Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Sweet Tooth: Elaine's buttercream on double chocolate cake, banana bread, favor cookies, truffle balls

As I've admitted, my 2009 diet strategy is to bake up a storm and fatten everyone else around me :) This month I've continued with significant success on that path, enabled by the excuse of Elisha's 2nd birthday, and assisted by some fabulous recipes collected from this group as well as some of my favorite food bloggers. I will list them in order of "favoritest" but all of these recipes came out fabulously and are now going into the regular Bell rotation. So come visit and I'll fatten you up too :)

Oreo Truffle Balls

(discovered at http://www.thecookieblog.com/oreo-truffle-balls/ who found them at http://bigboldbeautifulfood.blogspot.com/2009/08/oreo-truffle-balls.html)

These look incredibly fancy and get HUGE raves from everyone who tries them, while you can't help but laugh because they are so incredibly easy! They freeze perfectly and defrost in an hour (I made them for E's birthday, froze the extras and pulled some out last night for Yom Kippur) so make a big batch and keep them in a ziploc in your freezer for last minute entertaining!

1 package Oreo cookies (I used TJ's Joe-Os to assuage my fake food issues :)
8 ounces cream cheese

2 cups/16 oz chocolate for dipping: dark, milk or white (I've used Guittard dark semisweet and TJ's semisweet both with great results)

16-32 oz of topping to roll in: ground oreos, almonds, banana chips, or heath bar chips (I used TJ's english toffee bars which are like Skor bars with great results, and much cheaper than buying candy bars. Can you tell I love Trader Joes?)

  1. Place the cookies in a food processor and process until fine or mash them by hand.
  2. Add softened cream cheese and process until combined.
  3. Roll into small balls the size of walnuts (I made mine too big-- I'd shoot for 3/4 of an inch because once you dip and roll they get much bigger)
  4. Freeze for at least 30 minutes but you can freeze longer (I froze for a couple days before I was ready to dip, and there was no problem)
  5. Melt chocolate either in a double boiler or the microwave. (I did it in the microwave for 15 seconds at a time, stirring at the end of each cycle, until the chocolate is fully melted.)
  6. Using a wooden skewer or toothpick, dip each ball into the chocolate , roll in topping if you like (you also don't have to roll them in anything and can drizzle with a different color chocolate for decorative value) and place on a cookie sheet. Put in fridge or leave on the counter until the chocolate hardens.
  7. When hardened, you can serve right away or throw them in a freezer bag and they store beautifully and defrost in about an hour. Enjoy!

Double Chocolate Cake with Dulce De Leche Buttercream Filling and Vanilla Buttercream Frosting (cake adapted from Epicurious.com, filling and frosting adapted from Elaine)

I love this double chocolate cake recipe. I've made it just as is for the ultimate chocolate death cake for my nephew the chocoholic. I used just the cake portion for Elisha's birthday cake, as she has made it very clear she is the budding chocoholic herself. I wanted to lighten it up a bit for the party with a non-chocolate filling and I also wanted a frosting I could dye yellow so I used Elaine's special someone buttercream recipe as the base for both. With a candy thermometer and a kitchenaid, the buttercream was actually not challenging at all to execute. I split the buttercream into the filling and the frosting. I made a simple dulce de leche by boiling sweetened condensed milk and then added that to the buttercream with some cocoa for the filling. And added vanilla and dyed the buttercream for the frosting. The whole thing came out much to my relief -it looked great, and from what I'm told, was absolutely delicious. I did sneak a small taste and it really was moist and rich and flavorful. And as you can see-- huge! (I used 2x the cake recipe and 3x the frosting recipe to make my gigantic E. I made the cake in 3 sheet pans and then layered and carved once fully assembled.)

Double Chocolate Cake Recipe (adapted from Epicurious)

3 ounces fine-quality semisweet chocolate such as Callebaut
1 1/2 cups hot brewed coffee
3 cups sugar
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
3 large eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups well-shaken buttermilk
3/4 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 300°F. and grease pans. Line bottoms with rounds of wax paper and grease paper.
Finely chop chocolate and in a bowl combine with hot coffee. Let mixture stand, stirring occasionally, until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.
Into a large bowl sift together sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In another large bowl with an electric mixer beat eggs until thickened slightly and lemon colored (about 3 minutes with a standing mixer or 5 minutes with a hand-held mixer). Slowly add oil, buttermilk, vanilla, and melted chocolate mixture to eggs, beating until combined well. Add sugar mixture and beat on medium speed until just combined well. Divide batter between pans and bake in middle of oven until a tester inserted in center comes out clean, 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes.
Cool layers completely in pans on racks. Run a thin knife around edges of pans and invert layers onto racks. Carefully remove wax paper and cool layers completely. Cake layers may be made 1 day ahead and kept, wrapped well in plastic wrap, at room temperature.

Dulce De Leche

can of sweetened condensed milk, unopened

Bring can to boil in full pot of water, let simmer for 3-4 hours (depending on how "dark" you like your caramel). Check pot every hour or so to make sure water hasn't evaporated to uncover the can, and I rotate it a smidge. That's it! Fabulous and simple to make. If you leave the can opened, it is a great pantry staple for an emergency "fancy" dessert on a crepe, ice cream, or with an apple or pear for dipping.

Elaine's buttercream recipe in previous post

Per Kaoru's advice, I also consulted SmittenKitchen's technique tips and pictures of the stages as she has a swiss buttercream recipe with all the same ingredients, just different proportions (Elaine's has more butter).

For the portion I set aside for the filling, I mixed in the Dulce de Leche to taste, and added a bit of unsweetened cocoa powder to taste to add some complexity and cut the sweetness a touch.

For the frosting, I used gel colorings in yellow and pink. I frosted the cake with a crumb coat, let it set, then refrosted all with an offset spatula. For the edging and the circles I used a piping bag. The only tricky part was getting the piping bag into the carve outs of the E!

Banana Bread (adapted from smittenkitchen.com)

I wanted to have kid friendly munchies out for folks when they arrived, before lunch was served. Since the party started at 10:30 to accommodate toddler nap times (~1) I decided on a banana bread. I've made lots of different banana breads but always found when I tried to modify them without the stuff (Chris doesn't like "stuff" in his banana bread) they needed the nuts or chocolate to get the right consistency. For this occasion, given the toddlers, I wanted a recipe that started out without nuts or chocolate. I was thrilled to find this one, and from smittenkitchen, whose recipes I've always found excellent. I followed it to a tee, except omitted the Bourbon, added some almond extract as I'm addicted to that stuff, tripled the recipe and made them in 3 loaf pans set on a cookie sheet, with great results. It had a great consistency, moist, good banana-ness and the nice spices gave it lovely flavor so you didn't miss "stuff" like nuts or chocolate.

3 to 4 ripe bananas, smashed
1/3 cup melted butter
3/4 to 1 cup light brown sugar (depending on the level of sweetness you prefer)
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon bourbon (optional--I subbed out 1/2 teaspoon almond extract)
1 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg (I was generous in my grating as I love nutmeg)
Pinch of ground cloves
1 1/2 cup of flour

Preheat the oven to 350°F. With a wooden spoon, mix butter into the mashed bananas in a large mixing bowl. Mix in the sugar, egg, vanilla and bourbon, then the spices. Sprinkle the baking soda and salt over the mixture and mix in. Add the flour last, mix. Pour mixture into a buttered 4×8 inch loaf pan. Bake for 50 minutes to one hour, or until a tester comes out clean. Cool on a rack. Remove from pan and slice to serve.

Favor cookies

I used Elaine's Poilane butter cookie recipe and the royal icing recipe from my meringue powder. I bought the little bags and ribbon at Michael's and these cheap touches somehow classed up the cookies so much-- I'm now a big believer in those little bags. I made these weeks in advance and froze them, and then bagged them the night before. The decorating was time consuming, even more than I had thought, as I did it in stages, but they came out just like I had hoped for in my crazy head and were a favor I was really proud of giving out. And they were delicious too boot!

Friday, September 18, 2009

My Favorite Buttercream

This Buttercream is only made for the special people in my life. It is more work than the go to Magnolia Bakery recipe, but much more refined. Its dangerously light and delicious but if you love it, its worth making 2 batches and keeping one batch in the freezer (lasts up to 2 months), defrost it and re-whip before using.

1 1/2 cups egg whites
3 cups of granulated sugar
3 lbs of unsalted butter
Flavorings: 2 TBSP of extract: orange, almond, lemon, lime, vanilla, orange water, etc OR up to 1.5 oz of alcohol or liqueur: rum, kirsch, framboise, contreau, etc.

Lightly whisk egg whites and sugar together over simmering water until egg white mixture is hot to touch or candy thermometer reads 145F(no grains when you rub your giner in the mix)
Pour hot whites into a room-temp bowl and whip with wire whip until double in volume on med-hi speed and meringue has slightly cooled to touch. Meanwhile cut-up butter into 2" pieces (butter should be slightly moist on outside but cold inside) (Higher speed does NOT allow higher volume-use lower speed)
Remove whip and attache paddle. Add half of the butter into the bowl immediately and pulsate mixture several times until the meringue has covered the butter completely. Add the rest of the butter and pulsate mixer several times. Slowly raise speed of mixer starting with the lowest speed-raise speed every 1- sec. until you reach a med-hi speed.
If meringue starts to curdle, just continue beating until meringue turns into buttercream. Stop mixer occasionally and stir buttercream with a rubber spatula (making sure that you have incorporated all of the butter). Lower speed and add flavor. Beat for 1 more minute to fully incorporate flavor. Buttercream should be light and fluffy.
* In hot weather, use 2 lbs 10 oz butter and 6 oz of crisco (veg shortening)

The Amaretto Mocha Buttercream is delicious too. But Julie, not sure the shots of espresso will be appropriate for this cake ;)
1 recipe of Swiss Meringue Buttercream without flavoring
4 TBSP of Instant Espresso coffee granules
3 oz of Amaretto
Mix espresso granules and amaretto until coffee is dissolved. Slowly pour coffee mixture into Swiss Meringue Buttercream. Beat on med-hi for 2 min.
*You can substite amaretto with almond extract.