Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Brown Sugar Pound Cake

Brown Sugar Pound Cake - made August 29, 2010 from Southern Cakes by Nancie McDermott

This is a good twist on a traditional butter pound cake. The sweetener is predominantly brown sugar so it has a nice butterscotch/caramel flavor. It also has that perfect pound cake texture for those of you who like hearty cakes. It would make a great picnic cake or, if you wanted to dress it up a bit, you could glaze it with a caramel glaze. Although there's also something to be said for leaving it plain and being able to warm it up later if you wanted. But you might want to slice the cake a bit thin if you don't want to overdo. I like pound cakes but if you eat too much, they have a tendency to sit like a lump in your stomach once you've consumed them. Must be all that butter....

3 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup milk
1 ½ cups (3 sticks) butter, softened
One 1-pound box (about 2 ¾ cups) dark or light brown sugar
½ cup sugar
5 eggs

1. Heat the oven to 325˚F. Grease and flour a 10-inch tube pan, or two 9 x 5-inch loaf pans.
2. Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl and stir with a fork to mix well. Stir the vanilla into the milk and set aside.
3. In a large bowl, beat the butter with a mixer at high speed until light and fluffy. Add the brown sugar in three batches, and then add all of the white sugar, beating well after each addition.
4. Add the eggs, one by one, beating well after each addition. Add half the flour, and then half the milk, beating at low speed only until the flour or milk disappears into the batter. Add in the rest of the flour, and then the remaining milk, in the same way.
5. Quickly scrape the batter into the prepared pan, and baked at 325˚F for 1 hour and 10 minutes (55 to 60 minutes for loaf pans), or until the cake is nicely browned at the edges, springs back when touched lightly at the center, and a wooden skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.
6. Cool the cake in the pan on a wire rack or a folded kitchen towel for 20 to 30 minutes. Loosen the cake from the pan with a table knife and turn it out onto a wire rack or a plate to cool completely, top side up.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Mountain Meadow Chocolate Fudge Cake

Mountain Meadow Chocolate Fudge Cake - made August 17, 2010 from Sticky, Messy, Chewy, Gooey

You can rarely go wrong with a chocolate cake from a recipe book with this name. You bake the cake for a relatively short time at a high temperature, frost it while it's warm and let the frosting melt into the cake. It lives up to its name in being gooey. It's important not to overbake this cake since it's baked at 400 degrees. I was hovering around my oven and a toothpick inserted in the center that came out with the slightest bit of batter one minute was done and coming out almost clean in the next minute. Take it out in that next minute.

The main thing to watch for with the frosting is because you make it while the cake is baking and it's likely warm when you use it and put over the hot cake, the butter will have a tendency to separate out a bit. No worries - just blot it carefully to take off the shine or any little "pools" of butter in the frosting. If you don't, when the cake and frosting cool, you'll see the butter solidify on top. That's not very appetizing. Then again, once people taste this cake, they may not care. It was a rough day at work and I'll be the first to say this is excellent comfort food. And yeah, try this while it's warm.

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 cup boiling water
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
2 cups sugar
½ cup buttermilk
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

For the fudge-pecan icing
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/3 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
3 to 4 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 ½ cups chopped pecans, toasted

1. Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 400˚F. Brush a 9 x 13-inch baking pan with melted butter or spray with a nonstick cooking spray.
2. Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together into a large bowl and set aside.
3. Combine the butter, boiling water, and chocolate in a saucepan. Place the saucepan over medium-low heat, and whisk gently until the butter and chocolate are melted and the mixture is smooth. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the sugar. Quickly whisk in the buttermilk and then the eggs and vanilla. Using an electric mixer set at medium speed, beat the chocolate mixture into the dry ingredients just until combined and a smooth batter forms, about 1 minute.
4. Pour the batter immediately into the prepared pan. Bake until the cake starts to pull away from the sides of the pan and a wooden skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes.
5. Meanwhile, make the icing: combine the chocolate, butter, buttermilk in a saucepan and cook, stirring over medium heat, until the chocolate is melted. Remove from the heat and whisk in the vanilla, salt and 3 cups of the sifted confectioners sugar. If you would like the icing sweeter and thicker, whisk in the remaining confectioners sugar to taste. Stir in the pecans.
6. Transfer the cake to a wire rack and pour the warm icing over the cake while it, too, is still warm in the pan. Let cool completely, then cut into squares and serve.

Hershey's Old-Fashioned Chocolate Cake

Hershey's Old-Fashioned Chocolate Cake - made August 13, 2010 from a newspaper clipping in the Sunday coupon section

This is one of those recipes I've had for so long that I don't remember where exactly I got it from. But it looks like I clipped it from the coupon section of the Sunday paper so I suspect it was part of an ad for a Hershey's product, likely Hershey's cocoa since that's one of the ingredients in the recipe. It's really easy to make as it's just stir, pour and bake. Since it's made with water, it's not particularly rich. I made it with Hershey's cocoa in honor of the title but I don't find Hershey's cocoa that rich-tasting in baking so the cake itself didn't seem very rich. It was good but not take-the-top-of-your-head-off chocolatey. The texture was fine.

I didn't add all the milk in the frosting as it seemed like it was at a good consistency when there was still a little milk left in the measuring cup. However that turned out to be a bit of a mistake unless you like your frosting the consistency of fudge because once the frosting had cooled, it was more like a block of fudge on top of a cake. Nothing wrong with that but if you like traditionally creamy frosting, add all the milk. I had the taste test piece at room temperature but later on, in thinking I didn't want a block of fudge as the frosting, I heated up another piece about 15-20 seconds in the microwave. I didn't want to melt the frosting, just soften it a bit. Holy chocolate orgasm, Batman - turns out that makes this cake absolutely fantastic. The bottom layer of the frosting closest to the cake melts a bit, the top stays intact and the cake is warm. Deelish. Try it.

¾ cup butter or margarine
1 2/3 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup cocoa
1 ¼ teaspoons baking soda
¼ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cups water

1. Heat oven to 350˚F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round baking pans or one 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking pan.
2. In large mixer bowl, combine butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla. Beat on high speed 3 minutes.
3. Combine flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt; add alternately with water to butter mixture. Blend just until combined.
4. Pour into prepared pans. Bake 30 to 35 minutes, or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans. Cool completely; frost with chocolate frosting.

8 to 10 servings

Hershey’s Chocolate Frosting

2 cups (12-ounce package) Hershey’s semisweet chocolate chips
2 cups powdered sugar
2/3 cup evaporated milk

1. In a small microwave-safe bowl, place chocolate chips. Microwave on high (100%) 1 ½ minutes; stir.
2. Microwave on High additional 30 seconds or until melted and smooth when stirred. Chips may also be melted in pan over warm water.
3. Gradually add powdered sugar and evaporated milk, beating until smooth. About 2 ½ cups frosting.


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Kara's Blondie Brownies

Kara's Blondie Brownies - made August 8, 2010 from Tate's Bake Shop

I love this brownie because it’s a simple yet brilliant combination at the same time. The bottom layer is a chocolate chip cookie layer and the top layer is a chocolate brownie layer. Nothing could be simpler. It takes a little more time to put together but it’s not complicated. Make the first batch like you’re making chocolate chip cookie dough, spread it evenly on the bottom then make the brownie batter and spread on top of the chocolate chip cookie layer. It works better to have the chocolate chip cookie layer on the bottom because it’s heavier and more like a dough whereas the brownie layer is more fluid/liquid and truly a batter. If you did it the other way around, the brownie batter is so soft that you wouldn’t be able to spread the (stiffer) chocolate chip cookie dough on top of it without it sinking and mixing in with the brownie.

I used regular-size chocolate chips when I first made these but I’ve found that mini chocolate chips work better for the chocolate chip cookie layer – they’re not quite so chunky. Definitely don’t overbake these! The toothpick inserted near the center should come out with a few moist crumbs (not raw batter) but shouldn’t come out “clean”. Clean means potentially overbaked = dry.

2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup salted butter, softened to room temperature
1 ¾ cups firmly packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup chopped pecans
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

¾ cup all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup salted butter
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons water
2 large eggs

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9 x 13-inch baking pan.
2. To make the blondies: In a large bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
3. In another large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until they are light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until they are well blended. Mix in the vanilla. Stir in the flour mixture until it is well blended. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Fold in the pecans and chocolate chips. Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan. Set it aside.

Note: Use a 9-inch square pan if you just want to make blondies.

4. To make the brownies: In a small bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda and salt.
5. In a large bowl, combine the chocolate chips and vanilla.
6. In a saucepan, combine the butter, sugar and water. Bring the mixture just to a boil. Pour the hot mixture over the chips and stir them until they are melted. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the flour mixture and mix it till it is just combined.
7. Pour the mixture over the blondie mixture and spread it evenly.
8. Bake the brownies for 30 to 35 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out with a moist crumb. You don’t want to overbake these brownies. When they are cool, cut them into squares.

Yield: 24 bars

"Mrs. Fields" Chocolate Chip Cookies

"Mrs. Fields" Chocolate Chip Cookies - made August 3, 2010 from www.topsecretrecipes.com

When Mrs. Fields first opened shop many years ago, I became an instant fan. The cookies were fresh and warm, she offered my favorite milk chocolate chip cookie without nuts, they were of a thickness that I approved of (prior to this I had been baking the Nestle Tollhouse recipe and making do with flat cookies) and they smelled so good. Plus her cookie stands were located at the mall and me likey the mall.

My palate has become more sophisticated since then and Mrs. Fields’ Cookies much more commonplace. My cookie allegiance these days are more with Specialty’s or what comes out of my own oven. However, I have a sentimental soft spot for Mrs. Fields’ Cookies (although since her divorce from Mr. Fields, she’s technically not “Mrs. Fields” anymore…..but I digress) since she launched around the time I was really getting into baking. There was a time in my baking life when I obsessed with copying her cookie. I bought her autobiography and read her story on how she got started. I bought her cookbooks when they came out. But I could never really replicate her cookies, not even with her cookbook recipes or with the tips she says she uses with her cookies. I was going more for the thickness of the cookie rather than the taste and could never duplicate it, no matter which recipe I tried. Of course now I know having a convection oven helps but at the time I kept thinking if I could just find the right recipe, I could hit it. In my quest, I found this recipe from http://www.topsecretrecipes.com. I’m sure I made it at the time but have no memory of how it turned out so I made it again last week.

Hmm, no, once again, not like a Mrs. Fields’ cookie. It spread too much. But it tasted like a good standard chocolate chip cookie so if you’re looking for one, you can add this as another variation of the original Tollhouse chocolate chip cookie. I made the cookie dough and froze the dough balls then baked a batch to take into work (yes, they liked it). I still have some cookie dough in the freezer so when I want/need dessert after dinner, I throw a dough ball into a little ramekin and bake it off. To be topped with a little scoop of ice cream and eaten warm. In the ramekin, it’s not allowed to spread and tastes just fine. Oh, one last note - the recipe says to bake for only 9-10 minutes and that you might be tempted to leave it in there for longer but you should take it out as it'll continue cooking on the cookie sheet. Use your judgment. At 10 minutes, these were still raw looking so I baked them a few minutes longer before I took them out. They were still underbaked but more the way I like them.

1 cup (2 sticks) softened butter
½ cup granulated sugar
1 ½ cups packed brown sugar
2 eggs
2 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 ½ twelve-ounce bags semisweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350˚F.
2. In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter, sugars, eggs and vanilla.
3. In another bowl, mix together the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda.
4. Combine the wet and dry ingredients.
5. Stir in the chocolate chips.
6. With your fingers, place golf ball-sized dough portions 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.
7. Bake for 9-10 minutes or just until edges are light brown.

Makes 30 cookies

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Peanut Butter Cup Cake

Peanut Butter Cup Cake - made August 1, 2010

This is another recipe I got from my fitness friend, Tanya. Note this is a peanut butter cup cake, not a peanut butter cupcake. Hence the peanut butter cups:

Tanya's recipe calls for making this as a 9" two-layer cake but I've already packed away my round cake pans so I made it in a bundt pan instead. Since the base of the cake is a cake mix, this was really easy to mix together. You have to bake it longer if you use a bundt pan instead of splitting between two round cake pans. I think I baked this for around 45-50 minutes.

As it cooled, I made the ganache. When I was in culinary school, one of my classmates, who had worked as a pastry chef before, had a tendency not to follow the directions our chef instructors gave us. No matter what, she usually did her own thing. Something I found baffling sometimes because then it makes you wonder why go to school if you're not going to do as instructed? But in the making of ganache, I confess, I like her method better. Ganache is essentially melted chocolate and cream whisked together. The traditional method and the one I was taught in school was to heat the cream to boiling and pour over chopped chocolate then to let the heat of the cream melt the chocolate before whisking together to make a smooth ganache. For some reason, I don't like this method. You have to take the time to chop the chocolate and sometimes the ganache doesn't come out evenly if the cream isn't hot enough or you don't whisk fast enough to melt it completely.

My classmate's method (which drove our chef instructors crazy, lol) was to melt the chocolate then take a little bit of cream and whisk into the chocolate. At first the chocolate "seizes" as liquid is added to it and it looks like the whole thing is going to solidify and be a wreck. But you just have to keep whisking and adding the cream a little at a time and you'll end up with a pretty smooth ganache. If you're risk-averse, go with the traditional method in the recipe but this other method also works pretty well. Just remember to keep whisking.

Tanya, a true peanut butter and chocolate aficionado, says she uses double the amount of peanut butter cups that the recipe calls for. I only had one bag of peanut butter cups so my cake turned out much more modest than hers.

You can't really see the peanut butter cups that got mixed into the cake itself - they're there but they blended in pretty well with the cake.

If you like peanut butter and chocolate, this is a good cake. My coworkers liked it - a lot, judging by how fast these disappeared from our communal kitchen on my floor. Next time though, I think I'm going to try it with a devil's food cake from scratch instead of a mix. I'll probably wait until I move, settle in and unpack so I can make it as a real two-layer cake. If you make this as a bundt cake, be warned that you don't need all that ganache. Probably 2/3 of the recipe will do. I personally am not a ganache fan as it's not sweet enough for me and I don't care for the texture as much as with regular frosting so I might change up the frosting too.

Peanut Butter Cup Cake

1 devil’s food cake mix
3 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
½ cup vegetable oil
2 cups chopped peanut butter cups (plus more for garnishing – I used 2 bags)
8 oz. dark chocolate, chopped
1 cup heavy cream
½ cup peanut butter
1. Preheat oven to 350˚F. Coat two 9-inch cake pans with non-stick cooking spray. Line with wax paper and coat paper.
2. In a large bowl, beat cake mix, eggs, buttermilk and vegetable oil on low for 30 seconds. Increase speed to medium-high and beat for 2 minutes. Scrape down sides after 1 minute. Fold in 2 cups of the chopped peanut butter cups.
3. Pour batter into pans and bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean.
4. Cool cakes completely.
5. Place chopped dark chocolate in a medium bowl. Bring cream just to a boil and then pour over chocolate. Whisk until chocolate melts. Add peanut butter and whisk until smooth.
6. Trim each cake layer so the tops are flat. Place one layer on a cooling rack and pour 1 cup frosting on top. Spread evenly with a spatula. Add second layer and pour remaining frosting over top and sides of cake. Smooth out with spatula.
7. Allow frosting to set for a minute and gently press remaining chopped peanut butter cup pieces all over top and sides of cake. Place in refrigerator for about an hour to set. Remove and serve.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Lemon Doodles

Lemon Doodles - made July 30, 2010 from Land O Lakes Cookies book

You have to try this recipe just for the name alone. Not to mention it garnered my parents' highest praise: "It's not too sweet." Lemon Doodles are not to be confused with the more common Snickerdoodles. These are not sugar-butter cookies rolled in cinnamon sugar. Rather, they're lemon butter (or sugar) cookies with coconut. There isn't enough coconut to really call them a coconut cookie but the coconut does add to the chewiness making them very good. You know my taste buds are jaded so when I like a cookie, I like a cookie.

My only issue with these cookies is that they spread out. They puff a bit during baking and look promising but once you take them out of the oven and they cool, they deflate. It's not a dealbreaker since the taste and texture are still pretty good but this is definitely one I want to bake again once I have my convection oven and see if I can minimize the spread. I underbaked them slightly but they would be better baked just right - the edges are crisp and the middles are nice and chewy with a great lemon flavor that isn't overwhelming. And they couldn't be easier to make.

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ cups sugar
¾ cup flaked coconut
1 cup butter, softened
2 eggs
1 ½ teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon grated lemon peel
1 tablespoon lemon juice

1. Heat oven to 400˚F. In large mixer bowl combine all ingredients. Beat at low speed, scraping bowl often, until well mixed (2 to 4 minutes). Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls 2 inches apart onto cookie sheets. Bake for 7 to 10 minutes or until edges are lightly browned.

Yield: 4 dozen cookies