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Dessert Recipes Tested Recipes

The Daring Bakers Challenge: Fraisier inspired Raspberry and Blueberry Cream Chocolate Cake

Raspberry/Blueberry Chocolate Cream Cake

This month’s challenge was just made for me, what could be better than a strawberry cream cake?  I did have one slight problem and I need to make sure I remember next time; if you want to keep the kids from eating the strawberries (that you know are their favorite)  make sure you tell them they are reserved! Therefore, when it came time to finish the cake, it became a framboise/bluet-r (love my French – straight from the translator) because the fraise were history.  No matter, it was still delicious.
Jana of Cherry Tea Cakes was our July Daring Bakers’ host and she challenges us to make Fresh Frasiers inspired by recipes written by Elisabeth M. Prueitt and Chad Robertson in the beautiful cookbook Tartine.
I followed her recipes here using the chocolate version of the cake.  I did vary (besides the fruit) in that I made my own almond paste using honey and brown sugar.  It wasn’t the most photogenic, but tasted great and was very simple.
Ingredients for Almond Paste:
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup hone
1/3 cup water
3 cups blanched, whole almonds
1/4 cup butter
In a heatproof bowl microwave sugar, honey and water to a strong boil.  While the mixture is heating, pulse the almonds until coarsely ground.  Pour the honey mixture over the almonds and blend until smooth which may take 10 minutes or more.  If the mixture is too thick add a small amount of water.

Grind the almonds, honey and brown sugar

Just before use, knead in the butter to make a smooth consistency.

Knead with butter, then roll thin layer for the top of the cake

After making the chocolate cake and cream filling per the recipe, I assembled the cake pretty much as directed but using the raspberries and blueberries instead of the already devoured strawberries.  I also didn’t seem to have enough cream left for the top layer so instead I made a quick chocolate ganache (1/2 cream and 1/2 chocolate).  Next time I would leave more space between the berries as I would have liked the cream to show through more but all in all it was still pretty and very delicious!

Sliced
Dessert Quick and Simple Recipes Tested Recipes

5 minute dessert – no bake chocolate cake

No Bake Chocolate Cake

No bake Chocolate Cake

I absolutely love Heidi Swanson’s blog 101 Cookbooks.  Her recipes are wonderful but even more, her pictures are gorgeous and inspiring.  I decided to try her No Bake Chocolate Cake.  This is so simple and quick and the family gave it the thumbs up.  I will definitely make it again! Basically just cream and chocolate, it takes about 5 minutes to make and you can change it up depending on what flavors or spices you add.  I made it plain this time and served with strawberries and maraschino cherry jelly and cherries.  Don’t forget the salt, it really made a difference!
No Bake Chocolate Cake with Maraschino Cherries

I used some mini ceramic pans and they looked really cute.  I was a little apprehensive about getting the slices out, but I didn’t have any problem except one of the first slices was a little misshapen.  After slicing I used a very small, thin rubber spatula to get them out.  Also since the containers were small, the slices were proportionately a little larger.
No Bake Chocolate Cake

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Citrus cream parfaits

Citrus Cream Parfait

While I was visiting the LA Times test kitchen, Noelle Carter was gracious enough to share a great trick with me.  Instead of whipping cream with a whisk or mixer, try doing it in the food processor.  The cream has less air and is more substantial so it holds better and tastes amazing, a little more buttery.  I couldn’t wait to get home and try it out and since I had collected quite a few fruits from my sister-in-law’s trees and the Santa Monica farmer’s market, I decided to make a citrus cream parfait.  I used the lime cream recipe (Printable Lime Cream Recipe) substituting a mixture of lemons, limes, grapefruits and oranges to make a double batch.  Use whatever citrus fruits you have, as long as it equals the right amount of juice.  I zested all the fruits because I like things tart, but you can do only some if you prefer a slightly sweeter recipe.
Citrus Cream

Once the citrus cream was ready, I made the whipped cream by adding 2 cups of heavy whipping cream, 1/4 cup sugar and 1 teaspoon of vanilla to the food processor and processing for a brief (1-2 minutes) time until it was smooth and thick.
Gently fold 1/2 of the whipped cream with 1/2 of the citrus cream.  In dessert cups or nice glasses, add a layer of the citrus cream, a layer of the cream mixture and a layer of whipped cream, then repeat if you are using large glasses.  You could also do it in a single large glass bowl like a trifle.  That’s it!
A double batch of the citrus cream and 2 cups of whipped cream makes 4-8 servings depending on the size of your glasses.
Lime Cream Coconut Pie

The citrus cream is great for desserts or put it in a jar for gifts.  You can use it to make pies, filled cookies, tarts and almost anything you would use lemon curd for, even just on toast or muffins so while I was at it, I also made a double batch of the lime.  I put it in a pre-baked pie shell and sprinkled with some toasted coconut for another quick dessert.
Enjoy.

Breads and muffins Dessert Quick and Simple Recipes

Banana muffins: a classic must have recipe

Banana Muffins

Sometimes you just have to go with the classics – a great banana muffin recipe perfect for those last few (too) ripe bananas.  This recipe is basic, moist and quick.  I made a double batch because I had lots of ready bananas – one batch was regular muffins with no topping and one was minis with the brown sugar/cinnamon topping.
Mini Banana Muffins

Printable Recipe for Banana Muffins
Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 bananas, mashed
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar (split in half)
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon plus one teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup walnuts or pecans (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons butter melted
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar

Procedure:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and spray muffin tin (24 minis or 12 regular size) with vegetable spray or line with papers.
  2. Mix flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and 1 tablespoon cinnamon in a bowl. In a mixing bowl, mix bananas, sugar, ¼ cup brown sugar, egg and vegetable oil. Add the dry ingredients and nuts if used just until moistened. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups – an ice cream scoop works great.
  3. In a small bowl, mix together the remaining ¼ cup brown sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon.
  4. Bake in preheated oven for 18 to 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into center of a muffin comes out clean.
  5. While still warm in the pan, brush with melted butter and sprinkle with brown sugar/cinnamon mixture, then set aside to cool.
Banana muffins cooling
Breads and muffins Dessert gifts Recipes Tested Recipes

The Daring Baker's Challenge: Baklava with homemade dough

BaklavaBaklava

This month’s Daring Baker’s Challenge was one I was looking forward to but unfortunately, due to an unexpected but exciting event (my sliders were chosen as one of the top 5 in the LA Times Battle of the Burgers so I was invited for photos and a visit to the test kitchen in Los Angeles) I was only able to do it at the last-minute and wasn’t able to put in the effort I would have liked. Then, rushing and suffering from a clear lack of concentration, I stopped to make dinner and set the dough aside without flouring it enough and it promptly stuck back together after being so nicely made.
In the late 1970’s, I was privileged to know Baba, an 80 something woman from Yugoslavia who was an amazing cook and who was gracious enough to teach me some of her recipes, even giving me an ethnic recipe book her church put out that I still use.  She took a lump of dough and using only her fingers, made it into a piece the size of a tablecloth, perfect with no holes or thick spots and so thin you could easily see through it.  I have tried a couple of times, but really didn’t have the patience to perfect it (and of course it was much easier to just buy it) so I haven’t done it in years.  Since I was too tired to remake the dough after dinner, I separated it as best I could and in the end it was edible, but not spectacular.  The dough recipe is wonderful and easy to work with, stretching nicely without breaking and I was so proud of how it turned out . . . before dinner!  I will definitely make this one again.
Erica of Erica’s Edibles was our host for the Daring Baker’s June challenge. Erica challenged us to be truly DARING by making homemade phyllo dough and then to use that homemade dough to make Baklava.
Here is the recipe, just as given by Erica who did such a wonderful job (the only change I made was to use pizza flour as suggested by Audax)!

Phyllo Dough:

*Note 1: To have enough to fill my 9” x 9” baking dish with 18 layers of phyllo I doubled this recipe.
*Note 2: Single recipe will fill a 8” x 5” baking dish.
*Note 3: Dough can be made a head of time and froze. Just remove from freezer and allow to thaw
and continue making your baklava
Ingredients:
1 1/3 cups (320 ml) (185 gm/6½ oz) unbleached all purpose (plain) flour
1/8 teaspoon (2/3 ml) (¾ gm) salt
1/2 cup less 1 tablespoon (105 ml) water, plus more if needed
2 tablespoons (30 ml) vegetable oil, plus additional for coating the dough
1/2 teaspoon (2½ ml) cider vinegar, (could substitute white wine vinegar or red wine vinegar, but could affect the taste)

Directions:

1. In the bowl of your stand mixer combine flour and salt
2. Mix with paddle attachment
3. Combine water, oil and vinegar in a small bowl.
4. Add water & oil mixture with mixer on low speed, mix until you get a soft dough, if it appears dry add a little more water (I had to add a tablespoon more)
5. Change to the dough hook and let knead approximately 10 minutes. You will end up with beautiful smooth dough. If you are kneading by hand, knead approx. 20 minutes.
6. Remove the dough from mixer and continue to knead for 2 more minutes. Pick up the dough and through it down hard on the counter a few times during the kneading process.
7. Shape the dough into a ball and lightly cover with oil
8. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and let rest 30-90 minutes, longer is best ( I let mine rest 2 hours and it was perfect)

Rolling your Phyllo



** Remove all rings and jewelry so it does not snag the dough**

Use whatever means you have to get the dough as thin as you can. I have included a fantastic video at the end of the post on how to roll out your phyllo dough, using a wooden dowel, which worked perfectly for me. You may also use a pasta machine if you have one, or a normal rolling pin whatever works for you.
1. Unwrap your dough and cut off a chunk slightly larger then a golf ball. While you are rolling be sure to keep the other dough covered so it doesn’t dry out.
2. Be sure to flour your hands, rolling pin and counter. As you roll you will need to keep adding, don’t worry, you can’t over-flour.
3. Roll out the dough a bit to flatten it out.
4. Wrap the dough around your rolling pin/dowel
5. Roll back and forth quickly with the dough remaining on the dowel (see attached video for a visual, its much easier then it sounds)
6. Remove; notice how much bigger it is!
7. Rotate and repeat until it is as thin as you can it. Don’t worry if you get rips in the dough, as long as you have one perfect one for the top you will never notice.
8. When you get it as thin as you can with the rolling pin, carefully pick it up with well floured hands and stretch it on the backs of your hands as you would a pizza dough, just helps make it that much thinner. Roll out your dough until it is transparent. NOTE: you will not get it as thin as the frozen phyllo dough you purchase at the store, it is made by machine
9. Set aside on a well-floured surface. Repeat the process until your dough is used up. Between each sheet again flower well. You will not need to cover your dough with a wet cloth, as you do with boxed dough, it is moist enough that it will not try out.

Baklava Recipe

Adapted from Alton Brown, The Food Network
30 servings
Ingredients
For the syrup:
· 1 1/4 cups (300 ml) honey
· 1 1/4 cups (300ml) water
· 1 1/4 cups (300 ml) (280 gm/10 oz) sugar
· 1 cinnamon stick
· 1 (2-inch/50 mm) piece fresh citrus peel (lemon or orange work best)
· a few cloves or a pinch or ground clove
When you put your baklava in the oven start making your syrup. When you combine the two, one of them needs to be hot, I find it better when the baklava is hot and the syrup has cooled
Directions
1. Combine all ingredients in a medium pot over medium high heat. Stir occasionally until sugar has dissolved
2. Boil for 10 minutes, stir occasionally.
3. Once boiled for 10 minutes remove from heat and strain cinnamon stick and lemon, allow to cool as baklava cooks

Ingredients for the Filling:

1 (5-inch/125 mm piece) cinnamon stick, broken into 2 to 3 pieces or 2 teaspoons (10 ml) (8 gm) ground cinnamon
15 to 20 whole allspice berries ( I just used a few pinches)
3/4 cup (180 ml) (170 gm/6 oz) blanched almonds
3/4 cup (180 ml) (155 gm/5½ oz) raw or roasted walnuts
3/4 cup (180 ml) (140 gm/5 oz) raw or roasted pistachios
2/3 cup (160 ml) (150 gm/ 5 1/3 oz) sugar
phyllo dough (see recipe above)
1 cup (2 sticks) (240 ml) (225g/8 oz) melted butter ** I did not need this much, less then half**
Directions:
1. Preheat oven to moderate 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4.
2. Combine nuts, sugar and spices in a food processor and pulse on high until finely chopped. If you do not have a food processor chop with a sharp knife as fine as you can. Set aside
3. Trim your phyllo sheets to fit in your pan
4. Brush bottom of pan with butter and place first phyllo sheet
5. Brush the first phyllo sheet with butter and repeat approximately 5 times ending with butter. (Most recipes say more, but homemade phyllo is thicker so it’s not needed)
6. Sprinkle 1/3 of the nut mixture on top
7. Continue layering phyllo and buttering repeating 4 times
8. Sprinkle 1/3 of the nut mixture on top
9. Continue layering phyllo and buttering repeating 4 times
10. Sprinkle 1/3 of the nut mixture on top
11. Continue layering and buttering phyllo 5 more times. On the top layer, make sure you have a piece of phyllo with no holes if possible, just looks better.
12. Once you have applied the top layer tuck in all the edges to give a nice appearance.
13. With a Sharp knife cut your baklava in desired shapes and number of pieces. If you can’t cut all the ways through don’t worry you will cut again later. A 9×9 pan cuts nicely into 30 pieces. Then brush with a generous layer of butter making sure to cover every area and edge
14. Bake for approximately 30 minutes; remove from oven and cut again this time all the way through. Continue baking for another 30 minutes. (Oven temperatures will vary, you are looking for the top to be a golden brown, take close watch yours may need more or less time in the oven)
15. When baklava is cooked remove from oven and pour the cooled (will still be warmish) syrup evenly over the top, taking care to cover all surfaces when pouring. It looks like it is a lot but over night the syrup will soak into the baklava creating a beautifully sweet and wonderfully textured baklava!
Next morning all syrup is absorbed
16. Allow to cool to room temperature. Once cooled cover and store at room temperature. Allow the baklava to sit overnight to absorb the syrup.
17. Serve at room temperature
Freezing/Storage Instructions/Tips: There are a few ways to store your Baklava. It is recommended that you store your baklava at room temperature in an airtight container. Stored at room temperature your baklava will last for up to 2 weeks. You will notice as the days pass it will get a little juicier and chewier. You may choose to store it in the fridge; this will make it a little harder and chewy, but does increase the shelf life. You can also freeze your baklava and then just set it out at room temperature to thaw.
Additional Information: I have included some videos and links to help you through the process

How to roll the phyllo dough – 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vvNzAi9w6TU&feature=related
Excellent 3 part video showing the whole process – 
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MLV7W-KUME8&feature=related
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z8pzyKgxuF4&feature=related
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aJgotI69pXY&feature=related
Making Hollow Baklava Rolls- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6FvM8cWzjKI
Making Baklava Rolls – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H51egHWv0sQ
Nut Free Baklava – 
http://hubpages.com/hub/nut-free-baklava-recipe
http://tzk-design.com/recipe/nut-free-baklava
Gluten Free Baklava
http://glutenfreepastry.org/gluten-free-baklava-recipe-demonstration/
http://gluten-free.mobi/gluten-free-baklava.php
Vegan Baklava
http://www.veganchef.com/baklava.htm
http://www.care2.com/greenliving/nutty-vegan-baklava.html#

Dessert Food photography Recipes

Blueberry Cheesecake

Blueberry Cheesecake

Cheesecake is always popular around here and I recently got a large container of blueberries.  When I asked what I should do with them, Son’s girlfriend suggested blueberry cheesecake and since she was about to graduate and planned on celebrating at an Italian restaurant it seemed like a great idea for an at home dessert after the meal.  Of course Son (who loves cheesecake but not so much blueberries) forgot to take or mention it so it didn’t make it to the celebration.  I have no doubt it will be eaten anyway!  I recently used this same basic recipe for an Oreo version requested for a birthday and found it is an excellent one, a little lighter texture than my usual favorite (which uses 2 2/1 pounds of cream cheese and no sour cream).
Printable Version Blueberry Cheesecake
Ingredients:
Crust:
1 1/2 cups finely ground cookie crumbs (I used the white chocolate peanut butter ones)
2 tbs butter (because these cookies were very moist I didn’t add the extra butter to keep the crust from being soggy, but if you use a dry cookie you should)
9 or 10 inch springform pan
Filling:
1 1/2 lbs cream cheese (room temperature)
1 cup sugar
5 large eggs (room temperature)
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 cup flour
8 oz sour cream
Topping:
1 lb (about 4 cups) fresh blueberries (frozen or canned works too – if you use canned in syrup, don’t add sugar)
1/2 cup sugar (I like them to stay a little tart so if you want sweet add 1 cup instead of 1/2 cup)
1 teaspoon butter
grated zest from one lemon
juice from 1/2 lemon
2 cinnamon sticks
Procedure:
Cookies in the food processor

Place the cookies in a food processor and grind them finely.
Ground cookie crumbs in the pan

If the crumbs will not stick together between your fingers, add small amounts of melted butter until you can just flatten them together.  Place on the bottom of a springform pan that has been sprayed with cooking spray.  Set aside.
Filling:
Cream Cheese

Beat the cream cheese until it is light and fluffy, add sugar gradually and keep beating until it is mixed in completely.
Add eggs

Add the eggs one at a time blending well after each egg.
Add vanilla, salt and flour

Add the vanilla, salt and flour and mix until smooth, scraping down the bowl to incorporate all ingredients.
Sour cream

Add the sour cream and mix well.


Pour into prepared pan and bake in a preheated oven at 325 degrees for 1 hour and 15 minutes.  When the time is up slightly open the door and let the cake stay for an extra hour without disturbing – no peeking you want it to cool slowly to prevent cracks, although in this case the blueberry topping will cover any that might happen.  After an hour, cover with plastic wrap – not touching the top but over the pan and refrigerate at least overnight.
Topping:

Ingredients for fresh blueberry sauce
Blueberries in the pan

Wash the berries and place in a medium saucepan.  Add the remaining ingredients.

Blueberry popping

Bring to a boil over high heat, then lower to a simmer to thicken to the consistency you prefer.  A little less time and you will still have some whole blueberries, a little more and a thicker sauce.  Remove the cinnamon sticks and refrigerate, covered until ready to serve.
For serving you can either cover the top of the cheesecake, or serve the blueberries on the side, topping each slice separately.

Blueberry Cheesecake