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Entries in Dessert (54)

Tuesday
Nov262013

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

This is an unconventional post on the eve of Thanksgiving.  We are heading to Philadelphia to spend Thanksgiving with Rob's side of our family so I am not caught up in the prep work that usually leads up to the holiday.  It's quite nice to have an empty fridge and no anxiety about the upcoming holiday!

My Dad just celebrated a birthday and I never know what to get him (as is the case for all of the men in my life).  This year I kept it simple and baked his favorite Oatmeal Raisin Cookies.  Since freshly baked cookies are always the best, I baked off half the batch and froze the rest of the dough and gave him the frozen dough.  With a note detailing baking instructions on the freezer bag or tupperware, the recipient can have cookies straight from the oven any time (and can bake just 1 or 2 at a time).

A note about these cookies.  I first attempted to make them considerably smaller than the suggested 1/4-cup size scoop per cookie (I was making mine more like 1 tbsp per cookie).  When I baked those, they were quite flat and crisp.  When I stuck with the recommended 1/4-cup size, the cookies turned out much better.  It may be the altitude, but I'm guessing its the tried and true method of from Flour

Happy Thanksgiving and safe travels!

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
Recipe adapted just slightly from the Flour Bakery Cookbook
Yield = About 24 cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 3/4 cup (245 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 3/4 cup old –fashioned rolled oats (not instant or quick-cooking)
  • 1 1/2 cups raisins

Preparation

1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar on medium speed for about 5 minutes or until the mixture is light and fluffy.  If you use a hand-held mixer, this will take about 10 minutes.  Be sure to scrape the sides of the bowl a few times with a rubber spatula to release any clinging butter or sugar.

2.  Beat in the eggs on medium speed for 2-3 minutes, or until thoroughly combined.  Scrape the bowl and the paddle again to make sure the eggs are thoroughly incorporated.

3.  In a separate, medium bowl, stir together the flour, oats, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, and cinnamon.  Add the raisins and toss to combine.  On low speed (or with a wooden spoon), slowly add the flour mixture to the butter-sugar mixture and then mix just until the flour mixture is totally incorporated and the dough is evenly mixed.

4.  For the best results, scrape the dough into an airtight container and let it rest in the refrigerator overnight (or for at least 3-4 hours) before baking.  When ready to bake, position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

5.  Drop the dough in 1/4-cup balls onto a baking sheet lined with parchment, spacing the cookies at least 2 inches apart.  Flatten each ball slightly with the palm of your hand or the back of the spoon.  I was tempted to make these balls smaller, but don't - they turn out best when the dough balls are 1/4-cup in size.

6.  Bake for 17-20 minutes, or until the cookies are golden brown on the edges and slightly soft in the center.  Be careful not to overbake!  Soft, chewy centers are what you want with these cookies.  Let cool on the baking sheet on a wire rack.  

7.  The cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.  The unbaked dough can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week.  The unbaked dough can also be portioned off into the balls (like in step #5) and then frozen in an airtight container or ziploc and baked off as needed!

Sunday
Nov102013

Flourless Chocolate Cake

I regularly have ambitious plans to make an elaborate dessert for a dinner party, and often it just does not happen.  Life gets in the way, the guests are arriving in one hour, and I haven't showered, set the table, etc.  Any of this sound familiar?

For the last few years, this Flourless Chocolate Cake has been my go-to dessert.  I always have the ingredients on hand and it takes no more than 15 minutes to get this into the oven.   While it bakes, you can clean up, do any last minute prep work, and pour yourself a drink.  About 35 minutes later, your home will smell like chocolate and your dessert is ready!  This is a rich, intense cake and it is best-served with something - I like whipped cream and a few raspberries or sliced strawberries.

Flourless Chocolate Cake

Adapted very slightly from Alexandra Cooks
Yield = 1 9-inch cake (I find this serves 8 generous slices or 12 slightly smaller slices)

Notes -  This cake is meant to be moist inside so be sure not to overcook it.  As soon as it feels only slightly wobbly but mostly firm, remove it from the oven.  Give the cake time to cool before you dust it with powdered sugar, too, or it will soak right into the cake.  This cake calls for almond flour, so it's not for those who need to be nut-free, but it is gluten free!  

Ingredients
8 oz semisweet chocolate
8 tablespoons margarine or butter 
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon almond extract
4 large eggs, separated
2 large eggs, whole
1/3 cup plus ½ cup sugar
½ cup almond flour

Fresh raspberries or sliced strawberries (if you'd like)
Whipped cream (you could also serve it with ice cream, but I prefer whipped cream)
Powdered sugar (If you serve this for Passover, see Alexandra Cooks for a different option for dusting the cake)

Preparation
1.  Preheat the oven to 350ºF.  Place chocolate and margarine or butter in bowl and microwave on high for one minute (or until melted), stirring once after 30 seconds.  If you don't have a microwave, you can use the oven or a double-boiler (if you use the oven, watch it carefully!).

2.  Coat a 9-inch springform pan with non-stick spray.  Line bottom with round of parchment paper, then spray the parchment as well.

3.  Whisk chocolate mixture until smooth, then add salt and almond extract and stir until blended.

4.  Crack 4 of the eggs, separating the whites from the yolks.  Whisk the four yolks and two additional whole eggs (whites and yolks) with the 1/3 cup of sugar just until blended.  Add yolk mixture to chocolate mixture and whisk until smooth. Stir in almond flour.

5.  In the bowl of an electric mixture, whip the four egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually add the ½ cup sugar and beat until egg whites become shiny and hold their peaks, but are not too stiff. 

6.  Stir one third of the beaten egg whites into the batter to lighten.  Then, in two additions, gently fold in the remaining egg whites.  Pour batter into pan and place in oven.  Bake for 35 – 40 minutes.  Cake will rise and have cracks running across it. It should feel only slightly wobbly when gently pressed. Remove from oven and let cool in pan 10 minutes before removing sides and transferring to cooling rack. 

7.  Use a fine mesh colander or sifter to dust the cake with powdered sugar.  Serve the cake with whipped cream and fresh berries if you have them.  I'm sure it will also pair well with ice cream.

Thursday
Oct312013

Nutella & Sea Salt Fudge

It’s been a wonderful fall for us here in Colorado.  Aside from work travel, we spent the entire month of October in Colorado and were treated with stunning fall foliage (I think our house might look its best in fall - see below), gorgeous weather, and the first two snows of the coming winter (a bit earlier than normal).  The first snow was on my 33rd birthday (gasp).

I absolutely love birthdays, even if I might prefer the numbers 28 or 29 to 33.  This one was particularly special for reasons I’ll get into in another post, but we celebrated with friends and Rob treated me to a day in Boulder doing things that I love (having brunch, visiting the farmer’s market, going for a trail run, having lunch at one of my favorite restaurants’s, the Kitchen, and even making a stop at Whole Foods).  What a guy!
My birthday weekend was followed by a visit from our dear friends from Boston and their two kiddos (one of whom is my Goddaughter).  We left Boston just before my Goddaughter, E, was born, and this was the first time I was able to spend a long amount of time with her.  It was so fun to do things in Denver that we would otherwise not do and to see the world through her eyes where things I take for granted are new and exciting (e.g., a corn hole board and bags (although not played the normal way), a pumpkin, a slide, our poor cat, making macaroni and cheese, and band-aids).  If you are ever in Denver with kids in the fall, you should check out the Botanic Gardens at Chatfield and visit their pumpkin patch and corn maze.  It was quite a scene and E loved it.
The simplicity of things that kept E entertained reminded me that often, simple is best.  Whether it’s entertaining kiddos or in the kitchen, life doesn’t always have to be complicated or a big production.  I love embarking on huge projects from time to time, but lately I’m making a concerted effort not to overcomplicate life and to spend the “extra” time doing something I love.  
In that vein, I threw this fudge together on a whim with delicious results.  You dirty only one bowl making it and because it is extremely rich, you can serve many people with one batch (25 to 36 pieces of fudge depending on how small you cut the squares).  It would have been perfect for a Halloween party (next year!).

Nutella & Sea Salt Fudge
Recipe from Tasty Kitchen 
Yield = 25-36 pieces depending on how you slice the fudge

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter (for greasing the dish)
  • 1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 8 ounces bittersweet (60%) chocolate chips (about 1 1/4 cups)
  • 1 cup Nutella 
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter (softened to room temperature), cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • ½ tsp (approximately) Sea Salt

Preparation

1. Grease the bottom and sides of an 8- by 8-inch baking pan with butter. Line the pan with parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overlap on the sides.

2. In a medium glass or stainless steel bowl, stir together sweetened condensed milk, vanilla, bittersweet chocolate chips, Nutella, and butter.

3. Form a double-boiler by setting the bowl over a medium pot of gently simmering water. The water level should be low enough that the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water. Stir until the chocolate chips are melted and the mixture is smooth, 5 to 7 minutes.

4. Scrape the mixture into the prepared pan, spread the top smooth with a spatula, and sprinkle with sea salt. Refrigerate until the fudge is firm, at least 2 hours.

5. Once the fudge is chilled, run a knife under hot water, dry it off, and run it around the edges of the pan to loosen the fudge. Using the overhanging parchment paper, lift the fudge out. Peel off the parchment paper. Cut the fudge into 3/4-inch squares. Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container or wrapped well in plastic wrap and foil.

Sunday
Sep082013

Sweet Corn Ice Cream with Cherry Compote

All week I've been reading about how summer is over.  It doesn't help that football season started and swimming pools have closed... but it was 96°F in Denver today and it certainly seems to me that it's still the season for shorts and swimsuits, sunglasses and flip-flops, and corn on the cob and ice cream.

Why not combine the two?  

When I read Melissa Clark's article about sweet corn ice cream, I was immediately intrigued.  I love corn in all forms, but for dessert?  In ice cream?  

Well, I'm very glad that I gave this recipe a chance.  The flavor of the ice cream is intensely corn-y in a really delightful way.  It's sweet, but not overly so, and while its refreshing on its own, I think the corn flavor is best cut with another flavor, hence the cherry compote.  I think blueberries or blackberries would compliment the ice cream as well.  Give this recipe a try before the farm stands close for the year!

Sweet Corn Ice Cream
Recipe from the NY Times
Yield = 1 1/2 pints
Time = 40 minutes, plus at least 5 hours' standing, chilling and freezing

Ingredients
4 ears fresh corn, shucked
1 1/2 cups milk
2 cups heavy cream
3/4 cup granulated sugar
6 large egg yolks
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 cup sour cream 

Preparation
1.  Using a large knife, slice the kernels off the corn cobs and place in a large saucepan. Break cobs in half and add to pot along with milk, cream and 1/2 cup sugar. Bring mixture to a boil, stirring, then remove from heat. Let stand to infuse for 1 hour, then discard corn cobs.

2.  Using an immersion or regular blender, purée kernel mixture. Return mixture to a simmer, then turn off heat. In a small bowl, whisk egg yolks, 1/8 teaspoon salt and another 1/4 cup of sugar.  Add a cup of hot cream mixture to yolks, stirring constantly so they don’t curdle.  Add yolk mixture to saucepan, stirring.  Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until custard thickens enough to coat the spoon, about 10 minutes.

3.  Pass custard through a fine sieve, pressing down hard on the solids.  This took quite a bit of "elbow grease."  I ended up using a plastic scraper and pushing the solids against the sieve in a circular motion.  I've included photos above that illustrate the quantity of custard before and after that might be helpful.  Discard solids.  For reference, I was left with about 5 cups of liquid and about 1 1/2 cups of solids.  Whisk in sour cream until smooth.  Let custard cool in an ice bath, then cover and chill for at least 4 hours.

4.  Freeze corn mixture in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s directions. Serve with cherry compote (recipe below) on top.

Cherry Compote
Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit
Yield = approximately 3/4 cup

Ingredients
1 cup pitted fresh cherries
1/4 cup Leopold Brothers Tart Cherry Liqueur (you can substitute another cherry liqueur, brandy, or orange juice)
1/8 cup sugar

Preparation
1.  Bring all ingredients to a boil in a large heavy saucepan; reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer until cherries are softened and start to release juices, about 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer cherries to a medium heatproof bowl.

2. Simmer juices until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, 15–20 minutes. Pour reduced syrup over cherries. Serve warm.

 
Sunday
Aug112013

Peach Hand Pies


Driving to meet a friend for a run yesterday, I heard Kim Boyce talk about her hand pies on NPR.  I was already salivating the first time I heard the story, but the same story repeated when I got back in the car after my run and then I knew I needed to make them.

Hand pies are quite an invention.  You get to eat pie, but you don't need a plate or fork and you can even take them to go.  I've made a Cherry Hand Pie before using puff pastry, and I love Ali's Apple Hand Pies with Cheddar Crust, but in the peak of summer peaches seem like the only option.

This recipe calls for making your own puff pastry.  The end result is a flaky, buttery crust that is absolutely worth the work and time involved (the actual work is limited, but you have to let the dough chill a few times).  If you are short on time, you can certainly make the filling and use store bought puff pastry, but this crust is worth making from scratch - just note that you need to start a day ahead of when you want to serve the pies. 

When it comes to the filling, what I love about this recipe is the addition of jam to the filling mixture.  The jam adds flavor and thickens the filling.  And speaking of filling, every time I make hand pies, I attempt to stuff as much filling as possible into the pie, which always backfires.  This time I exercised restraint and I'd advise you to as well... there will still be plenty of fruit inside and your pies will actually stay sealed!

Peach Hand Pies
Adapted from Kim Boyce at Bakeshop via NPR
Yield = 12 hand pies

Pie Dough
About 5 cups (600 grams) all-purpose flour
6 tablespoons (60 grams) sugar
1 tablespoon (10 grams) kosher salt
500 grams (about 1 pound - 4 sticks)) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
3/4 to 1 1/4 cups ice-cold water

Filling
2 pounds ripe peaches (approximately 6) (I had about 2 cups of filling leftover, too)
1/2 cup peach or apricot jam
2 tablespoons sugar

Finish
1 egg, whisked well
Cinnamon

Preparation
To make the dough, place dry ingredients in a stand mixer or food processor. Add butter and mix or pulse until broken down to sizes varying from peas to almonds to walnuts. Pour mixture into a large bowl and add the smaller amount of water recommended. Toss together and squeeze the dough to determine if more water is needed. The dough should just hold together, with shaggy dry areas as well as areas that are moister. If the dough is too dry, add the remaining water and toss. Transfer dough to a shallow container or wrap into a rough square in plastic wrap.  Chill overnight.

After the dough has chilled, unwrap it onto a floured surface. Pat the dough into a square, then use a rolling pin to roll it into a rectangle about 8 1/2 x 14 inches. The dough will crumble and be rough around the edges, but don't add more flour or water — it will come together during rolling.

For the first "turn," fold the dough into thirds, like a letter. The seam should be on the left side. Chill 30 minutes.

For the second turn, take the dough out, this time with the seam at the bottom. Again roll the dough into an 8 1/2 x 14 inch rectangle and repeat the previous step. Chill 30 minutes.

For the third turn, repeat the previous step, then wrap the dough in plastic and chill for at least 2 hours and preferably overnight.

After the dough has chilled for the final time, roll it to a thickness of approximately 1/8 inch. Cut into 7-inch circles (if you don't have a cutter, you can draw a knife around the edge of a plate).  Take any scraps and knead them together and chill, covered, before re-rolling. Repeat until all of the dough is cut into circles. Keep dough circles cold while you prepare the filling.  Puff pastry warms very quickly and turns into a buttery mess, so do be sure to keep it cold.

To make the filling and finish the pies, cut the peaches in half and discard the pits, slice them into wedges (I sliced mine into eights), and then slice the wedges in half.  Place peaches in a large bowl and add the jam and sugar.  Stir lightly to coat - the fruit should glisten with a light coating of jam.

Take your prepared pastry circles and brush with the beaten egg. Fill the circles with the filling (approximately 3-4 tablespoons of peach filling), then fold into a half-moon shape and press a half-inch from the edge to seal (Boyce suggests not crimping the very edges themselves, to avoid compressing the layers).  My mom got me one of these "pocket pie presses" - it isn't necessary, but it does help to seal the edges and to prevent me from over-stuffing the pie with fruit.

Place on a pan in a single layer, brush with the egg and sprinkle with cinnamon. Freeze for a minimum of one hour.

While the tarts are freezing, preheat the oven to 375°F.  When the hand pies are frozen, line a few baking sheets with parchment and place the hand pies on the sheet (with ample space between them).

Bake for 45 minutes to an hour, rotating the pans halfway through. The tarts are ready when the crusts are dark golden-brown and blistering, the fruit is bubbling and perhaps some juice has run from the hand pies and caramelized on the parchment paper.

(Boyce stresses that color equals flavor. And with such a high crust-to-filling ratio, she says, you don't want it doughy — so try to let the pies get a bit darker than you might be inclined). Remove pies from the oven, and immediately transfer the hand pies to a cooling rack, before the caramelized juices cement them down.

Serve the hand pies warm from the oven or later that same day. The unbaked hand pies will keep, well wrapped and frozen, for up to one month (I only baked 4 of mine today).