Sunday, March 30, 2008

Daring Bakers: Perfect Party Cake

It's kind of odd that I would post two cakes in a row (seeing how I don't often post about cakes) but my last entry was a cake too. But it's cake time in my family with so many birthdays right now and the Daring Bakers challenge demands it! I was extremely happy with the Daring Bakers' challenge for March - a Dorie Greenspan recipe. It's a 4 layer lemon cake, with lemon buttercream icing, layers of strawberry jam (which no one would suspect is just regular jam), and covered with shredded coconut on the outside.

I made the cake for my boyfriend's birthday and everyone really liked it. The flavours and textures went really well together (loved the coconut on the outside). The cake itself was perfectly soft and a bit spongey - kind of like an angel food cake mixed with a light cake. In other words, very awesome.

I will definitely make the cake part again, and want to try out different frostings. And actually for this challenge, people were free to change up the flavours being used so I can't wait to check out other people's cakes and get inspired! I used to think I hated buttercreams, but this is the second Daring Bakers challenge that has made me love it. I realize now that there are different kinds of buttercream, and some of them are just beating together butter and icing sugar pretty much. But the one used in this recipe is Swiss buttercream which is oh so tasty.

The only bad thing about this cake making experience was that I used a spatula for the icing that had the taste of burnt plastic. So the icing to me had this faint burnt plastic taste. And as you can see, my layers are not very even so I need to work on learning how to slice a cake into 2 layers.

Thanks Morven for choosing this most delicious recipe. Check out the other Daring Bakers and see how beautiful their cakes are! (I really need to develop some cake decorating skills.)

Perfect Party Cake
Baking: From My Home to Yours

For the Cake
2 1/4 cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups whole milk or buttermilk (I prefer buttermilk with the lemon)
4 large egg whites
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1 stick (8 tablespoons or 4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon pure lemon extract

For the Buttercream
1 cup sugar
4 large egg whites
3 sticks (12 ounces, 1 1/2 cups) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (from 2 large lemons)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For Finishing
2/3 cup seedless raspberry preserves stirred vigorously or warmed gently until spreadable
About 1 1/2 cups sweetened shredded coconut

Getting Ready
Centre a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 9 x 2 inch round cake pans and line the bottom of each pan with a round of buttered parchment or wax paper. Put the pans on a baking sheet.

To Make the Cake
1. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.
2. Whisk together the milk and egg whites in a medium bowl.
3. Put the sugar and lemon zest in a mixer bowl or another large bowl and rub them together with your fingers until the sugar is moist and fragrant. Add the butter and working with the paddle or whisk attachment, or with a hand mixer, beat at medium speed for a full 3 minutes, until the butter and sugar are very light. Beat in the extract, then add one third of the flour mixture, still beating on medium speed. Beat in half of the milk-egg mixture, then beat in half of the remaining dry ingredients until incorporated. Add the rest of the milk and eggs beating until the batter is homogeneous, then add the last of the dry ingredients.
4. Finally, give the batter a good 2- minute beating to ensure that it is thoroughly mixed and well aerated.
5. Divide the batter between the two pans and smooth the tops with a rubber spatula.
6. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the cakes are well risen and springy to the touch – a thin knife inserted into the centers should come out clean
7. Transfer the cakes to cooling racks and cool for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes, unfold them and peel off the paper liners.
8. Invert and cool to room temperature, right side up (the cooled cake layers can be wrapped airtight and stored at room temperature overnight or frozen for up to two months).

To Make the Buttercream
1. Put the sugar and egg whites in a mixer bowl or another large heatproof bowl, fit the bowl over a plan of simmering water and whisk constantly, keeping the mixture over the heat, until it feels hot to the touch, about 3 minutes. The sugar should be dissolved, and the mixture will look like shiny marshmallow cream. Remove the bowl from the heat.
2. Working with the whisk attachment or with a hand mixer, beat the meringue on medium speed until it is cool, about 5 minutes.
3. Switch to the paddle attachment if you have one, and add the butter a stick at a time, beating until smooth.
4. Once all the butter is in, beat in the buttercream on medium-high speed until it is thick and very smooth, 6-10 minutes. During this time the buttercream may curdle or separate – just keep beating and it will come together again.
5. On medium speed, gradually beat in the lemon juice, waiting until each addition is absorbed before adding more, and then the vanilla. You should have a shiny smooth, velvety, pristine white buttercream. Press a piece of plastic against the surface of the buttercream and set aside briefly.

To Assemble the Cake
1. Using a sharp serrated knife and a gentle sawing motion, slice each layer horizontally in half.
2. Put one layer cut side up on a cardboard cake round or a cake plate protected by strips of wax or parchment paper.
3. Spread it with one third of the preserves.
4. Cover the jam evenly with about one quarter of the buttercream.
5. Top with another layer, spread with preserves and buttercream and then do the same with a third layer (you’ll have used all the jam and have buttercream leftover).
6. Place the last layer cut side down on top of the cake and use the remaining buttercream to frost the sides and top.
7. Press the coconut into the frosting, patting it gently all over the sides and top.

The cake is ready to serve as soon as it is assembled, but I think it’s best to let it sit and set for a couple of hours in a cool room – not the refrigerator. Whether you wait or slice and enjoy it immediately, the cake should be served at room temperature; it loses all its subtlety when it’s cold. Depending on your audience you can serve the cake with just about anything from milk to sweet or bubbly wine.

The cake is best the day it is made, but you can refrigerate it, well covered, for up to two days. Bring it to room temperature before serving. If you want to freeze the cake, slide it into the freezer to set, then wrap it really well – it will keep for up to 2 months in the freezer; defrost it, still wrapped overnight in the refrigerator.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Caramel Cake with Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting

I'm submitting this caramel cake with caramel cream cheese frosting to the Sugar High Friday Sweet Gifts event. The idea behind this month's event is that you post about something you made for someone or want to make for someone.

I made this cake for my sister in law for her birthday a few weeks ago. I wasn't sure what to choose for her. Something really chocolatey? Something with nutella? (I think I'll have to make a nutella one for her next year.) And then I remembered this caramel cake I saw on Bake or Break and thought it would be perfect. She really loved it and said that it had all of her favourite things, which made me really happy. Plus the cake was insanely delicious. And I do mean insanely.

I think my round cake pans must be 8 inch pans though since the cakes really rose into quite the domes that I had to slice off (and nibble away at all day while making the different parts of the cake). I really loved the cake. It was my vision of the perfect dense cake. I don't think the cake itself really tasted like caramel though. But there was caramel in the frosting and as a filling.

I had no idea that this cake was going to involve so many different things and so much time. I was happy to make it but I guess I didn't read the recipe too in depth and just dove in. I've only made caramel a couple of times and think I was only partly successful this time. I was really scared of burning the caramel that was used in the icing and I think I ended up not cooking it long enough (it was quite thin). As for the caramel filling - as you can see, I didn't let it cool enough before spreading it on the cake, so it oozed over the sides and everywhere. My sister in law said this was a good thing though. Anyway, the cake was awesome, my sister in law was happy, and I learned a few things about caramel and praline making.

If this sounds good, you might also like:
Carrot Coconut Cake with Cream Cheese-White Chocolate Icing
Caramel Almond Tiger Cookies
Lemon Poppyseed Muffins

Caramel Cake with Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting
Adapted from Cottage Living

Makes 1 (9-inch) 2-layer cake

3 1/2 cups sifted cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
1 3/4 cups light brown sugar, divided
1 1/4 cups butter, softened and divided
6 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup milk
1/2 cup evaporated milk

Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting
Garnish: Pecan Praline

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Grease 2 9-inch round cake pans; line the bottom with parchment paper.

2. In a bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. In a separate large bowl, put 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar, 1/4 cup light brown sugar, and 1 cup butter; beat with a mixer at medium speed 5 minutes or until well blended. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in vanilla. Add flour mixture and 1 cup milk alternately to butter mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture and beating at low speed after each addition. Pour into prepared pans; sharply tap pans once on counter to remove air bubbles. Bake at 350° for 35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire rack 10 minutes; remove from pans, and cool completely on wire rack. Place 1 layer on a cake plate.

3. Combine 1 1/2 cups brown sugar, evaporated milk, and 1/4 cup butter in a saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Cook (without stirring) until a candy thermometer registers 238F. Transfer to a heat-resistant bowl, and beat 3 minutes or until thickened and easy to spread. Quickly spread filling over cake layer on plate. Cover loosely with plastic wrap; chill 15 minutes or until set.

4. Spread a thin layer of Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting over filling. Top with second layer. Frost cake. Chill 20 minutes or until frosting sets, then cover and chill 4 hours or overnight. Let stand 10 minutes at room temperature before serving. Garnish with pecan praline.

Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting
Cottage Living

1/4 cup light brown sugar
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Dash of salt
1 3/4 cups powdered sugar

1. Melt brown sugar and 4 tablespoons butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir until sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil over medium heat; remove from heat. Whisk in cream; blend well. Transfer to a heat-resistant bowl. Cool at room temperature, stirring occasionally.

2. Place remaining 6 tablespoons butter and cream cheese in a large bowl; beat with a mixer on medium-high speed until smooth. Beat in vanilla and salt. With mixer running, slowly pour in cooled brown sugar mixture; beat until smooth. Add powdered sugar gradually, beating well after each addition until completely smooth. Chill slightly for a firmer texture, stirring occasionally.

Pecan Praline
Cottage Living

1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup pecans, chopped

Combine sugar and 1/4 cup water in a small skillet over medium-high heat; cook (without stirring) until golden. Stir in pecans; remove from heat. Quickly spread mixture onto greased foil. Cool completely. Break into small pieces.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Pumpkin Pecan Raisin Muffins

I've sadly never heard of the Weekend Breakfast Blogging event, even though it started over a year ago. I'm happy I stumbled across it though and can't wait to see the round up for this month's theme which is balanced breakfast meals. I'm always looking for new and healthy ideas for breakfast (that can be used for snacks too!) and the bonus is that everything for this challenge has to be vegetarian. I think my muffin does a good job of meeting the balanced meal requirements, especially if paired with a yogurt. It has pumpkin and raisins (vegetables and fruit), whole wheat flour (grains), and pecans (protein). And to top it all off, it's healthy!

I've been making a lot of things from Vegan with a Vengeance recently, including corn chowder. I'm trying to cut back on dairy and eggs, so I've been turning more often to my vegan cookbooks and finding yummy recipes. These pumpkin muffins are really moist and soft, and very delicious. Since a can of pumpkin is about 1 3/4 cups of pumpkin (and the recipe only calls for 1 cup), the second time I made these I attempted to replace the applesauce with extra pumpkin. That really did not work out so well. I need a pumpkin recipe that uses up the whole can! (Or I could approximately double this one.)

If this sounds good, you might also like:
Whole Wheat Blueberry Muffins
Healthy Banana Bran Muffins
Pumpkin Banana Muffins
Pumpkin Loaf

Pumpkin Pecan Raisins Muffins
Adapted from Vegan with a Vengeance

Makes 12 muffins.

1 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour*
1/4 cup sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/8 tsp ground cloves**
1 cup pureed pumpkin (fresh or from a can; do not use pumpkin pie mix)
1/2 cup soy milk
1/2 cup applesauce
1 tbsp molasses***
1 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 400F. Lightly grease a 12 muffin tin.

Sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and spices. In a separate bowl, whisk together pumpkin, soy milk, applesauce and molasses. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix.

Fill the muffin cups two-thirds full. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, until a toothpick or knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

*I think I might've used 1 3/4 cups of whole wheat flour, no whole wheat pastry flour but I'm not sure. So to be on the safe side, I'd say use some whole wheat pastry flour so the muffin isn't too dense.
**If you have pumpkin pie spice, replace the cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice and cloves with about 2 1/2 tsp of pumpkin pie spice.
***Original recipe called for 2 tbsp but I am not a huge molasses lover. I might cut it back to 1/2 tbsp next time.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Corn Chowder

I'm a day late for the No Croutons Required event but hopefully the lovely Holler & Lisa will still accept my entry! This month it's spicy soups, and I have to admit that I don't love eating a lot of spicy food. I'd rather be able to taste my food with only a bit of spiciness, and not have my nose start running! (Though occasionally I do love eating sushi with tons of wasabi, but that's a different kind of spicy.) The soup I made was corn chowder, and the original recipe calls for 2 jalapeño peppers but I am wimpy so I only put in one.

When I was growing up, I loved that my birthday was in August because it meant I got to eat corn on the cob for my birthday. Now I often forget about corn, so it was great to come across a recipe for corn chowder. I'm really on a soup kick right now, which has not yet been evidenced in my blog but trust me when I say there are many soups to come! I'm loving soups because they're something that are relatively easy to make, you always get leftovers, and they can often be quite healthy.

I loved how thick and filling the soup was. I'd like to try and create my perfect corn chowder so to make this soup again, I'd try swapping out the potatoes for sweet potatoes, use less rosemary (as I'm not a big fan), use more onion, and maybe try adding another herb. I just realized that I photographed this soup in the exact same way, in the exact same bowl as I did for the last No Croutons Required Soup! How unimaginative. Or maybe it should be a tradition or maybe I need to get more soup bowls!

If this sounds good, you might also like:
Sweet Potato and Black Bean Chili
Santa Fe Pasta Salad
Parmesan Corn Risotto Cakes

Corn Chowder
adapted from Vegan with a Vengeance

Serves 4 as a meal.

1/2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium-size onion, cut into 1/4 inch dice
1 large red bell pepper, finely chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 cup carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch dice (approximately 3 carrots)
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
1 tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp dried thyme
A few dashes black pepper
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups vegetable broth
3 cups frozen corn kernels
2 medium-size russet potatoes, peeled and sliced into 1/2 inch chunks
1 bay leaf
Pinch cayenne
1/4 cup plain soy milk
2 tsp maple syrup

In stockpot sauté the onions, bell peppers, carrots and jalapeño in the olive oil over medium heat until the onions are translucent, about 7 minutes. Add rosemary, thyme, black pepper, and salt; sauté 1 minute more. Add the broth, corn, potatoes, bay leaf and cayenne. Cover and bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 20 minutes, or until the tomatoes are tender. Uncover and simmer 120 minutes more to let the liquid reduce a bit.

Remove the bay leaf and puree half the chowder either using a hand held blender or by transferring half the chowder to a blender, pureeing till smooth, and adding back to soup. Add the soy milk and maple syrup, and simmer 5 more minutes. Let sit for at least 10 minutes and serve.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Chocolate Fudge Soufflé Bars

As promised, here is another delicious baked item! This time it's chocolate fudge soufflé bars. I wasn't sure quite what to expect but the blurb before the recipe described it as "a chocolate fudge filling sandwiched between a crunchy brown sugar crust and a thin, crisp chocolate top". I just couldn't resist.

Since I used an 8x8 pan instead of 9x9, my bar ended up half crust and half chocolate fudge souffle, which was okay with me because I really love crust. The crust part was like shortbread, and the chocolate part was very soft and fudgey, with the promised slightly crisp top. Quite a delicious little bar that's something a bit different!

If this sounds good, you might also like:
Andes Chocolate Mint Cookies
Chocolate Pots de Crème
Chocolate Orbit Cake
Cream Cheese Brownies

Chocolate Fudge Soufflé Bars
Adapted from 125 Cookies to Bake, Nibble, and Savor

Makes 12 to 16 bars

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces

Topping (Fudge Soufflé)
3 tbsp unsalted butter, cut in pieces
5 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped
2 large eggs, separated
1/8 tsp cream of tartar
3 tbsp sugar
1 tsp instant coffee dissolved in 1 tsp hot water
1 tbsp unbleached all-purpose flour

Make the crust: Butter the bottom and sides of an 8 or 9 inch square baking pan. Put the flour and packed light brown sugar and the salt in the bowl of an electric mixer and mix on low speed just to blend the ingredients, about 10 seconds. Add the butter. Increase the speed to medium and mix until fine crumbs form, about 1 minute. (Some large crumbs, about 1/4 inch in size, will remain.) Transfer the mixture to the prepared pan and press it evenly over the bottom.

Preheat the oven to 350F. Bake the crust until the top is golden, 20 to 25 minutes.

Make the fudge souffle: Put the butter and chocolate in a heatproof container and place it over a saucepan of simmering water. Stir until melted and smooth. Pour the chocolate mixture into a medium bowl and set aside.

Put the egg whites and cream of tartar in the large bowl of an electric mixer and beat on low speed until foamy. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until soft peaks form. Reduce the speed to medium and slowly beat in the sugar, 1 tablespoon every 30 seconds.

Whisk the egg yolks, dissolved coffee, and flour into the chocolate mixture until blended thoroughly. Fold in half of the beaten egg whites, then fold in the rest of the egg whites. Spread the filling evenly over the baked crust.

Bake just until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few crumbs clinging to it, and the top looks firm, about 15-20 minutes. Cool thoroughly in the pan on a wire rack. Use a sharp knife to cut into 12 to 16 individual bars.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Stuffed Spaghetti Squash

Alright time for something a little healthier than apple pie-cake, chocolate oatmeal coconut cookies and earl grey white chocolate muffins (though I promise there are many more baked goods to come). The cookbook How It All Vegan! never fails to disappoint me. The recipes are always simple, made with ingredients you probably already have at home, often healthy, and of course so delicious. That goes for their other cookbook The Garden of Vegan too, and I'm sure for La Dolce Vegan but I don't have that one yet.

A while ago I saw these beautiful roasted goat cheese-stuffed squash on use real butter. (Go check out her blog - the photos are amazing!) I had stuffed squash on the brain and I was happy to come across this recipe for stuffed spaghetti squash in How It All Vegan.

The filling was incredibly tasty, even though I added 1 cup of onion instead of 1 whole onion (not sure what was going on there). Next time I'd add more lentils to make it more of a substantial and filling meal, instead of just a side dish. And perhaps just make a bit more stuffing to balance out all the squash.

If this sounds good, you might also like:
Squash & Aged White Cheddar Tart with Sage and Roasted Garlic Custard
Sweet Potato and Black Bean Chili
Sweet Potato Badi
Pasta with Tofu Red Pepper Sauce

Stuffed Spaghetti Squash
slightly adapted from How It All Vegan!

1 medium or large spaghetti squash, halved and cored
1 medium onion, chopped
6 mushrooms, chopped
1 tsp olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp cumin
1 cup cooked or canned lentils*
1/2 cup whole wheat bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 350F. Cut the squash lengthwise in half and scoop out the seeds, but leave the meat. Lay squash face up on cookie sheet. Set aside. In a medium saucepan, saute the onions and mushrooms in oil on medium-high heat until onions are translucent. Add the salt, pepper, cumin, lentils and bread crumbs and cook for 3 minutes more. Spoon the stuffing into each half of the squash and bake in oven for 30 minutes** or until squash can be pierced easily with a fork. Note: If your squash won't lay flat on your cookie sheet, you can cut a bit off the bottom.

*I used red split lentils. 3/4 cup of dry red split lentils made 1 cup of cooked lentils.
**Mine took 50-60 minutes.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

TWD: Russian Grandmothers' Apple Pie-Cake

This week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe was chosen by Natalie of Burned Bits. I don't know that I ever would have made this recipe had it not been chosen because I don't usually go for fruity desserts and I'm not a big fan of apple pie. I'd rather just eat the crust of the apple pie without the apples. Well maybe a tiny bit of apples. Anyway, I was happy that I made this because it's something different and I've never heard of or tried a pie-cake like this.

As a person who hates rolling out dough, I was really happy with how this dough turned out. I refrigerated it for a few hours, then let it sit out on the counter for about 20 minutes to warm up a bit. I rolled it between pieces of plastic wrap, which made it really easy. I would highly recommend anyone who fears pie crusts to try this recipe out. Overall it was easy to make, and not too time consuming (aside from cutting up a billion apples). The only things I changed were to use half the amount of raisins and 8 apples instead of 10 (Fuji apples are huge!)

Now the taste. Well this cake is good, for me it's not amazing. I think it took me some time to get over the fact that this was not an apple pie and so I couldn't expect a crispy crust. The cake "crust" was very soft almost bordering on crumbly. I liked the edges where it got a bit crisp (see, there I am hoping for that crisp pie crust). The one thing I found a bit odd was how dry the apple filling was. How do you get a gooey apple pie filling? I guess this one was not mean to be that way. This dessert is not too sweet, and after trying a second piece of it later on, I decided that it's a very homey and comforting dessert. Not sure if I'd make it again though it is beautiful and bumpy looking. Go check out all the other lovely Tuesdays with Dorie members and their apple pie-cakes!

Other Dorie Greenspan recipes I've made:
Chocolate Pots de Crème
Orange Berry Muffins
Chocolate Chip Cookie Topped Brownies
Pecan Sour Cream Biscuits

Russian Grandmothers' Apple Pie-Cake
Adapted Baking: From My Home To Yours

For The Dough
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
Juice of 1 lemon
3 1/4 - 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

For The Apples
10 medium apples, all one kind or a mix (I used gala)
Squirt of fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Coarse sugar, for dusting

To Make The Dough: Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar together on medium speed until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs and continue to beat until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 3 minutes more. Reduce the mixer speed to low, add the baking powder and salt and mix just to combine. Add the lemon juice - the dough will probably curdle, but don't worry about it. Still working on low speed, slowly but steadily add 3 1/4 cups of the flour, mixing to incorporate it and scraping down the bowl as needed. The dough is meant to be soft, but if you think it looks more like a batter than a dough at this point, add the extra 1/4 cup flour. (The dough usually needs the extra flour.) When properly combined, the dough should almost clean the sides of the bowl.

Turn the dough out onto a work surface, gather it into a ball and divide it in half. Shape each half into a rectangle. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or for up to 3 days. (The dough can be wrapped airtight and frozen for up to 2 months; defrost overnight in the refrigerator.)

To Make The Apples: Peel and core the apples and cut into slices about 1/4 inch thick; cut the slices in half crosswise if you want. Toss the slices in a bowl with a little lemon juice - even with the juice, the apples may turn brown, but that's fine - and add the raisins. Mix the sugar and cinnamon together, sprinkle over the apples and stir to coat evenly. Taste an apple and add more sugar, cinnamon, and/or lemon juice if you like.

Getting Ready to Bake: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375F. Generously butter a 9x12-inch baking pan (Pyrex is good) and place it on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat.

Remove the dough from the fridge. If it is too hard to roll and it cracks, either let it sit at room temperature for about 15 minutes or give it a few bashes with your rolling pin to get it moving. Once it's a little more malleable, you've got a few choices. You can roll it on a well-floured work surface or roll it between sheets of plastic wrap or wax paper. You can even press or roll out pieces of the dough and patch them together in the pan - because of the baking powder in the dough, it will puff and self-heal under the oven's heat. Roll the dough out until it is just a little larger all around than your pan and about 1/4 inch thick - you don't want the dough to be too thin, because you really want to taste it. Transfer the dough to the pan. If the dough comes up the sides of the pan, that's fine; if it doesn't that's fine too.

Give the apples another toss in the bowl, then turn them into the pan and, using your hands, spread them evenly across the bottom.

Roll out the second piece of dough and position it over the apples. Cut the dough so you've got a 1/4 to 1/2 inch overhang and tuck the excess into the sides of the pan, as though you were making a bed. (If you don't have that much overhang, just press what you've got against the sides of the pan.)

Brush the top of the dough lightly with water and sprinkle sugar over the dough. Using a small sharp knife, cut 6 to 8 evenly spaced slits in the dough.

Bake for 65 to 80 minutes*, or until the dough is a nice golden brown and the juices from the apples are bubbling up through the slits. Transfer the baking pan to a cooling rack and cool to just warm or to room temperature. You'll be tempted to taste it sooner, but I think the dough needs a little time to rest.

*Mine was done at 55 minutes, and maybe a touch too brown so check it around 45-50 minutes.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Chocolate Oatmeal Coconut Cookies

There's this place that sells cookies at a university here (Blue Chip Cookies for those of you in the Vancouver area) that are so insanely delicious. Since I didn't go to that university (my university didn't offer anything so tasty) I've only had these cookies a few times, but my two favourite kinds are the "marbelous" (chocolate dough with chocolate and white chocolate chunks) and coconut oat. The coconut oat is this thin buttery super coconuty delicious creation that's somewhere between soft/chewy and maybe a little bit crispy.

A month or so ago I came across these chocolate oatmeal coconut cookies on Deborah's blog who found them on This Week for Dinner. Once I saw them and read the combination of coconut and oats, I hoped hoped hoped that these might just be similar to the wondrous Blue Chip coconut oat cookies. I made them shortly after finding the recipe (which is actually kind of rare, as I'm sure many of you can relate to - saving recipes that you find on blogs that you want to make soon but then not getting around to it until much later if at all).

Well I am extremely happy to say that these cookies did not disappoint! I was ecstatic about how well they turned out. Especially fresh from the oven, all warm and soft with a bit of a crispy edge. These were it! Cookie bliss. The only problem was that I thought I'd prefer them crispy so I started to bake them a bit longer, but the next day they became really quite hard and only a bit chewy. So next time I won't bake them as long. And while the chocolate chips in them were good, I'll make them without next time so I can enjoy my perfect buttery coconut oat cookie. The photos really don't do them justice! And the chocolate chips look really weird.

If this sounds good, you might like:
Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
Carrot Coconut Cake
Chocolate Marble Chunk Cookies
Coconut Cream Pie

Chocolate Oatmeal Coconut Cookies
Adapted from Barbara Boczany & This Week for Dinner

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 cup brown sugar, packed
6 tbsp sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 cup flour
2 1/4 cups oats
1 1/2 cups dried unsweetened shredded coconut
12 oz (2 cups) semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350F. Beat butter and sugars at high speed until fluffy. Add eggs and beat until blended. Beat in vanilla, baking soda, and salt. Add flour and mix at low speed until blended. Stir in oats, coconut and chocolate.

Drop 1/4 cup of dough about 3 inches apart on large buttered baking sheets. Pat down to 1/2 inch. Bake 15-18 minutes. Cool one minute on pan. Transfer to cooling rack.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Earl Grey White Chocolate Chunk Muffins

I've been dreaming of these decadent muffins for quite some time - Earl Grey white chocolate sour cream based muffins. I've mentioned before how I have this Earl Grey obsession. I want to try it in everything! (Next an Earl Grey creme brulee, mmm.)

Once the muffins were baked I was so very eager to try one. It didn't taste quite like the lemon poppy seed muffins that uses the same base. I know the flavours are totally different but something was still not the same. I thought it might just be that I replaced some of the all purpose flour with whole wheat. But then my boyfriend tried them and he immediately picked up on it - I forgot to add the sugar. Durr. They were still good though and the white chocolate helped to make up for the missing sugar. I have to make these again though, with the sugar, to truly satisfy my craving.

You might also like:
Orange Berry Muffins
Snickerdoodle Muffins
Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Scones
Earl Grey Madeleines

Earl Grey White Chocolate Chunk Muffins
Adapted from Baking From My Home To Yours

2/3 cup sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon ground Earl Grey tea (or more if you dare)
3/4 cup sour cream
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
3/4 cup white chocolate chunks

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400F. Butter or spray the 12 molds in a regular-size muffin pan or fit the molds with paper muffin cups.

In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and ground Earl Grey tea. In a large glass measuring cup or another bowl, whisk the sour cream, eggs, vanilla, and melted butter together until well blended. Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients and, with the whisk or a rubber spatula, gently but quickly stir to blend. Don't worry about being thorough - a few lumps are better than over mixing the batter. Stir in the white chocolate chunks. Divide the batter evenly among the muffins cups.

Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, or until the tops are golden and a thin knife inserted into the center of the muffins comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool for 5 minutes before carefully removing each muffin from its mold.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Mushroom Stroganoff

I know the colours of this dish look kind of blah but it was really tasty! My mom always made beef stroganoff when I was growing up and while I'm sure it was really good beef stroganoff, I hated it. Now I wouldn't eat it because I don't eat meat, but the idea still never appealed to me. Then one day for some reason it did when I flipped by it in The Clueless Vegetarian.

The mushroom stroganoff saucy part was so so very yummy. The bad part about the sauce is that the flavour is very subtle. Actually I think it's the white wine in the sauce that I really like and I don't think there's a way to really make that stronger (well I could replace some of the vegetable stock with wine). The recipe suggests you add seitan but I have still not seen seitan anywhere, so I added tofu (more tofu than the sauce could handle). Which I don't think I'd do again because the tofu was just plain and took away from the dish. This was quite different from my mom's very creamy and saucy stroganoff. I will definitely be making it again.

You might also like:
Panko Crusted Tofu Cutlets with Lemon Caper Sauce
Balkan Roasted Vegetable Salad
Roasted Vegetable Pasticcio

Mushroom Stroganoff
adapted from The Clueless Vegetarian

Makes 2-3 servings.

2 tsp oil
8 oz seitan or tofu, sliced (optional)
1 lb mushrooms, sliced or chopped
1 onion, chopped
1/2 cup white wine
1 tbsp flour
1 cup vegetable broth
1/4 cup sour cream
2 tsp dried parsley
salt & pepper to taste

Heat 1 tsp of the oil in a large frying pan, add the seitan (or tofu) slices, and fry over medium heat, turning the slices over as they become slightly crispy and golden. Remove from the pan, leaving as much of the oil behind as possible, and set aside.

Add the remaining 1 tsp of oil to the frying pa. Dump in the mushrooms and onion and cook, stirring, over medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes, until the mushrooms have released all their liquid and it has evaporated. Add the wine and cook until it is slightly reduced - about 3 minutes.

Sprinkle the flour over the mushrooms, stir, then pour in the broth and bring the mixture to a boil. Return the seitan/tofu slices to the pan, lower the heat and let simmer for a couple of minutes. Add the sour cream and parsley, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Heat through and serve with buttered egg noodles, plain cooked rice or pasta.