Monday, February 28, 2011

Sticky Toffee Pudding

This week I was able to hop over to the Heavenly Cake Bakers and join in the fun of making Sticky Toffee Pudding. Sticky Toffee Pudding is something I have never made but have it on my radar to try for quite some time. Several (and I mean probably 5 or more) summers ago a popular ice cream maker had a contest to come up with a new flavor. The winner was, yes you guessed it, Sticky Toffee Pudding. Ever since then it has remained on my mind so this was the perfect chance to give it a go.
The dessert is broken down into 3 main components. The first being the spice cake. The batter calls for stout beer, dates (yum, my favorite), butter, sugar, vanilla, eggs, flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. As always I cut the recipe in half and used a small rectangular Pyrex baking dish. I reduced the oven temperature as per Rose's suggestion and it still took a bit more time than she suggested. No problem though.
The next component is a Butterscotch Toffee Sauce. Here I switched out and used Cinnamon-Honey Carmel Glaze, a recipe from my blogger friend Hanaa, at Hanaas Kitchen. It promised to be a little lighter and included some honey- I was sold! The rest of the ingredients are cinamon, brown sugar, heavy cream, butter, honey, and a little lemon juice. For these directions I'll have to direct you to Hanaa's Kitchen but, it is well worth the trip.
The last component to this lovely dessert is some lightly whipped creme fraiche (I used lightly sweetened heavy cream) and some pecans. To put this all together is a snap. Cut a square of the warm spiced, moist cake drizzled with the lovely, silky smooth Caramel Glaze. Top it off with a dollop of whipped cream and sprinkle with pecans. What is not to like!
All I can say about this is "Oh my this is devine!" Hope you get the opportunity to try some. Let me know what you think!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Daring Bakers' Challenge for February 2011

The February 2011 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Mallory from A Sofa in the Kitchen. She chose to challenge everyone to make a Panna Cotta from a Giada De Laurentis recipe and Nestle Florentine Cookies. As soon as I saw this challenge I couldn't help but smile. Panna Cotta or "cooked cream" is one of my honey's favorites. It is light and creamy and simply delicious in any flavor. Topped with a fruit jam, fresh fruit, or gelee it's over the top good!
The recipe that Mallory suggested is from Giada De Laurentis and is my favorite "go to" recipe as well. The ingredients list is short: milk, powdered gelatin, heavy cream, honey, sugar, and a pinch of salt. For the directions I'll let you visit Mallory's blog or one of my fellow Daring Bakers blogs, or you can go back to my post from June 2010. I chose to top mine with some fruite gelee using blueberries that I had been saving in the freezer for just this sort of occassion. I also decided to try some of Mallory's suggested coffee gelee too. I couldn't decide which I liked best. Oh well, I'll just have to keep tasting. :)
The next part of the challenge was to make Nestles's Florentine Cookies. I have made many a cookie in my day but, never a florentine cookie using oatmeal. That's right something in oatmeal, and fiber. Oh and a chocolate filling too. We all know how good chocolate is for us!
The cookie dough came together easily and baked up nice and chewy. I had some chocolate ganache from a previous project so I used it to fill the florentines. A wise choice if I do say so myself. These cookies were addicting!
Overall, this was a very tasty challenge. My honey was happy as were my other taste testers. Thank you Mallory for presenting this challenge.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Linzers for Valentine's Day!

What better day to bake up a batch of seductive, deliciously addictive linzer cookies! Actually, I don't need a special day to whip these pretty little cookies up. Linzers can be just as yummy whether they are 2" or 4" in diameter. The nut flour used in the cookie batter can be almond, walnut, hazelnut, or pecan.The jam filling can be absolutely any flavor you want. They are fun and that's why I love these so much. They are also one of the most asked for cookie in my arsenal. Since it is a special day and I know you want to get going we'll get right to my easy recipe.
Raspberry Linzers:
3/4 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp lemon zest
1 1/2 cup finely ground almonds
1 cup cake flour
1 1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
Powdered sugar
Cream the butter with the paddle attachment (minimally). Add sugar and cream a bit more. Add egg, lemon zest, vanilla, and mix,. Add the nuts; mix well. Stir the remaining ingredient together and add to the butter-nut mixture. Form into a 6" disk, wrap with plastic and chill.
Roll out the dough to 1/8" thick on lightly floured surface or between two peices of parchment (preferred method). Cut with 2-4" round cutter. Cut the center out of half the cookies in whatever shape you desire (round, heart, flour, get the idea). Chill again for about 20 minutes.
Line cookies sheets with parchment, silicone matt, or silpat. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 12-14 minutes, or just until the edges are golden. Cool completely.
Using a strainer sprinkle the cookie tops only with powdered sugar. Add a small amount of jam (too much will sqeeze out the sides when you take a bite) to the bottom halves and cover with sugared tops. Add a drop to fill the center cut out if necessary.
Well, that's it! Simple, right and a wonderful alternative or as a complimentary partner to chocolate.
Hope you enjoy some time with your special sweetie!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Date Nute Bread

One of my favorite foods is.... am I that predictable? Yes, it is the wonderful date. I have made several posts over the past year with the date as the star attraction. Well, nothing takes me back to childhood than thoughts of Date Nut Bread. Anyone out there remember Thomas' brand Date Nut Bread? Well, I loved it smeared with cream cheese. Ooooo yeah! I have been searching but, now I found it! A recipe for it, a perfect recreation. So I won't tease you anymore. 1 cup boiling water 1 cup chopped dates 1 tbs butter 1/4 cup dark brown sugar 1/4 cup molasses 2 tsp vanilla 2 eggs 1/2 cup All-purpose flour 1/2 cup whole wheat flour 1 1/2 tsp baking powder 1/4 tsp baking soda 1/2 tsp salt 3/4 cup coarse chopped walnuts

1.- In a bowl, pour the hot water over the dates and butter. Stir and let stand until lukewarm.

2.- In a food processor, puree 1/2 of the date mixture to a paste. Stir paste back into the date bowl.

3.- Add brown sugar, molasses, vanilla and eggs. Mix until combines. Add the walnuts.4.- In another bowl, sift the flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the date mixture. Stir until well combined. Pour the mixture into a buttered and parchment lined loaf pan (9x5).

5.- Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 50-55 minutes until the tester pick comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pan at least 30 minutes before turning out. Optional: Brush the top with honey while still warm. This is the closest I have been able to find to my old favorite. Let me know what you think of this version. And if you want to share your old favorites, please do.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Caramel Chocolate Cream Pie & the Avid Baker's Challenge

The "Avid Baker's Challenge?! Yes, this month I joined this fine group of bakers and will continue to bake along with them, positing on the first Tuesday of each month. We are baking from Flo Braker's "Baking for All Occasions". It is not my first experience with Flo Braker. I have been baking from her book, "Sweet Miniatures" for at least 8 years. It contains many of my favorites, so I expect "Baking for All Occasions" to be wonderful as well. Sounds like it will be great fun and my first project with them was just that.
I am not a chocolate fanatic, definitely not a big fan of pudding (the box type), or pies really. But, I am a fan of an occasional piece high quality chocolate and anything creamy and smooth and a buttery, flakey home-made crust! This project contained all of that so I did not hesitate to accept this challenge. The Caramel Chocolate Cream Pie has 5 components: a buttery flakey crust, a layer of smooth, amber caramel, topped with a deliciously creamy chocolate pudding, garnished with sweetened whipped cream and toffee pieces (definitely not your mother's pudding pie!). Mouth watering yet? As you know I don't share recipes from my challenges. I am hoping to entice you enough to purchase the book for yourself. You won't be disappointed. So let me share this experience as best I can with you now.
The first component to prepare was a flakey, buttery crust. Now I am sure you have your favorite just as I do. Since Flo's recipe contained vegetable shortening ( I have an allergy to soy) I had to resort to my favorite this time (sorry Flo). But the balance of the ingredients remained the same. Flour, sugar (just a bit), salt, butter, and ice water. I let the crust chill overnight to insure optimal flakiness. Then I rolled out the dough cut circles and fit them into 4" tartlet pans. If you know me then you know I like individual size desserts (neater and more impressive when giving some away). The instructions required the shell to be fully cooked, or blind baked.
The next component is a caramel layer. For this the ingredients are: milk, butter, and heavy cream. Like most of the projects we bake technique is important and often it is as simple as keeping watch over a pot. I don't find that caramel is difficult unless I am not keeping a close vigil. There is a very fine line between just right and burnt when it comes to caramel. When the caramel has cooled for about 45 minutes pour a layer into the cooked shells, and let cool completely.
The real star of this show is the chocolate pudding. I used a Callebaut semi-sweet here along with the milk, egg yolk, sugar, corn starch, salt, butter, and vanilla. I think the most important step here is to pour the pudding through a fine sieve to insure a very smooth pudding. Covering the surface of the pudding with plastic wrap will prevent a skin from forming (believe me you do not want that on top of this little gem). It now needs to chill for 3-4 hours.
The next 2 components are the garnishes. I have the most wonderful toffee recipe so instead of purchasing toffee bits I made some. Here is my favorite, simple recipe for toffee:
1 stick of unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup almonds (or other nut), optional
Foil line a 12"x7" baking sheet. Arrange almonds evenly (or not) on the bottom. In a heavy saucepan combine butter, sugar, vanilla, & salt. Cook over medium high heat stirring constantly with a clean, dry wooden spoon until butter is melted. Continue cooking about 5 minutes or until candy is the color of unblanched almonds. Immediately and quickly pour candy, without scrapping the pot, over the prepared pan &/or nuts. Cool completely. Remove from foil, break into pieces and set aside.
Now back to Flo's recipe. The next and final component is a sweetened whipped cream. I know you can do this! Use heavy cream, powdered or granulated sugar, vanilla and some cognac or other brandy. Yum! When you are ready to serve top the pie or tartlets, as in my case with some whipped cream and sprinkle with some of the toffee bits.
Phew! Sounds like alot of work but, it really isn't if you do one component at a time and build the dessert up as you go. The end result is a very tasty, grown up dessert. Thank you Haana I had fun with this one!