Thursday, December 31, 2009

Favorite Cookbooks of 2009

Favorite Books of 2009

To send the year off, I thought I'd share with you my favorite baking cookbooks of 2009. These are the books I turned to again and again this year for inspiration and great recipes. Any of these books would be a wonderful addition to your cookbook library.

1. Sky High: Irresistible Triple Layer Cakes by Emily Huntsman- is THE best cookbook for layer cakes! Every cake in this book (except for the wedding cakes) requires 3 8-inch cake pans. I use these from Wilton. There is not one cake I've tried in this book that I didn't like - recipes like Triple Chocolate Cake, Buttermilk Cake with Instant Fudge Icing, and Peanut Butter Chocolate cake (made into cupcakes).

2. Martha Stewart's Cookies - when I posted my 12 days of Christmas Cookies, I realized that most of the recipes I used came from this book! These cookies were fantastic and I'm looking forward to trying more recipes from this book (just not anytime too soon - I'm "cookied" out!) Try the Snickerdoodles, Chocolate Crackles, Pecan Tassies, Jam Thumbprints, Lime Meltaways, Lemon Shortbread, and Chocolate Cream-filled Cookies.

3. Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Hertzberg and Francois - wonderful artisan breads like the basic boule and semolina sesame bread. They have a new book out, but there are still so many I want to try in this one!

4. Classic Stars Desserts by Emily Luchetti - so far I've tried the Cream Cheese Swirled Brownies and the Lemon Bars. You know a recipe is good when the recipe pages are covered in flour and butter stains. That's what the lemon bar recipe looks like! Might even give Ina's lemon bars a run for their money!

5. Baked: New Frontiers in Baking by Lewis and Polofito- Consistently good recipes that work and are delicious and a bit different. Recipes I've tried this year and some I've made over and over are Banana Espresso Chocolate Chip Muffins, German Chocolate Cake, Lemon Loaf, Coconut Snowball Cupcakes, and Rootbeer Fudge Bundt Cake (made into cupcakes).

6. Baking From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan - I've only scratched the surface of this book. I'd have to say not every recipe is a slam dunk, but the Fruit Galette, the Perfect Party Cake, and the Brownie Buttons were very good.

7. The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz - a must-have cookbook for homemade ice cream, gelato and sorbet. Try the Rice Pudding Gelato or the Strawberry Sour Cream Ice Cream.

8. American Pie by Peter Reinhart- I haven't blogged about the recipes in this book, but we often make homemade pizzas at home. I've tried the Napoletana and the New York Style Pizza Doughs and they are both fantastic!

I'd love to know which baking cookbook is your favorite! Happy New Year! I'm looking forward to sharing more of my baking experiences with you in 2010!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

1 Day 'till Christmas - Orange Almond Macaroons!

December 2008 113
If you like almond paste, you'll love this cookie! It's time to relax and enjoy the weekend!

Orange Almond Macaroons
from Patrick Lemble via Martha Stewart

2 large egg whites
1/8 teaspoon pure almond extract
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted, plus more for rolling and coating
1 pound almond paste
Zest of 1 orange
1 tablespoon orange liqueur, such as Grand Marnier

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with nonstick baking mats; set
aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine 1 egg white and almond extract. Add confectioners' sugar and almond paste; beat until creamy, about 2 minutes. Add orange zest and orange liqueur; beat to combine, about 1 minute.

Lightly dust work surface with confectioners' sugar. Turn dough out onto work surface; roll into two 3/4-inch-thick logs, about 18 inches long. Cut each log crosswise into 30 1/2-inch pieces. Roll each piece into a ball.

Lightly beat remaining egg white. Coat each ball with egg white and roll in sugar, tapping to remove excess; transfer to prepared baking sheets. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Pinch each piece of dough with three fingers to form an irregular pyramid shape. Bake until lightly golden, about 15 minutes. Transfer baking sheet to a wire rack and cool completely. Store in an airtight container up to 1 week.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

2 Days 'till Christmas - Chocolate Crackle Cookies!

Chocolate Crackle Cookies

These are soft and chewy like brownies and so delicious! Add some instant espresso powder if you like a hint of coffee in your chocolate.

Chocolate Crackle Cookies
from Martha Stewart's CookiesMakes about 4 dozen

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup Dutch cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups light-brown sugar, firmly packed
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup whole milk
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1 cup granulated sugar

Chop bittersweet chocolate into small bits, and melt over medium heat in a heat-proof bowl or the top of a double boiler set over a pan of simmering water. Set aside to cool. Sift together flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt.
In the bowl of a heavy-duty electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and light-brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla, and beat until well combined. Add melted chocolate. With mixer on low speed, alternate adding dry ingredients and milk until just combined. Transfer the dough to a container and chill in the refrigerator until firm, about 2 hours.
Combine the confectioners and granulated sugars in a bowl. Use a small cookie scoop to scoop out dough and drop them into the sugar mixture, rolling to coat. If any of the cocoa-colored dough is visible, roll dough in confectioners’ sugar again to coat completely. Place the cookies 2 inches apart on a Silpat-lined baking sheet. Bake until cookies have flattened and the sugar splits, 12 to 15 minutes.
Transfer from oven to a wire rack to let cool completely. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

3 Days 'till Christmas - Triple Chocolate Biscotti!

Triple Chocolate Biscotti

Triple Chocolate Biscotti

adapted from Epicurious.comMakes about 30

1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
3 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
8 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup white chocolate baking chips (I omitted these in the batter, but melted them and used for drizzling on top)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a large baking sheet with a Silpat mat or parchment. Sift flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt into medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat sugar and butter in large bowl to blend. Beat in eggs 1 at a time, then vanilla. Beat in flour mixture. Stir in semisweet and white chips. Drop dough by heaping tablespoonfuls onto prepared sheet in two 10- to 11-inch-long strips, spacing 3 inches apart. Using wet fingertips, shape strips into 11- by 2 1/2-inch logs.
Bake logs until tops are cracked and dry and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 25 minutes; cool 10 minutes.
Reduce oven temperature to 300°F. Transfer logs onto work surface (I use a large wooden cutting board). Using serrated knife, gently cut warm logs crosswise or on a diagonal into 3/4-inch-thick slices. Arrange slices, cut side down, on prepared baking sheet. Bake biscotti until just dry to touch, about 8 minutes. Turn biscotti over. Bake until top is dry to touch, about 8 minutes. Cool on sheets.

Monday, December 21, 2009

4 Days 'till Christmas - Pecan Tassies

Pecan Tassies

Mini, bite-sized pecan pies with a butter and pecan crust. These are simply irresistible.
Pecan Tassies
from Martha Stewart's Cookies
Makes 16

For the dough:
1/2 cup pecans
1/2 cup (4 ounces) mascarpone cheese (I substituted cream cheese)
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt

For the filling:
1 large egg
1/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup (you could probably substitute corn syrup)
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Make the dough: Process pecans in a food processor until finely ground (you should have about 1/3 cup); set aside. Put mascarpone and butter into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium-high speed until well blended. Add flour, ground pecans, and salt; mix just until dough comes together. Alternatively, stir together ingredients with a wooden spoon in a large bowl.

Roll dough into sixteen 1-inch balls, and press into bottoms and up sides of cups of mini-muffin tins. (I greased and floured the mini muffin tins just to be on the safe side. If your muffin pan is non-stick, you're probably safe.)

Make the filling: Whisk the egg, sugar, maple syrup, vanilla, butter, and salt in a small bowl. Stir in pecans. Spoon about 1 1/2 teaspoons filling into each muffin cup. ( I had extra filling which I baked in a heat-proof coffee cup - baker's treat!)
Bake pecan tassies until crust begins to turn golden, about 15 minutes. Let cool completely in tins on wire rack. Unmold. Pecan tassies can be stored in single layers in airtight containers up to 3 days. (They can also be frozen.)

Sunday, December 20, 2009

5 Days 'till Christmas - Decorated Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing

Sugar Cookies

A great Christmas Cookie Tray could never do without beautifully decorated sugar cookies. They're so festive and colorful.  I used royal icing on these cookies and then added some sanding sugar. 

Butter CookiesMakes thirty-six to forty 2 1/2-inch cookies
adapted From Cook's Illustrated, Published November 1, 2003.

2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (12 1/2 ounces)
3/4 cup superfine sugar (5 1/2 ounces)
1/4 teaspoon table salt
16 tablespoons unsalted butter , ( 2 sticks) cut into sixteen 1/2-inch pieces, at cool room temperature (about 65 degrees)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons cream cheese, at room temperature

1. In bowl of standing mixer fitted with flat beater, mix flour, sugar, and salt on low speed until combined, about 5 seconds. With mixer running on low, add butter 1 piece at a time; continue to mix until mixture looks crumbly and slightly wet, about 1 minute longer. Add vanilla and cream cheese and mix on low until dough just begins to form large clumps, about 30 seconds.
2. Remove bowl from mixer; knead dough by hand in bowl for 2 to 3 turns to form large cohesive mass. Turn out dough onto countertop; divide in half, pat into two 4-inch disks, wrap each in plastic, and refrigerate until they begin to firm up, 20 to 30 minutes. (Can be refrigerated up to 3 days or frozen up to 2 weeks; defrost in refrigerator before using.)
3. Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 375 degrees. Roll out 1 dough disk to even 1/8-inch thickness on a lightly floured board. Chill for a few minutes if the dough gets too soft and sticky. Meanwhile, repeat with second disk.
4. Working with first portion of rolled dough, cut into desired shapes using cookie cutter(s) and place shapes on parchment-lined baking sheet, spacing them about 1 1/2 inches apart. Bake until light golden brown, about 10 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through baking time. Repeat with second portion of rolled dough. (Dough scraps can be patted together, chilled, and re-rolled once.) Cool cookies on wire rack to room temperature.
Royal Icing

4 egg whites
4 cups confectioners' sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract or lemon juice

Beat egg whites in a stand mixer fitted with a whisk until frothy. Add confectioners' sugar and beat for several minutes until fluffy and smooth. Transfer to containers and tint as desired. Add water a teaspoon at a time to achieve the right consistency. Keep covered as the icing will harden when exposed to air. Apply base color to cookie with the back of a spoon and use a toothpick or piping bag to apply decorations once the base color has dried a bit. Allow icing to dry several hours or overnight before packing or stacking.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

6 Days 'till Christmas - Gingerbread Men

Gingerbread Men

I found this recipe on The Food Network from Gale Gand. It's the same recipe I used for the gingerbread house last year (along with Gale's instructions for making and building the house). This year I made simple gingerbread men. They're almost too cute to eat...almost!

Gingerbread Men
adapted from Gale Gand and The Food Network

8 ounces unsalted butter (2 sticks), softened
1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
2 eggs
1 cup dark molasses (not blackstrap)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
6 1/4 cups cake flour
4 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt

Royal Icing:
3 cups confectioners' sugar, plus more as needed
2 egg whites

In a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter until smooth. Add the sugar and mix until light and fluffy. Add the eggs 1 at a time until incorporated. Add the molasses and vanilla and mix.

Sift together the flour, ginger, cinnamon, baking soda, cloves, and salt. Working in batches, and mixing after each addition just until combined, add the flour mixture to the butter-sugar mixture. Shape the dough into a thick disk, wrap in waxed paper, and refrigerate 1 to 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and grease 2 cookie sheets.

On a lightly floured surface, divide the dough in half and roll each piece out into a large 1/4-inch thick sheet. Cut out with cookie cutters and transfer to a silpat lined cookie sheet.

Bake until stiff and toast-y, about 10 to 12 minutes. Let cool completely.

Make the Royal Icing: In a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the confectioners' sugar and egg whites together. Add more sugar, if necessary, to reach a spreadable consistency. Using a pastry bag with #2 tip or a squeeze bottle, decorate the cookies as desired. Let the icing dry 24 hours before storing.

Friday, December 18, 2009

7 Days 'till Christmas - Jam Thumbprints!

Jam Thumbprints

Jam Thumbprints
adapted from Martha Stewart's Cookies

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 large egg, separated, each part lightly beaten
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 cup ground walnuts
Strawberry jam, for filling

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Put butter and 1/2 cup sugar in the bowl of an electric
mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; mix on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add egg yolk and vanilla, and mix well. Reduce speed to low. Add flour and salt, and mix until just combined. Refrigerate dough for 2 hours.
Stir together ground walnuts and remaining 2 tablespoons sugar in a small bowl. Roll dough into 1-inch balls; dip balls in egg white, then in hazelnut-sugar mixture. Space 1 inch apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Press down center of each ball with your thumb. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven; press down centers again with the end of a wooden spoon. Return to oven. Bake cookies until golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes more. Let cool slightly on sheets on wire racks. Fill each center with jam. Cookies can be stored in a single layer in airtight containers at room temperature up to 2 days.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

8 Days 'till Christmas - Lime Meltaways!

Lime Meltaways

Lime Meltaways
from Martha Stewart's Cookies

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup confectioners' sugar
Grated zest of 2 limes
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, cream butter and 1/3 cup sugar until fluffy. Add lime zest, juice, and vanilla; beat until fluffy.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch, and salt. Add to butter mixture, and beat on low speed until combined.
Between two 8-by-12-inch pieces of parchment paper, roll dough into two 1 1/4-inch-diameter logs. Chill at least 1 hour.
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment. Place remaining 2/3 cup sugar in a resealable plastic bag. Remove parchment from logs; slice dough into 1/8-inch-thick rounds. Place rounds on baking sheets, spaced 1 inch apart.
Bake cookies until barely golden, about 15 minutes. Transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool slightly, 8 to 10 minutes. While still warm, place cookies in the sugar-filled bag; toss to coat. Bake or freeze remaining dough. Store baked cookies in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

9 Days 'till Christmas - Hamentaschen! or Apricot Triangles


from Gale Gand via The Food Network

For the filling:

2 cups finely chopped dried apricots
1 1/3 cups orange juice
2/3 cup honey
1/2 orange, zest grated

For the dough:
2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup cold unsalted butter
2/3 cup sugar
1 egg
1 egg white
1/2 orange, zest grated

Equipment: 2 1/2-inch round cookie cutter

To make the Filling: Place the ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 15 minutes or until soft and the liquid is absorbed. Add water, if needed. Let cool.
To make the Dough: Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a food processor. Add the butter and pulse. In a small bowl, mix together the sugar, egg, egg white, and orange zest. Add it to the processor and pulse to mix, being careful not to over mix. Divide into 2 disks and chill 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Roll out the dough on a floured work surface to 1/4-inch thick. Cut out 2 1/2 to 3-inch disks. (You can re-roll the scrapes to make more disks.) Place a disk of dough down and place 1 teaspoon of filling in the center. Pinch the disk in 3 places to form a triangular shape with the filling still showing in the center. They will look like 3 cornered hats. Place 2 inches apart on baking sheets. Continue until all the disks are made.
Bake for 12 to 14 minutes.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

10 Days 'till Christmas - Peanut Butter Blossoms!

Peanut Butter Blossoms

Peanut Butter Blossoms

48 Hershey's Kisses Brand Milk Chocolates
1/2 cup shortening (I used softened butter)
3/4 cup Creamy Peanut Butter
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 egg
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
Granulated sugar for rolling

1. Heat oven to 375°F. Remove wrappers from chocolates.

2. Beat shortening (or butter) and peanut butter in large bowl until well blended. Add 1/3 cup granulated sugar and brown sugar; beat until fluffy. Add egg, milk and vanilla; beat well. Stir together flour, baking soda and salt; gradually beat into peanut butter mixture.

3. Shape dough into 1-inch balls (use a small cookie scoop). Roll in granulated sugar; place on ungreased cookie sheet.

4. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Immediately press a chocolate into center of each cookie; cookie will crack around edges. Remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. Cool completely. Makes about 4 dozen cookies.

Monday, December 14, 2009

11 Days 'till Christmas - Orange Cookies!

Orange Cookies
This is definitely my family's number one favorite cookie. This is a soft, cake cookie with the perfect orange flavor. The orange icing is the best!

Orange Cookies
adapted from an old family recipe
makes about 5 dozen cookies

5 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups sugar
1 cup butter, at room temperature
2 tablespoons orange zest
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup orange juice

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl and stir with a whisk to combine. Combine buttermilk and orange juice in a 2-cup measuring cup. Cream the butter and sugar, and zest in the bowl of an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Scrape the bowl as needed. Alternate adding the flour and buttermilk mixtures starting and ending with the flour mixture. Drop by tablespoons or by a cookie scoop onto a cookie sheet lined with a Silpat mat or parchment paper. Bake for 10 minutes or until the bottoms are just beginning to brown. Cool completely before topping with orange icing (recipe follows).

Orange Icing

3 tablespoons butter
3 3/4 cups confectioners' sugar (1 pound box)
4 to 5 tablespoons orange juice (approximately)
1 1/2 teaspoon finely grated orange peel
a pinch of salt

Cream butter, orange zest and salt in a bowl with an electric stand or hand mixer. Add sugar gradually, alternating with enough orange juice to make frosting the right consistency for spreading.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

12 days till Christmas - Snickerdoodles! (and some news!)


Welcome to the 12 days of Christmas Cookies!  I will have a cookie recipe each day for the countdown to Christmas. First up - the ever-popular snickerdoodle. Our Christmas tray would never be without these. See the recipe below from Martha Stewart's Cookies

I also wanted to remind you of the wonderful toffee I wrote about last year. On a whim, I entered the recipe in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette's Holiday Treats Contest and they chose it as one of four winners from a total of 80 entries! You can see the winners and their recipes here, but if you get the Post Gazette, please look on the back page of the food section of the December 10th issue. There is a huge photo of my toffee! It's delicious and the recipe can be doubled so you have enough for all your kids' teachers.

So put on some holiday music, bake some cookies, and try to enjoy these last days of "readying" for Christmas!

adapted from Martha Stewart's Cookies

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 large eggs

For rolling:
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Place butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Mix in the eggs, one at a time, until fully incorporated. Scrape the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Reduce speed to low and gradually mix in the flour mixture just until combined.

Stir together the 2 tablespoons sugar and 2 teaspoons cinnamon in a small bowl. Shape dough into balls. Using a cookie scoop makes sure they are uniform in size. Roll the balls in the cinnamon sugar and place on a Silpat or parchment-lined cookie sheet about 2 inches apart. (Larger cookies will need more space between them.)

Bake cookies until edges are golden, about 12 minutes. Let cool on sheets on wire racks.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

German Chocolate Cake

German Chocolate Cake

I made this cake for my sister-in-law's birthday. She had just finished her goal of running a marathon before her 40th birthday and she got it in just under the wire! Congrats and Happy Birthday Amy! One of her favorite cakes is a German Chocolate Cake so I took the opportunity to make this one. This recipe comes from the Baked Cookbook and is another winning recipe from this fabulous cookbook.  I was planning to frost the entire cake, but then decided to leave the sides bare as they showed in the book. I didn't miss the extra icing at all. The only thing I did differently from theirs is to make a "well" around each cake layer with fudge icing and then filled that well with the coconut mixture. The authors only used the coconut icing between cake layers. I used the recipe for instant fudge icing from the Sky High cookbook for the sake of time, since that recipe is quick and delicious. I made a 1/2 recipe of icing and had quite a bit left over.  

German Chocolate Cake

German Chocolate Cake
from Baked, New Frontiers in Baking by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito
Yield: 1 (8-INCH) CAKE

For the german chocolate cake layers:
2¼ cups cake flour
¾ cup dark, unsweetened cocoa powder, like Valrhona
1½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon salt
1 cup hot coffee
1 cup buttermilk
1¼ cups (2½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2¼ cups sugar
5 large eggs
1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
4 ounces dark chocolate, melted and cooled

For the coconut pecan filling:
1 1/3 cups shredded sweetened coconut
1 cup sugar
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup evaporated milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 large egg yolks
1 1/3 cup toasted pecans, chopped coarsely

For the fudge frosting:
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
4 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
6 tablespoons half-and-half
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter three 8-inch cake pans, line the bottoms with parchment paper, and butter the parchment. Dust with flour, and knock out the excess flour.
Sift the cake flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a medium mixing bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together the coffee and buttermilk.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar until fluffy. Scrape down the bowl and add the eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated. Add the vanilla and beat to incorporate. The mixture will look light and fluffy.
Add the flour mixture, alternating with the coffee/buttermilk mixture, in three additions, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Remove the bowl from the mixer and fold in the melted chocolate.
Divide the batter among the prepared pans and smooth the tops. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through the baking time, until a toothpick inserted in the center of each cake comes out clean. Transfer the cakes to a wire rack and let cool for 20 minutes. Invert the cakes onto the rack and remove the pans and let cool completely. Remove the parchment.

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Spread half of the coconut evenly across the pan and place in the oven for 5 minutes or until the coconut begins to brown. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.
In a large saucepan, stir together the sugar, butter, evaporated milk, vanilla, and egg yolks. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly. After the mixture begins to boil and thicken, remove from the heat and stir in the toasted coconut, regular coconut, and pecans.
Place the pan over an ice bath (a large bowl filled with ice) and stir the mixture until cool.

Make only half this recipe for this cake.   Place all of the frosting ingredients in a food processor and pulse to incorporate. Then process until the frosting is smooth. 

Place one cake layer on a serving platter. Trim the top to create a flat surface and evenly spread one third of the filling on top. Add the next layer, trim and frost with one third of the filling, then add the third layer. Trim the top, and frost with the remaining filling. The cake will keep in an airtight container, at room temperature, for up to 2 days.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Oatmeal Cranberry Pecan Cookies

Oatmeal Cranberry Pecan Cookies

Yesterday, I promised you another oatmeal cookie variation.  I used the same dough as the recipe for these Oatmeal Creme Pies.  Adding dried cranberries and chopped pecans to the base cookie dough turned these into my favorite oatmeal cookie of all time.  Simply fold the cranberries and pecans into the dough - as much as you think looks good to you - drop onto a Silpat-lined cookie sheet (a cookie scoop works nicely) and bake at 350 degrees F until they are golden brown and fragrant, about 10 minutes. For the master dough recipe, click here.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Oatmeal Creme Pies

Oatmeal Cream Sandwiches

When I was a kid, I remember eating Little Debbie Oatmeal Creme Pies. I loved them. But I never gave a second thought as to what they might be made of. I'm older and wiser now. The ingredient list on those Little Debbie snacks is longer than my to-do-list at holiday time. The first ingredient listed on the label is corn syrup, then there are partially hydrogenated oils, TBHQ, artificial flavors, interesterfied palm oil (what?) and artificial colors. Why do you need to color a cookie with red and yellow food coloring? I get a perfectly brown oatmeal cookie without any of those. So compare these ingredients to the ingredients below. You can simply feel better about eating these once in a while and you'll think twice before buying anything from that "snack cake" aisle in the grocery store.

I baked half the batter into plain oatmeal cookies and filled them with vanilla cream filling. The cream filling makes them a fairly sweet treat. You'll have to come back tomorrow to see what I did with the other half of the dough. Could it be even better then these?
Oatmeal Creme Pies

For the oatmeal cookies:
1 1/4 cups butter, softened
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 cups uncooked quick-cooking oats (I used the regular oats instead of the quick)

Preheat oven to 375°.

Beat butter and sugars at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Add egg and vanilla, beating well.

Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups, and level with a knife. Combine flour and next 3 ingredients in a bowl, stirring well. Add oats; stir well. Add to butter mixture; stir until well blended. Drop by rounded tablespoons 2 inches apart onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake at 375° for 10 minutes. Cool on pan 2 to 3 minutes. Remove cookies from pan; cool on wire racks.

Spread 1 tablespoon Cream Filling over each bottom side of half of cookies; top with remaining cookies, right side up.
for the Creme Filling:
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
1 to 2 tablespoons whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl. Beat with an electric mixer on low speed until combined, scraping bowl. Beat on high until light and fluffy.


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