Wednesday 30 April 2008

Alfajores de Dulce de Leche

I have been long awaiting the new Martha Stewart cookbook – Martha Stewart’s Cookies. It was worth waiting for!

The table of contents is done in pictorial form with pictures of the single cookies in question (as well as their names). The first time I saw this was in the Martha Stewart Living Holiday special in December 2005, and indeed many of the cookies from that magazine are in this cookie book, but there are extras as well. The format of picturial contents is a real wow, like looking at a big display case of cookies and choosing the one just right for the moment. I recognise some of them from the cookie of the month feature in the MSL magazines too. I sort of like that they are not all brand new – some are just classics and should be left in all their glory as they are. I like books of collected recipes.

The book is divided into chapters according to what kind of cookie you’d like to eat or bake: Light and Delicate, Soft and Chewy, Crumbly and Sandy, Chunky and Nutty, Cakey and Tender, Crisp and Nutty, Rich and Dense. There is also a chapter about wrapping and presenting baked cookies to give as gifts. I do need this as I tend to give friends and family little foil packets of goodies.

The first cookie I’ve baked from the book is Alfajores de Dulce De Leche, a shortbread cookie sandwiched together with dulce de leche, the come from the Rich and Dense chapter – rich and delicious I say!
Martha suggests we bake a new one every week, and you know I just might!

My notes for this recipe are: I didn’t sieve the flour and icing sugar, just mixed them in the processor and I immediately rolled and cut out the circles of dough, then refrigerated the dough on my tray, before baking. I also kept them assembled for a few hours and I couldn’t see any difference, although if it were hot this might not be the case. I used caster sugar, but the result was not as good as the sanding suger in the picture – will need to find some sanding sugar.

Alfajores de Dulce De Leche
A halved quantities recipe from Martha Stewart’s Cookies 2008

Makes 1 ½ to 2 dozen sandwich cookies
2 cups plain flour
half a ¼ cup and 1 tablespoon icing (confectioners) sugar
6 oz (1 ½ sticks) butter, chilled and cubed
¼ cup (2 fl oz) cold water
Sanding sugar for sprinkling
1 400g tin / jar dulce de leche

(1)Line a baking sheet with greaseproof paper or a baking mat
(2) Sieve the flour and icing sugar. Place the flour and icing sugar in a processor and pulse to mix. Add in the butter and mix, pulsing, until it looks like coarse meal, about 20 seconds. Add in the water down the tube and mix until the dough comes together. Form into a flattened circle and refrigerate for 1 hour.
(3) Preheat the oven to 350 oF / 175 oC. Roll the dough on a floured surface to ¼ inch thick and using a 1 ¾ inch round plain cookie cutter cut out discs. Place on the prepared tray and sprinkle half with sanding sugar. Bake for about 15 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.
(4) When cooled sandwich together cookies with about a teaspoon of dulce de leche and use the sanding sugar topped cookies for the top.
Serve immediately after assembling.

Sunday 27 April 2008

Cheesecake Pops - Daring Bakers April 2008

This months challenge is Cheesecake Pops. I was quite relieved when I saw this months challenge, not because it was straight forward, but that I had the book that this months challenge came from, otherwise I would have had to click the button and buy it! It hails from Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey (Desserts for the Serious Sweet Tooth) by Jill O’Connor -what a title! It’s a pretty girl-y book with lots of rich and yummy sounding recipes, and lots of sweet and treaty pictures too.

Now to the cheesecake pops. I haven’t had so much fun pottering in the kitchen for ages! Before I had my little one I used to spend hours faffing about with icings and decorations for cakes. I even ventured into the world of dipping chocolates, and that skill came in useful here. When I was coating the cheesecake balls with chocolate I didn’t even remember the chocolates I’d tried before, but it was as if my hands remembered and started doing what they should have, and ta-dah it was done in the twirl of a wrist.

Before the balls were coated a pan of New York style cheesecake was made, baked, chilled overnight, formed into balls (this was a little tricky, but fine by the third one - a rotating and constant gripping movement with the scoop seemed to work). Next they were frozen for a couple of hours and then coated with the chocolate and decorated. Finally, left in the fridge until ready to eat.

They tasted really good, I think they would make a fabulous dessert for a barbecue, I can just imagine friends faces as the sight of a tray of these pops =)

Thank you for such an enjoyable challenge to Elle of Feeding my Enthusiasms and Deborah of Taste and Tell, you did us proud! To see more pops go here to the Daring Bakers blogroll and click away, I’m going to!

Sunday 20 April 2008

Red Velvet cake

Little hands enjoyed decorating with some sprinkles =)

This is a cake that has long been on my list of must-make-soons. Soon can be days or years it seems, so many recipes for good things to try and not enough hours in the day. Some recipes stand the year in year out to do list though, and this is one of them. I first came across red velvet cake in some of my American cook books, and they looked like nothing I had ever seen before, then a couple of months before I joined the Daring Bakers they covered this cake (choose whichever Red Velvet recipe you like), and I wanted to make it more that ever!
Hubby said this looks very much like quattro red paint!

Last week a new cookbook arrived, I ordered it after hearing Maria raving about it, and here are three recipes from the same book from Maria, Rosie and Margaret. The book today is Cakes Galore by Valerie Barrett. A paperback book with, well, you know cakes galore! I saw the red velvet cake and I knew its time had come, so I ordered some red food colouring paste, and here it is.

I’m not shy of using colouring in icings, but it did feel a little bit over the top using so much, my little one loved the redness of it, and it tasted good, it was just a bit odd eating something so red! I’m glad I made it though, and now I have crossed something off my to make list.

I’ve been tagged three times this week, and thank you to Elle, Vi, Sandy and Anna. I’m a bit embarrassed that I have not done three I received last year, so I’ll work backwards and hopefully get them all done over the next few posts!
Vi’s and Sandy's tag is to describe yourself in six words, following on from Brenda’s lead I asked Hubby and this is what he said:

I’m passing this one onto anyone on my Places I Like to Visit who would like to do this =)

Friday 11 April 2008

The Wonderful Wanda!

The book I’m cooking this week is one that was covered in one of the Daring Baker challenges I didn’t manage to take part in. I somehow felt compelled to buy the book though =), and it’s a fabulous baking book. Wanda’s Pie In The Sky by Wanda Beaver. I tell you it’s finding bonus unexpected books like this (Dorie’s Baking was my last big ‘find’) that make all my online searching for new books worthwhile! The kind of book you think ‘wow how could this book have been out there and I have never heard of it!’. It’s a happy event discovering books like this, especially when you own a certain number of books, finding a really good one is like seeing a shooting star, a memorable and happy occasion.
Lemon Coconut Crisps
I made a couple of cookie recipes first an oatmeal raisin cookie which I turned into oatmeal raisin-cranberry by using half raisins and half dried cranberries. Then I did lemon coconut crisps, they are crisp and melting and so tender all at the same time, an old recipe that is so worth keeping alive. Next came her butterscotch brownies, a rich toffee experience if ever there was one!
Oatmeal Raisin-Cranberry Cookies
I’ve recently been feeling the need of some comforting baked goods, life gets hectic sometimes, but Wanda’s pineapple upside down cake hit the spot. A homey pudding, but a real showstopper for all that, the cake part is made with some sour cream and it was just dreamy 20 minutes out of the oven with some double cream. I don’t usually major on sponge in a pudding, but this was just so good – I had to eat my whole bit!
Butterscotch Brownies
It’s only now that I realise I’ve not made a pie, but I’m sure this book will be re-visited in the future!

Pineapple Upside Down Cake
Adapted from Wanda’s Pie In The Sky by Wanda Beaver
¼ cup (2oz) butter, melted
½ cup brown sugar
1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
6-8 pieces pineapple
1/3 cup approx, whole pecans
¾ cup (6oz) butter, softened
1 ½ cups caster sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 ¼ cups plain flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 ¼ teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
2 pinches salt
1 cup or 10fl oz pot sour cream,
Double cream for serving
Topping: Combine butter, sugar and cinnamon. Spread onto the bottom of a 10 inch (25cm) cake tin (I used a Portmerion flan dish). Arrange the pineapple slices and pecans over the sugary base.
Cake: Using a KA etc, beat the butter and sugar until light. Add eggs, one by one, beating in between each addition. Add vanilla and beat again. Sift the flour, baking power, bicarbonate of soda and salt together. Add the dry ingredients in three lots, with half the sour cream in between each dry lot. Spread the batter over the pineapple and pecans. Bake for about 35 - 40 minutes, or until cooked. Leave 10 minutes in the tin or dish, then run a knife around the dish and invert onto a serving plate or dish. I served it about 20 minutes out of the oven

Sunday 6 April 2008

Cock-a-Leekie Risotto and Raspberry Cupcakes

This week’s book is one that I’ve owned since 2006 when it came out in hardback. A Cook’s Tour of Scotland by Sue Lawrence. Sue is a first rate cookery writer, with both knowledge and enthusiasm for her subject. I have been to a cookery demonstration of hers too up at Baxters of Speyside, and she was very good. She has a couple of baking books, which I’m looking at covering in the future as well, and she is a superb baker!

I’ve cooked a few things from this book including Anta Bars (chocolate coconut bars), Orkney Fudge Cheesecake (a divine toffee cheesecake), Meg’s Shortbread which was a really delicious shortbread, and the following two dishes. Cock-a-leekie Risotto with Bacon and White Chocolate, Almond and Raspberry Cupcakes with Raspberry Icing.

The savoury one here is an Italian / Scottish mix. The Italian part is obvious with the risotto, the Scottish part being the Cock-a-Leekie, the more usual dish being a cock-a-leekie soup – a clear chicken soup with chicken pieces, leeks and prunes floating in the broth.

A normal white wine and chicken stock risotto made in a pan where you have first cooked 200g chopped unsmoked back bacon and 2 diced skinless, boneless chicken breasts, remove the meat, and make a risotto with 2 leeks in place of the usual onion.

At the end add back in the still warm bacon and chicken along with 10 chopped prunes, Parmesan cheese and a good handful of chopped parsley. I do like fruit with meat, and this was completely up my street! In fact everyone I served it to liked it a lot, not quite the norm, but with bags of flavour in every bite.

Now, onto the sweet. Sue’s recipe in the book is suggested to make one 7 inch cake, or 8 cupcakes. I took the cupcake route. It’s an almondy raspberry and white chocolate cake with a raspberry icing made by pureeing raspberries and mixing in icing sugar. They are every bit as good as they sound! In the picture of these in the book I think Sue must have used brambles as the icing colour was somewhere between amethyst and claret, very pretty anyhow. Mine are more pink.

White Chocolate, Almond and Raspberry Cupcakes with Raspberry Icing
From A Cook’s Tour Of Scotland by Sue Lawrence
Makes 8
100g good quality white chocolate, keep back a few squares for drizzling at the end
150g butter, softened
150g caster sugar, preferably golden
2 large eggs
100g self-raising flour
a pink of salt
50g ground almonds
200g raspberries, divided into 2 x 100g lots
200g icing sugar (preferably golden) sifted
(1)Preheat the oven to 180oC/ 350oF / Gas Mark 4. Line your muffin tin with 8 cupcakes.
(2) Melt the main part of the chocolate, in a bowl over hot water, leaving the few squares aside for the drizzle later. Beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy then add in the eggs one by one, beating well in between each one. Fold in the flour, salt and almonds, then when combined add in the melted chocolate. Spoon into the prepared muffin cases. Take one of the 100g lots of raspberries and poke these into the cake mixture, smooth the batter over a bit if you like. Bake for about 45 minutes, loosely covering with foil for the last 10 mins or so if you think they need it, a tester should come out clean after this time. Cool on a wire rack.
(3) To make the icing puree and sieve the remaining 100g raspberries, then beat in the sieved icing sugar. Spread the icing over the cakes. Melt the remaining white chocolate and drizzle over the tops of the cupcakes.