Monday, March 26, 2012

Two New Treats

  I tried two new recipes recently; one I had reason to make and one I made for absolutely no reason at all, except that I wanted to...and that was reason enough!
   The first is a recipe for Lemon Pineapple Sherbet. We had family joining us from Arizona Sunday. Because there were a lot of us getting together, we decided we would have a turkey dinner (utilizing a turkey I had saved in the freezer from last November). Since we were having such a hearty dinner I thought it would be nice to have something light for dessert. This sherbet was an absolute hit! A note about the recipe-puree the pineapple in the blender first. The finer pieces of pineapple were much more pleasing in the sherbet. I will definitely be making this again, but maybe try orange-pineapple next time for a change; or maybe even orange-strawberry. The possibilities are endless!
  The second recipe I want to share is for the "Baked Brownie". This is a brownie from the Baked bakeshop in Brooklyn and is famous for being a rich, decadent brownie. There are a ton of blogs touting this recipe and I must agree with the conclusions-this is a delicious brownie. Give it a shot, tell me what you think.

  I'm going to let you in on a little secret. If you cut brownies with a plastic knife, you'll have zero tearing. The brownies will not clump on the knife and make a mess everywhere. You'll end up with beautiful, perfectly cut brownies.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Triple-Chocolate Cake Pops

  If you've been following my blog for long, you know I found encountered an obsession last year. That obsession is with cake pops. I have experimented with lot's of flavor combinations over the last several months and have only not posted them here because they never quite last long enough for a photo session, or I'm headed out the door to an event with them, or my camera is broken (the excuses go on and on). I made an excuse to make them last week and was diligent in taking photos, so I am finally posting again about cake pops!
  Here's a secret to making cake pops-when you bake a layer cake and have to cut the tops of in order to have a flat cake, place the cake tops in a gallon-size ziploc bag and place it in the freezer. As you accumulate cake tops of similar flavors keep adding them to the bag. When you're ready to make cake pops simply whip up a batch of your favorite frosting (or buy the pre-made stuff at the supermarket) and go to town! 
  Another secret to making cake pops-homemade frosting is worth the effort! Store-bought frosting tends to give the cake pop a really dense, soggy consistency. Homemade frosting leaves the interior sort of a cake-truffle consistency. Very delicious, and well worth the time.

  Crumble the cake into a large bowl. Add just enough frosting for the cake to hold together without crumbling. Too much frosting and your centers with be a gooey mess.
  Refrigerate 30 minutes.

  Line a baking sheet with foil or use a Silpat. Using a cookie scoop, scoop mounds onto the baking sheet. Roll the mounds into round balls. 

  When all the cake balls have been formed, cover the baking sheet with plastic wrap and place in the freezer for at least 3 hours or over-night.
  Dip sucker sticks in a small amount of melted chocolate (I buy dipping chocolate, but you can use chocolate chips and add shortening to it to thin it enough to use for dipping-about 1 Tbsp. shortening/2 cups chips). Push the stick about 2/3 of the way into the cake ball. Dip cake balls in chocolate and immediately into toppings (if using). Note: You can buy nifty little cake pop holders that hold them upright while they set, or you can go the cheap route and cover styro-foam blocks with foil (to catch the drips).

  My most recent attempt at cake pops last week led to chocolate cake with homemade chocolate fudge frosting. I dipped 1/3 of the pops in crushed Oreos (in honor of Oreos 100th b-day), 1/3 the pops in crushed Girl's Scout Thin Mint cookies and the last third in Heath pieces. YUM!!!

  Completely assembled cake pops store great in the freezer. Simply bag each pop (you can buy sucker bags at Walmart and most craft stores) and place the bagged pops in a gallon-size freezer bag.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Tried Something New

  Pinterest is all the craze. If you haven't yet discovered "pins" and "boards" and the obsession that comes with it all, and you're a hopeless food geek (as my husband affectionately calls me), check it out.
  One "pin" circulating right now is for Cream Cheese Pancakes. This recipe is intended for those on a low or no-carb diet. Of course I couldn't just follow the directions on the recipe because as I read through the comments on her blog post there were tons of fantastic variation ideas. I decided to go with one particular idea of separating the egg yolks and whites and whipping the whites to full volume. I was rewarded for my efforts with a fantastic, fluffy pancake that was sort of a cross between a crepe and a dutch baby. The munchins and I had these as a treat last night (my bribe for being good while dad was gone) with powdered sugar, strawberries and whipped cream on top. Delicious!

Cream Cheese Pancakes

4 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 tsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. vanilla
3 eggs, divided

  In a mixing bowl, beat cream cheese until smooth. Beat in sugar and vanilla. Add one egg yolk and beat until completely smooth, scraping the sides. Add remaining yolks and beat smooth.

  In a small mixing bowl beat egg whites to full volume. Fold whites into cream cheese mixture.
  Heat a small skillet over medium-low heat; spray with cooking spray (it is very important to spray the pan with cooking spray prior to cooking each pancake). Scoop about 1/3 cup mixture onto skillet and smooth out with an off-set spatula. Cook 1-2 minutes, until pancake is soft-set then flip and cook an additional 30-45 seconds.
   Serve warm. Yields about 8-10 6" pancakes.

  Of course, my pancakes were certainly not low-carb, but they were fantastic. If you or someone you know is on a no or low-carb diet or even a gluten-free diet, these are perfect!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Pizza Night

  Over the last couple years my home has turned into a regular pizzeria. My family loves pizza (who doesn't?) and especially loves homemade pizza (can you blame us?)
  My sister introduced us to a new recipe from Annie's Eats for Shaved Asparagus Pizza, which became the featured pizza for last week's pizza night. I made three adjustments to this recipe- I used my own pizza dough recipe, added sliced mushrooms to the pizza and created a cream cheese mixture to replace the Boursin Cheese (something you can't find in my hometown). The results: Heavenly Deliciousness!
  Tuesday night I was in the mood to try another new-to-our-home pizza recipe (No, we don't typically have pizza every week. Weekly pizza night...not a bad idea though!) There is a restaurant just 25 minutes from our home that my husband and I love. They feature wood-oven pizzas on their menu and our absolute favorite is the "Hawaii Five-O" pizza. Let me start by saying, I don't like Hawaiian pizza. Pineapple on a pizza? Yuck! However, this one is to die for! Seriously!! Let me tell you why:

-Start with a pizza crust (my traditional recipe or your own family favorite
-Brush the entire thing with Extra Virgin Olive Oil
-Pile on the mozzarella cheese
-Top with Canadian Bacon (my favorite is "Land O Lakes" because it's nice big slices)
-Top with grilled, fresh pineapple (see my recipe for grilling pineapple here, except omit the brown sugar and grill the fruit plain) that you've diced small
-Top with crispy cooked and crumbled bacon (my addition to the original)
-Top with caramelized onions (Here's a great how-to, except replace the oil with butter. Trust me!)
-Top with crushed macadamia nuts (Unless you have some horrible macadamia nut allergy, trust me on this one and just go with it.)
-Drizzle with Teriyaki Sauce (I found this fantastic Teriyaki Glaze recipe. I doubled the brown sugar though, and cut the recipe by half.)

  I have to brag now and say how incredibly impressed I was with my ability to re-create this delicious pizza. My husband is now requesting it for our next pizza night!

Pizza/Breadstick Dough

2 c. warm Water (101-105 degrees)        2 Tbsp. Oil
2 Tbsp. Yeast                                         2 tsp. Salt
4 Tbsp. Sugar                                         4-6 c. Flour

Proof water, yeast, and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Add oil and salt and slowly add flour until dough pulls away from sides and no longer sticks to the bottom of the bowl; knead smooth (about 4-6 minutes). Makes 2 14-16” pizzas.
  To use as a breadstick dough simply divide dough into equal balls and shape into breadsticks. Place breadsticks on baking sheets and brush with egg wash (1 egg & 1 Tbsp. water beaten together). Bake immediately at 400 degrees for 10 minutes. Brush breadsticks with melted butter and sprinkle with garlic salt; bake until golden (about 3-6 minutes more).

Cream Cheese Blend (To replace Boursin)

4 oz. cream cheese, softened
1-2 Tbsp. milk
1/2-3/4 tsp. Italian seasoning (or combination of basil, oregano, parsley, thyme, rosemary and sage)
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 tsp. coarse salt
1/4 tsp. fresh-ground black pepper

Blend all ingredients until smooth. You want a light consistency without it being runny.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


  For ages I have wanted to try my hand at Brioche. The idea of making a rich, buttery, flaky pastry in my own home entices me. I finally got around to it last week (it takes two days you know?)
  I followed this recipe for Pain Aux Raisins and Cream Cheese Snails precisely. I will give you two major hints, though-Double the cream cheese filling and mound the pastries with it, and don't be afraid to lather the finished pastries with sugar glaze.
  Leftover pastries store nicely in an airtight container; simply zap them in the microwave for a few seconds to freshen them up.
  Although these are time-consuming, they are WELL worth the effort. They were absolutely fantastic!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Whipped Coconut Cream?!

  There has been a new obsession with "Whipped Coconut Cream" making the rounds on Pinterest lately. Of course, I was immediately intrigued. 
  Whipped coconut cream is simply canned coconut milk that is whipped with sugar. You simply refrigerated for the can of coconut milk for a few hours, skim the thick white portion off the top and whip it until it holds shape. Super simple! And SUPER delicious!
  I recently came across a recipe for Profiteroles with Whipped Coconut Cream and Caramelized Bananas; the perfect opportunity to try my hand at whipped coconut cream. Here's my recipe adapted from Martha Stewart's.

Profiteroles with Whipped Coconut Cream and Caramelized Bananas

Profiteroles (adapted from Bon Appetit)
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup all purpose flour
3 large eggs
1 large egg yolk

  Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. 
  Bring water, milk, butter, sugar, and salt to boil in a large saucepan. Stir in flour; cook over medium-high heat, stirring vigorously, until dough is smooth and pulls away from sides of pan, about 1 minute. Transfer mixture to a standing mixer. Beat dough with paddle attachment at medium speed until slightly cool, about 3 minutes. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating until blended after each addition. Beat in egg yolk until blended.
  Spoon batter (about the size of small oranges) onto prepared sheets, spacing about 2 inches apart.
  Bake 15 minutes. Reduce oven to 375°F. Continue baking until puffed and dark golden brown, about 30 minutes longer. Transfer to rack to cool completely. (Can be made 1 week ahead. Store in airtight container in freezer. Remove from freezer a few hours before continuing.)

Whipped Coconut Cream

1 can coconut milk, chilled at least 2 hours
1 Tbsp. granulated sugar

   Place a large bowl and whisk in the freezer for 10 minutes. Open the chilled coconut-milk can, and skim cream from top (make sure not to get the thin liquid from bottom of can, or cream will not become stiff when whipped). Place cream and sugar in bowl; whisk until thick and stiff. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 hours.

Caramelized Bananas

5 medium, just-ripe bananas
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter
6 Tbsp. packed light-brown sugar
1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice

  Slice bananas in half lengthwise; cut each half into thirds. 
  Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add 4 tablespoons butter and 3 tablespoons brown sugar. When butter/sugar mixture has melted and is sizzling, add the bananas; brown them, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer bananas to a large shallow container to cool in a single layer. 
  To make the sauce, add orange juice, remaining 3 tablespoons brown sugar, and two pieces caramelized banana to empty pan. Whisk mixture over medium heat until thick and banana dissolves, about 1-3 minutes.
  Slice tops of profiteroles, leaving a small hinge. Insert two or three pieces of banana. Spoon 2 tablespoons whipped coconut cream onto banana. Serve with sauce.

  Absolutely FANTASTIC!