Sunday, March 28, 2010

Chocolate Cream Tart & Snickery Squares

I try not to post too many recipes from one of my favourite baking books, Baking, otherwise I'd end up posting the whole cookbook. And then there's Tuesdays with Dorie members posting a new recipe from the book every week! But as I completely adore this book, I must frequently bake from it. I'm combining two goodies into one post, and will share the recipe for my favourite of the two though they're both yummy.

I've been dying to make the snickery squares since I was part of TWD and missed out on that week. They were dangerous to have lurking in the fridge - it's hard to resist the lure of shortbread, chocolate and caramel combined into one. One problem I had was that the dulce de leche oozes around and doesn't harden/stiffen at all in the fridge. Maybe it's because I made my own dulce de leche? Anyway these bars are a real treat and I'm sure would be devoured by anyone you share them with.

Then there's the chocolate cream pie. A chocolate shortbread tart filled with chocolate cream, topped with lightly sweetened whipped cream and then some chocolate shavings on top. I've mentioned before that I'm not a fan of fruit pies/tarts - it's all about the cream fillings (and curds)! Though I guess curds are fruity, but a lemon meringue pie is much different from an apple pie. Anyway, loved this tart though it was really rich.

If this sounds good, you might also like:
Orange Dreamsicle Tart
Key Lime Pie
The Most Extraordinary French Lemon Cream Tart
Coconut Cream Pie

Chocolate Cream Tart
Adapted from Baking: From My Home To Yours

Makes 8 servings

For the filling:
2 cups whole milk
4 large egg yolks
6 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp cornstarch, sifted
1/4 tsp salt
7 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted
2 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into pieces, at room temperature

1 9-inch Chocolate Shortbread Tart Dough, fully baked and cooled (recipe below)

For the topping:
1/2 cup cold heavy cream
1 1/2 tbsp confectioners' sugar
1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract

Chocolate shavings or curls, for decoration

To make the filling:
Bring the milk to a boil.

Meanwhile, in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk the yolks together with the sugar, cornstarch and salt until well blended and thick. Whisking without stopping, drizzle in about 1/4 cup of the hot milk - this will temper, or warm the yolks, so they don't curdle - then, still whisking, add the remainder of the milk in a steady stream. Put the pan over medium heat and, whisking constantly (make sure to get into the edges of the pan), bring the mixture to a boil. Keep at a boil, still whisking, for 1 to 2 minutes, then remove the pan from the heat.

Whisk in the melted chocolate. Let sit for 5 minutes, then whisk in the bits of butter, stirring until they are fully incorporated and the custard is smooth and silky. Transfer to a container with an airtight lid and refrigerate, or to cool quickly you can put the bowl in an ice bath and stir the custard.

When you are ready to assemble the tart, whisk the chocolate cream vigorously to loosen it and to bring back its velvety texture. Spoon the cream into the tart shell, stopping just short of the crust's rim (you may have some left over) - you want to leave room for the topping. Smooth the top and, if you are not serving the tart immediately, refrigerate the tart.

To make the topping:
Working with a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the cream until it just starts to thicken. Beat in the confectioners' sugar and vanilla and continue to beat until the cream holds firm peaks.

Spread the whipped cream over the tart and smooth it. Serve the tart now or refrigerate it for up to 2 hours before serving. When you are ready to serve the tart, scatter chocolate shavings or curls over the top.

Chocolate Shortbread Tart Dough

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 stick plus 1 tbsp (9 tbsp) very cold (or frozen) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk

Put the flour, cocoa, confectioners' sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse a couple of times to combine. Scatter the pieces of butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is coarsely cut in - you should have pieces the size of oatmeal flakes and some the size of peas. Stir the yolk, just to break it up, and add it a little at a time, pulsing after each addition. When the egg is in, process in long pulses - about 10 seconds each - until the dough, which will look granular soon after the egg is added, forms clumps and curds. Just before you reach this stage, the sound of the machine working the dough will change. Turn the dough out on to a work surface and very lightly and sparingly knead the dough just to incorporate any dry ingredients that might have escaped mixing.

Press the dough into a 9 inch tart pan. Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer, before baking.

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375F.

Butter the shiny side of a piece of aluminum foil and fit the foil, butter side down, tightly against the crust. (If you do like I did and don't butter the crust, your crust may stick to the foil which will be sad.) Put the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake the crust for 25 minutes. Carefully remove the foil. If this crust has puffed, press it down gently with the back of a spoon. Bake for another 8 minutes or so, or until it is firm and golden brown. Transfer the tart pan to a rack and cool the crust to room temperature before filling.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Maple Pecan Muffins

I'm a bit of a squirrel. And by squirrel I mean I like to hoard things. My pantry and cupboards are full of things to be used "one day". I stock up on hard to find grains, beans, baking supplies, etc when I come across them thinking that if I don't get them now, I might not be able to for a long time. But the thing is, because a lot of these ingredients are not as common and everyday (at least for me), I don't often think to use them. Some examples are farro, malt powder, chickpea flour, and fenugreek. Anyway so I've decided to start going through and using things up as I can. Going through the grains and beans is easier, but going through bags of wheat germ, wheat bran and oat bran will take some more time.

So I set out to find a recipe that used one of those three and found these maple pecan muffins. Which are my new favourite healthy-ish muffins, and possibly my new favourite muffins period. I adore them. They kind of remind me of bran muffins (but not as moist), and are a bit crumbly so also remind me of cornbread. And most exciting of all, I could actually taste a bit of the maple syrup which is used as a sweetener - usually it just disappears into the other ingredients. The first time I made these muffins, I wanted to fancy them up a bit so sprinkled some pecans on top. But from now on I'll just mix them all in because it's easier.

If this sounds good, you might also like:
Banana Peanut Butter Oatmeal Muffins
Strawberry Lemon Sunflower Seed Muffins
Whole Wheat Orange Spice Muffins
Candied Maple Walnut Pancake Loaf

Maple Pecan Muffins
Adapted from Feast (found on The Wednesday Chef)

Makes 12

1 cup pecans, roughly chopped
2 cups whole wheat flour (I used 263 g)
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup wheat germ
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup milk
1 egg
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Fill a 12-cup muffin tray with paper liners.

2. Mix together the pecans with flour, salt, wheat germ and baking powder. In another bowl, whisk together milk, egg, maple syrup, oil and vanilla.

3. Pour the liquids into the dry mixture. Gently fold to mix. The batter can have some lumps. Do not overmix because these muffins can get tough. Spoon batter into muffin cups.

4. Bake for about 15-20 minutes until tester comes clean. The nut topping turns golden, but the muffins will be somewhat pale. Remove muffins to a cooling rack.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Beet Raita

I always love eating raita when I go out for Indian food, and am scared of making it at home because I so badly want it to taste good so I don't want to screw up. But then I came across this beet raita and thought it sounded interesting and different, plus I love beets. (Beets are actually one of my favourite foods. I don't post about them often because I love eating them just roasted and plain.) Thus my first adventure with raita began! It's interesting because it's so full of chunky stuff - beets, potatoes and green onions. I'm used to raita being more like a dip/sauce and quite smooth. Anyway it was yummy and I'd make it again to eat with Indian food - it's always nice to have something cooling. If you have a good plain raita recipe, I'd love for you to share it with me!

My fiancé couldn't find Abby one morning, then finally found her hiding on his dresser behind clothes. So cute!

If this sounds good, you might also like:
Sesame Beets
Beet, Barley and Black Bean Soup
Indian Stir Fried Cabbage
Pink Beans with a Cardamom-Yogurt Sauce

Beet Raita
Adapted from The Essential Vegetarian Cookbook

Makes about 3 cups

2 medium beets
1 medium waxy potato, peeled, such as Yukon Gold (I would omit this next time)
1 1/2 cups plain yogurt (I used 2%)
2 green onions, minced
1/2 clove garlic, grated
2 tsp dried dill
1 tbsp fresh cilantro, minced
1/2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Heat the oven to 425F.

Wrap the unpeeled beets in foil. Bake the beets until tender, about 50 minutes, depending on size. Unwrap and slip off the peel.

Meanwhile, fill a medium saucepan with enough water to cover the potato. Bring to a boil over high heat, add the potato, cover, and lower the heat to medium. Boil the potato until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain.

In a mixing bowl, combine the yogurt, green onions, garlic, dill, cilantro, lemon juice, beets and potato. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled through, about 1 hour. Serve cold.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Peanut Butter Truffles

Chocolate truffles - another thing I can cross off my list of things I wanted to make! And another thing that for some reason seems scary or difficult but is actually one of the easiest things ever. Can you heat cream and peanut butter, pour it over chopped chocolate, add butter, refrigerate and then scoop into balls? Super easy and very well received. The truffles had that wonderful yielding chocolate ganache texture, mmm. I rolled most of them in chopped roasted, salted peanuts but because the truffles are so soft, I'd recommend coating them in chocolate first and then rolling them in nuts (or not).

If this sounds good, you might also like:
Chocolate Cookie Bark
Peanut Butter Fudge
Rich Chocolate Cheesecake
Marshmallow Crunch Brownie Bars

Peanut Butter Truffles
Adapted from The Sweet Melissa Baking Book

Makes about 5 dozen truffles

I'd recommend dipping the truffles in melted chocolate before rolling them in nuts.

12 ounces best quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 3/4 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup smooth peanut butter
5 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
2 cups roasted salted peanuts, finely chopped, for rolling

1. In a small pot over medium heat, stir the heavy cream and peanut butter until the cream is steaming and tiny bubbles have formed along the edges. Do not boil. Whisk until smooth.

3. Pour the hot peanut butter cream over the chocolate to cover completely. Set aside for 5 minutes, and then whisk until smooth.

4. Whisk in the butter to the still-warm chocolate mixture until smooth.

5. Refrigerate uncovered until the truffle base is firm enough to scoop, at least 2 hours. Using a small cookie scoop, scoop out the truffle base, and form into balls by rolling them around quickly in your hands.

6. Place the chopped peanuts in a shallow soup bowl. Roll each truffle in peanuts to cover.

The truffles are best eaten at room temperature. They keep refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Pan-Roasted Cauliflower

This cauliflower is one of my new favourite things to eat. It says it serves 4 as a side dish but I can't help myself from eating at least more than half of the recipe at a time. I love finding recipes like this that are single vegetable and simple - does that make sense? Like if I have a vegetable in my fridge/pantry, I'd love to have some things to do with it aside from steaming, pan frying or roasting it. Something a little different but still really easy. And in this case, so incredibly deliciously wonderfully tasty. The combination of pine nuts (don't omit these, they're crucial!), lemon (I tried vinegar, not as good), ground mustard, salt, pepper and green onions is so perfectly balanced and interesting. I'm sure this will remain a favourite dish of mine for a long time.

If this sounds good, you might also like:
Warm Vegetable Salad with Sesame-Maple Dressing
Herbed Cauliflower with Capers & Lemon
Cauliflower Gratin
Ginger Roasted Winter Vegetables

Pan-Roasted Cauliflower
Adapted from fresh 365

serves 4 as a side dish

1/4 cup pine nuts
1 large head cauliflower, cut into tiny florets
1 tbsp olive oil
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tsp ground mustard
1/2 tsp salt
pepper, to taste
2-3 green onions, chopped

In a large sauté pan, add pine nuts over medium heat, and cook, stirring often, 5-7 minutes, until toasted. Transfer pine nuts to a serving bowl. Place pan back on heat and add cauliflower, olive oil, lemon juice, ground mustard and salt. Cook, 12-15 minutes, shaking or stirring every few minutes, until cauliflower is golden brown. Transfer cauliflower to the serving bowl with pine nuts. Season to taste with pepper, and top with green onions.

Monday, March 8, 2010


I made bagels many months ago and never shared my accomplishment! So here are the beautiful bagels. I didn't experiment too much with flavours - just did some with poppy seeds, some plain, and some with aged white cheddar (though it looks like melted plastic on top - yum!) Overall the bagel making process was really exciting and fun, and much easier than I thought it would be (as are all things that I've been scared to make in the past - doughnuts, croissants, and I can't remember what else right now).

They weren't as chewy as I love my bagels, but they were good. Reinhart in The Bread Baker's Apprentice says to boil the bagel longer in order to make it chewier but this didn't really work for me. Any tips? The only bad thing about the bagel making experience was that I was scared I was going to break my poor little Kitchenaid, trying to knead the very strong bagel dough.

I very rarely post something without sharing the recipe but I really don't want to type up this insanely long recipe, and I'm sure you can find it somewhere online (or better yet in the book!) I hope you'll forgive me!

If this sounds good, you might also like:
Buttermilk Honey Bread
Oatmeal Knots
Soft Pretzels

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Deluxe Boston Cream Pie

I made this cake a really long time ago - like last summer for my birthday. I never posted about it because I didn't extremely love it. But photos of the cake have been sitting and waiting for their turn, and looking back on my recipe notes I see that I wrote that the vanilla diplomat cream filling was super yummy, and the cake overall was good - I'm just really nitpicky! I think I was disappointed because I didn't really like the buttermilk cake, but then it was the spongey kind and as I've said a million times, I prefer dense cakes. Though I think this style of cake is just the way it's supposed to be for a boston cream pie, because that's what it was like when I made one of my first Daring Bakers' challenges bostini cream pie. So maybe it's just me, and not the cake. I would make this cake again but with a different buttermilk cake, use less filling (it oozed out and the top layer of the cake slid off, yikes), and use less whipped cream frosting.

I haven't made anything else from Baking for All Occasions - any recommendations?

If this sounds good, you might also like:
Orange Chocolate Chunk Cake
Lemon Lust Cake
Strawberry Cream Cake
Tiramisu Cake

Deluxe Boston Cream Pie
Adapted from Baking for All Occasions

Buttermilk Cake
1 3/4 cups (200 grams) cake flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2/3 cup (165 mL) well-shaken buttermilk
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
5 1/2 ounces (1 1/3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs, lightly beaten

Vanilla Diplomat Cream Filling
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 large egg yolks
3 tbsp all purpose flour
2 tbsp unsalted butter

2/3 cup heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp dark rum

Whipped Cream Frosting and Dark Chocolate Glaze
2 cups heavy cream
10 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped

To make the buttermilk cake:
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350F. Butter a 9 by 2 3/4-inch round springform pan, then flour it, tapping out the excess flour. Or, lightly coat with nonstick spray and flour the pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside. In a small bowl, stir together the buttermilk and vanilla; set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until it is lighter in color, cling sot the sides of the bowl, and has a satiny appearance, 30 to 45 seconds. Increase the speed to medium-high and add the sugar in a steady stream, stopping the mixer occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Continue to beat on medium speed until the mixture is lighter in colour and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes.

With the mixer on medium speed, add the eggs, 1 to 2 tablespoons at a time, beating after each addition until incorporated. If at any time the batter appears watery or shiny (signs of curdling), increase the speed to medium-high and beat until the batter is smooth again. Then return to medium speed and resume adding the eggs, beating until smooth, stopping the mixer as needed to scrape down the sides of the bowl.

On the lowest speed, add the flour mixture in three additions alternately with the buttermilk mixture in two additions, beginning and ending with the flour mixture and mixing only until incorporated after each addition. Stop the mixer after each addition to scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. With the rubber spatula, spread the batter form the center outward, creating a slightly raised ridge around the outside rim.

Bake the cake until it springs back when lightly touche din the center, a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out free of cake, and the sides are beginning to come away form the pan, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool in the pan for 5 to 10 minutes.

Slip a small metal spatula between the still-warm cake and the pan and run the spatula carefully along the entire perimeter of the pan. Release the springform claps and remove the sides. Transfer cake to cooling rack. Let cool completely.

To make the vanilla diplomat cream filling:
Rest a fine-mesh sieve over a 1 quart bowl and set nearby for straining the pastry cream later. Pour the milk and 1/4 cup of the sugar into a 1 1/2 quart saucepan. Add the vanilla.

In a small bowl, whisk the egg yolks until blended, then whisk in the remaining 1/4 cup sugar. Add the flour and whisk to combine; set aside. Bring the milk mixture just to a boil over medium heat. Remove from the heat and pour half of the milk mixture into the yolk mixture while whisking constantly. Return the combined mixture to the saucepan and whisk to combine. Return to medium heat and heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture just comes to a boil, 1 to 2 minutes. It will have thickened at this point. Continue to stir and simmer until it is smooth and thick, about 1 minute more. Remove from the heat, add the butter, and stir until the butter is melted and incorporated. Pour through the sieve into the bowl. Set aside to cool for 15 to 20 minutes. (Once it has cooled, you can refrigerate it in a sealed container for up to 3 days.)

To assemble the dessert:
In a medium, deep bowl, using a whisk or a handheld mixer, whip the heavy cream until soft peaks form. Refrigerate briefly while splitting the cake.

Using a 12 inch serrated knife, split the cake in half horizontally. Place the bottom layer, cut side up, on your cake plate. Spoon about 1/2 cup of the whipped cream into a pastry bag fitted with a 5/16 inch plain open tip. Pipe a line of the whipped cream around the edge of the cake layer. Stir the vanilla and rum into the cold pastry cream until smooth. Then fold the remaining whipped cream into the pastry cream. Spoon the filling evenly over the cake layer. Using an offset spatula, spread it evenly just to the line of whipped cream. Center the other cake layer, cut side down, on top.

To make the whipped cream frosting and dark chocolate glaze:
In a medium deep bowl, using a whisk or handheld mixer, whip 1 cup of the cream until soft peaks form. Using a metal icing spatula, frost the top and sides of the cake with the whipped cream. Place the cake uncovered in the freezer for 40 minutes only (this is just enough time to chill the whipped cream frosting.)

While the cake is in the freezer, prepare the chocolate glaze. Put the chocolate in a medium bowl. In a small, heavy saucepan, bring the remaining 1 cup cream just to a boil over medium-low heat. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate, let stand for about 20 seconds, and then whisk until smooth and shiny. Set aside to cool to body temperature.

Take the cake out of the freezer. Pour the chocolate glaze over the cake to cover the top and sides, using the metal icing spatula to assist in spreading the glaze over the top and down the sides. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving.

To serve, dip the blade in hot water and wipe dry with a towel before each cut.