Monday, January 30, 2012

#Baketogether Peasant Boule ~ Take Two: Soft Pretzels with Italian Sea Salt and Caramel Dipping Sauce

This is my second take on Abby Dodge's Peasant Boule recipe for January's #Baketogether (recipe can be found in her website as well as in her book, The Weekend Baker). I know I said that I would stick to the original recipe the next time I make this, but once again, I couldn't resist utilizing this recipe as a base for one of my favorite things to snack on -- soft pretzels! I can say that the results were amazing! They were so soft and really, really delicious especially when sprinkled with sea salt and dunked in homemade caramel sauce. They're quick to bake as well -- only took about 10-12 minutes at 450 F.

GCC: Asian Fried Chicken with Honey Ginger Sauce

This was a very delicious chicken dish that my family and I feasted on during our dinner last Friday. I've never encountered a chicken recipe that required brining prior to cooking (I have though with pork and beef) but I think this extra step made the chicken more tender, juicy and flavorful. I always feel somewhat nervous when a recipe calls for something to be deep fried (nothing pleasant about hot, boiling oil potentially splattering in front of you) but after reading the ingredients list of this chicken recipe, I knew that the sweetness of the honey, the heat and spiciness of the ginger, and saltiness of the soy sauce and brine would make this a wonderful chicken dish that my whole family will enjoy. And they did! What I especially love about this recipe is how crispy the skin remained even after mixing it with the sauce.

Friday, January 27, 2012

ABC: Glazed Cinnamon Rolls

Since I'd already jump-started my bread baking journey for 2012 with the #Baketogether ~ Peasant Boule a few days ago and now feeling somewhat confident handling yeast again because of it, I decided to make ABC's February recipe -- the Glazed Cinnamon Rolls (also one of Abby Dodge's delicious bread recipes found in her book, The Weekend Baker) -- slightly ahead of schedule. I already had all of the ingredients in my pantry anyway and since I'm having a few guests for brunch tomorrow, I thought that these rolls would be a lovely addition to our meal. That is, if none of us gets too tempted to finish all of them before the day ends!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

#Baketogether Peasant Boule ~ Polenta-Crusted Honey and Molasses Bread

Abby Dodge, author of The Weekend Baker, has been holding a monthly #Baketogether over at her website where anyone can join in and bake the recipe posted for that specific month. What's especially nice about it is that she encourages participants to create their own versions of that recipe, which certainly makes for an interesting and exciting monthly affair. She decided to start off 2012's #Baketogether with the Peasant Boule, a circular, soft-crusted loaf of bread which is one of several yeasted delights you can find in her aforementioned book. I find the inclusion of a teaspoon and a half of baking powder to its flour mixture particularly intriguing.

Monday, January 23, 2012

RHC: Heavenly Vanilla Bean Angel Food Cake with Creme Anglaise and Mixed Berries

The 1/2-pound Tahitian vanilla beans that I ordered from Amazon just got here a few days ago so I decided to use it on the dessert I made for last Sunday's Gutsy Cooks Club dinner. I chose to make Rose Levy Beranbaum's Heavenly Vanilla Bean Angel Food Cake from her book Rose's Heavenly Cakes (can you tell this is my favorite cake book? LOL) which is the vanilla version of her Chocolate Tweed Angel Food Cake. The cake makes use of the scraped seeds of one Tahitian vanilla bean that you process with half of the sugar (yum!) and since I was left with around 16 egg yolks because of this cake, I decided to pair it with Creme Anglaise, from RLB's Chocolate Raspberry Trifle recipe (also from the same book) which is flavored with even more vanilla beans! I then added blueberries and raspberries, the tartness of which made everything perfectly balanced.

GCC: Mexican Beef and Polenta Bake

This is my first time posting for the Gutsy Cooks Club and for this week's dish, I chose to make the Mexican Beef and Polenta Bake which is like a Mexican take on Shepherd's Pie. We eat a lot of chili here in our house and with my husband being such a meat lover, I knew this one would be a guaranteed hit for Sunday dinner. And it was! We all loved the flavor of the beef with all the herbs and spices and to eat it topped with creamy and cheesy polenta made it even more delicious! This is definitely going to be made over and over again!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

RHC: Swedish Pear and Almond Cream Cake

This is another yummy cake from Rose's Heavenly Cakes that I decided to bake today. It seems like I chose the wrong day to bake as things didn't quite go right with the 2 cakes I made. My Golden Lemon Almond Cake turned out dry and coarse because of the errors I made in the mixing and with this Swedish Pear and Almond Cream cake, the sliced pears failed to settle completely at the bottom of the pan which is the desired result for this cake. I don't know if it's because I used an oddly-shaped bundt pan or because I might have over-mixed the almond cream and made it too watery (which according to Rose, prevents the pears from completely settling at the bottom). You can just imagine my disappointment when I saw some of the pear slices still laying on top of the cake even after it baked.

RHC: Golden Lemon Almond Cake

I was inspired to make another cake from one of my favorite cake books Rose' Heavenly Cakes and the Golden Lemon Almond cake has been at the top of my to-bake list for a while now. I decided to try out my new Nordic Ware 6-cup bundt pan on this cake instead of the usual 10-12 cup just so I wouldn't be tempted to consume more as I'm sure this one is going to be really good!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Diabetic-Friendly Pineapple Upside Down Cake

My father-in-law requested that I make his favorite Pineapple Upside Down cake this morning which is one of my favorite cakes as well (any fruit variety of this cake for that matter). But since he's diabetic, he asked that I lessen the sugar a little bit so he could somewhat indulge on this guilt-free. I don't think lessening the amount of sugar in a cake makes it safe for a diabetic to consume and given the caramel required to make the topping and my not wanting to play around with the sugar proportions of the recipe, I decided to use coconut sugar instead, replacing all the sugar (1:1) required for the cake. I've actually thought of making some form of dessert using coco sugar for my FIL during the Holiday season but haven't gotten around to making some because I really didn't know which recipes to play around with. The safest would probably be bars and cookies but he doesn't like them. So now that he actually requested for a cake, I might as well try it on this one.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

French Pear Tart

I recently purchased Dorie Greenspan's book Baking From My Home To Yours and I love reading all her recipes -- they seem to be so down-to-earth, rustic and truly comforting. You really feel like these recipes are meant to be baked only for your family and a few close friends for a very intimate gathering. Having bookmarked a lot of the recipes in the breakfast sweets and cake sections of the book, I stumbled upon an interesting and--judging from the ingredients--a surely tasty tart called the French Pear Tart which is comprised of a sweet dough crust filled with luscious almond cream and topped with thin slices of pears. I usually avoid these tarts and pies sections in whatever cookbooks I have as I know very well the lengths involved in making even just the tart shell--having to clear so much counter space just to roll your dough then having to knead and rest, then roll and rest again....makes me tired even thinking about it!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

RHC: Blood Orange Glow Chiffon Cake

I've been wanting to make the Orange Glow Chiffon Cake from the moment I saw it on the pages of Rose's Heavenly Cakes. I love cakes flavored with oranges (or anything citrusy for that matter), and I really love that this one is just made out of pure oranges and nothing else -- not mixed with chocolate like the True Orange Genoise or even chocolate with the added pastry cream as in The Bostini (although both sound very delicious and are on my to-bake list). I just wanted to bake a cake that would be really good to eat on its own without any adornments or fancy frostings but only accompanied by a "billow of orange marmalade whipped cream on the side," as Rose states in her introduction. Sounds so simple and perfect for afternoon tea! I also decided to bake this cake instead of the others I drool over a lot because I wanted to stay away from butter cakes for now since my most recent blood work showed a borderline high cholesterol level (probably due to my recent Holiday binge eating LOL). Well, the question is IF I can stay away!

Friday, January 6, 2012

My RHC Devil's Food Cake Ended in Disaster

I made this cake for the first time during New Year's Eve and noticed that this cake was a little on the tender side (also acknowledged by Rose Levy Beranbaum in the errata section of her blog). In fact, one of the cakes practically crumbled into pieces as I was re-inverting it after un-molding. It was that tender. Another problem I encountered while making DFC was of the cakes sticking at the bottom of the pans even after properly preparing them with parchment and baker's spray with flour. Good thing I was able to scrape off some of the pieces and place them back on top of the cake. The sticking problem led me to wonder if my Baking Spray was the problem. I didn't use Baker's Joy which I believe is made up of shortening and flour. Instead, I used Spectrum Baking Spray which is made of high heat canola oil plus flour. Maybe the magic ingredient is shortening? Sigh...It's so frustrating to not have Baker's Joy here. I had intended to use Wilton Cake release or Wilton baking spray but our local store that carries Wilton products were out of these.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

ABC: Nut-Crusted Chocolate-Banana Swirl Cake

I recently joined the Avid Baker's Challenge (a group of passionate bakers all agreeing to bake a specific recipe once a month from a chosen recipe book) and this year, the group decided to bake 12 recipes from The Weekend Baker by Abigail Johnson Dodge. I still don't have the book yet but Hanaa, the administrator of ABC, has kindly sent me the link to the first recipe for the month of January which is the Chocolate Banana Swirl Cake. I love banana cake and make it all the time (as cupcakes) but have never tried it swirled with dark chocolate and baked in a bundt pan. Needless to say, I was very excited to make this!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Two More New Year's Eve Desserts

Aside from the 4 RHC cakes I made for New Year's Eve, I also made a Neapolitan Cheesecake which I got from George Geary's 125 Best Cheesecake Recipes. I love this book! I haven't made a cheesecake of his that I didn't end up loving and I've made A LOT from his book. His selection of no-bake cheesecakes is really tasty and easy to whip up.

Son's Super Moist and Chocolatey Birthday Cupcakes

I made these last October for my son Brandon's 4th birthday party in school. I knew chocolate cupcakes would be a hit with his classmates who were about 3 to 6 years old. I decided to keep things simple and not make it too messy for them by just topping the cupcakes with chocolate ganache and colorful M & Ms. Really, if you have kids this young, you should always keep M & Ms on hand because you'll never know when you'll be needing them to decorate a cake!

This cupcake is really delicious...intensely chocolatey with the addition of a few ounces of melted chocolate in the batter. It's made even more intense with the addition of the chocolate ganache on top.

Anyone looking for a chocolate cupcake recipe could give this a'll surely love it!!

Yield: 1 dozen

3/4 C All Purpose Flour
1/2 C Dutch Processed Cocoa Powder
1/2 tsp. Baking Soda
3/4 tsp. Baking Powder
1/2 tsp. Salt
8 Tbsp. Unsalted Butter, room temperature
3/4 white sugar, preferably super fine
2 Large eggs
2 ounces Bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate, melted and cooled to room temperature
1/2 Sour cream or plain yogurt
1 tsp. Vanilla extract


1. Pre-heat oven 350 F.

2. Line 2 standard sized cupcake pans with cupcake liners.

3. Whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.

4. With mixer set on medium-high speed (I used Speed 4 on the Kitchenaid), cream butter and sugar until pale and fluffy, about 10 minutes. Add in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition at medium high speed (speed 6 on KA). On low speed, add the melted chocolate. Mix in the dry ingredients alternating with the sour cream/plain yogurt. Stir in the vanilla.

5. Divide the batter evenly among the cups (about 1/3 cup batter for each cupcake). I find it easier to use an ice cream scoop. Bake until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Cool cupcakes while still in their pan for about 15 minutes before removing from the pan. Let cool on wire rack.

6. Top with your favorite frosting.


I just melted semi-sweet chocolate to equal parts heavy cream (1 cup chocolate to 1 cup heavy cream) on top of a double boiler or metal/glass bowl placed on top of simmering water. Stir until melted. Let cool and spread over cupcakes with a metal spatula.


Crazy for Rose's Heavenly Cakes!!

Rose Levy Beranbaum's book Rose's Heavenly Cakes (RHC) is my new favorite cake book! I've had it since late 2010 (really more an impulse purchase as I found the front cover so pretty) and only looked at it with serious intentions of baking some of the cakes during the recent Holiday season. I just got bored with the usual cakes that I bake that I finally decided that I needed to learn some new recipes and techniques through the books that I already have.

Holiday Baking 2011 Rewind

I baked a lot this Holiday season and just wanted to share a few pictures of my creations.

I intended to bake sugar cookies with Christmas motif as giveaways for my son's classmates but since it required a lot of work than what I was prepared to do, I decided to make drop/rolled cookies out of the colored sugar that I made myself and the big bags of Mint and Christmas M & M's that I bought for those "just in case" moments. Well I'm glad I bought a lot of them!!

So I searched for ideas and came up with 3 kinds of cookies, all VERY easy to do:

1. Molasses Sugar cookies rolled in green and red organic sugar. I used organic because the crystals are nicer and more uniform and would show the color more than regular granulated sugar.

I tinted it using Wilton Kelly Green and No Taste Red and mixed it by hand -- really the only way to achieve an even hue! The gel is easy to wash anyway so I wasn't worried about staining my fingers.

The key to these cookies is to roll them generously in the sugar so the color will really stand out. I even went all the way to top it with more sugar and pressing it down in the cookie sheet. They need to be flattened a bit anyway. They turned out really pretty with crackled look too.

2. Next of course are the M & M cookies which was really easy to do and one recipe yielded a lot! I didn't have to double the recipe or anything but I did substitute a few ingredients like margarine for shortening which was what I had on hand. These cookies have a long shelf-life too....perfect for giveaways!

3. And last but not least are the Chocolate Mint/ Mint M & Ms cookies which I had so much fun doing. Half of the dough I rolled in Mint M & M's which were a lot bigger than the regular M & Ms so I had to make a few adjustments after rolling. The other half I did differently by placing Andes Mints on top of each cookie immediately after baking then swirled them with a toothpick after a minute or so then sprinkled with Christmas nonpareils. I had so much fun making these! They look impressive too....looks even better than store-bought cookies LOL.

I wrapped two of each kind in food grade plastic bags and sealed them using an impulse sealer (one of the most practical purchases I made for 2011!) and placed them in Christmas themed containers. Still have no feedback from the kids but I hope they enjoyed eating them as much as I enjoyed making them!