Monday, December 9, 2013

peanut butter cheesecake

The more and more I think about it, I believe cheesecake to be my speciality.  A while back, I wrote a blog post detailing some helpful hints towards making cheesecake which you can find if you click HERE.  And every time I make cheesecakes, I find it to be an intuitive process.  I don't follow a set list of procedures.  I just look at the cake and smell it while its baking in the oven and I can tell right away when its ready to shut off the oven.  But if you are starting out, those helpful tips linked about will definitely help you out!

Peanut Butter Cheesecake with Oreo Crust and Chocolate Drizzle

all butter flaky pie crust

When I was in Switzerland, I was reading an American magazine called CherryBombe.  They had just released their second issue and it was all about baking.  I made a recipe in there called an all butter crust and was it buttery and flaky!  Just look at these layers upon layers of flakiness in the pie cutouts I placed on the crust!

The actual pie I made looked like this:

Try this recipe at home!  The trick is to keep everything cold and not to worry about the chucks of butter in the dough that isn't completely incorporated into the dough...that is exactly what will give it the flaky layers!

All Butter Pie Crust slightly adapted from CherryBombe
Yield for double crust pie (divide by two if you want a single crust)
2 1/2 cups of all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp granulated sugar
1/2 lbs (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 cup cold water
1 cup ice

1) Stir the dry ingredients together.
2) Add the butter and work quickly to combine with a fork.  Smoosh the pieces of butter into the dry mixture.
3) Add the cold water, 2 tbsp at a time, until a dough forms.  The dough should come together without having to use all the water.  Bunch the dough into two balls and wrap with plastic.  Place in refrigerator overnight.
4) Roll out dough and use according to your desired pie recipe directions.

mocha sandwich cookies

This recipe is a combination of two of my previously vlogged about recipes on this blog: my mocha buttercream and my sugar cookies.  To top these sandwich cookies off, I've glazed them with some melted chocolate to add a little extra decadence to two already tasty recipes!

Find the mocha buttercream recipe and video tutorial here:

Find the sugar cookie recipe and video tutorial here:

Simply sandwich two cookies filled with buttercream and finish it off by melting chocolate and using a fork to graze the tops!

pumpkin cake with ginger mousse

I got the cake and frosting recipes from two different sites.  The end product was fantastic.  Ginger complements pumpkin very well.  

The recipe is as follows from The Novice Chef and Hungry Rabbit:

Pumpkin Dream Cake from The Novice Chef
Yields a 3 layer cake
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 (15 oz) can pumpkin
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup milk

1) Preheat oven to 300°F. Grease 3, 8-inch round cake pans. Set aside.
2) In a medium bowl, mix flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
3) In a large bowl/stand mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in vanilla, pumpkin and vegetable oil. Beat in the flour mixture alternately with the milk.
4) Divide batter evenly into prepared pans. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Remove pans from oven and immediately place in freezer for 45 minutes. (This keeps the cake moist by immediately stopping the baking so the cake does not continue to bake when you remove it form the oven.)
5) Assemble the 3 layers with a thick layer of frosting in between each layer. Then apply a thin crumb coat on the top and sides. Pop back in the freezer to harden the crumb coat for about 10 minutes.
6) Apply one final thick and even layer around the outside of the cake. Store in the fridge until ready to serve.

Ginger Mousse Frosting from Hungry Rabbit
Yields enough to frost multilayered cake
4 large egg yolks
1/3 cup (2-3/8 ounces) granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
3/4 cup coconut milk or whole milk, divided
1 tablespoon powdered gelatin
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1-3/4 cup (14 ounces) heavy cream, divided
1 tablespoon superfine sugar
1 teaspoon Canton (ginger liquor), optional

1. In a medium bowl, whisk egg yolks, sugar, and salt until smooth and fully combined, set aside.
2. Sprinkle gelatin into 1/4 cup of coconut milk and let gelatin bloom for 5 minutes.
3. Add 1/2 cup of coconut milk, 3/4 cup heavy cream, and ginger, to a medium saucepan and bring it to a simmer. Remove from heat and let sit for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, bring ginger milk to a boil, remove from heat, in a steady stream, strain into yolk mixture.; whisk constantly to prevent curdling. Pour mixture back into a saucepan, and cook over medium heat until ginger milk thickens and coats the back of a spoon, stirring constantly.
4. Remove pan from heat and stir in gelatin mixture until dissolved. Stir in vanilla until incorporated. Pour ginger cream through fine-mesh strainer into nonreactive bowl. Cover surface directly with plastic wrap and let cool. (Refrigerate if making ahead)
5. In a stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment or use a hand mixer, whisk remaining 1-cup heavy cream, superfine sugar, and Canton to soft peak. Gently fold whipped cream into ginger cream until fully incorporated.

cake decorating tutorials

In the past couple of months, I've been practicing the art of cake decorating.  It's actually quite fun and can be really simple to do with the right tools and techniques.  I learned and developed these skills through YouTube and practice.  And you can too!  Take a look at some of the cakes I've decorated!

Chocolate Petal Cake with Orange Cream Cheese Filling and Chocolate Ganache Frosting
Red Velvet Cheesecake layered Rosette Cake

Pumpkin Cake with Ginger Mousse Frosting covered with Toasted Pecans

Aside from posting the links to the YouTube videos where I learned these techniques, a tip that I can offer you is to decorate these cakes while they are frozen.  Meaning, after baking these cakes and allowing them to moderately cool down on a baking rack, wrap the cakes in parchment and plastic wrap and lay flat in the freezer.  This allows the cake to maintain its moisture without drying out in room temperature.  Then after the cakes are frozen, they will be easier to level and stack.  Once the cakes defrost, excess moisture returns to the cake with nowhere to evaporate since it is now covered in icing.  

Petal Design Tutorial:
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Rosette Design Tutorial:
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Good luck everyone!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

apple ricotta tart

It's kind of like a blend of apple pie and ricotta cheesecake with a pie crust all-in-one.  I was originally going to make this a video blog entry and "snazzying" it up with some nerdy scientific facts, but unfortunately life is getting in the way.  I'm working on a new recipe/fancy multi-layered cake with complex french/italian merginue mousseline frosting that may rival my current fancy multi-layered cake with complex french/italian merginue mousseline frosting.  And we're talking about two different cakes.    Anyway, I'll blog about this apple ricotta tart with a photo-by-photo tutorial.

The recipe is rather straightforward.  I paired up the apples with ricotta because they both go well together.  Also, ricotta has an interesting texture and mouthfeel that may or may not float everyone's boat.  I think ricotta cheese has an unusual texture.  It kind of has a rough feeling on the tongue and isn't very smooth and creamy like cream cheese for instance.  So when it bakes up in this recipe, while it does stay cohesive, it seems to break apart in your mouth.  The reason why it works well with the apple pie on top is because I layered the apple slices and when these bake, they aren't a single entity either.  So everything breaks apart in your mouth with a single bite.  I wonder if this description makes any sense?  

Overall, this is an interesting dessert.  It's certainly different.  The taste is there.  The flavor is there.  But I only recommend this recipe if you like the texture and mouthfeel of ricotta cheese.  So if this is right down your alley, let's get started...

Sunday, June 2, 2013

VLOG: strawberry shortcakes

This vlog is a two-fer!  (A two-for-one kind of deal.)  We're talking cream scones and strawberry shortcakes!  Mmmmm.  My older brother loves strawberry shortcakes...but not the kind I've made here. A recent New York Times article discussed the confusion.  One uses sponge cake as the base and the other uses biscuits as the foundation.  Melissa Clark, of the NYTimes, demonstrates how to make the sponge cake strawberry shortcake and I, of the A Baking and Blogging Chemist, will demonstrate how to make the cream scone strawberry shortcake.  

The scones came out extremely tender and moist with a crispy outer crust straight out of the oven.  It complemented the fresh juicy strawberries and light and airy whipped cream very well.  The scones last for a few days, so bake only as many as needed and keep the remainder in the freezer for next time!

Friday, May 24, 2013

gluten-free sesame spheres

A few years back a friend requested that I try making a non-American recipe.  And I did...two years ago and I've made it again and again since.  I had every intention of making it a vlog as well.  Well, I've given up on that but I'm finally going to post the recipe.  I got the recipe from a Vietnamese couple who blog about Vietnamese food.  This recipe that I've titled as "gluten-free sesame spheres" is actually called Bánh Cam, which literally translates to orange cake.  But it's not actually a cake.  It looks like a crispy sesame ball with sweet mung bean filling.  The bonus is that it's gluten free without intending to be because this recipe uses rice flour!

I wouldn't fret about me not making a video blog on this because the source of the original recipe created a video demonstrating the technique to making these sesame spheres.  But before I go on posting their video and including their recipe, let me describe this dessert.  This Asian treat is a combination of crispy, chewy, creamy, sweet and savory all-in-one!  The mung bean filling inside the sphere can be sweet or savory with the additions of sugar and salt.  It's also creamy because the mung beans were smashed together to make a paste.  Enveloped around the filling is a rice flour mixture.  This is what lends to the chewy texture of the dessert.  And the rice flour is then rolled in sesame seeds which gives it a nutty flavor.  This dessert is then fried like a doughnut and thats what gives it the crispy outer shell.  I would recommend this recipe because it's such a contrast to typical American treats.  And it's versatile.  You can add whatever you like for a filling.  The rice flour doesn't have any particular flavor so it would go well with anything!  

a closer look

I'm also including some photographs of the rice flour packaging so you know what you're looking for at your local (Asian) grocery store!  You'll find them right after listed recipe ingredients.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

espresso espresso espresso cheesecake

My favorite recipe, my speciality, my pièce de résistance, is my chocolate cookie covered chocolate mocha cake.   Who knew that I would find another gem of a recipe from the same source?  The recipe for this espresso cheesecake comes from the same chapter in the same baking cookbook titled, The Essential Baker by Carole Bloom.  I adore this recipe because it has such a strong coffee flavor and it is complemented well by the chocolate cookie crust on the bottom.  The texture of the cheesecake is rich, velvety, and smooth with a nice crunchy contrast from the crust.  Honestly, one slice of this just isn't enough.

For the recipe, click here.  

Sunday, March 17, 2013

VLOG: cake on hand, cake in stick

There are so many ways to eat cake.  I know I'm behind on the cake ball/cake pop craze, but I after trying to find out what it was all about, I realized I needed to make a video all about technique.  I've made cake balls and cake pops way to many times for research.  There are so many key elements to making the quintessential cake ball and pop.  For example, how much frosting to use or how to dip the cake into the candy coating.  I talk about these methods and more in my latest video blog.

There's no recipe for this vlog.  It's about as simple as you see it.  You can use as much or as little cake as you want.  Just refer to the technique I mentioned in the video to check for moisture in the cake, which will help to determine how much or little frosting to use! If you have any comments or questions, they deserve answers and I'll do that!  I hope this vlog explains it all.  I've also included some video footage towards the end, so you'll see exactly what I did!  

Saturday, February 16, 2013

do-it-yourself chocolates

One of my favorite candies growing up were Nestle Chunky Bars.  It's essentially milk chocolate with peanuts and raisins.  Now why would any child like that?  Well to be honest, chunky bars were a combination of my two all-time favorites: Peanut M&Ms and Raisinets.  

my version of a chunky
The recipe is so simple.  I changed the "recipe" for a chunky by making it more in tune to my current tastes.  I used dark chocolate and walnuts.  You can make your own combinations.

Do-It-Yourself Chocolates
Ingredients for 16 bite-sized chocolates
1 cup dark chocolate chips
1/4 cup crushed walnuts
1/8 cup raisins

1) Line your mini-cupcake pan with liners.
2) Melt your chocolate in a microwave at 30 second intervals, stirring after each interval until completely melted
3) Add a spoonful of melted chocolate into the mini-cupcake liner.  Immediately top with walnuts and raisins.  Repeat until all the chocolate is used.
4) Set aside at room temperature until solidified.  Store in a container.  Enjoy!