Sunday, May 31, 2009

Dancing in the Kitchen

Some days you just need cookies, not want,... but need, cookies.

Each one so toasty, so affectionate, so courteous as they travel to your tummy and send happy trails of crumbs from your fingertips and throughout every inch of your dancing limbs as they leap from bowl to oven to mouth.

Cookies: Dancing Fairy Oatmeal
My problem with every oatmeal cookie I've had previously is they are often too heavy on the flour, leaving no crispy outer rim nor chewy, buttery inside.

Well, that will not do, so today I started with butter and oatmeal and I figured the rest I would leave up to the cookie fairies.

I love it when the cookie fairies come to visit! Invite them to your kitchen with this scrumptious recipe that will not disappoint!
1 stick butter
½ cup shortening
¾ cup brown sugar
½ cup sugar
Cream sugars and butter together until shiny

Add 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
2 teaspoons peanut butter
2 eggs
Mix until smooth

½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup oatmeal
1 ½ cups flour
2 tablespoons wheat germ
Stir in until all flour is incorporated

Bake at F350°, 8-12 minutes until edges are browned
Cool on wire rack or paper towel
What are your favorite cookies?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Welcome Reprieve

This month's Daring Bakers challenge was not nearly as difficult as I had anticipated. When I first read the instructions, the whole "to make it easier to pull the dough, you can use your hip to secure the dough against the edge of the table;" had me pretty nervous - even before my hip stress fracture. Truthfully, I had no trouble at all! which in my condition was a welcome reprieve.

The May Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Linda of Make Life Sweeter! and Courtney of Coco Cooks. They chose Apple Strudel from the recipe book Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague by Rick Rodgers.

Strudel: Crust
Filling: Almond
The challenge itself was in making the strudel dough with the option of filling the dough with whatever we wished; I chose a sweet almond medley. The delicate flavor of baked almonds in maple syrup strikes a harmonic balance between distinction and purity, paired with this flaky crust creates a picturesque confection.

1 ⅓ cups unbleached flour
⅛ teaspoon salt
7 tablespoons water, plus more if needed
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus additional for coating the dough
½ teaspoon cider vinegar
Mix together until a soft dough forms
Add additional water if necessary (I added an extra ¼ cup)

Knead dough together for several minutes

Shape the dough into a ball and transfer to a bowl or plate
Oil the top of the dough ball lightly
Cover the ball tightly with plastic wrap
Allow to stand for a minimum of 30 minutes (I let mine sit overnight)

Preparing Dough to Fill:
Official instructions:
Cover your working area with table cloth, dust it with flour and rub it into the fabric
Put your dough ball in the middle and roll it out as much as you can
Pick the dough up by holding it by an edge - this way the weight of the dough and gravity can help stretching it as it hangs
Use the back of your hands to gently stretch and pull the dough
Use your forearms to support it
The dough will become too large to hold, lay out on work surface
Leave the thicker edge of the dough to hang over the edge of the table
Place your hands underneath the dough and stretch and pull the dough thinner using the backs of your hands
Stretch and pull the dough until it's about 2x3 feet and tissue thin
Cut away the thick dough around the edges with scissors

My Instructions:
Lay out cheesecloth, or bakers mat and lightly flour
Stretch out dough as much as you can with your fingers, place on mat and roll out with rolling pin
I used a heavy marble rolling pin and was able to roll the dough tissue thin with no intense pulling, tugging or manipulating
A few small holes will be okay
With your fingers rub the dough with melted butter
(Really! That's all I did!)

1 egg
¼ cup Karo syrup
¼ cup sugar
¼ maple syrup (grade B pure)
⅛ salt
Whisk together until smooth

Add 1 cup sliced almonds, stir to coat almonds evenly

Rather than make one large strudel, I opted to make six smaller hand pies by slicing the rolled out dough into six even portions, separating the filling evenly among each portion
Wrap dough tightly over the filling and fold over sides, continuing to roll until the dough is completed wrapped around and snug
*If you have thicker dough when you reach the end, simply put tight and thin as you complete wrapping

Melt 4oz butter in deep bowl
Coat hand pie in butter, and sugar

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper
Place hand pies evenly on sheet
Bake at 400°F, 30 minutes
Remove from oven and rub lightly with a bit of lemon juice
Let cool 15 minutes, serve warm or at room temperature with a bit of maple syrup

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

7 Day Itch

One thing I've never been too keen on: stretching. Stretching in my opinion, is like pre-soaking laundry. When you pre-soak laundry, you are putting clothes in water with soap, just before you put them in water with soap. I've just always felt like running was stretching, in that when running one conquers long strides and achieves warm muscles; isn't that the same product of stretching?

Combine repetitive running uphill on concrete, favoring one leg to alleviate pain from the opposite ankle, plus no stretching = stress fracture. Hip stress fracture. Hip stress fracture = nothing but lying in bed.

I mentioned when we went to San Francisco, I can't go without baking for too long before I start to get the itch. It's the the same feeling my husband gets when he hasn't drawn for days, or I presume my sister gets about sewing, or my mother about collecting cardboard boxes (I tease). Needless to say, lying in bed has made me itchy. But... what can someone with a stress fracture make while supported with crutches?

Ice Cream: Iced Lemon

My favorite ice cream hands down is Tillamook French Vanilla Ice Cream. Tillamook products are not available nationwide, and Tillamook Ice Cream is only available in Oregon, Washington and Northern California. Lucky for us, Tillamook is just about an hour away from us here in Portland and it is always a treat to visit the Tillamook Cheese Factory sampling every kind of cheese imaginable, taking home a bag of squeaky cheese, and delighting in freshly churned Tillamook Ice Cream.

A few years ago (and many times since then) acting on an illicit craving for lemons, I squeezed a few fresh lemons whipped up with Tillamook French Vanilla Ice Cream. Today for Sugar High Fridays I decided to make the real thing; fully cognizant of the fact that no ice cream I make will ever truly compete with Tillamook.

This month's theme is "Sweet Without the Wheat", hosted by Zilla at Climbin' the Walls.
2 cups heavy cream
2 cups milk
1 cup sugar
Begin to warm over med heat

Add zest and juice of two large lemons
¼ teaspoon vanilla
Dash of salt

Whisk 2 eggs, temper with cream mixture, return to pan
Continue to cook just until mixture begins to boil, stirring constantly
Turn heat off, continue stirring until mixture has cooled slightly
Pour into medium sized bowl, chill

Just prior to churning, add zest and juice of one additional lemon
Make ice cream according to manufacturers instructions

It is smooth, perky, and creamy and definitely cools a bad temper from lying in bed for 8 days missing the first and probably only 80° weather of the season, all the new blooms, particularly the new roses, not getting to enjoy the park with the furries, and knowing I have another 21 days of bed ridden fun!

Monday, May 25, 2009

One Tasty Tradition

One family tradition I remember vividly, is eating Apple Pancakes at The Original Pancake House on our annual trip to Eugene, Oregon to support and watch my sister Pamela run (and win!) at the State Track and Field Championships.

I suppose there were other things on the menu, but we always chose the Apple Pancakes. They are a version of a Swedish pancake lathered with caramelized apples and cinnamon sugar and they are incredible! They are a little sticky with perfectly sautèed apples for a bit of a crunch and oozing with buttery drops of European flavor.

While reading all of the delectable cheesecakes created for April's Daring Bakers Challenge I suddenly became inspired to make a caramelized apple cheesecake by following the same process as my favorite pancake house.

Cake: Apple Cheesecake
Crust: Peanut Graham

¾ cup graham crackers
¾ cup finely chopped peanuts
6 tablespoons melted butter
2 tablespoons sugar
pinch of salt
Mix together and press into bottom of lightly buttered 9" or 11" springform pan, and along sides if desired
Bake at 300°F for 5 minutes

Cheesecake: Recipe

2 medium apples, cored and sliced
2 tablespoons butter
¼ cup karo syrup
½ cup brown sugar
In heavy cast iron pan sautè apples on medium, stirring occasionally, until apples are browned and mixture has become thick and sticky
Pour cheesecake into crust and smooth to edges Lightly spoon apples and sauce over top of cheesecake batter Bake at 300°F for 45 minutes, until set but middle still wobbles (The apples will likely have fallen into the cake and indented the form of the cake - do not be alarmed this will only enhance the cake) Turn oven off, leave cake in oven to cool slightly, about 15 minutes Drizzle 4oz. Caramel Sweet Sauce over the top of the cake and leave in oven to cool for 30 minutes Run knife along edges of pan before removing rim Place in fridge to set completely

I barely got a picture of this last piece before someone swiped it!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Comedy Routine

My husband, ever the comedian.

I asked Gabriel to preheat the oven for my brownies today to 350° - he asked, "Oh, is that the temperature at which sweets happen?"

Gabriel is a pretty funny guy but what is even better is when he thinks he's made an extremely funny joke. If I don't laugh when Gabriel is purposefully being funny, he will wait patiently as he peers at me out of the corner of his eye, waiting or hoping for a belated laugh... and if he doesn't get that he'll either repeat his joke or elaborate, without relenting, until he gets the laugh he is hoping for, which of course he'll promptly receive merely because of the hilarious effort he is putting forth.

He and I often joke how similar we are to Doug and Carrie on "King of Queens"; we heart the Heffernen's.

Brownies: Chocolate Cake
Frosting: Mint Buttercream
Glaze: Chocolate

Shockingly, I used a brownie mix! I have to admit - I love brownie mixes! They are the one and only thing I eat and/or enjoy out of a box; however the brownie mix makers have the additions slightly wrong.
Discard that box along with anything extra that may have come in the box, and add instead:
¼ cup vegetable or canola oil
¼ cup water
¼ cup milk or buttermilk
3 eggs
Whisk together, pour into greased 9x13 rectangle pan
Bake for 15 -20 minutes, turn oven off and let cool in oven

2-3 cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons Crisco
½ cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
¼ - ½ cup milk
Mint flavoring to taste
Green food coloring to desired color
Beat with electric mixer until smooth
Spread over top of cooled brownies
Allow frosting to set and form a crust before preparing glaze

10 oz. chocolate
5 tablespoons butter
Melt chocolate and butter and stir until smooth, pour over frosting layer, let set
I grew up on these delicious brownies. I don't know what prompted my mother to create this wonderful creation, but these are a top favorite of mine. Second to the taste is that they are truly beautiful, and the flawless chocolate layer looks so delicate and fragile that it is a delightful surprise to bite into it and discover that it is as smooth as the minty frosting layer beneath it.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Happy Birthday Alex!

Alex is a comrade of Gabriel's from the Art Institute and a few days ago his girlfriend contacted us about helping throw him a surprise birthday party! Though I do have some experience throwing Gabriel a whopping cool 30th surprise birthday party last year, I was far more concerned with who was making the cake!

She was going to purchase one from Costco... of course I intervened.

Cake: Comatose (Deep Chocolate Chocolate Chip)
Filling: Chocolate Sweet Sauce
Frosting: Chocolate Buttercream

All this chocolate is sure to make you comatose, as the name indicates, but you'll never have better dreams than after falling prey to this beauty.
2 cups sugar
2 sticks butter
½ cup oil
Mix until elements are of the same consistency

Add 4 egg yolks, one at a time, beating after each addition and 1 teaspoon vanilla

Melt 4oz. semi sweet chocolate in 1 cup water, mix to smooth

1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
Stir dry ingredients into batter
Add 1 cup buttermilk, whisk to smooth
Stir in remaining 1 cup flour with 1 cup mini semi sweet chocolate chips

Whisk 4 egg whites to firm peaks and fold into batter

Pour batter evenly into two greased and lined 9" round cake pans
Bake at 350°F for 20-25 minutes, until cake springs back to the touch
Run knife along edge of pan, and cool on wire rack

Slice each cake round in half
Spread an even layer of Fahrenheit 350° Chocolate Sweet Sauce between each layer, and between two cake rounds
Reserve a little sauce to line perimeter of cake prior to frosting

3 cups powdered sugar
3 cups cocoa powder

6 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons Crisco
2 teaspoons vanilla
+/- ¼ cup milk for consistency
Layer outside and top of cake with frosting and decorate as desired

Monday, May 18, 2009

Back to Basics

There are a few staple cookies one must always have in their cookie repertoire, and in my book Gingersnaps are part of that repertoire.

After making my Gabriel's Favorite Cheesecake with hard crunchy ginger cookies, I found myself craving a batch of soft aromatic scratch made Gingersnaps. They are so easy, so tempting, and so satisfying!

Cookie: Gingersnaps

1 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
¼ cup molasses
Cream together, then add 1 egg mixing until fluffy

2 ¼ cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon salt

Roll into 1oz balls and coat in granulated sugar
Bake at 350°F, 7-9 minutes
Cool on wire rack

Saturday, May 16, 2009

It's All Worth It... In the End

This is not my week for photos.

After the awful Mother's Day photos of my Chocolate Lemon Tart, and my subsequent cursing (j/k I don't swear!) at the said photographs, and for realistic dramatics let us throw in a bit of exasperated sighs and flailing my arms about, my sweet Gabriel built me a lightbox; I didn't even ask for it! Unfortunately however, creating a magical lightbox does not an incredible photographer make.

My first frustration was at having the wrong bulbs, though this excellent tutorial explicitly states to use "daylight florescent 60-75 watt", and I was left with dark yellow pictures. After remedying that obstacle, I discovered too little tissue paper, i.e. one thin sheet, will create overexposed washed out photos! And then... despite reading the manual over multiple times I still do not understand how to manipulate the shutter and aperture settings, other than in such a way to make my photos grainy. And then, I learned that my camera will refuse to focus when zoomed in!

My camera will now synonymously be referred to as Satan... even Photoshop doesn't have power against this destroyer.

What's worse is all this happened over the span of a few days as I was baking for a big group dinner, a birthday party, and a Fringe night! So, lucky readers... more bad pictures to come (this is almost worse then when I was using my cell phone camera)!

The lightbox itself however, is a beautiful contraption: illusory, whimsical, enchanted, benevolent,... as are most things that arise from Gabriel's machinations. He is quite the catch. Plus, he sliced it all together quite frugally with discarded items from the maintenance shop; an old cardboard box spray painted white with killz, two useless ratty old lamps disbanded, a piece of leftover wood and violà! And, I think I've got the lightbox, and perhaps my camera, figured out.

Cake: Gabriel's Favorite Cheese
This is the lightest, smoothest cheesecake you will ever enjoy. It will entice you with each morsel as it slides across your tongue and fuses with your taste buds. It is soooo decadent that you won't be embarrassed to show horrendous pictures of it on your blog.


½ cup graham cracker crumbs
½ cup hard crisp ginger cookie crumbs
½ cup butter wafer cookie crumbs
6 tablespoons melted butter
2 tablespoons sugar
Press into bottom of lightly greased 9" or 11" springform pan, and along sides if desired
Bake at 300°F for 5 minutes

24oz. cream cheese
¾ cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ cup sour cream
¾ cup whipping cream
Mix until smooth and airy

Add 3 egg yolks, one at a time, mix until smooth

Whip egg whites and fold into mixture

Pour over crust
Bake at 300°F, 45 minutes
Turn off oven and let cool 20 minutes in oven, enough for cake to deflate

1 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla
Mix to light and smooth

Return heat to 300°F, pour glaze over top of cake and smooth
Cook additional 10 minutes, turn oven off, let cool in oven for 45 minutes

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Heart Shapes

A few years ago on Mother's Day, Gabriel passed me this note in Sacrament meeting:

Many years later this Mother's Day, the eggs are still quite content unfertilized which keeps the furries quite happy having me all to themselves... going to the park... running... weekend road trips on a whim... endless days swimming at the beach... treats instead of dinner... snuggling in bed together after Gabriel goes to work...

This year my brainy beau treated me to a tasty, heart shaped breakfast in bed -

with a mood setting backdrop of a dozen red blooming roses -

and... chocolate of course.

Gabriel had also expressed a desire to make me a Mother's Day dessert, but he has been hard at work (very nearly killing himself) to finish a project for a very exciting potential job, so I willingly stepped in. Sometimes Gabriel thinks he is a machine, and sometimes I'm convinced that he's right.

He and I both enjoy a delicious dessert from Dorie Greenspan: The Most Extraordinary Lemon Tart, so when thumbing through my favorite cookbook and seeing a recipe for a Chocolate Lemon Tart with lemon glaze and filling I was already addicted without having even made it yet.

Tart: Chocolate Lemon
Filling: Chocolate Ganache, Lemon Curd
Glaze: Lemon Custard
Yields: 8-12 Tartlets
This recipe comes once again courtesy of "The Cooks Encyclopedia of Chocolate" pg. 210.

Making this dessert requires both time and patience, as you can likely surmise from the title and counterparts alone. This dessert is both lovely and delicious, but it doesn't come close to replacing the very aptly named Extraordinary Lemon Tart - nonetheless it proved a delightful addition to a beautiful Mother's Day in the Olson home.
Chocolate Pastry:
Melt ½ cup butter and 2 tablespoons cold water

1 ½ cups flour
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
Stir to smooth, chill
Roll out to ¼" thickness and line tart dishes
Prick with a fork and blind bake at 375° for 7-10 minutes
Let cool

Lemon Custard Glaze:
Heat to boil zest of one lemon and 1 ½ cups milk
Drain and return milk to stove on low

Lightly whisk 6 eggs and ½ cup of sugar
Temper the milk with the egg mixture, and return to heat
Cook until mixture lightly coats the back of a spoon
Stir in 2 tablespoons lemon juice
Let chill
Lemon Curd:
1 tablespoon lemon zest
4 tablespoons lemon juice
¾ cup butter
2 cups of sugar
In a double boiler, stir over low heat

Add 3 eggs and cook, stirring constantly for 15 minutes, until mixture is clear and glossy and coats the back of a spoon

Strain and chill

Chocolate Ganache Filling:
Bring ¾ cup cream to a boil, remove from heat and stir in 6oz. of chocolate
When chocolate is fully melted, stir in 2 tablespoons of butter

Pour chocolate filling into baked tart shells to fill halfway
Chill for 10 minutes
Spoon lemon curd over chocolate to fill shell
Ladle custard glaze over tart and decorate with melted chocolate and lemon curls

*I recommend making the glaze and custard the evening prior, the pastry and ganache the day off

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Sans Macadamia Nuts

I had an epiphany this morning: My priorities are wack.

A typical day for me starts with rolling out of bed when I finally feel too guilty to stay in bed any longer. Then I immediately pop open the laptop and check my multiple email accounts, facebook, reader, and news settling myself in our oversized chair which is much easier to climb into then climb out of. And that, pretty much covers it.

Today however, I had a wonderful opportunity to visit with an incredible woman who has endured a lifetime of difficulties and bake a delicious dessert for her!

Brownie: White Chocolate Oreo Cake
Topping: Sweet Chocolate
This recipe is adapted from "The Cooks Encyclopedia of Chocolate" page 223 White Chocolate Brownies with Macadamia Topping; adapted only because I thought when I started I had Macadamia Nuts and White Chocolate only to discover I had neither.

Now obviously the description above is a bit of a stretch, but this week as I've been recovering from preparing for, traveling to and from the Art Shoppe and running all over Utah for a week it seems like I can't seem to shake this suffocating tiredness!

This beautiful dessert is a showoff! Plus it is super easy and creates a scrumptious and chewy brownie pie that will beg to be made again and again.

6oz. Hershey's Cookies 'n' Creme Chocolate Candy Bar
½ cup sugar
½ cup butter
Melt over med low heat until melted

Whisk in 2 lightly beaten eggs and ½ teaspoon vanilla

1 cup flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
Stir until mixture is incorporated and smooth

Pour into greased 9" springform pan
Bake at 350°, 20 minutes

Remove from oven
Immediately pour 7oz. sweetened condensed milk over top of brownies
Layer with ¾ cup mini semi sweet chocolate chips
Let cool

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