Thursday, June 30, 2011

Oma's Flourless Chocolate Torte

No matter what, I can always count on a tasty baked good when visiting with my Oma (grandmother). 

From Viennese Crescents to Christmas Stollen, my Oma bakes all of the traditional Swiss favorites whenever family is around and this Flour-less Chocolate Torte is just one of those fabulous desserts that is an Oma classic.

Having grown up in Switzerland, baking and sweets just come with the territory for her and she is always more than willing to share with me the recipes for these delicious treats.
She also happens to be one of my biggest supporters in all of my baking endeavors and I always look forward to making something of hers.

When it came time for one of the girls at the office to celebrate their birthday I knew this was the perfect cake for the occasion. She happens to eat a gluten free diet and because this cake is flour-less it just made sense. 
To make the cake extra special I topped it with a layer of whipped cream and chocolate covered strawberries.

Oma's Flour-less Chocolate Cake
Fills one 9-inch spring form pan
Oven: 300 Bake time: 45 minutes

1 bag semi-sweet chocolate chips
6 TBS butter
1 cup sugar
6 eggs, separated

Preheat oven to 300. Spray your spring form pan with cooking spray.
In a microwave safe bowl (or over double boiler), melt chocolate chips and butter for about 2 minutes, checking every 30 seconds or so and mix until smooth.
Separate egg whites in large glass bowl, reserving yolks in small bowl.
Beat egg whites until stiff.
Slowly add sugar and continue to beat until sugar is incorporated.
Add egg yolks one at a time to chocolate/butter mixture, making sure each yolk is fully incorporated after every addition.
Fold egg whites into chocolate mixture.
Pour batter into prepared pan and transfer to oven for about 45-60 minutes.

*To check if this cake is done a toothpick should come out fairly clean, but this is a very dense and rich cake so it may not be perfectly clean. The best way to tell is if there is a good crust on the cake and the sides have begun to pull away from the pan.

Remove from oven and allow to cool completely before removing sides of pan.

Homemade Whipped Cream
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla

In a small bowl, beat whipping cream until soft peaks form. Add sugar and vanilla and continue to beat until stiff peaks are formed. If you have time, place in fridge for about 20 minutes to help stabilize.

Feel free to cover yours with a small layer of homemade whipped cream and chocolate covered strawberries or just serve with a small dusting of powdered sugar and ice cream!

Happy Baking!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Baklava with Homemade Phyllo Dough

I've always been intimidated about making my own Baklava.

It's one of those desserts that I absolutely love ordering at a restaurant, but the idea of working with the super thin, very delicate phyllo dough myself was scary.

And then one day there it was... this month's Daring Bakers' Challenge: Baklava.

Erica of Erica's Edibles was our host for the Daring Baker's June Challenge. Erica challenged us to be DARING by making homemade phyllo dough and then to use that dough to make Baklava.

Here was my chance... I had no excuse.

This was a very time consuming dessert, but it actually wasn't as difficult as I thought it was going to be and in the end it was absolutely worth all the effort.

When making this yourself you're going to need to set aside a few hours for prep and make sure to start making it the day before you want to serve it as it has to sit in the syrup overnight.

Phyllo Dough
Makes enough to fill a 9x9 baking dish with 18 layers
Prep time: 20 minutes Rest time: 1 1/2 to 2 hours

2 2/3 cups AP flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup minus 2 TBS water
4 TBS veggie oil
1 tsp apple cider vinegar

In a bowl with a stand mixer, combine flour and salt and mix with a paddle attachment until blended.
Combine water, oil and vinegar in a small bowl.
Add mixture to flour/salt and mix on a low speed until you get a soft dough (don't be afraid to add a little more water if the dough is too dry)
Change to dough hook and let knead for about 10 minutes- at this point the dough should be nice and smooth.
Remove dough from mixer and knead by hand for a couple more minutes.
Shape dough into ball and lightly cover with oil before wrapping in saran wrap.
Let sit for about 1 1/2- 2 hours.

While dough is resting, prepare sugar/nut mixture for filling and syrup:

2 tsp ground cinnamon
pinch of ground allspice
3/4 cup blanched almonds
3/4 cup pistachios (out of shell)
3/4 cup walnuts
2/3 cup sugar

Combine nuts, sugar and spices in food processor and pulse on high until finely chopped and set aside.

1 1/4 cup honey
1 1/4 water
1 1/4 cup sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1 piece of citrus peel (lemon or orange)
pinch of ground cloves.

*Don't start actually cooking your syrup until your baklava is in the oven.
Combine ingredients in a medium pot and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until sugar has dissolved.
Boil for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Once boiled, remove from heat and remove cinnamon stick and lemon peel, allow to cool as baklava cooks.

Rolling dough
This is where it gets a little more difficult- you want to get the phyllo dough as thin as possible.

Unwrap your dough and cut off a chunk about the size of a golf ball. While working with this small piece, make sure to keep the rest of your dough covered so it doesn't dry out.

After flouring your hands, rolling pin and counter roll dough a bit to flatten it out.

Wrap the dough around the rolling pin and roll back and forth quickly to thin it out.

Keep rotating and repeating this process until the dough is as thin as it can get.
If your dough breaks, don't freak out.. the only one you really have to worry about is the very last layer.

Once your dough is as thin as you're going to get it, carefully pick it up with well floured hands and stretch it out a little bit like you would a pizza crust.

Set aside on a well floured surface and repeat this process until all your dough is used up.
Between each sheet make sure to flour top of sheet so they won't stick together.

When you have all of your sheets, it's time to assemble the Baklava.

Melt about 1/4 cup of butter in the microwave.

Trim your phyllo sheets to fit into your pan.

Brush the bottom of the pan with melted butter and place your first phyllo sheet.

Brush top of phyllo sheet with butter and layer with another sheet of phyllo.

Repeat this process (phllyo sheet, butter, phyllo sheet, butter) with 4 layers ending with butter.
Sprinkle 1/3 cup of sugar/nut filling on top of buttered sheet.

Continue layering phyllo and buttering 4 times, ending with butter and sprinkling with filling mixture.
Repeat this process until all the layers of phyllo have been used (about 5 or 6 times).
On the top layer make sure you have a piece of phyllo with no holes.

Once you have applied the top layer, tuck in all the edges and brush once more with butter.
Using a sharp knife, cut your Baklava into about 30 pieces.

Bake for about 30 minutes, remove from oven and cut again making sure to go all the way through.
Return to oven and bake another 30 minutes or until top is golden brown.

When Baklava is cooked, remove from oven and pour syrup evenly over top, making sure to cover all surfaces until syrup can just be seen at top. (I didn't use all of my syrup) 

Allow to completely cool at room temperature.
Once cooled, cover and store at room temperature overnight so syrup can be absorbed.

Now that I've gotten my first experience over with I'm ready to tackle more adventures.. 
bring on the phyllo dough!

Happy Baking!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Hot & Buttery Popcorn Bread

For a weekend that began so well, the ending turned out very different.

When Friday arrived we eagerly got our things ready before making the trip to Atlanta for one of MM's rugby buddies wedding and the rest of the weekend was spent catching up, laughing and dancing the night away with good friends in celebration of a wonderful occasion and a beautiful wedding.

As the night rounded to a close, MM and I ducked out knowing that we had a flight much earlier than everyone else the next morning. We groggily packed our bags and slouched our way through the airport early that Sunday morning, all the while discussing everything that needed to get done later that day.

We boarded the plane, got comfortable and plugged in our ipods for what we thought would be the duration of the flight only to be interrupted about an hour in.. "We're sorry folks, but it looks like we're going to have to turn around..pressure issue."

I won't bore you with the details, but let's just say this was just the beginning.

3 planes, 3 mechanical issues, 2 terminals, 4 gates and 8 hours later, we were told there was no hope and new arrangements were being made.. oh, and the next flight out wasn't until 8pm the Monday.

Now I know what you're thinking... this should be the point in the story where I tell you how frustrated we got, yelled at the ladies behind the desk and got put on an earlier flight... but sadly that's not how it happened.

Don't get me wrong, we were extremely frustrated, but instead of raising a fuss like some of the other passengers did, we quietly gathered our things and very calmly discussed our situation with the lady behind the desk- She even offered to write me an excuse for having to miss work.

So instead of getting upset about everything we decided to make the most out of it. We collected our vouchers, checked into our hotel, snuggled up in bed and slept in the next morning.

And with 8 hours left in the city what better to do than check out the amazing Georgia Aquarium?

Although our trip didn't turn out exactly how we planned we ended up getting to spend a little extra quality time together and there's nothing wrong with that. Not to mention, we got to see the largest whale sharks in captivity.

So what does all this have to do with Popcorn Bread you ask? To be honest, nothing. Except now you know why this amazing recipe didn't get to you sooner :) I've been having to play catch up every since I got back and haven't had the time until now to catch my breath and write up this glorious bread recipe.

A little disclaimer: My work with yeast is an on-going adventure and this little guy didn't rise as much as I hoped.. hopefully when you give it a whirl it will rise as much as the picture in the cookbook showed!

Hot & Buttery Popcorn Bread
recipe from A Passion for Baking
Oven: 375 Prep time: 3 hours Bake time: 35-45 minutes
Makes 1 large loaf

5 cups of popcorn (about 1/3 cup unpopped kernels or about 1 bag of microwavable)
1 1/4 cup cup warm water (about 110degrees)
3 3/4 tsp rapid-rise yeast
2 TBS sugar
1/4 cup veggie oil
1 TBS butter extract (optional)
2 1/4 tsp salt
5-6 cups bread flour
1 large egg
2-4 TBS butter
pinch of sugar and salt

Pop you corn, whatever your fancy. Pulverize it in batches in a food processor or mini chopper until you have about 2 1/2 cups of very finely ground popcorn.
In a large bowl, whisk warm water and yeast together and let stand for about 2 or 3 minutes or until you start to see bubbles.
Briskly add sugar, oil, butter extract and salt, blending well.
Add popcorn flour and 3 cups of bread flour, mixing well.
Knead the dough with a dough hook attachment for about 6 to 8 minutes, adding flour as necessary to form a soft, elastic dough. (You could also do this by hand if you want)
Form dough into a large ball, spray with cooking spray, place in a large clean bowl and cover with saran wrap.
Place dough in a warm spot and allow to rise about 60 to 90 minutes or until almost doubled.
Spray loaf pan with cooking spray and set aside.
Once the dough has risen, turn out on a lightly floured surface and gently deflate.
Form into loaf and place into prepared loaf pan.
Whisk egg and pinch of salt and sugar in a small bowl.
Brush loaf with egg wash and loosely cover pan with saran wrap.
Return loaf to warm place and allow to rise again for about 45-60 minutes.
Preheat your oven to 375 and brush you risen dough once more with the egg wash.
Place bread in oven and immediately reduce the temperature of the oven to 350 (this will allow the yeast to get that extra kick and give you a nice fluffy loaf I was later told by MM)
As soon as the bread comes out brush with melted butter.
Allow bread to cool in the pan for about 10 minutes before turning out onto wire rack to cool completely.

Happy Baking!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Peanut Butter Cup Surprise Cupcakes

Peanut butter and chocolate: is there any better combination?

If you're hesitating with the answer you're wrong...the answer is no.

Peanut butter and chocolate is and always will be, hands down, the best combo in the world.

I know, I know... It's a bold statement, but you can't fight the truth people.

One of the guys at the office had a birthday a few weeks ago and being a huge fan of the dynamic duo, I knew what had to be done.

Last year I made him an ultra rich Chocolate & Peanut Butter Overload Cake, so this year I mixed it up a little and made cupcakes.

I used my Dark Chocolate Cake recipe (which also happens to be my favorite) filled each with a peanut butter cup surprise and topped 'em with some delicious Peanut Butter Buttercream (recipe below).

Peanut Butter Buttercream
1 stick butter
1 cup peanut butter
3 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
*possibly some milk or cream if its too thick

In a large bowl beat butter and peanut butter until smooth and creamy.
Slowly add powdered sugar and vanilla until smooth and creamy.

Cupcake Construction
Whip up your favorite chocolate cake recipe.
Prepare cupcake pan with liners and unwrap all your mini peanut butter cups.

Place one peanut butter cup in the bottom of each cupcake liner.

Using an ice cream scoop, fill each cupcake and transfer to oven to bake for required time.

Allow cupcakes to cool completely before frosting.
In the mean time, make your peanut butter buttercream.
Once cupcakes have cooled, pipe a good helping of buttercream on each cupcake.


Happy Baking!

Monday, June 13, 2011

A Berry Good Summer Dessert for 2

The strawberries this summer so far have been nothing short of amazing.

One of the most fantastic things happened to me the other day while browsing the isles of Wally World...

Strawberries were on sale for 75 cents!

Say What?! 75 cents!

With a deal like that it's hard to pass up and obviously I bought a few containers with high ambitions of whipping up some delicious treats.

Needless to say, this is just the first of a few strawberry desserts you'll be seeing from this lady in the coming weeks.

It's difficult sometimes making desserts for just me and MM, mostly because making a big dessert means we have to eat the whole thing...which is quite delicious and easy, but not when you're making sure you'll still fit into your perfectly fitting wedding dress in just a few months. Not to mention, its bathing suit season.

So when I can make individual portions or cut servings in half I jump at the opportunity.

I used my favorite tart crust, cut the recipe in half and then used the small ball of dough to line the bottom of two small oven proof glass bowls (I don't have mini tart pans..yet).

I'm going to post the whole recipe in case you want to make one large tart, but I'll include my halved version as well for those of you who may not be baking for as many.

Tart Crust
Oven: 400 Bake time: 15 minutes
Full recipe fills a 9-inch tart pan

4 oz cream cheese (2 oz)
1/2 cup butter, softened (1/4 cup)
1 TBS sugar (1/2 TBS)
1/4 tsp salt (1/8 tsp)
1 1/4 cup AP flour (1/2 cup plus 2 TBS)

Homemade Whipped Cream
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
2 TBS powdered sugar

Sliced strawberries
Fresh blackberries

In a small bowl, beat whipping cream with an electric mixer until it begins to thicken.
Slowly add powdered sugar and continue to beat until stiff peaks form.
Place prepared whipping cream in fridge to chill.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 and spray two 3-inch tart pans or small oven safe bowls with cooking spray.
Beat cream cheese, butter, sugar and salt until creamy.
Add flour and beat at low speed until soft dough forms.
Shape into disc and chill for about 20-30 minutes.
Once dough is chilled, cut dough into two pieces.

Flatten dough into each of your small pans/bowls.

Bake for about 10-15 minutes, or until lightly browned.

Allow crusts to cool slightly before adding whipped cream.
Place heaping dollop of whipped cream on top of cooled crust and smooth out with spatula. (Add as much whipped cream as you need to cover the entire crust)

Arrange fresh fruit on top of smoothed whipped cream.

Finish off with a small dollop of whipped cream and voila! A fresh summer dessert for two!

Happy Baking!

Monday, June 6, 2011

A Marble Falls Wedding

It never ceases to amaze me how quickly time can pass.

It seems like just yesterday Mountain Man came home and let me know he'd try to get me a wedding cake gig with a girl he met on his way home from a business trip.

Shortly after that, I was contacted by Diana and the wedding cake planning began. She went non-traditional, which I loved! She wanted just a small cake for the cutting, a cake for the groom and cupcakes for the guests.

We discussed flavors, fillings, frostings and numbers, the couple came for a tasting and just when we thought we had everything figured out a few last minute changes occurred.

For starters, we were originally going to use this delicious Mango Curd as a filling for the wedding cake, but about a month before the wedding the couple decided to switch it up and requested a Red Velvet Cake instead (no biggie). And as the number of guests increased, so did the number of cupcakes.

With 2 cakes, 90 cupcakes (3 flavors) and 30 mini banana creme pies to make, time management was key.

Needless to say, my kitchen became an assembly line of batters and frostings, but I got it all done.

All packed up and ready to go!

I always get so nervous when transporting cakes and cupcakes. I don't know how Duff and his gang do it on the streets of Baltimore! Every bump and turn make me cringe, praying that nothing is happening to the sweets carefully tucked away in their boxes.

Thankfully we all got to the venue in one piece and I was able to set up the goods on the fabulously sweet dessert table. Along with my cakes and cupcakes, guests had a plethora of goodies to feast on throughout the evening.


Another wedding down and hopefully many more to come!

Don't forget to check out my new cake site: 
...serving the Central Texas area one sweet at a time!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Summery Lemon Squares

Much like gingerbread belongs to winter, lemon squares belong to summer.

I've mentioned it before, but Mountain Man and I love entertaining. We look for any excuse to share our love of food with our friends, eating and laughing the night away.

It just so happened that we had a BBQ this past Memorial Day weekend, which I mentioned before, but I'm mentioning it again... this time to display these tart and tangy lemon squares.

As MM fired up the smoker, checking on his various meats throughout the day, I spent the afternoon between the grocery store and in the kitchen prepping for the evening.

The green monster

The product of all my hard work (they're really quite easy actually) were these dessert bars straight from the Baking Bible aka The King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion. If you don't have this cookbook I highly recommend's amazing.

Lemon Squares
Oven: 350 Bake time: 38 min total*
Fills an 11x13 pan

1 stick butter, softened
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 cups AP flour
2 large eggs

1 stick butter, melted
1 1/4 cup sugar
2 TBS cornmeal
2 TBS cornstarch
1/2 tsp salt
4 large eggs
1/2 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice (3 lemons)

Preheat oven to 350 and spray baking pan with cooking spray.
In a large mixing bowl, cream butter until light and fluffy.
Add sugar, salt and vanilla, beating well.
Stir in flour and eggs, mixing until blended.
Press dough into pan, pressing up around the edges as well.
Bake crust in oven for 8 minutes (it won't brown too much, it's just setting).

In the meantime, start making the filling.

In a large bowl, whisk together melted butter, sugar, cornmeal, cornstarch, salt, eggs and lemon juice.
Once crust has been removed from oven, pour filling over set crust.
Return to oven and back for another 25-28 minutes or until top and sides have lightly browned.
Once baked, remove from oven and allow to cool completely before cutting into squares.
Lightly dust with powdered sugar shortly before serving.

Happy Baking!