Tuesday, February 24, 2009

TWD: Caramel Crunch Bars

Oh, Dorie. You've done it now. I mean... it's been fairly easy for me to throw away the leftovers of my Tuesdays with Dorie recipes. Sure, it takes willpower, but so far, I've had enough to just manage little enough bites of everything to not screw over my diet. Until Whitney of What's Left on the Table's pick this week for Caramel Crunch Bars.

These bars are freaking insane. First of all... can we talk about the crust? I omitted nearly everything superfluous in it. No cinnamon, no chocolate chips, no espresso and it was AWESOME. I couldn't help but cut off a corner or edge everytime I walked by the kitchen. Particulary when it was hot out of the oven... still gooey and not fully set. TO. DIE. FOR. Yum!

I'm not really sure how to describe these bars.. they aren't really caramel-y. It's kind of like a soft, shortbread crust with melted chocolate on top and heath toffee bits strewn on top. These are diet buster bars. Thank god, I went to my parents house yesterday and unloaded them onto them. Haha. Suckers.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Almond Vanilla Granola

When I was growing up, my mom was smack dab in the middle of the “health food craze.” I’m not sure if that’s a product of the fact that she was a runner and a mother of young children and as both, she thought about food in a different way. Or if it was just a general consensus of the time. I'm pretty sure though, that having young children and being a runner was probably the beginning of her seeing food more as fuel for your body than just feeding your cravings. She was ahead of her time with the whole disdain over heavily sugared and processed foods. And since I grew up with it from the start, it didn’t bother me as much as the rest of the family…

The only bread I ever had growing up was wheat bread and that was when the ONLY kind of wheat bread available was Roman Meal. I distinctly remember the very first time I had white bread. I was in the 3rd grade… I was at my friend’s Christin’s house and her mom made us peanut butter sandwiches.

I was completely disgusted! Yuck!!! This bread is so mushy that it sticks to the roof of your mouth! It was so different than the hearty wheat bread I’d had before, that I couldn’t believe people preferred white bread to wheat bread. I continued to dislike white bread, until finally… I’d had it so much at friends houses, that I actually started to gain a taste for it. (It’s best with mayo, deli ham and of coursed... crushed potato chips in the sandwich.)

That was how I found out about “normal” foods… at friend’s houses. I mean… I couldn’t believe that people had chocolate chips in their pancakes and fruit loops for cereal. All we were allowed for breakfast was Cheerios, Corn Flakes, Total, Oatmeal, or toast (wheat, of course). We NEVER had cokes around or even boxes of cookies… if we wanted cookies, my mom would whip up a batch and you better believe they had some oatmeal and maybe some whole wheat flour and god knows whatever else she could find to throw in there to make them healthier.

She definitely relaxed the restrictions as I got older and my brothers got into the teenage stage, but it does make for some funny stories… “Hey remember the time mom made buckwheat biscuits????? Gross.”

Growing up that way definitely had a positive effect on me, though. And as a runner myself, I am constantly thinking of what I put into my mouth… whether or not it’s healthy and how my body will like it. Granted, I don’t ALWAYS eat exactly what I should, but I do a make an effort.

Granola is one of those things that I totally see my mom making back in the day (although, I can’t really remember if she actually did). It’s totally up her alley, with the oats, the flax seed, the nuts, and dried fruit.

I’ve never really gotten onto the granola train. I never really saw the point… I mean, I like my yogurt, oatmeal, and cereal just the way it is… But, when I saw this recipe on Cookie Baker Lynn's site for Almond Vanilla Granola… I instantly wanted to hop onto the granola train. And… so, I did… and it’s delicious. I like to eat it just by itself. But, I did sprinkle some in my cereal one morning and enjoyed it that way, too. I used dried cherries, and think it would be delicious with some golden raisins, as well.

Recipe for Cookie Baker Lynn's Almond Vanilla Granola

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

TWD: Devil's Food White Out Cake

I love to make cakes. There is something about the different parts and the assembly that I just really enjoy. Particularly since you can usually do the different parts of the recipe on different days. The thing about cakes though... it's hard for me to justify making them unless there's a special occasion. I live alone... work in a small office... so, it's kind of hard to find ways to get rid of large, beautiful cakes.

So, I was thrilled when I recently acquired some mini springform pans! I don't know their exact size (err... don't remember), but I think they are 4.5 inch round and they are perfect for halving cake recipes! This was my first time using them and what a great cake to christen them with!

This week's Tuesday's with Dorie selection was chosen by Stephanie of Confessions of a City Eater and she chose the cover photo recipe: Devil's Food White Out Cake.

It's a rich, chocolate cake with layers of a homemade marshmallow-y frosting. I was excited about the frosting, because since it's an meringue type of frosting... it has WAY less the calories than a buttercream would have. So, I allowed myself to taste more than just a forkful. More like... 3-4 forkfuls. And then after I photographed it... I had to put it in the trash. So sad... but, I just can't trust myself to come home from work to a cake in the fridge (even if it is a mini cake!).

I was also excited that the decorating technique was easy for someone who sucks at decorating. It's just extra cake crumbled and pressed into the frosting! It looks cool and allows for lots of lee-way with those of us who struggle in the decorating department.

I immediately thought of a Ho-Ho when I tasted this cake. That's exactly what it tastes like to me, except... it's better, because there is WAY more marshmallow-y cream (and we all know that's the best part of a Ho Ho) in this cake than there is your standard Ho-Ho.

A fun cake, tasty cake.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Double Chocolate Gooey Butter Cake

Lord have mercy, I couldn't let those nasty looking "floating islands" be the first thing people see on my blog for more than a day. I mean... talk about embarrassing. Yikes.

So, here I am bestowing upon you a Paula Deen recipe. And not just any Paula Deen recipe... but the recipe that was made for my 29th birthday!

Originally, the idea was this: I pick a dessert that I want for my birthday... my mom makes the dessert... the family devours the dessert... my mom writes a guest post about the cake... and I post it!

Great idea, right??

Except... it didn't happen like that. I mean, I did pick this as my birthday dessert. And my mom did make it... and the family did devour it, but she didn't write up a post. So, just imagine that instead of my words... you're reading her saying things like how wonderful I am... how I was such a kind and brilliant child. How I've grown into the perfect daughter, etc, etc, etc... cause I know she would say all those things.

Instead of the things like... how getting me to talk about my personal life is like pulling teeth. How, I'm stubborn and opinionated. Or how I have a mouth that could make a sailor blush.

Yeah, I'm pretty sure she wouldn't say any of those things...

Thanks for the cake mom, it was delish!!! (FYI, while it looks like I used my huge, pointy chin to cut the cake, I actually just used a knife).

Recipe for Paula Deen's Double Chocolate Gooey Butter Cake
The only thing I'd say about this recipe is be sure not to overcook it. I think my mom actually did bake this a little too long, as it turned into more of a sturdy brownie-like consistency instead of a gooey cake. Also, I think this is probably best served hot out of the oven, with ice cream, of course!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

TWD: Floating Islands

I know exactly what you are thinking right now:

What the hell is a floating island?

Well, I thought the same thing, too... when I saw that Shari of Whisk: a food blog had picked this recipe for Tuesdays with Dorie. And then I noticed it was in the "Spoon Desserts" section of the cookbook and I grumbled under my breath... and then I saw the picture and I thought... YUCK! That thing looks disgusting. I immediately planned skipping out on the recipe... and then I remembered that the whole point of this baking group is to expand my horizons. Shari is merely trying to culture me in the world of desserts... so, here I am... making floating islands.

I've been trying to stay ahead of the curve so that I can set my TWD's up for automatic posting on Tuesday mornings, but this recipe, I ended up having to wait till last night to complete.

So, let's discuss the Floating Island , shall we? I'm going to break it down into basics for you. You've basically got a pool of melted ice cream... a cold soup, if you will. And floating around in this melted ice cream pool is a meringue puff/boat/island/blob.

The thing is... you have to actually make this melted pool of ice cream... (don't think I wasn't tempted by the half a carton of ice cream that is still in my freezer, left over from my birthday). But, I stayed honest and made the pool, which is technically called a Creme Anglaise. And I threw in some Bailey's Irish Cream to liven the pool up a bit. All pool parties are more fun with booze.

Apparently, this is what little french children think is a "fun dessert." Someone please introduce them to a Reese Peanut Butter Cup. These poor, poor children. I mean, granted, I think mine turned out wrong... I have a feeling that they weren't supposed to taste like an egg white omelette swimming in a pool of melted ice cream. Mine SUCKED. Even with the Baileys. Baileys alone cannot a party make.

I imagine that this was supposed to turn out more like meringue cookie texture, instead of a soggy, eggy mess. (Yes, I had good intentions and even used red food coloring for mine!) But, it's cool and now I've learned something... I've learned to stick with pastries and chocolate when I go to france.

So, since I'm embarrassed with just how shitty mine floating islands turned out... instead of posting the pic at the top... I'm posting it down here at the bottom. Something went terribly, terribly wrong...

Next week teaser: CHOCOLATE CAKE. Oh YES.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Sour Cream Chocolate Cupcakes and Chocolate Buttercream

One of my baking goals for the year is to be learn the patience and skills of cake decorating. I'm not sure what my issue is, but I just cannot, for the life of me decorate a cake or cupcake. They always look like I've mauled the cupcake instead of decorated it.

I originally made these cupcakes for the Vanderbilt tailgate of the Music City Bowl. I made all mini-ones (having just gotten a mini cupcake baking pan for Christmas) and had delusions of grandeur of decorating them with pretty little V's and U's, etc. In my head, they looked really cute and perfect... but in reality, they turned out pretty ugly. I topped the cupcakes with my favorite dark chocolate buttercream (to fit with the 'dores black color scheme) and then used a store bought tube of yellow icing to decorate with. EVEN store bought icing with a built in tip couldn't save me. Ugh. I suck.

Luckily, I had to schlep these cupcakes all over downtown Nashville and to two tailgates, etc... and they were pretty jacked up by the time they finally arrived at their finally resting place. So, I was able to blame the fact that I was carrying the cupcakes, a full bottle of baileys, two tailgating chairs, and a cup of coffee... "They were really pretty, until they got all jumbled up" Riiiiigggghhhtttt. No one was believing me, but luckily, enough beer had flowed that no one cared what they looked like.

Sadly for you (because it would be hilarious) I don't have any pictures of the decorated cupcakes. But... I do have pictures of some of the full sized cupcakes I made from the leftover batter, so that I could post the recipe.

This was the first time I'd made this cake recipe and it's a keeper. It's moist and light, and full of chocolate flavor. I always love cakes made with oil instead of butter. They turn out way better for me.

Also... a side note, Elyse from Elyse's Confectionary Creations gave my blog an award this week. And since I'm too lazy and rebellious to follow the actual rules for the award, I'm just giving her a shout out, cause her blog has some very tasty treats on there that you should check out! Thanks Elyse!

Sour Cream-Chocolate Cake

I found this recipe on Smitten Kitchen, and that recipe has peanut butter frosting and a chocolate peanut butter glaze (how amazing does that sound?). But I skipped all that and just used the cake recipe with the buttercream recipe that follows. This cake is a breeze to make, but be sure to heed Deb's advice before frosting and stick the cake or cupcakes in the freezer before you frost them. The recipe is so moist and tender that the crumb just falls completely apart when you try to frost.

Deb cites this recipe from being from Sky High: Irresistible Triple Layer Cakes (a book I definitely need to buy).

Makes an 8-inch triple layer cake that serves 12-16.

2 cups all purpose flour
2 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Hershey Special Dark, as always)
2 tsps baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup neutral vegetable oil, such as canola, soybean, or vegetable blend
1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups water
2 tbsp distilled white vinegar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the bottoms and sides of three 8-inch round cakepans. Line the bottom of each pan with a round of parchment or waxed paper and butter the paper.

Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. Whisk to combine well. Add the oil and sour cream and whisk to blend. Gradually beat in the water. Blend in the vinegar and vanilla. Whisk in the eggs and beat until well blended. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and be sure batter is well mixed. Divide among three prepared cake pans.

Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost clean. Let cool in the pans for about 20 minutes. Invert onto wire racks, carefully peeling off the paper liners, and let cool completely. (Deb Note: These cakes are very, very soft. I found them a lot easier to work with after firming them up in the freezer for 30 minutes. They'll defrost quickly once assembled. You'll be glad you did this, trust me). YES. TRUST HER.

Hershey's One Bowl Buttercream Frosting

About 2 cups of frosting. (If you're making a 3 tiered cake... my guess is you'll want to double or triple this frosting recipe. If you wind up with too much, you can always freeze it. That's what I always do with leftovers and it works really well!).

6 tbsp of butter, softened
2 2/3 cups of powdered sugar
1/2 cup Hershey's cocoa (again, I used special dark)
1/3 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract

Beat Butter in medium bowl. Add powdered sugar and cocoa alternately with milk; beat to spreading consistency (additional milk may be needed). Stir in vanilla.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

TWD: World Peace Cookies

First of all, I had every intention of making the chocolate gingerbread from last week. But, I waited till Monday and I was not feeling well... I ended up measuring out the flour and as soon as I measured the ginger... the smell made me nauseous and I immediately had to go to the bathroom and puke. Which is weird... I thought ginger was supposed to be soothing to the stomach? I guess not when you're sick.

Anyway... no puking this week (thank goodness).

For this week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe, Jessica at Cookbook Habit chose World Peace Cookies.

I was pretty excited to make these cookies... I mean, I've made them before and I remembered liking them, but not being absolutely wowed by them. (Let's just say, I would have continued to call them by their original name of Korova cookies).

Okay, so here's the deal... these cookies are good, yes. But if you're looking for something quick to whip up, that's painless... I'd stay away. These cookies gave me an absolute fit, trying to cut them. Ugh. Soooooo crumbly, I ended up freezing them and cutting them immediately out of the freezer, then I pulled them from the oven and kind of took a fork around the edges and pushed around to make them more round.

I dont know, these are good. But not out of this world.

If you want to check out my first attempt at them back in 2007, here's the link:

My first attempt at World Peace Cookies