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Posts Tagged ‘Desserts’

 

I love limoncello.  It’s one of my favorite adult beverages.  I haven’t tried to make my own yet, but it’s on my cooking bucket list.  Until then, I will just have to buy the bottles of stuff to drink straight or add to these cupcakes.

I think this recipe might have originated with Martha Stewart, though I might be mistaken.  In any event, there’s several iterations of it floating around the internet, though I followed the instructions from Brown Eyed Baker, who got hers from Tartelette.  Their recipes involved making a lemon curd and filling the cupcakes with that, but I wasn’t that ambitious.  I figured the cupcake and frosting was enough of a project for a Saturday afternoon. 

 I loved the frosting.  The cupcakes were good, though they were a little dense for my liking.  Despite the cupcakes’ flaws, they were a perfect base for the delicious frosting, which I wanted to eat with a spoon.  

I had visions of piping beautiful swirls of frosting onto the cupcakes, but after an epic battle with my pastry bag, I remembered that I don’t have any hand-eye coordination.  I wound up making a huge mess and had no lovely swirls. 

Thankfully, colored sugar sprinkles can really make non-artistic white blobs look quite sparkly and cute.   Woot!

Limoncello Cupcakes

Yield: 1 dozen

Ingredients

For the cupcakes
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
2 ounces (½ stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons limoncello
½ cup buttermilk
¼ cup lemon juice
Zest of one lemon

For the cream cheese limoncello frosting
2 ounces (½ stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 tablespoon limoncello
2 cups powdered sugar, sifted

Directions
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and position a rack in the center. 

Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt, and set aside.  In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter, cream cheese and sugar on medium speed until light and creamy, about 2-3 minutes.   Slowly add in the eggs one at a time, and beat well after each.    Add the limoncello and beat an additional minute. 

Reduce the speed to low, and slowly add in the flour and milk.  Alternate each, beginning and ending with the flour mixture.  Finally, add the lemon juice and zest and mix on low speed just until incorporated. 

Divide the batter between 12 muffin tins.  They should be filled almost to the top.  Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the middle comes out clean.

Cool them completely before frosting.

To make the frosting, fit the mixer with the paddle attachment.  Beat the butter and cream cheese on medium speed until light and creamy, about 2-3 minutes.  Add the limoncello and beat for an additional minute.  Reduce the speed to low and gradually add the sifted powdered sugar and beat until fully incorporated and smooth.

The lemon flavor in the cupcakes will be subtle, so I think next time I might double the lemon zest.  But, they are a lovely spring or summer dessert – particularly because the frosting is so creamy and tangy.  We had them for dessert after my friends’ amazing home cooked Indian feast, though I think they’d be great for just about any occassion.

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I recently attempted an olive oil polenta cake that was a major fail.  I don’t know if the recipe was bad, if I missed a step, or if it was supposed to taste dry and bland.  So, I won’t be making that again.  What I will be making again is the syrup I drizzled on top.  I wanted to eat this stuff with a spoon.  It’s sweet and thick, and the bay leaf adds an herbal note that rounds it out and makes it interesting.  Drizzle it on cakes, pancakes and waffles, ice cream, or anything you can think of.   I bet it would be fantastic over some goat cheese too. 

Bay Infused Blood Orange Syrup
Recipe by me

Ingredients
5 Blood oranges
1 large bay leaf or 2 small ones
1/2 cup of sugar
1/4 cup of honey

Directions
Segment the oranges, collecting as much of the juice as possible.  Squeeze out the membranes to gather up more juice.

Bring 1 cup of water to a boil and dissolve the sugar in it.  Add the honey, the orange segments and juice, and the bay leaf.  Bring to a boil and simmer for about 5 minutes.  Remove the bay leaf, and continue to simmer another 5-10 minutes, until it reaches desired consistency.  Drizzle over anything you like.  It will gel up a bit if it sits for too long, so to thin it out, just reheat with a couple drops of water.

Makes about 1 cup.

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As I’ve said before, I could take or leave chocolate.  What I really like in dessert is ginger.  I keep bags of candied ginger on my desk at work, and I eat Trader Joe’s Ginger Cashew Almond granola every single morning for breakfast.  So, if there’s a way to get more ginger into a dish, I will do it.

Which brings me to my pumpkin pie.  I use a basic pumpkin pie filling, but I add in some fresh ginger.  Instead of a pastry crust, I use gingersnaps.  Then I top it all off with pepitas, candied with cinnamon and ginger.

I use the pumpkin pie filling from Joy of Cooking, plus 1/2 teaspoon of grated fresh ginger.  Feel free to use whatever you like.  This would even work well with a pumpkin cheesecake. 

Gingersnap Crust

Ingredients
5 ounces gingersnaps
5 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons sugar

Directions
Using a food processor, grind the gingersnaps into fine crumbs.  Add the sugar and mix.  Add the butter and mix to combine.

Press into a pie pan and bake at 350 for 12-15 minutes.  When it comes out, you may need to use a rubber spatula to smooth the crust out a bit, in case the sides slip down a bit into the bottom.

Let cool, fill with filling, and bake as directed.

Candied Pepitas
Adapted from Martha Stewart

Ingredients
1 cup (approx 6 ounces) raw pepitas
6 tablespoons sugar
1 large egg white, beaten
pinch of cinnamon
pinch of ground ginger

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Stir together all ingredients in a bowl.  Spread mixture in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment.

Bake until pepitas are golden and slightly puffed, about 10 minutes.   Stir gently, leaving some clumps.

After they have cooled completely, crumble them up.  Sprinkle over pumpkin pie when you are ready to serve.  Or, sprinkle it over just about any dessert, or just serve in little bowls as a snack.

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I wanted to make a cranberry dessert for a Thanksgiving potluck.  Martha Stewart had this recipe for a New England Cranberry Duff.

I am from New England and have never heard of a duff before.  After playing around with The Google and learning way more about this dude than I have ever cared to know, I learned that it’s usually made with plums, and better known as plum pudding.

Also, it looks nothing like this recipe.

So between Martha’s screw up, and my changes, I’m calling it a snack cake.  A very delicious, buttery, fruity snack cake.

And if it’s not cranberry season, I think this would be excellent with fresh berries.

Cranberry Snack Cake
Adapted from Martha Stewart

Ingredients
1 cup unsalted butter, (2 sticks), softened
1 12 ounce bag of cranberries
1/2 cup ground almonds
2/3 cup plus 1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. 
 
Melt the remaining butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat, being careful not to brown., and set aside to cool slightly.

Line a 9X13 glass baking dish with parchment paper and generously butter it, using about 4 tablespoons of the butter.  You don’t want this to stick, so just spread it thick.   Then, pour the cranberries evenly over bottom of dish.

Sprinkle the ground almonds and 2/3 cup of sugar on top and set aside.

 Mix the eggs, the remaining white sugar, and the brown sugar in a bowl, until thoroughly combined and thick.  Add the vanilla extract.  Gradually stir in the flour and salt.

Add the melted butter to the mixture slowly, stirring until smooth.

Slowly pour batter into pan to cover cranberries, making sure that they stay spread out evenly.   Bake until golden brown and a cake tester inserted in center comes out clean, about 30-40 minutes.


Let cool on a wire rack 10 minutes, then run a knife around edge to loosen, and invert to unmold.  It will be somewhat upside down cake like, so you want to flip it so the cranberries are on top.


I sliced mine into 28 wedges, which made for a perfect size for a party with lots of desserts.  If this was the only dessert you were serving, you would probably want to cut bigger slices.  You can serve it warm or at room temperature, with forks or without. 

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Here’s the thing with food blogging.  You cook food for your friends, then you go online and tell everyone how awesome your food is.  It’s a little weird.  You just have to hope that you are an objective critic of your own cooking and that your friends aren’t just being polite when they tell you how much they enjoyed what you served them.   Or that your friends aren’t offended by your total and complete lack of modesty.

And that brings us to these blue cheese and walnut cookies. 

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They were delicious.  I hate blue cheese and I thought they were delicious.  A couple party guests told me that they hated blue cheese and they thought they were delicious.  And of course, people who loved blue cheese also found these cookies delicious.  I have emails from some attendees stating this fact, so it must be true.

This recipe comes from the blog Pastry Studio, who graciously agreed to let me reprint this.  She impressively made her own fig jam.  I bought a jar of Bonne Maman fig preserves and rather than making sandwiches, put it as a spread or dip on the side.  The cookies worked plain or with the jam, so feel free to choice your poison.

Blue Cheese and Walnut Cookies
Adapted from Pastry Studio

The original recipe notes that it makes 24 2 inch round cookies.  I made 1 1/2 inch square ones and probably got about 40 out of the dough.

Ingredients
6 oz blue cheese, softened
4 oz butter, softened
1/2 cup walnuts
1/4 C + 2 T granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 C flour

Directions
Pulse the walnuts in a food processor until there’s no real big chunks but before it turns totally to meal.  Basically, you will be rolling these cookies out very thin, and you don’t want any shards sticking up.

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Remove the walnuts.  Add the blue cheese, butter, sugar and salt to the food processor and blend until creamy.  Add the flour and walnuts and pulse until mixture just starts to come together and forms a clump.  Gather dough and place on a piece of plastic.   Refridgerate until thoroughly chilled, at least an hour or two, and preferably overnight.

Preheat the oven to 325 and line baking sheets with parchment paper or a silpat.

Roll out the dough.  Use a cookie cutter if you’d like, but if you want square cookies like mine, get a ruler and trace a grid into the dough.  I made mine in 1 1/2 inch squares.

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You want to work as quickly as possible so that the dough doesn’t warm up.  Since it took me a long time to draw the squares, I put the trays of cookies back into the fridge for a half hour before I baked them just to be safe.  So clear some room in the fridge before you do it.  You want these to hit the oven cold so that they retain their shape while baking.

Bake for about 12 minutes or up to 18 minutes if they are larger, until the edges just start to turn golden.  I baked mine one batch at a time in the middle rack, but if you put two trays in, be sure to rotate pans halfway through. 

Cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for several days.  I made mine on Saturday and today, Wednesday, they are still good.

To serve, spread with fig jam and make sandwiches, put the jam on the side, or just eat them plain with a glass of wine.  These little things are definitely cookies.   Similar to shortbread, but a bit chewier.  The cheese flavor is strong enough that they could be served before dinner as an appetizer, but they are sweet enough that you could serve them as dessert with some fruit or port. 

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I made something chocolate.

brownies

Not just anything chocolate.  But the best brownies you will ever eat in your life.  I’m not kidding.  I don’t make a lot of chocolate desserts because I don’t really like them that much.  There are so many other things that are more interesting and more delicious, and I’m just never inspired by all the same old brownie and molten chocolate lava cake recipes out there.   But this recipe is actually special. 

What makes it good?  First, it has Mexican chocolate.

 Choc 1

You need this to do the recipe.  It’s a sugary chocolate with a hint of cinnamon.  It comes in discs and is usually used to make hot chocolate.  Check the international aisle of your grocery store or find a little Latino market.  There is no substitute and it’s worth seeking it out.

But, it’s also good because the cinnamon in the recipe mellows out the chocolate a bit.  So it doesn’t taste like a big, sugary, chocolately mess.  You actually taste the chocolate in this and not just the sugar.

The recipe comes from LittleMsFoodie, who in turn found it from Teresa on the Foodie Blog Roll forums site.

Mexican Chocolate Brownies
 
Ingredients
For the brownies
½ cup all purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
½ round disc Mexican chocolate, pulverized (I used 3/4 of a disc)
6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped  (I used Ghiradelli 60% cacao chocolate chips)
¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, diced, room temperature
4 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

For the glaze
6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped (same as above)
½ round disc Mexican Chocolate, pulverized (again, I used 3/4 of a disc)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
2 tablespoons whipping cream 

Directions
Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°.  Butter a 8 x 8 x 2 inch metal baking pan and dust with flour.  
Stir chocolates and butter in top of double boiler set over simmering water until melted and smooth. Turn off heat. Let chocolate stand over water to cool. 
  
Mix the flour, cinnamon, and salt in small bowl.
 
Using electric mixer, beat eggs and sugar in large bowl until mixture thickens and falls in soft ribbon when beaters are lifted, about 5 minutes, then beat in the vanilla.  Slowly beat in the flour mixture in 2 additions, blending well after each.

Gently beat in the melted chocolate to the egg and flour mixture,  mixing until just combined.  Stir in walnuts.  Pour batter into the greased and floured pan.  Bake brownies until top is set and tester inserted into center comes out with moist crumbs attached, about 35 minutes.  Cool completely in pan on rack.

 To make the glaze, whisk the remaining ingredients in small saucepan over medium-low heat until melted and smooth.  Pour evenly over hot brownies in pan.  Chill brownies until topping is set, about 2 hours or overnight.

The biggest you’ll want to cut these is into 16 squares.  I usually go much smaller, like into 30 squares.  They are rich and decadent and you really only need a couple bites.  They also freeze really well.

Enjoy!

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Back in May, when the cherries were just in season, I bought a whole bunch to make Martha Stewart’s delicious looking cherry almond teacakes for my book club.  And it was a disaster.  I am not sure how such a delicious looking recipe could result in such a hot mess, but that’s what happened.  They looked cute, but tasted terrible.  Others have had better luck, so I must have done something wrong.  I didn’t have the time or desire to try again, so off I went to book club, with my store bought ginger snaps to talk about Tom Perrotta’s The Abstinence Teacher. 

When Smitten Kitchen posted these cherry brown butter bars a week before my July book club, I knew it was time to conquer the cherry dessert again.  This time, I had much better luck, and Confederacy of Dunces was made all the more enjoyable by something so delicious and easy on the valve.  The filling is creamy but not too rich, and the crust is nice and buttery. 

The recipe originated in Bon Appetit, where it was more of a traditional tart.  Smitten Kitchen adapted it to make it more finger food friendly, which I just love.  It’s hard to find fruit based desserts that you don’t need a fork for, and I think this would work with any seasonal fruit.  I think I’d like to try it with chunks of persimmon in the winter.

If you do make it with cherries, a cherry pitter is helpful.  I know Alton Brown is all anti uni-taskers, but a cherry pitter also doubles as an olive pitter.  So, if you eat a lot of olives like I do, it’s a worthwhile investment. 

IMG_7546

Cherry Brown Butter Bars

Crust:
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon all purpose flour
Pinch of salt

Filling:
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, diced
About 20 or so cherries, pitted

Directions

To make the crust

Preheat over to 375°F.  If you don’t have a square tart pan (and honestly, who does?) cut two 12-inch lengths of parchment paper and trim each to fit the 8-inch width of an 8×8-inch square baking pan.  Press it into the bottom and sides of your pan in one direction, then use the second sheet to line the rest of the pan, perpendicular to the first sheet.  Or you can just cut a big sheet of parchment paper, squish it down so it lines the pan, and hope for the best.  Which is what I did.  The corners of the tart came out kind of gimpy, but the rest of it was fine.  So unless you want perfect corners, I say, make life easy on yourself.

Using rubber spatula or fork, mix the melted butter, sugar, and vanilla in medium bowl.  Add flour and salt and stir until incorporated.  Transfer dough to your prepared pan, and use your fingertips to press the dough evenly across the bottom of the pan.  Bake the crust until golden, which, if you are using Bon Appetit’s oven, is about 18 minutes.  If you are using my freakishly hot oven, it’s closer to 14.   

When it’s done baking, transfer it to a rack and cool in pan.  Maintain the oven temperature.

To make the filling

Cook butter in heavy small saucepan(preferably a lighter colored one, so you can keep a better watch on the color of the butter) over medium heat until deep nutty brown, stirring often and watching carefully so it doesn’t burn, about six minutes.  Immediately pour browned butter into glass measuring cup to cool slightly.

Whisk sugar, eggs, and salt in medium bowl to blend.  Add flour and vanilla and whisk until smooth.  Gradually whisk browned butter into sugar-egg mixture; whisk until well blended.

Arrange pitted cherries, or the fruit of your choice, in bottom of cooled crust.  I wanted to make 20 bars, so I arranged the cherries as best as I could in evenly spaced rows of 4 X 5.  If you are less picky than I am or want to make bigger or smaller bars, feel free to put the cherries in however you want.  But, keep in mind that it might be harder to get smooth cuts if you are trying to cut through a bunch of cooked cherries.  Not impossible, but you do have to be a lot more careful so you don’t drag them out.

 Carefully pour browned butter mixture evenly over the fruit.  Bake bars until filling is puffed and golden and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 30-40 minutes.  Watch the bars carefully.  Cool bars completely in pan on rack.

Use the parchment paper overhang to carefully remove it from pan in one piece and place it on a cutting board and cut them into squares with a very sharp knife.

You can make these a day or two in advance and store in the fridge.  I found the bars actually tasted better the second day because it gives the custard more time to absorb the cherry flavor.

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