June 4, 2010

Changing Things Up

Hey everyone!

I just wanted to let you know that I'm changing things up a bit. I'm shutting down this blog and starting a new one. My new blog, Jennifer's Treasured Recipes, is going to be my living, breathing digital recipe box and cookbook. Basically, it's going to be a highly-organized collection of my very favorite recipes, with beautiful pictures and useful notes about each dish. I'm constantly going to be adding new recipes, as well as updating old ones with new notes and suggestions.

I've already copied over my favorite recipes from Daydreams of Baking to my new blog, and I've gone ahead and added a few new ones, like these awesome Chocolate Chip Banana Cookies and this delicious Rhubarb Refrigerator Jam that goes great in these Jam Thumbprint Cookies.

And don't worry, I'll be leaving up the archives for Daydreams of Baking, so if you have a recipe on this blog bookmarked, it will still be there when you are ready to make it!

Anyway, head on over to Jennifer's Treasured Recipes and let me know what you think!

April 27, 2010

Caramel Cashew Cake Bars

You know what? Some of the cookbooks that I've seen for sale at my favorite thrift store are hilariously horrible. I'm talking about cookbooks that would be right at home in the Gallery of Regrettable Food. Like this one time, I saw a cookbook that was nothing but Jello recipes, and it had a recipe for savoury beef Jello with little pieces of onion floating in it! Ick! And this other time, I found a cookbook from the fifties that recommended cooking a whole chicken in the microwave! And the picture that accompanied this recommendation? It showed a chicken that was just as pale and rubbery as you'd expect a microwaved chicken to be! LOL! I guess there were no food stylists in the fifties..

Anyway, while most of the cookbooks I see at the thrift store are laugh-inducingly bad, I do occasionally find a diamond in the rough, so to speak. For example, I picked up Taste of Home Cookies for $6 at Goodwill last week, and I absolutely love it. It's packed with all sorts of yummy-looking recipes and the photos are truly gorgeous. On top of that, the recipes are neatly laid out and each recipe includes a cute little comment from a Taste of Home reader. Overall, it's a great cookbook.

Anyway, just for fun, I let my fiance pick out the first recipe for me to make from Taste of Home Cookies, and boy, did he ever pick a winner! These caramel cashew cake bars are absolutely delicious! They're sweet and salty and chewy and crunchy and just plain tasty! The soft, sweet cake-like base of these bars is rich and dense and pairs perfectly with the caramelly broiled cashew topping. Partner one of these bars with a nice cold glass of milk, and you have a pretty darn good dessert!

This recipe is adapted from the caramel-cashew cake bar recipe found in Taste of Home Cookies:

Caramel Cashew Cake Bars

Cake Layer:
3/4 c all-purpose flour
1/2 c sugar
1/2 c brown sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 eggs (lightly beaten)
1/2 c salted cashews (chopped)

1/2 c salted cashews (chopped)
1/4 c brown sugar
2 tbsp butter (melted)
1 1/2 tbsp heavy whipping cream

1. Preheat your oven to 350º.

2. To make the cake layer, whisk together the flour, sugar, brown sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Add the eggs and stir until everything is just combined. Gently fold in the cashews.

3. Spread the batter evenly around the bottom of a well-greased 8 inch square cake pan. Place the pan in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes or until the top of the cake springs back when lightly touched.

4. While the cake layer is baking, make the topping by placing the cashews, brown sugar, melted butter, and cream into a small bowl and stirring until all of the ingredients are well combined. Evenly spread the topping over the still warm cake layer.

5. Turn on your oven's broiler and set it to high. Place the cake under the broiler for 1-2 minutes or until the topping is bubbling and has browned slightly.

6. Allow the pan to cool slightly before carefully cutting the cake into into bars. Carefully remove the bars from the pan and place them on a wire rack to cool completely.

April 23, 2010

Cinnamon Chip Shortbread Cookies

Last Friday, my fiance's friend Matt came over and made us a wonderful dinner of braised chicken with carrots and onions. It was really fun talking and laughing and eating with Matt, and the meal he made was truly delicious. It was such a great way to start the weekend!

Anyway, several hours before Matt came over, I decided that I should make a dessert to go with his tasty meal. I originally wanted to make brownies, but when I peeked into my fridge, I discovered that I was out of whole eggs! I did have two eggs yolks stashed away in a little plastic container, but that wasn't nearly enough to make brownies!

I was about to completely give up on my dessert making plans when suddenly it hit me: Two eggs yolks is just enough to make some shortbread cookies! So, I dashed off to my cookbook collection, found my favorite shortbread recipe, grabbed my egg yolks, and got to work. And after a little bit of mixing, a lot of chilling, and a little bit of baking, I ended up with these yummy cinnamon chip shortbread cookies.

These cookies are crispy and crumbly and have a nice buttery flavor. The cinnamon chips that dot these cookies provide a nice warm note of spicy cinnamon flavor and just a bit of sweetness. Speaking of sweetness, these cookies are not very sugary by themselves; however, the super-saccharine turbinado sugar that is sprinkled on top of the cookies before they go in the oven balances the cookies out nicely, making them just sweet enough to become a lovely dessert.

This recipe is adapted from the sable recipe found in Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours:

Cinnamon Chip Shortbread Cookies

2 c (280 g) all-purpose flour
2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
1 c butter (room temperature)
1/2 c sugar
1/4 c (29 g) powdered sugar
2 egg yolks (room temperature)
3/4 c cinnamon chips
turbinado sugar

1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Set aside.

2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter, sugar, and powdered sugar until they are smooth and creamy. Add the egg yolks and beat until everything is well combined. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and mix until the flour is just incorporated. Gently stir in the cinnamon chips.

3. Shape the finished cookie dough into two logs that are about 9 inches long each. Wrap these logs in plastic wrap and refrigerate them for at least three hours.

4. Preheat your oven to 350º. Cut 1/3 inch thick slices off of the cookie dough logs and arrange them on an ungreased baking sheet, leaving about an inch between each cookie. Generously sprinkle the top of each cookie with turbinado sugar. Bake for 17-20 minutes or until the cookies are golden around the edges. Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheet for a minute or two before moving them to a wire rack to cool completely.

April 18, 2010

Almond Yogurt Loaf

Boy, did I ever have a baking slump last week! Over the course of three days, I tried three new recipes and none of them turned out particularly good. I mean, nothing that I made was bad enough for the blunder files, but all three recipes resulted in boring, flavorless baked goods that were meh at best.

I was feeling pretty frustrated after three failures in a row, so to help snap myself out of my baking funk, I decided to make a recipe that I knew was both simple and delicious: yogurt loaf. And since I also had an open bag of almonds sitting in my pantry that I wanted to use up, I decided to make my yogurt loaf almond flavored.

And I'm happy to report that, unlike my previous three baking flops, this almond yogurt loaf came out really tasty! It's perfectly sweet and is heavily scented with a heavenly almond aroma. The loaf itself is dense yet tender and very moist, and the little bits of chopped almond that are hidden throughout the loaf provide and nice crunch and a bit of nuttiness.

Yep. I think my baking slump is officially over. :)

This recipe is adapted from the Gateau au Yaourt a la Vanille recipe that is posted over at Piece of Cake:

Almond Yogurt Loaf

1 1/2 c (210 g) all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 c plain yogurt
1 c sugar
3 eggs
2 1/2 tsp almond extract
1 c vegetable oil
3/4 c chopped almonds

1. Preheat your oven to 350°.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the yogurt, sugar, eggs, almond extract, and vegetable oil until everything is well combined. Add the yogurt mixture to the flour mixture and gently stir until the batter just barely comes together. Gently stir in the chopped almonds.

4. Generously grease two mini-loaf pans and fill them 3/4th of the way full with the batter. (I had a little bit of leftover batter, which I later baked up in a small ramekin.) Place the mini-loaf pans on a baking sheet and place the baking sheet in the oven. Bake the loaves for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a loaf comes out clean. Allow the loaves to cool in their pans for 10 minutes before turning them out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

April 14, 2010

Chocolate Amish Friendship Bread

Yep, that's right folks, I got another Amish friendship bread recipe for you today. And yep, I know that this is my third Amish friendship bread recipe this year. What can I say? I really love Amish friendship bread! It's just so moist and sweet and all-around tasty that I can't stop making it!

And this chocolate version? It's so very good! It has a lovely dense, cake-like texture and a wonderfully rich chocolate flavor. And did I mention that this bread is studded with both milk and semi-sweet chocolate chips? Because it is! And all those chocolate chips make this already delicious bread even better!

This time around I decided to make my friendship bread in a single bundt pan rather than two loaf pans because, well, bundt pans make food pretty! And also because the below recipe just happens to make the right amount of batter to fill a standard sized bundt pan. Isn't that convenient? You can still make this recipe in loaf pans, of course, though you might have to adjust the baking time a bit.

This recipe is adapted from the Amish Friendship Chocolate Bread recipe that is posted at allrecipes.com:

Chocolate Amish Friendship Bread

1 c Amish friendship bread starter
3 eggs
3/4 c oil
1/2 c milk
1 c sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 c (280g) all-purpose flour
1/4 c (21 g) unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 large box (5.1 oz) instant chocolate pudding mix
1/2 c semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 c milk chocolate chips

1. Preheat your oven to 325°.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the starter, eggs, oil, milk, sugar, and vanilla extract until everything is well combined.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and pudding mix. Add the starter mixture to the flour mixture and gently stir until the batter just barely comes together. Gently stir in the chocolate chips.

3. Evenly pour the finished batter into a well-greased bundt pan. Place the pan in the oven and bake for 50-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the bread comes out clean. Allow the bread to cool in the pan for 10 minutes before turning it out on a wire rack to cool completely.

Just like all the other kinds of Amish friendship breads that I've made, this chocolate bread improves in both texture and flavor as it ages. So while it's really yummy right out of the oven, it's even better a day or two after you bake it. This bread also freezes very well, so feel free to make some up ahead of time and freeze it for a later date!

April 7, 2010

Strawberry Chunk Cake

You know what? Practice really does make perfect.

I mean, a year and a half ago, I didn't even know how to make a cake without some sort of boxed mix. But now? Now I can turn out beauties like this strawberry chunk cake without any trouble at all. And my cake baking skills didn't just appear overnight. Nope, they took a lot of practice to develop. The path to cake-baking mastery was a long road, and I made several mistakes along the way. I over-mixed batters, I left cakes in the oven until they were bone-dry, and this one time I even forgot to grease my cake pans. But each time I made a cake mistake, I learned something new. And thanks to all those little lessons, today I can consistently produce delicious cakes every time I turn on the oven.

So if you are a novice cake baker, then let me encourage you to stick with it. Keeping baking, making mistakes, and learning, and you'll be a cake making master before you know it!

I made this lovely strawberry chunk cake for my fiance's birthday. The recipe below is for a three-layer cake, but since I only own two round cake pans and was pressed for time, I ended up baking only two of the layers and then frosting them extra thickly. (I later used the leftover batter for the third layer to make two mini-loaf cakes, which I sent to my parents for Easter.)

But even with only two layers, this cake was really tasty. The cake itself is a basic vanilla butter cake that is studded with chunks of beautiful red strawberries. The cake is lightly sweet and buttery and whenever you bit into a strawberry chunk you are greeted with burst of wonderful berry flavor. And the meringue-style buttercream that goes with this cake is just awesome. It's light and airy in texture, but is rich, sweet, and buttery in taste. And just like the cake, the frosting is filled with juicy chunks of strawberry that provide a refreshing berry flavor.

This cake has a lot of steps, so it is a bit time consuming to make. However, each step is relatively easy, so just take it one step at a time and you'll be fine. And a little practice always helps. :)

This recipe is adapted from the strawberry cupcakes with strawberry buttercream recipe posted over at Bake your heart out:

Strawberry Chunk Cake

2 3/4 c all-purpose flour
1/2 c cake flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 c butter (room temperature)
2 1/2 c sugar
3 eggs
1 egg white
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 c milk
2 c fresh strawberries (hulled and chopped)

4 egg whites
1 1/4 c sugar
1 1/2 c butter (room temperature)
1 1/2 c fresh strawberries (hulled and chopped)

1. Preheat your oven to 350°.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cake flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

3. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until they are light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well between each addition. Beat in the egg white and the vanilla extract.

4. In three additions, alternately add the flour mixture and the milk to the butter mixture, beating well between each addition. (i.e. Add 1/3 of the flour mixture, beat well, add 1/3 of the milk, beat well, etc.) Gently stir in the chopped strawberries.

5. Evenly divide the finished batter among three well-greased 9" round cake pans. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cake comes out clean.

6. Allow the cakes to cool in their pans for 5 minutes before turning them out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

7. To make the frosting, place the sugar and egg whites into a heatproof metal bowl and place the bowl over a pot of simmering water. Whisking constantly, heat the mixture until it registers 165° on a food thermometer, which will take about 3 minutes.

8. Using the whisk attachment of an electric mixer, beat the egg and sugar mixture on medium speed until it cools, which will take about 5 minutes. Switch to the paddle attachment and add the butter one stick at a time, beating well between each addition.

9. After the last of the butter has been added, beat the frosting on medium-high speed for another 6-10 minutes, or until the frosting is white, shiny, and smooth. Beat in the vanilla extract and then stir in the chopped strawberries.

10. To assemble the cake, place the first layer of cake on a cake stand. Spread 1/3rd of the frosting on top of this cake layer. Place the second cake layer on top of the first and then spread 1/3rd of the frosting on top of the second layer. Place the final layer of cake on top of the first two layers and use the remaining 1/3rd of the frosting to cover the top and sides of the cake.

Because the frosting has fresh, uncooked fruit in it, I recommend storing this cake covered in the fridge. My cake started to get a bit stale after five days, so I don't recommend keeping your cake for much longer than that.

April 4, 2010

Strawberry Milkshake Truffles

Happy Easter! If you are among the many people celebrating Easter today, allow me wish you a joyous day filled with friends, family, good food, and lovely spring weather!

Unfortunately I couldn't celebrate Easter with my family this year, so to make it up to them, I sent them a package filled with all sorts of springtime treats, including these cute little pink and white strawberry milkshake truffles.

Let me warn you right off the bat: These truffles are super, super sugary, so if you aren't a fan of hyper-sweet candy, then these truffles are probably not for you.

On the other hand, if you, like me, are a fan of all things saccharine, then you will love these little guys. Each truffle starts with a smooth, creamy center that is intensely sweet and has a rich strawberry aroma. These strawberry centers are then coated with a shell of vanilla-scented white chocolate and topped with crunchy pink sprinkles. Yum!

This recipe is a Daydreams of Baking original, but it was inspired by an uncooked fondant recipe that I found on about.com:

Strawberry Milkshake Truffles

1/3 c butter (room temperature)
1/3 c light corn syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 c strawberry Nesquik powder
3 1/2 c (403 g) powdered sugar
18 oz white chocolate OR white candy melts
pink sprinkles (optional)

1. In a large bowl, beat together the butter, corn syrup, vanilla extract, salt, and strawberry Nesquik until they are well combined.

2. Beat in the powdered sugar a little bit at a time. As you add the powdered sugar, the mixture will start to thicken and form a stiff dough. After the last of the powdered sugar has been added, gather the sugar dough into a ball. Knead the sugar dough ball a few times on a work surface that has been lightly dusted with powdered sugar.

3. Line a baking sheet with waxed paper. Pinch off pieces of the sugar dough and then roll them into small balls. Place these balls onto the waxed paper. Allow the balls to dry in open air for about 15 minutes.

4. While the sugar dough balls are drying, temper your white chocolate or melt your white candy melts. Coat each ball by dipping it into the chocolate/candy, and then set it back on the baking sheet and sprinkle it with some pink sprinkles. Allow the coating on the finished truffles to harden completely before removing the the truffles from the waxed paper.
I thought that the pink and white color scheme of these truffles was really cute for Easter, but now that I think about it, these truffles would be great for Valentine's Day or a baby shower, wouldn't they?