Monday, July 27, 2009

Daring Bakers: Milan Cookies

The July Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Nicole at Sweet Tooth. She chose Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies and Milan Cookies from pastry chef Gale Gand of the Food Network.
The challenge this month was to make one or both of the above listed cookies. Because of time constraints for the challenge deadline, I chose to do the Milan Cookies only but plan on doing the Chocolate-Covered Marshmallow Cookies at a later date (probably for Care Group in mid-August, as I usually try to coincide Daring Baker challenges with Care Group...somewhere to take the food so it won't end up around my waist!).

Usually I don't post the Daring Baker recipe because I'm not sure it's okay to have thousands of bakers posting the same recipe that typically comes out of a cookbook. However, this recipe is available on-line and so I'll link to it (above) and post it as well (below).

Now, for the part I know you're all waiting anxiously for... (I'm the chick in purple)
So, Gina, tell us, how was baking the Milan Cookies? It was oh. so. easy!
And, what were they like? Well, I thought they were a little soft because I only had bread flour. I was pleasantly surprised that they were not too lemony, especially with all that lemon extract! And someone at church said, "These are much better than the store-bought ones!" Since I'm pretty fond of the Pepperidge Farm version, I took that as a compliment. Oh, and I wanted to make mint Milan cookies, but I was unable to find spearmint oil for the chocolate ganache filling and was too lazy to drive all over looking for it. :)

Here are the baked cookies awaiting filling and sandwiching. Some are a little more done than I'd like but my oven leaves a lot to be desired in the calibration department. :) It's almost 30, I'm giving it a break (and hopefully the old heave-ho early next year!)

And here are the sandwiched cookies. The blue in the background would be my oldest daughter, ready to pounce. And then, she discovered I'd used semi-sweet chocolate...and she was truly bummed.

Prep Time:
20 min
Inactive Prep Time:
0 min
Cook Time:
1 hr 0 min


about 3 dozen cookies (I made "mini" cookies and easily had twice that)


* 12 tablespoons butter, softened
* 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
* 7/8 cup egg whites (from about 6 eggs)
* 2 tablespoons vanilla extract (yes, really two TABLESPOONS)
* 2 tablespoons lemon extract (yes, really two TABLESPOONS)
* 1 1/2 cups flour
* Cookie filling, recipe follows

Cookie filling:

* 1/2 cup heavy cream
* 8 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
* 1 orange, zested (I really dislike chocolate and orange, I skipped this)


Cream the butter with a paddle attachment then mix in the sugar. Add the egg whites gradually and then mix in the vanilla and lemon extracts. Add the flour and mix until just incorporated. With a small (1/4-inch) plain tip, pipe 1-inch sections of batter onto a parchment-lined sheet pan, spacing them 2 inches apart as they spread. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 10 minutes or until light golden brown around the edges. Let cool on the pan.

Cookie Filling: In a small saucepan over medium flame, scald cream. Pour hot cream over chocolate in a bowl. Whisk to melt chocolate, add zest and blend well. Set aside to cool (the mixture will thicken as it cools). Spread a thin amount of the filling onto the flat side of a cookie while the filling is still soft and press the flat side of a second cookie on top. Repeat with the remainder of the cookies.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Daring Bakers: Bakewell Tart...errrr...Pudding

The June Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Jasmine of Confessions of a Cardamom Addict and Annemarie of Ambrosia and Nectar. They chose a Traditional (UK) Bakewell Tart... er... pudding that was inspired by a rich baking history dating back to the 1800's in England.  The recipe will be posted on the host blogs.

In the recipe directions for the frangipane, it said:  "The batter may appear to curdle. In the words of Douglas Adams: Don’t panic. Really. It’ll be fine."  Um, could say it curdles...

However, it bakes up wonderfully!  I used a raspberry preserves (because I like the seeds!!) and a wee bit of chocolate in the bottom of the tart...errr...pudding crust.  Katherine and I cut into it while it was still warm - it was okay but not making my heart throb.  I had another piece for breakfast on Thursday morning - loved it!  So did Nin and Natalie (our friend who comes over to spend the day with us while I work).  Annie didn't like the seeds in the raspberry preserves at all.

I'll definitely try making this again.  The pastry crust wasn't nearly as difficult to make as I was afraid it would be and I actually did quite well!  And hey! I finally got to use the tart pan that my friend Kathie gave me for my birthday last year!!!  :)  Fun!!!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Daring Bakers: Apple Strudel

The May Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Linda of make life sweeter! and Courtney of Coco Cooks. They chose Apple Strudel from the recipe book Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Caf├ęs of Vienna, Budapest and Prague by Rick Rodgers.

Linda and Courtney will have the recipe posted - and you should know that with as much as my kids love apples and raisins, I followed the recipe almost exactly.  I used dark raisins (I just got 5lb of organic raisins from the co-op I'm in, I wasn't about to buy more) and I soaked them in bourbon (have it in the cabinet for when I make Pork Tenderloin with Mustard Sauce - which pretty much rocks my world, by the way).  Other than that - I followed the recipe exactly.

Oh. My. Gracious. Ho.Ly. Moly. I was so excited about the challenge this month - even though I'm late posting (sorry!!!).  I've wanted to try strudel.  I mean, I am married to a guy of German descent, afterall.  I need something "German" in my repertoire, right? Ummm, this ain't it.  ;)   

Actually it wasn't that bad - until I went to the final stretching of the dough.  I'd gotten it almost paper thin with the rolling pin - yay.  Perhaps that was my problem.  Perhaps I should've stopped with the rolling pin sooner.  I had floured the heck out of my flour-sack towel - but there was one spot that I must have missed.  A spot about the size of a small cookie - HUGE hole in the middle of my dough.  Huge.  {mutter and try really hard to not cuss, but I wanted to}

Roll out another batch of dough and it won't get as thin as the other did.  I think I was scared.  And as a result, I overfilled the dough.  Brad started snacking before it was cooled and said it tasted good.  I said, "Well, it's so bloomin' ugly, it should taste good!" 

I'll definitely try again!  I enjoyed working with the dough even with the issues. 

Monday, May 18, 2009

Dinner for Friends

Some friends of ours at church had their first baby (a girl) last Monday so tonight Allison and I are providing dinner for them.  Allison is making barbeque (don't know what recipe she's using) and veggies.  I'm doing buns and dessert.

For dessert I'm making Magnolia Bakery's Vanilla Cupcakes and topping with vanilla buttercream that I have left from decorating Nin's birthday cake.

For the buns, I'm making Homemade Hamburger Buns (Bread Machine) from Recipezaar.  Yes, I'm using the dough setting on my bread machine -- too much to do today,  I need some help and it's perfect for that.  I topped the buns with sesame seeds after I brushed them with melted butter.

  1. Place all ingredients in pan of bread machine according to manufacturer's directions.
  2. Select dough setting.
  3. When cycle is complete, turn out onto floured surface.
  4. Cut dough in half and roll each half out to a 1" thick circle.
  5. Cut each half into six 3 1/2" rounds with inverted glass as a cutter.
  6. Place on greased baking sheet far apart and brush with melted butter.
  7. Cover and let rise until doubled, about one hour.
  8. Bake at 350° for 9 minutes.
  9. Note: Oven temperatures vary so check after 9 minutes to see if done. Some reviewers baked these anywhere from 12 to 30 minutes.

Cupcakes are cooling now.  Buns are rising and will be going into the oven in about 30 to 45 minutes.  I'll take a photo of the buns when they come out of the oven.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Daring Bakers April Challenge: Cheesecake

The April 2009 challenge is hosted by Jenny from Jenny Bakes. She has chosen Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake as the challenge.

I would have a photo here - but once again, the Daring Bakers challenge went to Care Group and the camera didn't.  It was desimated by the time the night was over!  I chose to make a turtle cheesecake - actually, I did a turtle topping.   I made the cheesecake as Jenny gave the recipe (see her blog, link above).  I did leave out the optional liqueur and I used chocolate graham crackers for the crust.  I used chopped pecans, mini chocolate chips and, due to time constraints, prepared caramel sauce for the topping.  This thing was EASY to make and I will definitely be making it again, trying some of the other ideas that Daring Bakers gave for flavors.  I will also say, it definitely needs to chill overnight - be sure to plan for that!!

Also, instead of using a springform pan I used a foil casserole pan - this was due to the water bath (not wanting soggy crust) and due to the fact that I was hauling this thing to Care Group.  It filled the pan, it was delicious.  I have a weakness for cheesecake.  I want to make this again!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Oh man...I want one of these!

I had to make marshmallows for Heather's baby shower last Sunday.  I borrowed my Dad's Cuisinart stand mixer.  Oh. Man.  He and Mom managed to snag it for a great price when Linens 'n Things was going out of business.  Love this thing.  Love. It!   1000 watts of power.  Seven-quart bowl.  It's a monster!  Love the timer.  Just wish I had counter space for one.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Daring Bakers: For the Love of Chocolate

The February 2009 challenge is hosted by Wendy of WMPE's blog and Dharm of Dad ~ Baker & Chef.
We have chosen a Chocolate Valentino cake by Chef Wan; a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Dharm and a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Wendy as the challenge.
Due to my being a total moron and mother of four children (three of whom have been sick over the past 10 days), we have photos of the cake but not the cake & ice cream.  :)  And like November's challenge, I enjoyed the main recipe so much, I made it more than once.
Once again, the challenge for Daring Bakers comes to the rescue when I have to take dessert to a potluck dinner with Care Group friends.  We had dinner at Jon & Mandy's (paella, which was wonderful).  I made the cake with Ghirardelli 70% Cacao Extra Bittersweet bar and it was delicious.  This cake is chocolate, eggs and sugar - I mean, really now.  Let's talk about how light and moist and PERFECT it was (thank goodness. I'm always afraid I'll do this and take it to a dinner and have bombed on the recipe).  It *does need* something creamy to cut the richness of the chocolate - so if you make this (and DO! It's easy, it's fabulous), remember to serve it with whipped cream or ice cream.  The night we had it with friends, we served it with an all-natural, premium vanilla-bean ice cream.  I did it again, later in the month, to serve with the ice cream recipe I'd decided to use.   The important thing to remember about this recipe is that it is ALL about the chocolate you use to make it. Use cheap chocolate, it's going to taste like cheap chocolate.  Use the best chocolate you can get your hands on or afford.  Ghirardelli was my budget limit when I made it this month - however, if I can get my hands on a pound of Amano....mmmmmm, THAT would be a most awesome cake.  (let me channel Bill & Ted here for a minute)
Ice cream: (no photo available thanks to the distraction of sick little Eggs) Brad and I received a Donvier Ice Cream Maker as a wedding gift and we've used it - oh, maybe five times in the past 19 years - - 18 years, 363 days ;) .  However, I've never gotten rid of it.  This past summer, though, I did break it out again and make ice cream with the girls.  We had great luck with the French Vanilla Ice Cream recipe that came in the instruction booklet for the maker. So, I elected to make that again. 
French Vanilla Ice Cream
3 eggs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .3
1 cup sugar . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .250 ml
2 cups light cream . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .500 ml
2 cups milk . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .500 ml
2 tsp vanilla . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .10 ml
Beat eggs and milk together in a large saucepan.
Add sugar. Cook over low heat, stirring
constantly until thickened (approx. 10 min).
Mixture should smoothly coat the spoon.
Cool, then add cream and vanilla. Refrigerate
overnight. Makes about 1Qt/.9L.
A delicious, delicious month to be a Daring Baker.  Thanks to our wonderful hosts this month!

Monday, February 16, 2009

It's a Birthday Party!

My youngest child - my first and only (and last, to quote my husband) son - turned one on Sunday.  We had his party on Saturday.  It was a hopping party - but that's because it was a frog-themed party more than anything else.  I had decided when he was just a wee one that we would do the frog theme.  I searched Wilton's website for frog ideas.  I elected to go with this cake - hoping I'd be able to do it without losing my religion in the process.  I mean, what fun is your kiddo's birthday party if you're stressed out about the cake?!  None!!!  Since I'd recently done Elizabeth's Hannah Montana electric guitar cake, I thought I could surely do this one. :) 

He's not perfect, but he was cute enough to make me feel like I had done what I'd set out to do.  I'll also know what I need to do differently when I make the cake again for my youngest daughter's fourth birthday in December (she loves froggies!).

My week was insane and at the last minute I decided to just go with a cake mix - Pillsbury Strawberry (my kids love it).  Frosting is the Wilton Vanilla Buttercream but I use real Bourbon Vanilla Extract instead of the imitation clear vanilla.

Since we'd invited almost 40 people, I wanted to make certain we had enough cake to go around, just in case everyone showed up.  So, I also made some cupcakes...from scratch.  I was going to make the Caramel Cake cupcakes but didn't have enough caramel syrup in the fridge and since it was two-and-a-half hours until the party I needed something quick. I decided to go with Magnolia Bakery's Vanilla Cupcakes.  I'd had them before and I knew they'd be perfect.  They were.  I frosted them literally minutes before we walked out the door.  I'd forgotten that the last tip I'd used with the kelly green frosting was the grass tip - so we ended up with one "chia cupcake" (my kids didn't get it, but all the adults thought it was funny). 

The birthday boy loved his cake and cupcakes.  He had a little of each - along with some vanilla and some strawberry ice cream! 

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Another "mmmmmm" moment!

(photo © Amano Artisan Chocolate and used with their permission)

The last of a bar of Amano Artisan Chocolate Jembrana chocolate has just melted on my tongue.  There's no heavy, thick coating of chocolate in my mouth; no feeling like I need a glass of water to rinse or wash it down (a red wine would be good - but that's just because...well...a red wine would be good!)

I received this bar of chocolate from a giveaway on Blake Makes (which reminds me, I have another win from Blake Makes that I need to post about at a later date...I completely forgot about it! Bad, Gina!)  Wow.  I was having a really bad day when it arrived.  Just the smell of the chocolate made it a little bit better, a little less frazzled.  I opened the bar and inhaled the smell of bittersweet chocolate - ahhh. Easter.  Not cheap, hollow, artifically-flavored chocolate bunnies - but the scent reminded me of spring a wonderful change from the dreary winter days of late.  When I put the first piece in my mouth, the first note that hit me was a bit smoky.  I'm not sure what it was - and I don't mean BBQ smoky - but something just a bit smoky in it.  And each piece after that, I would analyze "was it because there was a fire in the fireplace when I ate the first piece?"  I don't think so because as this last piece melted in my mouth - it still had a very wee bit of a smoky quality to it (at least to me).  It was not an overwhelming quality at all.  The main initial taste note was the sharpness of the bittersweet chocolate; however, as it melts - the notes become sweeter - never a cloying sweetness...never, never, never.  But a light sweetness.  Is it possible for something to be light AND rich?  Because this was it.  Seriously.  And you know, I don't know if Art intends for people to cook with his chocolate, but I'm not sure I ever would. While I'm certain it would make a chocolate eclair filling that would make my toes curl...I don't think I'd be willing to add cream, eggs, sugar, etc. etc. etc to the chocolate.  It is a fine, fine bar!  :)

Oh, and yes, if you know me well enough you know that Katherine - my 4.5 year old - wanted a piece.  I instructed her that she was to take the square and allow it to melt on her tongue, that she wasn't to chomp on it like a Hershey's Kiss (tm).  She did wonderfully.  And as the chocolate melted in her mouth, her face lit up.  "Mommy, this is the best chocolate I've ever had!"  (and she's not been deprived of good chocolate over her short life, I promise)

Friday, January 16, 2009

Mmmmm...pancakes for dinner

My girls love pancakes, especially for dinner.  On nights when Brad is gone, pancakes make for a quck, easy dinner that all five of us can eat.  And, if I make them look like Mickey - well, I'm just the coolest Mom ever.

I got the recipe here.  The only modification I make is tossing in a little bit of flaxseed meal (I don't measure, I just sprinkle it on - maybe a teaspoon-and-a-half to a tablespoon).  I read some of the reviews and several recommend adding a bit of vanilla - anywhere from 1/2 to one teaspoon.  Sounds good to me, especially since Harrison eats them with no butter or syrup.  Why anyone would make pancakes from a box is beyond me as this recipe is easy and makes wonderfully fluffy pancakes. 

    * 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
    * 3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
    * 1 teaspoon salt
    * 1 tablespoon white sugar
    * 1 1/4 cups milk
    * 1 egg
    * 3 tablespoons butter, melted


   1. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Make a well in the center and pour in the milk, egg and melted butter; mix until smooth.
   2. Heat a lightly oiled griddle or frying pan over medium high heat. Pour or scoop the batter onto the griddle, using approximately 1/4 cup for each pancake. Brown on both sides and serve hot.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Grammie's Sugar Cookies

Almost every Christmas since we've been married, my husband has made his mom's sugar cookies.  They are a big favorite - crisp, melt-in-your-mouth cookies.  They are my kids' favorite cookies. Harrison actually squeals when he sees them.  We took them to a Girl Scout meeting one night and sixty cookies were gone in no time.  Brad gets "requests" for three things:  his chicken fajitas, his salsa, these cookies.  Only one of them has a recipe I can share - the other two are those "Open the cabinets and see what looks good today" kind of concoctions.

 Sugar Cookies
1 cup powdered sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup butter or margarine
1 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
4 cups plus 4 heaping Tbsp all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cream of tartar

  • Cream together the sugars, butter and oil until light and fluffy.
  • Beat in eggs and vanilla.
  • Sift together the remaining ingredients.  Add to wet mixture and mix well.
  • Roll into small balls and place on ungreased cookie sheets.   (I usually refrigerate it for about an hour before I do this because it's so sticky)
  • Press down cookies with a glass dipped in sugar and then decorate with sugar sprinkles or non-periels.
  • Bake in 375° oven about 10 minutes until golden brown.
Personally, I like these cookies after they've cooled, because they crisp up nicely.  These cookies are so crispy they'll practically disenegrate if you look  at them wrong.  So, store them in an airtight container and don't try to ship them anywhere or the recipient will thank you for sending them sugar cookie powder. 

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Birthday Party Themes

What in the world does birthday party themes have to do with food? turns out that next year I will be hosting a "food themed" birthday party (yes, 'next year' as in 2010 - Elizabeth has already decided on a theme for her 7th birthday).  E has decided she wants a "sweets" themed party.  We're going to use the Nordic Ware ice cream cone pan (at left).  Everyone will decorate their own cupcake and we'll have a candy buffet to do goodie bags.  She's excited about it.

I've wanted to do a cupcake-themed party for quite some time.  Bitsy seems to be the perfect recipient for that - provided she'll go with the idea.  :)  I'll bounce it off her as we get closer to December of 2009.  :)  However, I found this and if I didn't already have the "Leap Frog" theme chosen for Baby Guy, I'd be tempted to go this route.  It's cute!  But cupcakes are much more Bitsy's style and not so much Harrison's.  They also have the same theme for girls - should you want a pink version.