Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Halloween Cookies (2 months later)

Ok, now this is embarrassing. How have I fallen so far behind that I couldn't be troubled to post a simple blog about Halloween cookies? I'm ashamed. Sorry.

I followed my mom's trusted butter cookie recipe as well as use her antique (at least to me) cookie cutters and a simple royal icing recipe (from martha stewart, gasp). The cookies are so simple to make it's ridiculous. Like a pie crust. Now, like the pie crust, the mixing of the ingredients is a breeze, that is, if you have a food processor, the molding/rolling/cutting of the mixture is not on the other hand. As I've said many times before, I have little to really no patience during most moments of my life, so decorating cookies is rather a hardship for me. I struggle with giving up, but what happens most times, is that I "decorate" the cookies as fast as I possibly can by slapping on a glob of frosting that if it all doesn't run off the cookies, remains an amorphous blob in the center (these cookies not shown, due to pride). So, if I'm making cookies I make something stress-free and patience saving, like snickerdoodles, or say sugar cookies (unfrosted). The key to decorating 50-100 halloween cookies? Employ help (for free) in the form of boyfriends, friends, and family. Luckily I had some help which not only saved me, but more than likely the cookies as well. It also adds some variety to the cookies, instead of each one looking like a perfect carbon copy of the one previous.............

The cookies cutters included a cat shape which naturally we turned into Penny....

and Murphy. Note the mustache.

Most cookies not shown due to either drinking too much or glob/patience issues. These were the survivors. Cookies aren't for me. Plus, they're meant to be eaten no? Who cares.

Photos and Cookie Assistance by Collin Monda

Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes with Cinnamon Frosting

This is almost embarrassing, but I can hardly remember when I baked these cupcakes. It must have been sometime in October, perhaps even early November. What I do remember however, was how tasty they were. I made these before in the form of a cake and nothing was lost in translation I assure you. I switched up the frosting a bit and made it with cream cheese and cinnamon instead of maple syrup. Both ways go wonderfully with pumpkin so you can't go wrong. All of it was a cinch to make and really had a great pay off. Perfect Autumnal treat. Except now, oh god, it's nearly January. Sorry. Well if you love pumpkin and don't care that the month isn't September, October, or November then make these. I promise you will wish it was Autumn. Or at least it will feel like it. I loved all the photos Collin took of these so I'm posting nearly all of them. Enjoy.

Photos by Collin Monda

Friday, December 10, 2010

Annual Apple Pie and Triumphant Return

How has it taken me this long to post?! Even though I have failed to blog, I promise you I never stopped baking. The problem is that I need a camera, a decent one, and I need to start taking my own photos. My usual lovely photographer has a full time job now and for some reason doesn't want to fill up all his free time not only taking the photos (which he always does) but editing them (making them beautiful) and then sending them me. The whole "job" thing has really gummed up the works here on the blog. But now, I am the one to blame, for I have had several photo sessions sitting in my inbox all week and have not done anything with them. I hope this dry spell will end today. Now I just need to get that camera and not go completely broke buying it. Stay tuned.

Since my last post on October 5th, I went into full holiday/fall/then-winter-mode and baked all things festive. To start out, I made my typical whisky apple pie. The people (labmates) spoke, and they clamored for the apple pie, so how could I refuse them? I whipped up one normal size (not nearly enough for 16 people I realized later) and two tart-sized ones for Collin (payment) and his office-mate. They turned out wonderfully and even though I will never be a "pie person" I thoroughly enjoy this pie. Probably because I make it with honeycrisp apples which are the best apples, hands down. They bring such a brightness and subtle tartness to the pie. The honeycrisps are truly irreplaceable.

This reminds me, if you are going to make an apple pie, you really must consider the type of apple you want in it. Not all (actually most) apples work well in a pie. They get overly mushy and sometimes tasteless and even off-putting. A pie apple must be firm and if you like it, just a bit sweet, but not overly (you add a fair amount of sugar to pies usually and a sweet apple is not required). It's nice to have a bit of sourness too for contrast. I find granny smiths to be delicious but just a bit too tart. I am a honeycrisp gal through and through and I can't imagine using anything else. If you can, or there is a sale, go for the organic honeycrisps. They taste better, are better for you, and are better for the Earth. Also, the organic honeycrisps at my local grocery store are gigantic. They dwarf the pesticide-ladden apples. Way to show 'em organics!

You can find the apple pie recipe here.

Happy extremely late Halloween and Thanksgiving!

Photos by Collin Monda

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Four Layer Coconut, Raspberry, Lemon Cake

A few weeks ago for Collin's cousin Alison's bridal shower I made a four layer lemon cake with raspberry filling and lemon meringue buttercream with a coconut coating. I have to say, I think this was my finest work to date. Just in terms of sheer scale and impressiveness. I haven't ever attempted anything quite so large. It temporarily satisfied my desire to make a huge and ornate wedding cake that probably wouldn't have ended so well since I've never done anything close to that...until now that is. It was really fun to make and no problems occurred which was surprising and very reassuring. I got the recipe here and although it was delicious and certainly grand, I would change a thing or two next time. I didn't want to veer from the recipe too much since I didn't want to tempt fate, but I was a little disappointed that the cake wasn't coconut, nor that the frosting wasn't coconut either...I'm a little obsessed with coconut. The lemon frosting tasted great, but the meringue texture was a unsettling. Like grocery store cake frosting. Maybe this is what they use? It wasn't cloyingly sweet which was a relief because the cake itself was, so they balanced each other out nicely and with such a large slice, no one could have handled anything sweeter. 

Originally, I was going to make two of these cakes, and as it turns out, I did. But I combined them together to make one big cake. I figured why not go big or go home? I actually said this out-loud and it convinced me to just go for it. Why not right? Who wants two stubby cakes when they can have one elegantly tall cake? I was supposed to cut each of the two layers in two so you would have a total of 4, but since I doubled the recipe, I had four layers anyways and didn't have to any dividing which is always troublesome and a bit difficult. I ended up having to level them though because with a cake this tall, one uneven spot can throw the whole cake off. The pictures seem to exaggerate this but it wasn't nearly so lopsided in person. Also, the layers slide a lot with the raspberry filling when frosted and is hard to muscle them back in to place after. You have to let go of perfection...

After it was frosted, I dusted the whole thing with a fine shredded coconut that I tossed in some powdered sugar to sweeten it. There were 20 or so guests, so I had Collin mock up a circle cut in to 24 even slices and used that to figure out how to cut the towering, thin slices. They were pretty with four layers but slightly too tall. We almost needed dinner plates to put them on. Never the less, for a bridal shower it didn't seem out of place. 

What shall I strive for next? May have to trick someone in to having me make them a wedding cake. 

Photos by Collin Monda

Pumpkin Spice Cake with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

My mom, her best friend Liz, and my aunt Sandi came up to visit Seattle/drink/eat a couple weekends ago and to celebrate Sandi's birthday as well as the arrival of Fall, I made a pumpkin spice cake with maple cream cheese frosting. Since there were only 5 of us celebrating, I made a small cake. A two layer, 6 inch cake. I actually really enjoy making tiny cakes. They are some how more impressive when they're small. Kind of like when you go shoe shopping and the size 6 is always cuter than the size 9 you require. Plus, when a small cake is more practical, why not? You can simply cut the recipe in half or, like I did, just make thicker layers but of a smaller diameter. Taller cakes, no matter the size always stand out more. The recipe was simple and delicious. A standard pumpkin spice cake, similar to a pumpkin pie. Here is the recipe.

The maple cream cheese frosting was a nice touch as well and added a hint of an extra flavor that usually isn't involved (maple). The maple really stood out and tasted great with the pumpkin cake. A fun way of changing up the usual pumpkin recipe.

I have also made this recipe into cupcakes and mini cupcakes and they are fantastic. Just make sure to not over bake them. This cake is best when it is really moist and soft.

To add a bit of decoration, I added some toasted, chopped pecans to the top. Normally, I detest nuts in desserts but the cake seemed to be made for them. Couldn't deny it that simple pleasure.

Photos by Collin Monda

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Coconut Cupcakes

At the request for something coconutty from my lab mates, and not wanting to think about it too hard I went straight to the good of standby and made coconut cupcakes. The recipe comes from my previous lamingtons to cupcakes post, here but with coconut buttercream. As usual, the coconut cupcake/cake/lamington recipe turned out wonderful. Exceptionally moist and just the right amount of coconut flavor (coming mainly from the coconut milk).

The buttercream on the other hand was ungodly sweet. I'm not sure how it happened but I think I've outgrown my sweet tooth a bit, at least with the intensely/extremely sweet items. With my own stuff at least, I just can't seem to handle it. Perhaps I'm being a bit too critical, but my usual buttercream is just a bit too sweet, even for me. Weird I know. The thing is, I'm not exactly sure how to make it less sweet, since all that's in it is butter, sugar, and cream. hmmmm. The other types of frosting I make seems to be less sweet and much more pleasant and although buttercream still is the reigning king of frostings as far as I'm concerned, mine needs to be taken down a notch or too. But perhaps there are still those of you out there that don't bat an eye at a mouthful of sugar. Maybe I'll get my insatiable sweet tooth back. Don't get me wrong, I still love the sweets, just not quite as sweet. At any rate, this cake recipe is wonderful and in some ways, perfect. I just have to work on the frosting if I don't want to put myself and my patrons in a diabetic coma. Self-imposed of course. They know what there getting themselves in to.

Photos by Collin Monda

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Latest Round of Mini Doughnuts

After re-reading my last doughnut post, which was curiously duplicated by another blogger, I discovered that I had intended on my next round of doughnuts to add sprinkles to mine, which was added in the blog mentioned previously. So, I did my own and was pleased with the results. Who could possibly turn down a mini, chocolate, sprinkled doughnut? Rainbow sprinkles at that? I highly recommend making them for any occasion requiring a dessert and also to give as gifts. I borrowed a glaze from another blog which may or may not be the same one I mentioned above. You can see it here. Perhaps my arrogance is getting in the way. You can check the dates for yourselves from my previous post here. At any rate, these doughnuts are wonderful and the tin is cheap. You wont regret that purchase, I promise. This coming from someone who suffers from crippling buyer's remorse.

Also, I will gladly take full credit for my advice on piping in the dough, as seen here: (5.21.10)


Photos by Collin Monda

Honey Mascarpone Berry Tarte

The usual berry tart I make but remixed slightly to a 9-inch version with raspberries and blackberries. Delicious. See previous post here and here.

I love this tart because it is so versatile. The pastry cream made with honey and mascarpone cheese goes with every fruit imaginable. So delicious and has very little sugar.

Macaroons and the end to a very long blogging dry spell

I can't believe it's taken me so long to update this blog. I really have no excuse. I've been baking like crazy, just haven't gotten around to posting pictures or talking about the recipes. For now, I'll blame it on Collin for not stopping everything he's doing (i.e. full time job, art show, freelance work, favors, and sides projects) to upload his photos of my baking and send them to me. Yes, it's his fault.

So, awhile back for Collin's Granny's birthday I wanted to make something un-fussy, yet beautiful and tasty. Little did I know how insanely simple and incredibly easy macaroons really are. If you haven't gathered from the pictures, these are the American style macaroons. The big mounds of sweet coconut baked to golden brown on the outsides but soft and moist on the inside. For the record, the German style (more like a cookie; hard and crisp) are my favorites. My Grandma used to take me down to the Konditorei (German for Pastry Shop) and she would have a macaroon and a coffee while I had several of my own macaroons. They were delightful. Anyways, these are not the overtly fussy French macaroons which I have not mustered the courage to try to bake yet, mainly due to a lack of motivation. If I had a choice, I would much rather eat the mounded macaroons and more so, the cookie-style, not the sandwich version. Far too much work and probably many failed attempts to get something I feel so-so about. Perhaps when I'm feeling adventurous at some later date. Perhaps.

All you need to make these treats, aside from your ingredients (which are just standard baking ingredients) is a bowl. And maybe a spoon if you don't want to get messy. Seriously, so simple. Not pans or double boilers or silpats or whatever. Just a bowl. Well, an oven too, and a baking sheet would probably be for the best. I will post the recipe soon because I can't seem to find the one I used.

 Combine all the ingredients and with wet hands form 1in balls or however big you might like your macaroons. I enjoy a nice bite size. As long as you watch them to make sure they don't burn after ten or so minutes, there is no screwing this one up. A lovely treat and a great gift. A great pay off for very little work. Unlike their fussy, French cousins.

Photos by Collin Monda

Monday, July 12, 2010

Organic, All-Natural, Raspberry Jam

In honor of my Grandpa and love for his delicious raspberry jam that he made every summer I can remember, I made my first batch this weekend. My Grandpa's jam was definitely the best ever. Super sweet and fruity and absolutely incredible on an english muffin (with butter). My favorite way to eat it. I recall him liking it on shredded wheat with cream cheese or something very odd, and very old person-ish. I wanted to do things a little different though. Even though he for many years picked his own raspberries, I can't say for sure they were organic (i.e. not sprayed with pesticides). Although, they may have been because every time he dragged took me berry picking it seemed way out in the middle of no where and seemed like a family owned farm. Who can say though. Also, I'm not really sure why he took me other than for the company because I had about 5 minutes of actual berry picking in me. The rest of the time was spent half under the raspberry vines trying to avoid the hot July/August sun and probably saying "Grandpa, are you done yet? It's so hot. Let's go home." And "I want some jam already." Being difficult and lazy at any rate. I've never done too well in the sun.

So, like I was saying, I wanted to do things differently. I wanted this jam to be organic. Use naturally-derived pectin. And use organic cane sugar and less of it. I ended up using Pomona's Universal Pectin (from citrus peel) at my mom's suggestion and the recipe for freezer jam that came with it. This pectin is nice for those of you who either like less sugar or are trying to restrain yourselves and eat less of it (I currently am). I probably eat my body weight in sugar weekly. This pectin is activated by calcium and not sugar so you can use as little as you like. I ended up doubling the sugar anyways because I find cane sugar to be much less sweeter and I figure if I want this to taste anything like my grandpa's it's got to have more than 2 cups of sugar per batch. His probably had that amount in a single pint. The recipe is quite easy and the jam turned out well. Not as good as my grandpa's and not nearly as sweet, but still, sweet enough. I'm not sure if it jelled as much as his even though I added a good deal of pectin/calcium. That remains to be seen though since it's been refrigerating for awhile now.

Collin and I hand picked the raspberries from an organic farm in Monroe. Probably half of them were ripe but the other half could have used more time on the vine. Since the summer has been so late here in the northwest I think people picked all the berries too early and any hopes of getting ripe ones later when they are ready probably is a lost cause. If I make it again, which I'm planning on doing since I only picked enough to make 5 pints, I may end up buying them or picking at another farm. I also really want to make blackberry jam too. My other favorite.

So here's to you Grandpa. My jam isn't as good as yours but I have a feeling you would like it anyway.

Also, Family, this is going to be your Christmas present so I hope you like it!

Photos and Berry Picking Assistance by Collin Monda

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Crème Brulée

I know what you're thinking. Crème Brulée? Really? Like I'm ever going to make that. Way too hard.

If that's not what your thinking, then good, because that's what I thought when I first set about making these. I thought this is going to be hard, but I can do it. As it turns out, it's one of the easiest things to make. Really.

Here's what you do:
Adapted from Mark Bittman-New York Times
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Boil enough water to put in a baking dish that covers your ramekins half way.
3. In a saucepan, heat heavy cream and vanilla extract to a simmer
4. Meanwhile, whisk together egg yolks and sugar in a bowl until light in color.
5. Take about a quarter of the cream mixture and pour into the bowl while stirring with a whisk. Once the eggs have tempered, pour it all back into the saucepan and keep stirring until combined.
6. Divide mixture into six small ramekins. Put them into a baking dish and place in oven.
7. Pour the hot water you prepared earlier into the baking dish until it is halfway up the ramekins. Easier to do this step when you have the filled ramekins already in the baking sheet while it is in the oven.
8. Bake for 30 minutes or until the center of the custard is wobbly like jello and the edges are firm.
9. Carefully remove each ramekin from baking dish and let cool. Cover each with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
10. When ready to eat, place about of teaspoon of sugar on top of custard and move the ramekin around to get an even layer.
11. Torch sugar until it browns. Let it sit for about a minute to cool and harden. 

Pretty easy right? Surprised? The hardest part is probably acquiring a little blow torch, which really isn't that hard at all. You can find them at any kitchen supply store and sometimes even at the grocery store. I got mine at World Market for $19.99. For a person who normally has severe buyer's remorse, I've never looked back on buying this item. So handy and so fun!

Photos by Collin Monda

Obligatory Fourth of July Inspired Cupcakes

As I'm sure many of you have guessed, or know first hand, I am not really the type of person to make cutesy things or themed things or anything that requires much craftiness. I applaud those that encompass these attributes but I'm just not like that. Putting a blueberry on a red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting is about as far as I'm willing to go with an Independence Day theme. It's not so much laziness, or uncreativity as it is stubbornness and intolerance.

 For the 4th of July, Collin and his family, joined me, and my family down at my family's beach house in Cannon Beach Oregon. I felt immediately compelled to bake something tasty and something, ok with a bit of a reference to the 4th. But not too much. Having just slam dunked the red velvets 200 times over for the wedding last weekend and not being too sick of making them, I made one more batch and frosted them as normal with the cream cheese frosting. And to make it EXTRA festive, I plunked a cute little blueberry on them. My cleverness knows no bounds. They turned out pretty good though I think and even though they are simple and really not cleaver at all, I like them better that way. Simpleness is good. What did you expect? A perfectly hand-piped image of the american flag blowing in the breeze with the cream cheese frosting poking through making the stars and stripes? No way. I could suggest a blog or two where you would find something like that though.....

In all seriousness, if you've never made or had a red velvet, which is shocking to me (the eating part), please please make some or buy some and enjoy it. It really is fantastic.

Oh and I piped the frosting in a slightly different way this time. I had an epiphany while watching an add for a new cupcake show on TV (that's right....a show about cupcakes. Nice). There was a split second shot of them piping on frosting and I realized I need to start using a much bitter tip. A big round tip. I normally don't use a tip at all, just the screw piece at the end and didn't even realize I should use a bigger bag and a bigger tip. So I switched over and and am quite pleased with the results. 

I'm posting a ton of photos mainly because Collin did an extra beautiful job on these. Amazing.

Photos by Collin Monda

Friday, July 2, 2010

Wedding Cupcakes

For Collin's Uncle Steve and new Aunt Lacey I was asked to bake a couple different kinds of cupcakes and some brownies. After doing a taste test of a few, we decided on the always popular Red Velvet Cupcakes as well as the Devil's Food Cake Cupcakes with Chocolate Butter Cream. I gathered my materials last week which included the modest 7 POUNDS OF BUTTER and oh let's see 10 POUNDS of Powdered Sugar, 30 eggs, among other astonishing quantities. I'm not one to flinch at lots of butter but 7 pounds is enough to make me feel a little light headed. I took the day off on Friday and baked for a good 10 hours. For some reason I thought it would take me much less time but I'm not sure why. It was a baking marathon that is for sure. I never really stopped. There was little to no waiting because every time I put a batch in to the oven, I would start the next one. It was a low intensity endurance race. Never was I flustered or out of breath, but by the end of the day I felt like I really had run a marathon. Exhausted was an understatement but it was fun to see what it would be like to actually bake for a living and not just doing it once or twice a week for a couple hours each. This was a test and I think I passed pretty well.

200 cupcakes. 100 of the Red Velvet and 100 of the Chocolate. 3 pans of Peanut Butter Brownies.

When we arrived in Wenatchee for the wedding I got set up and started frosting. This might have been more challenging than the actual baking of the cupcakes. In my previous post, I mentioned how I'm not a good waiter. Patience is not one of my virtues....At any rate, the frostings were carefully chilled the whole way over so they didn't spoil. Cream cheese frosting frightens me. But they took awhile to come back to room temp even in 85 degree weather! I tried my best to pipe it on but it took so much muscle power that my arms were shaking. But still I tried. I tried to warm it up with my hands and that didn't really work. You just have to let it do it's thing and wait. Lesson learned. You can't force cream cheese to warm up. You just have to let it. Annoying. The chocolate was slightly more complying but that's only because it waited for the cream cheese to go first. After struggling for a bit with the frostings, I finally got them all done and topped with a bit of decoration (coconut for the red velvet and shaved chocolate for the....chocolate).

In the end they turned out pretty good if I say so myself. And I think everyone liked them so it was a success.

If was a gorgeous wedding and I'm so happy to have been apart of it!

Congrats to Steve and Lacey!

Photos by Collin Monda

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Long Overdue Devils Food Cake (the best chocolate cake you'll ever have)

I can't tell you how many times I've made this cake. It has to be in the upper 20s by now. I could probably make it with my eyes closed. It's not a difficult recipe but requires a few extra steps than your normal, simple cake, but believe me, it is worth it. I know I say on here that "such and such is the best thing I've ever made" or "this is the tastiest thing ever" etc. etc. What can I say? I'm an extreme person. I either love it or I hate it. And in most cases, if something exceeds my expectations, it's really GOOD. I have high standards for the things I bake and will honestly tell you if something is not that good or if it's ok and there are ways to improve it. This cake, however wonderful, was no exception. It still needed it's improvements. And when I say improvements, I mean, don't make shortcuts like I do, just follow the recipe. I swear I made this 6 times before I was like, OK FINE, the recipe is the best way to do it!! I didn't really ever think of this until the last time. Hmmmm. What it comes down to is that I normally resent it when recipes call for cake flour. It just annoys me. Why do I need to buy special flour when it turns out the same in the end anyway? Why do I need to spend $4 on 32oz of flour? Not going to happen. 

Devil's Food Cake is a wily beast and doesn't hold to such conventions. 

So I've held out this long on the cake flour and after testing time after time my preferred unbleached flour and having the devils food cake cave in on my every time, I did a bit a reaserch. The first thing I discovered was that unbleached flour actually can not hold room temperature butter in suspension. I guess this makes a certain amount of sense? I didn't care to think about the science behind this too hard and took the internet's word for it. I tried it with bleached white flour. Nothing changed. They still caved in. I should say that all the other times I've made it, they did cave in a bit but the deliciousness of the cake made me never care that they did. It is so dense and so moist, who cares that there isn't a perfect dome on top? The taste was a siren song and I never cared to correct it's structural deformeties....

....Until I was asked to bake them for a wedding. 

I couldn't allow them to look the way they did at someone's WEDDING even if they tasted amazing. It would be humiliating and shameful. So I set down the path of perfecting these perfect tasting cakes and after altering a half a dozen variables I buckled and bought cake flour, as well as actually waiting for the unsalted butter and the eggs to be room temperature. I'm a very impatient person. Very. So these things are hard for me. Waiting is not something I do well. I usually put butter out the night before to avoid the waiting and if for some reason I forget or I run out the next day I microwave it a bit. Shameful. The eggs I usually use cold since you can't really microwave them, that just sounds like trouble. Scrambled egg inside it's shell...But to keep with the real recipe I used room temperature ingredients (I had Collin hold the eggs to bring them up to I said, I'm not a good waiter). You also have to wait for the hot water/chocolate mixture to cool which is so difficult for me I usually put it in the freezer instead of the fridge. But as long as you don't leave it too long, that doesn't seem so wrong. 

So with the combination of cake flour and room temp eggs and butter, the cupcakes were a success! No caving in, perfect little flatish tops and the same wonderfully dense texture. I guess there's some science behind smooth, bleached, lifeless flour holding on to the soft butter for dear life and not allowing the cake to deflate. 

I can tell you that this really is the best chocolate cake I've ever had or made. I'm sure my lab would agree since it's the usual request for all birthdays. Nothing really compares to devils food cake. I've learned this the hard way after trying countless other chocolate cake recipes, they just aren't the same. Give it a try and see for yourself. 

To top of the cupcakes I just use chocolate buttercream. For a cake I use a simple ganache that has been refrigerated overnight. It turns into mouse-like frosting. Amazing. Ah those milk fats.....miracle workers. 

I've happily converted the amounts in to ounces/cups. Your welcome. 

Rose's Heavenly Devils Food Cake:
adapted from Rose's Heavenly Cakes
1 oz bittersweet chocolate
1/4 cup dutch processed cocoa
1 cup boiling water
2 large egg yolks, room temperature
2 large eggs, room temperature
1/4 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
8 oz cake flour
1 1/2 cups light brown Muscovado sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

Preheat your oven to 350°F.

In a medium heat-safe bowl combine the boiling water, the chocolate and the cocoa and mix until smooth. Place the bowl into the refrigerator/freezer to cool.

Butter and flour two, 9 inch cake pans and line with a piece of parchment or put cupcakes liners in your cupcake tin. 

In a bowl, mix together the egg yolks, eggs, vanilla and sour cream and set aside.

In your stand mixer using the paddle attachment, mix together the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt for a minute on low speed. Add the butter and mix on low speed until the ingredients are crumbly. Scrape down the sides and add the egg mixture, beating for 90 seconds until light and well blended.

Scrape down the sides of the bowl again and add the cooled chocolate mixture while mixing on low speed. Once added raise the speed to medium and beat for 30 seconds, until slightly fluffy.

Remove the bowl from the mixer and with a couple of strokes from a silicone spatula scrape down the sides and bottom to mix in any remaining chocolate and then pour into the prepared pan.

Bake for 30 minutes until the cake springs back when lightly touched or a toothpicks comes out clean when inserted.

Remove the pan from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Slide a butterknife carefully around the sides of the cake to release and then carefully remove onto the rack to cool completely.

Frost with Chocolate Buttercream:
(enough for a cake, plenty for cupcakes, half this comes up just short for 24 cupcakes)

1 stick butter
3/4 cup cocoa powder 
~1/4 cup warm milk (or as much as needed)
1 tsp. vanilla. 
32 oz. powdered sugar (2 lbs)

Or frost with Chocolate Ganache: (Plan accordingly)

Dark Chocolate Ganache:

8oz dark chocolate (I like 60% Dark Chocolate Chips)
1 cup heavy cream

Bring the cream to a simmer and pour over the chocolate. Allow to sit for one minute. Whisk until smooth. Refrigerate overnight and allow to come back to room temperature before frosting the cakes. 

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Raspberry-White Chocolate Sandwich Cookies

On my normal baking-extravaganza day (i.e. Tuesday) I was way under the weather and had a day at home. Normally this would entail a much bigger baking endeavor than cookies but with the sickness I decided to take it easy. And as far as I'm concerned, cookies are taking it easy. Even though these are sandwich cookies which I suppose requires twice the work, plus a bit more for the filling, they still weren't took bad (in terms of work) and in no way did I make myself worse for the ware for making them. Actually this was the ONLY thing I did on Tuesday, which I guess is good for my health but not so good in terms of productivity, but whatever.

I really don't know why I bought the ___ book. Every recipe is on her website anyways. Word to the wise. 

I hesitate to say that I am happy/fortunate/etc. to own the Martha Stewart "Cookies" book because as I've expressed before, and I'm glad that others agree, her stuff is a bit hit and miss. Seems strange that the reigning heavy weight of all things domestic (is she still reigning? maybe only by default) would have recipes in her repetoir that really weren't all that good. Nearly half the stuff I've ever made of 'hers' turns out not just bad, but almost awful. I can't all be my fault. It still baffles me. At any rate, I always enter in to making her recipes with a fair bit of apprehension and this time I searched around a bit to see if others had tested this recipe before I even attempted it. I wasn't about to make something else on my sick day if it turned out bad. Not going to happen. Seemed like several people in the blogging world had tested and liked the recipe, so I forged ahead. 

The dough was mousse-y and granular. Mmm I love it when you can taste and feel the sugar. One of my favorite textures. Baking the cookies I noticed took a bit more skill but not much. I noticed the cookies tend to puff up a bit when baking, but when you turn the baking sheet half way through, you end up deflating them by opening and closing the oven door. This kind of annoys me and makes me think why didn't Martha's minions figure this out when coming up with the recipe? Why have such a temperamental cookie? I mean it's a cookie for ___'s sake. Anyway, they become a bit flat when all is said and done. Not a deal breaker but irritating. They cool extremely fast which is a great trait of this particular cookie I have to say. I'm far too impatient to wait around for something to cool. I do most of the time, but I don't like it. 

I had to tamper with the filling just a bit to get it to work. 'Martha' says to melt the white chocolate then take off the heat and add the cream and then add the raspberry puree to it. Well, the white chocolate never seemed to melt. I'm not sure why since white chocolate is nearly all fat. Mine just sat there in a clump and never smoothed out to a liquid. I took matters into my own hands and added the cream and whisked until it was smooth. You usually add cream over heat with a ganache or at least right after you take it off the heat. So whichever way you do it just make sure the cream and chocolate are evening mixed before you add your pureed raspberries. Once you get it all mixed together you need to refridgerate for at least 30 minutes before you fill your cookies since it takes a while to thicken. I'd recommend an hour. I used a frosting spatula to do this but thought as I was doing so, a pastry bag would work so much better. Just pipe a big dollap on to each cookie and assemble. So easy. Refrigerate again to stiffen the filling back up. Since I have a tendency to slightly underbake cookies (on purpose-I like them super tender) they were amazing with the filling. Almost like a cake. Super soft and moist. The kind of cookies that slowly pull apart in the commercials. But these are chemical free. Always a plus. 

If you're in a cookie mood, try these out. They are delicious!

Photos by Collin Monda