Saturday, February 27, 2010

DB: Tiramisu

The February 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen and Deeba of Passionate About Baking. They chose Tiramisu as the challenge for the month. Their challenge recipe is based on recipes from The Washington Post, Cordon Bleu at Home and Baking Obsession.

When I saw the February 2010 Daring Bakers’ Challenge I groaned. Tiramisu. Two tastes I hate most in the world (coffee & pudding) rolled into one dessert. I seriously considered not doing the challenge, but then I remembered my mom LOVES Tiramisu so I figured I could pawn the whole thing off on her.

The Tiramisu was composed of a lot of individual parts that made up the finished product. Mascarpone cheese, Savoilardi Biscuits, Zabaglione, pastry cream, and sweetened whipped cream. Each had to be made from scratch and then assembled.

First came the Mascarpone cheese. I had trouble from the beginning. You were supposed to use pasteurized whipping cream and using a double boiler, heat it to 190 degree. I don't have a double boiler, and all I could find at the store was ultra-pasteurized. I use an improvised double boiler, but no matter how long I heated, I couldn't get the temperature of the cream to rise above 170 degrees.

Finally I took the pot of cream out of my improvised double boiler and set it directly on the heat. The temperature shot up to 190 within seconds and the cream started to thicken.

After cooling, the mascarpone cheese went into a sieve lined with cheese cloth (I didn't have cheese cloth so I used a kitchen towel), and then into the frig for overnight chilling.

Next came the Zabaglione (what in the heck is that?). Egg yolks, sugar, Marsala wine, vanilla and lemon zest, heated gently (in that double boiler again) until it thickens.

Pastry cream next. Same kinda ingredients: egg yolks, sugar, milk, lemon zest, vanilla, heat until thickened.

Now the cookies. Yes! Something I might actually eat. Whip together the egg whites and sugar and then add the yolks.

Add the flour to the egg mixture and fold gently.

Pipe the batter onto a parchment lined baking pan.

Sprinkle the cookies with powdered sugar and then bake for 15 minutes. I think I might have baked my cookie a little too long. They were a little hard and the bottoms were very brown.

With the cookies baked and my mascarpone, zabaglione, and pastry cream chilled it was time to start assembling the Tiramisu.

I de-sieved my mascarpone and found a hard lump. It was supposed to be soft and smooth, but mine had the consistency of cold butter. In other words: hard-as-a-rock. I guess using that ultra-pasteurized whipping cream did me in.

But I moved on. I beat my mascarpone till it softened a little and then dumped in the pastry cream and zabaglione. Looks kinda gross huh? Like jars of baby food all dumped together. Did I mention I don't like "cream/pudding" desserts. This kinda grossed me out.

Now comes the assembly part. Dip the Savoiardi biscuits (Lady Fingers), into sweetened coffee and line the bottom of the pan with the moist cookies.

Top with the cream/pudding mixture and then more cookies.

Refrigerate overnight, and then server. My Tiramisu wouldn't set, so I stuck it in the freezer to harden it up enough to cut.

And yes I did taste some. It had a lemony flavor and I didn't taste much coffee at all (which is a good thing for me).

So all-in-all the Tiramisu challenge was very enjoyable. I had a lot of fun making the individual components and assembling the finished product was a breeze. And you know what? Everyone who tried the Tiramisu honestly seamed to enjoy it (some even asked for seconds, and one person wanted thirds), and in the end making your guest happy is what is really important.

I'm sure glad I didn't skip this month's challenge. Thanks Aparna and Deeba for introducing me to a great new dessert.

Monday, February 22, 2010

TWD - Rick Katz's Brownies for Julia

I know I'm a little late but here is my posting of "Rick Katz's Brownies for Julia", which was due on February 9. This recipe was selected by Tanya of Chocolatechic for the weekly Tuesday with Dorie challenge.

I'm a chronic procrastinator, but you know what? Sometimes procrastination pays off! I took all the lessons learned by the "on-time" TWD bakers and tweaked the recipe to conform to my taste (I prefer cakey brownies). Several of the TWD bakers commented that the finished brownies were VERY gooey, and others stated that they were almost impossible to cut. To combat the gooeyness some bakers added more flour and others increased the baking time. I did both.

Ta Da! My version of "Rick Katz's Brownies for Julia"

Mixing wize, this brownie batter was one of the most involved I've encountered. In one bowl you melt the chocolate and butter, in another bowl you whisk together the eggs and sugar. Slowly drizzle half the egg-sugar mixture into the melted chocolate, stirring all the while to keep the eggs from cooking in the warm chocolate.

Beat the remaining half of the sugar-egg mixture until it doubles in volume.

And then gently fold the fluffy sugar-eggs into the chocolate mixture.

Sprinkle the flour over the chocolate mixture and fold with a spatula to incorporate. Spoon the batter into the pan. I opted for individual ramekins instead of one large pan. I figured the ramekins would solve the problem of un-cutable brownies (as reported by other TWD bakers), and the individual servings would reduce the gooeyness of the brownies because there would be more crunchy edges and less soft center.

Just out of the oven. I baked them for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.

Still hot from the oven the center of the brownie was pleasantly moist, but as it cooled the center hardened and became cakeier (sp). If I had to do it over I would reduce the cooking time to 25-27 minutes.

But there probably won't be a next time.

While the brownies were good, they weren't good enough to justify the involved mixing process and the number of dirty bowl and utensils that littered my counter top. Not only am I a procrastinator but I'm a lazy procrastinator.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Cinnamon Bun Cookies

Something that had long been on my baking "To Do" list were Cinnamon Bun Cookies. The name alone is enough to fill my nose with remembered scents of yeast, cinnamon and sugar. Ahhh Cinnabon where art thou?

But despite my fevered anticipation (or may be because of it), my Cinnamon Bun Cookie experience was not up to par. I had both assembly and baking issues, and honestly I just didn't think they tasted all that great. I thought there was too much cinnamon and the cookie part was kinda bland.

So now the recap:

The dough was easy to prepare. Here I am rolling it to 1/8" thickness between two sheets of waxed paper. Since discovering this method a few months ago I have never gone back to "floured surface" method. Using the wax or parchment paper eliminates the mess, the sticking, and the real hazard of adding too much additional flour to the cookie dough.

Here is the dough topped with its cinnamon-sugar filling. Notice how close I have the cinnamon-sugar to the long edge of the dough. Uh-Oh, this will come back to haunt me.

The rolling up of the dough was a little tricky. The dough got very sticky and tore in a few spots. I also had an issue with the center of the dough rectangle being thicker than the ends, so my log rolled uneven. This caused another set of problems during baking.

Here is the dough getting sliced. The center pieces looked really nice, all perfectly round and tightly rolled, but the pieces cut from the ends were lopsided and malformed (notice I didn't photograph them).

I take that back, I did photograph some of the deformed looking end pieces. To get rid of the gaps between the cinnamon-sugar and cookie dough layers I tried squishing it tight together. But ultimately my squishing didn't help.

Just out of the oven and Cinnamon Bun Cookie disaster! The outer ring of dough and cinnamon just kinda collapsed and fell flat. I was so disappointed.

With the second batch I squished the cookie rolls even tighter but the sides still fell over. Thinking about it now, I probably didn't leave a large enough sealing edge of dough. I probably scattered the cinnamon-sugar too close to the outer edge of the roll-up so there wasn't enough dough-to-dough contact to form a tight seal.

Poor little Cinnamon Bun Cookies how unlovable you look, but it is amazing how many flaws you can cover up with a little bit of icing.

So all-in-all not a very satisfying baking experience. The Cinnamon Bun Cookies tasted okay, but not good enough to warrant a second baking attempt.

If you want to see what they SHOULD look like, check out The Recipe Girl's version (and not mine).

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Homemade Oreo Cookies

Homemade Oreo Cookies have dominated the blogoshphere lately, and they have gotten such rave reviews that I had to give them a try.

And you know what? All those bloggers were right. These things are fantastic. I’m a long-time lover of Oreos, but the homemade version is better, much, much better. The filling is a perfect copy-cat of the Oreo filling but the homemade cookie wafers are sweeter, slightly softer and so much better than the originals.

The cookie dough is just basic stuff: flour, cocoa, baking soda and powder, salt, sugar all whisked together, and then add the butter and eggs to form a soft dough.

Next form the cookies dough into round balls and flatten. I used a small tablespoon size ice-cream scooper to get cookies of a uniform size, but this made the cookies too big. The guests at the party wouldn’t take a whole sandwich cookie, everyone cut it in half and took just one piece. BUT I did notice that within seconds of tasting the cookie everyone, and I mean everyone, came back and scooped up their second half.

Also be warned: during baking these cookies spread A LOT. Leave lots of space between the cookies. My first batch spread so much that the cookies had to be cut apart. They also come out very flat. When they first come out of the oven they are nice and puffy, but they soon deflate. I kinda like the look of the puffy cookies (I wish they would have stayed like that), but they look more like the real thing once they had flattened.

The cookie filling was easy too. Typical buttercream frosting. The only thing I would do differently next time would be to use a clear vanilla extract. The regular brown stuff gave the filling a slightly ecru, off-white color.

And I didn’t put enough filling in between the cookies. :(
I was afraid I would run out so I was a little consertative with my filling swirls.

I ended up with about half the filling left over. Next time I’ll really load them up with filling and make Double Stuff Homemade Oreo Cookies. Yummm…

Homemade Oreo Cookies


For the chocolate wafers:

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa (the special dark gives the cookies a very dark color)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups sugar (sweetened to your liking)
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) room-temperature, unsalted butter
  • 1 large egg

For the filling:

  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) room-temperature, unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup vegetable shortening
  • 2 cups sifted confectioners sugar
  • 2 teaspoons clear vanilla extract


  1. Preheat to 375°F.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer whisk together flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and sugar.
  3. Add the butter, and then the egg. Continue mixing until dough comes together in a mass.
  4. Take about 2 teaspoons of dough and roll into a ball. Place balls on parchment paper-lined baking sheet approximately two inches apart. Important: the cookies spread a lot so make sure you separate them by 2 inches. With damp fingers, slightly flatten the dough ball into a disk. Bake for 9 minutes, rotating once for even baking. Set baking sheets on a rack to cool.
  5. To make the filling: Cream together butter and shortening. At a low speed gradually add the sugar and then the vanilla. Turn the mixer on high and beat for 2 to 3 minutes until filling is light and fluffy.
  6. To assemble the cookies: Scoop the filling into a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2 inch round tip. Pipe a circular swirl on one cookie. Place another cookie, equal in size to the first, on top of the cream and press the two cookie together.
  7. Enjoy with a tall glass of milk.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Condensed Milk Pound Cake - Disaster

Do you ever get the feeling that you have forgotten something important?

Not something monumental like forgetting you kid at daycare, but something embarrassing (and expensive) like leaving the lawn sprinklers on all night. It's funny how the mind works. You remember that you forgot something, but not what you forgot. Talk about irony.

Well that is how I felt Saturday afternoon in my pre NFL Superbowl baking frenzy. I was trying out a new recipe for Condensed Milk Pound Cake and the whole time I was mixing the batter I had this nagging suspicion that something was wrong. The batter came together easily, but it just didn't look right. I thought my anxiety might be over the eggs (the egg whites had looked goopier than normal).

But they passed the "sniff" test and the finished batter looked and tasted fine.

In the end I ignored the "some thing's not right" feeling, poured the batter into the pan, and started baking.

It hit me about 15 minutes later: SUGAR.

I had forgotten to add the 1/2 cup of sugar that the recipe called for. Damn, damn, damn.

It was too late the pull the batter out of the oven, and I didn't have another can of condensed milk to start the pound cake over. Did I already say damn? Damn. Note to self, if you feel like you have forgotten something, YOU HAVE.

Stop, take a breather and review the recipe. Mother Nature gave you those instincts for a reason, girly.

Anyway, here is the finished pound cake. It looked okay, but it was definitely not sweet enough to be called dessert. But all was not lost. Once I slathered it with icing (leftover from my Geaux Saints Sugar Cookies) my low-sugar pound cake tasted just fine.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Geaux Saints -More (good luck) Sugar Cookies

I know, I know... More Saints Sugar Cookies, but I've come to believe that they bring good luck.


I BELIEVE the Saints can win the SUPERBOWL!

Go Saints!

Bless you Boys!

Who Dat!

Who dat say they gonna beat them Saints?!

Who Dat!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

TWD: Milk Chocolate Mini Bundt Cakes

This week' assignment at Tuesdays with Dorie was one of my favorite so far: Milk Chocolate Mini Bundt Cakes. Chocolate batter, chocolate filling, chocolate topping, could a chocoholic ask for anything more?

But I do have one gripe---where is the line between fudgy cake and brownies? This dessert is called "cake", but I found it very brownie-like in consistency. It was dense and crumbly with a wet, fudgy layer. The taste was out of this world (I ate two of those little suckers myself), but my analytical mind wants to know: is it a cake or is it a brownie?

The recipe instructions start out with the filling. Simply whisk the nuts, sugar, and cocoa until combined.

Next melt the milk chocolate and allow to cool. The recipe calls for 7 oz of milk chocolate, but I had read some of the messages on TWD that the cakes weren't chocolaty enough so I used 5 oz of milk chocolate and 2 oz of special dark chocolate. The recipe also calls for "premium" chocolate, but I just used run-of-the-mill Hershey bars. Call me unsophisticated, but I love the way Hershey taste.

The batter was quick and easy to combine, but very thick, almost like cookie dough in texture. Here it is after the flour was added, but before the chocolate.


The addition of the melted chocolate thinned the batter somewhat, but not a whole lot.

Next came the assembly. Batter, filling, batter. I should also mention that I search in 4 different stores and couldn't find the 6-cavity mini Bundt pan that Dorie used. I found a 12-cavity Bundt, but not a 6-cavity. In the end I used a jumbo muffin pan. The end product wasn't as cute as Dorie's but my family didn't seem to care.

Just out of the oven. I baked my muffins for 20 minutes, but I think they would have been perfect at 19 minutes.

The one issue I had with the recipe was the "Glaze", which was just chocolate and corn syrup. Sounds easy enough, but mine didn't work. Chocolate seizer set in as soon as I put the corn syrup into the warm chocolate. Yikes! I tired reheating the supposed glaze, but it just got even harder.

But a lot of other bakers at TWD had the same problem with the glaze, so I didn't feel completely foolish. In the end I just whipped up some ganache and squeezed it on top of my mini cakes.

So all-in-all another tasty Dorie recipe. I haven't had one fail yet.