Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Chocolate Coconut Cream Tart (TWD)

This week's Tuesdays with Dorie (TWD) recipe was chosen by Kim of Scrumptious Photography: Chocolate Cream Tart. The recipe includes a chocolate pastry cream in a dark chocolate shortbread crust, topped with sweetened whipped cream.

I lost track of time and almost didn't participate this week, but I am so glad that I did! I decided to go with Dorie's "playing around" idea to make a Chocolate Coconut Cream Pie instead. I've never had one before, but the idea of one sounded so good. I love Dorie's sweet tart dough, so I decided to keep with the tart idea instead of making a regular pie crust.

The coconut cream was very simple to make, though I almost ran out of patience waiting for the cream to come to a boil. I believe this step took at least 20 to 30 minutes, though I honestly lost track of time!

I've made Dorie's pastry cream many times before, so I had no issues with that component. I used semisweet chocolate because I'm not a fan of bittersweet chocolate.

I didn't have a 9-inch tart pan, so I used 4.5 or 5-inch tart pans instead. I made one recipe of sweet tart dough, but probably should have made 1.5x the recipe because my tarts were a bit on the thin side.

The Chocolate Coconut Cream Tarts were to die for! The chocolate pastry cream - oh, the pastry cream... it was amazing. Rich and creamy... chocolatey... but not too rich. The coconut cream gave the tart a nice flavor and texture. I'm glad that I went with the sweet tart dough instead of the chocolate shortbread crust because I think it would have been (gasp) too chocolately otherwise. Next time, I will drizzle some caramel sauce over the top and it will taste like a Samoa Girl Scout cookie! :)

Thanks Kim, for choosing this recipe - I loved it. If you would like the recipe for the chocolate cream tart, you can find it here. (I've included the recipe for the Chocolate Coconut Cream Tart below since I used a completely different tart dough recipe and the weekly host usually doesn't post the "playing around" options.) Make sure you visit the TWD Blogroll to see what everyone else thought about this chocolately treat!

Chocolate Coconut Cream Tart
from Baking: From My Home to Yours, by Dorie Greenspan

For the Coconut Cream
1-1/3 cups heavy cream
1 cup sweetened shredded coconut

For the Filling
2 cups whole milk
4 large egg yolks
6 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp cornstarch, sifted
1/4 tsp salt
7 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted (I used semisweet)
2-1/2 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into pieces, at room temperature

For the Topping
1 cup heavy cream
3 tbsp confectioner's sugar
1 tbsp dark rum (optional)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

1 9-inch Sweet Tart Dough, fully baked and cooled

To make the Coconut Cream:
Put the heavy cream and shredded coconut in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-low heat, stirring almost constantly. Continue to cok and stir until cream is reduced by half and the mixture is slightly thickened. Scrape the coconut cream into a bowl and cool to room temperature.

To make the Filling:
Bring the milk to a boil in a small saucepan.

Meanwhile, in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk the egg yolks together with the sugar and cornstarch until thick and well blended. Still whisking, drizzle in about 1/4 cup of the hot milk-- this will temper, or warm, the yolks so they won't curdle. Whisking all the while, slowly pour in the remainder of the milk. Put the pan over medium heat and, whisking vigorously, constantly and thoroughly (making sure to get the edges of the pot), bring the mixture to a boil. Keep at a boil, still whisking, for 1 to 2 minutes, then remove the pan from the heat.

Whisk in the melted chocolate. Let sit for 5 minutes, then whisk in the bits of butter, stirring until they are full incorporated and the pastry cream is smooth and silky. Scrape the cream into a bowl. You can press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface of the cream to create an airtight seal and refrigerate the pastry cream until cold or, if you want to cool it quickly--as I always do--put the bowl into a larger bowl filled with ice cubes and cold water, and stir the pastry cream occasionally until it is thoroughly chilled, about 20 minutes.

To make the topping:
Whip the heavy cream with the confectioner's sugar, dark rum, and pure vanilla extract.

To assemble the tart:
When you are ready to assemble the tart, whisk the chocolate pastry cream vigorously to loosen it and to bring back its velvety texture. Spread the coconut cream over the bottom of the tart crust, cover it with the chocolate cream, and then top it with the whipped cream. Cover the whipped cream with toasted coconut or with chocolate shavings, or a combination of the two.

* Recipes notes:
- If you've never made pastry cream before, it won't really come to a boil. It will just start to thicken. After it starts to thicken, just continue to cook for another 1-2 minutes.
- I used semisweet chocolate instead of bittersweet.
- If you don't have whole milk, learn how to make your own with skim/1%/2% and cream or half & half here.
- For more tips, click here.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Granola Breakfast Cookies (SMS)

This week's Sweet Melissa Sundays (SMS) recipe was chosen by Jessica of A Singleton in the Kitchen: Granola Breakfast Cookies. These cookies are made with whole wheat flour and sweetened with honey and molasses. Cherry Almond Granola gives them a nice, chewy texture.

I love that this recipe uses melted butter, so you don't have to set butter out ahead of time. It's also a great cookie to make when you are running low on ingredients. This recipe requires no sugar, and only one egg.

I have to say that I cheated and used store bought granola instead of making the Cherry Almond Granola recipe in the book. I just didn't have any time, and actually still had Orange Pecan Zest Granola leftover from when we made the Granola Grabbers for TWD. I also tossed in some dried cherries at the end since there wasn't any dried fruit in my granola.

The smell coming from the oven as these cookies was baking was amazing! I just love the smell of honey and molasses. These cookies were great. Totally chewy, not crunchy at all. Sweet, but not too sweet. Some found the molasses flavor to be too strong, but I love molasses cookies so I enjoyed the molasses flavor quite a bit. I loved biting into the dried cherries - so glad I decided to add them at the last minute. These cookies actually taste pretty healthy, so you don't feel so guilty eating so many ;)

Thanks Jessica, for choosing this recipe - they were quick and easy and so full of flavor! If you would like the recipe, you can find it here. Make sure you visit the SMS Blogroll to see what everyone else thought about these wholesome treats!

* Recipe tips:
- Spray your measuring cups with PAM for easy pouring of the honey and molasses (and easy clean up!)
- If you don't use whole wheat flour often, store the leftover flour in the freezer for a longer shelf life.
- These cookies will keep layered between wax paper in an airtight container at room temperature for 4 days, or frozen up to 3 weeks.

- For more tips, click here.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Four Star Chocolate Bread Pudding (TWD)

This week's Tuesdays with Dorie (TWD) recipe was chosen by Lauren of Upper East Side Chronicle: Four Star Chocolate Bread Pudding. It's a classic bread pudding, but with a chocolate based custard instead of vanilla. And just to add a little more interest, there are some raisins (or cherries) sprinkled throughout.

The recipe was easy enough, as most bread pudding recipes are. I have nothing against raisins, but I used dried cherries instead of raisins because the idea of a flavor similar to 'chocolate covered cherries' sounded great.

I had read that some folks felt that there was way too much liquid in this recipe, so I cut the amount of milk from 3 cups back to 2-1/2 cups. When I first poured the custard over the bread, it still looked like too much, but after the 30 minute waiting period, the bread had soaked up all the moisture nicely! Thankfully, this reduction in milk did not result in a custard that tasted too eggy.

I'm not quite sure how Dorie's bread stayed so white, as mine became mostly all brown from the chocolate custard. This made for a not so photogenic piece of bread pudding, but it was delicious nonetheless. I initially served it with a simple dusting of confectioner's sugar on top, but tomorrow I think I'll have it with some whipped cream. If you like bread pudding and you like chocolate, I'd recommend you try this.

Thanks Lauren, for choosing this recipe - I love bread pudding and this was different from anything I've ever had before. If you would like the recipe, you can find it here. Make sure you visit the TWD Blogroll to see what everyone else thought about this chocolately treat!

* Recipes notes:
- I used 2 cups of whole milk and 1/2 cup of skim milk, reducing the total amount of milk by 1/2 cup.
- I used semisweet chocolate instead of bittersweet.
- For more tips, click here.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Caramel Apple Turnovers with Sweet Ricotta Filling (SMS)

As busy as I've been, the last thing I needed to do was join another baking group. But that's what I've done. When I discovered Sweet Melissa Sundays, I really had no intention of joining. Where would I find the time? I barely have enough time as it is keeping up with Tuesdays with Dorie and The Daring Bakers.

That all changed when I saw that Lorelei, founder of Sweet Melissa Sundays, was giving away a free copy of the book to anyone who wanted to join the group. I had wanted to get The Sweet Melissa Baking Book for quite some time, so I entered the giveaway, thinking I probably wouldn't win anyway. Well, lo and behold, it was my lucky day because I ended up winning the book! So, that's how I ended up as part of this group.

While I'm excited to be a part of this group, I'm afraid that I most likely won't be able to participate weekly in it like I do with Tuesdays with Dorie. My schedule is already super busy, then add to that the fact that we're supposed to post on Sundays. I do the majority of my baking on Sunday and Monday, so that makes it harder for me to post on schedule each week for this group. And because I joined Tuesdays with Dorie first, when things get busy, I'll always bake for Tuesdays with Dorie before I do for Sweet Melissa Sundays. I do hope to bake along with the group at least once or twice a month, though. Now on to the featured recipe...

This week's Sweet Melissa Sundays (SMS) recipe was chosen by Tracey of Tracey's Culinary Adventures: Caramel Apple Turnovers with Sweet Ricotta Filling. If you know me, you know that I love anything with fruit in it, especially apples. I could eat an apple crumb pie every day if I had to. So I was really looking forward to trying this recipe.

At first glance, the recipe looks really simple - and it is, but it definitely took longer than I had initially anticipated. There are three components to this recipe - the apple filling, ricotta filling, and the puff pastry.

For the apple filling, you caramelize some sugar and then toss in the apples and cook until they are tender and soft. I have caramelized sugar plenty of times before, but I swear this seemed to take forever. I'm guessing this was because the heat was set to low. I started to get impatient and actually turned my heat up to medium-low, and I think it took at least 15-25 minutes before it became amber. Otherwise, this step was really easy. I also sprinkled some cinnamon over my apples because it just didn't feel right to be cooking apples without cinnamon!

The ricotta filling is easy enough, too, though it does require some planning ahead. You need to strain the moisture out of the ricotta overnight in a cheesecloth, but once that is done the filling takes just a few minutes to prepare. I have to admit that I did not notice this step when I first looked at the recipe, and when I went to make it earlier this afternoon, I was mad at myself that I had not started this last night. I simply took the ricotta and squeezed it to the death in the cheesecloth and that seemed to work okay. I was able to get out quite a bit of moisture that way.

Thankfully this recipe uses store bought puff pastry, but make sure you set it out to thaw ahead of time, as it takes about 40 minutes to do so.

Assembly of the turnovers is simple, though I have a tendency to want to over stuff mine, so filling starts to ooze everywhere. I had a lot of filling leftover, probably enough to make an additional 3-4 turnovers.

These were delicious! I was pleasantly surprised at how prominent the orange flavor was from the orange zest in the ricotta filling. It complemented the caramel apple filling well. My husband thought that these were too sweet, but I didn't think so at all. I love that you can make the apple and ricotta fillings ahead of time, and just assemble these the day of. Even better, you can make them from start to finish and just freeze them before baking so they're ready to bake whenever you have a craving :)

Thanks Tracey, for choosing this recipe - I love turnovers and will definitely be making this again! If you would like the recipe, you can find it here. Make sure you visit the SMS Blogroll to see what everyone else thought about this appley treat!

* Recipe tips:
- Save time by starting your water/sugar on the heat first before peeling/chopping your apples. I still had to wait for my sugar to caramelize even after I had finished with the apples.
- Make sure you DO NOT STIR your water/sugar mixture while you are waiting for it to caramelize - you will end up with big sugar crystals if you do.
- I dusted my turnovers with tons of cinnamon sugar, but still had some leftover. You can reduce the amount by 25% and waste less.
- Seal your turnovers shut with the tines of a fork - you'll get a better seal that way.
- I totally forgot to vent my turnovers (oops!) but apparently they still turned out okay.
- Keep a close eye on your turnovers - I checked mine at 39 minutes (6 minutes early) and they had already started to burn!
- For more tips, click here.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Chocolate Amaretti Torte (TWD)

This week's Tuesdays with Dorie (TWD) recipe was chosen by Holly of Phe.MOM.enon: 15 Minute Magic: Chocolate Amaretti Torte. As the recipe promises, prep time really is just fifteen minutes. Since the entire recipe is made in the food processor, Dorie states that if you can push a button, you can make this torte :)

Aside from ground almonds, one of the main ingredients in this torte are amaretti cookies. I had never heard of amaretti cookies before. They're "Italian macaroons," and most recipes seem to indicate that they are made of almond flour/paste, sugar, and egg whites. A quick search on google will yield several recipes that you can try if you'd like to make them at home yourself.

The amaretti cookies that Dorie favors are made by the Lazzaroni family and are made with slightly different ingredients. According to legend, almost three centuries ago, the Cardinal of Milan unexpectedly visited the town of Saronno in Italy. To honor him, two young lovers, Giuseppe and Osolina, quickly baked up a mixture of sugar, apricot kernels, and egg whites, creating crisp, airy cookies with an unusual bittersweet flavor which they wrapped in pairs to symbolize their love. The Cardinal was delighted and blessed the young couple, who married and lived happily ever after.

The amaretti cookies can be found in various locations, such as specialty shops and Italian markets. I found mine for about $6 at Central Market which is only located in Texas. It was a small package, so that works out to about $41 per pound, actually. I heard others found some for about $3 at World Market, though they were made by another company.

There were some complaints about how expensive the cookies were; I suppose if I was getting a whole pound, I would mind paying that much for cookies, but considering I didn't need that much for this torte, I didn't think it was too much to spend. A single slice of something like this can cost you about $6 if you're dining out, so it's all relative. I'm sure the other cookies taste great too, but I imagine there's a difference in taste when you're comparing cookies made from apricot kernels versus ones made with almonds.

I wasn't sure what to expect when I took my first bite of this torte, but I loved it. It had a nice, nutty flavor to it with a very subtle fruity undertone and the texture was somewhat similar to a slightly chewy brownie. The almond whipped cream paired really well with it, though I could also see enjoying it with a nice scoop of vanilla ice cream and hot fudge sauce too! I love that this torte comes together in just fifteen minutes, yet looks like it could have taken much longer, making it great for entertaining ;)

Thanks Holly, for choosing this torte - I enjoyed trying something a little different. If you would like the recipe, you can find it here or here. Make sure you visit the TWD Blogroll to see what everyone else thought about this chocolately treat!

* Recipes notes:
- The box of amaretti cookies I found was only 2.3 oz whereas the recipe calls for 2.75 oz if you are going to use some to top/decorate the torte. If you're only using it for the actual torte, 2.3 oz is just fine. I simply used all but one cookie half in the torte, saving it for the topping. To make up for this in the filling, I added just a little bit more ground almonds.
- I made mine in a 9-inch round pan and it was done in just 20 minutes (it was also a dark pan).
- Wrapped well, this will keep 2 months in the freezer.
- For more tips, click here.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Blog Makeover & Southwestern Potatoes

I've been dying to do a makeover for my blog for quite some time now. Sure, it was very simple and classic looking, but I wanted something a bit more colorful and fun.

Thanks to my amazing friend Lisa over at Surviving Oz, I was finally able to give my blog a face lift! I am beyond thrilled with how everything turned out and I cannot begin to thank her enough! I still have to work on finishing up some additional content for the blog, but for now at least it has a new look :)

In honor of my blog makeover, I'm going to share with you one of the best recipes I have come across in a long time! I bookmarked this particular recipe several months ago. My only regret now is not making it sooner!! I promise that this is something you need to try! It's about as simple as simple gets. You simply slice some potatoes, toss them in olive oil, salt, and pepper, then bake them in the oven for about 15 minutes. Next, top them with some barbeque sauce, cheddar cheese, and bacon bits. After a few more minutes in the oven, you've got the tastiest potato side or appetizer you've ever eaten!

I made these two times in two days they were so good! My husband calls them crack :) I would bring these to a party any day over the alleged "crack dip."

Southwestern Potatoes
from cooking this and that

1 package bacon bits, or 4 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled
2 unpeeled large potatoes, scrubbed
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup barbecue sauce
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 sour cream, optional (for dipping)

Line 2 large baking sheets with foil and preheat oven to 450 degrees. (I was able to fit it all on one baking sheet.)

Cut potatoes into 1/4 inch slices. Toss the potatoes, olive oil, garlic salt and pepper in a big ziploc bag to coat the potatoes.

Arrange potatoes in a single layer on the baking sheets. Bake until lightly browned, about 15-20 minutes.

Brush with barbecue sauce, then top with the shredded cheese and bacon bits. Bake until the cheese melts, about 3-5 minutes. Top with sour cream, if desired.

Yield: 4 servings (only 2 in our household!)

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Banana Cream Pie (TWD)

This week's Tuesdays with Dorie (TWD) recipe was chosen by Amy of Sing For Your Supper: Banana Cream Pie. I can honestly say that I had never had a banana cream pie before. Growing up, my mom hated any kind of cream pie - banana cream pie, coconut cream pie, etc. so I never had the opportunity to try one.

Honestly, I wasn't sure if I would really like it, either. But being a part of TWD means trying new things, whether that entails learning a new baking skill, or trying a new ingredient or recipe. So I forged ahead with this week's pick.

The recipe was actually quite simple. It's a basic pastry cream, made with brown sugar instead of white sugar, with just a hint of cinnamon and nutmeg in it. All you do is prepare the pie crust, then layer it with pastry cream and bananas, and then top with whipped cream. Dorie adds a touch of sour cream to the whipped cream to give it a little something extra, but I honestly couldn't really tell it was there. Unfortunately, I accidentally over whipped my cream and ruined it, but thankfully it didn't affect the taste - I just have some sad looking pie pictures this week :(

The pie was just so so for me. I was glad I made it and tried it, but I probably won't be making it again. I guess I'm just not a banana cream pie person. I brought the pie to work and everyone loved it so I guess it's great as far as banana cream pies go :)

Thanks Amy, for choosing this pie - I enjoyed trying something new. If you would like the recipe, you can find it here. Make sure you visit the TWD Blogroll to see what everyone else thought about this creamy pie!

* Recipes notes:
- I didn't pass my brown sugar through a sieve - I just made sure there was no big clumps in it and the pastry cream turned out just fine.
- The pastry cream doesn't really come to a noticeable boil - just keep stirring constantly until it begins to thicken, then continue heating/stirring for another minute.
- I thought the pie would taste better with more bananas - so I would recommend using 4 bananas instead of just 3.
- For more tips, click here.