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).

Ingredients:

1 cup of maraschino cherry juice

1/2 cup of sugar

3 TBS liquid pectin

Procedure:

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.

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.

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#

Easter Egg Cake Balls

Easter Egg Cake Balls

Easter Egg Cake Balls

Although I don’t quite get it as I guess I’m just not that much of a cake fan, cake balls are very popular around here and I do have to admit these are pretty cute.  I mentioned to college Daughter that I was going to make some and her exact words were “send them here, send them all here” and I’ve made them for several friends, who all seem to love them.  I did have some cheesecake pops at a party recently and those are going to be my next batch as they were amazing.

The basic idea is simple, mush up a cake and icing, roll it and dip in chocolate.  The best site for ideas is Bakerella, she even has a cookbook out just for them.  Previously I made some simple chocolate ones for a birthday party following Bakerella’s instructions.  This time I used a cherry chip cake mix (I usually make my cakes from scratch, but Daughter had left this box of mix here from her last visit so I decided to use it) and some cream cheese icing I had leftover from a birthday cake.

Ingredients

Ingredients:

Cherry Chip Cake mix with eggs and oil (or homemade cake)

1/2 cup chopped maraschino cherries (added to the cake batter for a little extra flavor)

2 cups cream cheese icing (homemade or purchased)

Dipping chocolate white and dark (I prefer Ghirardelli’s candy coating because I think it has the best quality but it’s not always easy to find.  Sam’s Club carries it around the holidays so I stock up but you can also use chocolate melts which you can even get pre-colored)

Cake

First bake the cake and cool completely.

Crumbled Cake

The crumble the cake in a large bowl.

Adding the icing

Add the icing.

Cake and icing mixed up

Smash it together and form into a thick disk – a spatula works but hands work better.  Wrap in plastic and put in the refrigerator for about an hour to stiffen up.

Best spoon for making the balls

Making the eggs

This is a great spoon for making the balls or cookies.  It is a hard plastic with a rubber bottom so the portions are even and you can easily push the dough out.  It comes in several sizes and I’ve seen it at most kitchen stores, the grocery store and even at the dollar store.  For this, I used the Tablespoon size, rolling them into egg shapes and placing them on a cookie sheet.

Eggs rolled

As you can probably tell, I’m not into perfection, I just don’t have time or the patience.  I admire those who do and if you are one of them, you can make them really great.  Some of my eggs aren’t shaped exactly right but they still look pretty egg like and they don’t last long anyway.

Wrap and freeze

Next wrap and place them in the fridge for 10-15 minutes.

Stand

Dipping

Tapping off the excess

Hardening

I have tried two methods of dipping, using a toothpick and putting them on a styrofoam floral stand that I got from the dollar store and just using a fork and putting them on waxed paper.  I find that the fork works better for me but they each have good and bad parts.  In order to get them to stay on the toothpick, I had to freeze them, which then caused the chocolate to crack as it hardened but they seemed to have the best shape if you can keep them on the toothpick.  Any little drips on the bottom can be trimmed with a sharp paring knife.

Fork Dipping

I switched to “warmer” balls on the fork letting them harden on a piece of waxed paper, which seemed to solve the falling off/cracking problem and seemed to be faster.  It sometimes leaves a bit of a flat base, but that is easily trimmed with a sharp paring knife or you can just leave it and serve them with that side down.  I used both white and dark chocolate, adding gel food color to the white to make a couple different colors.  Make sure you keep the chocolate warm, if it starts to thicken heat for a few seconds in the microwave to keep it easier to dip.  When it gets thick it also makes them more likely to crack (I’ve learned these things from the error part of trial and error).  The good news is that I learned the decorating can cover up the cracks pretty well!

Decorating

Here they are after the first round of decorating. Note there are cracks and not so perfect spots, but those will be fixed soon!  I used the spray on color on some of the white ones which made a sort of marbled effect that I liked.   I tried someone’s suggestion for painting corn syrup on then putting sprinkles, but I just didn’t like the way it looked and am not that much of a sprinkle fan anyway so I ended up using the colored white chocolate instead.  Plus, that worked perfectly to fill in any cracks.  I always use a small plastic squeeze bottle when decorating with chocolate, you can get them from Wilton at the craft store or pretty much anywhere and they are very inexpensive.  Just melt the chocolate in a small bowl in the microwave.  Depending on how much you do at a time it can take from 1-2 minutes.  I start with 1 minute, then stir and do 15 second increments until it is melted, then pour it into the squeeze bottle.

Looking Better

Again, those of you who are more creative and have more patience could do a much better decorating job.

Molding and trimming the chocolate baskets

I also used a chocolate mold (from Wilton that I got at Wal-Mart) to make some little baskets.  You just melt the chocolate, put it into the bottom of the mold then put the top.  Using the same sharp paring knife I trimmed off any excess before I unmolded them as sometimes it was hard to judge just how much chocolate to put into the mold – the directions on the package just say fill “half full” but there are no markings so you just have to get a feel for it.

Eggs in Baskets

 

Here are a couple in the baskets.

Lime Cream

Lime Cream

Lime Cream

I love lime, even more than lemon and use it often.  This recipe is kind of  a cross between lime curd and key lime pie filling.  It is essentially a lime custard but with lots of butter and whipped up until it is creamy, inspired by a recipe for Lemon Cream from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking and a recent post from scarpetta dolcetto.  Once completed, this can be used for anything you would normally use a lemon or lime filling for such as tarts, pies, as a cake or cupcake filling, with angel food cake, scones or just on toast and put in a nice jar, it makes a great gift.

Printable Lime Cream Recipe

Ingredients:

1 cup sugar

4 large eggs

1 cup lime juice (about 6 limes)

grated zest from 6 limes (you can use less if you prefer a sweeter result – I like it tart with strong lime flavor)

3 sticks butter softened

Make your own double boiler

If you have a bain marie (fancy name for double boiler) use it, if not, find either two pots that fit inside each other, or you can do what I do to save on dishes, find a pan the will fit your mixer’s bowl.  Fill with a couple of inches of water so that the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl and heat until the water is simmering.

Sugar and lime zest

In the bowl or pan you intend to use, mix the sugar and lime zest together.

Ready to heat

Whisk in the eggs, then the juice.

Start warming the mixture

Place the bowl over the simmering water and whisk until the mixture thickens and reaches 180 degrees.

Thickened

When thickened, place in a mixing bowl with a whisk attachment and begin to whisk until it cools to 140 degrees.

Add butter

Begin adding the butter several teaspoons at a time.  Once all the butter is incorporated, continue mixing on medium to high-speed (as high as you can get without it flying out of the bowl) whisking for 5 minutes.

Cover

Pour into a bowl and cover the surface of the custard with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming.  Refrigerate at least 2 hours to set.

Easter Egg Cake Balls

It’s World Nutella Day – Nutella Brownies

Nutella Brownies

It’s World Nutella Day  sponsored by Ms Adventures in Italy, Bleeding Espresso, and World Nutella Day – there really is a day for everything!  In honor of Nutella, here is my nutella brownie recipe.

World nutella day

My daughter is also away at college and since she didn’t come home for spring break this year she was feeling neglected after finding out her brother and cousin got goodies.  She wanted brownies, so I decided to make “Nutella” brownies.  I took a good fudgie brownie recipe, added extra cocoa and swirled in Nutella, then dalloped more warm Nutella on top with some cherries.  After taste testing, my husband thought we should keep them for ourselves but he relented and off they went to Oklahoma.
Being the terrible mother than I am, I sent my son a picture of the brownies that went to his sister (I thought it was a good picture).  He said “so do I put the Nutella on myself  when they get here” after which I had to point out that I didn’t send him any.  Of course, today I’ll be making another batch, with extra’s for his roommate.  During one trip home, my son forgot his list of items he was supposed to pick up so asked his roommate to text it to him.  The last item on the list was “cookies for Roommate” as apparently he was also fond of the care packages.
Chocolate Fudge Nutella Brownies
2         cups   chocolate chips 

1         cup    butter (2 sticks)

1         cup    cocoa powder

2 1/2   cups   sugar

4                    large eggs

1      Tbs   pure vanilla extract 

1/8   tsp    salt

1      cup   unbleached white flour

1      cup   Chopped nuts (optional)

1      cup   Nutella

Procedure

1   Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2   Butter or spray and flour a 9 X 13 inch glass or non-stick baking pan.
3   Melt 1 cup chocolate chips and butter in microwave checking and stirring at 30 second intervals.
4   Add cocoa and sugar and stir until well mixed.
5   Add eggs, vanilla and salt and mix well.
6   Add flour and mix just until smooth. Do not over mix. This is also the time to add in the remaining chocolate chips and nuts if desired.
7   Pour into prepared pan.
8   Microwave 1 cup Nutella at 15 second intervals until pourable,  Pour over the batter using a large spoon to drizzle generously.
9   Swirl the Nutella in with a knife, drawing it lengthwise, then crosswise to make a nice design. 

Swirled Nutella

10Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes or until knife comes out clean.
11Cool for about 15 minutes, then spread desired amount of Nutella over warm brownies.  If you prefer you can wait until serving, then warm a little Nutella and put a spoon full on top.
12Add Maraschino cherries or sprinkle with more nuts, chips, sprinkles or whatever else you like!
13Cool completely before cutting into squares.

Servings: 24

Yield: Yields from 16-24 servings depending on size.