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the urban baker

the urban baker: September 2010

the urban baker

The Urban Baker is deliciously photographed blog about nourishing your family's soul through life in the kitchen. The recipes for fabulous savories and sweets are easily replicated and will inspire you.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Coffee, Coffee, and More Coffee

Yesterday was National Coffee Day.  I am not a huge coffee drinker.  If I do drink it, I get something like an iced latte.  Feels more like a milkshake rather than a coffee drink.  Kind of like a snack rather than a vice or a morning habit.

So, I decided to turn my coffee creation into a sweet.  No duh ( as Levi has been known to say).  These bars pack a huge jolt.  With that said, I decided to cut them into small portions.  Eat them sparingly!

Coffee Crunch Bars
adapted from here
yield: 48 pieces

2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup plus 2 Tbls. unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cups dark brown sugar
2 Tbls. instant espresso powder
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup sliced almonds

• preheat oven to 325*.  set aside a 9 x 13" baking pan
• whisk flour, baking powder, and salt.  set aside.
• in the bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar until blended.
• add espresso powder and vanilla.
• add flour, in 3 additions, mixing until well combined
• stir in chocolate and almonds
• turn dough into baking pan.  spread evenly with an off set spatula.  pierce with a fork
• bake until edges are lightly browned and beginning to crisp, 45-50.  cool on a rack and after one minute,
• can store in an airtight container for 5 days.

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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Not Your Average Sloppy Joe!

It's the end of September and summer has finally arrived in sunny, southern Cal.  Record heat and with record heat, for some of us, comes a loss of electricity and power.  I was one of the not so lucky ones that had partial power yesterday.  It was over 100 degrees and although I lost power in the kitchen, I didn't loose the air conditioner!  Thank goodness for that!  However, my fridge was not so lucky.  I didn't loose much.  I realized the power was out, before my frozen peas and ice cream turned to mush. Eli helped me take much of our perishables to our second fridge/freezer in the garage and eight hours later, the power was back on!

With the day being what it was, I needed something quick, easy and nutritious for dinner. My kids have never really been a fan of Sloppy Joes.  I have tried several homemade recipes and until this one, they couldn't stand it.  So, when they lifted up the lid on the sauce pot and asked what was for dinner, I renamed it.  Instead of them scrunching up their noses and walking away, they asked how soon they could eat (it was 4:45).  I happily said, "now"!

I lightly buttered the buns, wrapped them in foil and stuck them in the oven for a few minutes.  Then unwrapped them and put them under the broiler for just a few seconds.  Roasted some "yam fries" on high heat, cut up some Persian cucumbers, tomatoes, organic sweet onions - sprinkled it with feta and balsamic vinaigrette and voila, dinner in minutes.  Isaac added pickles to his sandwich (of course) and Eli  added Jalapenos.  They each ate two.  This is going to be one of those staple weeknight meals.

Sloppy Joes
adapted from an Gourmet Quick Kitchen

1 15 oz can whole tomatoes in juice, drained
1 large onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
2 Tbls. unsalted butter
1 medium carrot, chopped
1 celery rib, chopped
1 1/2 lb. organic, ground chuck
1 Tbls. chili powder
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 cup dry red wine
2 Tbls. Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 Tbls. packed brown sugar
4 potato rolls

• heat saucepan over medium heat.  add the butter.
• in the bowl of the food processor* fitted with the metal blade(or chop by hand), pulse the onion and the garlic until finely chopped. add to the melted butter.  saute until very soft, about 5-10 minutes.
• rough chop both the carrot and celery and add to the work bowl of the food processor.  process until finely diced. add to sauteed onions with 1/2 teaspoon of salt.  cook until veggies are soft.
• add drained tomatoes to the food process and puree. set aside.
• once veggies are soft add the meat to the pan and brown, stirring to break up the lumps.  cook until the meat is no longer pink.
• add the chili powder, cumin, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and 3/4 teaspoon of pepper and cook stirring 2 minutes.
• add the pureed tomatoes, wine, Worcestershire sauce, and brown sugar and boil, stirring occasionally, until sauce has thickened, about 6 minutes.
• season, if needed, to taste and place on buns and eat!

* I use the food processor to chop my veggies because my kids do not like chunks of veggies in their food, unless it is a big bowl of soup!

Yam Fries

3 large sweet potatoes
2 Tbls. good olive oil
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. ground pepper
3/4 tsp. ground chili powder
1/2 tsp. dried thyme

• preheat oven to 500*.
• wash, peel and cut sweet potatoes into long match sticks.
• spray a sheet pan with cooking spray.
• mix potatoes with the rest of ingredients and massage spices and oil into the potatoes.
• spread, evenly, in one layer, on the prepared sheet pan and put in the middle of the preheated oven.
• bake for 30 minutes.  rotate pan half way through and turn fries a couple of times during cooking.
• sprinkle with a little sea salt and serve.

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Monday, September 27, 2010

A Big Birthday Cake

I don't really make a lot of cakes.  I make loafs, I make coffee cakes, I make bundt cakes, and lots of other cakes.  However, I don't make a lot of layer cakes.  I was requested to make a layer cake for a friend of a friends birthday.  If you know me, you know I have hard time saying NO.  So, I made a birthday cake.

I happen to love Rose's Heavenly Cakes cookbook and adore her recipes.  I really wanted to make one of her cakes but for some reason or another I stumbled upon Dorie's Black and White Chocolate Cake.  Glad I did.

The recipient of the cake came up to me after his first bite and said that this was his favorite kind of birthday cake and how did I know.  I wanted to tell him I was psychic and that I know all things flour, sugar, and butter.  But it was his 85th!  I didn't want him to go into shock.  Instead, I just nodded and wished him a very, very happy birthday!!

Black and White Chocolate Cake
adapted from here
yield 18 servings

for the cake
2 cups cake flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. slat
1 1/4 Tbls. unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup buttermilk
for the dark chocolate butter cream
2 cups whole milk
4 large egg yolks
6 Tbls sugar
3 Tbls. cornstarch, sifted
1/4 tsp. salt
7 oz. bittersweet chocolate, melted
2 1/2 Tbls. unsalted butter, cut into 5 pieces, room temp.
white chocolate whipped cream
6 oz. white chocolate, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups heavy cream

1/2 crushed chocolate covered cocoa nibs

• preheat the oven to 350*.  butter 2 9" x 2" round cake pans, dust them with flour and line the bottom of the pans with parchment.  set aside
for the cake
• sift the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt
• in a standing mixer, beat the butter on medium speed until soft and creamy.  add the sugar.  add the eggs, one at a time, and then the yolk, beating for 1 minute after each addition.  beat in the vanilla, the mixture will look curdled. reduce the mixer to low speed and add the dry ingredients alternately with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the flour.  scrape down the side of the bowl and mix one more time.
• divide the batter between the two pans and smooth the tops with a spatula.
• bake for 28-30 minutes, rotating the pans at the midway point.
• when done, transfer to a wire rack to cool to room temperature.
for the chocolate cream
• bring milk to a boil
• in a heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk the egg yolks with the sugar, cornstarch and the salt until thick and well blended.
• whisking, drizzle in about 1/4 cup of the hot milk- this will temper, or warm the yolks so they don't curdle. still whisking, add the remaining  milk in a steady stream.  put the pan over medium heat and whisking vigorously, constantly and thoroughly, bring the mixture to a boil.  keep whisking for 1-2 minutes.  remove from the heat.
• whisk in the melted chocolate, and let stand for 5 minutes.  whisk in the pieces of butter, until fully incorporated and smooth.  press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface of the cream.  refrigerate  until chilled.  can be made 3 days in advance.
white chocolate whipped cream
• put the white chocolate in a glass bowl set over a pan of simmering water. meanwhile bring 1/3 cup of the heavy cream to a boil.  when melted, remove bowl from the pan. pour the heavy cream over the melted chocolate.  mix until smooth.  let it sit on the counter until it reaches room temperature.
• working with a standing mixer, whisk the remaining 1 cup of cream, until it reaches the softest peaks.
• turn the machine to high and add the cooled white chocolate and beat it until it reaches firm peaks.  put a piece of plastic wrap over it and put in the fridge for 2 - 6 hours.
• using a long serrated knife and a gentle sawing motion to even them.  slice each layer horizontally in half.  place one layer cut side down on a cardboard cake round.
• remove the dark and white chocolate creams from the fridge and whisk each of them vigorously to loosen and smooth them.  on one layer, spread some chocolate (about 1 cup) over the cake layer.  put a cake layer on top of that.  cover second layer with white chocolate whipped cream.  repeat  with the remaining layers.
• frost the exterior of the cake with the white chocolate whipped cream
• decorate the top with the crushed chocolate covered cocoa nibs
• chill for at least 3 hours or overnight.

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Friday, September 24, 2010

Ice Cream Cake + A Memory

Growing up, summer time meant spending time on Balboa Island.  Some summers, we would rent a house.  Sometimes with another family, yet most summer's we just rented our own home. We participated in many daily activities; fishing in the bay, riding around the island in a small motor boat, and riding our bikes until the moon was our only light source.  The most important daily activity was eating a "bal bar".  A bal bar is basically a brick of ice cream with a stick in it.  Then it is dipped in the most amazing chocolate sauce and covered in either nuts or jimmies.  I always went for the nuts (see original ice cream here).

This dessert reminds me of my childhood. For me, it's all about the nuts. The original bal bar didn't have cake in it.  However,  topping this dessert off with roasted, salted peanuts brought back some darn good memories!

Brown Butter Pound Cake
yield 1 - 8 1/2 x 4 1/2" loaf
adapted from here

2 1/4(9 oz.) sticks unsalted butter
2 cups sifted cake flour (before measuring)
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
4 large eggs
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

• preheat oven to 325*.  butter and flour an 8 1/2 x 4 1/2" loaf pan
• heat butter in a 10" skillet over medium heat until milk solids on bottom are dark chocolate brown (don't walk away, it burns super fast).  transfer to a shallow bowl and chill in freezer until congealed, 15 minutes.
• whisk flour, baking powder, and salt.
• in a mixer, beat sugars and brown butter until fluffy (the smell at this point is intoxicating).  add eggs, one at a time.  add vanilla.
• mix in flour mixture until just incorporated.
• transfer to prepared pan. bake until golden brown and a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean, 60 to 75 minutes.  cool in pan for 1 hour, then invert onto cake rack to cool completely.
• once cooled, stick in the fridge for an hour(this makes it easier to cut).
• this pound cake can stand on it's own.  it is delicious!

Vanilla Bean Ice Cream w/Cookie Dough
adapted from David Lebovitz
yield 4 cups ( you will need three cups for this recipe)

1 cup whole milk
3/4 cup sugar
2 cups heavy cream
pinch of salt
1 vanilla bean, split in half, lengthwise
6 large egg whites
3/4 tsp. vanilla

• warm the milk, sugar, 1 cup of cream, and salt in a medium saucepan.
• scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the warm milk and add the bean as well.
• cover, remove from heat, and let steep at room temperature for 30 minutes.
• pour the remaining 1 cup into a large bowl and set a mesh strainer on top.
• in a separate medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks. slowly pour the warm mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly, then scrape the warmed egg yolks back into the saucepan.
• stir the mixture, constantly, over medium heat with a heatproof spatula, scraping the bottom as you stir until the mixture thickens and coats the back of the spatula.
• pour the custard through the strainer and stir it into the cream.
• put the vanilla bean into the custard, add the vanilla extract and stir until cool, over an ice bath.
• chill the mixture in the fridge for about 3 hours.
• when ready to churn, remove the vanilla bean, rinsing and reserving (I make vanilla sugar with it).  freeze the mixture in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.
• before transferring to a plastic container, mix in your favorite cookie dough(it is best if your cookie dough chunks have been previously frozen).
• freeze in an air tight container.


1/2 cup whipping cream
1/4 cup light corn syrup
6 oz. bittersweet chocolate chopped

• bring the cream + corn syrup to a boil in a heavy saucepan.  remove from heat.
• pour cream mixture over chocolate and whisk until melted and smooth. let stand about an hour,
but still pourable.

• cut the cake in half, lengthwise.  Then cut it again.  You will end up with 4 parts, all about 1" thick.
• freeze the four pieces on a sheet pan for about an hour.
• 15 minutes before taking the cakes out of the freezer, let ice cream rest on your kitchen counter.  you want your ice cream spreadable.
• line a 9" x 9" square baking pan with plastic wrap.  make sure there is enough overhang to wrap the cake tightly.
• take two of your cake pieces and lay them on the bottom of prepared pan.
• spread a little of  your glaze on the surface of the cake. freeze for 15 minutes
• spread your ice cream ( 3 cups) over the cake.  smooth with an off set spatula.
• lay the other two pieces of cake directly over the ice cream layer.  press gently to get the cake to stick to the ice cream.
• wrap the cake with the plastic wrap(the overhang of your pan). wrap a 2nd layer of plastic wrap around the entire pan.
• freeze over night.
• remove the cake from the pan.  discard the plastic wrap.  cut off the uneven ends(my kids made good use of the rejected ends), creating a 7 1/2" x 7 1/2" square. cut into desired size squares(I did 1 3/4" squares).
• put the squares on a wire rack set over a sheet pan.  quickly, spoon your glaze over the cake squares. sprinkle each mini cake with nuts, jimmies, m+m's, what ever strikes your fancy.  Set in the freezer until ready to eat!

There are so many variations one could do with this idea.  Although it was a laborious task, I would certainly do it again.  However, may wait until next Spring.  At the moment, I am kind of relishing all the seasonal fruits I am finding at the local farmer's market!  Be on the look out for lots of tarts, stewed fruits and galettes!

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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Dulce de Leche Buttercream + a cupcake

The past two weeks have been  very, very busy.  Between Miguel's birthday, beginning of school, the Jewish New Year and catering a party for a bunch of "ladies", I am happy to finally be on the other side!

At the last minute, the hostess of the party(that I was catering) called to say they needed some sort of "cupcake" so they could honor the birthday girl.  My original plan for desserts were the bite sized ricotta cheesecakes (here), apple galettes (here), and lemon tartlettes (recipes to follow).  Four desserts was a little over the top.  I opted to swap out the galettes and replace them with these little chocolate cupcakes.  Everyone was glad I did!

I made a batch of my favorite devil's food chocolate cupcake recipe (here).  Topped them with the most delicious dulce de leche frosting and finished them off with crushed, chocolate covered cocoa nibs.  This was one fantastic creation!

Dulce de Leche Buttercream w/devils food cupcakes
yield:  36 cupcakes 2 oz. cupcakes

1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 Tbls. heavy cream
1 tsp. vanilla
4-5 cups powdered sugar, sifted
pinch of salt
3/4 cups prepared Dulce de leche
1/2 cup crushed chocolate covered cocoa nibs

• in the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter.
• gradually add the sifted powdered sugar
• add the cream and the vanilla and beat on medium speed until smooth.
• add the Dulce de leche and combine on low speed
• depending upon how you like your frosting, you may want to add more sugar
• scoop frosting into a piping bag fitted with desired tip
• top with crushed cocoa nibs

note: I used 2 oz. souffle cups, filled them 2/3's full and baked them at 350* for 18-22 minutes

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Monday, September 20, 2010

Chocolate Chip Cinnamon Roll

The kids survived the first week of school ( quite happily, I may add) and now we are on to week 2.  Thus far, I have done a pretty good job of making lunches the night before (sans the sandwich or hot food) and my goal for breakfast is to have goodies on hand, in the freezer, ready to bake off before the kids wake up.

I don't always give them something sweet in the a.m.  Once a week Eli requests "eggy sopita" lovingly coined by our nanny when Eli was oh so young.  Eggy sopita is an egg, dropped in boiling water for 4 minutes.  I then take the egg out of the water and crack open it's shell and scoop out the soft, gooey center into a heated ramekin with a tad of melted butter.  The ramekin is then put over the flame for a few minutes to finish cooking.  Add S + P, serve with "toast slices", along with some berries and this is one of those perfectly balanced meals
( when I was growing up, we didn't have a name for it, but the name "eggy sopita" is here to stay).  Isaac likes a BLD - turkey bacon, lettuce, Dijon on toasted sour dough.  And Levi likes a "push down"; a toasted whole wheat English muffin, once out of the toaster, we put a slice of cheese between the two halves and "push it down".  Other than these favorites, it is usually normal stuff like, bagels, fruit, fruit smoothies with protein powder + yogurt and sometimes, a bowl of cereal.

Today, the kids had fruit smoothies and these wonderfully easy chocolate chip cinnamon rolls.  No yeast, therefore no rising.  The wet ingredients included cottage cheese.  Cottage cheese you say!  I said the same thing and this ingredient almost deterred me from making them.  Glad I didn't follow my instincts.  These are light and delicious!

Chocolate Chip Cinnamon Roll
adapted from here
yield: 12 buns

cinnamon rolls
3/4 cups cottage cheese
1/3 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup sugar
4 Tbls. butter, melted
1 tsp. vanilla
9 oz. all-purpose flour
1 Tbls. baking powder

1 1/2 tsp. unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 cup mini bittersweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup toasted pecan, chopped

1 1/4 cup powdered sugar
2 tsp. milk
drop of vanilla

• preheat oven to 350*.  spray a 12 capacity muffin tin.  set aside.
cinnamon rolls
• combine all wet ingredients in the bowl of a food processor.  pulse until smooth, about 10 seconds.  add the dry ingredients and pulse in short bursts until the dough clumps together.
• lightly flour your work surface ( I use a marble slab) and knead dough with the heal of your hand, 4-5 times.
• with a rolling pin, roll the dough into a 12 x 15" rectangle.
• brush the dough with the melted butter, leaving a 1/2 inch border around the edges.
• in a small bowl, combine the rest of the ingredients
• sprinkle the mixture over the buttered area. push the mixture into the dough(I use a piece of wax paper and lay on top of the mixture and press gently to get the goods into the dough).
• starting at the long edge, roll up the dough jelly roll style.  pinch the seams and leave the ends open
• cut 12 equal parts and set each piece in the individual muffin tins.
• bake 22 - 25 minutes or until bubbly and golden brown.
• let cool 5 minutes and remove from the muffin tin.  cool, slightly on wire racks.
• mix ingredients for the glaze and drizzle on top.
• mmm mmm good!

note:  if you want to make these in advance, freeze them in the muffin tins, uncooked.  once frozen, remove from muffing tin and place in a freezer bag and seal tightly.  these will last for a month in the freezer.  when ready to bake, remove from the freezer and let rest in your muffin tin while your oven is preheating.  add 5 minutes or so to the baking time!

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Friday, September 17, 2010

Zucchini Ricotta Tart

I made this tart last week and I seriously can't stop thinking about it.  I have a little ricotta in the fridge as well as some zucchini's and I may just have to whip one up today to accompany tonight's dinner.  I found this recipe on Heidi Swanson's blog; 101 Cookbooks.  I did not file this recipe in my ever growing folder of "things to make", instead it lived on my kitchen counter to remind me that this was something I wanted to eat, immediately.

I made the crust in advance and then just assembled the tart a few hours before baking and serving.  Generally, I am a huge fan of everything Heidi.  However, this crust just did not work for me (or my guests).  I was perfectly content eating a crust less tart, however next time I am going to opt for a cornmeal crust.  I think a cornmeal crust will be the perfect compliment to this rich, yet light, savory, and delicious tart.  I may even make minis (5") and freeze them.  Pair this with a wonderful field greens salad and one has the perfect lunch!

Lasagna Tart
adapted from here
yield: 8-12 servings

Tomato Sauce
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbls. olive oil
dash of red pepper flakes
pinch of kosher salt
1 14oz. can crushed tomatoes

1 1/2 cups ricotta
1 Tbls. heavy cream
2 medium zucchini, sliced very thin ( I used a mandoline)
sea salt

• make crust of your choice.  I am going to try this one, next time (here) and add a little Parmesan cheese to it.
• preheat oven to 375*
• slice the zucchini's very thin and set in a colander.  sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of salt and set colander over a bowl.  let them sweat while you make the tomato sauce.
• set a small saucepan on the stove.  add the garlic, olive oil, red pepper flakes and the salt and turn the heat on to medium-high.  cook until the garlic starts to sizzle.  stir in the crushed tomatoes, bring to a simmer and turn down heat.  let simmer for 15-20 minutes.  remove (this can be done a day ahead).
• combine the ricotta, heavy cream, salt and pepper in a small bowl.
• pat the zucchini dry.
• to assemble the tart; spread half of the ricotta mixture on to the tart shell. spoon half the sauce over that and then arrange the zucchini circles over the first layer of sauce.  repeat this layer one more time, using up all your ingredients. sprinkle, generously with fresh, grated Parmesan.
• place the tart on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for about 40 minutes or until the tart is cooked through.  remove from the oven and let cool for about 1o minutes before serving.

• we ate it at room temperature and it was simply scrumptious!

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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Lemon Bars in the Round

I have been testing various lemon desserts.  When I found this one on Tastespotting, I was immediately attracted to it.  Why you ask?  Because this particular lemon "bar" does not require making a curd.  No curd, you say.  I am IN!.  With that said, this recipe took 20 minutes to assemble.  And 20 minutes is the perfect amount of time when uninvited guest show up at your door, on a weeknight!  This is being added to my repertoire and I am insisting that it is added to yours as well!

Classic Lemon Bars
adapted from here
yield: 12 slices

1 cup plus 2 Tbls. flour
1/4 cup plus 1 Tbls. icing sugar
8 Tbls. cold, unsalted butter, cubed
2 large eggs
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. grated lemon zest
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 tsp. baking powder
pinch of sea salt

• preheat oven to 350*
• in a small bowl combine 1 cup flour and 1/4 cup icing sugar.  cut in the butter until it resembles coarse meal ( i used my food processor).  press evenly into the bottom of an un-greased 8" round pan. poke holes with a fork.
• bake about 15 minutes, until light golden. remove from oven and set aside
• in the work bowl of an electric mixer,beat the eggs until frothy.  add the sugar.  add the lemon zest and the lemon juice, beat at high speed for 10 minutes.  the mixture should be smooth and thick.
• mix the flour and the baking
• in a bowl, combine the baking powder, salt and 2 Tbls. of flour and gradually add in the egg mixture.
• pour into the baked crust and bake for about 20-25 minutes until set and lightly browned.  cool on a wire rack. when cool, sift with powdered sugar, cut into wedges and eat!

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Monday, September 13, 2010

Peanut, Butter, and Jelly LInzertorte

School has not even started yet and the requests and the obligations are already starting.  I am not complaining.  I love to do and give.  I am the first to respond to the emails offering my services.  However, I am wondering where the time goes.  Didn't the kids just get out of school?  Didn't we just begin 12 weeks of lazy days, biking at the beach, basketball in the back yard and staying up late playing Apples to Apples and Bananagrams?  Oh, how I am going to miss these long, lazy days of summer.

It is now time to return to packing lunches, the morning rush, the dreaded homework, racing to all the after school, extracurricular activities and driving, driving and more driving.  

This past week was jam packed.  I think I spent almost everyday in the kitchen.  Between Labor Day BBQ's, hosting a Jewish New Year dinner for 25, catering a dinner party for 12 and prepping for back to school lunches, my "to do" list was miles long.  I somehow managed to survive. 

This torte was the last thing on my very long list.  Our school has a tradition of welcoming the teachers and the staff back to school with an appreciation lunch.  Nothing says "back to school" like Peanut, butter, and jelly" and this torte was may way of saying, I appreciate all that you do for our community and my children.

Peanut, Butter, and Jelly Linzertorte
adapted from Ready for Dessert
yield: 1 9" tart

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups roasted, unsalted peanuts
3/4 cups sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 cup ( 6 oz.) unsalted butter, cubed + chilled
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 1/4 cups jelly ( I used wild blueberry)

• preheat oven to 350*.  butter the bottom of a 9" springform pan.
• in the bowl of a food processor, process the peanuts until chopped and ground.  add the
flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt.  pulse until well incorporated. 
• add the butter and pulse until it resembles coarse meal.
• add the egg and the egg yolk and process until the dough comes together.
• transfer two thirds of it to the prepared pan.  press the dough evenly into the bottom and about 
1 1/2 inches up the sides of the pan.  the dough is sticky.  use wet hands to help in this process.
• spread the jelly, evenly over crust.
• lightly flour a work surface.  pinch off pieces of the remaining dough and roll them into long ropes.
arrange the ropes on top of the jelly, spacing them an inch apart from one another, until you have gone
across one end of the dough.  arrange a second set of ropes on the tart, positioning them diagonally across
the first ones, to create a lattice top.  don't worry about this looking "pretty".
• bake until deep golden brown, about 40-45 minutes.  let cool completely.
• run a knife around the edges to help loosen it.

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Friday, September 10, 2010

Coconut Cream Cupcakes

Another birthday for Miguel.  It feels like yesterday when I met him.  Actually, it wasn't yesterday,  it was 32 years ago.  Thirty two coconut or carrot cakes later, he still requests one or the other each year.  This year he didn't give any hints.  So, I made an executive decision and I went with the coconut.

Made a new cake recipe and my old standby frosting.  Thumbs up all the way around.  May have to stick with Rose's coconut cake recipe as the critics highly approved!!

Heavenly Coconut Cake
adapted from Rose's Heavenly Cakes
yield:   cupcakes

3 large egg whites at room temperature
2/3 cup (5.3 oz.) canned cream of coconut
3/4 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 tsp. coconut extract
1/2 cup minus 1 Tbls. superfine sugar
1/2 cup desiccated unsweetened coconut
2 cups cake flour, sifted
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
8 Tbls. unsalted butter
1/2 cup toasted, sweetened coconut flakes

8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
4 Tbls. unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 vanilla bean, seeds only
3-4 cups powdered sugar, sifted

• line cupcake trays with liners.   preheat oven to 350*.
• toast the coconut on a parchment lined baking sheet for 8-10 minutes.  set aside.
• in a medium bowl, whisk the egg whites, 3 tablespoons of the cream of coconut, the vanilla, and the coconut extract just until combined.
• in the bowl of a food processor, process the sugar and the coconut until the coconut is powder.
• in the bowl of a standing mixer, fitted with the paddle, mix the coconut mixture, flour, baking powder, and salt on low speed, about 30 minutes.  add the butter and the remaining cream of coconut.  mix on low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened.  raise the speed to medium and beat about 2 minutes.
• gradually add the egg white mixture in two parts, beating for 30 seconds after each addition to incorporate the ingredients.  scrape the batter down on the sides of the bowl.
• fill each cupcake liner about two thirds full.
• bake for 15-22 minutes.  insert a toothpick in the center of one of the cupcakes.  if it comes out clean, they are done.
• let cool completely before frosting.

• in the bowl of a standing mixer, beat butter and cream cheese until well incorporated. add the vanilla bean seeds, scraped from the pod.  add the powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time.  I like my frosting a little bit thicker.  Add your powdered sugar until you get the consistency that you desire.
• fill a pastry bag with the frosting and pipe cupcakes. sprinkle with toasted coconut.

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Thursday, September 9, 2010

Mini Apple Galettes and a Happy New Year!

"Apples dipped in honey for Rosh Hashanah!   This time of year I hear my kids singing this song around the house, unconsciously, and it always makes me smile.  The apples, and especially the honey, represent a "sweet new year". So, this time of year, I try and incorporate both apples and honey into almost everything I make.

This year, I am making a plethora of goodies, however these mini apple galettes are something I am really excited about.  I love making galettes almost anytime of year.  Who doesn't like pie?  And better yet, who doesn't like an "unconstructed" pie?  There is nothing easier than rolling out some dough, in a not so perfect way, and throwing on some of your favorite fruit, mixed with a little citrus zest, some sugar and voila...a quick, easy, and delicious dessert.

This is one perfect dough!  I am adding this to the frozen food section in my freezer!

Galette Dough
adapted from rustic fruit desserts
yield: 9 minis (5"round)

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbls. sugar
3/4 tsp. fine sea salt
3/4 cup ( 6 oz.) cold, unsalted butter
3 Tbls. ice water ( plus a little extra)
1 tsp. fresh squeezed lemon juice

3/4 cup vanilla sugar
1 Tbls. corn starch
1/2 tsp. sea salt
zest of 1/2 a lemon
1 1/2 lbs. prepped fruit

• put the flour, sugar, and salt in a bowl, stir to combine, then put in the freezer for at least 10 minutes.
• cut the butter into 1/2" pieces , then add it to the flour mixture and toss until each cube of butter is coated with the flour mixture.  cut the butter into the flour using a pastry blender, just until the ingredients become coarse and crumbly.
• stir the water and the lemon juice and drizzle over the dough.  the dough will hold together when squeezed together in your hand.  add more water if needed.
• dump the pastry onto a floured surface and pat into a disk.  wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 1 hour.
• roll out dough and cut into several 5" circles.  line rolled pastry on parchment lined baking sheets.  set, covered in plastic wrap, in the refrigerator until ready to use.

• in a bowl, mix vanilla sugar, cornstarch, zest, and salt.  sprinkle 1/4 tsp. over each piece of dough, leaving a 1" border around the edge.
• toss the apples in the remaining sugar mixture.  arrange a few slices of apple on each piece of dough.  drizzle a little of the apple juices over the fruit.
• fold the outer edges of the dough over the outermost apples, pleating the dough as necessary.

• preheat the oven to 400*.  put the galettes in the fridge for at least 20 minutes to chill and relax the dough.
• sprinkle galettes with turbinado sugar.
• bake in the lower third of the oven for 25-28 minutes. then turn the oven down to 350* and bake for an additional 15 minutes or until the crust is golden and the fruit is bubbling.  cool for 30 minutes before serving.  these will last 2 days, covered with a tea towel.

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Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Dad...Happy 90th!

Today, my dad would have been 90 years old.  I truly thought he would be here, celebrating along with us.  Sadly, that is not the case.

As I have mentioned in many of my past posts, my dad loved his sweets.  He would drive pretty much anywhere to get his favorite pecan bun, loaf of bread, tuna sandwich, or burger.  Martino's Bakery in Burbank, was no exception.  Their tea cakes were a staple at most holiday or family gatherings.  These tea cakes are simply a square cupcake.  The cake is a moist, buttery, mapley cake with the most perfect maple glaze.  I have already eaten one.  I may just have to eat one more, in honor of my dad.

Happy Birthday, Dad.  I miss you each and every day!

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Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Quinoa Falafels

In college, I discovered falafels.  I happen to be a lover of most things fried (unfortunately for me) and eating a falafel with tons of veggies and avocado makes devouring them a bit more acceptable. As I have mentioned in the past, I am a fan of Dave Lieberman and his book;  the 10 things you need to eat, makes me like him all that much more.

Dave taught me a thing or two about quinoa. Most recipes say a 2 to 1 ratio when making most grains.  Yet, with quinoa, this rule does not apply.  However, up until acquiring Dave's book, I was no good at making quinoa and basically, gave up.  His tip: use 1 1/4 cups water to 1 cup quinoa.  Genius!

I like to make a big batch of quinoa and keep it in the fridge.  Not only do I make these amazing falafel balls, but I also love to make quinoa cakes ( similar to a veggie patty) and the quinoa breakfast cereal (here).   The cooked quinoa can stay in the fridge, for about a week. The only down side to this recipe is that they have to be eaten within a short time of making them.  They get a little soggy and don't really keep their texture nor their taste. Too bad for Miguel.  He loves to take his lunch to work and this could be one of those perfect foods.

I like to serve them with fresh whole wheat pita, homemade hummus and a huge Israeli salad!  My kids have fallen in love with these.  And getting this kind of protein in them makes me very happy!

Quinoa + Chickpea Falafel
yield: 30 balls

1 cup chickpea flour
1/4 tsp. ground cumin
1 Tbls. olive oil
1 1/4 cup boiling water
1 cup cooked quinoa
2 garlic cloves
1 tsp. kosher salt
juice of 1/2 lemon
3/4 tsp. black pepper
canola oil for frying

• combine chickpea flour, cumin, olive oil, and boiling water in large bowl. mix well with a fork to form a paste.  let sit for about 10 minutes.  add the remaining ingredients except for the canola oil.
• heat the canola oil in a small dutch oven ( i use a small le creuset) on medium heat ( you don't want to burn the oil).  using a deep frying thermometer, heat to 350*
• using a small, 1-2 tablespoon size ice cream scooper, scoop batter to make free formed balls and dump, gently into the hot oil. put 5-6 in the pot at at time.  you don't want to overcrowd the pan and you also don't want to reduce the heat of the oil. cook for about 5 minutes, turning once, until golden brown.
• drain on a paper towel lined baking sheet.  repeat with the remaining batter.
• serve at once.
• serve with warm pita, hummus, Israeli salad, eggplant dip, or whatever suits your fancy!

I like to make hummus and keep it in the house.  It is so inexpensive to make and literally takes 5 minutes from start to finish.  And in my opinion, the only way to make an Israeli salad is to chop the veggies really, really fine.  Keeping this on hand keeps me far away from the sweets!

yield: 2 cups

1 15oz. can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed twice (reserve the liquid)
1 tsp. kosher salt
2 garlic cloves
1/4 cup tahini (sesame paste)
4 Tbls. freshly squeezed lemon juice
zest of 1/2 lemon
1-2 Tbls. reserved liquid
several dashes of Sriracha (Asian hot sauce)
chopped parsley

• put garlic in the bowl of a food processor and pulse a few times to chop.  add the rest of the ingredients and pulse until pureed.  taste for seasoning, add kosher salt and a little pepper to taste.  sprinkle with fresh, chopped parsley.  serve with toasted pita chips and cut up veggies.

Israeli Salad

• 3 Roma tomatoes
• 4 Persian cucumbers
• 1 red bell pepper
• 7 radishes
• 1/2 red onion
• 1 stalk of celery
• 2 Tbls. basil
• juice of one lemon
• dash or two of olive oil
• kosher salt, to taste

• chop all veggies super small.  add to the bowl.
• squeeze lemon over veggies.  add olive oil and toss.
• season with salt to taste
• add basil right before eating!

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Friday, September 3, 2010

Black Bottom Pecan Praline Bars

We had way too many commitments this past weekend.  Which always means lots of cooking and lots of transporting.  I wanted simple, easy and stuff that I could do in advance.  

I was doing my early morning blog reading, when I was inspired (yet again) from Patricia's post on these lovely bars.  I instantly made a batch before the kids woke up.  The praline mixture was the perfect balance of very, very sweet with salty.  I "accidentally" licked the spatula after I laid the praline mixture over the brownie base.  Oops!  It was a tiny morsel of perfection.  

Another plus to these perfect bars; no mixer required. Happiness all the way around!

Black bottom pecan praline bars
adapted from here
yield 16 pieces

brownie layer
2 oz. (56g)  unsweetened chocolate (I use valhrona)
4 Tbls. (56g) unsalted butter
1/2 cup + 1 Tbls. (112g) caster sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/8 tsp. salt
1 cold large egg
1/4 cup (35g) all purpose flour

praline layer:
1/4 cup (35g) all purpose flour
1/4 tsp. baking soda
4 Tbls. (56g) unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup + 2 Tbls. (70g) packed brown sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1 large egg yolk
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 1/4 cups (140g) pecans, coarsely chopped

• preheat oven to 350* butter an 8" square pan and line the bottom with parchment, leaving an overhang.  butter the parchment.
for the brownie layer:
• place the chocolate and the butter in a medium heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water. stir frequently until smooth and the butter has melted.
• remove the bowl from the heat.  stir in the sugar, vanilla, + salt with a spatula.
• add the egg. stir in the flour and beat it until the batter is smooth, glossy, and beginning to come away from the sides of the bowl.
• spread the brownie batter in a thin layer in the bottom of the prepared pan.
for the praline layer:
• mix the flour and baking soda together, set aside
• combine the melted butter, sugar, and slat in a medium bowl. stir in the egg yolk and vanilla, then the flour mixture and finally the nuts.
• drop spoonfuls all over the top of the brownie batter ( the praline mixture will spread).
• bake until the edges and top are well browned and cracked, 20-25 minutes.
• let cool completely in pan on a rack.
• lift the ends of the parchment and transfer to a cutting board.  cut with a warm knife.

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Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Zucchini Muffins with Chocolate Streusel Topping

As I have mentioned in previous posts, at the beginning of each month, the G's receive a box or two of my baked treats(see original post, here).  With another school auction this past spring, I was asked to donate yet another "sweet of the month" and me being who I am,  I couldn't say NO.  So now,  both the G's and the M's get something sweet, on their doorstep each month ( sometimes even twice a month).

I needed to use up, yet, more zucchini.  I have been making a lot of tarts and baked savory dishes and was ready for something sweet.  I found this recipe for a cake (here), but changed it up a bit.  Instead of the cake, I choose to make muffins.  I was able to pack up a half a dozen muffins for each the G's and the M's and they had a nice little treat for a weekday morning breakfast.

All three of my kids ate these without one mention that there was something "green" in their muffin. I made a few extra and froze them after they were baked.  With school looming right around the corner, these are going to be a feather in my cap on those oh so very rushed mornings.   These are a win, win sweet + savory treat!

Zucchini Muffins with Chocolate Streusel Topping
yield: 22 muffins

1/2 cup softened butter, organic
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1/3 cup water
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
2 cups all- purpose flour
1 1/4 cup whole wheat organic flour
2 1/4 cups, peeled, grated zucchini

streusel topping
1/2 cup sucanat
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 cup chopped pecans, toasted
3/4 cup mini, bittersweet chocolate chips

• preheat oven to 350*.  Line 2 - 12 cup capacity muffin tins with paper liners.
for the cake:
• in the bowl of an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar together.  add the eggs, vanilla, water, and buttermilk, mix to combine.
• in another bowl, combine both flours, cinnamon, salt, baking powder, and baking soda.  whisk to combine.
• add flour mixture to the wet ingredients and combine.  fold in the zucchini.
• using a 1/4 cup ice cream scooper, scoop batter into prepared muffin cups.  fill them up about 3/4 of the way to the top.
for the streusel topping
• combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix thoroughly
• sprinkle mixture (about 1 tablespoon) over each muffin.
• bake in the middle of the oven for 30-35 minutes.

enjoy with a big glass of cold milk!

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