Friday, 31 July 2009

I love Birthdays!

So, this Sunday is head hancho at the office's birthday. My boss asked if I wouldn't mind baking a cake for him. Of course, I said I would do it in an instant.

I pondered briefly the age old question of "chocolate or vanilla?" before deciding on Dorie's Perfect Party Cake. The cake is a classic, and I've made it twice now with success. The first time I made it as cupcakes and this time I baked it in a 9"x13" pan. The cake cake out a bit flatter than I expected, but I also recall that the cupcakes didn't rise a whole bunch either.

That being said, there was plenty of cake to go around and I sliced the slab of cake in thirds and stacked them on top of each other. That, combined with the great buttercream icing recipe I borrowed from The Repressed Pastry Chef (great blog, check it out!), is one heck of a cake! The one thing I will say about the buttercream is that it used Crisco as well as butter. I'm not sure if I'm a huge fan of the shortening taste in my icing. It makes it taste more like a "commercial" cake. Still, it was delicious and I managed to slather practically a whole recipe of her icing onto my cake.

So, without further ado, Dorie's Perfect Party Cake and Em's Favourite Buttercream Icing (Click on the link for the icing recipe.)

Dorie's Perfect Party Cake

adapted from Dorie's Baking: From My Home to Yours

(for 2 9inch pans)
2 1/4 C cake flour (Substitute: add 2 tablespoons of cornstarch to a cup, then fill until level with all purpose flour)
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 C whole milk or buttermilk (I used 2% -- turned out fine)
4 large egg whites
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 tsp grated lemon zest (I omitted this)
1 stick (or 1/2 C or 4 oz.) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 tsp pure lemon extract (I added vanilla extract instead -- if you use the lemon, go with buttermilk)

Getting Ready: Center 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 with a round of buttered parchment or wax paper. Put the pans on a baking sheet.

To Make the Cake: Sift 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 will aerated. Divide the batter between the two pans and smooth the tops with a rubber spatula (or one 9"x13" pan).

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes (I baked mine for 25 min), or until the cakes are well risen and springy to the touch- a thin knife inserted into the centers should come out clean. Transfer the cakes to cooling racks and cool for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes, unmold 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 2 months.)

Cheers and enjoy!

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

A Tale of Three Fudges

Fudge. Even the name sounds decadent. It’s rich, it’s creamy, and it’s sweet enough to send any kid swinging from the rafters. It’s also one of my favourite confections of all time.

I find it very interesting to see how fudge has evolved, or at least our methods of preparing it. Some recipes take hours to make, as you painstakingly dissolve the sugar and cream, boil it to the soft ball stage, then let it cool, before giving it a thorough beating. This past week, I attempted no less than three different fudge recipes, each one slightly different and with varying results.

Firstly, I attempted a maple fudge recipe. This recipe used maple syrup, not maple extract and relied on condensed milk for its creaminess. This recipe was very tasty and plenty sweet enough, however I think I heated the mixture too fast. The condensed milk seemed to separate from the sugar/syrup solution. I thought it was all lost, but I decided to see it through. Funnily enough, it really came together when I was at the beating stage. The texture was still a little lumpy, and a wee bit soft, but my co-workers had no trouble gobbling it up!

The second type of fudge belongs to the “good old fashioned” genre. It relies on sugar, unsweetened chocolate, and cream which is boiled to the soft ball stage. You then have to let it cool undisturbed until it reaches the “lukewarm” temperature, about 110F. I’d say that this was my favourite of all the recipes. The texture was melt in your mouth smooth, and it was deliciously rich and chocolately. However, never forget that candy make is a very delicate process. Whilst I was beating the fudge, I turned away for literally a second. When I returned my gaze to the bowl, I was horrified to discover that the fudge that I’d been slaving away for over an hour and half had solidified and was no longer capable of being poured into the prepared pan. With a sigh, I let it cool completely in the pot before scraping out what I could.

I have a large tupperwear container full of fudge crumbs, which I will most likely use in a blondie/cookie recipe in the near future. The crumbs themselves are divine so I don't think that this attempt was a complete failure.

The third type of fudge that I made I would deem to be the “modern” fudge. It took about 20 minutes of preparation and uses chocolate, condensed milk, and marshmallows as it’s base. As a result, it had a much firmer and chewier texture than the other two types of fudge. It was good, but I definitely prefer the chocolate one to this one. Still, if it’s a question of spending 2 hours making fudge, or 20 minutes, I’d take this recipe. I modified the recipe slightly, as I didn’t have marshmallow crème. Instead, I used 10 oz of marshmallows (as directed) and added about a table spoon of corn or golden syrup. I also substituted white chocolate for semi-sweet and swirled a few cranberries on top.

All three of the fudges were very well received! It must be noted though, that if you decide to attempt to make fudge that is anything other than the marshmallow based fudge, a candy thermometer is an invaluable piece of equipment. Like I said earlier, fudge making is a finicky process that requires both finesse and practice. Luckily, you probably won’t be hard pressed to find those willing to eat your trial runs! ;)

I certainly had fun tackling fudge making. It’s certainly something I’ll try again in the future and I’ll be careful not to turn my back for a second on these tricksy confections!

Here are the links to the recipes I used: Maple Syrup Fudge, Chocolate Fudge (This website also has some really neat info about the science behind candy making -- highly recommended), and Marshmallow Fudge.

Happy fudge making and enjoy!

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Chocolate Peanut Butter Squares

The combination chocolate and peanut butter is not a new concept. Since the mid-1920s, people have been enjoying the indulgent (but oh so delicious) Reese's peanut butter cups.

These were a creation inspired the flavours of the famous peanut butter cups -- my first baked good recipe made up entirely by myself. It must be said, that I was partly motivated by the sizeable bag of biscuits that my brother had brought home from work. He is a stock boy at a bulk food store, and since the majority of the cookies were broken, his manager was planning on throwing them away. I think he had me in mind when he salvaged the bag of cookies.

So, equipped with a bag of mostly broken biscuits and a craving for chocolate and peanut butter, I came up with these: Krissy's Chocolate and Peanut Butter Squares.

The bars themselves are quite simple. They have a no-bake crust made of crushed cookies, cocoa, sugar, and butter, which is slathered with a peanut butter icing. To top it off, melted chocolate is drizzled on top for a nice crisscrossed (or should I say starcrossed) effect.

I found that the peanut butter icing was fluffier than I expected it to be, perhaps as a result of beating it with my electric mixer. If I make these again, I might try reserving some cookie crumbs and mixing them in with the peanut butter icing to see how that effects the texture.

Anyways, enjoy my first original recipe!
Krissy's Chocolate and Peanut Butter Squares


2 cup cookie crumbs
2 T cocoa powder
3 T sugar
½ cup melted butter

1 ½ cup peanut butter
1 cup icing sugar
1 t vanilla

2 oz chocolate, melted

Line a 8" square baking pan with aluminum foil. Using a food processor, add the cookie pieces and blitz them until they are only crumbs. In a midsized bowl, combine cookie crumbs, cocoa, and sugar and stir until ingredients are evenly mixed. Add melted butter and stir until well combined and all of the crumbs are moistened.

Press the mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan. Place in the fridge until needed.

In another bowl, beat together peanut butter, icing sugar and vanilla. Spread on top of crumb base.

Melt chocolate in microwave, using 20 second intervals. At the end of each interval, take the bowl out and give the chocolate a good mix. When the chocolate is melted, drizzle it over the top of the peanut butter icing.

Place chocolate peanut butter squares in fridge for at least 30 minutes or until you are ready to enjoy your chocolate and peanut buttery treat!

Makes 16 servings

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Mexican Chocolate Chip Cookies -- No Swine Flu!

Yes, although these are "Mexican" Chocolate Chip cookies, there is nothing remotely swine flu-esque about them. (Perhaps that joke was a bit in poor taste, but when you work in a lab that deals with swine flu samples daily, the words "Does not contain swine flu extract" might be a little more appropriate. ;) )

In fact, these cookies were delicious. I baked a batch yesterday and brought at least two dozen cookies in with me this morning. When I went to see how many were left, only two lonely cookies remained. Even they found their way into my coworkers' tummies soon after.

So, a huge resounding success. I found the original recipe whilst browsing the blog, Cookie Madness, a blog with absolutely dozens of decadent, mouthwatering cookie recipes. There is a reason the blog is called cookie madness!

What caught my eye about this recipe was that not only was in listed in the "Top 5 cookies of all time" section, it wasn't just your plain, old chocolate chip cookie. Don't get me wrong though, I looooove chocolate chip cookies -- but lately I've been in very much of a cinnamon mood. And this recipe spiced up it's traditional counterpart by including not only cinnamon, but a wee bit of cayenne pepper as well. But truly the star of this cookie is the chopped up chunks of (in my case), Abuelita.

Abuelita is a brand of Mexican hot chocolate, and does not come as a powder. Instead, it is packaged as a series of disks which can be broken into pieces and dissolved into hot milk. The chocolate itself contains spices, most prominently cinnamon, and is made with granulated sugar. I speak from experience when I say that it makes some delicious hot chocolate, and would be an awesome complement to these cookies.

I think Abuelita can be found at most grocery stores, although I have to confess I'm not sure. We had some on hand in the pantry, but I do not know if it was a stowaway from my parents trip to Mexico a few months back or if we managed to find it in Canada.

Hopefully you will be able to find some Abuelita or other bricked Mexican hot chocolate, for drinking or for these cookies.

As for the cookies themselves, they surprised me a bit by flattening out as they baked. I suppose I was lulled into thinking I'd get nice round, puff ball cookies since the last two batches of cookies I've made have been Alton Brown's The Puffy and the Chocolate Covered Raisin Oatmeal cookies.

Still, they stayed soft and chewy -- even after they'd cooled to room temperature. The warm cinnamon flavours, mixed with dark chunks really stole the show. However, I found that the yield of this recipe was way too low. It was estimated to give about 32 cookies; I know I baked about 42 and I was not being stingy on cookies size. Still, I guess it depends if you want bakery-style giant cookies, or cookies that you won't feel guilty about going for seconds.

Lastly, if anyone has any experience in regards to metal baking sheets vs stone where, I'd be interested to hear your opinions! I found that the stonewear sheets gave me a flatter, more spread out cookie. The metal sheet cookies seemed to remain a wee bit puffier.

Any ideas?

Anyways, without further ado...

Mexican Chocolate Chip Cookies
From Cookie Madness

Mexican Chocolate Chunk Cookies Made With Ibarra

MAKES 32 COOKIES (more like 42)

2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 slightly rounded teaspoon cayenne pepper or black pepper (I used cayenne pepper)
8 oz unsalted butter — room temperature
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon Mexican vanilla (regular is okay)
8 oz dark chocolate — cut into chunks
4 oz Ibarra chocolate — chopped by hand

Stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt and pepper.

Cream butter and sugar in a mixing bowl using high speed of an electric mixer; Beat in eggs 1 at a time, then vanilla. Add flour mixture and stir until absorbed, then mix in chocolate chunks and chopped Mexican chocolate. Refrigerate dough for at least one hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment.

Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls onto sheets, spacing 1 1/2 inches apart. Bake cookies until golden brown and set - 10-12 minutes. Let stand on sheets 3 minutes. Transfer cookies to racks and cool.

Oh! Perhaps just a little further ado. My dog was barking at me as I was taking the photos of the food. I think she wanted a cookie too! ;)

Sunday, 19 July 2009

zomg, how did this happen?!

How has it been over a month since I last posted?

I feel rather like a delinquent and a liar. This is not to say that I haven't been baking --quite the contrary. I've been baking more than ever, just too /insert good reason here/ to do any writing up of my recipes and posting. Well, today I finally found the motivation to spruce up the layout a bit. After all, I've tons of new photos, why not show them off a bit? ;)

So, now the question remains as to when I'll get around to posting my recipes. See, I had it in the back of my mind that they might come in handy this fall when I'm at uni, dirt poor, and too tired to bake anything. So, I think I'll post a few of them up over the next few days and stash a few in reserve for those days when you just can't be assed to turn on the oven.

So what shall it be, folks? Cake? Brownies? Cheesecake? Cupcakes?

Hmmm. Perhaps we'll do this chronologically-ish and start with the "Birthday cake".

I made it for my brother and I's 19th birthday (I have to say I made it for my brother, because really, who bakes their *own* birthday cake?). I found the cake recipe on Allrecipes, and encouraged by it's stellar rating and postive reviews, I decided that I'd try it for my birthday cake. I also liked that it used oil and not very much of it at that. Oh man, did this cake not disappoint!

It was moist, velvety, with rich chocolate flavour. I won't post the recipe for the icing. It was okay, but the cake definitely outshone it. I tried to make some sort of white chocolate icing, based on Nigella's sour cream chocolate icing (which rocks, btw). However, something went awry and I had to add so much icing sugar to get it thick enough to spread on the cake. Still, it was tasty and the cake was beautiful with the chocolate flowers.

I made the flowers about a week before my birthday. They keep well in the freezer and should be kept cold until you are ready to artfully arrange them on top of your cake. Otherwise, they will soften and become very difficult to handle.

So, without further ado, my very awesome, chocolate birthday cake!

Black Magic Cake
adapted from

  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup strong brewed coffee
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour two 9 inch round cake pans or one 9x13 inch pan.
  2. In large bowl combine flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Make a well in the center.
  3. Add eggs, coffee, buttermilk, oil and vanilla. Beat for 2 minutes on medium speed. Batter will be thin. Pour into prepared pans.
  4. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 30 to 40 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into center of cake comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes, then remove from pans and finish cooling on a wire rack. Fill and frost as desired.
Perhaps a little later I will post a recipe for chocolate flowers, but I think I have already linked back to the blog where I originally found the recipe.

Cheers and enjoy!