Since the HCB assignment this week had peanut butter in it, which I am allergic to, I decided that I would take the week off. However, after seeing my fellow bakers’ comments about Chocolate Genoise Cake with Peanut Butter Whipped Ganache, I am seriously thinking that I will have to bake the chocolate genoise after all.
In the meantime, I thought I would share a photo of some cookies I made a few weeks ago. This is my interpretation of Martha Stewart’s Spiced Cardamom Cookies. I’ve had these cookies on my Must Try list ever since I saw them in her Holiday issue two years ago. I know, it is pathetic that it has taken me this long to get them done. In my defense, however, I just haven’t had a lot of spare time due to the job I have had and I have also been dealing with some challenges in my life for almost that same amount of time. So now that I am working a job that can be “left at the office,” and I have finally accepted the fact that I am going to be learning patience with these trials for the unforeseen future, I decided to try them.
Now I do have to state for the record that Martha Stewart and I have a love/hate relationship. Some of her recipes are great, and some of them just really do not work. This one, however, is a definite keeper. The dough was easy to mix up and also to work with. I used an impression mat that I have for fondant. It’s not quite as nice as Martha’s but it worked out okay. The cookies went together quite quickly and I think it would be a fun project for kids to do. See Martha’s recipe here.
The squirrel cookie cutter is made by Marimekko and I bought it last winter when I was in Minnesota. I thought it was the perfect cutter to use for fall and went really great with the walnut cookies (also seen on Martha Stewart but I used the recipe from House on the Hill.) (You can find the walnut recipe here. Since I made these cookies for some children that can not have nuts, I filled them with chocolate buttercream.)
The cookies turned out great and my family has already requested that I make them again. If you are looking for something fun and unique, definitely give these a try!
This week we had another free choice as to what we wanted to bake. I looked through the list of the cakes Marie baked before the group officially started and narrowed down what I wanted to try. The cake that caught my eye was the Ginger Cheesecake with Gingerbread Crust. This cheesecake is a perfect fit for this time of year because it has ginger and cardamom added to it. And not only that — the cake is encircle with gingerbread cookies! Now what could be more adoreable than that?
To be fair, the gingerbread cookies are optional in this recipe. If you want, you can purchase gingersnaps and grind them up for the crust. But seriously, the gingerbread cookies are the funnest part of this recipe. So for me, there was no question on whether or not I was making them.
The gingerbread dough was easy to mix up. The dough is flavored with molasses and the spices of ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. The dough is put in the fridge for a couple of hours to firm up. When I took it out later in the day, the dough was easy to work with and rolled out nicely. I cut out the small gingerbread boys and girls and then cut out squares to be crushed up for the crust. The crust is made by adding butter and a little salt to the cookie crumbs. I elected to leave out the salt since we are watching the sodium in our home.
The cheesecake itself went together quite easily also. One unique part of this recipe was the addition of ginger juice. To acquire ginger juice, you take a large piece of fresh gingerroot and grate it. Then you squeeze the grated ginger to extract its juice. (The gingerroot is then disposed of. ) The main components of the cheesecake batter are cream cheese and sour cream.
The cheesecake is baked in a water bath for an hour and then left in the oven with the door closed for another hour. Then you cool it on a wire rack for another hour before putting it in the fridge overnight. So this dessert definitely has to be made the day before you want to serve it.
To serve the cheesecake, run a hot knife around the inside of the pan to release it, and place on a serving plate. Then you press the gingerbread cookies around the outside. You can use jam to adhere the cookies a little more securely to the cheesecake.
My family really liked this cheesecake. The ginger flavor was quite strong but not too much. It was refreshing to have something a little out of the ordinary and these spices just feel like Thanksgiving to me. And if you make this cheesecake, don’t leave out the cookies because they were our favorite part of this dessert (I’ve already received a request to make more).
Today is a very special day because today I am going to share with you one of my very favorite recipes: Chocolate Pumpkin Bread. I don’t know who to give credit to for this recipe as I believe it came from the newspaper when I was young. My Mom happened to see it, cut it out and decided to give it a try. Needless to say, it was a big hit and she often made it to give as gifts during the holidays. Last weekend I decided to make my Mom’s Chocolate Pumpkin Bread to take to a party. I have had several people ask for the recipe so here it is. I hope you all enjoy it.
- 1-1/4 cups oil
- 3 oz. unsweetened chocolate
- 3-1/2 cups sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 29 oz. can pumpkin
- 1-1/2 tsp vanilla
- 1-1/2 tsp baking powder
- 3-3/4 cups all purpose flour
- 1-3/4 tsp salt
- 1-1/4 tsp baking soda
- 1-1/4 tsp cinnamon
- 1-1/4 tsp ground clove
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg
- 8 oz. chocolate chips
- 1 cup chopped nuts
Melt together over low heat half of oil with chocolate; set aside. Cream remaining oil with sugar. Beat in eggs. Add melted chocolate mixture and blend. Combine pumpkin and vanilla and add to batter. Slowly blend in sifted dry ingredients until moistened, then beat well until no lumps appear. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour or until firm for small loaf pans, 1 hour 15 minutes for large pans. Let stand 10 minutes, then remove from pans and cool. Makes 3 loaves (9×15); 4 loaves (8×4); 7 cans or 7 mini loaves.
Baking the Apple Caramel Charlotte was unlike anything I have ever baked before and will not likely do again soon. I actually baked the Charlotte a week ago because I had made several baking commitments for this weekend and knew that something as involved as this Charlotte was just not going to work. Even so, I really underestimated how much time this recipe would take and it was not what I needed to start off a very busy week.
The first step of this recipe was to make the biscuit or crust. Mixing the batter was definitely the easiest part. The eggs and sugar are mixed in the Kitchenaid. Then you beat the egg whites into a meringue and fold it into the batter.
It is baked in a half-sheet pan until golden brown and then removed from the pan at once. Then comes the more time consuming part: after the cake has cooled, you must cut the cake into an 8″ round circle and 4 strips that measure 8-1/4″x2-1/’.
The strips are stacked and layered with apricot preserves. Then you wrap it and freeze it.
It was late so I decided to poach the apples the next day when I did the rest of the baking. I couldn’t find any tart apples other than Granny Smith so that is what I used. These were put into a pan just large enough to hold the apples in a single layer. They are heated in sugar water with a little lemon juice, calvados and a vanilla bean.
Next came the Caramel Bavarian Cream Filling which has two main components: the apple caramel custard and meringue. As I began to make the apple caramel custard, Hubby asked if he could use a burner on the stove. I figured no big deal, all I need is a burner for the caramel. Five minutes later, as I had pans heating on three burners, we decided that trying to share the stove may not be a good idea. You must heat some poaching liquid along with gelatin in one pan. Another pan has egg yolks in it and the third pan is needed to make caramel. After the caramel is ready, you add the poaching liquid/gelatin to it, and then you combine the yolks. This whole mixture must then be brought to the boiling point and put through a strainer to chill. As I went to make the caramel I made a very careless mistake by confusing the amounts for the water and the sugar which meant I had far too much water added with the sugar and after heating and heating, it was just never going to turn into caramel. All the while, the poaching liquid was boiling on the back burner. So I had to redo the caramel and I was back on track.
Component two for the filling is an Italian Meringue made by making a simple syrup of sugar and water and then combining it with egg whites that have been beaten to stiff peaks.
Finally, after you have the custard and the meringue made, you must combine them both with some cream and Calvados. This would seem pretty straightforward but this part really gave me grief. This was because Rose has you cool the apple caramel custard in an ice water bath and you are to get it to a point you can drop it off a spoon and it will lightly mound. Well, my custard was already almost to a gelatinous consistency before trying to cool it down and I could see that there was no way it was going to drop off a spoon and mound. (You can see the horrible consistency in the picture.) I proceeded to have a small meltdown because I had already spent so much time on this dessert and now it appeared I wasn’t going to be able to complete the next step. I was ready to quit and be done with this whole recipe but Hubby stepped in with his cool analytical mind and figured out how to salvage things. We decided that I must have lost some of the liquid when I was having trouble with the caramel and had the poaching liquid boiling for an extended period of time on the back burner. So Hubby reheated the custard mixture and added some liquid. It seemed to be working so I continued on. Cooling this mixture down just doesn’t seem to make sense to me and and as we cooled it down it again started turning gelatinous so I am still questioning what this step is all about but whatever. We did manage to get everything combined and the completed Bavarian Cream Filling promptly went into the crust.
Next came the slicing of the apples and then arranging them into a rose. Normally this would be my favorite part but by this point I just wanted the thing done.
The final step is to make a glaze that is brushed over the top of the apples. The Charlotte then goes into the refrigerator overnight. Once its in the fridge, you can begin the major cleanup involved after dirtying so many dishes and pans.
The next night we had a friend over for dinner. It was nice that the dessert could just be pulled from the fridge and be ready to go at that point. The appearance of the dessert is really quite spectacular. The taste was good but not the wow that I anticipated. I admit that some of this may be because I was still holding a small grudge over how long this took to make. Hubby liked it a lot but agreed it was a lot of work to make. My friend enjoyed it also but she observed that while the crust of this dessert is very beautiful, flavor wise it doesn’t really seem to complement the apples and custard. She said it was like it should go with some other dessert, and I agree.
So, there you have it. I would not totally rule out ever making it again and perhaps it would go a little smoother the second time around. But at the same time, it was not so amazing of a dessert that I felt like it warranted the work involved.