Posts Tagged 'High-Altitude Baking'

Flourless Double-Chocolate Pecan Cookies

“Mayhem” (the only way I can describe my May!) is almost over. Hallelujah. It’s been fun, but traveling every weekend really puts a damper on my cooking, and I’m ready to get back to it.

Today’s recipe – Flourless Double-Chocolate Pecan Cookies – is a treat I’ve enjoyed at my friend Christopher’s house numerous times. Until I actively sought out the recipe, though, I didn’t realize that (a) I’ve had it in my possession since September 2009, and (b) it’s been on my list of must-try recipes for months and months.

The cookies are super simple to make; there’s only six ingredients, and prep time is minimal. The first time I made a batch, though, they did not look like the cookies I’d enjoyed before. Christopher’s had relatively smooth but still slightly crackly tops, while mine were very uneven. I had ignored my kitchen instincts when I made the batter and didn’t beat the egg whites before adding them to the dry mixture (the recipe said nothing about it), so I figured this must have been my problem. This time, with lightly beaten egg whites, the cookies turned out perfectly.

Flourless Double-Chocolate Pecan Cookies
Makes 12

Ingredients:
3 cups confectioners’ sugar
3/4 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder (spooned and leveled)
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped (sub chocolate chips if desired)
1 1/2 cups chopped pecans (or other type of nut)
4 large egg whites, room temperature (I say lightly beaten)

Method:
Preheat oven to 325°. In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, cocoa, and salt. Stir in chocolate and pecans. Add egg whites and stir until just incorporated (do not overmix).

Drop dough by 1/4 cupfuls, 3 inches apart, onto two parchment-lined rimmed baking sheets. Bake until cookie tops are dry and crackled, about 25 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through. Transfer sheets to wire racks and let cookies cool completely. (To store, keep in an airtight container, up to 3 days.)

Source: Everyday Food, September 2009

Image

These are one of my top three favorite cookies, easy. The crisp, crackly outside gives way to a chewy, brownie-like center and the combination is absolutely out of this world. The cookies are large (about the size of my palm) and visually impressive, which makes them great for gifts or entertaining.

The quality of cocoa powder used definitely affects the flavor of the cookie, so if you try the recipe, go with the best. I’ve had good results with Savory Spice Shop’s cocoa (I mixed their basic Dutch-process cocoa with their Black Onyx) and with Ghirardelli; Christopher swears by Droste.

Recipe link: Flourless Double-Chocolate Pecan Cookies

Chocolate Stout Cake (aka My Best Denver Cake Yet!)

The luck o’ the Irish was with me in the kitchen today, because I made my best high-altitude cake yet. Not my most beautiful, mind you, but definitely the most delicious. I tore this recipe out of the March 2012 issue of 5280 with some trepidation… While I’ve had some success with the recipes they’ve shared in the past (Fuel Cafe’s Chocolate-Chip Oatmeal Pecan Cookies, for instance), 5280 isn’t a cooking magazine. There’s no test kitchen. I figured, however, that a cake recipe from a Boulder bakery was worth a gamble. (Thanks, Kim & Jake’s Cakes!)

My initial game plan was to make a half recipe (which I thought would result in a single 9-inch round layer of cake, according to the recipe instructions) to make sure the cake itself behaved at high altitude and tasted good. Once I whipped up a half recipe of batter, though, I realized that it was enough to make two 9-inch round layers. My cake pans are 1 1/2-inch-deep Wilton pans; I imagine you’d have to have super deep pans to bake the entire original recipe as only two layers. Since I was going to have a full cake, I decided I might as well frost it. The cake recipe below is as I baked it (double it for the original recipe and extend baking time to 50 minutes); I made a full recipe of frosting, though. If you’re not a frosting person, feel free to cut that in half as well.

Chocolate Stout Cake
Makes a 2-layer 9-inch cake

Ingredients:
3 eggs (room temperature)
3/4 cup oil (I used vegetable)
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup dark cocoa powder (I used a combination of Savory Spice Shop’s Black Onyx and regular Ghirardelli)
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 1/4 cups flour
1 1/2 cups stout beer (I used Breckenridge Brewery’s Oatmeal Stout; 1 1/2 cups is one bottle)

Method:
Preheat oven to 300°F. Cut two 9-inch circles of parchment paper. (Use the bottom of a cake pan as a guide.) Butter the cake pans, place a circle of parchment in the bottom of each, and butter over the parchment. Set pans aside.

Mix eggs, oil, sugar, cocoa, vanilla, salt, and baking soda together in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the flour, alternating with the beer, 3 to 4 times, until completely incorporated into the egg mixture. Pour into the prepared cake pans and bake for 35 – 40 minutes. (My cakes were perfect at 37 minutes.) Remove from oven, cool in pans for 30 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely. Remove parchment and frost before serving.

Milk Chocolate Malt Frosting

Ingredients:
1 pound butter, softened
2 pounds powdered sugar
3/4 cup dark cocoa (I used a combination of Savory Spice Shop’s Black Onyx and regular Ghirardelli)
1/2 cup malt powder (I used Carnation Malted Milk Powder, which I found at SuperTarget)
Splash of vanilla

Method:
Cream butter in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add powdered sugar, cocoa, malt powder, and vanilla.  Incorporate completely.

Source: 5280/Kim & Jake’s Cakes

Chocolate Stout Cake

This is a phenomenal dessert.  The cake is moist with a nice springy crumb, and there was absolutely none of the center sinking I so often see with cakes at high altitude.  It has a nice level of chocolate flavor (far better than the chocolate cupcakes I posted before), though I couldn’t really taste the stout.  The frosting didn’t end up being super smooth (hence the slightly ugly cake), but the flavor is to die for; the malt powder really makes it.  Overall, the cake and frosting make an amazing combination.

So this is going to be my go-to chocolate cake recipe from here on out…  I think I’ll have some fun with it by turning it into cupcakes next time and maybe trying some other chocolate frostings.  I’ll be sure to post any updates!

TIPS: If you make this frosting (highly recommended, it’s delicious!), I’d suggest smoothing it out with a hot, slightly wet icing spatula after you get the initial layer on. Doing so improved the appearance of my cake immensely.

Blueberry-Orange Cornmeal Muffins

Yay for mainstream muffin recipes that actually work at high altitude!  I suspect this is because Everyday Food‘s Blueberry-Orange Cornmeal Muffins contain 1 cup of low-fat plain yogurt; in my experience, recipes with acidic batters tend to fare better here in Denver.  Regardless, I’m thrilled to have a new recipe I can throw together on the weekends or add to the brunch buffet when we’re entertaining.  Here it is if you want to try it (this one isn’t on the Everyday Food website just yet):

Blueberry-Orange Cornmeal Muffins
Active time: 15 min. | Total time: 35 min.
Makes 12

Ingredients:
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
1 cup fine yellow cornmeal
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
1 cup low-fat plain yogurt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest, plus 2 teaspoons orange juice
1 1/4 cups blueberries (7 ounces)
1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar

Method:
Preheat oven to 400°F.  Line 12 standard muffin cups with paper liners.  In a large bowl, whisk together 1 cup flour, cornmeal, granulated sugar, baking powder, and salt.  In a small bowl, whisk together yogurt, butter, vanilla, and orange zest. Add the flour mixture, stirring until combined (do not overmix).

In a medium bowl, toss blueberries with 1 tablespoon flour to coat, then fold into batter.  Divide batter among muffin cups.  Bake until puffed and set, about 20 minutes, rotating pan halfway through.  Let muffins cool in pan on wire rack.

Stir together orange juice and confectioners’ sugar.  Drizzle over muffins and let glaze set, about 10 minutes, before serving.  (Store in an airtight container, up to 2 days.)

Source: Everyday Food, January/February 2012

My notes:

  • I did cut the baking powder to 2 1/2 teaspoons (from 1 tablespoon) out of high-altitude modification habit.  I’m not sure if the change was 100% necessary, but it worked for me.
  • I used Mountain High low-fat plain yogurt.
  • This batter is THICK.  Don’t be nervous.  I used an ice-cream scoop to portion it out.
  • I like a thinner glaze than what the recipe creates.  Just add more orange juice if you want to thin it out as well.
Blueberry-Orange Cornmeal Muffins
Blueberry-Orange Cornmeal Muffins Crumb

Look at that crumb!

Yum!  These muffins have a nice, moist crumb and a perfect blueberry-to-batter proportion.  They aren’t too sweet on their own, so the glaze complements the muffins nicely.  They come out of the muffin liners pretty cleanly too, which I always appreciate.  Bonus: Only 4 Weight Watchers PointsPlus points per muffin.  I usually have two, and Dr. O (with his unbelievable metabolism) usually has four, so we’re able to get two breakfasts out of the recipe.  They are best the day they’re made, but the “here’s breakfast, and I didn’t have to make a new mess” factor makes them almost as good on the second day.

Cream Cheese-Lemon Rings

Let the holiday baking begin!  I certainly started mine off on the wrong foot yesterday evening when I got (really!) distracted and left the flour, baking powder, and salt out of today’s recipe…  As you can imagine, my cookies melted into a puddle in the oven.  I’m always one to try, try again, though, so I gave the recipe another shot this morning.  Success!

Cream Cheese-Lemon Rings (originally Cream Cheese-Lemon Bows)
Makes about 6 dozen 2-inch rings

Ingredients:
1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks), softened
3 ounces cream cheese, room temperature (light – not nonfat – is fine if that’s what you have)
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons lemon zest, finely chopped (mine was grated with a microplane grater)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1 teaspoon baking powder (I used a scant teaspoon as a high-altitude adjustment)
3/4 teaspoon coarse salt
Confectioners’ sugar, for sprinkling

Method:
Put butter and cream cheese in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; mix on medium speed until creamy.  Mix in granulated sugar.  Add egg, lemon zest, and lemon juice; mix well.  Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl; mix into butter mixture on low speed.

Preheat oven to 375°F.  Place a small amount of the dough in a pastry bag fitted with a large round tip.  Holding tip very close to the surface, pipe 2-inch rings onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper; space 1 inch apart.  Gently push down any peaks in the piped dough.  Refill pastry bag as needed with remaining dough.  Bake cookies until golden brown on bottom, about 10 minutes.  Let cool on sheets on wire racks, and sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar.  Cookies can be stored in airtight containers at room temperature up to 3 days.

Source: Martha Stewart’s Holiday Cookies 2005 (My version is slightly modified for technique and baking time.)

Cream Cheese-Lemon Rings

What a great cookie!  I’m especially excited that the recipe worked at high altitude with only one minor modification (the scant teaspoon of baking powder instead of a whole, and I’m not sure the change was even necessary).  The dough really doesn’t expand much.  The flavor of the cookie is wonderful; it isn’t too sweet, even with the confectioners’ sugar sprinkling, and you definitely get the citrus from the lemon (though it isn’t overpowering).  The texture is somewhere between a sugar cookie and shortbread – crisp, but not dry – and I think these cookies would stand up well when transported (perfect for a cookie exchange).

The only downside to the recipe is that it does take some time and effort to pipe the cookies; the dough is pretty firm, so it’s a bit of a workout.  I tried putting the dough in a cookie press after reading a comment on the original recipe, but that was a grand failure.  The upside to piping is you can do pretty much whatever shape you want.  I tried bows (per the original recipe), rings, squiggles, hearts, and spirals, but liked the rings the best.  If you try a different shape or size, just be sure to watch them in the oven.  I burnt the heck out of my first batch because I left my 2-inch cookies in for the 12 minutes recommended in the original recipe; that baking time was intended for 3 1/2-inch cookies.

Recipe link: Cream Cheese-Lemon Bows

Profiteroles

It’s my 400th post!  Woohoo!  How appropriate, then, to write about a dessert worthy of a celebration: Profiteroles.

This is a recipe I’ve been meaning to try for years, and I mean it.  When I was in college at the University of Denver (which is getting to be a scary long time ago!), there was a restaurant on 22nd and Arapahoe called Tiramisu.  It was my absolute favorite place to go for dinner, and we always finished the meal with their amazing profiteroles.  The combination of a light pastry shell, fabulous ice cream, and rich chocolate sauce was something I just couldn’t resist.

I thought about making profiteroles again and again but didn’t actually get on the horse until I had to come up with a “Thanksgiving with a twist” dessert for this month’s gourmet club meeting.  Profiteroles with pumpkin ice cream and caramel sauce?  Yes, please.

Let’s start with the profiterole recipe.  This is modified to include just the profiteroles; the original recipe has a chocolate sauce as well.

Profiteroles
Makes about 18 puffs (6 servings)

Ingredients:
1 cup milk
1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter
Pinch kosher salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 extra-large eggs

Method:
Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Heat the milk, butter, and salt over medium heat until scalded.  When the butter is melted, add the flour all at once and beat it with a wooden spoon until the mixture comes together and forms a dough.  Cook, stirring constantly, over low heat for 2 minutes.  The flour will begin to coat the bottom of the pan.  Dump the hot mixture into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade.  Add the eggs and pulse until the eggs are incorporated into the dough and the mixture is thick.

Spoon the mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a large plain round tip.  Pipe in mounds 1 1/2 inches wide and 1 inch high onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  You should have about 18 puffs.  With a wet finger, lightly press down the swirl at the top of each puff.  (You can also use 2 spoons to scoop out the mixture and shape the puffs with damp fingers.)  Bake for 20 minutes, or until lightly browned, then turn off the oven and allow them to sit for another 10 minutes, until they sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.  Make a small slit in the side of each puff to allow the steam to escape.  Set aside to cool.

Source: Ina Garten/FoodNetwork.com

Profiteroles

Aren’t these gorgeous puffs?  What’s ironic is that my first batch was perfect, while I struggled with subsequent batches.  Here are my perfect profiterole tips:

  • Use the large (16″) pastry bags when piping your dough.  All of the dough won’t fit into the smaller bags.
  • Make sure your dough mounds are more like rounded domes than tall hives.  I was overzealous with my piping on my second batch and ended up with high, beautiful (at the time), hive-shaped mounds.  What happened?  They browned too quickly because of their height and they morphed into some pretty crazy shapes.  (See the photo below.  They look like baby chicks, right?  I’d be a genius if I could deliberately replicate this shape…)
  • Keep an eye on your profiteroles during the last five minutes of baking.  I had to turn the oven off at the 18-minute mark for my perfect batch, not the 20-minute mark.
  • Profiteroles can be made up to a day ahead and re-crisped immediately before serving.  Heat oven to 375°F, place profiteroles on a parchment-lined baking sheet, bake for 5 minutes (or until crisp), and cool on a wire rack before serving.
Baby Chick Profiteroles
Now that you have profiteroles, it’s time to fill them.  The profiterole below has store-bought pumpkin ice cream and homemade caramel sauce (part of this post), though I eventually ended up making two different ice creams – Williams-Sonoma’s Pumpkin Ice Cream and Cinnamon Ice Cream from Allrecipes – to bring to gourmet club.  The pumpkin ice cream had a thick custard base and was very much like eating frozen pumpkin pie filling (delicious!).  It was very firm, though, and needed 10 to 15 minutes on the counter to soften before serving.  The cinnamon ice cream was everyone’s favorite; it was sweeter and softer.  I made another batch to serve with pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving, and it was a hit!

Profiterole with Pumpkin Ice Cream and Caramel Sauce

My first batches of profiteroles most certainly won’t be my last.  Besides being delicious, I love that they can be made ahead for entertaining and that the fillings and toppings are infinitely adaptable.  Chocolate profiteroles with peppermint ice cream would be amazing for Christmas!

Recipe links: Profiteroles, Caramel Sauce (part of Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Caramel Sauce), Cinnamon Ice Cream, Pumpkin Ice Cream

Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Caramel Sauce

Living in a house in the ‘burbs has its pros and cons, but a weeknight Halloween is definitely one of the pros.  After years in apartments with nary a trick-or-treater, I have to admit that I just love seeing all the kids’ costumes when Dr. O and I hand out candy.  And since it’s a Monday (and we enjoyed an adult party on Saturday night), it’s a perfect night to kick back with a nice meal and a bottle of wine, popping up whenever the doorbell rings.

I wanted to make a special dessert for tonight that fit with the holiday, but I was short on time and didn’t feel like running to the store.  Thankfully, I had all the ingredients on hand to make something wonderful: Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Caramel Sauce.  As I’ve mentioned before, bread pudding is one of my very favorite desserts when it’s done right; this one, while different from most others I’ve made or tasted, certainly is.

Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Caramel Sauce
Officially makes 6 servings, but I’d say it’s more like 8 or 10

Bread pudding ingredients:
2 cups half-and-half
1 15-ounce can pure pumpkin
1 cup (packed) plus 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
10 cups 1 1/2-inch cubes egg bread (I used leftover kaiser rolls)
1/2 cup golden raisins (I used dried cranberries since that’s what I had in the pantry)

Caramel sauce ingredients:
1 1/4 cups (packed) dark brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter (I cut it into small pieces for easier melting)
1/2 cup whipping cream

Powdered sugar

For bread pudding:
Preheat oven to 350°F.  Whisk half-and-half, pumpkin, dark brown sugar, eggs, pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon, and vanilla extract in large bowl to blend.  Fold in bread cubes.  Stir in golden raisins.  Transfer mixture to 11-x-7 glass baking dish. (I used a 1.5-quart oval dish, and I buttered it.)  Let stand 15 minutes.  Bake pumpkin bread pudding until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 40 minutes.  (I needed 50 minutes, but that might have something to do with high altitude.)

Meanwhile, prepare caramel sauce:
Whisk brown sugar and butter in heavy medium saucepan over medium heat until butter melts.  Whisk in cream and stir until sugar dissolves and sauce is smooth, about 3 minutes.

Sift powdered sugar over bread pudding.  Serve warm with caramel sauce.

Source: Bon Appetit, November 2000

Pumpkin Bread Pudding
Oh, deliciousness!  The bread pudding itself came out very moist – almost creamy – with mild flavors of pumpkin and spice.  The cranberries added the occasional sweet-tart bite, which I really enjoyed.  With over a cup of brown sugar, you’d expect the bread pudding to be sweet, but it really isn’t.  This is a good thing, because the caramel sauce is.  When the sauce and the bread pudding are separate, each is good; together, though, they’re pretty fantastic.

I appreciate that this was incredibly easy to throw together and the caramel sauce seems practically impossible to screw up.  (It might become my new go-to easy dessert sauce, actually; the consistency is really silky and it has a perfect viscosity once it’s cooled for 20 minutes or so.)  This one isn’t amazing enough to knock my very favorite bread pudding recipe off the top spot, but it will be a wonderful seasonal dessert for tonight.

Recipe link: Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Caramel Sauce

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

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.
__________________________________

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

Daring Bakers’ Challenge: Maple Mousse Served in an Edible Container

The April 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Evelyne of the blog Cheap Ethnic Eatz. Evelyne chose to challenge everyone to make a maple mousse in an edible container. Prizes are being awarded to the most creative edible container and filling, so vote on your favorite from April 27th to May 27th at http://thedaringkitchen.com!
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I’m not going to win any creativity-related prizes for my container (the baker who created vols-au-vent out of pancakes with bacon spirals gets my vote!), but at least I completed the challenge.  I also managed to reset my kitchen disaster clock since my chocolate-coconut macaroon containers were mostly pried off my upside-down muffin pan in (flying) pieces, although one did survive for photos.  Here are my notes:

  • I made a half-recipe of the mousse.
  • Despite my best efforts, my gelatin just would not dissolve completely after the intervals in the microwave.  I ended up pressing my egg-maple-gelatin mixture through a sieve to eliminate any chunks before I let it sit for an hour.
  • For presentation’s sake, I found it better to allow the mousse to set up in the refrigerator inside the edible container, rather than allowing it to set and then transferring it.
  • I used the Chocolate-Coconut Macaroon Cups recipe (minus the almonds) from the April 2006 issue of Everyday Food for my containers.  I used 1/2 cup of batter for each container (I made four total) and just molded it over the tops of an inverted muffin pan that had been sprayed with cooking spray.  I baked the containers for 25 minutes at 350°F.  In hindsight, maybe they would have come off of the pan easier if I had placed cupcake liners over the muffin cups before molding the batter.  Lesson learned!

Maple Mousse in a Chocolate Coconut Macaroon Cup

Will I make this mousse again?  Probably not.  The consistency was a bit too thick and gelatinous (from the gelatin, naturally!) for my taste.  Many mousse recipes don’t use gelatin at all.  Despite the challenges, I will make this macaroon recipe again; I’ll just bake the cookies in their intended shape to avoid raining coconut bits all over my kitchen.

Thanks for the challenge, Evelyne!

Recipe links: Maple Mousse and Chocolate-Coconut Macaroon Cups

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




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