisp. The topping was crumbly and tender, and the juices at the bottom of the dish, when spooned over the crisp after dishing out were spectacular! I might just be making apple crisp more often. This one is a keeper!

This was breakfast! I wish I had vanilla yogurt to top it, but it was still good plain! Can't wait to have some with vanilla ice cream as dessert!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

banana bread treasure chest

My daughter is "studying" pirates in preschool this week. This is very exciting to her. Now I'm assuming that they are talking about Disney Junior Pirates, and not Somalian Pirates... Tomorrow, she gets to dress up as a pirate, and go on a treasure hunt! And I figured I could bring a themed snack for the class.

After last week's sugar fest, I thought I'd make an effort to bring something healthier... not that this is health food, but at least it's not sugar on top of sugar! And if only I had thought to use the nutriblend flour that's sitting in the cupboard instead of unbleached all purpose, I could have added fiber... bah... next time!

I'm pretty sure this is my mom's banana bread recipe, as it's only a list of ingredients in my notebook of go-to recipes. It's probably from an old Betty Crocker cookbook or something like that. I've tried a lot of banana bread recipes in the past, but always come back to this one. Never lets me down. Now usually, I'd add a cup of chocolate chips to this, but left this one plain. (I'm trying to pass this off as an healthy snack, remember?)

Classic Banana Bread

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
3 tbsp oil
1/3 cup milk
1 egg
1 1/4 cup mashed ripe bananas

Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 9 inch loaf pan.

Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl. In a smaller bowl, combine wet ingredients. Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and mix until just blended.

Pour batter into the greased loaf pan, and bake for 65 to 70 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.

So what does banana bread have to do with pirates? Well, with some imagination, the shape of the loaf could resemble a treasure chest. There's a lot of nicely done treasure chest cakes on flickr, but I was trying to avoid covering the thing with frosting, or worse, fondant!

So, I tried to embellish it as little as I could while getting it to look like a treasure chest. It's an old one, you see? Lots of wear and tear.

The detailing on the edges is fruit leather. Healthy right? And the treasure? Shiny gold, ruby, emerald and amethyst - fruit salad!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

m&m cookies

After a trip to the grocery store the other day, my husband came home with a package of store baked chocolate chip cookies. That should of been my first clue. Then he told me that I was craving chocolate chip cookies, and it's been so long since I've made some, that I should just whip up a batch. So before he orders me to make some, I thought I would play nice and make him some.

It's been so long, that it took me a good 15 minutes to find my go to recipe. And my recipes are on the computer and searchable by keywords. I think about 156 recipes came up when I typed chocolate chips. I had to refine the search and type bakery. Because these are just like bakery cookies, only a thousand times better. Especially since the ones my husband buys are always past their best before date because he likes to shop on the 50% off rack.

But seriously. These are so good! I haven't tried the NYT recipe, but my husband prefers these to the Alton Brown Chewy recipe that used to be my go-to chocolate chip cookie recipe. I don't know why I don't make these cookies more often, they're super easy. You don't even have to wait for the butter to come to room temp!

They were supposed to be St. Patrick's Day recipe, with the only thing in common with the Irish holiday being that I made them on March 17, and the fact that they were supposed to have green M&Ms in them, instead of the chocolate chips. Now when I bought M&Ms last night, I really don't know why I thought I could get a full cup of green candies out of a regular sized bag of multicolored M&Ms. Turns out, there's like, maybe 12 green M&Ms in a regular bag. The whole bag barely yielded a cup. I considered going back to the store for more, but then I got exhausted just thinking of dressing up the girls to go out, putting them in a stroller, going to the store, trying not to lose my mind trying to keep Cha under control... So I put the whole bag of multicolored M&Ms in the batter and that was that.

I've modified the recipe slightly to suit my preference, but I think it's originally from Baking Illustrated.

Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

Makes about 30 cookies

3/4 cup unsalted butter
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup packed light or dark brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Melt butter in the microwave, and let cool in the fridge while you gather the rest of the ingredients. 
Whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt together in a medium bowl; set aside
Measure the sugars into the bowl of your stand mixer, or another large bowl if using a hand mixer, and add melted butter. Mix until thoroughly blended. Beat in the egg, yolk, and vanilla until combined. Add the dry ingredients and beat at low speed just until combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.

Using a 2 tbsp ice cream scoop, portion out the cookies, and drop them into the bowl you used to mix the dry ingredients. Cover with plastic wrap, and chill for about an hour.

Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

Get your cookie dough balls out of the fridge. Hold the dough ball with the fingertips of both hands and pull into 2 equal halves. Rotate the halves 90 degrees and, with jagged surfaces facing up, join the halves together at their base, again forming a single ball, being careful not to smooth the dough’s uneven surface. Place the formed dough balls on the prepared baking sheet, jagged surface up, spacing them 2 1/2 inches apart.

Bake until the cookies are light golden brown and the outer edges start to harden yet the centers are still soft and puffy, 15 to 18 minutes. Cool the cookies on the sheet.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

pot of gold

St. Patrick's day is tomorrow. Not something we celebrate here, as we're French, English and Finnish, but not Irish, but hey, any reason is a good reason to make food!

I really wanted to make a cool St. Patrick's treat. I had in mind to make a Guinness cupcake (pot), with some kind of gold frosting (gold), white cotton candy on top of that (clouds), a sugar cookie shaped like a rainbow and decorated like one perched on top of that. But I ran out of steam. St. Patrick's Day comes every year. There's always next year :)

Plus St. Patrick's Day is always during our March break. After a weekend where everyone got sick, and nothing got done, it's insanely busy. We went to the museum on Monday, special art playgroup yesterday. I had to beg off going to Beach playgroup today so I could get stuff done! I don't know how my babysitter does it! She does something with the kids every. single. day! When I came home for lunch yesterday, I was totally exhausted, but hey, normal day for her. And she's twice my age! I want to have her energy when I get to her age! I have to keep some energy for either a clown show or a playdate this afternoon, camping playgroup tomorrow, another museum and a haircut on Friday (Cha cut her own hair again... this time, I need a pro to fix it! Thanks Nat!). I'm supposed to see my friend Mylène too somewhere in there! So much to do, so little time!

So I made gold coins. Or cheddar cracker coins. Basically, a homemade goldfish cracker. Really easy to pull together, and only the food processor to wash afterwards! Sounds good to me :) The dough was really nice. I tried rolling it between parchment paper like the recipe says, but I found it was easier to roll the dough directly on parch paper. 3/8 inch was pretty thick too, so most of mine are thinner than that. You could cut your crackers any shape you want. I actually had to go through Cha's playdough toys to find a round shape cutter of the right size... Thank goodness for children's toys!

I crowded two baking sheets with a total of 75 gold coins. It's a good thing they didn't spread out! Oh, and I have to admit that I added a bit of golden yellow gel coloring to the dough...

St. Patty’s day gold coins (Cheddar Crackers)
Recipe source: Laura Flowers @ The Cooking Photographer

1 1/3 cup unbleached all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon onion powder
6 tablespoon unsalted butter, diced
8 ounce package shredded triple cheddar cheese, or cheddar of choice
2 egg yolks
2 tablespoons water

1. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.

2. In a food processor pulse together the flour, salt, paprika and onion powder. Add the butter and process until combined. Add the cheddar and pulse until finely chopped. Process in the egg yolk and water until the mixture forms a ball.

3. Remove the dough and knead in your hands for a few turns. Divide in half and roll one part between two pieces of wax paper to 3/8 inch thick. Peel off the wax paper and stamp dough with cookie stamps or cut with cookie cutters. Place the crackers on cookie sheets.

4. Freeze the crackers on the cookie sheets for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Move the cookie sheets to the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Cool crackers on cooling racks. Store in an airtight container.

Enjoy with a cold Guinness, and Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Monday, March 7, 2011

mardi gras (or spring, or easter) cupcakes

I really wanted to make mask cut out cookies decorated with royal icing and sprinkles for Cha to bring to school for Mardi Gras. I researched them, and planned them out and everything. But then, over the weekend, I completed my Daring Baker challenge, and today, well, I just wanted to bake something simple. No bending over cookies for hours trying to decorate them just right. No food coloring everywhere. Just simple, yummy, cupcakes. Yeah, right.

Still had to be fun right? So, inspired by Erica over at Sweet Tooth, I made gold, green and purple cupcakes topped with vanilla frosting. So much for no food coloring everywhere. On top of that, I have sprinkles everywhere. Oh boy!

These cupcakes are going to 3 year old kids, so I thought I'd try out a new frosting recipe. I figure that they really won't care what kind of icing is on their cake, as long as it has sugar in it, and sprinkles on it. My husband prefers store bought icing, and grocery store cakes to whatever I make. He doesn't like buttercream. He says it's like eating a stick of butter. I'm trying to find a recipe that he will like. So the frosting I made is half butter, and half shortening, with powdered sugar and vanilla. I'm not even going to bother posting a recipe for that. I don't care if the Bourbonnator likes it, I'm never making it again. It was gross. It was solid, not creamy. Sprinkles wouldn't stay on it. The texture was all wrong. Bad aftertaste. Shortening mouth-feel. Not good.

But the cupcakes we're really good. Moist and fluffy, without being crumbly. I hate crumbs. The top was crunchy. I like that in a cupcake. The colors turned out good too, but I'm not sure they scream Mardi Gras as much as Spring, or Easter. Plus, the yellow and the green together always remind me of the Jamaican Flag. In any case. Cupcakes were good, they looked cool. Icing sucked. (So did my piping job, but I'm blaming that on the icing.) Let's move on.

So, I'm sharing a trick I learned, like, two months ago, about portioning batter. In this case, to get the three colors, you need to divide the batter into 3 bowls. To do that perfectly, you need to weigh the bowl in which you're mixing the batter in. Once your batter is done, you weigh your bowl with the batter again, and subtract the weight of the bowl. Now, you divide that number by 3, and put that amount of batter into each bowl. Super easy!

Mardi Gras Cupcakes

Makes 24 cupcakes

2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350°F

Line 24 muffin cups with cupcake liners

In a small bowl sift the dry ingredients together then set aside. Measure the milk and add the vanilla extract and set aside.

In a large bowl cream the butter until smooth. Add the sugar and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating thoroughly, and scraping the sides of the bowl after each addition.

Add 1/3 of the dry ingredients to the butter and beat until just incorporated. Beat in 1/2 of the milk & vanilla, scrape the sides of the bowl. Repeat the previous 2 steps, ending with the last of the flour.

Divide your batter into 3 bowl. Add food coloring to each bowl, until desired shade is reached.

Spoon 1 heaping tablespoon of each color into each "corner" of the prepared cupcake liners to about 3/4 full.

Bake for 25 mins or until a toothpick comes out clean. Leave to cool in the pans for 15 mins.

Remove cupcakes from the pans and cool completely on a wire rack before frosting.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

risotto rice pudding

My husband and oldest daughter love rice pudding. Cha would bring that to school everyday for snack if she could. Her eyes actually light up when I tell her I made some. It's a treat for them both, because I don't make it often. The fact that I actually make rice pudding for them is strong proof of my love. It takes forever! It's hands-on forever too! And it smells so good. I want to like it. But I just don't. I don't like creamy rice. It's a texture thing.

Although it takes a good hour of stirring to make, at least it makes a lot. It says 4 to 6 servings, but I say it makes way more than that. It's not like you're going to eat a cup and half of the stuff. It's more involved than recipes that call for leftover rice, but it's the only recipe I use, because it's just so decadent. A real treat. Whole milk. Real vanilla. Sugar. Cream. Egg yolks. Oh yeah, rice too! It's not rice pudding that you can find on a grocery store shelf. The real deal.

I topped this serving with fresh pineapples that I sautéed in butter and brown sugar. Just a hint of acidity and bright, fresh flavor to balance out the creaminess of the rice pudding. If I were to eat the stuff, it would totally have to be doused in dulce de leche or something like that. Pineapples are a bit healthier.

The recipe is from the book Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey by Jill O'Connor. This book is a must for dessert lovers. Her recipes are over the top. Soooo bad for you. Soooo expensive to make. Definitely not everyday dessert kind of recipes, but if you're looking for an outrageous dessert for a special occasion, Jill O'Connor is your gal. I found a copy of the rice pudding on the internet already, so I guess it's ok to copy here? I'm new at this. I don't know the rules...

Risotto rice pudding

½ cup Arborio (risotto) rice
8 cups whole milk
½ cup sugar
1 vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise
¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ tsp. salt
2 large egg yolks
1 cup heavy cream
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
~ Freshly grated nutmeg (optional)

Combine the rice, milk, sugar, vanilla bean, cinnamon, and salt in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat and stir to combine. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring every 5 minutes as the mixture starts to thicken, for about 30 minutes.
Continue cooking until the rice is tender but not too mushy, about 15 minutes longer. The milk will be thick and the rice tender, but the mixture will still be very soupy, which is what you want. (As the pudding cools, it thickens, and if it is too thick while still hot, it will firm up into a thick, stodgy lump without the unctuous creaminess of a great rice pudding.)
In a bowl, whisk the egg yolks and cream together and stir into the rice pudding. Continue cooking the pudding over medium-low heat for about 2 to 3 minutes, until the eggs are cooked through and pudding is creamy and glossy, but still fairly soupy. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla. Grate a little nutmeg, if you like, into the pudding. Remove the vanilla pod.
Pour the pudding into a serving bowl or individual serving dishes and press plastic wrap over the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until cold, about 2 to 3 hours. Serve cold.