Saturday, March 26, 2011

Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies

I was hungry for some cookies last night so I threw these together.  I used milk chocolate chips because I had some that I needed to use up, but I'm sure these cookies would also be delicious with semi-sweet chocolate as well.  If you want to give them even more of an Almond Joy candy bar feel, you can throw in some chopped almonds.
From Hannah's Kitchen

1 cup shortening
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups milk chocolate chips
1 cup shredded sweetened coconut

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.

2. In a large bowl, cream shortening and sugars until light and fluffy.  Add in eggs and vanilla and mix until combined.  In a small bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, and salt.  Slowly add flour mixture to the sugar mixture, mixing just until combined.  Stir in chocolate chips and coconut.

3. Drop dough by the tablespoon onto cookie sheets and bake 8-10 minutes, or until edges begin to turn light brown.  Cool on cookie sheets for 5 minutes, then remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Strawberry Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Today we had a baby shower at work for one of our co-workers who is about to become a father for the second time.  The papa-to-be said he likes strawberry cake, so this was the perfect opportunity for me to make a strawberry cake for the first time.  As you can see, strawberry cake is quite pink.  However, the new baby is going to be a boy so I decorated the cake with blue accents to match all the other lovely decor that the shower masterminds had put together.  Even though the blue and pink look a little strange together on a cake, the various colors did not affect the taste.  Most strawberry cakes are flavored with Jello, but this one gets all of its flavor from real strawberries.  It was pretty good and you could definitely taste the strawberry flavor.  The frosting recipe makes a little more than you really need, but I'm not complaining.  And once again, a big congratulations to Mr. and Mrs. M!
I used thawed frozen strawberries...
 ...and blended them into a puree.
The dry ingredients are mixed together.
Then the strawberries and butter are added to make a very thick batter.
After the other liquid ingredients are added the batter is poured into pans.
The finished cake is tall!
Grab a fork.
From Smitten Kitchen, adapted from Sky High

4 1/2 cups cake flour
3 cups sugar
5 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups pureed frozen strawberries*
8 egg whites
2/3 cup milk
1 to 2 drops red food dye, if using (to make the pink color pop more)

3 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
8 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Dash of salt

1. Preheat the oven to 350. Butter three 9-inch round or 8-inch square cake pans. Line with parchment or waxed paper and butter the paper.

2. Put the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large mixer bowl. With the electric mixer on low speed, blend for 30 seconds. Add the butter and strawberry puree and mix to blend the ingredients. Raise the speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes; the batter will resemble strawberry ice cream at this point.

3. In another large bowl, whisk together the egg whites, milk and red food dye, if using, to blend. Add the whites to the batter in two or three additions, scraping down the sides of the bowl well and mixing only to incorporate after each addition. Divide the batter among the three prepared pans.

4. Bake the cakes for 30 to 34 minutes, or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow the layers to cool in the pans for 10 to 15 minutes. Invert and turn out onto wire racks and peel off the paper liners. Let stand until completely cooled before assembling the cake, at least an hour.

5. For the frosting, in a medium bowl, cream together the cream cheese and butter until creamy. Mix in the vanilla and salt, then gradually stir in the confectioners’ sugar. Store in the refrigerator after use.

6. To assemble the cake, place one cake layer on a cake board or platter. Tucking scraps of waxed paper under the edges of the cake will protect the board or plate from any mess created while frosting the cake. Spread about 1 cup frosting over the layer, spreading it to the edge. Repeat with the second layer. Add the top layer and frost the top and sides of cake with remaining frosting, reserving a small amount if you wish to tint it and pipe a decoration on the cake. If not, you can decorate the cake top with thinly-sliced strawberries. Remove the waxed strips to reveal and neat, clean cake board.

* Sky High notes that it may seem surprising that frozen strawberries are used here, but they’re always available and their quality is consistent.  Also, you need to use 1 1/2 cups of the puree, NOT 1 1/2 cups strawberries.  I used an entire 16 ounce bag of thawed frozen strawberries and had just over 1 1/2 cups of puree.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Smores Cookies

I have a really good Smores bar cookie recipe, but I have been searching for a Smores cookie recipe for a few weeks.  Sometimes bars will not do and you just need individual cookies!  The key to keeping these cookies looking nice is to put the marshmallows and milk chocolate pieces on after the cookies are mostly done, and then pop them back into the oven to finish baking.

From Hannah's Kitchen

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup shortening
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup crumbled graham crackers (leave some small chunks)
2 cups mini marshmallows
2 large Hershey's Milk Chocolate candy bars, chopped

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

2. In a small bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt.

3. In a large bowl, beat butter, shortening, brown sugar and granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs and vanilla until combined. Add in flour mixture until just combined. Stir in graham crackers and mini chocolate chips.

4. Drop dough with a small cookie scoop (about one tablespoon in size) about 2-inches apart on the prepared cookie sheets. Bake for 6-7 minutes or until cookies are just starting to set. Remove cookies from oven and top with marshmallows and Hershey's candy bar pieces. Return cookies to the oven for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes or until cookies have finished baking and the edges are light golden brown.

5. Remove cookies to wire racks to cool.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Black and White Chocolate Cake

Happy Birthday to Matthew!  My husband's birthday was this past weekend and he always likes to have a unique and somewhat fancy cake to celebrate.  This year he chose the black and white chocolate cake from Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan.  The cake and its wonderful creams were challenging, but definitely worth the effort.  I will admit, it took me two tries to get the white chocolate whipped cream to work.  It curdled badly the first time, so the second time I was much more careful and did not crank the mixer to high power (which is what the recipe indicates).  My second effort was a success.  I had never eaten white chocolate whipped cream before and was surprised to find out how rich and delicious it tasted.  The recipe suggested topping the cake with chocolate curls, but by the time I was finally finished assembling all the layers I was exhausted and settled for a sprinkling of cocoa powder.
From Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan

For the Cake:
2 cups cake flour
2 t baking powder
1/8 t baking soda
1/4 t salt
1 1/4 sticks (10 T) unsalted butter, room temp.
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
1 t pure vanilla extract (I'm going to substitute vanilla beans from my huge stash!)
3/4 cup buttermilk

For the Dark Chocolate Cream:
2 cups whole milk
4 large egg yolks
6 T sugar
3 T cornstarch, sifted
1/4 t salt
7 oz bittersweet chocolate, melted
2 1/2 T unsalted butter, cut into 5 pieces, at room temp

For the White Chocolate Whipped Cream:
6 oz premium quality white chocolate (such as Valrhona Ivoire or Guittard), finely chopped
1 1/2 cups heavy cream

Chocolate shavings or curls for decoration (optional)

Getting Ready: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350degrees F. Butter two 9 x 2 inch round cake pans, dust insides with flour, tap out the excess and line the bottoms of the pans with parchment or wax paper. Put the pans on a baking sheet.

To Make the Cake: Sift together the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter on medium speed until soft and creamy. Add the sugar and beat for another 3 minutes. Add the eggs one by one, and then the yolk, beating for 1 minute after each addition. Beat in the vanilla; don't be concerned if the mixture looks curdled. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients alternately with the buttermilk, adding the dry ingredients in 3 additions and the milk in 2 (begin and end with the dry ingredients); scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed and mix only until the ingredients disappear into the batter. Divide the batter evenly between the two pans and smooth the tops with a rubber spatula.

Bake for 28 to 30 minutes, rotating the pans at the midway point. When fully baked, the cakes will be golden and springy to the touch and a thin knife inserted into the centers will come out clean. Transfer the cakes to a rack and cool for about 5 minutes, then unmold, remove the paper and invert to cool to room temperature right side up on the rack.

To Make the Dark Chocolate Cream:
Bring the milk to a boil.

Meanwhile, in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk the egg yolks with the sugar, cornstarch and salt until thick and well blended. Whisking without stopping, drizzle in about 1/4 cup of the hot milk--this will temper, or warm, the yolks so they won't curdle--then, still whisking, add the remainder of the milk in a steady stream. Put the pan over medium heat and, whisking vigorously, constantly and thoroughly (make sure to get into the edges of the pan), bring the mixture to a boil. Keep at a boil, still whisking, for 1 to 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat.

Whisk in the melted chocolate, and let stand for 5 minutes. Then whisk in the pieces of butter, stirring until they are fully incorporated and the chocolate cream is smooth and silky. Press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface of the cream to create an airtight seal and refrigerate the cream until chilled, or for up to 3 days. Or, if you want to cool the cream quickly, put the bowl with the cream into a larger bowl filled with ice cubes and cold water and stir the cream occasionally until it is thoroughly chilled, about 20 minutes.

To Make the White Chocolate Whipped Cream:
Put the white chocolate in a heatproof bowl and put the bowl over a saucepan of gently simmering water. Stir frequently to melt the chocolate evenly. Meanwhile, bring 1/2 cup of the heavy cream to a boil.

When the white chocolate is melted, remove the bowl from the pan. Pour the hot cream into the melted chocolate and let it sit for a minute. Using a small spatula, stir the chocolate gently until it is smooth. Let it sit on the counter until it reaches room temperature--it can't be the least bit warm when you add it to the whipped cream.

Working with the stand mixer with the whisk attachment or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the remaining 1 cup heavy cream only until it holds the softest peaks. Turn the machine to high, add the cooled white chocolate all at once and continue to beat until the whipped cream holds firm peaks. Turn the whipped cream into a bowl, press a piece of plastic wrap gently against the surface to create an airtight seal and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or up to 6 hours.

To Assemble the Cake:
If the tops of the cake layers have crowned, use a long serrated knife and a gentle sawing motion to even them. Slice each layer horizontally in half. Place one layer cut side down on a cardboard cake round or on a cake plate protected by strips of wax or parchment paper.

Remove the dark and white chocolate creams from the refrigerator and whisk each of them vigorously to loosen and smooth them. With a long metal icing spatula, spread enough dark chocolate cream (about 1 cup) over the cake layer to cover it completely. Top the cream with another cake layer, cut side up, and cover this layer with white chocolate whipped cream, making the white layer about the same thickness as the dark layer. Cover with a third layer, cut side up, and cover with another cup of so of the dark chocolate cream. (You'll have some dark chocolate cream left over--use it as a dip for madeleines or sables). Top with the final layer of cake, cut side down, and frost the sides and top with the remaining white chocolate whipped cream. If you'd like to decorate the top with chocolate shavings or curls, do it now.

Refrigerate for at least 3 hours, or overnight.