Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Guinness Chocolate Mini Cake

You know what's frustrating? When you have the perfect idea and everything goes great, and you get so excited that its going to be complete and utter awesomeness and then its time for the finale and it goes straight to hell. Well, at least presentation-wise? Yeah, welcome to my baking adventures this past weekend.

I had some leftover Guinness from my St. Pattys Day shindig and since I try not to drink much booze while marathon training, I decided to use some in a cake recipe instead! (I can swear off booze, but I can't swear off sugar... interesting, huh?).

I bought these cute little mini-pans ages ago and have been waiting for the perfect opportunity to use them. Well, that opportunity presented itself this weekend, when I had a chocolate craving and nobody in town to share a cake with.

I decided to use Ina Garten's Beatty Cake recipe that I printed out ages ago and instead of using hot coffee in the recipe... I'd use Guinness... Guinness in cake, you say? Brilliant! (I couldnt resist).

I ended up quartering the recipe. Which turned out to fit perfectly in the three little cake pans. They were each 4 inch cake pans. As they were baking, I was trying to decide what type of frosting I wanted to use... I decided I wanted something creamy and chocolatey, but that I'd also like to use some Guinness in the frosting as well. So.... I decided to adapt a cream cheese frosting recipe into a chocolate cream cheese guinness frosting. Yes, you read that right.... Chocolate. Cream Cheese. Guinness. Frosting. Oh my.

So, you can see where the excitement came from. I was so excited to taste this chocolately, booze-y, decadence in cake form... that I didn't even consider the fact that the cake was actually taller than it was round (since it was in petite form) or doing a crumb coat with the frosting and then chilling the cake in the fridge for a bit. Noooooo Sir... I immedately went to frosting that whole blame cake eagerly awaiting the moment that I could slice into it and produce the most beautiful tantilizing piece O' cake you've ever seen.

And thats when this happened.

The whole thing basically fell completely apart. Into a giant chocolatey mess on my maternal Step Grandfather's first wives China.

Sigh. At least it tasted brilliant! Soooooooooo delicious once chilled and the flavors melded. Yum. I will definitely make this in regular size at some point.

Cake Recipe follow exactly, except instead of 1 cup of Hot coffee use 1 cup of Guinness. I also used Hershey's Special Dark Cocoa.

Guinness Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting

1 8oz package of cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 tbsp vanilla extract
2tbsps Cocoa
2 tbsp Guinness
1 16 oz package of powdered sugar

Beat cream cheese and butter at low speed until creamy. Add vanilla, cocoa, and guinness and beat till mixed. Slowly add powdered sugar until creamy and fluffy.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Surfer Bars

I love love love a good bar cookie. Soft and chewy, sweet and easy to make. And these bars did not disappoint. I've had this recipe printed out for awhile now, but I never had mini marshmellows on hand, so I wasn't able to make them. Luckily, last weekend when I was in the grocery store, I actually remembered these bars and picked up a bag.

These bars are delicious. I'm not sure why they are called surfer bars, I kept trying to convince myself that it wasn't because they are so high in calories that only surfers will burn the calories, but I have a sneaking suspicion that that could be the case. Eek.

I didn't have butterscotch chips on hand, so I actually used peanut butter chips instead and they came out beautifully. I will definitely be making these cookies again. But, hopefully when I do, there will be other people around to help me eat them.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Bailey's Irish Cream Cheesecake

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

This weekend I had a little mini dinner party for my family to celebrate St. Patricks. (It was mini, because two people couldn't come). There was guinness, there was harp, there were potatoes, and there was Bailey's Cheesecake.

YUM. This cheesecake was simple to make and absolutely delicious. But, beware. You have to like Baileys to like this cheesecake, because it tastes just like it! But it's very good. Very rich and very smooth and silky.

The crust was a little different... it was oreo cookies and toasted pecans. But the crust might have been one of my favorite parts.

Everytime I make a cheesecake, I'm reminded of how delicious homemade cheesecakes are, and how simple they are to make! This beats any Cheesecake Factory Cheesecake!


Baileys Cheesecake Recipe

(I didn't make the coffee cream topping or add the 1/2 cup of chocolate chips to the top of the cake. I did add the 1/2 cup of chocolate chips to the bottom of the cake before I poured the filling in, though).

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Andes Mints Chocolate Chip Cookies

St. Patrick's Day has been my favorite holiday for YEARS. We're talking wayyy back to like 6th grade or something. Before I even dreamt of the wonders of green beer. As the years have gone on, my love for St. Patrick's Day has turned into an obsession with all things Irish (and green). It's pretty bizarre, actually. I mean, there really isn't any good reason for me to be so obsessed with Ireland (besides the fact that it's a beautiful, friendly country that reminds me a lot of my home state of Tennessee). My ancestors were likely scottish, maybe some were irish, but even that doesn't matter, because my family has lived in TN since the 1780s. I love Irish writers, Irish beer, (if I'm going to have whiskey, I prefer Tennessee Whiskey.. aka... bourbon to irish whiskey), Irish and Celtic music. All of it. I freaking love it.

So, I get pretty excited when March rolls around. I'm having a small family get together at my place tonight to celebrate St. Patrick's Day, so there will be a Irish-themed Post on Monday. But, last night, I was craving some cookies. Not necessarily Chocolate Chip cookies, and not peanut butter or oatmeal cookies, either. So, I perused Recipezaar and found this recipe. I had some andes mints that I needed to use up, so I decided to give it a whirl.

Now, I'm starting to get comfortable in adjusting recipes a little bit. Which is very exciting. And after reading some of the reviews of this recipe, I made my own adjustments! And they turned out fabulous! Actually, This is the perfect chocolate chip cookie consistency. I plan on trying it again without the Andes Mints to make soft, chewy chocolate chip cookies. If they turn out like these, they will indeed be my favorite chocolate chip cookies, I think. I'll let you know how that recipe turns out.

Anyway, you can use the original link up there, or follow my adjusted recipe below.

And, after I put the first round in the oven, I couldn't help but throw some food color in the second round. When will I ever learn that green cookies just don't look appetizing? Oh well. At least they look cute in my shamrock server!

Andes Mint Cookies

Adapated from KC_Cooker's recipe on Recipezaar.

I made a half batch and got 14 cookies. This recipe is for a whole batch.

1 cup plus 2 tbsp of unsalted butter, softened

3/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

2 tsps vanilla

2 large eggs

1 10 oz package of andes baking chips (I used crushed up andes mints)

1 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips

2 cups of flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Blend butter, sugars, baking soda and powder, vanilla and eggs until ingredients are mixed.

Add mints and chocolate chips and mix.

Add flour and continue to mix until well blended.

Cover and chill in fridge for 45-60 minutes.

Use a cookie scoop or a tbsp to measure out dough and form a ball of the dough in your hands and then slightly flatten it and place it on non-stick baking sheet.

Bake for approximately 7-9 minutes.

Cool on pan and then transfer to baking rack.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Peanut Butter- Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

There are two types of people in this world. Those who love Martha Stewart and those who don't. I happily fall into the first category. I love Martha Stewart. I love that she highlights that women can still be independent and successful (and single!) but also be very domestic as well. It's not one way or the other. You can be a career-minded woman while also having a completely straight and beautifully folded linen closet and also throw together a dinner party at the last minute. It is possible. And that's the woman I strive to be. Independent, successful, and also a whiz at home.

That being said, I peruse Martha's website quite often and came across this recipe. Now, what's not to love about cookies that have peanut butter, chocolate chips, and Oatmeal in the title?!?!

These cookies were absolutely delicious! They are definitely in my favorites category. They are sweet and chewy and so satisfying. Although, they really aren't that peanut buttery. But, it doesn't matter. They are delicious!

Notes on the recipe: I didnt use natural peanut butter and instead of adding peanuts, I added reese pieces. Yum.

Now... if only I could figure out a menu for my family st. patricks day dinner this weekend. Hmmm.... Maybe I should consult Martha...

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

TWD: Russian Grandmother's Apple Pie Cake

Apparently, grandma's and apple pie go together like peanut butter and chocolate. It seems like everyone's grandma had some sort of apple dessert that they made. Mine certainly did. My maternal grandma had a dried apple cake that she used to make. It was layers and layers of cake and a dried apple mixture spread between the layers. It seems like she always had some in her refrigerator. And I only liked it every once in awhile. The cake part was rather dry (It was supposed to be that way) and I'm not much of a cold cake type of person. But, I did love the part of the cake that sat right next to the dried apple filling. Yum.

I love apples and apple flavored things, but honestly, I'm not a huge apple pie fan. I just don't like the texture of mushy, cooked apples. But, I was really excited to make this apple pie cake, especially after reading the story in Dorie's cookbook of how she finally found a recipe similiar to the pie/cake that her grandma always made.

The recipe came together very easily for me. I ended up not needing the extra 1/4 cup of flour in the dough and after refrigerating overnight, the dough rolled out like a charm. I used fuji apples in the filling and also added a touch of vanilla (I have to have vanilla in everything). Also, I made the version in the deep dish pie dish.

It was delicious. It was almost like a apple cobbler. The top got pretty crispy, but the sides and the bottom of the cake were so cakey and moist. When I ate a piece last night, after it had cooled for about an hour, it tasted like I was eating apples and biscuits (which was good), but this morning, it was definitely softer and more cakey. Very delicious. And the apples stayed crunchy, which I loved.

I would definitely make this cake again for apple lovers. It's so homey tasting and different. The only problem is, it doesn't really keep its pie slice shape when you try to get it out of the pan. Oh well, who cares what it looks like on the plate, right (well, except for food bloggers)?

Maybe one day, I'll run across a recipe that is similiar to my grandmas dried apple cake...

Be sure to check out everyone elses Russian Grandmothers Apple Pie Cake, too!

UPDATE: This cake is unbelievable a couple of days later! The crust gets soft and moist and wow. This is an incredible pie/cake. I had to force myself to throw the rest of it out last night, because I couldn't stop eating it. Even as I was scraping it out of the pie plate and into the sink, I was sneaking bites in. Yum. This is a definite favorite of mine, now.

Russian Grandmothers Apple Pie Cake
Chosen by Natalie of Burned Bits

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 like to use Fuji, Golden Delicious and Ida Reds; my grandmother probably used dry baking apples like Cordland and Rome)
Squirt of fresh lemon juice
1 cup moist, plump raisins (dark or golden)
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Sugar, preferably decorating (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 375 degrees F. Generously butter a 9x12-inch baking pan (Pyrex is good) and place it on a baking shee tlined 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 evenely 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.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

TWD: Snickery Squares

The Snickers Bar is my all-time favorite candy bar. I often flirt with other candy bars… Reese Peanut Butter Cups, M&Ms, etc… but I always go back to the Snickers. It’s just the perfect mix of chocolatey, crunchy, gooey, chewy, sweet and salty all in one bite.

So, initially I was excited about the Tuesdays with Dorie recipe for this week, picked by Erin of Dinner & Dessert. She choose Snickery Squares.

Yay! Snickers!

Then, I read through the recipe and looked at the picture. Hmph. These sure don’t look like Snickers bars, I decided. I love shortbread, but shortbread in my snickers??? I don’t know about all that business.

Upon reading the recipe I realized that I didn’t have 3 things mentioned in this recipe.

A food processor
A pastry brush
An 8x8 square pan

Jeez. So, I ended up making and baking the shortbread crust at my parent’s house on Saturday, using their food processor and also borrowing an 8x8 square pan. Then I left the shortbread hanging out in the fridge from Saturday till Monday, when I finally made the bars. I bought a fancy dancy pastry brush at Target. I really feel like 6.99 is too much to spend on such an item, but… I felt like the cheaper ones they had would just shed and I didn’t want to be gagging on bristles while I was enjoying my faux snickers

Fancy Dancy Pastry Brush. $6.99 Target.

The candying of the peanuts was interesting. At first, while I was letting the sugar “color” I was able to flit around the kitchen, making dinner, flipping through cookbooks, etc… occasionally brushing the sides of the pan with my fancy dancy pastry brush and saying to myself.. jeez. What’s the big deal about making candy??? This is a breeze.

And then as time went on, I started to wonder about the sugar. What does “just start to color” really mean? Color at all? Or color as in start to turn caramel colored? I let it color a little bit… meaning, I could tell that it was starting to color, but I let it color just a little bit more. Then I threw my peanuts in. And yes, they turned white just like Dorie mentioned. But, I wasn’t prepared for the constantly stirring for about 20 minutes that ensued. I totally thought I cooked the sugar too long, because for like 15 minutes the sugar was coloring, but it was all clumpy and not caramel-y with the peanuts. It was like forming its own little mini peanuts. I cranked the heat up and that seemed to help… eventually it all came together.

Here’s the thing though…. I thought that these peanuts were going to taste like the peanuts in snickers. But they don’t. They taste like the peanuts in cracker jack (which I really really dislike). So when I anxiously cut into it and tasted my first square. I took one bite and tossed the rest of the square in the trash. Yuck. The peanuts totally ruined it for me. I think I would have liked it better with just the peanuts layered in, instead of candied.

Oh well. Win some, lose some and at least I conquered the candy peanuts. Those rascally little attention-screaming bastards.

Soundtrack: John Legend's Get Lifted. I love to groove when I’m in the kitchen and this was the perfect accompaniment to standing over the stove stirring peanuts for so long.

Snickery Squares

For the Crust:
1 cup all-purpose flour¼ cup sugar2 TBSP powdered sugar¼ tsp salt1 stick unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and chilled1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten

For the Filling:
½ cup sugar3 TBSP water1 ½ cups salted peanutsAbout 1 ½ cups store-bought dulce de leche

For the Topping:
7 ounces bittersweet, coarsely chopped½ stick unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces, at room temperature

Getting Ready:
Preheat oven to 350F. Butter a 8 inch square pan and put it on a baking sheet.

To Make the Crust:
Toss the flour, sugar, powdered sugar and salt into a food processor and pulse a few times to combine. Toss in the pieces of cold butter and pulse about 12 times, until the mixture looks like coarse meal. Pour the yolk over the ingredients and pulse until the dough forms clumps and curds-stop before the dough comes together in a ball.Turn the dough into the buttered pan and gently press it evenly across the bottom of the pan. Prick the dough with a fork and slide the sheet into the oven.Bake the crust for 15-20 minutes, or until it takes on just a little color around the edges. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool to room temperature before filling.

To Make the Filling:
Have a parchment or silicone mat-lined baking sheet at the ready, as well as a long-handled wooden spoon and a medium heavy bottomed saucepan.Put the sugar and water in the saucepan and cook over medium-high heat, stirring, until the sugar dissolves. Keeping the heat fairly high, continue to cook the sugar, without stirring, until it just starts to color. Toss the peanuts and immediately start stirring. Keep stirring, to coat the peanuts with sugar. Within a few minutes, they will be covered with sugar and turn white—keep stirring until the sugar turns back into caramel. When the peanuts are coated with a nice deep amber caramel, remove the pan from the heat and turn the nuts out onto the baking sheet., using the wooden spoon to spread them out as best you can. Cool the nuts to room temperature.When they are cool enough to handle, separate the nuts or break them into small pieces. Divide the nuts in half. Keep half of the nuts whole or in biggish pieces for the filling, and finely chop the other half for the topping.Spread the dulce de leche over the shortbread base and sprinkle over the whole candied nuts.

To Make the Topping:
Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water. Remove chocolate from the heat and gently stir in the butter, stirring until it is fully blended into the chocolate.Pour the chocolate over the dulce de leche, smoothing it with a long metal icing spatula, then sprinkle over the rest of the peanuts. Slide the pan into the fridge to set the topping, about 20 minutes; if you’d like to serve the squares cold, keep them refrigerated for at least 3 hours before cutting.
Cut into 16 bars.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Chocolate Chip Cookies by Bobby Flay

I warned you.

Yes, more chocolate chip cookies. This time brought to you courtesy of Bobby Flay.

Look at him

So cute and boyish. With his freckles and red hair.
I'm not sure what it is about him. I'm generally not attracted to pasty dudes, but there is something so all-american about him. Whenever I see him on television, I watch him. And the other day I caught the tail end of his show Throwdown (it's a show where he challenges cooks/bakers/chefs in a little contest) and this episode was Chocolate Chip Cookies.

Now, by this point, everyone is well aware of my recent chocolate chip cookie obsession. What is it???? I have no idea. But, it's like I can't get enough of chocolate chip cookies. I dream about them, I obsess over them, I seek out new recipes. So, when I saw this episode, I knew it was only a matter of time that I'd be making chocolate chip cookies again.

Little did I know it would be like 2 days later.

Anyway, the thing that struck me the most from the episode was everyone said that Bobby's were very buttery. This caught my attention. I loves me some butter.

These cookies were very buttery! And delicious! But, as I've noticed with all chocolate chip cookies, they could use a little chill time in the fridge before they go into the oven. I'll try that next time and hopefully they won't spread so much. Even with the spreading though, they still tasted chewy and oh so buttery. Yum. Incidentally, his cookies didn't win the throwdown, but the other cookies looked too cakey for me. I have some copycat recipes for the cookies that won, that I will eventually try and then I can do my own little throwdown experiment.

Bobby Flay's Chocolate Chip Cookie