Monday, February 27, 2012

Birthday Cake (or pie!)

So the 20th was my dad's birthday, and the day before, he and his wife came up to visit and spend some time. We threw him a Triplitt style birthday party, complete with homemade hats and birthday bunting. Ever since I was a little girl, my dad's birthday means Boston Cream Pie. Of course, growing up, we always picked one up from the supermarket.  This time, I made one from scratch.

Boston Cream Pie (adapted from here)

1 1/4 cups sifted cake flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
4 room temperature eggs
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup whole milk
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups whole milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs, plus 4 yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
pinch of salt
4 ounces finely chopped semi sweet chocolate
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla
pinch of salt

First, preheat the oven to 350. Butter a 9 inch cake pan and cut a piece of parchment to line just the bottom. To do this easily, you can fold a piece of parchment into a square, then fold the square in half at a point to form a triangle. fold it one more time to form a smaller triangle then set the point of the paper in the middle of the cake pan and cut the edge, following the curve of the pan.  Open it up and it's a circle that fits. Or, you can always just trace the bottom of the pan and cut just inside the line. That works too.
Sift the flour, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. Beat the eggs and sugar in a separate clean dry glass bowl on high speed until pale and tripled in volume, about fifteen minutes.  Fold in the flour mixture gently until well combined.  Mix in the milk, oil, and vanilla and beat til combined.  Pour the thin batter into the cake pan and bake until a toothpick in the center comes out clean.  The original recipe called for 25-30 minutes, but I baked mine for 35 and it was perfect. At 25 minutes it was still liquid in the center. Let cool ten minutes in the pan, then invert onto a rack until cooled completely.
While it cools make the pudding.  Heat the milk and vanilla in a medium saucepan over medium heat but don't boil it. Whisk the eggs, yolk, and sugar in a large bowl til light and fluffy, about 6 minutes.  Add cornstarch and salt and whisk vigorously and make sure there are no remaining lumps. Very slowly whisk in the hot milk mixture. Don't pour it in all at once or you'll cook the eggs... you want it to temper.Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and cook over low heat until pudding like consistency forms, about ten minutes. Press through a fine mesh sieve . Let cool slightly, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for two hours.
Use a cake leveler to clean up the top of the cake and divide the cake into two equal layers. Spread the pudding onto the bottom layer and evenly press the top layer on, just until the pudding starts to come out the edges. Use a cake spatula to even off the excess pudding from the sides. 
Make the ganache by heating the heavy cream in a saucepan until a simmer forms around the edges, swirling the cream slowly to prevent a skin from forming. Pour the cream over the chocolate in a medium glass bowl, and use a rubber spatula to stir until all the chocolate is melted. Stir in the vanilla and salt and pour over the cake, allowing the ganache to run down the sides of the cake.  As a side note, I doubled the ganache recipe because I love chocolate. Refrigerate the cake at least 30 minutes before serving, and keep refrigerated any leftovers.

Enjoy! Happy birthday, Dad!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Brownie Sandwiches and Love

Happy Valentine's Day, everyone!  Today was yet another school party that I made treats for, and these might be my favorite.  They were chewy and delicious, and fun to make!

I'm not including a brownie recipe with this one, or a buttercream recipe, but I will include directions on making them with boxed brownies.  Some things just have to stay secret, ya know.

Assuming you have already followed the directions on the back of the brownie mix box, twice (because you need two boxes) and now have a large bowl of batter, we'll skip straight to the prep stages.  To bake these, spray 2 13x9 inch pans with cooking spray and divide the batter between the two. Bake 20 - 25 minutes at 350 or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.  While that's cooling either make a buttercream or open a can of buttercream and beat in a few drops of cherry flavoring and red food coloring, plus enough powdered sugar to stiffen it back up again.

I used $3 plastic cookie cutters from a superstore heart set to cut the hearts, 12 total.  Do this while the brownies are just slightly warm still, and then use a butterknife to carefully slice them in half sandwich style.  Use a very small heart cutter to cut the center out of half of the hearts, then pipe the buttercream onto the rest of the hearts. Place the brownies with the cutouts on top and press gently. I left them out on the countertop for about 4 hours to set.  They were a huge hit, and if you use shortcuts instead of doing it all from scratch (not that I'm condoning boxed mix) it makes a great quick and impressive party snack.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Strawberry Cream Cheese Pie

I've been doing a little experimenting with different kitchen ideas the past few weeks, one of which required a little bit of cheesecake filling.  However, I needed it to be no-bake, and I only needed half a cup of it.
I whipped up this creamy no bake cheesecake filling with so much left over it would have been a shame to waste.  So I decided to spread it into a graham cracker crust pressed into a pie plate, throw some sliced strawberries on top, drizzle it with white chocolate, and voila... cream cheese pie. 
This filling is so light and airy it would be a lie to call this no bake cheesecake.  The filling came out more like a whipped cream, with cream cheese folded in, so I feel like it wouldn't be honest to portray it as a cheesecake.  It is, however, one of the lightest and most delicious desserts I've ever made, and so easy it should be illegal.
I know it's a little summery for February, but what the heck... it sounded good.


1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
6 Tbsp melted butter

Mix well until crumbly and press into the bottom of a pie plate.


1 8 oz package room temp cream cheese
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup granulated sugar
6 strawberries, sliced 
1 oz melted white chocolate

In the bowl of a stand mixer or using an electric mixer, mix the cream cheese til smooth.  Add in the sugar and beat 2-3 minutes, until fluffy, then stir in the vanilla. In a clean glass bowl, beat the whipping cream on high speed until stiff peaks form.  Gently fold or mix the whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture until well combined then press into the graham cracker crust.  Layer the strawberries across the top of the pie and drizzle with melted white chocolate.  Refrigerate 2 hours or overnight before serving.

This seriously took no time to toss together, especially because I really liked the look when I left the edges of the crust somewhat unfinished looking, and I loved that during the summer I can make this without heating up the kitchen. It's an easy dessert sure to impress any guests, and a great make-ahead for a party. Also try pressing the crust and layering the filling and toppings into lined muffin tins for personal pies, or changing up the toppings, like maybe grated chocolate or fresh raspberries and white chocolate.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Homemade Pizzas!

Last week, we had a craft night that ended up not being so crafty.  Instead, we sat around and ran our mouths for a good two hours while we made homemade pizza, then my guests went home.  It turned out to be just the kind of evening I needed.... relaxed, lighthearted, and an all around good time.  Also, it was a reminder that when people come over you don't have to be productive to have fun.  Sometimes I forget that...

Anyway, I highly recommend making your own pizza, especially if you have kids.  What could possibly be more fun than dipping your hands in flour, tossing dough around, topping it any way you want, and then (in our case) watching it cook on your countertop? My dad gave me this amazing Pizazz countertop pizza oven a couple years ago and I get a total kick out of it.  Get one.  They're cheap. And once you taste this crust you'll never order a pizza again.

The Dough  (I doubled this recipe to accommodate the number of guests I had and it was perfect.)

1 package active dry yeast
1 cup warm water
2 cups bread flour
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 tsp white sugar
1 tsp salt

Dissolve the yeast in the warm water and let sit til good and foamy.  I set a timer for ten minutes and it was just right.  Mix the flour, sugar, and salt in a bowl and add in the yeast mixture and oil until a strong dough forms.  Cover and let rise to double, about half an hour.  Turn out onto floured surface and either shape into a round crust or, as I did, divide into separate, smaller dough balls and let each person round out their own. We used a countertop pizza oven and made 10" round pizzas with different topping choices (olives, canadian bacon, pepperoni, diced onion, chopped bell pepper, mozzarella, pizza sauce) and cooked them for around 9 - 11 minutes.  They were amazing!  If you do one large pizza I'd recommend probably 20 minutes at 450, or until golden. 

We had so much fun!  Every time I bring out the pizza oven I get all giddy with excitement.  This dough is so flexible, and is also delicious brushed with garlic butter and baked, then sliced into breadsticks.  So many options!  And check out Christian's artistic abilities.  I love it...

Monday, February 6, 2012

Tex-Mex Queso

I love white queso.  I have been on a quest for a good white queso recipe for quite a while now.  If you're thinking this is going to lead into a fantastic tale about how I've finally discovered how to make a good homemade white queso that really hits the spot, you're wrong.  I'm still searching.  However, on my quest I happened upon a really tasty yellow queso that's easy to make and great for say, Super Bowl Sunday... which is when I made it. 
What happened is this... I bought the wrong cheese for the white queso I was going to try, and ended up dumping a saucepan of cheese dip down the drain in a dramatic, frustrating show of womanism.  I still wanted queso so I started searching for a recipe I could live with for the day. Not only was this a pretty good recipe from the Homesick Texan, it's definitely one I'll make again, although it still doesn't have that creamy goodness that white queso has.  The search continues. In the meantime, give this a try.  Especially if you love yellow cheddar.

1/2 onion diced (about 1/2 cup)
4 cloves of garlic minced
3 Serrano peppers diced
3 jalapeno peppers diced
2 tablespoons of butter
2 tablespoons of flour
1 cup of milk
6 cups of shredded cheese, can use any combination of Longhorn cheddar and Monterrey Jack
1/2 cup of cilantro, chopped
1diced tomato
1/2 cup of sour cream
Salt to taste
(I just want to throw it out there that I did not have Serrano peppers, so I improvised for a different flavor with 1/4 cup diced green bell peppers and 1 can drained green chiles. I also felt that the amount of cheese was a bit much... ok, a LOT much.  I only used 3 cups. Worked out okay. Pretty tasty.)

In a saucepan, melt the butter and saute the onions and peppers about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook another minute or so.  Whisk in the flour, then the milk, and cook to a simmer.  Let cook about 5 minutes until it thickens slightly.  Stir in the cheese until melted, then fold in the tomatoes, cilantro, and sour cream.  I ended up adding about 1 tsp of chili powder and 1/4 tsp or so of salt as well.  Like I said, it's definitely a unique flavor but one my family really enjoyed.  Have fun with it!  Try different peppers or cheese combinations, and add or subtract a little sour cream or tomatoes to suit your taste.