Sunday, May 31, 2009

Bread n' Butter

This is my recipe submission for Rach's Monthly Baking Challenge. This month's theme was horses. Horses? huh? That's what I said. But it makes sense because Rachel is from Kentucky and earlier this month was the Kentucky Derby!

I tried to get original with this one, but I wasn't totally excited about any of my ideas and I didn't want to carve out a horse cake--not my idea of fun. So I thought about it....what do horses eat- hay? apples? I didn't like where I was going with that thought so I went back to the Derby idea. I immediately thought of Derby Pie, but I made that last year.

So I started to think about hats. Then my mind wandered toward the Red Hat ladies. They have a cookbook you know. No, not hats. How about bourbon!?! Duh. Then I started thinking of bread pudding with a bourbon sauce. But I don't really like bread pudding, though it seemed to be the only solid idea I had. My hubby likes bread pudding, so I stuck with it.

It was simple, came together quickly, was lightly sweetened, moist and addictive. Rather than serving this with a bourbon sauce, the caramel is cooked, the bourbon is added and it's all mixed in with the custard. This recipe says it serves "2 greedy people" but we got 3 servings out of it. Except we ate all 3 servings in one night. LOL.

I topped mine with a few mini chocolate chips while it was still warm.

Caramel Croissant Pudding from Nigella Lawson
serves 2-3
  • 2 stale croissants
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream (see note)
  • 2 tablespoons bourbon
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 2 eggs, beaten

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Tear the croissants into pieces and put in a small gratin dish; I use a cast iron oval with a capacity of about 500ml/ 2 cups for this.

Put the sugar and water into a saucepan, and swirl around to help dissolve the sugar before putting the saucepan on the hob over medium to high heat. Caramelize the sugar and water mixture by letting it bubble away until it all turns a deep amber colour; this will take 3 to 5 minutes. Keep looking but don't be too timid.

Take the pan off the heat and add the cream - ignoring all spluttering - followed by the bourbon and milk. Whisk to mix, then still whisking add the beaten eggs. Pour this quickly over the croissants and leave to steep for 10 minutes.

Place in the preheated oven for 20 minutes and prepare to swoon.

NOTE: I baked my puddings in 3 individual ramekins, rather than one larger pan. They baked for 16 minutes and were perfect.

Also, make sure your cream is room temp before adding it to the caramel. This will keep your caramel from seizing up as much. You can do this by microwaving it for a few seconds.

Click here to see Nigella make her own croissant pudding!

Click here to see what Rachel made for this month's challenge!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The 5.5 lb. Cavity

That's how much this weighs and that's what you'll get when you eat all of this! Ha!

I saw this over at Coleen's Recipes and immediately knew that I wanted to make it for my brother's 14th birthday. He loved it! I wrapped it in cellophane and tied a curly ribbon around it. The first thing he did when he tore the wrapper off was to take a deep whiff. Oh, the smell of sugar!

I'm a visual person so I searched online to see if I could find step by step instructions on how to make this, but I couldn't find any. I saw a lot of completed "cakes" but no how to directions. So I took pictures along the way to show you how to make it. I hope you will. Any kid, or graduate would love this! It's great for parties because it serves a ton. You can make them as big or as small as you want. Have fun with it and customize it to the recipient with different types of candy.

Before you begin, separate and line up all your candy, facing them in the same direction. This will help you keep inventory of the candy you have left.

1. Get your self a cake board 2 inches larger than your Styrofoam. This one is 10 inches.

2. Get your Styrofoam rounds (mine were 8-inch) and carve out the centers to hold more candy. You don't have to do this. I carved them with a grapefruit knife.

3. Glue them together with hot glue.

4. Glue the Styrofoam to the cake board and wrap in a wide ribbon. If you leave the plastic on the Styrofoam you don't need to wrap them, but since I cut the centers out I needed to. The ribbon is just a barrier between the glue and the foam. You don't want to pull off candy and pull off chunks of foam too.

5. Start gluing candy onto the cake form, making sure all your candy is facing the same direction.

6. Keep gluing the candy all the way around until all the foam is covered up.

7. Stack candy on top and fill the cavity with as much candy as you can. If you place them in the center neatly, you can get more in there.

8. Keep mounding up the candy and gluing as you go, with just a bead of glue. You don't want to melt your candy or the wrappers. Fill in any voids with lollipops. There's no need to glue those in.

Ta da!

Here is a list of what it cost me to make this thing:

  • 2-8" Styrofoam- $5.99 each= $11.98
  • Ribbon- $1.97
  • Airheads- $1.97
  • Airhead Lollipops- $1.97
  • Starburst- $2.28
  • Starburst Tropical- $2.56
  • Trident Watermelon Gum- $2.38
  • Twix Minis- $1.00
  • Tootsie Mix- $4.34
  • Hershey's Party Mix- $9.78

Grand Total= $40.23

NOTE: Styrofoam is expensive. I looked at 3 different Wal-Marts and couldn't find anything bigger than 6-inch rounds. They were $2/each, but they were also only 1-inch tall. I would have needed 4 of them and they still weren't the size I wanted. I finally found the right size at Michaels. Styrofoam is expensive. Did I already mention that?

You can save yourself some money but not using chocolate. Chocolate is expensive, just like Styrofoam. And you also don't have to fill the inside of the foam with candy. That will probably cut your budget by 1/3.

I used 80% of the candy I purchased and Mr. H ate the rest. I bought two flavors of Starburst but only used half of each bag. So total, I would say of the amount I spent on this candy cake, $35 of it went into this gift. It was more expensive than I thought it was going to be, but he loved it and that's all that matters.

Happy Birthday Aaron!

I'll post his real birthday cake later in the week!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

My 30 Favorite Recipes

Last week I mentioned the Devil's Food Cake was a 9.5 on a scale from 1-10, with 10 being the best. Donna asked me to send her a private email letting her know which recipes rated high on my list. Rather than just sending her an email, I thought I'd share with you my all-time favorite recipes.

Out of the 150 recipes I've posted, these make my top 30 list (in no particular order)! Hopefully you'll make one or all of them. Let me know if you do!

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

1. Fruit Tart- My little brother's most requested dessert. A cookie crust topped with cream cheese and fruit. So simple.

2. Cinnamon Toast- Mr. H's favorite and most repeated breakfast treat. Yum!

3. Cranberry Freeze- Cranberry sauce, pineapple, pecans, in a cream cheese fluff then frozen. Delicious! A must have throughout the year.

4. Not Yo Mama's Banana Pudding- Cream cheese, cool-whip, pudding, bananas, and shortbread cookies. My grandpa's all-time fave!

5. Chocolate Zucchini Bundt Cake (and Cupcakes)- Dark chocolate cake with loads of fresh zucchini to keep it moist. One of my signature cakes and always asked for.

6. Chocolate Ganache Cupcakes- Simply luscious chocolate cupcakes dipped in ganache. A special treat and so elegant.

7. Texas Sheetcake- Chocolate sheetcake, with a cinnamony, nutty, chocolatey frosting. A favorite of my hubs. He asks for it weekly (not kidding).

8. Asparagus Gruyere Tart- A wonderful way to eat asparagus--with cheese and puff pastry!

9. Guittard Chocolate Chip Cookies- A basic chocolate chip cookie, but crispy, buttery and made with a superior chocolate. Beats Hershey's and Nestle by yards.

10. Oatmeal Raisin Sandwich Cookies- I sort of made this up and they were absolutely fabulous. Loved them! Oatmeal raisin cookies sandwiched around a fluffy mascarpone filling.

11. Strawberry Jello Salad- Not so pretty but so good. Strawberry jello, whole strawberries, pineapple, bananas and sour cream. It doesn't get better.

12. Chex Mummy Mix- Chocolate, peanut butter, and cereal. The only way I eat chocolate and PB together. So addicting too!

13. Tomato, Salami & Mozzarella Pasta Salad- The title says it all. This recipe serves a ton but is so good. great for potlucks.

14. Chicken & Dumplings- A family recipe full of heart. One of the most cherished recipes in my arsenal. A thick chicken stew with fluffy basil dumplings. The epitome of comfort.

15. Pumpkin Roll- This is a Thanksgiving must have, pumpkin cake roll with cream cheese...drool.

16. Coca-Cola Cake- Very similar to a Texas Sheetcake but moister and made with my favorite soda and marshmallows. A hint of cinnamon makes the frosting.

17. Cranberry, Pistachio and White Chocolate Biscotti- The base of this cookie is so tasty, you can't mess it up. Add any kind of fruit or chocolate to make them your own. Wonderful for gift giving as well.

18. Chocolate White Chocolate Chunk Cookies- The Barefoot Contessa really shines through on this one. Chocolate cookie with white chocolate chunks. One of my all time favorite cookies- no lie.

19. Chocolate Chip Pecan Pie- Sticky and gooey pecan pie kicked up with the addition of chocolate chips. I ate half the pie myself, that's how good it was.

20. Apple Chunk Tuna Salad- Another family recipe from my MIL. Chunky, slightly sweet, healthy and simple. A little unusual but a main stay in this household.

21. Fried Breakfast Potatoes- The names says it all. Fried, crispy potatoes. How could you go wrong?

22. Bailey's Cappuccino Chip Cake- I was sad when this cake was gone. I mourned it's loss. Creamy, punchy, cappuccino-y, yummy! Honestly.

23. Hummingbird Cake- Fruity, sweet, summery and moist cake topped with cream cheese frosting and walnuts. Delish!

24. Rainbow Cupcakes- Despite these being beautiful and fun to look at, they're a very flavorful vanilla cupcake with vanilla bean cream cheese buttercream. Nothing "vanilla" about these cupcakes.

25. Strawberry Cake- My sister's favorite and the most beautiful thing that comes out of my kitchen every year. An extremely moist cake with a lightly sweetened creamy frosting. As good as it looks.

26. Strawberries Romanoff- Made in a matter of minutes, maybe seconds. But decadent and addicting. Strawberries drenched in a brown sugar, sour cream, brandy sauce...(sigh).

27. Grilled Ham & Cheese w/ a Fried Egg- A product of my cravings. Anything topped with a fried egg is good in my book.

28. Devil's Food Cake- I originally rated this as a 9.5, but the next day when the flavors had a chance to develop, this turned into a 10! Chocolate, cinnamon, brown sugar, heavenly.

29. Fluffy Buttermilk Biscuits- Of all the biscuits I've ever made, these had a perfect texture, they held together, were moist, fluffy and buttery. Everything a perfect biscuit should be.

30. Rosemary Flatbread- The flatbread recipe, minus the toppings was delicious. I liked the combination of the blue cheese, grapes and honey, but I thought the flatbread was perfect and could be dressed up in so many different ways.

What are some of your favorites?

Monday, May 25, 2009

Friday, May 22, 2009

Okey Dokey Artichokey!

This recipe comes from Kraft Food & Family magazine. I was going to link to the site where you can sign up to get the magazine because it used to be free, but now they charge for it! I still get the magazine without having to pay for it, maybe because I've been subscribed for so long, but now it's $12 for a year :-( That's still not a bad price, but I was hoping to hook you all up. Sorry.

Anyway, I've made this recipe a few times. It's so simple and comes together rather quickly. So easy that even my husband who only makes sandwiches and cinnamon toast can make it and has! And he prides himself on it too. That's how good, easy and impressive it is.

Make it this weekend for your Memorial Day BBQ or potluck. Everyone will love it- I promise!

Cheesy Spinach and Artichoke Dip
from Kraft

  • 1- 14 oz. can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
  • 1- 10 oz. pkg. frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
  • 3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder

  • Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Mix all ingredients; spoon into 9-inch quiche dish or pie plate.
    Bake 20 min. or until heated through. Serve with crackers and assorted fresh cut vegetables.

    NOTE: I used a red pepper blend parmesan cheese for a spicier version. If you want it hot, you can add a few pinches of cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes.
    I also added a topping to add a little crunch. I mixed 1/4 cup panko bread crumbs with a heaping tablespoon of mayo, salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle on top before baking.

    Have a good, safe and cheesy weekend!

    Wednesday, May 20, 2009

    The Devil Went Down To Texas

    This is the second cake I've made for The Cake Slice Bakers and boy is it delicious! On a scale from 1-10, ten being the best, I give the Chai Cake with Honey-Ginger Cream that I made last month a 6. I give this Devil's food Cake with Brown Sugar Buttercream a 9.5! Honestly, it is that good. Go get the book Sky High: Irresistable Triple Layer Cakes from Alissa Huntsman and Peter Wynne- you won't be disappointed!

    I've eaten Devil's Food cake before but I've never made it. That being said, I've made many different recipes for chocolate cake. After making this one, I'm wondering what the hell (get it, ha ha!) took me so long to make this. This recipe is going on my "must make again, because it was so darn good" list. It had an excellent crumb, it was chocolately, not too sweet, moist and fluffy.

    With this cake came two options of frosting: Brown Sugar 7-Minute Frosting and Brown Sugar Buttercream. I chose buttercream because if you're going to eat devil's food, you're obviously not on a diet, so why not have a decadent frosting to accompany it. How was the buttercream, you ask? Wonderfully creamy, soft and light, caramelly, cinnamony and the teensiest bit of sweetness. The best part though was that it wasn't overwhelmingly buttery, You know how you get that greasy feeling on the roof of your mouth? Well, not with this frosting. It is fluffed up and lightened with egg whites, but creamy from the butter. The brown sugar syrup provides the sweetness instead of using powdered sugar. I added cinnamon because I love it with chocolate and brown sugar. Reminds me of cinnamon toast. It was oh so dreamy.

    I decorated it with Guittard chocolate discs.

    Mile-High Devil's Food Cake from Sky High Cakes

    Makes an 8-inch triple layer cake:

    • 1 c. unsweetened cocoa (NOT Dutch Process)
    • 1 1/4 c. hot water
    • 3 c. packed light brown sugar
    • 2 2/3 c. cake flour*
    • 1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
    • 3/4 tsp. salt
    • 9 oz. unsalted butter, room temp. (2 sticks + 2 Tbsp.)
    • 3 large eggs
    • 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
    • 3/4 c. cold water

    *1 cup of cake flour is equal to ¾ cup flour plus 2 tablespoons of cornstarch.

    Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Butter the bottoms and sides of three 8-inch round cake pans. Line the bottoms of the pans with parchment paper and grease the paper as well.

    Place the cocoa in a medium bowl and add the hot water. Whisk until smooth and let it cool to room temperature.

    In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the sugar, flour, baking soda, and salt. With the mixer on low blend to combine. Add the butter and the dissolved cocoa. Then raise the mixer to medium speed and beat for 2 minutes until light and fluffy.

    In a medium bowl whisk together the eggs, vanilla, and cold water until combined. Add this liquid to the batter in three additions scraping down the sides of the bowl between additions. Divide the batter among the three pans.

    Bake for 35-45 minutes or until a cakes tester inserted into the almost comes out clean. There should be a few crumbs attached still. Cool the cakes in the pans for 15 minutes. Then invert and remove parchment paper and cool completely on a wire rack.

    NOTE: I halved this recipe and it made a triple layer 6-inch cake. I also made a mini 3-inch cake that I torted and filled with the cinnamon buttercream and covered in brown sugar. Completely over the top and indulgent but delicious!

    Cinnamon Brown Sugar Buttercream

    • 5 egg whites
    • 1 1/4 c. packed brown sugar
    • 1/4 c. water
    • 1 lb. unsalted butter, room temp. (16 oz./4 sticks)
    • 1 tsp. cinnamon (optional- my addition)

    Place all the egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer; set aside.

    In a heavy medium saucepan combine the sugar and water. Cook over medium heat stirring to dissolve the sugar. Then bring to a boil without stirring and cook until the syrup reaches 238 degrees F on a candy thermometer.

    Begin beating the egg whites on medium low speed. Slowly pour in the syrup making sure not to hit the beater. Increase the mixer speed to medium high and beat until the meringue has cooled to body temperature.

    With the mixer on med-low add 1-2 tablespoons of butter at a time. When all the butter has been added increase the mixer’s speed to medium and beat until the mixture looks curdled or separated. Continue to beat until the icing comes together again looking like soft smooth whipped butter.

    Mix in the cinnamon if using.

    NOTE: A cake topped with the meringue frosting is the best eaten the day it’s made. It does not do well in the fridge.

    If you choose the buttercream frosting you can keep it in the fridge for 3 days. Make sure to allow the cake to come to room temperature for 1 to 1 ½ hours before slicing. Otherwise the frosting will be hard and heavy.

    For a printer friendly version of the cake and both frosting recipes, click here.

    My husband liked it!

    Check out all the other Cake Slice Bakers by clicking on the link then their individual blogs!

    Sunday, May 17, 2009

    Mother's Day Menu and A "Pick Me Up"

    I thought I'd share with you my Mother's Day table and a dessert I made before another week passes by and I forget.

    Mother's Day Menu for 10:

    I've eaten my fair share of tiramisu over the years, but I've never made my own. I think I was intimidated by having to make the zabaglione cream, though I'm not sure why. I think it's the extra time it takes to make and the dishes to clean up. I'm lazy sometimes :-)

    I was originally going to make a blueberry cake, but decided to make this tiramisu instead since it seemed brunch-y and it's not too sweet. That and because about 6 months ago I bought two packages of Alessi Savoiardi lady fingers and they were taking up prime real estate in my pantry. And it just so happened that my mom was looking through a cookbook and pointed out a recipe for tiramisu. Little did she know I was already making it!

    I turned to the folks at Cook's Illustrated because they haven't failed me yet. Their recipes are tried and true and their directions are precise. I found this recipe in their current magazine. What I liked about this recipe is that you didn't have to cook anything. It does contain raw egg yolks, but I ain't skerd. Are you? This recipe also calls for Dark Rum instead of Marsala wine (which I didn't have) or Brandy. You can use any of the three alcohols.

    I had 4 lady fingers that wouldn't fit in my casserole dish so I made two single-serve portions and my hubby and I ate them for dessert the following day. It was delicious!

    Tiramisu from Cook's Illustrated

    • 2 1/2 cups strong black coffee, room temperature
    • 1 1/2 tablespoons instant espresso powder
    • 9 tablespoons dark rum
    • 6 large egg yolks
    • 2/3 cup sugar
    • 1/4 teaspoon table salt
    • 1 1/2 pounds mascarpone cheese
    • 3/4 cup heavy cream (cold)
    • 14 ounces ladyfingers (42 to 60, depending on size)
    • 3 1/2 tablespoons cocoa, preferably Dutch-processed
    • 1/4 cup semisweet or bittersweet grated chocolate (optional)

    Stir coffee, espresso, and 5 tablespoons rum in wide bowl or baking dish until espresso dissolves; set aside.

    In a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat yolks at low speed until just combined. Add sugar and salt and beat at medium-high speed until pale yellow, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes, scraping down bowl with rubber spatula once or twice. Add remaining 4 tablespoons rum and beat at medium speed until just combined, 20 to 30 seconds; scrape bowl. Add mascarpone and beat at medium speed until no lumps remain, 30 to 45 seconds, scraping down bowl once or twice. Transfer mixture to large bowl and set aside.

    In now-empty mixer bowl (no need to clean bowl), beat cream at medium speed until frothy, 1 to 1 1/2 minutes. Increase speed to high and continue to beat until cream holds stiff peaks, 1 to 2 minutes longer. Using rubber spatula, fold one-third of whipped cream into mascarpone mixture to lighten, then gently fold in remaining whipped cream until no white streaks remain. Set mascarpone mixture aside.

    Working one at a time, drop half of ladyfingers into coffee mixture, roll, remove, and transfer to 13 by 9-inch glass or ceramic baking dish. (Do not submerge ladyfingers in coffee mixture; entire process should take no longer than 2 to 3 seconds for each cookie.) Arrange soaked cookies in single layer in baking dish, breaking or trimming ladyfingers as needed to fit neatly into dish.

    Spread half of mascarpone mixture over ladyfingers; use rubber spatula to spread mixture to sides and into corners of dish and smooth surface. Place 2 tablespoons cocoa in fine-mesh strainer and dust cocoa over mascarpone.

    Repeat dipping and arrangement of ladyfingers; spread remaining mascarpone mixture over ladyfingers and dust with remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons cocoa. Wipe edges of dish with dry paper towel. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 6 to 24 hours. Sprinkle with grated chocolate or cocoa, if using; cut into pieces and serve chilled.

    Serves 12-14

    NOTE: You don't want to over soak your lady fingers or they'll be soggy. I turned mine a couple times in the coffee mixture and they were perfect. I did have about a cup of left over of the coffee mixture. You may use it all, but I didn't.

    Also, you don't want to make this any more than 24 hours in advance because the lady fingers will get too soft and turn into a soggy mess. I prepared all the ingredients during the day, (the coffee mixture and the mascarpone cream) and refrigerated them. I assembled the tiramisu the night before and refrigerated for 14 hours before serving.

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