Desserts

Dessert Recipes

DIY Sprinkle Success & Birthday Cake…Attempt

If you have any interest in cakes (making, eating or both) and you haven’t picked up a copy of Layered by Tessa Huff yet go order it right now!  It’s a truly lovely book with great cake baking and decorating tips complete with some helpful step-by-step photos.  While I’ve only tried a couple cakes so far, I love it and can’t wait to try more of her recipes.  Go now and order a copy.  Go.

To me a birthday is not complete without a cake.  Another dessert can serve as a substitute if need be, but cake!  Birthdays were made for cake!  I decided to make a cake for my birthday this year, and the strawberry and confetti cake from Layered was the obvious choice.

I encountered some problems when I made this, and originally I was calling this cake a “fail” but it wasn’t.  After all was said and I done we stuck candles in it, sweet friends sang “Happy Birthday” and we all ate it and enjoyed it.  What it was was imperfect and a good learning lesson.  I am so glad I tried this cake, even though it wasn’t as amazing as I thought it would be!

The first step for this cake was making your own sprinkles.  By hand.  Yes.  Did you even know this was possible?!  I didn’t.  It was time consuming, but not hard.  I would do it again for sure.

Confetti Cake-20

Confetti Cake-24

There are few things that make the sprinkle process easier:

  • Make sure your frosting tip isn’t too small.  My hand was worn out after using a Wilton #3 tip.  #4 was way easier.  And if you used an even bigger one that should be fine, the size of the spinkle has more to do with how much you pipe.  A bigger tip means you pipe less, a smaller tip means you pipe more.  I don’t know if that makes sense now, but if you’ll know what I mean if you try it.

Confetti Cake-21

  • If you can stand it, use up all of the sprinkle batter!  I was so tired and ran out of cookie sheets, so I stopped.  When I went to make the cake I didn’t have quite enough.  So, make it all, even if it means you’ll have a semi-permanent claw hand.
  • If you want bold colors, go a bit darker than you think you should.  I felt that mine dried slightly less bright than the original color.

Confetti Cake-19

  • Have a small bowl of water handy to dip your finger in to press down any peaks that form on the sprinkles.  There is a sweet spot for the amount of water.  If you get too much water they’ll ooze and take a much longer time to dry.  Too little and they’ll stick to your finger.  You’ll learn pretty quickly what works best.
  • If you get tired of piping dots, pipe long strips, let them dry, and break them up to make jimmies!  I like the look of both the circles and jimmies together, anyway.

Confetti Cake-22

Confetti Cake-23

DIY Sprinkles and Jimmies

From Layered

Ingredients

  • 2 large egg whites
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • gel food coloring

Directions

  1. Fit a stand mixer with the whisk attachment and pour the egg whites in to the bowl.
  2. Mix on medium low until foamy.
  3. Gradually add the powdered sugar and gradually increase the speed until you’ve added all the sugar and the speed it at medium high.
  4. Whisk until the mixture has smooth, stiff and glossy peaks.  Add in the vanilla and beat just to incorporate.
  5. Divide the sprinkle batter in to as many bowls as colors you plan to make.  Color with gel color, being sure to mix completely (a small spatula is good for this).
  6. Place each color of icing into a piping bag fitted with a round tip.
  7. Line cookie sheets or your counter top (as long as no one in your household likes to climb on to the counter or pull stuff off the counter) with parchment paper or non-stick silicon mats.  Pipe small circles onto the paper and use a damp fingertip to flatten down any pointy peaks that form.
  8. Repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat…
  9. Let dry for AT LEAST 2 hours (the longer the better) before using.

Now the rest of the cake had a lot of components, but I wasn’t worried about my competence in the kitchen to get it done and have it look beautiful.  I read through all of the recipes, and had a good plan on how to carry it all out flawlessly.  I had an entire blog post in mind to show off this cake!  Hello, humility.  We’ve met before…

I made everything the day before, 2 kinds of cake, strawberry puree, strawberry cream filling and an Italian meringue buttercream.  Once my kids were in bed for naps on the following day, I set up my tripod in the light filled corner of my kitchen and got to work.  I tinkered with the settings on my camera and had everything ready to hopefully create a lovely step-by-step assembly animated GIF.  Everyone would be so impressed.  Ugh.  Overconfidence can kill, guys.

As I started layering the cakes with the strawberry cream I realized my dreams of perfection were dashed.  The cream was oozing out the sides and on to the cake plate and the cake was beginning to tip over.  5 layers!  Of course it was falling over!  I am not a cake decorator.  I did not think through this whole process as well as I should have.  I also didn’t think to have my AC running to counteract the July heat and humidity we have here in Houston.  Taking pictures in the light filled corner didn’t help, either.  The cake was melting.  I had a, “Well, now what?!” moment, probably cursed a little bit, and then grabbed some skewers from a drawer in the kitchen and tried to straighten everything out.  From there I stuck it in the fridge and hoped for the best.

Please notice the second to the last image in this GIF.  I’ve already said this, but it reminds me of the cake in Sleeping Beauty.  Just about ready to topple over and be supported by a broomstick.

cakelayers

I’d already whipped up the frosting and folded in the sprinkles (bad call), so I had to put that all back in the fridge.  I was not at all sure what back and forth from the fridge would do to an Italian meringue buttercream…but I didn’t really have another option.

Here it was it all of it’s glory, nice and white with pops of sprinkles.  This is when it should have gone on to the cake but instead was sent back to the fridge.

Confetti Cake-28

Since we had dinner plans I had to wait until the next day to finish.  I pulled the cake out of the fridge.  The skewers had done the trick to straighten the cake out, and everything still held tight when I removed them.  I do wish I’d done that to start, although it wouldn’t  have helped the oozing strawberry cream…

Now the buttercream.  I let it sit for a while, then whipped it up again, no doubt damaging many of those sprinkles and creating a nice grey hue to the icing that should’ve been white.  The texture was also off.  Awesome.  I had an ok time getting the cake iced, even with the uneven layers.  Thankfully I’d saved some icing without sprinkles for decorating the edges, and some of those precious sprinkles for the final touch.


IMG_6786

Now, what really matters is how it tasted.  And it was delicious!  Especially the confetti layers.  My daughter turns 4 next month and I am seriously considering the confetti cake recipe for either a cake or cupcakes.

Thank you, Tessa, for getting me to try new things!  Can’t wait to attempt to conquer more of your lovely cakes ; )

IMG_6461

 

 

 

Baking Through Fika: Mini Victoria Sandwich Cakes

So far in Baking through Fika I’ve not done anything beyond the stated recipe.  But every other recipe has been pretty straightforward without much room for creative license.  This is a simple sponge cake with lots of ways to play!  So I decided to do a Victoria sandwich type cake, but in mini form.  I blame by recent binge of The Great British Baking Show during which I cried more than once.  It’s so wonderful.  Go watch it now.

These sweet little cakes were a great way to come back from the disappointment I experienced with my first attempt with this sponge cake.  See instagram post for those beauts…

Mini Victoria Sponge-20

There is little doubt in my mind that my sponge cake was imperfect.  I don’t know what perfect sponge cake should be like, but having made it only twice I am certain that I do not have the skills to make it perfectly.  Should it have all those bubbles?  Should it have risen more?  Should I have baked it longer?  Or less?!  How’s the flavor?  I would love (and at the same time hate) to have Mary and Paul in my kitchen telling me what I’ve done wrong and how to fix it.  But this cake certainly tasted delicious, and for me that’s what matters most.

With sweet quick breads like banana and zucchini I like to grease and sugar my pans instead of greasing and flouring them.  I like the bit of sweet crunch from the sugar.  I decided I’d try that with my jelly roll pan for the sponge cake and it worked very well.  The cake rounds were easy to cut and remove from the pan with only a few bits that stuck.  But would Paul and Mary approve?!?

Mini Victoria Sponge-2

This one pan of sponge gave me 35 1 1/2 inch diameter rounds.  If you don’t have a set of biscuit cutters, go get some.  They have many uses beyond biscuits!

Mini Victoria Sponge-3

So what is a Victoria Sandwich?  It is simply two layers of sponge cake with raspberry jam in the middle dusted with powdered sugar.  It became popular in England during the reign of Queen Victoria, and I’ve read that it was her favorite tea time treat.  But I’ve also read that that is not in fact true.  So who knows.  Not sure when cream cake in to the mix, but I am happy it did.

Mini Victoria Sponge-5

Since my sponge cake wasn’t very tall I made three layers instead of the two that I’ve seen in a Victoria sandwich.  I like the way they look with the three layers, but if you want to stretch the number of these you can make from one batch of cake, then two layers would be perfectly fine.

I used raspberry jam, but any kind would work.  I also played it safe with the amount of jam, just a thin layer.  It could’ve used a bit more, but I would rather them have too little jam than to have it oozing down the sides.

Mini Victoria Sponge-6

Mini Victoria Sponge-7

After the layer of jam another cake layer is added and sweetened whipped cream is piped on.  I add a little powdered sugar, a little almond and a little vanilla extract to mine just because that’s how my mom does it.  But go unsweetened, or without either of the extracts of you’d like.

Mini Victoria Sponge-8

Mini Victoria Sponge-9

Mini Victoria Sponge-10

Atop the cream goes one last sponge layer.

Mini Victoria Sponge-11

Mini Victoria Sponge-12

Mini Victoria Sponge-13

Pardon all the pics!  I kind of loved taking pictures of these photogenic little bits of sweetness.

Mini Victoria Sponge-14

Now dust generously with powdered sugar and serve to your lucky guests!

Mini Victoria Sponge-15

If you plan to refrigerate these don’t do the powdered sugar.  Save that for right before serving.  It will soak into the cake and make it kind of gooey.  Still delicious, just not as lovely.

Mini Victoria Sponge-16

Mini Victoria Sponge-17

I’m kind of hoping my daughter will want a tea party for her 4th birthday because I can see these being a terrific addition to the spread.

Mini Victoria Sponge-19

Mini Victoria Sponge-18

Mini Victoria Sandwiches

From FIKA

Sponge Cake

Ingredients

  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 3/4 ounces melted butter
  • 1/2 cup milk (2 % is fine)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract

Directions

  1. Grease and sugar a jelly roll pan (rimmed baking sheet) and preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Beat eggs and sugar until pale, about 5 minutes.
  3. In a separate bowl whisk flour, baking powder and salt.
  4. Combine milk, melted butter and extracts in a small bowl.
  5. Add flour mixture to the egg and sugar mixture, stirring just to combine.  Add the milk mixture and fold together into an even batter.
  6. Spread into pan and bake for 10-15 minutes.  It will be light in color and when pressed lightly in the center should spring back.
  7. Let cool slightly before cutting in to rounds, then let rounds cool completely before moving on.

Assembling Sandwiches

Ingredients

  • rounds of sponge cake (since I had 35 total rounds I used 33 and ate the others!)
  • raspberry jam
  • sweetened whipped cream
  • powdered sugar

Directions

  1. Arrange 1/3 of the rounds on a cookies sheet.
  2. Spread each with a thin layer of jam.
  3. Top with another layer of cake.
  4. Pipe on a nice bit of sweetened cream.
  5. Top with another layer of cake.
  6. Dust with powdered sugar.
  7. Eat.

Baking Through Fika: Mazarin Tarts

Confession time: I ate all but two of these.  Myself.  In a week.  One night I ate 3 in one sitting.  These are evil.  And oh so delicious.

Mazarin Tarts-3

Really there was no choice but for them to be tasty.  Butter pastry and sweet almond filling are two of the best things in the food world I think.  At least in the sweet food world, because there’s bacon and goat cheese to consider…

Mazarin Tarts-5

I would like to make these again, and not simply with the intention of devouring them.  This was my first time using these tins and I don’t yet know the best way to prep them or to remove the final product.  In the Fika book they are perfect rounds, which is darling and seems easier to remove than a fluted tin.  I didn’t start out greasing them, but after I’d done a few I thought I’d better do it so that if the ungreased tins did stick I wouldn’t have ruined them all.  I think greasing helped, but it was still tricky to get them out fully intact.  That could also have something to do with the delicate-ness of the crust itself, though.

Mazarin Tarts

The filling was more than I needed for the dozen tart shells I prepared.  I think that the crust was a bit thick on some of them, so I could’ve probably stretched the dough for the crusts a bit and made at least 3 more than the dozen I made.  The filling does cook up so don’t fill them too much or it will run up and over the crust.

To finish these off, you can either give them a nice dusting of powdered sugar or a simple powdered sugar glaze.  I love the look of both, but chose the glaze since it added another texture to the tart.

Mazarin Tarts-4

This isn’t a dessert you make on a Wednesday just ’cause.  Or maybe it is!  I think they’d be a great addition to a dessert spread and perfect for a little tea or coffee party.  They keep very well in the fridge for a few days, just let them sit at room temp to warm up a bit.  Enjoy!  Hopefully this is all you will want to leave behind of these sweet tarts.

Mazarin Tarts-2

Mazarin Tarts

From Fika

Ingredients

Tart Shells

  • 3 1/2 ounces of butter, cold and cut into chunks
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1 egg yolk
  • pinch of salt

Filling

  • 1 3/4 ounces butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 1/2 ounces of blanched almonds, ground
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract

Glaze

  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons milk

Directions

Tart Shells

  1. Combine flour, sugar, salt and butter in a food processor and pulse until mixture looks like coarse sand.
  2. Add in the egg and mix until dough comes together.
  3. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least an hour.
  4. Grease 12-16 tart tins.  If you have small tins you will use more, bigger tins you’ll need fewer.

Filling

  1. Whisk together all filling ingredients.

Assemble and Bake

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Divide dough into as many pieces as you have tins.  Press a piece of dough into the tin and up the sides making it as even as possible.  Repeat for all the tins and place on a baking sheet.
  3. Fill the tarts about 2/3 full with the almond filling.  Err on the side of less filling since it could spill over the edge of the tart.
  4. Bake for about 20 minutes, until tarts begin to turn golden.
  5. Cool tarts completely and remove from the tins before whisking together glaze ingredients and pouring a thin layer over the filling of the tart.  You can also dust them with powdered sugar or leave them plain.

 

Almond Joy Popcorn

One of the great things about cooking and baking is that there is never a point at which you know it all.  There are flavors and foods you haven’t tried or methods that are new to you.  With this recipe I learned how so very easy it is to pop your own popcorn on the stove-top!
Almond Joy Popcorn-7

For some reason the thought of popping it on the stove has always seemed like it would take too much time and effort.  But it’s actually very simple and fun, too!  My kids thought it was amazing.  You also get the added benefit of being able to control fat and salt.  When I pop popcorn in the microwave I either burn it or have a bunch of un-popped kernels.  With this method it was just about perfect, very few un-popped and no burnt pieces.

This is a Fine Cooking recipe from the Dec/Jan issue.  They give you the basic popping method, and then there are 7 popcorn recipes from cinnamon toast (can’t wait to try!) to pepperoni pizza.  I chose this chocolate and coconut one and added some sliced almonds.

Almond Joy Popcorn-3

This is best eaten the same day as it’s made, but it still ok the next day.  Not sure beyond that.  Like a salad with lots of stuff in it, the good stuff tends to sink to the bottom of the bowl, so be sure to scoop from the bottom.

Almond Joy Popcorn-8 Almond Joy Popcorn-9

Almond Joy Popcorn

From Fine Cooking

Basic Popcorn

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons canola oil (for the coconut popcorn use 3 tablespoons of coconut oil)
  • 1/2 cup popcorn kernels

Directions

  1. Put the oil and 2 or 3 popcorn kernels in a heavy-duty 4-1/2- to 5-1/2-quart pot. Partially cover and heat over medium-high heat until the kernels pop.
  2. Add the rest of the popcorn kernels.
  3. Cover the pot most of the way and shake the pot back and forth constantly once the heavy popping starts.  It helps to have two pot holders or heavy kitchen towels at this point.
  4. After about 3 minutes, the popping should slow down; when you can count to 5 without a pop, it’s done. Remove from the heat, and give the pot a final shake. Transfer to a large bowl and season as you like.

Almond Joy Popcorn

Ingredients

  • One recipe basic popcorn  (unprepared)
  • 4 ounces dark chocolate, chopped fine
  • 1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds, chopped fine
  • fine sea salt

Directions

  1. Toast the coconut by spreading it out onto a rimmed baking sheet and baking in a 300°F oven for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Toast until golden brown and fragrant.  Set aside.
  2. Pop popcorn according to the recipe above.
  3. Immediately after popping pour into an over-sized bowl and toss with the chocolate, coconut, almonds and 1/2 teaspoon salt.  Once it’s evenly coated refrigerate for 5 minutes, then gently toss again breaking up any large chunks.  Season with more salt if desired.

Baking Through Fika: Pepparkakor (Gingerbread Cookies)

When I first bought the Fika cookbook and saw this recipe I knew we’d be making these for Christmas.  But as all things seem to go in my house, I almost forgot to make them!  Here they are just in time.

Pepparkakor-11

I thought it was going to be this perfect afternoon with my two older kids.  All laughter and smiles, Christmas music playing in the background, my little guy playing happily in his high chair watching us and not fussing.  But once I started getting everything together for our cookie decorating I was reminded that rarely does that perfect experience you’ve created in your head actually come to fruition.  Not only is that just the way life goes, but kids are just unpredictable.  My daughter was having a longer than normal nap, and if we wanted to get finished before dinner we had to go on without her.  My son was just impatient with the process of getting it all ready.  I had the cookies made ahead of time, but had to make frosting and gather sprinkles, and then I had to explain to him what to do when all he wanted to do was do it!  A few times while I was getting everything set up he said, “I think I’ll just go do legos/play outside/get my cars instead, mom.”

Thankfully he did sit down with me for a good while and decorate.  And he liked it! He was even bummed when we ran out of cookies to decorate.  I’d love to instill, if not a passion for cooking and baking, at the very least a good understanding of the kitchen in my kids. I recently started participating in Kids Chefs Club.  Every month you receive a cooking tool, a card with activities and recipes, and access to online content to help your child learn about being safe in the kitchen, kitchen tools, nutrition and basic kitchen skills.  The first month my son got the apron he’s wearing in the pictures below.  Every time he helps me cook he wants to put it on.  We are going on our third month.  My kids’ desire to help me with meals has increased a great deal.  That has been both very exciting and very challenging.

Pepparkakor-7

Cooking with kids takes longer and is messier than cooking on your own.  It also takes a good bit of patience and a great deal of letting go!  I like control in the kitchen, so letting my kids help has been tough, but really good for me, and it’s been great for them.  If you’re interested in trying Kids Chefs Club here is a discount code that will give you 20% off any membership plan, either 3, 6 or 12 months.  It’s valid until the end of the year, December 31, 2015!  Just use HolidayFriends15 at checkout.  If you need a last minute gift, this would be a great one.

Pepparkakor-8

Now about these cookies!  They are spiced wonderfully and I really enjoy the crunch they have…if you bake them right 😉  I forget how much I love cardamom sometimes, but then I notice it in something and am reminded of how warm and unique and wonderful it is.  These take a little time and patience.  Instead of simply creaming butter with sugar to begin, you must boil together sugar, molasses and water which you then mix into the butter. After cooling it down, you make the dough.  Then you have to chill the dough for at least 24 hours.  If I’m not in a time crunch, this type of recipe is good for me since I often don’t have the freedom to complete a recipe start to finish without interruption from the kids.  So spreading it out over a couple days was no problem!  I wasn’t stressed thinking, “Oh! I have to finish those cookies!” I was able to finish part of the recipe and think, “Now I just have to wait.  The recipe says I can take a break.  Thank, you recipe.”

My first batch was the best.  Working with a little dough at a time (since it warms up and gets soft pretty quickly) roll and cut your cookies. Bake for 4-6 minutes at 400°F, “but don’t overbake!” says the recipe. I did 5 minutes and they were a teensiest bit dark but good.  My next batch I did for 4 and a half minutes.  They were soft coming out of the oven and I just thought they’d set up nicely after they cooled.  So I did 4 and a half minutes for the rest of them.  After the first batch they did not get that nice crunch that pepparkakor should have. They still tasted great, but were on the soft side.  I tried to bake them more after they’d cooled with not much luck.  Now I know that while overbaking is bad, so is underbaking.  You basically need perfect baking time.  Good luck!  I’d rather have them a little overbaked (but not burnt) to be honest, nice and crunchy.  But that’s just me.

Pepparkakor

Pepparkakor-2

Pepparkakor-5

Pepparkakor-3

Pepparkakor-4

To decorate I used royal icing so that it would harden completely.  It isn’t the tastiest, but you get mostly spice from the cookie and a simple sweet crunch from the icing.  This recipe is what I used.  It’s more than you need, and you will have to add some water to make it more pipe-able.  Just a teaspoon at a time until you get it where you want it.

I’ve seen so many insanely beautiful holiday cookies all over blogs and on Instagram lately that I was feeling like I’d better do something awesome.  But there’s no joy in trying to do something just as or more awesome as other people.  So we had fun with these and didn’t worry about all those other people.  Enjoy and have fun with these!

Pepparkakor-12

Pepparkakor

From FIKA

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 4 1/2 ounces butter cut into pieces
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 tablespoon (equal to 1 1/2 teaspoons) ground cardamom
  • 1/2 tablespoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 tablespoon baking soda
  • 3 cups flour plus more for rolling

Directions

  1. Combine sugar, molasses and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat.  Stir to make sure the sugar is dissolved.  Remove from the heat and add in the butter, stir to melt completely.  Set aside to cool to room temperature.
  2. Mix flour and the rest of the dry ingredients together.  In the bowl of a stand mixer combine the wet and dry ingredients and mix to combine.  Place dough in a plastic bag and chill for 24-48 hours.
  3. Preheat oven to 400°F
  4. Work with a handful of dough at a time (return what you’re not using to the fridge) and roll out on a floured surface, cut desired shapes and move to a cookie sheet.
  5. Bake for 4-6 minutes, until cookies begin to brown on the edges.

Baking Through Fika: Toffee Cookies

This always happens.  After Halloween things just get a little nuts and before I know it it’s Christmas!  Anyone else feeling like that?!  In a mere 4 weeks we’ll be ringing in 2016.  Crazy.

I’ve been slacking off a little on the blog and on this Fika project.  After a couple of mishaps I got a little frustrated, so I wasn’t as excited about continuing and possibly encountering failure yet again.  And to be honest I wasn’t expecting much from this simple cookie.

Toffe Cookies-3

But these unassuming cookies are quite good and something I see myself making again, especially if I need to whip up dessert in a hurry.  These are great with a cup of coffee or tea (of course they’re included in a book called Fika!) but would also make a nice addition to a cookie platter.  They freeze nicely, so you could make them ahead of time and take them out when you need them.

Since the ingredients are so few the kind of vanilla you use is going to make a difference.  I’ve been partial to this Watkins Clear Vanilla lately, but it isn’t the same as pure vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste, both of which would be terrific.  You could add a touch of almond extract if you were feeling adventurous or play around with all kinds of extracts really…maybe peppermint and then dip these in chocolate?  I might have a weekend project to work on…

I wasn’t sure about why they were called toffee cookies at first.  But the flavor is rich and buttery like toffee.  So I guess the name is fitting.

I made these twice thinking the first time I flattened the logs of dough too much and they spread more than they should have resulting in a pancake-like cookie log.  The next time I chilled the logs and hardly flattened them at all.  There was some change, enough that I’d still chill and flatten less, but not a huge difference that I’d say you absolutely MUST chill the dough.

Toffe Cookies-2

These really are quick, simple and delicious.  This would even be a great cookie to make with young kids.  Put them to work measuring, mixing, rolling and cutting.  I sliced these with a pizza cutter which made it a quick and easy task.  I don’t know about your kids, but mine love the idea of the pizza cutter and might get a little carried away with it so I’d have to do that job myself 🙂

Toffe Cookies-5

Toffee Cookies

Adapted ever so slightly from Fika

Ingredients

  • 1 stick of butter, softened slightly
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon corn syrup
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350°F and line a baking sheet with parchment.
  2. Combine butter, sugar and corn syrup in a mixing bowl and beat until thoroughly combined.
  3. Add in flour, salt, baking powder and extract and beat until it the dough together.
  4. Turn dough out onto a floured surface and divide into 3 equal-sized pieces.  Roll each into a rope about as long as the baking sheet and about as thick as your thumb and carefully transfer to the baking sheet.  At this point you can chill the dough on the baking sheet for half an hour if you have the time.  If not, then just go ahead and put them in the oven.
  5. Bake for 10-15 minutes until they begin to brown.  Transfer the entire piece of parchment to a cutting surface and using a large knife or pizza cutter slice the warm cookies on an angle into pieces 1/2-3/4 inch thick.  Let cool and enjoy.

Baking Through Fika: Apple and Cream Millefeuille

This is probably not a comparison that any pastry chef would ever wish upon their wares, but I am no pastry chef, so I have no problem with it.  This tasted like an apple toaster strudel!  The best apple toaster strudel you have ever had.  Ever in your life.  Ever.

Millefeuille-19

When you search images of millefeuille, French for “a thousand leaves”, what I have here is not exactly what you will see.  You probably know them as Napoleons, layers of puff pastry filled with all kinds of sweetness.  Most of these fancy pastries are beautiful and well trimmed with lovely, even layers.  I’m the gal who’s ok with making something taste like a toaster strudel, so my millefeuille is not well trimmed, and the layers are not even.  But it is so delicious, and really that is all that matters.

Millefeuille-15

One of the things about this cookbook that I don’t love is that sometimes there aren’t crystal clear instructions or it calls for an ingredient that requires you to make something extra for which there is no recipe and are no instructions.  In this recipe a cup of pastry cream or vanilla pudding is on the ingredient list.  I’ve made pastry cream before, but never in a small batch.  Thankfully I found this recipe for pastry cream that made just the perfect amount.  I did have a little scare when the fat separated out from the milk and I thought I was going to have to start over.  The internet saved me again with this quick fix for a broken pastry cream!

It also calls for whipping cream, but do not tell you to whip it.  If I hadn’t done much baking I would not have thought to whip it.  Maybe the authors of this book are just testing the baking knowledge of its readers, which I find to be tricky.  Tricky Swedes.

The recipe says to use 2/3 cup of apple sauce.  I used 3-4 tablespoons, just enough to cover the bottom layer of pastry.  Anymore and I was afraid it was going to just spill over the edges.

Red currant jam is called for…I used apple jelly.

Other than all that, this is a fairly straightforward recipe 😉  Thankfully it uses store-bought puff pastry and is easy to assemble.

Millefeuille Millefeuille-2 Millefeuille-3 Millefeuille-4 Millefeuille-5 Millefeuille-6 Millefeuille-7

The pastry cream can be made a day or two in advance, but don’t assemble this much more than a couple hours before you plan to serve it.  It is best enjoyed fresh.

Millefeuille-18

Apple and Cream Millefeuille

Ingredients

Millefeuille

  • 1 sleeve of frozen puff pastry
  • 1 cup pastry cream (recipe below)
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream whipped to soft peaks
  • 3-4 tablespoons apple sauce
  • 3-4 teaspoons apple jelly
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2-1 tablespoon milk or water
  • a few drops almond or vanilla extract

Pastry Cream

  • ¾ cup heavy cream
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla

Directions

Pastry Cream

  1. In a small saucepan warm the cream over medium-low heat until tiny bubbles appear around the edge of the pan, but do not boil.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar and salt. Add in the egg yolks, and whisk together.
  3. Slowly pour the warm cream into the egg yolk mixture, a tablespoon or so at a time. Continue to whisk as you pour.
  4. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and cook over medium heat. Whisk constantly while it comes to a simmer. Once simmering, it will begin to thicken. Once large bubbles pop on the surface, continue to cook for a few more seconds while whisking, then remove from heat. Stir in the vanilla.
  5. Scrape the pastry cream into a bowl, press a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface, then chill in the fridge for at least 3 hours and up to 2 days.

Millefeuille

  1. Thaw the puff pastry according to the package directions and pre-heat the oven to 425°F.  Unfold the sheet and use a paring knife or pizza cutter to slice into 3 equal pieces (most sheets are already folded into thirds, so this should be easy.  Place the pastry on a parchment lined baking sheet and prick all over the a fork.  Bake for 10-12 minutes, until golden.  Let cool, then trim to neaten the edges…or not 🙂
  2. Fold the whipped cream into the pastry cream.
  3. Place one layer of pastry on a serving platter.  Spread applesauce evenly into this layer.
  4. Place another layer of pastry on top and spread evenly with the pastry cream.  You could also put the cream into a pastry bag and pipe it nicely.
  5. Place the last layer is pastry on top upside down so that you have a nice flat top layer.
  6. Heat the apple jelly in the microwave until easily spreadable, then spread on the top of the pastry.
  7. Whisk together the powdered sugar, milk/water and extract until smooth.  Spread over the jelly and let set.  Slice and serve or refrigerate for an hour or two.

 

Baking Through Fika: Summer Torte

As promised, here is a much more complicated recipe from Fika!  I destroyed my kitchen with this one, so you know it’s good.

Summer Torte-4

For my third dessert I tried my hand at a layered cake filled with a lemon mousse, topped and filled with fruit and frosted around the edges with sweetened whipped cream and almonds.  Are you drooling yet?!

Summer Torte-9

I ran into a few little issues with the ingredients in this recipe.  Since these recipes are Swedish, some of the ingredients are not things you’d find in a non-European kitchen.  Here are the ingredients I struggled with and how I worked it out.

  • Potato flour: I did not have any potato flour (anyone out there use it on a regular basis?) and was not about to go buy some for a measly 1/4 cup.  After a little research I decided to grind potato flakes into a flour-like consistency.  It worked just fine.
  • Gelatin sheets: This is a European thing, or at least it seems to be based on my limited internet searching.  I could order gelatin sheets on Amazon, OR I could find a way to use powdered gelatin.  Turns out that 4 gelatin sheets (called for in the recipe) is just about equivalent to 1 packet of powdered gelatin.  Sprinkle it over 1/4 cup of cold water before using it.  Problem solved.
  • Jelly Sugar: This turned out to be a non-issue since I simply decided to skip this part of the recipe!  You are supposed to use the sugar to make a glaze for the fruit on top of the torte, which makes it nice and shiny.  I just chose not to glaze the fruit, and it was fine.  But just so you know, jelly sugar is not just plain ol sugar.  It contains pectin which causes it to gel when mixed with water and heated.  I’m interested to try it, but since it wasn’t easy for me to find I didn’t use it.  When talking about this with my Aunt Vivie, she suggested heating up some jam and glazing with that.  Wish I’d talked to her before making this!  I think that would be a great alternative.

It wasn’t just the ingredients that tested my baking knowledge and skill!  The methods for making the lemon mousse filling and the cake were things I had never done before.  The filling ended up being just as it should be (at least I think it was) but the cake was maybe not as tall as it should have been, and it was sunken in the center.  When I sliced it in half the middle of the top layer was significantly thinner than the outer edges.  BUT when all was said and done, this was super good.  I’m glad I made it during the summer, it is a perfect summer dessert.

Summer Torte-19

This is best eaten within a few days, so make it for guests (it serves 6-8) or for a family who will eat it within that time!  In my house I am the only one eating stuff like this, so I pawned it off on a few friend and visitors who were kind enough to help me finish it.

Summer Torte-11 Summer Torte-22

Summer Torte

Ingredients

Cake

  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup potato flour
  • 1/3 cup flour

Lemon Mousse

  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 envelope powdered gelatin (4 gelatin sheets)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • zest and juice of one lemon

Fruit and Garnish

  • Some combination of strawberries, blueberries, raspberries (3-4 cups total)
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1-2 teaspoons powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 couple hefty handfuls of sliced almonds (toasted if desired)
  • 1/4 cup jelly sugar heated with 1/4 cup water OR heated apricot jam OR nothing

Directions

Cake

  1. Pre-heat oven to 400F.  Grease a 10-inch springform pan or line it with parchment.
  2. Heat a pot of water over medium heat.  Beat the eggs and sugar with a hand mixer until light and fluffy in a bowl placed over the hot water.  Once the mixture reaches 140F (about 7 minutes) remove from the heat but continue to beat for a few minutes.
  3. Sift the potato flour and all purpose flour over the egg mixture, then fold it into the eggs until just combined.  Pour into the prepared pan and bake in the lower third of the oven for 15-18 minutes.  Let cool for 10 minutes, remove from the pan and cool on a wire rack.

Lemon Mousse

  1. Whip the cream to medium-stiff peaks and keep in the fridge.
  2. Sprinkle the gelatin over 1/4 cup cold water and let bloom.
  3. Beat the egg and sugar until light, then beat in the lemon zest.
  4. Pour the lemon juice into a small saucepan.  Add the gelatin and heat over low to melt the gelatin.  Once melted, remove from the heat.  Stir in a spoonful of the melted gelatin into the egg mixture, repeat 2-3 times to temper the eggs, then add all of the gelatin mixture and mix to combine.  Fold in the whipped cream.

Layer and Assemble

  1. Prepare the pan by first cutting a cardboard round the size of the cake.  Line the spring form pan with plastic wrap, then place the cardboard round in the bottom of the pan.
  2. Divide the cake in to two layers and place one layer (the sturdier of the two) into the pan.  Spread a good layer of the mousse (not quite half) onto the cake, then place half of the fruit on top.  If you are using strawberries be sure to slice them.
  3. Place the other layer on top and repeat with some (but probably not all) of the lemon mousse and the rest of the fruit.  You can use whole strawberries on top (stems removed).  Refrigerate for 1-2 hours.
  4. Before removing the torte from the refrigerator whip the cream with the sugar and extracts.
  5. Remove the torte from the pan and spread the cream around the edges, then press the almonds into the cream.  Slice and serve!

Baking Through Fika: Strawberry Rulltårta

It has been a solid 2 months since I last posted anything here.  Not because of anything in particular, just because of life in general.  I have taken two trips this summer, but I’ve also been home a lot, enough to have been blogging at least a little.  But I didn’t.  It amazes me sometimes when I look back on the blog and see that I posted frequently during an especially busy time and now, when things aren’t really that busy, it takes me this long to post and I miss June and July Daring Bakers after not missing a challenge for over a year, during which time I had a baby.  How did I have the time then?!  Hopefully this new project will give me some incentive to blog more regularly.  I’m pretty excited about it!  These posts will also be featured on Alpaka Van!  Something else I am pretty excited about.

If you’ve been to IKEA and you’re in to food, then there is a good chance you’ve noticed this cookbook before.  I bought it because it was a cookbook, of course, but it was also very visually pleasing.  Every recipe includes a photo of the ingredients similar to this one.  Isn’t is great?

20150807_133004000_iOS

The title, Fika, is a Swedish tradition which kind of translates to “to have coffee”.  It’s a time when you gather in the afternoon and enjoy coffee (or tea) and sweet treats, typically with company.  I had the pleasure of enjoying fika in Sweden when I visited with my mom and sisters 8 years ago.  I am in full support of bringing the tradition home.

I’ve decided to bake my way through Fika.  I love the simple recipes and the clean and creative images of the ingredients.  Another reason I was drawn to bake through this book is that my sisters and I have grand plans to open up a shop together (one day…*sigh*) and my role would be to do the baking, so I have to get some practice with Scandinavian style baked goods.

Starting with a simple rulltårta or jelly roll seemed like a good choice.  I’d never made a jelly roll before, but how hard could it be?  Turns out that it can be tricky.  The first time I used a non-stick silpat…but it stuck terribly.  The next time I used parchment which, while much better, still did not release the cake cleanly.  Any tips?

DSC_0736

Before turning the cake out onto a clean dish towel you sprinkle it with sugar, which makes for a beautiful and sweet exterior.

DSC_0768

I filled the cake with strawberry jam, Bonne Maman is my go-to.  I thought about other jams, and even a nice spread of Nutella, but in the end strawberry just seemed right.  It really needs nothing more, but a dollop of whipped cream never hurt a soul…

The cake is light and sweet, and the tart jam is a good contrast.  The slight crunch of the sugar is also a nice contrast against the soft cake and filling.

This is best made and served the same day, but can be kept in the fridge for a few days and still taste wonderful.  It just starts to get a little soggy as the cake absorbs the jam.

I am so looking forward to this project and can’t wait to try another recipe from Fika!

DSC_0792

Strawberry Rulltårta

From Fika

Ingredients

  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cup sugar + extra for dusting the cake
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract (optional)
  • 3/4 cup strawberry jam or fruit puree

Directions

  1. Heat the oven to 475°F.  Line a large baking pan with parchment and move oven rack to the bottom third.
  2. Beat the eggs and sugar on high for 4-5 minutes, until light and fluffy.
  3. Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl.  Add in to the egg mixture, gently fold a couple times, then add the milk and extracts.  Continue to gently fold together until combined, but not overly mixed.
  4. Spread the batter evenly onto the prepared pan.  Bake for 4-5 minutes.
  5. Remove from the oven and sprinkle the cake with sugar.  Place a large, clean dish towel over the cake and carefully but quickly invert it.  Peel off the parchment carefully.
  6. Spread the jam over the warm cake, then roll it up and place seam side down on a cutting board.  Let sit for a few minutes, then slice and serve.

 

 

 

Caramel Filled Pecan Brownies

While I was with my family recently, one of my sisters mentioned that she was perusing the blog and came across a recipe with some horrendous photographs.  There are lots of these posts.  I haven’t taken them down, and I don’t plan to.  Even though running across them is like finding old college pics that someone else posted on facebook from a night you kind of want to forget, I’m keeping them up.  One of the main reasons is that many of them are good recipes!  But we all know that the world of food blogging requires more than just a good recipe.  You’d better have some pictures that make people want to make the recipe.  I don’t know about you, but these pictures make me want caramel filled brownies.

Caramel Filled Brownies-6

Caramel Filled Brownies-7I decided that I would make a little project out of going back through some of my old posts that have really great recipes and re-doing them, without taking the old ones down.  It’s fun to see how far I’ve come in taking pictures of food, writing about the food, and I even think I’ve become a better baker and cook in the past 8 years or so that I’ve had this blog.  Here is the old post for these brownies.  It was just about 6 and a half years ago.  These pictures were taken in our little apartment in China Spring while I was teaching school and Ben was in law school.  Things are pretty different for us now!

Caramel Filled Brownies

This recipe is from The Pastry Queen.  It’s a great cookbook.  Everything is delicious.  If you’ve read my blog before you’ve likely heard me (if you can “hear” something in writing) sing its praises.  I only changed one thing from the original recipe, and that was to use a bag of those caramel bits instead of unwrapping a bunch of caramels.  It worked out just fine.

I highly advise cutting these cold from the fridge and even eating them cold is a great idea.  However, warming one briefly in the microwave and topping it with a little vanilla ice cream isn’t a bad way to enjoy these brownies.

Caramel Filled Brownies-4

Caramel Filled Pecan Brownies

From The Pastry Queen by Rebecca Rather

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups pecan pieces
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 12 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 package (11 ounces) caramel bits
  • 1/3 cup whipping cream
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Toast pecans for about 8 minutes, until they are fragrant but before they begin to get too dark.  Break apart any large pieces and set them aside.
  3. Line a 9- by 13-inch baking pan with aluminum foil, leaving some overhang. Grease foil generously with shortening.  Set aside.
  4. Combine butter and chocolate in a medium-sized heavy saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until melted and smooth.  Do not let it burn.  Transfer chocolate to a large bowl and let cool for a few minutes.  Add in the sugar, eggs, and vanilla, and mix (with a whisk, hand mixer or a stand mixer) until thick and glossy. (
  5. Whisk or stir in flour and salt. Transfer half of batter (about 2 cups) to baking pan and spread evenly, sprinkle half of the pecans over the batter and bake for 20 minutes. Let cool for about 20 minutes.
  6. Once the brownies cool, melt caramels and cream in a medium-sized heavy saucepan and stir over low heat until completely melted and smooth.  Immediately spread caramel mixture over baked brownies.  Pour remaining brownie batter evenly over caramel mixture and spread gently to cover, being careful not to mix up the brownie and caramel layers.
  7. Sprinkle chocolate chips and remaining pecans on top and bake for 20 minutes. Cool, then transfer to the fridge for at least a few hours.
  8. Lift brownies out of the pan by lifting the foil.  Remove the foil carefully, bring sure to get all of it off, especially around the edges and the corners where the caramel will stick. Cut brownies into squares.  Serve at room temp or cold.  Store in an airtight container in the fridge.