Category Archives: dessert

Happy Valentine’s Day 2019

I decided to splurge on a pretty pink St. Valentine’s Day cake to brighten up an otherwise ho-hum occasion.

As you can tell, my cake decorating skills are at the novice level. (Is there something below that?) The cake was tasty though … I ate a third of it to confirm that fact.

Profile of the Pink Cherry Cake

Pink Cherry Cake – makes 2 mini cakes baked in 1 cup ramekins

Basic Vanilla Cake for Two recipe
pink gel food colouring
1 tsp Kirsch, substituted for the vanilla extract
2 tbsp finely minced red glace cherries, stirred into batter just before pouring into ramekins

Glace Cherry Cream Cheese Frosting – enough to frost 2 mini cakes including filling

2 oz/57 gm gm cream cheese, room temperature
1 oz/28 gm unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tbsp Kirsch

Using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter in a small bowl until smooth. Add the Kirsch and beat in briefly. Beat in the powdered sugar.

Spread/pipe the frosting over the cake.

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Vanilla Cake for One (Review) and a Variation

Sadly, you can’t just omit the cocoa powder in the previous ‘chocolate cake for one’ recipe and get a vanilla version, because the chemistry of the leavener doesn’t work, so I went net surfing for a real vanilla cake recipe.

My answer was found in a ‘vanilla cupcake for two’ recipe baked in a cupcake/muffin pan … so I buttered a couple of ramekins instead. Because a CUPcake is NOT a cake. I had some sticking in the very center of the mini cakes so on my second attempt, an orange flavoured variation, I buttered the ramekins and lined the bottom with a circle of parchment paper, cut to size, which solved the problem.

Frosting a cake at midnight does not result in the most photogenic of images but I had to snap a picture before going to bed.

Crumb/profile of the vanilla cake … yes, there’s some orange zest in the vanilla buttercream frosting in case you spotted that fleck of orange.

REVIEW: Very tasty cake. Fast and easy to assemble. Of course you can frost each ‘cake’ individually but the two layer version just has a lot more visual appeal. For a quick and easy frosting, slightly sweetened whipped cream would work.

Of course I had to take the plain vanilla cake to the next level by adding 1 tsp of orange zest and substituting orange extract for half of the vanilla extract, in the next version I made.

I also decided to switch to a less sweet filling/frosting since the vanilla buttercream that I had used, from the same web site as the chocolate cake, was just too sweet. My ideas evolved from a cream cheese/butter/icing sugar version to one that reduced the amount of sugar and substituted it with home made curd. Since I had made an orange flavoured cake, I made a batch of orange curd to enhance the orange taste. I scaled down a frosting recipe that I found here.

I used less curd than I had originally calculated but I still think the frosting was too soft, even after half an hour in the fridge, so I’d cut back even more on future attempts.

I’d also use the frosting for a filling, in the future, because the orange curd oozed out while cutting into the cake. Hopefully the frosting as filling will stand up to serving better. I’m a firm believer in not skimping on the amount of frosting used but I think the amount I made is enough to fill and frost two mini two layer cakes.

Crumb/profile of the orange cake

Orange Curd Frosting – enough to frost 2 mini cakes including filling

2 oz/57 gm gm cream cheese, room temperature
1 oz/28 gm unsalted butter, room temperature
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1-2 tbsp orange curd *

* Start with the smaller amount and decide whether you’ll need another 1/2 tbsp. You probably won’t need the full amount

Using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter in a small bowl until smooth. Beat in the powdered sugar, then the orange curd.

Spread the frosting over the cake.

NOTE: The original recipe says the cake may be frosted a day before serving and covered with a cake dome and refrigerated so it doesn’t dry out.

Coffee Cake for One (Review) and a Variation

After having LOVED the chocolate cake (for one) recipe found on the same site, I thought I’d give the coffee cake for one a try as well.

It’s another winner.

I WOULD cut back on the topping though since half the amount is plenty. The excess just fell off when I turned out the cake to transfer it to a serving plate. Perhaps if I’d drizzled some melted butter over the top, as the post suggests doing, it would have “glued down” the cinnamon sugar topping.

REVIEW: The cake itself is tender and tastes just sweet enough for my taste. I used the same one cup ramekin as I had used for the chocolate cake and thought that the resulting coffee cake was a bit thin.

So, I opened a can of tuna (made a tuna salad sandwich with the tuna inside), peeled off the label and washed it out carefully. I added some home made cranberry sauce in this variation. The revised baking instructions/topping are posted below.

Cranberry Coffee Cake for One

Cranberry Coffee Cake for One

Cranberry filling

1-2 tsp cranberry sauce, home made preferred

Topping

1 tbsp melted unsalted butter
1-2 tsp rolled oats
1-2 tsp brown sugar
pinch ground cinnamon

Make the coffee cake batter as in the original recipe.

Spoon 2/3 of the batter into the prepared baking dish. Using a very small spoon place small amounts of cranberry sauce over the batter. Spread it out a bit. Spoon small amounts of the rest of the coffee cake batter over the cranberry sauce.

In a separate container, combine the brown sugar, rolled oats, ground cinnamon and melted butter. Spoon over the top of the coffee cake batter.

Bake for 15-18 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

The top of the coffee cake could have been a bit darker but the bottom was nicely browned.

There was a bit more height compared to the coffee cake baked in the ramekin, as well.

Happy Belated National Chocolate Cake Day (Jan. 27, 2019)

I recently commented on Dolly’s “koolkosherkitchen” blog that her National Chocolate Cake Day post made me want to make/eat some chocolate cake and she responded with “So go for it – it only takes a minute!”.  Well, the recipe that I used took a bit longer than a minute but the resulting cake was rich and chocolatey and pretty easy to make.

Although the recipe title says it’s a cake for one, on reading the post you’ll see that she recommends splitting the batter among two mini pans. Do it. You’ll be glad you did cause the batter really puffs up. And make twice as much of the frosting using the link at the bottom of the page. I have one cup ramekins so that’s what I used to bake the cake in. If you don’t … use an empty tuna can that you’ve washed thoroughly. Remove the label.

Chocolate buttercream frosting

Pour yourself a big glass of cold milk and dig in.

REVIEW: It’s delicious.

Bread in an Hour (Cinnamon Rolls Too)

Sometimes you just need a loaf of bread in a hurry. So, a recipe that uses double the normal amount of yeast and is only proofed once, for bread in an hour, can come in handy. Especially when you can make both a plain sandwich loaf, or a batch of decadent cinnamon rolls with a cream cheese frosting, with the same recipe. And the crumb of both is nice and fluffy.

Slice of Sandwich Bread

Inside a Cinnamon Roll

Fast and Easy White Bread – ~900 gm/2 lb, makes 1 loaf, baked in a loaf pan (8 x 4 or 9 x 5 or 13″ Pullman) or 2 free form loaves, or 15 buns in a 9×13 inch baking dish

5 tsp active dry yeast
3 tbsp/42 gm sugar
1 1/4 cup/296 gm warm water
1 – 1 1/2 tsp salt*
1/4 cup oil or cooled melted butter
3 – 3 1/2 cup (360 – 420 gm) all purpose unbleached flour

* Used 1 1/4 tsp

In a medium sized bowl, add the warm water and sugar. Stir to dissolve. Add the yeast, stir to moisten the yeast and let sit for about 3-5 min until foamy.

Add the oil (or melted butter), 1 cup of flour and the salt. Stir well until you have a smooth batter.

Add the rest of the flour, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring well. Continue adding the flour until you have a soft dough and you can’t stir in any more of the flour. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured working surface and knead, adding more flour as needed, for about 5 minutes until you have a smooth, supple (and NOT sticky) dough.

Form your dough into a ball, cover with the bowl that you stirred the dough in, and let rest for 5 minutes. This allows the gluten to relax so that you can stretch it out.

Preheat the oven to 375 deg F. Oil or grease your bread loaf pan.

Roll out your dough or gently pat it down with your hands until you’ve formed a rectangle about 10 inches x 14 inches. Roll up the dough, pinch the seam closed and place, seam down, into your prepared loaf pan. Cover with a towel and let rise in a warm place, for 20 minutes or until double in size.

Brush the top of the loaf with an egg glaze (1 egg beaten with 1 tbsp of water) or some milk or cream, cut a slit in the top of the bread.

The dough below was only proofed for 20 minutes before being baked

Bake for approximately 20 – 30 minutes until done. (If you have an instant read thermometer check for a reading of 195 degrees Fahrenheit.)

Cool before cutting.

Cinnamon Roll Adaptation

I decided to make a dozen cinnamon rolls so I used the dough above, patted/rolled it into a roughly 10 x 14 inch rectangle, spread it with the cinnamon roll filling below and then rolled it up with the seam pinched closed. Since I wanted big fat rolls, I cut the rolls one inch wide and crowded nine of the rolls into an 8×8 inch baking dish lined with parchment paper. The remaining three rolls were placed into a 6 muffin pan lined with large muffin papers. After proofing for 30 minutes, instead of 20, since I wasn’t in a hurry and wanted nice fluffy buns, I baked the risen rolls at 375 deg F in a preheated oven for 25 minutes until they were golden brown on top. When cooled the rolls were frosted with the cream cheese frosting below.

Cinnamon Roll Filling – enough filling for a 10×14 inch rectangle of dough

1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup brown sugar, unpacked

Cream together the softened butter and cinnamon. Spread evenly over the dough for the cinnamon rolls. Leave a 1/2-1 inch uncovered at the long end. Sprinkle the brown sugar evenly over the cinnamon butter. Roll up the dough, starting at the long end. Pinch the seam closed and turn the roll, seam side down. Cut about an inch wide and place into a buttered baking dish, or a muffin pan that has been buttered or lined with large muffin cups, and allow to proof until doubled.

Thick Cream Cheese Frosting – enough to frost a 9×13 inch pan of 15 cinnamon rolls

4 oz/115 gm cream cheese, softened to room temperature
2 cups icing/confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1/2 tsp vanilla extract, optional
1/4 cup milk

In a medium sized bowl, beat the cream cheese with a hand mixer until smooth and softened. Beat in the icing sugar 1/4 or 1/3 of a cup at a time. Beat in the vanilla extract, if using and then the milk, a tablespoon at a time, until it’s of spreading consistency. Use to frost the cinnamon rolls.

NOTE: A half recipe will frost a dozen cinnamon rolls if you’re trying to cut back on the decadence.

Tutti a Tavola…

“Tutti a tavola a mangiare” or ‘everyone to the table to eat’ is Lidia Bastianich‘s closing on her Italian cooking show.

I thought it was an appropriate title for this Italian themed menu.

Strozzapreti (priest-strangler) pasta made with flour, a pinch of salt and hot water. Kneaded for five or six minutes until smooth and supple, this simple pasta is rolled out about 1/8th of an inch thick with a rolling pin and then cut into one inch strips with a pizza cutter.

The strips of pasta are then stretched a bit before being rolled between the palms of your hands to form little ‘snakes’ of pasta. Tear the pasta into 3-3 1/2 inch pieces and let dry for half an hour before cooking. Depending on how thick your pasta is, it will take five or six minutes to cook to al dente.

Toss the cooked pasta with the sauce of your choice.

Individual beef and mushroom braciole

Beef and Mushroom Braciole – serves 4

1 pound/454 gm eye of round, cut into four 1/2 inch slices**
1/2 cup finely diced mushrooms
1/4 cup finely diced onion
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 slices bacon, finely diced
1/8 tsp dried parsley flakes
3-4 tbsp vegetable oil
bundle of fresh basil leaves (6-8)
2 1/2-3 cups spaghetti sauce
1 tsp salt, divided
1 tsp ground black pepper, divided

Hot cooked pasta or polenta

** Eye of round cut into 1/2 inch thick slices, pounded to 1/4 inch thick with a meat tenderizer. Set aside.

Add the mushrooms, onion, cheese, bacon, parsley flakes, 1/4 tsp salt and 1/8 tsp ground black pepper to a food processor. Pulse a few times until you have a homogenous mixture which still has some texture to it. Remove the mixture to a small bowl and divide by eye into four even portions.

Season the beef cutlets on both sides with some of the remaining salt and pepper. Spoon the mushroom mixture onto each cutlet, spread out leaving about 1/2 inch free on all sides. Starting on the longer side, roll up the beef cutlet to enclose the mushroom mixture. Tie up each roll with butcher’s twine. (Or use toothpicks to seal.)

Preheat the oven to 325 deg F.

Place a dutch oven on the stove over medium-high heat. Add the oil and when hot, sear off each beef roll until browned on all sides. Transfer the rolls to a plate.

Drain off any remaining oil from the dutch oven and add the spaghetti sauce and the basil leaves. Add the seared beef rolls and any juices that have drained off. The sauce level should be almost to the top of the rolls. If needed, add some water to the sauce. Bring the spaghetti sauce to a simmer. Put the lid on and transfer into the preheated oven.

Bake for 1 1/2-2 hrs, turning over about half way through the cooking time, until the beef is tender.

Remove the string from the braciole, slice into 3/4-1 inch slices and serve over the polenta with some of the spaghetti sauce spooned over the top. Alternatively, toss freshly cooked pasta with some of the spaghetti sauce and serve the sliced braciole on top.

Dessert was a quick and easy affogato or ice cream ‘drowned’ in a shot of espresso.

And, a couple of ham, bacon, mushroom and mozzarella cheese pizzas for work lunches.

Viennese Whirl Cookies

I don’t remember eating a lot of desserts growing up … crepes, cream puffs, apple strudel, walnut torte with chocolate butter cream icing. Occasionally, my mom would make small crescent shaped cookies with ground walnuts in the dough. It may have been because she just wasn’t that fond of sweets. My dad, on the other hand, had a great sweet tooth. Unfortunately he didn’t bake so desserts were a rare event.

One of the first things I ever ‘cooked’ for my dad, that he loved, was Rice Krispie squares. The microwave made throwing together a pan so easy that I could have made them weekly but I didn’t make them often which made each pan that much more appreciated. (And the no bake cheesecake with Whip and Chill whipped cream, cream cheese, a crumb base, and canned cherry pie filling. My dad LOVED it.)

Over the years, I’ve expanded my dessert repertoire, and recently, UK/British ‘biscuits’ or cookies have become a small obsession.

After some previous successes, I’m iffy on the the most recent biscuit … Viennese whirls. I think it was the ‘idea’ of the cookie that inspired me. Tender shortbread cookies piped into a swirl and baked and then a butter/icing sugar filling and raspberry jam was sandwiched between two of the cookies.

I did some research, watched a few videos, picked a nice simple recipe and made a batch this weekend.

There were challenges in piping the dough which was quite stiff, even after I added some milk. And the cookies used up a LOT of the dough. I was able to pipe sixteen cookies, with which I could only make EIGHT sandwiches. The dough spread on baking so that the two inch cookies I piped out ended up about three inches in diameter. (PS: I had to increase the baking time of the tray of cookies to 20 minutes, because the tops/edges of the cookies remained pale, even after 15 minutes. The underside was a light golden brown by the end.) Handling the cookies was a challenge too since they were so tender and crumbly that the edges broke off when I tried to move them.

Which made filling the cookies a nightmare. When I tried to press down the top cookie to make a sandwich … it crumbled. By ‘smooshing, the buttercream filling down with an offset spatula, I managed to assemble a half dozen, more or less, nice looking cookie sandwiches. The cookies themselves were barely sweet but the filling made up for the lack. The jam (I used the last of my strawberry jam since I didn’t have any raspberry) almost seemed tart in comparison. I sifted icing sugar over the top, since that’s a feature of the cookies, but it’s NOT necessary.

REVIEW: The cookies are edible but, to be honest, you can barely get through one because they’re so BIG. And sweet. I’m sure they’d be appreciated by a lot of people. They just weren’t to my taste.

In conclusion, if I were to make something similar again, I’d try a different recipe and technique for making the cookies. The round ‘mound’ (top left in the picture directly above) I made using the dough scraps spread nicely and was a tasty nibble. No piping or filling necessary. If piping, small (1 inch) rosettes might work as they’d spread during baking, resulting in much smaller and thinner cookes to construct the sandwiches with. A recent post on FB resulted in the suggestion to reduce both the flour and the cornstarch by 25 gm each.

Single Serving Apple and Blueberry Desserts

My pantry is rather sparse in terms of dessert ingredients, other than the basics. And my fruit crisper drawer is limited to a few apples (Red Delicious), so when I was planning on a seasonal fruit-based dessert for Thanksgiving (I don’t like pumpkin), the pickings were slim.

I decided on a single serving dessert that could be made and served in a cup sized ramekin.

I was intrigued by two possibilities and, rather than decide, I made them both. I included blueberries from the freezer in the apple crumble for colour and bit of extra flavour. The original apple crumble dessert recipe also used rhubarb.

Blueberry Pudding Cake

Blueberry Pudding Cake – serves 1

Blueberry Base

1/2 cup fresh or frozen blueberries*
1 tsp lemon juice

* If using frozen blueberries, do not thaw.

Cake

1/3 cup all purpose flour
1/3 tsp baking powder
2 1/2 tbsp sugar**
2 1/2 tbsp milk
1 tbsp melted butter or margarine

** I tried 2 tbsp and thought it needed a bit more sugar next time.

Topping

1 tsp cornstarch
2 – 2 1/2 tsp sugar
1/3 cup boiling water

Preheat the oven to 350 deg Fahrenheit.

Use a ramekin that holds a bit more than 1 cup. Place onto a baking sheet for ease of transport and in case of boil overs.

Place the blueberries in the bottom of the ramekin and sprinkle the lemon juice over the top. Stir a bit to coat the blueberries.

In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and sugar. Stir to combine. Add the milk and melted butter and stir until the dry ingredients are evenly moistened. Gently spoon the cake batter in a layer over the top of the blueberries.

In a small bowl, combine the sugar and cornstarch. Spoon evenly over the top of the cake batter.

Carefully pour the boiling water over the top, then place the baking sheet with the ramekin on it into the oven. (NOTE: This was the tricky bit for me as the water threatened to overflow the ramekin. I had to pour some water in, wait for it to trickle down through the edges of the batter and into the blueberries below, finding any available spaces, before adding some more. There was a bit of overflow during baking, making the baking sheet underneath a smart idea.)

Bake for 45-50 minutes or until the top is golden brown.

Serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or pouring custard/Creme Anglaise.

Apple-Blueberry Crumble

Apple and Blueberry Crumble – serves 1

Filling

1 large apple, peeled, cored and chopped
2 tbsp blueberries
1/2 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tbsp brown sugar

Crumble

2 tbsp butter or margarine
1/4 cup flour
2 tbsp rolled oats or sliced almonds*
2-3 tbsp sugar

* I didn’t have any rolled oats in the pantry so I added the almonds for texture and bulk.

Preheat the oven to 350-360 deg F/180°C. Lightly oil a 1 cup ramekin with a neutral tasting oil like canola. Place the ramekin onto a baking sheet for ease of transport and in case of boil overs.

Place the prepared apple and blueberries in a bowl. Sprinkle the lemon juice over the top of the fruit; add the brown sugar and stir through. Place the fruit into the ramekin, packing down a bit as needed.

Place the flour, butter,  sugar and oats in a medium bowl. Use your fingers or a fork, rub in the butter until it’s well combined and large crumbs form.

Sprinkle the crumble topping evenly over the fruit.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until the topping is golden and bubbling.

Serve with sweetened whipped cream, ice cream or pouring custard/Creme Anglaise.

Playing with Strawberry Jam

I didn’t want to title this post just “Strawberry Jam” because someone might assume I was posting about MAKING strawberry jam … and that’s not happening. Ever.

When buying jam, raspberry and apricot are neck and neck for first choice for me. A couple of weeks ago, I visited Freshco and saw that the Smucker’s brand was on sale. I decided to switch things up a bit and picked up a jar of strawberry jam instead. It was a nice treat and besides spreading it on my toasted sourdough bread and using it to fill crepes, I used it in the desserts below.

Strawberry Pop-Tarts – I used my friend Ann’s pie crust recipe for the tarts and read a number of blogs for assembly and baking instructions. The ‘recipe’ posted below is a combination of the best elements gleaned from my readings.

The results were very tasty, though I had some leftover pastry so I know I could have rolled the pastry a bit thinner and made three pop-tarts, not just two, with the pastry I had.

Glazed pop-tarts – I wasn’t sure how much icing I wanted to use so I played

Strawberry Pop-Tarts – makes 3

pie crust pastry, enough to make one 9 inch pie base
3-4 tbsp strawberry jam
1 egg white, beaten with a bit of water (use the egg yolk for the Jammie Dodgers recipe below)
1/4 cup icing sugar
enough milk to make a glaze
red or pink food colouring, if desired

Cut out a 3 1/2 inch by 5 1/2 inch piece of stiff cardboard to use as a template.

Roll out the pie crust pastry into an 11 by 12 inch rectangle, about 1/8 inch thick. Cut SIX rectangles out of the pastry using the template above.

Preheat the oven to 350 deg F.

Line a baking sheet with a sheet of parchment paper.

Place THREE of the pastry rectangles cut above onto the baking sheet. Brush a 1/2 inch strip of beaten egg white around all four edges of each rectangle. Place a heaping tablespoon of jam in the middle of the pastry rectangles and gently spread out, to where the egg white strip begins, with a small off-set spatula or the back of a small teaspoon. Place the tops onto each pastry and press down gently on the edges to seal. Use the tines of a fork to press down and seal the edges fully. With the prongs of the fork or a sharp skewer or toothpick, make vent holes across the top of the pastry.

Bake for 30 minutes or until the tops of the pastries are golden brown. Cool on the baking sheet for about 5 minutes and then use a spatula to transfer each pastry to a wire cooling rack to cool completely.

Make a glaze for the pastry tops by adding milk, a teaspoon at a time, to the icing sugar in a small bowl. You may add a drop or two of food colouring to the icing sugar before adding the milk.

Jammie Dodgers -This is the third most popular biscuit in the UK, according to a survey taken last December. By the way, I’ve made the number one pick, chocolate digestive biscuits, and it IS a winner. The recipe I included below is a rewritten version of the one I used, and includes vanilla extract, which that one did not. I had to extend the baking time to accommodate my oven’s idiosyncrasies.

PS: I’m not pointing fingers but the Jammie Dodgers look very similar to Linzer cookies, an Austrian rolled Christmas cookie.

Jammie Dodgers – makes about a dozen 3 inch/8 cm cookies

250 g plain/ all purpose flour*
200 g salted butter**
100 g icing sugar
1 egg yolk, from the pop-tarts recipe above
1 tsp vanilla extract
strawberry jam, to fill the cookies
additional icing sugar, for dusting

* The pastry was so soft I couldn’t pick it up without it ripping, even when I heavily dusted more flour on my work surface and over the pastry. I tried working more flour in … still too soft. I even tried freezing the pastry for half an hour with minimal benefit. Still, I persisted, and managed to get almost a dozen Jammie Dodgers baked.

** I was short on butter so I used margarine. This may have contributed to the soft pastry above but further reading suggested that a short bread type pastry dough, like this one, should have 3 pts flour: 2 pts butter: 1 pt sugar. This means that I should have used 300 g of flour. So that’s what I’ll do next time.

Preheat the to 350 deg F/170 deg C and line a baking sheet with a sheet of parchment paper.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour and icing sugar.

Add the butter (or margarine) to the bowl and, with a pastry blender, cut it in until your mixture resembles bread crumbs.

Make a well in the center of the dry mixture and add the egg yolk and the vanilla extract. With a fork, incorporate the dry mixture into the wet. Gather the pastry into a ball and wrap it with plastic food wrap. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Turn the pastry out onto a floured surface and roll out to around 1/4 of an inch/6 mm thickness. Cut your biscuits out into 3 inch/8 cm circles and, from half the biscuits, cut out an additional shape from the middle.

Place your cookies onto the baking sheet and bake for 12-15 minutes, until the cookies are a light golden colour around the edges.

Once the cookies are cool enough to handle, dust the tops with a little icing sugar. Spread about a teaspoon of jam over the bases and sandwich the tops and bases together.

NOTE: For an even prettier presentation, using a tiny spoon, fill the cut out in the middle with a bit more jam so that it comes to the same level as the top cookie.

“Jammie Hearts” – the cutouts make bite sized cookies