Tuesday, April 22, 2008

TWD: Bill's Big Carrot Cake

This week's TWD recipe was chosen by slow like honey. I'm not usually a big fan of carrot cake, but have changed my mind since having this cake! I love the coconut and dried cranberries in it! It was moist and had wonderful flavor! This recipe came together easily. I had no problems with it. I used pecans, topped the cream cheese frosting with extra coconut and also added a few dried cranberries. Wonderful! I will definately be making this again.

Be sure to check out the TWD website to see how everyone's recipe turned out.

Bill's Big Carrot Cake
Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan

Yields 10 servings


For the cake:
2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
¾ teaspoon salt
3 cups grated carrots (about 9 carrots, you can grate them in food processor fitted w/ a shredding a blade or use a box grater)
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans
1 cup shredded coconut (sweetened or unsweetened)
½ cup moist, plump raisins (dark or golden) or dried cranberries
2 cups sugar
1 cup canola oil
4 large eggs

For the frosting:
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 stick ( 8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 pound or 3 and ¾ cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice or ½ teaspoon pure lemon extract
½ cup shredded coconut (optional)
Finely chopped toasted nuts and/or toasted shredded coconut (optional)

Getting ready:
Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter three 9-x-2-inch round cake pans, flour the insides, and tap out the excess. Put the two pans on one baking sheet and one on another.

To make the cake:
Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. In another bowl, stir together the carrots, chopped nuts, coconut, and raisins.
Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the sugar and oil together on a medium speed until smooth. Add the eggs one by one and continue to beat until the batter is even smoother. Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture, mixing only until the dry ingredients disappear. Gently mix the chunky ingredients. Divide the batter among the baking pans.
Bake for 40-50 minutes, rotating the pans from top to bottom and front to back at the midway point, until a thin knife inserted into the centers comes out clean. The cakes will have just started to come away from the sides of the pans. Transfer the cakes to cooling racks and cool for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes and unmold them. Invert and cool to room temperature right side up.
The cakes can be wrapped airtight and kept at room temperature overnight or frozen for up to 2 months.

To make the frosting:
Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and butter together until smooth and creamy. Gradually add the sugar and continue to beat until the frosting is velvety smooth. Beat in the lemon juice or extract.
If you'd like coconut in the filling, scoop about half of the frosting and stir the coconut into this position.

To assemble the cake:
Put one layer top side up on a cardboard cake round or a cake plate protected by strips of wax or parchment paper. If you added the coconut to the frosting, use half of the coconut frosting to generously cover the first layer (or generously cover with plain frosting). Use an offset spatula or a spoon to smooth the frosting all the way to the edges of the layer. Top with the second layer, this time placing the cake stop side down, and frost with the remainder of the coconut frosting or plain frosting. Top with the last layer, right side up, and frost the top- and the sides- of the cake. Finish the top with swirls of frosting. If you want to top the cake with toasted nuts or coconut, sprinkle them on now while the frosting is soft.
Refrigerate the cake for 30 minutes, just to set the frosting before serving.

This cake can be served as soon as the frosting is set. It can also wait, at room temperature and covered with a cake keeper overnight. The cake is best served in thick slices at room temperature and while it's good plain, it's even better with vanilla ice cream or some lemon curd.

The cake will keep at room temperature for 2 to 3 days. It can also be frozen. Freeze it uncovered, then when it's firm, wrap airtight and freeze for up to 2 months. Defrost, still wrapped, overnight in the refrigerator.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

TWD: Marshmallows

This weeks TWD recipe was chosen by Judy's Gross Eats. I was excited to see that Marshmallows were chosen. I love marshmallows, but was a bit nervous about this recipe since I've never made them before. I didn't have any trouble with the recipe, it came together nicely. I did use a different size pan, so my marshmallows turned out a bit thinner than I think they should have been. But, the flavor was great! I stuck to the regular recipe of vanilla flavored marshmallows. I hope to experiment with other flavors in the future.
Be sure to check out how everyone else did with their marshmallows at the TWD site!


Including marshmallows as a spoon dessert may seem like cheating -- after all, they're eaten with fingers (or, by campers, from sticks picked up in the forest) -- but making them at home is too much fun to miss. And in fact this dessert is related to others in this chapter: the base is meringue -- sweetened and strengthened by a cooked sugar syrup and fortified by gelatin.There's nothing difficult about making the marshmallows, but the meringue does need a long beating. While you can use a hand mixer, a stand mixer makes the job easier.I'm giving you the recipe for a basic vanilla marshmallow. See Playing Around (below) for raspberry, chocolate, cappuccino and pumpkin marshmallows.Makes about 1 pound marshmallows
About 1 cup potato starch (found in the kosher foods section of supermarkets) or cornstarch
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
2 1/4-ounce packets unflavored gelatin
3 large egg whites, at room temperature
3/4 cup cold water
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups plus 1 tablespoon sugar
GETTING READY: Line a rimmed baking sheet -- choose one with a rim that is 1 inch high -- with parchment paper and dust the paper generously with potato starch or cornstarch. Have a candy thermometer at hand.Put 1/3 cup of the water, 1 1/4 cups of the sugar and the corn syrup in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Once the sugar is dissolved, continue to cook the syrup -- without stirring -- until it reaches 265 degrees F on the candy thermometer, about 10 minutes.
While the syrup is cooking, work on the gelatin and egg whites. In a microwave-safe bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over the remaining cold water (a scant 7 tablespoons) and let it sit for about 5 minutes, until it is spongy, then heat the gelatin in a microwave oven for 20 to 30 seconds to liquefy it. (Alternatively, you can dissolve the gelatin in a saucepan over low heat.)Working in the clean, dry bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or in another large bowl with a hand mixer, beat the egg whites on medium-high speed until firm but still glossy -- don't overbeat them and have them go dull.
As soon as the syrup reaches 265 degrees F, remove the pan from the heat and, with the mixer on medium speed, add the syrup, pouring it between the spinning beater(s) and the sides of the bowl. Add the gelatin and continue to beat for another 3 minutes, so that the syrup and the gelatin are fully incorporated. Beat in the vanilla.Using a large rubber spatula, scrape the meringue mixture onto the baking sheet, laying it down close to a short end of the sheet. Then spread it into the corners and continue to spread it out, taking care to keep the height of the batter at 1 inch; you won't fill the pan. Lift the excess parchment paper up to meet the edge of the batter, then rest something against the paper so that it stays in place (I use custard cups).Dust the top of the marshmallows with potato starch or cornstarch and let the marshmallows set in a cool, dry place. They'll need about 3 hours, but they can rest for 12 hours or more.
Once they are cool and set, cut the marshmallows with a pair of scissors or a long thin knife. Whatever you use, you'll have to rinse and dry it frequently. Have a big bowl with the remaining potato starch or cornstarch at hand and cut the marshmallows as you'd like -- into squares, rectangles or even strips (as they're cut in France). As each piece is cut, drop it into the bowl. When you've got 4 or 5 marshmallows in the bowl, reach in with your fingers and turn the marshmallows to coat them with starch, then, one by one, toss the marshmallows from one hand to the other to shake off the excess starch; transfer them to a serving bowl. Cut and coat the rest of the batch.
SERVING: Put the marshmallows out and let everyone nibble as they wish. Sometimes I fill a tall glass vase with the marshmallows and put it in the center of the table -- it never fails to make friends smile. You can also top hot chocolate or cold sundaes with the marshmallows.
STORING: Keep the marshmallows in a cool, dry place; don't cover them closely. Stored in this way, they will keep for about 1 week -- they might develop a little crust on the outside or they might get a little firmer on the inside, but they'll still be very good.
Playing AroundRASPBERRY MARSHMALLOWS: Fruit purees are excellent for flavoring these candies.For raspberry marshmallows, you'll need a generous 1/3 cup of puree; reduce the vanilla extract to 1/4 teaspoon. After the batter is mixed, gently fold in the puree with a rubber spatula. You can use the same measurements and technique for other purees, such as strawberry, mango and passion fruit.
CAPPUCCINO MARSHMALLOWS: Sift 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, 2 tablespoons instant espresso powder and 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon together into a small bowl. Stir in 1/3 cup boiling water and mix until smooth. Reduce the vanilla extract to 1/2 teaspoon, and add it to the espresso mix. After you add the sugar syrup and gelatin to the meringue, beat in the espresso mixture and continue.
LIGHT CHOCOLATE MARSHMALLOWS: Melt 3 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate and stir in 2 1/2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder. Reduce the vanilla extract to 1/4 teaspoon, and after the marshmallow batter is mixed, fold in the chocolate mixture with a large rubber spatula.
PUMPKIN SPICE MARSHMALLOWS: Whisk together 1/2 cup canned unsweetened pumpkin puree, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger, a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg and a pinch of ground allspice. After the marshmallow batter is mixed, fold in the spiced pumpkin with a large rubber spatula.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars

Peanut butter and chocolate together in one bar cookie. What could be better? This bars are delcious and very easy to make. These bar cookies get rave reviews! I did not use all the chocolate frosting that the recipe makes, I thought it would be too much. Enjoy!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars

1 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup sugar
2 1/2 cups creamy peanut butter, divided
1 egg
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
2 1/2 cups quick cook oats
2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
Cream butter and suagrs until smooth. Add 1 cup of peanut butter, egg and vanilla. Mix well. Combine oats, flour, baking soda & salt; add to creamed mixture. Spread into a greased 15x10x1 pan (I used two 8x8 pans). Bake at 350 degrees for 13 -- 17 minutes. Cool slightly, about 12 minutes. Spread with remaining peanut butter. Cool completely then frost with chocoloate frosting (recipe follows).

Chocolate Frosting

6 Tbsp. butter, softened
4 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup cocoa
1 tsp. vanilla
6 to 8 Tbsp. milk
In mixing bowl, combine the butter, powdered sugar, cocoa, vanilla and enough milk for spreading consistency. Spoon over peanut butter layer then spread. Cut into bars.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

TWD: The Most Extraordinary French Lemon Cream Tart

So, after being under the weather the last few weeks, I am now feeling better and back on track with my cooking! This week's TWD recipe was chosen by Starting From Scratch. What a great recipe! The crust is delicious, buttery and crisp! The lemon cream is fabulous as well, very creamy and light. Wonderful flavor.

This recipe came together very nicely. I used a metal double boiler to make the cream, which was found to work best in order for it to get to the right temperature. My whole family enjoyed this dessert! I definately will be making this again, and am looking forward to experimenting with the flavors.

The Most Extraordinary French Lemon Cream Tart
1 cup sugar
Grated zest of 3 lemons
4 large eggs
¾ cup fresh lemon juice (from 4-5 lemons)
2 sticks plus 5 tablespoons (10 ½ ounces) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon-size pieces, at room temperature
1 9-inch tart shell made with Sweet Tart Dough (p.444), Sweet Tart Dough with Nuts (p.444) or Spiced Tart Dough (p.447), fully baked and cooled
Getting Ready: Have an instant-read thermometer, a strainer and a blender (first choice) or food processor at hand. Bring a few inches of water to a simmer in a saucepan.
Put the sugar and zest in a large heatproof bowl that can be set over the pan of simmering water. Off the heat, rub the sugar and zest together between your fingers until the sugar is moist, grainy and very aromatic. Whisk in the eggs, followed by the lemon juice.
Set the bowl over the pan and start stirring with the whisk as soon as the mixture feels tepid to the touch. Cook the lemon cream until it reaches 180 degrees F. as you whisk – you must whisk constantly to keep the eggs from scrambling – you’ll see that the cream will start out light an foamy, then the bubbles will get bigger, and then, as it gets closer to 180 degrees F, it will start to thicken and the whisk will leave tracks. Heads up at this point – the tracks mean the cream is almost ready. Don’t stop whisking or checking the temperature, and have patience – depending on how much heat you’re giving the cream, getting to temp can take as long as 10 minutes.
As soon as it reaches 180 degrees F, remove the cream from the heat and strain it into the container of the blender (or food processor); discard the zest. Let the cream stand, stirring occasionally, until it cools to 140 degrees F, about 10 minutes.
Turn the blender to high (or turn on the processor) and, with the machine going, add the butter about 5 pieces at a time. Scrape down the sides of the container as needed as you incorporate the butter. Once the butter is in, keep the machine going – to get the perfect light, airy texture of lemon-cream dreams, you must continue to blend the cream for another 3 minutes. If your machine protests and gets a bit too hot, work in 1-minute intervals, giving the machine a little rest between beats.
Pour the cream into a container, press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface to create an airtight seal and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight. (The cream will keep in the fridge for 4 days or, tightly sealed, in the freezer for up to 2 months; thaw it overnight in the refrigerator.)
When you are ready to assemble the tart, just whisk the cream to loosen it and spoon it into the tart shell. Serve the tart, or refrigerate until needed.
Sweet Tart Dough
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup confectioners’ sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon ( 9 tablespoons) very cold (or frozen) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolkPut the flour, confectioners’ sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse a couple of times to combine. Scatter the pieces of butter over the dry ingredients an pulse until the butter is coarsely cut in – you should have some pieces the size of oatmeal flakes and some the size of peas. Stir the yolk, just to break it up, and add it a little at a time, pulsing after each addition. When the egg is in, process in long pulses – about 10 seconds each – until the dough, which will look granular soon after the egg is added, forms clumps and curds. Just before you reach this stage, the sound of the machine working the dough will change – heads up. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and, very lightly and sparingly, knead the dough just to incorporate any dry ingredients that may have escaped mixing.
To Press the Dough into the Pan: butter a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Press the dough evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the pan, using all but one little piece of dough, which you should save in the refrigerator to patch any cracks after the crust is baked. Don’t be too heavy-handed – press the crust in so that the edges of the pieces cling to one another, but not so hard that the crust loses its crumbly texture. Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer, before baking.
To Partially or Fully Bake the Crust: center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Butter the shiny side of a piece of aluminum foil and fit the foil, buttered side down, tightly against the crust. (Since you froze the crust, you can bake it without weights.) Put the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake the crust for 25 minutes. Carefully remove the foil. If the crust has puffed, press it down gently with the back of a spoon. For partially baked crust, patch the crust if necessary, then transfer the crust to a cooling rack (keep it in its pan).
To Fully Bake the Crust: Bake for another 8 minutes or so, or until it is firm and golden brown. (I dislike lightly baked crusts, so I often keep the crust in the over just a little longer, if you do that, just make sure to keep a close eye on the crust’s progress – it can go from golden to way too dark in a flash.) Transfer the tart pan to a rack and cool the crust to room temperature before filling.
To Patch a Partially or Fully Baked Crust, If Necessary: If there are any cracks in the baked crust, patch them with some of the reserved raw dough as soon as you remove the foil. Slice off a thin piece of the dough, place it over the crack, moisten the edges and very gently smooth the edges into the bake crust. If the tart will not be baked again with its filling, bake for another 2 minutes or so, just the take the rawness off the patch.