Saturday, February 27, 2010


Wow...I almost forgot to post, and I wouldn't want to do that because this month's Daring Bakers' Challenge was an awesome one!   

The February 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen and Deeba of Passionate About Baking. They chose Tiramisu as the challenge for the month. Their challenge recipe is based on recipes from The Washington Post, Cordon Bleu at Home and Baking Obsession.  I must admit, when I saw the challenge was tiramisu I was a bit disappointed.  I had recently made some tiramisu and just didn't want to make it again.  However, I had the chance to go home and always use that time to make the challenge if I can.  I was excited about trying to make marscapone cheese but unsure of how it would turn out. 
 Now, the last time I made tiramisu I purchased the cheese and, to be honest, I would not buy it again.  It just isn't worth the cost.  But making it was actually quite easy...though a bit frustrating.  I could NOT get the temperature of my cream to get to 190!  I cooked it for 30 minutes and the highest it ever got was almost 180, then it would fall back to 170.  I finally got impatient and put the lemon juice in, put the mixture in a coffee filter (which works well for a cheese cloth!) and refrigerated overnight.  The next morning it was a lovely marscapone cheese!!!!  The lady fingers were fun to do as well. 
 These turned out a little lighter than a store bought lady finger but that is fine with me.  Then it was time to put the tiramisu together.  I decided to make individual desserts, which I thought were more appropriate for two people.  My brother, however, found it quite appropriate for one! 
 The lady fingers soaked up just enough coffee and the cream filling was just perfect!!!  Oh...this was a great challenge.  My dad said it was his favorite, second only to the lemon meringue pie!!  I made a half recipe...I think this was my one mistake.  Definitely should have made a full recipe.  GREAT challenge!  Thanks for the recipe Aparna and Deeba!  Check out more results here. 

(Recipe source: Carminantonio's Tiramisu from The Washington Post, July 11 2007 )
This recipe makes 6 servings

(Source: Vera’s Recipe for Homemade Mascarpone Cheese)
This recipe makes 12oz/ 340gm of mascarpone cheese
474ml (approx. 500ml)/ 2 cups whipping cream (between 25% to 36% cream will do)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Bring 1 inch of water to a boil in a wide skillet. Reduce the heat to medium-low so the water is barely simmering. Pour the cream into a medium heat-resistant bowl, then place the bowl into the skillet. Heat the cream, stirring often, to 190 F. If you do not have a thermometer, wait until small bubbles keep trying to push up to the surface.
It will take about 15 minutes of delicate heating. Add the lemon juice and continue heating the mixture, stirring gently, until the cream curdles. Do not expect the same action as you see during ricotta cheese making. All that the whipping cream will do is become thicker, like a well-done crème anglaise. It will cover a back of your wooden spoon thickly. You will see just a few clear whey streaks when you stir. Remove the bowl from the water and let cool for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, line a sieve with four layers of dampened cheesecloth and set it over a bowl. Transfer the mixture into the lined sieve. Do not squeeze the cheese in the cheesecloth or press on its surface (be patient, it will firm up after refrigeration time). Once cooled completely, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate (in the sieve) overnight or up to 24 hours.
Vera’s notes: The first time I made mascarpone I had all doubts if it’d been cooked enough, because of its custard-like texture. Have no fear, it will firm up beautifully in the fridge, and will yet remain lusciously creamy.
Keep refrigerated and use within 3 to 4 days.

(Source: Recipe from Cordon Bleu At Home)
This recipe makes approximately 24 big ladyfingers or 45 small (2 1/2" to 3" long) ladyfingers.
3 eggs, separated
6 tablespoons /75gms granulated sugar
3/4 cup/95gms cake flour, sifted (or 3/4 cup all purpose flour + 2 tbsp corn starch)
6 tablespoons /50gms confectioner's sugar,
Preheat your oven to 350 F (175 C) degrees, then lightly brush 2 baking sheets with oil or softened butter and line with parchment paper.
Beat the egg whites using a hand held electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Gradually add granulate sugar and continue beating until the egg whites become stiff again, glossy and smooth.
In a small bowl, beat the egg yolks lightly with a fork and fold them into the meringue, using a wooden spoon. Sift the flour over this mixture and fold gently until just mixed. It is important to fold very gently and not overdo the folding. Otherwise the batter would deflate and lose volume resulting in ladyfingers which are flat and not spongy.
Fit a pastry bag with a plain tip (or just snip the end off; you could also use a Ziploc bag) and fill with the batter. Pipe the batter into 5" long and 3/4" wide strips leaving about 1" space in between the strips.
Sprinkle half the confectioner's sugar over the ladyfingers and wait for 5 minutes. The sugar will pearl or look wet and glisten. Now sprinkle the remaining sugar. This helps to give the ladyfingers their characteristic crispness.
Hold the parchment paper in place with your thumb and lift one side of the baking sheet and gently tap it on the work surface to remove excess sprinkled sugar.
Bake the ladyfingers for 10 minutes, then rotate the sheets and bake for another 5 minutes or so until the puff up, turn lightly golden brown and are still soft.
Allow them to cool slightly on the sheets for about 5 minutes and then remove the ladyfingers from the baking sheet with a metal spatula while still hot, and cool on a rack.
Store them in an airtight container till required. They should keep for 2 to 3 weeks.

For the zabaglione:
2 large egg yolks
3 tablespoons sugar/50gms
1/4 cup/60ml Marsala wine (or port or coffee)
1/4 teaspoon/ 1.25ml vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
Heat water in a double boiler. If you don’t have a double boiler, place a pot with about an inch of water in it on the stove. Place a heat-proof bowl in the pot making sure the bottom does not touch the water.
In a large mixing bowl (or stainless steel mixing bowl), mix together the egg yolks, sugar, the Marsala (or espresso/ coffee), vanilla extract and lemon zest. Whisk together until the yolks are fully blended and the mixture looks smooth.
Transfer the mixture to the top of a double boiler or place your bowl over the pan/ pot with simmering water. Cook the egg mixture over low heat, stirring constantly, for about 8 minutes or until it resembles thick custard. It may bubble a bit as it reaches that consistency.
Let cool to room temperature and transfer the zabaglione to a bowl. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight, until thoroughly chilled.

For the vanilla pastry cream:
1/4 cup/55gms sugar
1 tablespoon/8gms all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon/ 2.5ml vanilla extract
1 large egg yolk
3/4 cup/175ml whole milk

Mix together the sugar, flour, lemon zest and vanilla extract in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan. To this add the egg yolk and half the milk. Whisk until smooth.
Now place the saucepan over low heat and cook, stirring constantly to prevent the mixture from curdling.
Add the remaining milk a little at a time, still stirring constantly. After about 12 minutes the mixture will be thick, free of lumps and beginning to bubble. (If you have a few lumps, don’t worry. You can push the cream through a fine-mesh strainer.)
Transfer the pastry cream to a bowl and cool to room temperature. Cover with plastic film and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight, until thoroughly chilled.

For the whipped cream:
1 cup/235ml chilled heavy cream (we used 25%)
1/4 cup/55gms sugar
1/2 teaspoon/ 2.5ml vanilla extract

Combine the cream, sugar and vanilla extract in a mixing bowl. Beat with an electric hand mixer or immersion blender until the mixture holds stiff peaks. Set aside.

To assemble the tiramisu:
2 cups/470ml brewed espresso, warmed
1 teaspoon/5ml rum extract (optional)
1/2 cup/110gms sugar
1/3 cup/75gms mascarpone cheese
36 savoiardi/ ladyfinger biscuits (you may use less)
2 tablespoons/30gms unsweetened cocoa powder

Have ready a rectangular serving dish (about 8" by 8" should do) or one of your choice.
Mix together the warm espresso, rum extract and sugar in a shallow dish, whisking to mix well. Set aside to cool.
In a large bowl, beat the mascarpone cheese with a spoon to break down the lumps and make it smooth. This will make it easier to fold. Add the prepared and chilled zabaglione and pastry cream, blending until just combined. Gently fold in the whipped cream. Set this cream mixture aside.
Now to start assembling the tiramisu.
Workings quickly, dip 12 of the ladyfingers in the sweetened espresso, about 1 second per side. They should be moist but not soggy. Immediately transfer each ladyfinger to the platter, placing them side by side in a single row. You may break a lady finger into two, if necessary, to ensure the base of your dish is completely covered.
Spoon one-third of the cream mixture on top of the ladyfingers, then use a rubber spatula or spreading knife to cover the top evenly, all the way to the edges.
Repeat to create 2 more layers, using 12 ladyfingers and the cream mixture for each layer. Clean any spilled cream mixture; cover carefully with plastic wrap and refrigerate the tiramisu overnight.
To serve, carefully remove the plastic wrap and sprinkle the tiramisu with cocoa powder using a fine-mesh strainer or decorate as you please. Cut into individual portions and serve.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Peanut Butter Treats

A couple of weeks ago I decided to try a new recipe for my "on call" snacks.  I haven't actually been on a normal call this month...just "swing" call.  We take this when we are on the heme-onc service as it is one of the busier services...usually getting at least one new admit a night.  On our swing nights, we stay late, anywhere from 6:30-9pm depending on how busy we are and how busy the on call team is.  So, I took these days as my treat taking day.

  Abby made these blondies a while back, pondering as to whether they are brownies or blondies.  So philosophical!  ;-)  These were good, but I felt like they didn't have very much peanut butter flavor after baking (for some reason, that seems to happen a LOT with peanut butter baked goods).  They also had a lighter texture, i.e., more cakey, than a blondie or brownie should be.  I think blondies and brownies should be pretty dense and fudgy.  Overall, however, they were good!  Just about anything you take to the lounge goes away very quickly!   

Peanut Butter Brownies
Sources: Bakespace; Southern Living

1/2 cup peanut butter, smooth or chunky
1/3 cup butter
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 cup AP flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt

1. Preheat oven to 350*.
2. Combine peanut butter and butter in large bowl, blending well.
3. Gradually add sugars, beating until light and fluffy.
4. Add eggs, beating well. Stir in vanilla.
5. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in separate bowl. Add to creamed mixture, stirring well.
6. Bake for about 30 minutes, but be careful not to overbake. Bars can become hard quickly.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Mexican Jumping Beans

So the title has nothing to do with the dish except that it has beans but I thought it was a cute title!  A couple of weeks ago I had a craving, a craving for a Mexican casserole.  Now, many times, casseroles can be very dense, soup laden and NOT very healthy.  However, I think I succeeded in making a healthy and yummy dish. 

It's also easy!  I made a vegetarian version, but you could easily add some ground meat to it if you or your family prefers to have meat your meal.  The only problem was that the bean mixture wasn't quite "tall" enough.  This could easily be fixed by putting it in a smaller casserole dish. 

At first I debated about adding the Rotel tomatoes but, in the end, they added the perfect amount of spice.  I made my own cornbread using this recipe (and adding a couple of packs of splenda to sweeten it just a tad); however, you could use boxed mix if you prefer.  I made a thinner layer of cornbread, so I had leftover batter to make some corn muffins!  Yum!  This is the perfect, healthy dish to fix if you are craving casserole but don't want heaviness in your tummy!
 Mexican Bean Casserole 
1 bag frozen, fajita veggies 
2 cans beans, rinsed (I used black and pinto) 
1 can stewed, diced tomatoes (I used low sodium) 
1 can rotel tomatoes (I used with green chiles) 
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp chile powder
about 1/2 a cornbread recipe 

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (or temperature instructed on your cornbread mix).  In a skillet, cook the veggies until thawed and warm.  Add beans, tomatoes, and spices.  Cook until hot and bubbly.  Put mixture in a casserole dish.  Place the cornbread mix on top of the bean mixture.  Cook until cornbread is golden and cooked through (I did 15 minutes).

Saturday, February 06, 2010

"L is for...."

LUKE!  Today I went to the 1st birthday party for one of my best friend's little boy.  I introduced you to him a year ago...and now here we are a year later. 

Sarah decided to be quite the creative (and I'm sure frugal...I'll probably do this, too!) mom and make the cake for Luke.  She used this fondant recipe and I think it turned out really well. 
We did a test run a couple of weeks ago and determined that it does need to be VERY thick, probably thicker than you think, in order to roll out AND make it onto the cake smoothly.  I found a lion cake and since Sarah was doing a safari theme, she decided that would be the perfect cake.  I think it turned out super cute! 
Guess who the "C" is for!  :-)  Luke and I ALMOST share a birthday.  So, if you have to make a cake for someone, try this fondant recipe.  I want to try it sometime as well...fondant just seems intimidating but apparently it's not too bad!

Buttercream Fondant
1 cup light corn syrup
1 cup shortening
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon clear vanilla extract
2 pounds confectioners' sugar
food coloring you desire

In a large bowl, stir together the shortening and corn syrup. Mix in the salt and vanilla flavoring, then gradually mix in the confectioners' sugar until it is a stiff dough. If you are using a stand mixer, use the dough hook attachment. Otherwise, knead by hand. If the dough is sticky, knead in more confectioners' sugar until it is smooth. Store in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator.

 To use, roll out on a clean surface that has been dusted with confectioners' sugar until it is 1/8 inch thick or thinner if you can. Drape over frosted and chilled cakes and smooth the sides down, or cut into strips to make bows and other decorations.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010


Around my church, there is a certain cookie that is famous...a cookie that is immediately GONE when the plate is put on the table.  This cookie is the sharpei cookie.  I shared it with you on my first blogiversary.  Well, a few weeks ago, I saw a recipe on Anna's site that looked a lot like the cookies. 

So, I decided that I had to try them.  I have been having issues (as has my mom...with a different oven and in a slightly different part of the country) with the recipe I shared with you earlier, so I wanted to see if the small differences in the two recipes brough success.  The outcome...these were VERY good cookies.  However, I did think that they were better with the butterscotch chip than with the chocolate chips...though I'm not sure my co-workers thought the same, the chocolate chip cookies were GONE while there were a couple butterscotch left!  These didn't have quite the same taste in the dough as the sharpei cookies, which is likely due to less butter and brown sugar, but were still delicious!  Another highly recommended cookie! 

Crinkly Butterscotch Pecan Cookies
1 3/4 cups all purpose unbleached flour, spoon, sweep, level (don’t scoop and pack)
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
4 oz unsalted butter, cold, cut-up
1/2 cup shortening (I used butter flavored)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
½ cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 3/4 cups butterscotch chips
2/3 cup pecans, toasted and chopped (I omitted these)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. 
Beat the cold butter and shortening with an electric mixer until creamy. Add both sugars and continue beating for another two minutes. Beat in the vanilla. Scrape sides of bowl. Add egg and beat for about 30 seconds or until egg is incorporated. Stir the dry ingredients into the butter mixture—dough will be pretty thick. Mix in the butterscotch chips and pecans, if using. Chill the batter for ½ hour or until ready to bake.

Scoop dough by generously rounded tablespoons and shape into large balls. Space about 3 inches apart on the cookie sheets. Bake one sheet at a time for 12-15 minutes or until cookies are brown around the edges. They won’t be extremely brown when they come out of the oven, but if the edges are browned at all they’ve probably baked long enough.
With the edge of a spatula, gently nudge cookies into neat circles. Doing this will enhance the wrinkles and folds in the cookies.  You can also use the backs of two spoons to do this.
Let cool on the cookie sheet for about 3 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool.
Makes about 28 cookies