Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Homemade Milanos

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.

I've never actually eaten a Pepperidge Farm Milano cookie, so I can't vouch for how closely these resemble their storebought counterpart. What I do know is they taste wonderful, and are fairly easy to make. The trickiest part for me was figuring out how much dough (it has the consistency of a batter) to pipe out onto the cookie sheet.

The directions only called for piping one inch of batter, but I piped mine a little longer just in case! They came out of the oven looking like this...

While the cookies were cooling it was time to make my chocolate ganache. The recipe called for orange zest to be added to the chocolate and cream. I skimped a little bit in this area because I wanted to make sure I could taste chocolate and not just oranges. It tasted great though, and next time I'll go ahead and add the full amount of zest.

Once my ganache and cookies had cooled I started spreading chocolate and making cookie sandwiches!

I loved the way these cookies turned out and recommend you try them!

Milan Cookies Recipe
courtesy of Gale Gand, Food Network website
Prep Time: 20 min
Inactive Prep Time: 0 min
Cook Time: 1 hr 0 min
Serves: about 3 dozen cookies

• 12 tablespoons (170grams/ 6 oz) unsalted butter, softened
• 2 1/2 cups (312.5 grams/ 11.02 oz) powdered sugar
• 7/8 cup egg whites (from about 6 eggs)
• 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
• 2 tablespoons lemon extract
• 1 1/2 cups (187.5grams/ 6.61 oz) all purpose flour
• Cookie filling, recipe follows

Cookie filling:
• 1/2 cup heavy cream
• 8 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
• 1 orange, zested

1. In a mixer with paddle attachment cream the butter and the sugar.
2. Add the egg whites gradually and then mix in the vanilla and lemon extracts.
3. Add the flour and mix until just well mixed.
4. 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.
5. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 10 minutes or until light golden brown around the edges. Let cool on the pan.
6. While waiting for the cookies to cool, in a small saucepan over medium flame, scald cream.
7. Pour hot cream over chocolate in a bowl, whisk to melt chocolate, add zest and blend well.
8. Set aside to cool (the mixture will thicken as it cools).
9. 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.
10. Repeat with the remainder of the cookies.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Homemade Strawberry Jam

Call me crazy, but home canning interests me. I've received books about it as a gift, and one of my friends has agreed to teach me how to can in her kitchen this summer. So when my June recipe challenge for the Daring Bakers had the option of homemade jam, I knew I wanted to try and make my own. This was my first attempt, and I didn't actually can it. I put in in the fridge and am using it quickly! The recipe I used was How to Make Super Easy Strawberry Jam, and they're telling the truth. It's super easy! I started by cutting the strawberries and putting them in a pan...

then I mashed them with a potato masher,
added sugar and lemon juice,
cooked until it reached 220 F,
let it cool off, and then spread it on toast. Delicious!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Bakewell Tart

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.

This recipe consists of a sweet shortbread crust, frangipane (almond filling) and jam. The picture below is my finished tart, with sliced almonds flaked across the top. It looked beautiful coming out of the oven, but notice the lack of pictures after slicing! Unfortunately, my tart needed to be cooked longer, but I didn't realize this until I cut into it. The crust and outer ring of the tart tasted great, but the middle was still a bit gooey. Lesson learned! That being said, I would definitely make the tart again. It has great flavor, in spite of not being cooked long enough.

Sweet shortcrust pastry

Prep time: 15-20 minutes

Resting time: 30 minutes (minimum)

Equipment needed: bowls, box grater, cling film

225g (8oz) all purpose flour

30g (1oz) sugar

2.5ml (½ tsp) salt

110g (4oz) unsalted butter, cold (frozen is better)

2 (2) egg yolks

2.5ml (½ tsp) almond extract (optional)

15-30ml (1-2 Tbsp) cold water (I had to use more.)

Sift together flour, sugar and salt. Grate butter into the flour mixture, using the large hole-side of a box grater. Using your finger tips only, and working very quickly, rub the fat into the flour until the mixture resembles bread crumbs. Set aside.

Lightly beat the egg yolks with the almond extract (if using) and quickly mix into the flour mixture. Keep mixing while dribbling in the water, only adding enough to form a cohesive and slightly sticky dough.

Form the dough into a disc, wrap in cling and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.


Prep time: 10-15 minutes

Equipment needed: bowls, hand mixer, rubber spatula

125g (4.5oz) unsalted butter, softened

125g (4.5oz) icing sugar

3 (3) eggs

2.5ml (½ tsp) almond extract

125g (4.5oz) ground almonds

30g (1oz) all purpose flour

Cream butter and sugar together for about a minute or until the mixture is primrose in colour and very fluffy. Scrape down the side of the bowl and add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. The batter may appear to curdle. In the words of Douglas Adams: Don’t panic. Really. It’ll be fine. After all three are in, pour in the almond extract and mix for about another 30 seconds and scrape down the sides again. With the beaters on, spoon in the ground nuts and the flour. Mix well. The mixture will be soft, keep its slightly curdled look (mostly from the almonds) and retain its pallid yellow colour.

Assembling the Tart

Place the chilled dough disc on a lightly floured surface. If it's overly cold, you will need to let it become acclimatised for about 15 minutes before you roll it out. Flour the rolling pin and roll the pastry to 5mm (1/4”) thickness, by rolling in one direction only (start from the centre and roll away from you), and turning the disc a quarter turn after each roll. When the pastry is to the desired size and thickness, transfer it to the tart pan, press in and trim the excess dough. Patch any holes, fissures or tears with trimmed bits. Chill in the freezer for 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 200C/400F.

Remove shell from freezer, spread as even a layer as you can of jam (I used homemade strawberry jam, recipe can be found under Strawberry Jam post) onto the pastry base. Top with frangipane, spreading to cover the entire surface of the tart. Smooth the top and pop into the oven for 30 minutes. (Mine was not finished at 30 minutes...could take longer!) Five minutes before the tart is done, the top will be poofy and brownish. Remove from oven and strew flaked almonds on top and return to the heat for the last five minutes of baking.

The finished tart will have a golden crust and the frangipane will be tanned, poofy and a bit spongy-looking. Remove from the oven and cool on the counter. Serve warm, with crème fraîche, whipped cream or custard sauce if you wish.

When you slice into the tart, the almond paste will be firm, but slightly squidgy and the crust should be crisp but not tough.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Sour Cream Biscuits

This weekend I was flipping through cookbooks and reading food blogs trying to find recipes for the leftover ingredients in my fridge. I really hate letting good ingredients go bad, so when I opened the fridge and found myself staring at half empty containers of sour cream and heavy cream I decided to make biscuits.

After a little bit of searching I found a biscuit recipe on http://www.chow.com/ that used both sour cream and heavy cream. Perfect for my leftover situation! Then I read a little more and realized it also used brown sugar. Never in my life had I seen brown sugar in a biscuit recipe, but I figured I'd try it anyway and see what happened. It turns out that brown sugar, sour cream, and cream can make for one fantastic biscuit! I was surprised by how good these were. A little tangy, a little sweet, and just a hint of salty.

Sour Cream Biscuits, adapted from www.chow.com

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter (1/2 stick), frozen
1/4 cup sour cream
3 tablespoons heavy cream

1. Heat oven to 375 F and arrange the rack in the middle of the oven.
2. Combine flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a mixing bowl and whisk to aerate and break up any lumps.
3. Using the large holes of a box grater, grate frozen butter into flour mixture and toss to coat. Smear in sour cream and heavy cream, and using your hands, knead until dough just comes together.
4. Divide into 8 biscuits. (Dough will be sticky. I rolled them into balls and pressed them down flat to mimic the shape of cut biscuits. The dough was a little shaggy to press out and cut.)
5. Place on a greased cookie sheet and bake for 15-18 minutes.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


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

I truly enjoyed making this month's challenge. It gave me an excuse to break out the springform pan I got for Christmas that I had yet to use, and I had something special to serve to the company we had over Easter! The challenge directions were to get creative with the cheesecake, but since this was my first attempt at cheesecake I decided to go old school and make plain cheesecake with a fresh strawberry topping. So, let's get started...

I have a thing for graham cracker crust. I'm not a huge fan of pie crust, but I absolutely adore graham cracker crust. So much so that I took a picture of it while I was measuring out ingredients (above), and again once I got it into the pan (below). I'd read that all springforms will leak at one time or another, so I wrapped mine with foil, twice, as the good folks from Cooks' Illustrated advised me to do.

Now that my crust was ready and waiting to be filled, I moved on to making the cheeesecake. It was suprisingly simple, just add the ingredients and mix. What I didn't realize what that the tricky part was yet to come...

As you can see above, my cheesecake is mixed, poured into the pan, and ready for baking. The tricky part for me was the water bath. I live in an apartment and have a half size oven. Aside from my oven being too small to cook a frozen pizza, it's also a bit finicky on temperature. So my oven and I frequently discuss it's behavior and the myriad of things it can do to improve our relationship. So far, the oven is still winning. But today, I beat the oven. I needed to give my cheesecake a water bath so it would cook properly, and a roasting pan was the only thing that would fit and still hold enough water to come up the sides of the springform. The handles hit the sides of the pan, so I filled my pan with hot water and then added my cheesecake. Then I opened an oven with mitts up to my elbows and proceeded to put a roasting pan full of hot water and a sliding cheesecake (those handles didn't keep it too steady) into the oven. I was starting to understand why people do not frequenly make cheesecake at home. Sloshing hot water has never been a friend of mine.

Sloshing hot water aside, my cheesecake turned out beatifully! I topped it with a classic strawberry sauce, and it made the perfect Easter dessert.

Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake:


2 cups graham cracker crumbs

1 stick butter, melted

2 tbsp.sugar

1 tsp. vanilla extract


3 sticks of cream cheese, 8 oz each (total of 24 oz) room temperature

1 cup sugar

3 large eggs

1 cup heavy cream

1 tbsp. lemon juice

1 tbsp. vanilla extract (or the innards of a vanilla bean)

1 tbsp liqueur, optional, but choose what will work well with your cheesecake


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (Gas Mark 4 = 180C = Moderate heat). Begin to boil a large pot of water for the water bath.

2. Mix together the crust ingredients and press into your preferred pan. You can press the crust just into the bottom, or up the sides of the pan too - baker's choice. Set crust aside.

3. Combine cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of a stand-mixer (or in a large bowl if using a hand-mixer) and cream together until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, fully incorporating each before adding the next. Make sure to scrape down the bowl in between each egg. Add heavy cream, vanilla, lemon juice, and alcohol and blend until smooth and creamy.

4. Pour batter into prepared crust and tap the pan on the counter a few times to bring all air bubbles to the surface. Place pan into a larger pan and pour boiling water into the larger pan until halfway up the side of the cheesecake pan. If cheesecake pan is not airtight, cover bottom securely with foil before adding water.

5. Bake 45 to 55 minutes, until it is almost done - this can be hard to judge, but you're looking for the cake to hold together, but still have a lot of jiggle to it in the center. You don't want it to be completely firm at this stage. Close the oven door, turn the heat off, and let rest in the cooling oven for one hour. This lets the cake finish cooking and cool down gently enough so that it won't crack on the top. After one hour, remove cheesecake from oven and lift carefully out of water bath. Let it finish cooling on the counter, and then cover and put in the fridge to chill. Once fully chilled, it is ready to serve.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Pasta Time!

Welcome to my kitchen! Before I get started, let me introduce myself. My name is Jennifer, and I love to eat. LOVE to eat! I've always enjoyed eating, but didn't start cooking until a few years ago. My permanent recipe taster and photographer is my wonderful husband Jonathan. He's great about taking pictures for me, and he's even better at eating the food I make!

So, why not just cook the food and eat it? Why write about it here? Well, for a girl who loves food, writing about it is fun! I hope that you'll enjoy coming on my adventures with me. Which brings me to my first Daring Bakers (http://www.thedaringkitchen.com/) adventure...

The March 2009 challenge is hosted by Mary of Beans and Caviar, Melinda of Melbourne Larder and Enza of Io Da Grande. They have chosen Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna from The Splendid Table by Lynne Rossetto Kasper as the challenge.

When I read the challenge I was pretty excited. This lasagna called for fresh spinach pasta and a bechamel sauce, both of which I hadn't made since culinary school. I was anxious to see if I still had it...I really enjoyed making pasta in school! The only hitch was that in school I had a pasta machine to roll out the dough and here in my apartment it would just be my rolling pin and me. Nevertheless, I was confident I could make a pretty good pasta with just my rolling pin.

I chose a Sunday afternoon to make my lasagna. I started with the ragu. It called for several cuts of expensive meat, so I substituted with diced mushrooms (portobell0, shitake, cremini) and eggplant. Here's the beginning of my ragu...

Just a little mirepoix going (carrot, onion, celery) in some olive oil. I got a little caught up in the cooking, and neglected to ask Jon to take more pictures of the ragu. Next I was on to the bechamel, which I didn't think to have him take a picture of at all! It turned out lovely though, so it was on to the pasta...

What you're looking at here is a big mound of flour, with an egg and spinach in the middle. To make the pasta you just mix the egg with the spinach, and work in the flour until it forms a ball. It's fun, and it tastes great, but it does take time. So, I'm sure you're wondering, how did the kneading and rolling out by hand go? My noodles were a little thicker than I would've liked and my arms got sore, but my pasta, well, let's just say Jon looked at getting a pasta attachment for my KitchenAid so I can make more! :)

So now I had all my pieces, I just had to put it together. I layered my bechamel, noodles, ragu and grated parmesan until I ran out, and put it in the oven to bake. Here's the finished lasagna!

It's hard to see how delicious it was, but it turns out taking food pictures isn't as easy as it looks! Just imagine layer after layer of fresh pasta, vegetarian ragu, bechamel sauce and parmesan cheese...yeah, it was good! :)

Thanks again to Mary, Melinda and Enza for picking this challenge!