Friday, December 27, 2013

whoopie pies - daring bakers challenge

I had the pleasure of hosting this month's Daring Baker's challenge for the Daring Kitchen. Each month, a challenge is presented, and the members have until the end of the month to make the recipes and blog about them, starting on the 27th of the month. I've been a member of this monthly "baking club" since 2011 but I've been a pretty absent member in 2013. I blame life. And my job. And life.

So I chose to challenge my fellow bakers to make whoopie pies for my first time hosting. I figured something that was not all that common, easy enough and that wasn't too time consuming because, after all, December is an insanely busy time for us bakers (and non-bakers!).

Whoopie pies are a cross between a cookie and a cake (not a pie!), with two round, mound-shaped halves sandwiching a sweet creamy filling.

According to Wikipedia, Whoopie pies are considered a New England phenomenon and a Pennsylvania Amish tradition. It is also Maine’s official state treat. The traditional Whoopie pie consists of a chocolate cake and a vanilla marshmallow filling, but pumpkin and gingerbread cake is also common enough. Want to know why they are named Whoopie pies? Check Wikipedia for the cute story!

I personally love them because of the infinite flavor combination possible. They remind me of cupcakes, but more portable and easier to eat. So I provided three recipes for the cookie/cake, and three filling recipes, and challenged the bakers to come up with some delicious flavor combination of their own.

Recipe source: King Arthur Flour
Servings: 8 large or 16 small whoopie pies


For the Whoopie Pies

1/2 cup (120 ml) (4 oz) (115 gm) butter
1 cup (240 ml) (7 oz) (200 gm) brown sugar, firmly packed
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (5 gm) espresso coffee powder, optional
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (5 gm) baking powder
1/2 teaspoon (3 gm) baking soda
3/4 teaspoon (4½ gm) salt
1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract
1 large egg
1/2 cup (120 ml) (1½ oz) (45 gm) Dutch-process cocoa, sifted
2 1/3 cups (560 ml) (10 oz) (285 gm) unbleached all-purpose (plain) flour
1 cup (240 ml) milk


1) Preheat oven to moderate 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4. Lightly grease (or line with parchment) two baking sheets.

2) In a large mixing bowl, beat together the butter, brown sugar, espresso coffee powder (if using), baking powder, baking soda, salt, and vanilla till smooth. Add the egg, again beating till smooth.

3) Add the cocoa, stirring to combine.

4) Add the flour to the batter alternately with the milk, beating till smooth. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, and beat again briefly to soften and combine any chunky scrapings.

5) Drop the dough by the 1/4-cupful (60 ml) onto the prepared baking sheets, leaving plenty of room between the cakes; they'll spread. A muffin scoop works well here.

6) Bake the cakes in a preheated moderate oven for 15 to 16 minutes, till they're set and firm to the touch. Remove them from the oven, and cool on the pans. While still lukewarm, use a spatula to separate them from the pan or parchment; then allow to cool completely.

(pictured are mini whoopie pies, using 1 tablespoon batter)


For the Marshmallow Creme Filling

1 cup (240 ml) (6 oz) (175 gm) vegetable shortening
1 cup (240 ml) (7 oz) (4½ oz) (125 gm) confectioners' sugar or glazing sugar
1-1/3 cups (320 ml) (4 oz) (115 gm) Marshmallow Fluff or marshmallow creme
¼ teaspoon (1½ gm) salt dissolved in 1 tablespoon (15 ml) water
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract


1) (To make the filling:) Beat together the shortening, confectioners' sugar, and marshmallow until well combined.

2) Dissolve the salt in the water, and add to the marshmallow mixture. Add the vanilla, and beat until smooth. If the filling is too thin, add confectioners’ sugar until desired consistency is reached.

Assemble the Whoopie Pies

1) Spread or pipe filling onto the flat side of half the cakes (with the filling). Top with the remaining cakes, flat side towards the filling. Wrap individually, in plastic wrap, until ready to serve.

The whoopie pies will keep for up to 3 days on a parchment lined baking sheet covered with plastic wrap, in the refrigerator.

Recipe source: Baked Explorations, by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito
Servings: 18 small whoopies


For the Whoopie Pies

2 1/2 cups (600 gm) (10 ½ oz)) (300 gm) all-purpose (plain) flour
3 tablespoons (45 ml) (3/4 oz) (22 gm) dark unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
1/2 teaspoon (2½ gm) baking powder
1/2 teaspoon (2½ gm) baking soda
1/2 teaspoon (3 gm) salt
1/4 cup (60 ml) canola oil
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (150 ml) buttermilk
2 tablespoons (30 ml) liquid red food coloring
1/2 cup (1 stick) (120 ml) (4 oz) (115 oz) butter, softened, cut into pieces
1 tablespoon (15 ml) (12½ gm) vegetable shortening, at room temperature
3/4 cup (180 ml) (5-1/4 oz) (150 gm) dark brown sugar, firmly packed
1/4 cup (60 ml) (2 oz) (55 gm) granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon (5 ml) pure vanilla extract


1. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together the canola oil, buttermilk and red food coloring.

3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and shortening until smooth. Scrape down the bowl and add the sugars. Beat until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla extract and beat until combined. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl then mix on low speed for a few more seconds. Do not over mix.

4. Turn the mixer to low. Add the flour mixture, alternating with the buttermilk mixture, in three separate additions, beginning and ending with the flour mixture until just combined. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, then mix on low speed for a few more seconds.

5. Cover with plastic wrap and chill the batter in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes.

6. While the batter is chilling, preheat the oven to moderate 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

7. Remove the batter from the refrigerator. Use a small ice cream scoop with a release mechanism to drop tablespoons of the dough onto the prepared baking sheets about 1-inch (25 mm) apart. Bake in a preheated moderate oven for 10-12 minutes, until the cookies are just starting to crack on top and a toothpick inserted into the center of a cookie comes out clean. Let the cookies cool completely on the pan while you make the filling.

For the Cream Cheese Filling

3 cups (750 ml) (13 ¼ oz) (375 gm) confectioners’ sugar
1/2 cup (120 ml) (1 stick) (4 oz) (115 gm) unsalted butter, softened
8 ounces (225 gm) cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon (5 ml) pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon (1½ gm) salt


1. Sift the confectioners’ sugar into a medium bowl and set aside.

2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter until it is completely smooth. Add the cream cheese and beat until combined.

3. Add the confectioner’s sugar, vanilla, and salt and beat until smooth. Be careful not to over beat the filling or it will lose structure.

(The filling can be made 1 day ahead. Cover the bowl tightly and put it in the refrigerator. Let the filling soften at room temperature before using.)

Assemble the Whoopie Pies

1. Turn half of the cooled cookies upside down (flat side facing up)

2. Use an ice cream scoop or a tablespoon to drop a large dollop of filling onto the flat side of the cookie.

(cream cheese filling pictured on a pumpkin whoopie pie)

3. Place another cookie, flat side down, on top of the filling.

4. Press down slightly so that the filling spreads to the edges of the cookie.

5. Put the whoopie pies in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes to firm up before serving.

The whoopie pies will keep for up to 3 days on a parchment lined baking sheet covered with plastic wrap, in the refrigerator.

(Mini whoopie pies are pictured with standard American buttercream frosting as a filling. Cream cheese filling will be much looser and will not hold its shape if piped.)

Recipe source: FoodNetwork Magazine
Servings: 8 whoopies


2 ¾ cups(660 ml) (11-2/3 oz) (330 gm) flour
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (5 gm) baking soda
¾ teaspoon (3¾ gm) baking powder
¾ teaspoon salt
½ cup (1 stick) (4 oz) (115 gm) butter, softened
1 1/3 cups (320 ml) ( (10-2/3 oz) (300 gm) granulated sugar
2 teaspoons (10 ml) vanilla
1 large egg
2/3 cup (160 ml) buttermilk

Whisk flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a bowl. In a separate bowl, beat butter, granulated sugar and vanilla with a mixer on medium-high speed until fluffy; beat in the egg. On low speed, beat in the flour mixture in 3 batches, alternating with the buttermilk in 2 batches; beat until just combined.

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Scoop 16 mounds of batter onto the baking sheets, about 2 inches (50 mm) apart (about 2 tablespoons (30 ml) batter per cookie); gently form into rounds with damp fingers and smooth the tops. Refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to moderately hot 400°F/200°C/gas mark 6. Bake the cookies until they spring back when pressed, 10 to 12 minutes. Cool 5 minutes, then remove to a rack to cool completely.

Recipe source: Baked Explorations, by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito
Servings: way more than you actually need to fill the whoopies

1 cup (240 ml) (8 oz) (225 gm) granulated sugar
1/4 cup (60 ml) (1 oz) (30 gm) all-purpose (plain) flour
1 cup (240 ml) whole milk
1/4 cup (60 ml) heavy cream (about 35%)
1 cup (2 sticks) (8 oz) (225 gm) unsalted butter, cool but not cold, cut into ½-inch (15 mm) cubes
1 teaspoon (5 ml) pure vanilla extract

In a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk the sugar and flour together. Add the milk and cream and cook over medium heat, whisking occasionally, until the mixture comes to a boil and has thickened, 10 to 15 minutes.

Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on high speed until cool, at least 7 minutes. (You can speed up the process by pressing bags of frozen berries or frozen corn against the sides and bottom of the mixing bowl.) Reduce the speed to low and add the butter; mix until thoroughly incorporated. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until the frosting is light and fluffy. You can’t overbeat this mixture. Just let it go until it’s nice and smooth.

Add the vanilla and continue mixing until combined. If the frosting is too soft, put the bowl in the refrigerator to chill slightly, then beat again until it is the proper consistency. If the frosting is too firm, set the bowl over a pot of simmering water and beat with a wooden spoon until it is the proper consistency.


At first I was afraid my challenge was too simple, or boring, but the members of this group quickly got on the whoopie pie making bandwagon and created all kinds of delicious combinations of cookies and filling. A huge THANK YOU to everyone who has participated this month, especially after the passing of founding member Lis in November. Also, kudos to Ruth and Shelley who are making sure the Daring Kitchen community stays strong. Thank you guys!

For more information about this community of bakers, please visit The Daring Kitchen.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

birthday layer cake

I baked! Using a recipe I haven't posted before! And I'm writing about it! Using lots of !!! for some reason.

I made this cake for my brother's birthday two years ago. When my nephew's bday rolled around and I didn't get a specific cake requested, my husband suggested the Birthday Layer Cake recipe from Momofuku Milk Bar. He likes it because the cake and frosting recipes are designed to taste just like boxed cake mix and store bought frosting, i.e., too sweet, and chemical tasting.

So I happily went to work, doubling the standard recipe to make a tall 9 inch, three layer cake. I used Monster Mix sprinkles instead of the rainbow sprinkles called for in the recipe. I love the way they look, but I have to admit, once baked, it kinda looked like the cake was studded with bugs... Not so appealing. We ate it anyways, and enjoyed the sugary mess that this cake was.

This recipe has 4 components: the cake layers themselves, then a mixture of milk and vanilla that gets brushed on the cake layers, then vanilla frosting, and then cake crumbs, crunchy clusters of  "cake crumbs" that are layered between the cake and the frosting.

Seems like an elaborate recipe, but everything is quite simple, as long as you have a standmixer. The recipe below makes a really tall 6 inch round cake. I double everything (and tripled the frosting) to make the 9 inch cake fully covered in frosting.

Birthday Layer Cake
recipe source: Milk Bar by Christina Tosi

Birthday cake crumbs

1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 tbsp light brown sugar
3/4 cup cake and pastry flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp rainbow sprinkles
1/4 cup grapeseed oil
1 tbsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 300°F.

Combine the sugars, flour, baking powder, salt and sprinkles in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix on low speed until well combined.

Add the oil and vanilla and paddle again to distribute and continue beating the mixture until the ingredients clump and form small clusters.

Spread the clusters in a thin layer on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake them for about 20 minutes. They dry and harden as the cool into crispy crumbs. Let them cool completely before using them.

Birthday cake

Pam or vegetable oil for preparing the pan
2 cups cake and pastry flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tso salt
1/4 cup rainbow sprinkles
4 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
1/3 cup vegetable shortening
1 1/4 granulated sugar
3 tbsp light brown sugar
3 large eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk (made from skim milk and white vinegar)
1/3 cup grapeseed oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp rainbow sprinkles

Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Prepare a rimmed three 6 inch round cake pans by spraying the all over with Pam and then covering the base with a round of parchment. Set aside.
Whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and 1/4 cup of sprinkles in a small bowl. Set the dry ingredients aside for later.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter, shortening, and the sugars on medium-high for 2 to 3 minutes, scraping down the bowl as needed.
Add the eggs (all at once) and then beat again on medium-high for another 2 to 3 minutes. Scrape down the bowl.
Combine the buttermilk, grapeseed oil, and vanilla. With the mixer on low, add the wet ingredients in a steady stream. Increase the mixer speed to medium-high and beat for another 4 to 6 minutes. The mixture will double in size almost, and will appear light and fluffy. There will be no trace of oil left.
With the mixer on low, add the dry ingredients, and mix for another minute or so until the ingredients are all combined.
Pour out the batter into the prepared pans, spreading it out into an even layer. Sprinkle with the remaining 2 tbsp of rainbow sprinkles.
Bake for 30–35 minutes until the cake bounces back slightly when gently pressed in the corner. The center of the cake should no longer jiggle when the pan is shook. Cool the cake completely in the pan on a wire rack.

Birthday cake soak

1/4 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract

Whisk together the milk and vanilla in a small cup or bowl. Set aside for later.

Birthday cake frosting

1 1/4 cups powdered sugar
1/2 tsp salt
Pinch baking powder
Pinch citric acid
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
2 ounces cream cheese
1 tbsp glucose
1 tbsp clear corn syrup
1 tbsp clear vanilla extract

Whisk together the powdered sugar, salt, baking powder, and citric acid in a medium bowl. Set aside for later.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, shortening, and the cream cheese for 2 to 3 minutes on medium-high until the mixture is smooth and fluffy. Be sure to scrape down the bowl periodically.
Add the glucose, corn syrup, and vanilla, and beat the mixture on medium-high again, for 2 to 3 minutes until it is silky smooth and a little glossy. Scrape down the bowl a few times.
Now add the whisked dry ingredients and incorporate them on low speed. Increase the mixer speed to medium–high and beat the frosting until it is creamy and fluffy, just like the kind that comes in a can.

I haven't blogged in forever, but besides work being crazy, I sure did bake a lot over the past few months. I have been preparing to host my first Daring Baker's challenge, and I have been testing the new Baked cookbook for the authors, so I made a bunch of recipe I can't talk about yet, but here are a few pics of what I've been up to, for those of you who don't follow me on Facebook and Instagram:

Bowling cupcakes, for a kid's bday party, using a chocolate mayonnaise cupcake recipe, and standard, too sweet, american buttercream.

A four tiered german chocolate wedding cake, for my brother in law and his new bride.

Didn't actually bake this, but made this little fondant owl for a coworker's kid's bday.

A little fondant panda bear sitting on a bundt cake for my baby's bday.

An apple spice cake with caramel frosting for my dad, who was celebrating 20 years working at a local festival.

A wedding cake: bottom layer was momofuku  milk bar's carrot cake with cream cheese frosting, middle layer was chocolate cake with chocolate cream cheese frosting, and top layer was vanilla with old fashioned frosting.

A bridal shower cake, made out of chocolate cake layers, and filled with a coffee flavored buttercream, and frosted with chocolate ganache.

I think this is it... I should really post more often... And take better pictures!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Brown Butter Snickerdoodles

Still hate to bake cookies. Made the dough on Sunday, thinking I would bring them to a potluck at lunch, but didn't read the line in the instruction that said to let them chill in the fridge for an hour. So I stashed the dough in the fridge and didn't manage to actually bake them until Thursday. And then, all of the sudden, the friggin cookies all disappeared.

Loved these! They baked up nice and thick, and are super chewy.

I only wish I had scooped them before putting them in the fridge. When I got the dough out to bake them, the dough was super hard and it was a huge pain to scoop the cookies and roll them into a ball. Always, always, scoop first, then chill.

For the recipe, and to see how the other bakers enjoyed these cookies, visit the Baked Sunday Mornings webpage.

Friday, September 6, 2013

jam filled muffins

These muffins taste like my childhood. My mom used to make them often when I was a child, and I have been craving them for a while now, ever since I made strawberry jam I think. I just knew I had to use the jam in these muffins.

But I couldn't find my falling-apart Muffins Mania recipe book to save my life. So I asked my mom for a copy of the recipe and finally got to kill my craving.

Tasted just like a remembered them! A moist vanilla scented muffin with a jam center. And I still had some leftover crumble topping from back when I made Strawberry Swirled Muffins, so I went ahead and topped the muffins with some of the crumble topping. Added a nice crunch and extra texture to the muffins.

Jam Filled Muffins
Recipe source: Muffins Mania

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup white sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 cup plain yogurt
1/4 cup milk
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla
jam or jelly

Preheat oven to 375.

Blend dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, combine melted butter, yogurt and milk. Beat in egg and vanilla.

Add butter mixture to dry ingredients and stir until moistened.

Spoon half of the batter into 9 well greased muffin cups. Place about 1 tsp jam or jelly in each muffin and top with remaining batter.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes.

This recipe only makes 9 muffins, but they don't keep very well. So find a few friends, and devour as soon as they are cool enough to handle.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

coconut toffee chocolate chip cookie bars

These bars are super easy, don't dirty too many dishes, and incredibly delicious. It's like a magic bar meets a chocolate chip cookie. The cookie portion acts as base and topping, and there's a caramel layer topped with toffee and milk chocolate between the two layers. We practically inhaled them.

Coconut Toffee Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars
recipe source: Mom on TimeOut

1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup old-fashioned oats
2 cups flaked coconut
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup butter, softened
1 egg, lightly beaten
12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
1/4 cup Karo® Light Corn Syrup
8 ounces toffee bits

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Combine flour, oats, coconut, and brown sugar in a large bowl of electric mixer and mix at low speed.
Add butter and continue mixing until a crumbly dough forms. Add egg and continue mixing well. Stir in chocolate chips.

Reserve 1-1/2 cups of dough for topping. Press remaining dough into bottom of a lightly greased 13 x 9-inch baking dish.

Bake 10 minutes.

Combine sweetened condensed milk and corn syrup in a small bowl and mix until combined.

Pour evenly over hot crust.

Sprinkle with toffee bits.

Top evenly with reserved crust mixture.

Bake 25 to 30 minutes until golden brown. Cool and cut into bars.

Not surprisingly, these bars are really, really sweet. I loved them sprinkled with a pinch of salt flakes. So good!

Next time I will be making these in a glass pan instead of the foil in a metal pan route I took this time. The glass pan will allow me to cut these and scrape the sides of the pan without fear of scratching the metal pan, or having to peel away small pieces of foil from the sugary goodness!

Saturday, August 31, 2013

mile-high chocolate cake with vanilla buttercream

This cake popped up on the Baked Sunday Morning schedule just as I was planning my baby's third birthday. Seemed like a perfect occasion to make a six layer chocolate cake filled with an Italian meringue vanilla buttercream and topped with a chocolate glaze.

The last time I had made the standard Baked chocolate cake, my layers felt really delicate and had sunk a little in the middle. So I was really dreading splitting each one in half to make the six layers required for this cake. I had good luck this time around, and my layers baked up nice and flat, and felt sturdier than I remembered. I left them to cool on the counter overnight before slicing them the next day.

I have made the standard Baked roux based buttercream quite a few times recently (coffee one, and caramel one, just this month) and was ready for a change, so I was happy to see that this cake called for a different buttercream. I have not made Italian meringue buttercream very often, but it came together very nicely. A good thing too, cause I made finished this cake at the very last minute. No way I would have had time to make a different frosting for it! I did finish the buttercream by beating it with the paddle attachment of my kitchenaid, just to make sure it was nice and smooth.

I didn't have much time to let the glaze cool, so it wasn't as thick as it should have been, but it still worked out in the end. I did have a lot of glaze left over though, probably because it was too thin to stay on the cake as it should have.

I topped the cake with a little Peppa Pig and a little heart banner spelling out my kid's name. I don't have much experience making fondant figurines, but I'm having a blast giving it my best shot! And the birthday girl actually recognized the character, so mission accomplished!

Everyone loved this cake and the Italian buttercream. The leftovers were thoroughly enjoyed by my coworkers and didn't last long!

 For the recipe, click on through to the Baked Sunday Morning blog.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

lime tarragon cookies with white chocolate lime topping

I loved these cookies! And I totally wasn't going to make them, because when I first spotted them on the Baked Sunday Mornings schedule, I thought they were slice and bake cookies, and I just have no patience for that. (And I don't think I like slice and bake cookies.) But a couple of weeks back, I saw these cookies featured on the National Baking Society blog and was super happy to see that they were in fact drop cookies. And it's totally possible to simplify the baking process of drop cookies, so I did just that.

This cookie is kinda reminiscent of a shortbread but not really. It's not a sugar cookie. It's not chewy or crisp or crumbly. It's just different. The ingredients include butter, confectioner's sugar, light brown sugar, salt, tarragon, lime zest, lime juice and flour. They are topped with melted white chocolate.

I chose to bake the cookie dough in a parchment lined 8 in by 8 in baking pan. I baked it for about 30 minutes, if not 40, until the edges were starting to turn golden and the cookies appeared set.

After letting the cookies cool, I cut them into squares and drizzled melted chocolate all over them.

It's a good thing I gave most of these away, as it was way too easy to keep going back to the kitchen to pop just another square in my mouth. I really enjoyed the flavor, the texture of these. I think I might have preferred them without the white chocolate drizzle, but they were still delicious with it. They came together really quickly, and disappeared just as fast.

For the recipe, click on through to the Baked Sunday Mornings site and see how the other bakers liked this recipe!

Saturday, July 27, 2013

blueberry pie

For the Daring Baker's July challenge, Lisa asked all of us to search through the Daring Kitchen archives and pick any one we'd like!

I've been a member of Daring Bakers since March 2011, and since then, I've made : Yeasted Meringue Coffee Cakes, Maple Mousse served in an edible container, Marquise on meringue, Baklava, Fraisier, Candies, Povitica, Sans Rival, Quick Bread, Dutch Crunch Bread, Armenian Nazook, Challah (Pulla), Battenburg Cake, Crackers, Filled Pâte à Choux Swans, Empanada Gallega, Pannettone, Gevulde Speculaas, Muffins with Hidden Veggies and Swedish Princesstarta.

I skipped the Fresh, Fluffy, French Croissants challenge, because I'm not patient enough and I don't like croissants. I didn't make the scones (biscuits), because I ran out of time that month, but I've made them before and make scones frequently, so I don't feel too bad about missing this one. The Mille-Feuille/Napoleon challenge is one I feel bad about missing and that I will make up one of these days. Although I had made piped shortbread, I skipped the Christmas cookies challenge because they just didn't turn out as I had hoped and I didn't want to take pictures of an ugly cookie. I skipped the Crisp Crackers and Flatbreads because it was too similar to the other Crackers challenge, and although I have made Savarin once before the actual challenge, I didn't get around to it that month. The last challenge that I skipped was Life of Pie, and this is the one I chose to do this month in a "celebration" of past Daring Baker challenges. 

I think pie is my husband's most favorite dessert, and yet, it's a real challenge for me. I did make a tart last month when the Life of Pie challenge was actually on, but the top crust gave me issues, I got frustrated and chucked it in the garbage. So although we ate the tart, I didn't post it. So I took this month's challenge as an opportunity to face my fears and make pie.
As blueberries are in season, I picked that fruit as the filling of my pie. My last attempt at berry pie left me with a lake of berry juices at the bottom of the pie plate, so I went on a search for a different recipe. I picked a recipe where the filling is cooked before being placed in the pie crust, hoping it would result in a firmer filling.

I made a basic all butter pie dough recipe from Baked, but it seemed quite sticky when I got it out of the food processor, so I'm pretty sure I screwed up there somewhere. I put it in the fridge to firm up some, and had no trouble whatsoever rolling it out, so that also tells me I did something wrong. Isn't pie dough supposed to be fragile and delicate? Mine looked more like cookie dough...

The filling came together nicely, but I added a bit too much nutmeg to the mixture, and I forgot to add butter to it. Oops.

I was about to attempt a lattice top when my husband whispered "baby-steps" in my ear, so I went with a standard pie crust for the top. A quick brush with egg wash and a sprinkling of raw sugar before going into the oven.

I was pretty happy with the golden pastry once out of the oven. We waited until the next day to dig into it, and when we did... the filling oozed all over the place. But I have to admit that I loved the texture of the filling. It was a great blueberry sauce!

And it was too nutmeg-y. And the crust was tough (although, I really liked it, but I don't like flaky pastries, so my opinion doesn't count apparently). But still. I made pie, and my husband had seconds. So I win anyways. Now I can go back to not making pies.

Classic Pie Dough
Recipe source Baked Elements, page 161

Yield: 2 9-inch single crust pies or 1 double-crust pie

3 cups all-purpose flour, chilled
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
8 ounces (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, and salt together. In a measuring cup, stir 3/4 cup of water with several ice cubes until it is very cold, discarding any remaining ice.

Toss the butter in the flour mixture to coat. Put the mixture in a food processor and pulse in short bursts until the butter pieces are the size of hazelnuts.

Pulsing in 4-second bursts, slowly drizzle the water into the food processor through the feed tube. As soon as the dough comes together in a ball, stop adding water.

Remove the dough from the food processor and divide it in half. Flatten each piece into a disk and wrap each disk first in parchment paper and then in plastic wrap. Refrigerate the dough until firm, about 1 hour.

Blueberry Pie Filling
Adapted from Nick Malgieri via That Skinny Chick can Bake

2 pints blueberries (4+ cups), rinsed
3/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
3 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
A few gratings of fresh nutmeg
2 tablespoons butter

Combine 2 cups of the blueberries with the sugar in a saucepan. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally, till sugar is melted, about 5 minutes. Combine the cornstarch and water in a small bowl and whisk the blueberry and sugar mixture into it. Return mixture to the pan and cook, stirring constantly, over low heat, until it boils, thickens and becomes clear. Pour into a large bowl and mix in the lemon zest, cinnamon, nutmeg and butter. Mix in the rest of the blueberries. Cool.

Egg wash: 1 egg well beaten with a pinch of salt
Sugar to sprinkle over top before baking

Preheat to 400º. Roll out the bottom crust and place in bottom of pie plate. Trim the edges, then add the blueberry filling. Roll out top crust and place over fruit filling. Seal and crimp the edges as desired. Sprinkle the top of the pie with sugar.

Place the pie on a parchment lined baking sheet (to catch drips) and put on a lower shelf of your oven. Immediately reduce the temperature to 375º. Bake for about 40 minutes, until the crust golden and the filling is bubbling. Cool the pie on a rack.

For more information about the Daring Bakers challenges, click on through to the Daring Kitchen.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

oopsy daisy cake

We were celebrating my sister in law's birthday today, so I thought I would make the Baked Sunday Mornings recipe for this week, the Oopsy Daisy Cake, a milk chocolate cake with a peanut butter filling and an old-fashioned vanilla frosting. And since my SIL didn't request anything specific on her cake (no dora, no strawberry shortcake or hotwheels!), I was inspired by the title of the recipe and decorated it with daisies.

The original cake makes two 8-inch layers, but because I needed to feed 13 people, I knew it had to be bigger. I though of making one and a half time the recipe, but there are a lot of 1/3 cup measures in the original recipe, and i was too lazy to do the math, so I just doubled everything and baked it in three 9-inch pans.

Looking back on it, maybe the cake didn't need to be 9 inches across and 6 inches high. Just a tiny bit over the top. But I always want to make sure I have enough cake. I probably should have saved a layer for another time.

The cake itself is pretty standard, butter and sugars getting creamed together, then dry ingredients and a mixture of melted milk chocolate, cocoa powder, coffee and milk get added in. Maybe I made a mistake while doubling the recipe, or maybe I over-baked the layers, but I thought the cake was just blah. A little dry, a little bland, unremarkable. On the upside, the layers came out nice and straight.

The peanut butter filling was easy to whip up and tasted great with the chocolate cake and the best vanilla frosting ever! Love, LOVE the boiled milk frosting, and it came together so nicely for me this time around! I didn't add peanut butter to the vanilla frosting because I was sure I'd have some leftover since I had double the recipe, but somehow, I manage to put pretty much all the frosting on the cake.

I did have issues with the decorating... I actually did put everything on the cake as I had planned, but that lasted about 10 minutes, before the bow and the flowers fell off. So I quickly had to come up with a plan B, and put the bow and the flowers on top of the cake, where gravity was less of an issue, and made additional flowers for the side of the cake. Still came out pretty cute, I think.

For the recipe, and to see how the other Sunday morning Bakers fared with this recipe, click on through to the Baked Sunday Mornings website!

Monday, July 1, 2013

strawberry swirled muffins

It's strawberry season again! The kids and I went strawberry picking with their cousins and my sister-in-law last week. I got amazing pics of the kids from the outing plus, the best strawberries, sweet biscuits to make shortcakes and pie!

I had planned on making balsamic basil strawberry jelly, but didn't get have all the supplies on hand. Then I realized that we had a huge basket of strawberries to eat before leaving for the weekend, so I used up some of them in these muffins.

Chopped strawberries get folded in the muffin batter, then a dollop of strawberry jam gets swirled in. Just before they go into the oven, the top of the muffins get sprinkled with a mixture of butter, flour, powdered sugar and cinnamon.

Strawberry Swirled Muffins
Recipe adapted from A Cache of Recipes by Laura Cole via The Galley Gourmet

1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
8 Tablespoons (4 ounces) unsalted butter, melted
1 cup sour cream
1 extra large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup small diced fresh strawberries
2 Tablespoons strawberry jam, divided
3/4 cup streusel topping (recipe below)

Preheat the oven to 350º F. Line a standard 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl, combine the butter, sour cream, eggs, and vanilla. Gently mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients just until the mixture comes together. Fold in the strawberries. Evenly fill the muffin tins. Swirl 1/2 teaspoon of strawberry jam into each muffin. Top each muffin with 1 tablespoon of the streusel topping. Bake for 30 minutes. Allow the muffins to cool in the tin for 5 minutes. Remove the muffins and cool completely.

Streusel Topping
makes 1.5 cups, enough for 2 batches of muffins

3/4 cup confectioners' sugar
1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cold and cubed

Combine all the ingredients using a pastry cutter. Store any remaining streusel in an airtight container in the refrigerator or freezer for another use.

These muffins were also fun to make for little hands as there was a bunch of steps they participate in: putting the liners in the cupcake mold, mixing the dry ingredients, cracking the egg in a bowl, whisking the wet ingredients, swirling the jam in the batter, sprinkling on the streusel... a perfect recipe for kids wanting to learn how to bake!

Friday, June 28, 2013

chocolate cake with cream cheese-sour cream frosting

 My niece's birthday and my mother-in-law's birthday are just a day apart. My niece requested a lemon meringue strawberry shortcake cake and I also wanted to bring a chocolate cake for my mother-in-law.

So I made my standard chocolate cake and sandwiched the two layers with a thick layer of this new-to-me chocolate frosting. It's a combination of butter, cream cheese, powdered sugar, cocoa powder, melted chocolate and sour cream. And it's delicious. Like eat it with a spoon delicious!

Chocolate frosting with cream cheese and sourcream
recipe source : Annie's Eats

9.5 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
6 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
6 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
4 tbsp. unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
Pinch of salt
2/3 cup plus 1 tbsp. sour cream

Melt the chocolate and set aside to cool until just barely warm. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and butter on medium-high speed about 3-4 minutes. Mix in the confectioners’ sugar, cocoa powder and salt. Beat in the melted chocolate and then the sour cream. Continue beating until the mixture is smooth and well blended.