Monday, July 27, 2009

Daring Bakers July - Milan Cookies

The July Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Nicole at Sweet Tooth. She chose Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies and Milan Cookies from pastry chef Gale Gand of the Food Network.

I love cookies so was really happy with this month's picks. I used to make marshmallows pretty regularly as a kid for school fetes etc so I opted to make the Milan Cookies first. Unfortunately I then ran out of time to make the Mallows this month.

Let me just say, the recipe makes a lot of cookies. A LOT. I would suggest you make a half batch unless you are feeding an army or you will end up throwing out some mixture like I did.

While cookies don't seem particularly 'daring' these did test my piping skills - I ended up with lots of irregular blobby shapes but by the end was doing pretty well. The ganache was absolutely delicious but then I love fruit and chocolate together. The only change I made was to add just 2 ts each of the vanilla and lemon essences instead of 2 tablespoons (?!?!?).

The only thing I didn't like was just how cakey these cookies came after they cooled down. I was hoping for something with a bit of crunch. That said they were still yummy and got the thumbs up from my taste testers!

Milan Cookies
Recipe courtesy Gale Gand, from Food Network website

Prep Time: 20 min
Inactive Prep Time: 0 min
Cook Time: 1 hr 0 min
Serves: about 3 dozen cookies

12 tablespoons (170grams/ 6 oz) unsalted butter, softened
2 1/2 cups (312.5 grams/ 11.02 oz) powdered sugar
7/8 cup egg whites (from about 6 eggs)
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons lemon extract
1 1/2 cups (187.5grams/ 6.61 oz) all purpose flour

Cookie filling:
1/2 cup heavy cream
8 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 orange, zested

1. In a mixer with paddle attachment cream the butter and the sugar.
2. Add the egg whites gradually and then mix in the vanilla and lemon extracts.
3. Add the flour and mix until just well mixed.
4. With a small (1/4-inch) plain tip, pipe 1-inch sections of batter onto a parchment-lined sheet pan, spacing them 2 inches apart as they spread.
5. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 10 minutes or until light golden brown around the edges. Let cool on the pan.
6. While waiting for the cookies to cool, in a small saucepan over medium flame, scald cream.
7. Pour hot cream over chocolate in a bowl, whisk to melt chocolate, add zest and blend well.
8. Set aside to cool (the mixture will thicken as it cools).
9. Spread a thin amount of the filling onto the flat side of a cookie while the filling is still soft and press the flat side of a second cookie on top.
10. Repeat with the remainder of the cookies.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

TWD: No Blanc-Manger but a BIG Birthday Carrot Cake

Today is the fourth day of my new (but temporary) eating plan. On the advice of my naturopath and in an attempt to make Oscar and I feel a bit better I am completely cutting out gluten and dairy products for 2 weeks. Considering my 2 favourite foods are bread and cheese that is a really big deal! I have tried to do this before but have always caved before long. This time, because I am doing it for Oscar's sake, it is a lot easier and I am seeing benefits already - no headaches, sleeping better and Oscar is throwing up less which is so fantastic I can't even tell you.

But what that means is no TWD for 2 weeks either. I didn't see the point in trying to make a gluten free, dairy free and most likely flavour free blanc-manger so I am bringing you one of my TWD rewinds.

Way back in March I offered to make a birthday cake for my mother in law. I handed her BFMHTY and told her to pick anything she liked. To my delight she picked Bill's Big Carrot Cake!

I made the cake exactly as per the recipe and ended up with 3 perfect looking 8" cakes. I wrapped them well and left them overnight. I was a little worried though as the tops were a little sticky the next day and they were very greasy to touch.

The taste test ...

This was one of those times where you know everyone loves it because there is total silence around the table! I love carrot cake anyway but this really was delicious - light, fragrant and packed with flavour. The cream cheese icing was the perfect complement but next time I would add more lemon juice. All in all, a winner!

Bill’s Big Carrot Cake
From Baking: from my home

For the cake:
2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
¾ teaspoon salt
3 cups grated carrots (about 9 carrots, you can grate them in food processor fitted w/ a shredding a blade or use a box grater)
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans
1 cup shredded coconut (sweetened or unsweetened)
½ cup moist, plump raisins (dark or golden) or dried cranberries
2 cups sugar
1 cup canola oil
4 large eggs

For the frosting:
250g cream cheese, room temperature
120g unsalted butter, at room temperature
450g confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
½ cup shredded coconut (optional)
Finely chopped toasted nuts and/or toasted shredded coconut (optional)

Getting ready:
Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 140 degrees celsius fan forced. Butter three 9-x-2-inch round cake pans, flour the insides, and tap out the excess. Put the two pans on one baking sheet and one on another.

To make the cake:
Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. In another bowl, stir together the carrots, chopped nuts, coconut, and raisins. Working with a stand mixer beat the sugar and oil together on a medium speed until smooth. Add the eggs one by one and continue to beat until the batter is even smoother. Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture, mixing until just combined. Gently mix in the remaining ingredients. Divide the batter evenly among the baking pans.

Bake for 40-50 minutes or until a thin knife inserted into the centers comes out clean and they are just starting to come away from the sides of the pans. Transfer the cakes to cooling racks for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes and turn them out. Cool to room temperature right side up.

To make the frosting:
Beat the cream cheese and butter together until smooth and creamy. Gradually add the sugar and continue to beat until the frosting is completely smooth. Beat in the lemon juice.

To assemble the cake:
Put one layer top side up on a cardboard cake round or a cake plate protected by strips of baking paper. Use an offset spatula or a spoon to smooth the frosting all the way to the edges of the layer. Top with the second layer, this time placing the cake stop side down, and frost with the remainder of the coconut frosting or plain frosting. Top with the last layer, right side up, and frost the top and the sides of the cake. Finish the top with swirls of frosting. If you want to top the cake with toasted nuts or coconut, sprinkle them on now while the frosting is soft. Refrigerate the cake for 30 minutes, just to set the frosting before serving.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Tuesdays with Dorie: Brioche Plum Tart

Having mastered the Kugelhoph previously I was delighted that Denise of Chez Us picked Brioche Plum Tart this week. Brioche? Phaw, too easy!

That said I'm still always unsure whether I've stuffed up the dough as it is extremely soft and gooey for most of its resting and slapping down stage. But after an overnight rest in the fridge it was really easy to play with.

I used tinned plums with plum jam, brown sugar and pecans and added a sprinkle (maybe a tablespoon) of ground almonds to soak up any excess juice from the plums.

The taste test ...

Rich and buttery brioche with sweet, slightly tart plums ... definitely a winning combination! The crust did get a little darker than I would have liked, and I already tented it after just 10 minutes instead 20 as per the recipe. However even the dark bits were delicious. This got the thumbs up from all my taste testers and my mind is swimming with other possible toppings.

And seeing this blog is called here is another pic of Oscar, this time in his new Bumbo seat which he loves! It gets him right in the thick of the action at the table. Definitely a little foodie in the making :)

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Brownies - ok NOW i get it

My first attempt at the Tribute to Katharine Hepburn Brownies from this week's TWD has been bothering me. So today I made them again and while I have never really been a brownie fan, NOW I get it. These were fan-freakin-tastic!

Things I did differently this time:
- used an 8" pan I bought especially
- baked for 25 minutes at 160 deg C then another 5 mins at 150
- left them to cool in the pan completely
- used Green & Black's Organic Maya Gold chocolate (dark chocolate with orange, cinnamon and nutmeg flavours)

This time around I had a brownie which was densely fudgy with a rich, complex flavour. I would actually go so far as to say these are the best brownies i've ever had. Woo hoo!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Tuesdays with Dorie: Katharine Hepburn Brownies

This week's pick was chosen by the fabulously talented Lisa who designed the new TWD logo! As an Australian I'm also excited to have discovered her blog Surviving Oz. Lisa chose Dorie's Tribute to Katharine Hepburn Brownies and I was keen to have a go at these, having sat out the last brownie challenge due to Oscar's arrival.

I consider brownies to be quintessentially American so they were the perfect pick for the fourth of July. As the 4th is also my grandma's birthday I killed 2 birds with 1 stone, so to speak. I really wanted to take something nice as she is in hospital at the moment and could do with some yumminess.

I don't have an 8" pan so had to go with a 9" metal one. To compensate I dropped the temperature by 10 deg C and baked for 25 minutes. Basically what I ended up with was a very flat chocolate slice, definitely not a brownie. It was cooked to almost dry on the edges and very well done in the middle.

It was too late to make anything else so I did take them down the coast to my grandma.

The taste test ...

The flavour was awesome - richly chocolate-y with a subtle cinnamon/coffee hit in the background. It was only the texture that was off. And to be honest if I'd just called it a chocolate slice and slathered some icing on the top no one would have known it was a stuff up! I would like to make these again sometime, tweaking the cooking temp and time. Despite my reservations they were a definite hit and a great addition to our birthday lunch of party sausage rolls, mini quiches, cupcakes and birthday cake in a surprisingly comfy visitor's lounge in the hospital.

Oscar even had a new outfit for the occasion!

Make sure you check out Lisa's blog for the recipe.

UPDATE - I made these again and they were awesome! Check it out here!
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