Tag Archives: PPQ

Taco Salad

24 Oct

And thus another week begins which means another recipe for Project Pastry Queen!  This week Amanda chose Ground Beef Gorditas and, as you can probably tell from the picture above, I didn’t have the time to a) find masa dough and b) pan fry and then also deep fry the gorditas.  It did give me the chance, however, to try a new little technique for taco shell bowls that I’d been wanting to try that involved healthier baking instead of deep-frying.

I remember once standing in the middle of the grocery store having a minor disagreement with The Boyfriend: I had grown up with packaged taco seasoning and wanted to buy some for the tacos we were having that night; he insisted that I could probably make seasoning myself that was better tasting and, likely healthier, since it wouldn’t have all the sodium and other random chemicals found in that stuff.  I appreciate his confidence in me, but at that point in time I was sure nothing I attempted to create was going to taste as good as what I was familiar with.  I’ve since become more confident in myself as a cook, and this recipe was just the one I needed to figure out exactly what was needed in good taco meat seasoning (and I even added a little to it myself!).  Since I was making more of a taco salad, I left the tomato sauce out of the meat recipe–there’s nothing worse than soupy salad, but other than that, I think this is a winner for taco seasoning and I’m pleased to say that I won’t be buying the packaged kind ever again!

Taco Salad
Adapted from The Pastry Queen
Serves 2-3

  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped yellow onion
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon hot sauce
  • 1 medium sized flour tortilla per person (I used Mission brand “Homestyle” tortillas)
  • 1 head romaine lettuce
  • 1 chopped tomato
  • shredded cheese
  • salsa
  • 1 sliced avocado
  • any other toppings you usually enjoy (sour cream, olives, queso fresco, etc etc)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. In a large skillet, saute the beef and onion until browned, approx 10 minutes
  3. In the meantime, brush tortillas with water and microwave in a stack for 1 minute.  Drape each tortilla over an upside-down oven-safe cereal bowl and press it so that it molds to the shape of the bowl.  Place bowls on a baking sheet and bake in oven for 10 minutes, until stiff.  Pull sheet out of oven, let cool for a few minutes, then take the molded tortillas off the bowls and let the inside dry out for a few minutes.
  4. Drain off the fat from the ground beef, then add the garlic, salt, cumin, chili powder, pepper, and hot sauce to the beef, cook for another 5 minutes.
  5. Assemble the taco salad by first putting lettuce into the tortilla bowl, then topping with meat and other toppings of your choice.  Enjoy!
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Tuxedo Cake

3 Oct

What luck that Shawnda picked such a great cake recipe for the first week of the month for Project Pastry Queen–I’ve started baking treats for the monthly birthday celebration for the office and this was perfect!  My only hope is that I get it to the office without issue, which involves driving up and over a mountain range.  In fact, as you’re reading this, probably right this moment, my office is either enjoying lovely slices of Tuxedo Cake or eating Cake Mush.

The cake was pretty basic to put together: just a normal chocolate cake, whipped cream, and more or less just melted chocolate.  But what a presentation!  It just looks so fantastic, with its stark black and white contrast, that I would have sworn it took a lot more manpower and hours than it really did.  My only two notes are that I’m always afraid of over-whipping the cream so I started off with whipped cream that was too soft (although it did make a nice “crumb coat”, a thin layer of frosting that seals in all the crumbs so you can add another perfectly crumb-less layer of frosting).  The whipped cream is the right consistency when you slap a dollop on the side of the cake and it doesn’t drip right off.  Also, Rebecca (and Shawnda) used Lyle’s Golden Syrup.  I admit again that I substituted what I already had in my cabinet and readily available.  I’m not sure if it was because of this substitution, but my chocolate dripped over the sides perfectly, despite Rebecca’s warning that it might be too thick if you let it cool for too long.

Check out all of the other Project Pastry Queen participants’ takes on the recipe here!

Tuxedo Cake
From Rebecca Rathers’ Pastry Queen

For the cake

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 4 cups sugar
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 Tbsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla

For the frosting

  • 4 cups chilled heavy whipping cream, well-chilled
  • 1 1/4 cup powdered sugar

For the glaze

  • 4 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 2 tsp vanilla

Cake

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line the bottom of three 9″ cake pans or two 10″ cake pans with parchment paper rounds and butter and flour the pan or spray with non-stick baking spray.
  2. Combine the butter, water, and canola oil in a medium saucepan set over medium heat and let butter melt.
  3. In a large bowl, stir together sugar, cocoa and flour.  Pour the butter mixture into the sugar mixture and whisk until smooth.
  4. Whisk in the eggs, one at a time, then whisk in the buttermilk.  Whisk in the baking soda, salt and vanilla all at once.
  5. Transfer the batter to the prepared pans.  For a 3 layer cake, stagger the cake layers on the oven racks so that no layer is directly over another.  Set two layers on one rack and the third on the other.  Bake 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of each layer comes out clean.
  6. Remove the cakes from the oven and cool on racks for about 15 minutes before inverting onto baking racks.  Cool the cakes completely, at least 2 hours, before frosting.

Frosting

  1. Whip the cream in a large bowl on high speed until soft peaks form (when you lift the beaters out and turn them upside down, there should be little peaks on the end of the beaters whose tips fall over quickly).
  2. Add the powdered sugar and whip until stiff peaks form (the peaks will stand tall and not fall over).
  3. Place first layer of cake onto serving plate and top with a layer of frosting.  Add second layer of cake and frosting and last layer of cake and frosting before frosting the sides of the cake with a thick layer of whipped cream.
  4. Put cake in fridge and let frosting set for 1 hour.

Glaze

  1. Place the chopped chocolate in a small bowl.  Heat the cream in a small saucepan until steaming and pour it over the chocolate.  Whisk until chocolate is fully melted.
  2. Stir in the corn syrup and vanilla until fully incorporated and set bowl aside to cool for 10 minutes.
  3. Drizzle the glaze along the top edge of the cake and cover the whole top of the cake with glaze.
  4. Many people finish with strawberries, often covered in chocolate, but strawberry season is just closing here so I decided to forgo them this time–but the next time I make this I will definitely be including them!

Caesar Salad Pizzas

26 Sep

I’ve been looking forward to this recipe ever since I first opened the Pastry Queen cookbook, so I knew that it would be a winner–Caesar salad, is my favorite after all.  I’ve attempted to make salad dressing myself before and, while it ended up okay, I wasn’t going to stop buying my favorite dressing (Annie’s Lite Herb Balsamic, if you were curious) in favor of my own.  I know now that whenever I need a Caesar dressing, it will without a doubt be homemade!  I thought the dressing was fantastic and, for the first time, I got to use the little drip hole tube in my food processor specifically for making salad dressing (I kept screeching at the Boyfriend to come watch this miracle tool in action).  I’m a bit of a Caesar salad purist, so I left off the tomatoes Rebecca suggests and, of course, the pizza crust was more than enough to substitute for croutons.  In a bit of a Southerner moment, I realized I had no coarse cornmeal in my kitchen and substituted grits instead, which worked fine.

The crust is good, if not a little thick for the amount of salad and I think going forward I would enjoy making a big salad and a half recipe of crust to cut up for breadsticks to accompany.  In the end, though, a great dinner!

As always, you can find my fellow Pastry Queen-ers versions of the recipe here; be sure to check them out!

Caesar Salad Pizzas
Yields four 8″ pizzas
Adapted from The Pastry Queen by Rebecca Rathers

Crust

  • 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water (110 degrees)
  • 2 oz active dry yeast (what’s usually available at the store is a strip of 1/4 oz packets)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus additional for brushing on crusts
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 4 to 5 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup coarse cornmeal
  • 1 cup freshly shredded Parmesan cheese

Dressing

  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 large eggs, beaten (or 1/2 cup pasteurized egg product)
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup freshly shredded Parmesan cheese
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 large head romaine lettuce, chopped
  • Freshly shaved Parmesan cheese
  1. Combine the lukewarm water, yeast, olive oil, and honey in a large mixing bowl.  Add 3 cups of all purpose flour, salt, and crushed red pepper and stir till well combined.  Add 1 additional cup of flour to the dough and stir in until combined.
  2. Turn contents of bowl onto a floured surface and knead dough until smooth and elastic (about 10-15 turns).  Place in large oiled bowl and cover and let rest at room temperature for 30-40 minutes.
  3. Generously coat 2 baking sheets with olive oil.  Sprinkle the sheets with cornmeal.  Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
  4. Divide the dough into quarters.  Roll each piece into a ball, place the dough balls on a clean baking sheet, cover with a damp towel and let rest for 10-15 minutes longer.
  5. Using a floured rolling pin, flatten each dough ball into an 8 inch circle.  Brush each dough round with olive oil and sprinkle each with 1 1/4 cup of cheese.  Transfer the crusts onto the prepared baking sheets and bake for 10-15 minutes until browned and crisp.
  6. While the crusts are baking, pull out the food processor and turn it on.  With it running, toss in the garlic cloves first, and once the cloves are as chopped as they can be (just a few seconds), then add the eggs, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce and mustard.  Wait a few seconds for it to fully combine and then either pour the olive oil in a slow steady stream through the open the feed tube, or find the empty cylinder with the small hole in the bottom and fill it up with olive oil.  It will take care of the slow steady stream for you!
  7. Toss the chopped lettuce with the salad dressing while the crusts cool for just a minute or two and then top the crusts with a big pile of salad.  Sprinkle with salt and fresh ground pepper. Yum!

King Ranch Casserole

12 Sep

Out of all of the recipes I’ve made for Project Pastry Queen, this is by far the most “Texan”.  Full of southwestern flavors, this is an extremely hearty casserole!  I admit I don’t love corn tortillas, so already this recipe was at a disadvantage in terms of going into my permanent recipe box, but the flavors all even out quite nicely and, while not my favorite PPQ recipe, it’s certainly one to pull out when your Texas relatives come to visit.

In typical Emily-fashion, I had a few forehead slapping moments.  I try to do my food shopping economically but also locally & organic when I can which means that I ended up going to three different grocery stores (which was not my intention).  Most of my basic ingredients came from Trader Joe’s, because they have the best prices, the local food co-op (appropriately called “The Co-op”) for my veggies, but then I still had to go to Von’s to get the poblano peppers because the co-op strangely enough had no chile peppers whatsoever.  So I’m happily cooking away and I’m to the part of the recipe where I start assembling the casserole when I realize with a jump–this is a chicken casserole…I didn’t buy any chicken today!  I blame it on the way the recipe is worded and arranged, since I didn’t make my own chicken stock, but in the end I can’t believe I didn’t put 2 and 2 together and remember to actually buy chicken.  All’s well that ends well.  I’m just glad I live only 2 blocks from the supermarket.

The whole roasting poblano peppers routine may seem really tedious, but I promise, learn now because one of my favorite recipes ever (and I mean EVER) uses roasted poblano peppers and you’ll be glad you have the technique down when I finally post it.

Also, I’ve been very slowly working towards liking mushrooms.  It’s an uphill battle, for sure, but I think that smelling the mushrooms simmering in butter was a turning point for me.  They smelled truly delicious.

Interesting Fact: this recipe is named for one of the biggest ranches in Texas but….it’s a ranch, which means beef, not chicken.  The ranch is just as confused you probably are about why the casserole got named after them.

Update: I have to say that while I wasn’t the biggest fan of this recipe at first, I’m loving the leftovers!  I think the flavors just needed time to meld in the fridge overnight.  This Home Plate‘s version for PPQ looks delicious with sides of salad and black beans–I know what I’m adding to my plate tomorrow night with the last bit of casserole!

King Ranch Casserole
The Pastry Queen by Rebecca Rather
10-12 servings

  • 1 roasted chicken, meat shredded
  • 3 poblano chiles, roasted and diced (Rebecca suggests New Mexican green chiles, but they’re pretty difficult to find)
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 8 oz button mushrooms, sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 3 1/2 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 can (10 oz) diced tomatoes
  • 18 corn tortillas
  • 1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • 1 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese (or do what I did and buy a bag of pre-shredded Mexican mix cheese which includes both Monterey Jack and Cheddar and is half the price of buying two blocks of the cheeses and shredding yourself)
  1. Roasting the Peppers: Turn the oven to broil and while that’s heating up, slice the poblano peppers in half, clean them of stems, seeds, and ribbing, then lay the pieces on a cookie sheet, skin side up.  They should lay as flat as possible–just squish them.  Slide the cookie sheet under the broiler element as close as it can go.  In my oven, there’s a little drawer in the bottom so I can slide them right up underneath the flame.  You want the skin to turn black and bubbly, which in this case doesn’t mean it’s burned, but instead means less work for you.  You really do want every inch of that skin bubbly because if it’s not, it just means you’ll have to put the peppers back in the oven (so leave it on after you take the peppers out, just in case).  Leave the peppers under the broiler for about 5 minutes.  When you pull them out, put them in a paper bag so they can sweat for 5 minutes.  Pull them out (they’ll be cool) and peel the skin off the peppers.  If you leave the skin on, it’s kind of like finding pieces of plastic wrap in your food.  The skin will come off pretty easily.  If there is still skin that won’t come off, just slice that part of the pepper off and put it back under the broiler for another 5 minutes.
  2. Making the Filling: Melt the butter in a large saute pan over medium heat.  Add the onion, bell pepper, mushrooms and garlic.  Saute on medium-low heat about 7 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Stir in the chili powder, cayenne, salt and pepper and cook for 1 minute.  Sprinkle the flour in the pan, 1/2 cup at a time, and stir until the white of the flour is no longer visible (I doubted it but it happens, I promise).  Whisk in 3 cups of chicken stock, 1 cup at a time, whisking until smooth after each addition.  Whisk in the cream and stir in the diced roasted chiles.  Add the tomatoes (juice and all).  The cream sauce will be nice and thick.
  3. Assembling the Casserole: Place 1/2 cup of chicken stock in a wide bowl so that you can lay 6 tortillas in the bowl flat and covered with the chicken stock.  Wait a few minutes while you get everything else ready.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9×13″ baking dish with butter.  Line the bottom of the baking dish with tortillas.  Rebecca suggests 6 per layer, saying that a thick layer of tortillas means it will be easier to cook, but I used fewer since I don’t like corn tortillas.  (Put the next 6 tortillas in the bowl of chicken stock.)  Cover the tortillas with half of the cream sauce.  Add half the chicken and sprinkle with 1/3 of the cheese.  Add a second layer of soaked tortillas (and put the last tortillas in the bowl to soak), the remaining cream sauce and chicken and another layer of cheese.  Top with the last layer of tortillas and sprinkle the rest of the cheese on top.
  4. Bake the casserole for 45 minutes until hot, bubbling, and lightly browned on top.  Remove the casserole from the oven and let sit about 10 minutes before cutting into squares and serve.

Bourbon Pecan Pie Bars

6 Sep


I have to admit, I was extremely hesitant about this week’s chosen recipe for Project Pastry Queen (see everyone’s results delicious results here!).  After all, I have my own secret special recipe for pecan pie and, since I was bringing this into the office for our September birthday celebration, if this recipe was a flop I did NOT want people thinking this was a version of my famous Thanksgiving pie.

But I saw that my fellow PPQ’ers loved the recipe and I decided to go for it and wouldn’t you know that this is a great recipe!  I can definitely say this though: it is RICH.  This recipe has a total of 7 cups of brown sugar in it–one cup in the crust and 6 cups in the filling.  Definitely meant to be eaten in very small portions.  I liked the addition of bourbon to it, though, and am even thinking about tweaking my own pie recipe just a touch to include it.

Just some notes about my little changes to Rebecca’s original recipe: I left out the coconut since the recipe depended on coconut for texture, not flavor, and I’ve never really loved shredded coconut’s texture.  I substituted in an extra 3/4 cup of pecans to make up for any lack of texture in the filling.  I also used strictly whole wheat flour in the crust here.  Truth be told, it was because I was afraid I would run out of white all-purpose flour before finishing my various baking projects for the day and I have to say that I think the whole wheat flour really was a great add.  It gave the crust a sweet nutty flavor that really complimented the filling instead of just being a sweet butter crust to support the filling on top of it.

This recipe makes a huge huge batch of bars, so just beware.  Also, I didn’t have the 12×17 baking dish the recipe calls for so I used my largest and second largest glass baking pans and I actually still had extra crust left over.

Bourbon Pecan Pie Bars
Makes about 2 1/2 dozen bars
Adapted from The Pastry Queen

Crust

  • 1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 4 cups whole wheat flour (white all-purpose flour can be used instead)
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Filling

  • 8 large eggs
  • 6 cups firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup bourbon
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 3/4 cups pecan halves

To Make Crust

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a 12×17″ glass baking pan (or whatever smaller glass pans you have on hand).
  2. Beat butter with an electric mixer in a large bowl on medium speed for 1 minute.  Add the sugar to the butter and beat 1 minute, until fluffy.
  3. Add flour and salt, mix on low speed until evenly incorporated but still crumbly.
  4. Press the mixture evenly over the bottom of the prepared pan(s).  I made sure not to let the crust get over 1/4 of an inch, which is why I had leftover crust mixture even after 2 pans.  I’d rather have more filling than crust in the end, wouldn’t you?
  5. Bake the crust for 15 minutes, until it has darkened to a deep golden brown.
  6. Leave the oven set on 350 degrees while you make the filling.

To Make Filling

  1. Whisk the eggs and sugar in a large bowl until blended.
  2. Stir in the bourbon, butter, vanilla, flour and salt until blended.
  3. Stir in pecan halves.
  4. Pour the filling over the crust(s).
  5. Bake until the center is set and doesn’t wobble anymore, about 25-30 minutes.
  6. Cool thoroughly, at least 30 minutes before cutting.

Between my two different pans, I baked one until it was fully set and one until it was mostly set but still a little jiggly when I took it out.  I preferred the one that was baked longer, as the jiggly one was a bit more oozy and less solid than the ones pictured above.  It’s up to you, though!

Almond Bliss German Chocolate Cake

29 Aug

I’ve always been hesitant to make a German Chocolate Cake because they’re not really my favorite flavor combo for cake and, quite frankly, I don’t think they look very pretty.  This being an assignment for Project Pastry Queen, I plowed ahead, hoping against hope that I would be able to create a cake worthy of posting…and well…here I am, so it all worked out for the best!

Let me start out by saying something Big and Important: this is my new go-to chocolate cake recipe.  I can take or leave the coconut custard icing that makes it an official German Chocolate Cake because it’s just not my favorite type of icing for a cake.  This is no Devil’s Food Cake, but it’s the perfect every day chocolate cake–soft, moist, and full of strong chocolate flavor.  I can’t wait for the next time I need chocolate cupcakes or a cake for a party, because I know I won’t have to scour over recipes and hope that the recipe I choose turns out okay.  If you do like coconut, this is a slightly different filling recipe as it utilizes cream of coconut for an extra punch of flavor and almonds instead of pecans.  I did like it in the end and, while not my favorite, it’s certainly a great recipe to have in your box if you love German Chocolate Cake!

In an interesting tidbit for the morning, Rebecca shared that German Chocolate Cake isn’t actually from the country of Germany, but from Texas and named for the brand name “German” chocolate.  Who knew!

Notes: Again, I left out the chocolate chips.  1 3/4 cups stirred in at the end if you want them.  Rebecca also uses almonds in place of the typical pecans, but I’m sure you can substitute pecans back in if you would prefer.  You’ll need three 9″ cake pans, which was a surprise since I only had 2 pans.  Also, make sure you have plenty of eggs on hand–you’ll need a total of 9!

Almond Bliss German Chocolate Cake
Recipe from The Pastry Queen


Cake

  • 8 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped into small pieces
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs, separated
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Custard Icing

  • 1 1/2 cups sliced almonds
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 1/2 cups sweetened cream of coconut (I found a bottle in the alcohol section next to the rum, since it’s used in pina coladas)
  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 3/4 cups sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 cups sweetened shredded coconut
  1. Place one baking rack 1/3 from the bottom of the oven and the second 2/3 from the bottom.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line the bottom of three 9: cake pans with parchment paper rounds, grease with butter and dust with flour.
  2. Place the chopped chocolate into a small bowl and pour the boiling water over the chocolate.  Stir until it is melted completely into a smooth sauce.
  3. In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar on medium for 2 minutes.  Add the egg yolks and beat for another minute.
  4. In a bowl, add the buttermilk and baking soda, stirring until it dissolves.  The buttermilk will gently foam up and double in volume, so be sure your bowl is big enough.
  5. Add half the buttermilk mixture to the butter-sugar-egg yolk mixture, beat on low until incorporated, then add half of the flour, beat, then the rest of the buttermilk and the rest of the flour, beating after each addition.
  6. Using a spatula, stir in the salt, vanilla, and melted chocolate.  (Stir in chocolate chips, if using.)
  7. In a clean medium bowl, beat the egg whites on high speed, until soft peaks form.  Gently fold the egg whites into the chocolate batter.
  8. Spoon the batter evenly into the prepared cake pans.
  9. Staggering the cake pans in the oven, put two on the top rack with lots of space in between, and the third on the bottom rack in the middle.  Bake for 30-35 minutes until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.  Keep an eye on them, as they could rise strangely (mine were most definitely lopsided) or the pans could finish baking at different times.
  10. After coming out of the oven, transfer pan to wire racks and after 5 minutes, take the cakes out of the pans and put them upside down directly on the wire racks (that should help them to even out if they rose unevenly).
  11. While the oven is still hot, spread the almonds evenly onto a rimmed baking sheet and toast the almonds for 5 to 7 minutes until golden brown.
  12. Heat the milk, cream of coconut and butter in a saucepan over medium heat utnil the butter has completely melted.
  13. In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks, sugar and cornstarch until smooth.  Pour 1 tablespoon of the hot milk mixture into the whisked egg yolk mixture and whisk until fully incorporated.  Repeat two more times (we’re warming the egg yolks up, “tempering them”, so that when we add them to the milk they don’t immediately curdle up into scrambled eggs).
  14. Slowly pour the tempered yolk mixture into the hot milk mixture, which still is over medium heat, whisking constantly.  Whisk constantly for 7-10 minutes until the mixture thickens and looks spreadable.  This happened at exactly the 7 minute mark for me, but I kept going for a few more minutes just in case.  I would rather have slightly over done frosting than frosting that just dribbled down the sides of the cake!
  15. Stir the shredded coconut and the toasted almonds into the custard mixture.  Let the icing cool for at least 15 minutes.
  16. If your cake layers aren’t exactly even, as mine weren’t, you can take a serrated knife and cut the tops off so that they lay flat when stacked.  Bonus:  the tops you cut off are all yours to eat!
  17. Put one layer of cake on the plate, spread icing on top, and repeat with the other layers–I put the top layer on upside down so that the perfectly flat side was facing up.  It was a prettier surface for laying down icing on.  Do not frost the sides of the cake, and you’ll have a surprisingly beautiful specimen of a German Chocolate Cake!  I think leaving the sides clean goes a long way towards avoiding the sticky gloppy mess you usually see of German Chocolate Cakes.
  18. Rebecca suggests you wrap the cake well if you don’t plan to eat it within 3 hours.  I say, see how long it lasts!

Cappuccino Cheesecakes

22 Aug

First, a short programming note–my apologies for the missing post on Friday!  I was out of town and had set up a post to automatically publish on Friday morning but I missed a button somewhere and it didn’t get posted for you.  I’ll save it for later this week!  And on to our regularly scheduled programming…

Another entry for Project Pastry Queen, this is without a doubt my favorite recipe from the cookbook so far and possibly my new favorite cheesecake recipe. Granted, I’d never made cheesecake before this recipe, but I think these individual cheesecakes are perfect in every way. They’re small enough that you have automatic portion control. They’re not giant thick layers of cheesecake, but instead surprisingly thin–and surprisingly, the perfect amount. You’ll find yourself satisfied but without indulging in the thousands of calories you might with a normal sized slice. The crust is crunchy, chocolatey, and buttery and is in perfect ratio to the filling. You can’t beat the cappuccino-chocolate flavor combination and the silky chocolate ganache on top is just to die for!

Long story short: do not pass go, do not collect $200. Go directly to the kitchen and make these cheesecakes!

Note: I went to a few different fancy food stores looking for the tins for this recipe before finding exactly what I needed at my local big grocery store.  The tins you want are just the cheap aluminum foil pans, about 5″ across.  The ones I found came in a pack of 3, with big clear plastic lids for each tin (VERY handy for transporting to work the next day for our picnic!) and were labeled “pot pie pans”. 

Also, my true confession for this week from yours truly: I don’t actually like chocolate chips in desserts unless they’re melted and gooey in chocolate chip cookies.  Even then, I go for the cookies with fewer chips.  As such, I left the chocolate chips called for in this recipe and didn’t miss them one bit.  I think they would have interfered with the rich, smooth texture and the ganache more than makes up for any potential lack of chocolate. If you want to add them, stir 1 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips into the filling batter just before baking.

Cappuccino Cheesecakes
Makes 8 Individual Cheesecakes
Adapted from The Pastry Queen

Crust

  • 1 package (16 oz) Oreos
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, melted

Filling

  • 2 teaspoons instant espresso powder
  • 1 tablespoon boiling water
  • 2 packages (8 oz) cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 large eggs

Ganache

  • 4 oz bittersweet chocolate (my suggestion: 1 bar of Ghiradelli)
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Put the cookies in a food processor and pulse until all the cookies are now just crumbs.  Pour the melted butter in and pulse until butter is fully combined.
  2. Press the cookie-butter mixture into the bottom and about an inch up the sides of the pans.  There should be just enough cookie mixture for the 8 tins.  Set tins aside.
  3. In a small bowl, combine espresso powder with the boiling water and mix.
  4. In a large bowl and using an electric mixer, combine the cream cheese, sugar, salt and coffee mixture.  Add the eggs all at once and beat on medium about 1 minute.
  5. Pour the cream cheese mixture over the chocolate crusts.  I think I used a 1/3 measuring cup and did a scoop of batter for each tin.  You want to leave just a little space between the top of the batter and the top of the crust because you need room for the ganache to sit on top later.
  6. Bake the cakes for 35 minutes until the filling is set.  Cool for 20 minutes while you make the ganache.
  7. Now I’m going to tell you a story right here in the middle of the instructions.  There once was an impatient baker named Emily, who ruined her ganache at 10:30 at night and had to go buy another chocolate bar to finish her recipe before taking it to work the next morning for a picnic.  Do not be as impatient as Emily!  Basically, I thought I knew what I was doing, heated the milk too hot and dumped the chocolate into the milk instead of what the instructions said.  I ended up with a clumpy greasy mess instead of the silky gorgeous ganache I was supposed to have.  Second try was beautiful, because I followed the instructions.
  8. Chop the chocolate into small pieces and put them in a medium bowl.
  9. Heat the cream in a small sauce pan until it is hot and just beginning to steam.
  10. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate in the bowl and stir until it is completely melted.
  11. Stir in corn syrup and vanilla.  Let cool for a few minutes.
  12. Using a normal spoon, I carefully poured a couple of spoonfuls of ganache over each cheesecake.  Gently tilt the tins back and forth and around to make sure the ganache spreads and covers the whole top so that no cheesecake is showing through the top or around the edges.
  13. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or up to 3 days.
  14. You can pop the cheesecakes out of their tins to serve or, as I did, cut them into 4 wedges and let people take a wedge as they please.
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