Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Low and Luscious Chocolate Cheesecake (TWD)

This week's Tuesdays with Dorie (TWD) recipe was chosen by The Tea Lady of Tea and Scones: Low and Luscious Chocolate Cheesecake. I almost didn't get this one done, but when I read over the recipe, I realized that I could easily put it together in a pinch.

The cheesecake filling takes about all of five minutes to make in the food processor. You simply process the cream sugar and sugar until silky smooth. Then add the eggs, vanilla, and chocolate and then you're done!

The bottom of my graham cracker crust was extremely thin, so I would recommend doubling the crust recipe if you're a crust lover. Otherwise, this cheesecake was good. It's not overwhelmingly chocolately or creamy so if you are in the mood for a super chocolately, super rich cheesecake, I'd look for another recipe. I tend to prefer the super rich and creamy cheesecakes, but this was a nice change after so many heavy desserts over the holidays.

If you would like the recipe, you can find it here. Make sure you check out the TWD Blogroll, to see how everyone else enjoyed this creamy, chocolatey treat.

* Recipes notes:
- I baked my cheesecake in a 9-inch springform pan. I wrapped it in heavy duty foil and placed it in a water bath in the oven and baked for 50 minutes. After it was done, I left the oven cracked open with a wooden spoon until it reached room temperature in order to avoid cracks in the top.
- For tips from other TWD bakers, click here.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Gingerbread House (DB)

The December 2009 Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to you by Anna of Very Small Anna and Y of Lemonpi. They chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ everywhere to bake and assemble a gingerbread house from scratch. They chose recipes from Good Housekeeping and from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book as the challenge recipes.

I wasn't able to participate in November's challenge due to the birth of my little one, and almost let this one pass me by but I was able to find some time at the last minute today to get this gingerbread house completed. As Katrina of Baking and Boys! commented on my previous post, everyone says you have to "sleep when baby sleeps," but when you're a Daring Baker you have to "bake when baby sleeps" instead ;)

The gingerbread was simple enough to make - just a few minutes to prep and then two hours to chill in the refrigerator. A few bakers noted that their dough was too dry, but I had no such issues with mine. The more time consuming aspect was (obviously) the assembly and decoration of the gingerbread house. I wish I could have made mine more elaborate, but with only short spurts of time available to me today, I had to go simple. I made a half recipe of gingerbread and a full recipe of royal icing and that seemed to be just right for my little house.

Thanks Anna and Y, for hosting this month's challenge. It was fun making my very first gingerbread house. Make sure you check out the Daring Bakers' Blogroll to see all the other wonderful creations.

Scandinavian Gingerbread (Pepparkakstuga)
from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book by Beatrice Ojakangas

1 cup butter, room temperature [226g]
1 cup brown sugar, well packed [220g]
2 tablespoons cinnamon
4 teaspoons ground ginger
3 teaspoons ground cloves
2 teaspoons baking soda
½ cup boiling water
5 cups all-purpose flour [875g]

1. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until blended. Add the cinnamon, ginger and cloves. Mix the baking soda with the boiling water and add to the dough along with the flour. Mix to make a stiff dough. (*Make sure you don't overmix the dough initially as you'll over develop the gluten and make your dough tough and shrinky.) If necessary add more water, a tablespoon at a time. Chill 2 hours or overnight.

2. Cut patterns for the house, making patterns for the roof, front walls, gabled walls, chimney and door out of cardboard.

3. Roll the dough out on a large, ungreased baking sheet and place the patterns on the dough. Mark off the various pieces with a knife, but leave the pieces in place.

4. [I rolled out the dough on a floured bench, roughly 1/8 inch thick (which allows for fact that the dough puffs a little when baked), cut required shapes and transferred these to the baking sheet. Any scraps I saved and rerolled at the end.]

5. Preheat the oven to 375'F (190'C). Bake for 12 to 15 minutes until the cookie dough feels firm. After baking, again place the pattern on top of the gingerbread and trim the shapes, cutting the edges with a straight-edged knife. Leave to cool on the baking sheet.

Royal Icing:

1 large egg white
3 cups (330g) powdered sugar
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon almond extract

Beat all ingredients until smooth, adding the powdered sugar gradually to get the desired consistency (I used about 2.5 cups of powdered sugar). Pipe on pieces and allow to dry before assembling. If you aren't using it all at once you can keep it in a small bowl, loosely covered with a damp towel for a few hours until ready to use. You may have to beat it slightly to get it an even consistency if the top sets up a bit. Piped on the house, this will set up hard over time.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Brown Sugar Brownies

My mom always says that everything you bake tastes better with brown sugar, so she substitutes brown sugar for granulated white sugar in almost every recipe. Often times, that's fine, but sometimes (as with cookies) there's a precise ratio of brown sugar to white sugar that needs to be adhered to, or else you end up with the wrong texture.

So when I saw this recipe for Brown Sugar Brownies, I immediately thought of my mom. Was she right? Are brownies better when made with brown sugar? Well, the answer is yes and no. I loved the caramel-y undertone that the brown sugar lends to these brownies, but these are cakey, not fudgey brownies... and when it comes to brownies, I prefer a more fudgey brownie. So if you like cakey brownies, you should give this recipe a try. For something a bit more decadent (but super easy), check out one of my favorites - Gooey Caramel Brownies.

These brownies were made thanks to the generous folks at C&H Sugar who sent me a $20 gift card. Visit their site for great homemade gifts ideas this holiday season - they have recipes for cookie jar gifts, as well as some fabulous looking homemade sugar scrub!

Brown Sugar Brownies
from C&H Sugar

1 cup C&H Pure Cane Golden Brown Sugar, packed
1/2 cup butter or margarine (1 stick), softened
2 eggs
2 oz. unsweetened chocolate (2 squares), melted
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped (I omitted these)

Preheat oven to 325°F. Grease 8x8x2-inch square baking pan (I used a 9-inch square pan so my brownies were thinner). In large bowl beat sugar and butter until fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Beat in chocolate, then flour. Stir in nuts. Pour into pan. Bake 20 to 25 minutes. Cool in pan and cut into bars.

Yield: 24 squares

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Sugared Cranberries

Here's a great holiday recipe I found last year. It's so quick and easy! (If I had time to do this for Thanksgiving less than two weeks after having my baby, then surely you have time to make these too.)

All you have to do is make a simple syrup with equal parts sugar and water. Then steep the cranberries in the syrup overnight. The next day, drain them and roll them in some superfine sugar to coat. That's it!

I really like that the sugared cranberries aren't overly sweet. They're slightly tart since you're using fresh cranberries, and then the sugar balances out the tartness with just a little bit of sweet. If you don't have superfine sugar, just toss some regular granulated sugar in your food processor and give it a whirl.

These would be great for your holiday table next week, so give them a try!

Sugared Cranberries
from Cooking Light

2 cups granulated sugar
2 cups water
2 cups fresh cranberries
3/4 cup superfine sugar

Combine granulated sugar and water in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring mixture until sugar dissolves. Bring to a simmer; remove from heat. (Do not boil or the cranberries may pop when added.) Stir in cranberries; pour mixture into a bowl. Cover and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight.

Drain cranberries in a colander over a bowl, reserving steeping liquid, if desired. Place superfine sugar in a shallow dish. Add the cranberries, rolling to coat with sugar. Spread sugared cranberries in a single layer on a baking sheet; let stand at room temperature 1 hour or until dry.

Note: The steeping liquid clings to the berries and helps the sugar adhere. Store in an airtight container in a cool place for up to a week.

Yield: 9 servings (serving size: about 1/3 cup)

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Sablés (TWD)

This week's Tuesdays with Dorie (TWD) recipe was chosen by Barbara of Bungalow Barbara: Sablés. Sablés are shortbread-like French butter cookies known for their sandy texture (in fact, "sablés" means "sand" in French).

This post is going to be short and sweet because I'm still adjusting to life with a newborn... but let me just say that for a cookie that is so simple to make, the outcome is wonderful. I really enjoyed the crumbly, sandy texture of these cookies, as well as the intense butter flavor. It's a shame that this recipe contains two whole sticks of butter (and yields only 2 dozen cookies), otherwise I'd be more inclined to make these more often! These would be great for holiday gift giving, though.

If you would like the recipe, you can find it here on Barbara's blog. She's also got some great tips on shaping the dough into a log and how to help keep the logs from flattening out while chilling. Make sure you check out the TWD Blogroll, to see how everyone else enjoyed these buttery treats.

* Recipes notes:
- The recipe instructions call for 2 egg yolks to be added to the dough and then an additional yolk to coat the logs before sprinkling them with sugar. The third egg yolk is not listed in the ingredients list but rest assured that the dough is supposed to contain two yolks, not just one.
- I decorated my cookies with red decorating sugar but I think turbinado sugar yields a more classic, elegant look.
- The cookies will keep in a tin at room temperature for about 5 days. If you do not sprinkle the sablés with sugar, they can be wrapped airtight and frozen for up to 2 months. Because the sugar will melt in the freezer, the decorated cookies are not suitable for freezing.
- For tips from other TWD bakers, click here.