Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Excuse me.... is this where I get my chocolate fix?

CHOCOLATE.  Researchers have found that eating chocolate, the number one food craved by American Women, actually causes the brain to release endorphins ( this is the chemical in our brain that makes us feel good).  Beyond that, dark chocolate is actually one of your heart's "super foods" in that you should eat 1 oz. every day.  Dark Chocolate (no milk chocolate though...sorry!) is proven to lower blood pressure and is loaded with antioxidants which help to gobble up free radicals, destructive molecules that are implicated in heart disease and other ailments.  When I saw this recipe for Jacques Torres' Mudslide Cookies, it had me salivating first and then, in a roundabout manner, thinking it could kind of be good for me too.  I love chocolate in any form, dark or milk, and in any combination (my favorite is with peanut butter!).  So, I decided that this cookie would be a great treat for my roommates and colleagues....and me, too.

The Jacques Torres 
Chocolate Mudslide Cookies

1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate
16 ounces bittersweet chocolate
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed and room temperature
2 1/4 cups plus 1 tablespoon sugar
5 eggs, room temperature
1 1/4 cups plus 1 tablespoon walnuts, chopped
16 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
fleur de sel or sea salt, for sprinkling
*parchment paper, for lining the baking sheets

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F and line your first baking sheet with parchment paper (I usually spray a little cooking spray on the pan before I lay down the parchment paper to make it stay on easier). 
Blend together all of your dry ingredients and set aside (the flour, baking powder, and salt). Next, in a medium sauce pan, melt together the 6 ounces of unsweetened chocolate and the 16 ounces of bittersweet chocolate over medium-low heat, stirring frequently to prevent burning. Set aside to cool.

Now, stir together the butter and sugar until it has the texture of wet sand. Add in the eggs, one at a time, using a mixer on low, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Next, add in the flour mixture, and mix until just mixed and then beat in the melted chocolate, until just combined. (Note: the dough will seem too wet at this point, but don’t worry! It’ll come together!)

Chop your walnuts and additional 16 ounces of bittersweet chocolate, and fold them into the batter.  Use a a tablespoon  to scoop up the dough and drop the dough onto the baking sheets , then sprinkle with a bit of sea salt (trust me.....do it!). Bake at 325 degrees F on a regular setting for 12-15 minutes (14 minutes in my oven did the trick). Allow to cool completely before removing from the sheets.

After eating way too much dough, I decided to try just one.  The verdict?  It's a very good, rich cookie (especially for any chocoholics out there) and tastes more on the dark chocolate side of things which I really liked.  But - yes, there is a but - I actually found it to be almost too rich.  Even sprinkling the little bit of salt over the cookie couldn't cut through the incredible decadence of this cookie.  So, eater beware!  I know while you are making this cookie you will want to eat all the dough you can and eat cookies in a manner that could rival the Cookie Monster, but take it from me, please refrain.  One is definitely enough (my stomach can prove it).  Plus, dark chocolate is good for you only in moderation, so take a page from Warren G's playbook (name drop!), and regulate yourself.  You'll thank me later.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Calling All Pumpkin Addicts: Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cake

Most of us love pumpkin be it in pie form, a flavoring of coffee, a scented candle, or otherwise.  I am an avid Food Network and Paula Deen fan (what can I say...her sons are cute too!) and have enjoyed the majority of her recipes.  But, this one in particular is my all time favorite.  I’m not really a pumpkin pie fan (maybe it is something about the texture…who knows?), but I love just about everything else pumpkin.  I was first introduced to this recipe by my beautiful mother who made it for my brother and sister-in-law’s wedding rehearsal dinner when they got married in 2004.  This is a perfect fall dessert for any occasion.

Overall, I’d say this recipe is similar to a simple cheesecake with a delicious crust, and the best part is that it takes a fraction of the time to prepare it compared to cheesecake.  So, without further ado, here is the recipe for Paula Deen’s Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cake!

1 (18 1/4-ounce) package yellow cake mix
1 egg
8 tablespoons butter, melted
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 (15-ounce) can Pumpkin
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
8 tablespoons butter, melted
1 (16-ounce) box powdered sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
As always, preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.  Next, it’s time for the crust: combine the cake mix, egg (make sure all of your eggs have come to room temperature), and butter and mix well using your hands. Pat the mixture into the bottom of a lightly greased 13”x 9” baking pan.
The filling is just as simple: in a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and pumpkin until it is smooth (you may see some lumps, but that is completely fine). Next, add the eggs (remember: room temperature!), vanilla, and butter, and beat together for about one minute. Next, add the powdered sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and mix well until it is smooth. Take the pumpkin mixture and spread it over the crust that you have already pressed into the pan and bake for 40 to 50 minutes. (NOTE: Make sure not to overbake! The center should be a little gooey.)

My coworkers at my office came up to me all day long taking about how great they thought this cake was and even suggested I submit it to our agency’s newsletter (I did, of course!).  I love this recipe because it really does seem like it is complicated and you have to really know what you are doing, but in reality, you only have to mix things up and put it in a pan and try not to overbake it.  I think that this is a great substitute for those individuals who love pumpkin pie, so I challenge all of you to serve this at your Thanksgiving meals instead and watch the compliments roll in.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Italian Cream Cake: Gym, Tanning…..Cake?

GTL has just become GTC with this amazing Italian Cream Cake recipe.  I apologize to everyone reading this for the Jersey Shore reference!  The fact remains that this cake is about as Italian as the cast (which mean….NOT VERY ITALIAN).  You may or may not know this, but Italians don’t really use cream cheese or coconut traditionally.  I am not sure why that beautiful national got to give this cake its namesake.

One of my amazing coworkers had her last day of work, and I thought there would be no better thank her for her dedication to our office than by making this delicious, decadent dessert.  We wish you all the best in all of your future endeavors, Monifa!  Without further ado, her it is:

1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup + 3 T sugar
5 eggs, separated
3 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup sweetened, flaked coconut
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup buttermilk

First you have a few things that you need to prep.  Start off by preheating your oven to 350 degrees. Take three 9" round cake pans (or if you are lazy like me, 2) and grease and flour the pans.  Next, separate your eggs, placing the yolks in one bowl and the whites in another.  Take the egg whites and beat them in a clean mixing bowl with an electric mixer, increasing speed from low to medium high until you reach stiff peaks. Set this aside for later.

In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter, oil, and 1 cup of the sugar with an electric mixer for about two minutes. Next, mix in the egg yolks and vanilla and mix until well incorporated. Add in the coconut and mix to combine (this can be done with a spoon). After this, in a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt and whisk together so all of the ingredients are mixed through thoroughly.

Alternate adding flour mixture and buttermilk, beating until just incorporated after each addition. Once this is completed, fold in 1/3 of the egg whites first to lighten the batter, and then gently fold in the remaining egg whites.

Divide batter evenly among your pans; sprinkle the tops with one tablespoon of sugar each. Bake approximately 20 minutes (about 35 if you are only using two pans) until a toothpick inserted in the center of each comes out clean. Tops should be golden brown. Let the cake cool in the pans for about 10 minutes, run a knife around the edge to loosen and invert onto a rack covered with wax or parchment paper. Flip right side up and let cool completely.
  Seriously….make sure it is totally cooled or it will be a pain to frost!

Frosting and Filling:
2- 8 oz packages of cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 lbs powdered sugar
3/4 cup sweetened, flaked coconut
Approximately 2 cups chopped pecans

While your cakes are baking, combine the cream cheese and butter (room temperature, of course!) in a mixing bowl and beat until light and fluffy (about 3 minutes). Next, add the vanilla extract and beat until well incorporated. Gradually add in the powdered sugar and mixing it on low speed until the frosting reaches the desired consistency (NOTE: You may not used all 2 lbs of the powdered sugar!  I only used about 1.5 lbs in total!).   Lastly, add the coconut and 3/4 cup chopped pecans to the filling and mix well. Now it is time to go to town frosting this baby!

The best part about this recipe is that is keeps the cake moist.  This cake is great for any occasion, regardless of who is in the room (except for those with egg, nut, or coconut allergies!).  As you can see by the picture, the cake was a huge success and one that I will definitely make in the future.  It may not be very Italian, but this cake is DELIZIOSO!

Monday, August 8, 2011

When Life Gives You Lemons, Take a Shot of Tequila and then Make Lemon Bars.

So for my first blog back from my somewhat long hiatus, I decided to go for something citrusy and awesome...hints why I landed on Lemon Bars.  I feel like Lemon Bars are those treats that are really delicious, but everyone forgets about them in lieu of fancier desserts (similar to Pizza Rolls).  So let's get to it, shall we?

Crust Recipe:
2 sticks salted butter (at room temperature)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 cups flour

Filling Recipe:
6 large eggs at room temperature
3 cups granulated sugar
2 tablespoons grated lemon zest
1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice; about 12 lemons (save yourself the trouble...just buy the juice)
1 cup flour
Confectioners' sugar

Before you start the crust, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Now take the 2 sticks of room temperature butter and cream it with the sugar until it is smooth and creamy using an electric blender.  Add in the flour a little bit at a time to the butter/sugar mixture until it is fully incorporated.  It will look a little bit on the mealy side, but that is exactly how it should look.  Take your dough and press it down into a 13"x9" pan, with the dough coming up the sides about 1/2".  It will need to cool before you put it in the oven, so stick it in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes or the time it takes you to juice all of those lemons if you are dumb like me and want to do it by hand.  Once the dough has cooled, put it in the oven until it turns a light brown, which is about 15-20 minutes depending on your oven (I have a gas oven and mine took about 18 minutes).  Once it has finished, take it out and let it cool while you put together the filling.

For the filling, you will need to whisk together the eggs, lemon juice, lemon zest, white sugar, and flour.  You will beat this up until there aren't any lumps and it is all smooth.  Pour this on top of your baked crust and put it in the oven for 30-35 minutes (again, my oven is gas, so I put it in for 33 minutes).  Remove the pan from the oven and let it cool to room temperature.

Once you have let the pan cool (seriously...don't touch them until they are cool or else you will try to cut them and ruin them and waste all of your hard work), you can cut the bars into any shape you want.  Some cut them into triangles, but I am not that fancy, so I cut them into squares.  Next, take the confectioner's sugar, and dust the crap out of them with it until they look like the picture above. 

Lemon bars are pretty hard to mess up.  With that said, you will be totally bummed out if you over cook them.  If you only bake it for the minimum, that is fine and they will be fully cooked (so all of those who are worried about eating undercooked egg can relax), just a little softer.  This is a pretty common recipe and you will find most recipes on the internet follow this same basic formula.

So, what's the verdict?  AWESOME.  Treat your friends (and yourself) today with this classic treat that is certain to go over well at any function.  So go my friends....go get baked!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

6 Months later....SHE'S BACK!

Hey everyone!  I am officially going to start blogging again after taking the last 6 months off.  Don't get me wrong....I was baking throughout, but I just didn't put the recipes online.  Baking is definitely a coping mechanism of mine, and after my dad passed away in July 2010, I baked my way through the hard times.  But, now I feel it is time to get back to business as usual! (FYI: the picture is of a Pumpkin Scone with Caramel Sauce Drizzle that I made for my coworkers.  YUM.)

Since we live in a democracy, I am putting out a call for suggestions.  What is your favorite cookie?  What cake is your go-to for parties?  I want to know what your signature baked good is that you would like me to try.  So, if you want to get down on this, email me at getbakednyc@gmail.com or you can leave your comment below.  It is that simple.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies

The macadamia nut.....this has been closely tied to the island of Hawaii for good reason:  95% of the world's crop comes from this Pacific paradise.  With the cold weather outside, I would do just about anything to imagine an island getaway at this moment.  This buttery-flavored nut is great to bake with, so this is a perfect cookie to make while watching the snow fall outside.  Let's see if this cookie will convert me to white chocolate...

White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies

2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter, melted & cooled
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups white chocolate chips
1 cup chopped macadamia nuts

Adjust an oven rack to lower-middle position and heat the oven to 325 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper so that they don't burn and stick. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt together.

In a large bowl, beat the melted butter and sugars together with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Beat in the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla until fully combined.  Next, reduce the speed to low and slowly add the flour mixture until combined. With a large spoon, mix in the white chocolate chips and macadamia nuts until incorporated.

Working with 1 tablespoon of dough at a time, roll the dough into even balls and lay them on the baking sheets, spaced about 2 inches apart.  Bake until the edges become light brown, about 13-15 minutes depending on the oven.

There aren't many WCMN recipes to choose from, but I really think this one is the best.  The saltiness of the macadamia nut combined with the sweetness of the white chocolate makes this recipe amazing.  Be careful not to over bake the cookies though....the middle should be soft and chewy!  Although I will never be able to say white chocolate is my favorite, I will say that this is one of my top 5 favorite cookies.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Peanut Butter Pie...with Chocolate Sauce. YUM.

I know what you are thinking....again with the Chocolate and Peanut Butter combination?  Here's the thing: it is a scientific fact that one person can never consume too much of the chocolate and peanut butter combo.  That fact may or may not be true, but seriously....Peanut Butter Pie is one of my favorite pies.  After you try this recipe (that is really easy too!), this will become one of your favorites too.


Hot Fudge Sauce:
•    1/3 cup heavy cream
•    1/4 cup light brown sugar
•    1/4 cup light corn syrup
    •    2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
    •    1/8 teaspoon table salt
    •    2 teaspoons vanilla extract
    •    4 ounces semisweet chocolate chips   
Peanut Butter Pie:
    •    8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
    •    3/4 cup confectioners' sugar, plus 2 tablespoons, divided
    •    3/4 cup creamy peanut butter, at room temperature
    •    1 cup heavy whipping cream
    •    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    •    2 ounces shaved milk chocolate
    •    Chopped peanuts, optional
    •    1 (9-inch) baked chocolate cookie pie crust

For the sauce: Add the cream, brown sugar, corn syrup, cocoa powder, salt, and vanilla extract to a heavy-bottomed saucepan and turn it up to medium heat (if the saucepan isn't heavy-bottomed, then turn it slightly cooler than medium heat so the chocolate doesn't burn). Reduce the heat to a simmer and add the chopped chocolate.  After that, stir the sauce continuously until the chocolate is melted and it has thickened, roughly 3 to 4 minutes. Take the pan off the burner, and let the sauce cool for 10 minutes before serving.

For the pie: In a large bowl, combine the cream cheese, confectioners' sugar and the peanut butter, and beat with an electric mixer until the mixture is light and fluffy (about 3-4 minutes).
In a separate bowl, whip the heavy cream with an electric mixer on high until thick and light. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of confectioners' sugar and vanilla extract. Once you have added those two ingredients, continue to whip the cream until stiff peaks form.  Next, take the whipped cream and pour into the peanut butter mixture, and using the electric mixer, combine the two together for about 1-2 minutes. Pour the batter into the pie shell, sprinkle with the shaved milk chocolate and freeze for 4 hours.

If desired, serve with the hot fudge sauce, but you can also add whipped cream, and chopped peanuts if you want to make it even more decedent!

Overall, this pie is great.  It is rich and light all at the same time, and each bite is very smooth.  This pie is great any time of year and is super easy to make.  Because there is no baking, I whipped up two pies and threw them in the freezer in less than 30 minutes (clean up included!).   Am I obsessed with the Chocolate and Peanut Butter combo?  Absolutely.  But, maybe next time I will make something that doesn't include those two ingredients.  Maybe.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Chocolate and Peanut Butter....ASSEMBLE!

I have said it before, and I will say it again:  there is no better combination than chocolate and peanut butter.  I think it is safe to say that I would eat just about anything that involves this combination (no, that wasn't an invitation to see what I'll eat, so don't ask).  I recently found this recipe on a blog and have been dying to try it, but I haven't just because I knew exactly how rich these bad boys must be.  I was right.  
Needless to say, I found a reason to make them when recently one of my coworkers found out the gender of her baby (a baby boy....congrats!), and I thought these cupcakes were perfect with which to celebrate.  I give to you....Chocolate and Peanut Butter Cupcakes, or as I like to call them, Heaven.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcakes

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 cup hot water
1 Tbsp White Vinegar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
1 - 8 ounce package cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup Natural Creamy Peanut Butter
1/3 cup White Sugar
1/3 cup Confectioner's Sugar
3/4 cup Chocolate and Peanut butter chips, divided

First, start off by preheating your oven to 350 degrees.  Take a muffin tin, line them with muffin liners, and set it aside.  In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, brown sugar, baking soda and salt.  Add oil, water, vinegar and vanilla to the dry mixture, stirring it just until smooth.  After that, take your chocolate and peanut butter chips, and stir them into the batter.

Next, in another large bowl, beat together the egg, cream cheese, peanut butter and sugar with an electric mixer on medium speed (I did this for about 2 minutes).  Add in the confectioner's sugar next and beat this until creamy.
Now comes the fun part:  spoon 1 level tablespoon of chocolate batter into the bottom of each cup.  Next, take the peanut butter mixture and evenly spread 1 level tablespoon on top of that.  To top it off, take another tablespoon of the chocolate batter and fill it up to the top.  With the remaining chocolate and peanut butter chips, sprinkle over the tops of each of the cupcakes. 

You will want to bake the cupcakes about 25 to 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean (Do not over bake!  You want the cupcake to still be soft and squishy-ish or else they will become dry and harder than rocks).  Let the cupcakes cool in pan for about 15 minutes.  Lastly, remove the cupcakes from the pan to cool on a wire rack for another 15 minutes.  These can be served warm or cool, but seriously....the warm ones were so good (you will just need a glass of milk).

I think the best part about this cupcake is the inside: it quite literally is a simple peanut butter cheese cake, so it gives it a delicious, smooth taste to it while complimenting the entire dense cupcake.  No matter what you do, these cupcakes really do look like something you would see in a professional bakery, even though it doesn't take that long to whip up.

Seriously....is there a better combination out there?  I really think not.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Think Rich, Look Poor.....The "Hipster" Cookie

As a resident of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, there is a hot fashion genre here that I still haven't quite grasped the concept of....it's called "The Hipster."  Robert Lanham, author of The Hipster Handbook, defines a hipster as "one who possesses tastes, social attitudes, and opinions deemed cool by the cool.  The Hipster walks among the masses in daily life but is not a part of them and shuns or reduces to kitsch anything held dear by the mainstream. A Hipster ideally possesses no more than 2% body fat."  While I find this definition hilarious, it reminded me of a cookie recipe that I found and have always wanted to try.  Martha Stewart has this "Cookie a Day" email that I receive and one day it was the "Toasted Pecan Butter Cookie."  The picture of the cookies and the ingredients needed had me thinking these sounded an awful lot like a Hipster.

Why do I think this cookie reminds me of a Hipster?  No, it's not the that this cookie wears plaid, has ironic eyeglass frames, wears skinny jeans, and looks as though it hasn't showered in a few months.  It reminds me of a hipster in a lot of ways: this cookie looks bland, colorless, and as though it has no flavor at all, which is similar to hipsters' drab clothing they wear.  However, it calls for pecans, which tend to be expensive (like shopping at Urban Outfitters), uses confectioner's sugar instead of normal sugar which makes it kind of an obscure recipe (obscure similar to all of the music Hipsters listen to and books they read), and smell awesome while they are baking (most hipsters actually do smell good because of their designer perfume/cologne....they just look homeless).  My coworker, Tiffani, jokingly said that this cookie was like a Hipster too because you had to "think rich" because the ingredients looked simple but were expensive, but "looked poor" in how simple it is, which is a perfect way to describe it.

With that, let's see if I can truly call this the "Hipster Cookie."

The Hipster Cookie
3.5 oz pecan halves, toasted (1 cup)
2 sticks butter, softened
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1 tbsp. Vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 C. Flour, sifted

To toast the pecans, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Pour pecans on a cookie sheet or into a shallow pan, and cook in the oven for 8-10 minutes, stirring them once.  FYI: the longer the nuts bake, the stronger the nutty flavor becomes, but be careful not to burn them.

Turn the oven down to 325 degrees.  Once the pecans have cooled, break each nut into 2 to 3 pieces.  Next, using a mixer, cream the softened butter and sugar until pale (about 2 minutes).  While still mixing, add the vanilla and salt, then reduce speed to low.  Gradually add the flour, beating until the flour is just incorporated.  Stir in the toasted pecans until distributed evenly.  Next, cover dough, and refrigerate until firm for at least 15 minutes (or overnight if you want; just let the dough come to room temperature before using).

Drop tablespoon sized scoops of dough onto a baking sheet about 2 inches apart (the cookies flatten out when they are baking).  Bake the cookies until edges are golden, which depending on the oven and cookie size is about 15-20 minutes.  Let them cool for about 5 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to completely cool.

So, is the name I have given the cookie appropriate?  Absolutely.  When they come out of the oven, they do look pretty drab like I thought they would (not like the baked goods I normally like to make which tend to be flashy), however, they really do smell awesome while they are baking.  The toasted pecans taste amazing mixed in with the sugary, buttery cookie.  I would say this cookie is probably something that could be found in one of those organic bakeries Hipsters love to go to so that they can discuss art, music, and obscure things that you and I wouldn't know anything about.