Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Dulce de Leche Brownies

My busy, busy, busy life is starting up again!  I am starting the second semester (of 4) in the Interpreter Preparation Program at Ohlone College in Fremont.  As if this isn't exciting enough, I also started working with my first mentor, the culinary arts instructor at California School for the Deaf in Fremont.  This semester is feeling a bit like a dream come true!  I LOVE school!  This is an intense program with a lot of hard work but the best, top-of-the-top professors and the best classmates I could ever ask for.  AND....I get to be mentored by a wonderfully kind and talented woman and work alongside of her with all of these talented and sweet kids.  These kids are fantastic....I can't imagine being as talented in the kitchen as they are at such young ages.

Needless to say....there will likely be a lot of quiet weeks coming from Baker Becky.  I really tried to pre-write some blog posts to save for later, but I ended up posting everything.  So I will just have to do my best and promise to try to get some great recipes out to all of you.  School, work, and raising two teenage boys....piece of cake! Ooooh...cake....

For now I will leave you with these delicious brownies with fabulous globs of dulce de leche waiting to surprise you with every bite you take!  Bake these brownies when you are in the mood for some serious rich gooeyness....I would tell you that they go great with red wine but, let's be honest....everything goes great with red wine!

Dulce de Leche Brownies David Lebowitz

8 tablespoons butter
6 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
3 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup flour
1 cup Dulce de Leche

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line an 8-inch square pan with a sheet of aluminum foil that covers the bottom and reaches up the sides. Spray the bottom and sides of the foil with non-stick spray.

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Add the chocolate pieces and stir constantly over very low heat until the chocolate is melted. Remove from heat and whisk in the cocoa powder until smooth. Add in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the sugar, vanilla, then the flour.

Scrape half of the batter into the prepared pan.  Drop one-third of the Dulce de Leche, evenly spaced, over the brownie batter, then drag a knife through to swirl it slightly. Spread the remaining brownie batter over, then drop spoonfuls of the remaining Dulce de Leche in dollops over the top of the brownie batter. Use a knife to swirl the Dulce de Leche slightly.

Bake for 35 to 45 minutes. The brownies are done when the center feels just-slightly firm. Remove from the oven and cool completely.


Recipe Shared On:
Wednesday's Adorned From Above Link Party
Hearth and Soul Blog Hop
Freedom Fridays
What'd You Do This Weekend
Treasure Box Tuesday

Friday, January 24, 2014

Cream Puffs

About 6 years ago I took a French Patisserie baking course through a local cooking school.  I learned to make puff pastry, baba au rhum, palmiers and pâte à choux.  Since that time I have only ever made a pâte à choux for gougères one time.  All those hours in a classroom and I haven't done a thing with it!

For those of you who are not familiar with pâte à choux I will give a little background:  choux pastry, or pâte à choux (pronounced: paht ah shoo), is a light pastry dough used to make profiteroles (cream puffs), croquembouches, éclairs, French crullers, and gougères.  

Sounds super fancy and difficult....right?  Well, it is not.  It is actually very simple to make and fairly fool proof.  There are very few ingredients in it, you need a mixer and you need an oven.  Most people pipe the dough onto parchment paper but you could just as easily scoop spoonfulls.

The ingredients are cooked on the stove top, the flour is added and then cooked a bit....then you put the dough into your mixing bowl to cool for a bit (we don't want to cook those eggs as we mix them in)!

Once it has cooled you beat the eggs in and you will have a nice smooth batter that is easy to pipe. (Not the smoking kind of pipe....the piping bag kind of pipe.  Geez....get your minds out of the gutter)

It really doesn't matter how you pipe them, what size, what shape, etc.  It only matters that they are all uniform so that they bake at the same time.

The baking time may seem pretty long for these little beauties but you really want to make sure the inside isn't doughy and that it dries out.  I tend to sacrifice one of the puffs and open it up and make sure the dough is cooked through.  The only other way to know for sure is through experience of doing it time and time again.

Once they are cooled, fill them with anything you like.  I did a sweetened whipped cream but I think a pastry cream would be fabulous or even a chocolate mousse!

Seems pretty simple doesn't it?  I love when those desserts that we think of as fancy are really simple and not a lot of work.  I guarantee if you make these for dessert, your guests will be truly impressed with you!

Cream Puffs adapted from King Arthur Flour
makes 2 dozen pastries (depending on size you make them, mine were 2" in diameter)

Choux batter:
1 cup water
1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter
3/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
4 large eggs

Preheat the oven to 400F. Line two baking sheets with silpat or parchment paper.

Combine the water, butter, and salt in a medium-sized saucepan, heat until the butter has melted, and bring to a rolling boil.

Remove the pan from the heat, and add the flour all at once, stirring vigorously.

Return the pan to the burner and cook over medium heat, stirring all the while, until the mixture smooths out and follows the spoon around the pan; this should take less than a minute.

Transfer the mixture to a mixer, and let cool for 5 to 10 minutes until warm but not hot.  Beat in the eggs one at a time; it'll look curdled at first, but when you add the last egg it should become smooth. Beat for at least 2 minutes after adding the last egg.

Scoop batter into piping bag and pipe small mounds 1 1/2 - 2 inches in diameter (can make any size, adjust baking times accordingly).  Space the mounds about 3" apart, to allow for expansion. Wet your finger tip to smooth down any tips on the mounds (to avoid burning).

Bake the pastries for 15 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 350°F and bake for an additional 15-20 minutes, until pastries are a medium golden brown and sound hollow when you tap on them. Don't open the oven door while the pastries are baking.

Remove the pastries from the oven and turn oven off.  Make a small slit in the side of each, and return them to the oven for 5 minutes, to allow the steam to escape. Place them on a rack to cool. 

Whipped cream filling:
2 cups whipping cream
6 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Place ingredients into mixer and mix on high until stiff peaks form.

Chocolate glaze:
2/3 cup (4 oz) good quality dark chocolate chips
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoons milk

Melt the chocolate and butter together in a microwave or double boiler, then stir in enough milk to make it smooth.

Assemble cream puffs:
Split puffs in half and pipe or spoon whipped cream into shells.  Replace shell lid and spoon melted chocolate glaze over the top.  Serve immediately or store in refrigerator for up to a few hours.

These are versitile shells and can be filled with pastry cream or whipped cream or any other filling.  You can pipe the filling into the center instead of splitting them in half. You can top the shells with powdered sugar or any other glaze.  Make them to suit your tastes and enjoy!!!

Recipe Shared On:
Freedom Fridays
Strut Your Stuff Saturday Link Party
Hearth & Soul Blog Hop
Wednesdays Adorned From Above Link Party
What'd You Do This Weekend

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Dark Chocolate Milano Cookies

I don't think my children have any clue that I am not your average Mom.  They seem to think that all kids go to their Mom's and say "hey, can you make homemade poptarts?" "Mom, can we have homemade twinkies?" "can you pleeeeeease make homemade cinnamon rolls?" Really....do all kids do this?  And if they do....do all Mom's say "sure, let me drop everything and do that for you".  Oh wait....that may be why they do it....hmmmmm.....

Ok...yes....I spoil my children with baked goods (and lots of love) but I enjoy doing it.  I also see it as a way to trap them into spending time with me (bwaaaahaaahaaahaaaha) (evil laugh....hard to convey via typing).  I can usually get them to help me because they really want to eat these baked yummies.  It doesn't matter that I go to school full time, have homework, have a job and occasionally need to sleep (let's face it....I don't sleep).....I always make time to bake for my boys.

What was my point?  Uh oh...senior moment....  Oh yes....so....today Max came to me and asked if I could make homemade golden oreos or milano cookies.  I decided these were the easiest to master in a day....I'm not sure what the heck a golden oreo is.

The dough is easy to make and easy to pipe.  Make them any size you like but they really spread and flatten so I would just make a little 1 1/2 inch long log.  You don't need to flatten it or do anything to it, these spread on their own in the oven.

Watch them closely so they don't brown too much around the edges.  Then allow them to cool completely before you make little sandwiches with your delicious ganache.  These were for my kids but if they were for an adult get together, I would have added a liqueur to the ganache....maybe a tablespoon of grand marnier. YUM!

Dark Chocolate Milano Cookies adapted from Gale Gand
Makes 3 dozen cookies

12 tablespoons butter, softened
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
6 egg whites
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups flour
Cookie filling, recipe follows

Chocolate Ganache Filling:
1/2 cup heavy cream
8 ounces dark chocolate, chopped

Cream the butter with a paddle attachment then mix in the sugar. Add the egg whites gradually and then mix in the vanilla extract. Add the flour and mix until just incorporated. With a small (1/4-inch) plain tip, pipe 1 1/2-inch sections of batter onto a parchment-lined sheet pan, spacing them 2 inches apart as they spread. Bake in a preheated 325 degree oven for 10 minutes or until light golden brown around the edges. Let cool on the pan.

Ganache: In a small saucepan over medium flame, scald cream. Pour hot cream over chocolate in a bowl. Whisk to melt chocolate. Set aside to cool (the mixture will thicken as it cools). Spread a thin amount of the filling onto the flat side of a cookie while the filling is still soft and press the flat side of a second cookie on top.


Shared on:
Wine'd Down Wednesday
Freedom Fridays
Strut Your Stuff Saturday Link Party
Wednesday's Adorned From Above
Hearth & Soul Blog Hop

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Chocolate Ice Cream

Pull your ice cream machine out again because this is the BEST CHOCOLATE ICE CREAM EVER!  No joke....all chocolate ice cream has been ruined for me....I will have to make this when I am in need of a chocolate fix!  

This recipe is from Ghiradelli so I actually used a Ghiradelli dark chocolate bar (70%) chopped and melted in the cream and milk mixture.  You can really use any good quality dark chocolate for this recipe.....ice cream has so few ingredients so quality is key.

So good, you don't even need to add any toppings and you don't need to worry about freezer space because this stuff won't last long!  :)

Chocolate Ice Cream adapted from Ghirardelli.com

8 ounces Good Quality Dark Chocolate
6 large egg yolks
1/2 cup granulated white sugar
3 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar; set aside.

In a medium saucepan, heat the cream, milk, and chocolate over medium heat, whisking frequently, until the chocolate melts and the mixture is hot but not boiling. Pour this hot mixture into the egg yolk mixture whisking constantly, then return the mixture to the pan. Heat over low heat to 170°F, or until the mixture coats a spoon, stirring constantly. Immediately strain into a bowl and whisk in the vanilla.

Cool the mixture in the refrigerator. Freeze in an ice-cream freezer according to the manufacturer's directions until the ice cream has the consistency of whipped cream. Transfer to a plastic container and store in the freezer.


Recipe Shared on:
Treasure Box Tuesday
You're Gonna Love It Tuesday
Hearth & Soul Blog Hop
Wednesday's Adorned From Above Link Party
Freedom Fridays
Strut Your Stuff Saturday Link Party

Monday, January 13, 2014

Salted Caramel Butter Bars

I pinned this recipe quite a while ago and then completely forgot to make them....I'm not sure how anyone could forget to make caramel bars....but I did.  Luckily I eventually remembered that I wanted to try them because these are sooooo goooooood!  Be warned....these are not diet bars.  There is a pound of butter in them but that is what makes them soooo goooood!  :)

The crust and top crumble are made from your basic shortbread recipe.  Lots of butter, sugar, flour and vanilla.  Super simple.

The caramel layer is made from melted caramel candies and cream.  Pretty much guaranteeing you will make them because they are so simple.  After I spread the caramel over the crust, I sprinkled some maldon salt over the top.  You can see the beautiful flakes in the picture above!  If you prefer your caramel layer to be unsalted, that is no problem.....it will still be delish!

Once the bars are baked and golden brown, let them cool completely before cutting.  The caramel is much easier to cut once it has cooled and hardened a bit.

Try to take some pictures before your children and their friends sneak into the kitchen to eat them all....not that I ever have that problem.....but man, those kids are quick!  

Salted Caramel Butter Bars adapted from Cookies & Cups

1 lb. salted butter room temp
1 cup sugar
1½ cups powdered sugar
2 Tbs vanilla
4 cups all-purpose flour

1 bag (14 oz.) caramel candies (about 50 individual caramels), unwrapped
⅓ cup milk or cream
½ teaspoon vanilla
1 T. coarse sea salt (optional)

To make the crust:

Preheat oven to 325°

In a large bowl, combine the butter and sugars. Using mixer on medium speed, beat together until creamy. Add the vanilla and beat until combined. Sift the flour into the butter mixture and beat on low speed until a smooth soft dough forms.

Spray a 9x13 inch baking pan lightly with non-stick cooking spray. Press one-third of the dough evenly into the pan to form a bottom crust. Wrap remaining dough in plastic wrap and chill in refrigerator.
Bake crust until firm and the edges are a pale golden brown approx 20 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack and let cool about 15 minutes.

While the bottom crust is baking and the remaining dough is chilling, make the caramel filling. Place the unwrapped caramels in a microwave-safe bowl. Add the cream. Microwave on high for 1 minute. Remove from the microwave and stir until smooth. If caramels are not completely melted, microwave on high for 30-second intervals, stirring after each interval, until smooth.  Once the caramel is melted add in your 1/2 tsp vanilla and stir until combined.

Pour the caramel filling over the crust. If you are going to salt the caramel sprinkle it on caramel layer now.
Remove the remaining chilled dough from the refrigerator and crumble it evenly over the caramel.
Return the pan to the oven and bake until the filling is bubbly and the crumbled shortbread topping is firm and lightly golden, about 25 - 30 minutes.

Let cool before cutting into squares.


Recipe shared on:
Hearth & Soul Blog Hop
What'd You Do This Weekend
You're Gonna Love It Tuesday
Treasure Box Tuesday
Wednesday's Adorned From Above Link Party
Freedom Fridays
Strut Your Stuff Saturday Link Party

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Creme Brulee

When I was a teenager my brother-in-law, Pat, was the manager at a restaurant called Horatios.  My sister and I would go there often when he was on duty for brunches or nice dinners.  I fell in love with three things at that restaurant...eggs benedict, blueberry muffins, and burnt cream.

Burnt cream is the same thing as Creme Brulee.  The earliest known recipe for Creme Brulee was in a French cookbook in 1691.  In the 18th century it was translated into English as Burnt Cream.  Whatever name you call it by.....it is delish!  What it is not, however, is low in fat!  This is an extremely rich dessert and probably not one you would eat daily (oh who am I kidding....I would if I had any in my house) but it is perfect for a special occasion.   Creme Brulee is a rich custard based dessert topped with a contrasting layer of hard caramel which is formed by sprinkling sugar over the cooked custard and then burning the sugar with a kitchen torch or under the broiler to form a hard caramel layer on top.

I have been making this dessert ever since I received my first kitchen torch and this great cookbook "Elegantly Easy Creme Brulee".  This book has all kinds of fantastic recipes but in all honesty I have only ever made the classic creme brulee.  I am a purist I guess!

This was my first time making it with my kids and Max had a blast using the torch, maybe a little too much fun.....should I be worried?  

Don't be afraid that it is too complicated....this dessert is super simple and fool proof.  If you don't have a torch, caramelize the sugar under your broiler and then pop those bad boys back in the fridge for a few minutes to harden.  My favorite part about this yummy dessert is cracking that top shell with my spoon and going in for the first bite!  YUM!

Crème brûlée from Elegantly Easy Creme Brulee
makes 6 servings

8 egg yolks
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (or the beans from 1/2 a fresh vanilla bean)
1/4 cup granulated sugar (for caramelizing the tops)

Preheat oven to 300F.  

In a large bowl, whisk together egg yolks and sugar until the sugar has disolved and the mixture is pale yellow and thick.  Add cream and vanilla and continue to whisk until well blended.  Strain into a large bowl.

Divide mixture among 6 ramekins.  Place in a waterbath (I use a large roasting pan and fill halfway up the sides of the ramekins with hot water), and bake until set around the edges, but still loose in the center, about 40 to 50 minutes.  Remove from the oven and leave in the waterbath until cooled.  Remove cooled ramekins and place in the refrigerator to chill for at least 2 hours. 

When ready to serve, sprinkle 1-2 teaspoons of sugar over the top of each custard.  Use a small hand held torch to melt the sugar.  If you don't have a torch, place under the broiler until sugar melts.  Return to refrigerator for a few minutes before serving.

Recipe shared on:
Freedom Fridays
Adorned From Above Link Party
Treasure Box Tuesday
Hearth & Soul Blog Hop

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Almond Orange Shortbread


I hope you all had a safe and happy New Year's celebration!  I went into the city (San Francisco) with friends to watch the fireworks over the bay....sooooo much fun!  I couldn't believe how many people were cram packed into the city.

Today I plan on relaxing and staying home with my kids and my Mom (and the dog, of course).  For those of you who are going out or having guests over, this is a super easy and delicious dessert.  I love these almond orange shortbread!  The dough is formed into logs and then stuck in the freezer for an hour before being sliced and baked.  

I personally like to make a couple of batches and store them in the freezer for those times when people show up unannounced or last minute.  Just pull the logs out of the freezer, let it defrost a bit, until it slices easily, then bake and serve.  

I LOVE how pretty the orange zest looks in these cookies!  However, you can change these cookies and make different combinations....lime zest and chopped macadamia nuts, lemon zest and almond, dried cranberry and almond, you could even add dried lavender!
These are sweet enough for me but you could also drizzle a flavored glaze over the top of them!

Ok...now back to couch for lazy time!  Enjoy your day!

Almond Orange Shortbread Martha Stewart

1 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup confectioners' sugar
3/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
Grated zest of 1 orange
3/4 cup sliced almonds

Make the dough: In a mixer bowl, beat butter, sugar, almond extract, and salt until smooth. With mixer on low speed, add flour and orange zest; mix just until a dough forms. With a wooden spoon, rubber spatula, or your hands, gently mix in almonds.

Freeze the dough: On a piece of waxed paper or plastic wrap, form dough into a rectangular log, 12 inches long, 2 1/2 inches wide, and 1 inch thick. Wrap log in the paper, and freeze until firm, at least 1 hour and up to 3 months. If freezing longer than 1 day, wrap log again, in plastic wrap.

Bake the shortbread: Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Remove dough from freezer. (If dough has been in freezer a long time and is frozen solid, let it sit at room temperature 30 minutes so it slices without crumbling.)

With a sharp knife, cut dough into 1/4-inch-thick slices; place on ungreased baking sheet at least 1 inch apart. Bake until edges just begin to turn golden, about 20 minutes. Cool 5 minutes on baking sheet; transfer cookies to a rack to cool completely.

Recipe Shared On:
Hearth and Soul Blog Hop
Freedom Fridays
Adorned From Above Blog Hop
Strut Your Stuff Saturday Link Party
You're Gonna Love It Tuesday