June 12th, 2013 § § permalink
Two weeks ago, as I cut and baked seven dozen fish-shaped, lemon sugar cookies for the Fish Market launch party, I thought of my late father and all the rolled, sugar cookies that we’d made together when I was a kid. Every Christmas and spring he’d pull out a large, aquamarine, Pyrex mixing bowl, wooden rolling pin and an eclectic collection of tin cookie cutters and spread these tools over the kitchen counter. This display of kitchen equipment could only mean one thing — we were about to kick off our biannual baking spree.
No matter the season I’d insist on using every cutter, which meant that we ate bunny- and shamrock-shaped cookies at Christmas and reindeer and Santa Claus cookies at Easter. Then again, by the time that I’d finished slathering the cookies with royal icing, colored sugars, chocolate morsels and candy sprinkles, no one could tell exactly what he was consuming. Unquestionably, my dad was a good sport when it came to cookie making and decorating.
Then and now, the secret to cutting our cookies was to chill the dough before using. A cold dough is a less sticky dough and one that won’t adhere to the kitchen counter or cookie cutters. To this day I use the chilled dough trick.
Another handy, dough-related tip involves waxed paper. So that I don’t have to scrape dough from or liberally flour my rolling pin, I roll out the dough between two sheets of waxed paper. Leaving it between the sheets of paper, I refrigerate the rolled dough until cold, about 30 minutes, and then start cutting.
In light of Father’s Day, fish-shaped, lemon sugar cookies seem especially fitting for me to share this week. Unfortunately, the recipe that my father and I had used for our cookies was lost long ago. What follows has been adapted from The Joy of Cooking (Rombauer et al, 1997).
LEMON SUGAR COOKIES
Feel free to use any 2- to 3-inch cookie cutter for your cookies.
Makes 3 1/2 dozen
for the dough:
3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 tablespoon skim milk
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon lemon oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Grated zest of 1 lemon
for the icing:
2 2/3 cups confectioner’s sugar plus more as needed, sifted
Juice of two lemons, strained
1 teaspoon light corn syrup
1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease two cookie sheets and set aside.
Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. In a separate bowl using an electric mixer, beat together the butter and sugar until fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and then add the egg, milk, vanilla, lemon oil and zest. Beat until well-combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl again. Add the flour mixture, mix on low until incorporated and then beat until smooth.
Divide the dough in half. Place each half on a large sheet of waxed paper and cover with another sheet of waxed paper. Roll out the dough until 1/4-inch thick. Lay each piece of dough on a tray and refrigerate for 30 minutes or until cold and slightly firm.
Take one sheet of dough from the refrigerator, remove the top layer of waxed paper and, using cookie cutters, cut out the cookies. Using a spatula, move the cookies from the waxed paper to the greased baking sheets. Collect any leftover dough scraps, form them into a ball, cover the ball with clean waxed paper and then roll out and refrigerate it. Remove the other layer of dough from the refrigerator and repeat the above steps until all the dough has been used.
Bake the cookies until golden in color, 6 to 9 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through the baking time; this will ensure even browning. Transfer the baking sheets to wire racks and allow the cookies to cool for a few minutes. Remove the cookies from the sheets and cool completely before icing.
To make the icing, stir together the confectioner’s sugar, lemon juice, corn syrup and vanilla until all the lumps are gone. If the icing appears too loose, add more confectioner’s sugar until the desired consistency is reached. Using a frosting or butter knife, spread the icing over the tops of the cookies. Return them to the wire racks and let the icing harden; this will take several hours. You can store the cookies in layers separated by wax paper and in airtight containers for two weeks or freeze for two months.
May 23rd, 2013 § § permalink
I’m not a fan of conflict. Ditto for controversy. Yet, in spite of this I’ve become embroiled in a battle to end all battles. No doubt, like most skirmishes, this one began harmlessly enough. Two weeks ago a friend, “Apple Jane,” made a key lime pie, brought it over to our place and served it for dessert. It was a nice, generous gesture but one that kicked off a hot dispute.
At issue was the pie’s crust. Jane’s husband, “Apple Frankie,” had definite opinions and questions about it. Should Jane have baked it so that it became firm and toffee-like? Should she have doubled the recipe, adding an extra bit of crunch to every bite? Frank, the crust curmudgeon, thought so. Jane, however, did not.
In an attempt to settle the debate last week I made two key lime pies. The first was Apple Frankie-style, with a baked and chewy double crust. As much as I love sweets, I found this concoction cloying and hard to cut. The second was my compromise pie — the original crust recipe increased by half and left unbaked. Although still very sweet, this pie could easily be sliced. Overall, the compromise pie hit the spot. Was it good enough to end the troubles? Probably not.
For now we’re at an impasse in the key lime pie conflict. I guess that I’ll have to keep tinkering with Apple Jane’s recipe until a resolution can be met. I know. It’s a tremendous sacrifice but, I can’t help but think, ‘if only all wars could be this sweet . . ..’
APPLE JANE’S KEY LIME PIE (the compromise version)
1 3/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/3 cup sugar
7 1/2 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 cup key lime juice
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, at room temperature
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
Grated zest of 1 lime
In a medium bowl mix together the graham cracker crumbs, sugar and butter. With a spoon or your fingers evenly distribute the crust across the interior of a 9-inch pie pan. Press down so that the crust sets and also comes up to the lip of the pan.
Using an electric mixer and in a large bowl, beat together the key lime juice, cream cheese, sweetened condensed milk and vanilla. Beat until smooth and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. Spoon the filling into the crust. Cover and place the pie on a flat surface in the freezer for 45 minutes or until just set. Before serving, sprinkle the lime zest evenly over the pie. Serve chilled.
May 10th, 2013 § § permalink
Although it’s been a whirlwind of a week, I couldn’t let Mother’s Day pass by without sharing a recipe in honor of my late mother and all the other hardworking moms around the globe.
Among the many things that my mother was, she was a huge fan of sweets. At dinnertime she was more apt to enjoy a slice of seasonal pie or quick bread than eat the meal over which she’d labored. At breakfast, while I choked down grainy, bland and much dreaded Cream of Wheat, she nibbled on iced, fruit-filled pastries or glazed May’s donuts. Craving a cookie? We always had a box, bag or tin filled with chocolate chip, date-filled oatmeal or sugar cookies on hand, just in case the need arose.
When my mother spoke of her own late mother, she talked of weekends spent making fudge, divinity candy, meringues and cakes. Needless to say, I come from a long line of sweets lovers. If a sweet tooth is hereditary, there’s no question from which side of my family mine came.
A few years ago I shared my mother’s recipe for Strawberry Yogurt Pie. As it was one of her specialties, I’m passing this simple but lovely dessert along again.
PAT HUNT’S STRAWBERRY YOGURT PIE
2 1/2 (6-ounce) containers of strawberry yogurt
1 (8-ounce) container of Lite Cool Whip
1 store-bought graham cracker pie crust
1 handful of fresh strawberries, washed, trimmed and halved
In a medium-sized bowl mix together the strawberry yogurt and Cool Whip until well-combined. Pour the filling into the graham cracker pie crust, cover and refrigerate for 1 hour or until lightly set. Remove the pie and place the halved strawberries around the edge of the crust. Cover again and return to the freezer where the pie should remain until frozen. Remove 30 minutes before serving so that the pie thaws slightly and is easier to cut and consume.
April 25th, 2013 § § permalink
I’m married to a guy who adores coconut. Me? Not so much. Hand me a Mounds or Bounty bar and I’ll nibble off the smooth, rich chocolate, leaving behind a sticky blob of sinewy coconut for my husband to eat. Gross but true.
Because of my apathy toward coconut, I rarely bake desserts featuring it. However, when I do, I make Dreamy Triple Chocolate Coconut Bars. Inspired by Amy’s Bread’s coconut dream bars, these luxurious treats feature plenty of coconut for my husband and an ample amount of chocolate for me. They’re the perfect compromise for two only children who love radically different sweets.
Dreamy Triple Chocolate Coconut Bars will keep for several days. If you aren’t going to serve them right away, cover them with plastic wrap and store in a cool place.
DREAMY TRIPLE CHOCOLATE COCONUT BARS
Makes 20 bars
3 cups chocolate graham cracker crumbs
3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
3 1/4 cups sweetened coconut flakes
1 3/4 cups sweetened condensed milk
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease and then line a 9″ x 13″ pan with parchment paper.
In a large bowl mix together the cookie crumbs and butter. Pat evenly into the prepared pan.
In another bowl mix together the chocolate chips and coconut. Spread the mixture evenly over the crust. Drizzle the condensed milk evenly over the chocolate-coconut mixture.
Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, rotating the pan once halfway during the cooking time. When finished, the top will be lightly browned. Place the pan on a wire rack and cool completely. Cut into 20 bars, 4 across by 5 down, and enjoy!
March 14th, 2013 § § permalink
Since St. Patrick’s Day is right around the corner, I thought it fitting to share a recipe inspired by some Irish favorites. No, I’m not talking about fish and chips or Irish stew and soda bread. I mean Guinness, Bailey’s and chocolate. (As an aside, if you don’t think of chocolate as being especially Irish, take a peek at Butlers. And, if you find yourself in Dublin, Cork or Galway, try Butlers hot cocoa and truffles. So, so good.)
Considering my enormous sweet tooth, I’ll surprise no one with my choice of dessert over a savory, Irish specialty. Yet, thanks to one of their namesakes, Chocolate Guinness Cupcakes aren’t overwhelmingly sweet. The smokiness of the stout evens out the chocolatey, sugary batter. In turn, the vanilla-infused, cream cheese frosting tempers the tang of the Guinness-enriched cake. It’s the perfect balance of flavors.
Along with possessing that ideal taste, these boozy, little cupcakes have an added bonus; they are quite simple to make. Put all the ingredients in a saucepan and stir together. Pour the batter into a muffin pan and bake. It really is that easy.
Whether you’re celebrating St. Patrick’s Day or looking for a lovely sweet to share with friends, try these cupcakes. Painless to make and delightful to eat, chocolate Guinness cupcakes are a fabulous, Ireland-inspired treat.
CHOCOLATE GUINNESS CUPCAKES
Think of these as the dessert equivalent of an Irish car bomb with a generous shot of chocolate replacing the usual Irish whiskey.
Makes 2 dozen
1 cup Guinness
1 stick plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
2 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
3/4 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons Bailey’s Irish Cream
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
Pinch of salt
6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
8 ounces cream cheese
1 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons heavy cream
Sugar shamrocks, optional, for garnish
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease 2 (12-cup) muffin pans and set aside.
In a large saucepan heat the Guinness and butter over medium heat, stirring until the butter has melted. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the cocoa and sugar.
In a separate bowl whisk together the eggs, sour cream and Bailey’s and then pour these liquids into the saucepan, stirring to combine. Whisk in the flour, baking powder and salt. Stir until well combined and most of the lumps are gone. Add the chopped chocolate and stir to blend.
Pour the batter into each muffin cup; you should have about 1/2-inch of space left in each. Bake for 20 to 22 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cupcakes comes out clean. Place the pans on wire racks and cool for 5 minutes before removing the cupcakes from the pans, arranging them on the racks and allowing them to cool completely.
To make the icing, using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese until fluffy. Add the sifted confectioner’s sugar and vanilla extract and beat until smooth and well combined. To thin out the icing and make it more spreadable, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of heavy cream and beat until incorporated.
Using an icing knife or small, narrow spatula, frost each cupcake. Swirl the knife over the icing so that small peaks or swirls form on top. At this point you can dress up your Guinness cupcakes with sugar shamrocks or leave them as is.
March 7th, 2013 § § permalink
One of the many things that I love about travel is how it opens my eyes to other cuisines. Prior to a recent trip to Switzerland, I hadn’t considered how the country’s cooking has been influenced by its proximity to Germany, France and Italy. Then I traveled to Geneva and beyond and started ordering from Swiss menus. Alongside the expected Swiss fondue, raclette and roesti were Italian pizzas, French tarte tatins and German pretzels and kuchens. Not exactly what I had imagined when I thought of Swiss food.
While in Switzerland, I did have a ridiculous number of meals featuring locally produced breads and Appenzeller, Gruyere and Emmental cheeses. Although I could happily eat bread and cheese seven days a week, I needed to balance out the abundance of these dairy-based dinners. Forget Swiss muesli, cabbage salads or barley soup. I went straight to the country’s fruit-filled offerings. Out of the myriad of fruit treats available, my favorite was the German-inspired apple kuchen.
In Germany kuchen means cake. In Switzerland it refers to a sweet laden with fresh fruit — often apple — and blanketed with toasted almonds and/or confectioner’s sugar. Depending upon the region or canton in which I was, apple kuchen may or may not have been yeast-based. In some places it resembled a pie more than a cake. A few kuchens even contained a layer of cheese or custard beneath sliced or pureed apples. As I craved lighter, uncomplicated sweets, the cheese or custard seemed like overkill but that didn’t stop me from eating them.
Apple kuchen in Zermatt. More like a tart than a cake but still delicious.
Back at home I’m now experimenting with my own apple kuchen recipe. The following features the best of what I enjoyed in Switzerland — layers of thinly sliced apples infused with sugar and a splash of lemon juice and topped with a thin crust of lightly toasted almonds and dusting of confectioner’s sugar.
Although this is lovely at room temperature, I actually prefer to eat it chilled, straight out of the refrigerator. The choice is yours.
1/2 cup whole blanched almonds
1/3 cup plus 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup almond paste
2 1/4 pounds (5 to 6) Granny Smith or other moderately sweet, crisp apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 cup sliced almonds
Confectioner’s sugar, for garnish
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease and flour a 9″ x 2″, round cake pan and set aside.
Place the whole almonds and 1 teaspoon sugar in the bowl of a food processor and process until finely ground. Add the flour and pulse to combine. Add the butter and almond paste and process together until a crumbly dough forms.
Remove the dough from the bowl and press it into the cake pan, evenly covering the bottom and sides. Bake for 5 to 10 minutes, until the crust has set. Remove from the oven to cool.
In a large bowl toss together 1/3 cup sugar, apples and lemon juice. Layer the fruit over the crust, pressing down on the apples so that they all fit into the pan. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until the crust has browned and the apples have softened.
Remove the kuchen from the oven. Spread the sliced almonds over the top. Bake for another 15 to 20 minutes, until the almonds have turned golden brown. Cool completely on a wire rack. Dust with confectioner’s sugar before serving.
February 14th, 2013 § § permalink
This year Valentine’s Day fell on the very same night that for the past six years my literary fiction book group has met. I had a tough choice to make; eat a romantic dinner with my husband or moderate a discussion of Jeffrey Eugenides’ The Marriage Plot. In the end I did what any lifelong, insatiable reader would do. I baked a batch of cookies, invited Sean to the book group and spent the evening with some of my favorite people, treats and activities.
The cookies that I baked are Greek kourabiedes. Reminiscent of shortbread cookies, these crescent-shaped sweets are usually consumed at holidays and special occasions. Hence my decision to serve them on Valentine’s Day. Okay, that isn’t the only reason behind my making them. Flavored with splashes of vanilla extract and anise liqueur and blanketed with soft, fluffy confectioner’s sugar, they have been my cookie of choice since the ninth grade.
My addiction started in the home of one of my closest childhood friends. The daughter of Greek immigrants and restaurant owners, Nickie always had access to the most amazing baked goods. Drop by my parents’ house and you’d receive store-bought cupcakes or chips. Go over to Nickie’s and you’d enjoy platters of freshly baked baklava and those wonderfully velvety, powdered sugar-laden kourabiedes.
It took only one bite to hook me for life. Thanks to Nickie’s mom, for years I brought plates of these cookies home to my parents. After college I made numerous trips back to the East Coast with boxes of them. At my wedding reception kourabiedes featured prominently at the cookie table. In recent years, when traveling through Greece, I’ve made sure to sample every bakery’s, market’s and truck stop’s version. Yeah, I’m completely smitten.
Even if you never travel to Greece or become, like me, “Greek by osmosis,” you can easily create these divine sweets. Just mix together a simple cookie dough and flavor it with vanilla and a shot of ouzo. Roll out the dough and, using either a cookie cutter or water glass, cut out a series of crescents. Bake, shake sugar over the top and enjoy. It’s that simple.
Fittingly enough, my recipe comes from the woman who inspired this lifelong love of kourabiedes. From her kitchen to mine to yours . . .
Recipe courtesy of Vasiliki Kolovos
Makes about 4 dozen
2 sticks (1/2 pound) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for greasing baking sheets
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 tablespoons ouzo (anise-flavored liqueur)
About 2 cups flour, divided and sifted
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease two baking sheets and set aside.
Using an electric mixer, beat the butter until light and fluffy. Add the sugar and egg yolk and continue beating until well blended. Add the vanilla and ouzo and beat until combined.
Mix 1 cup flour with the baking powder and add this to the butter mixture. Add about another 1 cup flour, a little at a time. You may need less — or more — flour to make a dough that is supple but not sticky.
Place the dough on a flat, flour-dusted work surface and roll it out so that it’s 1/2-inch thick. To make crescent shaped cookies, use either a crescent-shaped cookie cutter or the lip of a water glass. If using a glass, place roughly half of the lip onto the dough and press downward. Alternatively, use the glass to make circles or with your hands roll dough into small balls.
Put the cookies 1 inch apart on the greased baking sheets and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the tops are light brown. Cool for 5 minutes, then remove the cookies from the sheets, place them on cooling racks and generously sift confectioners’ sugar over top.
February 8th, 2013 § § permalink
Although I am one of the least craftsy people alive, I love making Valentine’s Day gifts. Specifically, I adore homemade, chocolate truffles. Shaped like the plump, lopsided mushrooms for which they’re named, hand-rolled truffles are a snap to prepare. If you can melt chocolate and don’t mind getting the palms of your hands a little gooey, you can create these sweets in no time.
Dating back to 19th century France, truffles consist primarily of ganache, a blend of chopped white, milk or dark chocolate, heavy cream and optional smidgen of butter. To make ganache, cream is heated until scalding and then poured over the chocolate bits. Stirred together until smooth and creamy, the mixture is set aside to cool. Depending upon the ratio of cream to chocolate and the amount of time cooled, ganache can be used as a filling, icing or, as in the case of truffles, candy.
As much as I like chocolate, I do think that truffles benefit from a dash of flavoring. Liqueurs, extracts, fruit purees or spices lend these bite-sized confections a bit of zing. Slivered or ground nuts, chopped chocolate, cocoa powder or confectioner’s sugar also boost their taste and dress up their lumpy look.
The beauty of the following recipe is how easily it can be altered to suit your tastes. Don’t care for raspberry? Use orange, hazelnut, almond or coffee liqueur to flavor your candy. Prefer your chocolates smooth instead of crunchy? Replace the almonds with cocoa powder.
CHOCOLATE RASPBERRY TRUFFLES
Placed in an air-tight container and refrigerated, truffles can keep between 2 to 3 weeks. Frozen, they last for around 2 months.
Makes 25 to 30
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
9 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon raspberry liqueur
1/3 cup almonds, without shells or skins
1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
Place the cream in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, put the chocolate chips in a medium-sized bowl.
Once the cream has begun to boil, pour it over the chips. Stir the two together until the chips have melted and the ganache is smooth and creamy in texture.
Add the raspberry liqueur to the ganache and stir until well combined. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 3 hours.
In a frying pan, toast the almonds until they become a light, golden brown. Place the almonds and sugar in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the almonds are finely chopped. Pour the almonds into a small bowl and set aside.
Remove the bowl of ganache from the refrigerator and uncover. Using a melon baller, scoop out a portion of the chocolate. Roll it between the palms of your hands, forming a ball.
Drop the truffle into the bowl of chopped almonds and roll it around until it is completely covered with nuts. Place the truffle on a baking sheet or in a container lined with waxed or parchment paper. Repeat the ball forming and coating steps until all the truffles have been made. Refrigerate the batch until ready to consume.
February 1st, 2013 § § permalink
My husband likes to say that he’s a simple man but I’ve never known anyone to have a more complicated relationship with carrots than he. Just try sneaking an orange sliver into a stew, pot pie or casserole. With the quick flick of his spoon the offending veg flies off his plate and onto mine. Forget about slipping raw, julienned carrots into a salad or slaw. The cat, who eats anything, ends up eating them. However, if you ask Sean what his favorite dessert is, his answer will be carrot cake.
If you like to cook and live with someone who has a favorite dish, chances are that you’ve tried to perfect it. Such is the case with me and carrot cake. After countless years and cakes I found perfection yesterday in the following recipe. I’d love to claim that I conjured up this winsome sweet on my own but I can’t; the recipe comes courtesy of my husband’s aunt, Nancy Haberberger. Sweet but not cloying, moist but not soggy, flavorful but not overly rich, it is, as my father-in-law states, the best carrot cake ever.
As I tend to tinker with recipes, I made a few minor changes to Nancy’s cake. To plump up the raisins, I placed them in a pan with enough water to cover and simmered them over medium heat for 5 minutes. I then took the pan off the burner and allowed the raisins to soften for 10 minutes. From there I drained, dried and added them to the batter. If you prefer chewier raisins, feel free to ignore this step.
Because I had used springform pans and made a layer cake, I doubled the ingredients for the icing; that way I had a generous amount of frosting to spread between and over the cakes. I also increased the amount of vanilla to 1 1/2 teaspoons or, as I’d doubled the recipe, 1 tablespoon. I likewise added 1 tablespoon of milk to the icing so that it would spread more smoothly.
AUNT NANCY’S CARROT CAKE
Serves 10 to 12
For the cake:
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups grated carrots
1 cup raisins
1 cup nuts (walnuts, roughly chopped)
For the icing:
8 ounces cream cheese
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pound confectioner’s sugar
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease and flour a 9 x 13-inch baking pan or two 9-inch springform pans. If using springform pans, line the bottom of the pans with parchment paper before greasing and flouring.
Using an electric mixer and in a large bowl, beat together the sugars, oil and eggs.
In a separate bowl sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the liquids, beating on low speed until incorporated and then beating on high until well-blended. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and then add the carrots, nuts and raisins. Mix together either on low speed or by hand until combined.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan(s). Bake for 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Place the cake pan(s) on a wire rack to cool. If using springform pans, after 10 minutes remove the cakes from the pans, invert them onto cooling racks and peel the parchment paper from the bottom. Cool completely before icing.
To make the icing, place the butter and cream cheese in a large bowl. With an electric mixer beat until smooth and creamy, about 5 minutes. Add the vanilla and beat again to combine. Slowly add the confectioner’s sugar, mixing on low speed until incorporated and then beating on high speed until blended.
Using a knife or icing spatula, spread the icing evenly over the cake(s). Serve.
December 13th, 2012 § § permalink
It’s my favorite time of the year — time to bake and eat lots of glorious sweets! For bakers and the bakers on your shopping list I offer a few cookbook titles for the holiday season. Included are some oldies but goodies and loads of delicious treats.
The Great British Book of Baking by Linda Collister (Michael Joseph, 2010)
A British import, The Great British Book of Baking delights the Anglophile in me. Yet, you don’t have to love scones or soda bread to appreciate this beautiful book. Featuring 120 classic as well as modern recipes and histories and anecdotes for each, it takes readers on a journey through the best of British baking. Please note that ingredient measurements are in metric.
Maida Heatter’s Cakes by Maida Heatter (Andrews McMeel, 2011)
First published in 1982, Maida Heatter’s Cakes offers 175 reliable, delectable recipes for cakes of countless stripes. Plain, chocolate, layer, fruit, nut, cheese, gingerbread, vegetable . . . you name the cake, this James Beard Award-winning “Queen of Desserts” has it covered. Similar to Heatter’s other timeless dessert books, this cookbook features clear, precise instructions, ensuring that even a novice baker can succeed in making such elaborate creations as Star-Spangled Banner and Black-and-White Layer Cakes.
Piece of Cake by David Muniz and David Lesniak (Rizzoli, 2012)
Written by Americans Muniz and Lesniak, who own and operate London’s first American bakeshop, Outsider Tart, Piece of Cake celebrates quintessential American sweets. Whoopie pies, brownies and cheesecakes all get their due. Likewise, one of my favorites, the humble coffee cake, gets a dash of excitement in such recipes as nutmeg and strawberry rhubarb coffee cakes. Subtitled “Home Baking Made Simple,” this cookbook shows how easy it is to create winning, homemade sweets.
The Great Scandinavian Baking Book by Beatrice Ojakangas (University of Minnesota, 1999)
Whether you’re intrigued by Scandinavia or simply interested in expanding your baking repertoire, you’ll adore The Great Scandinavian Baking Book. Showcasing the baked goods of Sweden, Denmark and Norway as well as Iceland and Finland, the cookbook enables both skilled and first time bakers to make a host of exotic yet wholesome goodies. With concise instructions and detailed illustrations you’ll be braiding your own fragrant cardamom rings and rolling creamy butterhorns in no time.
The Sweeter Side of Amy’s Bread by Amy Scherber and Toy Kim Dupree (Wiley, 2008)
Just typing the title makes me hungry. A longtime fan of Amy’s Bread, I had to own this cookbook. With it in my collection I can whip up unbeatable devil’s food cupcakes, gooey coconut dream bars and cinnamon raisin twists at any place or time. Even if you’ve never tried one of Amy’s heavenly butterscotch cashew bars or ethereal red velvet cake, you’ll end up craving this colorful book. Brimming with over 70 exquisite recipes, The Sweeter Side of Amy’s Bread is a dessert lover’s dream cookbook.