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Tuesday, September 9, 2008

No TWD. For a while. :-(

I made a very hard decision recently to leave TWD for a while. I have a lot going on right now (nothing really bad, in fact, most good!), and I have to put down the whisk and spoon and bowls and (gasp!) give ye ole stand mixer a break. One day I hope to rejoin the ranks and finish baking through the book. I have loved every second of being a part of such a great group, and already miss it very much! Keep bakin' strong!

Check out the other Tuesdays with Dorie bakers, and their Chocolate Malted Whopper Drops, here.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Banana Split Cupcakes

So I had a end-of-summer party coming up, and I had offered to bring two desserts. The problem is that I really had no idea what to bring. Last year I brought Stuffed Strawberries and the Better Than Sex Trifle (both of which were huge hits!).

As it turns out, this was my week for Tuesdays with Dorie, and since I had chosen cookies and was already planning to make them, that became one of my desserts. The other idea came from a stroke of genius from my good friend Katie. She was actually offering ideas to someone else who needed inspiration, and the idea for an ice cream sundae cupcake came flying out. I instantly thought it was just about the most fantastic idea ever, and we set to work on the logistics.

Somewhere along the line, I decided I wanted mine to be banana split cupcakes, with a layer of vanilla, strawberry, and chocolate cake, a layer of banana pieces, all topped with a fudgy chocolate frosting and, or course, a cherry!
For the actual recipes, I drew inspiration from Baking Illustrated (the vanilla/strawberry portions of cake), and from my cute little Cupcakes! book (for the chocolate portion). I have heard so much about Hershey's "Perfectly Chocolate" Chocolate Cake that I immediately thought of it for this recipe (well, the frosting, at least!).

For the assembly, the basic principle is to layer the vanilla, then strawberry, then banana, then chocolate layers, as I demonstrate here:

(Please ignore the fact that I forgot to take this last picture the first time around...and now the pan is dirty

Banana Split Cupcakes

Adapted from Baking Illustrated , Cupcakes!, by Elinor Klivans, and Hershey's.
Makes 24 cupcakes

For the vanilla/strawberry layers:
~2 ¼ cups ( 11 1/4 ounces) unbleached all purpose flour
~1 ½ cups (10 1/2 ounces) sugar
~2 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
~3/4 teaspoon salt
~1 ½ sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
~3/4 cup sour cream
~2 large eggs and 2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
~2 ¼ teaspoons vanilla extract
~1/2 cup pureed strawberries, from fresh or frozen and thawed
~few drop red food coloring (optional)
~2 ripe bananas, sliced and quartered

For the chocolate layer:
~1 ½ ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
~½ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
~¼ teaspoon baking soda
~¼ teaspoon baking powder
~1/8 teaspoon salt
~¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
~½ cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
~1 large egg
~½ teaspoon vanilla extract
~¼ cup sour cream
~¼ cup water

Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 350 degrees. Line standard muffin/cupcake tin with paper or foil liners.

Begin vanilla/strawberry batter by whisking together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in bowl of standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Add butter, sour cream, eggs, and egg yolks, and vanilla; beat at medium speed until smooth and satiny, about 30 seconds. Scrape down sides of bowl with rubber spatula and mix by hand until smooth and no flour pockets remain.

Divide batter evenly into two bowls. To the strawberry bowl, fold in pureed strawberries until combined. Add food coloring, if desired, and mix well to distribute color.

Begin the chocolate batter by placing the chocolate in a heatproof bowl or the top of a double boiler and place it over, but not touching, a saucepan of barely simmering water (or the bottom of the double boiler). Stir until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Remove from the water and set aside to cool slightly.

Sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl and set aside.

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the butter and sugar until smoothly blended and creamy, about 2 minutes. Stop the mixer and scrape the sides of the bowl as needed during mixing. On low speed, mix in the melted chocolate. On medium speed, add the egg, mixing until well blended into the batter. Add the vanilla and beat until the mixture looks creamy and the color has lightened slightly, about 1 minute. Mix in the sour cream until no white streaks remain. On low speed, add half of the flour mixture mixing just to incorporate it. Mix in the water. Mix in the remaining flour mixture until it is incorporated and the batter looks smooth.

To assemble the cupcakes:
Layer 1 tablespoon of vanilla batter into cupcake liners. Follow with 1 tablespoon of strawberry batter, gently dropping it on top of the vanilla layer to reduce mixing of the two. Follow with 4 quarters of sliced banana. Finally, add 1 shy tablespoon of the chocolate batter, gently dropping it on top of the strawberry/banana layer. Bake for 20-22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack to coop completely. Once cooled, frost cupcakes with chocolate frosting (recipe follows) and finish with a maraschino cherry.

Hershey's "Perfectly Chocolate" Chocolate Frosting

~1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine
~2/3 cup HERSHEY'S Cocoa
~3 cups powdered sugar
~1/3 cup milk
~1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Melt butter. Stir in cocoa. Alternately add powdered sugar and milk, beating to spreading consistency. Add small amount additional milk, if needed. Stir in vanilla. About 2 cups frosting.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Chard, Walnut, and Gorgonzola Risotto

I had some gorgonzola cheese leftover from the Dinner Divas Chicken Cobb Burger, and didn't wait it to go to waste (as some cheese has, in the depths of that not-actually-so-deep cheese drawer). A quick googling brought me right to this amazing recipe. Not only to do I love risotto, but I had some chicken stock waiting to be used and this recipe brought a new challenge: chard. I have never cooked with (heck, eaten) chard, and truthfully didn't know it existed in the non-swiss variety. Thankfully, my local produce store is the BOMB and has everything under the sun. Finding chard was no problem (though now I have to figure out what do with the rest of it!).

This turned out much as I imagined. I couldn't really taste the chard, so I still don't really know what it tastes like, but still got the benefit of some vegetation in my carb heaven. The gorgonzola was a bit strong for someone who doesn't *love* it, but the toasted walnuts were such a wonderful addition. Since it's not really a strict recipe, and more a... handful of this and a hunk of that type recipe, I decided to measure along the way so I could remember how much of what I'd used. We paired it with some chicken breasts marinated in the lemon-rosemary paste from the Barefoot Bloggers Butterflied Chicken. :-)

Chard, Walnut, and Gorgonzola Risotto
from Cookthink

~1 quart (4 cups) of chicken broth
~2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
~1/2 cup diced onion
~1 cup arborio rice
~3/4 cup dry white wine (if you notice were I said my grocery store is the "bomb," I'll give you one guess as to where the rest of the bottle went)
~1 cup of chopped chard, stems removed (I used about 4 good sized leaves to get about 1 cup chopped)
~1/2 cup of chopped walnuts, toasted (I pre-chop mine as soon as I buy them because I use them a lot in baking)
~2 1/2 ounces gorgonzola cheese
~salt and pepper to taste

Heat chicken broth in a saucepan and maintain at a simmer. Meanwhile, head the olive oil in a large saute pan. Add onion and cook to allow to soften, about 5 minutes. Add rice and toast it, while stirring, about 2 minutes. Add the wine, stirring to combine, cook for 2-3 minutes. Add simmering chicken broth, one ladle at a time, stirring constantly with each addition until broth is absorbed. About halfway through the broth addition, add the chopped chard. When all the broth has been incorporated, add the walnut and cheese, stirring an additional minute or so to allow the cheese to soften and melt. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

TWD: Chunky Peanut Butter and Oatmeal Chocolate Chipsters

YAY!! It was finally my turn to select a recipe for Tuesdays with Dorie. I literally went through every single page in the book, and wrote down my favorites. I had 9 possible recipes to choose from. I contemplated using a random number generator (dorky, I know) to pick, but then decided to involve my husband in the decision (so I could make sure he helped me eat it!). Initially, anything without a picture was a no-go for him. But ultimately, the draw of peanut butter was too much, and he chose the Chunky Peanut Butter and Oatmeal Chocolate Chipsters (what can I say... the man loves his Skippy!)

Oh, hi! Best.cookie.dough.ever!
True to my own heart, I had to incorporate Dorie's suggestion to make an ice cream sandwich out of them. Since the cookies have so much going on, I just went with plain vanilla.

I hope everyone enjoyed making and eating these cookies - I know I did!

Chunky Peanut Butter and Oatmeal Chocolate Chipsters
From Baking, From My Home to Yours, by Dorie Greenspan, page 73.
Makes about 60 cookies
Check out the other Tuesdays with Dorie bakers here.

These are three really great cookies rolled into one. They're chubby, crispy, chunky and crackly topped, perfect for dunking into a big glass of milk, dipping into a bowl of ice cream or keeping company with coffee and super for school bags, picnic baskets and kitchen counter cookie jars. The oats and chocolate chips make the cookies plenty crunchy, but if you're like me and think tons of crunchy is only just enough, you'll opt for a peanut butter that's studded with nuts. (I use Skippy Super Chunk.)

~3 cups old fashioned oats
~1 cup all purpose flour
~1 tsp baking soda
~2 tsp ground cinnamon
~1/4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
~1/4 tsp salt
~2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
~1 cup peanut butter--chunky (my choice) or smooth (but not natural)
~1 cup sugar
~1 cup (packed) light brown sugar
~2 large eggs
~1 tsp pure vanilla extract
~9 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped into chunks, or 1 1/2 cups store-bought chocolate chips or chunks

Getting Ready:
Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.

Whisk together the oats, flour, baking soda, spices and salt.

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter, peanut butter, sugar and brown sugar on medium speed until smooth and creamy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for 1 minute after each addition, then beat in the vanilla. Reduce the mixer speed to low and slowly add the dry ingredients, beating only until blended. Mix in the chips. If you have the time, cover and chill the dough for about 2 hours or for up to one day. (Chilling the dough will give you more evenly shaped cookies.)

If the dough is not chilled, drop rounded tablespoonfuls 2 inches apart onto the baking sheets. If the dough is chilled, scoop up rounded tablespoons, roll the balls between your palms and place them 2 inches apart on the sheets. Press the chilled balls gently with the heel of your hand until they are about 1/2 inch thick.

Bake for 13 to 15 minutes, rotating the sheets from top to bottom and front to back after 7 minutes. The cookies should be golden and just firm around the edges. Lift the cookies onto cooling racks with a wide metal spatula - they'll firm as they cool.

Repeat with the remaining dough, cooling the baking sheets between batches.

Serving: I can't remember when I actually served these. They're more often plucked from a cookie jar than picked from a platter.

Storing: Wrapped airtight or piled into a cookie jar, the cookies will keep at room temperature for about 4 days. Wrapped and frozen, they'll be good for 2 months.

Playing Around: You can substitute soft, moist raisins for the chocolate chunks or just stir in some raisins along with them. If you're really looking for crunch, toss in chopped peanuts too (salted or not). With or without the chocolate chunks, raisins, and nuts, these cookies are great with ice cream or around ice cream - think about them the next time you want a chipwich-ish ice cream sandwich.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Harry and David Chicken Enchilada Soup

One of my lovely gifts from the recent What's Cooking Summer Gift Swap was a jar of Harry and David Pepper and Onion Relish. Thankfully, it came with a host of recipe ideas! As soon as I saw the Chicken Enchilada Soup, I knew that is what we'd be having.
To add more flavor, we grilled the chicken using an Emeril's Essence spice rub before cutting up for the soup. Also, to cut down on the fat a little, I used one can of evaporated milk in place of the cream. It certainly isn't the prettiest soup, but wow, the flavors are great! The relish has a sweet heat to it that really makes the soup dance. I'm actually a little sad now, because I increased the recipe to use up the whole jar of relish (and to ensure there'd be leftovers!), and now I don't know how to make this without the relish. It definitely took the soup to a different level. I suppose this is where I am supposed to put my thinking cap on and start experimenting!

Chicken Enchilada Soup
Source: Harry and David

~1 Tbsp vegetable oil
~1/4 cup chopped onion
~1 clove garlic (if you read my blog with any frequency, you know I tripled that)
~3/4 cup Pepper and Onion Relish
~1 1/2 cup chicken broth
~1/2 cup cream (or one 5 oz can evaporated milk)
~salt to taste (I used about a tablespoon of tomato/chicken bouillon)
~3/4 cup Monterey Jack Cheese, grated
~1 cup cooked chicken breast, diced
~1 plum tomato, diced (my addition)

Heat oil in pot over medium heat and saute onion and garlic. Add relish and chicken broth and cook with pot covered for 15 minutes over low heat. Add cream, salt, (tomato) and chicken and simmer another 8-10 minutes over low heat. Stir in cheese and serve hot.