This week's Sweet Melissa Sundays was chosen by Ruby of I Dream of Baking: coconut custard pie! I was on the fence this week about whether I'd participate, but only because I was short on time as I was trying to get packed to head out for a mini vacation. I hate not baking along with the group though so I found a few spare minutes and luckily, my mom offered to take the pie to her office so it wouldn't be sitting at my house after I left.
This coconut custard pie couldn't be easier to throw together, especially if you're comfortable making pie crust. If you're not, store-bought crust would work and make life even easier. Pie crust still scares me a bit but I've improved a lot over the past year and I like to challenge myself by making it rather than buying it. Though the book suggested using the all-butter pie crust recipe, I went with the flaky crust (which contains shortening) because I find that it retains its shape better in the oven than the all-butter. I wish the all-butter dough looked as pretty after baking, because it's a breeze to put together and is really delicious. The crust is prebaked so while it's in the oven, you can throw together the filling. All of the ingredients are thrown in a blender or food processor, whirred up and poured into the prebaked crust, which has been sprinkled with coconut. Little pieces of butter dot the pie and then it is baked until the edges are set, the center is almost set (it will jiggle just slightly) and a thin knife inserted in the pie near the center comes out clean.
I don't often make custard pies so I don't have much of a basis for comparison, but I thought the finished pie was pretty unattractive! Mine didn't brown evenly and was sort of dimpled. I decided to whip up a little cream to cover the top and then used toasted coconut as a garnish. Besides, whipped cream makes everything better, right?? My mom stopped by to pick up the pie and I had her try a piece before she brought it to her office - she declared it a success :) It also received rave reviews from her coworkers so although I didn't taste it, it's probably a recipe worthy of a repeat here.
Many thanks to Ruby for hosting this week! She will post the recipe on her site today or you can find it on pages 191-192 of the Sweet Melissa Baking Book. Hope you are all enjoying your Memorial Day weekend!
I can't remember which blogger first put this book about baking with whole grain flours on my radar, but I was sufficiently intrigued to jump onto my library's website and request it immediately. Good to the Grain devotes each chapter to a different type of grain, including I confess a few I hadn't previously heard of (teff flour anyone?). The first chapter was well within my comfort zone though with its focus on whole wheat flour. I'm more likely to use my stash of whole wheat flour for homemade breads than anything else, so it was fun to branch out a bit with my baking. I decided to start out with the basics - chocolate chips cookies! I've found that I prefer white whole wheat flour to regular so that's what I keep in my house and it's what I used in this recipe.
My cookies are thicker than the ones in the book and others I've seen on food blogs, mainly because I made the dough one night, scooped it into mounds on baking sheets and stuck them in the fridge to be baked the following day. If you prefer thinner cookies just bake the dough immediately after putting it together. The first thing I noticed about this dough was its fragrance: stronger than any chocolate chip cookie I've ever made and slightly nutty. Once the cookies were baked, the fragrance had mellowed a bit but they retained the nutty, earthy flavor. They are generous in size and wonderfully soft. My favorite thing about them was the pairing of the bittersweet chocolate and the whole wheat flour. When it comes to "regular" chocolate chip cookies I usually eat around the chocolate (weird, I know - I'm all about the dough), but I couldn't get enough of the chocolate in this whole wheat version. I liked the cookies best warm from the oven, so I wound up reheating the leftovers in the microwave for about 10 seconds before eating them. Even Shane gave these cookies a thumbs-up, which is saying something as he's really not a big fan of whole grains.
Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookies
from Good to the Grain by Kim Boyce
3 cups whole wheat flour (I used white whole wheat)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 cup (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
8 oz bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped
Preheat oven to 350 F with racks in the upper and lower thirds. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a large bowl. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the butter and both sugars on low just until blended, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl then add the eggs one at a time, mixing until each is combined. Mix in the vanilla. Add the flour to the bowl and, with the mixer on low, beat until the flour is just incorporated, about 30 seconds. Scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl. Finally, add the chocolate to the dough and mix on low just to evenly distribute it.
Use a large cookie scoop to portion about 3 tablespoons of dough into a ball for each cookie, spacing them approximately 3 inches apart on the baking sheets. Bake for 16-20 minutes, or until the edges are set and the tops have cracked and browned. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets for a minute or two before transferring them to wire racks.
Yields about 20 cookies
As I mentioned the other day, I helped out with a bake sale at my library this past weekend. I didn't have much notice about the event so there wasn't a ton of time to bake, which was probably for the best as I'm sure I would have gone overboard had I had weeks to prepare. Fortunately, I work well under pressure so even with short notice, I was able to make pralines and these sugar cookies. Both could be easily portioned and packaged and were a cinch to transport. Though I'd initially planned to just drop my goodies off, I wound up staying and helping out at the bake sale for a few hours and it was a blast! I enjoyed watching people (especially the kids) carefully consider all of their options before selecting just the right treat to take home :)
I've seen these cookies pop up on several blogs over the past few months and they always receive positive reviews so even though I hadn't previously tried them, I felt confident they'd be a good choice for the bake sale. They were easy to throw together and the dough smelled fabulous with the lime zest and toasted coconut. You want to be careful not to overbake them unless you like really, really chewy cookies. I found the perfect timing on my second sheet of cookies by taking them out when the edges were set and they were slightly browned, even though the centers looked a bit soft. I loved that you could see both the lime zest and the coconut in the finished cookies - they felt very festive! I sampled one or two of the misshapen cookies before packaging them and thought they were very good. I don't often use limes in my baking and I don't know why because their zest is so fragrant and adds such a nice flavor to whatever it's used in. As for the coconut, I definitely thought it contributed more texture than flavor to the cookies. A few of the ladies helping out at the bake sale tried the cookies and gave their stamp of approval as well so it seems these were indeed a good choice!
Chewy Lime Sugar Cookies
adapted from Rock Recipes (and seen on My Baking Addiction)
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
zest of one large lime
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons lime juice
1/2 cup unsweetened toasted coconut (sweetened coconut is fine too)
Preheat oven to 350 F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt to combine. Add the sugar and lime zest to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Use your fingertips to rub the zest into the sugar until it is fragrant. Add the butter to the bowl and cream the butter and sugar until smooth and fluffy. Add the egg, vanilla extract and lime juice and beat at medium speed to combine. With the mixer on low speed slowly add the dry ingredients and the toasted coconut.
Drop the dough by rounded tablespoonfuls onto the prepared baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches between cookies. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until the cookies are lightly browned and the edges are set. The cookies may still be a bit soft in the center. Let the cookies rest on the baking sheets for 2 minutes before transferring them to wire racks to cool.
Yields about 45 cookies
I'm still working to find ways to use the huge stash of rhubarb I received a few weeks ago. I hadn't previously eaten rhubarb, much less cooked or baked with it, so a whole new world opened up to me. First, I made rhubarb jam, which I used in a bread pudding for Tuesdays with Dorie and subsequently to fill some homemade pop tarts. But what to do next? I've got my eye on a sorbet but until I clear some space in the freezer, that recipe is on hold. I found a mini tart shell hiding in my freezer, something I'd tucked away after scaling back a recent TWD recipe, and decided to search for a recipe to fill it. My only requirement: I didn't want another fruit competing with the rhubarb. I've combined rhubarb with strawberries - classic and delicious - but this time I really wanted to let the rhubarb shine on its own.
The minute I saw this recipe my search was over. I love all things streusel! This one is even more fun than your typical streusel since it uses brown butter, which lends a wonderful nuttiness. I modified the streusel to include oats instead of almonds since that's what I like but if you're an almond fan I think they'd be perfect here. I quartered the recipe to fill my 4" tart shell and wound up with extra filling and streusel so I tossed them in a ramekin and baked it along with the tart. Both were really, really good! Surprisingly, I think I actually preferred the ramekin with just the rhubarb filling and the streusel topping over the tart with the crust. The sweetness of the streusel was a fantastic complement to the tartness of the rhubarb. I'd probably decrease the sugar in the filling by 1/4-1/2 cup next time because while the tartness of the rhubarb came through, I think the filling was a touch too sweet. The tart is easy to throw together, especially if you prep the crust ahead of time and I can definitely see myself making this one again.
I've included the crust portion of the tart from the recipe below but since I didn't use it, I can't really comment on it (for what it's worth, the reviews over at Epicurious are positive). As I mentioned, my tart shell came from my freezer and was made using Dorie Greenspan's sweet tart dough. It's a wonderful recipe, one of the few I've made that doesn't shrink like crazy in the oven. You can find Dorie's recipe here on her site.
Rhubarb Tart with Brown Butter Streusel
adapted from Bon Appetit, January 2004 (via Epicurious.com)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 large egg yolk
3 to 4 tablespoons chilled cream
9 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3/4 cup old-fashioned oats
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
5 cups 1/2-inch-thick slices rhubarb (from about 2 1/2 pounds)
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon lemon zest
To make the crust: Blend flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor for 5 seconds. Pulsing, cut in the butter until coarse meal forms (the butter pieces should be pea-sized). Add the egg yolk and 3 tablespoons of the cream. Blend until moist clumps form, adding more cream if dough is dry. Gather dough into ball. Press enough dough into a 10-inch tart pan to make a 1/4-inch-thick crust. Pierce crust all over with fork. Chill at least 2 hours.
To make the streusel: Cook the butter in large skillet over medium heat until golden, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat then add the oats, brown sugar and cinnamon and stir to combine. Add the flour and stir until moist clumps form. Cool the streusel completely (the streusel can be made a day in advance and refrigerated).
Preheat oven to 375 F.
To make the filling: Toss all ingredients in a bowl to blend. Let stand until the filling looks moist, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes.
Bake the chilled crust until golden brown, pressing with back of a spoon if the crust bubbles, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven. Reduce oven temperature to 350°F.
Spoon the filling into the warm crust. Crumble the streusel evenly over the filling. Bake the tart until the filling is bubbling around the edges and the streusel is crisp and brown, about 1 hour. (If the streusel or crust are browning too quickly, you can tent the tart with aluminum foil until the filling finishes baking.) Cool tart on rack 30 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.
This week's TWD was chosen by Spike of Spike Bakes: banana coconut ice cream pie! Spike's a fellow New Englander (there are only a handful of us in TWD as far as I know!) and we bake in a few of the same groups so I already had some fantastic reasons to be excited about her pick this week. When I opened the book to check out the recipe though, my anticipation for this dessert rose to another level. A coconut/shortbread crust filled with a combination of chocolate ice cream and bananas...what's not to like? Actually, I know there are some coconut and banana haters in the group, but I'm not one of them; I was psyched for this recipe - I can't believe I've never taken note of it before when flipping through the book!
I almost always scale back the recipes but this week I decided to make a full-size pie since I had such high hopes. Also, the pie can be kept in the freezer for months so I figured I could make my way through it during that time. I did, however, make a few changes based on some of the recommendations I saw over on this week's P&Q's. I used graham cracker crumbs in the crust instead of shortbread cookie crumbs because that's what I had on hand. The recipe called for a layer of bananas below the ice cream filling, which I skipped. Speaking of the filling, it consists of chocolate ice cream, bananas, rum and lemon juice. I omitted the rum (I found the rum very overpowering in the last recipe we made that called for it) and used only one banana instead of two because I wanted the chocolate ice cream to be the star.
The pie came together easily and really is the perfect summer dessert since it doesn't require any baking - I can't be the only one who doesn't want to turn my oven on when it's 90 degrees out :) I really did love this pie but I'll get my one complaint about it out of the way first. The crust was REALLY hard and though it did soften after the pie sat at room temperature for a little while, by then the ice cream was starting to melt too. Maybe it would be better to make the pie in a springform pan next time. It was fairly easy to look past that flaw because the pie was so yummy! The combination of flavors was wonderful and as I'd hoped, the banana flavor was present but not too prominent. This is a definite repeat here and I especially love that the filling could be varied to include a different kind of ice cream or a different fruit.
Big thanks to Spike for her terrific selection this week! You can find the recipe for the pie on her blog or on page 350 of Baking: From My Home to Yours.
This week's SMS was chosen by Tess of Cookin Chemist: butterscotch pralines. I have to confess I've never had a praline and since I don't like pecans, I wasn't likely to try one this week. The recipe looked easy though, and since I did a rewind last week, I decided to bake along anyway. A few days ago I learned that my library was having a bake sale this weekend and since I adore my library and its enormous cookbook selection, I decided to help out, which meant I had the perfect outlet to share my pralines!
There was only one problem with Melissa's praline recipe - it called for butterscotch chips. We're not butterscotch fans and I knew if I bought a bag of the chips, the portion not used for this recipe would sit in my pantry forever. I decided to give the recipe a go omitting the butterscotch chips and see what happened. Unfortunately, the pralines never set up (they were still sticky even after cooling for much longer than the recipe indicated). I didn't realize it at the time, having never made or tasted pralines, but these pralines looked nothing like they should have (photo evidence below) so it's not too surprising they didn't set.
I still didn't want to buy the butterscotch chips so instead I turned to DamGoodSweet, a book I won in a giveaway last year which specializes in New Orleans desserts. Though I've never had them, I do know that pralines are associated with New Orleans and sure enough, there was a great recipe in the book. The ingredient list was short and didn't include anything I didn't already have on hand. These pralines were super easy to make (a good candy thermometer almost guarantees success!) and set up beautifully. I've included the recipe below for anyone who wants to try this version.
Shane doesn't like pecans either so I didn't have anyone to sample the pralines before I brought them to the library yesterday. It made me a bit nervous to share a goodie I hadn't received any feedback on, but I crossed my fingers and went for it anyway :) Fortunately, one of the women helping to run the bake sale bought a few of the pralines that broke in transit and declared them yummy, allowing me to breathe a huge sigh of relief. Many thanks to Tess for hosting this week! You can find the recipe for the butterscotch pralines on her blog or on pages 220-221 of the Sweet Melissa Baking Book.
from DamGoodSweet by David Guas and Raquel Pelzel
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup plus 4 tablespoons heavy cream
1 cup sugar
1 1/4 cups packed light brown sugar
2 cups pecan pieces
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Place the butter in a medium saucepan and melt over medium-low heat. Add 1/2 cup of the cream and both sugars and continue cooking until the sugars are dissolved. Increase the heat to medium then simmer until the mixture reaches 240-250 F, using a rubber spatula to gently push the mixture back and forth in the middle and around the edges occasionally. (Though it didn't happen when I made these, the authors note that you can add 2 more tablespoons of the cream to the pot if the mixture begins to crystallize and continue cooking until it loosens up.)
Add the pecans, remove the pan from the heat and give the mixture a final gentle stir. Use a wooden spoon to portion about 2 tablespoons of the praline mixture onto the prepared baking sheet for each candy, leaving at least 1 inch between them. If the mixture begins to crystallize and set up before you finish portioning all of the pralines, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of cream to the saucepan and set the pan over medium heat until the mixture is creamy, then continue portioning the candies. Cool for at least 30 minutes before transferring the pralines to an airtight container.
Yields about 3 dozen
My fridge is a complete disaster right now. I have so many odds and ends taking up space in there it's like playing Tetris every time I need to find room for another item. These bars were one of the first things I baked in an effort to remedy this issue. A few weeks ago, I bought a jar of raspberry preserves for another recipe which only called for a few tablespoons, meaning I had almost a whole jar of preserves left. Though I like jam, I'm not apt to use it for anything but baking. Fortunately, I found this recipe on Cook's Illustrated's site that included 1 cup of raspberry preserves among its ingredient list and when I measured the remaining preserves in my jar, it was almost exactly 1 cup. Problem solved! As an added bonus, the recipe also required quick-cooking oats, which I had hanging out in my pantry. I find that most recipes that call for oats specifically note that they should not be quick-cooking, so this particular container of oats was just begging to be utilized.
The hands-on time for this recipe is minimal and it couldn't be easier to throw together. I almost skipped the nuts in the crust, but since the quantity called for was relatively low in comparison to the other components and since they were finely chopped, I included them. When I tried my first bite, I was glad I did! The nuts added texture and their flavor was noticeable, but not overpowering. The squares slice neatly, which is always one of my concerns about bar-type cookies. I justified them as breakfast for quite a few days and also sent some to work with Shane, where they received positive reviews. As soon as raspberries are in season around here I've got my eye on another recipe I saw on Cook's Illustrated's site as I was searching - it's a bar cookie similar to this one but it includes fresh raspberries in addition to raspberry preserves and a streusel topping - yum!
from Cook's Illustrated
1 1/2 cups (7.5 oz) all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups quick-cooking oats
1/3 cup (2.3 oz) sugar
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans or almonds, or a combination
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces and softened but still cool
1 cup raspberry preserves (I used seedless)
Preheat oven to 350 F, setting a rack in the lower-middle position. Line a 9-inch square baking pan with aluminum foil, leaving an overhang on opposite sides. Use a second piece of aluminum foil to line the pan, perpendicular to the first, and again, leave an overhang on opposite sides. These "handles" will make it easy to remove the bars from the pan after they bake. Spray the foil thoroughly with nonstick cooking spray.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the flour, oats, sugars, baking soda, salt, and nuts at low speed until combined, about 30 seconds. With the mixer still on low speed add the pieces of butter to the bowl and continue to beat until the mixture is well-blended and resembles wet sand, about 2 minutes.
Transfer 2/3 of this mixture to the prepared baking pan. Use your fingers to press the mixture to form an even layer in the bottom of the pan. Bake this bottom crust until it starts to brown, about 20 minutes. Using a rubber spatula, immediately spread the preserves evenly over the hot crust. Sprinkle the remainder of the oat/nut mixture evenly over preserves. Put the pan back in the oven and bake until the preserves bubble around the edges and the top is golden brown, about 30 minutes.
Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool completely (at least 1 1/2 hours). Once cool, use the foil "handles" to remove the bars from the pan. Cut into about 1 1/2-inch squares.
Yields about 25 squares
When it comes to biscuits, I haven't always had the best luck. All too often my biscuits are dense and dry despite following the "rules" - really cold ingredients (especially the butter if it's part of the recipe), cutting the butter in only until the pieces are pea-sized, not working the dough too much, not twisting when cutting, etc. Maybe I should blame it on my northern roots - I definitely don't remember eating many biscuits as a child, but for whatever reason flaky, tender, buttery biscuits have eluded me. Until now that is.
Enter Ina Garten's chive biscuits, which I found while flipping through her book Barefoot Contessa Family Style. I decided to give them a go to accompany the chili I made for dinner this week - we had a few cold, damp days and chili and biscuits seemed like the perfect comfort food. These biscuits are made using a stand mixer (though certainly you could do it by hand too) and I think this is now my preferred method for making biscuit dough. I really felt like the mixer made it easy to pull the dough together without overworking it. Instead of cutting rounds from the biscuit dough, I patted mine into a rectangle and just used a knife to divide the dough into eight biscuits. I kept peeking into the oven (through the window) to see if they were rising as they baked, and they did! These were the biscuits I've been waiting for - light and fluffy, tender on the inside, with just a bit of subtle flavor imparted by the chives. They were fabulous, especially warm from the oven! If chives aren't your thing, you could substitute just about any other herb or a combination of herbs or even cheese.
from Barefoot Contessa Family Style, by Ina Garten
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon sugar
8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cubed
3/4 cup half and half
1/2 cup chopped fresh chives
1 egg mixed with 1 tablespoon water (optional egg wash)
Preheat oven to 400 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Add the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on low briefly to combine. Add the butter to the bowl and mix on low speed until the pieces of butter are the size of peas. With the mixer still on low speed, add the half and half to the bowl in a steady stream. Mix only until just combined. Add the chives and mix briefly just to distribute them throughout the dough.
Sprinkle your work surface with flour and turn the dough out of the bowl. Pat the dough into a rectangle about 3/4-inch thick. Cut rounds from the dough with a 2 1/2-inch biscuit cutter (cut straight down, don't twist the cutter). Transfer the rounds to the prepared baking sheet. Brush the tops of the biscuits with the egg wash, if using.
Bake for 20-22 minutes, or until the tops are browned.
Yields 8 biscuits
In the past six months or so I've been trying to improve our eating habits. We're not on a diet, just trying to be more conscious about what we put into our bodies. I've been removing as many of the prepackaged foods as I can from our house. We're still holding on to a few things but overall, the situation has improved. For the record, I haven't bought Pop Tarts in years, but not because I didn't want them. I used to eat Pop Tarts all the time when I was younger and I loved them! My favorites were the blueberry and the brown sugar and cinnamon (both unfrosted so I could toast them and then add butter). If I happen to walk down the cereal aisle in the grocery store, the Pop Tarts still tempt me but the responsible little voice in my head always wins, convincing me to keep walking.
So needless to say I was pretty psyched to open Google Reader a few weeks ago and find a recipe for homemade Pop Tarts on Deb's site. I may not be able to justify store-bought Pop Tarts, but I can definitely splurge occasionally on the homemade variety. Since they came with Deb's stamp of approval, I was fairly certain they'd live up to my expectations. Plus, the original recipe came from King Arthur Flour and I've had great luck with their recipes. I've been meaning to make the Pop Tarts basically since the minute I saw them, and I finally moved them to the top of the to-bake list this week.
The recipe is fairly simple if you're comfortable making pastry dough. I made mine mostly in the food processor, but you could definitely do it by hand or in a stand mixer if you wanted. I found the dough a bit finicky to work with, but not impossible. It wasn't that warm in my house the day I made the dough yet it still warmed up fairly quickly and once it was soft, working with it became increasingly difficult. I popped mine in the fridge once or twice and that did the trick. The recipe makes 9 Pop Tarts (though there's nothing stopping you from cutting the rectangles smaller to make more) and I filled 5 of mine with a cinnamon sugar filling and the other 4 with the remainder of my rhubarb jam. Note that the recipe below includes instructions for both the brown sugar and cinnamon filling and the jam filling and each recipe yields enough to fill all 9 tarts. So if you want to do multiple fillings, just scale back accordingly. An egg is used as the glue to seal the dough together and keep the filling inside and I found it easy to close all of the tarts up. Even better, none of them popped open while they were in the oven and, much to my surprise, none of the filling leaked out!
My mom stopped by after work and was actually the first to try the Pop Tarts. I made the mistake of not marking which tarts were filled with the brown sugar and cinnamon and which got the rhubarb jam but luckily they were fragrant enough that we were able to figure it out. She sampled one with the brown sugar and cinnamon filling and loved it! Encouraged by her positive review and unable to wait until the next morning, I ate one for dessert later that night. The verdict? Delicious! The pastry is incredibly flaky and buttery and I loved the rhubarb jam filling. The jam filling was quite thick as prepared, which kept it from leaking in the oven and also from being too wet and making the inside of the Pop Tarts soggy. The homemade version is a huge improvement over the store-bought variety and certainly worth the effort. These are a definite repeat in our house, though not too often as it takes an awful lot of butter to make them so tasty! I love that there are so many possibilities for the filling and I'm already contemplating all of the options for next time...
Homemade Pop Tarts
from King Arthur Flour, as seen on Smitten Kitchen
2 cups (8 1/2 oz) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks, 8 oz) unsalted butter, cut into pats
1 large egg
2 tablespoons milk
1 egg, to brush on the pastry before filling
Cinnamon Filling (will fill 9 tarts)
1/2 cup (3 3/4 oz) brown sugar
1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, to taste
4 teaspoons all-purpose flour
Jam Filling (will fill 9 tarts)
3/4 cup jam
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon cold water
To make the pastry: Place the flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse a few times to combine. Add the butter and pulse until the pieces of butter are about the size of peas and the mixture holds together when squeezed. Transfer the contents of the food processor to a large bowl. Whisk the egg and milk together in a small bowl then add them to the dough, mixing with a fork just until everything comes together. You may have to knead the dough briefly on a lightly floured work surface to pull it together.
Divide the dough in half; each half will weigh about 10 ounces. Shape each half into a rectangle approximately 3" x 5". The dough can be rolled out immediately or wrapped in plastic and refrigerated for up to 2 days.
To make the cinnamon filling: Whisk together the sugar, cinnamon, and flour.
To make the jam filling: Combine the water and cornstarch in a small ramekin. Add this mixture along with the jam to a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, then simmer for about 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside to cool.
To assemble the tarts: If the dough has been chilled, remove it from the refrigerator and allow it to soften and become workable, about 15 to 30 minutes. Roll one piece of dough on a lightly-floured surface to form a rectangle about 1/8-inch thick - you want the rectangle to be large enough that you can trim it to measure 9" x 12". Set aside the rectangle once trimmed. Roll the second piece of dough to form a rectangle of the same size as the first. Cut each rectangle into thirds lengthwise and widthwise to form nine 3" x 4" rectangles (so 18 total rectangles).
Use a fork to beat the second egg, and brush it over the entire surface of nine of the rectangles. Place a heaping tablespoon of filling into the center of each rectangle, leaving about a 1/4 to 1/2-inch border around the edge. Top each of the filled rectangles with a second rectangle of dough. Use your fingers to press firmly around the filling to seal the dough on all sides. Press the tines of a fork around the edges of the rectangle. Repeat with the remaining rectangles to form 9 filled tarts. Use a fork to prick the top of each tart multiple times, which will allow the steam to escape while they bake.
Transfer the tarts to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Refrigerate the tarts for 30 minutes, while you preheat your oven to 350 F.
Remove the tarts from the fridge, and bake them for 25 to 30 minutes, or until they’re a light golden brown. Remove them from the oven, and allow them to cool on the baking sheet set on a wire rack.
Yields 9 tarts
This week's TWD was chosen by Elizabeth of Cake or Death?: apple-apple bread pudding. I feel like a broken record as the last two posts have had me discussing this matter, but in case you missed it, I'm not a fan of bread pudding. Something about the texture doesn't sit well with me - all too often it just seems like soggy bread, which is pretty unappealing. Nonetheless, I was confident I could find someone to take the bread pudding off of my hands if I made it this week, especially if I scaled the recipe back. My buddy Nancy suggested 1/3 of the recipe so that's what I did, baking it in a random 6.5" x 10" Le Creuset dish I found lurking in my cupboard which I'm pretty sure I've never used.
The double dose of apple in the pudding comes from caramelized apples and apple butter. I didn't have apple butter on hand and I didn't want to buy any, but luckily I had a solution. Last week my stepfather dropped by with this surprise from his brother's garden:
Pretty fantastic, right? A bit overwhelming though. Something tells me I'm going to need to try a lot of recipes to use all that rhubarb up! So, instead of apple butter, I decided to use some of my rhubarb to make a jam. It was really easy and turned out wonderfully; the jam was both sweet and tart at the same time and the consistency was perfect (though definitely a bit less thick than jam you've buy in the store)! I'll include the recipe at the end of the post for anyone who's interested.
Though I substituted for the apple butter, I decided I'd still use the caramelized apples in my bread pudding, mainly because baked apples are a weakness and I was really hoping their inclusion might help me to like this bread pudding. The recipe came together easily once I made the jam and caramelized the apples, but this was definitely a "fill the sink with dishes" kind of dessert. I had hoped to make brioche to use for this recipe, but I ran out of time so in the end I wound up using some rolls I found hiding in the freezer, which was awesome since I didn't have to buy bread just for this recipe and because it cleared space so I could get my ice cream canister back in there to freeze. Aside from the changes I've already mentioned, I made the recipe as written. I even baked my mini bread pudding for the full hour and 25 minutes Dorie recommends in the hopes of avoiding soggy bread pudding. In the interest of full disclosure that wasn't the only reason I kept it in there so long - the baking dish I chose was very shallow and I had a hard time figuring out when the bread pudding was done (the clean knife tip didn't really help), so I erred on the side of caution.
I let the bread pudding cool for almost 2 hours before I cut a piece. I was running out of daylight and couldn't wait any longer. The flavor of the pudding was fantastic - I really, really enjoyed it!! I wasn't sure how apples and rhubarb would pair but they were a good match. Unfortunately, I still didn't like the texture. It seemed soggy. I mentioned this on Twitter and wondered whether maybe my expectations for bread pudding were off - perhaps it's supposed to be soggy? Nancy responded to let me know that wasn't the case, that the pudding shouldn't be soggy but rather soft yet firm-ish. Of course this led me to realize that I'm not sure I know the difference between soft and soggy bread though maybe it doesn't matter as I don't think I'd like either. I should probably be happy - one less dessert to tempt me :)
Many thanks to Elizabeth for hosting this week! You can find the recipe for the bread pudding on her blog or on pages 408-409 of Baking: From My Home to Yours.
1.25 pounds fresh rhubarb, sliced into 1/4-1/2-inch pieces
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon orange zest
1/6 cup orange juice
1/4 cup water
Place all of the ingredients in a medium saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil then reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the jam is thick - about 45 minutes. The jam will thicken further as it cools. This recipe yields about 1 pint (or 2 cups) of jam - store in the refrigerator.
This week's Sweet Melissa Sunday's recipe was chosen by Carmen of Baking is my Zen: pumpkin bread pudding with caramel-rum raisin sauce. While I generally try to bake along no matter what, I'm just not much of a fan of bread pudding and I didn't have anyone to take it off my hands if I did make it. Carmen will have the recipe posted on her blog today if you'd like to give it a shot. Also, you can stop by the SMS blogroll to see what the other bakers thought of the bread pudding!
Instead of completely skipping this week, I decided to rewind and try one of the recipes I missed. Last May the group made a lemon icebox cake and it received rave reviews so it was an easy decision to give it a shot. I baked a lemon icebox pie back in January and it was spectacular so this cake definitely had competition. The main difference between the two recipes is that the one from the Sweet Melissa book has you cook the filling over a double boiler and then pour it into a prebaked crust, while the one I made a few months ago pours the filling into an unbaked crust and relies on the oven to cook both at the same time. The Sweet Melissa recipe also calls for making meringue and folding half of it into the lemon filling and using the other half for a topping on the cake.
I made one third of the recipe, which yielded 2 mini (4-inch) cakes. I also substituted graham crackers for vanilla wafer cookies in the crust because that's what I had on hand. The recipe is a simple one - the only thing that gave me any trouble at all was trying to spread the meringue over the filling. In fact, I really couldn't get it to spread at all so I just spooned the meringue on and left it at that. The meringue browns briefly in a hot oven (I left mine in about 6-7 minutes) then the cake cools to room temperature and is popped in the freezer where it stays until being served.
The verdict? This cake was just as good, if not better, than the one I made a few months ago! Both had a slightly tart filling with lots of lemon flavor that paired beautifully with the buttery crust. The filling was more fluffy and light in the Sweet Melissa version thanks to the addition of the meringue. That said, I didn't think the meringue topping added much to the cake and I'd probably skip it next time, serving my cake with a bit of whipped cream instead. The recipe for the lemon icebox cake can be found on Jennifer's site, Keep Passing the Open Windows. Glad I finally got to try this one, it's a keeper! Thanks Jennifer! We're off to the zoo today and I'm super excited - I haven't been in ages :) Hope you're all enjoying your weekends too!
This month's MSC was chosen by Lisa of Smiley's Sweets and Creations: tres leches cupcakes! I've wanted to try my hand at making tres leches cake for a while so this was just the motivation I needed to finally do it and cross it off my list. Tres leches cake generally starts with a simple sponge cake - in this recipe, a little bit of butter was included as well. When the cake (or cupcakes here) comes out of the oven, a skewer is used to poke holes all over the top. Then three milks, sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk and heavy cream, are combined and brushed (or drizzled) over the top of the cupcakes and the mixture seeps in through the holes you've poked. This recipe called for topping the cupcakes with homemade whipped cream and a dash of cinnamon too, though I think maraschino cherries are also a traditional topping.
I made 1/3 of the recipe, which yielded 6 cupcakes. I was careful not to fill the tins too much - you want the top of the cupcakes below the top of the liner so when you drizzle the milk mixture over them it doesn't pour over the sides of the liner, making a sticky mess. I let the cupcakes sit for a few hours to make sure they absorbed the milks completely, then I whipped some heavy cream and topped each cupcake with a dollop. My biggest concern about the cupcakes was that they would be soggy - it's quite a bit of liquid that gets incorporated into each one! I tried a cupcake as I suffered through the disappointment of watching the Bruins lose to the Flyers last night and while I wouldn't go so far as to call it soggy, it was very wet. The texture didn't appeal to me at all - it reminded me a lot of bread pudding, which I don't generally like either. Though I haven't previously tried tres leches cake, I suspect the texture would be the same regardless of what recipe was used so no offense to Martha's recipe.
Many thanks to Lisa for hosting this month's selection! We don't post recipes for this group but you can find it on pages 48-49 of Martha Stewart's Cupcakes book. I know several of the other members of the group really enjoyed this recipe so don't let my negativity dissuade you too much!
A friend recently went through a tough time and I really wanted to do something to make her feel just a little bit better. Chocolate doesn't solve problems, but it is always comforting and I know my friend well enough to feel confident that brownies would be well received. These are the infamous "Baked" brownies, which have been whipped up by just about everyone who loves brownies and have received almost unanimous rave reviews. Even America's Test Kitchen loved them, and they're a tough crowd to impress! I didn't want to mess with a good thing too much, so the only changes I made to the recipe were to halve it and to add mint chocolate chips. I debated between peanut butter chips and the mint chocolate chips and I think they'd both be fabulous paired with the brownies, but the mint chips won this time.
I may have underbaked my brownies by a minute or two but it was better than the alternative as the authors are very careful to state that these brownies need to be checked often and definitely should not be overbaked. The result was an intensely rich, fudgy brownie with some serious chocolate flavor! The brownies had a dense, slightly chewy texture and were very addictive. If you read the blog regularly, you may remember that I actually prefer cakey brownies but I gladly ate a few of the leftover brownies that didn't make it over to my friend. I loved the mint chips as chocolate and mint is one of my favorite combinations. My friend welcomed the brownie delivery and I know she enjoyed them too! Sharing goodies is one of my favorite parts of baking so much and it's especially nice to be able to brighten someone's day when they need it most :)
Chocolate Mint Brownies
adapted just slightly from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons dark, unsweetened cocoa powder
11 ounces bittersweet chocolate (60-72%), chopped coarsely
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 tsp instant espresso powder
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
5 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
scant 1 cup mint chocolate chips
scant 1 cup mint chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray a glass or light colored metal 13x9 baking pan with cooking spray.
Whisk the flour, salt and cocoa powder together in a medium bowl.
Place the chocolate, butter, and espresso powder in a heatproof bowl and set it over a pan of simmering water. Stir occasionally until the chocolate and butter are completely melted. Turn off the heat, but keep the bowl over the water and add both sugars. Whisk to combine completely then remove the bowl from the pan and let the mixture cool to room temperature.
Add three of the eggs to the bowl and whisk until just combined. Add the remaining two eggs and again whisk until just combined. Add the vanilla and stir until combined. Do not overbeat at this stage or your brownies will be cakey.
Add the dry ingredients and the mint chocolate chips to the chocolate mixture. Use a rubber spatula to fold the flour mixture and the chips into the chocolate until only a trace of the flour is visible.
Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and smooth the top with your spatula. Bake the brownies for 30 minutes (rotating the pan halfway through the baking time), or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached. Cool the brownies on a rack completely before cutting.
A few years ago when Hello, Cupcake! came out I picked up a copy and was seriously impressed at all of the amazing cupcake designs! I love that the book provides step by step instructions, including photos, and walks you through the process of using simple techniques to create fun and festive cupcakes with common candies and snack foods. Even though I haven't had a chance to replicate many of the designs yet, others have and the results have been fabulous so I know it's possible! You can see a few of my favorites here, here and here! The authors released a second book this spring, What's New, Cupcake?, and of course it was in my Amazon shopping cart in no time.
For our Mother's Day brunch, I decided to finally attempt one of the designs I'd taken note of when I flipped through the second book after it arrived - mums! I thought the flowers would be the perfect centerpiece for the table. The design was labeled as one of the easy recipes in the book, and thankfully, it was! The flowers are created by cutting mini marshmallows in half on the diagonal and then dipping the sticky side in sanding sugars to make the petals. Green Twizzlers act as stems for the flowers to make them even more realistic. Though the authors suggested vanilla cupcakes for the flowers, I went with Martha Stewart's one-bowl chocolate cupcakes and topped them with cream cheese frosting.
I wasn't sure how well the cupcakes would hold up - would the marshmallows fall off if I made them the night before? I didn't want to risk putting in the time and effort to make all of the flowers only to wake up and find the marshmallows hadn't made it through the night. Instead, I made just one so I'd know for the future. I refrigerated the sole cupcake/flower overnight and was thrilled to discover it looked just as good in the morning as it had the night before! I made the rest of the flowers that morning and can also report that they were still going strong a day and a half later so these can definitely be made in advance. The flowers were a big hit at our brunch - the moms thought they were really cute. And now that I've tackled one of the designs from the book successfully, I have a feeling it won't be long before I start looking for an excuse to try another!
from What's New, Cupcake? by Karen Tack and Alan Richardson
The quantities will vary based on how many cupcakes you make so I'm just going to provide the ingredient list below as well as the technique to make the flowers. If you wanted to make it even easier, you could use a box mix for the cupcakes and canned frosting.
cupcakes (I used Martha Stewart's one-bowl chocolate cupcakes - recipe here)
light colored frosting (I used Martha Stewart's cream cheese frosting - recipe here)
colored sanding sugars
mini marshmallows (you can use the pastel colored ones or plain white)
licorice pastels (Jelly Belly) (I couldn't find this candy so I skipped these)
green licorice twists (Twizzlers)
Bake the cupcakes and allow them to cool completely before topping each with a thin layer of frosting.
Use a separate bowl for each color of sanding sugar you plan to use (this will also allow you to save any extra for future use). Make the petals for the cupcakes by cutting mini marshmallows in half on the diagonal. The authors suggest 22 mini marshmallows for each cupcake, but I didn't count how many I used. Depending on how big your marshmallows are and how closely you space the petals, you may need more or less. I used the pastel colored marshmallows for the pink, green and yellow flowers and the plain white ones for the purple flowers. Once you've cut the marshmallows, press the cut side (it will be sticky) into the sugar to coat.
Starting along the outside edge of the cupcake, arrange like-colored marshmallow petals with the sugared sides up. Go all the way around the outside edge then move in and create another row of the same colored marshmallows inside the first. Continue until you've almost completely covered the cupcake. Repeat to cover all of your cupcakes with the marshmallows.
If you are using the licorice pastels, insert 5 like-colored ones into the center of each cupcake as stamens. I just used extra marshmallows to cover the entire cupcake since I couldn't find the licorice pastels. Arrange the flower cupcakes on a serving platter and trim the green licorice twists to look like stems for the flowers.
This week's Tuesdays with Dorie was chosen by Cristine of Cooking with Cristine: quick classic berry tart. It's a well known fact that I procrastinate and often make the TWD recipe on Monday. This week, instead of actively deciding to stress myself out by waiting until the last minute to bake I actually forgot I needed to make the tart! It occurred to me on Sunday night luckily but then Monday wound up being much busier than expected so I was racing against the clock to get this one done before the sun set. The fact that it had "quick" in the title gave me hope it would be possible.
The tart consists of three main components - the shell, pastry cream and fruit. The shell is made from Dorie's sweet tart dough, which I've really grown to love. I'm not the type of person who has a lot of "go-to recipes" but Dorie's sweet tart dough is on the short list. I used to dread making tarts because the dough would shrink in the oven and look really hideous but I haven't found that to be a problem with Dorie's recipe. I know I overhandle the dough (I can't figure out how to press it into the tart pan without overhandling it!), but it always tastes wonderful and has the perfect texture, so I don't stress it. The tart shell does need to be frozen before it is baked, but since I was short on time I froze it just briefly (definitely less than the 30 minutes Dorie recommends) and it still turned out well. As usual, I scaled the recipe back and made minis - I only baked one 4" shell but I've got a second in the freezer waiting for me. I found that 15 minutes of covered baking time and 5 minutes uncovered yielded a nicely browned shell.
Pastry cream isn't something I make very often both because it scares me and because I'm not really a fan. For me it falls into the pudding category and things in the pudding category generally only get made around here when they're required for a baking group. I made 1/3 of the pastry cream recipe and perhaps for that reason, it didn't behave as expected. Dorie says to bring it to a boil and then continue to boil for a minute or two before taking it off the heat. Mine never came to a boil but it thickened like crazy (maybe too much, I'm not entirely sure?) so I just took it off the heat anyway. After chilling it, I spooned some into my tart shell and then topped the cream with my fruits of choice - strawberries and blueberries. I took a ton of pictures of the tart before realizing I'd forgotten the glaze, which is just a combination of jam (I used raspberry) and water. The tart does look beautiful with the glaze - it gives it a nice sheen - so I was glad I threw it on at the last minute.
Despite my lack of enthusiasm for pastry cream, I really did enjoy this tart! It's a gorgeous dessert for a fairly small amount of work. I probably wouldn't go so far as to call it "quick" though. I'm psyched we made this one before berry season is in full swing because now I know exactly what to do with all of the beautiful, fresh berries this summer! I can't help but think how fabulous (and dangerous) this tart would be if I filled it with whipped cream instead of pastry cream so there's a good chance I'll go in that direction next time! Thanks to Cristine for hosting this week! You can find the recipe on her blog or on page 377 of Baking: From My Home to Yours.
This week's SMS was chosen by Chaya of My Sweet and Savory: blueberry muffins with pecan crumble! Generally, I pride myself on getting my SMS post written before I go to bed on Saturday night, but this week I was so busy prepping for our Mother's Day brunch that I just didn't get to it. It worked out well in the end, though, since I served these muffins as part of the brunch and can now comment on how they were. Had I written my post last night I would only have been able to comment on their appearance - mainly because I scaled this recipe WAY back to only make 3 muffins and thus had to save all of them for today. I prepared two types of scones to go with the muffins and since there were only 6 of us for brunch, making any more than 3 muffins would have resulted in a ton of leftovers!
The Sweet Melissa Sundays group has actually made a few other muffins already which use this recipe as their base - the first time wasn't entirely successful but the second attempt was much better. What I've learned is that the muffins turn out much less dense if I cut back on the flour just a bit and also add slightly more liquid (depending on the juiciness of the fruit). I didn't take precise measurements to share this time - it was more a matter of judging the consistency of the batter and adjusting accordingly (I was more precise last time if you want some guidance). Another reason for the lack of exact measurements - scaling the recipe back as much as I did this week required some creative math and I had to estimate some of the measurements because they were so small (.089 cups and 1/32 teaspoon for example!). I substituted lemon zest for orange zest but otherwise didn't swap any of the ingredients. I contemplated skipping the pecan crumble topping because I was short on time, but didn't in the end because I remembered how fantastic the gingersnap crumble was when we made it. My muffins baked in about 1/2-2/3 of the time specified by the recipe which I'm sure was primarily due to the fact that there were only 3 of them in the oven.
Fortunately, I could tell the muffins weren't dense when I pulled them from the oven yesterday. The base felt tender and light, so that was a good sign! I didn't try one of the muffins today but Shane's parents split one and really enjoyed it! I always feel a little bad when I make something and then ask others to describe their thoughts in detail when they try it so I can relay the information back for the blog, so today I didn't :) Thanks to Chaya for hosting this week's selection! The muffins were a nice addition to our brunch! You can find the recipe on her blog or in The Sweet Melissa Baking Book.