Tag Archives: dessert

Happy Mother’s Day (2017) … Fudgy Chocolate Cake

In many households, dads barbecue to save mom from having to cook on this, their special day. Which you might think is a very considerate thing to do.

My question is … who does the dishes and cleanup, let alone did the shopping, for what gets bbq’d?

Dad?

I DON’T think so. 🙂

For all the mothers (step-mothers, foster mothers, grandmothers etc) out there, I hope you had a great day surrounded by your loved ones. Who show their appreciation to you for all you do, year round.

I made a fudgy chocolate cake yesterday which many mothers would appreciate. Instead of a cake however, I made a dozen cupcakes and two mini cakes that would serve two people. They were frosted very simply with a ganache (whipping cream and chocolate) and there’s a pretty strawberry sauce to go with it.

Strawberry Sauce – makes about a cup of sauce

3 tbsp water
2 1/2 tsp cornstarch
1 cup thinly sliced strawberries
3 tbsp granulated sugar
a squeeze of lemon juice (it’ll liven up the flavour of the sauce)

Stir together the water and cornstarch in a small bowl until combined.

In a small saucepan, over medium heat, stir together the cornstarch mixture, sliced strawberries, lemon juice and sugar.

Bring mixture to a simmer, whisking frequently and cook for a minute or two. Cool for 5 minutes.

Puree in a food processor.

Strain through a fine mesh strainer into a medium bowl.

I bbq’d a sirloin steak, a large pork chop, several pork souvlaki skewers for the rest of the week and some pineapple rings. The steak was served with a baked potato (cooked in the microwave and finished on the bbq), sauteed white mushrooms and a simple salad.

 

Cupcakes and frosting

 

Chocolate Hazelnut Crackles (N is for Nutella Cookies)

This post combines two of my favourites, reading mysteries and baking. And chocolate. (But that’s pretty low down on my list of faves, to be honest.)

I’ve read almost all of the Joanne Fluke mysteries but can’t remember trying out any of the recipes she includes in each novel until I finished “Blackberry Pie Murder” late last night. One of the cookie recipes featured Nutella, and since I have most of a jar of the hazelnut chocolate spread in my pantry, I thought I’d give it a try. I just made half the recipe (2 1/2 – 3 dozen cookies) as I didn’t want to use up most of my unsalted butter.

The cookies were very good freshly baked, though I think they were even better a few hours later as the flavour developed/ripened. They’re not overly sweet so I liked them better than many sweeter cookies I’ve tried. I baked for the shorter time suggested as I wanted a chewy rather than a crunchy result. If you don’t want to just eat them plain with a cup of cold milk, turn them into ice cream sandwiches. If you want a fancier presentation, press a small hazelnut on top of the cookie ball before baking.

If you don’t think you can get a hold of the book from your library, you can find the recipe on line at “The Sugared Teacup” blog. (Sorry, the direct link is no longer valid.) below.

Chocolate Hazelnut Crackles (Nutella Cookies) – makes 5 to 6 dozen cookies

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
2 cups brown sugar, firmly packed
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup Nutella
2 large eggs, well beaten
3 cups all-purpose flour

Melt the butter (in a saucepan or microwave) and pour into a large mixing bowl. Add the brown sugar and vanilla. Beat well until the sugar is mixed in well. Add the baking soda, baking powder, and salt and stir.

Add the Nutella and stir in until smooth and then add the beaten eggs and stir.

Add the flour and continue mixing until all the ingredients are thoroughly combined.

Form the dough into walnut-sized (~1 tbsp) balls and place them on a greased (or parchment paper lined) cookie sheet, 12 to a half sheet. (If the dough is too sticky to form into balls, chill it for a half hour or so).

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Bake the cookies for 8 to 10 minutes. The balls will flatten out all by themselves. (Note: For more chewy cookies, bake at the lesser time.)

Cool the cookies on the cookie sheet for 2 minutes and then remove them to a wire rack with a thin metal spatula to finish cooling.

*****

Recipe from Joanne Fluke’s Blackberry Pie Murder. New York: Kensington Publishing Corporation, 2014.

Happy New Year! … Leg of Lamb Roast and Oreo Cheesecake

Sorry for the belated post but I’ve been a bit lazy so I’ve got a bunch of stuff to share.

I made an Oreo cheesecake to go with my simple boneless leg of lamb roast New Year’s dinner.

The slices I cut for my dinner were from the fatty end of the roast and a BIT underdone so the roast, including the slices you see on the plate, went back into the oven for another 15 minutes. (Lesson learned, try the directions ON the package before you get creative.) The lamb looked like the picture below when I ate it.

The much nicer end of the roast

I didn’t have a lot of inspiration for a pretty cheesecake plating so here’s a profile shot.

Most of the cheesecake went into the freezer.

In Memory of Summer: Strawberry Summer Flan and Chili Cheese Dogs

When my brother and I were kids, my mom would make us this simple sponge cake topped with fresh strawberries and strawberry jello to set them onto the cake, in the summer. We loved it. Sometimes she’d make sweetened whipped cream to dress it up. I made a very fancy version which I posted here.

However, with the arrival of the cool fall weather, I was struck by nostalgia for the taste of summer which is one of the reasons why I gave this the title above.

Cake, jello, strawberries and whipping cream

Or just the jello and strawberries

Hot dogs aren’t just for summer barbecues. Transform regular or jumbo dogs cooked in the oven into chili dogs.

Your younger kids may be full with just the chili dog and a few fries, but throw in some raw broccoli and ranch dip for the teens and adults.

The jumbo dog above was served in the last regular hot dog bun I had but I used a bakery subway bun below.

Another Mennonite Dessert … Butter Tart Squares with Raisins

The great thing about Mennonite/Amish desserts is that they rarely require more than very basic ingredients you’re likely to already have on hand. No fancy cooking gadgets or techniques are needed, either.

If you love butter tarts but don’t want to make pastry and then roll out and cut little circles for the base, these squares can be whipped together in no time at all. They’re not gooey like butter tarts but they taste similar.

Butter Tart Squares with Raisins – makes 16 squares

Base

3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup butter

Topping

1 cup raisins
2 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup corn syrup
pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup all purpose flour

Preheat the oven to 350 deg Fahrenheit.

Making the base

In a medium sized bowl, mix together the flour and brown sugar and then cut in the butter until the mixture is crumbly. Pat into an 8 inch by 8 inch baking pan. You don’t need to butter the pan but you may if you wish.

Bake for 12-15 minutes until the base is set and just barely coloured.

Making the filling

In a small bowl cover the raisins with boiling water and let soak until the raisins are soft, 5-15 minutes depending on how old your raisins are. Drain the raisins and gently squeeze out any extra water.

Rinse out the bowl used to make the base and use it to make the filling. Whisk together the eggs and sugar until smooth. Add the corn syrup, salt, vanilla and the flour and whisk well. Stir in the raisins and pour over the baked base.

Bake for 25-30 minutes until the top is golden.

Cool the baking pan on a rack and then cut into bars or squares.

Sourdough Baking … AGAIN (Chocolate, Nutella and Pecan Babka and Savoury Boule)

To paraphrase the words of the immortal Sheldon Lee Cooper … “Bread bakers be crazy!

I joined a sourdough baking group on FB … cause I’m a glutton for punishment and not wasting enough time on FB already. As a result I developed a case of baker’s envy and revived my sourdough starter. And, not only did I revive the last of a sample from the freezer, but some of the dried starter from the pantry as well. Which meant I was feeding TWO jars.

Because I had started with a very young starter when I stored it away, it took longer to re-establish than I though it would. As a result, my first bake (a 1-2-3 formula using some ground bulgur flour for texture in place of the spelt, along with all purpose, and found on friend’s blog) was a miserable failure. And I had such high hopes for it too. I ended up tossing the loaf in the garbage in disgust. I weep for that lovely blue cheese and pecans.

Luckily, I had suspected things were NOT going well so I made a batch of hybrid dough (sourdough starter and dry yeast), enriched it with eggs, butter and milk and shaped it into two babkas, which I filled with chocolate chips, Nutella (yes, I finally bought a jar) and chopped pecans. I tried two different shaping methods, one of which didn’t turn out as nicely as I had hoped. It was supposed to be a crumb topping but, between using powdered sugar and the warmth of the kitchen, which effectively ended up making a paste of the flour, sugar and butter, the top wasn’t very pretty. So the ugly duckling second method, ended up being the beautiful swan.

Chocolate, Nutella and Pecan Babka

Next time, if there IS a next time, I make a babka, I’ll try basting the finished loaf with a honey/sugar syrup as some recipes show. I’ve included a recipe for the syrup in the babka recipe below. I baked my babkas in a large roasting pan which had been buttered generously and separated into two ‘pans’ with a dam of aluminum foil, folded several times for rigidity and buttered.

Hybrid Chocolate, Nutella and Pecan Babka – 2 1/2 lbs dough, makes 2 loaves

Based on a sourdough cinnamon roll recipe I’ve used before but I increased the eggs in this enriched version to two.

Dough

1 cup active starter or discard
1 1/4 tsp dry yeast (1 tsp instant yeast)
3/4 cup warm milk
1/3 cup sugar, divided
1 tsp salt
3 1/2 – 3 3/4 cup AP flour, divided
2 eggs, room temperature
2 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature

Filling – for each babka

1/2 cup Nutella
1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans
1/4 cup semi sweet chocolate chips **

Syrup (optional)

1/2 cup (100g) sugar
1/2 cup (125m) water
1 tbsp honey

Egg wash – 1 egg yolk beaten with 1 tsp cold water

** Use chopped chocolate next time as it melts better.

In a small bowl, activate the yeast by dissolving 1 tsp of the sugar in the warm milk, sprinkling in the yeast and waiting for about 5-10 min until the yeast gets foamy.

In a large mixing bowl, add 2 cups of flour, salt, rest of the sugar and mix well.

Make a well in the center, add the yeast mixture, eggs, starter and butter and with a wooden spoon beat together until you get a smooth batter. Gradually stir in about a cup of the remaining flour, 1/4 cup at a time, until you get a shaggy dough.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured working surface and knead, using only as much flour as needed to get a soft but not sticky dough, about 5 minutes. Shape into a ball and cover with your mixing bowl. Let rest covered for 5 minutes. Knead for another 5 minutes, using as little flour as possible.

Sprinkle some flour in a clean area, place the ball of dough on the flour, cover with the mixing bowl and let rest for 30 minutes.

Roll out, fill and shape.

Let rest in two 9″ x 5″ greased loaf pans, in a warm place, for about 45 min to an hour, until doubled. Brush on egg wash.

Shaping version 1

Shaping version 2

While the dough is rising, make the syrup (if using) by bringing the water, sugar, and honey to a boil in a small saucepan. Let boil for 4 minutes, skimming off any foam that rises to the surface with a spoon. Remove from heat and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350 deg F.

After the dough was allowed to rise, the egg wash was brushed on and the crumb topping was applied. The baked result is seen below.

Bake for 55 minutes. After 25 minutes you might want to cover the loaves with a sheet of aluminum foil as the tops will get very dark.

Let cool in loaf pans for about 5-10 minutes then remove from pans and let cool thoroughly on rack. The syrup, if used, may be brushed on after a few minutes of cooling.

Savoury Italian Boule

A couple of days later, I made a hybrid savoury bread based on the babka recipe I used above but with an Italian theme – a mixture of Italian herbs (~1 tsp) , garlic powder (1/2 tsp),  and sun dried tomatoes (1-2 tbsp).

Pictorial Boule Recipe

Boule proofed with the seam side up for 1-2 hrs until doubled then flipped over, with the aid of a baking pan, onto a parchment paper sling for scoring and transfer into the hot dutch oven.

Other changes: Substitute water for the milk used above and 1 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil in place of the butter. No eggs were used in this recipe. I also reduced the amount of sugar to 1 1/2 tsp, just enough to activate/proof the dry yeast. After proofing, the boule was baked in a dutch oven which had been preheated to 450 deg F, 35 minutes with the lid on and 10 minutes with the lid off. I covered the dutch oven lightly with a sheet of aluminum foil because I had concerns about it possibly burning.

It turned out beautifully as well especially the crumb.

PS: I have now tossed the dry sourdough starter cause, really, who kneads the added temptation? (Freudian slip? You judge.) I’ll continue with the current single jar of starter and refrigerate it once it’s well established.

Brownies Version 2 – Katharine Hepburn’s Recipe

Although the brownies I made last time were tasty, they weren’t the shiny crust version that I wanted. It seems you need to use melted chocolate for those. Recently, I ran across a newspaper cutting, from the days when we still subscribed to an actual newspaper and I cut out recipes from the Wednesday food section, and gave it a try. This is the version I remember making years ago.

Katharine Hepburn’s Brownies – makes 16 squares

2 oz/60 gm dark, unsweetened chocolate, roughly chopped
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
1 cup chopped or broken-up walnuts or pecans
1 teaspoon vanilla
Pinch of salt

Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees F.

Grease an 8 x 8-inch-square pan, preferably lined with parchment paper to make removal easier when thoroughly cooled.

Melt together butter and chocolate in a saucepan over low heat, then take the saucepan off the heat and transfer the butter-chocolate mixture to a large bowl. Let cool a bit so you don’t cook the eggs.

Whisk in the sugar, then the eggs, one at a time. Stir in the vanilla. Stir in the nuts.

Combine the flour and salt in a separate bowl and then fold into the cocoa-butter mixture, until just combined and you no longer see white floury areas.

Pour into pan and rap the base against the table to get rid of any bubbles in the batter.

Bake 40 to 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with just a few crumbs. Do not over bake; the brownies should be gooey.

Let cool completely in the pan, then remove and cut into bars.

NOTE: The thin, shiny crust shattered when I tried to cut it, both with a serrated and a smooth knife. I thought it might be the nuts but someone suggested using a plastic knife instead. I have 2 more pieces (they’re small) left in the freezer but I’ll give it a try when they’re gone.

Danish Pastry Creations … something old, something new

Some time ago, I used an easy danish recipe (no knead) found on my friend Zsuzsa‘s blog to make a cherry braid. I made the braid again recently, but with a frangipane (sugar, softened butter and ground almond meal) base for the home made cherry filling, rather than the previous cream cheese.

I’m especially proud to say that both these pastries were made with items already in my fridge and freezer and nothing was bought specifically for them. Now what do I do with all the stuff in my pantry?

Cherry-Frangipane Braid

The braid ended up looking pretty good, but then it WAS my second one and I learned a few things.

 

Once the glaze is set, I’ll wrap it up for gift giving. Though I may trim off the top and bottom to square if off. (And so I can taste it.)

Frangipane Filling

4 tbsp/1/4 cup granulated white sugar
3 tbsp ground almonds
2 tbsp (25g or 1oz) butter, softened to room temperature

Combine sugar, ground almonds and softened butter, and beat together with a wooden spoon until soft and creamy.

And for something new … I adapted a sticky lemon curd roll with a cream cheese glaze recipe I found on line to use the mixed citrus curd I had in my fridge.

Sticky Lemon Curd Rolls

The pastry is not kneaded, just mixed together and then refrigerated until the next day when it will be firm enough to be rolled out. Flour the pastry and your working surface well and if it softens too much while shaping, return to the refrigerator for a  half hour or so. After rolling the pastry out and trimming it to the correct size, a lemon-butter filling is spread on the pastry and then lemon curd is spread over the top. I had a mixed citrus curd in the fridge so that’s what I used.

The rolls were placed in a buttered baking dish, covered and allowed to rise for about an hour in a warm place until doubled and then baked.

Instead of using the cream cheese glaze for the rolls, I went with a simple, tangy lemon (lime, in this case) butter version

Lemon-Butter Glaze

1 cup icing sugar
1 tbsp unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1/2 tbsp lemon juice

Combine the above in a small bowl until smooth, and then add water, about a tsp at a time  (~1 tbsp or so needed) to thin the glaze enough to drizzle over.

NOTE: I poured the glaze into a small freezer bag, cut off the corner and squeezed it over the top.

Cannoli with a Cannoli Cream Filling

I’ve made cannoli several times and not had any issues. Of course, on this attempt, everything that could go wrong did. I really HAVE to get a good thermometer for deep frying and I should have a better fryer as well. It’s just that I hate to fry and do so SO rarely, that I don’t really want the added expense. But throwing away those burnt cannoli shells, that took me ages to make, is depressing.

Most turned out though and I filled them with a different ricotta filling than I’ve used in the past. This one uses whipped cream to ‘lighten’ the ricotta. 🙂

Making cannoli shells – you can make the shells differing shapes (oval and rectangular) and sizes, but the oval shape is best for displaying the filling on the ends in the most attractive fashion. Blunt edged cannoli shells, whether shaped from positioning small shells on the metal tubes horizontally, instead of lengthwise, or from using rectangular shells, just aren’t as pretty looking.

 

 

Rectangular cannoli shells – I used the mini oval pattern as a rough guide for cutting rectangular shells

 

Cannoli Cream

1/2 cup whipping cream
1 15-ounce container whole milk ricotta cheese, strained
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/3 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whip the cream until stiff peaks form. Place the cream into a small bowl and set aside.

In the same mixing bowl, add the ricotta cheese, powdered sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon. Mix on medium speed until well combined, about 1 minute. Fold in the whipped cream and chocolate chips.

Chill the cream for at least 2 hours before filling the cannoli shells.

Stove-top Coconut-Raisin Rice Pudding

I haven’t made one of these simple recipe posts in ages. Perhaps I’ve been overwhelming everyone with all the pictures and information. I’ll try to do better in the future.

I’m eating out of the freezer these days so I’m not doing much cooking.

One of the goodies I found was a two serving container of leek and ground pork mapo tofu, so I made a pot of long grain rice to serve it over. I used half the rice for a comfort dish … rice pudding. The cold rice was combined with some odds and ends in the fridge … coconut milk and whipping cream. After the fact, I realized that I could have used some of the sweetened condensed milk in my fridge in place of the sugar in the recipe. Something to remember for the next time.

Coconut-Raisin Stove-top Rice Pudding

Coconut-Raisin Stove-top Rice Pudding – serves 4

2 cups cooked rice**
3/4 cup coconut milk
3/4 cup whipping (heavy) cream
3/4 cup 2% milk
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup raisins
1 inch cinnamon stick
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
ground cinnamon for garnish

** 1/2 cup raw long grain rice cooked in 1 cup water with a pinch of salt

In a medium saucepan, combine the cooked rice, coconut milk, cream, milk, sugar, raisins and cinnamon stick. Place the saucepan on the stove-top and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook, stirring often, for 25 minutes or until the rice is still somewhat loose. (Remember that it will thicken as it cools.)

Remove from the stove and take out the cinnamon stick and discard.

Stir the vanilla and almond extracts into the rice pudding.

Serve warm (or cold) with a pinch of ground cinnamon over the top.