Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Chocolate Cream Tart (TWD)

This is going to be a very abbreviated Tuesdays With Dorie post. The hubs and I are heading up to San Francisco for a few days of R&R, and of course I'm the classic procrastinator running around like a maniac getting ready to leave town.

Chocolate Cream Tart is the TWD recipe this week. This tart consists of a cocoa shortbread crust, chocolate pastry cream, and a slightly sweetened whipped cream. I went small and made two-bite tartlettes. Mini-desserts are starting to become an obsession of mine. Mary & Caitlin--- I know you gals can relate! :)

The crust was formed and baked in a mini muffin pan (yielding 24 mini tarts), and I reduced the oven temp to 350F degrees and baking time to 15 minutes. I had a ton of pastry cream left and would definitely reduce this portion of the recipe in half if I go mini again.

These tarts were FABULOUS!!!

Thanks to Kim of Scrumptious Photography for the great pick this week. Make sure to visit Kim's beautiful blog for this week's recipe --- she is a fabulous baker and photographer!!!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Search For The Perfect Brownie Continues... King Arthur Flour Fudge Brownies

The search continues! So far, I've made my way through two hyped and popular brownie recipes with really great results - The Baked Brownie and Nick Malgieri's Supernatural Brownie.

For this round, I've selected a brownie recipe from King Arthur Flour. If you haven't already visited the KA site and blog, I most definitely recommend it. Both are fantastic resources for recipes and baking techniques, whether you're a baking neophyte or an experienced baker.

The folks at King Arthur have gone as far to say that their Fudge Brownies are "KAF GUARANTEED"...so, what does that mean? This is what they said:

"These brownies, deep chocolate brown inside with a lighter-colored top crust, will be about 3/4" to 1" tall when cut. They'll be ultra-moist without crossing the line into gooey / underbaked."

This definitely sounds like recipe for all of you fudgy brownie lovers!
The KA recipe gets its chocolatey goodness from cocoa powder. Also, it employs a technique of melting butter and sugar and heating this mixture until the sugar dissolves. This is supposed to contributed to a shiny top crust on the brownies.

I used Callebaut cocoa powder and ScharffenBerger semi-sweet chocolate chunks. As chocolate is the star in any brownie recipe, I always strive to use the best that I can afford.

I followed the instructions to a tee, and allowed the batter to cool before adding the chips (the chocolate chips/chunks will melt if you add them too soon). My brownies took a bit longer to bake thru. At the 30 minute mark, the brownies still looked undercooked (mine took approx 38 minutes to completely bake).
After baking, the brownies definitely had a delicately thin and wonderfully shiny crust on top. You have to hand it to the pros at King Arthur- the size and texture was just as KA promised ---about 3/4 inch thick and perfectly dense and fudgy.

My only issue with this recipe was the sweetness --- it's a personal preference thing, but I thought this was a bit too sweet. It's perhaps due to the chocolate chunks (maybe I should have gone the bittersweet route) or using all white granulated sugar. Again, this is a matter of personal taste, as this batch was happily devoured by my hubby's colleagues at work.
Nancy of The Dog Eat The Crumbs steered me to this recipe --- Nancy, thank you for the great recipe suggestion!!!

Before I sign off, I wanted to thank all of you lovely people in the blogosphere for e-mailing and commenting with brownie recipe suggestions! With all of the fantastic looking recipes that I've been accummulated to date, it looks like I will be doing brownie research for many moons to come...and this is one project that I will happily continue!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Four-Star Chocolate Bread Pudding (TWD)

This week's Tuesdays With Dorie recipe, Four Star Bread Pudding, is one of the more un-photogenic desserts that I've made (I hesitate to tell you what I think this really looks like). Still, don't judge a book by it's cover, as this dessert tastes WAY better than it looks.
This recipe takes the traditional bread pudding and elevates the richness (and deliciousness) with the addition of bittersweet chocolate to the rich custard mix.
I downsized and made 1/3 of the recipe recipe, which yielded enough for 3 individual ramekins. I used Trader Joe's Cinnamon Swirl Bread (if you haven't tried this, it is AMAZING for french toast or plain ole cinnamon toast) and tossed in a small handful of dried tart cherries. Going with the cherry theme, I added 1 tbsp of kirsch to the custard mixture. Cherries and chocolate - you can't go wrong with that combination.
With the individual ramekins, it only required 20 minutes in the oven in a hot water bath for the custard to set. Once the individual puddings are allowed to rest and cool slightly, I poured creme anglaise on top and let the creamy goodness seep into the still warm pudding. At this point, I'm at the caloric point of no return with all of the cream, eggs and sugar, so a little more fat from the creme anglaise won't hurt, would it?
If you're seriously jonesin' for chocolate, this dessert should satisfy that craving. I thought the pudding had a better consistency when eaten warm (at room temp, the pudding had a funky rubbery texture). My favorite part of the dessert was the dried cherries, as the tartness helped to balance out the richness of the dessert.
Thanks to Lauren of Upper East Side Chronicle for selecting this ultimate comfort food. For the recipe, please visit Lauren's blog or you can find it at Leite's Culinaria. To feast your eyes on more bread puddings, make sure to check out the TWD blogroll.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Chai Cake w. Honey-Ginger Cream (TCS)

SCRUMPTIOUS!!! I think that succinctly describes The Cake Slice recipe for this month, Chai Cake w. Honey-Ginger Cream.

I went the baby cake route again, making a triple layer 4 inch cake. I cut the cake recipe in half, which provided enough batter for two 4 inch springform pans and 6 cupcakes.

The cake layers get its spicy note from chai tea (I used the Tazo brand), and augmented with cinnamon and cardamom. As part of the cake-making process, several chai tea bags are steeped in warm milk. With a little honey, I could have taken a straw and drank this tea-infused milk straight from the pot!
I also reduced the frosting recipe by half. My only slight issue with the frosting was its intense sweetness (and I didn't even use the full amount of powdered sugar in the recipe). This could have resulted from my substitution of crystalized ginger for fresh. To balance the sweetness, I added more cream cheese. Instead of an icing to drizzle on the cake layers, I ended up with a more traditional cream cheese frosting. The little golden bits you see in the frosting is the chopped crystalized ginger:
If you enjoy spice cakes (which I definitely do), this will make your tastebuds and tummy very happy.
Based on the six cakes that I've baked from the Sky High book, every recipe has been been an absolute winner! Not only are the cake/frosting combinations inspired, the final cakes are beautiful in presentation. My thanks goes out to Gigi for organizing this fantastic monthly baking group!!!

Although The Cake Slice group is closed to new members, I encourage you to get a copy of this fantastic cookbook and try your hand at these recipes --- I promise you won't regret it!

In the meantime, please visit the TCS blogroll to see the beautiful handiwork of my fellow talented bakers.

Chai Cake w. Honey Ginger Cream
From Sky High:Irresistible Triple Layer Cakes by Alisa Huntsman and Peter Wynne
Makes an 8-inch triple layer cake; serves 12-16

1 and 1/3 cups of milk
6 chai tea bags, without added sweetner, such as Tazo
4 whole eggs
2 egg yolks
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
2 and 3/4 cups of cake flour
2 cups of sugar
4 and 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder
3/4 teaspoons of ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon of ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon of salt
8 ounces of unsalted butter at room temp.

Preheat the oven to 350 Degrees F. Grease the bottom and sides of the pans and line with parchment paper. Grease the paper as well.

In a small saucepan bring the milk to a simmer over low med-low heat. Add the tea bags, careful not to let the paper tag fall into the milk. Remove from heat and allow the tea to steep for 5 minutes. Remove the teabags and squeeze out the milk. Let the chai milk cool completely.

In a medium bowl mix the eggs, egg yolks, vanilla, and 1/3 cup of the chai milk. Whisk together.

Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, cardamom, and salt in the bowl of a mixer. Beat on low for 30 seconds. Add the butter and the remaining chai milk, on med-low speed.

Raise the speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy. Add the egg mixture in three additions scraping the between additions. Divide the batter evenly among the pans.

Bake the cakes for 26-28 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the middle comes out clean. Allow the cakes to cool in the pans for 10 minutes.Remove cakes from pans and peel off parchment paper. Cool completely.

To assemble the cake place one layer flat side down a serving plate and top with 2/3 cup of icing. Spread to the edge and repeat with second layer. Place third layer on top and spread the remaining ginger cream on top allowing it to drizzle down the sides of the cake like icicles.

Honey-Ginger Cream
2 and 1/2 cups of confectioners sugar {decreased to 1 1/2 cups}
6 ounces of cream cheese at room temp. {increased to 9 oz}
6 tablespoons of unsalted butter at room temp.
1/2 cup of honey (any kind as long as liquid)
1/2 teaspoon of fresh grated ginger {substituted w. 1 1/2 tbsp finely minced crystalized ginger}

Place all the ingredients in a food processor. Pulse to blend together, then scrape the sides of the bowl and pulse until smooth.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

15 Minute Magic: Chocolate Amaretti Torte (TWD)

I think the title of this week's Tuesdays With Dorie recipe says it all..."15 Minute Magic"! Seriously, with only 15 minutes of active prep time and 30 minutes in the oven, you will be rewarded with a wonderfully decadent chocolate & almond treat. What makes this recipe so unique is the use of crushed amaretti cookies in lieu of any type of flour.

As if this couldn't get any better, this recipe doesn't require alot of bowls and utensils, thus minimal dishwashing --- Woo Hoo!!!!

Using the full recipe, I made four baby chocolate amaretti tortes with 4-inch springform pans, and reduced the baking time to 20 minutes. While the cakes were in the oven, the smell of the chocolate and almond was intoxicating.

Once the cakes come out of the oven and are cooled, they are bathed in a lovely chocolate glaze. Going with the almond theme, I spiked the glaze with a little Amaretto.

This texture of this cake can be best described as a cross between a flourless chocolate cake and a brownie. With the amaretti cookies, ground almonds, and Amaretto, the almond flavor definitely comes through, and it marries well with the flavor of the bittersweet chocolate.

I thoroughly enjoyed this torte simply as is. Next time, I will definitely accompany these tortes with a little flavored whipped cream or ice cream.

Thanks Holly of PheMOMenon for selecting a fantastic dessert that requires minimal fuss and delivers maximum flavor. For the recipe, please visit Holly's blog. To see more delicious tortes, check out the talented TWD blogroll.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Banana Cream Pie (TWD)

What do I know about this week's Tuesdays With Dorie selection, Banana Cream Pie?

I know this pie well...
- Between my hubby and me, this pie can be inhaled in a weekend or less.
- On occasion, this pie and I have shared a 2am rendezvous, with me standing in front of the fridge.
- Ingorance is bliss - I know NOT to ask about the calorie count in this dessert

As you can see, I am very familiar with this delicious pie. Knowing our tendencies, I exerted some self control and halved the recipe to make a 4 inch baby pie. Besides, with summer just around the corner, we don't need the extra fat and calories.

Even with the reduced portions, I still had some pastry cream and whipped cream leftover ... with some crushed nilla wafers... banana parfait anyone?

This is not your run-of-the-mill banana cream pie. The base of this pie is Dorie Greenspan's fantastic crust. The sweetness is definitely dialed down in this recipe (which I do prefer) and has a dimension of spice (cinnamon and nutmeg) added to the pastry cream. Finally, there is an added tang with just a touch of sour cream added to the whipped topping.

If I plan to assemble and to serve the pie immediately, I will take an additional step and brulee the bananas before adding the pastry cream and whipped cream topping (besides, I'll use any excuse to bring out my kitchen torch). If you serve the pie immediately, you get a little crunchy surprise with the torched sugar. If you let the pie sit for any length of time, the crunchy texture will disappear but you a get a little additional sweetness from the sugar. As this pie isn't too sweet to begin with, I don't mind this touch of added sugar.
I enjoyed making the smaller pie, and it was perfect for the two of us to share. I think my husband thought otherwise, proclaiming that this baby pie was a single serving (nice try).
If you favor a more traditional banana cream pie with the sweeter vanilla flavored pastry cream, this may not be your cup o' tea. Still, I would recommend that you take this recipe for a test drive... you may be pleasantly surprised with the results.
Amy of Sing For Your Supper rocked it with this terrific selection this week! I know you want to make this pie, so head on over to Amy's terrific blog for the recipe.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Supernatural Brownies

Back in February, I began a quest for the ultimate brownie. At that time, I was totally motivated, so I gathered up a bunch of recipes to test, bought a truckload of chocolate and butter, and resolved to bake and post weekly. So, how are things progressing, you ask? Well, I haven't gotten very far (I know...I'm totally lame). Posting weekly isn't going to be realistic for me, but I promise going forward that you will NOT have to wait another 7 weeks for my next brownie writeup.

As I was searching the web for inspiration for my next brownie, this 2007 NY Times article about Brownies popped up in my google search. The author of the article is definitely a purist when it comes to defining the ideal brownie:

"The ideal modern brownie is simple and unadorned, but rigorously designed (like a Diane Von Furstenberg wrap dress). Whether the brownie sits on the fudgy or the cakey side of the aisle, its character should come from the underlying structure of flour, sugar, butter, eggs and chocolate, not from shoveling in more fillings, or from deliberate underbaking. (Many recipes recommend this for a fudgy texture, but fudgy and wet are not the same thing.)"
- NYT, April 11th 2007

I'll admit that I nodded in agreement with her comments (including the DVF comment --- gotta love her dresses). Still, for those of you who like to load up your brownies with nuts, candy, dried fruit, etc, more power to ya!

Accompanying the article were three brownie recipes, including Dorie Greenspan's French Chocolate Brownies (which I previously posted on here) and Alice Medrich's New Classic Brownies (mental note: must put on "the list").

The third recipe was Nick Malgieri's Supernatural Brownies. I can't resist a brownie with super powers, so had to try this recipe out.

Apparently, this brownie is an accidental creation, with Mr. Malgieri forgetting to double the flour when baking his own fudge brownie recipe. This brownie recipe has the usual shortlist of ingredients (butter, chocolate, sugar, eggs, flour) but also has a twist adding a healthy amount of dark brown sugar.

When I made these brownies, I also made a pan of The Baked Brownie to compare (besides, my hubby kept asking when I'd make "those" (i.e. Baked) brownies again).

Supernatural versus Baked:

Ingredients - similar short list, but Supernatural uses: one less egg, less chocolate (8oz vs 11oz), equal ratio of brown and white sugars, and excludes cocoa & instant espresso powders.

Preparation - I'm no expert to analyze this, but preparation for the two were pretty similar. Both recipes require melting chocolate and butter on a double boiler, and the minimal folding/mixing of the dry ingredients. The method of adding the eggs and sugars were slightly different (read both recipes and you'll know what I mean). The baking time for Supernatural is slightly longer than Baked (40 min vs 30 min).

Appearance/Texture - Supernatural bakes slightly thinner (one less egg could be the reason) and has a lighter cocoa- colored hue. Supernatural has really nice delicate, crackly crust, and the texture of the cake is really moist and tender (it definitely leans slightly more cakey). Baked is dense and fudgy, with an intensely dark hue from all of the chocolate and cocoa power.

Flavor - Don't be fooled by the lighter hue...Supernatural delivers on flavor. You can taste a slight hint of caramel (probably from the dark brown sugar), which is such a wondeful complement to the chocolate, which is assertive but doesn't overwhelm. Baked's chocolate flavor is much more "in your face", and you can tell that there is a "ton" of chocolate in each square.

In terms of overall preference, I think my hubby put it best:
" I loved both and I can't decide. If I want a small square to satisfy, Baked is definitely the way to go. If I'm in the mood to inhale a pan, I would definitely pick Supernatural."
Enough said.
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