My First Daring Baker’s Challenge

I’ve joined Daring Bakers! At the end of each month I watch my Google Reader with much anticipation waiting to see what that month’s challenge was and the beautiful photos that accompany the delicious recipes. Each month I tell myself, “well I could have baked that”.

Baking isn’t my strong point, I don’t have a ton of baking experience. To me baking does not provide the freedom that cooking does. Baking is a science, and measurements need to be accurate. The precision involved intrigues me. I decided to spread my wings and give it a try. I contacted the creators of Daring Bakers and asked to be involved with the challenges. I got my request in just the nick of time, and before I know it I was emailed with all the details, including the theme of April’s challenge.

April’s theme is Cheesecake Pops. Elle of Feeding My Enthusiasms and Deborah from Taste and Tell hosted this month’s event. This recipe is an adaptation of one from Jill O’Connor’s book called Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey.”

I have made only one cheesecake before, it was a recipe from Cooking Pleasures magazine. It turned out wonderfully, so I was really excited to tryout these Cheesecake Pops. I baked my pops at the beginning of the month and experienced some of the same problems as other bakers. The recipe says the cake will bake up in 35-40 minutes, I like most of the bakers had to increase the baking time to 60 minutes. Just keep your eye on it! These pops were so creamy and delicious! I divided my batter into two separate pans, one I flavored with orange extract. I look forward to using this recipe again, and experimenting to make it lower in calories.

I really enjoyed this month’s theme. My family loved these pops, they are a fun treat for Sasha to enjoy. If you want to see more photos of the pops, check out the Daring Baker’s blogroll. I look forward to next month’s theme, check back at the end of May to see what else I’ve dared to bake.

CHEESECAKE POPS
Makes 30 – 40 Pops

5 8-oz. packages cream cheese at room temperature
2 cups sugar
¼ cup all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
5 large eggs
2 egg yolks
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
¼ cup heavy cream
Boiling water as needed
Thirty to forty 8-inch lollipop sticks

1 pound chocolate, finely chopped – you can use all one kind or half and half of dark, milk, or white (Alternately, you can use 1 pound of flavored coatings, also known as summer coating, confectionary coating or wafer chocolate – candy supply stores carry colors, as well as the three kinds of chocolate.)

2 tablespoons vegetable shortening

(Note: White chocolate is harder to use this way, but not impossible)

Assorted decorations such as chopped nuts, colored jimmies, crushed peppermints, mini chocolate chips, sanding sugars, dragees) – Optional

Position oven rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees F. Set some water to boil.

In a large bowl, beat together the cream cheese, sugar, flour, and salt until smooth. If using a mixer, mix on low speed. Add the whole eggs and the egg yolks, one at a time, beating well (but still at low speed) after each addition. Beat in the vanilla and cream.

Grease a 10-inch cake pan (not a springform pan), and pour the batter into the cake pan. Place the pan in a larger roasting pan. Fill the roasting pan with the boiling water until it reaches halfway up the sides of the cake pan. Bake until the cheesecake is firm and slightly golden on top, 35 to 45 minutes.

Remove the cheesecake from the water bath and cool to room temperature. Cover the cheesecake with plastic wrap and refrigerate until very cold, at least 3 hours or up to overnight.

When the cheesecake is cold and very firm, scoop the cheesecake into 2-ounce balls and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Carefully insert a lollipop stick into each cheesecake ball. Freeze the cheesecake pops, uncovered, until very hard, at least 1 – 2 hours.

When the cheesecake pops are frozen and ready for dipping, prepare the chocolate. In the top of a double boiler, set over simmering water, or in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water, heat half the chocolate and half the shortening, stirring often, until chocolate is melted and chocolate and shortening are combined. Stir until completely smooth. Do not heat the chocolate too much or your chocolate will lose it’s shine after it has dried. Save the rest of the chocolate and shortening for later dipping, or use another type of chocolate for variety.

Alternately, you can microwave the same amount of chocolate coating pieces on high at 30 second intervals, stirring until smooth.

Quickly dip a frozen cheesecake pop in the melted chocolate, swirling quickly to coat it completely. Shake off any excess into the melted chocolate. If you like, you can now roll the pops quickly in optional decorations. You can also drizzle them with a contrasting color of melted chocolate (dark chocolate drizzled over milk chocolate or white chocolate over dark chocolate, etc.) Place the pop on a clean parchment paper-lined baking sheet to set. Repeat with remaining pops, melting more chocolate and shortening (or confectionery chocolate pieces) as needed.

Refrigerate the pops for up to 24 hours, until ready to serve.

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I love you with all my heart cake!

Lately it seems like I have the best intentions of writing, I just never follow through with them. Ugh! My goal is to post something more often. I have so many recipes and photos of different food that I haven’t posted yet. This weekend I was really ambitious, I made homemade doughnuts, that is going to be another post, however.

I made this heart cake for Alex on Valentine’s Day. It was delicious! Target had heart shaped silicone pans on sale for $2.50 after Christmas, so I picked one up and stashed it away until Valentine’s day. I have to apologize, I was going to make a cake from scratch. I was determined to make a beautiful made from scratch heart shaped cake, I even bought cake flour at the store. But… that didn’t happen. I was so busy on Valentine’s day, running around trying to make sure everything was just perfect, that I resorted to the fail-safe boxed cake mix. I did take the time to make my own buttercream frosting!

I baked the cake according to package directions. It was my first time cooking with a silicone pan so I was a little unsure of how long it would take to bake. Heads up –it took 45 minutes at 350 degrees F. Once the cake came out of the oven I let it cool in the pan for 10 minutes before transferring it to a wire cooling rack. Allow the cake to cool completely before working with it. Once the cake was completely cooled, I sliced it in half. I then took a generous amount of buttercream frosting and spread it on top of the bottom layer, replaced the lid and completely covered the cake with the remaining frosting. I garnished the cake with chocolate covered strawberries. It was a beautiful and tasty dessert.

I got the buttercream frosting recipe from Wilton.

Buttercream Recipe
(Medium Consistency)
1/2 cup solid vegetable shortening
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 teaspoon Clear Vanilla Extract
4 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar (approx. 1 lb.)
2 tablespoons milk In large bowl, cream shortening and butter with electric mixer. Add vanilla. Gradually add sugar, one cup at a time, beating well on medium speed. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl often. When all sugar has been mixed in, icing will appear dry. Add milk and beat at medium speed until light and fluffy. Keep bowl covered with a damp cloth until ready to use. For best results, keep icing bowl in refrigerator when not in use. Refrigerated in an airtight container, this icing can be stored 2 weeks. Rewhip before using.

YIELD: Makes about 3 cups.

For thin (spreading) consistency icing, add 2 tablespoons light corn syrup, water or milk.

For Pure White Icing (stiff consistency), omit butter; substitute an additional 1/2 cup shortening for butter and 1/2 teaspoon No-Color Butter Flavor. Add up to 4 tablespoons light corn syrup, water or milk to thin for icing cakes.

Giant Crunchy Chocolate Chip Pecan Cookies


Sasha all bundled up.

It has been extremely cold here in Iowa. We have received about 10 inches or more of snow in the last five days. This morning when I woke up it was -17 and with the wind chill it felt like -30. BRR that is really cold. Needless to say, Marley does not enjoy going outside when it is that cold. When he is outside he does his business and he does it fast. I have been cooking all the comfort foods this week. Including Chicken Noodle Soup and Chunky Potato Soup (I will include those recipes in a separate post).

On Monday I felt like turning on my oven and do some cookie baking. I came across this eggless cookie recipe on Patricia’s website. However she calls her cookies Chocolate Chip Whoppers. You need to use both your hands to eat these cookies! I added crushed pecans to my cookie dough. My cookies came out EXTREMELY crunchy, so I changed the name. I may have accidentally left out a cup of flour, which could have caused the cookies to become so crunchy. I will try to make these cookies again and see if the result is the same. Alex and Sasha love these cookies, and that makes me happy. In fact, Sasha has become a pro at saying “Cookie. Please.”

Giant Crunchy Chocolate Chip Pecan Cookies

2 c all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
¾ teaspoon salt
1 c unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly–I used salted butter and omitted the tsp salt
1 c sugar
½ c packed dark brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 T water
12 oz semisweet chocolate chips –I used milk chocolate chips
1 c crushed pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, and place rack in the middle of the over. Mix flour, soda and salt together. In separate bowl cream butter and vanilla with sugars. Add the flour mixture, mixing just until incorporated. The dough will look crumbly. Mix in the water. The dough will become soft and smooth. Stir in the chocolate chips and pecans.

Using 1/4 c measuring cup, scoop dough onto baking sheet and smoosh until 3/4 in. thick. Place cookies at least 3 in. apart. Bake for 15 minutes, or until tops are browned with a few cracks.

Makes about 16 giant cookies.

Christmas Baking and Candy Making

c_de_mint_bag.jpg

Sunday evening Alex, the girls and I started a family tradition (hopefully). ‘Tis the season to stuff ourselves with sugary treats. We put on some Tchaikovsky and let Sasha dance away while we made Christmas treats. Alex dipped pretzels in vanilla almond bark and I whipped up some chocolate creme de menthe cookies.

When I was shopping the other day I saw a package of Ande’s baking chips. They are chopped up Ande’s creme de menthe pieces. I decided to use these baking chips in a chocolate cookie. It has been years since I’ve made chocolate cookies, and I could not remember the recipe I used, so I searched Google for a chocolate cookie recipe. I came across several, and decided to use a recipe from www.extremechocolate.com with my own substitutions. These cookies are minty and delicious. I will upload photos really soon.

Ultra-Chocolate Creme de Menthe Cookies

2 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 sticks butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 large eggs, beaten
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 package Ande’s creme de menthe baking chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix together flour, baking soda, and salt in one bowl. In another bowl mix together sugars, butter, eggs, cocoa powder and vanilla. Slowly add the flour mixture until well combined. Stir in baking chips. Using tablespoons drop cookie dough onto greased baking sheet. Bake 10 minutes. Cool on cookie sheet 1 minute before moving to baking rack. ENJOY!