Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Fill Me Up, Bert!

Currently, I am in New York City! I have, by this time, enjoyed Wicked and hopefully a baseball game. Yet, I must post (yay for postdating!) today. Why? It's Daring Baker time! This month's challenge was chosen by Chris at Mele Cotte. The recipe she chose is from Great Cakes by Carol Walter. It is a Filbert Cake.
I've heard of filberts but not a filbert cake; and I must admit that after looking at the recipe, I was not very excited (Sorry Chris!). I'm personally quite weary of buttercream and simple syrup drenched cakes. It seems that of the past six challenges, that has been 50% of them. However, I had a get together with friends coming up and proceeded to be a good DBer and participate. I changed the nut that was used to a pecan, as I had those on hand already. The day that I did the challenge, I had a sore throat. The combination of not feeling well and it being a long process made me doubtful about the end result. First off, when I cut the cake into layers, I cut through the bottom, so there was an edge with a piece of cake missing! Then, when I made the praline paste, I didn't read the instructions well enough and apparently didn't let the praline process long enough...FYI - my praline STUCK to the parchment paper. AGH! Anyway, my buttercream ended up a bit crunch, but I kind of liked the change in texture. Finally, my ganache. I have NO CLUE what happened to it but it was very thin and didn't set well. I could even see the apricot jam through it. However, after I decorated the cake, it looked so much better. I figured it would be okay. So, onto the get together. This was the first time we had been able to all get together since Labor Day, so we were all excited...especially the guys who said they like when people cook for them! During dinner, I mentioned cake but the guys in this group (especially one) aren't very big on desserts. So, about an hour after we sat down, J said "Didn't you say there's cake?" Surprised me that he was the one to mention it. I went and got the cake, preparing to cut it in the kitchen when he entered and saw it. It made me take it to the table so that everyone could see. Then, after we all had our pieces and had tried it, M asks "Is that apricot on here?" I was impressed! We had it with ice cream and M, after a second piece without, decided that it was better with because it "cut down on the sweetness!" ???? So, in the end, the cake ended up being a success. I said I probably wouldn't make it again and M acted surprised. I then modified my answer...well, unless someone requested it! Thanks Chris for the was great, pushing me AGAIN to do something I wouldn't normally do. Check out the other great cakes at the Blogroll.
Pecan Gateau with Praline Buttercream
adapted From Great Cakes by Carol Walter

1 pecan Genoise, 1 recipe sugar syrup, 1/8 recipe Praline Buttercream, heavy cream, whipped to soft peaks with praline stirred in, 1 recipe Apricot Glaze, 1 recipe Ganache Glaze, prepared just before using, pecans - toasted and coarsely chopped

Pecan Genoise

1 ½ cups pecans, toasted/skinned
2/3 cup cake flour, unsifted
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
7 large egg yolks
1 cup sugar, divided ¼ & ¾ cups
1 tsp. vanilla extract
5 lg. egg whites
¼ cup warm, clarified butter (100 – 110 degrees) - oops...missed this part, but it still worked

Position rack in the lower 3rd of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 10” X 2” inch round cake pan.

Using a food processor, process nuts, cake flour, and cornstarch for about 30 seconds. Then, pulse the mixture about 10 times to get a fine, powdery mixture. You’ll know the nuts are ready when they begin to gather together around the sides of the bowl. While you want to make sure there aren’t any large pieces, don’t over-process. Set aside.

Put the yolks in the bowl of an electric mixer, with the whisk attachment, and beat until thick and light in color, about 3-4 minutes on med-high speed. Slowly, add ¾ cup of sugar. It is best to do so by adding a tablespoon at a time, taking about 3 minutes for this step. When finished, the mixture should be ribbony. Blend in the vanilla. Remove and set aside.

Place egg whites in a large, clean bowl of the electric mixer with the whisk attachment and beat on medium speed, until soft peaks. Increase to med-high speed and slowly add the remaining ¼ cup of sugar, over 15-20 seconds or so. Continue to beat for another ½ minute.
Add the yolk mixture to the whites and whisk for 1 minute.

Pour the warm butter in a liquid measure cup (or a spouted container). * It must be a deep bottom bowl and work must be fast.* Put the nut meal in a mesh strainer (or use your hand – working quickly) and sprinkle it in about 2 tablespoons at a time – folding it carefully for about 40 folds. Be sure to exclude any large chunks/pieces of nuts. Again, work quickly and carefully as to not deflate the mixture. When all but about 2 Tbsp. of nut meal remain, quickly and steadily pour the warm butter over the batter. Then, with the remaining nut meal, fold the batter to incorporate, about 13 or so folds.

With a rubber spatula, transfer the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the surface with the spatula or back of a spoon. **If collected butter remains at the bottom of the bowl, do not add it to the batter! It will impede the cake rising while baking.

Tap the pan on the counter to remove air bubbles and bake in the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes. You’ll know the cake is done when it is springy to the touch and it separates itself from the side of the pan. Remove from oven and allow to stand for 5 minutes. Invert onto a cake rack sprayed with nonstick coating, removing the pan. Cool the cake completely.

*If not using the cake right away, wrap thoroughly in plastic wrap, then in a plastic bag, then in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. If freezing, wrap in foil, then the bag and use within 2-3 months.

Sugar Syrup
Makes 1 cup, good for one 10-inch cake – split into 3 layers

1 cup water
¼ cup sugar

In a small, yet heavy saucepan, bring the water and sugar to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, add the liqueur. Cool slightly before using on the cake. *Can be made in advance.

Praline Buttercream *
1 recipe Swiss Buttercream
1/3 cup praline paste
1 ½ - 2 Tbsp. Jamaican rum (optional)

Blend ½ cup buttercream into the paste, then add to the remaining buttercream. Whip briefly on med-low speed to combine. Blend in rum.
* I did a SMALL portion of this for decoration and then used the rest of the praline to flavor my whipped cream.

Swiss Buttercream
4 lg. egg whites
¾ cup sugar
1 ½ cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, slightly firm
1 ½ -2 Tbsp. Grand Marnier or liqueur of your choice
1 tsp. vanilla

Place the egg whites in a lg/ bowl of a elevtric mixer and beat with the whisk attachment until the whites are foamy and they begin to thicken (just before the soft peak stage). Set the bowl over a saucepan filled with about 2 inches of simmering water, making sure the bowl is not touching the water. Then, whisk in the sugar by adding 1-2 tablespoon of sugar at a time over a minutes time. Continue beating 2-3 minutes or until the whites are warm (about 120 degrees) and the sugar is dissolved. The mixture should look thick and like whipped marshmallows.
Remove from pan and with either the paddle or whisk attachment, beat the egg whites and sugar on med-high until its a thick, cool meringue – about 5-7 minutes. *Do not overbeat*. Set aside.

Place the butter in a separate clean mixing bowl and, using the paddle attachment, cream the butter at medium speed for 40-60 seconds, or until smooth and creamy. *Do not overbeat or the butter will become toooooo soft.*

On med-low speed, blend the meringue into the butter, about 1-2 Tbsp. at a time, over 1 minute. Add the liqueur and vanilla and mix for 30-45 seconds longer, until thick and creamy.

Refrigerate 10-15 minutes before using.

Wait! My buttercream won’t come together! Reheat the buttercream briefly over simmering water for about 5 seconds, stirring with a wooden spoon. Be careful and do not overbeat. The mixture will look broken with some liquid at the bottom of the bowl. Return the bowl to the mixer and whip on medium speed just until the cream comes back together.

Wait! My buttercream is too soft! Chill the buttercream in the refrigerator for about 10 minutes and rewhip. If that doesn’t work, cream an additional 2-4 Tbsp. of butter in a small bowl– making sure the butter is not as soft as the original amount, so make sure is cool and smooth. On low speed, quickly add the creamed butter to the buttercream, 1 Tbsp. at a time.

Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 5 days, or can be frozen for up to 6 months. If freezing, store in 2 16-oz. plastic containers and thaw in the refrigerator overnight or at room temperature for several hours.

Praline Paste
1 cup (4 ½ oz.) Hazelnuts, toasted/skinless
2/3 cup Sugar
Line a jelly roll pan with parchment and lightly butter.

Put the sugar in a heavy 10-inch skillet. Heat on low flame for about 10-20 min until the sugar melts around the edges. Do not stir the sugar. Swirl the pan if necessary to prevent the melted sugar from burning. Brush the sides of the pan with water to remove sugar crystals. If the sugar in the center does not melt, stir briefly. When the sugar is completely melted and caramel in color, remove from heat. Stir in the nuts with a wooden spoon and separate the clusters. Return to low heat and stir to coat the nuts on all sides. Cook until the mixture starts to bubble. **Remember – extremely hot mixture.** Then onto the parchment lined sheet and spread as evenly as possible. As it cools, it will harden into brittle. Break the candied nuts into pieces and place them in the food processor. Pulse into a medium-fine crunch or process until the brittle turns into a powder. To make paste, process for several minutes. Store in an airtight container and store in a cook dry place. Do not refrigerate.

Apricot Glaze
Good for one 10-inch cake

2/3 cup thick apricot preserves
1 Tbsp. water

In a small, yet heavy saucepan, bring the water and preserves to a slow boil and simmer for 2-3 minutes. If the mixture begins to stick to the bottom of the saucepan, add water as needed.

Remove from heat and, using a strainer, press the mixture through the mesh and discard any remnants. With a pastry brush, apply the glaze onto the cake while the cake is still warm. If the glaze is too thick, thin to a preferred consistency with drops of water.

Ganache Glaze
Makes about 1 cup, enough to cover the top and sides of a 9 or 10 inch layer or tube cake

6 oz. (good) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, like Lindt
6 oz. (¾ cup heavy cream
1 tbsp. light corn syrup
1 Tbsp. Grand Marnier, Cointreay, or dark Jamaican rum (optional)
¾ tsp. vanilla
½ - 1 tsp. hot water, if needed

Blend vanilla and liqueur/rum together and set aside.

Break the chocolate into 1-inch pieces and place in the basket of a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Transfer into a medium sized bowl and set aside.

Heat the cream and corn syrup in a saucepan, on low, until it reached a gentle boil. Once to the gently boil, immediately and carefully pour over the chocolate. Leave it alone for one minute, then slowly stir and mix the chocolate and cream together until the chocolate is melted and incorporated into the cream. Carefully blend in vanilla mixture. If the surface seems oily, add ½ - 1 tsp hot water. The glaze will thicken, but should still be pourable. If it doesn’t thicken, refrigerate for about 5 minutes, but make sure it doesn’t get too cold!

Assembling Cake

Cut a cardboard disk slightly smaller than the cake...or place on top of 3 pieces of parchement set in a triangle on your cake plate to protect it; these will be removed after decorating. Divide the cake into 3 layers and place the first layer top-side down on the disk. Using a pastry brush, moisten the layer with 3-4 Tbsp. of warm sugar syrup. Measure out 1 cup of praline buttercream and set aside.

Spread the bottom layer with a ¼-inch thickness of the whipped cream. Place the middle layer over the first, brush with sugar syrup, spreading with cream.

Moisten the cut side of the third layer with additional sugar syrup and place cut side down on the cake. Gently, press the sides of the cake to align the layers. Refrigerate to chill for at least 30 minutes.

Brush the top and sides of the cake with warm apricot glaze, sealing the cut areas completely. Chill while you prepare the ganache.

Place a rack over a large shallow pan to catch the ganache drippings. Remove the gateau from the refrigerator and put it the rack. With a metal spatula in hand, and holding the saucepan about 10 inches above the cake, pour the ganache onto the cake’s center. Move the spatula over the top of the ganache about 4 times to get a smooth and mirror-like appearance. The ganache should cover the top and run down the sides of the cake. Patch any bare spots on the sides with a smaller spatula Let the cake stand at least 15 minutes to set after glazing. If using parchment under the cake, remove now.

Garnish with praline buttercream. I don't have a pastry bag, so I just used a plastic bag with the corner cut out! Refrigerate uncovered for 3-4 hours to allow the cake to set. Remove the cake from the refrigerator at least 3 hours before serving.

Leftover cake can be covered with foil and kept in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Lemon Tassies

On July 4th I went to my brother's girlfriend's house for a cookout. They said not to bring anything, hello! So, I went looking for something quick but not chocolate as she was making Symphony brownies. I found these at Stephanie's Kitchen. Somehow, I messed up the first filling,so I had to make them again. I didn't have anymore lemon zest, so they didn't turn out as lemony as I would have liked but there were very good! The perfect little dessert for a summer day in MS. The next day I had some leftover to serve my friends who were in town for a visit. They went perfectly with our yellow-meat watermelon!
Mini Lemon Shortbread Cookie Cups
adapted from Stephanie
makes 24 mini cookie cups

1 1/2 cups flour
8 tablespoons cold butter
1/4 cup sugar
2 egg yolks
3/4 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1/8 teaspoon salt

2 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup lemon juice

Confectioner's sugar for dusting the tops

1. Using a food processor process the flour and butter until they resemble course crumbs. Add remaining ingredients and mix well.
2. Divide dough into 24 equal balls and place in greased mini muffin tins. Push down on the bottom and sculpt the dough up the sides to the rim of the cup. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 10-12 minutes, or until lightly golden.
3. Make filling - Cream together the eggs and the sugar. Add the remaining ingredients and mix until well blended and smooth. Fill each cup with filling until it reaches the rim of the cup. Lower oven temperature to 325 degrees. Bake for 12-14 minutes or until set. Let cool slightly. Remove cups from muffin tins and let cool completely. Dust with confectioners' sugar.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Eggplant Chips

Well, the postdated post worked! Yay! I've gotten some suggestions for places to eat in NYC but would love to hear more from y'all. This week, my entry for Cate's ARF Tuesday is a quick side dish perfect to go along with a sandwich or wrap. When I was growing up, one of my favorite meals was a vegetable meal fresh from my grandfather's garden. We would usually have green beans, tomatoes, squash, corn bread, and fried eggplant and okra. Now, there is just something comforting about fried eggplant. It kind of gets mushy on the inside and stays crisp on the outside, all combined with the eggplant flavor and saltiness of the coating spices. Now, I don't eat fried things often anymore, but love this. Guess what! You can get most of the same taste and texture baking the eggplant. I did this one day with a tiny eggplant from the Farmer's Market and it was just perfect. I couldn't stop eating them! So grab and eggplant and try this out. Oh, also stop by Cate's and see the other wonderful entries. Faux Fried Eggplant
1 eggplant, Japanese (the thin kind) or a tiny version of another variety, sliced thinly
Tony's Chachare's
olive oil
cooking spray

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Drizzle the eggplant with olive oil (a small amount) and then spray with cooking spray. Season all slices with your choice of seasoning. Sprinkle cornmeal over both sides of the eggplant slices (or you can combine the seasonings and cornmeal and toss the eggplant in the mixture - this will result in a more thoroughly coated piece of eggplant and probably MORE crispiness!). Place in a single layer on a baking sheet and place into the oven. Bake for 15-20 minutes. Check at 10 minutes to be sure they aren't burned and to flip if needed.

This is a test!

So, I have a question for you...that's what tests are, right?  I'm leaving on Sunday to go to NYC with my parents!!!  We are going to see Wicked on Sunday night and to a Yankees game at some point.  Those are the only "sceduled" events, but we'll be there until Thursday.  So
1.  Any suggestions as to what we need to do.
2.  What are some good places to eat?  We want good but budget friendly for most meals.  I know my dad will want a good deli (like a real one!) and I like veggies and fruits...maybe a good Thai place?  Just flood me with your suggestions!  :-)

The other test of the post...seeing if I can post date so that I can do my Daring Bakers post!  We shall goes!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Leaving, On a Charter Bus

Yes, I am leaving tomorrow at 0630 for Savannah, GA with our church's Sr. High choir tour. This means I will not be able to make any posts. (BTW, does anyone know how to schedule a post for a later date on Blogger? I tired to figure it out last night but couldn't!) So, I am posting my ARF today. This is a great event that Cate at Sweetnicks hosts each week. Just post a recipe, dish, or idea that uses fruits, veggies, or Anti-oxidant rich foods (yes, that includes chocolate!), tag her site, and e-mail it to her. This is something I try to participate in each week and really enjoy it. This week, my recipe is a quick and easy stir fry that I had with my left over kabobs from a couple of weeks ago. As I usually do with stir fries, I just kind of poured without measuring and timing, so it's really a do as you like recipe. This time, I used broccoli, eggplant, onion, and frozen red bell peppers. It turned out GREAT! Broccoli Stir Fry
2 heads (one ruberbanded together bunch at Kroger) broccoli, washed and cut into florettes
1 red bell pepper, cut into strips
1 eggplant, cubed
1 onion, sliced and cut
low sodium soy sauce
Nature's seasoning
olive oil
cooking spray

Preheat a skillet. When hot drizzle 1 tsp-1 tbsp olive oil in the pan. Immediately put the broccoli in the pan. While cooking, cut the other veggies ending with the red pepper. As finished cutting, put them in the pan with the broccoli. Spray all veggies with cooking spray and season with Natures Seasoning (or your favorite seasoning). Stir. When the veggies are near the desired crispness/tenderness, pour some soy sauce over them and stir (probably about 2 T). Cook for 3 more minutes. Enjoy as a side dish or you can even add some chicken, shrimp, or other protein to make it a complete meal.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Fruit Salad for Hot weather.

It is HOT! Anyone else agree? So, for a nice, refreshing, and easy accompaniment to your meal try this salad. It's healthy and full of antioxidants, which makes it a perfect entry for Cate's ARF Tuesday at Sweetnicks. Drop by and see all of the other great entries. Easy Summer Salad
1/2 cantelope, cubed
handful of blueberries

Wash the blueberries and pat dry. Put the prepared cantelope in a bowl, sprinkle the blueberries on top. Enjoy with a light summer meal (we had this with last week's kabobs!). You can substitute other fruits if you like. Pineapple and strawberry would be good, too.

On a side note, does anyone know how to format within blogger when using Firefox? I can't underline using Ctl-U and when I upload pictures, it won't let me move them. I've developed a like for Firefox (thanks, Daddy) and forget about the formatting issues until halfway done with my post, then I have to open Explorer, sign in again, etc.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Watch Out for Butterfingers with these Brownies

Happy July 4th! I hope that everyone had a great day. I went to my brother's girlfriend's house for dinner and enjoyed good food and just sitting around visiting. I did make something but haven't photographed it yet, so the recipe for today is one I did several weeks ago. Remember those s'more cupcakes? Well, I also made these butterfinger "brownies." I thought that the texture of these was perfect. It had that moist denseness that really good blondies possess. I got the recipe from Recipe Girl. If you like Butterfinger, try these out...they're easy to make and fun to eat! Sorry about the picture....blogger is rotating them for some reason!Butterfinger Brownies
2¼ cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
¾ cup butter, softened
2 cups brown sugar (I slightly decreased this from the original)
3 large eggs
1½ tsp vanilla extract
about 10 fun sized Butterfinger bars, crushed

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour a 13x9-inch baking pan. In a small bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt; set aside. In a medium bowl, with electric mixer at medium speed, combine butter and brown sugar. Beat in eggs and vanilla until smooth. Stir in flour mixture and 1 cup of crushed butterfingers.

Spread in prepared pan. Sprinkle remaining crushed butterfinger bars over top of batter.
Bake 30- 35 minutes, or until the bars are a bit firm to the touch. Cool completely before cutting into bars OR use a plastic knife or lettuce knife to enjoy fresh from the over brownies without tearing the really does work...see!?

Tuesday, July 01, 2008


When I was home last week, my mom asked if there was anything I wanted while I was home. I had already been thinking that we needed to have kabobs. She later suggested another dish, a dish a like but can make on my own at home. NOPE! I wanted kabobs. So, we pulled chicken and steak out of the freezer, thawed them on an aluminum pan (This thaws things SO quickly! If you don't believe me, try it!), marinated them, and then Daddy grilled them. SOOOO good. The chicken was perfect...moist, tender, and so flavorful! We marinated the chicken (I think) in raspberry vinegarette and the steak in Dale's. Apparently, the steak was over marinated, but I didn't have any. As to the vegetables, this is what makes it great for ARF Tuesday over at Cate's. We used onions, peppers (great for Vitamin C!), tomatoes, and mushrooms. Oh so good. (This picture is my leftovers...I forgot to take cooked pictures the first night!) So, for a great summer dinner full of antioxidants, try kabobs!