Archive for the ‘Desserts’ Category

Gooey Butter Cake

April 19, 2013

I’ve been wanting to make Paula Deen’s Gooey Butter Cake for ages.  I never have cake mix in the house so I’ve never been able to do it.  Tonight is a birthday potluck so I decided to give it a whirl.  I’m serving it with Caramel Sea Salt gelato.  I can’t wait!  (In fact I didn’t wait.  I cut a small corner out and ate it while the cake was still warm.  I know, it’s the tackiest thing ever, but it was so good)!

Gooey Butter Cake Butter Cake slice

This really could hardly be easier.  You turn the cake mix into a kind of dough and top it with a cream cheese, egg, butter and sugar mixture that puffs up.  You do have to remember to set the cream cheese out to soften, but you get to melt the butter so you don’t have to worry about setting that out.  I only used half of the powdered sugar called for in the original recipe and that’s plenty.  I was a little concerned it might mess up the texture, but it didn’t.  The topping is creamy and awesome.

The cake ends up incredibly rich and yet pretty light and airy.  And the topping is pure decadence – sweet, smooth, buttery.  Yum.  You can search foodnetwork.com and find several variations on this cake.  If you have the Lady and Sons Cookbook you’ll find a few more.  You can make them chocolate, peanut butter, toffee, pumpkin, banana, etc.  Lots of options.  I plan to check out a few more for future dinners with friends.

These are so rich you’ll want to cut them small and eat two.  Hope the birthday girl enjoys these!

Good?  How could it not be?
Easy? Absolutely.
Good for company? You’ll be the most popular person in the neighborhood.
Special shopping? Nope. You may have all this in the house at any given time.

Gooey Butter Cake

Ingredients

Cake:
Vegetable oil cooking spray
1 (18.2- ounce) package yellow cake mix
1 large egg
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted

Filling:
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 (1 pound) box confectioners’ sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 13 by 9 by 2-inch baking pan with vegetable oil cooking spray.

In the bowl of an electric mixer at medium speed, combine the cake mix, egg, and butter and mix well. Pat evenly into the bottom of the prepared baking pan and set aside.

In a bowl, mix together the cream cheese, eggs, vanilla extract, confectioners’ sugar and butter. Beat on medium speed until smooth. Pour the filling over the cake mixture and spread it evenly.

Bake until the center is just a little bit gooey, about 40 to 50 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely. Cut into pieces and serve.

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Vanilla Cupcakes with Whipped Chocolate Buttercream and Thai Ginger Salt

February 10, 2013

It’s potluck night!  We had a potluck birthday this week so I volunteered to bring dessert.  Cupcakes are easy to serve and easy to pawn off leftovers.  I had elaborate plans for the frosting so I opted for a vanilla cupcake.  Be aware that my elaborate frosting plans were all foiled by my lack of ability to read a recipe all the way through and see how much time it takes to make said frostings.  Stay tuned. At some point in the future you’ll see a Dulce de Leche frosting and a Salted Caramel frosting.  Hard to complain too much about chocolate though!

P1010063Vanilla Cupcakes 

I love cupcakes.  Love them, but I’m picky about them.  Finding a vanilla cupcake that’s worth eating all by itself is likely to be a lifelong quest for me, but this is as close as I’ve found in a while.  These are light, but not crumbly and they taste like vanilla instead of like nothing.  A good start.  Another nice thing about these is that the tops are flat so they’re easy to decorate if you’re so inclined.  The tops also have something of a crust on them so they can hold up weighty frostings and other decorations.  This may be the perfect party cupcake.

I also love buttercream frosting.  Who doesn’t really?  Again, I’m picky.  Frosting that’s all butter and powdered sugar doesn’t quite cut it any more.  This has plenty of both, but also chocolate, milk, liqueur and vanilla.  I substituted milk for the cream in the recipe and used Bailey’s instead of Kahlua.  I used what I had.  Worked fine.  I have to give credit here to Homestead Creamery.  They made the butter and it’s the best butter on the planet.  I don’t normally use it for baking, but I should always use it in frosting.  Such creamy yumminess. 

Baking is a science to be sure, but frosting is more of an art. For the baking part – be sure you put your eggs and butter out early so they come to room temperature before you use them.  For the frosting – I rarely follow measurements or directions when I make frosting.  Start with the right amount of butter and then add everything else to match your favorite taste and texture.  I tend to go lighter on the sugar than most recipes call for and a little heavier on the real flavorings  – chocolate, peanut butter, what have you.  The most important thing is that you can’t take liquid out so be sparing with it.

What makes these cupcakes extra special is the Thai Ginger salt.  Sweet creamy chocolatey goodness with just a hint of salt and a touch of gingery bite.  The salt was a Christmas gift from a friend.  Very cool.  I love getting unique kitchen stuff!  Kudos to Drizzles in Cape Charles, VA for putting some very cool stuff out there!

Good? Got raves from the potluck girls!
Easy? Not bad at all.
Good for company? Cupcakes are for sharing – mostly
Special shopping? If you can’t find ginger salt use kosher.

Vanilla Cupcakes with Whipped Chocolate Buttercream and Thai Ginger Salt

Ingredients

Cupcakes:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cups sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Line 1 muffin tin with cupcake papers.

In a small bowl, combine the flours. Set aside.

In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, cream the butter until smooth. Add the sugar gradually and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the dry ingredients in 3 parts, alternating with the milk and vanilla. With each addition, beat until the ingredients are incorporated but do not over beat. Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the batter in the bowl to make sure the ingredients are well blended. Carefully spoon the batter into the cupcake liners, filling them about 3/4 full. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center of the cupcake comes out clean.

Cool the cupcakes in tins for 15 minutes. Remove from the tins and cool completely on a wire rack before icing.

Whipped Chocolate Buttercream

Ingredients

1 cup good quality dark chocolate
1/2 cup (1 stick) room temperature salted butter
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon liqueur (I used Bailey’s)
1-2 C sifted confectioners’ sugar (to taste)

Directions

Put the chocolate in a large microwave safe bowl. Heat in the microwave 20 seconds at a time. Stir thoroughly after each interval until the chocolate is melted. Cool for five minutes. Add the butter, cream, vanilla, liqueur, and mix on medium speed until the mixture thickens. Finally add the confectioners’ sugar in small batches until the mixture holds a medium peak. Slather the icing over the cupcakes with an offset palette knife.
Sprinkle with salt before serving.

Lemon Bars

December 23, 2012

Happy holiday season all!  I’m actually not doing much cooking for the actual holiday meals this year, but I couldn’t just do nothing.  I don’t know if Lemon Bars are Christmas-y or not, but I kinda feel like Lemon Bars, and I have 6 lemons in the fridge, so that’s what I’m making.  It’s a Barefoot Contessa recipe so its odds of being good are pretty high.

Lemon Bars

As per usual, no substitutions on baked goods.  Essentially what you’re doing here is making a shortbread and then topping it with a lemon pudding.  The key is making sure you cook the shortbread enough that it holds up when you pour the lemon goo on top and making sure that you did the lemon goo correctly so that it will set up when it bakes and cools.  You can do all of this with an electric mixer if you like.  That makes it a little faster.

What’s interesting about this recipe is the way the crust is done.  In most recipes for shortbread or lemon bars or anything that has a crust like this the instructions will say that you should cut cold butter into the flour.  In this recipe everything is room temperature and you cream the butter and sugar together.  When you add the flour you end up with the same crumbly dough as the cold butter method.  The other thing that’s a little different about this recipe is that it calls for a 9×13 baking sheet with 2 inch sides instead of a regular baking dish.  This is where I strayed from the recipe a little.  I don’t have a jelly roll pan like that.  I used to.  No idea what happened to it.  I planned to use my standard 9×13 glass Pyrex.  Turns out that was already in the fridge full of chicken enchilada casserole.  I ended up doing two 8×8 pans instead.

I had a little timing issue with these.  I’m trying to get a lot done in my time off so I didn’t want to spend the whole afternoon in the kitchen.  I made the crusts and put them in to bake.  While they baked I made the filling.  I think that was fine.  I made my mistake by filling the pans before the crusts were completely cool.  One of the pans ended up with mush on the bottom instead of crust.  Bummer.  Of course it’s also possible that I should have used the big oven.  My countertop convection oven isn’t big enough to put two 8x8s in side by side.  I had to put one on top and one on bottom and switch them half way through.  Not ideal, but it usually works ok.  Maybe that was a factor and maybe not.  The other thing to remember if you do two pans instead of one is that you’ll need to extend the cooking time.  Let’s say 40-45 minutes instead of 30-35.  Just keep an eye on the topping.  Let it brown, but not burn.

In the end I have one pan that has a yummy lemon custard that I should save if I can figure out how to separate it from the mushy bottom and one pan that turned out like it’s supposed to.  You’ll be tempted to cut these while they’re still warm, partly because you’ll want to eat one and partly because you’ll want to check and be sure they aren’t runny.  Guess what, they’ll be a touch runny until they’re completely cool so resist the temptation.  Just keep a box of brownie mix on hand in case they don’t turn out and you need to move on to plan B!

Good? Yep.
Easy? Yep, just follow the instructions.
Good for company? Desserts are for sharing.
Special shopping? Nope, just don’t try to substitute bottled lemon juice.

Lemon Bars

Ingredients

For the crust:
1/2 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 cups flour
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

For the filling:
6 extra-large eggs at room temperature
3 cups granulated sugar
2 tablespoons grated lemon zest (4 to 6 lemons)
1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 cup flour
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

For the crust, cream the butter and sugar until light in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Combine the flour and salt and, with the mixer on low, add to the butter until just mixed. Dump the dough onto a well-floured board and gather into a ball. Flatten the dough with floured hands and press it into a 9 by 13 by 2-inch baking sheet, building up a 1/2-inch edge on all sides. Chill.

Bake the crust for 15 to 20 minutes, until very lightly browned. Let cool on a wire rack. Leave the oven on.

For the filling, whisk together the eggs, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, and flour. Pour over the crust and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the filling is set. Let cool to room temperature.

Cut into triangles and dust with confectioners’ sugar.

Blue(berry) Velvet Cupcakes

August 20, 2012

I’ve been waiting 2 months to make these and they are worth every minute.  I have a friend who is a big fan of blueberries.  I bought extra berries at the farmers’ market in June so I would have them for his birthday cupcakes.  He’s also a big fan of red velvet cake and of cake that comes in cupcake form.  I decided that there had to be a way to combine blueberries and red velvet cupcakes.  This is what I came up with.  There’s some room for improvement, but they are darned good.

Those of you who know me know how picky I am about my red velvet cake.  Many bakeries put red food coloring in a yellow or white cake and call it red velvet.  Ugh.  Real red velvet cake has a dark and tangy flavor from the cocoa, buttermilk and vinegar that you put in it.  I’ll admit that the cocoa flavor in these isn’t as pronounced as I like.  I’m working my way through a container of regular cocoa so that I can get back to the Special Dark cocoa powder that I prefer.  For these I followed a Paula Deen recipe for red velvet cake, but instead of red food coloring I used the pulp from 3 cups of blueberries.  More tangy deliciousness. 

In order to get some blueberry flavor I had to use about 1/4 cup of blueberry pulp.  Since you only use about 2-3 T of red food coloring I had some extra liquid.  So, I added some extra flower to compensate.  It kind of worked.  The batter was a little thinner than I would have liked, but had the creamy, fluffiness about it that you expect in cake batter.  The cupcakes rose exactly like they’re supposed to and the tops were smooth and beautiful.  Unfortunately as they cooled they contracted more than most cupcakes.  That made the cake a little dense.  More the moist texture of a carrot cake or banana bread than the lightness of a normal red velvet.  But then, what’s wrong with banana bread?  Not much.

These are not easy.  A standard red velvet cake has a lot of steps.  This cake has all of those and you have to deal with the blueberries.  I froze some blueberries when they were in season early in the summer and thawed them for this.  I put them in my food mill to separate the pulp from the skins.  I had to do them in two batches and clean out the food mill in between.  It’s easy work with thawed blueberries. If you use fresh ones your pulp will be thicker, which might be nice, but you’ll have to work harder to work them through the mill.  Of course you could use a food processor, but you’ll end up with some pieces of blueberry skin in your cupcakes.  That’s not a great texture so the food mill is a better way to go.  If you don’t have a food mill, you can absolutely mash the thawed blueberries in a colander or sieve with the back of a spoon.  It just might take a little bit longer.

Now, the frosting.  Oh, the frosting.  God bless Paula Deen’s Grandmother Paul.  This is one of the top five frostings I’ve ever made and it’s wicked easy.  It starts out as a standard cream cheese buttercream:  cream cheese, butter and powdered sugar.  Nothing to it.  And then you whip in some melted marshmallow.  Heavenly.  It’s the lightest frosting I’ve made that still has that distinct cream cheese flavor.  No milk, no vanilla, no liquor.  Lots of yummy goodness.  It doesn’t stand up tall.  It more lays over the top like a blanket.  It does have a beautiful glossy shine. 

These are gorgeous and tangy and blueberry and sweet and wonderful.  Maybe I’m unduly influenced by the lack of desserts in my life lately, but I don’t think that’s it.  I think they’re really that good.  Definitely worth trying again to see if I can lighten the texture a little.  And if not, I’ll eat them anyway!

Good?  Unbelievably good.  And with all the antioxidanxt from the blueberries they’re almost a health food.
Easy? Not really.
Good for company? Most definitely.
Special shopping? Nope.

Blue(berry) Velvet Cupcakes

Ingredients

Cake:
3 C blueberries, thawed
2 cups sugar
1/2 pound (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
2 eggs
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 1/2 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon vinegar

Icing:
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese
1 stick butter, softened
1/2 C powdered sugar, or more to taste
1 cup melted marshmallows

Directions

Mash blueberries in a food mill or colander to separate the skins. Save the pulp. Discard the skins.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In a mixing bowl, cream the sugar and butter, beat until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time and mix well after each addition. Mix cocoa and food coloring together and then add to sugar mixture; mix well. Sift together flour and salt. Add flour mixture to the creamed mixture alternately with buttermilk. Blend in vanilla. In a small bowl, combine baking soda and vinegar and add to mixture. Pour batter into 3 (8-inch) round greased and floured pans or into 2 lined muffin pans. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes for cake or 15 minutes for cupcakes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from heat and cool completely before frosting.

Icing:
Blend cream cheese and butter together in a mixing bowl. Add marshmallows and sugar and blend.

Twice-as-Nice Raisin Oatmeal Cookies

July 19, 2012

There’s a lovely man in my office who has an affinity for oatmeal raisin cookies.  I don’t understand it (cooked raisins, ugh), but I’m happy to support it.  This week he moved me from one office to another and got everything set up.  That seemed deserving of a few cookies.  He’s a purist so there was no option to use dried cranberries or add chocolate chips or add icing.  I’m not sure what makes these ‘twice as nice’ exactly, but the texture seemed good and they smelled great.

I only made two changes to the recipe.  You know I don’t monkey with baking recipes very often.  I used 1/2 C butter and 1/2 C shortening, instead of all shortening and I left out the pecans.  I did soften everything on the counter and bring the egg to room temperature.  Those are just general baking tips.  My other tip is to use the paddle attachment on your mixer if you have a stand mixer.  If you use the whisk for the butter, sugar and eggs you’ll just have to switch to the paddle when you add the dry ingredients.  Then mix the raisins in with a spoon.  These raisins have been plumped in water so they’re puffy and slightly fragile.  If you use the mixer to fold them into the batter they’ll fall apart.

These cookies are pretty cakey.  They don’t spread out much they just puff up.  You’ll notice from the photos that I used some of the batter in a baking dish to see if I could use it for bar cookies.  Kinda.  They cakey texture combined with the oatmeal makes it a little hard for these to hold together when you cut them into squares.  So what you have here is puffy cookies with puffy raisins.  If you prefer chewy raisins just skip the reconstituting step.  If you prefer chewy cookies I’d suggest a different recipe.  Perhaps this one from last Fall…

Good? I’m told they are.
Easy? Yep.
Good for company? Sure.
Special shopping? Nope.

Twice-as-Nice Raisin Oatmeal Cookies

Ingredients

1 cup raisins
Boiling water
1 stick butter, softened
1/2 cup shortening, softened
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups uncooked quick-cooking oats
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preparation

Combine raisins and boiling water to cover in a small bowl. Let stand 5 minutes; drain, reserving 2 tablespoons liquid. Pat raisins dry with paper towels.
Beat shortening at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy; gradually add sugars, beating well. Add reserved raisin liquid, eggs, and vanilla, beating until blended.
Combine flour and next 4 ingredients. Gradually add to shortening mixture, stirring until blended. Stir in raisins. Drop dough by rounded teaspoonfuls 2 inches apart onto lightly greased baking sheets.
Bake at 350° for 11 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Cool on baking sheets 2 minutes. Remove to wire racks to cool.

Gingersnappy Peaches

June 21, 2012

Last night was book club.  A perfect opportunity to try something new and use up some peaches before they got too soft.  I found a recipe for Amaretti Peaches that sounded great.  As per usual I made some modifications, but the greatness remains!  These take about 20 minutes start to finish and they’re pretty low fat for dessert.  Wow, are they good!

There weren’t any amaretti cookies in the grocery store I stopped by.  No time to hit a better one or a bakery so I opted for gingersnaps instead.  They go nicely with peaches.  I left out the added sugar and halved the butter.  Instead of hollowing out the peaches I just removed the pits.  No wasting of fresh peaches!  Those are the recipe alterations.  There’s not much to the directions, but I did change it up so that the chocolate didn’t have to be shaved.  I put it on in pieces and put the peaches back under the broiler for a few minutes.  Done.

This is another time where the fact that there are only 4 ingredients means that quality counts.  Use good butter – no margarine.  Use good quality dark chocolate.  That’s what allows you to use a little less without missing it.  Use fresh, local peaches.  Kudos to Drumheller’s Orchard in Nelson County, VA for growing such lovely peaches!

There are many wonderful things about this dessert.  Easy, low fat, contains chocolate, etc.  These are also cute,  incredibly easy to serve and travel well.  You can even eat them without utensils if you like.  It’s hard to beat a dessert like this!

Good? Very good.
Easy? So, so easy.
Good for company? Absolutely. Add a mint spring to the top if you want a little decoration.
Special shopping? Nope.

Gingersnappy Peaches

To see the original recipe for Chocolate-Amaretti Peaches click here.

Ingredients

1/2 cup crushed gingersnap cookies
4 large ripe peaches, halved and pitted
4 teaspoons butter
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate

Directions

1. Preheat broiler.
2. Put cookies in small food processor and pulse until crumbs are fine.
3. Fill each peach half with 1 rounded teaespoon cookie crumbs. Arrange peaches in an 11 x 7-inch glass or ceramic baking dish. Place 1/2 teaspoon butter on top of each filled half. Top with 1/2 ounce dark chocolate. Broil 2 minutes or until butter melts and chocolate softens. Cool 5 minutes before serving.

Brownie Pudding

June 17, 2012

Brownie pudding – how fabulous does that sound?!  Turns out it’s pretty fabulous.  It’s the latest exception to my rule against eating pudding that isn’t really pudding (corn pudding, rice pudding – you get the idea).  I bet it’s even more amazing if you serve it warm from the oven.  I didn’t have that luxury today.  I needed the oven for the beef roast so I made the dessert yesterday.  Still, it’s awfully good.  And I did serve it with ice cream as recommended.  I’m glad I only made a half recipe or I’d be eating it for all three meals and a snack or two tomorrow!

As I’ve mentioned before there’s not a lot of room for substitutions or monkeying with the recipe when you’re baking, unless you’re much more skilled than I.  About all you can do other than change the flavor if chips if they’re called for is halve or double the recipe, and even that’s dicey sometimes.  I did halve this recipe specifically so there wouldn’t be leftovers.  The only other change I made was to use vanilla extract instead of scraping a bean.  I figured since the recipe allowed for framboise a little liquid wouldn’t hurt.

One of the nice things about this is that the butter is melted so you don’t have to remember to take it out to soften.  You do need to take the eggs out so they can get to room temperature, but if you get a little behind just set them near the oven as it preheats.  I recommend making this batter in a stand mixer.  You mix the eggs and sugar for a long time.  It’s completely doable with a hand mixer, but it’s nice to be able to walk away from it and do something else.  And here’s a tip on melting the butter.  Do it in the microwave in 15 second increments.  Stir in between each one.  You’ll be done when there’s still just a lump or two of butter in the dish.  As you stir that last bit will melt.  If you do it this way you it won’t get too hot and you won’t have to wait for it to cool before you add it.

One thing that makes this unique is that you bake it in a water bath.  Here’s my advice on that.  Put the water in in the larger pan BEFORE you set the batter filled pan down in it.  If you put the batter filled pan in first you risk splashing water into your brownie batter.  I recommend testing the water level with the empty pan before you add the batter.  That way you don’t risk over-filling the water pan.  And do this all as close to the oven as you can.  You don’t want to have to walk too far with your batter in the water bath.

The recipe instructs you to put a cake tester in close to the edge to test for doneness.  If you do that it will break the crust on top.  At least it did mine.  This is a thick, almost cookie like crust so it will be no small hole.  More like an ice breaking ship plowing through frozen waters.  If you know how your oven normally does in terms of time and temp when you’re baking just trust that.  On the other hand you’re going to have to break this up to serve it, so maybe it doesn’t matter that much.  You just don’t want the inside to dry out.  The inside is very soft and very rich.  If you like chewy brownies (instead of cakey ones) you’re going to love this.

Oh, one more thing.  You use more cocoa powder than flour in this.  Cocoa powder is much lighter than flour.  When you add the dry ingredients to the eggs and sugar the cocoa powder makes a big cloud.  Just be prepared to wipe everything down when you’re done!

I served it by breaking up the top crust and putting some in the bottom of each bowl.  I spooned some brownie pudding insides on top of each cookie crust.  I bought individual ice creams in 5-6 flavors so everyone got to choose their own combination of  brownie and ice cream and got to control the proportions.  I served some fruit for good measure.  Turns out that the first peaches and blackberries of the summer are an excellent accompaniment to soft brownies, brownie cookies and ice cream!

Good? Are you kidding?  Fantastic!
Easy? We’re going to call this intermediate. Precision counts.
Good for company? You bet. Desserts are meant to be shared.
Special shopping? Nope. I didn’t even have to make a store run.

This is the half recipe. I think you could bake it in an 8X8 brownie pan, but I used a small, glass Pyrex dish that measures 6 1/2 x 10.

Brownie Pudding

Ingredients

1 stick unsalted butter, plus extra for buttering the dish
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 cups sugar
3/8 cup good cocoa powder
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 t vanilla
Ice cream, for serving

Directions

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Lightly butter a 2-quart (9 by 12 by 2-inch) oval baking dish. Melt the butter and set aside to cool.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the eggs and sugar on medium-high speed for 5 to 10 minutes, until very thick and light yellow. Meanwhile, sift the cocoa powder and flour together and set aside.

When the egg and sugar mixture is ready, reduce the speed to low and add the vanilla seeds, framboise, if using, and the cocoa powder and flour mixture. Mix only until combined. With mixer still on low, slowly pour in the cooled butter and mix again just until combined.

Pour the brownie mixture into the prepared dish and place it in a larger baking pan. Add enough of the hottest tap water to the pan to come halfway up the side of the dish and bake for exactly 1 hour. A cake tester inserted 2 inches from the side will come out 3/4 clean. The center will appear very under-baked; this dessert is between a brownie and a pudding.

Allow to cool and serve with vanilla ice cream.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Mousse

May 29, 2012

This is the dessert I planned for a friends birthday.  She and I share a love of peanut butter pie and the opinion that there are many more bad ones than good in restaurants around town.  The plan was to make Black Bottom Peanut Butter Mousse Pie.  Mostly that’s what I did.  The peanut butter mousse became chocolate peanut butter mousse and it was perfect – creamy, fluffy and wonderful.  The black bottom pie part fell pretty far short of perfect – runny, grainy and not very picturesque.

True confession time – I bought the graham cracker crust.  Some time ago I decided that life was too short for me to make my own pie crust.  I’m just not good at it.  But Pillsbury is, so I let them do it.  My other substitution is likely what caused part of the problem.  I didn’t have quite as much cream as I needed so I substituted about 1/2 C reduced fat (2%) milk – part in the chocolate bottom and part in the mousse.  When I poured the chocolate into the pie crust there was way too much chocolate, (I know, way too much chocolate?  What?) so I saved about 1/3 C for later.  As instructed I put the pie shell with the chocolate bottom in the freezer.  It never set up.  It was in there for an hour or so before I added the mousse and still runny.  Ugh.

On to the mousse.  I added the leftover chocolate mix to the melted peanut butter chips.  Yum.  The mousse was pretty soft when I put it in the pie crust.  Soft enough that it was easier to pour than to spoon.  It chilled for maybe 8 hours and by then the mousse was fine.  It set up perfectly.  Sadly when I tried to slice the pie the chocolate stuff ran all over the place.  Instead of nice slices on plates we ended up with bowls of mousse with graham cracker crust crumbled on top and chocolate sauce added on top of that.  It didn’t look nice, but it sure tasted good!

It was so good that the non-dessert eater in the crowd ate her entire bowlful and then had more then next evening.  Trust me when I tell you that’s high praise!  Next time I’ll use all cream and I’m sure it will be as pretty as it was yummy.  But if not, I feel confident that no one will complain about eating a bowl of this amazing mousse.

Good? So, so good.
Easy? Clearly not.
Good for company? Absolutely.
Special shopping? Nope.

I’m going to give you the mousse recipe here. If you want to make the Black Bottom Peanut Butter Mousse Pie just hit the link and see the whole recipe.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Mousse

Ingredients

1/3 cups bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chips
2 cups chilled whipping cream, divided
1 1/2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract, divided
6 ounces (1 cup) peanut butter chips
2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter (do not use old-fashioned style or freshly ground)

Directions

Combine chocolate and peanut butter chips, 1 cup of cream and 1 teaspoon of vanilla in a large microwave-safe bowl on medium heat at 15-second intervals just until chips soften, stirring often. Whisk in peanut butter and remaining 1/2 teaspoon vanilla until smooth. Cool to barely lukewarm. Beat remaining 1 cup cream and 2 tablespoons sugar in medium bowl until very thick but not yet holding peaks; fold into peanut butter mixture in 3 additions. Chill at least 1 hour and up to 1 day.

Coconut Cupcakes

April 8, 2012

Happy Easter everyone!  And congratulations to those of you who made Lenten sacrifices – you made it!  One of my Lenten sacrifices this year was sweets. It was easy in the beginning and through the middle of Lent, but the last 10 days or so have been terrible!    So, I was very pleased to be asked to bring dessert to Easter dinner. 

Coconut cake is a big Easter favorite for that crowd, but most folks are trying to limit their sweets so making a whole coconut cake seemed like a lot of trouble for not much return.  Cupcakes are always good and it’s easy to take the leftovers to the office.  Of course not everyone likes coconut so making cupcakes also allows you to vary the frosting and have something for everyone.  I started with a basic 1-2-3-4 cake:  one cup of milk, one cup (2 sticks) of butter, 2 cups of sugar, 3 cups of flour and 4 eggs.  Easy.  It’s a nice white cake without a lot of crumb so it’s easy to frost.  The batter is very thick which makes it a little harder to deal with on the cupcake front, but still not too bad.  With a cake like this it’s the frosting that counts.

I did a chocolate buttercream for half and followed a Paula Deen coconut cake recipe for the other half.  The picture only shows a dozen cupcakes, but the recipe actually makes two dozen.  Easy enough to halve it.

So, I have an announcement to make…Today I made Seven Minute Frosting in seven minutes!  And it was perfect!  Clearly an Easter miracle.  In the interest of full disclosure I should confess that it was the second attempt at said frosting.  I made the first batch sans the water and it came out so grainy I had to throw it away.  I was so irritated that I decided to do a whipped cream frosting instead.  I put the cream and sugar in a mixing bowl and mixed for about 2 minutes before I realized that the cream was half and half and would never turn into whipped cream.  Down the sink with frosting number two.  Back to frosting one, attempt two.

I won’t know for sure until I manage to replicate this wonderful fluff, but I think the key here is to beat the ingredients together in the top of the double boiler before you put it on the heat.  Bring the water to a boil while you’re doing that.  Then put the bowl on top of the boiling water pot and crank the mixer up to high.  Seven minutes later a lovely fluff with the most beautiful shine.  Frost your cake or cupcakes while the frosting is warm.  It’ll set up when it cools. 

I added a little toasted coconut to the top and pressed it in just a touch.  That helps keep it from falling off once the frosting has set.  And it adds exactly the right touch to make these a little extra special.  They were a big hit at the family Easter dinner.

Good? So good.  And not just because I gave them up for Lent.
Easy? The cake, yes. The frosting, no.
Good for company? Cupcakes are for sharing.
Special shopping? Nope.

Coconut Cupcakes

Ingredients

Basic 1-2-3-4 Cake

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
3 cups sifted self-rising flour
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Line 2 cupcake pans. Using an electric mixer, cream butter until fluffy. Add sugar and continue to cream well for 6 to 8 minutes. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add flour and milk alternately to creamed mixture, beginning and ending with flour. Add vanilla and continue to beat until just mixed. Divide batter equally among cupcake liners, filling each 2/3-3/4 full. Level batter in each pan by holding pan 3 or 4 inches above counter, then dropping it flat onto counter. Do this several times to release air bubbles and assure you of a more level cake. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until done.

7-Minute Frosting

1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar or 1 tablespoon white corn syrup
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup water
2 egg whites
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 C coconut, toasted (optional)

Place sugar, cream of tartar or corn syrup, salt, water, and egg whites in the top of a double boiler. Beat with a handheld electric mixer for 1 minute. Place pan over boiling water, being sure that boiling water does not touch the bottom of the top pan. (If this happens, it could cause your frosting to become grainy). Beat constantly on high speed with electric mixer for 7 minutes. Beat in vanilla. Pat toasted coconut on top.

Chiffon Cupcakes with Chocolate Whipped Buttercream

February 13, 2012

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day when our thoughts turn to…chocolate.  It just so happens that I have a meeting in the office tomorrow too so it’s the perfect time to try out a new cupcake recipe.  I love cupcakes for eating, but I gotta tell you I’ll be glad when real cakes are back in vogue.  They’re a lot less labor intensive and a little more forgiving.  Still, these are charming and most importantly no plates or forks required.

For a while I’ve been wanting to try this Chiffon Cupcake recipe from Alton Brown, but it’s a fair amount of trouble so I’ve held off until now.   I had leftovers for dinner so that left me enough time to take this on.  I mostly steer clear of Alton Brown.  I find him to be pretty condescending and annoying on TV.  This recipe is a little annoying too.  I know it’s supposed to be better to measure dry ingredients by weight than by volume, but let’s be real – that just makes things harder. 

The bother starts right at the beginning.  You have to separate 5 eggs and beat the yolks with the sugar.  Then in a separate bowl you make a meringue with the whites.  The recipe instructs you to mix up the batter in your mixer, then transfer the batter to another bowl so you can use your mixer to whip the egg whites.  That’s a whole nother level of trouble.  If you’ve got a stand mixer and a hand mixer I’d do the batter in your stand mixer and use the hand mixer on the whites.  Oddly enough I find myself without a hand mixer at the moment.  Fortunately I do have an immersion blender with a whisk attachment.  I put the whites in a large measuring cup and used the stick blender.  Just be sure that your egg whites bowl is large enough.  When you whip all that air into them they quadruple in size.  The next bit of trouble is that this batter is so airy that it doesn’t pour out of the spoon very well.  You have to shake it out.  I used a ladle to help measure out the batter so the cupcakes would be the same size.  Don’t do that.  It’ll go faster if you use a large spoon.  You can fill the cups about 3/4 full.  There’s so much air in the batter as it is that they don’t puff up very much.

They are a beautiful golden brown when they come out and the tops are very smooth.  If you’re into fancy decorations these cupcakes will make a good surface for your frosting decor.  Honestly I think this batter baked in a cake pan and cut would probably make lovely petit fours.  They are light as air but seemingly sturdy so I think you could use about any frosting.  The batter isn’t overly sweet so they can take a fairly sugary frosting I think.  Honestly they’d be beautiful with Seven Minute Frosting on them.  Anyway, I’m kind of into whipped buttercream right now so I decided on a chocolate version of that.

I’ll just refer you to the peanut butter version of this frosting for the details, but I do want to share a few things I learned this time around.  If you leave the milk and flour mixture in the fridge to cool it more quickly you should put plastic wrap right down on it.  If you don’t it will get a skin just like pudding.  No amount of whisking will get rid of that skin.  If that happens just peel the skin off and throw it away.  Now, for the chocolate.  Use baking chocolate and not chocolate chips.  Chips have just a touch of paraffin or wax in them to help them keep their shape.  This frosting is way too light to overcome that waxy texture.  Don’t bother with a double boiler.  A glass bowl in the microwave works just fine.  Just melt your chocolate in short intervals and stir it good between intervals.  If you try to melt it all the way down at one time you’ll burn it.  It will actually be done before it looks like it’s done.  You’ll be surprised how quickly the last of the lumps disappear with a few good turns of a spoon.

I haven’t eaten one of these yet.  It seems tacky to show up with 23 cupcakes.  But they’re lovely and really, how bad can they be?  I’ll let you know tomorrow.

Good? Let’s hope so. (Not so much.  Spongy and a little dense.  Frosting rocks).
Easy? Not at all. (And not good enough to make them worth the trouble).
Good for company? Of course. (Choose another cake recipe.  Keep the frosting).
Special shopping? Nope. Standard baking components.

Chiffon Cupcakes

Ingredients

5 1/4 ounces cake flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
5 large eggs, separated
6 ounces sugar, divided
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5/8 teaspoon cream of tartar

Directions

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Place paper liners into 2 (12-cup) muffin tins and set aside. If you prefer, set 12 ovenproof coffee mugs on a half sheet pan and set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

Place the egg yolks and 5 ounces of the sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer and whisk on high for 2 minutes or until the mixture becomes pale yellow and ‘ribbons’ when lifted. Add the water, vegetable oil and vanilla and whisk to combine. Add the dry ingredients and whisk just to combine. Transfer the batter to a mixing bowl while you whisk the egg whites.

Place the egg whites and cream of tartar into a clean bowl and whisk on high using the whisk attachment, until it becomes foamy. Decrease the speed to low and gradually add the remaining ounce of sugar. Increase speed to high and continue whisking until stiff peaks form, approximately 2 minutes.

Transfer 1/3 of the egg whites to the batter and whisk until well combined. Add the remaining egg whites and fold in gently. Transfer batter into prepared muffin tins or coffee mugs, evenly dividing the batter between the cups. Place both muffin tins on the middle rack of the oven or, if using mugs, place all of them on a half sheet pan and set on the bottom rack of the oven. Bake for 30 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean or the cupcakes reach an internal temperature of 205 to 210 degrees F. Remove from the oven to a cooling rack and allow to cool completely before frosting.

Whipped Buttercream

Follow the original directions, but leave out the peanut butter.
Add 4 ounces of room temperature, melted baking chocolate to the butter and sugar mixture before whipping in the flour and milk mix.