Sunday, November 30, 2008

TWD: Thanksgiving Twofer Pie

First let me just preface this post by saying... I'm not a fan of pumpkin pie. Like, at all. But Pecan Pie is one of my absolute favorite things in this world. It's right up there with Cherry Pie, Chocolate Chip Cookies, Daniel Craig, Snickers, ASICS Running Shoes, and Aveda Black Malva Conditoner. I admit it. I have a love affair with Pecan Pie. (and for the record in my family... it's pecahn not pee-can pie).

Ahhhh... pecan pie, how do I love thee? Let me count thy ways... I love your sweetness, your smooth texture and crunchy top. And I'm a pecan pie purist. I'm not a big fan of throwing in chocolate chips to make a derby pie, or anything crazy like that. I don't even want ice cream or whipped cream on top of my pecan pie. Just give me the pie plate and a fork and I'm good to go.

This week, (errr... last week? we were allowed the opportunity to post late so that we could have a fresh pie for thanksgiving) for Tuesdays with Dorie Vibi of La Casserole Carree (click there for the recipe and click "English" in the Google Toolbar to the right) chose Dorie's Thanksgiving Twofer Pie. By Twofer, she means pumpkin and pecan pie all rolled into one.

At first I was like.. holy jeez, I have to destroy my beloved pecan pie by putting pumpkin in it? But the closer it got to Thanksgiving... the more I started to think that I might just actually like this pie. I mean, I have recently acquired a love for the spices in pumpkin flavored dishes and I thought that the pecan pie topping might just win me over to the pumpkin pie side.

I used Dorie's Pie Crust Recipe again (I accidently made the double crust for a peach galette awhile back and so I had a single crust already in the freezer, woo hoo) and folks, let me just say... I am the WORST pie crimper as well as the worst blind baker. For whatever reason this time my pie crust shrunk like wool in the dryer and and was just pooling butter in the bottom. But, whatever, I perserved and the crust turned out fine. Ugly, but fine.

Honestly, I wanted to love this pie. But, I didn't. It wasn't sweet enough for me. It was kind of like a light pumpkin pie with pecans thrown in. I felt like it didn't resemble a pecan pie at all. I'm glad I tried it though... and unfortunately... with so many other desserts on our thanksgiving buffett (including 2 pecan pies) I think there were only a couple of slices taken out of this pie. Oh well, at least I got to take it home and photograph it properly for my blog...
I hope everyone had a great thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Chocolate Guinness Cake with Baileys Frosting

Friday I was able to surprise my friend April with a birthday cake! I went down to Memphis to spend friday night with her and her husband to celebrate her birthday!

Now, April and I... we are like two peas in a pod. All the things I love... she loves.

Running? Yes
Beer? Yes
Wine? Yes
Bowling? Yes
Tailgating? Yes
Chocolate? Yes
Beer? Yes, again
Being silly? Yes
Taking silly photos? Yes
It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia? Yes
Pizza? Yes
Chocolate? YES!

So, even though I wasn't able to ask her what her preference for her Birthday Dessert was... I kind of had a good idea of what I wanted to make her. And it included two of the things in that list.

Chocolate and Beer, of course! Awhile back, I had made mini cake of this recipe and I remembered that April had left a comment on that post about how good the cake looked. So, I decided to make the full cake version.

Thanks for being such a great friend, April. Happy Birthday and I hope that you enjoyed your cake!!

Last Year for April's Birthday? German Chocolate Pie

Chocolate Guinness Cake with Bailey's Frosting
Original recipe here. Recipe with my changes listed below.
This cake is very moist and easy. The only change I would make next time... is to eliminate the salt. The beer has enough salt on it's own. I would also make 1.5x the frosting. I felt like there was enough when I was icing the cake, but when I was actually eating it, I would have liked a little more.

Butter, for greasing the pans
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
2 cups sugar
3/4 cups good cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt (eliminate if using Guinness)
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup Guinness Beer

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter 2 (8-inch) round cake pans. Line with parchment paper, then butter and flour the pans.

Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix on low speed until combined. In another bowl, combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry. With mixer still on low, add the coffee and stir just to combine, scraping the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 30 minutes, then turn them out onto a cooling rack and cool completely.

Place 1 layer, flat side up, on a flat plate or cake pedestal. With a knife or offset spatula, spread the top with frosting. Place the second layer on top, rounded side up, and spread the frosting evenly on the top and sides of the cake.

Bailey's Chocolate Frosting:
6 ounces good semisweet chocolate (recommended: Callebaut)
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 extra-large egg yolk, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
1 tablespoon Baileys Irish Creme
Chop the chocolate and place it in a heat-proof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Stir until just melted and set aside until cooled to room temperature.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium-high speed until light yellow and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg yolk and vanilla and continue beating for 3 minutes. Turn the mixer to low, gradually add the confectioners' sugar, then beat at medium speed, scraping down the bowl as necessary, until smooth and creamy. Dissolve the coffee powder in 2 teaspoons of the hottest tap water. On low speed, add the chocolate and coffee to the butter mixture and mix until blended. Don't whip!
Spread immediately on the cooled cake.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Brown Sugar Apple Cheesecake.

Ummm... let's see... what to say, what to say...

I could sit here and write and write and tell you just how damn delicious this cheesecake is. I mean, I could mention that the gingersnaps meld into a chewy, moist lightly spiced crust that compliments the creaminess of the cheesecake perfectly. I could also say that the addition of the fried apples overcame my fear of being a textural no-no and turned into little bites of apple-y goodness dotted throughout the cake. Maybe I'd also talk a little about the sweetness and homey-ness that the cake imparts due to the apple cider, cinnamon, and the brown sugar added to the batter. Oh yeah, I wouldn't want to forget the silky smooth texture that glides over your tongue from the sour cream, cream cheese, and heavy cream in the recipe.

Yeah, I could say all those things.

Or I could just say...




or maybe even


I've made a lot of cheesecakes folks... But this one is amazing.

This was a Tuesdays with Dorie recipe that was completed the week before I joined. Jaime of Good Eats 'n Sweet Treats chose this one. I'm so glad I went back and decided to catch up on this recipe sooner rather than later.

Make it, you won't be sorry.
Brown Sugar-Apple Cheesecake
from Baking: From My Home to Yours, by Dorie Greenspan

This cheesecake is so freaking good. The only thing different that I might do next time, is make 1.5 of the crust, just a personal preference, but I prefer to have more of the crust go up the sides of my cheesecake, as written in the recipe you really only get a layer for the bottom of the crust.

I cut my apples wayyyyy thinner than Dorie tells you. I basically cut mine into thinnish slices, because I was really nervous about the texture being too weird in the cheesecake. I think it turned out great this way and will do it next time, too. I also didn't add all my apples (I used 3 huge fuji's) to the cheesecake, I just placed one layer of the thin apples on the cheesecake and ended up with a crap load of fried apples left over. Next time, I'll just slice up an apple and a half or so.

Also, my bowl of batter wasn't placed on my scale right, and I think I ended up adding as much as a 1/4 cup of MORE of brown sugar than the recipe called for... it turned out sweet, but not crazy sweet, so next time, I might go ahead and intentionally add a couple extra tablespoons of brown sugar to the batter.

I can never find apple cider. Arg! So, as usual when a recipe calls for it... I just used 100% apple juice. No problems.

I skipped the apple jelly and confectioners sugar. It was awesome enough without it.

For the Crust:
30 gingersnaps (or a scant 2 cups graham cracker crumbs)
2 tbsp light brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon (optional)
1/2 stick (4 tbsp) unsalted butter, melted

For the Apples:
1/2 stick (4 tbsp) unsalted butter
3 large Golden Delicious or Fuji apples, peeled, cored and cut into eighths
2 tbsp (packed) light brown sugar

For the Filling:
1 1/2 pounds (three 8-ounce packages) cream cheese, at room temperature
3/4 cup (packed) light brown sugar
6 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp apple cider
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 tsp ground cinnamon
3 large eggs
3/4 cup sour cream
1/3 cup heavy cream

Apple jelly, for glazing, or confectioner's sugar, for dusting (optional)

To Make the Crust:
Butter the bottom and sides of a 10-inch springform pan.

Put the gingersnaps in a food processor and whir until you have crumbs; you should have a scant 2 cups. (If you are using graham cracker crumbs, just put them in the food processor.) Pulse in the sugar and cinnamon, if you're using it, then pour over the melted butter and pulse until the crumbs are moistened. Turn the crumbs into the springform pan and, using your fingertips, firmly press them evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the pan as far as they'll go. Put the pan in the freezer while you preheat the oven. (The crust can be covered and frozen for up to 2 months.)

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Remove the pan from the freezer and wrap the bottom tightly in aluminum foil, going up the sides. Place the pan on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes, or until the crust is set and lightly browned. Transfer to a rack to cool while you make the apples and the filling. Leave the oven at 350 degrees F.

To Make the Apples:
Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. When the foam subsides, toss in half of the apple slices and cook, turning once, until they are golden brown, about 3 minutes. Sprinkle the apples with 1 tablespoon of the sugar and cook them, turning, just until coated, another minute or so. Scrape the apples onto a plate, wipe out the skillet and repeat with the remaining apples. Let the apples cool while you make the filling.

Getting Ready to Bake:
Have a roasting pan large enough to hold the springform pan at hand. Put a kettle of water on to boil.

To Make the Filling:
Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the cream cheese on medium speed, scraping down the bowl often, for about 4 minutes, or until it is velvety smooth. Add the sugars and beat for another 2 minutes. Beat in the cider, vanilla, and cinnamon. Reduce the speed to low and beat in the eggs one by one, beating for 1 minute after each egg goes in. Finally, beat in the sour cream and heavy cream, beating just until the batter is smooth.

Pour about one third of the batter into the baked crust. Drain the apples by lifting them off the plate with a slotted spoon or spatula, and spoon them into the pan. Cover with the remaining batter and, if needed, jiggle the pan to even the top. Place the springform pan in the roasting pan and pour in enough boiling water to come halfway up the sides of the springform pan.

Bake the cheesecake for 1 hour and 30 to 45 minutes, covering the cake loosely with a foil tent at the 45-minute mark. The cake will rise evenly and crack around the edges, and it should be fully set except, possibly, in the very center--if the center shimmies, that's just fine. Gently transfer the cake, still in the pan, to a cooling rack and let it cool to room temperature, then refrigerate it for at least 6 hours; overnight would be better.

Run a blunt knife around the edges of the pan to loosen the crust, open the pan's latch and release and remove the sides

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

TWD: Kugelhopf

Some things in life are worth 5+ hours of your time. This cake... is not one of them. I mean, for chrissakes, I ran a marathon this weekend in less time than it took for this damn cake to be prepared and finished.

Yolanda The All Purpose Girl, chose this recipe for Tuesdays With Dorie and bless her heart... but she picked a doozy. I mean, I dont know... maybe it's just me... maybe I'm the only one who felt like there was a crap-load of effort put into this crummy cake/bread.

Okay, okay... enough whining... I'm just grouchy cause I didn't read the recipe till late on Sunday and it was just so freaking time consuming. Ugh. (Apparently I'm not a yeast bread kind of gal).

I halved the recipe and put it in heart shaped, mini-muffin cups since I don't own a Kugelhopf pan or even a bundt pan. And I can assure you, I will NEVER own a kugelhopf pan. (Even though its a kick ass word to say!). I also omitted the raisins/currants and added nutmeg (I know, I'm shocked, too) to the dough. And since I had little mini muffins... I dunked the kugelhopf muffins into butter and then rolled them around in cinnamon sugar... and even that couldn't really save them. Oh well.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Caramel Butter Bars

"It happens sometimes... friends come in and out of our lives like busboys in a restaurant."
--Gordie from Stand By Me

I've never been the type to have lots of friends. Actually, I find the idea of having lots of friends simultaneously to be kind of stressful. I mean... how do people have the time to spread themselves around to lots of different friends? I suspect the people who do, are less of the homebody type than I am.

I've always had a few close friends. My first best friend was Lisa McBroom. We met in the daycare at the fitness center that our mom's belonged to. We were lucky enough to be put into the same kindergarten class and our friendship continued to grow through the next few years. Her family eventually moved and I eventually went through a large group of close girl friends and guy friends through the years. But only a handful remain. And these are the friends that I consider my true blue, tested and weathered best friends: Stephanie, April, Jeff, Sara, and Leigh. These are my peeps. These are the friends who share my awesome times and my not so awesome times. The people I trust and love like family.

But you know what sucks? Their geography... Steph's in Portland, April's in Memphis, Jeff's in Baltimore, Sara's in Louisville, and Leigh's in Columbia, SC. I mean... bloody hell! Do you know how shitty it is to have a network of such amazing friends... but not have the ability to call any of them up and be like.. "yo, let's grab a burrito... or go to a movie... or get drunk tonight, cause there's nothing better to do?" Yeah. Let me tell you... it sucks.

But... a couple of weekends ago... that changed! Just the other night I was able to text my friend Sara and be like.. "what up? Let's grab dinner." and she called back (cause, girls not a texter... I'm working on her though... give me some time) and we went to dinner, because she moved to Nashville!!!! And not only did she move to Nashville, she's living like 2 miles away from me! Woop Woop!

It's great to have her here! And to welcome her, I wanted to bake her something yummy.

Now, I know Sara REALLY well. And I know that her favorite candy bar is the Milky Way. So, I definitely wanted to make her something that was very caramely and gooey and yummy.

This recipe immediately popped out at me. It came together really easily and turned out pretty tasty. But... honestly... it needs chocolate. I mean, it REALLY needs chocolate. It's like eating just the peanut butter side of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. It's good, but it's blatantly missing it's rightful partner. So, I will make this again, but I will sprinkly chocolate chips over the caramel layer.
The Stand By Me quote I referenced above is true... some people do come in and out of lives like busboys... but if you're lucky like me... you'll have a few really true friends that stick with you forever. (And hopefully you'll eventually succeed in convincing them all to move to Nashville to be close to you, cause you're selfish like that. 1 down, 4 to go...) :)
Gooey Caramel Butter Bars
From Sticky Chewy Messy Gooey, by Jill O’Connor
These bars are delicious and I consider the crust to be an awesome base for other fillings. Mainly fillings that have chocolate in them. So, if you're making these bars.... I suggest throwing in some chocolate chips, some heath toffee bits, or something to add to the salty, chewiness of the caramel.

For the Crust:
1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon salt
4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
For the Filling:
1 bag (14 ounces) caramel candies (about 50 individual caramels), unwrapped
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 to 2 tablespoons dark rum (optional)
Pinch of salt
1 cup pecans or walnuts (optional)
Confectioners’ sugar for dusting (optional)

To make the crust: in a large bowl, combine the butter and sugars. Using an electric mixer set at medium speed, beat together until creamy. Add the vanilla and salt and beat until combined. Sift the flour into the butter mixture and beat on low speed until a smooth, soft dough forms.
Spray a 9 by 13 inch baking pan lightly with nonstick cooking spray. Press one-third of the dough evenly into the pan to form a bottom crust. Pat the remaining dough into a flat disk and wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, at least 30 minutes.

Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees F. Bake until firm and the edges are a pale golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool.
While the bottom crust is baking and remaining dough is chilling, make the caramel filling: Place the unwrapped caramels in a microwave-safe bowl. Add the cream, vanilla, rum (if using), and salt. Microwave on high for 1 minute. Remove from the microwave and stir until smooth. If caramels are not completely melted, microwave on high for 30 second intervals, stirring after each interval, until smooth.

Sprinkle the nuts (if using) over the bottom crust. Pour the caramel filling over the nuts, using a small metal spatula to nudge the filling evenly over the crust. Remove the remaining chilled dough from the refrigerator and crumble it even over the caramel. Return the pan to the oven and bake until the filling is bubble and the crumbled shortbread topping is firm and lightly golden, about 30 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.

Use a sharp knife to cut the bars evenly into 15 large squares. Remove the bars from the pan with a metal spatula and, if desired, cut in half on the diagonal to form 30 triangular bars. Dust with confectioners’ sugar, if desired.

The bars will keep, covered tightly at room temperature, for about 1 week, or in the freezer for up to 1 month.