Sunday, July 31, 2016

Fall Recipes

Pumpkin Apple Fritters
Spider Bite Brownies
Pumpkin Pies with Cardamom Whipped Cream
Pumpkin Cake and White Chocolate Leaf Bundles
Candy Corn Shortbread
Cherry Vampire Cake
Red Velvet Graveyard Cakes
Apple Skillet Cake
Walnut Cinnamon Sugar Pull-Apart Bread
Apple Cider
Back to School Apple Muffins
Spooky Finds
Summer Recipes

Ocean Mosaic Cake
Peach & Thyme Biscuits
Basil & Lime Watermelon Granita
Pina Colada Petit Fours
Whole Plum Pies
Berry Scones
Mojito Granita with Blackberry Cream
Peppermint Lemon Sticks
Banana and PB Ice Cream Sandwiches
Mini Baked Alaska
Peach-Blueberry Tart
White Chocolate and Royal Icing Shells

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Mini Devil's Food Cakes with Raspberries and White Chocolate

While I will never claim to be a fan of Valentine's Day, I am most certainly a fan of Valentine's Day desserts. I'd say the traditional "date night" dessert would have to be a chocolate lava cake of some sort, likely garnished with a sprig of mint, a single strawberry and sprinkle of powdered sugar. Although it's tasty, it's dated and should probably go to the dessert retirement home. (Nobody wants that sprig of mint, anyway.

It's time we think outside of the box….and into the cage. A white chocolate cage, that is! I've been wanting to do a post about chocolate cages for a while because they are actually pretty easy and the payoff is a unique and fancy-pants dessert. They're also great at masking what would otherwise be a couple un-exicting, un-frosted cake layers. This white chocolate cage is absolutely perfect for my annual Valentines dessert. Individual devil's food cakes are filled with whipped cream and raspberries, then hidden within a fun white chocolate pattern. So to my Valentine traditionalists out there….You'll be thrilled to see your beloved chocolate cake and berries still make an appearance this V-day. It just got a much needed makeover. 

Devil's Food Cakes  
Makes 2 4-inch layer cakes

Devil's Food Cake
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
1/3 cup strong coffee, at room temperature

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9-by-13-inch pan, line with parchment paper, then grease the paper.

In a large bowl, whisk or sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time until fully incorporated, then mix in the vanilla.

With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture, alternating with the buttermilk until the batter is completely mixed and smooth. Slowly mix in the coffee and beat until just incorporated.

Pour into the pan and bake for 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Raspberry Filling
2 (6-ounce) containers of raspberries, rinsed
1 tablespoon granulated sugar

Combine 2 cups of raspberries and the sugar in a shallow saucepan. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes or until the raspberries are broken down and thickened. Set aside to cool. 

Set the remaining raspberries aside to top the finished cakes. 

Whipped Cream
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 tablespoon confectioners' sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Beat the cream, confectioners’ sugar and vanilla in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Start on medium so the cream doesn’t splatter, then increase the speed to high once the mixture starts to thicken. Beat until stiff peaks form.

Assemble the Cakes
Use a 4-inch circle cookie cutter to cut 4 cake circles. Set the scraps aside to eat later! (or, while you make the raspberry filling:)

Place one cake circle on a small plate and top with a large spoonful of raspberry filling. Scoop a large spoonful of whipped cream on top. Place second chocolate cake circle on top, then repeat the raspberry and whipped cream. Assemble the second cake in the same way.

Arrange remaining raspberries in a circular pattern on top of the cakes, then place in the fridge while you make the white chocolate cage. 

White Chocolate Cage
1 1/2 cups white chocolate 
Parchment paper
Ziplock bag

Cut 2 strips or parchment paper that are 3" tall by 13" wide and set on a flat surface. 

Place the white chocolate chips in a heat safe bowl. Heat in the microwave for 30 seconds, then stir, repeating until the chocolate is just about melted. Scoop the melted chocolate into a ziplock bag, then cut off the very tip of one of the corners.

Working quickly, pipe lines across the parchment paper. (You can do whatever design you like here, so get creative! Just remember that all the lines need to be connected in some way.) While the chocolate is still wet, carefully pick up the parchment strips and place on another flat surface. (This will give your chocolate cage clean edges.) 

Watch the chocolate so that it doesn't harden too much. You want it cooled enough that you can touch it without smudging it, but soft/flexible enough to bend. It only took a couple minutes for my chocolate to get to this point. 

Remove the cakes from the fridge and carefully wrap the parchment (chocolate side in) around the cakes. Let the white chocolate fully harden for another 5 minutes, then carefully peel away the parchment. Unless your kitchen is cool, it's best to keep the cakes in the fridge until serving. 

Monday, November 30, 2015

Sweet Envy on TODAY!

Photo: Devorah Backman
Last Tuesday, I got to have my hair done all fancy, and it lasted, like, the entire day. But that's not even the best part–I also got to pimp out my cookbook Sweet Envy on the TODAY show! (I don't get out much so the hair thing was really exciting.) And if the saying "the camera adds ten pounds" holds true, then my desserts must have looked really big because they got some major screen time. (In TODAY show time, that's like, three minutes.) The segment was all about Holiday desserts, so I was lucky enough to share the Mint Chocolate Trifle, Wayne Thiebaud Whoopie Pies and the Coconut Bliss Cake with the incredibly smart and gorgeous Tamron Hall. Here's a sneak peek of the segment, followed by some un-eventful "behind-the-scenes" pics. I wish I could tell you that I spent the whole day catching up with Al Roker and crew, but they run a pretty tight ship over there. So basically, I was in-and-out. Once I left the studio I treated myself to a gargantuan platter of bacon and eggs and waited for people to recognize me. Guess my celebrity status isn't official as no one seemed to give me any special treatment. But it's all good, my parents were proud of me. (Isn't that really why we all aim to go on the TODAY show?) 

Photo: Devorah Backman

The left is a close up of the whoopie pies, and the right image captures 
the exact moment I realized I wanted to eat every single one of them. 

Photo: Devorah Backman

Here's what the recipes look like in the book. 

Photo: @AliciaYbarbo
So that was my Tuesday. I am so eternally grateful for the opportunity! (Along with the chance to spend the day sans kid in NYC.) And as we are now in the midst of the holiday season, I urge you to try one of these recipes. They're not only really tasty, they're great for entertaining! I hate to choose favorites, but the mint chocolate trifle is ridiculous. 

Friday, November 13, 2015

Pumpkin Apple Fritters

Anyone else have that moment (typically towards the end of fall) when you look in your pantry and see about a dozen cans of pumpkin puree staring back at you? Well, that happened to me today. I usually buy a bunch of cans in late August assuming I will use them all, but this fall I may have overdone it. I'm still fully stocked, despite making pumpkin bread, pumpkin scones, pumpkin ravioli, pumpkin tacos (ok, maybe not pumpkin tacos), pumpkin pie, pumpkin risotto….you get the idea. Even when I cook these things, I rarely use all the pumpkin in the can. So then I go to place the extra pumpkin in the fridge and…Agh! I forgot about that entire drawer full of apples. Yes, those apples that you got apple picking because you just knew they would go so fast! Well, they haven't. So "how do you like 'dem apples?" 

Don't get me wrong, I love apples and pumpkins–all things fall, really! But, if you also find yourself with leftovers, this pumpkin apple fritter recipe is the answer. Apple fritters are a favorite of mine and I make them quite often for a quick and insanely delicious dessert. They're warm, crispy and dusted with powdered essentially they're perfection. The pumpkin just seemed like a natural addition to the fritter fest. But there's another secret ingredient that takes these fritters to the next level of awesome, and it's pumpkin beer. (Yet another thing I stock up on in early fall, but I have no problem finishing those.) So, make these fritters today and consider it a "winter-cleaning" of sorts. Because no matter how much you deny it…winter is coming.

Keep the extra beer close. You'll have time for a few sips as the fritters fry.

Pumpkin Apple Fritters
makes about 2 dozen 

vegetable oil for frying  (about 4 cups)
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon cardamom
1/2 cup pumpkin puree 
1/2 cup pumpkin beer (or milk if you're not into booze)
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large apple, peeled cored and diced
confectioners' sugar (for dusting)

1. Place the vegetable oil in a saucepan and set over medium heat. Line a baking sheet with paper towels and set aside. 

2. Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and cardamom in a large bowl and set aside. In a small bowl, combine the pumpkin, beer, egg and vanilla. Stir until combined, then add to the dry ingredients, mixing until just incorporated. Fold in the apples, making sure not to over mix the batter. 

3. Test the oil by dropping a tiny pea-sized amount of batter into the pan. If the batter floats and sizzles, it's ready. If it browns too quickly, turn down the heat as your oil is too hot. If it doesn't sizzle and float, the oil isn't hot enough. (If using a thermometer, the oil should be at about 350 degrees.)

4. Use a spring loaded cookie scoop (or teaspoons) to gently drop rounded spoonfuls of batter into the oil. Cook for about 3 minutes on each side, or until crispy and golden brown in color. Use a slotted spoon to carefully remove the fritters from the oil and place on the paper towels. 

5. Dust with the powdered sugar and enjoy! These are best eaten immediately while they're still crunchy and warm.