Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Fig Brownies with Brown Sugar Whipped Cream.

Fig Brownies w/ Brown Sugar Whipped Cream

Fig Brownies w/ Brown Sugar Whipped Cream

My love affair with Ficoco sent me on a google search for fig and chocolate recipes. My search yielded two noteworthy results.

1) God Hates Figs. (a spoof website ala

2) A Double Chocolate Fig Slice Recipe.

Instead of soaking the figs in marsala, I soaked them overnight in dark rum (an -excellent- decision.) The resulting brownies were fudgy, adult, and richly studded with chunks of fig. I chopped the fruit pretty coarsely and used valrhona cocoa powder and 60% callebaut.

I used an 8" square pan, but I think a 9" might have been better as my brownies ended up too-underbaked in the very center. I'd love to eat them with some coffee ice cream next time!

More on Oh Yeah!

Here is a good, informative article on the new ice cream place:

Also, Peter Berger posted this article and video regarding Oh Yeah! He seems to share my enjoyment of boozy ice cream.

More photos later in the week. I made another cheesecake, chocolate cherry cookies, and fig brownies.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Wedding Cake (Part 3.)

Wedding Cake

Wedding Cake

Wedding Cake

Wedding Cake

Wedding Cake

Wedding Cake

The reception was wonderful. The decorations were great, the food was simple and delicious, the alcohol was plentiful, the people were genial, and the cake was very well recieved.

It was really delicious. The caterer took care of the cutting after Aaron and Claudia made the first slice. Many people told me they usually didn't eat cake, but they loved this and ate two or three slices. I recieved so many nice compliments. It felt really nice to see everyone eating and enjoying the cake.

I found quarts of strawberries for a dollar each in the Strip District on Saturday. I bought five for the filling and they really added a lot to the finished product. The ribbon on the cake was actually a very bright royal purple, but I made the mistake of bringing the small camera rather than the nice one and it didn't register.

If I ever decide to make another wedding cake it won't be nearly as stressful. All the worrying about how everything would turn out was horrid, and now that i've gone through the entire process I think I can do a lot better!

I had an awesome time. And there's a good chunk of leftovers :)

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Wedding Cake (Part Two.)

It was brought to my attention that my posts don't often reflect the amount of frustration I experience during difficult baking.

At the moment, I never ever want to make a wedding cake again.

We baked the cakes last night. Creaming 3 pounds of butter is very difficult when you're using a hand mixer instead of a giant Hobart.

There were injuries. Blood was shed (I cut my thumb pretty wickedly while slicing layers.) And it's still not done! Tomorrow there will be touch up and decorating with some ribbon and flowers. Then there's the issue of transporting it to the reception, and cutting/serving it.

I've been incredibly nervous about the whole thing. I'm plagued by questions like what is the volume isn't so good, what if there's not enough icing, what if I don't use enough dowels, what if the buttercream all melts, what if no one likes the cake...

If you ever want to attempt your first wedding cake, here is my advice to you:

1) Plan ahead. Way ahead. Make yourself a little cake baking calendar.

2) Make way more frosting than you need to. Make sure you're doing math for the amount of frosting between all the layers.

3) Find a wedding cake recipe. Don't just throw together random frosting, cake, and filling recipes.

4) Get some friends to help.

5)Remember to breathe, try not to have a nervous breakdown.

In the end, i'm sure it will be ok. Even nice, maybe.

Perfectionists, beware the wedding cake.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Peanut Brittle, Walnut Sandwich Cookies.

Peanut Brittle

Walnut Cream Cheese Sandwich Cookies

I'm still working my way through The Sweet Life: Desserts from Chanterelle.

I decided to roll and shape the Walnut Cream Cheese Sandwich Cookies, but next time I think i'll just cut them into rectangles to save some time. If it's humid and your cookies get a little soggy, you can refresh them in a 350 oven for 4-5 minutes. You can fill and freeze the cookies too. They don't freeze too hard and the cookies stay crunchy!

The book suggests using the Thin and Delicate Peanut Brittle as a garnish or candy. You make a caramel, grind it in a food processor and combine it with ground peanuts, then bake it until it re-melts. It's topped with some fleur de sel.

I'm not going to post these recipes for now; I've posted a few from the book already, and you should consider buying it or finding it at your local library if the recipes are to your liking.

I do recommend it. I browsed through it many times before checking it out, and for all my skepticism i've really enjoyed the recipes.

Walnut Cream Cheese Sandwich Cookies

Monday, September 10, 2007

Kabocha Squash Cheesecake

Kabocha Squash Cheesecake

Kabocha Squash Cheesecake

I need to have more faith in cookbooks. Lately i've been so wary even though the recipes have been great!

Fall is just around the corner. I'd been in the mood for comforting, spiced baked goods, so I picked up a 3 lb red kabocha squash from the Food Co-op and decided to try Pichet Ong's recipe for Kabocha Squash Cheesecake.

This isn't your average cheesecake. It's a little more like a pumpkin pie in that the filling has a very high ratio of squash flesh to cream cheese. Consequently, it's not nearly as dense and retains that silky but not mushy texture of good pumpkin pie.

The crust is amazing too. I worried the Mi-Del graham crackers would be too dense, but they worked perfectly. The crust is a little thicker than usual, and it stayed nice and crunchy. I loved the balance of spices too!

A nice dollop of whipped cream would suit if the cake isn't quite rich enough for you. The cookbook suggests a little condensed milk chantilly cream. I will probably make this for Thanksgiving.

Kabocha Squash Cheesecake with Walnut Crust
adapted from Pichet Ong's The Sweet Spot
Kabocha Squash Filling
one 3 lb kabocha squash
8 oz cream cheese, at room temp
1 cup sugar
1.5 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/3 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
1.5 tsp brandy (I used rum.)
2 large eggs, room temp

Walnut Crust
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup walnuts
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
11 graham crackers (174 g), crushed into fine crumbs, about 1.5 cups
(I used mi-del honey grahams.)
2 tsp grated lime zest
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp salt

1. To make the filling: Prepare a steamer by filling a large round casserole with water to a depth of 3 inches; the casserole should be able to hold the squash comfortably and have a tight fitting lid. Put a steamer rack or enough crumpled heavy-duty foil to support the squash on the bottom; the rack or foil should be just above the waterline. Set over medium heat and bring to a steady simmer. Put the whole squash on the rack, cover the pot, and steam until a knife pierces the flesh easily (about 1hr.)

2. Remove from the heat, uncover the pot, and cool the squash in the steamer until cool enough to handle.

3. Meanwhile, make the crust: Preheat the oven to 325. Lightly butter a 9-inch springform pan, line with paper and butter the paper. Set aside.

4. Spread the walnuts on a rimmed baking sheet and toast, shaking the pan occasionally, until fragrant, about 15 minutes. Cool completely. Turn the oven down to 300.

5. Put the walnuts and 1/4 cup of the brown sugar in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the walnuts are coarsley ground. Transfer the walnuts to a mixing bowl and add the graham cracker crumbs, zest, cinnamon, ginger, and salt, and the remaining 1/4 cup brown sugar. Mix well, then add the melted butter and mix with your hands until everything is moistened. Transfer the mixture to the prepared pan and press into an even layer on the bottom.

6. Bake the crust until golden brown, about 12 minutes. Cool completely. Leave the oven on.

7. When the squash is cool enough to handle, remove it from the steamer, cut it in half, and scoop out and discard the seeds and strings. Scoop out 2.5 cups of the squash flesh into a small bowl. Reserve any remaining squash for another use.

8. Put the cream cheese, sugar, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and salt into the bowl of a food processor and process, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl occasionally, until the mixture is light and smooth. Add the squash and process again, scraping down the sides of the bowl of the bowl occasionally, until smooth. Add the brandy and eggs and process until just incorporated. Transfer to a bowl and finish mixing with a rubber spatula.

9. Transfer the filling to the cooled crust. Bake until the center is set but still slightly jiggly, about 1 hour. Cool completely and unmold.

NOTES: I think steaming your squash upside down would be good. The top of my squash was much thicker than the bottom, and didn't quite cook all the way through.

Keeping the walnuts pretty coarse adds a nice crunch.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

The Scoop on "Oh Yeah"

There is a new ice cream/coffee parlor on Highland Ave (across-ish from Casbah.) It's called "Oh Yeah!" and when I stopped by this evening the guy behind the counter said they'd been open less than 24 hours.

The decor is pretty cool. They have posters emphasizing eating locally. All of the countertops are made from recycled bowling alley lanes. The railings and signpost look like they were made by the folks at Iron Eden. Cuter still, the door handles are oversized ice cream scoops.

They do not make their own ice cream, but rather bring in a few flavors from Dave and Andy's and many from Woo City Creamery: a fantastic place in Ohio. I'm excited to see the product, as pints at Whole Foods are really expensive. They get their coffee from La Prima (yay!)

Oh Yeah! isn't any more expensive than your average ice cream place.They also have Woo City's vegan "woo foo," a sort of vegan ice/ice cream. I really like some of Woo City's flavors: the bailey's, chai, and coffee chip are awesome. They had a good looking peach one too.

There is something about this trend of bakeries/eateries with a huge emphasis on interior design and relentless marketing that makes me feel a little wary though. Conversation with employees/owners can seem slightly tinged with self-promotion. It seems it's not enough just to offer a good product anymore. You need modern furniture, or cute little buttons and packaging.

That said, i'm interested to see how Oh Yeah fares. The ice cream is good, and it's worth a trip.

Wedding Cake (Part One.)

I volunteered to make a friend's wedding cake. I've had one too many grocery store wedding cakes, and I thought it'd be lovely to make something simple, elegant, and delicious. This will be the only wedding cake i've ever made though, so i'm a little nervous!



We made all the frosting tonight. Frosting is a little scary when made in bulk. I six-tupled Flo Braker's recipe for classic buttercream. This took:
6 pounds of butter
6 cups of sugar
nearly a quart of liquid egg yolks.

I added some Nielsen-Massey bourbon vanilla extract too. Despite what you might think, the frosting doesn't just taste like butter. It's fluffy, light, and the vanilla flavor really shines. In the end, we made about a gallon and a half.

Flo Braker's The Simple Art of Perfect Baking is a must-have. It's been re-printed and updated several times. Her recipe for genoise is the only one i've ever had success with. The directions are extremely specific and i've had tons of success with them.

Instead of pouring the sugar syrup into the yolks while the mixer is running, this recipe suggests dumping it all into the middle of the bowl, whisk it a bit by hand, then re-attaching it to the mixer and continuing. This prevents sugar from splattering all over the sides of the mixing bowl. Another handy tip is holding ice cubes against the bowl to get the yolk/sugar mixture to cool to room temperature a little faster.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Cinnamon Currant Walnut Rugelach

Cinnamon Currant Walnut Rugelach

Cinnamon Currant Walnut Rugelach

Another recipe from the Desserts from Chanterelle book. The dough is really delicious- creaming the butter and cream cheese seems to be a good technique.

While the cookies turned out well, they were really difficult to shape. I think alice medrich's recipe shapes them individually. That might be much easier than managing a 16 inch log.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Labor Day Baking.

This morning I ate some breakfast.


I made a souffle.


I ate a souffle.

Cocoa Souffle

Then I worked on nasty homework.

The souffle is from Alice Medrich's Bittersweet. The breakfast is yogurt and bananas, toast with ficoco, and coffee. And I didn't have souffle right after breakfast. It was more like 2pm. Happy Labor Day!

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Oatmeal, Milk Chocolate, Raisin Cookies.

Milk Chocolate Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Milk Chocolate Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

I wasn't expecting anything too special from the oatmeal cookie recipe in The Sweet Life: Desserts from Chanterelle. Lately I've been dissapointed by many cookie recipes.

This recipe was fantastic. I love a cookie that's pretty crispy on the edges, but not hard all the way through. These cookies have great texture: not too full of oatmeal, not too chewy from brown sugar.

The book also suggests using dark chocolate and dried cherries or pears rather than milk chocolate and raisins. I thought the original flavor combination was interesting, but the milk chocolate I used didn't have enough flavor. I think this recipe would be great with nuts, chocolate chips, or any sort of add-ins. I'd definitely make it again.

Oatmeal Cookies with Golden Raisins and Milk Chocolate Chips
adapted from The Sweet Life: Desserts from Chanterelle

1 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
16 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temp
1 cup sugar
1 cup dark brown sugar
2 eggs plus 1 egg white, at room temp
3 cups raw oatmeal
8 oz milk chocolate, chopped into 1/4 inch pieces
1 cup golden raisins

Preheat the oven to 350. Line cookie sheets with parchment or silicone.

In a dry bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, and oats.

Place the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment and beat on medium speed for 1 minute. Add the sugar, and beat on med-high speed until fluffy and light in color, approximately 5 minutes. Add the dark brown sugar and continue creaming for 3-4 minutes, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Turn the mixer down to slow speed. Add the eggs and white, one at a time, and continue to beat until they are fully incorporated and the batter looks smooth and glossy, 1-2 mins.

Add the dry mixture, all at once, to the butter mixture. Using a rubber spatula, fold together for a few turns. With the mixer on slow speed, mix the dough until combined. Add the chopped milk chocolate and raisins. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix for another 30 seconds. The dough can be made up to this point and refrigerated for 3 days.

Using 2 teaspoons, scoop the dough into mounds and place 2 inches apart on your cookie sheets. Flatten each mound with the back of a spoon or two fingertips (*I didn't flatten them and they still turned out well.) Bake until the cookies spread and rise, 12-15 minutes until a light golden brown. If you continue to bake the cookies they will color more and result in a crunchy, caramelized cookie.