Saturday, July 31, 2010

A Little Bite of Chocolate

Last October, before Kelly started her first rounds of chemo, she wanted us to go to the quaint little tea house in Lexington, The Greentree Tearoom, for a girl's day out.  I remember the University of Kentucky had a home football game and the guys were all going to watch it on television, so it was a good day for us to get away.

The menu was wonderful; starting with a Roasted Red Pepper Soup, then, Oatmeal Scones with Orange Marmalade and, Kelly's absolute favorite, Fayette Cream.  We were served a Broccoli & Smoked Gouda Fritatta before we got up to see what was on the tiered serving area.  A variety of tea sandwiches awaited our palettes.  During our feast, we were served Earl Grey Tea, steeped perfectly.  If that wasn't enough, the tiered serving area of tea sandwiches had been exchanged for an assortment of desserts.  Of course, we saved room.  Bite sized samplings of a Pumpkin roll, Bourbon Chocolate Pots de Creme, and Hot Apple Spice Cake drew us towards the arrangement.

It is these bite sized desserts that inspired me today.  Longing for another tea date with my daughter, but having the memory of a perfect day, full of hope.   I also wanted to replicate a wonderful treat I shared with my friend, Eric in Chicago last week at Bittersweet Pastry Shop.  We sampled the chocolate tarts and couldn't help but take one or two (or three) more before sitting down to eat our French macaroons and for Eric, a cappuccino and me, Peach Lemonade.

Chocolate Truffle Tarts are easy, using a disk of pie dough, then, filling them with a decadent chocolate confection.  Today, I chose chocolate, but you could easily fill them with a citrus curd; lemon or lime.  You could even do a fruit filling made with fresh strawberries, blueberries, or raspberries.  Whatever you choose, these easy tarts are a wonderful tea time treat or add them to celebratory buffet.

Chocolate Truffle Tarts

Pie Dough

Truffle Filling:

8 oz. heavy cream
8 oz. bittersweet chocolate
4 T unsalted butter, softened

Finely chop the bittersweet chocolate and place it in a medium bowl.  Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, heat heavy cream until bubbles form around the edges (just before a rolling boil).  Pour the hot heavy cream over the chocolate and let it stand for one minute.  Start stirring the mixture until the chocolate is smooth and fully incorporated.

Place a piece of plastic wrap over the surface (like you would do for chocolate pudding).  Let the ganache cool completely.

Take out a disk of chilled pie dough and roll it to 1/8-inch thick.  Use a 2 1/2" Petal cutter to create shapes.
Lightly spray two mini cupcake pans with a nonstick baking spray.  Use a fork to prick the surface for blind baking.
Place shapes in the openings.
Bake in a 375F-degree oven for 10 minutes or until lightly brown.  Remove to a rack and cool completely.
At this point, after they have cooled, you can freeze the shapes for later use, especially if you're planning a party.
While the pastry cools, use a whisk and incorporate the softened butter into the ganache, one tablespoon at a time, whisking until smooth.
Pipe or spoon the filling into the pastry cups.  Chill for one hour, or more, before serving. 
I enjoyed some tea with my "bites" and remembered a perfect day.  Enjoy!

If it's must be Pancakes

After a week in Chicago at a trade show and visiting some special friends, I wanted to make something that reminded me of Saturday morning breakfast when I was growing up.  My mother made us pancakes, from scratch, off the "top of her head".  No recipe... just knowing what goes in these round disks of pure comfort. 

When my husband and I went to Scotland in 1993 for our 25th anniversary, we ate at the most wonderful little cafe, off a side street in Edinburgh, and we had the best multi-grain pancakes I've ever eaten.  So tender that they just melted in your mouth with the accompaniment of warm syrup.   So, when I thought about making pancakes this morning, those pancakes also popped in my head.

I like adding different flours and grains to pancakes (and waffles) because it's healthy, but mostly because I love to have some texture; mingling flavors combining to give you an eating experience.
I added blueberries, which are abundant right now, and, also so healthy and full of flavor.  Since breakfast is one of my favorite meals to make, I take my time to make it memorable...just like Mom!

Blueberry~Multi-grain Pancakes

In a large bowl combine the following dry ingredients:

1 cup All-purpose flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup wheat flour
1/2 cup old-fashion oats, ground to a flour
2 T flaxseed meal
3 T sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt

Use a flat whisk to combine the dry ingredients.

"Wet" ingredients:

3 T unsalted butter, melted
2 large eggs, slightly beaten
2 cups milk
1 tsp. vanilla
1- 1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries

Melt the butter and set aside.  Make a "well" in the middle of your dry ingredients and add the eggs and 1 1/2 cups of the milk.  Use the flat whisk to stir to combine.  Add the vanilla to the last 1/2 cup of milk and add to the batter.  The batter will be thick, but should be pourable.

Meanwhile, heat a griddle on medium.  My mother use to sprinkle a few drops of water on the griddle and when the droplets "danced" it was ready.  I transferred the batter to a batter dispenser, but of course, you can ladle it onto the griddle.
After you have the pancakes poured, add a few blueberries to the top surface.

When "bubbles" form on the surface, it's time to flip.
Lower your temperature to med/low and continue to cook another 3-5 minutes.  Keep warm while making the rest of the pancakes.  I served mine with warmed Agave syrup, but you can use a good Grade B Maple syrup and plenty of butter.
The blueberries were warm and bursting with flavor as these wonderful pancakes just melted in my mouth...just like my memory.  Enjoy!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Almost Mom's Peanut Butter Cookies...

My mom's peanut butter cookies were wonderful, especially warm from the oven with a cold glass of milk.  I've made a couple of changes, to make them my own, but the goodness of the peanut butter is still there. 

One of the changes is that my mom made her recipe with shortening; I like butter with the addition of roasted peanut oil.  However, one thing I can't get away from is that she started adding a cup of old-fashioned oatmeal, that she ground in the Cuisinart.  I still like the texture that adds, but if you don't like oatmeal, I'll give you an exchange with more flour.

This cookie is definitely comfort food--bringing back memories of childhood that make us smile.

Peanut Butter Cookies

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
3 T Roasted Peanut Oil
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups peanut butter (crunchy or smooth)
2 large eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. Peanut Butter Flavor
1 cup Old-Fashioned Oatmeal (ground)
2 1/4 cups All-purpose Flour (if you don't do the oatmeal, change this to 3 cups flour)
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
Additional granulated sugar

In the KitchenAid, using the paddle attachment, beat the butter, oil and sugars.  Add the peanut butter (I love crunchy!), Vanilla, and optional, Peanut Butter Flavor.  Beat in the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl.  Add the oatmeal, flour, baking soda, and salt.  Mix, just until combines.  Chill dough about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350F-degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Use a 2-tablespoon scoop to measure and form the dough.  Once you've filled the sheet, use a fork, dipped in granulated sugar, to create the traditional criss-cross pattern.

Bake for 10-12 minutes, until golden brown.  Makes about 2 1/2 dozen~3" cookies.  Now, get that glass of milk and dunk.  Enjoy!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

How About S'more Whoopie Pies

When I got up this morning, I had this idea in my head about trying to make a Whoopie Pie taste like a S'more.  According to one of my friends, "they do without you ending up smelling like smoke from the campfire!"  I guess I was still in a wandering mood, thinking about hiking and cooking over a campfire, when this idea popped into my head.

The chocolate cookie is from the January posting of "More Whoopie" with a few twists to obtain the graham cracker crunch.  Then, there's the marshmallow filling instead of vanilla buttercream.  The topper, which is purely optional, is to use a small torch to toast the marshmallow.  All in all, it's surprisingly good for adults, as well as the kids.

S'more Whoopie Pies

Graham Cracker Bottom
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
3 T granulated sugar
6 T unsalted butter, melted
In a medium bowl, mix all the ingredients together.  Set aside
Preheat oven to 325F-degree.  Spray the Whoopie Pie pan with a non-stick oil spray.

Chocolate Cookie 
12 T (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/3 cups light brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs
1 T vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup Dutch process cocoa
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 cups buttermilk (I used powdered buttermilk by Bob's Red Mill: 1/4 cup powder to 2 cups water)

Preheat oven to 375F-degrees.

In the KitchenAid, using the paddle attachment, beat the butter and brown sugar until fluffy.  Add the eggs, one at a time, creaming the mixture.  Add the vanilla (for this recipe, I left out the espresso powder).  In a medium bowl, mix the dry ingredients and add them to the creamed mixture alternatively with the buttermilk, ending with the dry ingredients.

Spray the Whoopie Pie Pan with a non-stick spray. Add approximately one teaspoon of the graham cracker mixture and press down with your fingers.  Bake for 5 minutes.
Use a two-tablespoon scoop to measure the dollop of chocolate batter.
Bake for 8 minutes (test if they are done by lightly pressing your fingers on top...tops should spring back).
This recipe makes 2 dozen filled Whoopie Pies.

Marshmallow Filling
1 16 oz. jar of Marshmallow Fluff
1 1/4 cups shortening (don't use will "yellow" your filling)
1 cup confectioners' sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract

In a large bowl, using a hand mixer, beat all the ingredients on low until combined.  Raise the speed to high until filling is fluffy.
Use a 1/4 cup scoop and place a dollop on the flat side (graham cracker crumb) of the cookie.
This step is optional, but really makes the S'more authentic.  Use a small kitchen torch and lightly brown the top of the "fluff".
Add a top and squish down lightly, with another cookie, graham cracker side down.
I could have taken this to another level by dipping one side in melted chocolate, but I was running late for a lunch date.  Maybe, next time...Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

I wandered...then I baked~Cheesy Chive Scones

My dear friend Nicole, aka gardenmama,  put forth a challenge today--Wandering Wednesday.  So I put on my shoes, my rose shoes, and took off for my garden, where I noticed, looking out my window in my studio yesterday, the most glorious hydrangeas...Kelly's favorite.
I couldn't help but cut some stems, along with some buddleja (butterfly bush) to bring a bouquet in with me to enjoy for the day while I baked.
However, before I finally came in, my pot of chives called to me and inspired today's baking.  I immediately came back to one of my favorites, scones.
Scones, to me, are a fancy biscuit and allows you to play around with the flavor, either savory or sweet.  Most of the time, I'll choose sweet, but today the beautiful bright green of the chives immediately made me think savory.  Scones, (make sure you pronounce them correctly-- it rhymes with con or John) are Scottish origin, but with the introduction of leavening, the baked version is known world wide.  Summertime, with all its bounty, should give you lots of go wandering and bring along some scones for nourishment.

Cheesy Chive Scones

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 T baking powder
1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
1 tsp. salt
6 T unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups half & half
1 large egg
1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese, plus more for topping
2-3 T chopped chives
1/8 - 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper (you decide the "kick")

Preheat oven 400F-degrees (375F-degrees/convection).  
I like to use the food processor to combine all the dry ingredients,including the cayenne and chives, and "cut- in" the butter.  However, you can certainly do it the old-fashioned way; pastry blender or two knives.

Transfer mixture to a large bowl and make a well.  Whisk the egg into the half & half.  Pour all, but 2 tablespoons into the "well".  Use a dough whisk to mix the dry and wet ingredients.  Add the cheese and combine.
Dump dough out onto a lightly floured board and knead lightly.  Roll out to an 8 1/2"-9" round by 3/4" thick.  
 Use a knife or dough scraper and divide in half, then, quarters, and finally eighths.
Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet.  Use a skewer to "poke" some holes in the scones.
 Brush the tops with the reserved two tablespoons of egg/milk.
 I topped my scones with some additional cheese...because I think you can't have too much cheese!
 Bake scones for 18-20 minutes, (In my convection oven, it took 20 minutes) until golden brown.  Serve warm with lots of butter.  
Go wandering~Thank you Nicole~ and enjoy the beauty around you. Enjoy!  

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Cupcake War: Zucchini vs. ...Zucchini?

One of my new favorite shows on the Food Network is Cupcake Wars.  On the show, cupcake bakeries battle each other for the honor to show off their cupcakes at a prestigious event.  Well, my event is that my husband asked me to prepare a "treat" for a meeting he has tomorrow and since zucchinis are abundant this time of year, I thought I'd show two different recipes using them in cupcakes.  One is a Chocolate/Chocolate Chip Zucchini Cupcake with a Chocolate Ganache and the other is a Spice Zucchini Cupcake with a Lemon-scented/Cardamon Cream Cheese Icing; different as night as day.

What I love about cupcakes is the memory of my mother making them for me to bring in to elementary school for my birthday or holiday party.  All I had to do is ask and she would bake them because she knew how much I appreciated them...that's what mom's do.  I did the same thing for my girls; a lot of times even when I was given notice the night before!  It's baking with love that makes everything taste so good.

So, here's the challenge: Are you a Chocoholic or are you Spicy kind of Cupcake Lover?

Spiced Zucchine Cupcakes 
with Lemon-scented/Cardamon Cream Cheese Icing

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 T honey
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp. Lemon Extract
2 1/2 cups sifted cake flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp. allspice
1/2 tsp. ground cardamon
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
1 cup sour cream
2 cups grated zucchini (about 2 medium)

Preheat oven 350F-degrees.  Grate the zucchini into a colander. Leaving the stem on gives you a "handle" to hold on to the zucchini when it gets near the end.
In the KitchenAid, using the whisk attachment, cream the butter, sugars, and honey.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after one.  Add the lemon and beat the mixture until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.  Change to the paddle attachment.  Sift the flour with the baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices.  Add the flour mixture, alternating with the sour cream, ending with the flour mixture.  Beat well to combine.  Fold in the zucchini.  Use a scoop to fill the cupcake liners, just slightly below the top. Recipe makes 18 cupcakes in this manner.  Bake 20-22 minutes until lightly brown and spring back when touched.  Cool completely on a wire rack.

Lemon-Scented/Cardamon Cream Cheese Icing

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 pkg. (8oz) cream cheese
5 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
3-4 T whole milk or cream
1/2 tsp. ground cardamon
1/2 tsp. lemon extract
Ginger chips  (optional)

In the KitchenAid, with the whisk attachment, beat the butter and cream cheese until fluffy.  Add the confectioners' sugar, 1 cup at a time, adding a tablespoon of milk, as needed.  Add the cardamon and lemon extract and beat to combine.  Pipe icing "swirl" on top of the cooled cupcakes. 
Top with a few mini ginger chips.
    Now, the competitor:

 Chocolate~Chocolate Chip Zucchini Cupcakes
with Chocolate Ganache

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1/4 cup double dutch dark cocoa
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup mini chocolate chips
2 cups grated zucchini

Preheat oven 350F-degrees.  Grate zucchini (see method above) and set aside.
In a KitchenAid, using the whisk attachment, beat the butter, sugar and oil until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add the double-dutch cocoa and the vanilla.  Beat well.  In a medium bowl, mix the flour, baking soda, and salt together.  Change to the paddle attachment and add the flour mixture, alternatively with the buttermilk, ending with the flour.  Add the chocolate chips and beat well.  Fold in the zucchini.  Scoop batter into paper lined cupcake pans; filling to the top.  
Bake for 20-22 minutes, testing to see if the tops spring back when touched.
Let cool completely.

Meanwhile, make the chocolate easy way.  Melt an 8-ounce bar of bittersweet chocolate (62%) in a double boiler.  Use an off-set spatula to spread onto wax paper.
Top with another sheet of wax paper, pressing lighting
Then, roll up into a tube and use a rubber band to hold together.  Place in the refrigerator for an hour to set.
Now, make the Chocolate Ganache:
8 ounce bittersweet chocolate
1 cup heavy cream

Use a serrated knife to finely chop the bittersweet chocolate and place in a medium bowl.  In a small saucepan, heat the heavy cream on top of the stove, just until bubbles form around the edges.  Pour over the chocolate and let set 1 minute.  Use a spatula to stir to a smooth, chocolaty consistency.  Set aside until the bowl is cool to touch.  Dip the tops of the cooled cupcakes into the ganache.
Let the ganache drip off before turning right side up.  After dipping all the cupcakes, take out the rolled chocolate.
When the chocolate is unrolled, it creates these really neat shavings, the easy way.  Break off some pieces and top the ganache.
Whether you prefer spice or chocolate, these zucchini cupcakes are sure to impress your family and friends.  Moreover, here's two more recipes you can use that garden-full of zucchini on.  Enjoy!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Watermelon Cookies

Ari loves watermelon.  Here he is last year, just barely a year old, with his mama at a Blue Grass festival in Kentucky.  What could be better on a hot day; slurping on watermelon and listening to music?  His little face, eating this watermelon is my inspiration for today's post.

Today, with most of the country in the 90s, I decided, "why not bake a cool cookie to forget about the heat."  (This is actually a cookie I've made before...revisited.  Remember Spumoni cookies from last August?)  With a few changes in flavoring and in shaping, I came up with these.
 The unusual flavor of watermelon comes from a two packages of Kool-Aid Watermelon/Cherry Twist powder (no sugar added).  It took going to three supermarkets before I could find that flavor, so I suggest you go to and type in your zip code to find where the closest store that sells it is to you.  The "seeds" are Valrhona Pearls, which I find at Whole Foods, but you could easily use mini chocolate chips as a substitute.  They need to chill, so you can even make them up the day before.  Serve them with an ice cold glass of lemonade and no one will mind the heat!

Watermelon Cookies

(You will make up the recipe twice)
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
1 large egg
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 pkgs. Watermelon~Cherry Kool-Aid powder
1/2 cup Valrhona Pearls or Mini Chocolate Chips

In the KitchenAid, using the paddle attachment (or a large bowl with a hand mixer), cream the butter and sugar until fluffy.  Add the egg and beat well.  Add the salt and extract.  Add the flour and mix well.  For the "rind", separate the dough: two-thirds will be green and leave one-third vanilla.  For the green dough, I first added a couple of drops of green food coloring to make a lighter green, then, I added a few more drops to create a darker green.  I thought doing this would give me a more natural coloring of the rind.

Line two 9"x5" loaf pans with plastic wrap.  Pat the green dough(s) in first on the bottom
Next, add a layer of the vanilla dough.
Place the loaf pans in the refrigerator to chill while you make up the recipe again.
Repeat the ingredients and steps, above, adding the two packages of Kool-Aid and a few drops of red food coloring.  Lastly, add the Pearls or Mini Chips to the dough.  Divide dough in half (I actually used a scale to ensure the same amount).
Remove the pans from the refrigerator and pat the "watermelon" dough on top of the vanilla.
Wrap the plastic wrap over the top and refrigerate dough for 2-3 hours or overnight.
Remove from the oven and place on a cutting board.  You will cut the dough, longwise (horizontal), then makes angle cuts, you should get about 5-6 slices.
Preheat oven 350F-degrees.  Place cookies on parchment lined baking sheets.  Bake 10-12 minutes.  Be careful not to over bake.  Don't make your watermelons look like they've browned.  Enjoy!