Saturday, October 30, 2010

Daring Bakers October 2010: Doughnuts

Apologies for having to post another Daring Bakers challenge late. It seems like these past few months have been just work, school, work, school for me. Anyways, I was super excited when I found out what the DB challenge for this month would be. I've always wanted to try my hand at doughnuts, and now I got the chance. Although...alas, I must admit something. I have been terrified of working with yeast. Notice how nothing I've made before contains yeast in it? I've always been so afraid that I would kill the yeast, not let the dough rise enough, etc, etc. Plus, it takes a very long time. It's so much simpler to just whip together a batter or dough in 10 minutes than make a dough, let it rise for an hour, punch it down, shape it into whatever you're making, let it rise again, and...oy! But I thought it was about time to face my fears, so although we were given the choice to make either yeast or cake doughnuts, I went with the yeast.

Another reason I pretty much had to go with the yeast is that I wanted to bake my doughnuts. Not that I don't love an amazingly crispy, greasy fried doughnut, I most certainly do. In fact, I would have preferred to make them that way, although I just didn't want to waste all the oil. My family does have oil specifically for frying things, however, the only things that have been fried in it are savory things. We use it to make tempura shrimp, fish, or even chicken, so nothing sweet has ever been fried in it and I was afraid it would affect the taste of my doughnuts. Plus, here's another confession. I've never fried anything! So again, being as I'm totally inexperienced in frying, I decided just to go with baking. did the process go? In all actuality, without a hitch! My first baking experience with yeast was a complete success. I measured the temperature of the milk carefully so as not to kill the yeast, and after about five minutes, my yeast was happily bubbling and expanding away. I added the rest of the ingredients, kneaded the dough, placed it in a bowl, and sure enough, after an hour it had doubled and looked just like it was supposed to. I cut out the doughnuts, let them rise again, and baked them and they turned out nice and light and fluffy. I originally was going to use two glazes to frost them, a chocolate and a strawberry, but the recipe ended up making less doughnuts than I thought it would, so I just stuck with a my favorite chocolate glaze recipe. While I'm sad I didn't get to make a strawberry glazed, I am happy that it didn't make too many doughnuts, since we just don't need that many in the house! So I glazed them, and topped a few with toffee bits, one with sprinkles, and left the rest plain. And oh, for the doughnut holes, I rolled them around in some melted butter and then covered them in cinnamon sugar. Very tasty! The only thing I was slightly disappointed about was that the dough itself tasted a little bland. It called for some nutmeg, but I usually find nutmeg too strong, so I omitted it. I was going to substitute cinnamon, but didn't, and ended up wishing I had. But other than that, they were very good and definitely worth trying again! Maybe next time I'll get to fry them. ;)

Baked Doughnuts (from Piece of Cake)
I got 5 large doughnuts, plus 5 doughnut holes of course, plus a tiny bit of extra dough.

  • 1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons warm milk, divided, 95 to 105 degrees (make sure to take its temperature, as the yeast will be killed if its too warm)
  • 1 1/8 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1 tablespoons butter, melted and still warm
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (I omitted, but as I've mentioned, I would advise against that...if you don't like nutmeg, substitute with something else.)
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
  1. Place 3 tablespoons of the warm milk in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Stir in the yeast and set aside for at least five minutes. Place the remaining 1/2 cup of warm milk in a small bowl, stir in the butter and sugar, and add it to the yeast mixture. On low speed, stir in the egg, flour, nutmeg, and salt - just until the flour is incorporated. Switch to the dough hook and knead the dough for a few minutes at medium speed. At this point, make a few adjustments - if your dough is seriously sticky, add flour a few tablespoons at a time. Too dry? Add a little bit of milk. Eventually, you want the dough to pull away from the sides of the mixing bowl and become soft and smooth. Turn out the dough onto a floured work surface, knead it a few times by hand, and shape it into a smooth ball.
  2. Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and put it in a warm place. Let the dough rise until its doubled in size, about 1 hour.
  3. Punch down the dough and roll it out 1/2-inch thick on a floured work surface. Using a 2-3 inch cookie cutter, stamp out circles. Transfer the circles to a parchment-lined baking sheet and cut holes in the centers with a smaller cutter, about half the diameter of the first--remember the hole will close up on the second rising if it's too small, so make it a little bigger than what a finished doughnuts would look like. (I actually just used two cups, since I don't own any round cookie cutters.) Cover the baking sheet with a clean cloth and let the doughnuts rise for another 45 minutes.
  4. Bake in a 375 degree oven until the bottoms are just golden, 8 to 10 minutes - start checking around 8. Better to underbake then overbake here--pull them early if in doubt. Remove the doughnuts from the oven and let cool for just a minute or two. Dip each one in your favorite glaze or dip in melted butter and coat with sugar. Serve immediately.
Chocolate Glaze (from
Makes enough to glaze 5 large doughnuts plus have a little left over.

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 to 1 1/4 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
  1. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over low heat, about 2 minutes. Stir in the cocoa powder and milk. Cook the glaze, stirring, until it thickens and comes to a boil, about 2 minutes.
  2. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in 2 cups of confectioners' sugar, adding more if needed to make the mixture smooth and a little thicker than pancake syrup; don't let the glaze get too thick.
  3. Pour into a bowl and dip the still warm doughnuts in the glaze. Top with sprinkles or toffee bits or whatever you wish. Serve immediately.
The October 2010 Daring Bakers challenge was hosted by Lori of Butter Me Up. Lori chose to challenge DBers to make doughnuts. She used several sources for her recipes including Alton Brown, Nancy Silverton, Kate Neumann and Epicurious.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Pumpkin Scones

After making those pumpkin cupcakes, I still had quite a bit of pumpkin puree left that I had to find something to do with. I immediately thought pumpkin bread, but I didn't want a really large-sized dessert in the house. I also wanted something I had never tried before when it came to pumpkin. So as usual, I headed over to Allrecipes, and just started looking through every single pumpkin recipe they had. I came to one that sounded super interesting, pumpkin French toast, but in the end decided on pumpkin scones. (I think I will be making that French toast sometime in the future though...yum!) The funny thing is, I didn't even end up getting the recipe off of Allrecipes. All of their pumpkin scone recipes didn't have very many stars, so instead I just did a quick search, and found one recipe that was used on each website I visited. It apparently is a clone for Starbucks' pumpkin scones, which I've never had before. Still, it seemed that everyone who had tried the recipe raved about it, so I went with it.

I don't make scones too often. They're a little messy to deal with, since they involve taking the really sticky dough, patting it out on a floured surface, and then cutting it into triangles before placing on a baking sheet. I dread anything that has to be rolled out on the counter top, as they always stick somewhat and then my pretty shapes that I cut out end up getting warped. However, I think these scones were worth it. They are light and fluffy and have a nice pumpkin flavor, along with some spice, and then are topped off with a surprisingly tasty spiced glaze. The recipe called for two glazes, one that was just made of powdered sugar and milk that you brush over the cooled scones, and then a spiced powdered sugar glaze that you drizzle over them once the regular glaze hardens. At first, I actually didn't want to use either glazes. I thought it would make them too sweet. However, in the end, I skipped the regular glaze and just used the spiced and I'm very glad I did. It was a wonderful compliment to the scones, and I'd even advise not to skip it whatsoever. As to whether or not they taste like Starbucks', I have no idea, but the recipe is so good that I'll definitely make it again.

Pumpkin Scones (adapted from Moms Who Think)
Makes 6 large scones

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 7 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 6 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup pure pumpkin puree
  • 3 tablespoons half-and-half
  • 1 large egg
  1. Preheat oven to 425˚F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Combine the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Use a pastry blender or food processor to cut in the butter until the mixture is crumbly in texture and resembles coarse cornmeal.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the pumpkin, half and half, and egg. Fold into the dry ingredients until barely combined. It is very important not to over mix the batter. At this point it should still be kind of dry and crumbly.
  3. Loosely form the dough into a ball. Pat it into a 1-inch thick, 9″x3″ rectangle onto a lightly floured surface.
  4. Use a sharp knife to slice the dough through it’s width into three equal portions. Cut each section diagonally to produce 6 triangular slices of dough.
  5. Place each slice on prepared baking sheet and bake for 14 – 16 minutes, until the scones are golden brown. Let cool completely on wire rack, and then continue with glaze directions below.
For the spiced glaze:
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  1. Combine the spiced icing ingredients in a small bowl. Use a whisk to drizzle over each scone and allow to dry before serving. (I halved the recipe, and it ended up being the perfect amount to drizzle over each of the scones. But if you want a lot of glaze, go with the original amounts.)

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Chocolate Chip Walnut Toffee Cookies

I saw this recipe over at Cookie Madness quite a while ago, and have been dying to make it ever since. It actually is supposed to be a copycat recipe for the cookies they sell at the Doubletree Hotel. However, I know nothing about those cookies or that hotel, so I thought it wouldn't be fair to name my post "Doubletree Copycats" when I can't tell you anything about the originals and how they compare to this recipe (as opposed to the Levain copycats, in which I've never tasted the original, but at least I know a bit about them to compare). So why was I so attracted to this recipe then? Well, Anna's photo got me hooked, and as I read further, I saw that they had not only chocolate chips and walnuts in them, but toffee bits too! The toffee bits in particular made me want to try this recipe. I haven't used toffee bits in forever, so a cookie that contained all that wonderfulness sounded amazing.

But here's the reason why it took me so long to make them...I couldn't find toffee bits! Every store I went in that sold grocery items, I checked for toffee bits. Not a one had them. Finally, about a week ago, I went into a grocery store that I hardly ever go in to take advantage of some sales I saw in their circular. I thought I would take a stroll around the store just to see what they had, and when I hit the baking aisle, lo and behold. There were Heath Bits o' Brickle. I didn't think twice before snagging a bag off the shelf, inwardly squealing for joy, and making a mental note that this store carried toffee bits for future reference. So how were the cookies? Delicious! The toffee bits really paired nicely with the chocolate chips and walnuts. An interesting thing about this recipe is that it's very similar to the fake Neiman Marcus recipe, which I'm sure you all have heard of at least once. It contains oatmeal that you grind into a fine powder before adding, and a grated milk chocolate bar (although I omitted). I've actually made the fake NM recipe, and I remember it being delicious as well, but with the addition of walnuts and toffee bits that this recipe has, it's even more special and definitely worth making again and again.

Chocolate Chip Walnut Toffee Cookies
(from Cookie Madness)
This is a smaller batch that makes a little more than a dozen. For the full recipe, go here.

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons oatmeal (measure, then grind), ground in a coffee grinder or food processor
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 scant teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold, cut into pieces
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup toffee bits
  • 3/4 cups walnuts, chopped
  1. Mix flour, oatmeal, baking powder, baking soda and salt; set aside. Cream butter and sugars in large mixer bowl. Add egg and vanilla and stir until mixed.
  2. Add flour mixture and oatmeal gradually, stirring until incorporated. Stir in toffee bits, chocolate chips, and nuts. Scoop dough up with a quarter cup measure and shape into big balls. Press them slightly to make discs. Set the discs on a plate and chill for a few hours or until firm. (I didn't bother with this, I just wrapped all of the dough in plastic wrap, chilled completely, and then scooped round balls onto the baking sheet. Not flattening the dough = thicker, chewier cookies.)
  3. Place on parchment lined cookie sheets about 3 inches apart. Bake at 375 degrees for 8-13 minutes. Cookies should still be slightly underdone. Move to wax paper lined counter to cool, do not use wire racks. (I'm not sure the reason for this or what it achieves. Again, I just skipped it, and used wire racks.)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

MBCC: Caramel-filled Pumpkin Cupcakes with Brown Sugar Cinnamon Buttercream

I had to miss out on it last month, but this time around I planned early and am now back for another round of Jamieanne's Mystery Box Cupcake Challenge. This month was a little bit different. The first two months I participated in had specific food items as their secret ingredient, but this month, the "ingredient" actually isn't an ingredient at all. This time it's a color, opening up a very large number of possibilities for the challenge. All we had to do was make some part of the cupcake orange or use an orange food, meaning the cupcake could be anything really, considering it's quite easy to color anything orange. But being that it's fall, and I haven't had a chance yet to bake with pumpkin, I had to go that route. It's a predictable route, but a delicious one. I did a quick search on Allrecipes, found a recipe rated five stars, did my little tweaking and moved on to the pairings.

When I decided on pumpkin, I immediately thought of caramel as a pairing. It's one that's been done over and over again, but I've never tried it. I settled on a homemade caramel sauce that I would use to fill the cupcake via the cone method. I really wanted to try a caramel sauce that didn't use any water, but just melted the sugar by itself in a pan since I hadn't tried it before. After a little searching, I came to this recipe which seemed promising. It also had another thing I've never tried before...adding butter to the caramel sauce. So then I needed a frosting. What about cinnamon? Ooh, what about brown sugar cinnamon? A particular recipe popped right into my head, again, another that I've never gotten the chance to try. Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito's boiled flour cinnamon buttercream from their book Baked: New Frontiers in Baking. I've made a flour buttercream before, and didn't like it too much, but I get the feeling I didn't do it right the first time and wanted to give flour buttercreams another chance. So I took their recipe and did some tweaking to it, such as changing the white sugar to brown and reducing the butter, and I was set to go.
All in all, the cupcakes turned out delicious! The cupcake was great, the caramel delicious and much easier than caramel sauces that use water, and the buttercream? Completely delicious! (Although it was a bit time consuming...I might just stick with Swiss meringue buttercream as it takes less time and tastes almost the same). For more information on Jamieanne's Mystery Box Cupcake Challenge, please visit her info page here.

Pumpkin Cupcakes (adapted from Allrecipes)
Makes about 28 cupcakes

  • 4 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 (15 ounce) can pure pumpkin puree
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 4 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Blend the eggs, oil, sugar, pumpkin, and vanilla in a large mixing bowl; set aside. Stir together dry ingredients in a separate bowl. Add dry ingredients to pumpkin mixture and beat until well blended. (I did this all by hand, no electric mixer needed!)
  2. Pour into lined muffin tins. Fill about 2/3 full. Bake in preheated oven for about 20 minutes or until center springs back when touched. Let cool slightly in the pan first, then remove to wire racks to cool completely.
Caramel Sauce (from Simply Recipes)
Makes a little over 1 cup of sauce

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 6 tablespoons butter (The recipe did not specify salted or unsalted, so I used 3 tablespoons salted [to keep it from tasting flat] and 3 tablespoons unsalted [to keep it from being too salty].)
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  1. Heat the sugar on moderately high heat in a heavy-bottomed 2-quart or 3-quart saucepan. Make sure you have the butter and heavy cream ready to put into the pan. As the sugar begins to melt, stir vigorously with a whisk or wooden spoon. As soon as the sugar comes to a boil, stop stirring, only swirl the pan from now on.
  2. As soon as all of the sugar crystals have melted (the liquid sugar should be dark amber in color), immediately add the butter to the pan. Whisk until the butter has melted.
  3. Once the butter has melted, take the pan off the heat. Count to three, then slowly add the cream to the pan and continue to whisk to incorporate. (Be careful, as the caramel will hiss and bubble up furiously when both the butter and cream hits it.)
  4. Whisk until the caramel sauce is smooth. Let cool in the pan for a couple minutes, then pour into a container and let sit to cool to room temperature.
Brown Sugar Cinnamon Buttercream (adapted from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking)
You may want to increase this recipe slightly in order to generously frost all the cupcakes.

  • 1 1/2 cups brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, soft but cool, cut into tablespoons
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  1. 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, about 20 minutes. (It should be VERY thick by the time it's done, kind of like glue.)
  2. Transfer the mixture to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on high speed until cool. Reduce the speed to low and add the butter; beat until thoroughly incorporated. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until the frosting is light and fluffy.
  3. Add the vanilla and cinnamon and continue mixing until combined. If the frosting is too soft, transfer the bowl to the refrigerator to chill slightly: then beat again until it is the proper consistency. If the frosting is too firm, place the bowl over a pot of simmering water and beat with a wooden spoon until it is the proper consistency.
  1. Once the cupcakes are cooled, use a small sharp knife to cut a cone out of the center of the cupcake.
  2. Fill the cupcakes almost to the top with caramel. Cut off the excess cupcake from the cone and then place the "lids" back on the cupcake.
  3. Frost the cupcakes with a piping bag or knife, then drizzle with any remaining caramel sauce. Enjoy!

The winner of October’s Mystery Box Cupcake Challenge will receive prizes from:
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Monday, October 4, 2010

Cream Cheese Pound Cake

I'm not going to even beat around the bush with this one. You NEED to make this recipe. Period. Seriously, scroll down right now to the recipe, take out the ingredients that need to be at room temperature, then come back. I'll wait.

But in all honesty, this is probably the most delicious pound cake I've ever eaten. It has the most heavenly texture and taste, and my days of being jealous at the amazing tight crumbs that all the store-bought pound cakes have are over. And of course, it's a snap to put together and uses ingredients that are always on hand (well, in my case I had to buy cream cheese since I don't like the stuff unless it's used to make some kind of dessert, but I'm assuming the rest of you guys generally keep it on hand, right?) You don't taste the cream cheese, but what it does, along with a large portion of butter and whipping of the batter, is gives the pound cake an amazing light-as-air, velvety, melt-in-your-mouth texture. And the flavor? Perfect of course. The recipe called for both vanilla and almond extracts, but I just wanted to pure vanilla flavor, so that's all I added and I wouldn't have it any other way. To sum it up, the search for the perfect pound cake is complete. I shall stall no longer. Here's the recipe. Take it and make it. You know you want to.

Cream Cheese Pound Cake (adapted from smitten kitchen)
Makes one 10-inch tube cake or two standard loaves

  • 1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 6 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 3 cups cake flour (NOT self-rising; if you don't have cake flour on hand, substitute 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour plus 2 tablespoons cornstarch for every 1 cup of cake flour)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Lightly butter a 10-inch tube pan, then line the bottom with parchment paper. Alternately, you can use a two 9x5 or 8x4 inch loaf pans. (I used 9x5 and just buttered, didn't need the parchment paper.)
  2. Place the butter and cream cheese in a large bowl and beat with a mixer on medium speed until smooth. Add the sugar, increase the speed to high, and beat until light and airy, at least five minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Add the vanilla, then the flour and salt all at once. Beat just until incorporated. (I also sifted my flour three times, just to lighten it and produce an even better crumb.)
  3. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and shake lightly to even out the top. Bake until the cake is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the cake comes out clean, 1 1/4 hours. (The loaves take less time, only about an hour.)
  4. Place the pan on a cake rack and cool for 20 minutes, then remove the cake from the pan and let cool completely. Serve at room temperature.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Daring Bakers September 2010: Decorated Sugar Cookies

Oh my! I actually almost forgot about this post! Luckily I remembered early on in the day, otherwise I might not have been able to get this post up on time. Phew...anyway, time for another round of the challenges presented by the Daring Bakers! This month I was super excited when I found out what we'd be doing. It was almost as if Mandy from What the Fruitcake?! was reading my mind! I had been looking at intricate, decorated sugar cookies using royal icing on other blogs and had really been wanting to try it out myself, and then boom. I look at the Daring Baker challenge for September, and that's exactly what it is! For those who don't know, royal icing is a type of icing made from egg whites, powdered sugar, and then sometimes lemon or lime juice. It dries hard and shiny and creates the perfect finish for professional-looking decorated sugar cookies. You generally pipe fine lines using a small round piping tip to outline the shape you've created and then use a technique called "flooding" where you water down the royal icing and then use it to fill in the cookie where you've outlined. Then you go back after it's dried with the small piping tip and pipe on details. You can make it as intricate or simple as you like, but the finish product always is impressive.
For the challenge this month, Mandy wanted us to make cookies that were September-themed. She said we could do anything that September meant to us. To me, September means my birthday and the start of fall, my favorite season. The problem is, I only have winter/Christmas themed cookie cutters. So instead of going out and buying more or even making my own, I just free handed them with a knife. It actually wasn't too hard, and of course, if you don't like the shape you've cut, you can always roll it back out and try again. For my birthday, I made birthday cakes, a party hat, and circles with the number 20, the age I turned this month. (Admittedly, I just used a round glass to cut out the way can I free hand circles that well!) For the fall, I made pumpkins and red/orange/yellow leaves. I actually ended up pretty proud of my cookies. They're not as pretty as other decorated cookies I've seen, but they were pretty good for my first try. I definitely look forward to trying out more in the future! I encourage you to try making's fun, and they taste good too!

Basic Sugar Cookies (adapted from Peggy Porschen)
Makes approximately 36 4" cookies

  • 14 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3 cups plus 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup caster/superfine sugar
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Cream together the butter, sugar and any flavorings you’re using. Beat until just becoming creamy in texture. (Don’t over mix otherwise you’ll incorporate too much air and the cookies will spread during baking, losing their shape.)
  2. Beat in the egg until well combined, make sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the sifted flour and mix on low until a non-sticky dough forms.
  3. Knead into a ball and divide into 2 or 3 pieces. Roll out each portion between parchment paper to a thickness of about 1/5 inch. Refrigerate for a minimum of 30 minutes.
  4. Once chilled, peel off parchment and place dough on a lightly floured surface. Cut out shapes with cookie cutters or a sharp knife. Arrange shapes on parchment lined baking sheets and refrigerate for another 30 minutes to an hour. (It's very important to chill the cut-out shapes before baking so they do not lose their shape and spread in the oven.)
  5. Preheat oven to 350°F. Bake until golden around the edges, about 8-15 minutes depending on the size of the cookies. Leave to cool on cooling racks. Once completely cooled, decorate as desired.
Royal Icing (adapted from the Joy of Baking)

  • 2 1/2 to 3 cups confectioner's sugar
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract, optional
  1. Beat egg whites with lemon juice until combined. Sift the icing sugar to remove lumps and add it to the egg whites. Beat on low until combined and smooth. Add almond extract, if using, and mix until combined. Use immediately or keep in an airtight container.
For decorating tips and all that jazz, please check the printable pdf of this month's challenge here: The Daring Bakers September 2010 challenge.
The September 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Mandy of “What the Fruitcake?!” Mandy challenged everyone to make Decorated Sugar Cookies based on recipes from Peggy Porschen and The Joy of Baking.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Chinese Marble Cookies

Here on the east coast, we have a chain supermarket called Wegmans. It's an absolutely fantastic store to just walk in and look around. They have a regular grocery store part, but then they have another section of the store that is filled with pre-made food stations. They have an Asian bar, Indian cuisine bar, pizza, sandwiches, bread bakery, sushi bar, even a little coffee bar that also sells gelato! I love going in there, but unfortunately, their prices run pretty high and so I usually don't end up buying things there. (I pretty much just go for the Asian bar for lunch, and that's the only thing I buy there.) The first time I went to Wegmans, they had a cookie bar, and I got a couple cookies. But they were ridiculously expensive...about 9 or 10 bucks per pound!! But one of the cookies I got was called a Chinese marble. It was very good, with a nice almond extract flavor and swirled with chocolate. I mentioned before about the time that I first discovered almond extract, and realized that it was the flavor in these cookies. Right after that moment, I went on a frantic internet search to find a copy cat recipe. My search led me to this forum thread, where I found a recipe that seemed very close. I did a little tweaking, and voila! I found the perfect Chinese marble clone.

Well...I say I did some tweaking...but more like minimal. One of the things I noticed was that the recipe didn't call for almond extract. I absolutely knew that these cookies had almond extract in them, so I added it myself. The only other change I made was to use butter instead of shortening, because that's just my thing (although feel free to use shortening...I won't judge!). The result was a cookie that tasted EXACTLY like how I remembered them, and a heck of a lot cheaper too! It produces a nice crispy edge, and a chewy middle. When I first made them, I was a little skeptical, as the chocolate that is swirled in is unsweetened. I've had a bite of unsweetened chocolate before out of curiosity and it was quite unpleasant...very bitter!! However, the sweetness of the cookies kind of blend into the unsweetened chocolate, and you don't get any bites of bitterness at all. The unsweetened chocolate was actually a great compliment, in my opinion! I took some to work with me, and they seemed to be pretty well received. If you've had the Chinese marble cookies at Wegmans, definitely try this recipe, as it tastes exactly like them and at much less of a won't disappoint! And if you haven't, try this recipe anyway, because it's a good one!

Chinese Marble Cookies (adapted from this recipe here)
Makes at least 2 dozen

  • 1 cup unsalted butter or shortening
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 ounce unsweetened chocolate, melted
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Beat the butter or shortening with sugar and egg until light and fluffy. Add dry ingredients and beat until well combined. Add vanilla and almond extracts. Add chocolate a little at a time, cutting in with a knife. Do not stir.
  3. (I, as I've stated many times, always refrigerate my dough before this step, and ALWAYS recommend doing so as well.) Form dough into balls and place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 8 to 10 minutes until lightly golden. Enjoy!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Daring Bakers August 2010: Ice Cream Petit Fours

So, I'm posting late this month for the Daring Bakers Challenge. Sorry about that! As I mentioned in the MBCC post, I've been quite busy with school and work here recently, so I haven't had as much time to bake as I usually do. From here on out, I would say to expect less posts, and also less pictures. Believe it or not, it actually takes quite a while to write up one of these posts and to post as many pictures as I do, and I just can't do it anymore. I won't be gone completely, of course, but as I said, just expect less posts and photos. Anyways, on to this month's DB challenge! When I first found out what we'd be making, I have to admit...I was a little disappointed. Ice cream again? I mentioned last DB challenge that I didn't have an ice cream maker, and so I just have to settle with putting the base in the freezer and mixing it until it freezes. And that still is the case.

The ice cream tastes good, but because I don't have a machine churning the ice cream and breaking up the ice crystals for me, the ice crystals remain rather large, so the ice cream's just not as smooth and creamy as it should be. So that was a little disappointing. However, this was the first time making petit fours for me, so I was still looking forward to it and the brown butter pound cake sounded absolutely heavenly. The challenge this month actually included a baked alaska as well, however, we could do both or just choose one, and so I chose the petit fours. As expected, the brown butter pound cake was indeed heavenly! And with 19 tablespoons of butter (brown, amazingly nutty and caramely butter!) in it, I should certainly think so! It was a snap to put together and the pieces of cake I sneakily ate when I was leveling it were absolutely delicious. I could have stopped right there and been thoroughly happy with the challenge this month. However, I proceeded onward to cut the cake in half, add the ice cream and then eventually the chocolate glaze.
As you can see, I took a much easier way out on the chocolate glaze. I covered one of the petit fours completely in chocolate and it took a surprisingly long time! With 24 more petit fours to cover, I thought that there had to be an easier way! And so I thought I'd just put some chocolate on the top and let it drip over the sides in an icicle like way and it'd still be efficient and pretty. So overall...the end product was...good. However, the freezer kind of dried out the cake a little bit, which was the best part of the petit four (though that was probably my fault for not covering the entire cake in chocolate). And they're a little hard to eat. The chocolate on top gets very hard in the freezer which is hard to bite through and overpowers the rest of the flavors a little bit. And if you hit the ice cream wrong when you're biting through it, it gives you the chills! All in all, I'm left a little disappointed this month... However, I most definitely WILL be making the brown butter pound cake again, and this time just enjoying it plain, because it was simply out of this world!

Ice Cream Petit Fours
Makes 25 petit fours

For the brown sugar ice cream: (From Dishing Up Delights)
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk (I used 2%)
  • 3/4 cup (packed) dark brown sugar, divided (I used light since that was all I had, but definitely use dark if you have'll add better flavor)
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • 6 large egg yolks
  1. Combine heavy whipping cream, whole milk, and 1/2 cup sugar in heavy large saucepan. Scrape in seeds from vanilla bean; add bean. Bring cream mixture to simmer over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves.
  2. Meanwhile, whisk yolks and remaining 1/4 cup sugar in large bowl until very thick, about 2 minutes.
  3. Gradually whisk hot cream mixture into yolk mixture. Return mixture to saucepan. Stir over medium heat until custard thickens and thermometer inserted into custard registers 180°F, about 3 minutes (do not boil). Strain custard into large bowl set over another bowl of ice and water. Cool custard completely, stirring often, about 15 minutes. Cover and chill overnight.
  4. Process custard in ice cream maker according to manufacturer's instructions. Transfer ice cream to container. Cover and freeze until firm, at least 6 hours and up to 1 day. (If you don't have an ice cream maker like myself, follow David Lebovitz's instructions here.)
For the brown butter pound cake: (adapted from Gourmet October 2009)
  • 19 tablespoons unsalted (sweet) butter
  • 2 cups sifted cake flour (not self-rising; sift before measuring)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F and put a rack in the center. Butter and flour a 9”x9” square pan.
  2. Place the butter in a 10” skillet over medium heat. Brown the butter until the milk solids are a dark chocolate brown and the butter smells nutty. (Don’t take your eyes off the butter in case it burns.) Pour into a shallow bowl and chill in the freezer until just congealed, 15-30 minutes.
  3. Whisk together cake flour, baking powder, and salt.
  4. Beat the brown butter, light brown sugar, and granulated sugar in an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in the eggs one at a time, mixing well, and then the vanilla extract.
  5. Stir in the flour mixture at low speed until just combined.
  6. Scrape the batter into the greased and floured 9”x9 square pan. Smooth the top with a rubber spatula and rap the pan on the counter. Bake until golden brown on top and when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 25 minutes.
  7. Cool in the pan 10 minutes. Run a knife along the edge and invert right-side-up onto a cooling rack to cool completely.
For the hard chocolate glaze: (from allrecipes)
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 10 (1 ounce) squares semisweet chocolate
  1. Chop the chocolate into small pieces. Combine chocolate with butter in the top of a double boiler, over simmering water. Stir frequently until melted and smooth. Remove from heat. Cool to tepid before glazing the petit fours.
  1. Line a 9”x9” pan with plastic wrap, so that no sides of the pan are exposed and so there is some extra plastic wrap hanging off the sides. Spread 1 ¾ to 2 cups ice cream into the pan. Cover with more plastic wrap and freeze several hours.
  2. Once the brown butter pound cake has completely cooled, level the top with a cake leveler or a serrated knife. Then split the cake in half horizontally to form two thin layers.
  3. Unwrap the frozen ice cream. Flip out onto one of the layers of cake and top with the second layer of cake. Wrap well in plastic wrap and return to the freezer overnight.
  4. Trim ¾” off each side of the ice cream cake to leave a perfectly square 7.5” ice cream cake. Cut the cake into twenty five petit fours, each 1.5”x1.5”.
  5. Glaze the petit fours one at a time: place a petit four on a fork and spoon chocolate glaze over it. (Or be lazy like me and just let the chocolate drip over the sides.)
  6. Place the petit fours on a parchment-lined baking sheet and return to the freezer for one hour.
The August 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Elissa of 17 and Baking. For the first time, The Daring Bakers partnered with Sugar High Fridays for a co-event and Elissa was the gracious hostess of both. Using the theme of beurre noisette, or browned butter, Elissa chose to challenge Daring Bakers to make a pound cake to be used in either a Baked Alaska or in Ice Cream Petit Fours. The sources for Elissa’s challenge were Gourmet magazine and David Lebovitz’s “The Perfect Scoop”.