Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Bullseye? Buckeye!

Every year, my friend Ruthie throw an ice cream sundae birthday party, where she provides the ice cream and the guests compete to win the best topping award. This year, however, was Ruthie's last New York party, because she is moving to Ohio-- the Buckeye State. For those of you who are interested, the buckeye is a nut, but it is also a delicious chocolate peanut butter candy. Ruthie, in honor of her impending move, held two contests this year, one for the best topping and one for the best interpretation of a buckeye. Naturally, being a Baking Sister and generally ridiculously competitive about things that don't matter, I planned to not only enter, but also to win.

And I am happy to report, dear readers, that I did just that by inventing a delicious chocolate peanut butter pretzel caramel concoction. The perfect decadent combination of salty and sweet. Just a warning-- when you add the caramel to the chocolate, it gets very sticky and does not want to attach to the peanut butter balls. So patience is a virtue. Dip, wait, and enjoy!

Peanut butter pretzel balls:
1 cup of butter, softened (not melted)
1 1/2 cups of smooth peanut butter
6 cups confectioners sugar
3/4 pound of pretzels, broken into small pieces but not ground

Blend the butter, sugar and peanut butter in a stand mixer slowly, until well blended. Add the pretzels and mix slowly until the mixture is just blended. Roll up the mixture into 1 inch balls. Stick a toothpick into each ball and put them in the freezer until complete hard.

Melt 1 bag of chocolate chips in a double boiler. Mix it with 4 oz caramel sauce. Keeping the mixture on low heat, dip the balls in by the toothpick until about half of the ball is coated. Repeat until all of the peanut butter balls have been dipped in chocolate. Remove the toothpicks and place in the fridge to cool, until you are ready to eat them.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Vegan By Design: Short on Time

Hi there! Long time no blog. It’s been an eventful week or so, with lots to celebrate and lots of occasions for baking. There was Rachel’s graduation from Drisha (which involved a crapton of baking, more on that later) and my friend Brianna’s graduation from Columbia (which involved less “baking” and more “eating half a tube of Pillsbury’s cookie dough while watching The Devil Wears Prada”). But today I am going to talk about my officemate, Kaitlyn. Kaitlyn is very cool. She is unfailingly pleasant to be around, she works harder than anyone in the office, and she always has nice clothes. She is also a vegan, which means that she rarely gets to enjoy Baked Goods Fridays. Once I made vegan cookies. It was a huge deal. It was that ridiculous (but wonderful) chocolate chip cookie brittle from Kosher by Design: Short on Time that only has four ingredients. I for one was impressed that it only took six months of me working with Kaitlyn for me to finally make something vegan. [Sarcasm.] But with her birthday coming up, I thought I should make something that was actually vegan on purpose. 

So when I came across this vegan chocolate peanut tart on Couldn’t Be Parve, I knew it was destiny! Chocolate and peanut butter just happens to be Kaitlyn’s favorite combination. Score. I bought a jar of coconut oil, a carton of coconut milk, and a couple of bars of vegan chocolate and got to work. 

I don’t know if you’ve ever seen coconut oil. We had a big tub of it in my apartment in college because one of our summer subletters had been a vegan and vegans use it a lot. When I saw it, I thought that it had somehow gone rancid, because it was so much more viscous than any other oil I had ever seen. Turns out that’s how it’s supposed to look, phew. But I guess unsurprisingly for an oil-based dough, the crust was very…oily. This is kind of exactly the opposite of what you want in a tart crust, and while the final baked product was not greasy, it was a little tough on the bottom. Meanwhile, the top of the sides melted off during the baking. On the flipside, the dough was incredibly easy to manipulate, and putting it in the tart pan (a process that typically takes me a good 15 or 20 minutes) was the work of mere moments. 

The ganache was easy-peasy, and quite tasty. It didn’t suffer at all from not having cream; in fact, considering the richness of the chocolate-peanut butter combo, I think it may have been a blessing. 

Like most ganache tarts, this is also a really good to make if you’re in a hurry. Well, I guess not that much of a hurry, since you have to bake the crust and wait for it to cool and then wait for the ganache to set. But the component parts all come together very quickly. The recipe for the ganache can be found here, and the recipe for the crust can be found here. And a very happy (belated) birthday to Kaitlyn! 

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Baked Sunday Mornings: Peanut Butter Chocolate Cream Pie

On the outside, this looks like this week's Baked Sunday Mornings assignment, Peanut Butter Banana Cream Pie, but on the inside it is NOT!  As readers of this blog may know, I really do not enjoy bananas.  However, I wanted to bake this week because I haven't made any of the most recent selections.  I went back and forth between making this as is and pawning it off on people or adapting it so that it was something I wanted to eat.  In the end, I decided that it is always good to to want to eat what I bake, and I adapted this pie and brought it to our end of the year staff meeting at school.  It was a big hit!

I did a couple of things differently than the recipe called for.  For the crust, I didn't bother with the food processor.  I just crushed up the vanilla wafters with a rolling pin, mixed in the melted butter and mixed it with the sugar.  It turned out fine -- just like a graham cracker crust.

My main adaptation was to change the banana pudding into chocolate pudding.  Instead of the vanilla bean and the bananas, I used 1/3 cup of cocoa powder.  The pudding was a little lumpy before it was set, but it was smooth once we ate it.  I made the peanut butter topping as written and the whole combination was terrific.  It was almost totally gobbled up at the meeting, but I tried to take a picture of what it looked like with the different layers.  Not my most successful photo, but you get the idea.  You can see the unmodified recipe here and also check out what other bakers created.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

MSC: Orange Vanilla Bean Cupcakes with Candied Oranges

It has been a long time since I baked in the Martha Stewart Cupcake Club, but when I saw this recipe, I knew I had to try it.  It required two things that I have never worked with before -- candying citrus and vanilla beans.  For some reason, I have always had a fear of vanilla beans, but they are much less scary than I thought!  I don't know if I got all the seeds out, but it was not that hard to slit it and scrape the seeds out (and I put the rest of the pod into some vodka and am making homemade vanilla extract, which I will post about in a month when it is done).  Now, for candying citrus.  All you do is make some simple syrup (water and sugar) and float the orange slices in it and 20-30 minutes later -- candied orange slices.  I haven't tried to eat one, but they smelled so delicious that I am sure they will be good.

I joined this baking group both to try new baking skills and also to try my hand at some decorating.  These candied orange slices are so pretty and so easy and I am glad I learned this trick for decorating future baked goods.  If you want your house to smell amazing, I would highly recommend baking these cupcakes.  The combination of the orange and the strong vanilla bean was heavenly!  Thanks to Jamie from Cookin' with Moxie for a choice that allowed me to expand my baking horizons!  

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Sweetest Goodbye (with Chocolate Chips)

For the past four years, I have been intensely lucky to study full time at an amazing place called The Drisha Institute for Jewish Education. Drisha is an institute for advanced Jewish learning for women of all backgrounds, from the most basic beginners to advanced Talmud scholars. I have loved my time here, and when I look back on how much I have learned, grown and matured, I am truly awed to realize how much has been done for me. However, my time here is coming to a close-- on Thursday, I am graduating their three year Scholars Circle program and will be moving on to start a PhD. I am incredibly sad to be leaving, but will always be grateful for my time here.

As you have likely learned by now, us sisters often bake to express our emotions. So this time, I made something very simple-- chocolate chip cookies-- for my classmates and teachers as a small way of saying thank you. At Drisha, we have a long tradition of what we call celebratory baked goods to share the good things that have happened in our lives with each other. So these are my contribution.

To the cookies-- as you know, I am loyal to the Nestle chocolate chip recipe, but I'm moving in a week and realized I have no butter left, but did not want to bother buying more. So I went looking for a recipe that used oil (because I have a margarine phobia) and found this one, from the kosher caterer Levana's. Although I had some mishaps (think spilling a cup of oil all over the counter), I was really happy with how they turned out. The one thing I changed from the recipe was I ended up baking them longer than was called for. Despite the warning about them getting too hard, they were still very raw after 10 minutes, so I left them in for about 13. And they were delicious.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Adventures with the Ice Cream Maker: Salted Caramel Ice Cream

In case you didn't notice, the obsession with the iPhone camera continues.  Oh Instagram, how I love you.  As a side note, my husband, the historian, hates all the photo manipulation software because he thinks it creates an inaccurate historial record.  Since I don't think anyone is going to use this blog as a historical artifact, I am pretty sure I'm safe with my photos.

Now, onto the food.  This ice cream came about in a kind of round-about way.  A while back, I made some salted caramel brownies (which I don't think I ever got a chance to photograph and post about.  Maybe I'll make them again) and I made more caramel sauce than the recipe called for.  It sat in the fridge for a long time and then I decided I had to do something with it.  My first thought for using up ingredients is often ice cream, so I went looking for a recipe.  

Most salted caramel ice creams want you to make the caramel first, from their recipe, but since I had the sauce, I simply heated it up and added it to an ice cream base.  The result was a very smooth and creamy ice cream, but it didn't have a ton of salted caramel flavor.  I assume if I had made it from the recipe, it might have been more caramely, but it was delicious nonetheless.  You can find the recipe here.
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