30 August 2010

Sugar Coma Extraordinaire Part One

I have mentioned that I make a lot of cake. So this year for my birthday, after having let my 30th slip by hopefully unnoticed, I decided that I was not only going to throw myself a great party, but an all dessert party. All desserts and no cakes.

I started preparing the weekend before my party; the things that I knew would last like cookies, brownie balls, and sorbets. Then a huge project at work hit so I was up late every night working and fitting in a little baking and decorating wherever I could. For the entire week my kitchen looked like a war zone.

A baking war zone that is. I went through roughly 2 1/2 lbs of butter, about 8 lbs of flour, 10 of sugar, two dozen eggs, 3 1/2 lbs cream cheese, I don't even know how much chocolate...and a lot of alcohol.

I also made it completely through seasons 2 and 3 of Alias. And remembered how I annoyed I was that Bradley Cooper left the show after season 2.

Bradley Cooper...


Sorry, I'm back.

Usually when I blog about food I try to include the recipe here, but because we're talking about a lot of recipes and I'm lazy, I'm just going to link to all of them here. It's not like anything is ever my own recipe anyway.

I made three kinds of cookies. Because this was a dessert only party I wanted to at least provide a couple savory desserts and that's where some of the cookies came in.

Oatcakes are not oatmeal cookies. Do not confuse them. The description sounds kind of unpleasant but they go really well with red wine:
2 1/4 cups of rolled oats
2/3 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons lard
2 tablespoons butter

Preheat the oven to 423. Mix the oats, flour, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Melt the butter and lard then add it, and enough boiling water to the oat mixture to make a dough. Turn it out on a surface sprinkled with yet more oats, roll, then cut in rounds. Should make roughly 24. Bake un an ungreased cookie sheet for minimum 15 minutes. I'm convinced that my oven hates me because everything always takes longer to bake than instructions say they should.

I don't have a round stamp so I used a glass.

Mine didn't turn out as pretty as the ones in my cookbook so there's not a finished picture. I used the Cookie and Biscuit Bible for a few of these recipes and was very amused by it. It handily gives ingredient measurements for every recipe three ways: grams, ounces, and cups. The authors have to be British but what's so funny is that they include American translations for words. For example, a recipe might tell you to press dough into a tin (pan), or wrap dough in clear film (plastic wrap), or use a paper piping (pastry) bag for something.

My second savory dessert were blue cheese walnut cookies. I'd made them before and knew that when looking for a savory dessert these were a big hit. Contrary to the oatcakes I rather think that these go better with a nice crisp white wine.
3 1/2 ounces blue cheese
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/3 cup walnuts

Pulse cheese and butter in a food processor until blended then puls mix the next four ingredients until a course meal forms. Once that's all mixed, pulse belnd in the walnuts until a moist dough forms. Form dough into a flat disc, wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes. Roll out dough and stamp out cookies (I used stars) and bake about 15 minutes.

Because I recently bought the book Cookie Craft I decided that I also had to make some sugar cookies and try my hand at decorating them. It's a really good book that gives good explanations on how to do the decorating.

Ummm...my cookies looked nothing like the ones in the book. Even the shapes were lopsided.

Eventually I gave up on the sanding sugar and the gold and silver pearl dust and just flooded the dratted cookied and went to town with my new food markers. And that was pretty fun in and of itself.

And have I ever mentioned what a miracle the Kitchen Aid mixer is?! There is no way I'd bake nearly as much as I do if we didn't have that. Thank you Lauren's mom for buying it for her!

Brownie balls are one of my new favorite things. I've made them before but this time, instead of dipping them in the sticky mess goo of chocolate and sweet and condensed milk I just dipped them in melted milk chocolate. Perhaps they weren't quite as rich but they were certainly easier to handle and stored better.

To mix in with all the fancy and sophistocated type desserts, I also made a few childhood favorites: Rice Krispy treats, pan s'mores, and scotcheroos. I remembered while making them, how much I do not actually like to make Rice Krispy treats. They are a massive pain in the neck because the cereal really just does not like to mix with the melted marshmallows. In fact sometimes it outright refuses to do so. I do have a fondness for them though as they were one of the only 'remind me of home' treats I could make when I lived in Taiwan. I was able to get my hands on very expensive boxes of cereal and the marshmallows at an import store and made them once. I had such a hard time stirring them I had to get my kung fu master roommate to do it for me.

Pan s'mores are similarly kind of a pain but not nearly as stubborn as are the Rice Krispies.
9 cups Golden Grahams
3/4 cup light corn syrup
3 tablespoons butter
11.5 pkg chocolate chips
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups mini marshmallows

Butter a 9x13 pan. Then, in a sauce pan, combine the syrup, chocolate, and butter and stir occaisionaly over low to medium heat until melted and stir in vanilla. Pour the mixture over the ceral and mix as best you can until coated, then press into the greased pan. And voila!

 Of these three, scotcheroos have always been my favorite.
1 cup light corn syrup
1 cup sugar
1 cup creamy peanut butter
6 cups Rice Krispies
6+ oz chocolate chips
6+ oz butterscotch chips

Mix the syrup and sugar in a sauce pan over low to medium heat just until it starts to boil. Remove from heat and mix in peanut butter until totally incorporated. Then dump in all the creal and stir like your life depends on it. These, even more than the Rice Krispy treats, like to seize up and refuse to mix together. Once you have defeated the cereal mixture, pry it out of the pan into a 9x13 and gingerly press into the pan. Gingerly...syrup + sugar + peanut butter = really really super hot. Then melt the chocolate and butterscotch chips together and pour over the cereal. I saw 6+ ounces because you need at least 6 ounces of each...but to me the more the better.

I discovered with these three desserts that instead of getting your hands gooky to press them into the pans (and you do want to grease your hands for that) spraying a little cookie spray on my hands was as effective and much cleaner than using butter.

Somehow I forgot to take pictures of those. Sad face.

I also tried (read tried) to make pudding cups a la one of my favorite bloggers Bakerella. The chocolate peanut butter pudding turned out pretty well (check her blog for the recipe!), but my cups were a disaster. The concept is pretty simple, partially blow up some ballons, she suggests water ballons, spray them with cooking spray, dip in chocolate, and let set. Simple. But I decided to use chocolate chips because I had a limited amount of real chocolate. That was a mistake. When I popped the balloon to reveal a bowl, the whole thing caved in. I had fun painting the balloons with the chocolate though.

Check out the next entry (hopefully later this week!) with the rest of the desserts and the pictures of the finished products.

19 August 2010

Peaches and Cream Eclairs

Normally I only make cakes for work so when a non birthday dessert having opportunity arisies I jump. This particular opportunity I wanted to make something peachy since high summer is a good time to get fresh peaches. In my search for peach dessert recipes I found one for peaches and cream eclairs with bourbon caramel sauce.

Other than the bourbon which we know I don't like, yum!

For the eclair pastry:
6 tablespoons of (un)salted butter
3/4 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup flour
3 large eggs

This recipe as is theoretically makes eight eclairs.

Preheat oven to 425 and grease baking sheet.

Bring the butter, water and salt to a boil in a small heavy saucepan then reduce to medium and add the flour all in one go. Stir with a wooden spoon until the mixture starts to pull away from the pan and forms a sticky ball. The transfer to a large bowl and let cool slightly, about five minutes.

Then add the eggs one at a time beating well between each addition. This is where I ran into a wee bit of trouble. I had to use half an egg. It's not easy to halve eggs. I solve this by beating an egg and pouring what looks like half into the mix. Usually that serves me pretty well. Also when you're mixing, do not give into temptation to lick any of the dough that spatters on you. It does not taste good.

Transfer the dough to a pastry bag and pipe stips of 5x1 dough onto the baking sheets spacing them at least one inch apart. Instead of a pastry bag I used the handy pampered chef thingy my friend Sarah gave me.

Bake for 15 minutes then lower the temp to 400 and bake another 15 minutes. VERY IMPORTANT TO BAKE THE ENTIRE TIME! During the second round of 15 minutes I think I only baked mine for another five because they were looking all golden brown and such.

But then they fell.

Sigh. Make sure to bake the entire time. After the second round of 15, take them out and pierce the sides with a paring knife then return them to the oven. Turn off the oven and keep the door slightly ajar and let them dry out and cool there. Once cool, halve lengthwise.

For the caramel sauce:
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 stick butter, cut in 4 pieces
2 tablespoons bourbon or dark rum

I used rum because we don't have bourbon. I would also recommend only using 1 tablespoon. It was very very rummy.

So what you're going to do is heat the sugar over medium heat in a medium skillet or wide saucepan. My recipe said to stir with a fork but there was no way I was touching my skillets with metal so I used a wooden spoon and it was fine. You're going to stir the sugar until it starts to melt. Be prepared to stir for a very long time.

This was probably about 15 minutes in...

At least another 10 more

What felt like a half hour later (but I'm sure actually wasn't)


Then you're going to take that gorgeous caramel and spoon some over the tops of the eclair shells and let that harden. Then add the water and salt to the remaining caramel and simmer, stirring occasionally until the caramel is dissolved. Then add the butter and alcohol. If you make this in advance, the butter might separate from the sauce but just rewarm it for 30 seconds or so and it's fine.

Note. You may wonder what the directions say to simmer until the caramel is dissolved. I thought that was a little odd but didn't really think much of it. But dude. When you add the water holy crap! The caramel siezes up and starts spitting and hissing angrily. Don't freak out (like I did)! Apparently that's supposed to happen.

Angry caramel

Less angry caramel

Happy caramel

1 pound peaches
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/4 heavy cream
1 teaspoon bourbon or dark rum

Peel and slice the peaches and toss with 1 tablespoon sugar. Let stand until the sugar disolves, about five minutes.

In the meantime, beat the cream with the alcohol (although I would recommend completely skipping it) and the remaining sugar (and here I would recommend a few more tablespoons than the recipe calls for) until the cream holds stiff peaks.

To assemble the eclairs, spread the cream on the bottom half of the shells then layer over with the peach slices and put the top shell back on. Just before serving, spoon some of the caramel sauce over the eclair.


08 August 2010

Peanut Butter Ice Cream Cake Glory

Out of all the different kinds of cakes that I do, ice cream cakes are by far the easiest. You don't have to worry that the frosting doesn't get on perfectly, or that the cakes don't bake evenly or any of the other things that stress me out about baking; because everyhting is covered in ice cream!! And if you're making the cake with store bought ice cream-it's just easy.

I however, make my ice cream cakes with home made ice cream. In this case, my favorite peanut butter frozen custard:
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 6 large eggs
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • 4 teaspoons vanilla
In a medium mixing bowl, beat the sugar and eggs until tickened and pale yellow. Set aside.

Bring the milk to a simmer in a heavy saucepan. Slowly beat the hot milk into the egg/sugar mixture. Pour the everything back into the pan and place over low heat. Stir with a whisk or wooden spoon until it thickens. Make sure it doesn't boil or the eggs will scramble!

Remove from heat and stir in peanut butter then let cool. At this point you're supposed to strain the custard...I'm lazy so I never do that and it's never been a problem. When custard is a little cooler, stir in cream and vanilla.

To help the ice cream freeze faster, I usually make the custard the day before so cover the custard with plastic wrap (let the plastic wrap sit right on the custard) and refrigorate. This is a double batch so it will have to go through your ice cream maker in two batches.

For the cake I used what has become my staple chocolate cake recipe...but because the recipe is so huge I quartered it. Math and I have never been friends and fractions have always been a pain...so quartering this was a pain. And also...how do you judge .286 cups of anything? I did a lot of eye-balling. The batter I poured into 2 8 inch round pans instead of one so I didn't have to try to slice the cake in half.

The key, I've found, to an ice cream cake is a spring form pan. An 8 inch cake in a 9 inch spring form leaves plenty of room for ice cream. And of course you can't just have cake in the middle!!

So what you end of with is two layers of cake with hot fudge and Oreo cookie crumbles between and on top.

After I put on the second layer of cake, hot fude, and cookie crumbs I let it sit in the freezer for about 30 minutes just to harden up the fudge. The ice cream needs to be soft and fairly lump free before going on the cake but make sure to not let it melt completely.

When the ice craem and cake are ready, put the spring form back together, pour in the ice cream making sure that it gets around the sides of the cake, and smooth the top.

I wanted to do a little decorating of course so I broke up some Peanut Butter Cups and covered the top of the cake with those and a sprinkle of the Oreo crumbs. Let the cake do some freezing. I'd say at least a couple hours if not overnight. When I make these it's usually a three day process. But when it's time to take off the spring form ring...it looks great and tastes fantabulous.