weeknight gourmet

Posts Tagged ‘Dessert’

Christmas Candy: Dark Chocolate Almond Bark

I’ve never really made candy before.  I associated making candy with other recipes that require you to be more precise than I really enjoy being.  I assumed you always needed a candy thermometer and I already have way more kitchen equipment than either of my kitchens can handle.

But this Dark Chocolate Almond Bark changes everything!!!  It was amazing and so easy to make!  The caramel – which is the only thing you actually have to prepare — comes together quickly.  I could not find Marcona almonds so I used blanched and slivered almonds.

I think the key to the bark though is high quality chocolate and not to forget the coarse sea salt!  I used Guittard 63% Extra Dark Chocolate Chips.  Yum!

I plan to make another batch tonight using pistachios in my attempt to recreate Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Roasted Pistachio Toffee.  Unfortunately I’m out of Guittard chocolate so we’ll see how Trader Joe’s dark chocolate does.

Note: Thank you to Bon Appetit’s website for the photo.  I didn’t have my camera when I made the bark.

Chocolate-Almond Bark with Sea Salt
Bon Appetit

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups roasted Marcona almonds (not in oil)
  • 1 pound good-quality dark chocolate (62%–70% cacao), finely chopped
  • Coarse sea salt (for sprinkling)

Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or foil. Combine sugar with 2 Tbsp. water in a small saucepan. Stir over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil and cook, occasionally swirling pan and brushing down sides with a wet pastry brush, until caramel is dark amber, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Immediately add butter; whisk until melted. Add almonds; stir until well coated. Transfer to baking sheet, spreading out to separate nuts. Let cool. Break up any large clumps of nuts. Set aside 1/4 of nuts.

Stir chocolate in a medium bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water until melted. Remove from heat, add nuts from baking sheet, and stir quickly to combine. Spread chocolate-nut mixture on same baking sheet, keeping nuts in a single layer. Top with the reserved nuts; sprinkle with salt. Chill until chocolate is set, about 3 hours.

Break bark into pieces and store between layers of parchment or waxed paper. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 week ahead. Keep chilled.

Makes about 1 3/4 lb.

Christmas Cookies: Lemon Ricotta Cookies

I made these cookies for Tim’s “snack day” at work along with the Chocolate Peppermint Thumbprints.  Mine did not turn out as pretty as Giada’s but they were delicious!  So moist from the *whole* container of ricotta cheese.  And, such great lemon flavor from the zest in the cookie and the very lemony glaze.

Just a couple of notes:

The glaze recipe made just enough to cover all the cookies.  So be generous but not overly so when coating the cookies.

I have started to always line my cookie sheets with parchment paper or my Silpat mat.  The cookies bake more evenly and are easy to remove from the cookie sheet.  And, clean up is a breeze — just throw out the paper or wipe down the mat!

Lastly, if you don’t own a Microplane zester, it really is an amazing tool to zest citrus.  You can use it to grate parmesan cheese, and I’ve even seen people use it on garlic cloves and ginger.

Enjoy!

Lemon Ricotta Cookies
Giada de Laurentiis

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 (15-ounce) container whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 lemon, zested

Glaze:

  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 lemon, zested

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Cookies: In a medium bowl combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In the large bowl combine the butter and the sugar. Using an electric mixer beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating until incorporated. Add the ricotta cheese, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Beat to combine. Stir in the dry ingredients.

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Spoon the dough (about 2 tablespoons for each cookie) onto the baking sheets. Bake for 15 minutes, until slightly golden at the edges. Remove from the oven and let the cookies rest on the baking sheet for 20 minutes.

Glaze: Combine the powdered sugar, lemon juice, and lemon zest in a small bowl and stir until smooth. Spoon about 1/2-teaspoon onto each cookie and use the back of the spoon to gently spread. Let the glaze harden for about 2 hours. Pack the cookies into a decorative container.

Christmas Cookies: Chocolate Peppermint Thumbprints

My friend Emily made these cookies for Thanksgiving and they were delicious!  I needed to make a holiday treat for Tim’s office so I decided to make them.  What says Christmas more than chocolate + peppermint?!

Do not overbake the cookies.  I followed the instructions exactly and the cookies were so moist and delicious.

To make the chocolate – peppermint filling, all you need is butter, chocolate chips, and some peppermint extract.  You can pipe the filling through a Ziploc bag with a corner cut off.

The cookies were a hit in Tim’s office.  I think they were all gone within two days!  I was a little sad I didn’t save any for myself but my waistline probably thanks me.

Chocolate Peppermint Thumbprints
Everyday Food

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1 1/4 cups (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 5 ounces semisweet chocolate chips (3/4 cup)
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure peppermint extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F, with racks in upper and lower thirds. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, and salt. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat 1 cup each butter and sugar on medium-high until light and fluffy, 3 minutes. Add egg and vanilla; beat to combine. With mixer on low, gradually add flour mixture and beat to combine. Place 1/2 cup sugar in a small bowl. Roll dough into 1-inch balls, then roll in sugar to coat. Place balls, 1 inch apart, on two parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake 5 minutes. Remove sheets from oven; with the small end of a melon baller or the bottom of a small round measuring spoon, make an indentation in center of each cookie.

Bake until cookies are just set but still look moist, 4 minutes (do not overbake). Let cool on sheets on wire racks. In a microwave-safe bowl, microwave chocolate chips and ¼ cup butter in 10-second increments until melted; stir in peppermint extract. Let cool until thick enough to pipe, 5 minutes. Transfer mixture to a large zip-top bag; snip 1/4-inch hole in one corner. Pipe chocolate into cookie indentations. (Store in airtight containers, up to 1 week.)

Active time: 35 minutes

Total time: 50 minutes + cooling

Makes 4 dozen

Holiday Menu: The Best Red Velvet Cake

I wish I had a photo of this cake but it was too hectic getting the meal on the table and entertaining guests.  But trust me, it was amazing looking and tasting!

I turned to my favorite source of the cake recipes — the Cake Mix Doctor.  She starts with a basic cake mix and adds all sorts of goodness to come up with some delectable cakes!

The red velvet cake required a number of ingredients beyond the cake mix but was super easy to make.  I do not have three cake pans so I just made a two layer cake and allowed the cake to cook for a bit longer since there was more batter in the pan.

The cream cheese frosting was delicious as well.  Make sure to allow the butter and cream cheese to come to room temperature and to sift the confectioner’s sugar.

There is no doubt I will be making this cake again!

The Best Red Velvet Cake
The Cake Mix Doctor

  • Solid vegetable oil shortening, for greasing the pans
  • Flour, for dusting the pans
  • 1 (18.5-ounce) package plain butter recipe golden cake mix
  • 2 ½ tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/3 cups buttermilk
  • 1 (1-ounce) bottle red food coloring
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, melted
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
Place rack in the center of the oven and preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly grease 3 9-inch round cake pans with shortening, then dust with flour. Shake out excess flour and set the pans aside.
Place the cake mix, cocoa powder, buttermilk, food coloring, melted butter, eggs, vanilla, baking soda and vinegar in a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer on low speed until ingredients are incorporated, 1 minute. Stop machine and scrape down side of bowl with rubber spatula. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat for 2 minutes longer, scraping the side of the bowl again if needed. The batter should look well-blended. Divide batter evenly among 3 prepared pans, about 1 ½ cups batter per pan, smoothing the tops with rubber spatula. Place pans in the oven. If your oven is not large enough to hold 3 pans on center rack, place 2 on that rack and one in the center of the rack above.
Bake cake layers until they just start to pull away from the sides of the pans and the tops spring back when lightly pressed with a finger, 17 to 21 minutes. The layer on the higher rack may bake faster so test it for doneness first.
Transfer cake pans to wire racks and cool for 5 minutes. Run a dinner knife around the edge of each layer and give the pans a good shake to loosen cakes. Invert each layer onto a wire rack, then invert it again onto another rack so the cakes are right side up. Let the layers cool completely. Make frosting.
To assemble the cake, transfer one cake layer, right side up, to a serving platter. Spread the top with some of the frosting. Place a second cake layer, right side up, on top of the first and frost the top. Repeat this process with the third layer. Frost the side of the cake with a thin coat just to set the crumbs. Use the remaining frosting to go back over this and liberally frost the side, working with smooth, clean strokes. To make slicing easier, place uncovered cake in the refrigerator until frosting sets, 20 minutes.
Cream Cheese Frosting:
Place 1 (8-ounce) package reduced-fat cream cheese and 1 stick (8 tablespoons) of room-temperature butter in a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer on high speed until light and fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes. Stop machine and scrape down side of bowl with rubber spatula. Add 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and 4 cups sifted powdered sugar; beat on medium speed until well combined. Increase the mixer speed to high and beat the frosting for 1 minute longer.

Holiday Desserts: Bourbon Pecan Pie

Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving!  We had a great holiday with Tim’s family and Charlotte loved her first big holiday.

Tim’s brother and his wife hosted Thanksgiving.  I brought two pies — an Apple Crumb and a Pecan Pie.  I had never made a pecan pie before but it is among Tim’s favorites and after 11 years together I figured he deserved one.  🙂  I solicited some advice on the pecan pie and my friend Todd insisted that the recipe include bourbon and my friend Mary suggested I look into Paula Deen recipes.  Both proved to be excellent pieces of advice!

The pie was devoured!  There wasn’t a single crumb left.  Apparently this will be my “go-to” pecan pie recipe!

Bourbon Pecan Pie
Paula Deen

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup dark corn syrup
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 1/2 to 2 cups pecan halves
  • 2 tablespoons good-quality bourbon
  • 1 (9-inch) deep-dish pie shell, unbaked

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

In a medium bowl, stir together the sugar and melted butter. Add the corn syrup, eggs, pecans, and bourbon, and stir until all ingredients are combined. Pour mixture into an unbaked pie shell, and place on a heavy-duty cookie sheet. Bake for 10 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees F, and continue to bake for an additional 25 minutes, or until pie is set. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack.

Spring is for Rhubarb: Wine-Roasted Rhubarb

by Weeknight Gourmet Guest Blogger Elizabeth Terry

Spring is for rhubarb!!!

A few years ago, my sister Meghan discovered a love for strawberry-rhubarb pie. I’m not sure I was aware of rhubarb before that, but I certainly am now. We’re definitely in rhubarb season on the East Coast now, and here’s a recipe that is delicious and easier than pie.

I get rhubarb from my CSA in the spring, and if you’re not up for making a pie or cake, the easiest thing to do with it is to stew or roast it with some liquid and sweetener. You can then eat the resulting compote with yogurt or ice cream or all on its own. Last year, I usually put it in the oven with some orange juice and sugar or honey and let it get nice and soft. But this year I came across another recipe, and people, THIS is the way to do rhubarb in 2010.

I found it on the blog Orangette by Molly Wizenberg, which is a charming food blog, somewhat too-too but the recipes are always spot-on. I just bought her book “A Homemade Life” – I’m a sucker for a memoir with recipes. Molly and her husband have a pizzeria in Seattle which sounds pretty nice, and in the recipe she mentions that she used “our house white… Château de Pellehaut Harmonie de Gascogne, a blend of Ugni Blanc, Colombard, Gros Manseng, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc” for cooking the rhubarb. I can tell you that I used the house white from Target, an actually halfway decent Pinot Grigio in a Tetra-Pak (think juice box) and was delighted with the results. I also used vanilla extract instead of a vanilla bean, and scaled the ingredients up a tad as I like having lots of beautiful magenta syrup.

Molly adapted the recipe from one of the Canal House cookbooks, which I haven’t seen yet but everyone raves about.

Wine-Roasted Rhubarb
Adapted from Orangette, which adapted it from Canal House Cooking, Volume 3

  • 2 lbs rhubarb, cut in 3” lengths
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ¾ cup white wine
  • 1 ½ tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350°. Combine all ingredients in a deep oven-safe pot.

Place pot in oven, uncovered, and cook, stirring every 10 minutes, until the rhubarb is very soft and some of the pieces are falling apart a bit and the wine, sugar, vanilla and rhubarb juices have made a hot-pink, sweet-tart syrup.

Chill and serve over yogurt or vanilla ice cream, with a plain buttery cake or just eat with a spoon.

Serves at least 4 as a dessert, keeps well for several days for those of us who like to pull the container out of the fridge at all hours of the day and help ourselves.

Elizabeth Terry is a freelance editor and writer based in Washington, DC. She used to be a picky eater but now is up for just about anything.

Easter Dessert: Lemon Upside-Down Cake

This is the perfect spring dessert!  The cake is so fluffy and moist — thanks to the milk and whipped egg whites.  And, it is filled with wonderful sweetness from the brown sugar and some tartness from the lemon.

Not many suggestions to improve this recipe!  I did have to cook the cake for a full 10 minutes longer than the recipe called for but I made no other changes.  And, I used regular lemons because the store didn’t have Meyer lemons.  Meyer lemons would be a bit sweeter.

When you are whipping the egg whites, make sure to use a clean stainless steel bowl.  Any grease in the bowl can impact forming the stiff peaks.  Also, use room temperature egg whites.  Cream of tartar, as called for in the recipe, provides some acidity and ensures that the egg whites bind together.

You can use the cake recipe as a base and substitute your favorite fruit.  Next time I might try pineapple!  Judging from how many slices Tim had, I think he’d be excited to try another flavor!

Lemon Upside-Down Cake
Food & Wine

  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 2 thin-skinned lemons, sliced paper-thin crosswise, seeds discarded
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs, separated
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • Sweetened whipped cream, for serving

Preheat the oven to 350°. Set a 9-inch nonstick cake pan over moderate heat. Add 4 tablespoons of the butter and when it is melted, stir in the brown sugar until dissolved, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat. Arrange the lemon slices in the melted brown sugar.

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour with the baking powder and salt. In a large bowl, with an electric mixer, beat the remaining 8 tablespoons of butter with the granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla and the egg yolks, one at a time. At low speed, beat in the dry ingredients in 3 batches, alternating with the milk.

In a stainless steel bowl, beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar at high speed until firm peaks form. Fold one-third of the beaten whites into the batter, then fold in the rest. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then invert it onto a plate. Serve warm or at room temperature with whipped cream.

Celebrating Tim's birthday with Holy Cow Cake!

Yesterday was Tim’s birthday!

To celebrate, I made a cake that I brought into the office. This was no ordinary cake — it was Holy Cow Cake (as coined by the Cake Mix Doctor). This is not the cake to bake if you are looking for something elegant or pretty. It’s an ooey gooey messy cake. But it feeds a crowd and is packed with all sorts of sweet goodness!

Here is an overview of the cake:

1) Bake a basic devil’s food cake from a mix.

2) Poke holes in the warm cake after it comes out of the oven. A drinking straw will do the trick.

3) Pour a caramel sauce – sweetened condensed milk combination over the cake.

4) Sprinkle 2 crushed Butterfingers candy bars over caramel combo.

5) Make frosting with Cool Whip and Cream Cheese. Spread over cake.

6) Sprinkle 2 more crushed Butterfingers over the cake and refrigerate.

Make sure to buy the right size Cool Whip container. That was my only issue. I had to add some confectioners sugar to the frosting to make a bit sweeter.

Everyone seemed to really enjoy the Holy Cow Cake! There is some leftover and I intend to have another piece as a Friday afternoon treat!

Holy Cow Cake
The Cake Mix Doctor

Cake

Vegetable oil spray for misting the pan
1 package (18.25 ounces) plain devil’s food cake mix
1 1/3 cups water
1/2 cup vegetable oil, such as canola, corn, safflower, soybean, or sunflower
3 large eggs

Topping

1 jar (8 ounces) caramel topping
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
4 Butterfinger candy bars (2.1 ounces each), crushed
1 container (12 ounces) frozen whipped topping, thawed
1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, at room temperature

1. Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly mist a 13- by 9-inch baking pan with vegetable oil spray. Set the pan aside.

2. Place the cake mix, water, oil, and eggs in a large mixing bowl. Blend with an electric mixer on low speed for 1 minute. Stop the machine and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat 2 minutes more, scraping the sides down again if needed. The batter should look thick and well blended. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing out the top with the rubber spatula. Place the pan in the oven.

3. Bake the cake until it springs back when lightly pressed with your finger and just starts to pull away from the sides of the pan, 35 to 38 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and place it on a wire rack. Immediately poke holes in the top of the cake with a drinking straw or chopstick.

4. Prepare the topping. Place the caramel topping and sweetened condensed milk in a small bowl and stir to combine. Spoon this mixture over the warm cake so that it can seep down into the holes. Measure out half of the crushed candy bars and sprinkle the pieces over the cake.

5. Place the whipped topping and cream cheese in a large mixing bowl and blend with an electric mixer on low speed until smooth and combined, 1 minute. Spread the mixture over the top of the candy. Sprinkle the remaining candy pieces on top.

6. Place the pan, uncovered, in the refrigerator to chill the cake for about 20 minutes before cutting it into squares and serving.

Store this cake, covered in waxed paper, in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Super Bowl Cake 2010: Bourbon Praline Cake

I first wrote about, and resumed, my family’s Super Bowl cake tradition last year.  This year I decided to bake a cake inspired by New Orleans since I was rooting for the Saints.

A few notes on this delicious cake…

Definitely follow the instructions to use parchment paper on the bottom of the pan AND the sides.  I only used parchment on the bottom and the cake did not smoothly come out of the springform pan.  In fact, the cake really wasn’t very pretty but Tim didn’t mind since it was so tasty.  I also had to substitute buttermilk since my grocery store was all out.  You can use equal parts milk and plain yogurt or add some lemon juice to milk as a substitute.  I used the yogurt – milk combo.

Overall the cake was moist and wonderfully sweet from the pralines.  I served it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.  Delicious!


Bourbon Praline Cake
Food Network Magazine

For the Praline Layer:

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for greasing
  • 1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 1/4 cups pecans, toasted

For the Cake:

  • 1 1/2 cups cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons bourbon
  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup pecans, toasted and chopped
  • Vanilla ice cream, for serving

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9-inch springform pan, then line the bottom and sides with parchment paper and butter the paper. Wrap the outside of the pan with foil.

Make the praline layer: Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the brown sugar, corn syrup, kosher salt and vanilla. Spread in the prepared pan and scatter the pecans on top; set aside.

Make the cake: Whisk the flour, baking soda, nutmeg and fine salt in a large bowl. Whisk the buttermilk and bourbon in another bowl.

Beat the butter and granulated sugar with a mixer on medium-high speed until fluffy, 10 minutes. With the mixer on low, beat in the eggs, one at a time. Add the flour mixture in three parts, alternating with the buttermilk mixture, starting and ending with flour. Fold in the pecans.

Pour the batter into the pan and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 1 hour. Cool on a rack, 30 minutes. Remove the springform ring, invert the cake onto a plate and remove the paper. Serve with ice cream.

Christmas Cookies: Classic Sugar Cookies

Here is a delicious sugar cookie recipe.

I don’t think the cookies needed 15 to 20 minutes.  Check on them at 12 minutes.  I decorated the cookies with red sugar and red and green M&Ms to make them festive!

Enjoy!  Merry Christmas!

Classic Sugar Cookies
Food Network Magazine

  • 2 sticks butter
  • 1/2 granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Beat butter, granulated sugar and confectioners’ sugar until fluffy. Beat in egg yolks, vanilla extract, and orange zest.  Whisk flour, baking powder and salt; stir into the butter mixture, then chill 30 minutes.

Roll tablespoonfuls into balls and flatten; sprinkle with coarse sugar and bake 15 to 20 minutes.