Thursday, January 31, 2013

Baked Red Velvet Donuts

So Valentine's Day is just two weeks away, and I'm going share some love-dovey, chocolatey, and all things pink goodies. I hardly ever sync with the holidays on this blog, but by golly I'm going to try this time. So here we are, talking about red velvet donuts!

Red velvet anything just sounds so fancy, don’t you think? The only red velvet cake I have ever had was over this past summer, on my trip to London. The frosting was absolutely delicious, but the cake part was sad, very, very sad.

However, that letdown has not stopped me from saving a few red velvet recipes. I like trying new things (when it comes to baking at least), that and my need to be fancy fueled my need to make something red velvet. 

These donuts cannot be any simpler to make. I believe these were in and out of the oven in about 30-40 minutes starting from measuring out the flour to popping them out of the tray.

These donuts are firm enough to hold their shape when dunked in milk, but soft enough to be enjoyed without any kind of dunking involved. A tinsy hint of chocolate shines through these donuts, and it is oh so lovely. These are not too sweet either, lending most of the sweetness from the lovely thick glaze that sets on top.

Red Velvet Donuts
Slightly adapted from Taste and Tell
Makes 5 donuts

1 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
1 cup + 2 tbsp. unbleached all-purpose flour
½ tbsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt
¼ cup sugar
1 egg white, room temperature
¾ tsp. pure vanilla extract
¼ cup buttermilk
1 tsp. red food coloring, (I used AmeriColor Super Red)

1 tbsp. hot water
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
½ tbsp. milk
¼ tsp. pure vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Grease a 6 cup donut pan with cooking spray; set aside.

In a heatproof bowl set over simmering water, melt together the butter and chocolate. Stir occasionally until the two start to melt. Continue to stir until fully melted into one another. Remove from heat and let the chocolate mixture cool.

In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

In a large bowl, whisk together the egg white and the sugar until frothy. Add the cooled chocolate and whisk until fully incorporated. Add the vanilla, buttermilk, and food coloring. Mix until combined.

Gradually fold the dry ingredients into the wet, mixing just until combined. The batter will be very thick and puffy. Transfer the batter into a piping bag or ziplock bag. Cut a corner and pipe the batter into the greased donut cups. Bake for 10 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the donut. Cool in the pan for a few minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely. Once cooled, dip in the glaze.

To make the glaze: stir the hot water, confectioners sugar, milk, and vanilla. Use immediately. This will make enough to glaze the tops of all five donuts with a little left over.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Chocolate Muffins

Chocolate is a magical thing, don't you think? The rich color makes me feel so warm and the taste just kind of melts into your tastebuds. It really does make everything better.

And muffins are a special treat too. Muffins basically say it is ok to eat cake for breakfast, and who doesn't love eating cake for breakfast. I remember when I was little and someone had a birthday, my sister and I would get to have a huge slice of sugary cake for breakfast until all the cake was gone. Good times. But back to muffins. I have always jealous of how luscious store-bought muffins look. The muffins are baked oh so high, the crumble topping is crunchy and sweet, the chips are evenly distributed, the insides are soft while the tops are dense.  

Due to me jealousy, every once in a while I try my hand at making muffins that rival the store-bought muffins. The trouble is this though: the chocolate never really comes through. I have the same trouble when making chocolate cake. Oh how I love chocolate and oh how sad it I am when I can’t taste the lovely chocolate flavor.

This muffin recipe is definitely the best I have used for chocolate muffins. They are perfect in almost every way. The top of the muffin is everything I can hope for: dense and fudgy. The muffins also bake up nice and tall with a lovely dome shape. While the muffin bottom is soft, springy, and quite delectable, I wish there was just a tad more chocolate flavor. Maybe by adding some mini chocolate chips this muffin recipe has the potential to be one of the best. 

Chocolate Muffins
Slightly adapted from Flax and Twine
Makes 12 muffins

7 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
5 tbsp. unsalted butter
¾ cup milk
½ cup plain yogurt (I used Oikos)
½ cup (96 g) sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
1 ½ tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 2/3 (200 g) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt

Preheat the oven to 400 F. Line a 12 cup muffin pan with paper liners. Set aside.

In a heatproof bowl set over simmering water melt the chopped chocolate and butter together. Stir until combined. Take the bowl off the simmering water and set aside to cool.

In a medium bowl, lightly beat the eggs. Add the milk, yogurt, sugar, and vanilla. Whisk until combined. Stir in the cooled chocolate. Mix until combined. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Pour the chocolate mixture over top the flour mixture and stir until just combined.

Distribute the chocolate muffin batter evenly among the prepared muffin cups. I used a medium cookie scoop, a tbsp. cookie scoop, and a half tbsp. scoop for each muffin cup. Bake for 15 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the middle of the muffin. Cook the muffins in the pan for 5-10 minutes. These are best enjoyed right out of the oven, but 10 seconds in the microwave with make them good as new.  

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Cake Slice Bakers - January 2013: The Classic

There was another tie for this month’s Cake Slice Bakers cake. We seem to be having a lot of those lately, but I kind of like them. Usually the cake I really want to bake is one of the options in the tie, so I get my way and eat cake that I know I will like. Selfish, yes, but I don’t care. I would much rather bake a cake that I will eat instead of bake a cake that I know I won’t eat.

The tie was between The Classic and Banana Cake with Coffee Walnut Buttercream. I know I have said before that I do not like fruits and most vegetables. I’ve been told I used to eat them all the time when I was a baby, but I don’t remember a single day in my life when I enjoyed eating a fruit or vegetable. Bananas are one of the ones that I know for sure I do not like. I have tried it multiple times alone and in smoothies. Bananas are not my thing at all, so you can tell right away which cake I decided to bake.

I made this cake for my birthday on January. I’m now 19… and I feel old. I know you’re laughing because 19 isn’t old, but I feel old. I recently found out the Polar Express came out when I was in the 5th grade, now I’m a freshman in college, tell me that’s not old!

This cake really, truly is The Classic. It’s a yellow cake with fudgy chocolate frosting, and what’s more classic than those two flavor combinations, riddle me that! I really wanted to post it on the 7th because I was that excited about this cake, but I abided by the rules and waited two full weeks to tell you all about this fabulous cake.

The yellow cake flavor is spot on. It’s springy, yet dense and moist at the same time. Not to mention the color is an oh so lovely and classic yellow. And the chocolate frosting? My, my, what a delight that was. There are only three ingredients in this frosting: brown sugar, heavy cream, and semi-sweet chocolate. Those three ingredients produce the best chocolate frosting I have yet to taste. I do have to warn you that using chopped chocolate will probably be much easier to melt than chocolate chips. My chips didn’t melt all the way and I spend an hour picking out chocolate chunks. I also halved the recipe below to make just one two-layer cake.

The Classic
From Vintage Cakes by Julie Richardson
Makes one three-layer cake

1 1/3 cup (5 1/3 oz.) sifted cake flour
¾ cup + 2 tbsp. (4 oz.) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 ½ tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
6 tbsp. unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups (14 oz.) sugar
½ cup canola oil
1 tbsp. pure vanilla extract
4 egg yolks, room temperature
3 eggs, room temperature
½ cup buttermilk, room temperature
½ cup heavy whipping cream, cold

Fudge Frosting
1 lb. semi-sweet chocolate, chips or chopped
2 cups heavy whipping cream
½ cup (3 ¼ oz.) dark brown sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Place a medium bowl (not plastic) in the refrigerator to chill. Line the bottom of two 8-inch round cake pans with parchment paper. Grease each pan and set aside.  

To make the cake: sift together the flours, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl. Whisk together the mixture to ensure all ingredients are blended together.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 5 minutes. Scrape the sides of the bowl and the paddle attachment. Turn the mixer’s speed to low and drizzle in the oil and vanilla. Mix until combined; the mixture may look a little curdled. Blend in the egg yolks and whole eggs one at a time, adding the next as soon as the previous one has disappeared. With the mixer still on low speed, gently add the flour mixture in three parts, alternating with the buttermilk in two parts, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Make sure to scrape the sides of the bowl every once in a while to make sure all ingredients are being blended together.

Take the chilled bowl out of the refrigerator and pour the heavy cream into it. Whisk the heavy cream to soft peaks with a hand held whisk (just do it, it’s a nice arm workout). Gently fold the cream into the cake batter. Divide the batter equally between each prepared pan (approximately 1 lb. 6 oz. of batter will go into each pan). Gently tap the pans on the counter to release any air bubbles.

Bake until the cakes the tops spring back when lightly touched, about 35-40 minutes. I would check the cakes around the 30 minute mark though, just in case. Cool the cakes in their pans on a wire rack for 30 minutes. Flip the cakes out of their pans, leaving the parchment paper on until you assemble the cake. Let the cakes continue to cool on the rack, top side up, until they reach room temperature.

To make the frosting: put the chocolate into a medium heat-resistant bowl. Combine the cream and brown sugar in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally. When the cream begins to simmer, remove from the heat quickly and pour the liquid over the chocolate. Swirl the bowl to confirm that all the chocolate is coated in hot cream. Place a lid or plastic wrap over the bowl and let the mixture sit for 5 minutes. Remove the lid or plastic wrap and slowly begin to whisk the mixture, starting with small circles in the middle and working your way outward until you have smooth, glossy frosting. Stir the frosting every 5-10 minutes until it reached spreading consistency, about an hour. If the frosting stiffens up, put it in a warm place to soften up.

To assemble the cake: cut each cake layer in equal halves to create four layers. Lay one of the two cake bottoms (cut side up) on a flat plate. Using an offset spatula, frost the top with ½ cup of frosting, spreading it out to the edge of the cake. Next, align the one of the top two layers (cup side up) on top of the frosted cake and spread another ½ cup of frosting over the top of the cake. Stack the last layer (cut side down) on top of the frosted second layer. Apply a thing layer of frosting around the cake to cream a “crumb coat.” Place the cake in the fridge until the frosting is firm, about 10 minutes. Take the cake out and frost the cake with the remaining frosting.

This cake will keep up to three days when stored in an airtight container.  

Monday, January 14, 2013

Peanut Butter and Jelly Shortbread

I’ve been back at my apartment for almost a week now, and let me tell you, it has been bor-ing! Seriously. My roommates didn’t get back until Saturday and I’ve been here since Wednesday afternoon. And since I don’t really know anyone because I’m basically antisocial/shut-in I haven’t gone much anywhere except to get groceries and pick up text books. So because there is no way I’m going to put myself out there, I fill my time with baking.

I went through a few of my cookbooks I brought with me to college to get some ideas on something quick and easy to bake. Then I happened upon these peanut butter and jelly bars in Martha Stewart’s cookie book and I had a hankering for peanut butter and jelly bars.

I looked at a few different recipes other than Martha’s and then I found Peabody’s Peanut Butter and Jelly Shortbread recipe in my “To Bake” list. They looked so good I just had to make them.

These shortbread wedges are really nice. The peanut butter flavor comes in in a subtle way, but it’s very nice. The wedges are crunchy and kind of chewy thanks to the baked jelly on the top. I really liked these with some milk. The pointed edge of the wedge makes it easy to dunk in the glass. The milk makes the shortbread kind of soggy and crumbly, but that’s fine with me.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Shortbread
Makes one 9-inch round

1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
¼ cup (64 g) creamy peanut butter
½ cup (96 g) sugar
¼ tsp. salt
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 ¼ cup (150 g) unbleached all-purpose flour 
1/3 cup (100 g) grape jelly (or jelly of your choice)

Grease the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan with cooking spray.

Beat the butter and peanut butter together until smooth. Gently pour in the sugar and salt. Cream the mixture until light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Beat in the vanilla extract. Gently add the flour and mix until completely incorporated. The dough should be soft.

Shape 1/3 of the dough into a thick disk. Place in plastic wrap and freeze until hard, about one hour. Press the remaining dough evenly along the bottom of the greased pan. Spread the jelly on top of the dough, leaving a small border around the edge. Set the pan in the fridge until the dough in the freezer has hardened.

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Take the pan out of the fridge and take the dough out of the freezer. Grate the frozen dough over the jelly (chopping or breaking it up works too). Place the pan in the oven and bake for 30-40 minutes or until the shortbread has become a golden brown. Cut into wedges and enjoy.   

Monday, January 7, 2013

Chocolate Fudge Cookies with Candy Cane Buttercream Filling

It seems I still have holiday baking on the mind. I wrote out a whole bunch of recipes I wanted to bake while I was home, many of which were holiday inspired. I even bought candy canes in order to make these peppermint buttercream filled fudge sandwich cookies and I’m only posting about them now (even though I did make them before the new year started). I also have a box of gingerbread pudding mix I intended to use somehow, but that didn’t really work out since I’m not sure you can still get the pudding mix now. Maybe I’ll wait ‘til next Christmas. Oh well.

So these here are fudge cookies with candy cane buttercream filling. Did I tell you I purposefully bought candy canes for this recipe? Well I did, and I’m not sorry either.

I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to make sandwich cookies. If you recall, these were my first sandwich cookies I ever made and they were freaking fantastic! I’m a little ashamed to admit that I stuffed my face with more than my fair share… but they were so good. I’m getting a little sidetracked. I want to talk about these fudgy cuties.

The dough was so dark and thick I just wanted to eat it by itself, but I held back, I wanted to make sure I got an even amount of cookies so I could sandwich them all together.

The frosting that goes between these cookies is pure peppermint perfection (some alliteration for you). It was kind of fun to mash the candy canes to make the dust, but it wasn’t fun to clean up. Note to self: make sure to double bag it with hitting things with a meat pounder.

These are definitely best when paired with a glass of milk because it softens the cookie a little bit and makes it kind of fudgier.

Chocolate Fudge Cookies with Candy Cane Buttercream Filling
Slightly adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction
Makes 21 sandwich cookies

Fudge Cookies
1 cup + 1 tbsp. unbleached all-purpose flour
¼ cup unsweetened natural cocoa powder
1 tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
8 oz. semi sweet chocolate, chopped
2 eggs, room temperature
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
5 tbsp. unsalted butter, room temperature
¾ cup dark brown sugar
¼ cup sugar

Candy Cane Buttercream Filling
(Please note I made half this batch and still had about 1/3 remaining, but I tend to be a little reserved when filling cookies)
12 tbsp. unsalted butter, room temperature
2 ½ - 3 cups powdered sugar
3 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1-2 tbsp. milk
½ cup candy cane dust*

*To make candy cane dust: place about 8-10 candy canes into a plastic bag and crush with a mallet or rolling pin—something hard and heavy. Place a sifter over a bowl and sift the candy cane bits through. Keep the larger bits for garnish if desired.

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.

To make cookies: whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl. Melt the 8 oz. of chocolate in a medium heat-proof bowl placed over simmering water. Stir occasionally until chocolate has completely melted. Take the bowl off the heat and set aside to cool. In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs and vanilla.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg mixture. In a steady stream, pour in the melted chocolate. Mix on medium speed until everything is completely blended together. You may need to scrape down the sides of the bowl a few times. Gradually add the flour mixture. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary.

Take a medium-small cookie scoop and portion out the dough onto the prepared baking sheet. Space each dollop of cookie dough about two inches away from each other. Bake for about 8-10 minutes. The dough should still be a little soft when taken out of the oven. Allow cookies to cool on the pan for 5 minutes before removing to a cooling rack to cool completely. Repeat with remaining dough.

To make the filling: beat the butter on medium speed with the paddle attachment on a stand mixer. Gently add the powdered sugar. Beat in the vanilla. Pour in the candy cane dust and beat until completely incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat for another minute. Refrigerate the filling for about 5-10 minutes. Frost the bottoms of half the cookies with the filling. Place the remaining cookies, bottom side down, on top of the filling. Keep sandwich cookies refrigerated up to five days.  

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