Tuesday, October 27, 2009

French Macaroons

I waited until the last minute, but somehow managed to complete another Daring Bakers' challenge. The challenge was to make French macaroons, which as I learned, are completely different than the coconut macaroons that are common in America. This was probably my least successful challenge so far. The macaroons were delicious, but they did not turn out to have "feet" (which as I have learned are a distinguishing characteristic of a French macaroon). I will have to try to figure out what may have caused my lack of feet, although it may remain a mystery forever. I chose to fill my macaroons with chocolate ganache, but they would also be delicous filled with jam.

The 2009 October Daring Bakers' challenge was brought to us by Ami S. She chose macaroons from Claudia Fleming's The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern as the challenge recipe.
The Process:
The confectioners sugar and almond flour are combined.
The egg whites are beaten to stiff peaks.
The almond flour and sugar are sifted and folded into the egg whites.
The batter is piped onto parchment-lined pans...
...and baked until just golden.
The ganache filling.
The final product, a ganache-filled macaroon.
From Claudia Fleming's The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern

2 1/4 cups confectioners sugar
2 cups almond flour
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
5 egg whites, room temperature

1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F. Combine the confectioners sugar and almond flour in a medium bowl. If grinding your own nuts, combine nuts and a cup of confectioners sugar in the bowl of a food processor and grind until the nuts are very fine and powdery.

2. Beat the egg whites in the clean dry bowl of a stand mixer until they hold soft peaks. Slowly add the granulated sugar and beat until the mixture holds stiff peaks.

3. Sift a third of the almond flour mixture into the meringue and fold gently to combine. If you are planning on adding zest or other flavorings to the batter, now is the time. Sift in the remaining almond flour mixture in two batches. Be gentle. Do not overfold, but fully incorporate your ingredients.
4. Spoon the mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a plain half-inch tip or a zipper bag with a corner cut off.

5. Pipe one-inch sized mounds of batter onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper.

6. Bake the macaroon for 5 minutes. Remove the pans from the oven and rasie the temperature to 375 degrees F. Once the oven is up to temperature, put the pans back in the oven and bake for an additional 7 to 8 minutes, or until lightly colored.

7. Cool on a rack before filling.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Toffee Chocolate Chip Bars

My husband volunteered to bring a dessert to a potluck at work this week, which really means he volunteered me to make a dessert for him to bring to the potluck. Lucky for him, I am always looking for reasons to bake so I set out to make these bars. I always seem to have an excess of toffee bits on hand, so these bars turned out to be a great use for the toffee bits. Plus, the bars were well received at the potluck and the hubby returned home with an empty container.

From Hannah's Kitchen

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup cold butter
2 cups (12 ounce pkg.) semi-sweet chocolate chips, divided
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 (8 ounce) package toffee baking bits, divided

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a 9 x 13 inch pan with non-stick spray, or coat pan with foil and spray foil with non-stick spray.

2. In a large bowl, stir together flour and brown sugar. Cut in cold butter with a pastry blender until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Reserve 1 1/2 cups crumb mixture and press remaining crumb mixture into bottom of prepared pan to form a crust. Bake crust for 10 minutes.

3. Remove crust from oven and pour sweetened condensed milk evenly over the partially baked crust. Reserve 1/4 cup of the toffee bits, and sprinkle the remaining toffee bits evenly over the sweetened condensed milk.

4. Stir 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips into the reserved crumb mixture and sprinkle evenly over the toffee layer. Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup of chocolate chips over the top.

5. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and sprinkle with reserved 1/4 cup of toffee bits. Cool completely before cutting into bars.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

My parents came down to visit us from Iowa a few weeks ago and, as always, I had to have homemade cookies waiting when they arrived. This time around I opted for peanut butter chocolate chip cookies. These are not only great looking cookies, but they turn out soft and chewy when baked properly.PEANUT BUTTER CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES
From Hannah's Kitchen

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup creamy peanut butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F and line baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. In a large mixer bowl, cream butter until smooth. Add peanut butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar and beat until well combined. Add in egg and vanilla and mix until combined.

3. In a small bowl, mix flour, salt, and soda until combined. Gradually add flour mixture to peanut butter mixture until just incorporated. Stir in chocolate chips.

4. Using a cookie scoop (approximately one tablespoon capacity), drop dough two inches apart onto prepared baking sheets.

5. Bake for 12-13 minutes or until cookies are just firm around the edges, being careful not to overbake. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing to wire racks to cool completely.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Carrot Cake

I absolutely love carrot cake and this recipe does not disappoint. The pineapple keeps it really moist, and the coconut and nuts can be omitted depending on your preferences. I have also made this recipe into cupcakes with success. The shredded carrots.
The dry ingredients are mixed together.
The wet ingredients are stirred into the dry ingredients.
The pineapple, carrots, and coconut are then mixed in.
The batter is poured into the pans.
A slice of the finished carrot cake.

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 3/4 cups white sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups shredded carrots
1 cup flaked sweetened coconut
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 (8 ounce) can crushed pineapple, drained
12 ounces (1 1/2 packages) cream cheese, softened
6 tablespoons butter, softened
4 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9 x 13 inch pan.
2. Mix flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and sugar in a large bowl. Make a well in the center and add oil, eggs, and vanilla. Mix with wooden spoon until smooth. Stir in the carrots, coconut, walnuts, and pineapple.
3. Pour into 9 x 13 inch pan and bake at 350 degress for about 45 minutes, or until toothpick in center comes out clean. For two 9-inch pans bake for 30-35 minutes, and for cupcakes bake 18-20 minutes. Allow to cool on wire rack. For round pans and cupcakes, remove cake from pans after 10 minutes and then cool completely. The center may sink a little, but this can be easily covered up with some extra icing.
4. To make the icing, cream the butter and cream cheese in a large mixer bowl until smooth and fluffy. Add the sifted powdered sugar and beat until creamy. Chill icing for 10-15 minutes in refrigerator before using.