October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween from Will and Kate

Happy Halloween from our own Prince William and Kate Middleton! Halloween kind of creeps me out to be honest (sure you couldn't tell from the lack of Halloween posts) but I love the dressing up and they do too, not to mention the candy, skipped naps, and parties.

Our own little royalty loved their costumes their Nana lovingly made after tons of research (William's is a perfect replica, buttons, medals, and all!) We kind of had to go with this theme this year and were grateful Nana made it work. You can see my 'Royal Cupcakes' for the Wedding earlier this year here.

Check out those cute buns! Seriously, his costume is amazing (and I love how he looks more like his daddy everyday, so cute!)

Kate's tiny little waste and fluffy bustle are so cute- you can't help but smile when she skips. She rocked her veil for hours Saturday (and kept her princess dress clean, though I'll admit I didn't let her eat any chili at the trunk or treat!)

We made Lemon Velvet Cupcakes (dyed Orange, of course) for the preschool Halloween Party today. Prince William was very proud to share cupcakes he helped make. I was very proud when he successfully washed my silpats and cookie sheets- my least favorite part of making cookies and cupcakes!) Hope you have a very happy and safe Halloween!

October 25, 2011

TWD- Peach Cobbler

As I write, the window is open, the kids are running in and out of the house, and we've eaten pumpkin cookies all morning. It started on the blogosphere ages ago but Fall has finally come to Arizona. This is my favorite time of year and I look forward to baking and cooking without worrying about heating up my already hot kitchen! When I opened up my Baking book for this week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe, my little man immediately said "This looks pretty Mommy!" It was gorgeous but I didn't have figs or cornmeal or the will to take both of my little monkies to the grocery store during the witching hour. So instead, I'm sharing (a little late, don't mind me) a previous TWD recipe I didn't post because it screams fall to me and is one truly worth sharing.

The recipe is called the "Upside Down Plum Cake" and after I baked it, I realized it tasted exactly like a perfect homemade peach cobbler. Before I became a crazy baker, I used to dump fruit in a baking dish, top it with a yellow cake mix, and dot the top with butter. The end result was delicious and our typical peach cobbler. This recipe is a little different. You melt the butter in the pan (while the oven is preheating, genius!), pour in the batter, and top it with the fruit. The fruit ends up on the bottom and the tender cake on top. It's simple and delicious, totally flexible and a keeper. I know peaches are about done but I'm going to try this again with apples and berries and whatever else I can get my hands on (and I think you should too!) You can see the recipe here at Becky's blog as well as the rest of the TWD crew here. Please forgive my quick pictures but the entire family was dying to eat this.

Do you have any favorite fall desserts? This one is bound to become a tradition for us!

October 13, 2011

Ghirardelli Intense Dark Chocolate Sweet Rolls

Ghirardelli Chocolate sent me some of their new Intense Dark chocolate to try and ever since my carefully wrapped package arrived I've been dreaming about the perfect recipe to use them for. The bars themselves are beautiful and gold wrapped- seriously tempting. They've got sexy names like "Evening Dream" and "Twilight Delight" to go along with the perfect packaging and high cacoa content. This was a big decision! I finally settled on my favorite ever Tuesdays with Dorie recipe- the Brioche Raisin Snails. Brioche is rich dough made with eggs and butter, rolled up with a homemade vanilla pudding and fancy raisins (or in my case, chocolate). I used my Bosch mixer but a KitchenAid or even a big bowl with a wooden spoon will work just fine.

I love that the recipe is made of several components- it's kind of therapeutic to assemble basic things into something extra special and each piece isn't too much work. The bread dough improves with a little stay in the fridge, so I made it the other night. Last night I made the pastry cream and let it chill until this morning. Each step only takes 15 minutes or so but this morning I whipped up a fabulous French pastry that takes me right back to Paris with each bite. The assembly is just like a regular cinnamon roll but uses different components- roll out the dough, spread the cream, sprinkle with chopped Ghirardelli chocolate (I used the Midnight Reverie 86% Cacao bar) and a little sugar. Roll it up, slice, and try to be patient while they rise. It's not that different than cinnamon rolls, really, but SO much better.

You could easily fake this recipe with a regular dough (or even thawed Rhodes rolls if your that terrified of yeast) and chocolate chips, but the Intense dark chocolate with it's luxurious texture and flavor and the silky pastry cream baked together with the rich brioche makes a treat that's extra special. You can even roll up the logs before you slice them and freeze them for a perfectly decadent treat anytime.

I absolutely loved this recipe before but now that I've had it all fancied up, I'm pretty sure a delicious cinnamon roll is going to pale in comparison. I'm going try my favorite brownies next with some more of the Ghirardelli Intense Dark and I'll be back later in the week to let you know how they turn out. Stop by their website and check out their line-up. Ghiradelli will donate $1 from each package up to $100000 to the National Breast Cancer Foundation when you enter the code found inside your bar. You can even print out a coupon here. Deliciousness and an important cause- this is a win win for me!

PS Don't tell but when my mom had a bite of these she totally moaned. They're that good. There are two left on my counter. Let's see if they make it until dinner time (with Baby Strawberry, sporting her dad's super metabolism and roving the house yelling "Chockit! Chockit!" it doesn't seem likely!)

Ghirardelli Intense Dark Chocolate Sweet Rolls
from Anne Strawberry

6 squares Ghirardelli Intense Dark Chocolate (I used the 86% Cacao Midnight Revelrie), or 3/4 of a package, chopped finely
2 tablespoons Sugar
1/2 recipe for Golden Brioche Loaves (see below), chilled and ready to shape (make the full recipe and cut the dough in half after refrigerating overnight)

1/2 recipe Pastry Cream (see below)
Shiny Sugar Coating (see below)
Powdered Sugar Glaze (see below)

Line one large or two smaller baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.

On a flour dusted surface, roll the dough into a rectangle about 12 inches wide and 16 inches long, with a short end toward you. Spread the pastry cream across the dough, leaving 1-inch strip bare on the side farthest from you. Scatter the chopped chocolate over the pastry cream and sprinkle the cream with 2 tablespoons of sugar. Starting wit the side nearest you, roll the dough into a cylinder, keeping the roll as tight as you can. (At this point, you can wrap the dough airtight and freeze it up to 2 months.)

Cut the log into rounds a 1 inch thick using a chef's knife, bench cutter, or dental floss. Put the snails on the lined baking sheet(s), leaving some puff space between them (half of the brioche yielded 12 rolls for me so I put them in a 3 x 4 pattern on my baking sheet).

Lightly cover the snails with wax paper and set the baking sheet(s) in a warm place until the snails have doubles in volume--they'll be puffy and soft--about an hour or two depending on the temperature of the kitchen.

When the snails have almost fully risen, preheat the oven: depending on the number of baking sheets you have, either center a rack in the oven or position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Remove the wax paper, and bake the snails for about 25 minutes (rotate the sheets if you're using two, from top to bottom and front to back after 15 minutes), or until they are puffed and richly browned. After they've been out of the oven for a minute or two, brush them with the shiny sugar coating. Allow to cool for a couple minutes then drizzle with the optional glaze (recipe below).

Shiny Sugar Coating
Note- This is optional but only takes a minute or two and helps keep your rolls shiny and moist. Ever since I read about it on this wonderful blog I use it for all my cinnamon rolls. I don't think these would last long enough to need it but I wouldn't skip it! Check out her cinnamon twist post for gorgeous pictures on shaping and glazing sweet rolls.

1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon light corn syrup

Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan.  Bring to a rolling boil, take off heat and set aside to brush the bread when it comes out of the oven.

Powdered Sugar Glaze
1 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted
About 1 teaspoon water
Drop of pure vanilla extract

Put the confectioners' sugar into a small bowl, and stir in a teaspoon of water. Keep adding water drop by drop until you have an icing that falls from the tip of a spoon. Add the vanilla extract, then drizzle the icing over the hot snails.

Golden Brioche Loaves
2 packets active dry yeast (or 5 teaspoons yeast)
2/3 cup just-warm-to-the-touch 2% milk
4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt (or 1 Tablespoon Kosher Salt)
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature but still slightly firm (cut into 1 Tablespoon pieces while cold and let sit on the counter for a few minutes to soften)

To Make The Brioche: Put the yeast, water and milk in the bowl of a stand mixer and, using a wooden spoon, stir until the yeast is dissolved. Add the flour and salt, and fit into the mixer with the dough hook, if you have one. Toss a kitchen towel over the mixer, covering the bowl as completely as you can-- this will help keep you, the counter and your kitchen floor from being showered in flour. Turn the mixer on and off a few short pulses, just to dampen the flour (yes, you can peek to see how you're doing), then remove the towel, increase the mixer speed to medium-low and mix for a minute or two, just until the flour is moistened. At this point, you'll have a fairly dry, shaggy mess.

Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula, set the mixer to low and add the eggs, followed by the sugar. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat for about 3 minutes, until the dough forms a ball. Reduce the speed to low and add the butter 2 tablespoons at a time, beating until each piece is almost incorporated before adding the next. You'll have a dough that is very soft, almost like batter. Increase the speed to medium-high and continue to beat until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl, about 10 minutes.

Transfer the dough to a clean bowl (or wash out the mixer bowl and use it), cover with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature until nearly doubled in size, 40 to 60 minutes, depending upon the warmth of your room.

Deflate the dough by lifting it up around the edges and letting it fall with a slap to the bowl. Cover the bowl with the plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator. Slap the dough down in the bowl every 30 minutes until it stops rising, about 2 hours, then leave the uncovered dough in the refrigerator to chill overnight.

Pull the dough from the fridge and divide it into 2 equal pieces.

Anne Strawerry's Favorite "Slightly Lighted" Pastry Cream
adapted from Baking by Dorie Greenspan

2 1/2 cups 2% milk
4 large egg yolks
1 egg
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch, sifted
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into bits at room temperature

Bring the milk to a boil in a small saucepan (I usually multitask this step and warm it in my Pyrex liquid measuring cup in the microwave).

Meanwhile, in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk the egg yolks and egg together with the sugar and cornstarch until thick and well blended. Still whisking, drizzle in about 1/4 cup of the hot milk-- this will temper, or warm, the yolks so they won't curdle. Whisking all the while, slowly pour in the remainder of the milk. Put the pan over medium heat and, whisking vigorously, constantly and thoroughly (making sure to get the edges of the pot), bring the mixture to a boil. Keep at a boil, still whisking to be sure the bottom doesn't burn, for 1 minute, then remove the pan from the heat.

Whisk in the vanilla extract. Let sit for 5 minutes, then whisk in the bits of butter, stirring until they are full incorporated and the pastry cream is smooth and silky. Scrape the cream into a bowl. Press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface of the cream to create an airtight seal and refrigerate the pastry cream until cold or, if you want to cool it quickly, put the bowl into a larger bowl filled with ice cubes and cold water, and stir the pastry cream occasionally until it is thoroughly chilled, about 20 minutes.

October 11, 2011

TWD- Basic Biscuits

Have you ever watched Alton Brown's Good Eats Biscuit episode? It's a total crack up and features Alton and his grandma in a biscuit bake off, his science and technique against her traditions. The end result is that both made delicious biscuits. In the southwest, I think it's more likely that you have a special homemade salsa recipe than family biscuit style. Maybe that's just our family. I remember my mom making Bisquick biscuits and cutting them out with a glass. For her, a biscuit (along with most carbs) is "a vehicle" to gravy, butter, jam, whatever. We aren't picky about them around here and after a week of sick kids, I looked forward to a simple Tuesdays with Dorie recipe.

I let my little man do the measuring, mixing, and rolling of these biscuits. He loves using any cookie cutter and while I tried to follow Alton's advice to push straight down and not maul the biscuits, I'm not sure that was quite the case. My biscuits were a little short but they were a lot delicious nonetheless. We ate them all right off the pan with a little butter and homemade raspberry jam my mom and I made a few weeks ago. Baby Strawberry had the biggest jammy smile, my little man was proud of 'his' biscuits, and Mr. Carbohydrate polished several off before I even took a picture. You can see the recipe here or in Dorie Greenspan's awesome Baking from My Home to Yours. This recipe might be basic but it's a winner at our house.

Speaking of winners, I'd like to thank everyone who entered the Sam's Club and General Mill's giveaway from MyBlogSpark. I was touched by the comments and all the things people do to fight cancer. Together I really think we can make a big difference- thank you guys for the inspiration! The winner of the $25 Sam's Club giftcard is number 6- Holly! Get me your address asap and I'll have your prize sent out!

Come back tomorrow for a special recipe featuring Ghiradelli Intense Dark Chocolate (also benefiting breast cancer research, check it out!)

October 3, 2011

Sam's Club & General Mill's Pink Giveaway

Can you believe it's October already? There are clues everywhere around here, from the 'nice-ish' morning weather, the ripe Utah peaches, and professional football players wearing hot pink. Even if it's still hot here, it's officially October and breast cancer awareness month already. Last night my mom said, "I know it's October when my Yoplait's have pink lids!" MyBlogSpark recently contacted me and let me know that Sam´s Club stores are featuring pink packaging on participating General Mills products for National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. This cause is close to my heart as my mom and grandma both fought and beat breast cancer. I don't know anyone who hasn't somehow been touched by this disease and appreciate all the efforts made to finding a cure.

This month if you purchase specially-marked General Mills products like Cheerios at your local Sam´s Club you can help decide how half of that contribution will be donated by voting at PinkTogether.com. General Mills´ donations will be divided between two important Komen programs: the Treatment and Assistance Program, which assists women in securing care they otherwise may not be able to afford, and Prevention Research, which helps unlock the keys to preventing breast cancer. Voting results will be announced on Mother´s Day 2012. You can see more about PinkTogether on their Facebook page.

It's no secret that we love General Mills products around here. For 5 years, General Mills has partnered with the Susan G. Komen for the Cure® Foundation and this year they are making their annual donation of $2 million to the foundation to advance breast cancer research and support education and community outreach projects.

And now for the giveaway! MyBlogSpark provided me with a $25 Sam's Club Giftcard to share with one of you (US Residents Only Please!) To enter the giveaway, please leave a comment letting me know how you give back to help the fight against breast cancer or your favorite General Mills products you would love to see featured in the Pink Promotion at Sam´s Club (I'm going to be getting a giant box of Chocolate Cheerios, along with the usual big bag of flour, sugar, and butter- my bulk staples!) This giveaway will close on 10/10/11 at midnight. Leave a comment before then to be entered (good luck!)

"Disclosure: The information and gift card(s) have been provided by Sam´s Club and General Mills through MyBlogSpark."

Chocolate Cheerio Crust
by Anne Strawberry

2 1/2 Cups Chocolate Cheerios, crushed (in a baggie with a mallet or in the food processor)
1/4 Cup Melted Butter
1 Tablespoon Sugar
1 Tablespoon Cocoa Powder (I like Hershey's special dark)

Preheat the oven to 350. Combine all ingredients and press into four mini springform pans or one regular springform. A pie pan will also work if that's all you have. Make sure the layer is even and not too thick. Bake for 8 minutes and set aside to cool completely.