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Archive for the ‘Dessert’ Category

A bake-tastic recap

So, before I decided that I needed to fit into my jeans, I was on quite the baking kick for a while, and my new cookbook goaded me on with pictures of gooey, crumbly, chewy, chocolatey madness. It was a beautiful time.

As I bite into my morning apple, I can think back on the days when I consumed my fruit in bar form:

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Mmm, applesauce spice bars. Those were the business.

And then there were the blondies. Oh, the blondies. I think I’ll miss them most of all.

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Oh man. Butterscotch-y, crispy yet chewy delectables.

From Dorie Greenspan’s Baking:

Chewy, Chunky Blondies

2 cups flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature
1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
6 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, cut into chips
1 cup Heath Toffee bits
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
1 cup sweetened shredded coconut

Preheat oven to 325° and butter a 9×13 baking pan.  Cream the butter in a mixer until smooth.  Add both sugars and beat for another 3 minutes, or until well incorporated.  Add the eggs one by one, beating for 1 minute after each one, then beat in the vanilla.  Reduce mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients, mixing until they just disappear into the batter.  Use a spatula to fold in the chocolate, toffee, nuts and coconut.  Spread the mixture into your prepared pan.

Bake 40 minutes or until golden.  Start on your second batch, as these won’t last.

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Don’t get me wrong – I haven’t given up on the sugary treats.  I’m just trying to stay away from those 2-sticks-of-butter-kind-of-cookies.  I am currently experimenting with cocoa nibs, and am three batches in to developing my new favorite not-so-sweet chocolate cookie.  Stay tuned, but in the meantime, indulge for me!

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Here it is, January 3rd. You may have faced the end of 2007 with new resolutions in mind – go to the gym more, stop biting your nails, eat more cheese, whatever. If your resolution was to drink less, I’ve got a great recipe to get rid of your stash.

I’m not a big drinker myself, and we had some friends for dinner who brought over a bottle of red wine to share, leaving a good half-bottle behind. I remembered our trip to Providence, RI, when we tasted some really interesting red wine biscuits in an Italian market. They’re slightly sweet, but mostly spicy – perfect for an after-dinner coffee. Unless you’ve given up caffeine, in which case I can’t help you.

Red Wine Biscuits

2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp black pepper
3/4 tsp fennel seeds
1/2 cup dry red wine
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 egg white, whisked

Process or mix together the flour, sugar, pepper, fennel, and baking powder. While blending, slowly add the oil and wine and process until the mixture forms a dough. It should stay together pretty well, and you shouldn’t need a floured surface to work on, as it’s not sticky at all. Traditionally, these biscuits are made in ring shape, and you should have enough dough for 2-3 dozen, depending on how small they’re made. Keep in mind that the smaller the ring, the crispier the biscuit – I like them pretty firm, like a good biscotti, so the next time I make them, I’ll probably shape them a little smaller. They’ll spread a tiny bit, but not much on a baking sheet. Brush with the egg white and bake at 350° until the bottoms are golden brown, about 25 minutes. As these cool, they’ll firm up even more and the spiciness will increase, so you may not get a good sense of them straight out of the oven.

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They’re mini, hard, spicy donuts filled with wine. What’s not to like?

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Can’t stop baking!

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In the oven directly after posting this: almond biscotti (with coarsely chopped raw almonds and a dash of almond extract), with mini chocolate chips on one side, and extra fennel seed on the other. That plus plenty of hot cocoa and it should be a pretty warm winter. Yeah.

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Biscotti

Why did no one tell me how easy it is to make biscotti? I’ve been on a bit of a cookie craze, and the folks at work are starting to get plumper!

Last week it was Mint Chippers (yummy – shortbread-like texture, minty chocolate flavor – delish) and Coffee Meringues (speaking of easy – I’d never made meringues before, and they’re so very simple – who knew?), and this week – biscotti.

I feel a habit coming on, because after this first batch, my mind is spinning with flavor combination possibilities – almond and fig, mini chocolate chips and pepper, pistachio dipped in white chocolate… These might just be coming out of my oven soon. Anyway, for the recipe that started it all, I used a basic biscotti recipe and doctored it with fennel seed and walnuts. Since walnuts have such a strong buttery flavor, I loaded up on the fennel seed to give these crispy cookies some bite.

Walnut-Fennel Biscotti

1 1/2 cups sugar
10 tablespoons melted butter
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 1/2 teaspoons ground fennel seed
1 cup coarsely chopped lightly-toasted walnuts

1 large egg white

Biscotti means twice-baked cookie, so this is a two step baking project – perfect for these chilly San Diego winter days (shut up, it’s cold)!

Mix sugar, butter, 3 eggs, vanilla and ground fennel seed in a large bowl. add flour, baking powder and salt and stir until well blended. Stir in walnuts. Divide the dough in half and shape each half into a loaf, about a foot long and 3″ wide. It’ll spread a little in the oven – here’s the size of a baked loaf:

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Put both logs on a baking sheet lined with silpat or parchment. Whisk egg white in small bowl until foamy; brush over top and sides of each dough log – that’s what will give you that golden sheen on top of your cookies.

Bake logs at 350° until golden brown, about 30 minutes. Cool logs completely, but leave your oven on – you’re not done yet!

slices.jpgUsing a serrated knife, cut logs on the diagonal into 1/2-inch-wide slices. Arrange slices, cut side down, on same baking sheet. Bake 12 minutes. Turn biscotti over; bake until just beginning to color, about 8 minutes. Transfer to rack and cool. Brew the hot beverage of your choice, dig in and begin plotting your next biscotti adventure.

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Mom’s Masterpiece

I got to travel up north last week for Thanksgiving, so spent some good time playing games, shopping and eating with the fam.  Ahhh.  The day I came in, my mother was undertaking a serious challenge: to replicate the amazing burger cake that she’d made for my cousin’s 6th birthday (he’s now 23).  Behold, the original:

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Aww, adorable!  And such a beautiful cake!  Mom had a special request this year to make a burger cake for another 7 year old’s birthday, and this time she was determined to improve on the original.  Luckily, I was there to help, laugh and take pictures.

First, we spent way too long getting the colors just right.  We added food dye, brought the bowl over to the photo album to compare, then adjusted.  It was painstaking, and involved lots of sentences like “Buns are mostly orangey, with just a hint of brown”.  The cheese and lettuce were made with almond paste mixed with dyes:

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It goes without saying that mom and I had some funky looking hands at the end of this adventure.  Once the frostings were all right, the building could begin:

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I’m pretty proud of my decision to texture the patty layer.

A sprinkling of pinenuts went on top to simulate the sesame seeds, and the world’s biggest birthday burger cake was complete.  Our friend Greg likes it:

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Yum.  Meat cake.  The cheese color may have been a little off, so we thought it looked like old cheese – the stuff that’s been sitting out a little too long at the barbeque. 

Here’s my beautiful mother in front of her masterpiece.  I have no idea how they ended up cutting into this behemoth, but it doesn’t really matter, does it?

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Fall-ing

It’s time.  I had to put another blanket on the bed last week, and I need slippers in the mornings.  It’s fall!  I can now indulge in a few of my cold-weather Southern-California-vaguely-cool-weather obsessions, so I pulled out two of the biggies last night: butternut squash and pumpkin flavored treats.

The first you already know about, but the second is another winner. It’ll probably go in the special occasions pile, but oh, what an occasion. I came home late from work the other night and found a fabulous organic sourdough bread loaf waiting for me on my doorstep.  I suspect one neighbor in particular who works for People’s Co-Op, but I haven’t run into her yet to confirm and thank her. A true friend brings gifts of carbs. Ahh.

Anyway, I already had my toast loaf ready to go, so I decided to repurpose my gift into a decadent pudding, adapted from Epicurious:

Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Caramel Sauce

For the pudding:
2 cups half and half
1 15-ounce can pumpkin
1 cup (packed) brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cloves
1 Tbsp ground cinnamon (or just forgo the above combination and throw in a bunch of pumpkin pie spice)
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
10 cups 1/2-inch cubes sourdough bread

For the sauce:
1/2 cup (packed) brown sugar
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup whipping cream

Whisk half and half, pumpkin, brown sugar, eggs, spices and vanilla in a large bowl to blend. Fold in bread cubes and transfer mixture to 13×9-inch glass baking dish. Let stand 15 minutes. Bake at 350° until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 40 minutes.

In the meantime, whisk brown sugar and butter in heavy medium saucepan over medium heat until butter melts. Whisk in cream and stir until sugar dissolves and sauce is smooth, about 3 minutes.

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Doncha just love fall?

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Nanners

Caaake.  I feel like Homer, with drool coming down the side of my mouth as I picture the deliciousness of this thing.  Uuuhhhhh Huuuuhhhh…

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I swear, sometimes I buy bananas knowing that they’ll sit in the basket and eventually go past the eating stage.  Oh well, I’ll think, I guess I’d better do something with them.  How about banana bread?  No, done that recently.  Still have some in the freezer.  I know – caaaake (drool)…

Banana Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

This was adapted from a recipe for a layer cake, using 2-9″ cake pans, but I didn’t have the patience for all that, so I threw it in my bundt pan.  I didn’t, however, change the amount of frosting.  Get ready for the hearty frosting layer, people.

1 cup sugar
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 large egg whites
1 large egg
1 cup mashed ripe banana (2 bananas)

2 cups white whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk

Mix together the wets (sugar through banana) until thoroughly combined.  Dump in about half of the drys, mix.  Add the buttermilk, followed by the other half of the dry ingredients.  Coat your pan with cooking spray, pour the batter in, and bake at 350° for 40 minutes or until a tester comes out clean.

As you eagerly await the cake, prepare the frosting.  Mix together:

2/3 cup (about 5 ounces) cream cheese
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups powdered sugar

until smooth.  Let the cake cool a bit, then slather it up.

The cake is really moist and lovely, even after its second day in the fridge.  I won’t be giving you a report on how it survives three days, because it will be eaten by then.  Caaaake.

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