Monday, July 27, 2009


The July Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Nicole at Sweet Tooth.
She chose Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies and Milan Cookies from pastry chef Gale Gand of the Food Network.

In Nicole's words, "I'm a huge fan of Gale Gand, I have tried a lot of her recipes and they are such a huge success. For July's challenge though I wanted to try something different and I wanted to do Gand’s version on my favorite store bought cookies which are the Peppridge Farm Milano Cookies and the Mallows (Chocolate covered Cookies). I've been wanting to try this recipe but just haven't have the chance to do so or to be honest haven’t have the courage to tackle homemade marshmallow yet, until now."

So Nicole threw down the gauntlet and challenged all the Daring Bakers to make marshmallows. Hummm. I'm not a big marshmallow fan, but what the hay. Mallows it would be.

The cookie part of the mallow was a snap. Other Daring Bakers had cautioned that the recipe made a ton of cookies, so I cut the recipe down to a third.

Next came the marshmallows. Yikes, what a sticky mess! I had marshmallow cream in my hair, under my nails, stuck to my elbow, nose and cheek. Good thing no one was around to take pictures of me.

As with the cookies, other Daring Bakers had forewarned the procrastinators about marshmallow mixing pitfalls, so I beat the marshmallow mix like forever. Here it is after 15 minutes.

In the end I mixed it too long (you think) because the marshmallows firmed up almost immediately and I had a hard time piping. I tried a variety of piped shapes including the traditional, spirals, and bunnies (got the idea from Martha Stewart).

Here is one of the marshmallow bunnies going into the chocolate bath. Swim little fella, swim.

Some Daring Bakers also reported that the chocolate thinned with oil took too long to set, so they suggested using solid shortening instead. I used the shortening and my chocolate set very quickly, but it got all spotty. I don't know if the problem was my chocolate (Nestle) or my technique (melting in a microwave). I guess my chocolate wasn't tempered properly, but the taste testers didn't seem to mind.

So here are the finished Mallows. The traditional:

The Mallow Bunny (my favorite):

The Spiral: With the spiral I was trying for a lollipop look (a la Bakerella), but they just didn't look right. When I covered them in chocolate they resembled mounds of dog poo on a stick! I didn't want to gross anyone out, so I just sprinkled the spirals with colored sugar instead. ( I have pictures of the "poo" if you want to see...)

The Peek-A-Boo Mallow. At this point I was running out of chocolate so I just spooned a blob of chocolate on the top instead of dipping the entire cookie.

So that is it for the July 2009 Daring Baker Challenge. I can't wait to see what we get to bake in August.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Lemon-Lime Curd Cake with Blueberries

I stumbled across the delicious looking cake on Vita Arina’s flickr page and started to drool. Now I’m not a big fan of lemon curd (don’t you just hate that name?), but this cake looked scrumptious enough to tempt even my anti-lemon heart.

I started the egg whites beating, mixed up the batter, and then folded the peaked eggs whites into the batter.

Here are the cakes just out of the oven. I over baked them of course (I over bake everything), but they weren’t too, too dry. The cakes had a faint lime flavor and the spongy, airy texture of angel food.

Here is the lime curd in the staging processes. My curd came out much more yellow than Vita Arina’s. It must be the Egg Land’s Best eggs that I used. Notice how bright, almost neon, the yolks are? No Photoshopping, I promise.

The finished curd. Look at the little bits of lime rind suspended in the curd. It makes it looks so old-fashioned and home made.

Next it was time to prepare the whipping cream frosting. The recipe called for gelatin to “stabilize” the heavy whipping cream. I had never done this before, but you know what--It really worked! I took the final pictures of the cake outside in 95 degree heat and 100% humidity, and the cream frosting did not droop or melt one bit. Thanks, Vita. Stabilized whipping cream frosting is a amazing.

Here is the gelatin softening, and then melted. Vita said to heat gelatin over a low fire to liquify it, but I just zapped the bowl in the microwave for 15 seconds at 30% power. Worked fine.

Be careful when you pour the gelatin into the cream. Do it slowly and consistently and keep the beaters going. Some of my gelatin clumped and I had little semi-solid balls of gelatin in the frosting. Nasty.

Next came the assembly. Cake-Curd-Blueberries-Cake-Curd-bulueberries-Cake.

One third of the curd goes between each layer, and the final third goes into the frosting. The curd really added a nice flavor to the whipping cream. Not too citrusy or sweet. Just perfect.

So here is the final cake. Not as nice as Vita Arina’s, but not too bad for a novice like me.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Blueberry Buckle


Thank you Alton Brown for this quick and delicious Blueberry Buckle (Crumb Cake) recipe. I’ve never had better. It was moist and tender and dripping with juicy berries.

The batter only took a few minutes to mix and then in went the plump blueberries. I folded as gently as I could, but the batter was stiff and a few of the berries broke apart. I may be making excuses, but I like the way the berry juice stained the batter. It adds a dramatic touch. Next time I’ll break even more berries, so there.

The buckle just out of the oven. Alton said to bake in a glass pan, but I didn’t have one so I used my Pampered Chef 9x9 brownie pan. It baked up just fine. The recipe calls for powdered ginger in the batter and nutmeg in the crumb topping. Honestly I couldn't detect any hint of ginger in the cake, but I could smell the nutmeg in the topping. Next time I'll cut back on the nutmeg, not because it wasn't good, but I just associate nutmeg with apple pie and not blueberry.

Yummm, or like I said earlier: Blueberrylicious!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

What's Blooming? - July 2009

It is mid-summer here so there are plenty of things are blooming in my garden...

The gladiolas are just starting to open.

The bougainvillea are flowering up a storm. Sorry about the hazyness at the top of the picture. I walked from the air-conditioned house to the hot, humid air outside and my lens fogged up.

And the roses are still hanging in there even with the record breaking heat we have been having in New Orleans.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Mini Apple Pies

A few months ago I stumbled across a blog entry for Mini Apple Pies and fell in love with the concept. Miniature little pie shells, tiny crimped edges, the little gems were just too cute for words! I had to give them a try...

When the 4th of July rolled around, I decided to bake mini apple pies rather than my usual offering (Mrs. Smith's frozen pie). So off to the store I went for Pillsbury refrigerated pie crust and apples. People always say to use tart varieties like Granny Smith in pie filling, but I like a mix of sweet, tart, firm and soft apple in my pies. Just call be a pie rebel.

Below is the Apple Pie filling recipe I used. It is from Michael Lomonaco with a few minor adjustments by me (added brown sugar and nutmeg, eliminated cloves and raisins).

2-1/2 pounds firm apples
1/2 cup sugar plus more for sprinkling
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
Pie Dough (make your own, or buy the roll-out kind like me)
1 egg beaten with 2 Tablespoons water to make an egg wash

Peel, core, and slice the apples into 1/4-inch wedges.

Melt 3 tablespoons of the butter in a large, heavy-bottomed saute pan over medium heat. Add the apple wedges and saute for 3-4 minutes. Add the 1/2 cup white sugar and 1/4 cup brown sugar to the apples and stir until combined. Add the cinnamon and nutmeg and stir.

In a small cup combine the lemon juice and cornstarch. Add the mixture to the sauteing apples. Stir to combine and remove pan from the heat. Let cool completely.

Roll out your pie crust to 1/8" thick and using a 5-1/2" bowl, cut out a circle.

Don't , I repeat DON'T, use a 4-1/2" cookie cutter for this! It may look big enough, but it doesn't give you enough extra dough to crimp the top and bottom crusts together. Just look at what happened to my first batch:

~~ Oh the Shame ~~

I used the 4-1/2" round cookie cutter and the bottom piece of raw dough fit perfectly into the cupcake pan, BUT I didn't have nearly enough dough to form a good crimp. I was hesitant, but I told myself it would be okay and forged boldly ahead. Little did I know what horrors awaited me. Sometime during baking process the seal failed and apple filling bubbled out. The sticky stuff oozed onto the pan and down in between the bottom crust and the side of the cupcake well. What a mess. What a royal mess. The pies stuck to the pan like glue and in some cases had to be chiseled free. So learn from my mistake and give yourself a lot of crimping room.

Now back to the directions....
Place the (extra large) circle of dough into the cupcake well.

And carefully smooth and stretch the sides to fit flat.

Overfill with that delicious pre-cooked apple filling.

Put a smaller round of dough on top of the filling (I did use the 4-1/2" cookie cutter for the tops), and squash the edge of the top crust into the bottom. Trim off the excess, leaving about 3/8 - 1/2" of dough all the way around.

Crimp the top and bottom pie crust together and curl on top of the pie. Don't leave the crimped edge on the flat part of the cupcake pan or the crust will burn. Add pie dough decorations (I used little cut-out leaves) and cut three little slits for steam venting. Brush the top with egg wash (oops, I put the egg wash on a little too thick), and sprinkle with sugar (I used coarse decorating sugar).

Pop the minis into an preheated, 375 degree F oven and bake for 20 minutes (or until the crust is golden brown).

That's it. Easy as pie.


Sunday, July 5, 2009

Results - June Yellow Cake Scratch-Off

A group of scratch bakers over at Cake Central have been having a "Scratch-Off" in which 15 different Yellow Cake recipes were baked and reviewed. 18 bakers participated and a total of 40 votes were cast.

The fifteen yellow cake recipes compared were:

  1. Great American Cakes by Barbara Kafka
  2. Lita829's Yellow Cake - see page 3 post #9 of for recipe
  3. Sylvia Weinstock's Classic Yellow Cake - missing link - See comment section for recipe
  4. Sylvia Weinstock's NEW Yellow Cake -  missing link - Same as Classic version but with 1 additional cup of milk.
  5. Not So Lemon Lemon Cake adapted from Magnolia Bakery - missing link
  6. Paula Deen's 1234 Basic 1-2-3-4 Cake
  7. Whimsical Bake House Gold Cake - missing link
  8. All-Purpose Buttery Yellow Cake - The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook
  9. Vanilla Buttermilk Recipe from Sky High
  10. White on White Buttermilk Cake
  11. The All-Occasion Downy Yellow Cake - missing link
  12. Cakeman Raven's Red Velvet Modified by Maryjsgirl into a yellow and lighter cake see post #11 for recipe
  13. K8Memphis Golden Cake - see page 3 post #9 of for recipe
  14. Serious Cakes' Yellow Cake
  15. Toba Garett's Moist Yellow Cake
(drum roll please)

The WINNER with 6 votes and final score of 8.83) of Cake Central's June's Yellow Cake "Scratch-Off is ...

Wait for it...

Sylvia Weinstock's ORIGINAL Classic Yellow Cake !!!!!!!

#1 - Sylvia Weinstock's Original Classic Yellow Cake - with a final score of 8.83
#2 - White on White Buttermilk - 8.33
#3 - Not So Lemon Magnolia Cake - 8.25

Congratulations Sylvia Weinstock's ORIGINAL Classic Yellow Cake !!!

PS: a lot of the testers tried Sylvia's NEW recipe (which is her old recipe plus 1 cup of milk) and 90% of testers considered it a total flop. So be warned.

July's Scratch-Off will be CHOCOLATE CAKE. Yummm. Nothing better than chocolate.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Red White & Blue Cupcakes

What would a 4th of July BBQ be without brightly colored cupcakes?

Don't you just love these Wilton cupcake liners?

I took the easy route for these cupcakes and used a box white cake mix. I divided the batter into three bowls and dyed one bowl of batter bright red and another bright blue.

Then just spoon about a tablespoon of each color into the cupcake liner, bake them for 18 minutes, and voila you get multi-colored 4th of July cupcakes. So cute, and easy too.