The Daring Baker's Challenge – Candy and another French lesson

The Daring Baker's Challenge – Candy and another French lesson

Filled Chocolates White Chocolate and Pate de Fruit, White Chocolate Lime Ganache, Dark Chocolate Honey Almond Paste and Dark Chocolate Honey Caramel, Red Pepper Flakes, Sea Salt and Lime

It’s no secret that I am all in when it comes to any kind of sweets and the entire family are chocoholics so it was no wonder that this challenge was a winner in our household!  I made a variety of filled white and dark chocolates (honey caramel and chili peppers, lime cream, brown sugar almond paste and Raspberry Pate de Fruit (the learning French part – if I keep doing these challenges soon I’ll be fluent) and a Raspberry Pate de Fruit.
The August 2011 Daring Bakers’ Challenge was hosted by Lisa of Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drive and Mandy of What the Fruitcake?!. These two sugar mavens challenged us to make sinfully delicious candies! This was a special challenge for the Daring Bakers because the good folks at offered an amazing prize for the winner of the most creative and delicious candy!
The gracious hosts provided an excellent and very complete roadmap to making, tempering, dipping and molding the chocolates as well as some non-chocolate candy instructions here.  What a wonderful reference for when the holidays come around! I followed their directions (using the seeding method of tempering) with a few additions of my own.
Printable Version
Son was leaving for college so I made his favorite first, white chocolate filled with white chocolate lime ganache:
12 ounces white chocolate
1/2 cup cream
2 limes zested and juiced (4 key limes if you can find them)
2 tablespoons butter (optional if you want a softer more liquid filling)
1 additional lime for garnish

White Chocolate Lime Ganache

Add all ingredients into a microwave safe bowl and heat for 1 minute, stir and then heat in 15 second increments until melted and smooth.  Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours.
Temper the chocolate then I know this is probably awful, but I found it easier to fill the molds using a large plastic squeeze bottle.  I’ve never been neat in the kitchen (as Husband, aka official cleaner upper will attest to) so this helps me a lot.

Prep for Molded Chocolates

I used a silicone mini-muffin pan (there are no tiny bite eaters here) to make the molded chocolates.  It worked perfectly and each candy popped out with ease.

Fill the bottom of the mold with a layer of white chocolate

Using two spoons place a small amount of the cooled lime ganache in each cup

Fill the cups with white chocolate

Made one with raspberry filling

Place in the fridge for 10-15 minutes until set.  Then they popped right out.
Next came the Pate de Fruit.  I followed the recipe given in the challenge for strawberry ones, but instead using raspberries and made one small addition. Lucky for me I’m not a professional and have no training, so it never bothers me to mess with tradition since I usually don’t know any better and sometimes it works, sometimes not.  After seeing that several people had trouble with it setting, I cheated and added just a pinch of gelatine.  Whether that had anything to do with it I’m not sure, but they came out with a great texture.

After blending and straining the fruit I brought all the ingredients to a boil and cooked

And cooked and cooked and cooked

and finally it was thick

and in the pan to cool

After they set I used a small cookie cutter to make the shapes.
Then it was time for the dark chocolate lovers (the other half of the family).  I had a little more trouble tempering the dark due to the high temperatures here even with ac it was still 78 so it took a while to get the chocolate down to 80.
For some additional fillings I used some things I have made before honey caramel and honey almond paste to add to the lime ganache and Pate de Fruit.  Using the same technique as the white chocolate I made the dark chocolate candy.  Just for Husband was the honey caramel with red pepper flakes and sea salt topped with a little lime!

White Chocolate with White Chocolate Lime Cream Candy

Lots of Candy

What great fun!

Cheesecake Custard Parfait with Fresh Fruit

Cheesecake Custard Parfait with Fresh Fruit

Cheesecake Custard Parfait

I’ve had such good luck with the summer fruits I just couldn’t resist getting more. This time they were even better, the raspberries and cherries were great and  I have never seen such large white peaches – only 5 of them weighed over 4 pounds and they were sweet and juicy!

Giant White Peaches and cherries

Since Son is about to go back to college and of course I bought the industrial size package of cherries, I needed a way to use them fast.  Not a surprise, cheesecake came up but to compromise (since we’ve had several cheesecakes in the very recent past) I decided on the parfait which is simple, no baking (or hot oven) and they just look beautiful.  You can substitute any fruits you have for the peaches and cherries.
Printable Recipe for Cheesecake Custard Parfait with Fresh Fruit

  • 1 pounds of fresh peeled diced peaches (2-3 medium or 1 giant)
  • 2 cups of pitted and sliced cherries
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 cup of half and half cream (you can use whole milk if you prefer)
  • 5 tbsp. of sugar
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 2 1/2 tbsp. of cornstarch
  • 6 ounces of cream cheese (just enough left for the cooks breakfast bagel)
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp. of almond or vanilla extract
  • 1 cup(s) of heavy whipping cream
  • 1 pound(s) of fresh fruit and cookies for garnish (I used peaches, cherries, raspberries and chocolate drizzled shortbread cookies from the store)
  1. Place peaches, cherries and brown sugar in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat stirring occasionally until the fruit is soft and has released some of its juice – about 15 minutes.  Cover with plastic and set aside in refrigerator.
  2. In a small saucepan, bring 3/4 cup of the half and half and the sugar to a boil.
  3. In the bowl of your mixer using the whip attachment, whisk the egg yolks, cornstarch and remaining half and half together.
  4. With the mixer on its lowest speed, add the boiling milk in a very slow stream into the egg yolk mixture.
  5. Return the mixture to the saucepan and whisking constantly, cook over low heat for about 2 minutes until it thickens.

    Incorporating the cream cheese

  6. Add the cream cheese and extract and whisk until smooth, about 1 minute. Cover the surface with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 2 hours.

    Cheesecake Custard ready to chill

  7. When the custard is well chilled, whip the heavy whipping cream to soft peaks and then on the lowest speed, add the custard in small amounts until it is well mixed.

    Custard and cooked fruit

  8. Remove 1/2 of the mixture to a separate bowl. Add the cooked fruit to the remaining half, gently folding it into the custard/whipped cream mixture.
  9. In serving glasses or cups, layer the custard and fruit custard with fresh peach slices, cherries or other fruits and garnish with a small cookie.
This will make 6-8 parfaits depending on how much fruit and what size cups you use.

Cheesecake Custard Parfait with Fresh Fruits

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
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
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
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

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.

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.

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

A quinceanera, another birthday and Peanut Butter Cup Cake and Cupcakes

A quinceanera, another birthday and Peanut Butter Cup Cake and Cupcakes

Peanut Butter Cup filled Chocolate Cake and Cupcakes

More birthdays, they just keep coming (not mine this time).  I’ve just returned from my niece’s quinceanera, which was beautiful as was she!  There was a lovely ceremony held on the beach then a great reception.  Her aunt made the cakes and decorations and there were amazingly beautiful flowers and scenery so I took lots of pictures.

Cake Table

Pier at sunset

Sunset over the water

And now for the food:  a friend’s daughter recently had a birthday so I made this arrangement with a small cake, cupcakes and mini-cupcakes with peanut butter cup filling and peanut butter buttercream icing using The Barefoot Contessa’s Chocolate Cupcakes and Peanut Butter Icing recipe.  I’ve tested this recipe before and it is a great one but this time I added the peanut butter cup filling rolled into balls and placed in the batter which made them even better.
The filling recipe is:

  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter, divided
  • 6 teaspoons butter, softened
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

In a microwave safe bowl, warm the butter and peanut butter for about 30 seconds and mix until it is smooth and slightly melted.  Add the powdered sugar and mix until it is thick enough to roll.  You may need slightly more or less sugar.  Roll the mixture into small, medium and larger balls for the mini-cupcakes, cupcakes and cake.  I made a single batch which made a small 6 inch cake and a dozen regular and a dozen mini-cupcakes.

Birthday Peanut Butter Cake and Cupcakes

Just place the balls in a ring around the bottom of the cake, and one in each cupcake and pour the batter over them and bake according to the directions in the recipe piping with the peanut butter icing when they are cool.  I added some flower candies or if you had them you could use a mini peanut butter cup.


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!


Maraschino Jelly makes everything better

Maraschino Jelly makes everything better

Maraschino Cherry Jelly

Some things just seem too good to give up even when you get older.  Maraschino cherries are one of those things.  Every kid loves them, they make a soda turn into a Shirley Temple and you just can’t have ice cream sundaes without one.  This recipe has been around forever I’m sure, but is still a great way to keep the taste around.  Because of the recent cupcakes, I had a large jug of cherry juice left so I made a giant batch of jelly (I multiplied the recipe by 4 since I had four cups of juice).


1 cup of maraschino cherry juice

1/2 cup of sugar

3 TBS liquid pectin


Mix the sugar and juice and bring to a full roiling boil and let it boil for 2-3 minutes.  Add the pectin and boil for another minute.  Pour into jars and sterilize, or if you intend to use it right away, pour into a clean container and refrigerate.