TWD: Irish Soda Bread

This was one of the two monthly recipes from the Tuesdays with Dorie group.  I thought it was timely for the St. Patrick’s Day Holiday.  This recipe was hosted by Cathy of My Culinary Mission and Carla of Chocolate Moosey.

Irish Soda Bread with currants and caraway seeds

I thought the recipe would be too plain so I added 6 oz of currants and 2 Tbl of caraway seeds. This was delicious. I brought some to work and it disappeared quite quickly. This was “rustic” looking to say the least. The dough were very sticky and it was hard to shape round, but this worked.

White Chocolate Lemon Cheesecake

White Chocolate Lemon Cheesecake

It’s fantastic living in California and having a lemon tree at my place.  They are lovely lemons, not too acidic and with a smooth lemony flavor.  I like to use them in recipes when I can and take advantage of the opportunity. The white chocolate paired very nicely with the lemon and made a good balance of the sweet and the sour.

The original recipe called for an 8 inch cheesecake pan and while I have three cheesecake pans, I have the 9, 10 and 11 inch versions.  Luckily this recipe adapts very well to the larger 9 inch size. I don’t like the crust when it comes up the sides and the large diameter made a shorter cake and easier to serve multiple people.  I always make my cheesecakes in a water bath, as I did here, though the original instructions was to bake for 35 to 40 minutes.  I think the water bath leads to a better texture and doesn’t overcook the edges.

White Chocolate Lemon Cheesecake

Adapted from A Year in Chocolate: Four Seasons of Unforgettable Desserts by Alice Medrich (same book later republished as Chocolate Holidays: Unforgettable Desserts for Every Season)

Serves 10-12

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour

6 ounces white chocolate, finely chopped
1/4 cup boiling water
1 1/2 pounds cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
3 tablespoons strained fresh lemon juice
2 eggs, at room temperature

9-inch springform pan, lightly greased

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
To make the crust, cut the butter into chunks and melt it in a medium saucepan over low heat. Remove from the heat and stir in the sugar, vanilla, and salt. Add the flour and mix just until incorporated. Press the dough evenly over the bottom. Bake until the crust is a rich golden brown and very brown at the edges, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool on a rack before filling.

Grease the sides of the pan again, above the crust level, to prevent the filling from sticking to the pan above the crust. Use a large piece of heavy duty aluminum foil and wrap the pan so water will not be able to get into the pan.  Lower the oven temperature to 300 degrees F.

To make the filling, place the white chocolate in a small bowl. Pour the boiling water over the chocolate and stir until smooth. Set aside. In a medium mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese just until smooth, about 30 seconds. Scrape the bowl and beaters. Add the sugar, vanilla, lemon zest, and juice, and beat just until smooth and creamy, 1 to 2 minutes. Add 1 egg and beat just until incorporated. Scrape the bowl and beaters. Beat in the second egg. Stir in the melted chocolate. Pour the batter into the prepared crust and smooth the top.

Place a pan larger than the cheesecake pan in the oven with a tea towel on the bottom.  Add the cheesecake into the larger pan.  Slowly pour very hot (or boiling water) into the larger pan, being very careful not to get any on the cheesecake.  Bake for 1 hour.  Turn off the oven and leave the cheesecake in the oven for an additionally hour to finish cooking.

When one hour has passed, turn the oven off, open oven door for 1 minute, close door and leave cake in oven for 1 more hour.

Remove the cake from the oven. Slide the tip of a thin paring knife carefully around the top edge of the cake to detach it from the pan, but do not remove the pan sides until the cake is cool. Cover and refrigerate the cooled cake at least 5 hours, preferably 24 hours, before serving.

Dessert Party 2012

Spread at Dessert Party 2012

I hosted another successful dessert party this year.  It was a good times with good friends and lots of tasty desserts.  I’m now two years behind in writing up all the desserts, but I can optimistically think I will get to it eventually.  I had a Mardi Gras theme with some decorations to add to the fun.

The recipes for this year were:

Gingerbread Cupcakes
with a cream cheese frosting

Butterscotch Chocolate Pot de Crème
with a butterscotch chocolate candy on top

Glazed Oatmeal Lace Cookies
with chocolate and caramel drizzle

White Chocolate Lemon Cheesecake
made with hyper-local lemons

Cream Puffs
with strawberries, whipped cream and chocolate syrup

Honey Madeleines
flavored with orange zest

Apple Spice Mini Pie
with diced apples, cinnamon, and cardamom

Maple Pecan Pie Squares
sticky goodness with a cookie crust

Bittersweet Chocolate Caramel Salted Truffles

Baked Brie Bites
with strawberry jam

TWD: White Loaves, Just Like White Bread

White Loaves is the first recipe of version 2.0 of Tuesdays with Dorie using the book Baking with Julia. Since this is the first recipe of the reboot the hosts are the organizers of the group, Laurie and Jules, and the recipe can be found on their blog entry for the recipe.

Sliced White Loaves

This was a simple bread recipe using yeast, some sugar, salt, and butter. Either bread flour or all-purpose flour could be used and I split the difference using half of each. My criticism of the book is that the recipes are in volume and especially for the bread recipes, I wish it was listed in weights.  More recent books have started to make the switch and this one is older, published in 1996. From the introduction, I do know the book uses the “scoop-and-sweep” method so I did the same.  The dough came together very easily in my mixer.  I have two different loaf pans, one metal and one silicone and was curious to compare them.
Comparing Silicone and Metal Pans

These two pans were extremely comparable and I could not really tell the difference from the baked bread.  The silicone one might be a touch darker, but I did not rotate the pans in the oven and I strongly suspect the difference relates more to the placement in the oven than pans.  I was surprised because I did have some problems with this set of silicone pans and wasn’t sure I could trust them, but it was not an issue.   I did take both loaves of the pan for the last five minutes to crisp up the sides, but both were fairly even already.

Pan Comparison

Overall, this was was good bread.  There was nothing exciting about it, but fresh homemade bread is always good.  I was surprised that the crust was a bit crunchy, I expect my white to be soft.  If I every needed a simple recipe, I wold consider making this again, but more likely I would look for something else.

I’m Joining TWD v. 2.0!

I have been following Tuesdays with Dorie since the group started, but was nervous about the commitment and having to bake a recipe a week and blog them in a timely fashion.  I baked some of the first recipes (Brown Sugar Apple Cheesecake and Snickery Squares) but could not convince myself to write-up the recipes to correspond to the schedule.  I realized I was not going to bake a recipe a week. Eventually the group loosened the participation a bit and I have made a lot of recipes from the book (not all of them managed to get written up on my blog).

I was really glad to see that the group was doing a version 2 with another book by Dorie Greenspan and less stringent requirements. The book, Baking with Julia: Savor the Joys of Baking with America’s Best Bakers, looks like it has a nice mixture of yeast-based breads and desserts so I won’t overdo the sweets.   I also like the the new format of the group that asks for 1 recipe a month and posts the recipes a month in advance.  I’m excited about participating and I hope to keep my blog updated and maybe even post some of my backlog recipes.

S’mores Brownies

I love s’mores. My friends know that if I have a bbq gathering, it is almost inevitable I will bring out the marshmallows, graham crackers, and chocolate bars as the coals die down. I chase s’mores in cupcake, creme brulee or bar form.  So of course the brownie form was very intriguing.

S'mores Brownies
With the Marshmallows and the Graham Crackers already made, the S’mores Brownies were next in line.   These were delicious, with just the right balance of marshmallows, chocolate and graham cracker.   They aren’t the prettiest brownies, but highly recommended and gooey with the marshmallow.

Adapted from Demolition Desserts: Recipes from Citizen Cake by Elizabeth Falkner

10 oz bittersweet chocolate (70% cacao), coarsely chopped
10 oz (1 1/4 c. unsalted butter)
8 oz (1 c. plus 2 tbl) granulated sugar
8 oz (1 c. plus 2 tbl) brown sugar
5 eggs
5 oz (1 c.) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
4 oz milk chocolate chips (or coarsely chopped milk chocolate)
4-6 Graham Crackers, broken into large pieces
8 to 10 Marshmallows, half cut into smallish pieces

Preheat oven to 350F. Have ready a 9 x 13 inch baking pan. Melt the butter and bittersweet chocolate until smooth (over a double boiler, if you want). Add the granulated and brown sugars and still until blended. Add the eggs all at once and stir to combine. In a bowl, sift together the flour and baking powder. Gently whisk or fold the flour mixture into the chocolate mixture just until combined. Fold in the milk chocolate, graham crackers and half the marshmallows. Pour the batter into the pan. Dot the surface of the batter evenly with the remaining marshmallows.

Bake for 30 minutes, or until slightly souffléed but still wet in the center. The marshmallows will puff up and be a light golden brown and the chocolate surface will crack a little. Let cool in the pan on a cooling rack for about 45 minutes or until completely cooled. Cut into squares, as big or small as you like.


Marshmallows are a key component of S’mores and nothing but homemade ones would do for the S’mores Brownies.


And as I mentioned in my post about seven minute frosting, don’t accept a substitute for marshallows in hot chocolate.  These marshmallows were absolutely fabulous in hot chocolate.  I didn’t have a charcoal grill immediately available but I bet they would be fabulous toasted over some coals.

These came together fairly easily, but were very sticky. I used scissors to cut these into pieces, which helped. Mine were not quite professional looking with some divots from where they stuck while I was cutting them, but they were very tasty. And sticky.


adapted from Demolition Desserts: Recipes from Citizen Cake by Elizabeth Falkner, gelatin version

Cornstarch for dustin the pan and covering the marshmallows

Cooking Spray

1 tbl plus 1 tsp powdered gelatin
1/4 c plus 2 tbl water
pinch of cream of tartar
9 oz (1 1/4 c. plus 1 tbl) granulated sugar
9 oz (3/4 c.) light corn syrup
1 vanilla bean
3 egg whites

Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and sprinkle generously with cornstarch.  In a small bowl, combine gelatin and 2 tbl water and set aside.  In a 2 qt or larger saucepan, combine 1/4 c. water, cream of tartar, sugar, corn syrup and vanilla bean.  Bring to a boil.   Lower the heat to medium and cook until 248 F.  Start whipping the egg whites when the temperature is about ~175 F, using a stand mixer, whip the egg whites until frothy.  After the syrup has reached 248 F, add the gelatin mixture and whisk for 30 seconds.  Discard the vanilla bean.  With the mixer on low speed, very slowly drizzle the syrup into the egg whites aiming for a spot between the mixer blades and the side of the bowl.  After the syrup in incorporated, turn the mixer to hight and beat for 2 to 3 minutes until the meringue pulls away from the sides of the bowl.  Spray a silicone spray with cooking oil and use it to scrape the mixture on the the prepared pan and spread it out.   Don’t worry if it is not spread evenly.  Top with a generous amount of cornstarch, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

Using scissors, cut the sheet of marshmallows into pieces 2 inches long by 1 inch wide, dipping the scissors into cornstarch before each cut.

Turkey Cake Pops

Thanksgiving dessert is often relegated to pumpkin pie and I was happy to have an alternate that was cute and fun.   And I don’t like pumpkin pie, it’s a squash and should only be in savory dishes.

I made these following the Cake Pops book. There are also lots of other ideas for other holidays in the book.

Sad Turkey Cake Pop

A cake is crumbled (in the food processor), mixed with frosting, rolled into spheres and frozen.   I dipped these with cocoa Wilton Candy Dips and next time I would likely just use regular chocolate and temper it. It will be crisper and shinier. But I would still likely use the dipping chocolate if I wanted other colors.

Chocolate Turkey Pops

The decorations are pretzels, candy corn, chocolate covered toffee for the head and sprinkles for the nose and mouth. The eyes are with the Wilton Food Writer Edible Color Markers. The markers are great for simple decorating.

I often find it easier to bake a cake from scratch instead of mix.   I don’t keep store-bought cake mixes in my pantry and if I have to do “Step Zero.  Go to the store and buy a cake mix” it takes longer.   It is far easier to make a cake from what I have in my kitchen.  And especially with weighing ingredients it goes very quickly to put together a recipe.

I picked a recipe that did not contain buttermilk since I didn’t have any in the fridge and didn’t feel like using the substitution of milk with vinegar.

I licked the spoon used to add the frosting and remembered why I make homemade frosting, but it was fine for this recipe.  The frosting gets mixed in and just adds some sweetness, but doesn’t overwhelm like it would on a cake or cupcake.

I used natural cocoa powder in the cake, not the alkalized or dutched that was suggested.   I also baked in a square pan since I crumbled this cake.

Chocolate Layer Cake

adapted from Rose’s Heavenly Cakes by Rose Levy Beranbuam

Chocolate Layer Birthday Cake

adapted from Rose’s Heavenly Cakes by Rose Levy Beranbaum

Chocolate Cake Batter

42 grams unsweetened cocoa powder (natural is fine)
1/2 cup boiling water
2 large eggs, room temperature
3 tablespoons water
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
156 grams cake flour
200 grams superfine sugar (granulated sugar whirred in food processor)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
2 tablespoons canola oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare cake pan, cut out a 8 inch square of parchment paper, spray a 8 inch by 8 inch round cake pan with non-stick cooking spray. Place parchment paper round on the bottom then coat with more non-stick cooking spray or baking spray with flour.

In a medium bowl whisk together the cocoa powder and boiling water until smooth. To help cool the chocolate mixture, place it in the refrigerator for a few minutes. It needs to be at room temperature before adding to the cake batter.

In a small bowl lightly whisk together the eggs, 3 tablespoons of water, and vanilla extract.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt on low speed for about 30 seconds. Add butter, oil and chocolate mixture, continue mixing on low until for about 15 seconds then increase speed to medium and mix for about 1 1/2 minutes. Stop and scrape down the sides once or twice if necessary.

Reduce mixing speed to medium-low, then slowly add the egg mixture in two additions and mix for about 30 seconds after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bow if necessary.

Pour batter into prepared cake pan. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until a toothpick or cake tester come out clean when inserted into the center of the cake. Allow the cake to cool for 10 minutes in the cake pan placed over a wire rack. Before unmolding the cake run a thin knife around the sides of the cake. Transfer the cake to the wire rack to cool completely.


Dessert Party 2011

Dessert Party Table
Another year flew by and it was time for another dessert party.  I never did finish discussing all the recipes from last year yet.  I have been neglecting this blog.  But onto happier thoughts: desserts!   There were some fabulous ones this year.  We had an Oscars theme and that was a lot of fun.  The starring role was played by desserts.  My favorite was the S’mores cupcakes.

The recipes were:

S’mores Cupcakes
graham crackers, chocolate, and toasted marshmallow in cupcake form

Vanilla Crème Brûlée
made to order

Earl Gray Cookies
A spicey, lemony cookie

Banana Caramel Cupcakes
banana flavored cupcakes with a caramel buttercream frosting

Strawberry Trifle
a light cake with strawberries, pastry cream, and whipped cream

Pistachio Macarons
french-style macaroons with pistachio buttercream

Momofuku Milk Bar “Crack Pie”
does not contain crack, does have butter, sugar, and the usual suspects

Mini Chocolate Cupcakes
with caramel buttercream

Chocolate Anise Truffles

Cranberry Almond White Chocolate Truffles

Jalapeño Cornbread Whoopie Pies
with goat cheese / cream cheese filling

"Dessert Party" Cutout Cookies

I would like to start updating with some of the recipes and thoughts.   And maybe even hit some of my backlogged drafts.

Chocolate Adventure Contest Launch Party

I have been a regular reader of Tablehopper for a few years now. I have intermittently entered some of her contests to win tickets to events and never had any luck. Until this time. When I read the about the Chocolate Adventure Contest party I felt a flutter in my heart and wished I could attend. And I did! I won! I was one of the 15 lucky Tablehopper readers who received an invite to the party.

It is sponsored by Scharffen Berger and TuttiFoodie and since it is chocolate contest there were bowls of chocolate, a table of chocolate, and gift bags with chocolate. They had a blind taste testing of “mystery” ingredients and it was hinted that they may be some of the adventure ingredients. I did okay, guessing the almond flour and sweetened, condensed milk. I missed the third and final one, tamarind paste, which is not on this year’s adventure ingredient list. The only category this year is cupcakes. I feel inspired to try make some creations and enter the contest.  Plus I have a lot of chocolate that I need to use.

The party was held at Orson, a restaurant by Elizabeth Faulkner. I have not eaten there, but I do like Citizen Cake. They had delicious appetizers, including mini fried chicken. The cupcakes (pictured above) were just okay. I liked the chocolate with a chocolate ganache the best (go figure!). There was a lemon with popcorn on top, but it had a weird “crust” on the bottom that caused the cupcake to lose some cupcake integrity and made it hard to eat. The last was a coffee/chocolate/fruit one, that was fine.

And I finally feel like blogging again! I hope to catch up with some previous recipes.