Saturday, April 26, 2008

April Challenge - Cheesecake Pops

I love being a "Daring Baker"! I am getting to try something different and delicious each month. This month's challenge, cheesecake pops, involved baking the cheesecake in a hot water bath. My usual recipe, made with sweetened condensed milk, does not involve that particular step. The result was a very creamy, smooth cheesecake that wasn't too sweet. The next thing that was "different" was shaping the cheesecake into balls. I used an ice cream scoop, but it looked kind of rough and ragged. I recently read a recipe for a delicate dumpling that was shaped by placing the dough in a wine glass and rolling until shaped into a ball. (I can't find the recipe source but I'll add it when I find it.) So I grabbed some wine-type glasses, sprayed it with cooking spray and dropped a scoop of cheesecake into the glass and swirled. Perfect! After inserting the lollipop sticks and freezing, I dipped the pops in the melted candy chocolate and dipped them in crushed heath bars, mini-m&m's, and crushed graham crackers. I'm taking them to our church lunch tomorrow where I'm sure they will quickly disappear. (they were a hit!)

Thanks Elle and Deborah for a fun challenge.

Friday, March 28, 2008

The Busy Bakers

This winter we have had a lot of opportunities to bake some yummy treats like this Cherry Chocolate Chip Cake from the Feb/March issue of Cook's Country. Daughter, Abigail, helped with the cherries.
My son, Will, is shooting for the blue ribbon at the fair with his Challah Bread. He bakes two loaves every week. One to keep and one to share. I think he's going to be ready for the competition in August. Then my patient pie mentor, Esther, recently came for a visit and we spent a whole morning baking a cherry pie and this lemon meringue pie.
My DB entry will be posted a day late since I will be on the road this weekend.

Perfect Party Cake

The Perfect Party Cake from Dorie Greenspan's recent cookbook: Baking-From My Home to Yours was the Daring Bakers' challenge for March sponsored by Morven. This was a busy month for our family with basketball and robotics tournaments so I made this cake in two steps. The cake baked up beautifully, but I would like to try it again using the recent info. from Dorie on cake flour (I too used Swan's Down).At this point I froze the two layers to be assembled later in the week.
The buttercream frosting was very fun to make. The first part reminded me of a rich meringue(I want to try this again too and use it on a pie). It whipped up nicely and it didn't curdle when adding the butter.The lemon juice added just the right flavor. I am taking the finished product to our Basketball Banquet tonight. My husband thinks that I should take a slice of it first so I can take another photo for our blog. Sounds good to me.
PS-It tasted delicious, but we finished eating it before I could take another photo.
The recipe is here:For the Cake2 1/4 cups cake flour (updated 25 March)1 tablespoon baking powder½ teaspoon salt1 ¼ cups whole milk or buttermilk (I prefer buttermilk with the lemon)4 large egg whites1 ½ cups sugar2 teaspoons grated lemon zest1 stick (8 tablespoons or 4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature½ teaspoon pure lemon extractFor the Buttercream1 cup sugar4 large egg whites3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature¼ cup fresh lemon juice (from 2 large lemons)1 teaspoon pure vanilla extractFor Finishing2/3 cup seedless raspberry preserves stirred vigorously or warmed gently until spreadableAbout 1 ½ cups sweetened shredded coconut
Getting ReadyCentre a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 9 x 2 inch round cake pans and line the bottom of each pan with a round of buttered parchment or wax paper. Put the pans on a baking sheet.To Make the CakeSift together the flour, baking powder and salt.Whisk together the milk and egg whites in a medium bowl.Put the sugar and lemon zest in a mixer bowl or another large bowl and rub them together with your fingers until the sugar is moist and fragrant. Add the butter and working with the paddle or whisk attachment, or with a hand mixer, beat at medium speed for a full 3 minutes, until the butter and sugar are very light.Beat in the extract, then add one third of the flour mixture, still beating on medium speed. Beat in half of the milk-egg mixture, then beat in half of the remaining dry ingredients until incorporated. Add the rest of the milk and eggs beating until the batter is homogeneous, then add the last of the dry ingredients. Finally, give the batter a good 2- minute beating to ensure that it is thoroughly mixed and well aerated. Divide the batter between the two pans and smooth the tops with a rubber spatula.Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the cakes are well risen and springy to the touch – a thin knife inserted into the centers should come out cleanTransfer the cakes to cooling racks and cool for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes, unfold them and peel off the paper liners.Invert and cool to room temperature, right side up (the cooled cake layers can be wrapped airtight and stored at room temperature overnight or frozen for up to two months).
To Make the ButtercreamPut the sugar and egg whites in a mixer bowl or another large heatproof bowl, fit the bowl over a plan of simmering water and whisk constantly, keeping the mixture over the heat, until it feels hot to the touch, about 3 minutes. The sugar should be dissolved, and the mixture will look like shiny marshmallow cream.Remove the bowl from the heat.Working with the whisk attachment or with a hand mixer, beat the meringue on medium speed until it is cool, about 5 minutes.Switch to the paddle attachment if you have one, and add the butter a stick at a time, beating until smooth.Once all the butter is in, beat in the buttercream on medium-high speed until it is thick and very smooth, 6-10 minutes.During this time the buttercream may curdle or separate – just keep beating and it will come together again.On medium speed, gradually beat in the lemon juice, waiting until each addition is absorbed before adding more, and then the vanilla. You should have a shiny smooth, velvety, pristine white buttercream. Press a piece of plastic against the surface of the buttercream and set aside briefly
.To Assemble the Cake Using a sharp serrated knife and a gentle sawing motion, slice each layer horizontally in half. Put one layer cut side up on a cardboard cake round or a cake plate protected by strips of wax or parchment paper.Spread it with one third of the preserves.Cover the jam evenly with about one quarter of the buttercream.Top with another layer, spread with preserves and buttercream and then do the same with a third layer (you’ll have used all the jam and have buttercream leftover).Place the last layer cut side down on top of the cake and use the remaining buttercream to frost the sides and top. Press the coconut into the frosting, patting it gently all over the sides and top.
Serving The cake is ready to serve as soon as it is assembled, but I think it’s best to let it sit and set for a couple of hours in a cool room – not the refrigerator. Whether you wait or slice and enjoy it immediately, the cake should be served at room temperature; it loses all its subtlety when it’s cold. Depending on your audience you can serve the cake with just about anything from milk to sweet or bubbly wine.StoringThe cake is best the day it is made, but you can refrigerate it, well covered, for up to two days. Bring it to room temperature before serving. If you want to freeze the cake, slide it into the freezer to set, then wrap it really well – it will keep for up to 2 months in the freezer; defrost it, still wrapped overnight in the refrigerator.
Playing Around Since lemon is such a friendly flavour, feel free to make changes in the preserves: other red preserves – cherry or strawberry – look especially nice, but you can even use plum or blueberry jam.Fresh Berry CakeIf you will be serving the cake the day it is made, cover each layer of buttercream with fresh berries – use whole raspberries, sliced or halved strawberries or whole blackberries, and match the preserves to the fruit. You can replace the coconut on top of the cake with a crown of berries, or use both coconut and berries. You can also replace the buttercream between the layers with fairly firmly whipped sweetened cream and then either frost the cake with buttercream (the contrast between the lighter whipped cream and the firmer buttercream is nice) or finish it with more whipped cream. If you use whipped cream, you’ll have to store the cake the in the refrigerator – let it sit for about 20 minutes at room temperature before serving.

Friday, February 29, 2008

The Daring Bakers - Julia Child's French Bread

I enjoy baking bread and we do it pretty regularly at our house, so I felt up to my first challenge from the Daring Bakers.
I did read the recipe several times, as advised, and even made notes and diagrams to help with the shaping. I appreciated the extra tips graciously given by breadchick and found them helpful.
The shaping of the bread, though, was the biggest challenge. I would love to do this sometime with someone who has had experience making french bread.
Using a spray bottle during baking was a great tip. The bread was crackly-crisp. Everyone crowded around to squeeze the bread and listen to the sound (just like Ratatouille!) Inside was soft and chewey and delicious.
I could use a tip on getting a browner crust.
Try it for yourself! The recipe can be found at:

Monday, February 18, 2008

Cherry Pie Birthday

My daughter, Abigail, baked a beautiful cherry pie for my husband's birthday. It looks like another blue ribbon to me! (She won her first blue ribbon for pies two years ago with this recipe.)
The recipe comes from reliable Pam Anderson's book CookSmart for Perfect Canned-Cherry Pie.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Baking in Oklahoma

Wow, that was easy. (Setting up the blog.) Now the fun begins!

I've just signed up for The Daring Bakers Challenge. I can't wait for the first recipe to arrive. Happy Baking!

PS-The title for my blog is obvious to anyone who has ever lived in Oklahoma during the summer. I have lived here for almost 18 years and I love this place, but it can be hot around July - September. I limit my baking then to bread machine recipes (which includes an easy english muffin bread that is baked in the microwave from James Beard's book: Beard on Bread) and no bake cookies.