Boston Cream Pie

Boston Cream Pie

My good friend Eva, from Eva Bakes, and I thought it would be fun to tackle something off of our baking bucket lists together.  We would both make the same thing, choosing our own recipe, and then post the results.  First up? Boston cream pie.  Funny, I think I have only made about 5 layer cakes in my whole life.  Layer cakes to me are kind of fancy.  I am more of a cookie/brownie kind of girl.  But, I certainly have never turned cake down.  I love a challenge.

So I got up early Saturday morning to tackle this multi-step cake.  Unfortunately, my husband didn’t sleep well the night before and went back to sleep when I got up.  Let me just say, making this cake with baby Alex was not an easy feat.  He only took out the fire extinguisher, almost dumped a newly opened jar of cornstarch all over the floor,  shook salt onto the table, spilled a glass of water, and put a cup of dog food into the dog’s water. Ugh, I think that was it.  Given the circumstances, I think my cake came out pretty darn good.

Honestly, the cake really isn’t hard to make, it just takes a few steps.  To make the cake, you need to separate eggs and beat them in separate bowls, finally folding them together with flour. While the cakes bake, you make the pastry cream on the stove.  You then have some wait time for the cakes to cool and the pastry cream to set in the fridge.  After assembling the cake, you make a quick chocolate frosting to pour over the cake.  So, all easy…it just takes time.  You know the hardest part? Transferring the finished cake from the cooling rack to the serving plate.

The verdict? I thought that cake was delicious. You have a spongy buttery cake, filled with smooth, vanilla scented pastry cream, topped with thick chocolate glaze. How bad could it be? (I love Ina!)

So, one down, so many more to go. Thanks for baking with me, Eva! I can’t wait to see your cake!

Foolproof Sponge Cake

½ cup (2 oz) cake flour

¼ cup (1 1/4oz) all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking powder

¼ tsp salt

3 TBSP milk

2 Tbsp unsalted butter

½ tsp vanilla

3 large egg whites, room temp

¼ tsp cream of tartar

¾ cup (5 1/4oz) sugar – DIVIDED

3 large egg yolks, room temp

2 large eggs, room temp

Place oven rack in middle position and preheat to 350F. Grease and flour two 8in or 9in round cake pans (ATK recommends 9 in) and line with a circle of parchment. Grease the paper.

Whisk together the 2 flours, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl.  In a small saucepan, heat the milk and butter together on low until the butter is melted.   Off the heat, stir in the vanilla. Cover to keep warm.

In a large bowl, whip 3 egg whites and cream of tartar together with an electric mixer, on med-low until foamy, ~ 1 minute.  Increase speed to med-high and whip the egg whites until soft, billowy mounds form, ~ 1 minute.  Gradually whip in 6 Tbsp of sugar, ~ 30 seconds. Continue to whip until until shiny and form soft peaks, ~ 1 to 3 minutes.  Do NOT overbeat.

In a separate large bowl, whip the 3 yolks and 2 whole eggs with an electric mixer on med-high. Gradually add in the last 6 Tbsp of sugar, ~ 1 min. Continue to whip the mixture until very light in color and voluminous, ~ 4-6 minutes.

Gently pour the thick, yellow egg yolk mixture on top of the soft peaked egg white mixture.  Sift the flour mixture on top of that.  Now you have a white layer on the bottom, yellow yolk mixture in the middle and flour on top. Very gently, fold everything together with a rubber spatula, just until combined, ~ 12 folds. Pour the warm milk, in a steady stream, against the side of the bowl. Continue to fold until evenly combined and there are no streaks of flour, ~ 8 folds.

Immediately scrape the batter into the prepared cake pans. Bake until lightly brown and a toothpick in the center comes out with just a few crumbs, ~ 12-18 minutes. Do NOT rotate cakes while baking.

Immediately run a knife around the edges of the cakes and flip onto a parchment lined plate. Peel  off the parchment bottom and flip the cakes right side up onto a wire rack. Let the cakes cool completely, about 2 hours.

Pastry Cream

2 cups whole milk

6 large egg yolks

½ cup (3.5 oz) sugar

¼ tsp salt

¼ cup cornstarch

2 Tbsp unsalted butter

1 tsp vanilla

In a medium saucepan, bring the milk to a simmer. Meanwhile, whisk the yolks, sugar, and salt together in a medium bowl. Whisk in the cornstarch until pale yellow and thick, ~ 30 seconds.

Slowly whisk the hot milk into the egg yolk mixture to temper, then return the mixture to the saucepan and cook on medium heat. Whisk constantly until thick and glossy, ~ 1.5 minutes.  Remove from heat. Whisk in the butter and vanilla. Transfer the pastry cream into a small bowl and cover with plastic wrap directly pressed onto the surface, to avoid skin from forming.  Refrigerate until chilled and set, ~ 2 hours.

Chocolate Glaze

2/3 cup heavy cream

¼ cup light corn syrup

8 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped fine

½ tsp vanilla     

Put all the ingredients into a medium bowl. Microwave, stopping frequently to whisk.  Continue until all melted and smooth, ~ 1-2 minutes. Let the glaze cool, uncovered, until thick but still pourable, ~ 20 minutes.

Assembly:

Line a large baking sheet with parchment and place a wire rack on top. Place one of the cake layers on the rack. Spread the pastry cream on top of the cake, right to the edges. Place the other layer on top and press lightly to adhere.

Pour the chocolate glaze on top of the cake, letting it drip down the sides. Refrigerate uncovered, until the chocolate sets- at least 2 hours or up to 24 hours.  Before serving, transfer to a serving plate/cake stand and let warm up to room temperature, 30 to 60 minutes.

Source: The America’s Test Kitchen Family Baking Book

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French Silk Chocolate Pie

ATK's French silk pie

I’m sorry to have been absent this month.  I am very excited to have a great, new FT job!!  Then I also have my PT teaching job, three children, a husband, a dog….so, as you can imagine, November has been a bit busy. But, in a great way! 😀

I am happy to be the November hostess for What’s Baking.   I chose pie for the theme, figuring with Thanksgiving and all, it would be very fitting.  This year, we went to my mother-in-law’s for Thanksgiving and of course, I was in charge of dessert.  I decided to make a French silk pie because it has been my favorite ever since I was a little girl and my grandpa would bring one from Baker’s Square every time he visited.  I hadn’t made it since college, then  using a Pillsbury pie crust and a recipe with raw eggs.  But, with three kids, I figured this would just not do.  So, I thought the cooked version from ATK would be the perfect solution. And, I would scrap the store-bought crust and make my own pastry crust.  Oh, I always have grand plans…

So, I set off to make Martha’s pastry crust that I made last Thanksgiving.  But, I either forgot or didn’t read the directions carefully that the prepared crust had to be refrigerated for 1 hour before baking.  At this point, it was already noon and there was no time for that. So, I just put the crust in the oven as is and hoped for the best. When time was up, to my dismay, the crust totally shrunk down to about 1/2 inch tall.  Yeah, no way was this crust going to hold the French silk filling.  Oh, geez.  Now what?  Thank goodness we had some Oreos and so I made a quick cookie crust.  Problem solved.

For the filling, you will need a hand mixer to beat the eggs and sugar over a double boiler for ~8 minutes until they reach 160 degrees.  Midway through this process, my husband yelled for me to come upstairs.  He didn’t sound too happy, so I turned off the stove, put the mixer down, and went upstairs.  There I see Justin, holding Alex with blue, purple and green marker all over his face, hands, and the walls of his bedroom. Apparently Alex crawled out of his bed after his nap, found his sister’s markers, and decided that he and his room were in need of a makeover.  So, Justin had to put out that fire, while I went back to my pie.  Luckily, the rest of it went off without a hitch.

The pie was ready just in time to leave for my mother-in-law’s house.  I hadn’t made the whipped cream and chocolate curls yet, but the kitchen was all a bustle in apps, turkey and sides preparation.  So, I figured I should have an apple bourbon drink and just wait until after dinner to finish my pie.  But, the problem is, I cannot take pictures inside.  No matter how I adjust the white balance on my camera or how I edit it, I cannot get the color right on indoor pictures.  Of course, after dinner it was dark, so I didn’t get a photo 😦  But, this pie was crazy delicious and went fast.  So, what the heck, I would just have to make another one.  I mean, after all, I was hosting What’s Baking, I chose the theme of pie and then I had no pie?  This could not be.  I can think of many worse things than having to eat two French silk pies in one week.

French Silk Chocolate Pie

Yield: one 9 inch pie

For the crust:

18 Oreo cookies

3 Tbsp melted butter

Place cookies in the food processor and process until they are fine crumbs. Pour in the butter and process until well combined.

Press crumb mixture onto bottom and up the sides of 9-inch pie plate.  Refrigerate for 15 minutes. Bake at 350 degrees until the crust is fragrant, ~ 10 minutes. Let cool completely on a wire rack.

Source: I combined the recipes from Martha Stewart New Pies and Tarts and Kraft.

For the filling:

1 cup heavy cream, chilled
3 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons water
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces and softened

With an electric mixer on med-high, whip the heavy cream until stiff peaks, ~2 to 3 minutes. Put the whipped cream in a small bowl and refrigerate until needed.

Prepare a double boiler with a medium-sized saucepan filled with ½ inch of barely simmering water and place a large heat proof bowl on top. Put the eggs, sugar, and water into the bowl.  With electric mixer on medium speed, beat until the egg mixture is thick and registers 160 degrees on a candy thermometer, ~ 7 to 10 minutes. Remove the bowl from the heat.  Continue to beat the egg mixture until fluffy and cooled to room temperature, ~ 8 minutes.

Add the cool chocolate and vanilla to the cool egg mixture. Beat until incorporated. Beat in the softened butter pieces, a few at a time, until well combined. Using a spatula, fold in the whipped cream until no streaks of white remain. Scrape the filling into the pie shell. Refrigerate until set, at least 3 hours and up to 24 hours.

Garnish with sweetened whipped cream and chocolate curls if desired.

Source:  Cook’s Country Feb/March 2009

For the sweetened whipped cream topping:

1 cup heavy cream

1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar

Chocolate curls, if desired

With an electric mixer on med-high, whisk cream just until soft peaks form.  Add confectioner’s sugar and whisk until stiff peaks.  Spread whipped cream over the chocolate filling.

Garnish with chocolate curls just before serving if desired.  To do this, heat a thick bar of milk chocolate in the microwave for 15 second increments until it softens a bit, but doesn’t melt. Use a peeler along the long side of the chocolate bar to make the curls.  Don’t worry, it’s easier than it looks.

 Source: Martha Stewart New Pies and Tarts

Whats Baking Badge

Really Good Pumpkin Bread

Fall is here, so that means the wait is finally over.  It is now time to break out the pumpkin!  And just in time, I got the new Cook’s Illustrated magazine and saw a recipe for “really good pumpkin bread”.  Well, that sounds like a challenge to me.  Is it really good pumpkin bread?  I need to find out.  The weird thing about this recipe is that you actually cook the canned pumpkin.  This sort of takes the quick out of quick bread, but according to CI, it is supposed to remove the raw, tinny taste of canned pumpkin.  I never noticed that before, but whatever, I went with it.  I’m sure it also concentrates the pumpkin flavor, which can only be a good thing.  You add the usual fall spices of cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg, which together make the house smell absolutely amazing as the bread bakes.  You then sprinkle the batter with a delicious cinnamon streusel which gives a nice crunch and spicy sweetness to the top of the bread.

Jack and Sammie wouldn’t even try it.  Oh well, their loss.  My husband, Justin, a pumpkin bread connoisseur, loved it.  He said it wasn’t as dense as other pumpkin breads, but in a good way.  The baby also loved it.  I gave Alex a small piece at a time, so as not to make a big mess.  He kept coming back and enthusiastically using his hands to sign for more.  So is this really good pumpkin bread?  Yes, of course.  I mean, at least in my experience, the folks at Cook’s Illustrated are never wrong.

Really Good Pumpkin Bread

Yield: two 8.5 x 4.5 inch loaves (or you can use two 9×5 inch pans, but check for doneness 5 minutes early)

For the Topping: 

5 tablespoons packed (2 1/4 ounces) light brown sugar

1 tablespoon all purpose flour

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon salt

Using your fingers, mix all five ingredients together in small bowl until well combined.  The topping should look like wet sand.  Set aside.

For the bread:

2 cups (10 ounces) all purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 (15-ounce) can unsweetened pumpkin puree

1 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

1 cup (7 ounces) granulated sugar

1 cup packed (7 ounces) light brown sugar

1/2 cup vegetable oil

4 ounces cream cheese, cut into 12 pieces

4 large eggs

1/4 cup buttermilk

1 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped fine   I omitted

Adjust oven rack to the middle and preheat to 350F. Spray two 8 1/2 by 4 1/2-inch loaf pans with nonstick spray (Pam).  Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and baking soda in a medium bowl. Set aside.

Combine the pumpkin puree, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves in large saucepan over medium heat. Cook the pumpkin mixture, stirring constantly, until reduced to 1½ cups, ~ 6 to 8 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat. Stir in granulated sugar, brown sugar, oil, and cream cheese until combined. Let mixture sit for 5 minutes so the cream cheese can melt. Whisk until you can’t see pieces of cream cheese and mixture is homogeneous.

Whisk together eggs and buttermilk. Add the egg mixture to pumpkin mixture. Whisk to combine. Gently fold the flour mixture into pumpkin mixture until just combined (some small lumps of flour are okay). Fold walnuts into batter, if using. Scrape the batter, half into each of the two sprayed pans. Sprinkle the topping evenly over the top of each loaf. Bake until skewer inserted in center comes out clean, ~ 45 to 50 minutes. Let breads cool in pans on wire rack for 20 minutes. Remove the breads from the pans. Let cool for at least 1½ hours. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Source:  Cook’s Illustrated September/October 2012

Beer-Batter Cheese Bread

This month for What’s Baking, the theme quick breads was chosen by Jenna at Jenna’s Cooking Journey.  Sometimes, I have a little trouble with yeast or I don’t have time to wait for my dough to rise.  So, the beauty of quick breads is that they don’t use yeast, there is no rising time and you have homemade bread in under an hour.  Fabulous!  I don’t do a lot of savory baking, since we prefer sweets in my house.  But when I was looking for a quick bread recipe, the beer-batter cheese bread caught my eye.  My husband isn’t a big sweets guy, but he sure loves cheese and beer. 😀   So when I saw this bread, I immediately thought of him and how much he would love it.

To make the batter, you mix together the dry ingredients and with a light hand, mix in the wet ingredients. That’s it.  I am telling you, this batter will be ready before the oven is even preheated. How great is that?  Before baking, the bread is brushed with butter, which I was a bit nervous about thinking it might get too dark, even burn. But, as usual, America’s Test Kitchen knows what they are doing and the butter gave the crust it’s beautiful golden color.  After impatiently waiting the recommended hour for it to cool (okay I only waited a half hour), I cut a slice, put it in the toaster oven and slathered it with butter.  I was surprised how much this tasted like a yeast bread because of the beer.  I love the flecks of gruyere cheese you can see in the crust and on the inside the cheese completely melts into the bread, giving it a wonderful tang.  Beer. Cheese. Bread.  In under an hour.  I mean really, need I say more?  😀

Beer-Batter Cheese Bread

2 1/2 cups (12 1/2 oz) all-purpose flour
4 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated (about 1 cup)
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder  preferably aluminum-free
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
1 1/4 cups beer    preferably mild-tasting ales, lagers, and pilsners  (dark beers will be too bitter).  I used Coors Light.
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

1 tablespoon of melted butter to brush on top.

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position. Preheat to 375F. Grease an 8 1/2-by-4 1/2-inch loaf pan. WS goldtouch pans come in this size and they are fabulous.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, cheese, sugar, baking powder, salt and pepper until well mixed.  Stir in the beer and 4 tablespoons melted butter until just combined. Be careful not to overmix or your bread will be tough and dense.

Scrape the really thick batter into the greased loaf pan and smooth the top. Brush lightly with 1 tablespoon of melted butter. Bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with just a few crumbs attached, ~40 to 45 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking.

Let the loaf cool in the pan for 10 minutes before turning it out onto a wire rack. Cool for 1 hour before serving.

Yield: one 81/2 x 4 1/2 in loaf

Source:  The America’s Test Kitchen Family Baking Book

Soft Frosted Sugar Cookies

If you haven’t noticed already, my family loves soft cookies, frosted, with pretty sprinkles.  So, I tend to make lots of different recipes fitting these three criteria.  I actually made the original recipe for these cookies about a year ago, and while they were good, the frosting was a bit too thin for my taste.  In this house, we like lots of frosting, especially when it is piped on all pretty like.  But, it wasn’t possible with this particular frosting recipe as written.  I suppose I could have added more powdered sugar.  But with the melted butter instead of softened butter in the recipe, I think I would have had to add lots of it, changing the taste of the frosting.  When I saw these soft frosted cookies on my beloved Pinterest (Gosh, sorry, I know I am obsessed), I knew this was exactly the recipe I was looking for.  It uses the same, soft vanilla flavored base but then the cookie is frosted with a thick, pipeable, buttercream frosting.  I mean, you gotta love those perfect swirls of frosting. Okay, maybe not so perfect.  I just realized I need to work on that.

Originally I had something else planned to make this morning, but I decided today was the kind of day that could use some uplifting from sprinkles.  It just isn’t possible to see this bright colored confetti and not smile.  Especially if it is the topping to a big, fat sugar cookie, with so much frosting it is almost too much…Almost. 😀  These are so delicious, they put those always enticing grocery store cookies to shame.  Sorry Lofthouse, we don’t need you anymore.

Soft Frosted Sugar Cookies

For the Cookie:

4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

4 1/2 tsp baking powder

3/4 tsp salt

3 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 1/2 cups sugar

3 large eggs

5 tsp vanilla extract

Sift together the dry ingredients: flour, baking powder and salt.   I didn’t sift. Instead I mixed it and fluffed it well with a whisk. 

Add the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer.  Beat them together with the paddle on medium-high speed until soft and fluffy, ~ 2-3 minutes

Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Scrape down the bowl as needed.  Blend in the vanilla.

With the mixer on low, slowly pour in the dry ingredients.  Mix just until incorporated and evenly mixed.

Cover and chill the dough for 1 hour.  Preheat the oven to 350F about 20 minutes before removing the dough from the fridge.

When you are ready to bake the cookies, scoop a scant 1/4 cup of dough (I used a medium cookie scoop) and roll into a ball.

Flatten the ball slightly with your fingers and place on baking sheet lined with parchment.

Repeat with the remaining dough, spacing the cookies at least 2-3 inches apart to allow for some spreading.

Bake at 350°F for about 10-12 minutes or just until set.  Do not overbake!  The edges should be no more than very lightly browned (if at all).  The cookies should stay very white in color on top, with some browning on the underside.

Let cool on the baking sheet for several minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.

For the frosting:

2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened

2 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted   I did not and it was fine

1/8 tsp salt

1 tsp vanilla extract

Food coloring   optional

Sprinkles  optional

In a stand mixer, beat the butter on medium-high speed with the whisk attachment, until smooth, ~ about 20 seconds

Add confectioners’ sugar and salt.  Beat on medium-low speed until most of the sugar is moistened, ~ 45 seconds

Scrape down the bowl with a spatula. Beat on medium speed until mixture is fully combined, ~ 15 seconds

Scrape bowl again and add vanilla. Beat on medium speed until incorporated, ~10 seconds.  Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, ~ 4 minutes, scraping down bowl once or twice as needed.

If you want too add in the food coloring do so now.  Mix until it is well combined and one solid color.  I find it easiest to put the frosting in a Ziplock bag and pipe it on.  Add the sprinkles and let dry for a few hours for the frosting to set.

Source:  Cookies from Deliciously Declassifed, as seen on Annie’s Eats, originally from Hostess with the Mostess  and the buttercream frosting is from Deliciously Declassified, originally from Cook’s Illustrated.

M&M Confetti Cookies

I know I have said this before, but I ♥ Pinterest.   Once I get started, I can stay up way late into the night, just scrolling through the food category, telling myself just one more page, and then another, and another… I am so tired and I have to get up with the baby early in the morning and yet, I keep on scrolling.  I know I am not the only one.  I’m not, right?  There are just too many great ideas and amazing looking recipes.  Awhile back, I came across these M & M confetti cookies and pinned the recipe because I thought it was so clever.  Instead of throwing whole M & Ms into your cookie dough, you bang the hell out of them with a stick (Burbs anyone? 😀 ) to create chocolate and candy coating confetti.  In Munchkin Munchie’s recipe, she added the confetti to sugar cookie dough.  And, while these look delicious, I decided to add them to one of my favorite chocolate chip cookie dough bases, replacing the chocolate chips.  So fun looking right?  You get the look of sprinkles and milk chocolate in every bite of this perfectly chewy cookie.  Definitely another keeper for Jack’s lunch box.

M&M Confetti Cookies

Makes about 18 large cookies.

2 cups plus 2 tablespoons (10 5/8 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled until warm
1 cup packed (7 ounces) light or dark brown sugar     I use light brown sugar
1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) granulated sugar
1 large egg and 1 egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
8 oz bag of M & Ms, crushed (more or less to your liking)

Adjust the oven racks to the upper- and lower-middle positions.  Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.

Whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt together in a medium bowl. Set aside.

Either by hand or with an electric mixer, mix the butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar until thoroughly blended. Beat in the egg, the yolk, and vanilla until combined. Add the dry ingredients and beat at low speed (or mix by hand with a spatula) just until combined. Crush the M & Ms in a big Ziploc bag with a rolling pin (or any other heavy object you have handy) . Stir in the crushed M & Ms.

Roll a scant 1/4 cup of the dough into a ball. Hold the dough ball with the fingertips of both hands and pull into 2 equal halves. Rotate the halves 90 degrees and, with jagged surfaces facing up, join the halves together at their base, again forming a single ball, being careful not to smooth the dough’s uneven surface. (Or, if you prefer,  you can just use a large cookie scoop to portion the dough.)  Place the formed dough balls on the prepared baking sheets, jagged surface up, spacing them 2 1/2 inches apart.  See Brown Eyed Baker’s Blog for a good illustration of this shaping method.  

Bake until the cookies are light golden brown, the outer edges start to harden, and  yet the centers are still soft and puffy, 15 to 18 minutes, rotating the baking sheets front to back and top to bottom halfway through the baking time. Cool the cookies on the sheets. Make sure you cool them on the sheet to maintain the right texture.  Remove the cooled cookies from the baking sheets with a wide metal spatula.

Source:  The New Best Recipe for the cookie base and  Munchkin Munchies for the M & M confetti

Hot Fudge Pudding Cake

Happy birthday to me! Ugh, another year closer to 40. 😀  That’s okay, because it was a good one. My husband got up early with the baby so I could sleep in a bit.  When I woke up, Justin made me my favorite ATK buttermilk pancakes and bacon.  The kids colored me birthday cards, with Sammie’s all covered in pretty Disney princess stickers.  My husband had to coach a volleyball game tonight, so we are going to celebrate tomorrow with dinner and a movie. My sisters in law are awesome and are taking the kids for the night, so we can sleep in Saturday.   So, today I spent the day with the kids and I had to get some grading done before date night.

I didn’t have a lot of time to make a layer cake or cupcakes.  So, I decided to make a cake that makes its own sauce, this hot fudge pudding cake.  It’s kind of crazy in that you make the batter, put a thick (and I mean thick) cover of cocoa powder mixed with sugar over it, and then pour boiling water over that.  But, it’s an America’s Test Kitchen recipe, so I don’t question, I just do it.  So, you put your cake covered in boiling water in the oven and bake it.  It magically transforms, as all that liquid goes to the bottom and a cratered, cake forms on top.  When you scoop out the chocolate cake, there is a thick layer of hot fudge sauce underneath.  Make sure you get all that goo, as that is the best part.  Then, of course, you must add a scoop of ice cream to the warm cake.  Mmm..ice cream and cake, with my kids, at 3 in the afternoon, completely spoiling our dinner.  Now, that’s a happy birthday!

Hot Fudge Pudding Cake

Yield: 8×8 cake

1 cup sugar, divided

1/2 cup Dutch processed cocoa powder, divided

1 cup all purpose flour

2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 cup milk

4 tbsp (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted

1 large egg yolk

2 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1 cup boiling water

Vanilla ice cream or whipped cream for serving

Adjust the oven rack to the middle position.  Preheat the oven to 350F. Spray an 8×8 metal or glass pan with cooking spray.  Whisk 1/2 cup of sugar with 1/4 cup of cocoa in a small bowl.

Whisk flour, remaining 1/2 cup of sugar, remaining 1/4 cup of cocoa, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.

Whisk milk, melted butter, egg yolk, and vanilla in a medium bowl until smooth.

Stir the milk mixture into the flour mixture, just until combined.  Fold in the chocolate chips. The batter will be stiff.

Using a rubber spatula, scrape batter into the prepared pan and spread into the corners. Sprinkle the reserved cocoa mixture over the top.  Gently pour the boiling water over the cocoa.  Don’t stir.

Bake until the top of the cake looks cracked, sauce is bubbling, and a toothpick inserted into a cakey area comes out with moist crumbs attached, ~ 25 minutes.  Do not overcook, or the cake will be dry and lose its fudge sauce.  So, err on the side of under.  Cool on a rack for at least 10 minutes. To serve, scoop warm cake into individual bowls and top with ice cream or whipped cream.

Store leftovers, covered in plastic, in the fridge.  Reheat individual servings in the microwave.

Source:  Cook’s Country February/March 2007

English Muffin Bread

English Muffin Bread

My husband isn’t a sweet breakfast sort of guy.  I mean if I make French toast or pancakes, he wouldn’t turn them down or anything.  But, he would much rather have a savory breakfast sandwich any day.  Justin’s first choice of bread for his sandwich would be a pretzel roll, with an English muffin as a close second.  But, it can’t be just any English muffin. Nope, it has to be Bays, definitely not a Thomas.  Now, I know I cannot be the only one who hates the Bays’ packaging.  If you remove a few muffins, you can roll the end of the package over to sort of seal it.  Or, you can do as I usually do and throw them all in a Ziploc bag.  I don’t know why, but this drives me so crazy every time I open a package! 😀  Anyways, to surprise my husband, I wanted to try my hand at making homemade English muffins. But, then I saw this bread recipe.  Perfect. I get the same taste and texture of English muffins, while omitting the shaping and frying steps.

I, like many bakers, get a bit intimidated by yeast. But, I have gotten better with practice, a digital scale for flour and a thermometer to measure water temperature.  Looking at the recipe, it didn’t look too much harder than a quick bread, except you need to allot time for 2 rises.  It wasn’t hard at all.  Really. This is a great bread to tackle your fear of yeast!  The bread bakes up with a beautiful crispy crust, which envelopes the chewy interior of nooks and crannies, just waiting to be filled with melted butter.  I enjoyed my bread toasted with butter (real please) and some strawberry jelly.  My husband had his favorite egg, cheese and bacon breakfast sandwich and ate some more as toast.  I think he ate a whole loaf by himself.  It’s a good thing this recipe makes two!

English Muffin Bread

Yield:  2 loaves

Cornmeal  (for dusting)

5 cups (27 1/2 ounces) bread flour

4 1/2 teaspoons instant or rapid-rise yeast

1 tablespoon sugar

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

3 cups whole milk, heated to 120 degrees

Grease two 8½ x 4½-inch loaf pan. Dust with cornmeal.  Combine flour, yeast, sugar, salt, and baking soda in large bowl. Stir in hot milk until combined, ~1 minute. Cover the dough with greased plastic wrap. Let rise in warm place for 30 minutes, or until dough is bubbly and has doubled.

Stir dough and divide between prepared loaf pans.  Push the dough into the corners with greased rubber spatula. The pans should be about two-thirds full. Cover the pans with greased plastic.  Let the dough rise in warm place until it reaches edge of pans, ~ 30 minutes. Adjust the oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees.

Discard plastic and put the pans in the oven. Bake until bread is well browned and registers 200 degrees, ~ 30 minutes, rotating and switching pans halfway through baking. Turn bread out onto wire rack and let cool completely, about 1 hour. Slice, toast, and serve.

Source: Cook’s Country April/May 2012

Triple Citrus Bars

Back in April, I made key lime pie bars and I loved them so much, I ate most of them myself (almost half while taking the pictures). Embarrased smile At the bottom of the recipe, there was a variation for triple citrus bars that also sounded delicious, but I didn’t have the lemons and oranges.  So, I stuck with the lime and bookmarked these to make some other time.   Tonight we had a bunch of people over for a Burbs viewing party (how awesome is that?) and so I made the “god damn brownies”, Baked of course.  I thought these citrus bars would be the perfect non-chocolate dessert to serve with the super rich fudgy brownies. And, that way, I couldn’t eat them all this time.

These bars are really easy to make.  The hardest and most time consuming part is collecting up all the zest and all the juice.  But, I loved the contrast of the tartness from the lime and lemon with the sweetness from the orange.  The flecks of orange, green and yellow zest looked so pretty against the cream colored base.  So, it is well worth the effort.  I really enjoyed the animal cracker crust as opposed to the usual graham cracker. Its more neutral flavor really allows the citrus flavors to sing.  Then you have the creaminess from the condensed milk.  Mmmm…condensed milk.  Am I the only one that could eat a can of this stuff with a spoon?

I’m sure you have had lemon bars a million times.  And, they are delicious, one of my favorites.  But, next time you have a taste for citrus…change things up a bit and try these triple citrus bars. You won’t be sorry.

Triple Citrus Bars

Yield: 8 x 8 pan (9 to 16 bars depending on how you cut them)

For the crust:

5 oz animal crackers

3 tablespoons  brown sugar

pinch salt

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly

Filling:

2 ounces cream cheese, room temperature

1 1/2 teaspoons grated lime zest

1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon zest

1 1/2 teaspoons grated orange zest

pinch salt

1 (14-oz) can sweetened condensed milk

1 large egg yolk

6 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon fresh orange juice

Adjust the oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 325 F. Line an 8 x 8 baking pan with 2 pieces of foil perpendicular to each other, leaving overhang on all 4 sides.  Spray foil with nonstick cooking spray.

For the crust:  Pulse animal crackers in the food processor until broken down, ~ 10 pulses. Process the crumbs until evenly fine, about 10 seconds (you should have about 1 1/4 cups crumbs). Add brown sugar and salt; process to combine, 10 – 12 pulses (if large sugar lumps remain, break them apart with fingers). Drizzle butter over crumbs and pulse until crumbs are evenly moistened, ~ 10 pulses. Press crumbs evenly and firmly into bottom of prepared pan. Bake until deep golden brown, 18 to 20 minutes. Cool on wire rack while making filling. Do not turn off oven.

For the filling:  While crust cools, in medium bowl, stir cream cheese, zests, and salt with rubber spatula until softened, creamy, and thoroughly combined. Add the condensed milk and whisk vigorously until incorporated and no lumps of cream cheese remain.  Whisk in the egg yolk. Add the 3 juices and whisk gently until incorporated (mixture will thicken slightly).

Pour filling into crust; spread to the corners and smooth the surface with rubber spatula. Bake until set and edges begin to pull away slightly from sides, 15 to 20 minutes. Cool on wire rack to room temperature, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Cover with foil and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, at least 2 hours.

To serve, loosen edges with paring knife and lift bars from baking pan using foil extensions. Cut the bars into 16 squares.  Leftovers can be refrigerated up to 2 days; the crust will soften slightly. Let the bars stand at room temperature about 15 minutes before serving.

Source:  More Best Recipes

Low-Fat Chocolate Pudding

If a recipe says low-fat in the title, I hate to admit that I immediately dissmiss it.  To me desserts are full-fat or they just aren’t worth it.  But, it is usually because I don’t like the taste and texture of the low-fat products they contain like cream cheese or sour cream.  But, when I looked at this recipe for low-fat chocolate pudding, it contained all the usual ingredients I cook with but still has half the fat and calories.  Say what?  I had to try it and see how it compares to traditional homemade chocolate pudding.

Who knew that homemade pudding doesn’t take much more time than Jello pudding in a box?  And, you won’t believe how much better it tastes…even this low-fat version.  When I made the pudding, I just started getting a terrible cold, so unfortunately I wasn’t able to taste it too well.  But, I can still guarantee that this pudding tastes fantastic.  How?  Well Jack and Sammie both tore through their bowls in record time and asked for more.  They were sad when I told them that it was gone.  When I turned to them after feeding baby Alex some pudding, I saw that they both licked their bowls clean enough to put back in the cabinets.  I’ve never seen them do that before! So, I think I can safely say this is some tasty pudding.  You definitely will not miss the extra fat and calories.

Low-Fat Chocolate Pudding

Yield: 4 servings

2 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped

2 Tablespoons cocoa, preferably dutch processed

2 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch

1/2 cup sugar

1/8 teaspoon of salt

2 1/2 cups whole milk

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Melt chocolate over double boiler or in the microwave (I recommend).  Cool slightly.

Whisk together the cocoa powder, cornstarch, sugar and salt in a heavy bottomed medium saucepan.  Add milk all at once and whisk to incorporate.  Whisk in melted chocolate.

Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, whisking until smooth.  Once boiling, reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring constantly with a heatproof spatula or wooden spoon, making sure to scrape the edges of the pan, for 2 minutes.  The mixture will become thick and glossy.

Remove the pan from heat and stir in vanilla.  Pour pudding through a fine-mesh strainer and into a heatproof bowl, pushing gently with a spatula or spoon.  Leave any solids in the strainer.

Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pudding to prevent a yucky skin from forming.  Refrigerate for 4 hours or until completely chilled.  (Pudding will keep up to 2 days). Gently stir before transferring into individual bowls for serving.

Source:  Cook’s Country Charter Issue 2005

Nutritional Information from Cook’s Country:

Cook’s Country

Traditional

Calories

286

581

Fat

13g

34g

Cholesterol

21mg

202mg

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