Tag Archives: Baking

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

It’s spring in Montana, so that means there are some yummy treats being made with our rhubarb.  This is our plant’s third season planted here, and I love seeing it come back bigger and better every year.

The leaves and stalks are huge, they took up half of our dining room table.  I froze a lot of berries last summer from our garden and some produce farms in WA that we visited, so with the strawberries I stored away in the freezer I’ve been making Strawberry-Rhubarb Custard Pie lately.  So good, I love the sweet and tart combination.

Just snapped some quick shots with the ol’ iPhone cameras, and this was the last piece of pie so it was kinda falling apart and I didn’t get to take one of it glistening when it was hot out of the oven.

Pie is not usually the first dessert I make at home for me and my hubby, even though I come from a long line of pie-making and pie-eating dutch women!  There usually has to be a good reason for me to make it, like Thanksgiving, or an abundance of rhubarb.  🙂  The fun thing about pies though, is the more you make them the better you get at it, and it’s good to be familiar with how to make a good dough and master pie crust.

You can find the recipe over at my cousin’s blog, Born in the Wrong Century.  🙂

Chocolate {Birthday} Cake with Italian Cocoa-Kahlua Buttercream and Ganache

It is not too often a Chocolate Cake comes around that has me describing it as perfect.  And ever since I started making desserts in some of the local restaurants, Chocolate Cake comes around a lot.  This Chocolate Birthday Cake does have me using the word perfect so many times.  It is made with hot coffee and Kahlua, what girl or chocolate-lover wouldn’t call this perfect?

My husband’s birthday was last weekend, and this was his fifth annual Birthday Cake.  I have made it for him every year since we met, and it’s a tradition that will definitely keep on going.  He loves it and really looks forward to it every year.

Chocolate and coffee are so lovely together.  Coffee enhances the flavor of chocolate, and chocolate compliments coffee perfectly, in my opinion.  That combination makes this cake wonderful.  Not to mention that the recipe and method is so easy and simple.  A mixer is not even needed, as all you really use is two large mixing bowls and a whisk.

This cake has rich chocolate flavor, a lovely velvety texture, and the crumb and consistency is just right, as it’s not too dense and not too light and crumbly.  It is perfect for layering, shaping, sculpting, and slicing, which means it would be perfect for a wedding cake with a lot of layers and tiers.

…Notice how many times I use the word perfect?  I really can’t help it!  You’d think I was trying to sell something here.  Well, although I’m not selling anything and getting any richer with this, I hope you print this recipe and give it a try.  And I know I talked it up a lot, so you’ll have to let me know your review once you enjoy a slice of this chocolate heaven.  =)


::Chocolate (Birthday) Cake::
{from Colette Peters book, Cakes to Dream On, modified slightly}

2 c. AP flour
1 t baking soda
pinch of salt

1 3/4 c. hot coffee
1/4 c. Kahlua
5 oz unsweetened baking chocolate, chopped into small pieces
8 oz unsalted butter, cut into small pieces, then to room temp

1 3/4 c. sugar
2 eggs, at room temp
2 t vanilla

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.  Coat two 8″ round cake pans with butter and line the bottoms with parchment paper.  (Cut parchment in a round to fit inside the bottom of the cake pan.)

In a medium mixing bowl, sift together the flour, soda, and salt.  Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, add in the chopped chocolate, Kahlua, and softened butter.  Pour in the hot coffee, make sure it’s very hot.  Give it a little stir, cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let set for about ten minutes until all the mixture is melted.  Stir around until smooth.  (If you still end up with it not all melted you can set your bowl over a saucepan of gently simmering water and stir the chocolate coffee mixture until it’s all smooth.)

Whisk in the sugar, let the mixture cool completely.  Whisk in the dry mix in two batches.  Then whisk in the eggs and vanilla.

Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 40-45 minutes, or until a tester comes out of the center clean.  Rotate the cake pans after 30 minutes if necessary.

Let the cakes cool completely in their pans, set on a wire rack.  After cooling completely, and even letting them refrigerate for a while, you can remove the cakes from the pans.  Run a butter knife along the inside edge of the pan, then set a flat plate or small cutting board over the cake pan, invert, and tap gently upside down.  When you feel the cake fall down, lift up the pan.  Chill the cake layers completely before icing and decorating.

::Cocoa-Kahlua Buttercream::

My basic ratio for Simple Buttercream is 1 lb softened butter for every 2 lbs (about 8 cups) powdered sugar and 1 T vanilla.  I use that basic ratio and just go by it’s creamy, fluffy consistency as I make it.  Buttercream is often made with an egg, but I do not use any.

1 lb butter, softened/room temp
1 lb, 12 oz powdered sugar (or 7 c.)
1/2 c. cocoa
1 or 1 1/2 T Kahlua

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, cream the softened butter until it’s light and fluffy.  Gradually add in the sugar and the cocoa, scraping down the sides of the bowl as you go.  Add in the Kahlua and continue beating until it is light and smooth.  Do not chill before using.

To ice the cake, it is good to do a crumb coat on the chilled cake first.  Spread icing on the top of one layer, set the other layer on top.  Then simply spread on a thin layer of buttercream on the whole stacked cake, not worrying if the icing picks up some crumbs or not.  Refrigerate that for a bit, then gently spread on your Cocoa Kahlua Buttercream.

For this buttercream, I got to use some Italian Cocoa that my cousin sent me for Christmas.  =)


::Simple Chocolate Ganache::

1 c. chocolate chips (at home I use ghirardelli 60% bittersweet)
1 c. heavy cream

Set the cream in a small saucepan over med-high heat.  Set your chocolate in a medium bowl.  Once the cream reaches a simmer/light boil, pour it over the chocolate and let set a few minutes.  Stir until it’s all melted and smooth.  Use as desired in decorating, or pour in a squeeze bottle to drizzle over the cake as you serve it.

I still want to try making this cake with some Grand Marnier in place of the Kahlua.  Then layer it with Orange Buttercream, using fresh, concentrated orange juice in the place of vanilla, and adding in some orange zest.  I love dark chocolate and orange together.

Cheers and happy baking. =)

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

The chilly weather and changing seasons have really got me nesting and wanting to do a lot of cooking and baking, especially with chickens, apples and pumpkins.  So my mental ‘To Make’ list, and my Queue, has been getting bigger everyday.  My blogging does go through dry spells, but not now.  You’re going to see a lot of those seasonal goodies here for a little while.

I have several different Fall/early Winter desserts up my sleeve to make at work this month, and some to make at home.  I plan on posting some of my restaurant desserts so stay tuned for those yummy recipes!

I’m a little obsessed with pumpkin-y foods right now and have been on a quest to figure out a perfect recipe for Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies.  (I just realized that my blog has not had any cookies appear on it thus far.  What’s up with that??  After this post on cookies, this blog can officially have my name authoring it).

I first tried out this recipe.  It wasn’t great, a little too cake-y.  I want it to be like my chocolate chip cookies would be, but with pumpkin flavor.  So then I tried this one from Dishing the Divine, and modified it a little.  It’s really good.  Better than the first, not too cake-y and lots of pumpkin flavor.  I’m going to make them again soon, adjusting a couple things slightly again, hopefully to end up with exactly what I’m wanting. =)  So here’s my version, modified from the Dishing the Divine recipe.

::Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies::

6 oz unsalted butter, softened
3/4 c. sugar
1/3 c. brown sugar
1 egg
1 t. vanilla
1 c. pumpkin puree

2 c. AP flour
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1 t. cinnamon
8 oz chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 F.
In a mixing bowl, add all dry ingredients and stir to combine.
Use the creaming method: In a stand mixer, beat softened butter ’til creamy, slowly add the sugars and beat until creamy and a little fluffy.  Mix in egg, vanilla, then pumpkin puree (I had set my puree in a fine mesh sieve to drain a little liquid).
In two batches, gently stir/fold in the dry ingredients with a spatula, incorporate the chocolate chips in with the last half of the dry mix.  Don’t over mix.
Drop spoonfuls of dough onto a baking sheet prepared with butter, parchment paper, or a Silpat.  Bake for 15-ish min., I recommend baking until they’re a deep golden brown, a little darker than what you’d let your regular choc chip cookies get, otherwise these can end up a little too moist.

Even though I have been baking little pie pumpkins and freezing the puree, I used canned puree for these.  I’ll try them again later with the real stuff and see the difference.

If you try these, let me know how you like ’em!  I’m off to go bring some to my hubby, with a tall glass of milk of course.. he’s on the couch watching football. =)

Enjoy 🙂

Courgette Favorites :: Chocolate Zucchini Cake

As much as I’ve been enjoying zucchini lately you would think it was the only vegetable we grew in our garden this year.  However, our zucchini plants were not quite as productive as I was hoping.  I have managed to harvest some from the garden, and supplemented that with visits to the Farmers Markets.  In my recent liking of putting up food for the chilly winter months, a lot of it has been grated and set in the freezer.  Now I can pull out a little package of this good stuff all year long, and make one of my favorite cakes.

My Aunt Connie’s Chocolate Zucchini Cake has been enjoyed by the family for several years now and every time I have a piece, it brings me right back to summer weekends at the family cabin.  So far I’ve made this a few times in the last month, I can’t stop!!  It’s so perfectly moist, spongey, and chocolatey, and hey it has a vegetable in it so it can’t be that bad to eat it everyday, right?  =)

The recipe is featured on my cousin’s blog, where she also includes her ‘healthy’ version.  This is definitely one of my few favs when it comes to zucchini, and when it comes to cake.  I think my hubby said it best when I first made it, “This is the best thing ever invented”.  =)

::Chocolate Zucchini Cake::  
-compliments of Aunt Connie-

2 1/2 c. flour
1/4 c. cocoa powder
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. ground cloves
1/2 t. salt

1/2 c. butter, rm. temp.
1/2 c. canola or safflower oil
1 1/2 c. sugar
2 eggs
1 t. vanilla
1/2 c. sour milk (add in a tsp of lemon juice to milk)

2 c. grated zucchini
optional:
3/4 c. chocolate chips
1/2 c. chopped walnuts

Combine dry ingredients in a mixing bowl.  In another bowl, cream the butter, oil, and sugar, then beat in the eggs and vanilla.  Stir in the sour milk.  Stir in grated zucchini, fold in the dry mixture, spread into a 9×13 dish, and sprinkle chocolate chips and/or walnuts.

Bake at 325 F. for 45 min., or at 350 F for 35-40 min.

Enjoy!  But I warn you, it’ll be your new favorite.

Cobble Cobble!

I am crazy for cobblers all of a sudden.  After making them at work last week, I got to thinking about my Flathead Cherries I still have in my freezer from last summer that I pitted and vacuum packed, and thinking about how they need to be used!  A cobbler can really be whipped out in no time, and in my opinion it’s just as good as pie, or better.  Without as much work!

Over the last few years I have grown to love the use of the freezer, and learned how to really take advantage of it.  One of my favorite things is reaching in the freezer in the winter or even Spring, when we don’t yet have all the fresh berries and produce, and grabbing a ‘little piece of Summer’ to thaw and use.  Around here you really can’t miss out on enjoying Flathead Cherries in the summer time.  However, one could easily miss out on enjoying Flathead Cherries any other time of year, if you don’t go to a little extra work when you get them to store some away and take advantage of that freezer!  It is so worth it and rewarding.

::Flathead Cherry Cobbler::

I made it the same as previously mentioned, but for the filling just did:

2 1/2 lbs cherries, pitted
3/4 – 1 c. sugar
1 T. instant tapioca
1 T. AP flour
zest of 1 orange

That’s it!  SO good.

Mixed Berry Cobblers

Here’s a little Spring/Summer baking inspiration.  I made these beauty-ful berry-ful Mixed Berry Cobblers at work today.  Cobblers are so perfect for this time of year, especially during summer when the berries are ripe and fresh.  Here I used fresh strawberries, blueberries, and frozen huckleberries.  This cobbler topping is absolutely perfect, and everything that it should be.  I read that the topping is supposed to look kind of piece-y and lumpy, like cobblestones, which is how it got it’s name.

I had to take a quick shot with my phone camera as I was working, since they were looking so mouth-watering delicious when I pulled them out.  I’m not ever there in the evening when they’re plating them up all pretty and serving them in all their glory, but really these guys don’t need much dressing and garnishing, perfect right out of the oven just like this.  I will definitely be making more cobblers throughout the Spring and Summer…

::Recipe::  Mixed Berry Cobblers

Fruit filling:

2 c. strawberries, quartered or halved
3 c. blueberries, huckleberries, and/or any other fruit of your choosing
3/4 c. sugar
1 T. flour
1 1/2 T. instant tapioca
1-2 T. juice of lemon or orange
zest of 1 lemon or orange, (optional)

Toss all together in a large bowl, set aside.

Cobbler topping:

1 3/4 c. AP flour
1/2 c. sugar
pinch of salt
2 1/2 t. baking powder
4 oz. (1/2 c.) cold butter, cut into cubes
1 egg + 1 yolk
2/3 c. heavy cream

Preheat oven to 375 F.
Combine the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl.  Work the cold butter cubes into the dry mix with your fingertips, rubbing into the dry mix until the butter pieces are the size of peas.  Combine the egg, yolk, and cream in a small bowl, stir together, then gently stir into the flour mixture only until combined, careful not to over-work or over mix.  The dough should be loose, lumpy, and light.

Pour fruit mixture into a buttered baking dish (9 x 9) or individual baking dishes.  Carefully drop spoonfuls of dough on top of fruit, leaving it loose and lumpy, it should look rough and rustic, like cobblestones.  Bake until topping is golden brown, about 40-50 min.

Enjoy warm or at room temperature, better yet with a scoop of Vanilla Ice Cream.

Cheers!

Makin’ Lots of Dough These Days

I’ve got into a zone of making a lot of dough, and wanting to keep making more.  I’m not talking about the kind of dough that comes in the green paper form, although that’s nice to make too.  Talking about the nourishing kind, that’s good for the heart and soul, and makes your house more of a home.

I’m working out of one of my top favorite bread baking books, The Bread Bible, by Rose Levy Beranbaum.  This is one lovely book for your bread baking and mastering, I highly recommend it if you already make a lot of breads, or want to learn more and get into it.  I’ve done pizza dough out of this book, along with some quick breads, the Basic Soft White Sandwich Loaf, Basic Hearth Bread, Brioche, and the Mantovana Olive Oil Bread (a great hearty multi-grain with some whole wheat and olive oil, and a local specialty of Mantua, Italy).  When I worked at a local restaurant in Whitefish, I made all the bread for dinner service and did small loaves of Basic Hearth Bread and the Mantovana Olive Oil Bread.  Everyone loved it!  Who wouldn’t love a little basket with two different kinds of warm homemade bread to fill up on before getting your dinner! 😉  I also made the Brioche loaves there for a while for the Sunday Brunch.

I have several pages marked in this book of breads I want to learn more about and have yet to make.  I want to read up on, and hone my skills on Sourdough and sourdough starters (which has a whole chapter all to itself), along with the Chocolate Chocolate Chip Bread, English Muffins, Monkey Bread (a cinnamon-y breakfast/dessert kind), Cinnamon Raisin Loaf, Butter Popovers, Beer Bread, Rosemary Focaccia, Ciabatta, and Pugliese.  Just to name a few.  I’m not going crazy and wanting to do too much, am I??

Today I baked three loaves of the Hearth Bread, I just got all giddy when taking it out and having the house smell of fresh baked bread!  I made the dough yesterday and refrigerated the finished dough overnight, and baked the loaves today.  It’ll be great to have a couple of these loaves in the freezer.  I also have a starter for some Heart of Wheat Bread setting on the counter and fermenting right now.

For these kind of Hearth Breads, I usually make my breads in a two day process.
Option 1:

Day 1:  Make the sponge/starter and let rest at room temperature 1-4 hours, then cover bowl tightly and refrigerate overnight, up to 24 hours.

Day 2:  Take starter out, complete the dough making process, portion into equal sized loaves, shape, let rise, and bake.  OR: Make up to a finished dough, refrigerate overnight, and shape and bake on the third day.

Option 2:

Day 1:  Do the process all the way to a finished dough, then cover tightly in a large bowl or container, refrigerate overnight.

Day 2:  Take out of fridge, let rest 1 hour, shape, let rise, bake.

Or, you can do it in one day of course, starting in the morning and baking the bread by evening time.

I probably just made all that sound overwhelming and like too much work.  But really once you get the process down, your active working time is not that much, maybe 1 1/2 hours for the whole process.

So, back to these beautiful loaves!

Spending a day every once in a while baking bread, or even just incorporating the little sections of the process into your day, is so rewarding.  If you’re inspired to get making some lovely loaves, check out Rose Levy Beranbaum’s Bread Bible (or any bread/cookbooks you have on hand!).  She also has a blog, Real Baking with Rose.

I hope you have found some inspiration here for getting busy in the kitchen, and Happy Bread Baking!  🙂