Saturday, August 29, 2009

Baking Challenge #4: Lemon Poppy Seed Quick Bread

This weeks recipe comes from "The Buttercup Bake Shop Cookbook". I basically choose this recipe because I had all the ingredients on hand already and I wanted to make something to eat for breakfast. This recipe was easy peasy, however, it wasn't the greatest lemon poppy seed loaf that I've ever tasted. I was hoping that it would taste really lemony but there was only a hint of the lemon in the end. I even added extra lemon juice to boot!

Lemon Poppy Seed Quick Bread

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar plus 1 tablespoon for sprinkling (I used sparkling sugar to sprinkle on the top, the sugar crystal is larger and adds a nice crunch)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons grated lemon zest (I would add more!!)
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon lemon extract
1/2 cup poppy seeds
(I also added fresh squeezed lemon juice, a couple tablespoons)

Oven 350 degrees
Grease & flour a 9x5x3 inch loaf pan.
In a medium bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
In a large bowl, mix together the milk, eggs, zest and butter. Stir in the vanilla, lemon extracts and lemon juice if you decide to add some fresh squeezed juice. Add in the dry ingredients and mix well. Add the poppy seeds.
Pour the batter into the pan. Sprinkle the top with sugar. Bake for 1 hour or until cake tester inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean. Cool for 20 minutes.

Like I said, I wish the loaf had more lemon flavor but overall it was good and the best part was the crunchy top.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Baking Challenge #3: Chocolate 'N' Oat Bars

I am a little behind this week as I am posting last weeks baking challenge. I did actually bake it last week, however I left for a family camping trip and was unable to post it before I left. That being said, I needed something easy and quick to make that I could bring on the camping trip. This recipe comes from the book, "Favorite Brand Name Cookie Collection". It uses brand name goods from your local grocery store. Isn't that neat! Of course you can always substitute for the cheaper or generic brand.

Chocolate 'N' Oat Bars

1 cup unsifted flour
1 cup quick-cooking oats
3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 (14-ounce) can EAGLE brand sweetened condensed milk
1 cup chopped nuts (I used pecans)
1 (6-ounce) package of semi-sweet chocolate chips

Oven 350 degrees or 325 degrees for a glass dish

In large bowl, combine flour, oats, sugar and butter; mix well. Reserving 1/2 cup oat mixture, press remainder on bottom of 13x9 inch baking pan. Bake 10 minutes. Remove from oven and pour sweetened condensed milk evenly over crust. Sprinkle with nuts and chocolate chips. Top with remaining oat mixture; press down firmly. Bake 25 - 30 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool. Cut into bars. Store covered at room temperature.

These bars are mighty yummy and incredibly easy for a quick sweet fix.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Baking Challenge #2: Macaroons

I have always loved macaroons but have never made them before. There is something to be said about a cookie that is almost entirely made of coconut. This weeks recipe comes from Sweet Serendipity. Serendipity 3 is this magical little restaurant filled with hanging Tiffany lamps on the upper east side on 60th Street in NYC. I can not leave New York without stopping at this restaurant for a bite to eat or devouring one of their many enticing desserts. The sundaes are amazing!

Aunt Buba's Macaroons
I'm going to start this recipe off with the beginning excerpt from the book because it's a cute little story. Every recipe should have a story right?

"Patch's Aunt Buba was a typical Southern lady who lived a very atypical life. Not only did she divorce her first husband, which was a major sin in the Arkansas delta in those days, but she and her second husband lived right next door to her first husband, and she looked after both of them like one big happy family. Each husband had his favorite version of her recipes, including her famous macaroons–one liked chocolate and the other liked plain. Here, Aunt Buba's first husband's favorite macaroons."

2 large egg whites, room temperature
5 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
3/4 cup tightly packed shredded sweetened coconut
unsalted butter for the pan

makes about 12 cookies

Preheat oven to 325.
Use clean bowls and beaters so that the egg whites will whip up properly. With the electric mixer, beat the egg whites on medium speed, adding the sugar in a slow stream. Continue beating until the whites hold stiff, glossy peaks. Beat in the almond extract. Gently fold in coconut with a large spoon or spatula.

Cover a baking sheet in parchment paper and spread the parchment with plenty of butter. Drop the batter by teaspoon-sized dollops, 1 inch apart. (I made mine a little bit bigger, see Ex. 1)

Bake for 15 - 20 minutes until very lightly browned. Do not over bake: the macaroons should be no darker than light tan.

Transfer to rack to cool. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

These macaroons aren't your typical grocery store types. They definitely weren't as dense, instead they were light and airy and tasted a little like angel food cake with coconut. This cookie was extremely easy to make and low in fat! Hooray for that! I dipped a couple of mine in melted chocolate as well.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Baking Challenge #1: Le Marquis Au Chocolat

So, like I said, to kick off the start of my baking challenge of doing a new recipe once a week for a year, I started with the recipe from Julia Child's "The French Chef Cookbook", published in 1968.

This cookbook is fun because the recipes are broken down by which show she cooked/baked on her television show. I chose Le Marquis Au Chocolate which is a chocolate sponge cake from her sixty-eighth show. I'm sure if I had stayed in culinary school for more than just a week I would have learned how to do this cake but since I didn't, this is my first attempt at making a french cake. Très Chic!

Le Marquis au Chocolate
Chocolate Butter sponge cake, butter cream frosting and chocolate glaze

"Here is a splendid cake for chocolate lovers with sylphid figures. Filled and frosted with rum-flavored buttercream, covered with a light cloak of melted chocolate, it can be served as a dessert or at high tea."

I know what you are thinking though...what the heck is a sylphid figure? I had to look it up. It means - 1. a slender and graceful woman or girl - 2. an imaginary being inhabiting the four elements once believed to make up the physical world. Sylphs dwelt in the air and were light, dainty, and airy beings. Doesn't this sound delightful?

Anyways on to the recipe.
There are many steps throughout this recipe, its not one of those quick as pie ones, so you'll need some time and patience.
You can either use an 8" cake pan or I used 2 6" cake pans for a smaller cake. This cake doesn't rise very high so if you use an 8" cake you will only be able to split it in half once. If you want more than one layer of frosting I would suggest doubling the recipe for 2 8" pans.

For the Cake:
1 cup semisweet chocolate bits
1 heaping tbs of instant coffee dissolved in 2 tbs of boiling water (refer to Ex. 1)
3 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
2/3 cup cake flour sifted
31/2 tbs softened unsalted butter
For the egg whites: 1/8 tsp cream of tarter, a pinch of salt, and 1 tbs sugar

Ex. 1 - You can buy instant espresso at the grocery store in the coffee section. However not all grocery stores have it so you might have to hunt around. I usually buy it in bulk at

First step is to lightly butter the inside of your cake pans and then roll flour on the inside covering the bottom and sides of pan. Set oven at 350.

Second step is to melt the 1 cup of chocolate with the coffee in a small sauce pan over low heat, cool till tepid.

Third step is to separate the eggs. Place the yolks in one mixing bowl and the egg whites in another. If you have 1 mixer & 1 hand held, or 2 hand held this will be easier for you other wise you will have to keep rinsing your beaters. Or you can hand mix with a whip. Measure out cake flour and sift into another bowl. Either with a mixer or a large whip, gradually beat the sugar into the egg yolks and continue beating for several minutes till mixture is thick and lemon-colored. Then beat in the melted chocolate and the soft butter.

With clean beaters or whip, beat the egg whites until foamy, then beat in the salt and cream of tarter. Continue to beat till soft peaks form. Sprinkle in the sugar and beat till stiff peaks form.

Using a rubber spatula, stir 1/4 of the egg whites into the chocolate/egg yolk mixture. When partially blended, mix 1/4 of the cake flour into the mixture and fold in rapidly and delicately. Repeat this process with the remaining egg whites and flour till its all been blended.

Pour your batter into your prepared cake pans and bake for about 30 minutes. If you are using smaller cake pans, set your timer for 20-25 minutes. Cake is done when tooth pick or cake tester comes out clean from center of cake. Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes or so before removing the cake from the pan.

Ex. 2 - Cake kind of looks like a sponge when done, hence "Chocolate Sponge Cake".

For the Filling:
Crème au Beurre à l'Anglaise
Custard Butter Cream

4 egg yolks
2/3 sugar
1/2 cup hot milk
1/2 lb. softened unsalted butter
Flavoring choices: 3 tbs of rum, kirsh, orange liqueur, or strong coffee; or 1 tbs vanilla; or 1/3 cup semisweet chocolate melted (I used some Grand Marnier, you can basically use any flavoring you want)

Place egg yolks in a mixing bowl. Gradually beat in the sugar and beat till mixture is thick and lemon-colored. Heat the milk and then gradually add it to the egg mixture. Transfer the mixture into a sauce pan and stir with a wooden spoon over moderately low heat until mixture thickens. This part takes awhile. Make sure to stir often and be careful not to overheat or your eggs will curdle. Its done when the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon with a light cream. Set the pan in cold water and stir till tepid. Rinse out your mixing bowl from before and strain the custard into the bowl. With a mixer gradually beat in the softened butter by spoonfuls. Beat in the flavoring of choice. Beat till smooth.

For the Glaze:
Chocolate Glaze

1 cup semisweet chocolate
1/4 cup coffee (coffee helps bring out the chocolate flavor)

Melt chocolate with the coffee and let cool till tepid.

Assembling the Cake:
Cut your cakes in half and level. Place your cake on a plate or cake board, whatever you want to display or serve it on. Fill your cake layer by layer with the custard filling. Crumb coat your cake which is basically frosting the cake with a thin layer of the custard filling so that when you are ready to glaze your cake, you won't get crumbs falling off or mixing with your glaze. See Ex. 3.

Then put your crumb coated cake into the fridge to set. When you are ready to glaze, pour the chocolate over the top, letting it fall down the sides. I used an offset spatula to smooth the glaze around the sides and top. You can decorate however you would like. I grated some chocolate on top and placed a leftover sugar flower that I had to seal the deal.

et Voila!

My husband and I were meeting friends out for dinner so we brought along the cake. This cake was really yummy, quite rich but the custard buttercream kept the cake wonderfully balanced. It tasted quite French! We stuffed ourselves with great food and a delicious cake!

La Fin.

Stay tuned for next weeks recipe!