Monday, June 30, 2008

VANILLA CUPCAKES PART II

BATTLE OF THE VANILLA CUPCAKES: ROUND 2
Up next on the battle of the Vanilla cupcakes was Amy Sedaris' recipe. I made these yesterday within a matter of 25 minutes from beginning to end. I also halved this recipe, as I did Billy Reece's recipe last week.  I used Amy's suggestion for a butter cream frosting using half and half cream which came out really smooth and delicious. As for the actual vanilla cake, it was good. On a scale from 1-10 I would probably give it a 7. As for the consistency and texture, it was very similar to Billy's recipe, however lacked in taste. I felt that Billy's cake was sweeter and more delicious than Amy's.  Apparently the video below begs to differ.....

Synopsis: Judson throws a cupcake tantrum yesterday in my kitchen. He was a big fan of Amy's cupcakes..
video
Amy Sedaris' Cupcakes

(Makes 24 cupcakes but I halved the recipe in red)
1 ½ sticks of unsalted butter (3/4 c butter=6 Tablespoons)
1 ¾ cups of sugar (3/4 c + 2 Tablespoons)

Beat well, then add:

Add 2 large eggs (1 egg)
2 Teaspoons of pure vanilla (1 teaspoon)
½ teaspoon of salt (1/4 teaspoon)
2 ½ teaspoons of baking powder (1 teaspoon + 1/4 teaspoon)
2 ½ cups of flour (1 cup + 1/4 cups flour)
1 ¼ cups of milk (1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons)

Beat well, fill cups, and bake at 375 degrees for 18-20 minutes. 

Frosting (I didn't halve this but just spooned the leftovers into my mouth instead, ha-I'm gross!)

1 stick of unsalted butter
1 box of Domino confectionery sugar
¼ cup half-and-half
1 teaspoon of pure vanilla

Thursday, June 26, 2008

VANILLA CUPCAKES

BATTLE OF THE VANILLA CUPCAKES
As far as I'm concerned there are only 3 vanilla cupcake recipes comparable to one another and I'm on a mission to find out which is the best and once and for all rank them. 

THE CONTENDERS: Billy Reece's Recipe, Amy Sedaris' recipe, and last but not least (depending on the results), Mangolia's Bakery recipe.  I figured the only real way to find out is to make a batch of each and taste test them as my taste buds have never failed me before. I will also be using my co-workers as a form of consensus in this little bake-off. 

First up....(drum roll please...) is Billy Reece's recipe. Billy Reece owns Billy's Bakery located in the Chelsea area in Manhattan and they are known for their Vanilla Vanilla cupcakes. Therefore, that is exactly what I baked last night. I halved the recipe knowing that if I'm to make 3 different vanilla cupcake recipes in a matter of 3 days, odds are lots of cupcakes will be involved and I wanted to minimize the amount of cupcakes that present themselves on my waistline. Yikes!
I thought that since this bake-off is about the actual quality of the cake, I will be using a variation of the oh-so-generic and semi-boring 7-minute frosting. This frosting is the kind of frosting that won't overwhelm a cupcake because it's plain and not too sweet and I didn't want to take away from the taste of the cake.  I actually loved this frosting because of those exact reasons and will definitely be using it for future projects. This cupcake receives a 10 from me and, from the collective "ooo's and aaaa's", a 10 from my coworkers. These were unbelievable. Moist. Tasty. Sweet. Buttery. I can't wait to try the next two recipes!!

Up next........Amy Sedaris' recipe....stay tuned!

Billy's Vanilla, Vanilla Cupcakes

Makes about 30 cupcakes 
(I halved this recipe which made about 12 cupcakes-noted in red)
1 3/4 cups cake flour, not self-rising
(3/4 c + 2 tbsp)
1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
(1/2 c + 2tbsp)
2 cups sugar
(1 cup)
1 tablespoon baking powder
(1 1/2 tsp)
3/4 teaspoon salt
(1/2 tsp)
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes
(1/2 c-1 stick)
4 large eggs
(2 eggs)
1 cup whole milk
(1/2 cup)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
(1/2 tsp)

1. Preheat oven to 325°. Line cupcake pans with paper liners; set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine flours, sugar, baking powder, and salt; mix on low speed until combined. Add butter, mixing until just coated with flour.

2. In a large glass measuring cup, whisk together eggs, milk, and vanilla. With mixer on medium speed, add wet ingredients in 3 parts, scraping down sides of bowl before each addition; beat until ingredients are incorporated but do not overbeat.

3. Divide batter evenly among liners, filling about two-thirds full. Bake, rotating pan halfway through, until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 17 to 20 minutes.

4. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat process with remaining batter. Once cupcakes have cooled, use a small offset spatula to frost tops of each cupcake. Decorate with sprinkles, if desired. Serve at room temperature.


7-Minute Frosting

1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1/3 cup water
3 large egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract


1. Put the sugar, water, egg whites, and cream of tartar in a heatproof bowl or the top of a double boiler with at least a 2-quart capacity and beat with a handheld electric mixer on high speed until opaque, white, and foamy, about 1 minute.
2. Put the bowl over, but not touching, a saucepan of barely simmering water. The top container should sit firmly over the pan of hot water.
3. Beat on high speed until the frosting forms a soft peak that stands straight up when the beaters are lifted, about 7 minutes.
4. Remove the bowl from the water, add the vanilla, and continue beating for 2 minutes to further thicken the frosting.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

CUPCAKES TAKE THE CAKE!

CHECK IT OUT!!
If ya'll (in my finest NY accent) haven't read and or seen the blog, Cupcakes Take The Cake, please do so immediately!!! Anything and everything you want to know about bakeries, cupcakes, desserts, confections, etc etc is broadcasted on this site.   I've always been interested in baking since I was very young but Cupcakes Take The Cake really inspired me and opened me up to a world of food blogging that I never new existed.  A day doesn't go by where I don't check their site and they are by far my most favorite blog. Today I felt like a local celebrity when I checked their homepage and there was a write-up about my blog! I almost fell off my chair from excitement! Life In A Peanut Shell got a shout-out, woo hoo!!! Thank you so much Rachel, Allison, and Nichelle! Check out the article here!

My cousin, Jon Friedman, is a comedian/writer/producer/t-shirt maker in the NY area and was interviewed by Cupcakes Take The Cake back in 2005. If you need some laughs, check out the interview here

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

TWD

TWD: "NOT SO" MIXED BERRY COBBLER
This week's recipe was chosen by Beth of Our Sweet Life.


OK. I'm so embarrassed of this post. There, I said it! This is not something I'm proud of for a few reasons: #1, I did not follow the recipe and instead of using actual mixed berries (consisting of blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries) I thought I'd be different and creative by using grapes, melons, peaches, pears and honeydew. Why? Who in their right mind would actually find a grape cobbler delicious? Yuck! The top baked beautifully, just as it should have, but the underlying layer of fruits were very wet and mushy and literally looked like they were drenched in a pool of fruit juices. I realized once this was already completed that fruits like the one's I used must have retained a lot of water; more so than the berries suggested and that is why my cobbler came out the way it did-soupy.  I tried to spice it up by pairing a slice with vanilla bean ice cream but that hardly worked! If ice cream can't do the trick then I guess this recipe was doomed from the get-go! I will definitely make this again using the proper fruits. Check out what this really should look like at the TWD blogroll, here!

Monday, June 23, 2008

PETIT-FOUR CAKE

PISTACHIO PETIT-FOUR CAKE
I made this very special cake for a very special occasion. My parent's 30th wedding anniversary is tomorrow! Happy Anniversary mom and dad! I saw this cake on Smitten Kitchen  and immediately knew I wanted to make it for their anniversary. There is clearly more to this cake than your typical layer cake accompanied by boring butter cream. I'm not going to lie, this cake is very involved but it is so worth it and I'm truly proud of it! So, be proud of me, OK? This is my first time working with marzipan and anything pistachio related and I assure you it isn't my last! The base of the cake is pretty straight forward using ground toasted pistachio's throughout. The layers are bound with marzipan, apricot preserves, and chocolate ganache. 
I garnished the upper and lower rims of the cake with crushed pistachios and place 4 sugar flowers in the center. If I had more time, I most definitely would have attempted to make marzipan flowers, but I'll save that for another time.  This cake was so delicious. The varying tastes of pistachio, chocolate, apricot and almond were tremendous. The pistachio taste was not overbearing at all and perfected complimented the other ingredients. This cake has officially opened me up to a world of marzipan. Definitely make this for something special!
PISTACHIO PETIT-FOUR CAKE

ADAPTED FROM: SKY HIGH:IRRESISTIBLE LAYER CAKES VIA LEITE'S CULINARIA 

For the cake
3/4 cup skinned pistachio nuts
1 2/3 cups sugar
2 cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 ounces unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
5 eggs, lightly beaten

For the marzipan
8 ounces almond paste
1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup

For the dark ganache glaze
1 pound extra-bittersweet chocolate
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
3/4 cup apricot preserves

Marzipan roses for decoration (optional)

Make the cake
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Butter three 8-inch round cake pans. Line the bottom of each pan with a round of parchment or waxed paper and butter the paper.

2. Spread out the pistachios in a baking pan and toast in the oven for 7 to 10 minutes, or until lightly colored. Transfer to a dish and let cool completely. Finely chop the pistachios and set 1/4 cup aside for decoration.

3. Put the remaining 1/2 cup pistachios in a food processor. Add the sugar and pulse just enough to grind them finely.

4. Pour into a large mixing bowl and add the flour, baking powder, and salt. Blend with the mixer on low for 30 seconds. Add the butter, milk, and vanilla and, with the mixer on low, beat until completely incorporated.

5. Raise the speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the beaten eggs in 2 or 3 additions, scraping down the sides of the bowl well and mixing only long enough to blend after each addition. Divide the batter among the 3 prepared pans.

6. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow the layers to cool in the pans for 10 minutes. Turn out onto wire racks, carefully peel off the paper liners, and let cool completely.

Make the marzipan (You can also use store bought marzipan)
1. Crumble the almond paste into a large mixing bowl. Use an electric mixer on low speed to soften the almond paste. Add the confectioners’ sugar and corn syrup and beat until smooth. Wrap well in plastic so it
doesn’t dry out, and allow to rest at room temperature for 1 to 2 hours before rolling out.

Make the dark ganache glaze (I used Ghirardelli)
1. Chop the chocolate coarsely and put it in a heatproof bowl. Bring the cream to a bare simmer. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and let stand for 5 minutes. Whisk until smooth and use the glaze soon after making so that it
doesn’t set.

Assemble the cake
1. Roll out a third of the marzipan on a work surface dusted with a little confectioners’ sugar to about 1/8-inch thickness.

2. Set one of the cake pans upside down on the marzipan and trim around it with a small knife to make an 8-inch round. Repeat two more times with the remaining marzipan. Save all your scraps to make roses for decoration, if you like.

3. Place one cake layer on a cake board, flat side up. Spread 1/4 cup of the preserves evenly over the top, leaving a 1/4-inch margin all around. Place one marzipan round on top of the preserves and spread 1/3 cup of the Dark Ganache Glaze over the marzipan so that it completely covers the surface. Repeat with the second cake layer, adding more preserves, another round of marzipan, and more ganache glaze. Top the cake with the third layer. Spread the last of the apricot preserves over the top of the cake and cover it with the last round of marzipan.

4. Place the cake on a wire cooling rack that is nesting in a baking pan. Pour the remaining ganache glaze over the cake, in several additions, spreading to coat the top and sides. Allow the ganache to set. Garnish the cake with the reserved chopped toasted pistachio nuts and a single marzipan rose or several smaller roses.

CUPCAKES

CUPCAKERY CONTINUED...
These were fun. Mint Chocolate Chip cupcakes. Who doesn't like mint+chocolate? OK, OK, I'm sure there are several people who don't but for all you people out there, you should really reconsider. Peppermint Patties, Andes Mints, Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream..mmm, there are so many mint+chocolate avenues you can go down! I found this recipe on the aforementioned site (see post below), How To Eat A Cupcake.  This recipe calls for chocolate milk which I've never used before, resulting in a  super chocolatey and moist cupcake. The batter contained mini chocolate chips and the Swiss Meringue Mint buttercream was out of this world. I've never worked with Swiss Meringue Buttercream before, but let me tell you, I'm officially addicted.  I know my previous post of the Creme Brulee cupcakes used Brown Sugar Swiss Meringue buttercream but clearly it didn't come out correctly because it was grainy and flat. I'm not a lover of buttercream at all, but the swiss meringue really tones down the sweetness, mainly in part because it doesn't contain confectioners, and it gives the frosting a great consistency-silky and smooth. I seriously love this stuff! 
Chocolate Mint Chip Cupcakes
Makes 18-20

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup (2 ounces) unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped, melted
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
1/2 cup chocolate milk
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup (6 ounces) mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Insert liners into a medium cupcake pan.
2. In a large bowl cream together the butter and sugar with an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3-5 minutes. Beat the melted chocolate into the butter mixture. Add the eggs, peppermint extract, and chocolate milk. Beat until creamy.
3. In a separate medium-sized bowl combine the flour and baking soda.
4. Add the dry ingredients to the chocolate mixture and beat until well blended (DO NOT OVER BEAT). With a rubber spatula, stir in the chocolate chips.
5. Fill the cupcake liners 2/3-3/4 full. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool cupcakes in pan.

Mint Swiss Meringue Buttercream 

Makes about 3 cups - enough to frost 12 cupcakes

3 egg whites
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons peppermint extract

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Put egg whites and sugar in a double boiler over simmering water. Whisking constantly, cook until sugar has dissolved and mixture is warm (about 160 degrees).
2. Pour heated egg mixture into a clean bowl of a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat egg white mixture on high speed until it forms stiff (but not dry) peaks. Continue beating until fluffy and cooled, about 6 minutes (It's very important to beat it for the whole 6 minutes).
3. Switch to the paddle attachment. With mixer on medium-low, add butter several tablespoons at a time, beating well after each addition. (If frosting appears soupy or separated after all butter has been added, beat on medium-high speed until smooth again, 3 to 5 minutes more.)
4. Beat in extracts. Reduce speed to low; beat 2 minutes to eliminate air bubbles. Stir with a rubber spatula until smooth.

Friday, June 20, 2008

CUPCAKERY

CUPCAKERY!

I came home from work yesterday with a burning desire to bake and create 2 kinds of cupcakes that I've  never made before. After browsing the site, How To Eat A Cupcake, I selected 2 kinds; Mississippi Mud cupcakes and Creme Brulee cupcakes. Both seemed very unique to me, don'tcha think? First up, Mississippi Mud...
How could you go wrong with a chocolate based cupcake combined with crushed Oreo, mini chocolate chips and 7-minute silky Kahlua frosting? Exactly, you can't! These were delicious! The 7-minute frosting didn't come out exactly as I hoped. Perhaps my "barely simmering" water was too hot but it tasted divine! I added about 1 1/2 tsp of Kahlua and it was the perfect amount. I garnished with 1/2 Oreo cookie. This recipe calls for 24 cupcakes and since I planned on making other varieties, I only made 12 and made Mississippi Mud bars with the other half of the batter. I did this by putting the batter in an 8X8 inch pan, topping it with crushed Oreo's and mini chocolate chips, then baking for about 25 minutes (or until toothpick inserted came out clean). I then scattered with marshmallows. So delish! (There is more to this post after the recipe! Keep scrolling!)
Mississippi Mud Bars!
Mississippi Mud Cupcakes
Makes 24 cupcakes

INGREDIENTS
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temp
1 1/4 cups sugar 
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup water

2 1/4 cups crushed Oreo cookies (about 20 cookies)
1 cup (6 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips (I used mini chips)

DIRECTIONS
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line 24 muffin tin cups with paper liners.

Put the unsweetened chocolate in a heatproof bowl or the top of a double boiler and place it over, but not touching, a saucepan of barely simmering water. Stir until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Remove from the water and set aside to cool slightly.

Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a medium bowl and set aside.

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the butter and sugar until smoothly blended and creamy, about 2 minutes. Stop the mixer and scrape the sides of the bowl as needed during mixing. On low speed, mix in the melted chocolate. On medium speed, add the eggs one at a time, mixing until each is blended into the batter. Add the vanilla and beat until the mixture looks creamy and the color has lightened slightly, about 1 minute. Mix in the sour cream until no white streaks remain. On low speed, add half of the flour mixture, mixing just to incorporate it. Mix in the water. Mix in the remaining flour mixture until it is incorporated and the batter looks smooth.

Spoon 1 tablespoon of the cookie pieces and 2 teaspoons of chocolate chips into the bottom of each paper liner. Spoon a scant 1/4 cup of batter over the chocolate chips. Sprinkle remaining cookie pieces and chocolate chips over the tops, pressing them gently into the batter.

Bake just until the tops feel firm and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Cool the cupcakes in the pans on a wire rack.

7-Minute Frosting
recipe adapted from Cupcakes! by Elinor Klivans.

1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1/3 cup water
3 large egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 tablespoon Kahlúa

1. Put the sugar, water, egg whites, and cream of tartar in a heatproof bowl or the top of a double boiler with at least a 2-quart capacity and beat with a handheld electric mixer on high speed until opaque, white, and foamy, about 1 minute.
2. Put the bowl over, but not touching, a saucepan of barely simmering water. The top container should sit firmly over the pan of hot water.
3. Beat on high speed until the frosting forms a soft peak that stands straight up when the beaters are lifted, about 7 minutes.
4. Remove the bowl from the water, add the Kahlúa, and continue beating for 2 minutes to further thicken the frosting.
NEXT UP...............
....Creme Brulee cupcakes. These.Were.Awesome. The top of the cupcake baked and crusted just like the top layer of Creme Brulee. Caramel syrup is added to the batter giving it that Creme Brulee feeling. Mmmmm.
Close up!
The foundation of this cake is vanilla-like and it's frosted with Brown Sugar Swiss Merengue Buttercream which should honestly be illegal in the continental United States-it's that good. I drizzled some caramel on top for some aesthetics. Seriously, what more could you ask for? This cupcake is so delectable and I'm so happy I saved one for myself for when I get home. This is one of the best cupcakes I've ever made..hands down! Make.These...Now!
Stay tuned for the various other cupcakes I'll be baking within the next few weeks...get ready for serious experimentation!
Regular sized!
Crème Brûlée Cupcakes
Makes about 24 cupcakes 
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt, plus a pinch for the egg whites
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 ½ cups sugar
2 eggs, separated
1 cup milk
3 tablespoons caramel syrup (ice cream topping)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Mix flour, baking powder, and salt together and set aside.
3. Cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add egg yolks, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Alternately beat in dry ingredients and milk. Add caramel syrup and vanilla. Beat until smooth.
4. Beat egg whites with a pinch of salt until stiff but not dry. Gently fold whites into batter.
5. Spoon batter into cupcake papers, filling cups about 2/3 full. Bake for about 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool.

BROWN SUGAR SWISS MERINGUE BUTTERCREAM
1 cup light brown sugar
4 egg whites
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

Put sugar, egg whites and salt into the top of a double boiler over a pan of simmering water. Whisking constantly, cook until sugar has dissolved and mixture is warm (about 160 degrees). Pour heated egg whites into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat egg white mixture on high speed until it forms stiff (but not dry) peaks. Continue beating until fluffy and cooled, about 7 minutes total. Switch to the paddle attachment. With mixer on medium-low, add butter two tablespoons at a time, beating well after each addition. Increase speed to medium-high; continue beating until frosting appears thick, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to low and continue beating 1 minute to reduce air bubbles.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

HELP!

HELP!
I woke up on a cupcake tear! Help! I haven't made cupcakes in super long (with an exception to the post below--and really, those didn't count because I was tired and used a box mix! shhhh!) and I'm officially on a cupcake-kick! I want to attack the creative world of cupcake baking so I've posted a little poll (glance to the right) and need everyone's help! Vote and add some comments to this post if you have any other suggestions! My cupcake baking power lies in your hands. Ready.Set.Go!

Oh, and the picture above is of my cutie boy Marley. He just turned 1 years old! My puppies Boomer and Bentley literally grow by the minute and are so big at 4 months! I'll revisit the original post of them when they were babies and post some updated pictures..stay tuned!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

CUPCAKES

CUPCAKE'D
My boyfriend wanted something sweet Saturday night after dinner and rather than going out and buying some lame dessert from the local diner I decided to whip up a batch of cupcakes. Little did he know that my real incentive wasn't to satisfy his sweet tooth but to experiment with my never-used before Wilton mini giant cupcake pan.I know, I know-how selfish of me! This pan was so easy and fun to use. I decorated using chocolate icing and garnished with sprinkles and mini nonpareils. I would highly suggest you pick yourself up one of these.

PASTRY RING


TWD: CREAM PUFF RING
Well, it's that time again; another post for Tuesday's With Dorie. This weeks recipe, Peppermint Cream Puff Ring, was chosen by Caroline of a Consuming Passion. While this recipe was extremely interesting, it definitely wasn't my cup of tea. I have never made anything pastry-related before so that was a plus, but the result was hardly excitable and nothing for me to be proud of. Actually, I'm slightly embarrassed of how ugly this came out!! 
Peppermint has the tendency to be a tough sell, so I swapped the peppermint cream for Dorie's chocolate pastry cream thinking that I couldn't go wrong with creating an all-chocolate themed pastry ring. I added chocolate flakes and chips to the top and omitted the almonds. Based on my co-worker's "ooooh's and aaaaah's" reaction, they enjoyed it but I thought the actual pastry was tasteless. All in all I'm happy Caroline picked this recipe because it gave me the opportunity to experiment with puffed pastry while also giving me the confidence to pursue it in the future. Check out the TWD blogroll for my other fellow TWD'ers pastry creations! I'm looking forward to next week's Mixed Berry Cobbler chosen by Beth of Our Sweet Life.

Monday, June 16, 2008

KEY LIME CHEESECAKE

KEY LIME CHEESECAKE
I've mentioned before how much my father absolutely loves key lime pie. He's a key lime pie connoisseur. He's a pretty big fan of cheesecake as well. Rather than go out and get my dad a cheesy father's day gift (no pun intended), I thought it would be great to bake him a key lime cheesecake because you can't go wrong with presenting my father with something dessert oriented.

I've only made a few cheesecakes in my baking career and viewed this one as a true challenge. If made properly, cheesecakes baked from scratch offer such an extreme sense of accomplishment. While they are extremely involved and time consuming, the look on everyones faces when a homemade cheesecake comes out is priceless. The fact that I was able to have my name attached to this one was very self-fulfilling!
I doubled the graham cracker crust because I envisioned a super thick crust that extended all the way up the perimeter of the cheesecake. To me, the crust is definitely the best part of a cheesecake.  Atop the crust I used the creamed coconut part of Dorie's Florida pie recipe and the filling consisted of key lime juice, sweetened condensed milk, lime zest, sour cream and cream cheese..among a few other odds and ends. The filling was so creamy and delicious with a strong, but not overbearing, taste of key lime and the coconut cream added and extra kick. I topped it off with whipped cream and piped mini rosettes around the border. This was truly amazing. My dad was very impressed and it was the talk of the party!
P.S. I had some leftover filling so I made key lime cheesecake bars. I was out of graham crackers at this point so I crushed up Oreos and sprinkled toasted coconut  across the top with a dollop of whipped cream. See for yourself...
Crust:
1 ½ cups graham cracker crumbs, about 10 whole crackers
3 tablespoons sugar
1/3 cup butter, melted

*I doubled all of the above ingredient to create a thicker crust, which I recommend you do*

Coconut Cream Layer:
1 1/3 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 cups shredded sweetened coconut


Filling:
All ingredients should be at room temperature

1 ½ lbs cream cheese
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons grated peel of key lime zest, colored part only
1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup sour cream *light sour cream works well also*
½ cup key lime juice (about 8-9 limes), seeds removed *I used Nellie and Joe's key lime juice*
4 large eggs

For the crust:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar and melted butter together until well mixed. Using a 9inch spring form pan, butter the bottom and sides and gently press crust down to create crust, making it as even as possible.  You can use the bottom of a flat bottomed glass to press the mixture up against the sides. At the very least, press the crust 1/2 inch to 1 inch up the sides. Bake for 10 minutes and cool on wire rack. Once cooled, wrap outside of pan in tin foil to prevent cracking. Turn oven down to 325 degrees.

For the coconut cream layer:
Put the cream and 1 cup of the coconut in a small saucepan and bring it to a boil over medium-low heat, stirring almost constantly. Continue to cook and stir until the cream is reduced by half and the mixture is slightly thickened. Scrape the coconut cream into a bowl and set it aside while you prepare the key lime cheese filling.

For the filling:
Using an electric mixer, on low speed, beat the cream cheese just to soften. Scrape bowl and beaters often throughout the rest of the recipe. Add the sugar in a slow stream, beating on low just until mixed. Add the flour, salt, vanilla, zest and beat on low just to mix. Add the sweetened condensed milk and sour cream. Beat on low just until mixed. With mixer running on low speed, add the lime juice in a slow stream, beating just until mixed. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing each in before adding the next egg. Beat last egg in just until mixed.

Evenly spread the the coconut filling on top of the cooled crust then pour the key lime cheese filling on top. Using a spatula, spread the cheese filling.

Place the foil-wrapped pan into a large roasting pan. Place pans in oven and fill roasting pan with hot water until water is half way up the cheesecake pan. Bake for 1 hour, or until filling is set, but center is still a bit jiggly.

Remove roasting pan from oven carefully. Remove cheesecake pan from roaster water bath and place on wire rack. Run a sharp small knife around the sides of the pan to loosen and keep the cheesecake from cracking as it cools. Cool at room temperature. When cool, remove foil wrapping, wrap in plastic and refrigerate 4 hours or overnight.

To serve, remove from refrigerator. Remove the pan sides. Slide the cheesecake onto a serving plate and bring to room temperature. Garnish with whipped cream and thin lime slices. Serve thin slices of the cheesecake, using a knife which has been run under (or dipped into) hot water, then wiped dry.

COOKIES

COOKIE MADNESS
I was instructed to make all of the Father's day desserts this year.  I needed to make enough desserts to feed about 30 people which, in essence, is really like 60 people considering the amounts of food my family is capable of consuming. I also sent my boyfriend off with a few batches of cookies for his family's Father's day fiesta. All in all, I made about 150 cookies..sadly, I'm not exaggerating! So, I set off on my mission..

Cookies were to be my first venture. Everyone loves cookies. I knew I couldn't go wrong. While brainstorming on what kind of cookies I wanted to make, I opened up my freezer to a bagful of candy that has been sitting there for months and literally oozing out the sides of my over packed freezer. Cookies+candy=YUM!  Here's what I came up with:
Butterfinger cookies...

Snickers cookies...

White Chocolate Chip cookies...

Chocolate Chip cookies...

I used the same cookie recipe as I did for the swirl chip cookies, only I doubled it, then separated the dough in fourths using about 1 cup of chopped candy/chips in each. These are better on the second day as they were very chewy and tasty! Everyone loved them...

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

STRAWBERRY TART

TWD:LA PALETTE'S STRAWBERRY TART
Marie of A Year In Oak Cottage chose this weeks Tuesday's With Dorie recipe. I'd like to start off by apologizing to Marie for not following the directions, umm, at all. While this is a lovely tart, I completely made this recipe my own for a plethora of reasons. First off, I was away all weekend and didn't have much time to make the sweet dough. Secondly, I was in a frisky mood and thought I'd spice the tart up with the presence of some chocolate. Third, I've wanted to make white chocolate mousse for quite some time now and thought I'd kill 2 birds with one stone. Lastly, the conjoining of strawberries and white chocolate is just too good to pass up.  
I took a simple sweet dough strawberry tart and turned it into an oreo-crusted, white chocolate mousse-filled, strawberry-topped pie. Try saying that 5 times fast with no breaths in between.
This tart was good and definitely different from what I, and I'm sure everyone else, is used to. It's a combination of oreos, white chocolate, strawberry jam and strawberries resulting in a summery cool chocolaty treat. Enjoy!
FYI: The TWD'ers have decided to do away with posting Dorie's recipes each week. This group continues to expand and it's as if we are giving away the book's recipes for free. If any/all of these recipes interest you from week to week pick up a copy of Baking: From My Home To Yours. You won't regret it!

PEANUT BUTTER CUP CAKE

HOLY PEANUT BUTTER CUPS!
Have I ever expressed my love for Bakerella? Well, please let me take this opportunity to tell you folks how obsessed I am with her (in a completely non-creepy way!) She has the most fantastic blog and everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, she makes is lights out and super creative. She was even on Martha Stewart in April for her cupcake pops! The first thing I do every morning when I boot up my computer is check her blog hoping for an update. Last week she posted a Peanut Butter Cup Cake which had me drooling by the very sight of it. I had already quickly mentally scanned by cabinets and fridge for the ingredients and knew I would be making this the moment I got home from work. Devils food cake. Chopped up Peanut Butter Cups. Chocolate Peanut Butter Ganache. Chopped up Peanut Butter Cup garnish. 'Nuff said?
Bakerella's recipe starts with a boxed devil's food cake mix, however, being that I avoid boxed mixes like the plague, I made David Lebovitz's Devil's food cake from scratch found here. I doubled the amount of peanut butter cups that the recipe called for and tossed them in the cake and used the remaining to garnish. The chocolate peanut butter ganache was so delicious and aesthetically was gorgeous! I used 2-6inch rounds rather than the required 9inch to create a layer cake and made 6 cupcakes with the remaining batter. My little cousin's birthday is this week so I froze the cake and will be serving it on father's day with candles! 

INGREDIENTS

adapted from Parents.com

  • 1  box (18.25 ounces) devil's food cake mix click here for the recipe I used for the cake from scratch*
  • 3  eggs (omit if using recipe from scratch)
  • 1  cup buttermilk (omit if using recipe from scratch)
  • 1/2  cup vegetable oil (omit if using recipe from scratch)
  • 2  cups chopped chocolate-covered peanut butter cups (about 8 ounces), plus more to garnish *I used about 2 1/2 bags of Reese's*
  • 8  ounces dark chocolate, chopped *I used 4 ounces of dark and 4 ounces of milk*
  • 1  cup heavy cream
  • 1/2  cup creamy peanut butter

DIRECTIONS

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat two 9-inch round cake pans with nonstick cooking spray. Line with waxed paper; coat paper.

2. In a large bowl, beat cake mix, eggs, buttermilk and vegetable oil on low for 30 seconds. Increase speed to medium-high; beat for 2 minutes, scraping down side of the bowl after 1 minute. Fold in 2 cups of the chopped peanut butter cups.

3. Divide batter between prepared pans. Bake at 350 degrees F for about 34 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let layers cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Turn out cakes onto wire racks and cool completely.

4. Place chopped dark chocolate in a medium-size bowl. Bring cream just to a boil and pour over chocolate. Whisk until chocolate melts. Add peanut butter and whisk until smooth.

5. Trim top of cake layers flat with a serrated knife. Put 1 cake layer on cooling rack and place on a baking sheet. Pour 1 cup frosting on top; spread evenly with a spatula. Top with remaining cake layer. Pour remaining frosting over the top, allowing it to spill over the sides. Smooth top and sides with spatula. Refrigerate 1 hour to set. Transfer cake to serving plate and garnish with chopped candy, if desired.