Friday, October 30, 2009

Soft & Chewy Chocolate Drops

So I had left over Unsweetened Baker's chocolate from the Chocolate Pecan Pie that I made. The back of the Unsweetened Baker's chocolate box has a a recipe for Soft & Chewy Chocolate Drops. I decided...why not try making them! Here is the recipe.

4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
3/4 cup butter
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2- 1/2 cups flour
1 tub (8 oz) Cool WHIP Whipped topping
6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate

1) Heat oven to 350 F. Microwave unsweetened chocolate and butter in large microwavable bowl on HIGH 2 minutes or until butter is melted. Stir until chocolate is completely melted. Add sugar; mix well. Blend in eggs and vanilla. Stir in flour. (Do not overmix) Refrigerate 1 hour or until dough is easy to handle.
2) Shape into 1 inch balls; place, 2 inches apart, on lightly greased baking sheets.
3) Bake 8 minutes or just until set. (Do not overbake) Let stand on baking sheet 1 minute; transfer to wire racks. Cool completely.
4) Microwave Cool Whip and semi-sweet chocolate in microwaveable bowl on high 1-1/2 minutes or until chocolate is completely melted, stirring after 1 minute. Let stand 15 minutes to thicken. Spread over cookies, let stand until firm.

From Baker's Unsweetened Baking Chocolate Squares Box

These cookies were descent but nothing special. I give them 2 out of 5 stars. I probably will not make them again. The frosting is slightly bitter and the cookies were not as soft as I wanted. The cookies themselves were difficult to discern when they were done. Hence this may be the reason why they were not as soft as I would have liked them to be.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Chocolate Pecan Pie

This past week was my last week with a roommate. I had a really good time. It reminded me a little of college having someone to hang out with when I got home from school. Albeit, I no longer live in the spacious house that I lived in when I went to A&M. (My roommate for the month slept on the couch.) We planned to make the following Chocolate Pecan Pie together. However, things got busy and we did not have the opportunity. So this past weekend, I decided to tackle this recipe alone.
This Recipe is from: Tori's Mom
1 unbaked 9-inch pie crust shell
3 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup butter, melted
2 oz unsweetened baking chocolate, melted
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup large pecan pieces

Preheat oven to 400 F. Beat eggs in a large bowl; stir in sugar, corn syrup, combined melted butter, chocolate, and vanilla. Mix thoroughly, but do not overbeat. Sprinkle pecans in prepared shell; slowly pour filling mixture over pecans. Bake for 15 minutes. Lower heat to 325 and continue to bake until filling is puffed and set, about 45-50 minutes.

As I stared at the oven at the end of this recipe, I had a difficult time ascertaining when the pie was done. The pie puffed up at 40 minutes when I glanced at it, but I wasn't sure whether it was set. I took the pie out and placed my finger in the center and decided that it wasn't yet done and placed it back in the oven for another 8 minutes. At the end of the recipe, I still wasn't quite sure whether it was set but decided that it had to be done. I really liked this recipe. It was incredibly easy to make. It made me wonder why I don't make pies more often. Cookies are harder. I give this recipe 4.5 out of 5 stars. I will definitely make it again.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Tunnel of Fudge Cake

This Tunnel of Fudge Cake recipe is from The history of the Tunnel of Fudge cake is as follows: Ella Rita Helfrich of Houston entered Pilsbury's bake off five years in a row. In the fifth year, 1966, she won the Pilsbury bake off with this recipe. My roommate picked this recipe to make this week because she heard it was a difficult and has always wondered how the cake got a tunnel of fudge. I too was intrigued about where the tunnel came from. I read the recipe over and over again to see where you inject the fudge into the cake. We came to the conclusion that the tunnel is actually from the powdered sugar, walnuts and a slightly undercooked cake. Happy baking!

1 3/4 cups sugar
1 3/4 cups butter
6 eggs
2 cups powdered sugar
2 1/4 cups unbleached flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
2 cups chopped walnuts
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
4 to 6 teaspoons milk


1. Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour 12-cup fluted tube cake pan or 10-inch tube pan. In large bowl, combine sugar and margarine; beat until light and fluffy. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually add 2 cups powdered sugar; blend well. By hand, stir in flour and remaining cake ingredients until well blended. Spoon batter into greased and floured pan; spread evenly.

2. Bake at 350°F. for 45 to 50 minutes or until top is set and edges are beginning to pull away from sides of pan.** Cool upright in pan on wire rack 1 1/2 hours. Invert onto serving plate; cool at least 2 hours.

3. In small bowl, combine all glaze ingredients, adding enough milk for desired drizzling consistency. Spoon over top of cake, allowing some to run down sides. Store tightly covered.

Before you run out to make this recipe, I want to emphasize that it is not health food. 1 3/4 cups butter= wow!! The cake is mighty tasty. I give it 3.75 out of 5 stars. The tunnel of fudge turned my own surprise. My favorite part of this cake is the tunnel. It is under-baked goodness. 3.75 stars though for the cake being too rich and too heavy and a little too dry. Overall, I have made better chocolate cakes, but this one is pretty darn good.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Angel Food Cake

My dad's favorite cake is Angel Food Cake. Every year for his birthday, my mom buys Angel Food Cake from the grocery store and we eat it as a family with berries and whipped cream. I have been thinking that home made Angel Food Cake has to be way better than store bought, right? I found this recipe in William Sonoma's Cakes book. I made the cake with my roommate for the month for the Dining For Women meeting. I consider this very first attempt at Angel Food Cake a dry run for making it someday for my dad's birthday. This year I won't be able to go home to celebrate with him, but one day I will. So overall, Angel Food Cake needs to be a part of my cake repertoire.

12 cold large eggs
1 cup cake flour
1 3/4 granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

1. Preheat the oven and prepare the pan
Position a rack in the lower middle of the oven, so the cake will be evenly surrounded with heat and preheat to 325 F. Have ready a 10 inch tube pan, preferably with a removable bottom and small feet spaced evenly around the rim. If the pan does not have feet, have a narrow necked full wine bottle or similar bottle over which the tube pan can be slipped with it is cooling. You won't need to grease the pan as you do with most other cakes because any fat, such as butter, can deflate the delicate batter. The batter needs to adhere to the pan and climb the sides while it bakes.
2. Separate the eggs
Take the eggs from the refrigerator. Have ready 2 medium bowls and 1 large mixing bowl. The bowls must be perfectly clean, because even a speck of fat can prevent the whites from reaching the necessary loft when whipped. Working over the first medium bowl, crack 1 egg and pass the yolk back and forth between the shell halves, allowing the white to drop into the bowl. Drop the yolk into the second medium bowl. Transfer the white to the large bowl. Repeat with the remaining 11 eggs/ Reserve the yolks for another use.
3. Sift the dry ingredients
Suspend a fine mesh sieve over a small bowl and add the flour and 3/4 cup of sugar. Lightly tap the rim of the sieve to encourage the ingredients to pass into the bowl. This both combines the ingredients and aerates the flour. Set aside.
4. Beat the egg whites with the cream of tarter
Add the cream of tartar and slat to the bowl with the egg whites. Fit a stand mixer or a handheld mixer with the whip attachment. Beat on medium speed until opaque white and foamy and cream of tartar has dissolved, about 1 minute.
5. Beat the egg white mixture to stiff peaks
Increase the speed to medium-high and continue beating, moving the whip around the bowl if using the handheld mixer, until the whites look white, shiny and smooth and the movement of the whip forms lines in the mixture 2-3 minutes. Stop the mixture and lift the whip. The peaks of the whites should be slightly bent; these are soft peaks. Turn the mixer on medium speed and beat in the remaining 1 cup sugar, at a rate of about 2 tablespoons every 15 seconds, until all the sugar is incorporated. (Remember to move the whip around in the bowl if using a handheld mixer.) The egg whites will be shiny. Stop the mixer and lift the whip. The peaks of the whites should be firm and straight; these are stiff peaks. Add the vanilla and almond extracts and beat on medium speed for 1 minute.
6. Mix in the dry ingredients
Reduce the mixer speed to low. Add 1/2 cup of the flour mixture and beat just until incorporated and no streaks are visible. Repeat with the remaining flour mixture in 1/2 cup additions. When all of the flour mixture has been incorporated, the batter will look soft and fluffy
7. Transfer the batter to the pan
Using a large rubber spatula, scrape the batter into the prepared pan, then use the spatula to smooth the top. You want to eliminate any large bumps and distribute the batter evenly, but the top does not need to be perfectly smooth.
8. Bake the cake
Bake the cake undisturbed for 40 minutes. If the top looks set-that is the batter no longer looks wet and the top is lightly browned, touch it gently. If it feels firm, insert a thin skewer or toothpick near the center of the cake, equidistant from the pan sides and the tube. If it comes out dry the cake is done. If it comes out wet, set the timer for another 5 minutes and continue to bake. Repeat the process until the cake is done---which will probably take a total of 50 minutes.

Overall, I give this cake 4 out of 5 stars. The taste was good. However, in the midst of cooling, the cake deflated somewhat. Therefore the cake was denser tasting than a typical Angel Food Cake that tastes somewhat light and fluffy. I think that next time I should use an Angel Food style pan instead of the silicone bundt cake pan that I used. The change in pan may help during the cooling process from inhibiting the deflation of the cake.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Anise-Almond Biscotti

I have never made biscotti before. The very thought of making biscotti was quite intimidating to me actually. It is just one of those foods that comes in a plastic wrapper at Starbucks that you impulsively buy at the last minute because it is calling your name. Once you begin to eat it, the biscotti is normally so hard that you think you may break off your teeth. The overpriced $3 coffee then becomes necessary. No longer does the coffee just fill your caffeine requirement for the day, but now it used to soften biscotti. Otherwise, you could potentially have an expensive dentist bill to pay with a tooth broken via a biscotti accident. So I began my biscotti quest with my roommate for the month. (Both of us new biscotti makers) We found this recipe for Anise-Almond Biscotti in Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook.

1 1/2 cups unblanched almonds
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
2 tablespoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pure anise extract
3 large eggs, plus 1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon anise seeds

1) Preheat the oven to 375 F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside. Spread the almonds in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Toast in the oven until fragant and just beginning to turn light golden, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer nuts to a clean surface; spread evenly, and let cool completely. Sift together flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl; set aside.

2) In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and granulated sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in the anise extract. Add 3 eggs, one at a time, beating to incorporate after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the flour mixture, and beat on low speed until combined. Mix in anise seeds and toasted almonds.

3) Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead to evenly distribute the nuts and seeds. Divide in half. Shape each piece into a 18-inch log, and transfer to the prepared baking sheet, about 3 inches apart. Brush beaten egg over the surface of the logs, and sprinkle generously with sanding sugar, if using.

4) Bake, rotating pan halfway through, until logs are lightly browned and firm to the touch, about 30 minutes. Transfer parchment and logs to a wire rack to cool slightly, about 20 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 300 F.

5) Place logs on a cutting board. Using a serrated knife, cut the logs crosswise on the diagonal into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Place a wire rack on a rimmed baking sheet. Arrange slices cut side down on the rack. Bake until firm to the touch, about 30 minutes. Remove pan from oven; let biscotti cool completely on the rack. Biscotti can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.

***Note I did not add anise seeds or sanding sugar to the recipe

I give this recipe 5 out of 5 stars. I will definitely be making these again! The biscotti had an excellent consistency and wasn't too hard. Definitely a perfect companion for a cup of coffee.

Monday, October 5, 2009

White Chocolate Peach Cake

I have a friend staying with me in my apartment this month for an away rotation. She loves baking like myself. So we plan on baking quite a bit this month. Along with her possessions, my friend brought several baking books. I quickly skimmed the books and they look awesome. I am so excited to try some of their recipes. This White Chocolate Peach Cake recipe comes from the book, Chocolate from the Cake Doctor Mix by Anne Byrn. My friend has made this recipe before and described the cake as "heavenly". I simply can not pass up the opportunity in making a "heavenly cake". Enjoy!

Ingredients for the cake:
Solid vegetable shortening for greasing the pans
Flour for dusting the pans
8 larges fresh peaches
1/4 cup sugar
6 ounces white chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 package (18.25 ounces) plain white cake mix
1/3 cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs
2 large egg whites
Fresh Peach Buttercream Frosting

Directions for the cake:
1) Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 F. Generously grease two 9-inch round cake pans with solid vegetable shortening, then dust with flour. Shake out the excess flour. Set the pans aside.

2) Peel, pit, and slice 4 of the peaches. Place the peach slices in a small glass bowl, add the sugar, and toss to coat the slices well. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill.

3) Peel, pit and quarter the remaining 4 peaches. Place the peach quarters in a food processor and process until pureed. You should have about 1 1/4 cups. Pour 1/4 cup of the puree into a small glass bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and reserve in the refrigerator. Pour 1 cup of the puree into a large mixing bowl. Set aside.

4) melt the white chocolate in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly 3 to 4 minutes. Or microwave the white chocolate in a small glass bowl on high power for 1 minute, then stir with a small rubber spatula until smooth.

5) Place the cake mix, oil, whole eggs, and egg whites in the mixing bowl with the peach puree. Pour in the slightly cooled white chocolate. Blend with an electric mixer on low speed for 1 minute. Stop the machine and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat 2 minutes more, scraping down the sides again if needed. The batter should look well combined. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans, smoothing it out with the rubber spatula. Place the pans in the oven side by side.

6) Bake the cakes until they are golden brown and spring back lightly pressed with your finger, 30 to 33 minutes. Remove the pans from the oven and place them on wire racks to cool for 10 minutes. Run a dinner knife around the edge of each layer and invert each onto a rack, then invert again on another rack so the cakes are right side up. Allow to cool completely, 30 minutes more.

7) Meanwhile, prepare the Fresh Peach Buttercream Frosting.

8) Place on cake layer, right side up, on a serving platter. Spread the top with frosting. Place the second layer, right side up on top of the first layer and frost.

9) Slice and serve cake, topped with sweetened peaches.

Fresh Peach Buttercream Frosting
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
3 3/4 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
3 to 4 tablespoons pureed fresh or thawed frozen peaches
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. Place the butter in a large mixing bowl. Blend with an electric mixer on low speed until fluffy, 30 seconds. Stop the machine and add the confectioners' sugar, 3 tablespoons peach puree, and vanilla. Blend with the mixer on low speed until the sugar is incorporate, 1 minute. Increase the speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy, 1 minute more. Blend in another tablespoon peach puree if the frosting seems to stiff.

2. Use to frost the top and sides of the cake of choice.

Okay...time to evaluate. My first impression is that this cake tastes really good. It is moist and the frosting is melt in your mouth buttery. My second thought is wait.... what's the name of the cake again? ....White Chocolate Peach Where's the peach my friend, where's the peach? I can't really taste it. I recall watching my friend peel the peaches and putting them in the blender to puree. I remember then putting the pureed peaches in the frosting and cake batter, but the peach taste just isn't there. I also don't really taste the white chocolate. The flavors are too subtle in my opinion. The cake still reminds me quite a bit of the original white box cake. Don't get me wrong. The cake still tastes good. Good enough to get 3.5 out of 5 stars in my book in fact. The frosting is to die for and I probably would use this frosting on a non peach cake in the future. The consistency was excellent for spreading. I guess the peach made it easier to spread. However, all of this being said, next time I make this cake I will use more peach and more white chocolate in the cake itself. My overall disappointment and lower rating of this cake is mainly substantiated upon the fact that the cake doesn't live up to its name.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Apple Cake

I love the fall. Here in Houston fall does not mean that the colors of the trees change. Evergreens are abound and it typically rains a lot every it stays pretty green. However, fall brings relief from the sweltering summer. Fall means longer runs, football practice, barbecues, pumpkins and apples. Cheap apples at the store inspired me to make this Apple Cake from William Sonoma's Cake Book. Now, I have made a couple of Apple Cakes in my short time as a cook. In college, I use to make a simple Apple Cake that involved cooking apples in cinnamon and sugar over the stove for 15 minutes. During this time, I would take a store bought yellow cake mix and bake half of the yellow cake for 10-15 minutes. Then I would pour the apples and the other half of the yellow cake atop the apples and TADA...Apple Cake. This Apple Cake is a little more complex than the yellow cake of college.

1. Preheat the oven and prepare the pan

Position a rack in the lower middle of the oven, so the cake will be evenly surrounded with heat, and preheat to 350 F. Butter a 10 inch fixed-bottom tube pan and sprinkle it lightly with flour, then tap out the extra flour.
2. Make the cinnamon sugar
In a small bowl, stir together the sugar and the cinnamon until no white streaks of sugar are visible. Set aside.

3. Sift the dry ingredients
Suspend a fine-mesh sieve over a small bowl and add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Lightly tap the rim of the sieve to encourage the ingredients to pass into the bowl. This both combines the ingredients and aerates the flour. Set the bowl aside.
4. Peel and shred the apples
Using a vegetable peeler, remove the skin from each apple. Using a box grater-shredder held over a sheet of waxed paper, repeatedly draw one side of a peeled apple against the large shredding holes. Stop shredding when you reach a peeled apple against the large shredding holes. Stop shredding when you reach the core and seeds, rotate the apple to another side, and shred again. Continue rotating and shredding until only the core is left. Spoon the shredded apple into a glass measuring cup. Shred the remaining apple in the same way until you have 2 cups. Transfer the shredded apples to a small bowl, and stir in about half of the cinnamon sugar. Set aside for 15 minutes to let the apples absorb the flavor. As the shredded apples stand, their juices will slowly released into the bowl.
5. Drain the apples
Suspend a fine-mesh sieve over a bowl and pour the apple mixture into it. Do not press on the apple, but let any juice drain off into the bowl. (Draining the apples prevents excessive moisture from being added to the batter, which could cause the cake to fail to rise properly when baked.) Discard the juice and set the shredded apples aside.

6. Beat the eggs with the sugar
In a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the eggs and the sugar. Fit the handheld mixer with the twin beater or the stand mixer with the paddle attachment. Beat the mixture on medium-high speed until it thickens and the color lightens slightly, about 2 minutes. If using a handheld mixer, move the beaters around in the bowl to make sure every bit is well beaten. Stop the mixer occasionally and use a rubber spatula to scrape down any batter from the sides of the bowl into the remaining ingredients.

7. Finish the batter
Reduce the speed to low and beat in the vanilla extract. Slowly pour in the oil, mixing just until it is blended into the batter, about 1 minute. Do not add the oil too quickly, or it might splash out of the bowl. Add the dry ingredients in 2 equals additions, and beat after each addition just until incorporated. Add the sour cream and continue mixing just until no white streaks remain. Finally, add the shredded apples and mix just until evenly distributed throughout the batter. The batter will thin slightly when the apples are added.

8. Bake the cake
Pour about two-thirds of the batter into the prepared pan, turning the pan as your pour so the batter fills it evenly. Sprinkle half of the remaining cinnamon sugar evenly over the batter in the pan (this will form an interesting swirl in the middle of each cake slice). Pour the remaining batter over the cinnamon sugar, using the spatula to scrape out every last bit from the bowl. The batter may not cover the cinnamon sugar completely. Sprinkle the remaining cinnamon sugar evenly over the top. Bake undisturbed for 50 minutes. If the cake looks set--that is, the batter no longer looks liquid and the top is lightly browned--touch the top gently. If it feels firm, insert a thin skewer or toothpick in the center. If it comes out dry, the cake is done. If it comes out wet or with crumbs clinging to it, set the timer for another 5 minutes, continue to bake, and check again. Repeat this process until the cake is done. It will probably take no longer than 1 hour.

9. Let the cake cool
Using pot holders, carefully transfer the cake to a wire rack. Let cool in the pan for 20 minutes. Run a thin knife along the inside edge of the pan and the tube to loosen the cake, keeping the knife pressed against the pan sides. Invert a plate on top of the cake and invert together. The cake will release from the pan. Lift off the pan. Invert another wire rack on the cake and invert the racks together so the cake is top side up. Lift off the top rack. Let the cake cool completely on the rack, about 1 1/2 hours.

10. Serve or store the cake
Carefully slide the cake onto a serving plate. Using a serrated knife and a light sawing motion, cut the cake into 12-16 wedges. Or, tightly wrap the cooled cake with plastic wrap and store at room temperature for up to 4 days.

I give this cake 4.5 out of 5 stars. I think it tastes better than the apple cake I used to make in college. Keep in mind though that they are two different beasts. The apples are not found when eating this cake...they are literally baked in because they are shredded. The shredded apples make the cake quite moist and the cinnamon sugar layer is a delightful surprise. I plan on using the technique of placing cinnamon sugar between the batter to create a pattern in future recipes. It is a neat technique that I have never imagined doing before.

My difficulties with recipe arose when I was trying to decide when the cake was done. I do not have the aforementioned cake pan. Therefore, I had to make do with my silicone bundt cake pan. The cake almost was too much for this pan and I had to cook the cake 15 minutes longer than the recipe called for. I was worried throughout this time that I was overcooking the cake. (Nothing is worse than dry overdone cake) My dilemma may have been enhanced because I baked the cake at 325 instead of 350. However, I don't think this accounts for 15 extra minutes of baking!! I often bake cakes at a lower temperature though because cakes turn out more moist this way. Anyways, my summary to all of this is you should make this cake. It is awesome. : )