Sunday, February 27, 2011

Daring Bakers- Panna Cotta and Florentine Cookies

The February 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Mallory from A Sofa in the Kitchen. She chose to challenge everyone to make Panna Cotta from a Giada De Laurentiis recipe and Nestle Florentine Cookies.
Panna Cotta, which is Italian for cooked cream, is my husband's favorite dessert. He's spent a lot of time in Italy, and is fluent in Italian (language and food). This was a simple, straightforward recipe. My husband is a purist when it comes to Italian food so I just did vanilla. I didn't used honey as I don't like things sweetened with honey. I also cut down the cream milk ratio. Pictures are coming!

Panna Cotta
Adapted from Giada DeLaurentiis
1 cup (240 ml) whole milk
1 tablespoon (one packet) (15 ml) (7 gm) (¼ oz) unflavored powdered gelatin
1 cup whipping cream (30+% butterfat)
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup granulated sugar
pinch of salt


Pour the milk into a bowl or pot and sprinkle gelatin evenly and thinly over the milk (make sure the bowl/pot is cold by placing the bowl/pot in the refrigerator for a few minutes before you start making the Panna Cotta). Let stand for 5 minutes to soften the gelatin.
Pour the milk into the saucepan/pot and place over medium heat on the stove. Heat this mixture until it is hot, but not boiling, about five minutes. (I whisk it a few times at this stage).
Next, add the cream, milk, sugar, and pinch of salt. Making sure the mixture doesn't boil, continue to heat and stir occasionally until the sugar and honey have dissolved 5-7 minutes.
Remove from heat, allow it to sit for a few minutes to cool slightly. Then pour into the glass or ramekin.
Refrigerate at least 6 hours or overnight. Add garnishes and serve.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

CS Bakers- Chocolate Heath Bar Cake

Guess I've been MIA in Cake Slice Bakers again. But I couldn't pass up the opportunity to make something with Health bars. My favorite candy bar. I've always been disappointed when using the Heath baking bits in recipes, though. The whole point of Heath bars is the crunchy texture, and the baking bits always end up soggy. 
This recipe, for Chocolate Heath Bar cake (we don't drink coffee so I subbed cocoa), uses chopped up candy bars. The cake is a simple cake topped with a Heath bar streusel. The cake was a fave with our friends and family. The cake is moist, and the crunch chocolatey Heath bar is a fun topping. It tasted like a breakfast cake to us. Try it out!

February’s Cake: Coffee Heath Bar Crunch Cake
(Recipe from Cake Keeper Cakes by Lauren Chattman)

For the Cake
1½ cups all purpose flour
1 tbsp instant espresso powder
1½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1½ tsp vanilla extract
1 cup milk

For the Streusel
1 cup/4 Heath bars (1.4ounces each), chopped *(see below)
2 tbsp light brown sugar
2 tbsp all purpose flour
1 tbsp butter, softened

Method – Streusel
Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease a 9inch round springform pan.
Combine the Heath bars, brown sugar, flour and butter in a medium mixing bowl. Work the mixture with your fingers until it resembles large crumbs. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Method – Cake
Combine the flour, espresso powder, baking powder and salt in a medium mixing bowl.
Combine the butter and brown sugar in a large mixing bowl and cream with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. With the mixer on low speed, add the egg, egg yolk and vanilla.
With the mixer on low speed, add a third of the flour mixture and then half the milk, scraping down the bowl after each addition. Repeat, alternating the flour and milk, ending with the flour.
Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth into an even layer with a spatula. Scatter the streusel onto the batter, distributing it evenly over the cake.
Bake the cake until golden and a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean, 55 to 60 minutes. Let the cake cool in the pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Release the sides of the pan and use a large spatula to slide the cake from the pan bottom to onto a wire rack. Cool completely, cut into wedges and serve.
Store uneaten cake in a cake keeper or wrap in plastic and store at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Chewy, No-Roll Sugar Cookies

We have three kids, but even before we had three kids, we had a middle child. Maybe since about the time she was 10 months old, she was a middle child. Countless things have been broken/ruined by this girl. But I do feel badly for her- never the first or last to do anything. With all that feisty comes the sweetest, goofiest, loving girl you can imagine.
Today, while she was stuck at home while her older sister had playgroup, I suggested we make cookies together. I wanted chocolate chip, but she wanted "vanilla. With pink fwinkows (sprinkles)." 
I didn't want to have to chill, roll and cut them, so I made this recipe for sugar cookies that is so easy and the cookies are SO good. Chewy with a little crisp edge, thick and moist. Just like my ideal chocolate chip cookie.
As you can see, I rolled some of them in fwinkows like LuLu asked, and then frosted some. My preference is frosted, but fwinkows are a big hit, too!
Chewy No-Roll Sugar Cookies
makes about 3 dozen

3 cups all-purpose flour
2 t baking powder
1 t salt
2/3 cup unsalted butter, slightly softened
1/2 cup shortening
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 t vanilla extract
1/2 t almond extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter, shortening and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, scraping the bowl between additions. Add vanilla and mix well. Gradually add flour mixture and mix just until combined. 
Roll dough into 2 inch balls and cover with sprinkles (skip sprinkles if using frosting). Place balls 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets and bake 8-10 minutes, until edges are crisp and middle is just slightly soft. Let cool 2 minutes before removing from pan to racks to cool completely. Frost, if desired.

Quick Fluffy Frosting
makes about 1 cup

1/2 cup shortening
3 cups confectioners' sugar
2 T milk
1/2 t almond extract (or vanilla)

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the shortening until smooth. Gradually add the confectioners sugar and extract, and beat until fluffy, adding milk to reach the proper consistency. 

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

TWD- Chocolate Oatmeal Drops

This week's TWD is for Chocolate Oatmeal Drops. I've never had chocolate oatmeal cookies. Obviously, I've had oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, but not chocolate oatmeal. These cookies are super easy and quick- they get their rich (I mean, RICH) chocolate flavor from cocoa powder and melted chocolate. I halved the recipe because I wasn't sure if my family would love them. Actually, I halved it because I only had 1 stick of butter in my fridge. :)
I thought these were fairly tasty, but not my favorite. I might have overbaked them a little- they seemed a little dry. My husband ate one. My two daughters ate a couple each. And my 18 month old ate 5. Today. (I know, what kind of mother lets an 18 month old eat 5 cookies? One who's trying to get a Valentine's present for her husband at the mall!)
The recipe will be here.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day!

I'll be honest here. I've never been someone who really gets into Valentine's Day. Sure, I loved making mailboxes in elementary school and giving valentines to my classmates (and I did save the best valentine in the box for the cute boy). This Valentine's day might hold the most excitement for me because my 5 year old told me tonight that she's going to get up in the morning and put something special on my nightstand that she made in school. She also said with a totally serious face, "sorry, mom, I didn't make blue hydrangeas or marzipan at school for you," (my two favorite things).
To help me get into the spirit of things a little, I baked up some goodies. Some heart sugar cookies (recipe here):
An owl/heart cake for Elizabeth, who turned 1. The cake is red velvet with cream cheese buttercream (very Valentinesy): 
And lastly, some heart cake pops- red velvet, of course!
I am looking forward to spending the day with my family, being outside and eating yummy food. But who needs a holiday to do that? 

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


I love Mexican food. LOVE it. When I was younger, I didn't like it because I thought it was to fattening. Seriously, what was I thinking? Granted, the only Mexican food I'd had at that point was drenched in sauce and cheese (although now,  I think that's heavenly). My favorite Mexican dish of all time is carnitas- pork roast simmered in liquid, and then roasted. I hadn't really had it until I moved to Los Angeles after I finished college. Southern California has so many different little taco shops and restaurants that have amazing carnitas.
I decided to make some myself. I was tempted to go the slow cooker route, but I decided doing it in the oven seemed more authentic. I found David Lebovitz's recipe for carnitas and decided to try it. The recipe is very straight forward and requires relatively few ingredients. After searing the pieces of meat, you simmer them in the oven with water, a cinnamon stick, cumin, garlic, chili powder and bay leaves.
The recipe says to cook it for 3.5 hours, but mine was done after about 2.5. After shredding the meat and putting it back in the oven to crisp up, we had an AMAZING taco dinner. I was surprised how easy and delicious homemade carnitas is. Try this recipe; you'll be glad you did!

Serves Eight
Adapted from The Sweet Life in Paris by David Lebovitz
4-5-pounds boneless pork should, cut into 5-inch chunks, trimmed of excess fat
1 tablespoon coarse sea salt
2 tablespoons canola or neutral vegetable oil
1 cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon chile powder
1 teaspoon ancho chile powder
2 bay leaves
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and thinly-sliced
1. Rub the pieces of pork shoulder all over with salt. Refrigerate for 1- to 3-days. (You can skip this step if you want. Just be sure to salt the pork before searing the meat in the next step.)
2. Heat the oil in a roasting pan set on the stovetop. Cook the pieces of pork shoulder in a single layer until very well-browned, turning them as little as possible so they get nice and dark before flipping them around. If your cooking vessel is too small to cook them in a single-layer, cook them in two batches.
3. Once all the pork is browned, remove them from the pot and blot away any excess fat with a paper towel, then pour in about a cup of water, scraping the bottom of the pan with a flat-edged utensil to release all the tasty brown bits.
4. Heat the oven to 350F (180C) degrees.
5. Add the pork back to the pan and add enough water so the pork pieces are 2/3rd’s submerged in liquid. Add the cinnamon stick and stir in the chile powders, bay leaves, cumin and garlic.
7. Braise in the oven uncovered for 3½ hours, turning the pork a few times during cooking, until much of the liquid is evaporated and the pork is falling apart. Remove the pan from the oven and lift the pork pieces out of the liquid and set them on a platter.
8. Once the pork pieces are cool enough to handle, shred them into bite-sized pieces, about 2-inches (7 cm), discarding any obvious big chunks of fat if you wish.
9. Return the pork pieces back to the roasting pan and cook in the oven, turning occasionally, until the liquid has evaporated and the pork is crispy and caramelized. It will depend on how much liquid the pork gave off, and how crackly you want them.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

TWD? No. But Dinosaur cake? Yes!

Sorry, there's no Bourbon Bread Pudding here. We don't drink alcohol so we don't have any in our house. Plus, I was busy making this:
Cute Cody turned 4 and wanted a dinosaur cake. Last year it was horses. The cake is covered and decorated in fondant. The dinosaur is gunpaste/fondant. Cake is chocolate with vanilla buttercream.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Simple Fried Brown Rice

In the seemingly never-ending quest to feed my kids healthier food, we bought brown calrose rice from Costco last week. My husband and I like brown rice, but I wasn't sure if our kids would feel the same way. For those of you who don't know, brown rice is considered "whole grain" because the husk is still in tact. Brown rice and white rice have similar calorie, carbohydrate and protein amounts, but brown rice is much higher in vitamins.
I make this rice as a quick, go-to dinner. You can alter in many different ways- adding different vegetables or meat. I've made it with ham or pork; I always have frozen peas and corn on hand, but I've thrown in broccoli and carrots as well. I find this recipe is a good way to get my kids to eat vegetables since they're all mixed together.. and a little soy sauce doesn't hurt, either!
Simple Fried Rice
2 slices bacon (or 1 cup diced ham, cubed pork, etc.)
2 cups cooked brown rice, cold
3 eggs
1 cup frozen peas
1 cup frozen corn
1/2 cup frozen shelled edamame
5 T of low-sodium soy sauce

In a large skillet, cook the bacon on medium heat until crisp. Remove from pan and place on paper towels to drain. Wipe the skillet with a paper towel and add the cooked brown rice. Return the pan to medium heat and fry the rice for 2 minutes. Move the rice to one side of the pan, and add the eggs to the other side. Scramble the eggs for a minute, then stir in the rice, mixing until the rice and eggs are combined. Let cook until the eggs are no longer wet, stirring occasionally.
Add the peas, corn, edamame and soy sauce. Cover and let cook 3-4 minutes, until vegetables are warmed through. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Bundt Cake

A friend of mine is having a baby boy soon, and for her shower she requested this chocolate chocolate chip bundt cake. I guess it was a hit at another shower and the mom-to-be loved it- A simple bundt from a mix, topped with cream cheese frosting. I added some fondant flowers and a little bear.
Chocolate Chocolate Chip Bundt Cake
recipe adapted from Gabrielle D'Ambra

Chocolate Chocolate Chip
1 pkg. devils food cake mix
1 small pkg. instant chocolate pudding
1 cup sour cream
4 large eggs
3/4 cup whole milk
1/2 cup oil
1 cup
 chocolate chips 

Mix first six ingredients together with an electric mixer. Stir in chocolate chips. Pour into a greased bunt cake pan. Cook in oven at 350 degrees for 35-40 mins. Remove from oven. Let cool for 20 mins. Remove from pan and cool on rack completely.

Cream Cheese Frosting
1 (8 ounce) pkg. cream cheese, softened
1/2 c. butter, softened
2 c. powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
In a medium bowl, cream together the cream cheese and butter until creamy. Mix in the vanilla, then gradually stir in the powdered sugar.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

TWD- Great Grains Muffins

I think Julie put it best on the P&Q when she said, "After months of sugar overload, this might be just what I need." Seriously. The holidays are over. But somehow, desserts just keep popping up. 
These muffins, with cornmeal, oatmeal and whole wheat flour aren't exactly healthy. They still have plenty of sugar and butter. The recipe calls for dried fruit, but you know what I think about that. I did have the urge to put chocolate chips in them, but I'm proud to say I resisted (ok, I am kinda regretting it). They tasted like cornbread to us, very dense and moist.
They are quick to put together, if not all that exciting. Happy Tummy will have the recipe. And check out other TWD'ers here.