Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Fresh Ginger & Chocolate Gingerbread (TWD)

It's Tuesday, and it's time for another delicious installment of Tuesday's With Dorie. Heather of Sherry Trifle selected Fresh Ginger & Chocolate Gingerbread. How do you describe this cake? I think Dorie Greenspan's description says it all --- "Packed with fresh, candied and ground ginger, spices, molasses and a little chocolate, it is moist, mildly spicy and just a teensy bit hot from the ginger. It's a hearty, high square with a wonderfully solid look, and it's topped with a swath of bittersweet icing."

I didn't stray far from the original recipe, and here are my notes and adjustments:

- fresh ginger: Instead of chopping, I used a microplane grater (IMHO, a fantastic $12 investment for the kitchen)

- stem ginger: Didn't want to schlep to the Asian market to find this ingredient; instead, I added 1/4 C chopped crystalized ginger (I LOVE this stuff).

- chocolate: Instead of chopping chocolate, I used bittersweet mini-chips

- baking pan: I used an 8x8 pan, and had enough extra batter to make a dozen mini muffins

- baking time: The mini muffins were out of the oven at the 10 minute mark. The 8x8 pan did take longer than the 40 minutes detailed in the recipe. Mine required 50-55 minutes to bake through.

I love ginger, but I'm not huge fan of gingerbread (go figure), so I'm not the best person to judge this recipe. Personally, I thought there was a bit much going on with the strong flavors of ginger, molasses, spices, and chocolate. I must be in the minority, as my taste testers thoroughly enjoyed this cake with their morning cup of java.

For the recipe, please head to Heather's blog. To see other tasty versions of this cake, check out the TWD blogroll.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Banana Cake w. Praline Filling & White Chocolate Ganache (TCS)

Here is another terrific installment of The Cake Slice. Our group has been baking through Sky High: Irresistable Triple Layer Cakes, and our selection for this month is this beauty. Less dense than banana bread, this cake only requires a 1/2 cup of mashed banana but produces big banana flavor.
Paired with sugary pecans (yes, they're fried, but with all of the butter, cream and chocolate in this cake, it really doesn't matter, does it?) and a whipped cream frosting lightly flavored with white chocoalate, this cake received thumbs up from all who tasted it. I'm not a big praline fan, so I'm not the best judge for taste.

To see how my fellow super-talented bakers fared, check out The Cake Slice blogroll.


Banana Cake with Praline Filling and White Chocolate Ganache
from Sky High: Irresistable Triple Layer Cakes by Alisa Huntsman and Peter Wynne
makes a 9-inch triple layer cake



3 cups of cake flour*
3 and 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder
1 and 1/2 teaspoons of cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon of salt
3/4 cup of milk
1/2 cup of ripe mashed bananas
8 ounces of softened unsalted butter
2 cups of sugar
7 egg whites

Praline Filling:
1 cup sugared pecans, cooled
1 and 1/2 cups white chocolate ganache

Sugared Pecans:
1 and 1/2 cups pecan halves
3 cups vegetable oil
1 cup confectioners sugar

White Chocolate Ganache:
8 ounces of white chocolate chopped
2 and 1/2 cups of heavy cream
1 and 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract


Preheat the oven to 350F degrees.

Butter three 9-inch round cake pans. Line the bottom of each pan with parchment paper or wax paper.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Set aside dry ingredients. In a food processor or blender, process the milk and banana into a smooth light puree. Set aside.

In a large bowl cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. On medium high speed, beat in egg whites 2-3 at a time until smooth. Scraping down the sides of the bowl between egg additions.

With the mixer on low speed add the dry ingredients and banana puree alternately in 2-3 additions, beating until just blended. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat on medium-high speed for 1-minute. Divide the batter among the cake pans.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean when inserted into the center of each cake. Let the cake layers cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Then turn out onto a wired rack and remove the paper liners. Then cool completely one hour.
To assemble the cake, put one layer, flat side up, on a cake stand or serving plate. Cover the top evenly with half of the praline filling, leaving a 1/4"-inch margin around the edges. place the second layer on top, again flat side up, cover it with remaining filling. Finally add the third layer and frost the sides and top with the white chocolate ganache. Garnish with sugared pecans.

Praline Filling
With a large chef's knife chop the pecans. Or pulse in a food processor being careful not to turn into paste.

Add the sugared pecans to the white chocolate ganache and stir to mix well.

Sugared Pecans
Place the pecans in a medium sauce pan, add water to cover, and heat to a boiling.

Boil the pecans slowly until they are swollen and soft 5-8 minutes. Drain the nuts well in a sieve for about 5 minutes. (Do not pat dry; the nuts must remain damp.)
While the nuts are draining, heat the oil in a large heavy saucepan or deep fat fryer t0 350F degrees.

Set half of the nuts aside. Dust the remaining nuts in the sieve with 1/2 cup of powdered sugar. Shake the sieve to coat the nuts evenly, letting any excess sugar fall away. Immediately add the coated nuts to the hot oil. Fry until golden brown about 2-3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon scoop the nuts out and drain them on several thickness of paper towels. Repeat the process with the remaining nuts.

White Chocolate Ganache
Put the white chocolate in a medium heat proof bowl. In a small sauce bring 1/2 cup of the cream to a boil. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate. Let stand for 1-minute, then whisk until smooth. Let the white chocolate cream stand until cooled to room temperature.

In a chilled bowl with chilled beaters beat the remaining 2 cups of heavy cream and vanilla until softly whipped. Stir in the white chocolate cream and beat until fairly stiff. taking care not over beat, which would cause the ganache to separate.

Berry Surprise Cake (TWD)

This week's summery Tuesdays With Dorie recipe is definitely a tribute to Southern California's unseasonably warm weather. Selected by MaryAnn of Meet Me In The Kitchen, Berry Surprise Cake is composed of a hollowed out genoise cake filled with berries and a cream/cream cheese mixture, and topped with a whipped cream frosting.

Dorie Greenspan described this cake as "reminiscent of the spirit of a charlotte russe". I'm embarassed to admit this, but I thought charlotte russe was the name of a retail clothing chain...I had no idea that it was a dessert! Okay, now that I've gotten that off my chest, moving on...
The instructions for this recipe were pretty lengthy, but logically broken down for each component of the dessert (cake, syrup, filling, topping). Here are my notes and adjustments:

After recently learning all about genoise in a pastry class (I made a chocolate mousse cake which was recently posted), I was looking forward to practicing my acquired skills. With these adjustments, I had successful results with the cake:

- Instead of the whole immersing the bowl in a skillet step, I set up a bain marie.
- I reduced the butter to 1 Tbsp.
- To incorporate the dry ingredients without overmixing, I followed a pretty nifty technique my instructor shared --- Hold the kitchenaid bowl by the handle like you would hold a coffee mug. Add the dry ingredients all at once. Gently shake the bowl as you fold in the dry ingredients. The shaking will help distribute the flour with minimal mixing.
- Instead of a springform pan, I used a buttered/floured and parchment lined 8" cake pan.

I flavored the syrup with Chambord (yum!) and doubled the amount to 2 Tbsp.

Followed the recipe as stated. in hindsight would have added a little gelatin --- keep reading and you'll know why.

I decided to slice the cake lengthwise in half and make a layer cake --- BIG MISTAKE!! The filling wasn't thick enough to suspend the berries (a mixture of raspberries, blackberries and blueberries) and to support the cake. It didn't take long for the cake to start to implode on itself. I refrigerated the cake for several hours, hoping that it would set up. A little gelatin would solved this problem --- actually, if I followed the instructions, I wouldn't be in this predicament!

Well, here is what I got when I cut a slice (I don't think Dorie intended the berry surprise to look like this):
Not the most attractive dessert, is it? The cake slice was no more appealing:
Even though my rendition of this dessert wasn't very visually appealing, it tasted delicious! Even with all of the cream and cream cheese, the filling and topping was light and it complemented the cake and berries perfectly. I'm definitely going to make a couple of adjustments to the filling and and assembly and give this recipe another go.

For the recipe, please visit MaryAnn's blog. I'm sure your eyes need to recover from my disaster, so go to the TWD blogroll to see what this cake should really look like. ;)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Savory Corn and Pepper Muffins (TWD)

This week's Tuesdays With Dorie takes a break from sweets with Savory Corn & Pepper Muffins. I don't know about you, but I totally welcomed a savory recipe, as I'm still recovering from the onslaught of candy, cookies, cakes etc from the holidays.

Selected by Rebecca of Ezra Pound Cake, this recipe embellishes on a traditional corn muffin recipe, adding a kick of spice with chili powder, jalapenos and cilantro. I halved the recipe and instead of a muffin tin, I used a mini cast iron skillet.

To accompany the cornbread, I made a Cuban-style black bean soup (not to digress, but the soup was DELICIOUS, and you can find the recipe here).

Overall, I liked the flavor and spice of this cornbread recipe, and it's definitely a departure from the sweeter style cornbread that I'm partial to. Next time, I would definitely double the amount of the corn, red pepper, and cilantro, as I really enjoyed the addition of these fresh ingredients. My only minor complaint... the texture. My cornbread turned out extremely crumbly and it was really messy to eat. Maybe it was the cornmeal I used --- didn't have stone ground, so used the box of Alber's sitting in my pantry.
Thanks Rebecca for a great selection this week!!! For the recipe, please visit Rebecca's site, and to see how my fellow bakers fared, check out the TWD blogroll.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Chocolate Mousse Cake

For the past couple of months, I've spent my Sunday mornings at an advanced baking series at the New School of Cooking. Although I had to give up my lazy Sunday mornings (definitely had to double up on the coffee consumption --- wake up Linda!), I've learned a lot and made some terrific desserts in the process. Also, I've been fortunate to have a friend join me in class, MaryJo of Bash! Cakes & Desserts, and we had a blast baking together.

We made this chocolate mousse cake to learn all about genoise and mousse, and I've now overcome my fear of baking cakes that don't use any chemical leaveners. The key is getting the cake batter to the right volume and consistency (for me, it meant not undermixing). The resulting cake was delicious...my DH shamelessly hoarded this cake for himself, so that's definitely a sign that this cake was a success!

MaryJo also wrote about the other dessert we made this class, a delicious yellow genoise w. passionfruit mousse, and you can find the link to this post here.

Cocoa Genoise
1/3 C cake flour
1/3 C cocoa
2/3 C + 1 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp butter, melted
3 eggs
2 yolks
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350F. Butter a 9" round cake pan and line with parchment paper.

Sift cake flour, cocoa and 1 Tspn sugar 2 times

Over a bain marie, heat eggs and remaining 2/3 C sugar to 110F.

Transfer the egg mixture to a standing mixer. Using a whisk attachment, whip until mixture is thick and pale yellow, and about three times the original volume.

Gently fold in the dry ingredients, butter and vanilla.

Bake for about 25 minutes. Cool in pan for 15 minutes then transfer to cooling rack

Chocolate Mousse
2/3 C ganache (recipe follows)
1 C heavy cream, whipped

Fold the cream into the cooled ganache

8 oz heavy cream
8 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped

Scald cream and pour over chocolate. Let site for 2 minutes. Mix together and cool to room temperature.

1 cocoa genoise
simple syrup
chocolate mousse
sweetened whipped cream
chopped chocolate (for garnish)

Slice cooled cake crosswise and brush both halves with simple syrup.

Place one half of the cake on a serving platter or cake board. Spread half of the chocolate mousse evenly over the cake. Top with the other cake half and repeat with the chocolate mousse.

Chill until mousse sets, and then top with the sweetened whipped cream. Garnish with chopped chocolate.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

French Pear Tart (TWD)

Happy New Year! Welcome to my first 2009 post for Tuesdays With Dorie, and it's a special one indeed. Our hostess for the week is none other than the baking goddess and cookbook author herself, Dorie Greenspan! Dorie has been a wonderful supporter of the TWD baking community over the past year, and her cookbook Baking: From My Home To Yours has been a wonderful source of delicious treats.
Dorie selected French Pear Tart for this week's baking exercise, and it's a perfect recipe to take advantage of the abundance of pears available right now. This tart is composed of a sweet tart shell, almond cream, and poached pears --- I know, what's not to love! I ended up with a 9" square tart and had enough extra filling for a round mini tart (as shown in the first photo).
I opted to poach fresh fruit, using bartletts for the large tart and petite seckel pears for the mini tart.
For the crust, I substituted with this recipe (I believe this is a Viennese dough, but don't take my word for it):
1 2/3 C AP flour
4 1/2 oz unsalted butter
2 egg yolks, hard cooked and seived
1/4 C sugar
pinch of salt
1/4 C ice water
Cut together the flour, butter, yolks, sugar and salt. Add ice water and form the dough into a disc. Chill for one hour.
The resulting dessert is HEAVENLY! The delicious almond cream is a perfect complement to the sweet and juicy pears, and this tart provides just enough sweetness to satisfy a sweet tooth.
If you'd like the recipe, please visit Dorie Greenspan's wonderful blog. I know that my fellow bakers are flaunting some gorgeous tarts, so make sure to visit the TWD blogroll.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Tall & Creamy Meyer Lemon Cheesecake (TWD)

Sorry everyone...a WAY late post for last week's Tuesday With Dorie selection, Tall and Creamy Cheesecake. This is a FABULOUS recipe, and it's helped me overcome my fear of baking cheesecakes. Okay, confession--- I've never successfully baked a respectable cheesecake until I tried Dorie's recipe here. Not only does the cheesecake taste delicious, the recipe is foolproof as I get great results every time I make it.

I opted for a meyer lemon version, taking advantage of the great looking meyer lemons at the farmers market. I used a 7" springform pan and made half of the filling recipe. I still made a full recipe for the graham crust, as I love a thicker crust. Unlike your typical heavy and dense cheesecake, this cheesecake is light and fluffy. I loved the subtle citrus flavor of the meyer lemon, and raspberries were a perfect accompaniament.
Thank you Anne Strawberry for this delicious selection! If you'd like to try your hand at this cheesecake (which I highly recommend), you can find the recipe at Anne's blog or at Serious Eats.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Pear Muffin Cake

Am I the only one that absolutely hates going out on New Years Eve? Maybe I’m becoming an old fuddy-duddy, but nothing beats curling up with my hubby on the couch in my flannel pjs, watching the Twilight Zone marathon on the SciFi Channel, and muching a huge bowl of popcorn and drinking champagne.

This morning, I woke up without an alarm clock and hang-over free (ahhh, now that’s a great feeling). My hubby and I hung out on our pjs all morning, enjoyed a leisurely breakfast in the backyard (it was a gorgeous day in SoCal) and watched back-to-back bowl games. This is what I call the perfect way to start the new year!

This pear muffin cake is perfect for this kind of lazy day, as it’s very quick and easy to make and it’s delicious!

Pear Muffin Cake
Adapted from Baking: My Home To Yours by Dorie Greenspan

½ C whole milk
½ C apple cider (or another ½ C milk)
1 large egg
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
8 tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 ¾ C AP flour
½ C sugar
¼ C brown sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp cardamom
¼ tsp salt
¾ C old-fashioned oats
2 pears, peeled & cut into medium chunks
powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 400F degrees.

Butter and flour an 8 inch square pan.

Whisk together the liquid ingredients (milk, cider, egg, vanilla, melted butter) in medium bowl.

In a separate large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cardamom, and salt to combine thoroughly. Add the oats and mix to combine.

Using a large rubber spatula, pour the liquid mixture into the dry ingredients and mix only until combined (less is better). Fold in the diced pears, and pour batter into prepared pan.

Bake for 35-40 minutes, until the cake is golden brown and a knife inserted into the cake center comes out clean.

Let cake cool until warm or room temperature. Sprinkle with powdered sugar, cut into squares, and enjoy!

Goodbye 2008....Hello 2009!!!!!


I've been missing in action for the past few weeks, and I appreciate all of your sweet and supportive e-mails inquiring about my whereabouts.

This past month, my job has been extraordinarily stressful and demanding due to the crappy economy, which left me exhausted (physically and mentally) and leaving me little to no time for any personal pursuits (baking, blogging or otherwise). Please don't take my comments the wrong way, as I know that many people are struggling, and I'm very grateful to have a job and work in a very supportive environment.

Still, this was the first time in many years that I didn't have time to bake holiday sweets and share with my family and friends, which made me really sad. :( To top that, I had to say "uncle" and flake on all of my blogging baking commitments this past month ... total bummer!

Enough of my whining and re-hashing the past! 2008 wasn't all bad, as this past year marked my entry into the blogging world. Originally, I didn't expect much, but it's really developed into a really fun and fulfilling hobby. It's been a real treat to see truly talented bloggers in action and to get better acquainted with all of you!

I wish all of you a wonderful new year and look forward to a fantastic 2009!!


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