Posts Tagged 'Dessert Recipes'

S’More Squares

What the heck happened to summer?  I realize that by the calendar, we still have almost seven weeks (and I will continue to blog as such!), but I can feel it fading.  The neighborhood kids are going back to school tomorrow, and I was mildly freaked out to see racks and racks of fall clothes at the mall yesterday.  (At least that means football is coming, right?)

In my mind, this means we’d better enjoy as much summer fare as we can before it’s back to roasted squash and simmering stews.  And what’s the quintessential summer dessert?  S’mores, of course!  Today’s recipe is a dressed-up version you can use as a fun ending to the most adult dinner party, but kids love it as well (and I have the evidence!).

S’More Squares
Makes 9

Ingredients:
Vegetable oil, for brushing
4 packages unflavored gelatin (or 3 tablespoons)
3 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus 6 tablespoons room temperature, plus more for pan
14 graham crackers, crushed to yield 1 1/2 cups crumbs
12 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces

Method:
Brush a 9-x-13-inch glass baking dish with vegetable oil.  Cut a piece of parchment or wax paper large enough to cover the bottom of the dish and to overhang the longer sides.  Place the parchment in the dish, brush with oil, and set dish aside.

Pour 3/4 cup of cold water in the bowl of an electric mixer, and sprinkle gelatin on top.  Let stand 5 minutes.

Place 3 cups granulated sugar, corn syrup, salt, and 3/4 cup water in a medium saucepan.  Set saucepan over high heat, and bring to a boil.  Insert a candy thermometer, and cook until mixture reaches soft-ball stage (238 degrees, about 9 minutes).

Using the whisk attachment, beat hot syrup into gelatin on low speed.  Gradually increasing speed to high, beat until mixture is very stiff, about 12 minutes.  Beat in vanilla.  Pour mixture into the prepared baking dish, and smooth the surface with an offset spatula.  Set dish aside, uncovered, until marshmallow becomes firm, at least 3 hours or overnight.

Place 1 cup confectioners’ sugar in a fine strainer, and sift onto a clean work surface. Invert large marshmallow onto the sugar-coated surface, and peel off the parchment paper.  Lightly brush a sharp knife with vegetable oil, and cut marshmallow into 2-inch squares.  Sift remaining 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar into a small bowl, and roll marshmallows in sugar to coat.  Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Brush a 9-inch square baking pan with melted butter.  In a large bowl, combine graham-cracker crumbs, 7 tablespoons melted butter, and remaining 1/4 cup granulated sugar.  Using your hands, press mixture firmly into prepared pan.  Transfer pan to oven, and bake until the crust has set, 15 to 18 minutes.  Remove pan from oven, and transfer to wire rack to cool.

Bring a medium saucepan of water to a simmer.  In a medium heat-proof bowl, combine chocolate with remaining 6 tablespoons butter.  Set the bowl over the simmering water, and stir until chocolate and butter have melted.  Pour chocolate mixture over cooled graham-cracker crust.  Using an offset spatula, spread chocolate mixture into an even layer.  Transfer to refrigerator, and chill until firm, about 30 minutes.

Preheat the broiler.  Cut chocolate crust into nine 3-inch squares.  Top each square with a marshmallow, and place assembled s’mores under the broiler just until marshmallows turn golden brown, about 20 seconds.  Serve immediately.

Source: Martha Stewart Living, May 1998

Time for S'Mores!Time for S'Mores!

Time for S'Mores!

S'Mores Square

Talk about a decadent dessert.  WOW.  The end result was really delicious but super rich; my group of tasters concluded that the chocolate was the culprit.  I used Baker’s semisweet for this batch, but I’m going to use Hershey’s milk chocolate (the classic!) next time around.  I might also play with the amount of chocolate in my next batch, though I’m not sure that half would be quite enough.  Additionally, I’ll probably cut the graham cracker base into a dozen squares instead of nine to make it easier to finish one off (though the size does make this a visually impressive dessert!).

This marshmallow recipe is pure perfection, everybody.  These were the most gorgeous, fluffy marshmallows I’ve ever made (and I’ve made lots), AND they taste exactly like Jet-Puffed marshmallows (a plus in my book).  Whenever I have a recipe that calls for marshmallow from here on out, I’m going to use these.  Also, this recipe makes more than double the amount of marshmallow you’ll actually need for the s’mores, so you’ll have plenty around for snacks.

So what else do I love about this recipe?  The same thing I love about so many things I post on this blog, which is “make-ahead-ability.”  The marshmallows will keep in an airtight container for about two weeks, and the chocolate-covered graham cracker squares can be kept in the refrigerator for at least two or three days.  If you have the components made, all you have to do is preheat the broiler, put the squares on a baking sheet, put marshmallows on the squares, and put the treats under the broiler for 20 seconds.  That’s about as easy as it gets.

A note about browning the marshmallows: I thought it might be OK to use a kitchen torch instead of the broiler, but that quite literally just browns the marshmallows. You totally miss out on the ooey-gooeyness that the oven time creates.  Also, if you make too many s’mores, I discovered that they’re quite good reheated the next day. Just let them cool completely, put them in an airtight container, and then pop them in the microwave for 15 – 20 seconds when you’re ready to enjoy.

TIP:  Since I live at 5900 feet, I had to adjust the temperature of my sugar and corn syrup mixture to make the marshmallow.  Water boils at 202°F at my house (instead of 212°F at sea level), so I took the mixture off of the stove at 228°F instead of 238°F.  Also, I had an incredible amount of powdered sugar waste after I cut and rolled my marshmallows; I think you could get away with sifting only 1/2 cup of confectioners’ sugar onto the work surface, rather than a full cup.

Update 4/23/12: I made these last night for friends with two modifications.  First, I used 9 ounces of Hershey’s milk chocolate instead of 12 ounces of semisweet chocolate.  I liked the flavor of the Hershey’s better, and the chocolate layer was a perfect thickness.  Also, one of my dinner guests from last night can’t have gluten, so I made the crust with Kinnikinnick S’moreables (and made sure to get 1.55-ounce Hershey bars, which apparently is the only size Hershey guarantees as gluten free).  Using the alternative graham cracker changed the texture of the crust a bit, but the dessert was still delicious.

Recipe link: S’More Squares

Chocolate Ice and Vanilla Milk (aka The Most Fun Way to Make Chocolate Milk Ever)

Has anyone around here been reading this blog long enough to remember the request line?  It fizzled out around the time we made our move from Dallas back to Denver, but a friend from college singlehandedly (and unknowingly) revived it by sending me a recipe a few weeks ago.  Since he specifically said I should try it and blog about it, I’m going to happily interpret that as a request.  And it’s a good one! The recipe was simple and quick (minus the milk chilling time, but that’s hands off) and so much fun.  Thanks, Mike, for reminding me that I love chocolate milk (and should enjoy it more often!).

So, the premise behind the recipe is to make what basically amounts to chocolate ice cubes, and to serve them with milk that has been “enhanced” with a bit of sugar and vanilla.  Kids would love this treat (without the instant coffee, I’m sure) and I think this makes a fun dessert for adults as well.  Here’s the recipe:

Chocolate Ice

Ingredients:
200 ml milk
50 ml water
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon instant coffee (optional) (I used Medaglia D’Oro instant espresso)
70 g dark chocolate (66% cacao) (I ignored the cacao recommendation and used Cadbury Royal Dark because I like it and it was on sale)

Method:
Finely chop chocolate and place in a heatproof bowl.

Pour milk and water in a saucepan; add sugar, cocoa, and coffee and mix thoroughly to avoid lumps.  Bring to a boil over medium heat then remove from heat.  Pour over the chocolate, set aside for 5 minutes, then mix gently with a wooden spoon until smooth and creamy.  Cool and pour into an ice cube tray and freeze.

Vanilla Milk

Ingredients:
600 ml milk
60 g sugar
1 vanilla pod

Method:
Pour milk into a large saucepan.  Add sugar and stir to dissolve.  Slit the vanilla pod down the middle, scrape out the seeds, and add them to the pan.  Bring to a boil over medium heat then remove from heat.  Cool, then refrigerate several hours or preferably overnight.

To serve, place chocolate ice cubes in glasses (3 – 4 cubes per glass, depending on the size) and pour the cold vanilla milk over the cubes.

Note:  I used the measurements indicated in the recipe because my liquid measuring cups have cup and milliliter markings.  I also have a kitchen scale, so I was able to just weigh my sugar.  Fifty milliliters of water is a little under 1/4 cup; 200 milliliters of milk is a little over 3/4 cup; 600 milliliters of milk is about 2 1/2 cups.  Seventy grams of dark chocolate was all but five squares of a Cadbury Royal Dark bar.  Sixty grams of sugar should be slightly over 1/4 cup.  Thankfully, this isn’t baking, so the recipe should be forgiving of slight variations.

Chocolate Ice Cubes

Chocolate Milk

Holy cow, was this ever delicious!  It’s rare for me to just sit down with a glass of milk (especially chocolate milk), and I feel like I’ve been missing out.  A cold glass of milk is actually pretty refreshing, and I especially loved the depth of flavor the espresso powder brought to the chocolate and the way the milk got more and more chocolatey as the cubes melted.  Mmmmmm.  The flavor possibilities are pretty endless too…  I can totally imagine adding some chile powder, powdered ginger, or cinnamon to the mix.

What else do I love about this recipe besides the fact that it’s delicious?  It’s easily made ahead.  The chocolate cubes can just sit in the freezer (though I would recommend storing them in a freezer bag to minimize freezer burn) and I’m sure the milk will keep just fine in the refrigerator for several days.  Perfect for treats on demand!

Again, many thanks to my friend Mike for reviving the request line.  If you have a recipe you’d like me to try, post a comment or send me a message at sweetandsaucy.wordpress.com@gmail.com.

TIPS:  I ended up getting 27 chocolate ice cubes out of the recipe with about 1 tablespoon of liquid each.  Next time, I would probably double the milk recipe to make more servings since four chocolate cubes per glass was just about perfect.

Recipe link: Chocolate Ice and Vanilla Milk

Daring Bakers’ Challenge: From Phyllo to Baklava

Erica of Erica’s Edibles was our host for the Daring Bakers’ June challenge. Erica challenged us to be truly DARING by making homemade phyllo dough and then to use that homemade dough to make baklava.
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Whew!  Talk about a project.  I spent the better part of yesterday afternoon making the phyllo and baklava (and a HUGE mess to go with it!) and then had to wait anxiously until this morning (after all the baklava syrup had been absorbed) to even see if it was all worth it.  Thankfully, the results are pretty delicious, even if I can’t say I’d go to all that trouble all over again.  Here are my notes:

  • I doubled the dough recipe (as recommended) and let it rest for 2 hours before rolling it.
  • The wrap-the-dough-around-the-dowel technique didn’t work for me, perhaps because my rolling pin is thicker and is silicone (not wood).  My dough just fused together into a tube instead of growing larger.  I just kept moving and flipping my dough, rolling it from every direction, until it was as thin as I could get it.  Then, as recommended, I stretched it even more with my hands.  I was pleasantly surprised by how well the dough held up for handling despite being rolled so thin.
  • Even though I definitely got my dough sheets to the point of transparency, I only ended up with 11 or 12 sheets.  Since they weren’t huge and I didn’t end up with quite as many of them as I hoped I would, I decided to use a 9-inch round cake pan instead of a 9 x 9-inch square pan for my baklava.
  • I thought I floured well between each sheet, but I apparently didn’t do it well enough; my sheets stuck together pretty badly when I was trying to pull them off to assemble the baklava.  I did my best to make sure I separated all the sheets, but one or two layers might have been doubled.  I had set one perfect sheet aside on the counter under some plastic wrap for the top, though, so I don’t think anyone would really be able to tell that I struggled.
  • I used the recommended nut combination for my filling (almonds, walnuts, and pistachios) and the recommended spices (cinnamon and allspice).  I think I overdid the clove a bit in my syrup.
  • I used an entire stick of butter for buttering between the phyllo layers.
  • The recommended baking time was 60 minutes at 350°F, but mine was a deep golden brown at 45, so I took my pan out of the oven at that point.
  • Since I used a 9-inch round cake pan (6-cup capacity) instead of a 9 x 9-inch square pan (8-cup capacity), I made 3/4 recipes of the filling and the syrup. The filling was just right, but I think there was a bit too much syrup; I should have followed my instinct and left a bit out.  Even after resting for 16 hours, my baklava was still oozing a bit, though the majority of the syrup did get absorbed.
  • In my opinion, the syrup is a bit too sweet.  If I ever make it again (with store-bought phyllo, sorry!), I’ll cut the sugar to 1/2 cup (for a full recipe) instead of 2/3 cup.
  • After the initial cuts (before baking, in the middle of baking, and post-syrup), I continued to cut through my baklava periodically as it cooled.  It came out of the pan very easily this morning.

Assembled, Unbaked Baklava

Baked Baklava

Cut Baklava

The end result was a tasty treat, but it was a LOT of work.  This challenge certainly relieved me of any pride that might get in the way of me buying frozen phyllo dough at the grocery store. 🙂

Thanks for a great challenge, Erica!

Recipe link: Phyllo and Baklava

Homemade Peeps for Easter

Let me start by saying that as I was cutting and sugaring my homemade Peeps, I was thinking of angles for this post.  The thing that kept consistently coming to mind is that this project is solely for people with entirely too much time on their hands who like to make messes.  Grumble, grumble, moan, moan.  Then, I tasted one and realized that the mess and effort was worth it.  The Easter Bunny can keep his Peeps!

I spotted this project in the April 2011 issue of Martha Stewart Living.  Though I’m not big on Peeps (Reese’s peanut butter eggs are the best!), I am big on homemade marshmallows, so I had to give them a try.  If you like super fresh, fluffy, gooey marshmallow and crunchy sanding sugar, this one’s for you.

Marshmallow Easter Critters
Yield varies based on cookie cutters used

Ingredients:
Vegetable oil cooking spray
1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar
2 envelopes (1/4 ounce each) gelatin (1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons)
2/3 cup cold water, plus 1/2 cup room-temperature water
2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Fine colored sanding sugar, for sprinkling and rolling

Method:
Coat a 9 1/2-by-13-inch rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray, and dust with confectioners’ sugar, tapping out excess. Sprinkle gelatin over cold water in the bowl of a mixer. Let stand for 5 minutes to soften.

Meanwhile, heat granulated sugar and room-temperature water in a saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring, until sugar dissolves. Wash down sides of pan with a wet pastry brush. Cook until syrup reaches 238 degrees on a candy thermometer. Stir syrup into softened gelatin, and keep stirring for a few minutes to cool. Whisk on medium-high speed until soft peaks form, 8 to 10 minutes. Whisk in vanilla. Spread mixture into baking sheet using an offset spatula; sprinkle with sanding sugar. Let stand for 1 hour to set.

Cut out marshmallows using your favorite Easter cookie cutters (wipe cutters clean between each cut), and roll cut sides in sanding sugar to coat.

Source: Martha Stewart Living, April 2011

My notes:

  • To account for altitude, I cooked my sugar syrup to 228 degrees instead of 238 degrees.  My marshmallow was pretty soft, though…  We were jokingly calling the treats “Jeeps” (as in a cross between Jigglers and Peeps).  I enjoyed the texture, but I might take the syrup up to 232 or 234 next time to see how the marshmallow changes.  All you sea level people have it so easy. 😉
  • I needed the full 10 minutes to get my marshmallow to soft peaks.
  • If you want your treats to be thoroughly coated in the sanding sugar, make sure you cover the top quickly and well when you initially spread the marshmallow onto the baking sheet.  The sugar is only going to adhere to sticky surfaces, and the exposed marshmallow begins to set within a minute or two.
  • I dipped my cookie cutter in confectioners’ sugar between cuts so I didn’t have to wipe it off for every single treat.  I probably wiped it after every third or fourth cut.
  • I really wanted to use Wilton’s mini Easter cookie cutters for this project, but I couldn’t track down a set.  Instead, I used my smallest Easter-themed cookie cutter, which was a 2-inch-by-3-inch baby chick.  I was able to get 26 treats out of the sheet of marshmallow with quite a few scraps.

Homemade Peeps

Peep Interior

Recipe link: Marshmallow Easter Critters

Coconut-Key Lime Pie

We are slowly and steadily working our way through the leftover party beverages, but I planned a dinner party for last Friday to help speed up the process.  The weather was relatively nice last week, which (1) motivated me to spring clean my grill, and (2) put me in the mood to serve brighter, lighter food for my party.  To keep things relatively stress free, I went with a menu I served to my family last summer: Cilantro Honey-Lime Grilled Chicken, Southwestern Two-Bean Salad, and Hill Country Coleslaw. Watermelon wasn’t going to work as dessert this time around, though, since it’s hardly the season.  I knew several of my guests were coconut fans and that lime would go well with the meal, so I decided to try a recipe from the November 2010 issue of Everyday Food: Coconut-Key Lime Pie.

I actually made the pie twice; I experimented on my family when they came to dinner two Sundays ago (I’m glad they welcome my tests!), and then I served it at the dinner party mentioned above.  I got fantastic results both times, but I have to admit I made a significant substitution.  Knowing that there are 50 calories and 5 grams of fat per tablespoon of heavy cream, I just couldn’t pile 32 tablespoons worth onto my pie.  Couldn’t do it.  I used an 8-ounce container of Cool Whip Lite instead and saved 37 Weight Watchers PointsPlus points for the entire pie.  I would probably dig out the cream if I planned to serve the pie to hardcore foodies, but my guests certainly didn’t have any complaints.  Here’s the recipe:

Easy Press-In Pie Crust
Prep time: 10 minutes | Total time: 20 minutes plus cooling | Yield: One nine-inch pie crust

Ingredients:
6 ounces cookies (about 12 graham crackers, 46 vanilla wafers, or 30 chocolate wafers, such as Famous)
3 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Method:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a food processor, pulse cookies until finely ground (you should have about 1 1/2 cups).  Add sugar, salt, and butter and pulse until combined.

Firmly press crumb mixture into bottom and up sides of a 9-inch pie plate.  (If using a springform pan, press crumbs halfway up sides.)  Bake until crust is dry and set, about 12 minutes.  Let cool completely in plate on a wire rack before filling.

Coconut-Key Lime Pie
Serves 8

Ingredients:
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
1 can (13.5 ounces) unsweetened coconut milk
1/3 cup fresh or bottled Key lime juice
7 large egg yolks
1 Easy Press-In Pie Crust, made with graham crackers
2 cups cold heavy cream
2 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar
3 tablespoons sweetened shredded coconut, toasted

Method:
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  In a medium bowl, whisk together condensed milk, coconut milk, lime juice, and egg yolks until smooth.  Pour into crust and bake until set but still slightly wobbly in center, 40 minutes.  Let cool on a wire rack, 1 1/2 to 2 hours, then refrigerate 3 hours (or up to 1 day).

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat cream and sugar on high until stiff peaks form, about 3 minutes.  To serve, top pie with whipped cream and sprinkle with toasted coconut.

Source: Everyday Food, November 2010

My notes:

  • When making the crust, I would recommend adding the salt while you’re grinding the graham crackers for the best distribution.  I often enjoy being able to taste the salt in sweet things, but you might want to cut the salt to 1/8 teaspoon if salt isn’t your thing.
  • Beware the unsweetened coconut milk!  I’m used to using sweetened coconut milk, which is pretty smooth and creamy.  The unsweetened, first press stuff is basically chunks and water; I still haven’t figured out how to successfully get it all out of the can without splashing coconut water somewhere.  Also, I would recommend whisking it separately until smooth before adding it to the sweetened condensed milk, lime juice, and egg yolks.  My filling came together much more easily when I did this.
  • I’m usually a from-scratch-all-the-way kind of gal, but when the two grocery stores I visited didn’t have key limes, I just went with the bottled stuff (although it was specifically key lime juice, not just lime juice).  One of my guests commented that he wasn’t usually into citrus desserts because the flavor is typically too intense, but he liked the mellow flavor of this pie.  The coconut probably helped as well.
  • My pie needed 45 minutes (instead of 40) at 325 degrees to be reasonably set with a wobbly center.
  • I already mentioned the heavy cream swap.

Coconut Key Lime Pie

This pie is seriously yummy.  The graham cracker crust is divine – sweet, buttery, salty, crunchy – and I love the bright but mellow citrus-coconut filling.  The cream (real or not!) and toasted coconut on top are great textural elements.  This recipe is perfect for summer, for Southwestern or tropical menus, or for any time you need a little sunshine in the form of dessert.  I’ll be making this one again for sure.

Recipe links: Easy Press-In Pie Crust and Coconut Key-Lime Pie

Strawberry Cake Balls

So I finally decided to jump on the cake ball bandwagon this past week.  I needed to put together a dessert buffet for a party I had on Saturday night, and I thought they would be a great make-ahead option.  This certainly isn’t an original concept and the recipe is ridiculously easy, but I thought it might be helpful to some of you if I share my notes on the experience.  Here’s the recipe and what I learned:

Strawberry Cake Balls
Makes about 120 balls if portioned by tablespoons

Ingredients:
1 (18.25-ounce) box strawberry cake mix
1 (16-ounce) container prepared strawberry frosting
2 (16-ounce) packages white Candiquick
4 (1-ounce) squares Baker’s white chocolate (optional)
Wilton gel food coloring in rose (optional)

Method:
Bake cake according to package directions.  Cool completely, then crumble cake in a large bowl.  Add frosting and stir together or mix together with your hands until fully incorporated.

Line two rimmed baking sheets with wax paper.  Roll 1-tablespoon portions of cake-frosting mix into balls and place on baking sheets.  Freeze for at least two hours.

Melt the Candiquick in a double boiler.  (You may want to work with one package or a half package at a time.)  Pull about a dozen cake balls from the freezer and let them thaw slightly (five minutes).  (If you dip them straight from the freezer, the coating may crack.)  Just before you begin dipping the first dozen cake balls, pull another dozen from the freezer so they can thaw briefly while you dip the first dozen.  Continue this cycle until all of the cake balls are dipped.  Place dipped cake balls on wax paper to set.

If desired, you can melt the white chocolate in the microwave (according to package directions) or in a double boiler and then color it pink with the Wilton coloring. Drizzle or pipe the white chocolate on top of the cake balls once the Candiquick coating has set.  Place the decorated cake balls in the refrigerator for 20 to 30 minutes to set the white chocolate.  Store up to 1 week in an airtight container in a cool, dark area of the kitchen.  (If you store them in the refrigerator, they may sweat.)

My notes:

  • I used Pillsbury Strawberry Moist Supreme cake mix and followed the high-altitude baking instructions.  I typically prefer Duncan Hines cake mix, but SuperTarget didn’t have Duncan Hines in strawberry.
  • I used Duncan Hines Strawberry Cream frosting.
  • I used a 1-tablespoon scoop from Sur La Table to portion out my cake balls. I then rolled them in my hands to round them out a bit.
  • To dip the cake balls in the Candiquick, I fashioned my own candy-dipping fork by breaking the two center tines out of a plastic fork.  I placed each cake ball in the melted Candiquick, used a spatula to cover the cake ball, and then gently lifted the covered cake ball out of the coating with my fork.  I tapped the fork a few times gently on the side of the bowl to remove any excess chocolate and then placed the dipped cake balls on wax paper to set.
  • I found that, regardless of my best efforts, it was nearly impossible to create an even, gorgeous coating on my dipped cake balls.  This is precisely why I drizzled the pink white chocolate on top.  I think it hid any imperfections nicely and also hinted at the pink center of the cake balls.
  • I was able to coat only half of my cake balls because I ran out of Candiquick; I thought I would need only one package.  I had more surface area to cover since I made mine pretty small.  If you make larger cake balls, you may be able to get away with only one package of the coating (but you also may need to freeze them longer for them to hold together well when dipping them).
Strawberry Cake Balls

I was in too much of a hurry to photograph the cake balls before the party, so these are the only two that were left. They were a hit!

These were a great success!  My party guests loved them (as did I), and they were an adorable addition to the buffet.  I love that the recipe is so simple, and the flavor possibilities are practically endless with all of the different cakes and frostings that are available.  I’ll definitely make these (or some variation of them) again sometime soon.

Other cake ball resources:
Bakerella (the queen of cake balls)
SimplySweeter (I used a few of her tips)

Daring Bakers’ Challenge: Yeasted Meringue Coffee Cake

The March 2011 Daring Bakers’ 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.
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I very nearly missed this one with all of the craziness leading up to our weekend trip for Dr. O’s birthday, but I didn’t want to skip two months in a row.  Thankfully, this was easy enough to make in an afternoon and it turned out on the first try.

Here are my notes:

  • I made a half recipe.
  • I measured all of my ingredients by weight.
  • I chose my filling based on what I had in the pantry: almonds, dried plums, white chocolate, and cinnamon-sugar.
  • I completely forgot to make the cuts in my cake before baking (I realized this about an hour later after the cake had cooled, of course), but it turned out just fine anyway.
  • I baked my cake for the full 30 minutes at 350°F.
Unbaked Meringue Coffee Cake

Unbaked Meringue Coffee Cake

Baked Meringue Coffee Cake

Baked Meringue Coffee Cake

Sugared Meringue Coffee Cake

Sugared Meringue Coffee Cake

Meringue Coffee Cake Interior

Meringue Coffee Cake Interior

This was a delicious and relatively easy cake.  I especially liked the crunchiness of the almonds and the fact that the cake wasn’t overly sweet.  However, the king cake I made last month is incredibly similar in concept, and I have to say I preferred the king cake.  I liked the crumb of the king cake a bit better and for me, cream cheese filling trumps meringue filling any day.  I loved the versatility of the meringue coffee cake recipe, though, and it was definitely fun to make and compare such similar cakes in a short period of time.

Thanks for a great challenge, Ria and Jamie!

Recipe link: Jamie’s version or Ria’s version

Sweet “Potatoes”

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, everyone!  Is it just me, or does it seem like it’s continuously been St. Patrick’s Day since last Saturday?  I suppose having it fall on a Thursday maximizes the pre-celebration.

I was thumbing through the March 2011 issue of Martha Stewart Living the other day when I found this year’s St. Patrick’s Day project: Sweet “Potatoes” (since potatoes are oh so Irish!).  I’ve done Guinness bread and Guinness ice cream, and so many others have done some variation of Guinness cupcakes.  The “potatoes” are balls of cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar, vanilla, and chopped walnuts rolled in cinnamon to emulate the look of real potatoes.  Fun and unusual, right?

Apparently, the unusual overrides the fun, at least initially.

The “potatoes” were already made when Dr. O came home yesterday evening, so he hadn’t seen what went into them.  I asked him if they looked like potatoes (so desperately wanting him to say “yes!”), and he said they didn’t.  I found out about 20 minutes later that he thought they really were potatoes that didn’t look like the kind of potatoes he was used to seeing.  Consequently, you should have seen his face when I asked him to take a bite.  He took the tiniest nibble off of an edge and wasn’t sure what to think…  Since he thought they really were potatoes in some form, he was expecting a savory bite; he was also completely caught off guard by the white cream cheese and butter interior.  Ha! Once he realized that the “potatoes” were sweet candies, he enjoyed them a heck of a lot more.  Perhaps that’s the lesson here: If you want to confuse/surprise adults or make something that kids will think is cool, this is the project for you.  I don’t see these flying off of a serving tray if people don’t know what they are, though.

For those of you with kids and/or a sense of humor, here’s the recipe:

Sweet “Potatoes”
Makes 40

Ingredients:
4 tablespoons softened unsalted butter
4 tablespoons softened cream cheese
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 pound confectioner’s sugar
2 cups walnuts (toasted, cooled, and finely chopped)
Ground cinnamon

Method:
Beat butter and cream cheese with vanilla and salt until pale and fluffy. Mix in sugar and walnuts until smooth. Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour. Roll dough (1 tablespoon each) between your hands. Shape into “potatoes.” Roll in cinnamon; brush off excess with a pastry brush. To create “eyes,” stick in walnut pieces. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Sweet Potatoes

The candies are definitely on the sweet side (to be expected since the bulk of the dough is made of powdered sugar), but the cream cheese and walnuts sure do make them tasty.  I think the cinnamon plays nicely with the walnuts, too.  They won’t knock your socks off, but they’re certainly a fun holiday project.

TIPS:  In order to make the candies look most potato-like, I found that brushing the cinnamon on with a pastry brush worked better than rolling them in the cinnamon. Grocery store potatoes have that uneven layer of soil on them, and rolling the candies coated them a bit too evenly.

Recipe link: Sweet “Potatoes”

King Cake

We had our Cajun-themed gourmet club meeting on Saturday night, and I was on deck for dessert.  When we settled on a theme, the hostess asked if I had thought about making a king cake.  I had to Google it because I had never even heard of it (sad!), but it looked like fun, so I started hunting for recipes.

Since high-altitude baking is often a challenge, I felt lucky to find a recipe through The Denver Post that was specifically titled “Louisiana-to-Denver King Cake.” Surely, it would be fantastic, right?  Wrong.  It’s not so much that it didn’t work; it just wasn’t special enough to serve as the finale for what would surely be a spectacular Cajun meal.  It didn’t pack enough of a flavor punch and was a bit dry. Having learned that king cake was more like sweet bread, though, I realized that I didn’t really need to make any high-altitude adjustments and could just look for the best-rated recipe out there.

I settled on one with a sour cream base and cream cheese filling from Food.com. The results were amazing!  The recipe is a bit long so I’ll just link to it.  Here are my notes:

  • I used full-fat sour cream and light (neufchatel) cream cheese.
  • I made a half recipe each time.  The only challenge was using half an egg in the cream cheese filling; I used my kitchen scale to measure half an egg by weight.  (Half of a large egg weighed about 26 or 27 grams.)
  • Once I had rolled my dough into a rectangle, I found that it was best to distribute the cream cheese filling on the long side of the dough closest to me rather than spreading it over the entire surface of the dough.  I was able to keep most of the filling rolled up in the dough that way instead of having it ooze onto the counter.
  • I baked my cake for 20 minutes at 375°F instead of the 15 minutes recommended by the recipe.
  • I cooled my cake before icing it; otherwise, the icing would have just melted off the cake.
  • I already had colored sugars in my pantry, so I didn’t make any from scratch.
  • I did put a small plastic baby in my cake (per tradition), but I didn’t bake it in. I just poked it into the underside of the cake after the cake had cooled a bit.
Unbaked King Cake

Unbaked king cake

Baked King Cake

Fresh out of the oven

King Cake

Iced and ready to go

King Cake Interior

To-die-for cream cheese custard

This king cake is heavenly.  The bread is so incredibly moist, and the cream cheese filling bakes up into a delicious custard.  Wow!  I’ll be making this every year (sometime between January 6 and Mardi Gras day, according to tradition) from here on out.

Recipe link: King Cake

Heart Cookie Pops

For as much as I love making decorated sugar cookies, I often wish the process could be shorter.  It takes several hours (not all hands-on time, thankfully!) to even get to the point where you have cookies to ice.  Icing then takes a minute or so per cookie and they have to rest for at least four hours (!!!) before you can pipe anything on top.  I get exhausted just thinking about it.

So when I saw this recent cookie pop project in a Fancy Flours e-mail, I knew I had to give it a try.  The cookies were so cute, but they didn’t have any icing.  I am completely in love with my regular cookie recipe (No-Fail Sugar Cookies), so I decided to use my usual recipe with their technique.

I have made hundreds and hundreds of sugar cookies over the last five years, but I had never colored the dough before.  Talk about an easy way to dress things up!  I used Wilton’s gel paste food coloring in rose, and I added it after the butter and sugar were creamed but before the egg, vanilla, and flour mixture.  Once the dough was chilled and firm, I rolled it as usual and cut it with a 2-inch heart cookie cutter. I put each heart on top of a popsicle stick (my stash of white candy sticks is MIA, so I used what I had) and pressed the dough gently so it would adhere.  Fancy Flours suggested silver dragées in the corner of each heart but I had pearl ones; again, I used what I had.

My perfect baking time for 2-inch cookies was 8 minutes at 350°F.  I cooled the cookies for five minutes on the baking sheets before carefully transferring them to wire racks to cool completely.

Heart Cookie Pops

Pretty cute, huh?  And I loved that they were done once they were cool…  No additional decorating necessary!  Here are a few notes for any of you who want to give this one a whirl:

  • Based on the scale of dragée to cookie, I’d say Fancy Flours used a 1 1/4-inch cookie cutter.  I used a 2-inch cutter.
  • I think the white candy sticks look nicer, but the popsicle sticks will provide better support for a larger cookie.
  • I experimented with dragées around the entire perimeter of the cookie, but the results weren’t good.  Some of them dissolved a bit and shrunk during the baking process, which was really obvious when there were 10 or so per cookie.  One is perfect (and less time-consuming to place).
  • You could make a really cute Valentine’s Day “bouquet” with these if you stuck the bottom of the sticks into craft foam (maybe shaped like a heart and painted red or pink?).  They’d make great gifts individually wrapped and tied with a bow as well.

Update 2/15/11: I baked some mini (1 1/2-inch) heart cookies yesterday afternoon and the dragées held up beautifully.  I think the shorter baking time (5 1/2 – 6/1/2 minutes for the minis) made all the difference.  Heart-shaped Red Hots worked well as decorations for both the mini and larger cookies.

Recipe link: No-Fail Sugar Cookies




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