Desserts

Labor Day with the family

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Batten down the hatches!!!  My parents and my brother are driving up from Florida to visit me for Labor Day.  Plus I got some other cousins and aunts and uncles coming in from about an hour away.  Lord help!  It’s not that I don’t want them to visit — it’s the planning that can be tricky.  And figuring out a menu isn’t going to be easy.  Maybe I can talk my cousin into bringing something to help with the menu.  What would be nice is having a whole roast pig, but since that ain’t gonna happen I’m going to have to improvise.  And too bad my grill just busted.  Good thing there’s still the trusty Smokey Joe. . . and as a side note, here’s what the Department of Labor says about Labor Day.

Luckily, another aunt and uncle (also from Florida) came in for a visit a few weeks ago so the meal they had here was essentially a trial run.  But since there’s gonna be more people, I’m going to need to expand a bit.  I do want to make some stuff focused on local goods and made in Michigan things, but I also want to make some things that I know they’ll like.  I did find some Labor Day ideas at Grilling.com, Martha, and Yum Sugar.  So here’s what I might end up doing (which I hope to post on these new ones soon):

Roast pork shoulder

Sautéed green beans with mushrooms

Ratatouille

Grilled corn

Fresh Lumpia

Bibingka

Zucchini Ribbons with Garlic Confit

Empanadas

Steamed Mussels with Glass noodle

Koegel’s viennas

Something with Rhubarb (probably a Raspberry and Rhubarb tart)

San Miguel

Oberon

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Of course all this planning might just go out the window, so I’m going to wait until the last minute to do any shopping.  There’ll probably be a trip to Windsor in the making.  Or maybe a quick jaunt to Toronto (if I’m lucky)!

Chocolate Truffles Cake

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This is inspired from one of Martha’s wedding cakes.  I’m not sure what her recipe is, but I just love the concept of it — it’s a cake encased in truffles!  That has got to be good!  Now this is for that birthday party that I was talking about a while ago; it went with the raspberry cupcakes.  And since I made extra raspberry buttercream for the cupcakes, I used that to fill the cake.  So because it was for a party, I couldn’t cut it open to take a picture of a cross-section.  You could just use more ganache for a filling, or whatever buttercream you like.  Maybe a nice orange curd would be good.  Might be a good Halloween cake with the colors.

Like I mentioned before, this party was supposed to be pink and purple.  So I rolled some of the truffles in some purple dragées to keep in the theme.  This made 2 tall 6″ cakes.  I split the cakes in half so there’s four layers to it.  They did rise in the middle, but they settled after cooling.  Be aware that this is one of my more involved cakes.  Not that it’s difficult; it just has a lot of steps.  Here’s what you need:

For the cake:

  • 1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 t. baking soda
  • 2 t. baking powder
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1 1/2 sticks butter at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 c. sugar
  • 2/3 c. Dutch process cocoa
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 t. vanilla
  • 1 1/2 c. warm water

1.  Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.  Spray two 6 inch cake pans with cooking spray.  Line with parchment rounds; spray the rounds as well.  Sift together the dry ingredients twice (flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt).  Set aside.  Sift the cocoa powder into a small bowl and set aside.

2.  In the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle, beat the butter for about 1 – 2 minutes.  Gradually adding the sugar, mix for about 3 – 5 minutes until fluffy.  Add the cocoa powder and mix for another minute.

3.  Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition (scrape down the sides, too!).  Add the vanilla and mix to combine.

4.  On low, gradually add the flour mixture in three additions, alternating with two additions of the water.  Scrape the sides and mix evenly.

5.  Pour half the mixture into each pan.  Bake for about 35 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean.  Cool the cakes in the pans for about 15 minutes before turning them out onto cooling racks.

For the ganache frosting:

  • 6 oz. bittersweet chocolate
  • 2 sticks of butter
  • 2 c. confectioners sugar
  • 2 t. vanilla

1.  Place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl and melt over a double boiler.  You could just put it in the microwave for 20 seconds at a time since tempering the chocolate is not as important.  After completely melted, set aside.

2.  In another bowl, beat the butter until creamy for about a minute or so.  Gradually add in the sugar, mixing well to combine.  Beat in the vanilla and the melted chocolate.  Mix until smooth and well combined.  Set aside.

For the truffles:

  • 1 c. heavy cream
  • 1 lb. dark chocolate, chopped
  • cocoa powder
  • dutch process cocoa powder
  • purple dragée

1.  Place chocolate in medium-sized heat-proof bowl.  In a small saucepan, bring the cream to a boil.  Once the cream starts to boil, pour the cream over the chocolate.  Let sit for about 5-7 minutes and stir to combine.  Cool in the refrigerator for around 30 minutes, until set.

2.  Using a small ice cream scoop, form balls around 1 1/2 in. wide.  Roll the truffles in either of the cocoa powders or the dragée.  Place in the refrigerator to harden for about 10 minutes.  Cut each truffle in half, and place back in the refrigerator until needed.

Assemble the cake:

1.  After cooling, cut out a small notch or sliver out of the sides of the cakes to act as a marker.  That way you can match up the marks when assembling the cake.  Split the cakes in half lengthwise so that you will have four even layers.

2.  Place a small dab of frosting on top of a cake round (or a serving dish) and place the bottom layer of one of the cakes.  Line the edges of the round with strips of parchment that are tucked underneath the edges of the cake.

3.  Spread about 1/2 c. of the frosting on the bottom layer and smooth out almost to the edge.  Top with the top layer of that cake, lining up the notches on the side.  Smooth out another 1/2 c. of the frosting on top.  Repeat with the other two layers.

4.  Frost the sides of the cake starting with the top and bringing the frosting down to smooth out the sides.  Smooth out the top.

5.  With a small palette knife or the back of a small spoon, place a dab of frosting on the back of a truffle half and attach it to the cake.  Repeat until the sides of the cake are covered in truffles.  You could try to make a fancy pattern here, but I just stuck with columns of the different truffles in random order.

Notes — As I mentioned earlier, the filling for the cake that I made was a raspberry buttercream, so if you just use the ganache frosting, you’ll probably need a double batch, depending on how much you use in between the layers. . . you could just make things easier on your self and use store-bought truffles, or maybe some Baci chocolates. . . I did (begrudgingly) eventually put some purple sugar flowers on top of the cake since those were part of the party theme.  I prefer to just have a smooth top of the cake. . . although I prefer the more irregular shapes of truffles, you could make perfectly round truffles for this.  That might be appropriate for a more formal event.  But they are called truffles because, after you roll them around in the cocoa, they look like those things that you pull out of the ground!

Peanut Butter Pie for Mikey

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This recipe has been making the rounds on the food blogs so I thought I’d give it a try.  For those who don’t know the story, a fellow food blogger (In Jennie’s Kitchen) experienced a recent tragedy with the unexpected death of her husband Mikey.  The two of them have two young girls, ages 8 and 3.  This recipe was one of his favorites and she had been meaning to make it for him, but sadly she never got the chance.

In his honor, I made this.  But I didn’t make it just for him, but for the folks that I love too.  So the next chance that you get, tell those special people in your life that you love them.  As Jennie writes in her blog, “. . . hug them like there’s no tomorrow because today is the only guarantee we can count on.

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Creamy Peanut Butter Pie

Serves 10 to 12

8 ounces chocolate cookies
4 tablespoons butter, melted
4 ounces finely chopped chocolate or semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup chopped peanuts
1 cup heavy cream
8 ounces cream cheese
1 cup creamy-style peanut butter
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
1 – 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

Add the cookies to the bowl of a food processor and pulse into fine crumbs.  Combine melted butter and cookie crumbs in a small bowl, and stir with a fork to mix well.  Press mixture into the bottom and 1-inch up the sides of a 9-inch springform pan.

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave.  Pour over bottom of cookie crust and spread to the edges using an off-set spatula.  Sprinkle chopped peanuts over the melted chocolate. Place pan in the refrigerator while you prepare the filling.

Pour the heavy cream into a bowl and beat using a stand mixer or hand mixer until stiff peaks form.  Transfer to a small bowl and store in refrigerator until ready to use.  Place the cream cheese and peanut butter in a deep bowl.  Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy.  Reduce speed to low and gradually beat in the confectioner’s sugar.  Add the sweetened condensed milk, vanilla extract and lemon juice. Increase speed to medium and beat until all the ingredients are combined and filling is smooth.

Stir in 1/3 of the whipped cream into the filling mixture (helps lighten the batter, making it easier to fold in the remaining whipped cream).  Fold in the remaining whipped cream.  Pour the filling into the prepared springform pan.  Drizzle the melted chocolate on top, if using, and refrigerate for three hours or overnight before serving.

Notes — I did follow an adaptation of this recipe that makes a 10″ pie.  I got that recipe from the blog The Shiksa in the Kitchen.

Fresh Raspberry Cupcakes

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So I had to make some cupcakes for a birthday party and I thought to myself, “Waterlily, what’s fresh today?”  I don’t refer to myself as “Waterlily” like Blanche Devereaux; I just wanted to see if you were paying attention.  Raspberries was the answer!  Seemed like a nice safe thing to do since my “weirder” concoctions don’t always go over so well (but I still love my Lavender Cupcakes with a Honey Buttercream which really isn’t too weird. . . not like some of my other ones).  Plus the colors of the party are supposed to be pink and purple (at least, that’s what I was told but wasn’t exactly true) and raspberries fit the bill nicely!

I do have a confession though — the raspberries weren’t quite freshalicious.  They were bought the week before I needed them (at the local farmers market) and I wasn’t quite sure that they would make it.  So I froze them!  Which was fine since they were being baked in the oven anyway.  They would have been freshalicious if I had a chance to go to the mid-week farmers market.  The ones on top were very fresh, of course.

The inspiration for this is from Martha of course and her strawberry cupcakes.  It seems if you ever need some gold standard for something, it never hurts to turn to Martha.  I did change some stuff around though.

This recipe makes about 2 1/2 dozen.  Here’s what you need:

For the cupcakes:

  • 2 1/2 c. flour
  • 1/2 c. cornstarch
  • 1 T. baking powder
  • 1 t. salt
  • 2 sticks butter
  • 2 c. sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 c. milk
  • 1 t. vanilla
  • 1 1/2 c. raspberries, coarsely chopped

1.  Preheat the oven to 350.  Line cupcake / muffin tin with paper liners and set aside.

2.  In the bowl of a mixer, beat the butter until fluffy and gradually add your sugar.  Mix well for about 5 minutes.  Now add your eggs one at a time, mixing to combine after each addition.  Then, mix in the vanilla.

3.  Sift together the flour, cornstarch, salt, and baking powder.  Now add the flour mixture in three additions, alternating with 1/2 of the milk.  Mix until just combined.  With a spatula or wooden spoon, fold in the raspberries.

4.  Fill cups about 2/3 full with the batter.  Bake for about 20 minutes until nicely golden.  Cool on racks.

For the buttercream:

  • 4 egg whites
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 1/4 t. cream of tartar
  • pinch of salt
  • 3 sticks of butter, softened and cut into small pieces
  • 1 c. raspberry preserves

1.  Over a water bath, mix the egg whites and sugar until warm (about 140 degrees F) and the sugar has dissolved.

2.  Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a mixer and whip on high until it reaches soft peaks.  Add the cream of tartar and salt and mix on high for about 5 minutes until you get stiff peaks and the meringue has a nice sheen.

3.  Reduce the speed of the mixer and add the butter one piece at a time, making sure to combine well.  The buttercream will probably lose a little bit of its volume.

4.  With the mixer on low, add your preserves and whisk to combine.

Notes — I had put in some fresh raspberries into the buttercream at first, but it did cause some problems.  They separated too easily and may have had something to do with the buttercream breaking a little bit.  But with a little extra whisking, everything came together.  Thankfully I don’t have to whisk everything by hand anymore (which I still highly recommend to any aspiring baker). . . It’s best to use the buttercream immediately but it can be refrigerated.  Just let it come to room temp before you use it.