Sunday, August 31, 2008

August Challenge! Eclairs!!

Almost late I am. It’s late the 31st and I forgot I had to post my Challenge. Leaving for work, I said to myself oh S*** it’s the last day of August. So here I am at work, typing it up on Word to email to myself, add pics and get posted ha-ha.

The Challenge this Month Was chosen by Tony Tahhan and Meetak .

I was quite excited, I have had to sit out the last couple of months, and was looking forward to getting back into the swing of things, I was worried it was going to be a hard and long challenge but to my enjoyment it was not!!

I have made cream puffs many times before, from a recipe I have just always used, making a light pastry cream filling and shiny ganache top. So I was not worried one bit about the challenge. As I read the recipe, I wondered to myself, a glaze and sauce for the top? And I never have to do the many steps required to bake these particular batch. But intrigued and still not worried I set out to do it. I broke it up between days, making the filling and the choux one day and the topping and putting them together the next.

This was the first challenge I made as is. I did not change a thing. I like bittersweet chocolate and was curious as to how it would all come together in complete form, so mine are the complete recipe with no alterations!

Before we get the recipe here is what I think. I love the bittersweet filling, my gosh it was dense chocolate heaven, not too sweet and very formal to me. These would have been fantastic on an elegant wedding dessert table. The topping, I followed the recipes as close to exact as I could and had no trouble. I read on the forums some had oily glazes or they broke, I am not sure why at all, but mine came together nicely, and I really liked it and will use those 2 items several times again. In fact I had so much left, I added Jalapeños to the left over and used it as the topping on my CupCake hero entry! And I will tell you I think it’s the Hostess cupcake recipe ha-ha because those cupcakes looked just like a Hostess cupcake just no cream filling or white zigzag on the top (but I am so going to try to recreate those now that I have that topping!!

Now the Choux dough itself, It seemed pretty much just like any others I have used, but it baked weird. I made mostly small ones, but had done a couple large that I wanted to use for the pictures, but those rose and then fell flat as they cooled, with no possible way to even cut them in half. I had baked them longer, tapping the bottom of them for that hollow sound, and they had a great golden brown color, but anything longer than my finger was useless to me. So those I had to throw away, leaving me with about a dozen mini éclairs, just enough filling, and a top of glaze (hence the cupcakes hehe).

Over all I was very very pleased!! They were loved by all that ate them, with all the chocolate, they were not overly sweet to me at all. I will definitely keep the filling and toping recipes and just use them with my Choux recipe. Thanks to you both for a great Challenge this month, loved coming back to such a wonderful item to make!!

Pierre Hermé’s Chocolate Éclairs
Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé
(makes 20-24 Éclairs)
• Cream Puff Dough (see below for recipe), fresh and still warm

1) Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Divide the oven into thirds by
positioning the racks in the upper and lower half of the oven. Line two baking sheets with waxed o
r parchment paper.
2) Fill a large pastry bag fitted with a 2/3 (2cm) plain tip nozzle with the warm cream puff dough.
Pipe the dough onto the baking sheets in long, 4 to 41/2 inches (about 11 cm) chubby fingers.
Leave about 2 inches (5 cm) space in between each dough strip to allow them room to puff.
The dough should give you enough to pipe 20-24 éclairs.

3) Slide both the baking sheets into the oven and bake for 7 minutes. After the 7 minutes, slip the

handle of a wooden spoon into the door to keep in ajar. When the éclairs have been in the
oven for a total of 12 minutes, rotate the sheets top to bottom and front to back. Continue
baking for a further 8 minutes or until the éclairs are puffed, golden and firm. The total baking
time should be approximately 20 minutes.

1) The éclairs can be kept in a cool, dry place for several hours before filling.

Assembling the éclairs:

• Chocolate glaze (see below for recipe)
• Chocolate pastry cream (see below for recipe)

1) Slice the éclairs horizontally, using a serrated knife and a gently sawing motion. Set aside the

bottoms and place the tops on a rack over a piece of parchment paper.

2) The glaze should be barely warm to the touch (between 95 – 104 degrees F or 35 – 40
degrees C, as measured on an instant read thermometer). Spread the glaze over the tops of
the éclairs using a metal icing spatula. Allow the tops to set and in the meantime fill the
bottoms with the pastry cream.

3) Pipe or spoon the pastry cream into the bottoms of the éclairs. Make sure you fill the bottoms
with enough cream to mound above the pastry. Place the glazed tops onto the pastry cream
and wriggle gently to settle them.

1) If you have chilled your chocolate glaze, reheat by placing it in a bowl over simmering water,
stirring it gently with a wooden spoon. Do not stir too vigorously as you do not want to create

2) The éclairs should be served as soon as they have been filled.

Pierre Hermé’s Cream Puff Dough
Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé
(makes 20-24 Éclairs)

• ½ cup (125g) whole milk
• ½ cup (125g) water
• 1 stick (4 ounces; 115g) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
• ¼ teaspoon sugar
• ¼ teaspoon salt
• 1 cup (140g) all-purpose flour
• 5 large eggs, at room temperature

1) In a heavy bottomed medium saucepan, bring the milk, water, butter, sugar and salt to the

2) Once the mixture is at a rolling boil, add all of the flour at once, reduce the heat to medium
and start to stir the mixture vigorously with a wooden spoon. The dough comes together very
quickly. Do not worry if a slight crust forms at the bottom of the pan, it’s supposed to. You
need to carry on stirring for a further 2-3 minutes to dry the dough. After this time the dough
will be very soft and smooth.

3) Transfer the dough into a bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or using your
handmixer or if you still have the energy, continue by hand. Add the eggs one at a time,
beating after each egg has been added to incorporate it into the dough.
You will notice that after you have added the first egg, the dough will separate, once again do
not worry. As you keep working the dough, it will come back all together again by the time you
have added the third egg. In the end the dough should be thick and shiny and when lifted it
should fall back into the bowl in a ribbon.

4) The dough should be still warm. It is now ready to be used for the éclairs as directed above.

1) Once the dough is made you need to shape it immediately.

2) You can pipe the dough and the freeze it. Simply pipe the dough onto parchment-lined baking
sheets and slide the sheets into the freezer. Once the dough is completely frozen, transfer the
piped shapes into freezer bags. They can be kept in the freezer for up to a month.

Chocolate Pastry Cream
Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by PierreHermé

• 2 cups (500g) whole milk
• 4 large egg yolks
• 6 tbsp (75g) sugar
• 3 tablespoons cornstarch, sifted
• 7 oz (200g) bittersweet chocolate, preferably Velrhona Guanaja, melted
• 2½ tbsp (1¼ oz: 40g) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1) In a small saucepan, bring the milk to a boil. In the meantime, combine the yolks, sugar and cornstarch together and whisk in a heavy‐bottomed saucepan.

2) Once the milk has reached a boil, temper the yolks by whisking a couple spoonfuls of the hot milk into the yolk mixture.Continue whisking and slowly pour the rest of the milk into the tempered yolk mixture.

3) Strain the mixture back into the saucepan to remove any egg that may have scrambled. Place the pan over medium heat and whisk vigorously (without stop) until the mixture returns to a boil. Keep whisking vigorously for 1 to 2 more minutes (still over medium heat).Stir in the melted chocolate and then remove the pan from the heat.

4) Scrape the pastry cream into a small bowl and set it in an ice‐water bath to stop the cooking process. Make sure to continue stirring the mixture at this point so that it remains smooth.

5) Once the cream has reached a temperature of 140 F remove from the ice‐water bath and stir in the butter in three or four installments. Return the cream to the ice‐water bath to continue cooling, stirring occasionally, until it has completely cooled. The cream is now ready to use or store in the fridge.

1) The pastry cream can be made 2‐3 days in advance and stored in the refrigerator.

2) In order to avoid a skin forming on the pastry cream, cover with plastic wrap pressed onto the cream.

3) Tempering the eggs raises the temperature of the eggs slowly so that they do not scramble.

Chocolate Glaze
Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé
(makes 1 cup or 300g)

• 1/3 cup (80g) heavy cream
• 3½ oz (100g) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
• 4 tsp (20 g) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces, at room temperature
• 7 tbsp (110 g) Chocolate Sauce (recipe below), warm or at room temperature

1)In a small saucepan, bring the heavy cream to a boil. Remove from the heat and slowly begin to add the chocolate, stirring with a wooden spoon or spatula.

2) Stirring gently, stir in the butter, piece by piece followed by the chocolate sauce.

1) If the chocolate glaze is too cool (i.e. not liquid enough) you may heat it briefly
 in the microwave or over a double boiler. A double boiler is basically a bowl sitting over (not touching) simmering water.

2) It is best to glaze the eclairs after the glaze is made, but if you are pressed for time, you can make the glaze a couple days ahead of time, store it in the fridge and bring it up to the proper temperature (95 to 104 F) when ready to glaze.

Chocolate Sauce
Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé
(makes 1½ cups or 525 g)

• 4½ oz (130 g) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
• 1 cup (250 g) water
• ½ cup (125 g) crème fraîche, or heavy cream
• 1/3 cup (70 g) sugar

1) Place all the ingredients into a heavy‐bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil, making sure to stir constantly. Then reduce the heat to low and continue stirring with a wooden spoon until the sauce thickens.

2) It may take 10‐15 minutes for the sauce to thicken, but you will know when it is done when it coats the back of your spoon.

1) You can make this sauce ahead of time and store it in the refrigerator for two weeks. Reheat the sauce in a microwave oven or a double boiler before using.
2) This sauce is also great for cakes, ice-cream and tarts.

And for some silly reason.. I took 2 pictures?? wtf was I thinking?? either way I loved em!!

Check out the rest at the Daring Bakers Blog Roll!!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

BookMarked Recipes...JAM!!

Well, I figure since I am always doing Jams and Marmalade's, I might as well do one for the Ball Blue Book of Preserving and get my Book Marked Recipe done early. Ruth host's it weekly and I have greatly enjoyed trying to get something done every week. So I had planned on a Spiced Blueberry Jam today, but have been itching to make Strawberry Marmalade. I love Marmalade and Strawberry Jam so how awesome can the 2 be together? Thinking I was putting strawberry lemonade in a jar I just had to make it.
Strawberry-Lemon Marmalade
¼ c thinly sliced lemon peel
4 c crushed strawberries (about 2 quarts)
1 package powdered pectin
1 Tbsp lemon juice
6 c sugar
Cover lemon peel with water; boil 5 minutes; drain. Combine lemon peel, strawberries, powdered pectin and lemon juice in a large sauce pot. Bring slowly to a boil. Add sugar, stirring until dissolved. Bring to a rolling boil. Boil hard 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim foam if necessary. Ladle hot marmalade into hot jars, leaving ¼-inch head space. Adjust two-piece caps. Process 10 minutes in a boiling- water canner.
mm..strawberry with a hint of lemon. Yummy!! Sadly I didn’t have much left a ton of foam for once, and a little marmalade that I added to it making a funky bowl of the two which still tastes fantastic. I love the bright red color of it as well. I got a bakers dozen of little 4 oz jars that 13..hmm 12..lucky people will get in their Christmas package! And for once the event is done before the day it is do haha. and this picture above is the funky bowl of foam and a bit of the marmalade, weird lookin but soo tasty I am not gonna keep anything I can eat??? Check out the round up sometime Monday you will find some awesome entries or go and check out the past round ups, either way check out Ruth's site its great!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Cupcake Hero..Jalapeno!

I was super excited with this months ingredient for Cupcake Hero. The hosts this month Rachel of Tangerine Tart and Teri of the 90/10 rule have chosen Jalapeño. I have been out for a few months so was looking forward to getting back into cupcake craziness. I had many ideas, and had settled on one, and then I had this candy bar, and it was awesome, and I actually ended up making 2 cupcakes. I had been worried about finding the jalapeños. So I just decided to ask a couple people and low and behold, one of my coworkers grows them. WOOHOO!! She brought me a little bag of 3 medium sized peppers. I was set.
The first cupcake has a Caribbean flare to it. I thought to myself what goes well with jalapeños? Well salsa of course, but we need it sweet, how about Mango or citrus or coconut or all 3. So I made a citrus (lemon & lime) jalapeño cupcake, with a jalapeño mango curd filling, with a citrus jalapeño icing..more like a glaze.

Caribbean Cupcakes:
4 T sugar
8 T mango nectar
2 egg yolks
1/4 tsp seeded, & finely chopped jalapeño
1/2 tsp butter

In a heavy sauce pan cook sugar, egg, nectar and jalapeño over medium heat. Bring to boil and turn to low. cook until curd coats spatula. Nice thick consistency. Remove from heat and stir in butter. Stir until melted and incorporated. put in small bowl and set aside to cool or refrigerate. (This makes a very small amount. I put a small amount in the middle of each cupcake, if you want more adjust the amounts)


3/4 c butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp mango nectar
the zest of 3/4 a lemon and 3/4 a lime (save rest of zest from each for glaze in the end.)
1 jalapeño seeded, & finely chopped ( I smashed it a bit with back of my knife to get it juicy ;) )
1 1/2 cups cake flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2/3 c buttermilk....enough coconut milk to fill the measuring cup to 3/4

In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each. Add mango, zests and jalapeño. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt, add to creamed mixture alternately with buttermilk/coconut milk.

Full paper lined cupcake pan 3/4 full. Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes. (my oven runs hot I think mine were about 18min)

2 Tbsp butter, softened
1 pinch salt
2 c confectioners' sugar
2-4 Tbsp coconut milk (have extra to adjust to the consistency of choice)
rest of the zest from the lemon and lime from earlier, and 1/2 tsp seeded, finely chopped jalapeño

Mix all ingredients together, add extra milk to thin if needed. I liked mine a bit thin so it was a nice glaze.

And there you have it, a spicy citrusy cupcake with a hint of mango and coconut. I can't wait to take them to work and see what everyone thinks =). I love the glaze and the heat of the cupcake, part of why I couldn't wait to try them out. I used about 1 1/2 jalapeño in the whole recipe, you can decrease or increase the heat as you wish =) .

And now for the other cupcake. My favorite chocolate is the Fire Bar from Vosges. Its amazing! I love it. But figured ehh someone will do a chocolate jalapeño cupcake, how could someone not? Well I had to go to Chicago to pick up my husband at the air port and while their I stopped for a bottle of water, and came across a candy bar from Lindt. A dark chocolate cherry pepper candy bar. It was quite tasty, not as good as the Fire Bar but tasty none the less. So I thought , hey I have cherries, and dark chocolate cocoa and the jalapeños why not try it?
The batter..mmm tasted like a spicy chocolate covered cherry! yum! and what of the icing. Well I did the challenge yesterday, and while glazing what I had made I realized how wonderful it would be to have jalapeños added to it and topping a cupcake so hehe thats what I did =).

Spicy Chocolate covered Cherry Cupcakes:

6 oz semi sweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 1/4 cups boiling water
1 1/4 cups unsweetened dark chocolate cocoa powder
2 c sifted cake flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/3 tsp salt
2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 3/4 c packed dark brown sugar
4 lg eggs at room temp
1 Tb pure vanilla extract
1 jalapeño seeded, and finely chopped
1 cup pitted and chopped cherries ( I used bing, and as they sat the accumulated lots of juice, it all went into the batter.)

Put the chopped chocolate and jalapeño in a heatproof bowl and pour the boiling water over it. Set aside to melt for 5 minutes. Add cocoa, stir until smooth, and set aside to cool to room temperature.
In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt.
Put the butter and brown sugar in a large bowl and cream together until fluffy, 4-5 minutes, using an electric mixer on medium speed. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape down the bowl. Beat in vanilla. Add the dry ingredients and half of the chocolate mixture and beat to combine. Add the remaining chocolate mixture and beat on low speed until smooth. Use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.
Fill paper lined cupcake pans 3/4 full ( I did more and they spilled out a bit ;)). You should get just over 24 cupcakes, if you do the 3/4 full probably closer to the 36. Bake 20-25 min at 350. Mine was closer to 18-20 with the hot oven.

Chocolate Glaze

• 1/3 cup heavy cream
• 3½ oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
• 4 tsp unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces, at room temperature
• 7 tbsp Chocolate Sauce (recipe below), warm or at room temperature
1 tsp seeded, finely chopped jalapeño

In a small saucepan, bring the heavy cream to a boil. Remove from the heat and slowly begin to add the chocolate and jalapeño , stirring with a wooden spoon or spatula.

Stirring gently, stir in the butter, piece by piece followed by the chocolate sauce.

1) If the chocolate glaze is too cool (i.e. not liquid enough) you may heat it briefly
 in the microwave or over a double boiler. A double boiler is basically a bowl sitting over (not touching) simmering water.

Chocolate Sauce

• 4½ oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
• 1 cup water
• ½ cup heavy cream
• 1/3 cup sugar

1) Place all the ingredients into a heavy‐bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil, making sure to stir constantly. Then reduce the heat to low and continue stirring with a wooden spoon until the sauce thickens.

2) It may take 10‐15 minutes for the sauce to thicken, but you will know when it is done when it coats the back of your spoon.

Once the cupcakes are cool, carefully dip them into the slightly warm chocolate glaze. You need it warm to get the smooth, ganach like texture to the cupcakes. Be careful, they are a very tender cupcake, if too warm the tops will break on you.

And there you have it, my 2 cupcakes. I like them both, and had lots of fun with them =).

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Book Marked Recipe

I almost thought I wasn't going to be able to do Book Marked Recipes this week, work had me super busy, but after telling our room mate a weird dream, he picked up on a small part and perked up with "oh we are having blueberry pancakes?" I thought, well yea we can tomorrow I guess. And then I remembered wait I just saw a recipe. And sure enough, in my newest edition of Fine Cooking, there is a recipe for Blueberry Buttermilk Pancakes, perfect for a late Sunday breakfast. So about 11:30am I set out to make those yummy pancakes, with all the blueberries still in the freezer I say why not haha.
Blueberry Buttermilk Pancakes
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
4 tsp granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 1/2 cups buttermilk
2 large eggs
2 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1 pint blueberries, washed and picked over
honey, syrup, or jam of serving.
In a large bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk the buttermilk, eggs and butter.
Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. With as few strokes as possible, mix until the batter is evenly moistened but still a little lumpy. Let the batter rest for at least 5 minutes.
Very lightly oil a griddle and heat it evenly over medium heat until droplets from a sprinkle of water dance briefly on the surface before disappearing. From the tip of a large spoon, drop about 2 Tbsp. of butter onto the griddle and use the spoon to gently spread the batter into a round. Sprinkle a small handful of blueberries onto each pancake. Cook the pancakes until they're covered in bubbles on top and nicely browned on the bottom. Flip and cook the other side until it's nicely browned. Serve immediately.

Let me just say "WOW". Ok I will be honest, I have never made pancakes without the use of a premade mix of sorts. I have made waffles once at school, but do not recall pancakes. These were amazing! I will never use a mix again. So tender and fluffy, and the berries mmmm wonderful! I am gonna play with the fruit, maybe do strawberry or banana nut another time. They were fantastic. The hubby and room mate loved em, and I have 2 left for my breakfast tomorrow..YAY!! I am loving this event Ruth!! Everyone check out the rest!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Cherry Marmalade

The newest addition of my jam experience is Cherry Marmalade. I still have 2 bags of peaches, but wanted to do something different, save that for another day. I love marmalades, and my favorite is Stonewall Kitchens Cranberry Orange Marmalade; It is fantastic, and if I can make even a version even half as good as theirs I will be thrilled. Well, making this, I realize it really is more a jam, with a bit of Orange added to it. Making it a little tangy to go with the sweet, but tasty none the less. I fought adding some cinnamon to it, as I think it would have been wonderful, but wanted to make the recipes as is for now, and tweak them later once I am over confident.

Cherry Marmalade

2/3 cup chopped seeded orange (unpeeled)
4 cups pitted sweet cherries
4 T lemon juice
3 1/2 cups granulated sugar

1. Prepare canner, jars and lids.
2. In a large saucepan, combine orange, cherries, juice. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat, cover and boil gently, stirring frequently, until peel is tender, about 20 min. Maintaining boil, gradually stir in sugar. Boil hard, stirring frequently, until mixture reaches gel stage, about 30 minutes. Remove from heat, and test get. ( I use the plate in freezer method! lets me lick my fingers mmm jam!!) If gel stage has been reached, skim off foam.
3. Ladle hot marmalade into hot jars, leaving 1/3 in head space. Remove air bubbles and adjust head space, if necessary by adding more marmalade. Wipe rim and put on lids and bands.
4. Process in canned, bring to a boil and process 15 minutes.

I really enjoy making the no pectin added jams, I feel proud pulling it off with out added assistance haha.. of course, after a few batches it won't matter, but it seems like the first one that I made had pectin added and didn't set up as well as these last 2. So I definitely have to try another one to see if maybe I just messed it up. Either way, this is definitely my new favorite hobby.
The month is half over, and I still need to do my challenge and the Cupcake hero (Jalapeños can I do it?? just need the time not sure how I pulled off the jam today, I have less than 30 min to get ready for the belly dancing class and here I sit typing about my yummy jam!! haha)

Friday, August 15, 2008

2 for 1!!

So here it is the end of the week, and I still have to find something to do for this weeks Book Marked Recipe. While going through my myriad of Magazines trying to thin them down, which also helps with the event, I came across a layer cake, which ironically is what another event that I wanted to do this month requires. Quirky Cupcake, my CupCake Hero place (woohoo Slush!!) is also hosting a Layers of Cake event. So to solve my problem I chose to make the cake and submit it for both events, finishing both off at the same time. Of course this meant baking the layers before work, and finishing it late at night. As we speak part of the icing is cooling so that I can finish making the butter cream and get the stinking thing iced, and it's 10pm already..sigh. But it will be yummy!
So the cake I chose to make is : Pistachio and White Chocolate Buttercream Cake pulled from the pages of a March 1992 Bon Appetit magazine. I have totes of magazines, and decided to go through them taking out what I may use and donating the rest to whom ever will take them, in hopes of 1. using them and 2. finding some damn room in my house ha-ha. When I saw the recipe I knew I had to make it, not only for the use of 2 events, but also to use up the damn Pistachios I had in my freezer from my first bookmarked recipe event. And well it sounds pretty stinking good to me, and the picture looked good too, so lets hope I do it justice! (and now that I am typing it out..omg there is SO much to type LOL).

Pistachio and White Chocolate Buttrercream Cake:
12 servings

5 T water
3 T sugar
3 T Kirsch (clear cherry brandy)

2/3 cup shelled unsalted pistachio nuts, toasted
8 lg egg yolks
2/3 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract

5 lg egg whites
2/3 cup cake flour
1/4 cup cornstarch

6 lg egg yolks
1/3 cup sugar
2 T all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups half and half
8 oz good quality white chocolate, finely chopped
1 T Kirsch
2 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

1 cup finely chopped shelled pistachios (garnish)

for syrup:
combine 5 T water and sugar in heavy small saucepan. Bring to boil over low heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat. Stir in kirsch and cool. (syrup can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)

For Cake:
Position rack in top third of oven and preheat to 350. Butter 2 9 inch cake pans. Line bottoms with waxed paper rounds. Butter paper and dust pans with flour.
Finely grind nuts in processor. Using electric mixer, beat yolks in large bowl just until blended. Add 1/3 cup sugar and beat until mixture is think and light in color, about 3 minutes. Beat in vanilla and almond extract.
Using clean dry beaters, beat whites in another large bowl until soft peaks form. Gradually add remaining 1/3 cup sugar and beat until stiff but not dry. Fold 1/3 of whites into yolk mixture. Fold ground nuts into yolk mixture. Sift flour and cornstarch over yolk mixture and gently fold in. Fold in remaining egg whites in 2 additions.
Divide batter between prepared pans. Bake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 18 minutes. Cool 5 minutes on rack.Run knife around sides of cakes to loosen. Turn out onto racks and cool. Peel paper off cakes. (Cakes can be made 1 day ahead. Wrap cakes tightly and store at room temperature.)

For Buttercream:
Whisk yolks, sugar and flour in medium bowl until well blended. Bring half and half to a simmer in heavy medium saucepan. Gradually whisk hot half and half into egg mixture. Return egg mixture to same saucepan and cook until mixture boils and is very thick, whisking constantly. Transfer mixture to medium bowl. Add chocolate and stir until chocolate melts and mixture is smooth. Mix in kirsch and vanilla. Press plastic wrap onto surface of pastry cream to prevent skin from forming; cool. (can be made 1 day ahead. Refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before continuing.)
Using electric mixer, beat butter until fluffy and light in color. At low speed add pastry cream 1/4 cup at a time, beating after each addition until just blended.
Cut each cake layer horizontally in half. Place 1 cake bottom on platter. Drizzle with 1/4 of syrup. Spread scant cup of buttercream over. Repeat layering 2 more times with cake, syrup, and buttercream. Top with last cake layer. Spread very thin layer of buttercream over top and sides of cake to anchor loose crumbs. Spread remaining buttercream evenly over entire cake. Press chopped nuts onto sides and in 1-inch border around top edge of cake. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover with cake dome and chill. Let stand at room temperature 1 hour before serving.)

I chilled it over night, for a smooth slice. And had that slice for much for healthy today. Let me tell you, pastry cream INTENSE. I still can't decide if it was too rich for me or not, then again I just woke up and had it for breakfast ha-ha. This cake reminds me much more of a torte thin sponge layers, syrup and thin layers of icing in between them. Makes a wonderful impression, very elegant to me. and pretty tasty. It would be a great addition to a holiday dessert table actually.
Check out the rest of the Round up at Ruth's Site!! And why not find a book marked recipe of our own and join our fun!!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

In a Jam!

My second Jam is in the making!! As I said, my newest addiction is the making of Jams. I would say other preserves but as of yet, its been just the one jam and the one being made now. So while it comes to a boil, why not start the blog, another perk to moving my computer into my kitchen!! Figuring I should make space in my freezer I opted for another Peach jam. This one is Strawberry Peach Jam. I have to say my favorite of all jams would have to be good ole strawberry. As plain as it is, I remember eating my grandma's strawberry freezer jam one summer and loving it. Now I prefer to spice it up, so was excited to find a mixed jam of 2 fantastic flavors. It's like being able to have summer all the time, I am not a summer fan really, hate that heat and stickiness...but I love the fresh fruits and vegetables that are in abundance during that time. So luckily there were still some berries at a local grocery store, and they looked pretty good too, I was quite surprised. And since today was my only day off, for yet another set of days, I thought it would be a good time to make another batch and see if I can get better at it. As good as the first one was, and as proud as I was, I know it wasn't perfect in anyway. How else to perfect what we do than to keep doing it??
The other nifty thing about this recipe is I realized that there is no added pectin in it, so its all based on the natural pectin of the fruit. I am quite excited to see how it comes out, and see if I can pull off the canner better. It also is using some brown sugar which sounds wonderfully rich to me. Water is started early, in hopes of it boiling on time and me not waiting for it ha-ha.

Strawberry Peach Jam
2 Quarts fresh strawberries, just ripe
4 cups fresh peaches (about 1 lb.)
1 lemon, juice of
3 cups granulated sugar
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 tsp cinnamon (or use 1 stick and discard after)

1. Wash and hull the strawberries, then cut each in quarters.
2. Wash peaches. To peel, dunk them into boiling water, leave for 30 seconds to one minute, then immediately plunge into ice water. When peaches are cool enough to handle, remove the fuzz. Cut peaches in half and remove pit, then slice the fruit.
3. Place the strawberries and peaches into a large pot. Stir in the lemon juice. Heat the fruit over medium heat until it begins to soften ( about 10 min)
4. Mash the softened fruit and add the sugars. (If using cinnamon stick, add now.) Bring the mixture to a boil and let it continue to cook until thick, about 25-30 min.) or until it reaches 221F on candy thermometer. (of course I have no idea where mine is so gonna use the plate method..fingers crossed!) Watch your jam carefully to prevent scorching, stirring often. If you're worried or think you can smell the mixture starting to burn, turn the heat down and cook slowly until the jam tests done. Testing can be done by dipping a spoonful of the hot jam onto a china or glass plate that has been kept in the freezer. Give the jam on the plate a moment or so to cool and then see if it's gelling to your satisfaction.
5. When the jam is ready, stir in the cinnamon (unless you used the stick) and remove the pot from the heat. Let sit for 5 minutes, then skimm off all the foam. (this will be new for me too...)
6. Ladle the jam into hot sterilized jars, leaving 1/2 inch headroom. Wipe the rims clean and adjust lids.
7. Process in a hot batch for 5 minutes. Cool completely, check seals and label. Store in a cool, dry, dark place for up to 1 year.

**what I love at the moment..the smell of peaches, strawberries and cinnamon...(another reason I was excited to use the recipe..cinnamon sticks YAY!!)..the sound of my canner starting to simmer and classic 80's playing...its a great day me thinks..
So ..OMG!! I just finished putting the lids on the most amazing jam, I love it, and its just the tastes I have had from the plate test!! its freaking awesome!!
The cinnamon is just a hint and the flavors melded together great, have to get the water back up to a boil and in they go, WOOHOO!!!
Man, I could not be more prouder, I was worried but excited, and seeing and tasting it (even warm he-he) I just can't wait to make more flavors and expand the possibilities.. the Holidays this year will be wonderful!!

Fruit Fare!

I was determined to make up for lost time this month! When I saw MBP:Fruit Fare started by Spice Cafe and Guest hosted by Aparna at My Diverse Kitchen event I was all over it, true I am into fruit at the moment because I am all into making Jams. So I had to look at what I had on hand, Blueberries, 2 gallon size bags of frozen fresh blueberries to be exact. So I thought ok no problem. I was wrong, I have never really browsed blogs other than other Daring Bakers, so I hit search blog and got some weird stuff, and the only recipes I found were from sites of recipes only, not quite what I wanted or needed. So I went back to the handy list of DBer's and Found Yum, and there I found Streusel Topped Blueberry Muffins. I know its not new or different, but we Love blueberry muffins here, and I jumped on this recipe because its healthy, using whole wheat flour (which I have had in my freezer for months) and applesauce which I have been itching to try out in baked goods. I went through 3 pages of Sherri's wonderful blog of amazingly wonderful look foods when I found the muffins.

Streusel Topped Blueberry Muffins
1 c all purpose flour
1 c whole wheat flour
2 t baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 T all purpose flour
2 c fresh or frozen blueberries
1/2 c unsweetened applesauce
3/4 c granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 t vanilla extract
1/4 t lemon zest
1/2 c skim milk
2 T all purpose flour
3 T granulated sugar
2 T brown sugar
1/2 t ground cinnamon
2 T butter, diced

Pre-heat oven to 375. Paper line or grease a 12 cup muffin tin
Combine the 2 C of flour (white and wheat), baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. In a small bowl, sprinkle 1-2 T flour over blueberries, set aside. (this simple trick will keep you from having purple batter, and it will keep them spread through out the muffin and not sinking to the bottom) In large bowl, beat applesauce and 3/4 c sugar. Beat in eggs, vanilla and lemon zest. Fold in dry ingredients alternately with milk. Fold in blueberries. Do not over work batter. Spoon into muffin cups.
Combine 2 T flour, 2T brown sugar, 3 T sugar and cinnamon in small bowl. Cut in butter using fork or pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle over batter in muffin cups.
Bake 20-25 min.What I did different, I didn't have skim milk, and used 2% instead. I kept my berries frozen until they were folded in, added help to the none purple batter or smashed berries ;). I also sprinkled some Cinnamon Sprinkle I had from Pampered Chef on top of the streusel, I had it and said why not. Mine actually baked for about 18min, but I think my oven runs hot and I always err on the side of safety and check a couple minutes before the lowest time to bake.
My shock, I was surprised that you folded all the other ingredients in, thinking how could they be fully mixed? But it was like a quick bread batter, and was very smooth. And then I wondered about the rising, not too much air whipped in and just baking powder really, wow they were gorgeous coming out of the oven! I can't wait to taste one. I just want them to cool a bit, just looking at them and smelling them I know I am keeping a bag of those blueberries to remake this recipe. Thanks Sherri for an awesome recipe, I am so glad I chose to start at the bottom of that list!! And I think I am gonna try some of your other recipes you have posted, they looked SOO good!!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Book Marked Recipe (#2 for me)

I really liked doing this last week, so I am gonna try to keep up with it. Book Marked Recipes Gives me a chance to do some of those savory things I keep thinking I should try. So this evening I did one from Cooking Light Magazine. Cooking Light is one of my favorite magazines. Not only are there great recipes, but tons of healthy information. I am always trying to better myself, and want to eat and live more healthier, and Cooking Light helps me take my baby steps in the right direction. So this evening I reached back to the March 2007 issue and made Spicy Honey-Brushed Chicken Thighs. Now, I am not a dark meat fan, I prefer and choose the breast meat more times than not, but my husband loves thigh meat, and since there were some on sale, I through in the towel and made the recipe. I also cheated, and did on the skin and with the bone thighs..again they were cheaper, and right now, saving $$ is on the top of my list.
These were awesome! We both loved them. Wonderful heat, and a touch of sweetness. I cheated again, and added a tid bit of my homemade peach jam to the honey mixture adding another layer of flavor and sweetness to the chicken, was amazing!

Spicy Honey-Brushed Chicken Thighs:

2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp ground red pepper
(I also added a sprinkle of pepper flakes)
8 skinless, boneless chicken thighs
cooking spray
6 tbsp honey
2 tsp cider vinegar

1. Preheat broiler.
2. Combine first 6 ingredients in a large bowl. Add chicken to bowl; toss to coat. Place chicken on a broiler pan coated with cooking spray. Broil pan coated with cooking spray. Broil chicken 5 minutes on each side.
3. Combine honey and vinegar in a small bowl, stirring well. Remove chicken from oven; brush 1/4 cup honey mixture on chicken. Broil 1 minute. Remove chicken from oven and turn over. Brush chicken with remaining honey mixture. Broil 1 additional minute or until chicken is done.
Yield: 4 servings (2 thighs each)
And that was our Saturday night dinner. Nicely sweet and spicy and a definite keeper! Thanks Ruth!!

Vanilla Peach Jam..

So there was an event a few months back that I wanted to do so badly.. it was a can something or other, or make jam something along those lines. I have always wanted to make jams and marmalades and neat things to can and use as gifts. At the holidays I bake.. up a storm for gifts and wanted badly to add to the baskets. So that event got me thinking, and I actually made Jelly with a friend.. Pomegranate blueberry jam..From Minute Maid juice (my fave juice..mmm) And it came out awesome, sadly I never got to post on it =(, life got nuts and thats when I went away for a couple of months. Well I am back and Jams I am a making. I set out to stock the freezer with fresh fruit to use later when I had the time to make said jams. I have 2 gallon bags of blueberries waiting for yummy can't wait. Peaches went on sale, .99$ lb and I thought, how could I not get Peaches. So..I bought, 15lbs. See when I do something I just go big why pass up the opportunity?? So the plan today was to peel, and chop and freeze in bags to use later, then I thought, why not attempt that first batch?? So I looked through the hundreds of recipes I have printed, making sure it had water bath processing directions (we want to be safe, no need to waste good jam ;) ) Now keep in mind, I made Jelly once, and we didn't use the canner thing, we let the heat seal them and the ate them quickly anyway ha ha.. so I have at least 2 things new to me here. So here I sit, with a dozen 4oz jars of Jam and 3 8oz jars in this canner waiting for it to come to full boil so that in 10 min I have sealed jars of jam. I can't wait too see it. Now I do have a bowl as well, so I can take it to work. And tasting it my only complaint is that for me.. it is slightly too sweet. But I am not going to complain..why you ask? Cause I MADE JAM!!! I am excited can you tell. And now the recipe...

Vanilla Peach Jam

5 1/5 cups sugar
6 cups fresh peaches
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 3/4 oz pectin
1 Tbsp Bourbon (part of why I chose to make this recipe..I mean liquor..hello!!)
1 tsp vanilla extract

1. Peel, pit and chop peaches. (I used my food processor which I thought at the time was a great idea, though now it kinda looks more like jelly with a few chunks, but first time I say its great !)

2. In saucepan combine peaches, lemon juice, and pectin.

3. Cook over high heat stir constantly about 5 minutes or until full rolling boil. ( ok this took me much longer than 5 min. more like 15 but then maybe I did something wrong? we will see.)

4.Stir in sugar.

5.Return to a full rolling boil.

6. Boil hard for (1) minute.

7. Remove from heat and add vanilla extract and bourbon (bourbon is optional but I say put it in!!)

8. Skim off foam ( I didn't have any which made me happy as I was worried cause never did that before lol)

9. Ladle in hot sterilized jars process in boiling bath 5 minutes ( I did 10 to make sure I did it right..)

And you should have jam.. I hope HA HA...woohoo.. I have pops..I pulled them out ( burnt my finger =( ) and pops left and right.. so I guess thats sealed. I am sooo Excited. Next time ( seeing as I have 3 bags of peaches and a ton of blueberries ..there will be a next time..I will have more pictures!!)And if It sets like it should I will have a picture to add with jam on it!! Just have to wait and see now =).