Friday, May 30, 2014

Date, Almond Butter, and Oat Truffles


I got the urge to make these truffles after I tried them at Whole Foods. They are made by employees right at the store, and one day, they were giving them out as free samples. I was pretty impressed after I found out they contain no sugar or dairy, as they are still sweet and delicious. They are also super easy to make, especially during the summer when you don't want to get the stove going, since they require no baking. 

Ingredients:



  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup finely chopped pitted dates
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, divided
  • 1/2 cup almond butter
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • pinch grated nutmeg
  • pinch ground cinnamon
  • water
Directions:

1. Process oats in the food processor until finely ground. 
2. Add dates, and continue processing until ground. 
3. Then add the almond butter, half the cocoa powder, vanilla extract, nutmeg, and cinnamon and pulse until incorporated. 
4. The mixture will be fairly dry, so you will need to add water to make it moist and easy to shape into balls. (Oksana and I also added some melted butter because we just couldn't resist, but you really do not have to and I don't think it makes much of a difference in regards to taste). 
5. Roll each truffle in the remaining cocoa powder.
6. Refrigerate to set, and enjoy! 

The original recipe can be found here, but Oksana and I found that it asks for too much oatmeal, making the mixture drier than it needs to be. Also, it omits water for some reason, even though when I looked at the ingredient list on the package at the store, water was listed. 

-Yana

Monday, December 2, 2013

Cranberry and Rosemary Topped Layer Cake







This is probably my favorite cake I've made to date- and I've made a lot of cakes.

I wanted to make a Thanksgiving cake and I was sick of pumpkin and carrot, (is that blasphemy during the Thanksgiving season?) so I decided to just wing it and make up a cake.

I completely fell in love with this result! With its wine soaked cherry layer interior and classic cream cheese frosting, it was (dare I say) the highlight of the Thanksgiving dessert table.

Unfortunately (and please don't throw things at your screen in your anger), I genuinely do not remember the recipe for the cake itself.  I made it up on the spot, and didn't bother writing down how much of each ingredient I was adding. I will make it again though, and when I do, I will make sure to measure out the amounts of ingredients as I put them in.

I do know I made the topping though! The cranberry topping was, of course, the focal point of this cake.  Making the topping was very easy, and I plan to put it to good use for future cakes.

Cranberry and Rosemary Topping:

1 package cranberries
1 rosemary branch
1 cup powdered sugar

Directions:

1. Wash your cranberries. I used about half a package for a 9 in. cake. 

2. Boil a pot of water, turn down the heat so it is not a rapid boil, and throw in the cranberries. The point of this is to make the cranberries edible, instead of rock hard. Boil them until they start to feel softer- quickly take them off, drain the water, and dry them in a bowl covered with paper towels. Making sure they don't pop is critical, because if they do, you will just have a cranberry mush on your cake. They should give slightly when you pinch them, but should not be completely pop-able.

3. While the cranberries are still warm, throw them in a bowl of powered sugar and toss until coated evenly.

4. Arrange the cranberries on the cake. Resist the urge to make a tall pyramid- they will tumble when you cut into them. 

5. Place as much (or as little) rosemary within the cranberry topping as you wish. 


This cake is definitely going to be a Thanksgiving staple for me, and I plan to put the topping to good, repeated use.

-Oksana


Saturday, November 30, 2013

Maple Pecan Tart



One of our favorite desserts is Maple Pecan Tart, and we couldn't imagine omitting this classic from our Thanksgiving repertoire. The following recipe is for a standard 10 inch tart pan. This is a bake-ahead dessert, as it needs to cool completely and be refrigerated before serving.

Tart Dough:

1 large egg yolk
2 tbsp ice water, more if needed
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into tiny cubes

Directions:
    1. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolk, ice water and vanilla extract.
    2. In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, sugar and salt.
    3. Using a pastry blender, cut the cold, unsalted butter into the dry mixture until coarse crumbs form.
    Add the egg mixture and knead the dough until it pulls together. Add more ice water if the dough is too dry.

    4. Roll out the dough unto tart pan and blind bake at 375 for 30-40 minutes.

    There are many nuances to making the perfect tart dough or pie pastry, but I do not want to address them all in this post. I think I need to write an entire post of the tips and tricks that I learned from trial and error. This basic tart dough recipe comes from my Williams and Sonoma baking book - one of my favorite baking resources. 


    Pecan Filling:

    6 tbsp butter
    2/3 cup maple syrup
    3 cups of pecans
    0-8 tablespoons of brown sugar, depending on preference
    1/3 cup heavy cream

    The directions for the filling are super-easy, and if it wasn't for the tart dough, this would be the simplest and quickest dessert on the planet.

    1. Add the butter, maple syrup, and sugar (if using) to a large heavy-bottomed skillet. The reason I give such a wide range for the sugar is because it really depends on preference. The recipe that I used for inspiration asked for 1/2 cup or 8 tablespoons of sugar, but I found that it's way too much. It came out disgustingly sweet, and we decided that for our taste, it doesn't need any sugar at all, since the maple syrup is sweet enough. But I suppose 1-2 tablespoons is a pretty good amount too. 

    2. Once the sugar and butter have melted and the mixture begins to boil, turn off the heat and stir in the heavy cream.

    3. Stir in the pecans.

    4. Pour into tart filling and bake at 350 for 30 minutes, or until the filling begins to bubble. 

    5. Let your tart cool down, then cover it with plastic wrap and stick it in the fridge to cool. While you technically can eat this hot, we really suggest you eat it cold.  This way, the maple syrup glues the pecans together and it doesn't just fall apart into individual pecans and dough on your plate.

    -Oksana and Yana

    Friday, November 29, 2013

    Pumpkin Cake



    This is the first of our Thanksgiving posts, cataloging all the desserts we made for this Thanksgiving. 

    I tried this cake for the first time at a friend's house, asked for the recipe - which came from finecooking.com - and since then, I have been making it every fall. The topping - a generous heap of pecans and crystallized ginger - is what totally makes this cake. The smooth and rich cream cheese frosting complements the crunchy topping, and the layers are just the perfect pumpkin and spice base for the whole thing. There are several steps and the directions look long, but it's really worth it. 

    One time, Oksana and I made two of these in one day - one with canned pumpkin puree and another with an actual baked pumpkin that we pureed ourselves. I was surprised that I actually liked the cake made with canned puree better - it turned out more moist. Maybe too much moisture escaped from our pumpkin when we baked it, or maybe it needed a dash of oil. 

    Ingredients:
    For the cake
    • 6 oz. (3/4 cup) unsalted butter
    • 9 oz. (2 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour
    • 1-1/2 tsp. baking soda
    • 1-1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
    • 1 tsp. ground ginger
    • 1/4 tsp. ground cloves
    • 3/4 tsp. table salt
    • 1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
    • 2/3 cup firmly packed light or dark brown sugar
    • 2 large eggs
    • 1/3 cup buttermilk
    • 1 (15 oz.) can of pumpkin puree

    For the topping
    • 1-1/2 Tbs. unsalted butter
    • 2 cups pecans
    • 2 Tbs. firmly packed light brown sugar
    • 1/4 tsp. table salt
    • 1-1/2 Tbs. chopped crystallized ginger

    For the frosting
    • 6 oz. (3/4 cup) unsalted butter
    • 12 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
    • 1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
    • 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar

    Directions:

    Make the cake
    • Preheat the oven to 350. 
    • Butter and flour two 9- inch round springform pans. 
    • Melt butter on stove-top. Cook butter for no more than five minutes stirring occasionally. Its supposed to turn a golden brown color with a slight nutty taste. Set aside to cool for about fifteen minutes as you complete the other steps. The butter should not solidify however. 
    • Combine all the dry ingredients in a medium bowl, besides the brown sugar and granulated sugar and mix. 
    • In  large bowl or stand mixer, whisk the eggs with the granulated sugar and brown sugar. Then add the pumpkin puree and buttermilk and blend well. 
    • Using a paddle attachment or rubber spatula, slowly add the flour mixture to the wet mixture until just blended. 
    • Add the brown butter until incorporated. 
    • Divide batter evenly between the two pans. It should come out more on the thick side. 
    • Bake for 28-30 minutes, or until the toothpick comes out clean. 
    • Let cool in pans for about 15 minutes, and then carefully transfer unto a wire rack to cool completely before frosting. 

    Make the topping
    • Combine all the ingredients in a skillet and cook on medium heat for about five minutes, or until the sugar melts and the pecans are slightly toasted. 

    Make the frosting
    • Melt butter. The original recipe asks you to clarify the butter with a series of complicated steps, but honestly I do not worry too much about it. I just melt the butter, put it through a tight sieve to catch any solids, and skim off the foam. Most of the the time it comes out looking pretty clear. Then I usually set the hot butter in the freezer for 10-15 minutes to cool, so it's ready quickly for the frosting. It must be cool but still liquid-y when used in the frosting. 
    • Beat the cream cheese, butter, light brown sugar and powdered sugar until fully combined. The original recipe asked for a little less light brown sugar and a lot more powdered sugar - about 1 1/4 cups. Since I am not a huge fan of powdered sugar, I added much less and found that it's not really necessary. The frosting is already sweet enough and the thickness is just right. But more powdered sugar can be added if preferred. 

    Assemble the cake
    Put one cake layer on cake plate or server. Spread a little less than half of the frosting and sprinkle the top with about 1/3 of the topping. Place the other cake layer on top and use the remaining frosting to frost the rest of the cake. Top with remaining pecans. 

    -Yana

    Friday, November 15, 2013

    Croissants



    Let's just say I was not prepared for how good these would turn out. 




    I mean... Look at them! 

    Croissants are known to be difficult to make, but I was inspired by this post. This redditor did such a fantastic job! As soon as I saw this, I researched how to go about making them.... which proved to be more difficult than anticipated. There are about as many recipes and methods out there as there are bakers.

    I decided to go ahead and wing it. 

    I used the recipe that my inspiration had used, with a few minor adjustments (purely because I was much too lazy to measure things in deciliters every time I made this). 

    Croissants:

    1 cup cold milk
    25 g. fresh yeast
    1 tbs. sugar
    1 tsp. salt
    1 egg
    3 cups flour
    3 tbs. softened butter

    1 ¼ sticks of butter

    Instructions:

    1. In a small bowl, using a fork or your fingers, mash the yeast and sugar together. Let this stand for a minute or two until the yeast has completely "melted". You'll know what I mean when you see it. 

    2. In a large bowl or stand mixer with a paddle attachment, mix the milk, salt, egg, and yeast just long enough for it to blend together. The dough will be soft, probably a little more than you will be comfortable with. It'll be ok, I promise. I suggest against using the dough hook- there is no need since the dough will be fairly soft. 

    3. Slowly add half of the flour. Once it is incorporated, add the butter and mix until there are no pieces of butter visible. Mix in the rest of the flour. Word of warning- I made this a few times already, and one time I did not let my butter soften very well and ended up with butter chunks in the dough. Make sure the butter is soft inside as well as out. 

    4. Let rise in a warm spot for about an hour. I find that unless my house is upwards of 70+ degrees, the rising process take forever. I usually turn the oven on its lowest setting, let it preheat, and open the door. After transferring my dough to a glass bowl with a towel on top, I just put it on the open oven door so its nice and warm. (This is probably a sin somewhere, I hope vengeful bakers don't come running after me, rolling pins raised.) 

    5. Now, about at this step, I started getting worried. Beating butter, folding butter into dough, folding the dough, flipping around, folding again.... you see what I mean? It really made no sense in my mind until I saw the pictures. From hereon out, I followed his method, except I did not refrigerate the dough after every fold. Come on, I wanted to eat them, not stare at them in the refrigerator. 

    6. After all the folding nonsense, roll out the dough, cut it into triangles, and make the actual croissant shape. Then, swipe an egg wash all around them.  I actually ended up cutting the dough an extra time than he did because I wanted them to be a little smaller. I also filled a few with chocolate, which was about as delicious as it sounds. 

    7. Preheat the oven to 395, and bake for 15 minutes (or until the outsides are brown and you just can't stand the anticipation anymore). 

    These croissants were actually not as difficult to make as I originally anticipated, especially once I got the folding method down. Overall, I would say they were a success, and they definitely get better every time I make them. 




    Make yourself a cup of tea and enjoy!
    -Oksana