TWD: Not quite 15 Minute Magic Chocolate Amaretti Torte

 

dscn2475

Today’s recipe from the TWD group was for a 15 minute “Magic” Chocolate Amaretti Torte.  I believe torte is a fancy way of saying brownie like.  I believe that the magic must have been the Amaretti cookies that everyone had such a hard time of finding.  Myself?  Did not find them and since one person admitted to using Nilla Wafers, I can admit to using some European Almond Cookie that I found in the European portion of my grocery store.  A step up from Nilla Wafers, but I am sure they weren’t the Amaretti cookies that some people paid $7 for. 

dscn2476

Dorie uses a food processor to make this recipe, which is an awesome idea.  If you have a big food processor.  I have a mini food processor that I love for quick chopping vegetables and for making bread crumbs.  But for this recipe?  It was too small.  I did use it to chop up my cookies and slivered almonds and then seperately to combine the eggs, sugar and butter.  It ended up leaking out the top of my little machine and I decided that a bowl and spatula would work just perfect for the final mixing.  Mine ended up taking longer to bake than Dorie suggested but I believe that is because I put the baking dish on an airbake pan rather than just a regular cookie sheet.  The torte I ended up with was also much flatter than others that I have seen too.  hmmm.  Did I screw something up?

Overall, the recipe was fairly simple and it was an interesting idea to use an almond flavored cookie and ground almonds as your flour.  But to me this recipe has the look of something rather fancy while not really being anything more than a mildly almond flavored brownie.  Perhaps if I had used the $7 cookies to make the recipe it would have had a stronger almond flavor but somehow the mix of chocolate and almond doesn’t seem all that appealing to me.  The ground nuts added an interesting texture to the recipe.  Think about when you eat nuts of any sort and after you are finished how there is always just a bit in your teeth, not so much stuck in between teeth but mashed into the grooves on the top of your teeth.  Wow.  I just made that sound fantastic didn’t I?

You can find the recipe here.

TWD: Coconut Butter Thins

I’m already a TWD failure.  It seems that the battery charger for my camera has disappeared.  It seems that the battery in my camera is dead.  It seems that someone didn’t charge the backup battery that is in the case either.  Shit. 

So, no photo unless I go home and magically find the charger that I have been looking for for four days.  My husband is going to be so pleased! 

On to the cookies.  The recipe for Coconut Butter Thins this week was chosen by Jayne of The Barefoot Kitchen Witch. I have to admit that I would have probably glazed past this recipe just because it seems like a light summer cookie and my husband claims to not like coconut.  I did have to buy the Macadamia nuts and since they were almost $4 a bag I need to find something else to make with them as the recipe only uses 1/2 cup. 

The method of chilling these cookies was a little interesting as Dorie suggests placing the cookie dough in a gallon plastic baggie and rolling to 1/4 inch thick.  I am anti plastic baggie so I used parchment paper and a ruler to get my 1/4 thick.  The trick was then that I didn’t have the nice square that Dorie wanted, so I used a fluted edged round cookie cutter to make my cookies.  On the TWD blog, there was lots of discussion about the cookies spreading a lot.  I actually had a variety of spreading in the batch I made, some seemed to melt all over the place and others seemed to maintain their rounded shape.  I did try to keep the dough as chilled as possible as I know that seems to affect the spreading of other cookies. 

I absolutely loved the batter of these cookies.  The recipe calls for coriander and since it was just a pinch that was to be added and didn’t have any on hand, I scrapped it.  I had also run out of vanilla the day before I made these so I decided to up the citrus and nut factor by adding lemon and almond extract for the vanilla extract.  I was nervous dumping it in there but it really didn’t affect the flavor.  If anything, I think it probably boosted the flavor. 

I gave one to my husband to taste after cooking and cooling but did not tell him what was in it because of his aversion to coconut.  Turns out he didn’t even realize that there was coconut in it.  Shocker.  He told me he liked the cookie but later after I had tasted it and commented that it seemed a little greasy he told me he had thought the same thing.  He drives me insane.  I do think that there was a little much butter in the recipe.  The cookies had a fantastic citrus flavor but actually left a grease mark on a napkin I sat it on.  Never a good sign!  I think that if you could reduce the butter a bit, the cookies would be fantastic.  This recipe would be a good one for a spring girls get together or even on a platter for Easter.  If you were serving them and wanted to pretty them up a little, you could easily use some lime juice, confectioners sugar and some green food coloring to drizzle over top. 

Overall, I am glad that I tried this recipe.  I only baked one dozen and have at least that many more in my freezer for another occasion, so these will make another appearance in the future.  Be prepared for the next couple of weeks as the recipes chosen are doozies.  We have Banana Creme Pie, 15 Minute Magic: Chocolate Amaretti Torte, Four Star Chocolate Bread Pudding, Chocolate Cream Tart. 

A little chocolate anyone?

 

I’ll update with a photo if I am able to find the battery charger!

Schezwan Chicken

 

schezwan-chicken 

Can I tell you the hardest part of this recipe is spelling the word “schezwan”?  So true.  I still don’t even know if I have it spelled correctly.  If you know the true spelling, please feel free to enlighten me!  I won’t mind at all!

Now on to the important stuff!  The food. 

My husband claims not to like any Chinese food besides sweet and sour chicken and I am determined that he does like it, he is just afraid to try anything that wasn’t simple English.  Moo Goo Gai Pan?  Nah.  General Tso?  Nah.  Really, he probably likes them all but doesn’t know what they mean so he won’t try them.  I have now broadened his horizons to my favorite Chinese eat.  I love anything spicy and this dish fits the bill perfectly.  My one word of caution is to add the red pepper with caution.  If you like spice, start easy.  If you don’t, start even easier.  The first time we made this dish with the original recommended amount of red pepper, we called it fire sauce.  It was so ridiculously hot that we had to get napkins to wipe our noses and eyes.  There may have been a cup of milk for each of us as well. 

I love strifry type meals.  They are easily adaptable to everyone’s tastes and preferences.  You can also make them as healthy as possible.  Growing up stirfry meant rice but I have fallen in love with rice noodles that you can buy at almost any grocery store in the Asian foods section.  Try them!

I like chicken and shrimp with my stirfry but my husband is anti shrimp so ours typically are just chicken. You could always use some sort of steak as well.  For three to four servings I use two medium sized chicken breasts and as many vegetables as I can stuff in there.  I like to use vegetable mixes that include water chestnuts.  I do think I am the only one the world that likes water chestnuts!  But don’t think you have to stick to just a plain old bag of frozen vegetables.  Throw in some edamame, julienned carrots, snow peas, fresh peppers, garlic, onions, broccoli, or any other vegetable you like.  I like to have about 1-2 cups of vegetables per person, 1/2 cup of cooked meat per person and 2 oz of rice noodle or rice per person.  If you like more of one, just increase the quantities accordingly. 

The recipe below is only for the schezwan sauce.  Again, I caution you to add the red pepper according to your taste. You can always add but never take away.  The portion below is suppose to be for four people but we must use a lot more sauce than that because I have had to double it for our servings.  Don’t worry about the amount of garlic.  I will admit it is scary but you can do it.  It really makes the flavor so authentic.  If you buy garlic in those glass bottles instead of in the head, it is really easy to have the amount you need.

Schezwan Sauce

8 tbsp water
4 tbsp ketchup
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp cornstarch
2 tsp honey
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tbsp vegetable oil
1/4 cup sliced green onions (optional)
8 cloves garlic, minced
 
1. Mix all ingredients in small bowl with a whisk
2. In a small saucepan over medium heat warm until thickened to desired consistency.
3. Pour over stirfry vegetables and chicken.
Note:  I prefer to keep the sauce and the stirfry items seperate as I like a lot less sauce than my husband.  This way the sauce portion is controlled to my liking and his.  If you prefer everything to be coated, after mixing the ingredient with a whisk, pour the sauce over the stirfry mixture and allow to thicken approximately five minutes. 

My first Tuesday with Dorie

blueberry-crumb-cake

I mentioned a while ago that I had gotten a great deal on Dorie Greenspan’s newest book and that I was trying a few of her recipes. I was inspired to even buy the book and learn more about who Dorie was after seeing many of the food bloggers I read link to the Tuesdays with Dorie  group.  Week after week they would post these tasty looking treats.  I debated joining the group, hemmed and hawed about it long enough that the group was closed to new members.  Then something happy happy happy happened.  Last week they opened the group to new members. 

I greatly fear failure, which perhaps seems to not match with joining a baking group in which you post your results each week.  At the same time I like trying new things so I pushed myself into joining and begin posting my 2-4 recipes a month.  I want to try new things and have any excuse to bake.  But I worry that I will not be able to keep up and then feel such guilt that I won’t maintain my member status.  So I worry.  If you know me though, I worry about pretty much everything so this is nothing new. 

On to my cooking adventure for this week.  Dorie’s Blueberry Crumb Cake.  In the easiest sense it is a coffee cake.  I am never a huge fan of coffee cake which doesn’t mean that I won’t eat it, it just means that I am not apt to grab it on the breakfast buffet.  One of the things that I like most about Dorie’s recipes is that she offers adaptations and variations to many of her recipes.  I always want to try something a little different to make my recipe stand out from the rest and I loved the option of adding orange zest instead of lemon zest.  The orange zest really gave the blueberry cake a bright little pop of flavor but I think I should have measured the quantity a little better instead of guestimating, which I tend to do a lot! 

My only issue with the cake was the topping.  Mine had a pool of butter in the center while baking even though the edges were browning and finished.  Even I, who eats pretty much anything under the sun with flour, sugar and butter, don’t like a dry cake, so I pull it out of the oven with the pool of butter.  There were suggestions of chilling the topping mixture before placing on top of the cake but I have decided that I would just lessen the amount of butter in the topping if I were to make it again. 

butter

I also felt that the topping was a bit more crunchy than the typical crumb topping. I envision crumb topping to be crumbs not a firm layer of sweetness.  The recipe was quite tasty and if you are looking for a good standby blueberry crumb cake recipe, this is one to try.  The recipe can be found at Zihan’s website, as she chose the recipe for the week.

Chocolate Chip Blondies

chocolate-chip-blondies

 

I have been on the search for that elusive recipe.  That recipe that is relatively easy, highly adaptable and tasty.  I may have found it.  I may not have.  This recipe is my second from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking from my Home to Yours.  But in reality, the flavor that she was going for isn’t how I made it.  Dorie envisioned a peanutty delight.  I?  Envisioned a big ass chocolate chip cookie.   

Interestingly, the original recipe called for 1/2 tsp of cinnamon.  I tried it once with the cinnamon and found that it overpowered the entire chocolate experience.  Perhaps if the recipe was prepared as originally created, the cinnamon would not be so strong. 

I have made this recipe 3 times.  Once using a 9 inch round (seen below) and twice using an 8 inch round (seen above) .  I wanted something to make this blondie seem special.   I ended up adding another layer of swirl on the edges of the one below to pretty it up a bit. 

DSCN2414 by you.

The only trick with changing the baking pan is the baking time.  I have not quite figured it out yet.  I prefer my blondie to have that ooey gooey factor that I like.   My suggestion is to watch them carefully starting at 40 minutes and even if the center does sink in, they still taste fabulous.  If you are planning on eating these at home straight out of the pan, don’t bother with lining the pan with foil.  If you want to remove the blondie from the pan and cut into slices, line with foil.   
The best part of the recipe is that ability to adapt it.  You could easily increase the peanut butter aspect by adding peanuts instead of chocolate chips like Dorie suggested or you could do half and half.  There is also the option of using any type of chip that suits your fancy, toffee chips, white chocolate and macadamia nuts or even all peanut butter chips.  There is a small amount of peanut butter in the recipe that is mildly noticable.  If you are a peanut butter lover like me, reduce the butter and increase the peanut butter in the recipe. 

The swirl and writing was created by mixing chocolate chips with peanut butter in a small dish and melting for 25 second increments then stiring until the chocolate was entirely melted.  It usually takes about a minute and a half total.  If you don’t have any fancy icing bags, just use a plastic baggie with a tiny snip in the bottom corner cut off.  It works just as well!

This recipe is best served warm with some ice cream on top.  Mmmm.  But then what chocolatey buttery confection isn’t?

Chocolate Chip

Blondies adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking from My Home to Yours.

Ingredients
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup peanut butter (creamy or crunchy)
5 tbsp butter (room temp)
3/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar (packed)
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1.5 – 2 cups chocolate chips (I like to use a mix of regular sized and mini chips.  If you have any of the Reese’s peanut butter chips, throw some of them in too)
Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2.  Line a 9 inch square pan with foil, butter the foil and place on a cookie sheet.
3.  Whisk flour, baking powerder, cinnamon, baking soda and salt.
4.  In a seperate large bowl, beat peanut butter and butter together on medium speed until smooth.
5.  Add both sugars abd beat for one to two minutes until well incorporated. 
6. Add eggs one at a time, beating for one minute after each egg goes in. Beat in vanilla extract. 
7. Reduce mixer to low and add dry ingredients.  Mixture will be thick. 
8.  Add chocolate chips and stir into dough.  Do not overmix.
9. Scrape into pan. 
10.  Bake blondies for 40-50 minutes or until they turn a deep honey brown and a thin knife inserted into the center comes out clean.  Allow to cool. If the edges are browning too fast, fold foil down to cover edges.
11.  When completely cool, carefully lift the blondies out of the pan using the foil as handles.  The foil should peel away easily.  Cut into bars. 

Dorie’s Tall and Creamy Cheesecake

cheesecake

Cheesecake is one of my all time favorite treats.  I loved it enough to have it as my wedding cake.  It was ridiculous to pay that much for a wedding cake for only a small number of people but hell, I am planning on sticking with the one I picked! 

Cheesecake falls into two worlds, French style and New York style.  Simply put, french style is more pudding and creamy like while NY style is way better.  Okay, not the real story but NY style is much more firm and dense.  The Tuesday’s with Doriegroup is baking their way through the Dorie Greenspan book one Tuesday at a time.  I have been watching the group from afar so when I found the regularly priced $45 book at TJ Maxx for $10 I grabbed it and ran like a demon.  That crazy TJ Maxx had no idea that even Amazon.com was selling it for four times that price.   The book is a bit more than just a cookbook.  Dorie gives variations of almost every recipe and also tells stories about a lot of her recipes and how they came to life.  I have spent hours pouring over the recipes and stories deciding which one would be my first test.  If you don’t know who Dorie is, just imagine being good enough to work with some of the legends of the cooking world and there you have it, Dorie Greenspan. 

This cheesecake recipe is relatively simple in ingredients, but does require a few extra steps to make the recipe like boiling water for the hot water bath and allowing the cheesecake to set for a hour in the oven after baking.  I was nervous the cheesecake would be underdone since it was very white on top after baking.  Then I was nervous that the cheesecake would overbake since it sat in the oven that extra hour.  Now I realize that Dorie has worked with people like Julia Child for a reason, she knows what the heck she is doing. 

The recipe turns out gorgeously.  Perfectly creamy and thick.  Rich enough to make you only need a small slice.  Perfect with a berry glaze on top.  I also melted some chocolate chips with a tablespoon of peanut butter for a different take on the same cheesecake.  I rarely top the cheesecake with anything immediately after baking since everyone has their own preference.  I like to be able to choose my topping! 

My instructions for a berry glaze follow the recipe. 

Tall and Creamy CheesecakeFrom Baking From My Home to Yours, by Dorie Greenspan

16 servings
Ingredients
For the crust:
1 3/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
3 tablespoons sugar
Pinch of salt
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted
For the cheesecake:
2 pounds (four 8-ounce boxes) cream cheese, at room temperature
1 1/3 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/3 cups sour cream or heavy cream, or a combination of the two
Directions
To make the crust:
1. Butter a 9-inch springform pan—choose one that has sides that are 2 3/4 inches high (if the sides are lower, you will have cheesecake batter leftover)—and wrap  the pan in a double layer of aluminum foil; put the pan on a baking sheet.
2. Stir the crumbs, sugar and salt together in a medium bowl. Pour over the melted butter and stir with a fork until all of the dry ingredients are uniformly moist.  Turn the ingredients into the buttered springform pan and use your fingers to pat an even layer of crumbs along the bottom of the pan and about halfway up the sides. Don’t worry if the sides are not perfectly even or if the crumbs reach above or below the midway mark on the sides—this doesn’t have to be a precision job. Put the pan in the freezer while you preheat the oven.
3.Center a rack in the oven, preheat the oven to 350°F and place the springform on a baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes. Set the crust aside to cool on a rack while you make the cheesecake.
Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F.
To make the cheesecake:
1. Put a kettle or large pot of water on to boil.
2. Working in a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the cream cheese at medium speed until it is soft and lives up to the creamy part of its name, about 4 minutes. With the mixer running, add the sugar and salt and continue to beat another 4 minutes or so, until the cream cheese is light. Beat in the vanilla. Add the eggs one by one, beating for a full minute after each addition—you want a well-aerated batter. Reduce the mixer speed to low and stir in the sour cream and/or heavy cream.
3. Put the foil-wrapped springform pan in the roaster pan.
4.  Give the batter a few stirs with a rubber spatula, just to make sure that nothing has been left unmixed at the bottom of the bowl, and scrape the batter into the springform pan. The batter will reach the brim of the pan. (If you have a pan with lower sides and have leftover batter, you can bake the batter in a buttered ramekin or small soufflé mold.) Put the roasting pan in the oven and pour enough boiling water into the roaster to come halfway up the sides of the springform pan.
5. Bake the cheesecake for 1 hour and 30 minutes, at which point the top will be browned (and perhaps cracked) and may have risen just a little above the rim of the pan. Turn off the oven’s heat and prop the oven door open with a wooden spoon. Allow the cheesecake to luxuriate in its water bath for another hour.
6. After 1 hour, carefully pull the setup out of the oven, lift the springform pan out of the roaster—be careful, there may be some hot water in the aluminum foil—remove the foil. Let the cheesecake come to room temperature on a cooling rack.
7.  When the cake is cool, cover the top lightly and chill the cake for at least 4 hours, although overnight is best. 
Berry Puree
Ingredients
3-4 cups frozen berries
water
1/4 cup sugar
1-2 tbsp cornstarch
1/4 cup water
Directions
Most berries have about two million seeds but making a puree is relatively easy.  
1. To make a berry glaze puree frozen berries (strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, etc…) with a bit of water until smooth. 
2. Strain with a cheesecloth into small saucepan. 
3.  Add sugar to berries.  It will depend on your berry, so be sure to taste test. 
4.  Bring berry mixture to a boil. 
5. Mix cornstarch with  water and slowly add to berry puree while whisking.  The cornstarch will thicken the berry mixture almost immediately, so only add cornstarch until it is desired thickness.
Allow to cool and pour over individual slices of cheesecake. 
 

KA Freezer Blueberry Muffins

muffin-in-hand

During the summer I bought a ten pound box of blueberries.  You are probably imagining all kinds of giant boxes but in reality the blueberries arrived in a box no bigger than a typical running shoe box.  We ate less than half of the box and froze the rest.  As we approach spring and I think about things in the freezer that should be used, I think about those blueberries.  I could make blueberry pancakes every day and be happy, but I figured that may get a little boring. 

Yesterday I decided a container of those blueberries needed to be used and what better way to use them than muffins.  Everyone likes muffins.  The only problem with blueberry muffins is that many times the recipe calls for fresh blueberries and when you use frozen the recipe just doesn’t come out quite right.  In comes the King Arthur “Freezer Case” mufins.  If you have never visited the King r website and you like to bake anything under the sun, run there now!  They even have a baking blog which I love.  Bakers’ Banter has a ton of recipes that I have printed out and plan to use soon as I just recently discovered the site myself.  The blog gives a description of why they did what to the recipe and then typically walks you through each step of the recipe.  Then they always link the recipe in printable form.  Perfect! 

What I liked most about this recipe is that it explained what to do to prevent your muffins from getting that blueish-grey color from the frozen berries.  Those girls over at Baker’s Banter are bright ones!  Take a look at these beauties. 

blueberry-muffin

I was nervous when I scooped the batter into my muffin wrappers.  It seemed to have too many blueberries and the dough was very stiff.  I actually pressed down on the muffin batter to get it into the muffin cup.  But in the end, they turned out lovely.  The taste was so naturally blueberry.  I think that the large granule sugar that they recommend for the top of these muffins would throw it over the top.  Use the full two cups of blueberries if not a bit more and don’t worry about incorporating them into the dough perfectly.  I pressed several of the remaining frozen berries onto the top of some of the batter and they still came out gorgeous. 

The KA website says that this will make 12 very large muffins but since I don’t have the “Texas” size muffin tins, I ended up with 17 regular sized muffins.  If you are using a regular size muffin pan, be sure to err on the side of caution with baking times.  I only baked mine for intial 25 minutes and I had exceptionally large frozen berries.  Mine were only slightly brown on the edges and the center remained so tender and moist.

These would be great for a work or shower breakfast as they come together quick and aren’t fussy.  Perfect for a weekend breakfast as well.

 

Freezer Case Blueberry Muffins – King Arthur

2 cups (8 ounces) frozen blueberries
1/2 cup (4 ounces) unsalted butter, at  room temperature
3/4 cup (5 1/4 ounces) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 cup (4 ounces) sour cream or plain  yogurt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 cups (9 1/2 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
Sparkling sugar for garnish (optional)
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a muffin tin with papers, and grease the papers.

1.  First, assess your frozen blueberries. If they’re the big fat ones you usually find in the freezer case at the supermarket, go ahead and use them as is; no need to thaw. If they’re tiny wild ones, ones you may have picked yourself, they may be fragile enough that they’ll bleed a lot of color into your muffins. If you don’t mind blueberry muffins with streaks of blue from the frozen berries, go ahead and use them right from the freezer. If you want less blue streaking in your muffins, rinse the berries gently, till the water lightens in color. Drain them thoroughly, and gently drain/blot them on paper towels. Don’t squash them; you won’t be able to really dry them off, but just blot up any excess liquid.
2.  In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter and sugar together until well combined. Beat in the eggs; then the vanilla and almond extracts, sour cream or yogurt, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
3.  Add the flour, mixing till everything is evenly moistened. Gently stir in the blueberries with a spatula, mixing just until they’re mostly incorporated. Don’t worry about distributing them evenly throughout the batter.
4.  Scoop the batter into the prepared muffin cups; a muffin scoop or large ice cream scoop works well here. Sprinkle the tops with sparkling sugar, if desired.
5.  Bake the muffins for 25 minutes. Gently lay a piece of foil across the top of the pan, and bake for an additional 5 to 10 minutes (the longer amount of time for larger frozen berries), until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove them from the oven, cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then remove the muffins from the pan to finish cooling on a rack.