Saturday, November 5, 2011

Benedict Rancheros

Mmm.. Mexican.. yum...:)))
Okay, so I love Mexican food, cilantro, and beans.
I was at costco, strolling along the aisles, and then I spotted a whole pack of canned black beans!
I picked it up immediately without hesitation.
....what was I thinking??
They've been in my pantry for like, 9 months now. 
My original plan was to use a can of beans once a week for 8 weeks, but those cans just ended up sitting there, forgotten.
Two of them were donated at the canned food drive last week, one of them was used for pasta, and the rest were simply heated and eaten by... me!
Of course, I still have a few cans left... and I don't think I would ever buy them in bulk again!
So anyway, this was something I made to clean my pantry, to be honest.
My family is usually not crazy about beans, but they all loved this dish!
Just smuggling in some good ol' beans for my family:) 
They ARE meant to be good for you, right?

Benedict Rancheros
serves 2
Recipe adapted from Epicurious
1 jalapeno
1 tsp olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/2 tsp cumin
1 cup crushed tomatoes with juice
1/2 cup water, plus more as needed
2 eggs
black pepper & sea salt
1 Tbsp finely chopped cilantro*
1/2 cup canned black beans, drained
1/2 cup water
2 corn muffins (recipe below)

Cut jalapeno in half lengthwise. Scrape the seeds and reserve them for later use, and finely chop the flesh.
Heat oil on a skillet over medium heat and cook the jalapeno, onion, garlic, and cumin for 4-6 minutes.
Add the tomatoes and 1/2 cup water, bring to a boil, then simmer over medium low heat until it becomes a sauce-like consistency.**
Poach the eggs and keep warm in 120F water.
Taste the sauce, season, and add the reserved jalapeno seeds if you want it spicier. (I didn't add the seeds, and it was  mild to medium spicy). Stir in the cilantro, cover, and remove from heat.
Pour the beans and water into another skillet over medium heat, mash with a fork, then cook until thickened, about 3-4 minutes. Add water as needed.
Cut the rounded tops of the corn muffins and cut the bottom in half horizontally. Toast under a broiler, cut side up, until golden brown. Put the muffin on a serving plate, spread the beans, top with a poached egg, then the vegetable tomato mixture. Garnish with cilantro, if desired.

*I forgot to stir in the cilantro in the salsa, so I simply used it as a garnish at the very end!
**I had to simmer for a LONG time until it thickened even the slightest bit. The tomatoes were very watery:( I would use just 1/4 cup of water next time.

Corn Muffins:
Recipe adapted from Betty Crocker's New Cookbook
3/4 cup yellow cornmeal
1/4 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup buttermilk
2 tbsp vegetable oil or shortening
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 large egg

Preheat the oven to 450F. Grease the bottom and side of 6 muffin cups with shortening.
Mix all ingredients. Beat vigorously 30 seconds with a wooden spoon. Pour batter into muffin cups.
Bake for 10-15 minutes, until golden brown.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Betty Crocker's Jumbo Chocolate Chip Cookies

I'm trying to get the perfect chocolate chip cookie these days, so I've already tried about four different recipes just last week. 
One of them was the turtle cookies I posted a few hours ago, which was awesome, but that technically wasn't a chocolate chip cookie, and they had nuts in them.
This one's more of a pure, classic version:)
Of course, they're huge, soft, thick, moist, and chewy - just how I like'em!
I usually try to underbake my cookies so that there's a little cookie doughy bit inside:)))
And these cookies certainly gave me that!

Jumbo Chocolate Chip Cookies
makes 1 1/2 dozen 5-inch cookies
Recipe from Betty Crocker's New Cookbook
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar*
1 cup butter, softened
1 egg
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour**
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375F.
Mix sugars, butter, and egg in a large bowl. Stir in the flour, baking soda and salt.
Stir in the chocolate chips. Drop dough by 1/4 cupfuls onto an ungreased cookie sheet, leaving 3 inches between cookies.
Bake 12 to 15 minutes or until edges are set but the center is still soft. Let the cookies cool for about 2 minutes on the cookie sheet, then transfer to wire racks and cool completely.

*I used splenda brown sugar blend, just to make it a little healthier:)
**I used 2 1/4 cups of self rising flour and omitted the baking soda and salt.
For regular sized cookies, drop by heaping tablespoons about 2 inches apart and bake for 8 to 10 minutes. Makes about 4 dozen.

Asian Chicken with Peanuts

Chicken is officially my favorite meat.
Well, they're poultry, not exactly 'meat'. So let's say.. favorite protein?
No, wait. Beans are better.
Okay, chicken is my favorite animal to eat... that sounds weird, doesn't it?
Forget it. I just like chicken.
They're so versatile and easy to prepare in a snap. Plus, they're healthy!
I don't know how many people are like me, but I like the taste of healthy food. I usually eat the chicken breasts rather than the wings or drumsticks.
And I love munching down a big bowl of chunky vegetables.
It makes me feel so... pure and organic:)
But at the same time, I love chocolatey, buttery, fudgy desserts, so I guess that evens it out.

Asian Chicken with Peanuts
serves 4 (2 cups each)
Recipe adapted from Campbell's Kitchen
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 3/4 cups less sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil (optional)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 1/4 lb skinless, boneless chicken breast halves, cut into 2 inch strips (2 cups)
2 teaspoons chopped garlic
2 cups broccoli
2 small red peppers, cut into 2-inch strips (2 cups)
1/2 cup salted peanuts*
2 tablespoons chunky or creamy peanut butter (optional)**
1 cup long grain white rice, cooked (3 cups cooked)

Stir cornstarch, broth, soy sauce, ginger, sesame oil in a medium bowl.
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium high heat and stir fry chicken until well browned. Remove the chicken from the skillet and keep warm.
Reduce heat to medium, heat 1 tablespoon oil, and add broccoli, pepper, and garlic and stir fry until tender crisp. Stir in the cornstarch mixture; cook and stir until it boils and thickens, then stir in the peanut butter. Return chicken to skillet.
Stir in peanuts and season with salt to taste. Cook until hot and bubbling.
Serve with cooked rice.

*I didn't have salted peanuts, so I used regular peanuts and added about 1/2 teaspoon salt.
**The original recipe doesn't include peanut butter, but I felt that the end result didn't really pick up the peanutty flavor from just the salted peanuts.

Ooey Gooey Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Bars

How about that, eh? Ooey and gooey. And chewy.
I made these for my dad and his golf friends, since they always skip lunch when they go golfing.
I had less than an hour left until my dad had to go, so I made these in a real hurry. 
Notice that they are quite underbaked. Problem? Nah.
They didn't even get to cool down before getting packed, which meant EXTRA gooey:)
These are the BEST peanut butter chocolate chip bar cookies I've ever made!
They have a slight crackling top, and the interior is very soft and moist. 
Every bite gives you a huge chunk of oozing chocolate and a killing smell of warm peanut butter.
I'll probably make these again... and again...and again... 
until I become a big, fat chocolate chip.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Bars
Makes 16 bars
Recipe adapted from Bakeat350
6 tablespoons unsalted  butter
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 cup sugar
1/4 cups light brown sugar, packed
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350F. Line an 8x8" square pan with aluminum foil.
Whisk together the flour, salt, and baking powder. Set aside.
Cream the butter and peanut butter together until smooth. Beat in both the sugars until combined.
Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Make sure you scrape down the sides of the bowl.
Stir in the vanilla; stir in the flour mixture. Add the chocolate chips and mix until just combined.
Spread the batter into the prepared pan. Bake about 40 minutes. Cool completely; cut into 16 squares.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Caramel Turtle Cookies

I love chocolate chip cookies. That's an undeniable, solid fact.
I baked big, fat chocolate chip cookies three days in a row last week, all of which I have gobbled up after lunch (and dinner... and umm.. breakfast too). 
But I don't like just any old chocolate chip cookie..
Wait, let me fix that. I like any chocolate chip cookies, but I don't fall in LLLOVE with all of them.
There are lots of things to consider when you're choosing THE ONE.
Crunchy vs. Soft
Thick vs. Thin
Chewy vs. Cakey
Crisp vs. Ooey Gooey
Chocolate chunks vs. Specks of mini chocolate chips
Nuts vs. No nuts
I could go on forever, but my criteria is simple.
1. Soft, but not cakey
2. Loaded with chocolate chips
3. Thick
4. No nuts
That's all I ask for.
How come none of my chocolate chips turn out that way? It's so frustrating.
These caramel turtle cookies are a little twist to chocolate chip cookies, because I added some caramel bits and nuts to it.
I know, I know, I hate nuts in cookies, but these were requested by my mom, who loves anything with nuts in them, so I reluctantly grabbed a bag of some forgotten macadamia nuts and poured them into my precious cookie dough.
And surprisingly, they were perfect! Even the nuts gave them a great flavor and a nice crunch. I think I didn't mind the nuts because the tops of these cookies were crackly and crunchy anyways.
The inside is soft though, so I munch-munched until I realized it was 11pm. 
Hmm... I'll walk 10 miles tomorrow.

Caramel Turtle Cookies

Makes 1 dozen 5-inch cookies
Recipe adapted from My baking addiction
1 cup minus 1 tablespoon cake flour
5/6 cup bread flour (1/2 cup plus 1/3 cup)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup caramel bits (I used Kraft)
1/2 cup chopped macadamia nuts

Preheat oven to 350F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
Combine both flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a medium bowl. Set aside.
In a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar until very light, about 5 minutes. Add the egg and mix well. Stir in the vanilla. Reduce the speed to low, add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Mix in the chocolate chips, caramel bits, and chopped nuts.
Using a regular ice cream scoop, scoop a generous amount of dough and place on the cookie sheets. I got 9 on one of them and 3 on the other.
Bake until golden brown but still soft, about 18-20 minutes. You might want to switch the two cookie sheets  during baking for even browning. I didn't, so 9 of them were golden brown while 3 of them were a tad bit pale:( Cool completely on a wire rack, then store in an airtight container.

For smaller cookies, you can use a heaping tablespoon instead of an ice cream scoop, and bake for 12 minutes.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Golden Pecan Pie (Pecan Tart)

Here comes Christmas holidays!
It feels great to look out the window and see all the decorations that my neighbors have put up on their houses.
It makes me feel all warm and cozy:))
I know it's not Christmas yet, and it's not the holidays yet either, but I wanted to celebrate the first of December with something holiday-ey!
I've never made a pecan pie before, but I've always wanted to try one, so I whipped up my favorite pie crust recipe and filled it with sweet, gooey, crunchy, nutty, indulgent pecan filling... YUM!
I had a problem with some filling being left over, but that's probably because I used a tart pan instead of a pie pan(which I sadly didn't have). But no worries! I simply baked the rest in some crushed graham crackers and called it an individual pecan pie:)

Golden Pecan Pie (Pecan Tart)
makes one 9-inch pie
Recipe from Pillsbury: Best Desserts
For the Crust:
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup cold shortening
2 to 4 tablespoons ice water
For the Filling:
1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons all purpose flour
1 1/4 cups light corn syrup*
1 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 eggs
1 1/2 cup pecan halves
2 tablespoon margarine or butter, melted

For the Crust:
In a medium bowl, combine flour and salt; mix well. With a pastry blender or two knives, cut in the cold shortening until it resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of ice water at a time, mixing lightly with a fork. Add water until the dough is just moist enough to form a ball when lightly pressed together. Shape into a ball and flatten to a 1/2-inch thickness. On a floured surface, roll into a 11-inch circle, using gentle, light strokes from center to edge. Do not roll back and forth, or else it will become tough! Roll up the circle onto the rolling pin, place it just above the pie pan, and roll it off to place it on the pan. Gently press in the bottom and up the sides with fingertips. Do not stretch. You can trim the edges and use the scraps to fill in any holes.
For the Filling:
Preheat oven to 375F.
In a large bowl, combine brown sugar, flour, corn syrup, vanilla dna eggs; beat well. Stir in pecans and margarine/butter. Pour into pan lined with the crust.
Bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until the filling is puffed and the crust is golden brown. Let it cool completely, then store in the refrigerator.

*I found this a little too sweet, so I would reduce the corn syrup to 1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) OR reduce the brown sugar to 1 tablespoon. But then again,  I don't even eat the icing on cupcakes because it's too sweet.

Fresh Blueberry Pie

Yes, it's a pie; not a cobbler.
I made this fresh blueberry pie at 10pm and I didn't want to try it late at night (even though it would have been best as soon as it came out of the oven... all warm and gooey...*sigh*)
So when I heated it in the microwave the next morning, the filling melted completely and made itself a "jam".
Oh, well. It was awesome anyways:)
I'm sure the same thing would have happened if I had it last night... right?

This pie has the perfect amount of sweetness and every mouthful bursts with blueberries.
Honestly, I don't know what would explain it better than that.
OMG just looking at the photos makes me want to have a slice, like, right now.
Too bad I already had two this morning. I should restrain myself!
The crust is nice and flaky, and it is a no-fail recipe, so I highly recommend you try it out!

Fresh Blueberry Pie
makes one 9-inch pie (serves 8-10)
Recipe adapted from Pillsbury Best Desserts
For the Crust:
2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup cold shortening
5 to 7 tablespoons ice water (I used 7 and it still felt a bit dry - the end result was fab though!)
For the Filling:
3 1/2 cups fresh blueberries
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons margarine or butter (I forgot this, but again, turned out gorgeous)
1 to 2 tablespoons milk
2 teaspoons sugar
Dash of cinnamon

Preheat oven to 425F.
For the Crust:
In a medium bowl, combine flour and salt; mix well. With a pastry blender or two knives, cut in the cold shortening until it resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of ice water at a time, mixing lightly with a fork. Add water until the dough is just moist enough to form a ball when lightly pressed together. Divide the dough into two, shape each into a ball and flatten to a 1/2-inch thickness. On a floured surface, roll them into a 11-inch circle, using gentle, light strokes from center to edge. Do not roll back and forth, or else it will become tough! Roll up the circle onto the rolling pin, place it just above the pie pan, and roll it off to place it on the pan. Gently press in the bottom and up the sides with fingertips. Do not stretch. You can trim the edges and use the scraps to fill in any holes. Roll out the other half of the dough, then use it to top the pie filled with the blueberry filling. You might want to wrap the dough in plastic wrap and keep it in the refrigerator while you prepare the filling.
For the Filling:
In a large bowl, combine all ingredients except the margarine/butter and gently toss to coat evenly. Spoon into the pie pan lined with the bottom crust. Dot with margarine/butter. Top with second crust; seal edges and flute. Cut 4-5 slits to let the steam out; brush with milk, sprinkle with the 2 teaspoons sugar and dash of cinnamon.
Bake at 425F for 45 to 55 minutes or until the crust is golden brown. After 15 minutes of baking, cover the edges with strips of foil to prevent excessive browning.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Flower Cake with Chocolate Frosting

My very first attempt at cake decorating!
I was shy and I always stuck to simple whipped cream when it came to frosting cakes, but I guess it was about time I'd tried something new.
So I made some royal icing and buttercream and used them both on this beautiful flower-covered cake!

Today was my mom's birthday, so I made a full course dinner for her (well, technically, we had it for breakfast. Yup, at 8am in the morning.) including an appetizer, an entree with two sides, and a dessert :)

So the menu was:
Appetizer - Korean rolled omelettes
Entree - Braised beef eye of round steak with BBQ sauce
Side - Garlic mashed potatoes
- Oriental salad
Dessert - Flower cake with chocolate frosting

Wow... the main dish just looks like a big lump of 'stuff'.
I wasn't too happy with the beef because the sauce turned out a little too sweet, but overall, I was proud of my special gift for my mom:)

Especially the cake.
OMG, the cake.
It was the best thing on the menu.
Sinfully delicious and divine. That's what it was.
The chocolate buttercream was perfectly creamy and rich, and the cake layers were very moist and tender. 
And the filling was...
Okay, I cheated a little and used pudding mix and cool whip for the filling, but I was so busy cooking and baking yesterday that I just didn't have the time to make bavarian cream.
Anyway, it was a wonderful cake, and the flowers were of just the right sweetness too.
I'm planning to make this cake again for my dad's birthday, but with different decorations!    


Flower Cake with Chocolate Frosting
makes 4-layered 8-inch cake
Recipe adapted from makinglifedelicious(sponge cake) & Wilton(buttercream)
For the Cake:
5 egg yolks
5 egg whites
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups cake flour, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the Rum Syrup:
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoon light corn syrup
2 tablespoon rum

For the Filling:
1 pkg vanilla instant pudding mix
1 1/4 cups fat free milk
3 tablespoons cool whip

1 pkg chocolate instant pudding mix
1 1/4 cups fat free milk
3 tablespoons cool whip

2 cups cool whip

For the Chocolate Buttercream:
1/3 cup water
2 tablespoons meringue powder
1 (1 lb) box powdered sugar, sifted
10 tablespoons Crisco shortening
2 oz semisweet chocolate, melted
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
5 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 teaspoon butter flavor
1/4 teaspoon salt

For the Royal Icing:
1 tablespoon meringue powder
1 1/4 cup powdered sugar, measured before sifting
2 tablespoons water
Few drops of food coloring (any color)

You might want to make the royal icing flowers several days before making the cake, because they need time to dry.

For the Cake:
Preheat oven to 375F. Grease and flour two 8-inch cake pans.
Beat egg yolks and sugar in a large mixing bowl until lemon colored. (They will look crumbly, like they're never gonna mix, but don't freak out like I did; they will look better later on!) 
In another bowl, beat egg whites until stiff but not dry. Fold half of the egg whites into the egg yolk mixture. Sift flour over the mixture and fold very gently until just incorporated, then add the remaining egg whites and gold, again, until just incorporated. Be very, very gentle, and try to mix them in quickly but thoroughly, until you have no more white streaks.
Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake in a preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. (I baked them for 22 minutes and the sides came out a little hard)
Remove cakes from the oven and turn out of pans onto wire racks to cool completely.

You can do that, or you can wrap them tightly with plastic wrap when they are warm and put them in the freezer to lock in the moisture. I read about this method in a blog once and I use it whenever I feel like I overbaked the cakes just a tad. Once they cool down, take it out of the freezer and let it become room temperature.

For the Rum Syrup:
I know you're supposed to boil water and sugar first and then add the rum, but I didn't have time for that.
I simply combined water, corn syrup, a splash of rum, and called it a syrup:)

For the Filling:
The ingredients kinda speak for themselves. Mix the vanilla pudding mix with fat free milk, as directed on the box, let it set, then stir in the cool whip. Do the same with the chocolate pudding mix. Refrigerate until use.

For the Chocolate Buttercream:
Combine water and meringue powder. Whip at high speed until peaks form. Sift in 1 cup of powdered sugar into the mixture, 1/2 cup at a time, beating at low speed after each addition. Alternately add shortening and remaining sugar. Add cocoa powder, melted chocolate, and corn syrup. Add salt and flavorings. Beat at low speed until smooth.

To Assemble:
Cut off the tops of each cake to make them flat. Slice them horizontally in half to make four cake layers.
Put one layer in an 8-inch cake ring. Sprinkle with rum syrup. Pipe the chocolate buttercream around the cake with a round or star tip so that the filling doesn't ooze out. Fill in with vanilla filling. 
Top with a second cake layer, sprinkle with rum syrup, pipe a buttercream border, and fill in with cool whip. Reserve some for the very top.
Top with a third cake layer, sprinkle with rum syrup, pipe a buttercream border, and fill in with chocolate filling.
Top with the last cake layer, then spread the top with remaining cool whip. Coat the sides thinly with chocolate buttercream.
Using a basketweave tip (#47), make basketweave designs on the side. Then, using a star tip (#21), make rope borders around the top of the cake. (Click on the links for detailed how-to's.)
Pipe a message on top with the remaining frosting, using a round tip (#3).
My 'Happy Birthday' message kinda soaked into the cool whip and made a smudgy mess; I don't know why that happened.

For the Royal Icing:
Beat all ingredients until icing forms peaks (7-10 minutes at low speed with a heavy-duty mixer, 10-12 minutes at high speed with a hand-held mixer). For stiffer icing, use 1 teaspoon less water. Add 1-2 drops of desired food coloring. Fill a decorating bag with icing and pipe flowers, leaves, whatever you want, on a piece of parchment paper, and let it dry completely for 1-2 days, more if the flowers are big.
Here are the instructions for the roses, star drop flowers, and leaves.
When they become candy-hard, decorate the cake!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Mini Pistachio Pudding Tartlets

It's October already!
The weather is getting cooler... well, it's supposed to, but here in Arizona, it's still nearly 100 degrees in midday..
So! I was going to make a warm, gooey apple pie to welcome Fall, but it still felt pretty much like summer, so then I decided to make refrigerated mini tartlets:)

This is a very quick and easy dessert to whip up in 10 minutes. 
Okay, maybe not 10 minutes, because you have to bake the crust a bit, but it was the easiest tartlets I'd ever made. Plus, it looks and tastes wonderful! 

Mini Pistachio Pudding Tartlets
Makes 2

For the Crust:
10 Oreos
1-2 tablespoons milk
For the Filling:
1/2 pkg  jello instant pistachio pudding mix (you can use any flavor you'd like!)
scant 1 cup of cold fat free milk
kiwi, for garnish

Preheat oven to 350F.
Remove the cream in the oreos and set aside. Do not throw away the cream. Crush the oreo cookies with the milk in a ziploc bag; press into a 3" mini tart pan. Bake for 10 minutes. Cool on wire rack.
For the filling, combine pudding mix with cold milk and whisk for 2 minutes. Pour into cooled crusts and pop them in the refrigerator.
For garnish, stir the reserved Oreo creams until smooth. Put them in a ziploc bag, cut off the corner, and pipe them into a swirl on the cooled tartlets. Garnish with kiwis.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Swiss Black Forest Cake

Let me get straight to the point.
This cake is heavenly.
The chocolate cake layers are incredibly moist, and the filling is so creamy and light, you almost feel nothing at all. 
I think this cake makes a wonderful gift for any occasion.
I baked mine for my mom's birthday a few months ago, and everyone absolutely ADORED it.
Especially because it was baked in a 7-inch pan, it was perfect for a 'leftovers-free' birthday cake! My mom hates having large cakes and pies in the refrigerator because it takes up so much space, so she always tries to slice'em up and store them in a small container.
But I hate doing that, because if I store it that way, the cake gets all out of shape and it loses so much frosting in the process of putting it in and out of containers!
That's why I usually bake smaller cakes - so that we can finish it on the spot:)

Swiss Black Forest Cake
Recipe adapted from hotpolkadot
Makes one 7-inch cake
For the Cake:
3 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
6 tablespoons boiling water
3 eggs
6 tablespoons granulated sugar
6 tablespoons cake flour (or substitute)
For the filling:
7 g/0.25 oz powdered gelatin
1/4 cup water
3 cup whipped cream (I used cool whip)
3 tbsp granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1-15 oz can pitted maraschino cherries, drained, syrup reserved
3 tbsp spiced rum
For Garnish:
1 ounce semisweet chocolate, grated or shaved
12 pitted maraschino cherries


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 7-inch spring form pan and set it aside.
In a small heavy sauce pan combine the chopped chocolate and water then bring it to a slow boil over low heat, stirring constantly. Remove it from the heat once it thickens to a pudding consistency and stirring leaves temporary lines in the surface. Set it aside and let it cool to room temperature.
In a large bowl with an electric mixer and the whisk attachment beat the eggs and sugar until they triple in volume. Gently but quickly fold in the cake flour half at a time until it's just incorporated. Next fold in the cooled chocolate mixture.
Pour the batter into the pan and bake for 23 - 28 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. The top of the cake will rise while baking then lower slightly when it's done and feel springy to the touch. The sides will also shrink as they pull away from the pan.
Transfer the pan to a cooling rack and allow it to sit for 10 – 15 minutes before releasing the cake from the spring form to cool completely.
While the cake is cooling, make the filling. In a medium bowl combine whipped cream and sugar. In a small heatproof bowl combine the gelatin and water. Let it soften for about 5 minutes then place the bowl in a pan of simmering water, stirring occasionally, until the gelatin is dissolved. Set the gelatin mixture aside and let it reach room temperature, then add it slowly to the whipped cream. Stir in vanilla extract.
Drain the can of cherries and reserve the syrup. Set aside 12 cherries to top the cake later. With a cake leveller or a long serrated knife level off the top of the cooled Chocolate GĂ©noise Cake and slice it into 2 even layers and put one into a mousse ring/springform pan, or wrap it around with parchment paper. In a small bowl combine the reserved cherry syrup and spiced rum then drizzle it evenly over each cake layer. Spoon in 3/4 of the filling and push in the drained cherries. Top with the remaining cake layer and spread half of the remaining filling over it. Pipe rosettes around the cake with a piping bag and top each with a cherry. You can keep the stems on if you'd like, but I didn't have enough pretty cherries with stems, so I just took them all out:)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Cranberry Chocolate Chip Biscotti

Biscottis are wonderful complements to a warm cup of coffee or tea.
Well, that's what I heard.
I've never had biscottis before in my life, let alone bake any, so I had no idea what they were supposed to taste like. I usually prefer soft or chewy cookies, rather than hard ones, so I always skipped the biscotti recipes when I looked through cookbooks or websites. 
But I guess it was about time I at least tried some, just to know what it's like.

Not too sweet, but full of flavor, these crunchy little cookies are indeed yummier when they are dunked in warm coffee. The original recipe had white chocolate coating, but I felt that if those were dipped in coffee, they wouldn't really soak up anything, so I threw in some chocolate chips in the batter instead:)
They actually taste wonderful, and I would bake them again soon - probably with a dash of cinnamon to spice'em up!

But umm... I still prefer soft and chewy cookies.

Cranberry Chocolate Chip Biscotti
recipe adapted from cinnamon, spice & everything nice
Makes 5 dozen biscottis
2 cups all purpose flour
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350F. Line cookie sheet with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and baking soda. Add eggs one at a time, beating at low speed with an electric mixer. Mix in vanilla extract. Add dried cranberries and chocolate chips and stir to combine.
Divide batter into two, and shape each one on a cookie sheet into a rectangular log, about 15 inches long and 2 inches wide. 
Bake for 30 minutes, until edges are golden brown; cool on a wire rack until warm to the touch. Transfer logs onto a cutting board and slice diagonally into 1/4-inch thick cookies. 
Arrange back on parchment lined cookie sheet and bake for 8 to 20 minutes, depending on how crisp you want them.
Cool completely on wire rack.


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Rosy Apple Tart

My view of apples have changed so many times during my life.
At first, when I was about 3 years old, apples were like 'my dad's fruit', because he used to pick apples for me and my sister from apple trees every weekend. We would eat them on the spot, dripping apple juice all over ourselves, munching them down happily. 

Then, I started to like strawberries, and my love for apples slowly diminished. I thought apples were too hard, and my mom insisted on eating the peels as well, even though I hated them. 

But then I came to America, and I discovered millions of different varieties of apples that I could buy, and I was amazed. 
Gala, fuji, honeycrisp, grannysmith, red delicious...
It was ridiculous! (in a good way)
So I just HAD to try all the apples that I could find in stores, and I started to love apples again! Fuji apples are by far my favorite apples to snack on, and honeycrisp apples for baking.

Then there was a time when I was obsessed about restricting myself from sugar because I found out that my grandfather had diabetes, so I simply didn't eat any fruits at all, except tomatoes (is that a fruit?). 
But now, I LOVE fruits! I still try not to overeat them, but I tend to use them a lot for baking, and apples are especially versatile, so they're back on my 'like' list again:)

This rosy apple tart tastes just as good as it looks. I'm sure a lot of you will be able to make it way prettier than mine, and mine's not exactly perfect, but you get the idea, right?
It's supposed to resemble a rose garden, the rolled apple peels being the roses, and the chopped pistachios being the umm... green background:)
Anyways, I had a little trouble with the roses, so it didn't turn out as beautiful as I had hoped it would, but it tasted DIVINE, and that was enough for me. For now. 

Oh, FYI, this is tart doesn't have the best crust in the world, but it works for me. It's more like a crumbly crust rather than a flaky one, so you might want to use another tart shell recipe if you like flaky crusts.

Rosy Apple Tart
makes 1 9-inch tart
For the Crust:
40g/1.5 oz ground almonds (almond flour)
100g/3.5 oz cake flour
40g/1.5 oz powdered sugar
1/3 tsp baking powder
60g/2 oz unsalted butter

1/2 egg

For the Almond Filling:
160g/5.7 oz ground almonds
110g/3.5 oz powdered sugar
120g/4 oz unsalted butter, softened
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
2-3 drops vanilla essence

For the Apple filling:
2-3 large apples, peeled without breaking, peels reserved
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tbsp honey
1/4 cup granulated sugar

For the Roses:
4 large apples 
1 cup salted and roasted pistachios, in shell, coarsely chopped
1/4 of Almond Filling

For the crust:
In a large bowl, or in a food processor, combine flour, ground almonds, powdered sugar, and baking powder, or pulse a few times. Put in butter and eggs into bowl or food processor, and cut into the flour with two knifes or a pastry blender, or pulse until mixture forms a ball. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and chill for 2 hours in refrigerator. 
Roll chilled dough into a 10-inch circle and fit into the tart pan. Prick many holes in the bottom with a fork, and bake in a preheated 320F oven for 20 minutes.
Let cool completely.
For the Almond Filling:
Cream butter with powdered sugar in a mixing bowl with an electric mixer. Gradually add eggs and egg yolks, and beat in vanilla essence. Stir in ground almonds with a spoon or a  spatula. Reserve 1/4 of the filling in a ziploc bag, for garnish.
For the Roses:
Halve 6 apples (including the ones for the filling AND the roses) horizontally. Peel apples with a paring knife, peeling around the apples without breaking it. Lay them out nice and long on a baking sheet and bake in a preheated 350F oven for 4 minutes. Cut off small corner of the ziploc bag and pipe reserved almond filling along the apple peels.
Roll them up to make them look like roses, and secure with rubber bands. 
For the Apple Filling:
Chop apples (they should be already peeled, since you made the roses with them) finely and toss with the rest of the apple filling ingredients in a large saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat until softened.
To finish:
Spread almond filling on cooled tart shell. Spread the apple filling on top. Arrange the roses on the apples after taking the rubber bands off; press down to secure. Bake in a preheated 350F oven for 30-35 minutes.
Sprinkle chopped pistachios on top to make a green garden.

Slice and enjoy!

The Moistest Blueberry Crumb Cake.. EVER.

I love Martha Stewart's recipes. 
Her recipes almost always guarantee success, so I browse her website practically everyday. Once I start browsing, I just can't stop. The list seems to go on forever, and there are loads of creative recipes that I've never even thought of.
But of course, there are plenty of classic ones that bring me a feeling of 'home, sweet, home', and this blueberry crumb cake is definitely one of them.

This cake is the yummiest, the moistest, and the most tender crumb cake I have ever baked. 
Usually, when I bake things in a square pan, the edges become a little firmer than the inside, but this cake is moist and tender right until the very edge of it. When I hold it in my hands, they kind of feel marshmallow-y and very soft, and they almost fall apart because of their tenderness. The streusel crumbs on top have a very slight crunch, but they're still on the softer side. And they don't even have a lot of butter in them! But don't get me wrong. It is NOT over-tender.
I have tried this recipe 3 times, each with cherries, blueberries, and peaches, and all of them turned out absolutely amazing. This is going into my 'best recipes' file, and I highly recommend you try it out too:)

Blueberry Crumb Cake
recipe adapted from Martha Stewart
For the Cake:
4 tbsp unsalted butter
1+1/2 cup all purpose flour
1+1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
2/3 cup milk
1/2 tsp lemon juice
1+1/2 cup fresh blueberries
1 tsp all purpose flour (for coating blueberries)

For the Streusel Topping:
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 350F. Line a 9-inch square pan with parchment paper.
For the Streusel Topping:
In a medium bowl, stir together flour, brown sugar, and salt. Cut in the butter with your hands or a pastry blender until large, moist crumbs form. Chill. 
For the Cake:
Combine milk and lemon juice.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. In a large bowl, beat the butter and granulated sugar with and electric mixer until fluffy. Add egg; beat well. Add flour mixture and milk mixture alternately until just combined. In a large bowl, toss the blueberries with 1 tsp of flour. Fold into the batter; spoon into prepared pan.
Sprinkle cake with streusel topping. Bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Let cool completely. Cut into squares.


Giant Cream Puffs with Chocolate Frosting

One of the many advantages of baking at home is that when you make cream puffs...
These cream puffs, filled with creamy pistachio pudding and frosted with sweet, sugary chocolate icing, were made simply to satisfy my own cravings:)
I didn't care how they looked, or how messy they got; I just wanted to gobble, gobble, gobble!
Although, I have to say, they look pretty scrummylicious to me;)
Overall, these were heavenly. The icing was a little too sweet for my taste, but then again, I used semisweet chocolate instead of unsweetened chocolate because that was all I had, which probably made a huge difference. Oh, and I also made some other healthy substitutions, so I didn't feel guilty at all.
I got this recipe a few months ago from my cooking teacher, and after we made them in class, everyone was licking the frosting and filling off their mixing bowls!

Giant Cream Puffs with Chocolate Frosting
recipe from my cooking teacher
makes 6
For the Cream Puffs:
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup water
2 eggs
Dash of salt
1/2 tsp sugar, if desired

For the Filling:
One 4-serving box of Jell-O instant pudding and pie filling, any flavor
1 cup fat free milk
1 cup whipping cream (I used 2 cups fat free cool whip)

For the Frosting:
1 oz unsweetened chocolate
1 tsp butter
1 cup sifted powdered sugar
2 tbsp hot water

For the cream puffs:
In a medium saucepan, combine water, butter, salt, and sugar, if desired. Bring to a boil. Add all the flour at once, stirring vigorously over low heat until the mixture forms a ball. Remove from heat; cool slightly. Beat in eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. (The batter may look curdled, but this is normal, and it will become smooth in the end. No worries!) Drop by scant 1/4 cupfuls about 3 inches apart onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake on the lowest rack in a preheated 400F oven, until puffed and golden, about 30 minutes. Cool in the oven with door slightly open.
For the Filling:
Chill 2 bowls with beaters. Whip whipping cream in one bowl until stiff. In the other bowl, mix pudding mix and milk. Mix for only 1 minute at high speed. Fold the pudding and the whipped cream (or cool whip) together thoroughly. 
For the Frosting:
In a microwave, heat unsweetened chocolate and 1 tsp butter in a microwave safe bowl. Stir in sifted powdered sugar and hot water, 1 tbsp at a time. Beat until smooth.
To assemble:
Cut off the tops of the cooled puffs and pull out any soft dough. Save the tops. Fill puffs with filling, replace tops, and frost with chocolate frosting. Refrigerate until serving. 

Make ahead: Make the puffs, filling, and frosting, and keep refrigerated. The next day, crisp up the puffs, after pulling out the insides, in a preheated 350F oven for 5 minutes. Cool, then assemble.