Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Large Chinese scallion pancake (蔥油大餅)

Ever since I was little, I've always loved scallion pancakes. My mom would make these from scratch at home, and we sometimes would order them at dim sum houses in Philadelphia. It was fun to judge the restaurants' versions because some of them would be too crispy, too oily, or too thick. In my mind, my mom's version was always the best.

Many years later, my mom was inspired by some of her friends and some of the restaurants in Taiwan. They made a very large scallion pancake called da bing (大餅).  She kept experimenting with the recipe to successfully recreate what she loved about this appetizer. It was crispy on the outside, fluffy like a bread on the inside, and contained the scallions and salt that she loved about a traditional scallion pancake. After many rounds of tweaking, she finally nailed the recipe.

I am fortunate that Mom gave me the completed recipe so I didn't have do all the trial and error myself. Having a toddler at home makes it hard for me to spend the time to experiment on my own, so I am glad that I didn't need to make any additional revisions for this da bing.

My husband and I recently joined a CSA, and in our very first box was a bunch of large spring onions. It was the perfect way to showcase this fresh produce while also tackling one of Mom's recipes. I found that I needed more flour than what my mom listed, but otherwise, the flavor and texture of the da bing is just as Mom makes it. My husband noted that this rivaled my mom's version, and I take that as the highest compliment.

You can serve this plain, or like my husband, dip it in some Asian sweet chili sauce for an added kick. The da bing will stay fresh in the refrigerator for about 5 days. Just make sure you wrap it tightly with tin foil or put it in an air-tight container. You can reheat in the microwave (about 30 seconds or so for a wedge) or in the oven (350 for about 5 min).

Ingredients
  • 2 cups of water or milk (Mom and I use milk but she says water could work too)
  • 2 1/2 - 3 cups of all purpose flour (I probably used up to 4 or 5 cups)
  • 1 packet of yeast (not the instant kind)
  • Sugar (about 1/2 tsp)
  • Salt
  • Scallions, chopped
  • Oil
Directions
Warm the milk in the microwave so that it's no longer cold. Do not scald or boil the milk.

Add the sugar to the milk and stir. Then add the yeast and let it proof for about 5 minutes.  You should see the top get foamy.

Add the milk mixture to the flour and mix until just incorporated. Set it aside and let it rise for about 10 minutes.

Roll the dough into a rectangle about 1 cm thick. Then, using a brush, coat the top of the dough with some oil. Sprinkle the surface with salt and chopped scallions.

Roll, jelly-roll style into a long rope. Coil the rope into a circle and flatten/roll out with a rolling pin. Cover with a damp towel and let the dough rise for another 2 hours. Your da bing should end up being about 10 inches in diameter and at least 1 inch thick.

Lightly oil a large nonstick skillet or pan. On LOW heat (do not turn this to medium or high heat!), slowly pan fry the dough. Once the bottom starts to get crispy and the dough looks done on one side (about 10 minutes later), flip the pancake over and brown the other side. This pan-frying step should take about 20 minutes total - 10 minutes on each side. Remember to go low and slow!

Once done, the top and bottom of the pancake should be crispy and the inside should be fully cooked. Cut into pie-sliced wedges and serve.


Source: My mom (original source unknown)

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Profiteroles


I first had a profiterole at a local steak house. I had never heard of them until then, and I was smitten. These cute little puffs were nice and delicate and contained one of my favorite things - vanilla pastry cream! And then they were topped with a glaze and sprinkled with powdered sugar. Even though I was full of steak, I of course made plenty of room to eat a few one of these.

Although it has been years since I have eaten a profiterole, I am ecstatic that I have successfully made them! I have been intimidated by French baking and decided to just bite the bullet. What's the worst that could happen?

As I mentioned before, I wanted to make both chocolate éclairs and profiteroles, so I made both of these in one day.  I made the éclairs first and kept the oven on at 375 and then piped the profiteroles and baked those.

This recipe was remarkably easier than I thought. Had I known that pastry cream was so easy to put together, I would have been making Boston Cream Pie and other desserts a long time ago. Now I just need to find something to do with the leftover egg whites... Stay tuned to see what I came up with!

Ingredients
  • 1 recipe cream puff dough, which can be found here
  • 1 recipe vanilla pastry cream, which can be found here
  • 1 recipe chocolate glaze, which can be found here
Directions
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper.

Mix the cream puff dough as instructed.

Using about 1 tablespoon dough for each puff, drop the dough from a spoon onto the lined baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches of puff space between the mounds of dough. (The puffs can be frozen for up to 2 months.) I decided to cut a hole in a pastry bag, filled it with the dough and swirled 1 1/2 inch circles.

Slide the baking sheets into the oven and immediately turn the oven temperature down to 375 degrees F. Bake for 12 minutes, then rotate the pans. Continue baking until the puffs are golden, firm and puffed, another 12-15 minutes or so (mine baked for 12). Allow the puffs to cool on the baking sheet.

Using a serrated knife and a gentle sawing motion, you can simply cut off the top quarter or third of each puff, fill them with the pastry cream and top with the little caps. I drizzled mine in the chocolate glaze at this point.

Chill for at least an hour (up to 8 hours) before serving.

Yield: I used a full recipe for cream puff dough and split it in half - half for éclairs and half for profiteroles. I got about 9 éclairs and 9 profiteroles.

Source: Around My French Table, by Dorie Greenspan

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Strawberry Greek frozen yogurt

This is my first month participating in a new baking group, What's Baking. Each month, an assigned member of the group chooses a theme that everyone has to follow. The theme for May was "Bake In Season with Spring Produce," which was chosen by our host, Ammie of Adventures In My Kitchen. I was excited about this theme because our local farmer's market just opened, and I couldn't wait to check out what fresh produce the vendors had to offer.

On opening day, I browsed almost all of the stalls at the farmer's market and saw something that immediately caught my attention - fresh strawberries! Several vendors had freshly picked strawberries for sale, and I bought a pint of them. I knew right away what I wanted to make with my haul: strawberry Greek frozen yogurt.

 
My fresh pint of strawberries from the farmer's market!

Greek yogurt has been one of the latest food trends, and I was not an adopter at all. I tried it once, and it was way too tart for my tastes. I gave it a second try, but this time I bought the kind with sweetened granola and was hooked. Then my husband saw that Ben & Jerry's came out with a line of Greek frozen yogurt. We bought a pint, and it was really, really good. I decided that I needed to make my own and stop paying the $4 per container that the grocery store charged us.

This strawberry Greek frozen yogurt is still a bit on the tart side, but you can certainly add more (or less) sugar to adjust it to your palate. One other thing to note is that many websites said that you need to let the frozen yogurt thaw a bit on the counter before you scoop. I tried scooping immediately from the freezer to take a photo of my frozen yogurt, and chunks flew everywhere! After a few minutes, the yogurt was soft enough to meld together so I could take this photo.


Ingredients
  • 1 pound strawberries, rinsed and hulled (I used a pint of fresh strawberries)
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vodka or kirsch  (optional - I used vodka)
  • 1 cup plain whole milk yogurt (I used three 7 ounce containers of plain FAGE lowfat Greek yogurt)
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice (I omitted)
Directions
Slice the strawberries into small pieces. Toss in a bowl with the sugar and vodka or kirsch (if using) until the sugar begins to dissolve. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature for 2 hours, stirring every so often.

Transfer the strawberries and their juice to a blender or food processor. Add the yogurt and fresh lemon juice. Pulse the machine until the mixture is smooth. If you wish, press mixture through a mesh strainer to remove any seeds.

Chill for 1 hour (I chilled overnight), then freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.


Source: Slightly adapted from The Perfect Scoop, by David Lebovitz; recipe can also be found David's website here

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Chocolate éclairs

I've been seeing some gorgeous photos for chocolate éclairs lately and got jealous. I haven't eaten one in a really, really long time and don't actually know where to buy one around here. The idea of making a pâte à choux and pastry cream seriously freaked me out, but I somehow found the courage to try them both out.

I also wanted to make myself something special for Mother's Day since it was coming up, and éclairs just sounded really tempting. I had a few hours to spare, so why not give it a try?

You know, I've got to say that this is one of my proudest baking moments. It takes courage to accomplish something you've been afraid of, and éclairs was definitely intimidating. I guess any type of French desserts just sounds difficult. But in reality, these weren't hard to make at all!

I made the pastry cream first and split it in half so I could have both a vanilla one and a chocolate one (I'm greedy like that). And then I wanted to have both éclairs and profiteroles (told you I was greedy), so I made both - I'll post about the profiteroles soon. I didn't have any heavy cream so I used a different chocolate glaze topping that I am familiar with.


These are one of my absolute favorite desserts to date, but probably because I am partial to pastry cream and chocolate. I'm usually not one to brag, but these really do taste like they came straight from a professional bakery. The pastry was light and airy, and the pastry cream was smooth, rich and flavorful. And the chocolate glaze on top? Well, that was the perfect topping to a delicate French pastry. And this was the perfect dessert for Mother's Day!

Bon Appétit!

 

Ingredients
  • 1 recipe cream puff dough (recipe follows)
  • 1 recipe vanilla pastry cream, chilled (recipe follows)
  • 1 recipe glaze (recipe follows)
Directions
Preheat an oven to 425 degrees F.  Line two baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper.  Fit a large pastry bag with a large (2/3-inch diameter) plain tip.

Fill the pastry bag with half of the dough and pipe out strips of dough that are 4" to 4.5" long onto the first baking sheet; keep the strips about 2 inches apart so the eclairs will have room to puff.  Pipe the other half of the dough onto the second baking sheet (the eclairs can be frozen for up to 2 months.).

Bake the éclairs for 10 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees F. Continue baking another 7 minutes, then wedge the handle of a wooden spoon into the door so it stays slightly ajar, and bake for about 3 minutes more, or until the éclairs are golden, firm, and puffed. Transfer the éclairs to a rack and cool to room temperature.

To fill the éclairs, cut them horizontally in half using a serrated knife.  Whisk the pastry cream lightly to loosen it a bit, spoon it into a pastry bag fitted with a large plain tip, and pipe enough into each éclair base to fill it. Put the filled bases on a baking sheet, cover them lightly, and refrigerate while you make the glaze.

To make the glaze, heat 4 ounces of bittersweet chocolate with 4 tablespoons of butter. Whisk until combined and let cool slightly. (Dorie heats up 3/4 cup of heavy cream to a boil and adds 3/4 pound of bittersweet chocolate and stirs gently to blend. Chill the mixture slightly.) If you want your glaze less runny, use more chocolate and less butter.

Using a small icing spatula or a butter knife, glaze the tops of the éclairs (since my glaze was runny, I simply dunked the tops into the chocolate), then settle the tops gently over the filled bases. Refrigerate the éclairs for at least 1 hour (up to 8 hours) before serving.

Vanilla pastry cream ingredients
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup cornstarch, sifted
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into bits, at room temperature
Vanilla pastry cream directions
Bring the milk to a boil in a small saucepan or in a microwave oven.

Meanwhile, in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk the yolks together with the sugar and cornstarch until thick and well blended.  Whisking without stop, drizzle in about 1/4 cup of the hot milk - this will temper the yolks - then, still whisking, add the remainder of the milk in a steady stream. Put the pan over medium heat and, whisking vigorously, constantly, and thoroughly (make sure to get into the edges of the pan), bring the mixture to a boil. Keep at a boil -still whisking - for 1 to 2 minutes, then pull the pan from the heat.

Whisk in the vanilla extract. Let stand for 5 minutes, then whisk in the bits of butter, stirring until the butter is fully incorporated and the pastry cream is smooth and silky. Scrape the cream into a bowl and press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface of the custard to create an airtight seal and refrigerate the pastry cream until cold. 

I divided my pastry cream into two halves so I could have both vanilla and chocolate pastry cream. To make chocolate pastry cream, I simply added 4 ounces of bittersweet chocolate after I added the butter.

Cream puff dough ingredients
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
  • 1 tablespoon sugar (if you're using the puffs for something sweet)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
Cream puff directions
Bring the milk, water, butter, sugar (if you're using it), and salt to a rapid boil in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan over high heat. Add the flour all at once, lower the heat to medium low, and immediately start stirring energetically with a wooden spoon or heavy whisk. The dough will come together, and a light crust will form on the bottom of the pan. Keep stirring--with vigor-- for another minute or two to dry the dough. The dough should be very smooth.

Turn the dough into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (you can use an electric hand mixer or mix by hand if needed). Let the dough sit a minute, then add the eggs one by one and beat until the dough is thick and shiny. Make sure that each egg is completely incorporated before you add the next, and don't be concerned if the dough falls apart. By the time the last egg goes in, the dough will come together again. Once the dough is made, it should be used immediately. 

Yield: I used a full recipe for cream puff dough and split it in half - half for éclairs and half for profiteroles. I got about 9 éclairs and 9 profiteroles.The pastry cream recipe was enough to fill all my éclairs and profiteroles, but they did not fill them as generously as I would have liked.

Source: Around My French Table, by Dorie Greenspan 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Hawaiian mango bread

Those who are close to me know that I am absolutely in love... with the Hawaiian Islands!  Well, that and my husband and daughter, of course!  But that's to go without saying. My husband and I have visited Hawaii on three separate occasions, with our inaugural trip during our honeymoon. We fell in love with the island so much that we are determined to retire there. Hey, we can dream, right?

One of the highlights of our trip to Maui was this little roadside stand on the way to Hana.  We were embarking on the famous Road to Hana and heard that we absolutely had to take a pit stop near the beginning to a little fruit stand. We bought a loaf of banana bread and some ordered-to-cut fresh pineapple. Little did we know that the little road stand would change our lives forever.

The pineapple was so fresh and sweet that it almost tasted like it was spiked with rum! The juices in the fruit started caramelizing a bit that we could faintly taste the fermentation of alcohol.  To this day, we still have not had pineapple as good as the one sold by that one fruit stand.

And the banana bread was out of this world! It was full of banana flavor, super moist, and practically melted in our mouths. I haven't found a recipe that has even come close to imitating it, and I hope that I do find it one day. While doing a search for Hawaiian banana bread, I came across this mango bread recipe on A Dash of Sugar and Spice that I knew I had to try. If I couldn't have my Hawaiian banana bread, then I would have to try another recipe from the islands!  This mango bread recipe comes from a Hawaiian cookbook, so I knew that it would taste authentic.

The bread is super moist, and the mango has a bit of tartness that is nicely counterbalanced by the brown and white sugar. I immediately think of palm trees, sandy beaches and fruity drinks when I take a bite of this bread. In fact, I think I could eat this all day long! If you want, you could even substitute 1 cup of the mango and replace it with banana to make this a mango banana bread.

Since we're not in Hawaii right now, this is a perfect way to bring the islands to us! Aloha!

Ingredients
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger (I didn't have any, so I omitted)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 3 eggs
  • ¾ cup canola oil
  • ¾ cup white sugar
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups diced mango, about 3 mangoes (I used two large mangoes)
Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9×5″ loaf pan.

Combine flour, baking soda, spices, and salt in a large bowl. Whisk to combine and make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. 

Add the eggs, oil, sugars, vanilla, and mango to the well. Stir to combine, until just mixed. Pour into the loaf pan. 

Bake for 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let bread cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then remove and cool completely on a wire rack before slicing.

Variation: Mango Banana BreadReplace 1 cup of mango with 1 cup mashed banana

Yield: One loaf

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Chocolate peanut butter ice cream

You all already know that I'm not a fan of peanut butter (yes, I am weird like that). But, my husband is quite the opposite of me in that department - he is quite possibly the world's biggest fan of peanut butter. I'm only slightly exaggerating. When he mentioned that our homemade ice cream supply was dwindling, I set out to rectify the situation and started digging through my newly purchased copy of The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz.

It didn't take me long to decide on this chocolate peanut butter ice cream from the book. I know that my husband is a fan of chocolate and peanut butter, and this ice cream only used 5 ingredients (no egg yolks!), so I had to try it. The ice cream mixture came together really quickly, especially since I didn't have to crack any eggs and temper the custard. I think the total process took about 10 minutes.

My husband loved this ice cream! He already has a favorite chocolate peanut butter ice cream (from Woodside Farm Creamery in Delaware), but he said that this version was also very good. He noted that the peanut butter flavor was well-pronounced and came through. I think I may have added a bit extra peanut butter to give it that extra flavor boost, but we'll keep that secret between you and me.

Unless you're able to make it to Woodside Farm Creamery, I'd recommend trying this recipe from David Lebovitz. While I can't vouch for how good the ice cream is, I have a peanut butter expert who can!

And a happy Mother's Day to all the mothers out there - especially to mine!

Ingredients
  • 2 cups half-and-half
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Hershey's dark)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
Directions
Whisk together half-and-half, cocoa powder, sugar, and salt in a large saucepan over medium heat. Whisk  until it comes to a full, rolling boil and starts to foam up.

Remove from heat and mix in peanut butter. Stir until thoroughly blended.

Chill mixture completely, then churn in your ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions.

Source: The Perfect Scoop, by David Lebovitz

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Chocolate chocolate chunk muffins

Boy, do I love a deal. It makes me happy when I use a coupon or a gift card and end up paying a fraction of the retail price of something. One of my online cooking friends posted an Amazon deal that was too good to pass up. Two of Dorie Greenspan's cookbooks, Baking: From My Home to Yours and Around My French Table were being sold as a bundle for $5. Total. I couldn't believe it! The retail price for each book was $40, and I was getting both for $5?? Sounded almost like a scam, but it wasn't. I placed my order immediately and the books arrived within the week.

I can't tell you how many hours I've spent looking through these cookbooks. There is always a new recipe I want to try, and I am sad that I missed out on the Tuesdays with Dorie online cooking club.  I know that there is a new group going on that is focusing on Around My French Table, but I'm more interested in the baking recipes. Obviously.

This is the first of many recipes that I hope to make from Dorie. I chose these chocolate chocolate chunk muffins because 1) I love chocolate, 2) I love chocolate, and 3) I had leftover buttermilk.  As Dorie states in her book, these muffins are only slightly sweet and could be considered either muffins or cupcakes.  I'd like to call them muffins so I can eat them for breakfast! These muffins got an enthusiastic thumbs up from my husband!

Ingredients
  • 3/4 stick (6 Tablespoons) unsalted butter
  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (I used Lindt 70% dark chocolate)
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2/3 cups sugar
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted (I used Hershey's Dark)
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1-1/4 cups buttermilk (I only had 3/4 cup so I used 2% milk for the remainder)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Directions
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Butter or spray a regular-sized muffin pan or insert with paper liners. I decided to use an ungreased silicone muffin pan.  Place the muffin pan on a baking sheet..

Melt the butter and HALF of the chopped chocolate together in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Or, you can do this in the microwave (which I did - I zapped for 30 seconds). Remove from the heat and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  In a large glass measuring cup or another bowl, whisk the buttermilk, egg and vanilla together until well combined. Pour the liquid ingredients and melted butter/chocolate mixture over the dry ingredients, and with the whisk or a rubber spatula, gently but quickly stir to blend. Don't worry about being thorough - a few lumps are better than overmixing the batter. Stir in the remaining chopped chocolate. Divide batter evenly among the muffin cups.

Bake for about 20 minutes, or until a thin knife inserted into the center of the muffins comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool for 5 minutes before carefully removing each muffin from its mold.

Yield: 12 muffins

Source: Baking: From My Home to Yours, by Dorie Greenspan; page 19

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Sweet lavender scones

Bon Appétit is a magazine that I look forward to receiving every month. I love flipping through the magazine and drooling over the photos and recipes that the publication offers. This month's feature was on Paris, and I was slightly disappointed that there weren't many dessert recipes.

I did, however, see this one for lavender scones and already had all of the main ingredients in my kitchen. Luckily, I had bought dried lavender a while back at Penzey's and was looking for another recipe to use some more of it. This recipe came at the perfect time so I could satisfy both my desire to bake with lavender and my wish to make another Bon Appétit recipe.

I made some slight alterations to the recipe because I didn't have lemon, lemon curd or sanding sugar. I figured that they were embellishments anyway so I left them all out. The resulting scone is slightly crispy on the outside with a nice, soft chewy center. The aroma of the lavender provides a nice, fresh floral note without overpowering the scone. This scone would definitely taste lovely with the lemon curd that Bon Appétit recommended, but I didn't have any. Instead, my husband drizzled some honey on his and noted that he liked them better that way. I ate mine plain so I could take in all the aromatics and enjoyed it as-is. 

Ingredients
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour plus more for surface
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried lavender buds
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons buttermilk, divided
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest (I omitted)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons sanding or granulated sugar (I did not use)
  • 1 1/2 cups store-bought lemon curd (I did not use)
Directions

Arrange racks in upper and lower thirds of oven; preheat to 425°. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk 3 cups flour and next 5 ingredients in a large bowl. Add butter; rub in with your fingers until mixture resembles coarse meal.


Whisk 1 cup buttermilk, zest, and vanilla in a small bowl. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients. Stir until shaggy dough forms.


Transfer to a lightly floured surface; knead until dough forms, about 5 turns. Pat into a 10x6" rectangle. Halve dough lengthwise. Cut each half crosswise into 4 squares. Cut each square diagonally in half into 2 triangles. Divide between baking sheets. Brush with 2 Tbsp. buttermilk. Sprinkle with sanding sugar.(I apparently misread the recipe and added the 2 Tbsp buttermilk into my scone dough - it still turned out fine. I also omitted the sprinkling sugar.)


Bake until scones are golden and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 13–15 minutes (mine baked for 13 minutes and were perfect). Transfer to wire racks; let cool.



Serve warm or at room temperature with lemon curd. (I did not add lemon zest or serve with lemon curd, but my husband enjoyed his with honey.)

Yield: 16 scones

Source: Slightly adapted from Bon Appétit magazine, May 2012 issue; online recipe can be found here.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Cannoli cheesecake

I was *thisclose* to doing a back flip the other day. When I received an email about the Blogger's Choice swap saying that I got assigned Melissa's blog at I Was Born To Cook, I almost did a backflip. Even though I haven't done one of those in a really long time, I was tempted.

You see, when Melissa posted this cannoli cheesecake a few weeks ago, I immediately pinned it and knew I had to make it. I needed a reliable excuse, and now I had one. Never mind that I already had Patty's white chocolate cheesecake in the fridge left over from Addison's birthday weekend, but having another cheesecake on hand was absolutely essential! Well, that's what I kept telling myself.

My husband had been craving cannoli for a few weeks. We found a French bakery in town that sold them, and he was smitten after taking a bite. Ever since that day, he'd been dropping hints that we needed to go back for more cannoli. This cannoli cheesecake successfully simulates the flavors of a real cannoli. And since it's cheesecake, it's that much better! No need to worry about the cannoli shell drying out or getting soggy! Thanks for this awesome cheesecake, Melissa!


Note: My husband noted that the orange zest was a bit overpowering in the cheesecake. If you are not a fan of orange zest, either cut down the amount of zest or omit it completely. The next time I make this, I will try it without the zest so it tastes more like a true cannoli.

Directions
  • 2 cups crushed vanilla wafers
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 7 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 3 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 2 tablespoons AP flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
  • 2 tablespoons finely grated orange zest (recommend cutting this down or omitting it)
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 4 eggs, at room temperature
  • confectioners' sugar, for garnish (optional)
Directions
Position oven rack to middle of oven and preheat to 375 degrees F.  Stir cookie crumbs and 3 tablespoons sugar together in a bowl, then mix in melted butter until crumbs get slightly clumpy. Transfer to a 9 inch springform pan and press evenly along the bottom of the pan. Use a plastic bag or wrap to press gently.  Bake for about 10 minutes, or until slightly brown.  Let cool on a rack.  Lower oven temperature to 300 degrees F.

Put paddle attachment on stand mixer.  Mix cream cheese, ricotta, flour and salt on medium speed, scraping sides of bowl frequently, until very smooth and fluffy, about 5 minutes.  Make sure cheese has no lumps.  Add sugar and beat until well blended and smooth.

Add chocolate chips, orange zest (if using) and vanilla.  Beat until just combined, about 30 seconds.  Add eggs, one at a time, also beating until just blended.  Do not overbeat.  Pour filling into cooled crust and smooth top.

Bake for about 55-65 minutes (I baked for 55 minutes and the cheesecake was a tad jiggly; next time I would bake for 65 minutes).  The sides will be puffy and the center will look soft and jiggle. Set on rack and cool completely.  Cover and refrigerate, at least 8 hours and up to 3 days.  (it can also be frozen at this point for up to one month...see original recipe for freezing tips)

Unclasp and remove side of pan and run a long, thin spatula under the crust.  Slide onto flat serving plate carefully (or leave it on the bottom of the springform pan).  Garnish with confectioners' sugar if desired.  Dip knife in warm water before cutting each slice, wiping in between cuts. 

Source: I Was Born To Cook; originally adapted from Fine Cooking

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Chewy Biscoff chocolate chip cookies

That dang Biscoff got me again. I already bought a jar of it a few months ago and made Biscoff swirl gelato and Biscoff cupcakes with swiss meringue buttercream. When I was at the grocery store a few weeks ago, it started calling my name.  "Buy meeeeee... Buy meeeeee..."  I tried ignoring it, but the force was too strong. So I gave in and bought another jar.

I used half the jar to fill my vanilla bean macarons and needed to find a good recipe to use up the other half. I opened up my Google Reader and remembered that one of the blogs I follow, Kirbie's Cravings, featured a bunch of Biscoff recipes. I found this recipe for chewy Biscoff chocolate chip cookies and thought it would be a hit.

I followed Kirbie's advice and decreased the amount of sugar. I omitted 2 Tablespoons of both brown and white sugar so the cookies wouldn't be too sweet. The cookies baked up just like a regular chocolate chip cookie and had a very subtle Biscoff flavor to them. In fact, the Biscoff wasn't as pronounced as I thought they were going to be. The next time I make these, I will add more Biscoff so the flavor comes through more.  I would increase the Biscoff to about 3/4 cup and keep the reduced amount of sugar. But, the cookies were so soft and chewy and maintained this texture throughout the week.

I gave some cookies to our neighbors since they've been so kind to us (the mom crocheted a skirt, headband and scarf for Addison!). I found out shortly after delivering the cookies that they were gone in about 2 seconds flat. According to the younger son, his older brother "grabbed two handfuls" of cookies and disappeared upstairs. He, his mom and his dad had to fight for the rest of them. I'd say that this would qualify as a good recipe to keep - what do you think?

Ingredients
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • ½ cup granulated sugar (recommend removing 2 TBSP of sugar from this)
  • ½ cup packed light brown sugar (recommend removing 2 TBSP of sugar from this)
  • ½ cup Biscoff spread (recommend increasing to 3/4 cup)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 ½ cups flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
Directions
Preheat oven to 350F.

Cream butter with both sugars until light and fluffy. Mix in the egg, vanilla, and Biscoff.

In a separate bowl, mix the flour, baking soda, and salt. Then add into the wet mixture until just combined. Fold in the chocolate chips.

Drop the dough by large tablespoons onto baking sheet and bake for 6-8 minutes (mine baked for 7 minutes).

Yield: I used a medium cookie scoop and got about 21 cookies.

Source: Kirbie's Cravings; originally adapted from Lovin' From the Oven

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