Jun 16, 2010

Thumbprint Cookie Craze

It was just one of those days, when the weather is gorgeous, and you have all the time on your hands, and you crave sugar! Just had to make something quick, so I pulled out my "Baking from my home to yours" book by Dorie Greenspan, and landed my eyes on thumbprint cookies.
Actually never made them before, and it sounded like they would taste like vanilla crescents, which I LOVE! They do, with a bonus of fruity marmalade/jam.
I have more than enjoyed these cookies, and I have really gone crazy with varieties of jams/marmalades. Worked well with all of the flavors, though for my taste Red cornel aka European cornel, was just perfect.

Is there someone out there who never had these cookies? If yes, you better hurry up, it’s way to simple, and way too melt-in-your-mouth delicious to pass up!

Thumbprints for us big guys
From “Baking: From My Home To Yours” by Dorie Greenspan

1 3/4 cups finely ground hazelnuts
(I have used walnuts, almonds are fine too)
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flower
2 sticks (8 oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
Confectioner’s sugar, for dusting
About 1 cup raspberry jam (or the jam or marmalade of your choice)

Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats. Whisk together ground nuts and flour.

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with the paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar together on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the extracts and beat to blend. Reduce the mixer speed to low and gradually add the nut-flower mixture, mixing only until it is incorporated into the dough.

Working with a teaspoonful of dough at a time, roll the dough between your palms to form small balls and place the balls 2 inches apart on the baking sheets. Steadying each cookie with the thumb and forefinger of one hand, use the pinkie of your other hand (or the end of a wooden spoon) to poke a hole in the center of each cookie. Be careful not to go all the way down to the baking sheet.

Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, rotating the sheets from top to bottom and front to back at the midway point. The cookies should be only slightly colored–they may even look underdone, which is fine: they should not be overbaked. When the cookies are baked, remove the baking sheets from the oven and let the cookies rest on the sheets for 2 minutes before transferring them to cooling racks with a wide metal spatula and sifting confectioner’s sugar over them.
Repeat with the remaining dough, remembering to cool the baking sheets before baking the next batch.

Bring jam to a boil in a small saucepan over low heat, or bring to a boil in a microwave oven; remove from the heat. Fill the indentations of all the cookies with enough of the hot jam to come level with the tops. Cool to room temperature.
Enjoy! Share!

Jun 11, 2010

No Bake Butter Biscuits Cake

This cake is always on demand in my house, and it’s not just simple to make, but it’s really good. You can make it in so many variations, and flavors. There is simply no excuse not make this one. I can bake all day, making the most extravagant cake ever, but I know it will not be swept clean off the platter as quickly as this one. Makes my life easy :)
To make it you’ll need:
about 2 lb (more or less) butter biscuits (rectangular butter cookies, crunchy, see here)
2 (1.7 oz each) chocolate pudding powder (not the instant one)
2 ½ cups milk, for pudding
6 tbsp of sugar
2 tbsp (or more if you like sweeter) powdered, confectioners sugar
2 sticks butter or margarine, unsalted, room temperature
Whipped cream
2 cups (or as needed) milk, warm, to soak the biscuits

* If you don’t have chocolate pudding powder, for this recipe you can substitute with 2.7 oz corn starch, and 2-3 tbsp of cocoa powder (depends how chocolaty you want it).
* The pudding will be quite stiff, esp. when cooled to room temperature, but with butter added, it will be a very nice filling.

Make pudding by mixing pudding powder, sugar, and about a cup of lukewarm milk in a smaller bowl. Set the rest of the milk (1 ½ cup) to boil, reduce heat, then add the pudding mix, mix constantly, and cook for about a minute. Let it cool to room temperature, stirring often, so the skin wouldn’t form on the top.
With a mixer, on medium speed, mix pudding mix, and butter (or margarine), both at room temperature, until blended nicely. Add powdered sugar to sweeten it more, if desired.

Line the square deeper dish, or square baking pan, (the smaller, but deeper dish will make for a taller cake) with foil or plastic wrap, and start arranging butter biscuits on the bottom, soaked in warm milk for about 5-10 seconds each, soak several at the time. Don’t over soak the biscuits or the cake will be too moist, and it won’t cut nicely. The biscuits will get moisture from the butter cream too.

Layer like that, one layer biscuits, one layer butter cream (about as thick as the biscuits), until all buttercream is used, and biscuits are on the top. Cover top with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for few hours at least. Remove plastic wrap from top, place square platter over it, and flip the cake onto it. Top with lots of whipping cream, and chill some more. Cut, serve, share, enjoy!
This simple dessert is my entry to Magic Bullet To Go Giveaway, for which you can find details @ Fun and Food Cafe. You could win a Magic Bullet Food processor, and it's really simple.
Thank you for the invite Mansi!
Open wide :)

Jun 6, 2010

Hi Hat Cupcakes

What better to do on a rainy day, but make cupcakes?!
I wanted to make these New York gems for a long time, and finally time has come for me to do so! I am not a big fan of dark chocolate coating, or glaze, so I have used milk chocolate, and also I have added another twist by making the meringue with banana flavor.
Awesome decision, for my taste buds anyway ;) Kids have stuck to frosting their cupcakes with store bought frosting, and tons of sprinkles, and they are now running around on a sugar high :)
I made these cupcakes following a recipe from "Cupcakes", by Elinor Klivans (great book, esp. for novice cupcake bakers), and I have followed it precisely. They don't look as fancy as hers, but for a first time, I think they turned out excellent.
I had just a tiny problem, once I got them out of the oven, they did sink a little bit. Texture was stil fine, very moist, and they taste wonderful, just wondering if that had anything to do with a bit cooler weather, and a draft I have created in the kitchen with two open windows? Probably...

For 18 regular, 12 big-top, or 12 extra large, or 60 mini cupcakes:
Chocolate sour cream cupcake batter
3 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 cup unbleached AP flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup water

Preheat oven to 350 F.
Melt chocolate in a double boiler, or in microwave if you are experienced to do so.
Sift flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt, incorporate well, and set aside for later.
Beat the sugar and butter on high speed until creamy. Add the melted chocolate on low speed, and beat until combined.
Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing after each addition. Add the vanilla extract and mix until batter lightens in color, about 1 minute. Add the sour cream and mix until there is no more white spots.
Add half of the flour mixture, combine, then add water, mix well, and add the rest of the flour mixtrue, and mix until nicely combined.
Fill your cupcake liners 2/3 full, then bake for about 20 minutes, more or less, depends, or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let them cool.

1 ¾ cups sugar
½ cup water
3 large egg whites
¼ tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp almond extract
(I have used only banana extract)

2 cups (12 oz0 semisweet chocolate (chips or chopped)
3 tbsp canola or vegetable oil

Mix sugar, egg whites, water, and cream of tartar in a top of a double boiler (or heat proof bowl) with at least 2 quart capacity and beat with a hand held electric mixer (watch that mixer cord next to the heater) on high speed until opaque, white and foamy, about 1 minute. Put the bowl over, but not touching, a saucepan of a barely simmering water. Beat on high speed for about 12 minutes, or until it registers 160°F on a thermometer. Remove the container from water, add vanilla and almond extracts, and beat for 2 more minutes to thicken it some more. It will get thicker as it cools on the cupcakes.

Pipe the spirals of filling into a 2 inch cone on top of the cupcakes, using a freezer bag, or pastry bag fitted with plain pastry tip. Place cupcakes on a platter, and put the in the refrigerator until coating is done.

To make the coating melt the chocolate with oil until melted and smooth, in a double boiler, or microwave (if experienced). Scrape it into a small bowl for easier coating. Cool slightly, about 15 min.

Hold each cupcake by its bottom, and dip the tops into chocolate until all the white is covered, you can also use a small spoon for any missed areas. Let the cupcakes sit ar room temperature until coating slightly firms. Remove paper liners (optional), and return cupcakes to a platter, and refrigerate for about 30 minutes until set, then cover and refrigerate for 2 hours before serving. They can be refrigerated up to 3 days.

Adapted from “Cupcakes, by Elinor Klivans.

Jun 2, 2010

Donauwellen ("Danube Waves")

I have made this cake many times, there are so many recipes out there, but now I got the Dr. Oetker German Baking Today cookbook, and decided to try this recipe. It is really great! Very rich cake, interesting, and delicious. I love how the batter turned out, just perfect!

I have used a 9 inch round spring form pan, normally this cake is made in a rectangular shape, and served as slices, or cubes. Because of that I have used less chocolate topping.
Also, I make the chocolate topping by melting chopped chocolate pieces with heavy cream. I just keep adding heavy cream (not whipped) until I am pleased with the texture.
I only had frozen tart cherries, fresh (jarred or canned) would make for much nicer appearance, and create perfect waves between the two batter layers. Google it for better images of what it should look like.

My family was very pleased, the only critique they had was that perhaps more butter cream would make it even better : )

Donauwellen (“Danube waves”)

Makes about 20 pieces

For a baking sheet (40 x 30 cm) which is about 16 x12 inches:
some fat
aluminum foil (if using a baking sheet, not pan)

2 jars or cans of sour cherries (drained weight approx. 350 g each), or fresh, pitted
250 g/9 oz soft margarine or butter
200 g/7 oz sugar
3 drops vanilla extract in 1 tbsp sugar
1 pinch salt
5 medium eggs
375 g/13/½ oz AP flour
3 level tsp baking powder
20 g / ¾ oz cocoa
2 tsp milk

Butter Cream:
40g/ 1 ½ oz custard powder 9or 1 packet Dr. Oetker vanilla pudding)
100 g/ 3 ½ oz sugar
500 ml/ 17 fl oz milk
250 g/ 9 oz soft butter

200 g/ 7 oz plain chocolate
4 tsp oil (cooking)

Danube Waves

Preheat oven to about 180° C/ 350 °F. Grease the baking sheet. Thoroughly drain the cherries. To make the cake mixture, stir the softened margarine or butter with a hand mixer with a whisk, until it becomes smooth and homogenous. Gradually add the sugar, vanilla sugar, and salt, stir until mixture thickens. Add 1 egg at a time, whisking each one for about ½ minute at the highest setting.

Mix together the flour and baking powder, sift and add to margarine or butter mixture in two stages, briefly stirring with a mixer at the medium setting. Spread 2/3 of the mixture on the greased baking sheet. Sift the cocoa powder and add with the milk to the rest of the batter, and spread it on top of the light batter. Place a strip of aluminum foil along the open end of the baking sheet to form and edge (no need for this if you are using a pan). Dry the sour cherries quickly on kitchen paper, then arrange them on the dark colored cake mixture, pressing them lightly into place. Bake for about 40 minutes.

Take the cake of the baking sheet and place on a cooling rack, or if using a pan, just cool it in a pan.
Make the butter cream filling, make the custard with the custard powder, sugar and milk, following the instructions on a packet. Leave the custard to cool down (don’t refrigerate), and stir occasionally.
Stir the softened butter with a hand mixer with whisk until it becomes smooth and homogenous. Stir in the cooled custard, by the spoonful, making sure that the butter and the custard are both at room temperature because the butter cream could curdle otherwise. Spread the butter cream on the cooled cake, and smooth out the surface. Refrigerate for about an hour.

To make the chocolate topping, coarsely chop the plain chocolate and melt it with the oil in a double boiler, or however you usually do so ( I did it in microwave). Pour the chocolate coating over the set butter cream, and decorate with a baking comb or a fork, creating waves. Enjoy!