Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Lesson #92: Twix Caramel Corn

YUMMY! This is the best word to describe this snack. It would be perfect for a Superbowl party this weekend. First, you make a batch of caramel corn. Then, you drizzled it with melted chocolate and mix in chopped Twix candy bars. Adding the chocolate and candy really dresses up the popcorn and makes it taste like gourmet popcorn you can buy in a specialty shop.

LESSON LEARNED: Simple mix-ins add a whole new level of deliciousness to caramel corn.

Recipe for Twix Caramel Corn

Monday, January 30, 2012

Lesson #91: Riesling-Poached Pear Sorbet

I found a new book with ice cream and sorbet recipes last week, so I let my husband look through it to pick out some new recipes since he is the ice cream lover in the house. The book is divided by season (depending on what fruits are readily available) so we checked out the winter section of the book first. Here's the result of the first recipe we tried out!

The sorbet is super fruity and refreshing. When you eat a spoonful, you are first taste the pear flavor which is followed by the sweet bite of the Riesling wine. Warning: this sorbet disappeared fast in our home! Here's a picture of the spoonful I ate :)

LESSON LEARNED: Poaching pears in wine, then blending with sugar and water creates a delicious sorbet!

Recipe for Riesling-Poached Pear Sorbet

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Lesson #90: Yellow Cupcakes with Chocolate Frosting

Over the past week, I've been in the mood for a comfort dessert. I've been fighting a sinus infection, so all I really feel like doing is sitting around :(

My favorite cake combination is yellow cake with chocolate frosting. When I made cake from box mixes, this is always what I would choose. I picked up a cake book from the library a few weeks ago which mixed up cakes just using one bowl. It seemed like a pretty straightforward method (no creaming the butter & sugar and alternating between milk and a flour mixture here!). You dump the dry ingredients in a bowl, add the wet ingredients, and mix.

The cakes turned out surprisingly great! They were moist and had a yummy butter flavor. I also mixed up a sour cream chocolate frosting which had just the right amount of tang. These cupcakes were so YUMMY that my husband started to eat them before I had the chance to frost all of them.

LESSON LEARNED: This recipe for a one bowl cake worked well!

Recipe for Yellow Cupcakes with Chocolate Frosting

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Lesson #89: Homemade Hot Chocolate with Marshmallows

Now that it's been getting a little colder, this is the perfect time to enjoy hot chocolate and marshmallows. My hot chocolate mix includes both cocoa powder and white chocolate combined with just the right amount of powdered sugar. I also added powdered milk, so this drink is perfect with hot water or milk (for a little extra indulgence!).

My husband and I also decided that homemade marshmallows are vastly superior to the store-bought variety. When you add these marshmallows on top of the hot chocolate, they melt and form a marshmallow foam on top. Not only are they MARVELOUS when added to hot chocolate, they great to snack on too!

LESSON LEARNED: Homemade marshmallows melt better in hot chocolate compared to store-bought.

Recipe for Homemade Hot Chocolate with Marshmallows

Monday, January 23, 2012

Lesson #88: Chai Spiced Sugar Cookies

Anybody who knows me well, knows that I absolutely LOVE chai tea. Yes, the barista at my local Starbucks knows my drink! These incredibly soft sugar cookies has all the wonderful flavors of chai tea in the form of a cookie. YUMMY!

Although there is no tea in the cookies, they do contain "typical" chai spices: cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, allspice, and black pepper. Yes, black pepper! I learned one thing while making these cookies...definitely make sure that you use finely ground black pepper. I used a pepper grinder and ended up with a few larger pieces of black pepper. You definitely tasted the black pepper if got a larger piece. Other than that, these cookies are absolutely DELICIOUS!

LESSON LEARNED: Use finely ground black pepper in these cookies!

Recipe for Chai Spiced Sugar Cookies

Friday, January 20, 2012

Lesson #87: Peanut & Banana Biscuits

These biscuits are ABSOLUTELY delicious with a hot, steaming cup of tea or coffee. The buttermilk biscuits are buttery, fluffy, and chock full of bananas & chopped honey-roasted peanuts. The topping is peanut butter mixed with powdered sugar, milk, and a touch of vanilla extract. My favorite part of the biscuits was the texture that the chopped peanuts added. It was a pleasant crunch in the otherwise soft & fluffy biscuit. I thought they were best served right from the oven, but my husband continued to snack on them throughout the day.

LESSON LEARNED: These biscuits make a perfect afternoon snack!

Recipe for Peanut & Banana Biscuits

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Lesson #86: Cream Cheese Ice Cream

It seems like we have an ongoing supply of ice cream at our house. I tend to make small batches because I like to have a spoonful or two of an ice cream and then experiment by making another flavor. Here's the latest flavor: cream cheese ice cream.

This sounds different, right? That's exactly why I picked it out of one of my dessert cookbooks. I really wanted to make a balsamic ice cream, but my husband was a little weary. I envisioned a balsamic ice cream with fresh strawberry sauce, but I'll probably wait until spring when strawberries are in season :)

Back to the current ice cream...not surprisingly, this tastes exactly like cream cheese! It's a little more work to scoop out this ice cream because it gets super firm in the freezer (I imagine this is because cream cheese contains all sorts of stabilizers which make it firm). I think this would be a great component on a plated dessert because a little of this ice cream goes a long way. I drizzled my dish with some homemade caramel sauce. If you're in adventurous mood for ice cream, give this recipe a try!

LESSON LEARNED: Cream cheese ice is harder to scoop than typical ice cream.

Recipe for Cream Cheese Ice Cream

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Lesson #85: Spelt Chocolate Chip Cookies

A friend gave me this recipe for a completely different type of chocolate chip cookie. They are made with spelt flour. According to the package of flour (manufactured by Bob's Red Mill), spelt is a primitive relative of present date wheat. It has high water solubility and it's nutrients are quickly absorbed into the body. I've never worked with this type of flour before, so I was excited to try it.

These cookies are definitely worth making - especially if you like to experiment with different types of flour and are interested in healthier alternatives to all-purpose flour. This recipe also uses turbinado (raw) sugar which gives the cookies a course texture. The flour has a very nutty flavor and is slightly sweet, so when combined with the turbinado sugar and some yummy chocolate chips, these cookies are FABULOUS!

LESSON LEARNED: It was worthwhile to experiment with spelt flour!

Recipe for Spelt Chocolate Chip Cookies

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Lesson #84: Cloverleaf Rolls

I brought these adorable rolls last week to my parent's house. My dad LOVES bread (seriously, he would eat an entire loaf of french bread in a day!), so I try to bring some homemade bread every time I visit. It gives me a great excuse to try new bread recipes and it's almost just a bonus to have the actual bread at the end of baking because I love the smell of freshly baked bread in the house.

This recipe isn't too hard to make. It doesn't require an overnight rising or using a bread starter. First, you mix up and knead the dough, let it rise for about an hour, divide the dough into lots of little balls, stick 3 balls in a muffin tin, let the bread rise again, and bake. These rolls are super SOFT and FLUFFY and I love how they pull apart once they are baked!

If you haven't made homemade bread before, this would be a good recipe to try. I started making bread about 2 years ago. I was going to one of my friend's house for dinner and thought I would give it a shot. The rolls turned out great and it got me excited to try other recipes.

LESSON LEARNED: I like baking bread for the smell - especially when I can share the results with other people!

Recipe for Cloverleaf Rolls

Monday, January 16, 2012

Lesson #83: Orange Creamsicle Ice Cream

I never cared for the orange creamsicle pops growing up. The vanilla ice cream always tasted chalky and the orange never tasted too much like real oranges. So, when I saw an idea for creamsicle ice cream in this month's Bon Appetit magazine, I thought I would give the homemade version a try. I wasn't disappointed! This homemade version is a million times better than my memory of creamsicles!

This recipe takes a little bit of planning ahead because you use an ice cream maker twice. Once for the vanilla ice cream and again for the orange sorbet. I used a different recipe than my typical vanilla ice cream because I like to keep trying new things. The vanilla ice cream was perfectly creamy and not too sweet. In the orange sorbet, I used freshly squeezed orange juice to give it the most natural (and not artificial) orange flavor possible. I also used orange zest and orange herbal tea to boost the flavor and give it a little more color. The one downfall of this recipe is that the sorbet doesn't have a strikingly orange color. I definitely didn't want to add orange food coloring, so all you see in the pictures are some pieces of orange zest. However, what it lacks in color, it makes up in taste! This ice cream is packed full of orange flavor swirled with creamy vanilla ice cream!

LESSON LEARNED: Freshly squeezed orange juice isn't bright-neon orange, but it tastes really good!

Recipe for Orange Creamsicle Ice Cream

Friday, January 13, 2012

Lesson #82: Snowflake Sugar Cookies

Happy Friday! I've saved this post for the perfect winter day. I started off in Toledo this morning (where there was no snow, but LOTS of wind) and drove east to the Cleveland suburbs (where there was lots of snow AND lots of wind). The roads didn't get bad until I entered the county where I live. Go figure! I turn into our subdivision which had 6 inches of un-plowed snow on the road as I hear on the radio that the wind chill was 0 degrees. Then, I see the kindergarteners waiting for their afternoon bus :( Those poor kids!

This would be the perfect day to stay in, sip a warm beverage, and bake some cookies! Here's my version of snowflake cut out cookies. I rolled and cut out my favorite recipe for sugar cookies and decorated them with blue royal icing and silver sprinkles.

LESSON LEARNED: Winter days are best spent baking cookies and not driving across the state of Ohio!

Recipe for My Favorite Cutout Sugar Cookie

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Lesson #81: Caramel Cupcakes

Today is my mom's birthday, so I made these cupcakes especially for her! These are super FANTASTIC cupcakes and since she doesn't eat chocolate, these make the perfect birthday cake.

Caramel is incorporated into both the cake batter and frosting. The cake has a nice mellow caramel flavor and the frosting is buttery, yet not-too-sweet. My homemade caramel sauce from yesterday is mixed into the frosting. Do you see the specks of vanilla bean in the frosting? Both parts of this cake are good, but when you eat them together in one forkful, the caramel flavor really shines. Enjoy!

LESSON LEARNED: Homemade caramel sauce has many yummy uses!

Recipe for Caramel Cupcakes

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Lesson #80: Homemade Caramel Sauce

Homemade caramel sauce is heads and tails above the store bought version. This sauce is AMAZING! The first step is to carefully melt sugar in the bottom of a saucepan. When the sugar melts and turns a deep amber color, heavy cream is mixed in with the seeds of a vanilla bean. The last step is to cook the caramel on low heat until the sugar melts and the sauce is completely smooth.

One helpful tip is that this sauce requires a careful eye and a little patience. If you caramelize the sugar too much it turns into a burnt mess. If you don't let it caramelize enough it doesn't taste like caramel (it's like honey instead). The love that you put into this sauce pays off in when you taste the finished product. It's rich & creamy, sweet & salty, and smooth & silky. This sauce just makes your day a thousand times better!

LESSON LEARNED: Patience is the key to perfecting caramel sauce.

Recipe for Homemade Caramel Sauce

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Lesson #79: Citrus Sponge Cake

One of the reasons why I love winter is because of the beautiful citrus fruits that are in season. It's my favorite time of year to enjoy oranges, grapefruits, and lemons. This sponge cake is ABSOLUTELY fabulous! The texture of the cake is light and fluffy. When you eat a piece of this cake it's DELIGHTFULLY buttery and tangy from the use of lemon juice/zest. 

I baked the cake in a sheet pan so I could cut round pieces of cake using a cookie cutter. This cake is wonderful on it's own or with a dab of sweetened whipped cream. Enjoy!

LESSON LEARNED: Now's the season to enjoy citrus fruits!

Recipe for Citrus Sponge Cake

Monday, January 9, 2012

Lesson #78: Chocolate Chip Challah Bread

My chocolate chip cookie craze continues.....

Next up on my list was this INSANELY good challah bread. I've made this recipe a few times and here's what I learned along the way. First, this recipe yields a large amount of bread. It makes way too much for two people. I've tried halving the recipe, but it never turns out quite the same. So, here's my suggestion. Follow the recipe as suggested and freeze the second loaf (homemade bread freezes extremely well!). Or even better: give the second loaf to someone (you will impress them with your awesome baking skills!). Sadly, my second loaf of bread is sitting in the freezer until the next time I go to Toledo or when we move next month :)

Second, when you stir in the chocolate chips, they might have a tendency to melt. At this point in the recipe you have added some warm water and are about to knead the bread which creates further heat. If you knead the bread in a mixer, don't worry about it. The worst that will happen is that you have swirls of chocolate instead of chips. It will be equally DELICIOUS. If you are kneading by hand, I would recommend working in the chocolate chips after you kneaded it for a while.

This homemade bread is definitely worth the effort. It's soft and squishy with bits of chocolate throughout. Plus it makes your house smell WONDERFUL!

LESSON LEARNED: Practice makes perfect with this yummy bread!

Recipe for Chocolate Chip Challah Bread

Friday, January 6, 2012

Lesson #77: Chocolate Chip Cookie Ice Cream

In this recipe two of my favorite desserts are combined: chocolate chip cookies and ice cream! You typically see ice creams that have cookie dough swirled throughout the batter, but this ice cream is different. The ice cream custard tastes like cookie dough even through it doesn't have pieces of cookie dough in it.

You'll see from the picture that the ice cream has more of a golden brown color compared to an off white color of my typical ice creams. This is because both brown sugar and molasses are incorporated into the ice cream custard. When I first tasted the custard (after it was cooked, but before it was churned into ice cream), I thought it tasted too much like molasses. But after churning it and freezing it for a few hours, the molasses flavor really mellowed out and it tasted EXACTLY like cookie dough. Yum!

LESSON LEARNED: This ice cream tastes like cookie dough without any pieces of cookie dough in it!

Recipe for Chocolate Chip Cookie Ice Cream

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Lesson #76: Cheesecake Mousse

I've been on a cheesecake kick this week! Here's why this dessert ROCKS:

1) It's perfect for a dinner party because you can make it ahead of time.
2) You don't have to turn on the oven to make it (well, if you want to do the graham cracker crumble you do, but that's totally optional).
3) It looks super fancy and you will impress your friends & family with your awesome baking skills.
4) This dessert is super light and fluffy and tastes EXACTLY like cheesecake.
5) You can be creative with the toppings. I chose blueberries, but any kind of fruit or even sauce (e.g. chocolate, caramel) would be yummy.
6) This is SUPER easy to make. It took me 10 minutes from start to finish!

LESSON LEARNED: I'll be making this dessert for my next dinner (or dessert) party!

Recipe for Cheesecake Mousse

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Lesson #75: Oreo Cheesecake Cookies

Yes, this recipe combines both Oreo's and cheesecake into one delicious cookie! You begin my making a cream cheese dough, mix in pieces of Oreo's, and roll the dough in Oreo cookie crumbs. The result is a crunchy, chocolate cookie that definitely satisfies your cheesecake craving.

There were two things that I noticed while making these cookies. First, the cookies really flatten out after you remove them from the oven. I've worked with recipes where the cookies flatten out to the point they are hard to remove from cookie sheets, but this is not the case with these cookies. Once they completely cool, they become crispy and have no problems coming off the cookie sheets. Second, while making Oreo cookie crumbs, I noticed that the crumbs seemed to get all over. It's similar to how when you craft with glitter (it gets EVERYWHERE!) It's the same with these cookie crumbs. Just giving you a heads up in case you are a little OCD with cleaning like me :)

LESSON LEARNED: Sometimes when cookies flatten out after baking, it's ok!

Recipe for Oreo Cheesecake Cookies

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Lesson #74: Brioche

The first time I had brioche was last year in Thomas Keller's restaurant Bouchon in Las Vegas. My mom and I went there for breakfast and the food was AMAZING! So amazing that we went there twice (that's hard to do with all the wonderful restaurants in Vegas!). After I returned home, I found the recipe for this bread in the Bouchon cookbook and enjoyed this bread again.

If you never had brioche, I would describe it as a cross between a cake and a bread. It's super buttery and very tender. The butter forms a nice crust along the outside of the bread and the center is soft and "cake-like". I slice it thick and serve it with jam (usually homemade during the spring/summer months, but the one here is store-bought). Believe me, once you had this bread, you will fall in love with it too!

Note: This isn't the Bouchon recipe, but a new recipe from one of my dessert cookbooks I received for Christmas. It's equally as delicious! Also, making this bread stretches out over a day and a half, so give yourself plenty of time. After the initial kneading, it's pretty hands off.

LESSON LEARNED: Brioche is wonderful!

Recipe for Brioche
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...