October 29, 2010

Marie Helene's Apple Cake

We love apples at our house and while cake is growing on me, I'm still a frosting girl at heart. So when I read that this week's French Fridays with Dorie recipe, Marie Helene's Apple Cake, was more "apple" than "cake" I was on board. I made it for my mom's birthday dinner (that's her above with Baby Strawberry, who since her birthday has decided that people singing to her is the single best thing in the world). Since we don't have any alcohol around here, I opted for extra vanilla and a little almond extract to flavor the cake batter. It was delicious and I love how quickly it came together. I'll definetely be making this cake again when I'm looking for something simple and tasty- that's how we like it around here.

For this easy, yummy recipe you need to get a copy of Dorie's newest book, Around My French Table. It's on sale now!

PS This picture was taken by my phone when my beloved camera was in the shop! Thank goodness my pretty is back!

October 28, 2010

Halloween Orange and Vanilla Bean Cupcakes

Orange Creamsicle Cupcakes{Orange Creamsicle Cupcakes- printable recipe here}
{Vanilla Bean Filled Cupcakes- printable recipe here}
Today my son had his first big Halloween party at his cute preschool. He dressed up as a pirate and was so excited- even down to his little drawn on goatee! His teacher asked for volunteers helping in the class room and bringing cupcakes and other treats. I wasn't chosen to make the cupcakes (oh the rejection!) but got to come be a "mom helper" instead. The kids were so cute and excited about every single thing that I'm sure they would have eaten cupcakes made out of dirt as long as they included brightly colored toppings. That said, either of these happy cupcakes would have been perfect for the party! Instead, the vanilla bean cupcakes were destined to go to my husband's work event, where they were happily devoured by a bunch of lawyers. Honestly, the little Disney-clad preschoolers couldn't have appreciated the pastry cream filled vanilla bean cupcakes as much as they adults. I'll save the Orange Creamsicle Cupcakes (in their brightly colored glory) for the littles! Have a safe and happy Halloween, surely filled with candy, costumes, and baked goods!

Halloween Vanilla Bean CupcakesAnne Strawberry's Vanilla Bean Cupcakes
{printable recipe here}
1 cup sour cream (reduced fat is fine)
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup canola oil
3 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla
seeds scraped from one vanilla bean
1 box betty crocker french vanilla cake mix

Preheat the oven to 350 and line a muffin tin with cupcake liners. Place atop a baking sheet and set aside.

Combine all ingredients in stand mixer and beat for two minutes until well combined. Using a 2-tablespoon scoop, scoop into muffin tins.

Bake for 21-24 minutes or until cupcakes spring back slightly when touched and a tooth pick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Cool on racks and frost once completely cooled.

Anne Strawberry's Favorite Frosting

1/2 cup butter, softened (one stick)
1 package of cream cheese, softened (I like to use Neufchatel, less fat and I don't notice much difference)

2 Tablespoons milk
2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or the seeds of one vanilla pod, scraped
dash of salt
6 cups of powdered sugar (more or less to achieve desired consistency, this is a baseline)
1 Tablespoon meringue powder

In a mixer with the whisk attachment, combine the cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. Add in the milk, vanilla, and salt, and blend.

Next, add the powdered sugar and meringue powder, cover the bowl of the mixer with a dish towel, and turn it on low until everything is combined. Then increase the speed for a minute or so until the frosting is light, fluffy, and delicious. The meringue powder will help set the frosting after it dries so it holds its shape.

Add 1 T. Lemon or orange zest and substitute juice for the milk to make a tangy citrus frosting

For the filling:
Anne Strawberry's Slightly Lightened Pastry Cream
After the cupcakes have cooled, fit a pastry bag with a long, medium tip. Fill with cooled pastry cream and squeeze one or two tablespoons into the center of each cupcake, filling until the top of the cupcake starts to bulge slightly. Frost and decorate the cupcakes and serve.

October 27, 2010

Keys to Good Cooking

I posted about the Keys to Good Cooking preview a couple of months ago and was excited to get my hands on my own copy of the book. I started out like a dutiful student, reading from the beginning. Eventually, I felt like I was learning so much about things like appliances and tools, cooking methods and produce, that is was time to skip to my favorite chapter- Cakes, Muffins, and Cookies.

Here's a few things I learned from right away- "Cracked or peaked cakes result from overmixing batter or too high an oven temperature, so the center continues to expand after the surface has set. Try a lower temperature and/or shorter mixing." I've definitely had peaked cakes before, so I'm going to try to remember this next time I make a cake! In the section on muffins, it talks about mixing muffins as quickly as possible to avoid "losing leavening gas". I've known not to overbeat but I thought that referred to strokes, not necessarily time. For me, this is another push to bake "mise en place", or with all the ingredients out and ready to go before you start. I know that when I have everything ready and carefully read the recipe first (as opposed to reading it as I go, with a baby on my hip while I'm on the phone) I get much better results! Also on muffins, he says the secret to a "shapely peak" (super necessary for aesthetics since you can't "build" one out of frosting or it's no muffin) is to "make sure the batter isn't over-leavened, fill the pan cups almost full, and use a relatively high baking temperature, 400 to 425."
This wonderful book is also full of common sense tips that often make the biggest difference, like remembering to check doneness early and to allow things to start to cool and firm before removing them from the pan. Probably my favorite page so far is 439, where he says "Cookie recipes often need adjustment" and goes on to describe what to add or adjust to get the perfectly crisp/soft/tender/dark/moist cookie you're looking for. You can bet that page in my book is going to be covering flour and butter in no time!

There's a certainly a lot of info in here that I put into my "that's nice, hopefully I'll remember that in a couple years when I make my next turkey" or something like that. However, all the information is super accessible- the chapters are listed on the covers! The formatting is beautiful and easy to skim when you need to find just what you are looking for. The information is sorted logically and accessibly. I'm sure you have a few things that you are really great at making- along with a few things that are a little more daunting. While I feel very comfortable baking cookies or pies, I get a little more nervous with fancy cakes or caramel. I'll be the first to admit that I don't know the tricks to cooking everything, but with Keys to Good Cooking, I can find the tips to make my attempts successes. And since I know I have a great source to turn too, I'm not quite as worried about trying new things when the opportunity arises.

Come back tomorrow for Halloween cupcakes and Friday for apple cake (three posts in three days? I think I can, I think I can, haha!)

October 26, 2010

Dorie's Apple Pie

Apple Pie
{printable recipe here}
I've made a lot of pies, but the first I learned to make was apple and it's still my favorite- so I was super excited to have the All American Apple Pie chosen as this week's Dorie treat. Dorie's version is exceptional (big shock, right?) and one of my favorite parts is the layer of graham cracker crumbs under the filling. It soaks up the excess juices and leaves the bottom of the pastry crisp (my tall man's favorite part- he loves the buttery, delicious dough). And even though preparing apple pie can seem a daunting task, my surprisingly practical apple peeler and corer came to the rescue once again. From my morning apple cinnamon oatmeal, to apples to snack on for my son, to apple pie- I use this thing all the time. You can even peel potatoes with it!

Grab the recipe from Emily, this week's host, or buy the book here if you haven't already. Mine is tattered and covered in butter and flour- and it's been worth every penny!

PS Guess what- my beloved camera is back! Nikon officially diagnosed the body with "sand damage" (but I think it's more likely flour/powdered sugar damage!) and they repaired it free of charge, even though I'm well out of warranty. Thank you Nikon, I'm yours for life!

{printable recipe here}

October 13, 2010

Homemade Jello Playdoh + Candy Necklaces

{my camera is in the shop and we are officially a phone camera only household for now- bear with me!}

Today my little man has a buddy over and they decided they wanted to play with some playdoh. I only had one tub (a pink one at that, aren't I so nice?) so I told them we could make some so there would be plenty to share. I've always made my aunt's recipe but couldn't find it so I did a quick search and found this similar recipe. In the past I've added peppermint extract and food coloring to make a pretty and yummy smelling dough, but this recipe just calls for a box of jello to cover both bases. It only takes a couple of minutes on the stove and the one batch was plenty for my two busy boys- they sat and played for 45 minutes, so this "recipe" is a winner for sure! Keep leftovers in a baggie in the fridge and enjoy some cheap and easy fun!

{Update}- My friend Holly has a recipe to make homemade candy necklaces and they are adorable! Another fun project to do with the kids and add to my to do list... Check it out here.

Homemade Jello Playdoh 

1 cup white flour
1/2 cup salt
2 T. cream of tartar
2 T. Vegetable oil
1 c. warm water
1 three oz. pkg. jello (any flavor)


Combine ingredients and cook over medium heat until it thickens and pulls away from the sides of pot and becomes dull, about 3 or 4 minutes on my stove.

Note: it burns easily so don't put over too high a heat and keep stirring. Mold and knead until cool enough to touch. Store in a baggie in the fridge.

October 12, 2010

Fold Over Torte (Apple Berry and Peach Berry)

It's Tuesday again, and while I'm shocked at how fast the week has flown, I'm just grateful that I planned ahead and made this delicious Dorie treat a few weeks ago! Although this looks pretty fancy, it's nothing more than a pie crust placed in a springform pan and piled high with fruit and a quick custard. Easy, I promise. Plus, with the pastry, the fruit, the filling- all the amazing ingredients come together to make a real crowd pleaser.

PhotobucketGrab the recipe from Cakelaw or, better, yet, buy the book. This delicious recipe is yet another example of the merits of joining a baking group- I'd never have tried it without the push, but we all loved it!

October 8, 2010

Boston Cream Cupcakes for Baby Strawberry

I mentioned it was Baby Strawberry's first birthday a couple of weeks ago (can you believe it?) We of course had lots of fun and lots of yummy food. With my little man, I had a big party at the house, fed everyone, made cute/high maintenance cupcakes, and loved it all! This time around (after another big birthday complete with Orange Creamsicle Cupcakes) I thought something simpler would be better. Since her birthday is right next to two of her cousins', we had an easy get together at the park with pizza and salads. I made vanilla bean and red velvet cupcakes that night and will post those next.

PhotobucketThen we decided to do a simple dinner, just my family and my "sister", and celebrate together. For dinner I made roasted chicken, mashed potatoes, and green beans. Kara brought cornbread and an amazing salad with locally made meyer lemon olive oil and strawberry balsamic vinaigrette! So I confess the simple dinner took a lot longer than I thought it would- it always does (big thanks to my mom for letting me mess up her kitchen all day and helping clean it all up!) But we all enjoyed it and Kara went into labor the next day, so I think the food did it's job!

For dessert I made Martha Stewart's Boston Cream Cupcakes. I'm not sure why I was crazing Boston Cream Pie (since I've never actually had it!) It probably has to do with my affinity to pastry cream. This recipe was very simple to make, just a ganache for the topping, a pastry cream for the filling, and a quick, easy cake. Baby loved it, of course (she has a huge sweet tooth!) There are three components to make but each is very simple and doesn't take much time. I worked on each them between other steps for dinner and didn't hardly notice the time to make these- don't be intimidated!

PhotobucketShe even shared with her new baby that she wouldn't let go of for two days straight (baby is playing with her right now, actually, she was a hit!) It was a great birthday and totally worth all the dishes (especially since so many people helped out)! Happy birthday Baby Strawberry!)

PhotobucketBoston Cream Cupcakes
from Anne Strawberry (recipe via Martha Stewart)

*note- My family has been (rightfully) accusing me of underbaking things so I tried to follow these directions exactly. However, I thought the cupcakes were just a minute overdone and a tiny bit dry for that reason, so I would be sure to remove them as soon they get a hint of color and their lovely smell wafts through your kitchen!

For the Cupcakes:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for tins
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup whole milk
3 ounces (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened, plus more for tins
3 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour standard muffin tins. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl. Warm milk and butter in a saucepan over low heat.

Beat eggs and sugar with a mixer on high speed until thick and pale, about 5 minutes. Beat in dry ingredients.

Bring milk and butter to a boil. With mixer on low speed, add milk mixture to batter, and beat until smooth. Add vanilla. Divide batter among muffin cups, filling each halfway. Bake cupcakes until light gold (just barely starting to color), about 15 minutes. Let cool in tins for 10 minutes, then transfer to wire racks. Let cool.

Using a serrated knife, cut each in half horizontally. Spread 1 tablespoon vanilla cream (I used more) on each cupcake bottom. Sandwich with top. Spoon glaze over each, and serve immediately.

Vanilla Cream
*note- I prefer Dorie or Ina's pastry cream and will use my favorite "slightly lightened" version next time I make these.

2 large egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons plus 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
Pinch of salt
1 cup whole milk
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Whisk yolks until smooth. Mix sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add milk in a slow, steady stream. Cook, stirring, until mixture begins to bubble and thicken, about 5 minutes. 

Pour 1/3 of milk mixture into yolks, whisking constantly. Return mixture to saucepan, and cook over medium heat, stirring often, until thick, 2 to 4 minutes. Stir in vanilla. 

Pass vanilla cream through a fine sieve into a bowl. Press plastic wrap directly on surface. Refrigerate until cold, at least 1 hour, or up to 2 days.

Chocolate Ganache Glaze

2/3 cup heavy cream
6 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 tablespoon light corn syrup

Bring cream to a boil in a small saucepan. Remove from heat, and add chocolate and corn syrup. Let stand for 5 minutes. Whisk until smooth. Transfer to a bowl, and let cool, stirring often. Use immediately.

October 5, 2010

TWD- Apple Cake

Apple CakesOne of my best friends just moved to Minnesota. It's pretty heart breaking (especially since she went from Arizona summer to cold already!) Naomi is my go to friend for good recipes and exciting things to feed my family. She's the one I call when I see a great deal on some fancy cheese to see if she needs some just in case. When I was picking up a case of Utah peaches last week it made me think of her, so I called to say hi. She said there weren't any peaches to be found in her frigid new home (haha, comparatively at least) but there were apples coming out her ears! When I baked up this quick, easy bread/cake from this week's Tuesdays with Dorie treat, I couldn't help but think of her. I used homemade apple sauce instead of the apple butter, reduced the sugar by about 1/4 cup, and added some extra grated apple. This bread is extra appley (and I'd totally send some Naomi's way if I could!) Thank goodness apples can be found everywhere, from hot Arizona to far away Minnesota, because everyone should make this yummy cake!

Grab the real recipe from Lynne. I'll be back later with a printable version of my highly adapted recipe.

October 1, 2010

French Fridays- Gougeres

PhotobucketToday is the first day of French Fridays with Dorie, an awesome new group dedicated to baking through Dorie Greenspan's new book Around My French Table. Dorie choose the first recipes and todays, Gougeres, are absolutely delicious (no surprise there!) Gougeres are made just like cream puffs (a quick and easy stove top process) except you add cheese- I used a mix of cheddar and fresh Parmesan. You scoop or pipe them onto cookie sheets, bake, and end up with a yummy appetizer that leaves you wanting more. More what? I'm not sure. Maybe alcohol, because that's the suggested pairing. But- since I don't drink, I just figured I would stuff them with something else. My mom suggested jalapeno and cream cheese to make a sort of home made jalapeno poppers (you've had those, right?) Now I hope I don't fail the first Frenchie Friday attempt by adding Mexican flavors but this ended up pretty yummy- Cream Cheese, Green Chiles (that's what was in the pantry), Pimentos, Black Olives, and Salt and Pepper. I scoop it in and then we tried another and thought, "Now it's done." Either way, these are super yummy- and easy to make. And although I clearly took this recipe in a crazy direction I think the moral of the story is that French food doesn't have to be hard or fancy pants. So buy the book already- I can't wait to try more!

PS My beloved camera is in the shop so my blogging is feeling a little strained by the thought of using my cell phone or stealing my mom's purse camera! Excuse my inconsistency (not that that's anything new, but, well, I really am missing my camera!)

Don't Tell Dorie I Made These Southwestern Gougeres Filling
from Anne Strawberry

1 stick of neufchatel (reduced fat) cream cheese, softened
1 can mild green chiles
2 tablespoons pimentos
1/4 cup diced black olives
salt and pepper to taste