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.