Friday, December 9, 2016

Gingerbread Cinnamon Buns

Another day of staying at home because of snow day.  It snowed late morning yesterday and even though there was not much accumulation, the snow has turned into a thin coat of ice this morning.  The school was canceled which meant I didn't have to go to work either.  Honestly I didn't feel like going to work :)  I have to drive uphill to my work and if the roads weren't cleared, which sometimes can happen, I'd rather stay home.

Because of that, I had quite a bit of time at home right now.  I ventured out to the back yard to take photos of icicles and then went back to do the same with my fruitcake.  Yes, I made a fruitcake yesterday afternoon.  No, it isn't a brick-heavy one; this is a lighter fruit cake from a Mary Berry's recipes.  I made this first last month and we really loved it.  It is rather cakey with lots of dried sour cherries, raisins, and fruitcake mix.  Some people are turned off by that fruitcake mix, but I don't mind it at all; my mom used to make a Dutch-style fruitcake using glace red and green cherries when I was young so I grew up eating it.

I will share the recipe later on but this time I want to share what I made for breakfast last weekend.  This is gingerbread cinnamon buns because we're a fan of cinnamon buns.  I think these buns are perfect for the season, the smell of the spices when they're baked is absolutely delicious.  I've always made cinnamon buns the night before and let them do the second proofing in the fridge.  In the morning of, I take them out and let rest for 30 minutes before baking them.  The freshly baked buns are ready in less than 30 minutes.

Gingerbread Cinnamon Buns

Makes 9 servings

1/4 cup warm water (105-115 degrees F)
2 pkg. active dry yeast
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1/3 cup molasses
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 3/4 to 4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 recipe Spiced Glaze

In a large bowl combine the warm water and the yeast, stirring to dissolve yeast.  Let stand 5 minutes.  Stir in the next six ingredients (through salt).  Stir in as much of the flour as you can.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface.  Knead in enough of the remaining flour to make a moderately soft dough that is smooth and elastic (3 to 5 minutes total).  Shape dough into a ball.  Place in a lightly greased bowl, turning once to grease surface.  Cover and let rise in a warm place until double in size (1 to 1 1/2 hours).

Punch down dough.  Turn out onto a lightly floured surface.  Cover and let stand for 10 minutes.  Lightly grease a 13x9-inch baking pan.  For filling, combine the next five ingredients (through cloves).

Roll dough into a 12x8-inch rectangle.  Spread dough with butter.  Sprinkle with filling, leaving 1 inch unfilled along one of the long sides.  Roll up rectangle, starting from the filled long side.  Pinch dough to seal seams.  Cut into 12 slices.  Arrange and let rise in a warm place until nearly double in size (about 45 minutes).  At this point, you can cover it with plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator to proof for overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Bake 22 to 25 minutes or until golden brown.  Cool in pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes.  Drizzle with Spiced Glaze.

Spiced Glaze:  Stir together 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon milk, 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract.  Stir in additional milk, 1 teaspoon at a time, to make a glaze drizzling consistency.

Source:  adapted from Fall Baking 2015, Better Homes and Gardens

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Peanut Butter Cup Bars

Our family will never say no to chocolate and peanut butter and I think that's a good enough reason to make these bars.  They are fairly easy to make and taste very similar to Reese's peanut butter cups.  I think this is an obligatory item to make for gift giving to those who have the same love to peanut butter and chocolate like we do.

Peanut Butter Cup Bars

Makes 48 bars

Nonstick cooking spry
3/4 butter
1 1/2 cups creamy peanut butter
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 1/2 cups finely crushed honey graham cereal
1 11.5-oz. package milk chocolate pieces
3 tablespoons shortening
8 to 10 chocolate-covered peanut butter cups, chopped

Line a 13x9-inch baking pan with foil, extending the foil over edges of the pan.  Lightly coat the foil with cooking spray.  In a large saucepan melt butter over low heat.  Add peanut butter; heat and stir until melted and smooth.  Stir in powdered sugar and crushed cereal; mix well.  Pat the peanut butter mixture evenly into the bottom of the prepared pan.

In a medium bowl microwave chocolate pieces and shortening for 1 to 1 1/2 minutes or just until melted and smooth, stirring every 30 seconds.  Spread melted chocolate over the peanut butter layer.  Sprinkle with chopped peanut butter cups.  Cover and chill 30 minutes or until firm.  Use edges of foil to lift uncut bars out of pan.  Transfer to a cutting board.  Cut into bars.

Source:  Christmas Cookie by Better Homes and Gardens, 2016

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Sweet Potato Pie

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

This is a post that may be a bit late, you know, to bake a pie on the day of, but it may be a recipe to try on the next Thanksgiving day.  I don't normally make pumpkin pie myself; I find it a bit bland and not substantial.  But this year I decided to make on--with sweet potato--because I personally love that knobby root vegetable better than sugar pumpkin.

To my surprise I enjoy eating it so much that I think I'm ready to make it a tradition of baking it every year.  This one pie is a simple variety of so many out there with outrageous add-ins.  It is a strictly sweet potato with cream, milk, brown sugar, eggs, and lots of spices.  And as always, my favorite part is topping it with lightly sweetened whipped cream, yumm...

The crust recipe here is for three 9-inch pie which you can freeze after you divide the dough into three portions.  Wrap it well with plastic wrap and freeze up for a month.  I've always like having extra pie dough in my freezer anyway because I don't know always know when my pie craving strike; that way it's halfway done!

Sweet Potato Pie

Makes 12 servings

1 recipe All-Butter Piecrust, recipe follows
1 1/4 pounds sweet potatoes
1 cup whipping cream
3/4 packed brown sugar
1/2 cup whole milk
2 eggs
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
Pinch of kosher salt

Prepare the All-Butter Piecrust as directed, except after removing foil and weights, bake about 5 minutes more or until set but not browned.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Prick the sweet potatoes all over with a fork, wrap them in foil, and roast in the oven 60 to 70 minutes or until tender.  Reduce oven to 375 degrees F.

Let sweet potatoes cool.  Peel and place in a bowl.  Mash with a potato masher.  (You should have about 2 cups.)  In a food processor combine mashed sweet potatoes, cream, brown sugar, milk, eggs, the spices, and a pinch of kosher salt.  Cover and process just until smooth.  Pour the sweet potato filling into the piecrust.  Cover edges of pie with foil (or use a metal pie crust shield).  Bake 30 minutes.  Remove foil and bake for 20 to 30 minutes more or until evenly puffed and a knife inserted near the center comes out clean.  Cool on a wire rack.

All-Butter Piecrust

Makes three 9-inch piecrusts

3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
3 sticks (1 1/2 cups) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
3/4-1 cup cold water

In a large bowl whisk together flour and 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt.  Using a pastry blender or your fingers, work butter into flour mixture until butter is bean-size.  Stir in 3/4 cup of the water, a few tablespoons at a time.  Squeeze a small handful of dough.  If dough is still crumbly, stir in the remaining water, 1 tablespoon at a time.

Turn dough out in a mound on a work surface.  Starting with a quarter of the mixture, smear the section of the dough with palm of your hand, pushing away from the mound.  Repeat with remaining dough sections.  Gather the dough into a ball, divide into thirds, wrap in plastic wrap, and press each into a round disk.  Chill 30 to 60 minutes.  At this point, you can freeze the remaining two in a freezer bag and store for up to a month in the freezer.

Using a floured rolling pin a generously floured surface, roll dough into a 12-inch circle.  Transfer to a 9-inch pie plate and trim to 1/2-inc beyond edge of pie plate.  Fold extra dough under, even with the pie plate edges; press it together.  Flute as desired.  Prick the bottom and sides of dough several times with a fork.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Line dough with a double thickness of foil; fill with pie weights or dried beans.  Bake about 20 minutes or until sides are golden and firm.  Remove weights and foil.  Proceeds with the rest of pie direction.  If wanting to have a finished pie crust, continue baking the crust after removing weights; 10 to 15 minutes more or until the bottom is golden.  Cool completely on wire rack.

Source:  adapted from Better Homes and Garden, recipe by Ian Knauer

Friday, November 11, 2016

S'Mores Cupcakes

To break the monotonous bread posts, I thought I would share a cupcake recipe.  This was the cupcakes that I made for my son's birthday last month.  I had to return the book to the library before I had a chance to write down the recipe hence the gap of almost a month.  So here in November I'm writing the recipe since I got to borrow the book again.  The book is called Cake Magic!  Mix and Match Your Way to 100 Amazing Combinations by Caroline Wright.  I've always loved trying out recipes from a new book and this book has lots of colorful photos and ideas to make cakes from a few basic recipes.  There are about eight cake recipes where each recipe has four or five variants of flavors.  It's pretty interesting and I'd love to try some more recipes.

So there's a dry cake mix that you need to prepare before you choose which kind of cake you'd want to make.  In this case, I chose to do a brown sugar cake.  I'd add brown sugar, butter, eggs, yogurt, etc to the dry cake mix to make the cake.  Within brown sugar cake category, there's a few options/add-ins to the cake.  For example, cinnamon-raisin, nuts, chocolate chip, root beer , and so on.  In addition to that, this book uses different kinds of syrups to soak the cake, sort of making it has a more complex flavor and helping the cake stays moist.  It's kinda fun to pick and choose which flavor combinations to go with, and the book gives plenty of pairings examples.

The only thing that I don't like is the method of making the cake.  It involves only dump and stir the ingredients resulting in a cake that has quick-bread-like texture rather than a fine and luxurious crumbs.  I'm going to try the creaming method next time I try another recipe, hoping to improve the texture of the cake.  But we love the flavor combination for this time and this S'mores Cupcakes was a hit!

S'Mores Cupcakes

Yields 24 cupcakes

Cake Magic! Cake Mix:

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon table salt

Place all of the ingredients in a large bowl and whisk together well to combine.  Whisk the mix again before measuring.

Brown Sugar Cake:

1 quantity of Cake Magic! Cake Mix, whisked well before measuring
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
3/4 cup full-fat plain yogurt
2/3 cup water
1 tablespoon unsulfured molasses
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 large eggs, at room temperature

Vanilla Syrup
Bittersweet Chocolate Frosting
Graham Cracker Crumble
Mini marshmallows or large marshmallows, cut into two

Preheat the oven to 350 degree F.  Line 2 x 12-cup muffin pans with cupcake liners.

Whisk together the cake mix, baking soda, and brown sugar in a large bowl.  Stir in the butter, yogurt, water, molasses, vanilla, and eggs until moistened and no lumps remain.  Divide the batter between the prepared pans.

Bake until the layers are domed and a few moist crumbs cling to a skewer inserted in the center of the cake, 20 to 25 minutes.  Make the Vanilla Syrup.

Remove the pans from the oven, pierce the cupcakes while they're still in the pans with a skewer.  Generously brush the Vanilla Syrup over the surface to the hot cakes.  Place the pans on cooling rack to cool completely.  This may take up to an hour.  Take the cupcakes out of the pans.

While waiting for the cupcakes to cool, make the frosting.  Frost the cupcakes with Bittersweet Chocolate Frosting.  Sprinkle the Graham Cracker Crumble on top, pat down to make them stick.  Top each cupcake with marshmallows.  Torch the marshmallows until slightly blackened.

Vanilla Syrup:

Makes 1 cup

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
Pinch of salt
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Combine the sugar, water, and salt in a small saucepan, bring to a boil over medium-high heat, and boil for about 5 minutes.  Stir to dissolve the sugar, then stir in the vanilla and remove from the heat.  Set aside to cool.  Use the syrup warm or let it stand, covered, until it reaches room temperature.

Bittersweet Chocolate Frosting:

Makes 2 cups

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
Pinch of salt
2 cups confectioners' sugar
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled

Combine the butter, unsweetened cocoa powder, salt, and 1 cup of the sugar in a large bowl and beat with an electric mixer on low speed until incorporated, about 1 minute.  Add the remaining sugar and beat on medium speed until the frosting is pale and no longer grainy, about 2 minutes.

Graham Cracker Crumble:

Makes about 3 cups

2 sleeves graham crackers (about 10 cracker sheets), finely crushed (about 2 cups)
1/4 cup malted milk powder
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
6 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 300 degree F.  Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Combine the graham cracker crumbs, malted milk powder, sugar, and salt in a large bowl and toss to combine.  Drizzle with melted butter over the crumb mixture and stir until clumps form.

Scatter the clumps onto the prepared baking sheet in a single layer.  Bake until the crumbles are golden brown and fragrant, 10 to 15 minutes.  Let cool completely before using.

This can be made ahead as it can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature, for up to 3 days.

Source:  adapted from Cake Magic!  Mix and Match Your Way to 100 Amazing Combination by Caroline Wright

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Pumpkin Loaf with Pumpkin Seeds

This I believe is my second post of pumpkin-related baked goods that I made this month.  Everyone else is on to their 10th pumpkin posts, I'm still working my way up, lol.  It's just my schedule this month is preventing me to bake as frequently as I want to.  But no worries, I've a few posts to write before I've to make new stuff.

Anyway, this bread--yes, it's another bread post--caught my eyes and it came from the same blog that has the sweet bread loaf.  I decided that since I had all the ingredients why not make it.  The bread barely taste like pumpkin, it's unlike a pumpkin quick-bread; this has  a very subtle pumpkin flavor but it's moist throughout and was very good with a cream cheese spread.  I bet it'll make a great pumpkin French toast.  Too bad I didn't think about it until today.

Because I like to make my dough in a bread maker, I dump all the wet ingredients first then add the dry ingredients with yeast on top.  If making this on a mixer with a dough hook, you have to make sure that it's sufficiently kneaded, do a window-pane test, proof, and then proceed to the shaping part of the recipe.

Pumpkin Loaf with Pumpkin Seeds

350g bread flour
 ½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon instant yeast
140g milk 
130g pumpkin puree (steamed pumpkin and mashed with a fork)
2 tablespoon honey 
26g unsalted butter, softened

Beaten egg for egg wash
Raw, unsalted pumpkin seeds -- I used about 1/3 cup or so

Additional butter for brushing, optional 

In a mixer bowl, place bread flour and salt, give it a little stir.  Add yeast, milk, pumpkin puree, honey, and butter.  With a dough hook, knead the dough until smooth and elastic.  Do a window-pane test.  Grease another large bowl, dump the dough into it, cover with plastic wrap, and let it proof for about 1 hour.

If making with a bread maker, place all the wet ingredients first then add the dry ingredients with the yeast on the very top.  Select Dough cycle.

When the dough has doubled, place it on a well-floured surface, punch one time to release the gas.  Roll the dough into a ball and let it rest, covered with towel, for 20 minutes.

Grease a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan.  

Flatten the dough into a large rectangular shape.  Roll it up like making a swiss roll, starting from the short side. Place the dough into the pan, seam side down.  Let it proof again for another hour or until the dough has doubled in size.  Preheat oven to 350 degree F.

Brush the top with beaten egg, scatter pumpkin seeds and pat them down to make them stick.  Bake in the oven for about 25 minutes or until the bread is hollow when tap on the bottom.  Once it's done baking, brush the top with butter if desired; remove it from the pan and cool on a wire rack.

To keep the bread soft, store in plastic bag for 2-3 days at room temperature.

Source:  adapted from Cook Bake Love

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Banana-Coconut Cream Cheese Nut Bread

Banana bread is my go-to quick bread to make when I'm pressed in time but I really, really want to bake.  In this case, I want to finish an opened cream cheese package and there's some ripe bananas on the counter.  I've always had bananas in the house; they're eaten frequently and my family doesn't say no to banana bread.

I'm pretty sure I've made this banana bread before but I don't remember where I got the recipe.  Luckily, Pinterest came to my rescue.  Judging from the way the recipe is I can tell that this one is a keeper.  I traced it back to Southern Living magazine website and it was one of their most popular recipes to be made over and over again.  The original recipe had some cinnamon crisp topping but the recipe that I found from Pinterest eliminated that topping.  So I made my own modification which was to add shredded coconut on the top of the loaves.  It gives a nice texture to the bread and goes together with the flavor profile.  And I love that this recipe yields two loaves, one for me, none for you :D!

Banana-Coconut Cream Cheese Nut Bread

Yields 2 loaves

3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese, softened
2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups mashed bananas (about 4 medium bananas)
1 cup roughly chopped pecans, toasted
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
About 1/2 cup shredded sweetened coconut

Preheat oven to 350 degree F.  Greased and floured two 8-x4-inch loaf pans.

Beat butter and cream cheese at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy.  Gradually add sugar, beating until light and fluffy.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating just until blended after each addition.

Combine flour and next 3 ingredients; gradually add to butter mixture, beating at low speed just until blended.  Stir in bananas, pecans, and vanilla.  Spoon batter into the loaf pans.  Sprinkle coconut equally on top of loaves, pad lightly so the coconut will adhere.

Bake for about an hour or until a wooden skewer inserted in center comes out clean and sides pull away from pan; shielding with aluminum foil the last 15 minutes to prevent browning, if necessary.  Cool bread in pans on wire racks for 10 minutes.  Remove from pans, and cool 30 minutes on wire racks before slicing.

Source:  adapted from Southern Living

Friday, September 30, 2016

Sweet Sandwich Bread

I know I really, really love bread when I would forego social gathering in order to tend my bread making session.  This happened when I made this sweet bread a few weeks ago.  I was looking forward to be home and tending my dough when my son got invited to a friend's baptism.  All I kept thinking was how I couldn't leave my overnight sponge go a little longer while my mouth was saying, I'll chat with you soon, to friends.  I had to drop my son off and raced back home to do the bread.  It was a lot of steps, making this bread that was.  Then I had to back out again to pick him up before the bread was ready to be baked.  All I had to say to my friends was, so nice to see you again, thank you for having him(my son) here; and hugged each of them.  Then I rushed back home again.  So much for wanting to chat...

I even missed the baptism part.  I hope my friends forgive me and will invite me again to a social gathering :)

Well, the bread was worth the hectic afternoon I had.  This was a soft, Asian bakery style bread which is beloved by Asians (apparently).  My mom would love this kind, she wouldn't love Dave's Killer Bread no matter how many beneficial seeds it has :D  For me, this bread is best for eating fresh and as toasts.  The recipe yields 2 loaves; one I freeze and ate a week later.  Still good, soft, and wonderful when toasted and ate with soup.

This photo below showed the loaf that was baked in a Pullman pan with the lid on.  I wasn't happy with my Pullman pan which I bought in Indonesia.  I'm thinking I need to invest in a better pan.

I made the dough using a bread maker even though the recipe showed manual method.  I think either way is fine, I like the convenient of bread maker making my dough.  If making with bread maker, you should put all the ingredients at once, choose Dough setting, and let the machine do the work.

Here's the recipe:

Sweet Sandwich Bread

Makes 2 large loaves

Overnight sponge:
1/4 teaspoon instant yeast---I used SAF Instant
60 g water
100 g bread flour

In a small bowl stir together the yeast with 20 g water.  Add the rest of the ingredients and knead to form a dough.  Let it proof for 30 minutes.  Wrap the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or for up to 48 hours.

Bread Dough:
550 g bread flour
80 g sugar
6 g salt
20 g powdered milk
10 g instant yeast
1 cold egg
270 g cold water
75 g unsalted butter, at room temperature

Egg wash, optional

In a bowl of a mixer place bread flour, sugar, salt, powdered milk, and yeast.  Stir with paddle attachment until combined.  Add the overnight sponge, egg, and water.  Switch to hook attachment, mix it all until forms a dough.  Add butter, and continue mixing until it forms a smooth and elastic dough.  The dough will be rather sticky but should be smooth in appearance.  Place the dough in a greased bowl and cover with a plastic wrap and let proof for 45 minutes or until double in size.

On a floured surface, divide the dough into 6 equal round portions.  Let it rest for 10 minutes.

Roll each portion flat with a rolling pin, then roll it up like a jelly roll.  Let it rest again for 10 minutes.  Repeat this step one more time.

Preheat the oven to 375 degree F for regular loaf pans or 400 degree F for Pullman pans.

Place 3 piece of dough into two greased 9 x 5-inch loaf pans or Pullman pans.  Let it proof for 50 minutes or until it reaches 80% on the loaf pans.  Brush loaves with egg wash if desired.  Cover the Pullman pans with the lids.

Bake the regular loaf pans for about 30 minutes, and the Pullman pans for about 35 minutes.  Take the loaves out of pan right away and let cool completely on wire racks.

Source:  adapted from Cook Bake Love

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Chocolate-Glazed Ginger-Pumpkin Muffins

People gets excited at the beginning of fall season, because they can now order pumpkin spice latte.  I usually don't do that on purpose; if I was in the vicinity of Starbucks and it's a convenient time for me to buy it then I'll buy it.  Most likely I'll forget to buy it when it's in season.  But don't get me wrong, I love pumpkin in baked goods.  My husband and son aren't crazy for pumpkins though, especially in form of pumpkin pie; but if I made it into muffins, pancakes, or cakes, they'll be happy to eat it.

This week I made these muffins and also pumpkin pancakes.  The muffins were all gone but I had the pancakes in the freezer for the weekend.  I didn't use canned pumpkin since I had pulp from homegrown kabocha and blue kuri that my parents grew.  I had them baked until soft so the flesh can be scraped easily.  I think steaming it works too, I've just never tried it.

These muffins are great for after school snacks or even for after dinner desserts.  I'm very fond of crystallized ginger and to add tiny morsels of those on top of the muffins is a brilliant idea.

Chocolate-Glazed Ginger-Pumpkin Muffins

Makes 16 muffins

2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 eggs
Chocolate Glaze--recipe below
1 to 2 tablespoons finely chopped crystallized ginger

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Line sixteen muffin cups with paper bake cups; set aside.  In a medium bowl combine flour, brown sugar, granulated sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, ground ginger, and salt.  Make a well in the center of the flour mixture; set aside.

In a small bowl stir together the pumpkin, melted butter, buttermilk, and eggs.  Add egg mixture all at once to flour mixture.  Stir until just moistened (batter should be lumpy).  Spoon batter evenly into prepared muffin cups.

Bake for 18 to 20 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted in the centers comes out clean.  Remove muffins from muffin cups; cool completely on a wire rack.

Dip the tops of the muffins into the Chocolate Glaze, allowing excess glaze to drip off.  Place dipped muffins upright on the wire rack.  Sprinkle tops of muffins with chopped crystallized ginger.  Let stand about 30 minutes or until glaze sets.

Chocolate Glaze
In a medium saucepan heat 1/2 cup whipping cream, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, and, if desired, 1 tablespoon orange-flavor liqueur over medium-high heat just until boiling.  Remove from heat.  Add 6 ounces chopped bittersweet or semisweet chocolate.  Do not stir.  Let stand for 5 minutes; stir until smooth.

To store:  Place muffins in a single layer in an airtight container.  Cover and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Source:  adapted from Better Homes and Gardens Baking

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Plum Torte

Every year, around the end of August, I will get a basketful of Italian prune plum from a dear friend.  This year would be the last time I get the tree-ripened plums because she won't have access to the tree anymore.  A little sad, yes, because these plums are the best. I love their firm texture and sweet flavor.  I'm saving the rest of the plums that didn't make to the cake in the freezer.

This plum cake is very simple to make but it tastes superb.  The plums turned soft when baked but retained its shaped well.  I don't eat dried prune at all unless it's in a cake but the fresh ones, I will hoard them.  When I bite into a slice, I'm hit with tender crumb surrounding the plums; but the best part was the edges.  They're perfectly crunchy!

I baked this in an 9-inch pan so it was on a thinner side but it didn't affect its appearance.  I enjoy baking a cake like this when it's uncomplicated, can be done in a few hours--just in time of after dinner dessert, and tasty to boot.  This cake has become one of my favorite recipes to bake again and again.

Plum Torte

Serves 8

1 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
1 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon almond extract, optional
10 to 12 Italian prune plums, pitted and halved lengthwise
Turbinado sugar and ground cinnamon for sprinkling

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl and set aside.

In the bowl of a standing mixer or handheld beaters, cream the sugar and butter until very light and fluffy.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula.

Add the dry ingredients and the eggs all at once and the almond extract, if using, and beat until combined, scraping down the bowl once or twice.

Spread the batter into an 8 or 9-inch spring form pan.  Arrange the plum halves, skin side up, on top of the batter in concentric circles.  Sprinkle the batter and fruit lightly with turbinado sugar and cinnamon.

Bake the torte for 40 to 50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.  Cool the cake in its pan on a rack for 10 minutes, and then release the spring and let it finish cooling just on the base.  Once it's cool, serve as soon as possible.  Or, you can double-wrap the torte in foil, put it in a sealed plastic bag and freeze (for up to one year).

Note:  to serve a torte that has been frozen, defrost it completely and then reheat it for 5 to 10 minutes in a 300 degrees F oven.

Source:  adapted from Food52

Monday, August 29, 2016

Cream Cheese Marbled Pecan Brownies

I have not done anything with chocolate lately because I was obsessed with fruits of the season.  So when I mentioned to my family that I was going to bake brownies, the resounding yes was heard :D

Yes, cream cheese brownies have been done all over the place and may not gone out of trend but since I have not made it for ages, I think it is safe to say that it is time to test a new recipe.  Besides, who doesn't want to eat brownies anyway?  The recipe looks promising in the beginning and it didn't disappoint at the end.  When my son asked what kind of chocolate I used, it made me think that, as the saying goes, the better the chocolate the better the end result is.  I answered him, yes, I used the good kind because I believe that if my family were to eat high-calorie food, might as well made it with good quality ingredients :)

The brownie part came out moist, fudgy, and has a deep chocolate flavor, the cream cheese has a custardy texture which is soft and creamy, and the pecans add crunchiness to each bit.  It was so good sinking my teeth into it, especially around the edges where there's crispy bits of brownies can be found.

I have a feeling that I will be making this again soon...

Cream Cheese Marbled Pecan Brownies

Makes 40 brownies (small cut) or 24 ( big cut)

1 3-ounce package cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
3/4 cu unsalted butter
2 1/4 cups sugar
4 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 325 degreeF.  Line a 13x9x2-inch baking pan with foil, extending foil about 1 inch over edges of pan.  Grease foil; set pan aside.

In a small mixing bowl beat cream cheese and the 2 tablespoons butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed until creamy.  Gradually add 1/4 cup sugar, beating until light and fluffy.  Beat in 1 egg and 1 tablespoon flour until combined.  Set aside.

In a medium saucepan heat and stir chocolate and the 3/4 cup butter over low heat until melted and smooth.  Transfer to a large mixing bowl.  Gradually add the 2 1/4 cups sugar, beating on low sped until combined.  Add 4 eggs, one at a time, beating on low speed after each addition just until combined.  Beat in milk, vanilla, and almond extract.  In a small bowl stir together the 1 1/4 cups flour, baking powder, and salt.  Gradually beat in flour mixture just until combined.

Pour chocolate batter into the prepared baking pan, spreading evenly.  Spoon cream cheese mixture in mounds on top of chocolate batter.  Using a table knife or narrow metal spatula, gently swirl cream cheese mixture into chocolate batter to marble.  Sprinkle with pecans.

Bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out with moist crumbs attached.  Cool in pan on a wire rack.  Using the edges of the foil, lift uncut brownies out of pan.  Cut into bars.

To store:  Place brownies in a single layer in an airtight container; cover.  Store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Source:  adapted from Better Homes and Gardens: Baking

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Deep-Dish Blackberry-Peach Double-Crust Pie

I have a feeling time goes faster than I'd like it to be.  It's two more weeks until Labor Day weekend; after that school will start and I will go back to my regular work.  I really like summer time because there's time to be with family and go on an outing.  It'll be kind of sad when September rolls over.

For most of days, I've time to bake with what's available in season.  There are several recipes that I've tried but not all will make it to this blog.  There's a chocolate zucchini cake which was a disappointment, a fermented cassava cake which was still to be perfected, but most of the pies I did will be shared here though.  This is one of them, when the peaches were plenty and blackberries hung by a handful.

Each pie slice is a burst of juicy blackberries and sweet peaches and I love it when I can successfully cut a perfect pie slice--pat myself on the back.  We topped our pies with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, hmmm...I wish I still had that slice.

Deep-Dish Blackberry-Peach Double-Crust Pie

Make 8 to 10 servings

Double Crust Pie Pastry:

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1/2 cup cold vegetable shortening, cut into pieces
1/2 cup cold water


6 to 8 small to medium-size ripe peaches
4 cups fresh blackberries
1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar
3 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

Milk or light cream

To make the double crust pastry:
In a food processor, pulse together flour, sugar, and salt.  Add butter, pulse a few time.  Add shortening, pulse until the mixture forms into lima bean-size pieces.  Add half of the ice water, pulse again.  Then add the last half of ice water, pulse until the mixture starts to clump and look moist.

Dump the dough onto a lightly floured surface and gather into two balls; one ball should be slightly larger than the other; this will be the bottom crust.  Flatten each into a disk with the heel of your hand.  Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerated at least an hour or overnight before rolling.

Once ready, take out the bottom crust disk; allow to rest for 10 minutes.  Liberally flour the work surface and roll the pastry into a 13 1/2-inch circle.  Gently fold the pastry into the rolling pin and invert pastry over a 9-inch deep-dish pie pan.  Gently tuck the pastry into the pan, without stretching it, and let the overhang drape over the edge.  Place in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.

To make the filling:
Blanch, peel, and slice the peaches into a large measuring cup; you'll need 4 cups.  Combine the sliced peaches, blackberries, and 1/2 cup of the sugar in a large bowl.  Toss well to combine and set aside for 15 minutes.

In a small bowl, mix the remaining 3 tablespoons sugar with the cornstarch.  Stir the mixture into the fruit along with the nutmeg, lemon juice, and lemon zest.  Preheat the oven to 400 degree F.  Take out the smaller disk of pastry and let it rest for 10 minutes.

Roll out the top crust pastry onto a floured surface to a 11 1/2-inch circle.  Turn the filling into the chilled pie shell.  Smooth the fruit with a spoon and dot with the butter.  Lightly moisten the rim of the pie shell.  Invert the top pastry over the filling.  Press the top and bottom pastries together along the dampened edge.  Trim the pastry with scissors or a paring knife, leaving an even 1/2-inch overhang all around, then sculpt the overhang into an upstanding ridge.  Slash the top of the pie with a knife to allow steam to escape.  Brush top crust all over with milk and sprinkle with sugar.

Place the pie on the center oven rack and bake for for 30 minutes.  Reduce the oven temperature to 375 degree F and rotate the pie 180 degrees.  Just in case, slide a large aluminum foil-lined baking sheet onto the rack below to catch any drips.  Continue to bake until the juices bubble thickly at the steam vents and the top is golden brown, 35 to 45 minutes.  If the top starts to get too dark, cover it with loosely tented aluminum foil during the last 15 minutes.

Transfer the pie to a wire rack and let cool for at least 2 hours before serving.

Source:  Pie by Ken Haedrich

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Peanut Butter Banana Coconut Cookie Bites

Even though I'm not allergic to anything or following a particular diet, I sometime like to make healthy food options for my family.  Especially since I'm not getting younger anymore, it's best to keep me healthy by not overindulging in rich foods, right?  

When the healthy food has great taste, the right texture, and easy to make, I'd say yes to making it part of my baking/cooking repertoire.  Just like these cookie bites, these are made from wholesome and natural ingredients; and what's more they're taste awesome.  

When my husband or son comes home from work or school, they like to have something to nibble to tide the hunger until dinner time.  I think these bites are the perfect answer for that call.

I've tasted a variation of this cookies and decided to make it based on the ingredients I have on hand.  The original recipe is called Toasted Coconut Quinoa Breakfast Cookies by Simply Quinoa.  Her blog has a variety of recipes using quinoa that taste and look great.  Thanks for the recipe!

So instead of quinoa flakes, I made these with part flax meal and part oat bran.  The cookies have a darker color but taste-wise, they're equally as yummy.  I also swapped cashew butter for natural, crunchy peanut butter; my family just love peanut butter more.  As for size, they're bite-size products that is great for portion control snacking.  

It's time for you to make these and decide if they're a keeper!

Peanut Butter Banana Coconut Cookie Bites

Makes about 24 small cookies

1/2 cup natural, chunky peanut butter
1/4 cup honey
1 medium ripe banana, mashed
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup oats
1/4 cup flax meal
1/4 cup oat bran
1 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup coconut flakes, toasted, let cool
2 tablespoons chia seeds

Preheat oven to 350F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, combine mashed banana with peanut butter, honey, egg, and vanilla extract.  Mix it until comes together.  Add oats, flax meal, oat bran, baking powder, and salt; stir.  Fold in toasted coconut and chia seeds.

Using a small scooper (about a tablespoon), drop a scoopful of the mixture into baking sheet until all the mixture is gone.

Bake cookies on center rack for 15-18 minutes or until edges are golden brown.  Remove and let cool on the pan for 5 minutes then transfer to a wire rack and cool completely.

Store in an airtight container.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Peaches and Cream Pie

I'm at my happiest when the peach is in season.  Here in Oregon, it is usually a short season and once it is picked tree-ripened, it will not last too long.  I get my peaches from a family friend and every year I will not want to miss their juicy and sweet peaches.  Every year in July, I will come home with at least 20 pounds of peaches.  A third will be freeze for making smoothie, another third will be for fresh consumption, and the last third will usually become dessert.

This is one the desserts that I chose to make when the first batch of peaches arrive.  I'm also a sucker for custard dessert so even if this type of pie isn't in trend anymore, I will still make it.  The creamy filling has the smooth peach puree, while the top is decorated with chopped fresh peaches.  And as an added decoration, lightly sweetened whipped cream frost the edges of the pie.  It is an optional item so I'll leave it up to you.

The hard thing to do with this pie is the waiting time.  It needs to set for at least 3 hours before we can eat it, so the anticipation is building up.  It doesn't disappoint, I promise.

Peaches and Cream Pie

Makes 8 servings

1 9-inch graham cracker crust pie shell

2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt
3 large egg yolks
4 large ripe peaches
2 1/2 cups (approximately) light cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons unsalted butter

Extra cream to make whipped cream, optional

In a medium non aluminum saucepan, whisk together the sugar, flour, and salt; do not heat.  Put the egg yolks in a mixing bowl and beat well with a whisk.  Peel and slice 2 of the peaches, dropping them into a 2- to 4-cup measure.  Pour enough cream into the cup to get an even 2-cup measurement.  Pour the cream and peaches into a blender and puree.  Pour the puree into another non aluminum saucepan, add 1 more cup of the light cream and heat gently, just until hot to the touch.  Remove from the heat.

Whisk a ladleful of the heated mixture into the egg yolks.  Stir this into the saucepan with the dry ingredients and turn the heat on low.  Gradually add the rest of the liquid, stirring almost constantly and slowly increasing the heat to medium.

When the mixture starts to boil, turn the heat down a little and cook, stirring, until quite thick, about 3 minutes; get your spoon into the bottom crease of the pan so it doesn't stick or burn there.  Take the pan off the heat and whisk in the vanilla and then the butter, several small pieces at a time, waiting until it melts to add more.  Press a piece of plastic wrap directly over the filling so it doesn't form a skin.  Cool for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, assemble the pie.  Peel and slice the remaining peaches, cut them into small cubes.  Ladle the filling into the pie shell, then drop cubed peaches on top, press lightly to submerged the fruits.  Let the pie cool at room temperature for 30 minutes, then cover loosely with a foil tent; it should touch the pie's surface.  If desired, frost the pie's edges with sweetened whipped cream.  Refrigerate for at least 3 hours before serving.

Source:  adapted from Country Baking by Ken Haedrich

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Shrimp Burgers

Now that I'm finally home, I'm trying to enjoy summer by getting back to cooking again and doing more baking.  This was said with my fingers crossed :)  It hasn't been easy enjoying summer in Oregon when the sun isn't making its presence lately.  July has been a cold one, I think, compared to springtime.  But the weather has taken a turn this week, in fact, the rest of the nation on the east coast is experiencing a sweltering heatwave.  Not us, fortunately!

This shrimp burger is something that I enjoy making in the summer.  The grill is clean and ready, so why not utilize it to make something as tasty as this?  The good thing about this dish is that it isn't pretentious.  Armed with cheap white and soft buns, sliced tomatoes, maybe butter lettuce if you want it more elevated, and punchy tartar or cocktail sauce; it will satisfy hungry mouths at dinnertime.  My husband and I enjoy drinking shandy with our burgers, what about you?

Shrimp Burgers

Serves 6

1 pound medium (40-count) shrimp
3 tablespoons finely diced celery
2 tablespoons chopped green onion
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon zest
1 cup bread crumbs--I used panko
3 tablespoons good-quality mayo
1 large egg, slightly beaten
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
A few dashes of hot pepper sauce
1 to 2 tablespoons peanut or canola oil
6 cheap white hamburger buns
Lettuce for serving
Sliced tomatoes for serving
Tartar Sauce--recipe follows
Cocktail Sauce--recipe follows

In a 3-quart saucepan, bring 1 quart water to a full boil.  Add the shrimp, cover, and remove the pan from the heat.  Let the shrimp steep for 4 minutes, then drain.  Put the shrimp in a large bowl and cover them with ice to cool.  When the shrimp is cool enough to handle, peel and devein them, then roughly chop them.

In another bowl, mix the shrimp, celery, green onion, parsley, and lemon zest.  Stir in the breadcrumbs, mayonnaise, and egg. Take a wooden spoon and beat the mixture until all the ingredients are well blended.  Season with salt, pepper, and hot pepper sauce to taste, and stir once more to incorporate throughout the mixture.

From the mixture, make six 3-inch patties.  If you wet your hands with water, this process will be a little easier.  Heat the oil in a nonstick saute pan until hot and shimmering.  Cook the patties, three at a time, for about 3 minutes per side, or until they are golden.  Drain them on paper towels.

Serve each patty on a hamburger bun with lettuce, tomato, and tartar or cocktail sauce, if desired.

Tartar Sauce

Makes about 1 1/2 cups

1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup finely chopped dill pickles or sweet pickles
1/4 cup minced onion
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon dill or sweet pickle juice

Mix all the ingredients together in a medium bowl.  Chill for at least 1 hour before serving.

Cocktail Sauce

Makes about 1/2 cup

1/2 cup ketchup
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon prepared horseradish, drained, or more if desired
1/4 teaspoon Worchestershire sauce

In a small bowl, combine the ketchup, horseradish, and Worchestershire sauce and stir until well combined.  Let it sit for 30 minutes before serving.  This will keep in the refrigerator, covered, for about 1 week.  Let it come to room temperature before using.

Source:  The Big Book of Fish and Shellfish by Fred Thompson

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Raspberry Mousse Pie

I hope it's not too late to post a raspberry related dessert?  I made this when my aunt and her friend were staying with us so we have a large group to help polish off the pie.  Both of them liked the pie very much and complimented me for choosing it to end the meal.  But I thanked Martha Stewart for providing us with the recipe.  The raspberries were very fresh because I U-picked them at the same week.  Big, juicy, local raspberries are the best!

Raspberry Mousse Pie

Serves 12

Nonstick cooking spray
7 graham crackers
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
 21/4 teaspoons powdered gelatin (from one 1/4-ounce packet)
5 cups fresh raspberries (about 1 1/2 pounds)
1/2 cup plus 2 tabelspoons sugar
2 cups cold heavy cream

Lightly coat a 9-inch square metal baking pan with cooking spray and line with parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on all sides.  Arrange graham crackers in an even layer in pan, breaking them to fit as necessary.  Place lemon juice in a small bowl and sprinkle with gelatin.  Let sit until gelatin softens, 3 minutes.  In a blender, puree 2 cups raspberries until smooth, scraping down bowl as needed.  Pour through a fine-mesh sieve into a measuring cup, pressing on solids (you should have about 1 cup of puree); discard solids.

In a small saucepan, combine raspberry puree and 1/2 cup sugar over medium. Cook until bubbles form at edge.  Add gelatin mixture and cook, stirring constantly, just until gelatin dissolves, about 1 minute.  Transfer mixture to a small bowl and let cool to room temperature, 20 minutes.  In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat cream and 2 tablespoons sugar on medium-high until firm peaks form, about 4 minutes.  With a rubber spatula, gently fold in raspberry puree mixture until combined.  Pour over graham crackers.  Smooth top with an offset spatula and arrange 3 cups raspberries on top.  Refrigerate until set, about 2 hours (or up to overnight).

Using parchment, gently lift pie out of pan and place on a serving plate.  Peel away parchment from sides of pie; trim excess paper with scissors or a sharp knife.  Cut into 12 pieces to serve.

Source:  Martha Stewart

Monday, July 11, 2016

Artichoke and Spinach Quiche

I know I've neglected this blog for a few weeks but vacation time came first before a hobby! :)  I had a family vacation for 2 weeks and my aunt is still staying with my parents so I'm very preoccupied with family.  But before I go (again), I want to share this easy quiche recipe.

I was browsing at Fred Meyer a while ago and saw this spinach and artichoke Parmesan dip from Stonemill Kitchens brand.  I decided to buy and gave it a try because I've always loved the spinach and artichoke combination.  I made this twice already for dinner, paired with salad, and everybody devoured it everytime.

Artichoke and Spinach Quiche

Yields one 9-inch pie

1 (9-inch) unbaked pie crust
5 eggs
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
2/3 cup Stonemill Kitchens' Spinach and Artichoke Parmesan Dip

Preheat the oven to 375F.

Beat eggs with heavy cream in a bowl.  Spoon in the dip into the egg mixture and whisk until combined.  Add cherry tomatoes to it and pour into the pie shell.

Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes or until eggs are set and golden on top.  If the crust gets brown too quickly, cover the top with aluminum foil.

Let the quiche cool on a rack before cutting it.

Source: Stonemill Kitchen

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Golden Vanilla Pound Cake with Fresh Strawberries

There's a danger of not posting recipe soon enough.  One, the season may have passed and that strawberry post is becoming old story when everyone has moved on to apple.  Second, I tend to forget where I get the recipe.  A pound cake recipe could come from fifty different books or one hundred Pinterest ideas.

This forgetting business is scary because as I'm growing older, it seems like one brain cell fades away everytime I'm idling.  Retracing steps has become a bit harder, a tad slower.  That's why I like it when everything is put back in place in the house because then I don't have to worry of not finding it in its usual place.  And it helps to put a bookmark in the book so I can retrace where I get the recipe :)

This is a very simple recipe of a pound cake.  The idea of eating fresh strawberries, pound cake, and whipped cream is one the reasons I bake.  I love the idea of brushing the top of the cake with sugar mixture; it adds sweet crunchiness to the tender crumbs of the cake.  Another way to eat this is to cube the cake and make a parfait consisting of ice cream, whipped cream, and chopped strawberries.

Local strawberries is a distant memory now but surely that will be replaced with different berries or even peaches.  Yes, I can't wait for peach season!

 Golden Vanilla Pound Cake With Fresh Strawberries

Yield 9" loaf cake, 18 servings

For the cake:
3/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
3-ounce package cream cheese, at room temperature
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
5 large eggs, at room temperature
3 tablespoons milk
1 3/4 cups + 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour

For the topping:
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon water

Whipped cream
Fresh sliced strawberries

Preheat the oven to 350˚ F.  Lightly grease a 9" x 5" x 2 3/4" loaf pan.

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, beat together the butter, cream cheese, salt, sugar, baking powder, vanilla extract, and almond extract until well combined.

Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition; the mixture may look slightly curdled/grainy.  After you've added the final egg, beat at high speed for 3 minutes.  Once all the eggs are added, stir in the milk.

Sprinkle the flour gradually, with the mixer going at low speed.  Mix just until combined.  The batter will be smooth and thick, but still pourable.  Pour and scrape the batter into the prepared pan.

To make the topping, combine the sugar, vanilla, and water.  Stir until the mixture is syrupy.  At first, it'll seem very stiff, but will become "drizzlable" as you stir.  Set the topping aside.

Set the cake on a baking sheet for easiest handling.  Bake it for 55 minutes.

Remove the cake from the oven, and brush/drizzle with the sugar mixture.  Return the cake to the oven for an additional 15 to 20 minutes.  Remove the cake from the oven, and set it on a rack.  Insert a toothpick into the center; it should come out clean.  The very top, right under the crust, will still be kind of soggy; don't worry about it.

After 5 minutes loosen the cake's edges and turn it out of the pan to cool completely on a rack.

Eat with whipped cream and sliced fresh strawberries.

Source:  adapted from The King Arthur Flour

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Strawberry-Frangipane Chocolate Tart

As soon as it's the end of May and the start of the month June, I'm looking forward to picking local strawberries.  The tantalizing taste of these strawberries isn't one I can ignore; even with the busy schedule I've to find a time to go u-picking.  U-pick farms are abound in the Portland area and they have berries that ripe almost at the same time.  This year I promise myself to replenish my strawberry and raspberry jam jars.  But of course, eating these berries fresh is the one of the anticipated events of the year.

I soon found out that getting older and choosing to u-pick berries didn't go together harmoniously.  My back would ache every five minutes or so from squatting too long.  I think it's just my age, really.  I saw some people brought kneeling mat, which now I think it's a brilliant idea.  Why didn't I think of that?

When I picked these berries, the day was supposed to be getting progressively hot.  I started in mid morning and finished picking ten pounds worth of strawberries before noon.  The sun was just starting to peek and blazed its hot rays upon the earth.  I told myself, that's enough berries, you really need to stop before it's too hot.  Yeah, I picked the weekend to do my jam making and baking when the temperature hit a record for the year.  There's no stopping back.  I felt like I lost a pound of weight that weekend.

I picked Hood strawberries because I love their taste and smell.  The idea behind making this tart was because I saw an Instagram photo from UK's Delicious magazine.  But I wanted to have a chocolate tart as the base so I turned to America's Test Kitchen for its recipe.  For the frangipane filling, I found that the recipe from Yossi Arefi's blog was a much better proportion.  The finished product is declared a winner by my family.  I'm happy when they're happy.

Strawberry-Frangipane Chocolate Tart

Makes one 9-inch tart

Chocolate Tart Dough:
1 large egg yolk
1 tablespoon heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
2/3 cup confectioners' sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces and chilled

Frangipane Filling:
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 1/4 ground almonds
2 eggs, plus one egg white
4 teaspoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract, optional
1/4 teaspoons salt

1 1/2-2 cups fresh strawberries
3 tablespoons apricot jam for glaze

To make chocolate tart dough:
Whisk the egg yolk, cream, and vanilla together in a small bowl.  Process the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, and salt together in a food processor until combined.  Scatter the butter pieces over the top and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal, about 15 pulses.

With the machine running, add the egg mixture through the feed tube and continue to process until the dough just comes together around the processor blade, about 12 seconds.  Turn the dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap and flatten into a 6-inch disk.  Wrap the dough tightly in the plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.  Before rolling the dough out, let it sit on the counter to soften slightly, about 10 minutes.

Roll out the dough to an 11-inch circle on a lightly floured counter and fit it into a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom.  Set the tart pan on a large plate and freeze the tart for 30 minutes.

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 375F.  Set the tart pan on a large baking sheet.  Press a double layer of foil into the frozen tart shell and over the edges of the pan and fill with pie weights.  Bake until the tart shell is set and looks dry, about 20 minutes.  Remove the weights and foil and continue to bake the tart shell until it is fully baked, about 5 more minutes.  Transfer the baking sheet to a wire rack and let the tart shell cool completely on the baking sheet.

To make frangipane filling:  In the bowl of the food processor, combine the butter and sugar and pulse until smooth.  Add almonds and blend until well combined.  Add the flour and cornstarch followed by the egg and egg white and finally the vanilla and almond extract, if using, and salt.  Mix until just combined.

Spread the frangipane into the cooled tart shell.  Bake the tart shell while still on the baking sheet for about 40 to 45 minutes or until the filling is set and no longer jiggly when touched.  Let tart cool completely on a wire rack.

To assemble the tart:  Trim the strawberries and cut each into half.  Starting from the outside edge, lay them in neat overlapping circles until the top of the tart is covered.  In a small pan, heat the apricot jam with a bit of water until syrupy, don't boil the jam or the glaze will become cloudy and thick.  Pass it through a sieve back into the pan.  Brush the smooth, clear glaze over the fruit.

Source:  idea from Delicious magazine: Strawberry Frangipane Tart
                 chocolate tart dough from The America's Test Kitchen: Family Baking Book
                 frangipane filling adapted from Yossi Arefi for Food52: Berry and Frangipane Tartlets