Archive for March, 2012

Cream Puffs

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

Last night I had a sushi-and-shopping outing with my good friend Grace. We had a great time, as we always do.

However, we were both feeling pretty tired. This was especially evident to me as we were driving and had about three conversations that went like this:

Grace: “You know, I just….”

(2 minutes later)

Me: “Er…Gracie? Was there a second part to that thought?”

All that to say, I think we were both in need of some rest and relaxation. I’m really grateful that I had a day off today.

My day looked a little like this:

and felt a little like this:

The day was not wholly unproductive though. In addition to wearing wildly clashing comfy-clothes and paparazzying the dog, I made some cream puffs!

I really like this recipe. The process was unique, but it was so simple and easy (only five ingredients!).

The puffs turned out just right. They were airy and dainty, but substantive enough to stand up to the pudding in the middle.

I didn’t care for the pudding itself. It might have been a faulty recipe. But to be honest I’m pretty sure it didn’t turn out because I’m 2/3 of the way through the third Hunger Games book and my mind is a little distracted and consumed with Katniss/Panem/Peeta/Gale/what is going to happen??

However, the truly great thing about these puffs is that you can fill them with anything you like. You could use pudding or flavored whipped cream, or ice cream. The possibilities are endless!

If you do want to go the chocolate pudding route, this one and this one look really delicious.

So, I’m curious: Did you see the Hunger Games movie? What did you think?

I thought it was great. I thought the acting was surprisingly good – the performances just felt real. It was also funnier than I expected. I cried a lot too…no shame! The  shaky camera style was a little excessive, but I stopped noticing it after the first ten minutes.

My sister hated it though…I think she couldn’t get past the shakiness. I’m curious to hear what you thought of it all.

Have a happy weekend everyone! I hope it’s full of rest and fun and cream puffs and all the things a weekend should contain!

Cream Puffs

Recipe courtesy of Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book (1989 edition)

Makes 10 puffs

Ingredients
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1 cup water
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 eggs

For the filling:
Pudding, whipped cream, ice cream, sherbet, or fresh fruit
Powdered sugar (optional)

Directions
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Add butter, water and salt to a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Add the flour all at once and stir vigorously. Continue cooking and stirring until the mixture forms a ball that doesn’t separate. Remove from heat.

Cool the mixture for 10 minutes. Add the eggs, one a time, beating with a wooden spoon until mixture is smooth.

Place heaping tablespoons of batter onto a greased cookie sheet. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until golden. Cool on a wire rack.

Slice in half. If the inside is too soft, you can scoop a little out. Spoon filling of choice in the middle and replace with the top half of the puff. If desired, sprinkle sifted powdered sugar on top. Enjoy!

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Cheese Danish with Raspberries and Blueberries

Sunday, March 25th, 2012

Today I’m going to tell you the story of why I made cheese danishes this weekend.

This story involves a LOT of dessert. I’m almost too embarrassed to share the scandalous details. Let’s just say Trainer Bob would not be happy with me…I’m sorry Bob! I promise I’ll dust off my workout dvds and we’ll spend some quality time together soon.

It all began because my little sister Halley turned 21 this weekend. One part of her celebration was a venture into the Queen Anne neighborhood of Seattle to get some dessert. She really wanted to try a little cafe called Cafe de Lion.

We loved it there! Here is the birthday girl…

…and here am I.

Halley’s dessert was a Purple Sweet Potato Mont Blanc and mine was a chocolate version. They were so good!! Our desserts weren’t overly sweet and the portion size was just right. They were light enough that we didn’t feel sick. We just felt full of happiness.

The customer service was excellent too. They were personable and available for questions. They served us drip coffee, and later brought out a complimentary cold-brewed coffee as well.

Overall, a wonderful experience! We each bought a second dessert to have the next day.

Anyway, I wanted to make some sort of dessert for Halley’s birthday weekend. She already had cake for that evening, but I asked if there was anything else she’d like. She mentioned that she likes raspberries.

The minute she said raspberries, I was reminded of earlier in the week, when we visited Bakery Nouveau. Now, as I’ve mentioned before, this is probably my favorite bakery in Seattle. It’s just amazing!

The first thing you see when you walk in the door are their macarons, rumored to be the best in town.

The wonders continue with intricate desserts and pastries galore. On this occasion we were lucky enough to find an open table. This table happened to be directly across from the pastry case, where I spent the duration of our visit gazing dreamily at the desserts. This made for a lot of accidental awkward eye contact with the guys working behind the counter…but welcome to my life. It is pretty much a string of constant awkward moments…sigh.

One pastry that I noticed this time was their cream cheese danish with fresh berries. So when Halley told me that she wanted berries in her birthday dessert, this danish was the first thing that popped into my mind. I decided to recreate the one I saw at Bakery Nouveau.

I made Ina Garten’s cheese danishes last year, and kept the recipe bookmarked. They were so easy and so delicious.

I love this recipe because it really is simple. Mix up a cream cheese/ricotta filling, cut up the puff pastry, fold it up into a nice little bundle, bake and top with fresh berries.

You can also put the danishes together the night before, and just bake them in the morning for an impressive breakfast.

One note on these – I forgot to give the assembled danishes a final brush of egg wash before baking. If I had done this, they would have looked a little darker and more golden.

I hope you make these and enjoy them! I’m going to go eat some lettuce now…

Cheese Danish with Raspberries and Blueberries

Adapted from Barefoot Contessa at Home

Makes 8 danish

Ingredients
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
2 extra-large egg yolks, at room temperature
2 tablespoons ricotta cheese
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest (2 lemons)
2 sheets (1 box) frozen puff pastry, defrosted
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon of water, for egg wash
1 cup fresh raspberries
1 cup fresh blueberries

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and sugar together on low speed until smooth. Keeping the mixer on low, add the egg yolks, ricotta cheese, vanilla, salt and lemon zest. Beat just until combined – don’t whip.

Spread flour over a cutting board. Unfold one of the sheets of puff pastry. Using a floured rolling pin, roll it into a 10 x 10-inch square. Cut the big square into four small squares with a knife. Repeat with the second sheet of puff pastry.

Spoon a heaping tablespoon of the cheese mixture into the middle of each square. Coat the borders with the egg wash. Fold the corners in, and press them together very lightly, allowing the egg wash to help seal the dough. The four corners should come together to create a little package. However, be careful not to press them too tightly – they should pop open as they bake. Brush egg wash over the top of the pastries.

Chill the pastries on their baking sheet in the refrigerator for 10-15 minutes. Bake for about 20 minutes, rotating the pan once during baking. Remove when the pastries are puffed and brown.

If needed, gently help the tops to open a little. Place fresh berries on top. Serve warm and enjoy!

Note: If made in advance, reheat at 350 degrees for five minutes. Add berries. You can also assemble these at night and bake them the next morning.

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Lavender Cupcakes with Honey Frosting

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

Before talking about these cupcakes, I need to tell you that I have just created a Facebook page for this blog, as well as a Twitter. You can find me on Facebook here, and on Twitter here. I would love to hear from you and get to know you more on those platforms!

Now, on to the inspiration for these cupcakes.

The calendar says that spring is here – I am ready! I am starting to see a few flowers. Even though they are blanketed by cloudy skies, it’s a step in the right direction.

In the spirit of the season, I decided to make cupcakes with a decidedly floral influence. These are inspired by Molly Moon’s honey lavender ice cream.

The process begins with dried lavender. It smells so good. You may be tempted to bag it up and tuck it away in your drawer of unmentionables – but be strong and wait! It will be worth it.

Food coloring marries with the dried lavender to give these cupcakes an eye-catching, unique personality and essence.

Top them with cream cheese frosting infused with honey, and drizzle a little extra honey on top. The lavender and honey go so well together – two gentle flavors.

The recipe was a bit of a risk but they turned out so well – probably my favorite cupcake recipe so far. I want to make them again right now. I hope you give them a try!

Lavender Cupcakes with Honey Frosting

Basic cupcake adapted from cooks.com
Cream cheese frosting adapted from foodnetwork.com

Makes 12 cupcakes

Ingredients
For the cupcakes:
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon red and 1 teaspoon blue food coloring*
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 tablespoons dried lavender buds
2/3 cup cold milk

For the frosting:
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
4 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons honey, plus a little extra for drizzle

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line muffin tins with cupcake liners.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the softened butter and sugar together. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each egg. Stir in the vanilla and food coloring.

In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Chop the dried lavender buds into fine, small pieces. Stir into the flour mixture.

Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture. Stir in the milk.

Scoop batter evenly into lined muffin tins. Bake for 18-24 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Let cupcakes cool in the tins for 5-10 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

For the frosting:
In the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and cream cheese together. Add the powdered sugar 1 cup at a time, mixing on low, until the frosting is smooth and creamy. Beat in the vanilla extract and honey.

Scoop frosting into a piping bag fitted with a 1M tip. To create the flower, begin in the center of the cupcake’s surface, and slowly swirl in wider circles. (It might be helpful to practice on a piece of parchment paper first, then you can just add the frosting back to the bowl.) You can also simply spread the cream cheese frosting over the top of the cupcakes with a knife.

Lightly drizzle a little honey on top of the frosting. Enjoy!

*Note: If you prefer a lighter color, just begin with 1/4 teaspoon of the red and blue and continue adding drops of each until you like the color. You can also use purple food coloring if you have it.

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Meeting Joy the Baker

Sunday, March 18th, 2012

As I mentioned recently, Joy the Baker is on a book tour promoting her new cookbook, Joy the Baker Cookbook.

I read about 50 blogs on a regular basis. Out of those 50, I have about five favorites. I save them until I’m finished reading all the other ones – kind of like dessert! Joy absolutely fits into that category. (Her site is www.joythebaker.com.)

I enjoy her blog because she shares personal stories. It makes her so easy to relate to. It was great to see that she is exactly the same in real life – authentic. She talks just like she writes.

I attended the signing with my friends Sara, Ally and Ira. Here we are waiting in line to meet Joy after the Q&A. We passed the time by talking about girl stuff and trying not to be nervous…

This is me talking with Joy. I asked her how she stays so slim even though she’s around sweets all the time. She said she eats a lot of kale, and rides her bike.

I wasn’t nervous at all while I was talking to her, but as soon as we posed for this picture my face and cheeks started shaking violently. I started to have this panicked feeling that everyone in the whole bookstore had paused in their conversation and was looking confusedly at my trembling features. But it all turned out well in the end because for one thing, the world doesn’t revolve around me, and for another you can’t tell in the picture!

Joy was a pleasure to meet, and it was good to catch up with my girlfriends. All in all, a perfect Friday night!

By the way, I made the Peanut Butter and Jam Milkshake from her cookbook the other day – delicious! I love the creative nature of all the recipes in this book. It is worth picking up if you haven’t already!

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Jessie's Kitchen Chronicles