vrijdag 28 september 2007

Lemon whoopie pies

Yesterday was a baking day. My mom needed something for an event, and asked for simple and flavorful, and I thought we couldnt' stay behind empty-handed after the effort ourselves. So I made an orange butter cake for mom (sorry, no picture but I will have to post the recipe sometimes because it's fabulous) and for us I made cookies.
I went back to 'big, fat, cookies' and looked for something exciting and ended up at 'lemon whoopie pies'. After the first sandwich cookie I tried, we decided we both loved the concept, and I as had lemons on the kitchen counter, the choice was easily made.

For the cookies, you make a cake-like batter, you put heaped tablespoons onto parchment paper and bake them on cookie sheets. They spread a lot, but bake into nicely puffed sofr cookie saucers with a nice hint of lemon from the lemon rind. But the best part is definately the filling. Lemon juice, lemon rind, cream cheese, butter and sugar. I was sceptical because to me the recipe is 'american frosting', butter beaten with powdered sugar into a gritty mess, but this was nothing like it. There was a very nice balance between the sugar and the tangy lemon (and cream cheese) and just a perfect companion for the cookies. The filling is somewhat runny, and eating the cookie messy, but, after the first bite we didn't seem to care. Definately another winner from this book!

I'm editing this post to add the recipe, per RuthAnn's request :o).
For the Cookies:
1 1/2 cups AP flour
1/2 ts baking powder
1/4 ts baking soda
1/4 ts salt
6 TBS unsalted butter, at room temp.
1 cup sugar
1 ts finely grated lemon zest
1 large egg
1 TBS fresh lemon juice
1 ts vanilla extract
1/2 cupe buttermilk (any fat content)

6 TBS unsalted butter, at room temp.
6 oz cream cheese, at room temp.
1 ts vanilla extract
1 ts finely grated lemon zest
2 TBS fresh lemon juice
2 3/4 cups powdered sugar.

Make filling first, because it gets runny and needs to firm up in the fridge a little. With an electric mixer on low speed, beat butter, cream cheese, vanilla, lemon zest and juice until thoroughly blended and smooth, about 1 minute. Add sugar and mix until smooth, about 1 minute. Put in the refrigerator until it is firmer, about 30 minutes.

Make cookies: Sift dry ingredients together and set aside. With an electric mixer, blend butter, sugar and zest until smooth, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Add egg, lemon juice and vanilla, mixing until blended, about 1 minute. The batter may look curdled. On low speed, add half of the flour mixture, mixing just to incorporate. Mix in buttermilk, followed by other half of flour mixture until it is incorporated and batter looks smooth again.
Drop heaping tablespoons of batter onto buttered parchment paper on cookie sheets (I used silicone mats, unbuttered). Space cookies 3 inches apart, and bake at 350 for about 12 minutes. Tops will feel firm and a toothpick will come out clean. With the exception of a thin line or their edges, cookies will not brown. Cool cookies on baking sheets for 10 mintes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Sandwich cookies, using 1/4 cupe of filling for each pair. Wrap cookies separately in saran wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour. Serve cold.
Makes 8 sandwich cookies.
(Adapted from 'Big, fat cookies' by Elinor Klivans)

Nutella truffles

It was my sister's birthday last Tuesday, and of course I had to make something for her. She's a true chocolate lover, and always tells me 'the bitterer the better', so I was looking for something fabulous and chocolatey for her to enjoy. I browsed all kinds of brownie recipes, flourless chocolate cakes and whatnot, and then all plans for elaborate things somehow ended up in truffles when I ran out of time. I searched Carole Bloom's book (truffles, candies and confections) and when I reached the recipe for Nutella truffles I knew I didn't have to search any further. Even if our tastes have developed into 'more sophisticated things' both my sister and I cannot seem to shake our preference for Nutella, so I forgot about sophistication and just went ahead.

The recipe couldn't be anu easier. A cup of Nutella to half an lb of bittersweet chocolate. Melt chocolate, stir in Nutella, let set intil pipeable in the fridge, pipe into mounds. The trouble was in the piping. I had to remelt the whole thing twice because I couldn't get it to uniformely stiffen into a consistency that was easy to pipe. Running out of time, I worked with what I had and they didn't come out very nicely shaped, but, the taste was there :o). I rolled half of them in cocoa powder and the other half in chopped hazelnuts, for an extra flavour and texture boost. She enjoyed them (as did I), but I think the Nutella taste got left a little, and next time I'd add less chocolate which might make the whole piping thing easier as well.

zaterdag 22 september 2007

Dimply plum cake

With all the plums at the market, the 'plum talk' over at Fine Cooking and most importantly, after my first succes with the NYT plum torte, I decided to give Dorie Greenspan's dimply plum cake a try.

I bought Mrs. Greenspan's book online, even though I never bought a book from this author before and hadn't tried any of her recipes before (at least that I remember). But when you don't have access to fine bookstores with loads and loads of the last cooking and baking books you could ever wish for, that make you think you'd like nothing better than spend the rest of your week doing nothing but inhaling those books, you get desperate. And you let your best intentions of not buying a book that you're not sure you'll definately like and use a lot (and even the tiniest bit of certainty will do) just fly out the window. Just like that.
I started out strong and just read about the book ('Baking, from my home to yours') thinking it would not be anything I need. Neeeeeed need. Not. But the rave reviews kept coming. And then those rave reviews became really mean to me when people started adding pictures. And more rave reviews. And more people telling the world no baker would ever be the same after baking from this book. It was a given, this book should grace the shelves of every self-respecting baker. And I am. And I caved.

I loved it. I loved the pictures, I loved how many recipes it had, and loved the author's writing style. So I started baking after wading through 8 zillion posts about which goods were definately out of this world great. I baked a cake. It was toothachingly sweet to me. I baked cookies. They were toothachingly sweet as well. I maked something else I can't even remember and didn't like it one bit. And I yelled at myself for buying something unseen again. And everybody still thought the recipes weren't overly sweet at all.

I mentioned the plum talk before, and it included the recipe for Dimply plum cake from this book. And I gave it another go. It was dead easy to make. I only tweaked a little, out of necessity. I didn't have an orange to zest, so I subbed the vanilla extract with Grand Marnier in the hope of bringing some orange flavor in (which I love). I decreased the sugar by 20%, just to be careful. And I added some streusel because I loved that with the last experiment too. Okay, now having written that down, it seems more tweaking than I thought, but, it really wasn't awful ;o). And this is the result:

It looks great. The house smelled divine. I did not like it :o(. I thought the cake texture wasn't as light as the NYT torte, which was feathery. This wasn't. There was no orange taste (my bad, I admit), but what I did taste was the sugar. Again, too much for my likes. So I think I've got to give up on this book. I only need to find someone who will appreciate it, because lots of people do and I'm obviously in the minority. And I will definately have to make a new resolution and keep it this time when it comes to ordering books on the internet...

zondag 16 september 2007


Just to prove that not only sweet things come out of my oven, here's a report of tonights dinner: quiche.
We both love quiche and we have a couple of tried and true recipes that we keep falling back on. One is on epicurious.com, a spinach quiche that we've altered a little after making it several times. Another favorite comes from a co-workers wife, and calls for broccoli and salmon. This time we wanted to try something new. After browsing our Fine Cooking magazine collection the savory tarts in issue 41 caught our eye. There were several variations in the magazine, and we picked the 'cabbage, leek and bacon tart'.

As usual, our planning left a bit to desire. We had figured out this morning that the dough needed to rest in the fridge, so at least we had done that. We missed that it had to rest in the freezer for at least half an hour after rolling it out though, so dinner was late as usual on Sundays :o).
The dough was very easy to handle. It fit my beautiful Emile Henry dish (that I don't use often enough) perfectly, didn't tear and baked up beautifully flaky:

The filling needed some fussing too: the cabbage needed to be cooked, than cut. The bacon had to be cooked, then the leek, and after that the cabbage was added and THEN the whole thing was supposed to cool completely. Well, that didn't happen. After patiently waiting for 5 whole minutes (heh) we caved, threw everything together and hoped for the best.
We weren't disappointed. The tart looked exactly like the one in the magazine, sliced very well and let's just say one of us ate a *lot*. I personally thought the crust could have tasted better, and secretly longed for the beloved spinach quiche. But like I said, one of us declared it a winner and thoroughly enjoyed the experience :o)

The disappearing plum torte

On Fine Cooking's message board 'cooks talk', the ladies were talking about this plum torte they had tried. Some had tried several recipes and compared them, among them Dorie Greenspan's 'dimply plum cake' and the following recipe from the NYT that was somewhat similar:

Plum Torte (from the NYT - Burros & Levine)
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar, PLUS 2 tablespoons sugar
1 cup unbleached flour, sifted
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 eggs
1 pinch salt
24 halves Italian plums (prune or purple), pitted
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Arrange a rack in the lower third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Cream the butter and the 3/4 c. sugar. Add the flour, baking powder, eggs, and salt and beat to mix well. Spoon the batter into an ungreased 9 or 10-inch springform pan. Cover the top with the plums, skin sides down. Mix the cinnamon with the 2 T. sugar and sprinkle over the top.
Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until the cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let cool; refrigerate or freeze if desired.
To serve, let the torte return to room temperature and reheat at 300 until warm. if desired. Serve plain or with vanilla ice cream.

Now judging on different results, I thought this torte would fit our likes very well, and seeing I had plums in the fridge that needed to be used up ASAP, I gave it a try.
I think it took me no more than 15 minutes before I had prepared the batter, cut the plums in half and greased the pan (as some reported some problems with sticking) and put the whole thing together. It was dead easy. While putting the butter back in the fridge, I noticed this container with streusel topping I had prepared for a fruit crisp that never saw the light of day the week before, so I decided I'd just sprinkle some of that on as well. And so I did, bravely venturing from the recipe as written, ha!
After exactly 50 mintes, the torte looked done, toothpick came out clean and the house smelled fantastic. To be honest, this is not a dessert you make when you want to have people 'ooh' and 'aah' over your great looking desserts, because mine looked rather errrr, rustic ;o). The topping seemed okay, even if it had weighed down the cake batter a bit, but still, everything was fine.

I couldn't get my husband to wait until the next day (when almost any cake is better tasting in my experience). It was still warm when he ate the first piece. After that, he had it for breakfast the next day, as a snack at noon, and after a quick visit from mom and BIL, the thing had miraculously disappeared before I had even had a chance to think of taking a picture.
Well, that can only mean I'll have to make it again I guess. No arm-twisting needed ;o). It truly was delicious. Sweet cake, tangy plum, and a little extra added crunch from the topping, what else can you ask for?

zondag 9 september 2007

Hi-hat cupcakes

I love Martha Stewart. Well, not the woman herself, but the whole concept. I just think that there are so many wonderful ideas and little things to make life a little easier, or a little nicer, or a little sweeter, which makes me check out her website often. And I'm secretly jealous that there's TV-shows to be seen and magazines and books to be bought everywhere in the USA, that I have a heck of a time getting my hands on here in the Netherlands. So, as I said, I look at the website often. And my eye caught the little video on 'hi-hat cupcakes'. When I learned the recipe came from Elinor Klivans, I didn't need much more convincing to try them. Plus, they just looked super cute.

I thought they would be great to share with my sisters family and went to work. The cupcake recipe asks for sour cream, and per the advice of a friend in Germany, I used 'schmand' this time in stead of our Dutch sour cream. It was indeed a lot thicker.
The recipe was quite easy to put together and the batter tasted like chocolate mousse. It was so delicious that I could have eaten the whole batch raw instead of baking it. It was a bit much for the 12 cupcakes it stated it would make, so I let myself be tempted into overfilling the cups. It wasn't that big of a deal, but they would have looked neater if I hadn't. And probably wouldn't have collapsed the little bit they did.

The icing was a meringue that you prepare au bain marie, mixing for 12 minutes with a hand mixer. It came out just as promised, nice and thick, and when I tasted it, it reminded me of the 'melocakes' that I loved as a kid. It was sweet, but to me, perfect. I piped the frosting on thick, then cooled a little in the fridge, and gave the frosting a chocolate coating. And this is how they looked after that:

Aren't they totally beautiful? And I think they tasted lovely too. Like a said, nostalgia with the resemblance of those big 'kisses' I loved as a kid, only better.

To be honest, I would change something next time. When I make them again I will make them bite sized as mini cupcakes. That way, it will be much easier to get both cake and frosting in one bite, making the whole thing even better. And there definately will be a next time!
The recipe can be found on the Martha Stewart website, and you can watch this little video where she shows you how to make them.

Oh, and before I forget, I really do think I neeeeeeed that cupcake book ;o)

maandag 3 september 2007

Cinnamon sugar snickerdoodles

The last week of our vacation has begun. I do think it has to be marked with a new cookie ;o). I didn't particularly feel like making the effort to go to the store for ingredients, and browsing through 'Big, fat, cookies', I came up with snickerdoodles that didn't need any fancy ingredients. This is an *easy* cookie to make. And like all things cinnamon, it makes the house smell divine. Nothing is lovely and cozy as cinnamony things in the oven!

Now for the result: this is a lovely, simple, everyday cookie. Fits the bill for a dreary, rainy Monday afternoon!

And finally, a word to those who are reading this blog (assuming you are out there ;o)), please leave me a note and say 'hi', I'd love to chat a little!

zondag 2 september 2007

Decorated cookies

Shortly after I discovered my love for decorating cakes, I became interested in decorating cookies as well. My first 'decorated cookie' was a gingerbread house that was in a book my mom had given to me years ago. I had admired it often, just didn't know where to start. After the first one, I baked 4 more in a week, officially hooked. I discovered a whole new world of gingerbread and decorated cookies on the internet, and from that time on, I searched high and low for the most challenging patterns. I am totally in love with gingerbread books by Teresa Layman, by the way, she is a goddess when it comes to gingerbread.

But anyway, back to the cookies. I started using patterns for cake decorating purposes to make cookies, and it worked well. I started collecting books on the subject, and trying out new things whenever I had time. I went from Christmas cookies to 'thank you' cookies, to wedding cookies and favors and everything in between. I once sent a box with 100 decorated cookies to a friend for her wedding in the US (I can't tell you how nervous I was about breakage !).

Now that I have some time off from work which means time to play, I went through my books and favorite websites and made some test cookies. The results are as follows:

I got this pattern from a 'window color' magazine

This one was made with a cookie cutter from 'www.kitchengifts.com'

I found this cookie in Elizabeth Strauss's book 'Confetti cakes'

This shoe can be found in a Peggy Porschen book. I will definately try the other designs in there as well. There's a cute outfit and an adorable purse to go with the shoe.

This is a www.rollingpinproductions.com' design that I copied. I fell in love with this bear a long time ago and think it would make a great Christmas tree cookie with scarfs in various colors.

Last but not least, this tractor cookie for my tractor-loving nephew. I'm trying this cutter out (www.kitchengifts.com) to come up with a treat he can give to his classmates for his birthday.

More designs to come!!