Thursday, April 28, 2011

Happy Birthday, Mom!!!

Last thursday was my mom's birthday. I can't tell you her age though. I thought it would be wonderful if I cooked her a birthday dinner. I planned it for days. Everything had to be perfect, and in my opinion, everything was almost perfect. Of course there were a few things I'd like to tweak, but overall, it was a successful dinner. Enough with the talking, I'll show you the pictures!

from left to right:

~Seared salmon with pea puree
~tomato garlic bruschetta
~arugula salad w/bacon and balsamic vinaigrette

spinach-ricotta ravioli

spinach-ricotta ravioli with a butter sage sauce

chocolate cake filled with white chocolate mousse covered in chocolate buttercream

my wonderful mom!

my cousin and mom

my mom and I
(haha where are my eyes?!)

Although making this whole dinner was very tedious, especially since I was doing it all alone, I was very happy to see my mom happy. She absolutely loved every course. It was a great night and I'm really glad I decided to do this.

Whole Wheat Dinner Rolls

I love bread....especially warm dinner rolls. Honestly, one of my favorite parts about going to the Cheesecake Factory or Piccola Bussola is sitting down and eating those wonderful, freshly out of the oven dinner rolls. They're just so tasty! So, after having dreamt of dinner rolls for quite some time, I decided to make some. My timing couldn't have been better because it just so happened to be the day before my mom's birthday when I made them and she absolutely LOVES bread. So, I whipped up a batch of whole wheat dinner rolls and may I say, they were delicious.

The recipe I used was from Food Network. I used Tanya Holland's recipe. Since the original recipe yields 24-30 rolls, I cut the recipe in half and substituted half the all purpose flour for whole wheat flour. Here's the recipe:

Whole Wheat Dinner Rolls (adapted from Tanya Holland)

makes 12-18 rolls

1/2 package dry active yeast
1/2 cup warm water (about 110 degrees F)
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 egg, beaten
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup milk, scalded but cooled to warm
2 ounces butter, melted, plus 1 ounce
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups whole-wheat flour, plus more, as needed (i used king Arthur flour)

In a standing mixing bowl with dough hook, dissolve yeast in warm water. Let sit until lightly foamy, then stir in sugar and add egg, salt, warm milk, and 2 ounces of butter. Slowly add 2 1/2 cups flour, adding more as needed to make an elastic dough. Mix well, then roll out to floured surface and knead dough for about 5 minutes. Place dough in buttered bowl, cover with towel, and set in a warm place to rise until double in bulk, about 1 hour. Punch down dough and form dough into 1-inch balls. Place the balls onto a greased baking sheet, and allow to rise an additional 1/2 hour. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Brush the risen dough balls with remaining melted butter. Bake in preheated oven for 10 to 15 minutes or until golden brown.

letting the yeast foam

yeast, water, egg, salt, milk, butter

this is what your dough should look like after 5 minutes

getting ready for the first rise

This is the best I can do when it comes to having a "kitchen towel"

getting ready for the second rise

I have to say, these dinner rolls were a success. My mom absolutely loved them. They were crispy on the outside but oh-so fluffy on the inside. I highly recommend you serving these the day they were made. My mom placed them in a container and they go slightly soft on the outside. They still tasted great, but I think that I will definitely serve them the day I make them next time. Well, there's nothing left to say but enjoy! 

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Snicker doodles

Who can resist the warm feeling you get when you eat a wonderful cinnamon-sugar drenched cookie? Yes that's right....I'm talking about snicker doodles. They're so yummy! Maybe I think this because I absolutely love cinnamon. Or maybe it's because they remind me of Christmas, which is my favorite holiday. I guess I kind of miss that time of year now that spring is here. (I rhymed :D) There's just something magical about Christmas; how it brings family together and just makes everybody happy. So, missing the holidays so much, I decided to whip up a batch of these delicious cookies. Here's the recipe:

Snicker doodles:

makes 18 cookies

1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup shortening
  • 3/4 cups white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/3 cups + 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

  • cinnamon-sugar mixture:
  • 1 tablespoon white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Cream together butter, shortening, 3/4 cups sugar, the egg and the vanilla. In a separate bowl, sift the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt. Once the butter mixture has been creamed, mix in the flour mixture. Using a tablespoon, scoop the dough and shape them into balls. In another bowl, mix the sugar and the cinnamon. Roll the dough balls into the cinnamon-sugar mixture. Place the dough balls 2 inches apart on greased baking sheets. Bake 8 to 10 minutes, or golden brown. Remove from the baking sheets and let cool.

This recipe is super simple and takes only 15 minutes to prepare. They're absolutely delicious straight from the oven.....but I suggest you don't eat them when they're scorching hot. You must have will power and wait for them to cool for at least 5 minutes. Trust me, they're worth the wait. 

Happy Baking! 

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

200 cupcakes

One of my friends recently requested that I make her 200 "Alice in Wonderland" themed cupcakes. When I first heard of this request, I knew there would be absolutely no way I could ever possibly do such a task with my single oven. But I gave it some thought and decided I'd give it a test run with just a few cupcakes and designs over spring break. So I did a few days ago and here's what I came up with:

Well, what do you think? In my opinion the cupcakes were a success. I had my friend come over yesterday and she was absolutely ecstatic. She loved them. After seeing here reaction, I knew that I would most likely be able to pull this off. Who knows?...maybe this could be the start to my future baking business. 

Friday, April 8, 2011

Milk and Cookies

Never is there a time when a good old fashioned chocolate chip cookie doesn't make you feel happier. There's just something about this comfort food that brightens the moment. I think it's the brown sugar which adds the rich, chewy texture we all look for. In my opinion, a good chocolate cookie consists of crisp outer edges, and a wonderfully chewy center. This cookie, is all that and more.

This is probably the easiest cookie recipe on the face of the earth and it yields wonderful cookies. Here's the recipe:

Chocolate Chip Cookies:

makes 36 cookies

  • 1 cup and 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 6 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 6 tablespoons packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (i used mini chocolate chips)
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Sift the flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Using a mixer, beat the butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract until creamy. Then add the egg and beat well. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in chocolate chips. Drop by rounded teaspoons onto greased baking sheets. (i used a small ice-cream scoop) Bake the cookies for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown. Once golden brown, cool for 5-10 minutes. 

The hardest part about making these cookies is most likely waiting for them to bake. The entire house become filled with a wonderfully sweet aroma that you just cannot resist. Try not to stare at them baking because you know what they say, "a watched pot never boils." But, once your cookies have been baked and cooled, I think you know what to do next.... DEVOUR THEM! Don't save them, EAT THEM! Pour yourself a nice cold glass of milk, and enjoy the fruits of your labor.

Happy Baking! 

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Bread Pudding Galore

What does someone do with left over, unwanted, stale croissants?... Well, I make caramel croissant bread pudding. Nigella Lawson's recipe to be exact. This bread pudding is absolutely delicious. It's quite sweet, though, so I try not to eat too much. It's a bit difficult to do that. 

Now, if you're watching your weight, this is definitely NOT something you want to eat. It's wonderfully rich and caramelly, which means it's definitely not on the Weight Watchers recipe book. But if you feeling like just letting yourself go for one night, this is definitely the "go to" dessert. It's definitely one I make over and over again!

Caramel Croissant Bread Pudding (adapted from Nigella Lawson)

makes 2 servings (1 croissant per person)

2 stale croissants
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp water
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup whole milk (I used 1%)
2 eggs, beaten

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Tear the croissants into pieces and put them into 2 5-ounce ramekins. Be sure to lightly grease them. 
Put the sugar and water into a saucepan, and swirl around to help dissolve the sugar before putting the saucepan on the hob over medium to high heat. Caramelize the sugar and water mixture by letting it bubble away until it all turns a deep amber colour; this will take 3 to 5 minutes. Take the pan off the heat and add the cream  followed by the milk. (the mixture will bubble violently, so be careful) Whisk the mixture to mix and while still whisking, add the beaten eggs. Pour this quickly over the croissants and leave to steep for 10 minutes. Once the croissants have soaked the custard mixture, bake for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, the croissant pudding should be golden brown. Let them cool for a few minutes, then invert them onto a plate and serve with ice cream or whipped cream.

Happy Baking! 

Hazelnut "Entremet"

For the past week I've been pretty much obsessed with Entremets. Entremet literally translates into "between servings" (from old French). They're either small dishes served between courses or dessert. I was first introduced to these small delights when I came across this food blog: Evan's Kitchen Ramblings is now my favorite blog to follow. Her desserts are absolutely gorgeous. Now, I would hardly ever attempt to create her desserts, therefore last night I created my own, simpler version of an Entremet; my hazelnut/Nutella entremet. I served it to my parents and they absolutely loved it. So here's the recipe:

makes approx 8-10 servings

for the chocolate cake (Hershey's Perfectly Perfect Chocolate Cake): 
2 cups sugar 
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup HERSHEY'S Cocoa
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil 
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water
for the hazelnut crunch:
1/4 cup hazelnut spread (I used Nutella)
2 tbsp shortening (Don't use butter)
1-1 1/4 cup crisped rice (I used Rice Krispies) 
for the hazelnut mousse:
2 tbsp butter, softened
1 1/2 tbsp cream cheese; softened
1/2 cup Nutella, softened(You can use more if you prefer a more prominent hazelnut flavor or less if you don't)
1/3 cup heavy cream

1. chocolate cake:
Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour the baking sheet tray. Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed of mixer 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin). Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pan to wire racks. Cool completely.
* I used most of the batter to make 12 cupcakes. I poured the remaining batter into a baking sheet. Once it was baked and cooled I cut the sheet cake in half vertically. Then I trimmed the cakes into approx 8"x6" pieces.  However you can make them as big or small as you want.* 
2. hazelnut crunch:
In the microwave, melt the hazelnut spread and butter. (the butter will be melted, the hazelnut spread will be softened). Once the butter has melted, stir in the crisped rice. The mixture should be slightly wet/damp. Set this aside. 
3. hazelnut mousse:
Cream the softened butter and cream cheese until pale and fluffy. Then add the hazelnut spread into the mixture and cream. In a separate bowl, whip the heavy cream until it reaches slightly stiff peaks. Fold in 1/4 of the whipped cream into the hazelnut mixture to lighten it. Then slowly fold in the rest of the whipped cream into the hazelnut mixture. The mousse should be nice and fluffy. 
4. assembly:
Line a rectangular mousse ring with parchment paper. In the ring layer one of the halves of chocolate cake on the bottom. Next, spread a generous layer of the hazelnut crunch onto the cake. Refrigerate until set. (approx 10 minutes) Then layer the other half of the cake on top of the crunch. Next, spread the mousse on top the cake. Make sure the mousse is layered nice and smoothly. Refrigerate until set. (approx 30 minutes) Once set, dust the cake with cocoa powder. Remove the cake from the ring and cut the cake into approx 8 3"x2" slices. Garnish and serve. Enjoy! 

Happy Baking!