Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Orange citrus bars from Paula Deen

I had a work potluck coming up and didn't know what to bring. This potluck's theme was soup and salad, and of course I asked to see if I would be able to bring a dessert instead. Wish granted!

I looked around for a lighter dessert that wouldn't feel too heavy with the soup and salads that everyone was contributing and also wanted something that would travel and store well. I didn't want to bring cookies, and frozen or chilled desserts would be difficult to transport and keep cooled.

Finally, I settled on these orange citrus bars from Paula Deen. Yes, she was diagnosed with Type II diabetes, but the woman can cook!  When taking a look at the list of ingredients, I noticed that this wasn't exactly a lighter recipe like I had hoped, but I thought that the idea of a citrus bar would be a nice addition to our potluck. Plus, the bars transport well and didn't need a refrigerator to keep them chilled.

One change I made to the recipe was the amount of glaze. Paula's original recipe is below, but I cut it down to about 1/4 of the original measurements. I didn't want the bars to be too sweet, so I only used one cup of powdered sugar and added orange juice and zest to my liking.

Everyone commented that the bars were a nice refreshing way to end the meal. In fact, several people (ahem) took more than one bar, and a few people mistakenly referred to them as lemon bars.  If you need a nice burst of citrus flavor to brighten up a meal, look no further!

  • 1 orange, zested 
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder 
  • 1/3 cup orange juice 
  • 4  large eggs 
  • 2 cups granulated sugar 
  • 1 cup cold butter (2 sticks), cubed
  • 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar 
  • 2 1/4 cup all purpose flour, divided
Orange Citrus Glaze:
  • 4 cup confectioners’ sugar (I only used 1 cup)
  • 1/2 cup orange juice (I used about 3-4 TBSP of orange juice)
  • 1/2 cup orange, zested (Readers on her page didn't know what she meant by this; I simply just reserved some zest from my orange and added it into the glaze. Feel free to adjust this to your tastes)
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

In a large bowl, combine 2 cups flour, and confectioners’ sugar. Cut in butter with a pastry blender until mixture is crumbly. Press evenly into bottom of a 13 by 9 by 2-inch baking pan. Bake 20 minutes, or until lightly browned.

In a medium bowl, whisk together sugar, eggs, and juice until well mixed. Add 1/4 cup flour and baking powder, stirring to combine. Sprinkle in some orange zest. Pour into hot baked crust, and bake 25 minutes, or until set. Cool the bars so you may top with orange citrus glaze.

For the Orange-Citrus Glaze:
Add 4 cups of powdered sugar and 1/2 cup orange juice together, so that it combines to make a nice creamy glaze sauce consistency. Add orange zest. When all ingredients are mixed well, pour onto the cooled citrus bars.

Source: Paula Deen

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Hershey's Perfectly Chocolate cake with rose buttercream frosting

Remember my post about vanilla cupcakes?  Well, read on for the chocolate cupcake recipe that I had mentioned for our daughter's birthday party.

This chocolate cake recipe is a popular one, and there's a good reason why.  The cakes are not too sweet and keep their moisture even after a few days. Many people describe this as the perfect chocolate cake. I guess that is why this is called Hershey's Perfectly Chocolate Cake.
I haven't had a single complaint about this cake. In fact, my husband requests this cake all the time. It's hard for the two of us to finish on our own, so I usually turn them into cupcakes instead. My coworkers definitely are not complaining about that!

I used this chocolate cake and its accompanying frosting recipe for a work potluck last winter around the holidays.  In between the layers, I filled it with a peppermint buttercream frosting that I found on ABC's Good Morning America website. My coworkers (and husband!) absolutely loved this simple adaptation.

This time, I made the cake for a coworker's surprise bridal shower. I used the buttercream icing recipe from i am baker, who also provides the tutorial for the rose cake design. The photo above is the final product of the rose cake, so it's a bit hard to see the actual chocolate layers. You don't need a picture of the chocolate cake anyway, so I'm sure you'll forgive me this time.

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup cocoa
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup boiling water
Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round baking pans.

Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed of mixer 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin). 

Pour batter into prepared pans. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely.

ONE-PAN CAKE: Grease and flour 13x9x2-inch baking pan. Heat oven to 350° F. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 35 to 40 minutes. Cool completely. Frost.

THREE LAYER CAKE: Grease and flour three 8-inch round baking pans. Heat oven to 350°F. Pour batter into prepared pans. Bake 30 to 35 minutes. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely. Frost.

BUNDT CAKE: Grease and flour 12-cup Bundt pan. Heat oven to 350°F. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 50 to 55 minutes. Cool 15 minutes; remove from pan to wire rack. Cool completely. Frost.

CUPCAKES: Line cupcake pan with paper liners. Heat oven to 350° F. Fill cups 2/3 full with batter. Bake 22 to 25 minutes. Cool completely. Frost. About 30 cupcakes.

Sources: Cake from Hershey's (their chocolate frosting recipe which I used for cupcakes can also be found there). Peppermint buttercream frosting mentioned above is from ABC's Good Morning America website. Buttercream recipe from i am baker. Rose cake tutorial can also be found at i am baker.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Tres Leches Cake

My husband and I used to go out for Valentine's Day when we were dating. One year, we decided that enough was enough and that we'd just stay at home to make our own meal. After all, it was much more romantic to make a homemade meal and have fun working together in the kitchen. It's been our tradition ever since, and this year was no different.

We decided to grill some steak and sear some fresh scallops for our romantic meal.  We just bought a new cast iron skillet and couldn't wait to use it!  I saw this tres leches cake recipe on What's Cookin, Chicago? a while back and have had it bookmarked. We finally decided that it was time to finally try it and make it as our romantic dessert.

The cake and milk fillings were very easy to put together, and I am almost ashamed to admit that this was my very first time making homemade whipped cream!  (hangs head)  My husband mentioned that the cake was slightly sweet for his tastes, but I thought it tasted great. I made the whipped cream topping the day before we actually ate it, and it broke down a bit and got slightly liquidy.  I would recommend making the whipped cream either immediately before serving or on the day you'll enjoy the cake.

We had a delicious Valentine's Day meal and hope you did too!

Cake Ingredients
  • Cooking spray to grease cake pans
  • 6 3/4 ounces cake flour, plus extra for pan
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 4 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 8 ounces sugar
  • 5 whole eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Glaze Ingredients
  • 1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk
  • 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 cup half-and-half
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 8 ounces sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Directions for the cake
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly oil and flour a 13 by 9-inch metal pan and set aside.

Whisk together the cake flour, baking powder and salt in a medium mixing bowl and set aside.

Place the butter into the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the paddle attachment, beat on medium speed until fluffy, approximately 1 minute. Decrease the speed to low and with the mixer still running, gradually add the sugar over 1 minute. Stop to scrape down the sides of the bowl, if necessary. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, and mix to thoroughly combine. Add the vanilla extract and mix to combine. Add the flour mixture to the batter in 3 batches and mix just until combined. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and spread evenly. This will appear to be a very small amount of batter. Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until the cake is lightly golden and reaches an internal temperature of 200 degrees F.

Remove the cake pan to a cooling rack and allow to cool for 30 minutes. Poke the top of the cake all over with a skewer or fork. Allow the cake to cool completely and then prepare the glaze.

For the glaze
Whisk together the evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk and the half-and-half in a 1-quart measuring cup. Once combined, pour the glaze over the cake. Refrigerate the cake overnight.

Place the heavy cream, sugar and vanilla into the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the whisk attachment, whisk together on low until stiff peaks are formed. Change to medium speed and whisk until thick. Spread the topping over the cake and allow to chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Source: What's Cookin, Chicago?; originally from Alton Brown

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Homemade hot chocolate mix

As I mentioned in a previous post, I wanted to make homemade hot chocolate mix to give away for Valentine's Day.  I was debating whether to use the recipe from Brown Eyed Baker or Alton Brown. After taking a look at the ingredients, I went with Brown Eyed Baker since her mix contains white chocolate chips, which I am a fan of.

The hot chocolate mix was extremely easy to put together.  I ended up using the "liquify" speed on my blender and all the ingredients were chopped very finely.  I put 1/3 cup of the hot chocolate mix into individual bags and also included two homemade marshmallows. Then I printed little tags with the instructions and tied everything together with a pink ribbon. I think they turned out pretty cute, don't you?

Word on the street is that the hot chocolate was awesome (as were the marshmallows). Unfortunately, I didn't save any for myself, so I will need to mix up a batch for us to try soon!

  • 3 cups nonfat dry milk powder
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1½ cups cocoa powder (Dutch-processed preferred; I used Hershey's dark)
  • 1½ cups white chocolate chips (or chopped white chocolate)
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
Whisk together all ingredients in a large bowl. Working in two batches, pulse the ingredients in a food processor until the chocolate is finely ground. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 months.

To make hot cocoa, put 1/3 cup of the cocoa mix in a mug and stir in 1 cup of hot milk. Top with whipped cream or miniature marshmallows.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Homemade marshmallows

Homemade marshmallows are one of those things I've always wanted to try and make.  I saw a segment about them on the Martha Stewart show about 12 years ago and saved the recipe but have always been too chicken/lazy to make them.

After seeing tons of blogs feature homemade marshmallows in the past year or two, I finally decided to get with the program and make these myself. Since I normally make peppermint bark and homemade caramels for holiday treats every year, I decided to hold out and make marshmallows for Valentine's Day instead. I'm planning to package them with homemade hot chocolate mix (post coming soon). 

I actually decided to go with Alton Brown's recipe rather than Martha's because I trust the man who knows all the science behind food - especially candy. Not that Martha's wouldn't be lovely too, but maybe I'll try her version sometime down the road.

Who knew that making your own marshmallows could be this easy? The resulting treat is fluffy and not overly sweet. These would be absolutely perfect for s'mores!

  • 3 packages unflavored gelatin
  • 1 cup ice cold water, divided
  • 12 ounces granulated sugar, approximately 1 1/2 cups
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • Nonstick spray
Place the gelatin into the bowl of a stand mixer along with 1/2 cup of the water. Have the whisk attachment standing by.

In a small saucepan combine the remaining 1/2 cup water, granulated sugar, corn syrup and salt. Place over medium high heat, cover and allow to cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Uncover, clip a candy thermometer onto the side of the pan and continue to cook until the mixture reaches 240 degrees F, approximately 7 to 8 minutes. Once the mixture reaches this temperature, immediately remove from the heat.

Turn the mixer on low speed and, while running, slowly pour the sugar syrup down the side of the bowl into the gelatin mixture. Once you have added all of the syrup, increase the speed to high. Continue to whip until the mixture becomes very thick and is lukewarm, approximately 12 to 15 minutes. Add the vanilla during the last minute of whipping. While the mixture is whipping prepare the pans as follows:

Combine the confectioners' sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl. Lightly spray a 13 by 9-inch metal baking pan with nonstick cooking spray (I lined my pan with parchment paper and skipped the nonstick cooking spray; although next time I am using the nonstick spray and coating the entire pan because the marshmallows stuck to the parchment paper.). Add the sugar and cornstarch mixture and move around to completely coat the bottom and sides of the pan. Return the remaining mixture to the bowl for later use.

When ready, pour the mixture into the prepared pan, using a lightly oiled spatula for spreading evenly into the pan. Dust the top with enough of the remaining sugar and cornstarch mixture to lightly cover. Reserve the rest for later. Allow the marshmallows to sit uncovered for at least 4 hours and up to overnight.

Turn the marshmallows out onto a cutting board and cut into 1-inch squares using a pizza wheel dusted with the confectioners' sugar mixture. Once cut, lightly dust all sides of each marshmallow with the remaining mixture, using additional if necessary. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.

Source:  Alton Brown, via the Food Network website

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Chocolate mousse

After making a batch of ice cream, I found myself with 5 unused egg whites. While I normally turn these whites into macarons or swiss meringue buttercream icing, I wanted to try something different this time.  I searched the internet for something that wouldn't take too much time. I came across meringue cookies, angel food cake, and of course macarons and swiss meringue buttercream icing.

Then I updated my search terms to "5 egg whites recipe" and this chocolate mousse recipe popped up. I was intrigued. I took a look and only saw 5 ingredients, so I knew that I had to try it.

This mousse was very quick and easy to make, and my only complaint is the lack of specific measurements on the amount of chocolate needed.  I translated the "6 squares" of chocolate to  2/3 of a chocolate bar. Well, the mousse turned out almost flavorless, even with the addition of the coffee liqueur. I did omit the coffee granules as well, so maybe that is where I went wrong.

To salvage the recipe, I added a bunch of mini chocolate chips (semi-sweet), and that did the trick. I actually liked the result because the chips provided a nice contrast to the fluffiness of the mousse.

  • 6 squares semi-sweet chocolate (I used about 2 oz of dark chocolate; next time I am upping the amount to about 6 ounces)
  • 1 TBSP orange flavored liqueur (I used coffee flavored liqueur instead)
  • 1 TBSP strong coffee (I omitted this)
  • 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
  • 5 egg whites at room temperature
  • My addition: about 3 TBSP of semi-sweet mini chocolate chips 
Melt chocolate with coffee in top of double boiler over hot, not boiling, water. Remove from heat; beat in the liqueur until mixture is smooth. Beat egg white with cream of tartar until stiff, but not dry. Beat 2 or 3 tablespoons of beaten egg white into chocolate mixture to loosen it up. Fold in remaining egg white gently and thoroughly, until no streaks of white remain. Refrigerate two hours or more.

I added mini-chocolate chips to the mousse to boost the chocolate flavor and provide a textural contrast.

Yield: About 6 servings

Source: adapted from

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Baked Brownie

I saw these brownies pop up in my Google Reader recently and knew it was something I needed to bake.  Courtney at Cook Like a Champion went to Baked in NYC and talked about how "insanely delicious" these were, and she's not even a fan of fudgy brownies (I am).

Ooh la la are these good! I'm not a coffee drinker at all, but I did like the addition of the coffee granules. That one little teaspoon goes a long way, and after a bite of the brownie, it makes you go, "hmmm..."  (Cue C&C Music Factory's song, "Things That Make you Go Hmm"). I almost need a glass of milk to go with these fantastic brownies.

Although I already have a favorite brownie recipe, these have to be a pretty close second. The one adjustment I would make is to bake my brownies a bit longer. I used a smaller pan, so my mixture was thicker, and the middle of the pan was definitely underbaked. But, if you like your brownies a bit gooey, don't make any adjustments to the baking time!

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons dark unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 11 ounces dark chocolate (60 to 72%), coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 teaspoon instant espresso powder (I do not have any, so I subbed with instant coffee granules)
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 5 eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350ยบ and butter the sides and bottom of a 9-by-13-inch glass baking pan (my pan was slightly smaller). Whisk together the flour, salt and cocoa powder in a medium bowl and set aside. 

Place the chocolate, butter and espresso powder in a large bowl and set over a pot of simmering water. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is completely melted and smooth. Turn off heat, but keep the bowl over the water. Whisk in the sugars until completely combined, then remove bowl from the pot. If the mixture isn’t room temperature at this point, allow it to cool slightly until it reaches room temperature.

Whisk 3 eggs into the chocolate mixture, taking care not to overbeat them. Whisk in the remaining 2 eggs, then stir in the vanilla. Using a rubber spatula, gradually fold in the flour until just incorporated. 

Pour batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake in the center of the oven for 30 minutes, rotating halfway through, until a toothpick comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached. Allow to cool, then cut into squares and serve. Brownies can be kept, tightly wrapped, at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Source: Cook Like a Champion; originally from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Thick and chewy oatmeal raisin cookies

I have always been a fan of the classic oatmeal raisin cookie. I like mine chewy and full of plump raisins. Those flat crunchy kinds don't mesh well with me. Although I love these cookies, this is yet another recipe that I have never made the time to try.  Don't ask me why, because I honestly have no idea. Maybe I just didn't find the perfect recipe.

I have been following smitten kitchen for a while and found these cookies on her website. She is a trusted source for bloggers everywhere, so I decided to give these oatmeal raisin cookies a try. 

And boy, am I glad that I did! I had a bag of baking raisins (what?? This product is news to me, so I had to buy a bag) and wanted to use them up. The raisins are big, fat and juicy and bake up really well in this cookie. And the cookies are true to their name, so they are thick and chewy... just the way I like them. And since there are both raisins and oatmeal in this recipe, I feel better about eating more than one. They're totally healthy, right? Well, I'll just keep telling myself that.

And before we get to the recipe, look who decided to check in on me to see what was going on:
Mommy's little helper!

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick or 4 ounces) butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (oops - I totally forgot to add this)
  • 1 1/2 cups rolled oats
  • 3/4 cup raisins (I added a full cup of baking raisins)
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped (optional - I did not add)
Preheat oven to 350°F .

In a large bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar, egg and vanilla until smooth (I used my stand mixer for this). In a separate bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt together. Stir this into the butter/sugar mixture. Stir in the oats, raisins and walnuts, if using them.

smitten kitchen recommends chilling your dough in the fridge for a while now. The other option is to scoop the cookies onto a baking sheet and put the entire try in the refrigerator. She notes that you could bake them right away but your cookies will end up flatter. I opted to chill the dough in the fridge for about 20 minutes before scooping it out.

Scoop cookies two inches apart on your baking sheet (I used my imitation Silpat, but you can use a parchment-lined baking sheet). Bake them for 10 to 12 minutes (your baking time will vary, depending on your oven and how cold the cookies were going in; mine baked for 10 minutes), taking them out when golden at the edges but still a little undercooked-looking on top. Let them sit on the hot baking sheet for five minutes before transferring them to a rack to cool.

Yield: About two dozen (24) cookies. smitten kitchen notes that the recipe above is considered half a batch. If you have a lot of mouths to feed, consider doubling the recipe.

Source: smitten kitchen

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Snickerdoodle cupcakes

This post is dedicated to teachers. I appreciate what all my former and current teachers have taught me and can't imagine what I'd be like (or how dumb I'd be) without the knowledge that I have.

With that said, I also very much appreciate my daughter's three teachers. I occasionally bring in treats to thank them for taking such great care of our little girl. This past week I brought in the Chinese almond cookies for Chinese New Year, and they cheered when I gave them the sweets.

One of our daughter's teachers casually hinted that she just celebrated a birthday, and another mentioned that she had a birthday coming up. Ok, hint received! I sought out to make a cupcake for the occasions.

I found these snickerdoodle cupcakes on Annie's Eats and thought they'd be great. The cupcake is nice and fluffy, and the swiss meringue buttercream helps keep the light and airy texture so the cake doesn't seem too rich or heavy (note that I didn't make the frosting Annie used but instead used a swiss meringue buttercream that I've blogged about before here). The cinnamon sugar sprinkle on top provides a nice contrasting texture to the icing, and it gives the cupcake an additional pop of snickerdoodle flavor.

Thanks, teachers for all you do!

  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1½ cups cake flour, sifted (I did not have cake flour, so I subbed with all purpose flour; I substituted 3 TBSP of the all purpose flour with 3 TBSP of corn starch)
  • 1 tbsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tbsp. ground cinnamon
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1¾ cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1¼ cups milk
To make the cupcakes, preheat the oven to 350° F.  Line cupcake pans with paper liners.  Combine the flours, baking powder, salt and cinnamon in a medium bowl; whisk to combine.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Beat in the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition.  Blend in the vanilla.  With the mixer on low speed, add in the dry ingredients in three additions alternating with the milk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.  Beat each addition just until incorporated.

Divide the batter evenly between the prepared cupcake liners, filling each three-quarters full.  Bake, rotating the pans halfway through, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 18-20 minutes (mine baked for 20 minutes).  Allow to cool in the pans about 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Pipe frosting on cupcakes and garnish with a sprinkle of cinnamon sugar (mix of 1 tsp ground cinnamon and 2 TBSP of sugar).

Directions for frosting can be found here.  I had enough to fill and frost all my cupcakes and had about a cup left over.

Yield: Annie's website says it makes 28 cupcakes, but I got 24 by using a medium cookie scoop to portion out the batter.

Source: cupcakes from Annie's Eats; originally from Martha Stewart's Cupcakes; frosting adapted from my swiss meringue buttercream post


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