S’mores Pops

March 23, 2011

I have been wanting to try making my own marshmallows for a while now. For a recent baby shower dessert-themed that I threw, I decided to try making them. I figured that if they turned out delicious; I would make them into S’mores pops and if they flop, well, I won’t need to tell anyone about the ehmm… kitchen failure!

As I was making them in the kitchen, my brother in law and I exchanged some texts, at which point he said something along… “Oh, those marshmallows would be good dipped in chocolate like at Melting Pot.” And when I mentioned this to Red, he came up with the idea of dipping these marshmallow cubes in chocolate and rolled them in graham cracker crumbs! Wow! These guys had pretty genius idea, right? Portable s’mores; how about that? The marshmallows were easy to make (just ignore the stickiness); and I used meringue powder to substitute for the egg whites–and they were yummy. The s’mores pops were even better. Happy Baking and eating!

Ingredients
For the Marshmallows (Adapted from Gourmet, December 1998, as seen on Smitten Kitchen) ~ Yield about 96 1-inch cubes

About 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
3 1/2 envelopes (2 tablespoons plus 2 1/2 teaspoons) unflavored gelatin
1 cup cold water, divided
2 cups granulated sugar (cane sugar worked just fine)
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large egg whites/reconstituted powdered egg whites/meringue powder (I used later)
1 tablespoon vanilla (or other choice of flavorings)

For the S’mores pops (Yield: 20 pops – double or triple recipes as needed)
20 candy sticks (from Hobby-Lobby or Michael’s)
4 oz of melting chocolate
1 cup of graham cracker crumbs

Directions

For the Marshmallows

Oil bottom and sides of a 13- by 9- by 2-inch rectangular metal baking pan. Dust bottom and sides with some confectioners’ sugar until thoroughly covered.

In a large bowl sprinkle gelatin over 1/2 cup cold cold water, and let stand to soften. I used my standing mixer bowl.

In a 3-quart heavy saucepan, cook granulated sugar, corn syrup, second 1/2 cup of cold water, and salt over low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, until sugar is dissolved.

Increase heat to moderate and boil mixture, without stirring, until a candy or digital thermometer registers 240°F, about 12 minutes. Remove pan from heat and pour sugar mixture over gelatin mixture in the large bowl, stirring until gelatin is dissolved using a wooden spoon.

With a standing or a hand-held electric mixer beat mixture on high speed until white, thick, and nearly tripled in volume, about six minutes if using standing mixer or about 10 minutes if using hand-held mixer.

In separate medium bowl with cleaned beaters beat egg whites (or substitutes) until they just hold stiff peaks. Beat whites and vanilla (or your choice of flavoring) into sugar mixture until just combined. Pour mixture into baking pan (you will not get everything out, just work quickly to get as much as you can).

Sift 1/4 cup confectioners sugar evenly over top. Chill marshmallow, uncovered, until firm, at least three hours, and up to one day.

Run a thin knife around edges of pan and invert pan onto a large cutting board. Lifting up one corner of inverted pan, with fingers loosen marshmallow and ease onto cutting board. With a large knife or oiled pizza cutter trim edges of marshmallow and cut marshmallow into roughly one-inch cubes. Sift remaining confectioners’ sugar back into your now-empty baking pan, and roll the marshmallows through it, on all six sides, before shaking off the excess and packing them away.

For the S’mores pops

Insert a candy stick into one cube of marshmallow.

Put chocolate in a microwave/heat-safe glass bowl. Melt chocolate either in 50% power setting in microwave for approximately 3-4 minutes; or on top of a double boiler on the stove.

Dip the bottom half of marshmallow into chocolate.

Roll the bottom part on graham cracker crumbs.


Baby Shower Dessert Party

March 20, 2011

Recently, I hosted a dessert theme baby shower for a friend and co-worker. After a lot of discussions on theme and menu, we agreed on having a dessert and drink shower for a small group of her co-workers. There were only two desserts that she requested: carrot cake or cupcakes and lemon bars; and  I was basically left to go with the rest of the menu. I wanted to take more pictures of the party; but really ran out of time but here are a few pictures of the desserts I made. I thought that this was really a fun idea for a baby shower.

In addition to the desserts I listed below, her family made dessert crostini with ricotta spread, sliced strawberries and balsamic vinegar glaze and baked brie with apricot jelly, sugar cookies and Italian fried cookies (I have no recipes for those).  For drinks, we had coffee, iced tea, cold soft drinks, and bottled water.

Here are the desserts I made:

Carrot Cupcakes and Cream Cheese Frosting with Royal Icing Yellow and Purple Pansies


Chocolate Truffles

S’mores Pops (recipe coming up soon, I promise–these were divine!)

Lemon Bars (No pictures)

Chunky Peanut Butter and Oatmeal Chocolate Chipster (No pictures)

Old Fashioned Sugar Cookies (No pictures)


Chocolate Scotcheroos

March 16, 2011

I have amazing co-workers, and I really mean it. A few weeks ago, our group had to cover some super early morning meetings, like 5 and 6 o’clock meetings *blah* and we couldn’t really get away from them. There are three of us who were responsible to do these, and between the two of them, they volunteered to cover those early slots for me so I didn’t have to disrupt my daughter’s morning routine. Isn’t that amazing? One of them actually took  all three of my morning slots three days in a row. When I asked him what was his favorite treat, he said chocolate scotcheroos. I was glad to bake these for him and brought them to work. He was kind enough to share with the rest of the people in the office, but happy to have four big pieces himself.  I really don’t think I need to “review” this recipe… if you have had them, you know how addictive they are! 🙂 Happy baking!

Adapted from Mrs. Sullivan

Ingredients
1 cup light corn syrup
1 cup sugar
1 cup peanut butter
6 cup rice krispies cereal
1 cup semisweet chocolate morsels
1 cup butterscotch hips

Directions
Place corn syrup and sugar into 3-quart saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently until sugar dissolves and mixture begins to boil.

Remove from heat, stir in peanut butter. Mix well. Add cereal, stir until everything is well coated.

Spray a 13x9x2 baking pan with cooking spray. Press mixture into the pan. Set aside.

Melt chocolate and butterscotch chips together in large 1-quart saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly. Spread evenly over cereal mixture. Let stand until firm. Cut into 2×2 inch bars when cool.

Yield: ~24 bars


Praline Cookies

March 8, 2011

In honor of Mardi Gras, Red’s office sponsored a food day with a Mardi-Gras theme. First of all, I have never met a group of folks who love to eat as much as they do.  They have awesome food days, especially around Christmas time. I used to wander around and sample all of the goodies especially since I also contributed to it :-). I especially love it since I get to unload all of my baked goods with them. It really came in handy when I took my Wilton classes last year; all of those cakes didn’t go to waste! 🙂 I wanted something portable that Red can take to work and Red, the self-proclaimed cookie monster, wanted “some sort of cookies” that can fit into the theme. I thought these praline cookies while may not be the official Mardi Gras dessert, still sort of fit into the Southern team.

The cookie base is what I would call a perfect cookie dough; it is not sticky, or too crumbly or too wet. It just has the right consistency to be scooped into small balls, and baked beautifully into rounds of cookies. They spread just enough (not too much, not too little that you have to press them down with a fork!) into these perfect little brown cookies. I actually love them without the praline topping, although the topping really heightened the flavor. I caught myself munching on the un-frosted cookies–and told myself to stop. They were delicious. This may be my new favorite cookie. I also decided to make pecan pralines using the leftover topping, and yum… they were delicious. Happy Baking!

Adapted from From Martha Stewart Living, February 2000

Ingredients

1 -2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 -1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
2 1/2 cups light-brown sugar, firmly packed
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup heavy cream, plus more if necessary
1 cup sifted confectioners’ sugar
1 cup pecan halves, toasted and broken into large pieces

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and 1 1/2 cups light-brown sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add egg and vanilla. Beat until fully combined. Add dry ingredients, and beat on low speed until combined.

Drop batter in rounded teaspoons onto ungreased baking sheets about 2 inches apart. Bake until firm and barely golden, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes, then transfer cookies from pan to wire rack.

In a small saucepan, combine remaining 1 cup light-brown sugar and cream. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Add confectioners’ sugar, and whisk until smooth. (If frosting thickens, thin with cream.) Add pecan pieces. Place cookies on a cooling rack over a lined baking pan. Spoon about 1/2 teaspoon praline mixture onto each cookie.

Yield: 3 dozens of cookies


What’s Baking: Triple-Chocolate Espresso Brownies

February 23, 2011


My brother in-law sent me a text one afternoon asking me for a brownie’s recipe. Of course, I quickly suggested Ina’s Outrageous Brownies which won a lot of nods from my crowd. I warned him that it makes a ton. When Red heard that we were talking about brownies, we just realized that since we loved these Outrageous Brownies so much, I have never really felt the need to try any new recipes. However, his text got me thinking about brownies so much that day, I ran to my stack of cookbooks and quickly saw this recipe that I just had to try This brownie was chewy and chocolatey, with a hint of espresso, which I loved. The smokey coffee really enhances the chocolate flavor. This brownie is slightly less moist and much less cakey than the Outrageous Brownies; and even closer to fudgy. They were also very rich; therefore the recipe recommended smaller pieces for serving.

Our What’s Baking Group Challenge is hosted by Dunne from With a Cherry on Top, with a theme of “Baked with Love”.  I think first of all, nothing says love more than home cooked meals and homemade baked goods. This fudgy and chocolatey espresso-hint homemade brownie recipe definitely fits the bill! Happy Baking!

Adapted from The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook

Ingredients

5 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into quarters
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
1-1/2 tablespoons instant espresso, or coffee powder
3 large eggs
1-1/4 cups (8.75 ounces) sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoons salt 1 cup (5 ounces) unbleached all purpose flour

Direction
Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees.

Spray 8-inch square baking pan with non-stick cooking spray. Fold two 16-inches pieces of foil-length wise to measure 7 inches wide. Fit one sheet in bottom of greased pan, pushing it into corners and up sides of pan (overhang will help in removal of baked brownies). Fit second sheet in pan in same manner, perpendicular to first sheet. Spray foil with non-stick cooking spray.

In medium heatproof bowl set over pan of almost simmer water, melt chocolates and butter, stirring occasionally until mixture is smooth. Whisk in cocoa and espresso powder until smooth. Set aside to cool slightly.

Whisk together eggs, sugar, vanilla, and salt in medium bowl until combined, about 15 seconds. Whisk warm chocolate mixture into egg mixture; then stir in flour with wooden spoon until just combined. Pour mixture into prepared pan, spread into corners, and level surface with rubber spatula; bake until slightly puffed and toothpick inserted in center comes out with small amount of sticky crumbs clinging into it, 35 to 40 minutes.

Cool on wire rack to room temperature, about 2 hours, then remove brownies from pan using foil handles. Cut into 1-inch squares and serve. (Do not cut brownies until ready to serve; brownies can be wrapped in plastic in plastic and refrigerated up to 5 days).

Yield: (64) 1-inch squares


Red Velvet Cake Truffles

January 29, 2011

Since I discovered these addictive Oreo Truffles, I learned how easy it is to turn your favorite ingredient into these delightful little treats. And just about anything covered in chocolate has to be good right? Then I saw Jen from Beantown Baker turning her leftover slice of Red Velvet Cheesecake cake into truffles… brilliant!!! I didn’t quiet have a leftover cake, but I did have some trimmings from my Red Velvet cake when I tried to stack the layers together and some  cream cheese frosting left, so I went to work on making these! I brought these to work to the excitement of my co-workers who called them divine and dangerous… because they were quite addictive! There is really nothing that can go wrong with bits of red velvet cake mixed with cream cheese frosting, dipped in chocolate…  Many thanks to Jen for the inspiration.

Ingredients
3 cups of crumbled Red Velvet cake
1/4 cup of Cream Cheese Frosting
1/3 lb of melting chocolate

Directions
Mix all of the crumbled cake and cream cheese frosting together. Form them into a 1/2-inch diameter balls. Refrigerate for approximately 10 minutes.

In the meanwhile, melt chocolate either in microwave (at 50% power), or over double broiler.

Dip cake balls into melted chocolate. Let set for a few minutes and store them in airtight container in the refrigerator.

Yield: approximately 2 dozens


Salted Peanut Cookie Brittle

January 27, 2011

Red has been talking about these “peanut cookies” for as long as I have known him. He keeps on talking on how he grew up eating them at his grammy’s house and how he would love to be able to enjoy them again. We have been looking for a peanut cookie recipe for a while, and then we ran into this  recipe that seems pretty close to it. I was excited to no end to finally be able to try this. These cookies turned out to be as delicious as Red remembers it.

I decided to cut them into bars instead of breaking them; and ended up about a couple of dozens of bars. One thing that I wish I would have done was using salted peanuts instead of “lightly salted” peanuts–I think the contrast between the saltiness and the sweetness of the dough would be a dramatic combo, which would win any peanuts’ lovers in your audience.  They were great with coffee; and made for a very addictive snack. They were also best enjoyed within a few days after making them. If you love sweet and salty dessert combo–this one is a must try! Happy eating!

Adapted from Maida Heatter’s Book of Great Cookies via Piece of Cake

Ingredients
1/ 2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened but still cool
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour, spooned into the cup and leveled
4 ounces (1 cup) roasted, salted peanuts, roughly chopped

Directions
Position a rack to the center of the oven and preheat it to 375 degrees.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter with the sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl and beat in the salt and vanilla, about 30 seconds more. Reduce the speed to low and gradually stir in the flour, stopping to scrape the bowl as necessary. Stir in half the peanuts.

Turn the dough out onto a rimmed sheet pan, about 15 1/2 by 10 1/2 inches. Lightly flour your hands and pat the dough in a thin layer (don’t worry about making it perfectly even). Sprinkle the rest of the peanuts evenly over the dough. Cover the dough with a sheet of waxed or parchment paper and using a rolling pin or a tall, smooth glass, roll over the paper to smooth the dough and press the peanuts firmly into the dough.

Bake for 23 to 25 minutes, until golden brown, rotating the sheet halfway through baking time. Cool in the pan for five minutes before cutting the warm slab into bars, or wait for it too cool completely and break into pieces like brittle candy. Store in an airtight container for up to a week.

Yield: Approximately 2 dozens


Red Velvet Cake

January 24, 2011

My friend Sarah was turning the big 3-0; but unfortunately I had to miss her birthday party. I invited her over for a birthday lunch the weekend after to celebrate and asked her what kind of cake she wanted for her birthday cake. She requested a red velvet cake; which I have never made before–and I definitely didn’t have a recipe for; which is kind of odd considering this is my dad’s absolute favorite cake! I went looking for a recipe–and really wanted a special cake that would not dissapoint. After all, this was for my friend’s birthday milestone. I then learned that Bridget had blogged about comparison of the recipes from several sources! Score! I was excited by the opportunity to try making this from scratch using a recipe that has been tried and recommended. I decided to make the Saveur recipe, that was originally tested by Kelsey from Apple a Day.



This cake, I have to say, turned out so perfect… as a special birthday cake should be! It stood tall, proud and cut beautifully… the kind that looks incredible on a dessert plate at a party. The bright red color was stunning and elegant against the white creamy cream cheese frosting. The cake itself was moist, not overly sweet, along with a bit of tang. It was delicious! I had originally made only one batch of cream frosting from Smitten Kitchen’s version; and as soon I made it, I realized that I would not have had enough to fill three-layers cake, let alone frost the side and the top. Therefore, I went ahead and made another batch. The recipe version I had written below was doubled to reflect the actual amount that I used although I had about 1/4 cup of leftover. I had originally wanted to make caramelized pecans for decorations but ran out of time; so I just arranged some whole pecans on top.

Sarah was elated; and so was I. So I must say that we found ourselves a winner here. Many thanks to Bridget for test driving all of the recipes for us!

As seen on The Way the Cookie Crumbles From Apple a Day, who adapted it from www.saveur.com

Ingredients

For the cake:
2½ cups cake flour
1½ cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1½ cups vegetable oil
1 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons (1 oz.) red food coloring
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon white distilled vinegar

For the frosting:
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter room temperature
3 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Directions

For the cake:
Preheat oven to 350°.

Sift together flour, sugar, baking soda, cocoa, and salt into a medium bowl.

Beat eggs, oil, buttermilk, food coloring, vanilla, and vinegar in a large bowl with an electric mixer until well combined. Add dry ingredients and beat until smooth, about 2 minutes.

Divide batter evenly between 3 greased and floured 8×2″ round cake pans. Or, I used (1) 8×2″ and (1) 8×3″ which I split into two layers.

Bake cakes, rotating halfway through, until a toothpick inserted in the center of each cake comes out clean, 25-30 minutes. Let cakes cool 5 minutes, then invert each onto a plate, then invert again onto a cooling rack. Let cakes cool completely.

For the frosting: (Adapted from Smitten Kitchen, yield ~ 6 cups of frosting)
Place cream cheese and butter in a medium bowl. With a handheld electric mixer, beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add sugar and vanilla. Beat, on low speed to combine. If too soft, chill until slightly stiff, about 10 minutes, before using.

Put 1 cake layer on a cake plate, level off with a serrated knife, and spread one-quarter of the frosting on top. Set another layer on top, level, and repeat frosting. Set remaining layer on top, level, and frost top and sides with the remaining frosting.

Chill for 2 hours to set frosting.

Yield: (1) 8-inch 3-layer cake


Banana Stuffed French Toast

January 22, 2011

As soon as I  saw this recipe printed on a recent Williams Sonoma catalog, I knew that I had to make these. I love having bananas for breakfast; and love them in all of my baked goods.  I don’t normally make French Toast at home not because I don’t love them-but because I don’t have access to places that sells breads that would make wonderful French Toast. This was a great excuse for me to make Challah; which I had been putting off for a very long time. While this recipe calls for a specialized panini maker; I think they be as wonderful as well on a regular griddle; you just need to flip them to ensure that both sides get browned. I really loved how the caramelized bananas inside the gorgeous challah slices really added sweetness and interesting contrast of texture to the crispy bread. I think having the right kind of bread is very critical in this recipe. If you are looking for something special to make; this may be one to try. Next time, I would also double the amount of caramelized bananas and used them as topping as well.  Happy eating!

In case you’re looking for more breakfast recipes that uses this power fruit; check out the following recipes:

Banana Bread, Easy
Banana Bread, Flour Bakery Famous
Banana Bread, Kona Inn
Banana Crunch Muffins
Banana Pecan Muffins

Recipe by Chef Bryan Voltaggio via Williams Sonoma

Ingredients
2 Tbs. unsalted butter
2 Tbs. plus 1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 Tbs. water
2 large ripe bananas, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch rounds
1-lb. loaf day-old challah, ends trimmed, bread cut into 6 slices, each 1 1/2 inches thick
2 cups milk
6 eggs
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. granulated honey ( I used 1/4 tsp of regular honey–not sure if this was the correct amount)
Seeds from 1/4 vanilla bean

Directions
In large sauté pan over medium heat, melt the butter. When the foam subsides, add the 2 Tbs. granulated sugar and the water, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Cook until the mixture is lightly caramelized, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the bananas and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl and let cool. Using a small, sharp knife, cut a slit 2 inches long in one side of each bread slice, cutting three-fourths of the way. Stuff the pockets with the banana mixture, dividing evenly.

Preheat an electric panini maker to “panini” mode. Set a wire rack on a baking sheet.

In a large bowl, combine the milk, eggs, cinnamon, granulated honey, the 1/2 cup granulated sugar and the vanilla bean seeds and blend with an immersion blender. Pour into a baking dish. Soak half of the bread slices for 5 minutes, turning occasionally.

Place the bread on the panini maker and cook, adjusting the top plate so it lightly presses the bread, until browned, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer to the rack-lined baking sheet. Soak and cook the remaining bread slices. Serve the French toast with maple syrup and your favorite toppings.

Yield 6.


Lemon Bars

January 6, 2011

After all of the cookies with chocolate, butterscotch, toffee, and caramel goodness that I enjoyed during the holiday, I thought I would give my palette something bright and even spring-like… like these lemon bars. Yes, it is still freezing outside; but trust me… a bite of this lemony bar with smooth and delicate curd with buttery shortbread crust will transport you into spring. I followed the recipe exactly and made no substitutions; and they were perfect. I baked the crust for 19 minutes total, just until the edges were lightly browned. As far as the custard, I did a gentle shake test to ensure that it was set, and it looked done at 30 minutes.

The only issue that I had was that when I cut them into squares, the skin that formed on top of the custard broke and made a rather messy cut. I decided to refrigerate the entire pan for a few hours and went back to cut them into triangles, and they cut a lot better. Next time, I’d have to remember to do this. But there was nothing else that I would have done differently.  They were lemony; with a little bit of tartness, and just enough sweetness.

Adapted from Barefoot Contessa Parties

Ingredients
Crust
1/2 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 cups flour
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

Filling
6 extra large eggs, at room temperature
3 cups granulated sugar
2 tablespoons grated lemon zest (4 to 6 lemons)
1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 cup flour
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

Directions
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

For the crust, cream the butter and sugar until light in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Combine the flour and salt and, with the mixeron low, add to the butter until just mixed. Dump the dough onto a well-floured board and gather into a ball. Flatten the dough with floured hands and press it into a 9 by 13 by 2-inch baking sheet, building up a 1/2-inch edge on all sides. Chill.

Bake the crust for 15 to 20 minutes, until very lightly browned. Let cool on a wire rack. Leave the oven on.

For the filling, whisk together the eggs, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, and flour. Pour over the crust and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the filling is set. Let cool to room temperature.

Cut into triangles and dust with confectioners’ sugar

Yield: 40 triangles, or 20 squares