Sunday, March 28, 2010

Lemon Pound Cake

Lemon Pound Cake - made March 27, 2010 from Baking by Flavor by Lisa Yockelson

Whenever I have lemons and sour cream to use up, a lemon pound cake is typically my go-to thing to make since most recipes marry the two ingredients quite frequently. I could tell this one would turn out well just from the batter - it was silky smooth when I poured it into the tube pan. I baked it for almost 90 minutes before it seemed done. You don't want to underbake this kind of cake because it'll seem too heavy. The texture on this was soft and almost spongy but still had that pound cake texture. The lemon flavor comes through quite well. I'd consider this a good summer picnic cake as it'll hold up well in warm weather and isn't as rich as a chocolate dessert. And you don't have to worry about it melting or having to cart it around.

Lemon Peel Infusion
1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon rind
2 ½ teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 ½ teaspoons pure lemon extract

Sour Cream Lemon Cake Batter
3 cups unsifted all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
½ pound (16 tablespoons or 2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
3 cups superfine sugar
6 large eggs
1 cup thick, cultured sour cream

Lemon Sugar Wash
1/3 cup lemon juice
1/3 cup granulated sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 325˚F. Grease the inside of a plain 10-inch tube pan with shortening. Line the bottom of the pan with a circle of waxed paper cut to fit and grease the paper. Dust the inside of the pan with all-purpose flour. Tap out any excess flour; set aside.
2. Combine the lemon rind, lemon juice, and lemon extract in a small nonreactive ramekin. Set aside for 15 minutes before using.
3. Sift the flour, baking soda and salt onto a sheet of waxed paper.
4. Cream the butter in the large bowl of a freestanding electric mixer on moderately low speed for 4 minutes. Add the superfine sugar in three additions, beating for 1 minute on moderate speed after each portion is added. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, blending for 45 seconds after each addition.
5. On low speed, alternately add the sifted mixture in three additions with the sour cream in two additions, beginning and ending with the sifted ingredients. Scrape down t he sides of the mixing bowl frequently with a rubber spatula to keep the batter even-textured. Blend in the prepared lemon infusion.
6. Spoon the batter into the prepared tube pan. Smooth over the top with a rubber spatula.
7. Bake the cake in the preheated oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes to 1 hour and 20 minutes, or until risen, set and a wooden pick inserted in the cake withdraws clean. The baked cake will pull away slightly from the sides of the baking pan.
8. While the cake is baking, make the lemon-sugar wash: In a small, nonreactive bowl, combine the lemon juice and sugar. Stir well. Let stand 10 minutes. Using the ash now will give the surface of a baked tea loaf, pound cake or batch of muffins a crackly, sugary veneer.
9. Cool the cake in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes. Carefully invert the cake onto another cooling rack, peel off the waxed paper circle, then invert again onto another rack to cool right side up. Place a sheet of waxed paper under the cooling rack to catch any drips of the topping.
10. Using a soft, 1-inch-wide pastry brush, brush the lemon-sugar wash on the surface of the warm cake. Cool completely before slicing and serving. Use a serrated knife to cut the cake neatly and cleanly.

Freshly baked, the pound cake keeps for 5 days.

Hot Chocolate Cake

Hot Chocolate Cake - made March 27, 2010 from Fearless Baking by Elinor Klivans

I'm on the hunt for a good molten chocolate cake recipe. I've tried several and they've been good but I always think they can be better. You'd think a warm chocolate cake with a molten liquid fudge center would be easy to knock out of the park but I'm picky. The texture of this one could be better. I either didn't beat the eggs and sugar enough or else this is just how the texture was meant to be. It was a little heavy and the cake part that baked was almost dry. Which is quite a feat considering the middle was liquid fudge. Or perhaps I just wasn't in the mood for chocolate yesterday (yeah, those icicles just formed in hell). This one was almost too rich for me. It could be I'm losing my taste buds. Gasp. Horror. Nah.....

¼ pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
6 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 ounce unsweetened chocolate, chopped
4 large eggs
¾ cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon baking powder
Ice cream for serving with the cake, optional

1. Mix the cake: Position an oven rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat the oven to 375˚F. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan with sides at least 2 inches high.
2. Put the butter and chocolates in a large heatproof container set over, but not touching, barely simmering water in a saucepan. Stir the mixture often over the hot water until the butter and chocolate are melted and smooth. As soon as the chocolate mixture melts, remove it from over the water and set it aside to cool slightly.
3. Put the eggs and sugar in a large bowl and beat with an electric mixer on high speed for about 2 minutes until the mixture looks fluffy, thickens and lightens to a cream color. This is the stage of the mixing that lightens the cake. Move the beaters around in the bowl if using a handheld electric mixer. Mix in the vanilla. Reduce the speed to low and stir in the melted chocolate mixture, mixing until it is blended. Put the flour and baking powder in a flour sifter and sift over the chocolate batter. Stir in the flour mixture just until it is incorporated. Use a rubber spatula to scrape the batter into the prepared pan.
4. Bake and serve the cake: Bake for 15 minutes until the edges look set and the center is soft and just baked enough to hold its shape. A toothpick inserted in the center comes out with batter clinging to it, and one inserted into the edge comes out with moist crumbs clinging to it.
5. Cool the cake in the pan for 15 minutes to firm it slightly. Use a small sharp knife to loosen the sides of the cake from the pan. Release the sides of the springform pan and remove them. Use a knife and a large flat spatula to cut and move slices of cake to serving plates. The centers of the slices are a thick liquid. Serve with a scoop of ice cream, if desired.

Caramel-Stuffed Chocolate Chip Shortbread

Caramel-Stuffed Chocolate Chip Shortbread - made March 27, 2010 from The Baker's Catalog

Although you can't really tell from the picture, this is actually two layers of chocolate chip shortbread sandwiched with caramel. The recipe called for processing chocolate chips into finer pieces but I skipped that stage and just used mini chocolate chips (make life and baking easy on yourself). This was pretty easy to make, if a bit timeconsuming to unwrap all those small caramels before melting them. Do yourself a favor and give the caramel plenty of time to melt, not the 1 minute the recipe says. I melted the caramels while the shortbread was baking then just warmed it up slightly when I took the shortbreads out. I also added a little heavy cream to make the melted caramels a little less thick. You have to sandwich these carefully as when the caramel mixture is still hot, it's much more liquid and the top shortbread can slide right off if you don't hold it in place until it sets a bit. I also used 2 8-inch round cake pans instead of 9-inch rounds and just manually shaped the leftover dough into small shortbread rounds that I later sandwiched together with caramel.

This was rich but pretty good. I skipped the topping of melted caramel and pecans as that seemed a little over the top, even for me. Don't overbake the shortbreads or they'll be almost too tough later when sandwiched with the caramel.

ETA: now that these have cooled completely, I tried one the next day and found it almost impossible to eat. The caramel had hardened too much. I'd advise adding cream or milk to the caramels when you melt them so when they cool, the caramel mixture is still soft, not hard and chewy. Otherwise, you can "salvage" this by warming up the pieces for about 15 seconds in the microwave to soften/melt the caramel. Then they're delicious.


1 cup (2 sticks, 8 ounces) unsalted butter

1 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)

2 1/3 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour 1 cup chocolate chips


8 ounces (a scant 1 cup, packed) vanilla caramel


2/3 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

6 ounces (a scant 3/4 cup, packed) vanilla caramel

1. Preheat the oven to 300°F. Lightly grease two round 9-inch cake pans.
2. In a medium-sized bowl, cream together the butter, salt, sugar, and vanilla. Combine 1 cup of the flour and the chocolate chips in the work bowl of a food processor, and process until the chocolate is chopped; you want the chocolate pieces to be small enough that they don’t poke up out of the dough, as they would in chocolate chip cookies; but large enough that you can still discern them as being individual bits. Combine the rest of the flour and the flour/chocolate mixture with the other ingredients. Divide the dough in half and press it into the prepared pans, smoothing the surface with your fingers. Prick the dough all over with a fork.
3. Bake the shortbread for 35 to 40 minutes, until it’s golden brown around the edges. While the shortbread is baking, place the pecans in a single layer in an ungreased pan, and bake them right along with the shortbread, for about 8 to 10 minutes, until they’re golden brown and smell “toasty.”
4. When the shortbread is done, remove it from the oven, and loosen the edges with a heat-resistant plastic knife or table knife. Allow the shortbread to cool for 5 minutes.
5. OK, pay attention now, because timing is everything from this point forward! You want to work fast enough that you can cut the shortbread while it’s still warm. So—while the shortbread is cooling in the pan, measure out 8 ounces of caramel, and put it in a microwave-safe liquid measuring cup (the spout makes for easy pouring), or in a microwave-safe bowl.
6. After 5 minutes, carefully turn the shortbread, all in one piece, onto a clean work surface. Melt the caramel in the microwave until it’s bubbly; this should take about 1 minute. Pour the melted caramel atop one of the shortbread rounds. Top with the other round, and press down very gently to make a “shortbread sandwich.”
7. Wait 1 minute, for the caramel to set somewhat. Then, using a sharp knife, cut the shortbread round into 12 wedges; first cut it in quarters, then cut each quarter into three pieces. Some of the caramel will ooze out the sides; that’s OK, it makes it look even more luscious! Transfer the wedges to a cooling rack, under which you’ve placed a piece of waxed paper or parchment, to catch caramel drips.
8. Melt the remaining 6 ounces of caramel. Drizzle or spread it atop the wedges. Quickly, while the caramel is hot, sprinkle with the toasted nuts, pressing them into the caramel so they’ll stick. Allow the shortbread to cool completely before serving. Yield: 12 shortbread wedges.

Copyright 2005 The Baker's Catalogue, Inc.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Buttercrunch Melt-a-ways

Buttercrunch Melt-a-ways - made 3.21.10 from Baking by Flavor by Lisa Yockelson

Think of this as similar to a Mexican Wedding Cake (also on my blog as Buttery Tea Balls) - melt-in-your-mouth texture, rolled in powdered sugar but instead of nuts, it has toffee bits inside. It's also rolled in almonds before baking then rolled in powdered sugar - twice - after baking. I didn't have Heath bars to chop up so I used half a bag of the Heath toffee bits. Not sure I would've liked chocolate in these anyway but I may try them again properly with actual chopped-up Heath bars. The cookies don't spread so you can rely on the size of dough you roll out is the size of cookie you're going to get. Don't make these big. They have a high butter content relative to the sugar and flour so these are rich. A bite-size cookie is the perfect size to enjoy these.

2 ¼ cups unsifted bleached all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
½ pound (16 tablespoons or 2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon unsifted confectioners’ sugar
1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon pure almond extract
4 packages (1.4 ounces each) milk chocolate-covered toffee bars (Heath Milk Chocolate English Toffee Bars), finely chopped
About 1 ½ cups finely chopped almonds, for rolling the balls of cookie dough
About 2 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar, for dredging the baked cookies

1. Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Line the cookie sheets with cooking parchment paper; set aside.
2. Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt onto a sheet of waxed paper.
3. In a large mixing bowl, stir the melted butter, confectioners’ sugar, and vanilla and almond extracts, using a wooden spoon or flat wooden paddle. At this point, the sugar will form small speckled clumps in the butter mixture, but as soon as you add the flour, the sugar will disperse.
4. Stir in half of the flour mixture and the chopped candy. Stir in the remaining flour and mix to form a cohesive dough. Let the dough stand for 5 minutes to allow the butter to be absorbed into it. The dough will be moist but reasonably firm and manageable.
5. Place the almonds into a shallow bowl. Spoon out scant tablespoon-size quantities of dough and roll into balls. Roll the balls into the chopped almonds, pressing the nuts in lightly as they are rolled. Arrange the cookie dough balls about 2 inches apart on the lined cookie sheets, placing 12 to 16 on each baking sheet (depending on the size of the sheet).
6. Bake the cookies in the preheated oven for 13 to 15 minutes, or until set, with light golden bottoms. There will be a few thin cracks in the tops. Little bits of chopped candy will puddle at the base of the cookies, here and there.
7. Let the cookies stand on the sheets for 30 seconds, then remove them to cooling racks, using a sturdy, offset metal spatula. As you are removing them, detach any melted bits of candy from the base of the cookies, using a flexible palette knife or tip of a teaspoon. Cool the cookies for 5 to 8 minutes.
8. Line a work surface with waxed paper. Place the confectioners’ sugar in a shallow bowl. Wearing food-safe rubber gloves to protect your hands, carefully roll the cookies, a few at a time, in the sugar to coat, and place on the waxed paper. After 30 minutes, coat the cookies again.

Yield: 2 ½ to 3 dozen cookies

Ultimate Fudge Brownies

Ultimate Fudge Brownies - made 3.19.10 from The Brownie Experience by Lisa Tanner

This is another brownie recipe from my old brownie cookbook from college. This couldn't be simpler to make if you want a straightforward, basic, fudgy brownie. I chopped up Snickers Almond bars and added them to the batter for a little texture instead of nuts (of course). Otherwise you can make this plain. For a recipe that uses 5 ounces of unsweetened chocolate, I expected this to be a little more, well, chocolaty. Lately my brownies haven't had as much of a dark chocolate taste and I wonder if it's because I've been using the 99% cacao bars from World Market. That shouldn't make that much of a difference from regular unsweetened chocolate that's 100% cacao but it seems like I can taste the difference. Oh and I never sift powdered sugar over the brownies like the recipe says - why would you want to interfere with pure chocolate?

5 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1 cup butter, softened
1 ¾ cups brown sugar, packed
5 eggs
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
1 cup flour
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans
Powdered sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350˚F. Butter a 13 x 9 x 2” pan.
2. Melt chocolate; set aside to cool. With wire whisk or hand mixer, cream together butter and sugar. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Add vanilla. Blend in melted chocolate, then flour. Stir in pecans. Spread mixture in pan.
3. Bake 20-30 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan.
4. Sift powdered sugar lightly over top before cutting into bars.

Makes 32 brownies

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Milk Chocolate Brownies

Milk Chocolate Brownies - made March 16, 2010 from The Brownie Experience by Lisa Tanner

The first brownie baking book I ever remember owning was The Brownie Experience by Lisa Tanner. I can't remember if I discovered it on my own or if my then-college housemate and baking partner in crime, Caroline, had brought it to my attention. But at the time I thought it was a marvelous thing - an entire cookbook just on brownies. The world was such a good place. I've made a fair number of recipes from this book but not lately. Having been on a nostalgia kick lately, brought on by looking for old family pictures, I decided to dust off this baking book that I've owned for more than 20 years and resurrect some of the recipes. I don't know if this is even still in print or not.

The one I made last night were the Milk Chocolate Brownies. Funny thing about milk chocolate - I love it in cookies and as chocolate chips and candy. But for a rich, decadent, fudgy brownie, I prefer to use dark chocolate or unsweetened chocolate. The milk chocolate is good and these brownies are fudgy and chewy but they're (logically enough) more sweet and somehow less chocolaty. Only a truly dark chocolate makes my brownie of choice.

However, these aren't bad - I just have a high bar for brownies. They disappeared fast enough from the communal kitchen at work so people must've liked them. The recipe calls for baking in a 9" pan but I made them in an 8" pan to make them a little thicker. Watch the baking time on these. I didn't go by what the recipe said and baked them a little longer since I used a smaller pan. You'll know they're done when a toothpick inserted at the edge comes out clean but inserted in the middle it comes out with moist crumbs clinging to it, not raw batter (unlike what the recipe says). The edges rise higher than the middle as the middle will sink once you take it out - that's okay. You don't want to overbake them to the point that the middle is as done as the edges.

¾ cup flour
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup butter
¾ cup sugar
2 tbsp milk or cream
2 cups milk chocolate chips
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
1 cup chopped nuts
powdered sugar

1. Preheat oven to 325˚F. Butter a 9” square pan.
2. In a small bowl, combine flour, salt and baking soda; set aside.
3. In a small saucepan, melt butter, sugar and milk or cream together over low heat, stirring constantly. Bring mixture just to boiling them remove from heat and immediately stir in 1 cup of the chocolate chips and vanilla. Stir until chips melt and mixture is smooth. Transfer to a large bowl.
4. Beat in eggs, 1 at a time. Blend in flour mixture. Fold in remaining chips and nuts.
5. Spread batter evenly in pan. Bake 30-35 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Snickerdoodles from the Sweet Melissa Baking Book

Snickerdoodles - made March 15, 2010 from the
Sweet Melissa Baking Book
A recipe for Snickerdoodles first caught my eye when I was a teenager and I had to make them just because I liked the name. Then I kept on making them because I liked the cookies. Like the chocolate chip cookie, snickerdoodle recipes are generally the same sugar cookie variation with the addition of cream of tartar and then being rolled in cinnamon sugar before baking. I have several good recipes for snickerdoodles and I like them all but my main problem with the recipes I've tried is they've all spread out too much. They've all tasted great but the better ones tend to spread too thin. So does this one. I made the cookie dough balls a little big (hey, go big or go home) and they spread and puffed out nicely but then they also fell flat once I took them out of the oven. It could be because I underbaked them slightly but they tasted better that way. Don't crowd these on the baking sheet or they will just run together. Give them at least 2-3 inches of breathing room when you bake them.

My favorite "store-bought" snickerdoodle is from Specialty's - theirs are not only big but they stay thick. Someday I'm going to have to figure out how they do that.

For the dough
½ pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 ½ cups sugar
2 large eggs
2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon kosher salt

For the cinnamon sugar
1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ cup sugar

1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until smooth, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the eggs and mix until combined.
2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt. Add to the butter mixture and mix on low speed until combined. The dough will be soft and too sticky to roll. Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.
3. Position a rack in the top and bottom thirds of your oven. Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper or aluminum foil.
4. For the cinnamon sugar: Combine the cinnamon and sugar in a small bowl.
5. Using a 1-ounce cookie scoop, or a tablespoon, shape the dough into balls and then roll them in the cinnamon sugar.
6. Place the cookies 2 inches apart on the prepared cookie sheets. Flatten them slightly with your fingertips so that they stay put. Bake for about 12 to 13 minutes, or until the bottoms are slightly golden in color. These cookies are supposed to be chewy so do not overbake. Remove to a wire rack to cool.

Cream Cheese Sugar Cookies

Cream Cheese Sugar Cookies - made March 13, 2010

My friend Karen sent me the link to this recipe from a blog Karen loves cream cheese and feels "it should be its own food group". I'm not as avid a cream cheese fan and one thing you'll likely never find on this blog is a recipe for cheesecake since I don't care for it. However, I can take cream cheese in small doses and mixed with other ingredients so this recipe seemed like a good candidate to try.

I don't normally make sugar cookies or cut-out cookies that often, simply because they're a PITA to make. All that rolling, flouring, cutting, re-rolling, cutting some more, flouring again - you get the picture. Most doughs also hate me when I roll them out and try to stick to the rolling pin and the cutting board so I end up having to use more flour to prevent sticking and then the said dough can get tough or dry from too much handling and too much flour. I hate that. So I cheat when it comes to cut out cookies and instead of rolling out the dough to some impossibly consistent thinness/thickness all around, I roll into a (fairly) uniform log, freeze it, then cut into round slices. Voila - instant cookies all ready to bake. Okay, yeah, the Pillsbury dough boy had the idea first but imitation is the sincerest form of flattery after all.

The recipe for this says to bake it for 7-10 minutes until the bottoms are golden brown and that the trick was to take them out when they were slightly underdone and let them finish baking on the hot cookie sheet. I left these in there for 15 minutes and they were still underdone. I should've left them in longer until I did see them turn slightly golden brown on the bottom but I was paranoid about following the directions. However, once they were cool, turns out I was right and they were underdone. You can even tell by the picture because the cookies still look doughy. The taste was pretty good and the texture was nice and chewy. You can't really taste the cream cheese. But the next batch I'm going with my instincts and leaving them in the oven until I feel like they really are done.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Chicken Breasts With(out) Grapes

Chicken Breasts with Grapes - made March 10, 2010

We’d gotten some good news about my uncle today so I’m finally feeling up to updating my blog once again so I’m now caught up with this entry.

This is another recipe back from my undergrad days where I probably cooked once in a blue moon and wasn’t good at it so I needed the simplest recipes possible. This is one of them. I have it written out on a recipe card so I have no idea where the original recipe came from. You’ll notice that although the title is Chicken Breasts with Grapes, there are actually no grapes in the picture. For one thing, it’s not grape season so they probably wouldn’t taste good even if I had included them. For another, I generally don’t like fruit mixed up in savory dishes so I wouldn’t have added them anyway. A simple way to describe this dish is chicken breasts in an orange-flavored cream sauce. I don’t eat marmalade “straight” but like it well enough added to the cream. The beauty of this recipe is its ease of preparation. Pound the chicken breasts with a meat mallet to tenderize them, sprinkle with the salt and nutmeg, brown, cook, make the sauce, serve. The nutmeg and tarragon complement each other well with the cream and marmalade. I didn't cook down the sauce as much as it was still a lot liquidy when I took it off the heat because I didn't want to reduce it too much and be left with little sauce. Next time I would brown the chicken breasts a little more. I might've had a bit too much light butter to fry them in as they just bubbled but didn't really brown before I added the wine, tarragon and marmalade.

3 whole chicken breasts (6 halves, about 3 lbs) (I used 2 whole chicken breasts for 1 sauce recipe)
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
1 tablespoon orange marmalade
¼ teaspoon crumbled tarragon
1 green onion, thinly sliced
1/3 cup dry white wine
1 cup seedless grapes
¼ cup whipping cream

1. Sprinkle chicken breasts with salt and nutmeg. Brown lightly in heated butter in a large frying pan.
2. Cover, reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes; add grapes, cover again and continue cooking about 10 minutes longer, until chicken is cooked through.
3. Using a slotted spoon, remove chicken and grapes to a warm serving dish; keep warm. Add cream to liquid in pan. Bring to a boil, stirring, and cook until reduced and slightly thickened. Salt to taste. Pour sauce over chicken.

Serves 4-6

Pralines and Cream Pecan Caramel Muffins

Pralines and Cream Pecan Caramel Muffins - made March 9, 2010 from A Passion for Baking by Marcy Goldman

When I first read this recipe, it had a dream-like quality of ingredient combinations. You fill the muffin tins half full with the muffin batter, add a squirt of butterscotch topping (in my case I used dulce de leche), cover with a cream cheese batter and top with a brown sugar butterscotch pecan streusel. Yum.

Their appearance isn’t exactly magazine-cover worthy. I think the dulce de leche was too heavy, even though I only scooped a small amount to rest in the middle. It sank into the muffin batter, creating a “black hole” that was followed down by some of the cream cheese batter and definitely a lot of the streusel. That concentration of the streusel actually makes it almost too sweet so if you don’t have a sweet tooth, I’d advise making only half the streusel amount and sprinkling sparingly. Despite that though, these were delicious. The muffin part had a tender crumb, the cream cheese part wasn’t too overwhelming and I’m a sucker for the dulce de leche and the streusel. The recipe calls for filling large muffin tins but I used the regular size muffin tins and was able to make 21 muffins from it. I ran out of cream cheese batter for the last 3 muffins so consider that these would make a dozen and a half normal muffins. If I make these again, I wouldn’t fill the muffin cavities so much since this isn’t something you want to overflow and make a big muffin top of since the cream cheese part doesn’t rise that much. I might actually try them in the molten chocolate cake pan where I make my little basque cakes – they might come out a little prettier.

Lastly, I didn’t bake these as long as the recipe said. I think I had them in the oven 20 minutes max. They didn’t need to bake as long since I was making them in the regular muffin pan, not the large size ones.

Pecan Streusel Topping
1 cup finely chopped pecans
2 tablespoons white sugar
½ cup firmly packed brown sugar
3 tablespoons butterscotch or caramel chips, optional
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into chunks

Cream Cheese Batter
6 ounces cream cheese
1 large egg
¼ cup sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Muffin Batter
½ cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
½ cup white sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk or plain yogurt
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1/3 cup very finely chopped pecans
12 squirts of butterscotch or caramel sundae topping, optional

1. Preheat oven to 375˚F. Arrange oven rack to middle third position. Line a 12-cup large muffin pan with paper liners and generously spray liners with nonstick cooking spray. Place pan on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet.
2. For Pecan Streusel Topping, in a food processor, grind nuts, both sugars and butterscotch chips, if desired, to make a fine meal. Add butter and pulse to blend. Put mixture into a mixing bowl. (This is a fine, gravelly streusel.)
3. Without cleaning food processor bowl, blend Cream Cheese Topping ingredients well and then spoon out into another bowl.
4. For Muffin Batter, blend butter with both sugars in food processor until well blended; then add egg and vanilla and mix well. Add buttermilk, flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and nuts and blend well, making sure no unblended sugar or butter is stuck in bottom of bowl.
5. Scoop some batter into each muffin cup, filling about half full. Squirt on some sundae topping. Spoon on some Cream Cheese Topping and then carefully add streusel.
6. Bake 30 to 35 minutes until muffins seem firm to the touch when gently pressed with fingertips. Let cool 5 minutes before removing from pan.

Honey-Lime Marinated London Broil

Honey-Lime Marinated London Broil - made March 8, 2010 from The Most Decadent Diet Ever by Devin Alexander

This is probably one of the easiest recipes from Devin Alexander’s The Most Decadent Diet Ever which makes it just right for me. I took a few liberties with it though. First I didn’t have limes but had plenty of lemons so I substituted that ingredient. Second, I couldn’t find London broil at Trader Joe’s last weekend so I got NY tenderloin instead. Third, I don’t have a grill so I ended up pan-frying it. Overall, it was pretty flavorful. I’m ignorant about most cuts of meat other than instinctually recognizing that the more expensive it is, the more tender it’s likely to be. The tenderloin wasn’t as tender as the name would imply but it was fine. I didn’t feel like I was chewing leather or anything. The hard part for me when it comes to frying steaks is I don’t like them bloody rare but it’s hard to tell how done they are without cutting into them and letting all the juices run out. This ended up a bit more rare than I would like but that was okay since when I reheat it as leftovers, it cooks a bit more. The marinade gave it some nice flavor as well.

Next time I make this, I’m going to slice the beef into strips before hand, tenderize them with a few whacks of the meat mallet, then marinade them overnight. Then it’s more a matter of a quick stir fry.

¼ cup fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon honey
2 tablespoons minced fresh garlic
1 teaspoon salt
1 ¼ pounds trimmed London broil (top round steak)

1. Whisk the lime juice, olive oil, and honey in a small bowl. Stir in the garlic and salt.
2. Place the steak in a large resealable plastic bag. Pour in the marinade. Seal the bag and rotate it so the steak is covered with the marinade. Place the bag in the refrigerator and marinate the steak for at least 6 hours or overnight, rotating it occasionally, if possible.
3. Preheat a grill to high.
4. Remove the steak from the marinade and place it on the grill. Grill for 4 to 6 minutes per side for medium-rare or until the desired doneness is reached. Place the steak on a plate or cutting board, cover loosely with foil and let stand for 10 minutes. Slice into thin slices against the grain and serve immediately or refrigerate the uncut steak in an airtight container and slice it just before serving.

Serves 4

Rosie's Chocolate Chip Cookies

Rosie's Chocolate Chip Cookies - made dough February 27, 2010, baked at random times, from All-Butter, Fresh-Cream, Sugar-Packed Baking Book by Rosie's Bakery

One of my top comfort foods is a warm chocolate chip cookie, 10 minutes out of the oven, preferably eaten with a scoop of vanilla ice cream melting over it. Last week I needed all the comfort I could get so it was no surprise that I chose to try yet another chocolate chip cookie recipe. This is from Rosie’s Bakery book so I figured it would be pretty decent. It was, although it really is just another variation to the standard Tollhouse chocolate chip cookie recipe. I made the dough and froze it into rather generous-sized cookie dough balls for baking later. The cookies spread more than I would consider successful and their taste was the typical chocolate chip cookie taste. Nothing against it but it’s not a standout. I’d file this under “ramekin” cookie, meaning I’d bake future batches one dough ball at a time in a small, individual-size ramekin and have for dessert whenever I needed one.

2 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon (lightly packed) light brown sugar
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 ½ cups semisweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 375˚F. Line several cookie sheets with parchment paper or grease them lightly with butter or vegetable oil.
2. Sift the flour, baking soda and salt together into a small bowl and set aside.
3. Using an electric mixer on medium speed, cream the butter, both sugars, and the vanilla together in a medium-size bowl until light and fluffy, 1 ½ to 2 minutes. Stop the mixer twice to scrape the bowl with a rubber spatula.
4. Add the eggs and beat on medium speed until they are blended, about 30 seconds. Scrape the bowl.
5. Add the dry ingredients and mix on low speed for 15 seconds. Scrape the bowl.
6. Add the chocolate chips and blend until they are mixed in, 5 to 8 seconds.
7. Drop the dough by generously rounded tablespoonfuls (the equivalent of 3 level teaspoons) 2 inches apart onto the prepared cookie sheets.
8. Bake the cookies until the edges are dark golden and the center is light and slightly puffed up, 11 to 12 minutes. Remove the cookies from the oven and allow them to cool on the sheets. These are best eaten the same day they are baked.

Makes 24 large cookies.

Rhondalyn's Italian Cream Cake

Rhondalyn's Italian Cream Cake - made March 2, 2010 from Rhondalyn (pugw)

One of my fitness friends, Rhondalyn, shared this recipe with me for Italian Cream Cake. The traditional Italian Cream Cake is apparently generally a three-layer cake with cream cheese frosting, unlike the version I posted earlier baked in a Bundt pan. I still don’t know what the difference is between an Italian Cream Cake and a coconut layer cake with cream cheese frosting. Perhaps it’s a regional nomenclature thing?

In any case, I tried out Rhondalyn’s recipe and it came out pretty well. The cake itself has a nice texture – more dense than a sponge cake but not as dense as a pound cake. I adore coconut so I loved the taste.

I made this on a day I was heavily distracted by my uncle’s situation (this was after we’d been told by the doctors that he was likely so brain damaged that he wouldn’t wake up or respond to anything and would need life support and before he woke up when they took him off life support later that same day). So I can be excused for mixing up this batter and was about to pour it into the pans when I realized I’d forgotten to add the coconut. Sigh. I did leave out the nuts but that was deliberate. I also did a bit of a whack job on the frosting as you can tell from the picture so I didn’t make this on a good baking day. Despite my neglect though, this came out well.

Note that Rhondalyn’s ingredient list calls for oil but the directions mention shortening, not oil. I asked her which one it was supposed to be and she said it could be either but that she prefers the shortening version. I made this one with shortening but am interested in trying it with oil to see if/how that would affect the taste and texture. This is actually similar to my Coconut Cake recipe from the Mrs. Fields' baking book.

½ cup butter, softened
½ cup oil
2 cups sugar
5 large eggs, separated
1 Tbsp vanilla
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup flaked coconut
1 cup nuts

8 oz cream cheese
½ cup butter, softened
1 Tbsp vanilla
16 oz powdered sugar

1. Beat butter and shortening on medium until fluffy. Gradually add sugar, beating well. Add egg yolks one at a time, beating until blended after each addition. Add vanilla, beating until blended.
2. Combine flour and soda. Add to mixture alternating with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat on low until blended and stir in coconut and nuts.
3. Beat egg whites until stiff peak forms and fold in batter.
4. Pour batter into 3 greased and floured 9 inch round cake pans. Bake at 350˚F for 25 minutes.
Cream Cheese Frosting
1. Beat cream cheese, butter and vanilla a medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy.
2. Add powdered sugar, beating at low speed until blended. Beat frosting at high speed until smooth.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Butterscotch Lemon Cookies

Butterscotch Lemon Cookies - made February 28, 2010 from The Nestle Tollhouse Recipe Collection

We'd had some bad news about my uncle this past weekend and were visiting him and his family in the hospital so I baked a batch of these cookies to take to them. Fortunately I had made the dough for this a week ago and had it in the freezer so all I had to do was bake them off. Otherwise I was pretty much a wreck, baking-wise, as I proved with other attempts. I always maintain that baking helps me cope with things and de-stress from work and life. I found that's only true if I'm not on complete emotional overload. When I am, I'm too distracted to bake properly because I'm literally not paying attention to what I'm doing. I tried to use baking as a coping mechanism this time and it just wasn't working. I forgot to put chocolate chips in red velvet cookies that I made, I added too much cinnamon to an apple cobbler recipe that didn't even call for cinnamon at all and when I made a coconut cake, I didn't remember that I hadn't added coconut until I was about to pour the batter into the cake pans. Ugh.

These cookies survived my distraction because the dough was already made and I was careful to pay attention to the baking time since I didn't want the cookies messed up since I was taking them to my aunt and my cousin while we visited my uncle in the hospital. Not that they were really eating but I couldn't offer them raw or burnt cookies. This recipe is pretty easy to make and turned out pretty well. They didn't spread too much and the butterscotch and lemon flavors make a nice combination. The only change I would make next time is to cut back on the butterscotch morsels or use mini butterscotch morsels so they don't compete so much with the lemon flavor.

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup sugar
½ cup butter, softened
1 egg
2 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
¾ of 12-ounce package (1 ½ cups) butterscotch-flavored morsels

1. Preheat oven to 375˚F. In small bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside. In large bowl, combine sugar and butter; beat well.
2. Add egg, milk, lemon juice and lemon rind; beat well. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in butterscotch-flavored morsels.
3. Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls onto greased cookie sheets. Bake at 375˚F for 8-10 minutes. Allow to stand 2 minutes before removing from cookie sheets. Cool completely on wire racks.

Gooey Caramel Butter Bars

Gooey Caramel Butter Bars - made February 26, 2010 from Sticky, Messy, Chewy, Gooey

I haven't blogged for a bit because I've been dealing with some traumatic events. I'm hoping things are better now and continue to be. Before the trauma happened, I had made this recipe which is essentially a butter shortbread sandwiched with pecans and caramel. And yes, it's as sweet and gooey as it sounds. It's always promising to have the words "gooey", "caramel" and "butter" in the same title. I toasted the pecans for this and brought out their flavor. Next time I think I'll try with macadamia nuts though. Nothing goes better with a buttery shortbread than toasted macadamia nuts.

I baked the bottom crust a little longer than called for as it still seemed too pale and underdone at 20 minutes. I think I left it in for about 30 minutes although that might've been too long since you continue to still bake the bottom layer once you add the nuts, caramel and top layer. Overall this is pretty good but like most of the recipes I post, not for the calorie conscious.

For the crust
1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon salt
4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

For the filling
1 bag (14 ounces) caramel candies (about 50 individual caramels) unwrapped
1/3 cup heavy cream
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 to 2 tablespoons dark rum (optional)
Pinch of salt
1 cup pecans, walnuts or cashews (optional)
Confectioners; sugar for dusting (optional)

1. To make the crust: in a large bowl, combine the butter and sugars. Using an electric mixer set at medium speed, beat together until creamy. Add the vanilla and salt and beat until combined. Sift the flour into the butter mixture and beat on low speed until a smooth, soft dough forms.
2. Spray a 9 x 13-inch baking pan lightly with nonstick cooking spray. Press one third of the dough evenly into the pan to form a bottom crust. Pat the remaining dough into a flat disk and wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, at least 30 minutes.
3. Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 325˚F. Bake until firm and the edges are a pale golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool.
4. While the bottom crust is baking and the remaining dough is chilling, make the caramel filling. Place the unwrapped caramels in a microwave-safe bowl. Add the cream, vanilla, rum (if using), and salt. Microwave on high for 1 minute. Remove from the microwave and stir until smooth. If caramels are not completely melted, microwave on high for 30-second intervals, stirring after each interval until smooth.
5. Sprinkle the nuts (if using) over the bottom crust. Pour the caramel filling over the nuts, using a small metal spatula to nudge the filling evenly over the crust. Remove the remaining chilled dough from the refrigerator and crumble it evenly over the caramel. Return the pan to the oven and bake until the filling is bubbly and the crumbled shortbread topping is firm and lightly golden, about 30 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.
6. Use a sharp knife to cut the bars evenly into 15 large squares. Remove the bars from the pan with a metal spatula and, if desired, cut in half on the diagonal to form 30 triangular bars. Dust with confectioners’ sugar, if desired.
7. The bars will keep, covered tightly at room temperature, for about 1 week, or in the freezer for up to 1 month.