Friday, January 24, 2014

Flourless Chocolate Cake with a Cloud of Cherries

This is one of those desserts that I got so excited about, and I am ready to make again.

I was trying to figure out what to make for Small Group a couple weeks ago.  I was talking on the phone to my mom and flipping through recipes when this idea formulated.   I saw a picture of cherry topped brownie bites and told my mom.  She asked if I remembered when she made the brownies topped with cream cheese and cherries.  That got me thinking!  I really wanted to do something Black Forrest like, I just didn't know what.  I was trying to figure out which brownie recipe might work well when I saw a Flourless Chocolate Cake recipe that I had saved from King Arthur Flour.   It all fell together from there and I was super excited.

The recipe was to be made in an 8" round pan lined with parchment paper.  My only 8" round pan that is deep enough is a spring-form pan.  I coated it really well with olive oil spray, but didn't use the parchment.  I will next time.  I didn't have any trouble with it sticking, but to ease the serving, I had loosened the bottom of the cake with a large offset spatula.  It would be a lot easier just to use the parchment lining and turn the cake out with ease.  I made the recipe pretty much as listed, except I only used 2 whole eggs and 1 egg white.  I did not make the ganache since I was making my own topping.

I baked the cake for 20 minutes and it was the recommended 200 degrees.  This was the first cake that I ever tested the interior temperature to see if it was done.

Once the cake was cool, I mixed a package of cream cheese with about a 1/2 cup of powdered sugar.  I spread that on the cake, and then topped with 3/4 of a can of cherry pie filling.

Recipe for the cake - King Arthur Flour
Cream Cheese Layer - 1 8oz package cream cheese softened, 1/2 cup powdered sugar
Cherry Pie Filling

So delicious!  This just has Valentine's Day written all over it!

Flourless Chocolate Cake with Cream Cheese and Cherries

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Gingerbread Men

I am choosing to write about the Christmas Day Gingerbread People today as a little trip down memory lane.  Today is my birthday, and many years ago (I cannot believe how many!) my mom and I made Gingerbread Men for my Kindergarten Birthday Party at school.  Back when you could take a treat to school to share with your classmates, and they were just gingerbread men (not people).  I am 99% sure we made our own stencil and cut out each cookie - no cookie cutter for us.  They had pink frosting decorations and in my mind they were the best gingerbread men ever!

These were kind of a rush job since we made them Christmas afternoon and I was about decorated and baked out.  We made several large cookies and a ton of small ones.  Next time they will just be the large cookies - they are much easier to decorate.  I finally made a small batch of royal icing for the decorations, but I did not take a lot of time for details.   I had not worked with royal icing before, so it was a little more stiff than I thought it would be.  I just quickly gave the tiny people dots for eyes, mouths, and buttons.

The cookies were good and had a very strong ginger flavor.  I would make this recipe again, using only the large cookie cutters and taking more time to decorate.  Be careful not to over bake, so they stay nice and soft.

These cookies are long gone, and I am looking forward to birthday cake tonight!  My favorite dessert I don't have to make! :)

Recipe from Cuisine at Home's Holiday Cookies.

Spicy Gingerbread People
Whisk together:
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 Tablespoons ground cinnamon
1 Tablespoon ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

1 stick of unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar

Blend in; Beat in:
1/4 molasses
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Cream butter and sugars until smooth.  Blend molasses in to butter mixture, then beat in egg and vanilla until fully incorporated.  Add half the dry ingredients, mix until nearly incorporated, mix in remaining dry ingredients.  Shape dough in to a disk, wrap in plastic and chill at least 2 hours before rolling out.

Roll out on floured work surface, to about 1/8" thick.  Cut out and place on parchment paper lined baking sheets.
Bake 10-12 minutes at 350.
Cool on pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to rack.  Decorate and store in airtight containers for up to one week.

Gingerbread Man

Monday, January 6, 2014

Molasses Spice Cookies

This was a new Christmas Cookie I tried this year.  The recipe is from the Cuisine Holiday Cookies book.  I have loved most every recipe I have tried in their two holiday baking books that I have.  I have made several and there are many more I want to try.  I was debating on making these Molasses Spice Cookies or Ginger Spice Cookies.  I did not have any candied ginger at the time, so I decided on these. I do have candied ginger now, so I will have to try the others too.  The only problem is that now I want to think about Valentine's Day - chocolate, pink, red........ahhh.  Anyway, back to a cookie that far exceeded my expectations.

Two common themes here - one, I think they are a perfect cookie and two, I did not have the time to chill the dough before I baked the first batch.  With all my planning, you wouldn't think this would be an issue, but it always is. (Gingerbread Men we baked on Christmas Day because they had to chill and I mixed them up Christmas Eve).

I ended up making these for Small Group and then freezing the rest of the dough and baking for our Christmas party.  The batch that had not chilled, and the batch that had been frozen and then baked both came out great.  Very moist and full of flavor!

Molasses Spice Cookies
In a medium bowl whisk together:
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 Tablespoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon each ground cloves, freshly ground black pepper, and salt
(yes, pepper!  I did not use that much salt; just a few grinds of sea salt)

In mixing bowl cream until light and fluffy:
1 cup packed dark brown sugar (I used light)
1/2 cup shortening (8Tbsp)
4 Tbsp unsalted butter softened (I do not like shortening, so I used all unsalted butter)

Add 1 egg; mix until combined.
Beat in 1/2 cup full flavor molasses and the minced zest of one orange. (I didn't have/use orange)
Add the flour mixture, beating just enough to combine.
Chill the dough at least 6 hours or overnight.  Or if you didn't plan like me, just bake them now. :)

Preheat oven to 350.
Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
Scoop dough using a small cookie scoop.  The recipe used a #100/1tsp scoop; I used a #70 because that is the smallest I have.
Roll in granulated sugar and place on the baking sheet, about 2 inches apart.  I think I had 5 rows of 3 on my sheets.
Bake cookies until edges are set, about 10 minutes.  Mine were perfect at 10 minutes.
Cool on the baking sheet.  I moved them to a cooling rack after about 5 minutes.

Enjoy the cookies and the "these are so good" comments you will get!
Molasses Spice Cookies

Friday, January 3, 2014

Peppermint Crunch Marshmallows

One of my favorite flavors....peppermint!
I made Peppermint Marshmallows for our Christmas party and then for Little C to take to school for her classmates for their Christmas "penny presents exchange."

This recipe is from King Arthur Flour.  I think I like these marshmallows better than the ones I made a couple years ago.  These are perfectly fluffy!  Of course, the others were plain and I coated them in sugar sprinkles rather than powdered sugar.  The powdered sugar lasts longer and doesn't affect the flavor of the marshmallows.  These are great by themselves or in hot chocolate!

Marshmallows are not a last minute whip-up as they need time to cure before cutting.  They are fun to make and it helps if you play Marshmallow World while putting them together, and then while cutting and tossing in the sugar! :-)

Click here for the recipe link.

Peppermint Crunch Marshmallows

Peppermint Crunch Marshmallows

Peppermint Crunch Marshmallows

Peppermint Crunch Marshmallows for Classmates

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Vanilla Frosting

Happy New Year!

The cake I baked yesterday morning.....I had not used my Christmas Tree pan in about 3 years, so I wanted to make a cake with it this year.  We had too many desserts already for Christmas Day, so I decided just to make it for New Years as a white sparkly cake!  The only hint of glistening snow we will get around here.

I used to always use a box cake mix (funfetti holiday) for this pan (gasp!), but no more of that!  I wanted chocolate cake so I used the Hershey's recipe that I have almost memorized.   With the tree pan it took somewhere around 50 minutes to bake - I lost track of how many times I set the timer for 5 more minutes after the 30 minutes I started with.

I started using this frosting recipe a few years ago with other flavorings, but made it strictly vanilla with the chocolate cake and was amazed by the flavor.  Little C had gotten straight A's so I made her a celebration layer cake (below) and wanted white icing as the background for the A+ decoration.  I cannot describe how it tastes with the chocolate cake - just dreamy!

After all my talk about the hand mixer and the chocolate frosting yesterday, I still used the stand mixer for this frosting.  I think I can get it a little smoother with the hand mixer (less air pockets).  I recently discovered that there is white food coloring!  I used about 30 drops to lighten up this butter icing, but I stopped there because I think it would have taken the whole little bottle to get it perfectly white.  The white food coloring looks like white-out, but it is neat to see it work.

I frosted the chocolate tree with the white vanilla frosting and decorated it with white pearls, silver foil stars and silver disco dust.  Delicious and pretty!

Vanilla Frosting
1 cup of unsalted butter (2 sticks, softened)
4 1/2 - 5 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
3-4 tablespoons of milk

Cream butter in mixer, add half of the powdered sugar and mix until incorporated.  Add half the milk and mix; repeat with the remaining sugar and milk.  Add vanilla and coloring.  This frosting is great for piping or spreading.