Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Sour Cream Chocolate Cake Cookies (TWD)

This week's Tuesdays with Dorie (TWD) recipe was chosen by Spike of Spike Bakes: Sour Cream Chocolate Cake Cookies.  I almost didn't make this one because there were some lukewarm reviews of these cookies on the P&Q.  However, the recipe looked pretty simple, so I decided to forge ahead.

I included both raisins and dried cherries in my cookies, and like Dorie, found that biting into the little bits of dried fruit was wonderful.  I thought the dried cherries were better than the raisins in this cookie, just because they were tart and stood out more than the raisins did.  I can definitely see how those who omitted the dried fruit found the cookies to be a little plain.  (However, if you do make these cookies without the dried fruit, because they have a very cake-like crumb, they do make for the base of some fantastic chocolate whoopie pies.)

Thanks Spike, for hosting this week.  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 chocolately treat! Also don't forget to enter my giveaway here before it ends on June 24th.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Baklava (DB)

Erica of Erica’s Edibles was our host for the Daring Bakers’ June challenge. Erica challenged us to be truly DARING by making homemade phyllo dough and then to use that homemade dough to make Baklava.  For those who are not familiar with baklava, it is a sweet rich pastry made with layers of phyllo dough and nuts sweetened with a simple syrup or honey syrup. Baklava is widely known as a Greek dessert, but its origin has really never been pinpointed as many Middle Eastern countries also name it as their own.

I was really excited to try this recipe.  I was pretty thrilled when I made puff pastry from scratch for the first time, so trying my hand at homemade phyllo dough sounded like a great challenge! It was actually not as hard as I had expected.  I think the hardest part for me was trying to get the sheets as thin as possible without tearing holes in them.  Thankfully the baklava is forgiving and you can put several partial sheets together to form one complete layer and no one will ever know the difference! :) It was a lot of fun stretching it out and seeing it get super thin!

Instead of an almond/walnut/pistachio nut mix, I simply used 1 cup of pistachios and 1/2 cup of almonds.  I don't generally like nuts in baked goods, but I'll eat them in something like this.

Unfortunately, I think I under baked my baklava a little bit.  I took it out about 20 minutes early because it was starting to become golden brown on the top and I was concerned about it burning.  As a result, I don't think my inner layers of phyllo got as crisp as they should have.  Still, the baklava turned out great and we all enjoyed it.  The recipe is definitely a keeper.

Thanks Erica, for hosting this month's challenge.  It was great to go beyond my comfort zone and try something completely new and challenging that I would never have thought to try on my own.  While I probably won't ever make my own phyllo dough again (store bought is just too convenient in this case), it's nice to have another skill under my belt.  Make sure you check out the Daring Bakers' Blogroll to see how everyone else enjoyed this sweet and flaky treat.

Homemade Baklava

Phyllo Dough:

*Note 1: To have enough to fill my 9” x 9” baking dish with 18 layers of phyllo I doubled this recipe.
*Note 2: Single recipe will fill a 8” x 5” baking dish.
*Note 3: Dough can be made a head of time and froze. Just remove from freezer and allow to thaw
and continue making your baklava

1 1/3 cups (320 ml) (185 gm/6½ oz) unbleached all purpose (plain) flour
1/8 teaspoon (2/3 ml) (¾ gm) salt
1/2 cup less 1 tablespoon (105 ml) water, plus more if needed
2 tablespoons (30 ml) vegetable oil, plus additional for coating the dough
1/2 teaspoon (2½ ml) cider vinegar, (could substitute white wine vinegar or red wine vinegar, but could affect the taste)


1. In the bowl of your stand mixer combine flour and salt

2. Mix with paddle attachment
3. Combine water, oil and vinegar in a small bowl.

4. Add water & oil mixture with mixer on low speed, mix until you get a soft dough, if it appears dry add a little more water (I had to add a tablespoon more)

5. Change to the dough hook and let knead approximately 10 minutes. You will end up with beautiful smooth dough. If you are kneading by hand, knead approx. 20 minutes.
6. Remove the dough from mixer and continue to knead for 2 more minutes. Pick up the dough and through it down hard on the counter a few times during the kneading process.

7. Shape the dough into a ball and lightly cover with oil

8. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and let rest 30-90 minutes, longer is best ( I let mine rest 2 hours and it was perfect)

Rolling the dough:
1. Unwrap your dough and cut off a chunk slightly larger then a golf ball. While you are rolling be sure to keep the other dough covered so it doesn’t dry out.

2. Be sure to flour your hands, rolling pin and counter. As you roll you will need to keep adding, don’t worry, you can’t over-flour.

** Remove all rings and jewelry so it does not snag the dough**

Use whatever means you have to get the dough as thin as you can. Here is a fantastic video on how to roll out your phyllo dough, using a wooden dowel, which worked perfectly for me. You may also use a pasta machine if you have one, or a normal rolling pin whatever works for you.

3. Roll out the dough a bit to flatten it out.

4. Wrap the dough around your rolling pin/dowel

5. Roll back and forth quickly with the dough remaining on the dowel (see attached video for a visual, its much easier then it sounds)

6. Remove; notice how much bigger it is!

7. Rotate and repeat until it is as thin as you can it. Don’t worry if you get rips in the dough, as long as you have one perfect one for the top you will never notice.

8. When you get it as thin as you can with the rolling pin, carefully pick it up with well floured hands and stretch it on the backs of your hands as you would a pizza dough, just helps make it that much thinner. Roll out your dough until it is transparent. NOTE: you will not get it as thin as the frozen phyllo dough you purchase at the store, it is made by machine

9. Set aside on a well-floured surface. Repeat the process until your dough is used up. Between each sheet again flower well. You will not need to cover your dough with a wet cloth, as you do with boxed dough, it is moist enough that it will not try out.

Baklava Recipe

Adapted from Alton Brown, The Food Network
30 servings


For the syrup:
· 1 1/4 cups (300 ml) honey
· 1 1/4 cups (300ml) water
· 1 1/4 cups (300 ml) (280 gm/10 oz) sugar
· 1 cinnamon stick
· 1 (2-inch/50 mm) piece fresh citrus peel (lemon or orange work best)
· a few cloves or a pinch or ground clove

When you put your baklava in the oven start making your syrup. When you combine the two, one of them needs to be hot, I find it better when the baklava is hot and the syrup has cooled


1. Combine all ingredients in a medium pot over medium high heat. Stir occasionally until sugar has dissolved

2. Boil for 10 minutes, stir occasionally.

3. Once boiled for 10 minutes remove from heat and strain cinnamon stick and lemon, allow to cool as baklava cooks

Ingredients for the Filling:

1 (5-inch/125 mm piece) cinnamon stick, broken into 2 to 3 pieces or 2 teaspoons (10 ml) (8 gm) ground cinnamon
15 to 20 whole allspice berries ( I just used a few pinches)
3/4 cup (180 ml) (170 gm/6 oz) blanched almonds
3/4 cup (180 ml) (155 gm/5½ oz) raw or roasted walnuts
3/4 cup (180 ml) (140 gm/5 oz) raw or roasted pistachios
2/3 cup (160 ml) (150 gm/ 5 1/3 oz) sugar
phyllo dough (see recipe above)
1 cup (2 sticks) (240 ml) (225g/8 oz) melted butter ** I did not need this much, less then half**


1. Preheat oven to moderate 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4.
2. Combine nuts, sugar and spices in a food processor and pulse on high until finely chopped. If you do not have a food processor chop with a sharp knife as fine as you can. Set aside

3. Trim your phyllo sheets to fit in your pan

4. Brush bottom of pan with butter and place first phyllo sheet

5. Brush the first phyllo sheet with butter and repeat approximately 5 times ending with butter. (Most recipes say more, but homemade phyllo is thicker so it's not needed)
6. Sprinkle 1/3 of the nut mixture on top

7. Continue layering phyllo and buttering repeating 4 times
8. Sprinkle 1/3 of the nut mixture on top
9. Continue layering phyllo and buttering repeating 4 times
10. Sprinkle 1/3 of the nut mixture on top
11. Continue layering and buttering phyllo 5 more times. On the top layer, make sure you have a piece of phyllo with no holes if possible, just looks better.
12. Once you have applied the top layer tuck in all the edges to give a nice appearance.

13. With a Sharp knife cut your baklava in desired shapes and number of pieces. If you can't cut all the ways through don’t worry you will cut again later. A 9x9 pan cuts nicely into 30 pieces. Then brush with a generous layer of butter making sure to cover every area and edge

14. Bake for approximately 30 minutes; remove from oven and cut again this time all the way through. Continue baking for another 30 minutes. (Oven temperatures will vary, you are looking for the top to be a golden brown, take close watch yours may need more or less time in the oven)

15. When baklava is cooked remove from oven and pour the cooled (will still be warmish) syrup evenly over the top, taking care to cover all surfaces when pouring. It looks like it is a lot but over night the syrup will soak into the baklava creating a beautifully sweet and wonderfully textured baklava!

16. Allow to cool to room temperature. Once cooled cover and store at room temperature. Allow the baklava to sit overnight to absorb the syrup.17. Serve at room temperature

Freezing/Storage Instructions/Tips: There are a few ways to store your Baklava. It is recommended that you store your baklava at room temperature in an airtight container. Stored at room temperature your baklava will last for up to 2 weeks. You will notice as the days pass it will get a little juicier and chewier. You may choose to store it in the fridge; this will make it a little harder and chewy, but does increase the shelf life. You can also freeze your baklava and then just set it out at room temperature to thaw.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Date (Nut) Loaf (TWD)

I can't believe it's been two weeks since I last posted! Where does the time go? I really need to get better about posting, especially since I have some great good eats to post about!

This week's Tuesdays with Dorie (TWD) recipe was chosen by Mary of Popsicles and Sandy Feet: Date-Nut Loaf. I love dates, but I'm not so keen on nuts so my cake was a Date Loaf sans nuts.  The recipe was straightforward and easy.  While I was creaming the butter, cream cheese, and sugar together, I chopped the dates up.  After that, it was just a few more minutes to add in the eggs, extracts, and dry ingredients.  My loaf was done baking about 10 minutes early, so I was glad I checked on it, because it was just a tad on the dry side as it is.

Thanks Mary, for hosting this week.  I just finished baking the loaf today and I've only had a few bites so far, because I wanted to wrap the loaf and lets the flavors "ripen" overnight, as Dorie suggests.  The dates were delicious in this loaf, and I imagine dried apricots would be quite nice, too.  I'll have to report back later on the final verdict after I try it again tomorrow!

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 sweet treat! Also don't forget to enter my giveaway here before it ends on June 24th.

* Recipe notes - 
- I checked my loaf and it was done 10 minutes early, though next time I'll probably start checking it 20 minutes out to make sure the loaf doesn't dry out.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Blueberry-Brown Sugar Plain Cake (TWD)

This week's Tuesdays with Dorie (TWD) recipe was chosen by Cindy of Everyday Insanity: Blueberry-Brown Sugar Plain Cake. Dorie says this cake, with "no crumbs, streusel, nuts, icing or filling--is just plain appealing. It's got soft crumbs, a strong streak of caramel brown sugar flavor and the here-and-there surprise of sweet tart berries."

I have to say that this is probably the best "plain cake" I've had in a while! It's tempting to want to put a glaze or streusel topping on it, but give it a try as is and I promise you won't be disappointed!  The sweet, caramel undertone from the brown sugar is well complimented by the layer of blueberries.  Yes, like many other bakers noted, all of my blueberries sank to the bottom of the cake while it was in the oven (and I even rolled them in flour first!).  So, I ended up with a nice blue layer on the bottom of my cake. Thankfully this did not affect the taste at all ;)

Thanks Cindy, for hosting this week. I'll definitely be making this again! It was such a simple recipe but the flavor combination was spectacular. 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 sweet, blueberry treat! Also don't forget to enter my giveaway here before it ends on June 24th.

* Recipe notes - 
- I baked my cake in a 9 inch square pan and that did not seem to affect the baking time.
- I did have to cover the cake loosely with a foil tent to prevent the top from over browning.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Pear Cranberry Pie with Gingersnap Crumble (SMS)

This week's Sweet Melissa Sundays (SMS) recipe was chosen by Dawn of Growing Up and Getting Healthy After 40: Pear Cranberry Pie with Gingersnap Crumble.  I love baked pears, almost as much as I love baked apples... so this recipe was right up my alley! I even still had frozen cranberries leftover from last Thanksgiving so I was able to use them in this recipe.

I used d'Anjou pears instead of Bosc pears (not sure if it matters?) and limes instead of lemons, but otherwise followed the recipe exactly.  I found that putting the pie dish on the baking sheet resulted in an underbaked pie crust, so if you make this pie I would recommend putting it directly on the oven rack and then simply putting a piece of foil on the rack below it to catch any messy drippings should your pie bubble over.

The gingersnap crumble was delicious! I often prefer a good crisp or crumble over a traditional pie, so this pie has something to offer everyone - both a crust and a crumble! It's not the most visually appealing crumble (but what it lacks in looks it makes up in taste)... in fact, while I was photographing it, my 18 month old reached for the pie and tried to grab the crumble while shouting "beef! beef!"  She thought it was ground beef! :)

The filling was good, but admittedly very tart.  I used lime juice instead of lemon juice in the recipe, but I think what accounted for the majority of the tartness in this recipe was the cranberries.  We all enjoyed the sweet and tart combo, but those who don't like a tart dessert will probably want to shy away from this one.  I also found the filling to be very runny, though it was much better the next day after the crust had some time to soak up some of the juices.  I might use Dorie's trick next time and sprinkle a bread crumb/ground nut mix on the crust before adding the filling to help soak up some of the juices.

Thanks Dawn, for hosting this week. If you'd like the recipe, you can find it here. Make sure you check out the Sweet Melissa Sundays Blog Roll to see how everyone else enjoyed this very tart treat! Also don't forget to enter my giveaway here before it ends on June 24th.

* Recipe notes:
- Don't bake your pie on a baking sheet.  Instead, simply place a large piece of foil on the rack below the pie to catch any drippings should the juices from the pie bubble over during baking.
- If the crumble starts to brown too quickly, you can cover the pie loosely with a foil tent while the rest of the pie finishes baking.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Tropi Treats Giveaway

I've never been so health-conscious and label-conscious in my life, but having a baby will do that to you! I don't feed my baby girl any refined sugar, she eats mostly fruits and veggies, and some meat.  I avoid feeding her foods that are processed, or that contain a lot of preservatives in them.  I really wish I had the will power to eat as healthy as I feed my daughter, but I enjoy my sweets too much to do so! Ha ha.  Still, we are making strides in this household to change what we can.  Every little bit counts, right?

So, when I found out about Tropi Treats, I was really excited to try them! They are dried pineapple bites that have no added sugar or preservatives - it's just 100% pineapple! Despite having no added sugar, the bites are nice and sweet with a bit of tartness that you'd expect with pineapple.  Some preservative free dried fruits can be tough and hard to chew but these are soft and chewy.  My daughter loves these, and so do I! There is something about them that is so addictive! I really have trouble eating just a few pieces... so in that regard their small snack packs are perfect because I'm then forced to stop after a certain point.

Want to try some Tropi Treats and see how great they are? The folks at Tropi Treats have generously agreed to send two lucky winners some free goodies! One winner will receive a 5 pack of the 4 oz bags, and the other winner will receive a 5 pack of the Snack Pack bags (each has six 0.5 oz snack packs).  To enter to win, please leave a comment below, answering the following question: What ingredient(s) do you try to avoid when purchasing food?

You may receive up to two additional entries by selecting from the following entry methods:

a) Tweet about this giveaway and leave the URL to that tweet in a comment on this post

b) Blog about this giveaway (on your main blog, not a blog created solely for the purpose of giveaways!) and leave the URL to that post in a comment on this post

c) Become a fan of the Good Eats 'n Sweet Treats Facebook page and leave your first name and the first letter of your last name (for verification purposes) in a comment on this post

No duplicate comments - please note that comment moderation is enabled and it may take some time before your comment appears below.  This giveaway is open to US and Canadian residents age 18 or older.

Winners will be selected via random draw, and will be notified by e-mail.  You will have 72 hours to get back to me, otherwise a new winner will be selected.

Giveaway ends at midnight CDT on June 24th. Good luck!

* Note - I was given free samples of this product to try, but this is not a paid/sponsored review.