Monday, July 27, 2009

Daring Bakers July Challenge - 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.

This month participants were given the option of making one or two types of cookies. I only made the Milans and not the marshmallow ones.

I don't do a lot of piped cookies so I was happy to give these a try. The batter was easy to put together but there was a lot of it so I was piping for a long time. I also found the the instructions to pipe 1-inch lengths a little crazy. The cookies were very tiny so I ended up completing the rest by piping about 4-inch lengths and putting two side by side so they'd be a little wider. This worked and eventually I finished.

Overall, I think the cookies tasted okay. They were crispy at the edges and chewy in the middle. Piping the batter was unpredictable - some cookies spread into wacky shapes. The ganache was perfect as ganache usually is. Even though they weren't my favourite, they all got eaten. What did help redeem them was pairing them with luscious Breyers Banana Cream Pie ice cream. I had added some coconut extract to the cookies so they were 'tropical' which went perfectly with the banana, vanilla, and graham cracker flavours.

To see how the other Daring Bakers fared with their cookies, check out the Daring Kitchen. Thanks to Harbinger for providing the ice cream.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Blondie Cupcakes

Cupcakes are all the rage these days. It's no wonder that Martha Stewart has come out with a cookbook with 175 recipes dedicated to them. Up until now, I have never owned one of her cookbooks but Cupcakes seems to be a great fit for me.

The first thing that I noticed is that there is a beautiful colour picture for every single cupcake in the book. This is awesome. The recipes themselves seem straightforward and of course, they can be dressed up with a multitude of frostings, fillings and other visually interesting embellishments.

For my first cupcake, I made the Blondie Cupcakes which is a twist on the traditional blondie bar. After mixing up the batter the cupcakes are baked for 30 minutes. The thing to remember is that the batter is dense and not fluffy. There is a fine line to walk here between the cupcake being golden and chewy and burnt and hard. Half an hour is more than normal cupcakes are baked so check carefully and use paper liners. This will make removal extremely easy.

The cupcake itself is very nice. It is solid and substantial. They may have seemed hard on the outside but they were chewy on the inside. Store them in a container to keep them moist and enjoy. Thank you to Random House for providing me with this book.

Recipe: Blondie Cupcakes

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Sweet Cherry Custard Tart

After finally using my tart pan for the Bakewell Tart, I looked for some recipes that would allow me to use it again. Since it is cherry season here in Ontario, I chose this custard tart to show off this juicy fruit rather than just eat them all from the bowl.

The first thing I needed was a cherry pitter which I finally found at Kitchen Stuff Plus. Pitting cherries is serious business...after I was done my hands were blood red! I'm guessing that the messier you get, the better the cherries.

I made this tart two times. The first was with cherries purchased from the grocery store. While the cherries were sweet, they were firm and not juicy but still made a good tart. The second tart, pictured to the left, was made with cherries from the local Farmer's Market. You can see how the cherry juice seeped into the custard making it more cohesive than the first tart. I also baked the second tart for five minutes less giving me a firm, yet moist vanilla custard.

Overall, this tart was a undisputed hit. The tart dough is forgiving if you tear it, and the preparation is not daunting at all. Pitting the cherries probably took longer than mixing up the filling. If you're looking for something to make with cherries, keep this tart in mind - it's toothsome and fresh!

Recipe: Sweet Cherry Custard Tart

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Raspberry Streusel Muffins & Oatmeal Raisin Muffins

I've got a backlog of muffins waiting to posted about. Here's a quick write-up about two of them.

Raspberry Streusel Muffins are exactly what they sound like. Fresh raspberries incorporated into a cakey batter and topped with almond streusel. I did not have slivered almonds so I used ground almonds in the stresuel which was fine though the muffin ended up lacking visual interest. This muffin would be equally great with blueberries. The only issue I had was that the raspberries ended up mainly at the bottom of the muffin despite the higher oven temperature. If any of you have tips on how to keep fresh fruit distributed evenly throughout, I would appreciate them. Overall, a very nice muffin perfect for beginner bakers and sharing with others.

Oatmeal Raisin Muffins require a bit more prep work. A portion of the oats are ground for this muffin and combined with regular oats to make a hearty, spicy muffin. They're pretty healthy and if you don't like nuts or raisins, either can be omitted or increased to your liking. Remember to not overbake them or they'll be dry. They take a little bit more effort but can still be pulled together in about 15 minutes.

Recipes: Raspberry Streusel Muffins & Oatmeal Raisin Muffins