Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Apple pie


An apple pie is perfect for the fall. My husband continuously raves about his grandmother's apple pie, and I am so sad that I never got to meet her or taste her amazing food before she passed. Luckily, my mother-in-law had Grandma R's apple pie and gave it to me way back in 2003. I've been too chicken to try making it on my own.

My sister-in-law gave me a pie plate, pastry cutter and a pie crust (dry) mix for Christmas last year. I no longer had an excuse to put off this recipe! My husband was super excited when told him that I was going to tackle this recipe once and for all. The only part I cheated on was the crust - since I had a pre-mixed crust, I did not attempt the homemade version.  Well, at least not yet.  I'll need to do that next time.

My husband's Aunt Jo also makes a fantastic version of Grandma R's apple pie. Of the numerous pie varieties that she makes from scratch, this is by far my favorite. Mom Lu, Aunt Jo and Grandma R, I hope I did you good!

Ingredients
Pie Crust
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 cup lard
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 tsp vinegar
  • 6-8 TBSP water
Directions
Mix all ingredients together and stir minimally. Roll thin. Bake at 425 degrees F for about 15 minutes. Turn down to 350 degrees until pie is done.

Filling
  • 3-4 apples, peeled and sliced
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 TBSP flour
  • Cinnamon to taste
  • Enough milk to make a thick sauce
Combine the sugar, flour cinnamon and milk. Toss with the apples.
Put the filling into the baked pie crust and top with another layer of crust. Using a paring knife, make a few slits in the crust.

Wet the top of the crust with a little bit of milk and then sprinkle with sugar.

Bake for 45 minutes to an hour.

Cool and enjoy!

Source: My mother-in-law Lu; originally from Grandma R


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Lavender macarons with chocolate honey ganache

This past spring I attended a cooking class for my friend Katie's birthday. A chef taught us how to prepare several dishes, including a lavender cake. I never heard of cooking or baking with lavender before, so I was intrigued. I asked the chef where to buy lavender, and she said that I could purchase it at Penzey's. But, after I looked on their website and browsed through their store, I couldn't find it. I was sorely disappointed.

During my next trip to Penzey's, I asked an employee about the lavender. He had it hidden in behind the cashier's counter so it was out of sight. Score! The lavender sat in my kitchen for a few weeks until I found another recipe to use it.

I went online and thought that I could make some lavender macarons and found this recipe from The Ginger Cook.  Since I don't own a kitchen scale, I altered the French macaron recipe I made last month and used that instead.

These macarons smell like a fresh spring day. The dried lavender really comes through and isn't too strong. The chocolate honey ganache is a nice complement to the light and airy macaron, though I must admit that the honey flavor doesn't come through too strongly. The next time I may add more honey to make the filling more aromatic.

Ingredients
Macarons
  • 1 cup (100 grams) almond flour (I used Trader Joe's almond meal and put it in the blender to chop it finer)
  • 1 teaspoon dried lavender
  • Purple/lavender gel food coloring
  • 1 1/2 cups (210 grams) confectioners' sugar
  • 4 egg whites (120 grams), at room temperature and at least a day old (I used 1/2 cup of egg whites, which were at least 5 days old; they sat out at room temperature for at least 12 hours)
  • 4 tablespoons (50 grams) sugar
Line a clean, flat cookie sheet with a Silpat or parchment paper, and set it aside.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees and place rack in middle of oven.

Grind almond meal/flour in the blender or food processor with the dried lavender and confectioner's sugar.

Sift the almond meal mixture well and set aside. Make sure the mixture is well-sifted!

In a spotlessly clean stand mixer bowl, whip the aged, room temperature egg whites on medium speed until they are foamy and you can start to see the tines of the whip leaving a trail in the whites, about 1 to 2 minutes.

Add 1 tablespoon of sugar, and continue to whip for about 30 to 45 seconds. Add another tablespoon of sugar, and whip again for another 30 to 45 seconds. Repeat with the third and fourth tablespoons of sugar.

When all of the sugar is mixed in, whip the whites for about another minute or two until they become glossy and shiny. Remove from mixer.

Fold in about half of the almond flour/confectioners' sugar mix; when most of it is folded in, add the rest of the dry mix and the purple or lavender gel food coloring. Fold until mixture is smooth and a little stiff -- it should drop smoothly off of the spatula.

Using a piping bag and a small round tip, pipe out small rounds of macaron batter about 1 inch in diameter. Try to pipe straight down and quickly pull away when you are done to minimize peaks. Pipe until you’ve used up all the batter.

Rap the cookie sheet several times to flatten out the mounds and to pop any bubbles that might be in the batter.

Let cookies rest for about 15 to 30 minutes, until they are no longer tacky to the touch.

Place in oven, and immediately turn oven down to 300 degrees. After 8 minutes, rotate the cookie sheet. Depending upon your oven, cookies take from 15 to 20 minutes (mine took 15 minutes). Remove from oven, and let cool.

Remove the meringues from the parchment and pair them by size.

Chocolate honey ganache
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 4 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped (I used semisweet chocolate chips)
  • A few squeezes of clover honey
Heat the cream in a small saucepan.  Pour over chopped chocolate, let sit for one minute, add honey, then whisk until smooth.  Place in refrigerator to cool, stirring every 10 minutes to ensure even cooling.  When are desired consistency for piping,  fill pastry bag fitted with ¾ inch tip and pipe onto macaron shell.

Source: Macarons inspired from The Ginger Cook and adapted from Beantown Baker; ganache from The Ginger Cook

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Cupcake cake pops


Gosh, I remember a few years ago when cake pops were all the rage (I think whoopie pies, cupcakes and macarons have taken their place). Bakerella was the pioneer that received all of the credit for these tasty treats-on-a-stick. I didn't want to be left behind in the dust, so I decided to join the cake pop bandwagon too.

I first tried making what my college friends lovingly referred to as "cake balls" (for the full effect, you'll need to add the Beavis & Butt-head laugh afterwards). I baked a regular boxed cake (gasp!) and used canned frosting (the horror!) to mix up the two into this mud-pie looking concoction.  Turns out that once you dipped them into a candy coating, all was good.

Once I got the hang of that, I decided to try to make the cupcake-shaped version. I scoured high and low for a flower-shaped cookie cutter and eventually found one in my possession from a cake decorating class I took years ago. Be warned that these pops take some time to assemble, but they are very much worth it when your friends take a bite and just smile. I just love it when a dessert renders someone speechless, don't you?

For a more detailed tutorial, please hop over to Bakerella's web page. I recommend making these over a weekend (bake cake, add frosting and shape into balls one evening; shape and dip the next morning; package and store the pops either later that night or the following day).

Ingredients/materials
  • 1 13x9 baked cake (from a box cake mix or from scratch … any flavor - I like using chocolate)
  • 1 can frosting (or about 2 cups equivalent from scratch - I am lazy and buy the pre-made frosting)
  • 1 flower shaped cookie cutter (1.25″ wide X .75″ tall)
  • 1 package chocolate bark (You can find it at Michael's or other kraft stores... some grocery stores carry them in their baking aisle as well)
  • 1 package colored candy melts or white chocolate bark
  • Lollipop sticks
  • Styrafoam blocks, for allowing the candy melts to harden
  • Sprinkles, M&Ms or something similar for top of cupcake
  • Small plastic treat bags and ribbon to package the pops
Directions

Bake a cake from a mix or from scratch and cool completely.


Crumble cake into a fine consistency into a large bowl (I use a fork). Add the frosting and mix well.  The mixture will look like one big, goopy mess.

Using a cookie scoop, scoop out balls of the cake/frosting mixture and roll into balls. If you use a medium cookie scoop, you'll get about 40 cake balls.  Line a sheet pan with waxed paper and place the balls on top. Freeze.  I find that it's best to freeze these overnight.

Remove from freezer and begin to shape the balls into a cylinder shape.  You'll want to press the mixture so the cake is well-packed and won't fall apart once you are ready to dip them into the candy coating.

Press the cylinders into the flower-shaped cookie cutter. Push it into cutter until about half fills the cutter and the rest sticks out of the top in the shape of a mound. You may need to massage the cake a bit to make sure that your bottoms are flat and nicely shaped. 

Then push the shaped cupcake carefully out of the cookie cutter from the bottom. Set right side up on a wax paper covered cookie sheet. Continue with remaining balls and put them back in the freezer for at least another 30 minutes.

Heat the candy coating and chocolate-colored bark (either in the microwave or over a double boiler--I prefer the latter).  The chocolate bark will serve as the cupcake "bottoms" and the colored bark or white color will act as the cupcake "tops." 

Remove the cupcake shaped mixture from the freezer and dip bottoms into the melted chocolate – just to the point where the mounded shape starts. Remove from chocolate, turn upside down and wiggle so that the excess starts to slide down slightly. Then dip a lollipop stick into the melted chocolate and insert into the chocolate "bottoms." Place them on the waxed paper upside down and continue with rest of the cupcakes. 

Make sure the chocolate is dry before moving on. Dip the cupcake "tops" into your colored candy melts and make sure you shake off the excess. I like to swirl the stick around a few times.
If desired, you can add sprinkles and an M&M on top to make your pops look extra cute.  Put the lollipop sticks into styrafoam blocks to allow the cupcake pops to dry.  When everything has finally dried and hardened,  you can insert them into cellophane bags and tie with a pretty ribbon. Voila!

Source: Bakerella

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Luscious lemon cake with lemon buttercream

A have a little secret - this past weekend was my birthday! Of course, I had to celebrate by making my own birthday cake. I thought for several weeks about what I should make. My college roommate told me about her dad making a lemon cake many years ago, and for some reason, that just stuck in my mind. Having a fall birthday usually means that I am surrounded by lots of fall flavors like apple, pumpkin and cinnamon. Well, I wanted to change that and decided to make a lemon cake.

This cake has a lot of bright lemon flavors since the cake and buttercream frosting both have fresh lemon juice. If you are a fan of lemon-flavored things, then this is the cake for you!

Ingredients
  • 2 1/2 cups cake flour (I don't have cake flour and removed 5 tablespoons of flour and replaced it with 5 tablespoons of corn starch)
  • 1 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 TBSP meringue powder
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 extra large lemons, washed thoroughly then zested and juiced separately
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 egg whites, beaten
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Directions
Preheat oven to 350F and prepare two cake pans.

In bowl of electric mixer, sift and add flour, sugar, baking powder, meringue powder, salt and zest of one lemon (I mixed this by hand so the dry ingredients wouldn't fly everywhere).

Add milk, oil, juice from two lemons, beaten egg whites and extract.

Beat on medium to combine thoroughly, about 1 1/2 - 2 minutes.

Remove from mixer and stir with silicone spatula to thoroughly combine. Make sure there is no flour mixture left unincorporated at the bottom of the bowl.

Fill prepared pans 2/3 of the way full and bake until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean (about 25-28 minutes for 8 inch pans).

Remove from oven, let cool 15 minutes in pan and then turn onto wire racks to cool completely.

Frosting
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 TBSP meringue powder
  • Tiny pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup shortening (I used butter)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 extra large lemon, juiced
In the bowl of a stand mixer, combined shortening, butter, and half of extract and lemon juice, stirring on low until relatively combined.

In a separate bowl, combine sugar, meringue powder and salt.  Then add to mixer while sitll on.

Stir, scraping down sides of the bowl until thoroughly combined, adding more lemon juice as needed.  Add water if needed to reach desired texture.

Once cakes are completely cooled, even out tops of cakes if needed. Spread frosting in between the cake layers and frost the cake with the remaining buttercream.


Source:  Little D Down Under, who adapted it from Good Things Catered

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Biscoff swirl gelato


After making Biscoff cupcakes, I still had some leftover Biscoff spread. So I did what any normal girl would do - I made ice cream! Well, technically, this is a gelato, but who's keeping track?

I love that this gelato is chock full of Biscoff. The custard base contains the spread, and then you add dollops of Biscoff and swirl it around before freezing. My husband declared this as his current favorite ice cream, so I guess this recipe was a success!

Ingredients
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 3/4 cup sugar, divided
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup Biscoff spread
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 6 Tablespoons or more of Biscoff Spread for swirling
Directions
Pour the whole milk, heavy whipping cream and 1/2 cup of sugar into a large saucepan. Heat over medium heat for 5 minutes until the sugar dissolves.

While the milk is heating up, put 1/4 cup of sugar and 4 egg yolks into a large mixing bowl with the whisk attachment. Beat on medium high speed for 4 minutes until the mixture is pale yellow and thick. (I got lazy and didn't want to use my mixer, so I whisked by hand until the egg yolks turned pale yellow)

Pour in 1/2 cup of the warm milk and mix on medium speed. (Again, I did this by hand)

Pour the mixture into the saucepan.

Heat over medium heat for 10 minutes until it’s thickened up (I found that the mixture was good after about 5 minutes). Whisk the mixture while it’s heating up.

Put a sieve over a large bowl and push the gelato mixture through the sieve. This will help eliminate any lumps. Add in 1/2 cup of Biscoff and the vanilla extract. Whisk everything together.

Place plastic wrap over the bowl and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, churn the gelato mixture according to your manufacturer’s instructions.

Put some gelato in an airtight container. Then place drops of Biscoff spread on top of the gelato and swirl it into the gelato. Then add more gelato and more dollops of Biscoff spread and swirl. Repeat until you've used up all the gelato. You'll use about a total of 6 tablespoons of Biscoff spread (more or less).

Cover the gelato and place in the freezer. Then enjoy!


Source: Gingerbread Bagels

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Biscoff cupcakes with swiss meringue buttercream

I recently heard that Biscoff spread was all the rage in the food blogging world. The only knowledge I had about Biscoff were the little cookies I received whenever I was on board a Delta flight. Little did I know that the company who had created the cookies also made them into a spread! The consistency is similar to peanut butter, but it tastes exactly like the cookie.

I researched some recipes using Biscoff spread and found this cupcake on The Novice Chef blog that sounded intriguing. Rather than use the marshmallow frosting that was listed, I opted to use my favorite swiss meringue buttercream to give the cupcakes a nice, light and airy friend. I love this buttercream because it isn't too sweet, and I didn't want the frosting to overpower the cupcake.

These cupcakes were well-received by my family and coworkers, so I'm sure I'll be making them again.

Ingredients
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • A pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup Biscoff spread
  • 1/2 cups brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup half and half (I didn't have any, so I subbed with heavy cream instead)
Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare cupcake tin with cupcakes liners.

In a small bowl, whisk together flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a stand mixer, beat Biscoff spread and brown sugar until creamy. Add vegetable oil, egg, and vanilla extract, mix well.

Slowly mix in the flour mixture, alternating with the half and half, until completely combined.

Spoon cupcake batter into prepared cupcake tin, about 1/4 cup batter per cupcake. Bake for 16-18 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Do not over bake!

Remove from pan immediately and cool on a wire rack. Then frost with swiss meringue buttercream (recipe can be found here).

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