Tuesday, August 31, 2010

No-Bake Peanut Butter Pie, Part 2

Yesterday was another scorcher here in Chicago, then my air conditioner up and died, just days after the warranty expired, grrr....

So I went into the kitchen and ground up some cookies, melted some butter and chocolate, whipped some cream and voila! Dessert makes a bad day better, especially when there's peanut butter involved.

This is my second attempt at peanut butter pie, you can see the first one here. I had to return Baked to the library today, so I decided to try their version.

The mousse filling is delicious, I added just a bit of salt and tasted that wonderful rich peanutty sweet/salty combination. The crust sounded great, I mean adding a layer of chocolate between the crust and filling, genius right? Well, the pie is served frozen,  and the crust/chocolate layer, while yummy, was rock hard. After freezing the pie overnight, I transferred it to the refrigerator, and I preferred it in a non-frozen state. Frozen, its like an excellent semifreddo, while refrigerated, its more of a dense mousse.

I elected not to make the hot fudge topping this time, I just crushed some more cookies and sprinkled them on top. So next time, I may combine the Emeril crust with this filling, and make a milk chocolate ganache for the top.

 Peanut Butter Pie with Cookie Crust and Easy Hot Fudge Sauce
adapted from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking

For the chocolate cookie crust:
30 chocolate wafer cookies (about 6 ounces)*
1 tablespoon sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
For the peanut butter filling with chocolate bottom:
½ cup (3 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
½ teaspoon light corn syrup
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup creamy peanut butter (I used Jif)
small pinch of salt
2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
¾ cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1½ cups heavy cream
For the easy hot fudge sauce: (which I haven't yet made)
6 ounces milk chocolate, finely chopped
6 ounces dark chocolate (64% cacao), finely chopped
1 cup heavy cream
¼ cup light corn syrup

Chocolate cookie crust:
1)  In a food processor, grind the cookies to a very fine powder. You should have about 1½ cups. Add the sugar and pulse a few times to mix. Pour the butter over the crumb mixture and pulse again until well combined.

2)  Turn the crumb mixture out into a 9-inch pie plate and press it into the bottom and up the sides. You can use the back of a large spoon and/or a ¼-cup measuring cup to press and even out the crust.

3) Put the crust in the refrigerator while you make the filling.

Peanut butter filling with chocolate bottom
1) Melt the chocolate chips in a microwave oven or in a double boiler. Add the corn syrup and stir to combine. Use a spatula to spread the chocolate in a thin layer on the bottom of the chilled pie crust. Put the crust back in the refrigerator while you make the peanut butter filling.

2) Put the cream cheese, peanut butter, salt, vanilla, and brown sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on medium speed until well combined and completely smooth. Set aside.

3) In a clean bowl, use the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment to whip the cream until soft peaks form. Remove the bowl from the mixer and, with a rubber spatula, mix 2 big dollops of whipped cream into the peanut butter mixture. Then, gently fold the remaining whipped cream into the peanut butter until the mixture is uniform in color.

4) Pour the mixture into the prepared crust and freeze for at least 4 hours. Once the pie is frozen, you can cover it with aluminum foil and freeze for up to 3 days. Or, transfer to the refrigerator, the filling will be softer and the crust a bit easier to slice.

Easy hot fudge sauce
1) Place both chocolates in a medium heatproof bowl and set aside. 2) In a small saucepan, bring the cream to a simmer over medium heat. Add the corn syrup and stir to combine. Remove from the heat and pour over the chocolates. Let the mixture sit for 2 minutes. Starting in the center of the bowl and working your way out to the edges, whisk the chocolate mixture in a circle until completely smooth. The hot fudge sauce, cooled to room temperature and covered tightly, will keep for 3 days in the refrigerator. Rewarm the sauce in a microwave oven on medium heat for 30 seconds, stir, and repeat until the sauce is warm; or reheat it in a small saucepan over low heat.

To serve, place a frozen piece of pie on a large serving plate and spoon 3 heaping tablespoons of the warm sauce directly over the top of the pie. Eat and enjoy immediately.

*The authors recommend Nabisco chocolate wafers , I used a combination of chocolate digestive biscuits and Oreos, so use what you like by weight, or to make 1½ cups of crumbs.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Sour Cream Coffee Cake with Chocolate Cinnamon Swirl

 Last night, Charlie and I sat on the sofa, looking at Baked. We were all watching Julie & Julia, (not for the first time) and this was one of the recipes we bookmarked. This morning, I decided to bake this instead of dealing with the overgrown aster issue in the garden. Or the laundry.

 I haven't found my sour cream coffee cake nirvana yet, but I really need to....my whole family craves it. This coffee cake is delicious, I love the cinnamon swirl and crumb topping. Because the cake bakes in a 13x9 pan, is perfect for taking along to a picnic or even on a car trip. I do like coffee cakes baked in tube pans too, they look so pretty at brunch.

Baker's Notes: I use metal baking pans, so the edges were a bit crispy but not burnt. From the title, one might expect a more chocolaty flavor, but its subtle, which I liked. It's important to scatter the crumb topping evenly to the edges of the pan, otherwise, the topping can sink into the cake, and you will miss the lovely swirls. You can make the crumb topping and the swirl mixture ahead, keeping the latter in the refrigerator. In fact, next time I may freeze the crumb topping, so there's less chance of it sinking too far into the coffeecake.

Sour Cream Coffee Cake with (Chocolate) Cinnamon Swirl
adapted from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking

Crumb Topping
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup pecans, toasted
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1 inch pieces
Chocolate Cinnamon Swirl
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon dark unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon  
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened but cool
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs
16 ounces sour cream
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Crumb Topping:
Put the flour, sugar, and salt in bowl of food processor and pulse to combine. Add the pecans and pulse until they are finely chopped and incorporated. Add the butter and pulse until mixture looks like coarse sand. Cover and refrigerate.

Chocolate Cinnamon Swirl:
Mix ingredients in small bowl.

Sour Cream Cake:
Preheat the oven to 350° F, and put the oven rack in the center position. Butter a 9×13-inch baking pan. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a medium bowl.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter until smooth. Scrape down bowl and add sugar. Beat until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping bowl as needed. Add the sour cream and vanilla and beat just until incorporated.

Add the dry ingredients in three additions, scraping down the bowl before each addition and beating only until each addition is just incorporated. Do not over mix.

This part takes a bit of patience. Pour one third of the cake batter into the prepared pan. Use an offset spatula to spread batter evenly in pan. Sprinkle half of the chocolate cinnamon swirl mixture over batter, covering the entire surface of the batter. Spoon half of remaining batter over the swirl mixture, this is easier if you use a large spoon or a spatula to dollop batter over the swirl mixture and then spread it evenly. Top with remaining swirl mixture, then the remaining batter (dolloping again), and spread the batter evenly. Sprinkle the crumb topping evenly over the top of the batter.

Bake in the center of the oven for one hour, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Let the cake cool on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes, I would wait an hour before serving, as the cake falls apart easily when warm.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Double Chocolate Zucchini Bread

 I have a lot of loaf pans, when did that happen? They are a neglected lot, sitting on a shelf in the basement pantry. The bundt pans, the cake pans, they get plenty of action. Today is the day, zucchini is in season, so I'm updating an old favorite.

As a teen I made chocolate zucchini bread often, my mother grew zucchini in her garden, and like most gardeners, grew much more than she could ever convince her family to eat. One challenge I encountered was consistency, sometimes the bread turned out beautifully, other times it fell. I learned the hard way: frozen zucchini doesn't work, and if you use the gigantic ones your well-meaning gardener friends leave on your doorstep, you'd better seed them first and squeeze out the excess moisture after grating.

I've added chocolate chips to the recipe, I wanted more chocolate flavor than the cocoa alone provides. Feel free to add 1 cup of chopped walnuts to the batter, some bakers add cinnamon or orange zest as well.

I wanted to experiment a bit with different pan sizes, this time I used an 8 x 4, and a 9 x 5. The larger pan took quite a bit longer, and is more crispy on the top. Perhaps this batter is more successful in smaller loaves? We shall see. The flavor is excellent, and no, I didn't tell Charlie about the zucchini until after she'd eaten a large slice. 

Double Chocolate Zucchini Bread

3 cups all-purpose flour
⅓ cup natural cocoa (like Hershey's)
pinch instant espresso powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup mini chocolate chips
2 cups sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups  shredded zucchini -- unpeeled, about 12 oz by weight

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease or spray the bottom and sides of two loaf pans, I used an 8 x 4 and a 9 x 5, the larger pan took about 15 minutes more to bake.

Whisk together flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, salt, instant espresso and chocolate chips in large bowl. Set aside.

Combine sugar and eggs in a large mixing bowl; mix on low to medium speed
of mixer until combined. Add oil and vanilla extract; beat until combined.
Slowly, stir in zucchini. Add flour mixture; stir just until moistened, finishing by hand with a silicone spatula or wooden spoon.

Divide batter evenly between prepared loaf pans. Bake for 50 to 65 minutes or
until wooden pick inserted near centers comes out clean. Cool in pans on
wire racks 10 - 15 minutes. Remove from pans. Cool completely on wire racks.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Caramel Layer Cake

This is the cake Charlie requested after her three week sojourn at overnight camp.  I was a bit pressed for time, so for the yellow cake I used a Duncan Hines Golden Butter Recipe Cake Mix, following the directions on the box, adding a big dollop of yogurt or sour cream to the batter. Next time, I will follow Anna's suggestion and try the Magnificent Moist Golden Cake from BakeWise by Shirley Corriher.

My standard caramel icing recipe is fairly simple, but M. Babette requested one with a more fudgy texture, so I tried this one, from Country Living Great Cakes: Home-Baked Creations from the Country Living Kitchen.  It's more time consuming to make, and requires a candy thermometer, and I'm not sure its worth the extra time. The icing does have a nice fudgy texture while adhering well to the cake, but I didn't think the flavor was an improvement over my usual, so I'll just keep looking.

Caramel Icing
adapted from Country Living Great Cakes

3 cups light brown sugar
pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
5 tablespoons butter, cold, cut into pieces

 In a medium saucepan with a candy thermometer attached, stir sugar, heavy cream, salt and lemon juice together. Cook the mixture, without stirring, over medium-high heat to soft-ball stage (238 degrees F). Remove from heat and cool the caramel mixture to 140 degrees F.

Place the butter and vanilla on top of the cooled caramel mixture. Remove the thermometer and, using a handheld mixer set on medium-high speed, beat the caramel until it thickens enough to hold its shape, lightens in color, and changes from translucent to opaque -- about 5 minutes. Apply icing immediately to cooled layers.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Peach Crumb Cake

I know you can't really see the peaches, so much streusel.....
I'm so behind on posting....suddenly my schedule has picked up again, so let's get right to the cake!

I had another small box of Red Haven peaches last week, so I tried this recipe for the first time. M. Babette and I both loved it, it has everything, cake, sweet peaches, and a thick, buttery streusel topping. We both snuck forkfuls after lunch, and had some more after dinner. It was still delicious the next day for breakfast.

I know we're only supposed to eat peaches during the few weeks they're in season, but even if you can't get local peaches, you should still make this, its that good. I added a bit more spice and a thicker layer of peaches than in the original recipe, so be sure to bake it until a toothpick comes out cleanly.

Peach Crumb Cake
adapted from epicurious.com


    1    cup    all-purpose flour
    ½    cup    firmly packed brown sugar
    6    tablespoons unsalted butter -- softened
    ¾   teaspoon    cinnamon
    pinch of salt
    ½ cup unsalted butter -- softened
    ⅔    cup    granulated sugar
    2    large    eggs
    1    cup    all-purpose flour
    ¾    teaspoon     baking powder
    ½    teaspoon     salt
    ¼    teaspoon     cinnamon
    pinch  of freshly grated nutmeg, use a microplane
    4  to 6 peaches -- peeled and sliced thin, about 3 ½ cups


Preheat the oven to 350°F. and adjust the oven rack to the lower third. Butter an 8-inch round or square baking pan.

Make the topping: In a food processor combine the flour, the brown sugar, the butter, cinnamon and the salt and pulse the motor until the topping is combined well and crumbly. Stash the topping in the refrigerator while you mix the batter, you can even do this the day before.

If your peaches are less than perfectly ripe and/or from the supermarket, sprinkle them lightly with sugar, perhaps a tablespoon. Set aside.

In a bowl with an electric mixer cream together the butter and the granulated sugar until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition, and sift in the flour, the baking powder, and the salt. Mix the batter until it is just combined and spread it evenly in the pan.

Arrange the peach slices in slightly overlapping rows over the batter, then crumble the topping over them.

Bake the cake for 50 minutes to 1 hour, or until a tester comes out clean. Serve the cake warm or at room temperature. It firms as it cools.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Texas Sheet Cake

This is an awesome recipe. Fast, easy, and delicious. Makes a substantial amount of cake, perfect for a casual party, having the team over, potlucks, etc.

Recently, we spent a lovely evening in a friend's garden, enjoying delicious mixed grill and great conversation. I offered to bring dessert, but I had a busy day so I pulled this one out of the "to try" file. I have recipes from both Pioneer Woman and Cooks Country, I gave PW a try this time. Her recipe, like most I've seen, calls for chopped pecans in the frosting, which I've changed to sprinkling the pecans on top. I knew that at least one guest was nut averse, so this time, I just put them on half the cake, as seen in the photo.

I added instant espresso to oomph up the chocolate flavor, and some mini chocolate chips that were languishing in the drawer. I did use the darker dutched process cocoa in the frosting, I love the darker color and richer flavor its gives this frosting, but it would be darn good with regular cocoa too.

It was dark outside by the time dessert was served, so I didn't get a slice photo. There weren't any leftovers, so I'll just have to make it again!

Texas Sheet Cake
adapted from thepioneerwomancooks.com

    2    cups   all-purpose flour
    2    cups  sugar
    ½     teaspoon salt
    4    heaping tablespoons cocoa
    ½   teaspoon instant espresso powder
    2    sticks butter
    1    cup  boiling water
    ½   cup buttermilk
    2    large eggs
    1   teaspoon baking soda
    1   teaspoon  vanilla
    ⅔  cup mini chocolate chips, optional
    1    cup pecans -- toasted and coarsely chopped
    1-¾ sticks butter  (7 ounces, or 14 tablespoons)
    pinch of salt
    4    heaping tablespoons cocoa (I used dutched process, but natural is great)
    6    tablespoons milk
    1    teaspoon  vanilla
    14 ¼   ounces  powdered sugar  (or 1 pound minus 1/2 Cup)


Have ready a half-sheet pan (mine is about 13" by 18"), lightly sprayed with non-stick spray. Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, and salt.

In a saucepan, melt butter. Add cocoa and espresso powder. Stir together.
Add boiling water, allow mixture to boil for 30 seconds, then turn off heat. Pour over flour mixture, and stir lightly to cool.

In a medium bowl, beat the eggs, then stir in the buttermilk, baking soda, and vanilla. Stir buttermilk mixture into butter/chocolate mixture. Fold in the chocolate chips, and pour into sheet cake pan. Spread batter to edges. Bake at 350°F for 20 minutes.

While cake is baking, make the icing.  Its better to frost this while the cake is hot from the oven. Melt butter in a saucepan. Add cocoa, whisk to combine, then turn off heat. Add the milk, vanilla, salt and powdered sugar. Whisk together,  then pour over warm cake, spreading quickly with an offset spatula. Top with pecans.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Almond-Lemon Tea Cake

Like a lot of bakers, I've fallen madly in love with Tartine. I've never been to their San Francisco bakery, I just keep reserving their book at the library. It seems that the Chicago Public Library only has one copy, because I have it continually on reserve and the book is already well-worn. I do want to try the lemon meringue cake, the soft gingerbread, and several others, but first, I had to make this delicious almond-lemon cake.

I'm not always a fan of chopped nuts in cake, unless nuts are the point, I think they can get in the way of the cake's texture. Almond paste, however, only adds moisture and depth of flavor to baked goods, and here in combination with the lemon, the result is truly delicious.

A few notes: My glaze was delicious, but didn't crystallize on the cake as I expected, instead it soaked into the cake. Perhaps I didn't let it sit long enough on the rack before storing? While I often use some orange juice in recipes calling for lemon, next time, I may use a 2 to 1 lemon ratio in order to brighten the flavor even more. I did use poppy seeds, but they can be omitted.

Almond-Lemon Tea Cake
Adapted from Tartine, who found it in The Simple Art of Perfect Baking

    ¾    cup    pastry or cake flour -- sifted 
    ½    teaspoon   baking powder
    ⅛    teaspoon   salt
    2    scant tablespoons poppy seeds
    5    large    eggs
    1    teaspoon    vanilla extract
    ¾    cup    almond paste -- at room temperature
    1    cup    sugar
    1    cup    unsalted butter -- at room temperature
    1    teaspoon    grated lemon zest
    1    teaspoon    grated orange zest
    3    tablespoon    lemon juice
    3    tablespoon    orange juice
    ¾    cup    sugar


1. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter and flour a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan, knocking out the excess flour. Or, use a baking spray with flour like I did.

2. Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and poppy seeds twice. In a small bowl, combine the eggs and vanilla and whisk together just to combine.

3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the almond paste on low speed until it breaks up. This can take up to a minute, depending on how soft and warm it is. Slowly add the sugar in a steady stream, beating until incorporated. If you add the sugar too quickly, the paste won't break up as well. I ended up with small bits of paste/sugar mixture, it may look wrong, but its right.

4. Cut the butter into 1-tablespoon pieces. Continue on low speed while adding the butter, a tablespoon at a time, for about 1 minute. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Then turn on the mixer to medium speed and beat until the mixture is light in color and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. With the mixer still on medium speed, add the eggs in a very slow, steady stream and mix until incorporated. Stop the mixer and again scrape down the sides of the bowl. Turn on the mixer again to medium speed and mix for 30 seconds more.

5. Add the citrus zests and mix in with a wooden spoon. Add the flour mixture in two batches, stirring after each addition until incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl one last time, then spoon the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the surface with an offset spatula.

6. Bake until the top springs back when lightly touched and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 60 to 65 minutes. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for 5 to 7 minutes while you make the glaze.

7. To make the glaze, stir together the lemon and orange juices and the sugar in a small bowl. Place the wire rack holding the cake over a sheet of waxed paper or aluminum foil to catch any drips of glaze, and gently invert the cake onto the rack. If the cake does not want to release, run the tip of a small knife around the edge to loosen it. Brush the entire warm cake with the glaze, then let the cake cool completely on the rack, preferably 4 hours, so the glaze can crystallize. The cake breaks apart easily when warm, so don't attempt to move it.

8. When the cake is cool, transfer it to a serving plate, using two crisscrossed icing spatulas or the base of a two-part tart pan to lift it (I used a metal pancake turner). Serve at room temperature. The cake will keep, well-wrapped, for 1 week in the refrigerator.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Peach Crisp

Red Haven peaches are in. According to my friend Jim in Michigan, this is akin to the release of Beaujolais Nouveau. Sure, my produce man has beautiful white peaches starting in late June, but the Red Havens are the star of the fruit season here. Freestone yellow peaches, with a soft flesh and honeyed flavor, they are delicious on their own, standing over the sink, or over some greek yogurt for breakfast. 

Crisp is my favorite cooked fruit dessert, and yes, I prefer it even to pie. I first made it using the apple crisp recipe from Beat This! and later it adapted to top blueberries, peaches, rhubarb, etc. It's easy, you are basically topping a fruit/sugar/thickener mixture with an oatmeal streusel, then baking it. The only trick is knowing if your fruit will be cooked at the same time as the topping browns, and since we're using fresh peaches today, they will.

Peach Crisp
inspired by Apple Crisp in Beat This!

First, make the topping. 
1/2 cup flour
3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 1/2 cups oatmeal (either old-fashioned or quick, I use a combo)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
a large pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled

In a medium bowl, stir together the first six ingredients. Add the melted butter and stir until everything is combined. Chill in the fridge while you make the fruit. Chilling the topping will help keep it from melting into the fruit when it bakes.

Now, prepare the peaches:
8 cups peeled, sliced fresh peaches
3-4 tablespoons sugar, depending on peach sweetness
2 tablespoons tapioca flour (you can substitute flour, but tapioca flour rocks)
small pinch of salt
a sprinkle of cinnamon and nutmeg to your taste, but if you ponied up the extra cash for farmer's market peaches, just use a little.

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Butter a large gratin dish or a 13' by 9' pan. Mix the peaches, sugar, flour, salt and spices (I do this in the pan) and stir so there are no lumps of flour. Top with the chilled oatmeal mixture, crumbling it evenly over the peaches.

Bake for 35 to 50 minutes, depending on the size and type of pan you're using. The peaches will be bubbling and the topping will be brown. Serve warm, preferably with vanilla ice cream. Store leftovers in the refrigerator and try not to eat them for breakfast.


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