Archive for the ‘Desserts’ Category

Daring Bakers – Caramel Cake

November 28, 2008

I scooted in just under the wire this month!  The most difficult thing about the Daring Baker challenges is deciding when to bake them.  I like to have someone eat my hard work, but sometimes social events don’t coincide with when I have time to bake them.  I wanted to do this cake for my dad’s birthday, but Thanksgiving and his birthday pretty much coincided.  So instead, I did cupcakes thinking people could munch on them throughout the day.  After reading Shuna’s notes, I would like to make this again as a cake to see how it would turn out.  The cupcakes were fabulous!

Caramel Cake
Recipe by Shuna Fish Lydon
Thank you to Dolores, Alex, and Jenny for hosting!

I was really horrible about taking pictures this month, so apologies for lack of evidence!  I read through Shuna’s notes on the cake to ensure everything would turn out.  I beat the batter until it was light and fluffy and really tried to incorporate the ingredients before moving on to the next one.  The caramel sauce, oh the caramel sauce!  While it was cooking it was thin and I had no faith in it.  But once it cooled, it was beautiful!  I cooked it just a little bit longer than I thought I needed to to get a stronger caramel flavor.  The buttercream frosting was easy and delicious, although I did have to add a little more cream at the end because it was too stiff to frost.  Overall, fabulous!  Although very sugary.  I added salt, but maybe I needed more?


Daring Bakers – Pizza

October 29, 2008

This month the Daring Bakers are tackling pizza.  I love to make homemade pizza and have several dough recipes that I use, but none of them employ the overnight technique that I’ve heard so much about.  The thing I loved about this recipe was that there was no rising time.  Getting dough to rise can be tricky in my house.  It’s drafty, it’s chilly and I usually resort to warming the oven a bit and doing it there.  But for this I didn’t have to employ any workarounds.  And the dough was fabulous!  So easy!  

We had two guidelines for the month.  First, we had to toss the dough.  Second, the pizza needed a sauce and toppings.  That was it!  Beyond that we were free to do what we wanted as far as type of dough and toppings.  I made the dough with regular bread flour and did both a savory version and a sweet.  

The recipe was the Basic Pizza Dough recipe from Peter Reinhart’s ‘The Bread Baker’s Apprentice’.  Thank you to Rosa for hosting!

Tossing the dough.  I did okay, although the dough was thin in the middle and thicker at the edges.  This happened both times and I’m not super sure how to correct this.  I like the tossing method to stretch out the dough, but definitely need some help perfecting my technique.

Pizza #1.  Pureed squash with italian sausage and red onions.  I topped it with mozzarella cheese, which was too bland of a cheese.  Because the squash was sweet, it needed a cheese with some bite.  Next time, feta.

Pizza #2.  I really wanted to make a dessert pizza.  I thought about doing a PB&J pizza, but I had cream cheese in my fridge that I wanted to use up.  In the end I did cream cheese as the sauce and topped it with kind of a streusel topping – brown sugar, flour, butter, oatmeal, chocolate chips and almonds.  I wanted some chocolate and some caramel, but I went a little heavy on the streusel.  Next time no flour, and less of everything else.  

Daring Bakers – Eclairs!

August 31, 2008

Eclairs!  Is there anyone who doesn’t love a good eclair?  Given the choice in a bakery I will more often than not choose eclairs over other pastries.  They bring a little of everything to the party.  Love them as I do, I was very excited to learn our August challenge was to make eclairs. 

I’ve done cream puffs before with varying end results.  Sometimes they puff, sometimes not so much.  Since I love both cream puffs and eclairs, I was really hoping to master pate a choux once and for all.

For the full recipe, please visit Meeta or Tony.  Thanks for hosting!


The recipe provided gave both a chocolate pastry cream and a chocolate glaze. One of the two elements needed to remain chocolate, but we were free to experiment with the other. This was difficult. I love the standard eclair with vanilla pastry cream and chocolate, but the chocolate pastry cream also sounded really good. But I wanted to push my boundaries a bit so I decided to do three pastry creams. I made a vanilla and then flavored one third with coffee, one third with hazelnut praline paste (leftover from last month) and left one third vanilla. In the end, the hazelnut praline was definitely the winner. Also, I will definitely use this pastry cream recipe again. It had only 3T of corn starch in it instead of the 4T my normal recipe has and I liked the consistency much better. Winner!

I should probably state here that my eclairs didn’t rise. Why? We’ll examine that.

On to the dough. I think my dough came together rather well, but other Daring Bakers noted that the consistency of the dough made a difference in how well they rose.

I piped them out using a disposable pastry bag. Was my piping an issue? I think it may have been. I felt like I piped them “flat” instead of giving them a little fluff.

As you can see, not many rose. I read many a comment on this issue. In the past I’ve thought that opening the oven door was an issue on how well my cream puffs rose, but this recipe specifically called for opening the oven door partyway through the baking so that can’t be it. Some people put a dish of water in the bottom of the oven, which is a trick I would like to try. Others let them cool in the oven which is also something I would try next time.

I had committed to bringing these to a picnic so I had to find a way to rescue them. I thought if I used a sharp knife I could cut them in half still, but many had pockets of air on the bottom so it wasn’t doable. Instead I declared half of them bottoms and half tops and went with it. It worked as well as it could. Some were piped with only one pastry cream, others were duos.

The end result was quite lovely! The chocolate glaze held up well and the eclairs tasted very good.

Daring Bakers – Filbert Gateau

July 30, 2008

Oh, the Daring Bakers. When I first joined the group (a year ago!) the recipes were challenging but fun. When I came back to the group after having the girls, baking the recipes made me feel like a real person again. This month, it just felt like a lot of work.

I made this month’s cake for the girls baptism, which was both a good and a bad idea. Good, because I was in the baking, organizational mode. Bad, because it just piled stress onto an already stressful weekend. I did have some help baking this cake. My friends Amy and Amanda helped and truly, without them, it wouldn’t have gotten made.

I had high hopes for the recipe. The picture was gorgeous, I do love me some hazelnuts, and I had never tried my hand at swiss buttercream. But the recipe was complicated and difficult to understand, there were a lot of moving parts, it took forever, and in the end, it just didn’t come together that well. There will not be a repeat of this cake.

Please go see the lovely Chris at Mele Cotte for the full recipe.

Filbert Gateau with Praline Buttercream

As always, I made this cake in parts over several days. First up was the cake.

I baked the cake in a 10″ springform pan which worked very well.

Despite much tapping, the cake sank a little in the center. It looked good though!

And now we get to the part where I took no pictures. While the cake was being made I made the praline paste and the sugar syrup. Small note about the praline paste, totally misread the part about processing longer to get it to an actual paste. Mine stayed at crumbs. Oops. The next day I made the swiss buttercream. I was nervous, but wow! It came together with no issues and I have to say, I loved it. Just the right sweetness and a great consistency.

Cake assembly! Amy was scared to cut the cake into three sections so I went at it. Brave does not mean skilled. The sections were not created equal, and while I hoped we could fix the issues with buttercream, that didn’t especially work.

First layer finished.

Second layer finished.

The ganache was fun to put on the cake, although terribly messy. I did hate to waste all of that chocolate. There were no real issues until I pulled the buttercream out of the fridge to pipe with. It was a tad hard. It never really softened properly, it was really more that the butter melted. When I would squeeze the pastry bag butter would squish out first, then the frosting. It worked okay though.

A finished piece of cake. =( As you can see, my layers didn’t work so well.

Throwdown’s Coconut Cake

July 29, 2008

Over the Fourth of July weekend, the girls and I hung out at my parents house. Saturday was gorgeous but very windy. While everyone else played in the water, the girls and I stayed in the house. I was feeding one, with the other sleeping on a boppy next to me, Food Network on the tv. Bobby Flay’s Throwdown was on, the coconut cake challenge. I’ve never been a huge fan of coconut cake, but these cakes looked divine! I was already annoyed we couldn’t be down by the lake with everyone else, and now they were taunting me with a gorgeous coconut cake?! I would have given anything to have a piece of that cake. So, I did what any good baker would do and I found the recipe online. Luckily, it didn’t look that complex. Plus, coconut custard! Anything with coconut custard has to be delicious.

Coconut Cake

And it was. This cake was crazy delicious. The cake was light and fluffy. The filling was sweet and creamy. The buttercream was perfection and the toasted coconut was the perfect crunch. The whole thing just worked perfectly together. Everyone loved it, even the younger kids. I didn’t use to love coconut, but I am a true believer now!

While there are a few components to the cake, none are difficult. Bobby gets a little precise with his cake directions, but it was worth the effort. Also, even though I didn’t cut the cakes in half super evenly, I was able to make them even with the coconut filling.

Coconut Cake

Throwdown’s Toasted Coconut Cake with Coconut Filling and Coconut Buttercream

Toasted Coconut:
2 cups sweetened flaked coconut
Coconut Simple Syrup:
1 1/2 cups water
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
3/4 cup sweetened flaked coconut

Coconut Custard:
3/4 cup whole milk
3/4 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1/2 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
4 large egg yolks
1/3 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons coconut rum (recommended: Malibu)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Coconut Filling:
3/4 cup coconut custard (recipe above), cold
3/4 cup very cold heavy cream

Coconut Buttercream:
3 stick unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
3/4 cup coconut custard (recipe above) (cold)
Pinch fine sea salt

2 tablespoons softened butter, for pans
2 1/4 cups cake flour, plus more for pans
1 cup whole milk, at room temperature
6 large egg whites, at room temperature
1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces, slightly cold

For the toasted coconut:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
Spread the coconut evenly onto a baking sheet and toast until lightly golden brown, stirring once, 8 to 10 minutes. Turn off the oven and let the coconut sit in the oven until very dry and crunchy, about 15 minutes longer.

For the simple syrup:

Bring water and sugar to a boil. Stir in the coconut, remove from the heat and let sit for at least 30 minutes and up to 4 hours. Strain the liquid into a clean saucepan, bring to a boil and let cook until the mixture is slightly reduced, about 5 minutes. Let cool.

For the custard:

Combine the milks and vanilla bean and seeds in a medium nonreactive saucepan and bring to a simmer over low heat.
Whisk together the yolks, sugar and cornstarch in a large bowl. Slowly whisk the warm milk into the egg mixture then return the mixture to the pot over medium heat and bring to a boil, whisking constantly, until thickened. Scrape the mixture into a bowl and whisk in the rum and vanilla extract. Let cool to room temperature then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until cold, at least 2 hours.

For the filling:

Combine the custard and cream in a bowl and whip until soft peaks form.

For the buttercream:

Beat the butter and sugar in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add the coconut custard and salt and beat until combined and smooth.

For the cake:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour 2 (9 by 2-inch) round cake pans and line bottoms with parchment paper.
Whisk together the milk, egg whites, vanilla bean seeds and vanilla extract in a medium bowl.

In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. With mixer running at low speed, add the butter, one piece at a time and continue beating until mixture resembles moist crumbs. Add all but 1/2 cup of milk mixture to crumbs and beat at medium speed until the mixture is pale and fluffy, about 1 1/2 minutes. With mixer on low speed, add remaining 1/2 cup of the milk mixture, increase speed to medium and beat 30 seconds more. Scrape sides of bowl and mix for 20 seconds longer. Divide the batter evenly between the cakes pan and smooth the tops using a rubber spatula.

Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a few crumbs attached, 22 to 24 minutes. Cool in the pan on baking rack for 10 minutes. Run a small knife around the side of the pan and invert cakes onto the baking rack, removing parchment paper, and let cool completely, about 45 minutes.

To Assemble:

Using a long serrated knife, slice each cake horizontally into 2 layers. Reserve 1 of the flat bottom layers for the top of the cake. Place another layer on a cardboard round cut side up and brush with some of the coconut simple syrup. Spoon 1/3 of the coconut filling onto the cake and using a small offset metal spatula, spread it into an even layer, leaving a 1/2-inch border around the edge of the cake. Repeat with 2 more layers. Brush the cut side of the reserved cake layer with the remaining syrup. Place the layer cut side down on top of the cake.
Frost the sides and top of the cake with the buttercream. Pat the coconut onto the sides of the cake and sprinkle the remaining coconut on the top of the cake.

Daring Bakers – Lemon Meringue Pie

January 28, 2008

It’s Daring Baker time again!  December was a bit of a rough month for me with way too many doctor appointments and holiday commitments, but I was determined to bake again in January!  I love the Daring Baker challenges, as well as the camraderie that goes along with this group.  Go here to visit the other Daring Bakers

This month our challenge was Lemon Meringue Pie. I’ve made some pie crusts before, but I really haven’t made many pies. My mom and my aunt are the pie makers in my family. I’m more the one that brings creme brulee to every gathering. But, I love Lemon Meringue and so was very much looking forward to this challenge.

For the full recipe, visit Jen at the Canadian Baker.

Lemon Meringue Pie

First, the crust. I’m a hand person when it comes to making crust. I know a lot of people do them in food processors, but I want to be able to look and feel the butter and how small it’s getting. I’ve done mine with my hands before, this time I used a pastry cutter.

Being winter in Minnesota, my house is very dry. The recipe called for 1/3 cup of water. I added about 1/2 cup, but I was a little nervous about adding it since I didn’t want to overmix the pastry. Even with the extra water, my dough was a little dry.

It rolled out fairly well. I could see nice chunks of butter, but parts stuck to the counter and it didn’t necessarily make it to the pie pan all in one piece. A little patchwork and we were good though.

Someday, I will invest in pie weights. Until then, it’s whatever looks old in the cupboard.

The lemon curd was super easy to make! I’m not sure why I thought that would be labor intensive. Boil water, add cornstarch and sugar, temper in eggs, add lemon juice.

The meringue whipped up perfectly. I admit, after reading others posts about weepy meringue and the meringue needing to go on top of hot filling, I smudged the directions a bit. I didn’t let the filling cool completely, just the amount of time it took me to make the meringue.

And still, it wept. I had incredibly tasty lemon meringue soup. I’m sad it looks so horrible because it tasted delicious! Possibly some of the best lemon meringue pie I’ve ever had. It even kept for four days before I threw it out! I will definitely make this again, but I’ll most likely make the meringue first and make sure it goes over a HOT filling.

Daring Bakers October – Bostini Cream Pie

October 29, 2007

It’s Daring Bakers time again!  We all make the same recipe and post on the same day.  This month our selected item was the Bostini Cream Pie.  I described it as a deconstructed Boston Cream Pie.  I liked it because it was fancy and fun, slightly decadent but not too rich.  And, you can make the majority ahead of time which can be key.

I brought this dessert to a gathering at my brother’s house.  I wasn’t sure everyone would enjoy it, but I knew there would be enough people there that I wouldn’t come home with extras.  Turns out, most everyone loved it!  Including my 3-year-old niece! 

For the full recipe, visit Mary at Alpineberry.

Bostini Cream Pie

First, I had to decide how I was going to plate this dessert. Everyone had ideas and I liked a few of them, but my main concern was cost. I didn’t want to buy 12 dishes to bake the cakes in, and then another 12 dishes to serve the Bostini’s in. I finally settled on custard cups that I could first bake the cakes in, then serve the Bostini’s in so that they would make a kind of tower. I have some gorgeous heart shaped dishes that would have worked had this been Valentine’s Day. I checked Williams-Sonoma. $10 for a custard cup! No thank you. Martha Stewart came through for me at Macy’s with 6 oz. ramekins – $4 per cup, $48 spent.

My plan was to make everything on Friday night, and then assemble the Bostini’s at my brother’s house. Next up, bake the cakes. I’ve never made a chiffon cake before, but I will definitely make one again. I think the key to folding in the egg whites is to do them in stages. I usually do it in thirds. That way nothing is overwhelmed. The chiffon cakes were perfect. They came together easily, were super moist, and the orange flavor was perfect.

The custard also came together easily. I wasn’t sure how thick I wanted the custard. I wanted it creamy and with some consistency, but not too set. I was planning on spooning it into the cups, so I didn’t need it too thick.

The chocolate glaze is where I fell down. I was planning on making it at my brother’s and thought I had grabbed the stack of Daring Baker print outs. Instead, I grabbed a stack that included the first page of the Daring Baker printout, and then a bunch of other recipes. I combined the butter and the chocolate and I’m pretty sure the sauce broke. Oh well, no one noticed but me. But, the sauce isn’t very pretty.

The assembly!
Custard in the cup –

Cake on top of the custard –

The finished Bostini Cream Pie!

Daring Bakers – Milk Chocolate and Caramel Tart

August 29, 2007

I had a dream one night about a tart with a chocolate layer on top of a caramel layer.  I don’t normally dream about desserts, but I knew I had to search out a recipe for this one.  I looked, but didn’t find anything that matched what I saw in my head.  And then, the August Daring Bakers challenge was announced and it was the tart from my dream! 

The only thing I needed to buy for this recipe was a tart pan. I went to Williams Sonoma because I wanted a nice pan. Cost – $18.00

I was making this for a family gathering. I made the crust Wednesday evening, then baked the tart Thursday evening. I was rushed and it showed in the final product. It tasted good, but I knew it could be better. Because the crust recipe makes enough for three crusts, I jumped at the chance to make it again for a barbecue. This time I took my time, corrected my mistakes and voila! It turned out so much better.

For the full recipe, visit Veronica or Patricia.

Milk Chocolate and Caramel Tart

The crust is a chocolate shortbread pastry that was made the day before, then refrigerated. First step, grind the hazelnuts.

This wasn’t a traditional crust recipe, it had more of a cookie dough like consistency until the cake flour was added.

The next day, I rolled the crust out and pressed it into the pan. Off to the oven!

I caramelized the sugar using the dry method first. It would have been fine except the pan I used wasn’t wide enough. I think. Either way, the sugar didn’t fully crystallize and I rushed it and added the cream which wasn’t room temp so it seized.

Try #2 with the alternate caramel method worked perfectly and my cream was room temp this time. But, I didn’t let the caramel cool before adding in the egg/flour mixture. Consequently, it went into the oven a little too hot and never really set.

The chocolate mousse didn’t turn out so well either. I cooled the chocolate too much. When I folded it into the whip cream it froze into little chocolate chips. Bah. It tasted good though!

On Saturday I made the tart again, this time cooling the caramel before adding the egg/flour mixture, and not cooling the chocolate so much. Perfection! I also made sure to roll my crust a little thinner so my layers could be more even.

Raspberry Tart

August 14, 2007

My parents live on a lake and so, end up entertaining quite a bit during the summer.  Everyone loves to come out to the lake, go on a boat ride and enjoy the beautiful scenery.  For this gathering, she needed a dessert.  I recommended a raspberry tart.  I do love my chocolate, but I love lighter, fruity desserts for summer and since they have a raspberry patch, what better?  It ended up that someone else brought dessert to the gathering, so I made the tart this past weekend.  This tart turned out perfectly!  The crust was easy to work with, it was not labor intensive, it looks gorgeous and tasted even better.  We had the neighbors over and the guys, after declaring the tart perfect, had seconds.

Raspberry Tart
Recipe courtesy of Gourmet Magazine

For crust:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 to 3 tablespoons cold water

For filling:
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 large egg, beaten lightly
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/4 cup seedless raspberry jam
1 tablespon water
2 – 3 cups raspberries, picked over

Make crust: In a food processor*, blend together flour, sguar, and butter until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add 2 tablespoons water and toss utnil incorporated. Add enough remaining water if necessary until mixture begins to come together, but is still crumbly. Refrigerate dough, wrapped in plastic for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Roll out crust until large enough for an 11-inch tart pan. Press crust evenly onto bottom and sides, patching as needed. Prick the crust with a fork, then place in the freezer for five minutes. Line the dough with aluminum foil and weigh it down with pie weights or beans (or rice if you’re in a pinch like we were). Bake in middleof oven until golden, about 30 minutes.

To make the filling, in a bowl with an electric mixer, beat together cream cheese, sugar, vanilla, and egg until smooth. Add flour and blend mixture well.

Pour the filling into the warm crust, spreading evenly, and bake in middle of oven until set, about 15-20 minutes. Cool the tart in its pan on a rack.

In a small saucepan, heat jam with water over moderate heat, stirring until melted and smooth. Remove pan from heat and cool jam slightly. Arrange raspberries decoratively on top of tart and brush gently with jam.**

* If you are lazy like me and hate washing food processors, you can easily do this with a pastry cutter or by hand.

** Try to keep the jam only on the tops of the raspberries. Anywhere it touched the cheesecake it stained. While not a big deal, it definitely marred the perfection.

Daring Bakers – Strawberry Mirror Cake

July 30, 2007

The Daring Bakers challenge for July was a Strawberry Mirror Cake.  It looked beautiful and didn’t look terribly complicated, but the directions were long!  Since my July has been crazy, there was really only one Saturday where I could take the time to make the cake.  So, I read through the directions several times and then tried to estimate how long each component would take.  Overkill?  Possibly, but at least I was prepared!

 There were a few pieces of equipment I needed to buy to make the cake.  I had a jelly roll pan, but it was too small so I bought a new one.  I also bought an offset spatula, stainless steel bowl and a cardboard circle.  Total cost – $28.00.

 Normally when I buy groceries for a recipe there is meat and cheese and herbs and what not involved.  I was pleasantly surprised at my short grocery list!  Total cost – $18.56.

For the full recipe, visit Peabody here.

A Strawberry Mirror Cake consists of two layers of cake, with two layers of strawberry bavarian cream, topped with a strawberry mirror. I used to assist cooking classes at a small cooking school and for a long time, I assisted mostly baking classes. Because of that, I’ve been exposed to most baking techniques. I’ve made both pastry cream and bavarian cream before, but the mirror part was new. I had faith though!

The bavarian cream before the red food coloring. I’m not sure if I added the hot milk into the eggs too fast, but my bavarian cream definitely has lumps. I ran it through a sieve which helped, but it wasn’t as smooth as I would have liked. Luckily, I made bavarian cream relatively recently and knew that everything has to be smooth before you try to fold the whip cream in. If not, it’s never going to be smooth.

My cakes! I baked them in an 11 x 17 jelly roll pan, then cut out the 8″ circles. I used a serrated knife to cut them out, but thank goodness they were going to be covered in frosting since they weren’t pretty. Very tasty though. My dog and I munched on the extras all afternoon.

Step one in assembly. Aluminum covered cardboard in the springform pan, with the first layer of cake.

Step two. Cover it all in bavarian cream!

Steps three and four. Add another layer of cake, cover with bavarian cream again!

I love my new offset spatula. It’s so fabulous to frost with.

After this, I poured the mirror on and then chilled for several hours. Turns out, the mirror is basically strawberry jello! I laughed when I realized that. It’s a really cool effect though.

I brought this cake to a dinner party and didn’t bust it out of the springform pan until I was there, so no fancy decorating. Luckily, the mirror didn’t break and it came out almost perfectly! Everyone loved it, and a few went back for seconds. This was the perfect dessert for a barbecue – light, creamy, and tastes like summer!