Tuesday, April 28, 2009

TWD: Chocolate Cream Pie

What's that?

You think my pie looks different from the other Tuesdays with Dorie peeps? Well, that's probably because I cheated. Not like-going out and buying a frozen Marie Callender Chocolate Cream Pie and trying to pass it off as homemade-cheated, but cheated nonetheless.

Here's the story.

Originally, I was going to make this pie for Easter Dinner. It was a chocolate dessert so I knew everyone would eat it. Plus, the timing was perfect because, I had some whole milk and heavy cream leftover from something else. And that whole milk was driving me insane. I mean, it was going to go bad if I didn't use it up (which I hate) and it's thick, rich, velvety goodness called out to me everytime I poured a bowl of honey nut cheerios. It was only a matter of time, folks... that damn whole milk was going to own me.

So, I made the dough for the regular tart crust (insert first subsitution here) and tucked it in the fridge till I was ready for it. The recipe calls for a chocolate tart crust. But... ummm.. here's the thing. I'm not a big fan of chocolate crusts. They just always taste burnt to me.

Then I whipped up the pudding/cream filling (which, I gotta say, is so easy now that I've learned my lesson from previous pudding/cream makings. Basically... you gotta have your shit ready to go before you start. That means everything measured and laid out. You'll thank me. Trust me). Popped it in the fridge and off I went about the rest of my weekend... Working (this was the height of tax season),drinking, watching the masters, brunching, running, etc...

And then before I know it, Easter Sunday rolls around and the tart dough and the chocolate cream are still hanging out in my fridge. Chilling. It was a long weekend and the pie just didn't get made.

It was at this point, however, that I snuck a few spoonfuls of the cream. The first taste, I was like... ehhh.. okay. By the third bite I was like... oh my god, how can I get this chocolate cream pie filling into my mouth faster? I mean, it was delicious. So creamy, thick and chocolatey. Knowing that I had no one to share this pie with, I knew that I had to do something quick to get this puppy made and photographed and out of my possession. So, I threw the tart dough in the freezer and got out some graham crackers.

I made a graham cracker crust, put it into a mini springform pan and a little while later, I was filling that crust up with some of the chocolate cream. I really wanted to make the whipped cream topping that went with it, but I honestly just didn't have the patience or the time. Remember? Chocolate cream into my mouth. NOW.

I couldn't even photograph it without eating it. I will definitely make this again and in it's rightful way. With the tart dough, with the whipped cream and I'll definitely make some friends with wherever I take it. Check out Kim's Blog Scrumptious Photography for the recipe.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Orange Berry Muffins

Brunch is something that is fairly new to me. Not the concept, mind you, but the application. Growing up… we had a big, early breakfast and a light lunch. There was no intermingling of the two.

And now, as an adult… the idea of brunch seems fantastic to me! I mean, really… it just sounds like an excuse to eat more food and drink booze at the same time.

You mean I can have quiche and bagels and pastries? Yes, it’s brunch.

And I can have bloody marys and mimosas? Yes, it’s brunch.


So, while the concept is awesome, the application is still a little troublesome for me. You see, much to my surprise (and probably my former college room-mates), I’ve become a morning person. Normally on the weekends, I choose to wake up to my alarm around 5:30 or 6:00 am, but even when I don’t… I can’t sleep past 7:30. Yup… 7:30 is sleeping in for me (even when I’m hungover. Ugh). So, there is no way I can go from 7:30 till 11:00 or later to engage in brunch. I have to eat a little something for breakfast, and by that time, I’m just like… “ehhh.. screw it, I’m hungry… let’s eat breakfast.”

A couple of weekends ago I was invited to a brunch and it took me all of 2 seconds to accept the invite. The spread was awesome… I definitely overindulged in the quiche, fruit, pastries, and of course… the bloody marys (there might have been a mimosa in there as well… and maybe just some sparkling wine when the OJ ran out. I mean, maybe. I can’t be certain). It was nice. Honestly, I think it was the first actual brunch gathering at someone’s house I’d ever been to.

My offering for the brunch? Well, in all honesty, I have a boatload of brunchy recipes that I've been stockpiling, but this time, I needed something quick to make with the ingredients I already had... so I made Dorie Greenspan's Orange Berry Muffins. These were actually picked for Tuesdays With Dorie before I joined, so it’s kind of like a rewind recipe.They turned out delicious and were super quick to whip up.

Since then, I’ve decided. I want to be a lady who “brunches.” I mean, sure… I’ll have to eat a little something to tide me over until the later hours of brunch, but… is that so bad? I’m already trying to figure out a way to offer up a brunch for mother’s day (even though logistically speaking, a brunch is a hard thing to throw in a family of golfers).

Make these muffins for your next pot luck brunch. They won’t make you the most popular guest (because, obviously that goes to the people who bring the booze), but I guarantee they’ll get gobbled up fast.
Orange Berry Muffins
from Dorie Greenspan's cookbook, Baking: From my Home, to Yours

These muffins are so fragrant and delicious. The orange scent just fills the kitchen as they bake and the taste is just enough without overpowering the blueberries. I didn't have any buttermilk, so I used sour cream and heavy cream to make the 3/4 cup. I also might have added a little more honey and I know I doubled the sugar to 2/3 cup. (Hey, what can I say? I like my muffins sweet!).

Grated zest and juice of 1 orange
About ¾ cup buttermilk
2 large eggs
3 tablespoons honey
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
⅓ cup (2.33 ounces) sugar
2 cups (9.6 ounces) all-purpose flour
2½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup blueberries - fresh, preferably, or frozen (not thawed)
Decorating sugar, for topping (optional)

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Butter or spray the 12 molds in a regular-size muffin pan or fit the molds with paper muffin cups. Alternatively, use a silicone muffin pan, which needs neither greasing nor paper cups. Place the muffin pan on a baking sheet.
Pour the orange juice into a large glass measuring cup or a bowl and pour in enough buttermilk to make 1 cup. Whisk in the eggs, honey and melted butter.

In a large bowl, rub the sugar and orange zest together with your fingertips until the sugar is moist and the fragrance of orange strong. Whisk in the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients and, with the whisk or a rubber spatula, gently but quickly stir to blend. Don’t worry about being thorough - the batter will be lumpy and bubbly, and that’s just the way it should be. Stir in the blueberries. Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups.

Bake for 22 to 25 minutes. If you want to top the muffins with decorating sugar, sprinkle on the sugar after the muffins have baked for 10 minutes. When fully baked, the tops of the muffins will be golden and springy to the touch and a thin knife inserted into the center of the muffins will come out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool for 5 minutes before carefully removing each muffin from its mold.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

White Chocolate Peanut Butter Thingys

Yes, those are miniature shamrocks. Yes, this is another leftover recipe from my St. Patrick's Day shindig (and yes, after this post, there will still be yet one more St. Patrick's Day recipe, but after that one, you'll be spared again till next year).

I'm a huge fan of what some people might call... white trashy appetizers. Bring on the Ruffles and french onion dip from a metal can, give me a tray full of little smokies wrapped in bacon and baked in brown sugar, and whatever you do, please don't forgot the sausage balls. Can I get an Amen?

Seriously, though... some things can be both dead simple and wicked tasty. And this is one of those things. They are crunchy and sweet and salty. They are portable and can be made ahead of time and everyone loves them. I have to admit... for this party, I bought Whole Wheat Ritz (for shame!) and you couldn't even tell. Next time you're having a party or going to a pot luck, whip up a batch of these babies. I promise everyone will love them.

White Chocolate Peanut Butter Thingys. (Feel free to make up your own name).
Beware: Crack has nothing on these puppies. They are super sweet, super crunchy, and super addictive. If you're really pressed for time, you could always use pre-made peanut butter sandwiches and dip them into the melted almond bark, but once you make them completely from scratch, you'll never go back to the pre-packaged peanut butter and crackers again.


Butter Crackers (like ritz)
Peanut Butter
White Almond Bark

Melt your almond bark according to package directions and lay out a piece of wax paper. Prepare the peanut butter cracker sandwiches and dunk and coat them in the melted almond bark. Place on wax paper to harden.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Will there come a time when I put trust in my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe and balk at all other recipes? Probably not. Because, I'm just like that... I mean, I've had about 3 other favorites in the past and at some point, they've all been beaten out by another. I have to admit though, after making the Jacques Torre's cookies from the New York Times many times now, I really haven't been tempted by any other recipes.

Until this one.

It just so happened, when I stumbled upon the recipe on Patsy's Blog, I was already planning on making Chocolate Chip Cookies. My friend Jeff received his PhD from Johns Hopkins (yeah, all my friends are wayyy smarter than me) and since I couldn't be there for the defense (or whatever it's called), I decided to send him a card and a package of cookies. (He probably enjoyed that better than my company, anyway. haha).

This is the latest recipe from Cook's Illustrated. It involves yet another different technique (browning the butter), but aside from that... comes together really easily.

It doesn't take the crown away from Jacques, but they are delicious cookies. Very sturdy and thick, but still with a chew. You should definitely give them a try, maybe they'll be YOUR favorite recipe!

Patsy asked and recieved permission from Cook's Illustrated to post the recipe on her blog, so I'm linking to her blog post with the recipe.

Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie from Cook's Illustrated

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

TWD: Chocolate Amaretti Torte

Up until this recipe... the only thing I knew about amaretti cookies was that Giada is always putting them on things and the way she says 'amaretti' kinda drives me crazy. It's like... you're Italian, I get it. You were born in Italy, again, I get it. I was born in Nashville and I don't pronounce certain words with a southern accent and certain words without. I mean, think about that for a second. I don't drawl out my 'whites, lights, or mights.' I just talk how I always talk.

Digressing... So, I bought some amaretti cookies from the grocery store, not really having any idea what to expect from them. They weren't bad... not the type of cookie I'd sit down and inhale, but crunchy and almondy.

But once they are ground up (along with almonds) and placed in this cake... they become... TO. DIE. FOR. Like, seriously folks. This is one bad ass torte. It reminded me a lot of a brownie. I nixed the idea of the chocolate glaze or the whipped cream. Deciding that the torte on it's own was enough for me. It was fudgy and almondy. The top formed a nice little crispy layer (I didn't flip it out, because I used a springform pan). It was delicious. So light, but yet so yummy.

To check out the recipe, head to Holly's Blog, Phe/MOM/enon and to check out how the other TWDers fared with this recipe check out the blogroll at Tuesdays with Dorie.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

TWD: Banana Cream Pie

First of all, pardon the CRAPPY pictures. I made this pie back in December for a friend's birthday... and I just felt weird about whipping my camera out and telling his parents... "hold that fork! I gotta get a pic first." Or asking the birthday boy, "umm... is it possible to have this for breakfast instead of after dinner dessert, cause yeah, the morning light is sooo much better than the artificial light in your place?" Yeah, so these pics were taken at night, in my kitchen and I didn't get any pics of the cut into pie. Que sera, sera or whatev.

When my friend told me he wanted a banana cream pie for his birthday dessert, I was kinda less than thrilled. Actually, I was bummed. I'd never had a banana cream pie before and the whole idea of it just didn't thrill me. I'm not a pudding girl and meringue makes me want to barf. There, I've said it.

So, I started going through recipes and decided to use Dorie's because I figured... hey, I'm not going to like this, so I might as well make it for the group and be able to hand it off to another person all at once.

I whipped up the pastry cream (the filling) for the pudding and it got so thick and gloopy I knew I must have done something wrong, so I threw it out. Round two of the pastry cream... turned out still pretty gloopy, but a little better. I soldiered on.

I made this with a graham cracker crust and was excited when I saw that Dorie calls for a whipped cream topping instead of a meringue. Thatta girl, Dorie. *fist bump.*

Surprisingly, I liked this! And while I don't think it was my friends all time favorite banana cream experience, it was good enough. And I REALLY wanted to make a mini-version this weekend/week to have better pics for this post, but I'm swamped. Tax season+marathon training= busy, tired Amy.

Check out Amy's blog Sing for your Supper for the recipe and all the other bakers at
Tuesdays with Dorie.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Red Velvet Cake (err... Green Velvet Cupcakes)

So, I have a bit of a secret...

I was 25 years old before I had my first piece of Red Velvet Cake.

(I'll give you a moment to let that soak in).

That's right. I wasn't raised with red velvet cake (or grits!).

There. I've said it. Hopefully the South will forgive me and still accept me (who am I kidding, of course it will... the South forgives... we may not forget, but by golly, but we sure as hell forgive).

Even with two grandmothers, a mother, and about 3-4 aunts who all had/have mad cooking and baking skills... there was never a red velvet cake in sight. I can't even remember if I ever heard of it as a kid. But now, it's all the rage. Bobby Flay is throwing peeps down in NYC and everyone and their brothers are running out to their local bakeries for a red velvet cupcake. Sheesh. You'd think it was like crack or something.

Never one to shy away from cake and cream cheese frosting, I decided to not only try red velvet cake for the first time, but to also make it myself. And who better to strip me of my red velvet cake virginity than...

Martha Stewart.

That's right. Who better to teach me how to make the supposedly quintessential southern dessert than a Yankee from New Jersey?

I used her recipe (after seeing her make it on her Living show) and made a gigantic red velvet cake for Christmas one year. It sat proudly on display on my grandmother's antique buffet amongst all the Christmas Dessert Regulars... Pecan Pie, Coconut Cake , Claire (Chocolate Eclair), and various other pies, cookies and pastries. I distinctly remember that besides my mom and dad (who, by blood are required to taste all things I make for family gatherings, all the while I hover over them awaiting their reaction with bated breath), only my uncle Jim had a piece. And actually he had two and cut off a hunk to save for later. So, I've come to the realization that my uncle Jim is the only true southerner in my family. (He probably even eats grits when none of us are looking). The rest of us are just hillbillies.

That was the first and last time I'd had red velvet cake. I mean, sure it was delicious. Utterly delicious (we'll get to that later), but it was kind of like... okay, been there done that, let's move on.

Enter: St. Patrick's Day Party.

Swap out the red food coloring for green and BAM. Instant St. Patricks Day Party. These are now going to be a regular at the Annual St. Patrick's Day Party. (I've always felt like Southerners and the Irish are kindred spirits, anyway... but that's a post for a whole other blog).

Red Velvet Cake
Recipe from Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, Inc. (2002).

For the longest time, I just assumed red velvet cake was a yellow cake with red food coloring in it. But, it's so much more than that. It's incredibly light and moist. Melt-in-your-mouth moist, in fact. And it's got a little whang from the buttermilk and the vinegar that is mimicked in the traditional cream cheese frosting.

I've recently found out that some people say that traditional red velvet cake actually has a tablespoon or so of cocoa powder in it. This recipe does not. Maybe it's cause Martha is a Yankee or maybe it's cause she's a genius. You'll never know unless you try it.

Prep Time: 30 Minutes
Inactive Prep Time: 1 minute
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Yield: 1 (9-inch) Layer Cake

cooking spray, for pans
2 1/2 cups self-rising flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp white vinegar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup whole buttermilk
2 1/2 tbsps red food coloring (yes, that says tablespoons)
Cream cheese frosting, recipe follows

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray 3 (9 by 2 inch) round cake pans with cooking spray, and line with waxed paper. Set aside. In a medium bowl, sift together flour and baking soda. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine sugar, vegetable oil, eggs, vinegar, and vanilla. With an electric mixer, beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Gradually add flour mixture, and mix on low speed just until the flour has been incorporated. Slowly add buttermilk. Add food coloring and beat to combine.

Divide batter between pans; each pan will be about half full. Tap pans on counter to remove bubbles. Bake until a cake tester inserted into the middle comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Remove the pans to a rack to cool for 5 minutes. Invert pans onto wire racks sprayed with vegetable oil to cool cake completely, or quick chill in the freezer for 10-15 minutes.
To assemble, place 1 layer, top-side down, on a cake stand. Using an offset spatula, spread with 1/4 inch of frosting. Repeat with remaining layers. To frost the top and sides of the cake, work from the center toward and over the edge, making sure to evenly coat. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Cream Cheese Frosting
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 pound confectioners sugar, sifted
1 cup finely chopped pecans
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Place cream cheese and butter in a medium bowl. With a handheld electric mixer, beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add sugar, pecans and vanilla. Beat, on low speed to combine. If too soft, chill until slightly stiff, about 10 minutes, before using.

Yield: 6 cups.