Sunday, September 27, 2009

Daring Bakers Sept 2009 - Puff Pastry

The September 2009 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Steph of A Whisk and a Spoon. She chose the French treat, Vols-au-Vent based on the Puff Pastry recipe by Michel Richard from the cookbook Baking With Julia by Dorie Greenspan.

In Steph's words, "Puff Pastry (aka pâte feuilletée) is something most of us usually buy at the grocery store, but in order to be really daring, we should make our own at least once in awhile, right? Kitchens should be getting cooler in the northern hemisphere, and are hopefully still cool-ish in the southern hemisphere, so I’m hoping you will all join me in making homemade puff pastry from Michel Richard’s recipe, as it appears in the book Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan. With our homemade puff we’ll be forming vols-au-vent cases to fill with anything we chose."

Hummm... Puff pastry? I've never given it much thought, but I'm a Daring Baker now so I gave it a whirl. In honor of the first day of Fall (Tuesday September 22), I decided to cut my puffs into the shape of leaves and acorns and fill with cinnamon apples. Welcome Fall.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins

I bought Dorie Greenspan's Baking from my home to yours with the intention of joining the "Tuesday with Dorie" group but their once a week baking schedule intimidated me. I'm a lax, lazy, allergic to schedules kinda person; so instead I went through the book and bookmarked all the recipes that looked enticing (there were a lot).

The first bookmark was on page 10, Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins. Hummm. I'm not a big lemon fan, but the photo of Dorie's muffins looked so good I decide to give them a try.

And you know what?

They were good, really, really good. Excellent in fact. Way to go, Dorie.

Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins with Lemon Glaze
adapted from Dorie Greenspan

Makes 12 Muffins

For the Muffins:
3/4 cup sugar
Grated zest of 2 lemons
Juice of 1 lemon
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sour cream
2 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 1/2 tablespoons poppy seeds

For the Icing:
1 cup confectioners' sugar
2-3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice


- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Spray the cups of a regular size muffin pan.

- Place the the sugar and lemon zest in a bowl and using your fingertips rub the sugar and zest together until the sugar is moist and the scent of lemon fills the air.

- Whisk the flour, poppy seeds, baking powder, baking soda and salt together, and then add the sugar/zest mixture.

- In a large bowl, whisk together the sour cream, eggs, vanilla, lemon juice and melted butter.

- Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry and with a rubber spatula blend just until the flour is moistened. Lumps are okay. Don't over mix or the muffins will be tough.

- Divide the batter equally between the 12 muffin cups. I used a large ice cream scoop and the batter divided almost perfectly.

- Bake for 18 to 20 minutes until the tops are golden brown. Allow the muffins to cool for five minutes before removing from the pan. Cool the muffins completely before icing them.

(Note: I kinda over baked my muffins. My chihuahua, Peanut, came in from outside covered in heaven-knows-what and I had to give her a quick bath. The scrubbing took longer than normal, (she was soooo disgusting) and the muffins spent 21+ minutes in the oven. Ooops. They were still good, but the edges were a little tougher than I like.)

To make the icing, mix the confectioners' sugar with about 1-1/2 tablespoons lemon juice. Add more lemon juice until a drizzle consistency is achieved. Drizzle or spread the icing over the muffins. Enjoy.

Friday, September 18, 2009

I Heart Faces - Completely Candid

This week's theme at I Heart Faces is "Completely Candid".

The rules state that all photos entered have to be a spur-of-the-moment, completely candid, non-posed capture.

I ask you, what could possibly be be more candid than catching teenage boys cuddling a puppy?!!?

I just love the look on Brad's face.

I can almost hear his thoughts, "Take my picture and you die!"

Thursday, September 17, 2009

What's Blooming - Pampas Grass

What's blooming in my garden today - Pampas Grass.

I just love the way the plumes flutter in the wind. It looks so patriotic – like amber waves of grain...

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Hot Fudge Brownie Cake

The weather was horrible this past weekend, so I decided I needed chocolate to lift my spirits. I combed through my file of "to-do" recipes and found one I had clipped from Southern Living's January 2009 magazine: Hot Fudge Brownie Cake.

Warm, gooey and chocolaty. The perfect recipe for a dreary Sunday afternoon.

You start with a basic batter that is spread into a greased pan. (Grease the pan really, really well. This stuff is stick-kkkyyyyy.)

Then a simple topping made of sugar and cocoa is sprinkled on top of the batter. I added pecans to my topping, to give it a little crunch.

Next comes the interesting part. You carefully spoon a cup and a half of boiling water over the batter and topping. (It is the water that creates the pudding layer while the cake bakes.) I was a little hesitant about pouring the whole 1-1/2 cups of water. My pecans started floating and it just seemed like an awful lot of liquid to pour on the cake. At the last minute I chickened out and just used 1 cup. But I was sorry in the end because my cake didn't have quite enough fudge goodness. It was fudgy, but not FUDGY.

Note to self: next time use all 1-1/2 cups of boiling water and may be even up it to 1 -3/4 cups!

Bake for 45 minutes at 350 degrees and then cool for 25 minutes before serving.

Yummm.... Hot Fudge Brownie Cake

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Maple Pecan Tarts

Pecan pie is one of the easiest desserts you can bake. Just whisk together all the ingredients, pour into purchased shells and bake. No fuss, no mess, no complicated instructions or time consuming prep. This is my kind of pie. And as an added bonus, it tastes divine.

Yield: 8 mini pies


1 package of 8 frozen mini pie shells
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup light corn syrup
2 large eggs, lightly whisked
2 tablespoons granulated white sugar
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup pecans, coarsely chopped, plus 8 perfect pecan halves for garnish.


Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
Remove frozen/unbaked mini pie shells from wrapping and place on a foil lines cookie sheet.
Distribute the chopped pecans between the 8 pie shells.
Whisk together remaining ingredients.
Pour filling into shells and over nuts. Reserve about 2 tablespoons of filling mix.
Place a pecan half in the center of each pie and drizzle the reserved filling over the pecan half.
Bake for 40-45 minutes until the tops are puffy and the crust is golden brown.

Heaven in a butter shell.

Peanut Butter Cookies - Low Carb

For our Labor Day barbecue I baked a lot of family favorites, but I have a nephew who is on a low carb diet so I whipped up some low carb peanut butter cookies just for him.

The cookies were tasty, but I found them very dry and crumbly (although by the second day the cookies were much moister so bake them a day ahead of time). If I make these cookies again I would definitely fiddle with the recipe some: add another egg and possibly some heavy cream or butter to add moisture to the cookies and help hold everything together.

But in the words of dieting my nephew, "I you are low carbing it, dry cookies are a small price to pay for the pure joy of sinking your teeth into a sweet confection that is actually BAKED!"

Click HERE for the recipe I tried.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Beachy Cupcakes

My niece was having a luau theme for her 9th birthday party so I decide to make some beachy cupcakes. I had grand visions of surf boards, tiki huts, volcanoes, and big toothy sharks adorning the tops of my cupcakes, but reality and my lack of time management skills did me in once again. By party time I had only managed to make a few malformed flip flops, a single lei, and some lame beach towels.

Oh well, at least my water and sand looked good (this time).

A few months back I made a Hawaiian themed bridal shower cake and I did learn a few things from that experience.

Lesson #1 - For the mock “sand” it is better to use crushed cookies and not raw sugar. I used sugar the first time and made a huge mess. The grains just wouldn’t stick to the butter cream icing and kept falling off in damp hunks.

Lesson #2 - Dye the icing that goes under the sand a light brown in color. If you leave it white, it shows through the “sand”. I know you think I’m one dumb decorator (cake wrecks here I come), but honestly I didn’t think to dye the icing the first time around. I thought the “sand” would be thick enough to cover all the white icing.

Lesson #3 - Press the crumbled cookies into the icing as soon as you spread it. If you wait too long the buttercream starts to crust and the “sand” won’t stick.

Lesson #4 - When dyeing the water, don’t mix it too much. Stir the icing until it is a swirl of blue and white. This way when you spread the “water” on the cupcakes, you have built in, natural looking white caps.

Happy Birthday, Amanda! I hope you like your cupcakes.