Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Peanut Butter Cup Cake

Oh My Goodness!!! This has to be one of THE richest cakes I have ever eaten. This might rank right up there with the nine layer chocolate cake with chocolate ganache frosting at The Metropolitan Grill. You will definitely need a glass of milk, maybe even two, with a slice of this baby. If you love chocolate and peanut butter then you will think you have died and gone to heaven. If you only tolerate chocolate and peanut butter then you should probably just look and appreciate but move on to another recipe.

With the above being said, this cake was a little over the top for me. I can definitely handle the chocolate but I think the peanut butter pushed me over the edge. If I could just nibble a bite here and a bite there I was fine, but when I had to eat it as a slice I think I went into a sugar coma. So, when (yes, I said when not if) I make this again I will make a regular chocolate cake and use the chocolate peanut butter frosting. It was just a bit too much to have the peanut butter candies in the cake and in the frosting and on top of the frosting. It also made it difficult to slice neatly when you have big chunks of peanut butter cup throughout the cake.

The most difficult part of baking this cake had to have been unwrapping the over two and a half pounds of miniature peanut butter cups! And just look at how messy this cake is when you are putting it together. Yikes! But oh so fun to lick off the fingers when you are finished. Grab a glass of milk and enjoy!

Peanut Butter Cup Cake
Source: Bakerella

1 devil's food cake mix (or your own chocolate cake recipe)
3 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 cups chopped peanut butter cups (plus more for garnishing - I used almost a 2 pound bag)
8 oz. dark chocolate, chopped
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup peanut butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat two 9-inch cake pans with cooking spray. Line with wax paper and coat paper.

In a large bowl, beat cake mix, eggs, buttermilk, and vegetable oil on low for 30 seconds. Increase speed to medium-high, beat for 2 minutes. Scrape down sides after 1 minute. Fold in 2 cups of the chopped peanut butter cups.

Pour batter into pans as bake for about 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool cakes completely.

Place chopped dark chocolate in a medium bowl. Bring cream just to a boil and then pour over chocolate. Whisk until chocolate melts. Add peanut butter and whisk until smooth.

Trim each cake layer so the top is flat. Place one layer on a wire rack and pour 1 cup of frosting on top. Spread evenly with a spatula. Place second cake layer on top and pour remaining frosting over top and sides of cake. Smooth out with a spatula.

Gently press remaining chopped peanut butter cup pieces all over the top and sides of the cake. (Reserve larger chunks for top and smaller chunks for side - they tend to slide off if they are too heavy).

Place in refrigerator about an hour to set. Remove and serve.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Daring Bakers - Orange Tian

The 2010 March Daring Baker’s challenge was hosted by Jennifer of Chocolate Shavings. She chose Orange Tian as the challenge for this month, a dessert based on a recipe from Alain Ducasse’s Cooking School in Paris.

Where do I start? My brain is still trying to process the experience of my first Daring Baker's challenge. While each piece was not in itself a challenge to me, just making sure that I had read all the fine print, re-read helpful tips before getting started (and while baking), and making sure that I documented all my steps seemed to be the challenge for me. If any of you know me in real life you know that I like to do things correctly the first time through and I don't want to waste time or ingredients by messing up. This was somewhat of a test for me to take on recipes for various items that I had never made before and know that I might have to redo a step if it didn't work out like it was supposed to.

The recipe for Orange Tian was actually fairly easy to follow and put together even though all its elements needed to be made from scratch. There were essentially five parts: pate sablee (pastry crust), orange marmalade, whipped cream, orange segments, and caramel sauce.

The pate sablee, or pastry crust, took me by surprise a bit. I was expecting a flaky crust kind of like a pie crust whereas it actually resembled more of a sugar cookie. It was buttery and melted in your mouth. I didn't have any problems with this part of the recipe, besides trying to use my food processor that I never use instead of my Kitchenaid mixer.

Next up was the orange marmalade. This was an experience in and of itself. I remember when I was little and my family used to pick berries and then come home and make homemade jam. In all the years that we did that when I was younger, I had yet to make jam (or anything like it) as an adult. I probably could have minced the orange pieces smaller because they were a bit large when spreading on the pate sablee, but overall my marmalade experience went amazingly smooth.

I've made plenty of whipped cream before so I didn't figure I would have trouble with this part of the recipe. I'm not sure if I whipped it quite enough because it did seem a bit soft the moment it was out of the fridge, but it went together without a hitch.

Segmenting an orange was new territory for me. I am a visual learner so I was appreciative of the link that showed someone segmenting an orange on a cooking show. I'm not sure I would have been able to follow the directions if I hadn't been able to watch the demonstration. I should also mention here that the challenge allowed for variations in the citrus fruit used for the tian, so along with oranges I also made one with lemons and limes. Those were definitely a challenge to segment since they were so tiny and juicy. Once they sat in their juices all night they became a pile of mushy pieces so they weren't the prettiest things to work with. I would recommend using larger citrus fruit.

The caramel sauce was probably the most difficult of the individual pieces for me to make. My first batch (the two top photos) ended up going partially down the drain and partially in the garbage. Why both, you ask? Well, the fresh squeezed orange juice went down the drain and the rock hard caramelized sugar (at least the stuff I could get out of the pan) went into the garbage so no one would break their teeth on it. I followed the recipe heating the sugar in the pan until it turned bubbly, but it quickly went to brown which meant it burnt, and then immediately upon pouring orange juice into the pan the sugar turned into rock candy. Interesting science experiment but not something you want to have happen when you are trying to make a caramel sauce to soak your orange segments in.

Assembling all the pieces was a bit of a challenge. It had to sit in the freezer a bit longer than the recipe stated because the first time it came out the oranges started sliding off the whipped cream. The finishing touch: left over caramel sauce drizzled over the top. It was yummy and very rich! I would recommend doing smaller portions. The springform pan size could have served 2 or 3 and the small heart shape served one.

If you want the recipes you'll have to email me because they aren't posted at the Daring Bakers site anymore. Enjoy the orange tian!


Thursday, March 25, 2010

Lime Chicken Tacos

These tacos are highly addictive. You can dish up just one or two on your plate but it will feel like you've eaten nothing and you will want to keep going back for more and more. My husband and I make that comment every time we eat this meal and it never fails, we usually go back for thirds and wish we could go back for fourths. Enjoy!

Lime Chicken Tacos
Makes 12 tacos

1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts
3 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 cup frozen corn
1 cup chunky salsa
12 flour tortillas (6 inches), warmed (we've used corn and hard shell, also)
sour cream, shredded cheddar cheese and shredded lettuce, optional

Place the chicken in a 3-qt. slow cooker. Combine the lime juice and chili powder; pour over chicken. Cover and cook on low for 5-6 hours or until chicken is tender.

Remove chicken; cool slightly. Shred and return to slow cooker. Stir in corn and salsa. Cover and cook on low for 30 minutes or until heated through. Serve in tortillas with sour cream, cheese, and lettuce if desired.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Chocolate Peanut Banana Bread

You can never go wrong with a Betty C.rocker recipe, especially for baked goods. Her banana bread recipe has been my old standby for many, many years and this variety is one of my favorites. Enjoy!

Chocolate Peanut Banana Bread
Makes 2 loaves or 4 mini loaves

1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup margarine or butter, softened
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups mashed ripe bananas (3 to 4 medium)
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped peanuts

Place oven rack in lowest position. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease bottoms only of 2 loaf pans.

Mix sugar and margarine in large bowl. Stir in eggs until well blended. Add bananas, buttermilk, and vanilla. Beat until smooth. Stir in flour, baking soda, and salt just until moistened. Stir in chocolate chips and chopped peanuts.

Pour into pans. Bake about 60 to 75 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.

Cool 5 minutes. Loosen sides of loaves from pans; remove from pans. Cool completely before slicing.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Coconut Chocolate Chunk Blondies

Brownies = chocolate. At least that is the assumption that I have been going off of for my entire life. I have always figured that if I am going to make a brownie it's going to be a chocolate brownie, typically with as much chocolate as possible. So, in an effort to begin working on my Top 100 list I decided to bite the bullet and bake a blondie. For those of you who are in the dark as I was, a blondie is basically a brownie without the cocoa powder. It has a butter and sugar base so it tastes more like toffee. Of course, as you can see from my photo that chocolate can be added to the blondie if you can't live without it.

I enjoyed the detour from a chocolate based brownie. And yes, it took me summoning up all of my will power to not eat the whole pan in one day! Enjoy!

Coconut Chocolate Chunk Blondies
Source: Southern Food and Brown Eyed Baker

1 cup flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 ounces unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 large egg
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup flaked coconut
1 cup chocolate chunks or chips

--Optional Topping--
1 cup semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips
1 teaspoon butter or shortening

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour an 8 or 9 inch square baking pan.

Combine the flour and salt; set aside.

Stir together the melted butter and brown sugar until smooth; beat in egg and vanilla extract until well blended.

Slowly beat in the flour mixture until blended, then stir in the coconut and chocolate chunks.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth even with a rubber spatula. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until set in the center but still soft. Do not overbake.

For the optional topping: Combine the chocolate chips and butter in a small bowl and microwave in 30 second intervals until melted and smooth. Let the bars cool slightly before drizzling with chocolate. Cool completely before cutting them into bars.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Iron Cupcake Challenge - Chocolate Mint Chip Cupcakes with Swiss Mint Meringue Buttercream

Monday afternoon I was checking our local paper online for some information about a restaurant that we heard was possibly closing when I stumbled upon an article about a cupcake challenge that had been held at the restaurant this past summer. Who can resist a cupcake challenge? Not me, so I researched the contact person and sent off an email inquiring if their group was still holding challenges. Sure enough, I got an email back confirming that not only were they still hosting challenges but that the monthly challenge was that very evening. Well, as I said earlier, I cannot resist a challenge so I inquired further as to whether it would be too late for me to participate. After getting the green light from my husband and the affirmative that I could indeed still enter I frantically started searching for the perfect cupcake recipe for my entry. The theme, Ireland. What is more perfect for Ireland than green? What goes with green? Mint. What goes with mint? Chocolate! And that is how the search for Chocolate Mint Chip Cupcakes with Swiss Mint Meringue Buttercream was born.

I have to confess that I did not win the challenge. Sadly, I did not even come in the top three. However, my achievement was still sweet to me because I not only used a recipe that I had never made before, for both the cupcakes and frosting, but I had to wait to pick up a few necessary ingredients until after naptime and I still managed to whip up a double batch of cupcakes resulting in over 75 mini cupcakes and one regular sized while also preparing my display in just under 3 hours. Whew!

We won't tell anyone that I had to put my cupcakes in the freezer to cool them enough to frost them. We won't tell anyone that I was sitting in the backseat trying to pipe buttercream onto my little cupcakes and then sprinkle them with crushed mints while my husband was frantically trying to get us there on time. Finally, we won't tell anyone that my three year old son seems to have an aversion to sugar. He would rather have a tortilla than a fresh baked cupcake. I guess steering him away from sugar for his first few years is now reaping its benefits, but I digress.

For more information on the local Iron Cupcake challenge you can go here. Enjoy!

One trick I've learned for filling mini muffins and cupcakes is to fold the edges of a plastic bag (quart freezer works best because it is big enough and thick enough), set the bag in a small cup or bowl, and then pour or spoon the batter into the bag. You then seal it and snip a corner of the bag for whatever size hole you need for squirting the batter or frosting. It makes fairly evenly sized cakes and it is usually less messy. Also, this cupcake is a bit dense (you can see that in the picture) so make sure you don't overbake it. I didn't overbake and mine still were a little dry.

Chocolate Mint Chip Cupcakes
Source: Taste and Tell and How to Eat a Cupcake

1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup (2 ounces) unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped, melted
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
1/2 cup chocolate milk
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 (6 ounces) mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
chocolate garnish (jimmies, Andes baking mints, chocolate shavings)

Preheat oven to 350F. Insert liners into a medium cupcake pan.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar with an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3-5 minutes. Beat the melted chocolate into the butter mixture. Add the eggs, peppermint extract, and chocolate milk. Beat until creamy.

In a separate medium bowl, combine the flour and baking soda.

Add the dry ingredients to the chocolate mixture and beat until blended - do not over beat. With a rubber spatula, stir in the chocolate chips.

Fill the cupcake liners 2/3 - 3/4 full. Bake for 15-20 minutes (regular size cupcakes) or 10-12 minutes (mini cupcakes) or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool cupcakes in pan. Frost with desired frosting. Sprinkle with chocolate garnish.

Mint Swiss Meringue Buttercream
Makes about 3 cups

3 egg whites
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons peppermint extract
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Put egg whites and sugar in a double boiler over simmering water. Whisking constantly, cook until sugar has dissolved and mixture is warm (about 160 degrees).

Pour heated egg mixture into a clean bowl of a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat egg white mixture on high speed until it forms stiff (but not dry) peaks. Continue beating until fluffy and cooled, about 6 minutes. (It's very important to beat it for the whole 6 minutes.)

Switch to the paddle attachment. With the mixer on medium-low, add butter several tablespoons at a time, beating well after each addition. (If frosting appears soupy or separated after all butter has been added, beat on medium high speed until smooth again, 3-5 minutes more.)

Beat in all extracts. Reduce speed to low; beat 2 minutes to eliminate air bubbles. Stir with a rubber spatula until smooth.

Friday, March 12, 2010

My Top 100

Have you ever looked through all of your cookbooks in one night and realized how many delectable looking treats and breads have been right at your finger tips, some for almost 15 years, and you have yet to make them? That's what I experienced last night. So, I decided that I am going to make a list of my top 100 things that I would like to make/bake/cook so that I have something to refer to when I'm twiddling my thumbs some afternoon deciding what I'd like to bake. To be honest I guess I went over 100 by just a few, but that's pretty good considering how cookbook photographers make you drool over each and every recipe. (A few of these items I've made before, but I'd like to try a new variety this time around.)

Savory Breads
1. french bread
2. flat bread
3. deep dish pizza dough (2/23/12)
4. calzones (12/31/11)
5. wheat bread
6. popovers (7/24/11)
7. cheese whirls
8. cheese straws
9. breadsticks Soft Breadsticks (3/10/10)
10. cornbread (10/5/10)
11. sourdough bread
12. soft pretzels (3/11/11)
13. pita bread
14. soda bread Irish Soda Bread (4/14/11)
15. tortillas (7/12/11)
16. focaccia bread
17. antipasto bread
18. italian bread
19. dumplings (7/16/11)
20. baguette
21. stromboli (2/24/11)

Sweet Yeast Breads
22. monkey bread (12/27/11)
23. cinnamon swirl bread
24. babka
25. cinnamon rolls Cream Cheese Cinnamon Rolls (12/28/10)
26. yeasted coffee cake Meringue Filled Coffee Cake (3/27/11)
27. braided bread
28. challah

Quick Breads
29. french breakfast puffs
30. scones Quiche Lorraine Scones (3/27/10), Orange Cranberry Scones (4/16/10), Maple-Oatmeal Scones (7/5/10), Strawberry Scones
31. biscuits Basic Biscuits & Cheddar Biscuits (1/27/12)
32. english muffins
33. muffins Orange Blueberry (4/16/10), Raspberry Muffins (6/6/11)
34. banana bread (new flavor) Chocolate Peanut Banana Bread (3/23/10); Coconut Macadamia Banana Bread (2/16/11)
35. gingerbread
36. pound cake Browned Butter Pound Cake - Ice Cream Petit Fours (8/27/10)

37. turnovers
38. baklava (6/27/11)
39. cream puffs Croquembouche (5/27/10)
40. eclairs
41. pecan tassies
42. strudel

Spoon Desserts
43. pudding Traditional British Puddings (4/27/10)
44. mousse Chocolate Marscarpone Mousse - Pavlovas (6/27/10), Maple Mousse (4/27/11)
45. rice/bread pudding
46. trifle Raspberry/Lemon and Chocolate Pudding Trifles (1/29/11), Brownie Trifle (6/16/11)
47. tiramisu
48. torte
49. parfait
50. creme brulee
51. souffle

52. gingerbread cookies (12/24/11)
53. surprise cookies
54. macarons
55. macaroons
56. thumbprint cookies
57. pinwheel/spiral cookies
58. cream wafers
59. stained glass cookies
60. shortbread Dipped Shortbread (5/22/11)
61. biscotti
62. gingersnaps
63. french lace cookies
64. sugar cookies w/royal icing Valentine Sugar Cookies (2/14/10), Spring Flowers (3/30/10), Fall Themed Cookies (9/27/10)
65. skillet cookie
66. cookie bowl Edible Cookie Bowl (4/27/11)

67. blondies Coconut Chocolate Chunk Blondies (3/11/09)
68. rocky road brownies
69. caramel macadamia nut brownies
70. marbled brownies Peanut Butter Paisley Brownies (3/26/10)
71. lemon bars
72. rice krispy treats (new flavor) Scotcharoos (4/18/11)

73. peanut butter cup cake (3/14/10)
74. black forest cake Black Forest Cupcakes (10/12/10)
75. midnight cake
76. spice cake Apple Spice Cake with Caramel Drizzle (10/22/10)
77. german chocolate cake
78. angel food cake Mini Angel Food Cake (3/20/10)
79. bundt cake Apple Spice Cake with Caramel Drizzle (10/22/10)
80. six layer cake Six Layer Rainbow Cake (6/1/10)
81. checkerboard cake Raspberry Checkerboard Cake (5/18/11)
82. better than sex cake Chocolate Better Than Sex Cake (1/1/12), Better Than Sex Cake (2/4/1)
83. red velvet cake
84. boston cream pie
85. pineapple upside down cake
86. cake roll
87. madeleines
88. petit fours Ice Cream Petit Fours (8/27/10)
89. specialty cupcakes Mint Chocolate Chip w/Mint Swiss Buttercream (3/8/10), Tiramisu Cupcakes (4/12/10)
90. black bottom cupcakes

91. tartlets Caramel-Hazelnut Mini Tartlets (5/1/10)
92. fruit tart

93. lattice topped pie Apple Pie (11/16/11)
94. meringue pie
95. cream pie Triple Coconut Cream Mini Pies (4/25/10)
96. pecan pie
97. mini fruit pies Apple Pie (11/16/11)

98. ice cream cake Swiss Swirl Ice Cream Cake (7/27/10)
99. thick milkshakes
100. homemade ice cream (new flavor) Toasted Almond and Candied Cherry (7/27/10), Vanilla/Chocolate - both custard based (7/27/10)

Miscellaneous Desserts
101. popcorn balls
102. jello jigglers
103. peanut brittle

104. homemade dog treats (7/24/11)
105. applesauce
106. eggs benedict
107. aebelskivers Apple (2/6/11)
108. pancakes (new flavors) Apple Pancakes (3/19/10), Pumpkin Pancakes (10/31/10)
109. baked stuffed french toast
110. crepes

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Pico de Gallo and Guacamole

Homemade pico de gallo and guacamole graced our tv trays during the great eat fest of 2010 otherwise known as the Superbowl. Yes, I know that the Superbowl happened over a month ago and I am just now getting around to posting one of the appetizers that I made that day. So, I'm a little slow.

Anyway, I received the Pioneer Woman's cookbook as a Christmas gift this year and if you've never heard of the Pioneer Woman you'll have to go check out her website because she has some fantastic stuff on there. I had never before made guacamole, and let me tell you, there are a bazillion different recipes out there for variations on guacamole. Since I am such a visual learner I chose to follow the step by step instructions in her cookbook. Yes, I even bought, peeled, and chopped up an onion. If you know me you know that is about the third time in all my 15 years of being married that I have purchased and cut up raw onion to use in a recipe. It was also my first time using cilantro and I can tell you that if I chop it up again I will have a wooden clothespin over my nostrils. For some reason the smell of that herb got to me good.

You can find the recipe online, or you can also purchase her fabulous cookbook which has both recipes in it as well. You can also make pico de gallo and guacamole separate of each other if you would like to. Enjoy!

Pico de Gallo
Source: The Pioneer Woman

5 whole roma tomatoes
1/2 whole large (or 1 small) onion
3 whole jalapeno peppers
lime juice

Chop jalapenos, tomatoes and onions into a very small dice. (Leave seeds in your jalapenos for a hotter pico). Adjust amount of jalapenos to your preferred temperature. Next, chop up a nice-sized bunch of cilantro. Just remove and discard the long leafless stems before chopping. No need to remove the leaves from the stems completely. Place all of these ingredients together in a bowl and give it a good stir.
Squeeze the juice of half of one lime into the bowl. Add salt to taste and stir again.

3 whole avocados
pico de gallo
lime juice

Start with buttery-soft avocados. Halve them lengthwise and remove the pits. Next, with a spoon scrape the “meat” out onto a large plate. Next, with the bottom of a clean cup (or with a fork) mash the avocados, making sure to leave it relatively chunky. Add just a couple of shakes of salt to taste. Next, add a generous helping of Pico de Gallo. Fold together. Lastly squeeze the juice of half of a lime over the top. Give it one last stir.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Creamy Ham Fettucine

You will be asking for seconds, thirds, and fourths with this meal! Easy and yummy, who could ask for more. Enjoy! (By the way, my measurements are approximations. I never measure with this recipe. I usually just make about the same size pile of broccoli, tomatoes, and ham, as evidenced by the photo. Oh, and I've also made it using grilled, cubed, boneless skinless chicken breasts instead of the ham and that is yummy as well.)

Creamy Ham Fettucine
Makes 6 to 8 servings

1 package fettucine noodles
2 cups broccoli florets
1 1/2 cups grape tomatoes, quartered
1 small can of sliced olives
1 slice of ham steak
1 jar Classico Sun-Dried Tomato Alfredo Sauce

Heat water to boiling; cook fettucine as directed on package. At the same time, steam broccoli florets. While water is boiling and broccoli is steaming, quarter the tomatoes and cube the ham steak.

Drain noodles. Combine noodles, broccoli, tomatoes, olives, ham, and alfredo sauce in a large pot; stir. Heat through. Serve.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Sweet Cinnamon Biscuits

March 5th is arguably one of the three most important dates in our family. It is my husband's birthday. We like to celebrate big around our house, but unless my husband's birthday happens to fall on a weekend we usually do not get to make him a special birthday breakfast. You see on a typical day he leaves the house by 5:30am, and no matter how much we love him we are not getting up that early to make him breakfast. And by we, I really mean me. So, imagine how excited I was when I realized that even though his birthday was on a weekday this year, I happened to have scheduled our son's allergy testing appointment for later that morning so he would be home for breakfast.

I wanted this meal to be something that was a special treat, but I also needed it to be fast and easy to make. I did not want to slave away in the kitchen all morning, or even have to do prep in the days leading up to his birthday. While burning up a few extra minutes one afternoon I came across a recipe for the perfect combination of special, yet quick and easy. Say hello to Sweet Cinnamon Biscuits!

The recipe that I followed did not call for raisins and nuts but I wanted to at least do half that way since I am a raisin and nut lover, hence the photo with half of the dough and cinnamon/sugar mixture with walnuts and raisins. Waaaaay back in the day, say back in junior high home economics class, I learned a little trick for cutting your cinnamon rolls without squishing them. What is that trick, you ask? Dental floss. Yes, you heard right, dental floss. Tear yourself off a piece of dental floss, slide it under the rolled up log of dough to about where you want to make the cut, wrap it around the dough and pull the strings and you have a nice clean cut edge. Works like a charm every time. Enjoy!

Sweet Cinnamon Biscuits
Source: C Mom Cook

2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup buttermilk
about 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar (I did half white sugar and half brown sugar)
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Grease a 9 inch round baking pan lightly.

Combine flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda in a medium bowl and mix well. Stir in vegetable oil. Add buttermilk and stir just until blended.

Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface until smooth. Roll dough into a 15 x 8 rectangle. Spread butter over the dough.

Combine sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl and mix well. Sprinkle over butter. Roll up rectangle, jelly roll fashion, starting from one long side. Pinch seam to seal.

Cut the roll into 1-1/2 inch slices. Arrange the slices, cut side up, in prepared baking pan. Bake until lightly browned, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Rainbow Cake (Single Layer Version)

The first variation of a rainbow cake that I ever encountered was one in which each cake layer was a different color of the rainbow. Yes, that would be 6 layers of cake with plenty of sugary frosting between each layer and all over the sides and top of the cake. I knew this size would be over the top for our family of three, even if we did share with our friends and neighbors, so I began a search for a single layer version. One day I do plan to make the ultimate 6 layer rainbow cake (or at least a version of it) but for now, this single layer cake with do just fine for us.

After mixing the golden vanilla cake mix according the directions on the package, I separated the batter into six bowls. Being the type A baker that I am I felt the need to somewhat measure my portions so that I could make sure that I had successively smaller amounts of batter for each color. You can see from the picture that my largest color was red, followed by orange, yellow, green, blue, and finally violet. There is about a 2:1 ratio of red to violet. Once I separated the batter I added the appropriate food color. Gels work the best to get the most vivid colors.

The next step was to pour the batter into the springform pan. I poured the red batter into the center of the pan and then tapped it on the counter to get it spread out to about an inch or two from the edge. Each color you add will push the previous layers out so you don't need to go all the way to the edge with the red. Pour each successive color and tap between layers to spread out the color. Tap just a few times for green, and no taps for blue or violet. I would suggest that you put a cookie sheet below your springform pan when you bake it since the cake expands out the crack in the bottom of the pan.

Cool the cake completely before frosting. Did you know that you can cool your cake in the freezer if you don't want to wait all day for it to cool on the countertop? When it does come time to frost, choose a neutral or plain colored frosting. The beauty of this cake is on the inside so it's fun to use a plain color or even gray frosting so that you can take your cake eaters by surprise! I used both chocolate and vanilla and did yin and yang since I love chocolate and Ron loves vanilla; the best of both worlds. Enjoy!

Updated to add that you can also do cupcakes and mini cupcakes. A LOT more work than a single layer cake though, so be prepared.

Rainbow Cake

Makes one 9-inch springform pan

1 box golden vanilla cake mix (you can also use vanilla, yellow, or white)
1-1/4 cups water
1/3 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs
gel food coloring

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees (or 325 degrees for dark or non-stick pans). Grease and flour a 9 inch springform pan.

Prepare cake mix according to directions on box. Divide batter into six bowls. Measure out the batter so that the red has twice as much as the batter that will be violet. (For example, if there is 1 1/2 cups of batter for red then you will have about 3/4 cup of batter for violet.) Once all the battered is divided out, add the appropriate food coloring (gel coloring works best).

Pour the red batter into the bottom of the springform pan. Tap the pan on the counter to spread the batter to within an inch or two of the edge. Pour the orange batter directly onto the center of the red batter. Tap the pan; the red batter will continue to spread as the orange batter spreads. Continue with all colors: yellow, green, blue, then violet. For green you shouldn't need to tap much, and for blue and violet you shouldn't need to tap at all. Place cake pan on a cookie sheet to protect your oven from dripping.

Bake according to directions on the box (checking for doneness often since it is a double layer cake being baked as a single layer). Cool completely. Frost.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies

I have made quite a few cookies in my lifetime, and a few different varieties of chocolate peanut butter cookies no less, but when I saw the pictures for this particular variety I could not get them out of my head. For at least a week, I would think about them anytime I thought about what I should make for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, or when I thought about how I could otherwise occupy my time when I was bored. I finally gave in last night and baked them for our movie night treat.

I think that because it was the first time that I made them they were a bit more time consuming than if I had just made any of my regular standby cookie recipes. One batch only made 18 which was a good and a bad thing. Good in that you don't have a lot of extra cookies hanging around and they end up being pretty good size; bad in that it takes a bit of time to only get 18 cookies out of the process.

One tip that I have is please, please, please, use fresh peanut butter. We use Adam's natural peanut butter for everything, but since the recipe called for Skippy or "kids" peanut butter I found that I had some hanging around in the cupboard so I used that. Probably not a good idea to use peanut butter that is a few years old. Probably not a great idea to use peanut butter that is not supposed to separate but it did separate and you just stirred it back together. Probably not the best idea to use peanut butter that has an oily odor to it because it has separated. Probably a bad idea when the peanut butter makes you think about how long it takes peanut butter to go rancid. I think you get the idea; probably not a good one. Surprisingly the cookies did not taste too bad even with the old peanut butter, so I know they will be positively yummy the next time I make them with fresh, creamy peanut butter.

I followed the ingredient list exactly. The only change I made in the process was to roll out all 18 peanut butter balls first to make sure I had 18 and that they were all about the same size; then I did the same with the larger balls of chocolate dough. I didn't want to get to the end of wrapping them up only to realize that I was a few short for some reason. Enjoy!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies
Source: 99% Cacao Dark Chocolate

1-1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup "kids" peanut butter (like Skippy or Jif)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg
1/2 cup "kids" peanut butter
1/2 cup powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, and baking soda - blend it well; set aside. In a large bowl, beat together the sugar, brown sugar, butter, and 1/4 cup peanut butter until it is light, fluffy, and well combined. Add the vanilla and egg; beat well.

In a medium bowl, combine the 1/2 cup peanut butter and powdered sugar until completely combined. Roll the filling into 18 one-inch balls; set aside.

Stir the flour/cocoa mixture into the large bowl containing the creamed butter/sugars mixture until the ingredients are blended together.

Take a heaping tablespoon of chocolate dough (about the size of a ping pong ball) and roll it into a ball. (I would recommend you do this for all 18 cookies so you know you have enough dough.) Then use your hand to flatten the chocolate ball; place a peanut butter ball onto the middle; fold and shape the dough to entirely encase the peanut butter ball. Roll in your hands to make a smooth ball. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet (or you can cover with parchment paper).

Use the bottom of a drinking glass (or some other smooth glass object) to flatten the cookie balls to approximately 1/4- inch thick. Sprinkle granulated sugar over the top of the cookies - fairly liberally or the sugar will disappear when baked.

Bake for 7 to 9 minutes, or until the cookies are barely set and slightly cracked; they should still be soft. Do not overbake them or they will be dry. Let cool on cookie sheet for a few minutes before transfering to a cooling rack.