July 28, 2016

Key Lime Pie Cones

The other week we tried to replicate a Key Lime Pie Martini. It was close but not close enough to use all our supplies making them, which meant I had a partial can of sweetened condensed milk in the fridge. Rather than wasting it, I decided to try this recipe from Sweet ReciPEAS that I had a seen a few weeks earlier. Let's just say that those martinis weren't a waste because these Key Lime Pie Cones are amazing!

The recipe includes no eggs, so they only require a short baking time that doesn't burn the ice cream cone. The cones do get a bit chewy as they sit, so these would be best served the day they are made, although I actually thought the chew didn't detract. I simply put cool whip in a piping bag to make them pretty, but you could easily make homemade whipped cream or simply dollup on some cool whip if that's how you roll.

These will be made again. They might even be better than real key lime pie with meringue, and they're definitely easier. (That says a lot considering how easy key lime pie is to make.) I think they'd be perfect for a gathering of friends because they're individual portions, cute and delicious!

I'll share her measurements, although I tweaked them down to use just the sweetened condensed milk I had left. I'm guessing this recipe would yield about 16 sugar cones and use a container of cool whip. If you could find mini sugar cones, you could probably shorten the bake time to about 5 minutes and have plenty more as minis.


Key Lime Pie Cones
Sugar cones
2 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup sour cream
3/4 cup key lime juice
Cool Whip

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Cover a bundt pan tightly with aluminum foil. Poke a hole in the foil, and insert a sugar cone into the hole. Repeat as needed with the other cones. (The foil holds them in place for baking, so they don't tip.)

Combine the sweetened condensed milk, sour cream and lime juice together until evenly mixed. Distribute evenly among desired amount of cones. (The mixture will not rise, so you can fill them to the top.) Bake about 7 minutes, until set. Cool completely, and then chill in the refrigerator at least 3 hours before serving. Top with cool whip immediately prior to serving. Makes about 16 cones.

June 26, 2016

Strawberry Balsamic Jam

We planted strawberries last year, and we fortunately have plants loaded with fruit this summer. Since I've been a single parent for the week while my husband is gallivanting around Europe for work (I'm sure you can't sense my jealousy), I kept tucking my berries in the fridge with sugar to keep them until I got around to doing something with them. My mother-in-law kindly kept the kiddos for a night, so I could get some things done including making deliciousness out of my berries.

I made a batch of strawberry vanilla jam, which ended up as strawberry vanilla sauce. I'm cool with that. I'd much rather have a jam that doesn't set versus a jam that is like eating glue, if you can scrape it out of the jar. (I've had a few batches like that, so I tend to err on the side of a looser jam). I also tried this jam recipe from Food in Jars.

This is like a grown-up version of strawberry jam, one that would play well with savory foods. It only makes a small batch, so I used mostly 1/4 pint jars for mine. And this one turned out with a perfect consistency.

Strawberry Balsamic Jam
1 1/2 pounds strawberries (about 4 cups chopped berries)
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Prepare a boiling water bath canner and 3 half pint jars. Chop the strawberries. Place them in a non-reactive 12 inch skillet, and add the sugar. Stir to combine, and let the berries sit until the sugar looks damp the fruit has started to weep liquid. Place the pan over high heat, and bring to a boil. Cook, stirring regularly, until the berries soften and the liquid bubbles and thickens. It should take between 15 and 20 minutes of cooking.

Towards the end of cooking, stir in the balsamic vinegar. The jam is done when you can pull a spatula through it, and it doesn't rush as quickly to fill the space. Remove the pan from the heat, and stir in the black pepper.

Funnel the finished jam into the prepared jars leaving a half-inch head space. Wipe the rims, apply the lids and rings, and process them in a boiling water bath canner for 10 minutes. When the time is up, remove the jars from the canner, and set them on a folded kitchen towel to cool. Makes 1 1/2 pints.

June 15, 2016

Smores French Toast

This weekend we made French toast based off a video the boys and I watched on Facebook. There's not a precise recipe, but if you've made French toast before, you can make this. After you dip the bread in the egg mixture, dip it into graham cracker crumbs, coating both sides. Cook as normal in a hot skillet. After flipping the French toast to cook the second side, spread a layer of marshmallow fluff on one piece of bread and a layer of melted chocolate on another. Press the two pieces of bread together, and voila, smores French toast!


In case you can't tell, this is incredibly rich for breakfast. You might want to consider it as a dessert. Or consider splitting one French toast between two people. Or eat this and then spend all morning hauling rocks and dirt. (That last option worked well for us.)

May 27, 2016

Prickly Pear Tequila Sunrise Cake

When we visited Saguaro National Park, we walked away with quite the abundance of prickly pear products: tea, syrup and a tequila sunrise jam made with prickly pear. However, as is often the case, the products sat in our cupboard waiting for the right time to try them. I decided to combine a few of them into a birthday cake for me/my dad. Inspired by the jam, I decided to make a prickly pear tequila sunrise cake.


Now, I've made tequila sunrise cupcakes before, and I feel like this version takes the cake. I modified an orange cake from Goodie Godmother. Both layers of this cake have wonderful texture, and the orange frosting reminds me of creamsicles. I didn't quite attain the swoopy frosting I was hoping for, so instead I blended the two frostings into each other.


End result: pretty and delicious cake.

Prickly Pear Tequila Sunrise Cake
Orange Cake
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
5-10 drops orange essential oil
2 eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
11/2 cups flour
11/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 cup orange juice
1/2 cup tequila
1/2 tsp. vanilla
Prickly Pear Cake
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
2 eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
11/2 cups flour
11/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup prickly pear syrup
1/2 cup milk
1/2 tsp. vanilla
Orange Frosting
2 sticks butter, softened
1 lb. powdered sugar
5-10 drops orange essential oil
2 tsp. vanilla bean paste
2-4 Tbsp. milk or heavy cream
Prickly Pear Frosting
2 sticks butter, softened
1 lb. powdered sugar
1/4 cup prickly pear syrup
2 tsp. vanilla bean paste
Filling
Prickly Pear Tequila Sunrise Jam

To bake the orange cake, preheat your oven to 350ºF. Grease, butter and flour a 9-inch round pan, and line the bottom with parchment paper.

Beat the butter, sugar and orange oil together in a mixing bowl or with a stand mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well, and scraping the bowl after each addition.

In a smaller bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt. In a measuring cup with a spout, combine the orange juice, tequila and vanilla. Add half the flour mixture to the mixing bowl, stir to incorporate, and then add half the liquid mixture. Scrape the bowl, add the other half of the flour, stir, scrape, and add the remaining liquid. Stir just until combined. Pour into cake bowl, and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Cool 10 minutes, and remove from pan onto a wire rack to cool completely.

To bake the prickly pear cake, preheat your oven to 350ºF. Grease, butter and flour a 9-inch round pan, and line the bottom with parchment paper.

Beat the butter and sugar together in a mixing bowl or with a stand mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well, and scraping the bowl after each addition.

In a smaller bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt. In a measuring cup with a spout, combine the prickly pear syrup, milk and vanilla. Add half the flour mixture to the mixing bowl, stir to incorporate, and then add half the liquid mixture. Scrape the bowl, add the other half of the flour, stir, scrape, and add the remaining liquid. Stir just until combined. Pour into cake bowl, and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Cool 10 minutes, and remove from pan onto a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the orange frosting, beat the butter until light and fluffy, almost white in color. Slowly beat in powdered sugar. Add the orange oil and vanilla, and then add milk until desired consistency is reached.

To make the prickly pear frosting, beat the butter until light and fluffy, almost white in color. Slowly beat in powdered sugar. Add the prickly pear syrup, and beat until smooth and fluffy.

(If you want to cheat, you can start both frostings together, and simply divide them before adding the unique ingredients. You'll end up with extra frosting, which is a great excuse to make tequila sunrise cupcakes. Or am I the only person who bakes a batch of orange tequila cupcakes to use up extra frosting?)

To assemble the cake, place the prickly pear layer down first. Cover with a layer of prickly pear tequila sunrise jam (or orange curd would be an excellent substitution). Top with orange cake layer. Frost the bottom portion of the cake with the prickly pear frosting, and the top portion of the cake with orange frosting. Swirl or combine as desired. (I used some prickly pear on the top and did the sunset effect there as well.)

May 23, 2016

Sweet & Salty Millionaire's Layer Cake

I've had this incredible cake bookmarked for a very long time from Sweetapolita. I figured my birthday was the perfect time to try this rather involved recipe. None of the steps alone are overly complicated, but you end up making 3 layer cakes, shortbread crumbles, salted caramel, Swiss meringue buttercream and chocolate ganache. You can see why it takes quite a bit of time ... and butter. Lots of butter.

This was my first time making Swiss meringue buttercream, and I'm so glad I made it. It's a luscious, buttery frosting, that is very different than a typical buttercream. It will not become my standard, but it's a nice varietal to have in my frosting arsenal.

This is rich, decadent and lives up to its Millionaire name.


Sweet & Salty Millionaire's Layer Cake
Chocolate Cake
2 1/4 cups flour
2 1/4 cups superfine sugar
3/4 cup dark Dutch-process cocoa powder
2 1/4 tsp. baking soda
2 1/4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup hot water
1/3 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs, room temperature
1 Tbsp. vanilla
Vanilla Bean Swiss Meringue Buttercream
6 egg whites
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 cups butter, softened, cut into cubes
2 tsp. vanilla bean paste
Pinch of salt
Salted Caramel
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1 cup heavy cream
2 Tbsp. butter
2 tsp. vanilla or vanilla bean paste
Generous pinch of sea salt
Shortbread Crumbs
1 cup flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened, cut into cubes
Ganache Frosting
1 pound plus 6 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
2 cups heavy cream
1/3 cup corn syrup
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1/2 cup butter, cut into cubes
1 Tbsp. pure vanilla extract

To make the cakes, preheat oven to 350° F. Spray three 8-inch round cake pans with cooking spray, and line the bottoms with parchment paper rounds. (If you have to bake each cake separately, the batter will be fine to do this.)

In the bowl of electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, sift together flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt. In a large measuring cup with a spout, combine the buttermilk, hot water, oil, eggs and vanilla.

Add liquid mixture to dry ingredients, and mix on medium speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Divide batter among the 3 cake pans (weigh batter for even layers at about 520 grams per cake pan).
Bake 2 of the layers until a toothpick or skewer inserted into the center comes out with a few crumbs, about 20-25 minutes. Repeat with the final layer. Let cakes cool in the pans for 10 minutes, and then turn onto a wire rack until completely cool.

To make the Swiss meringue buttercream, wipe the bowl and whisk of an electric mixer with paper towel and lemon juice, to remove any trace of grease. Add egg whites and sugar, and simmer over a pot of water (not boiling), whisking constantly but gently, until temperature reaches 130°F, or if you don't have a candy thermometer, until the sugar has completely dissolved and the egg whites are hot, about 8-10 minutes.

Place bowl back on mixer, and fit with the whisk attachment. Whip on medium-high speed until the meringue is thick, glossy, and the bottom of the bowl feels neutral to the touch. (This can take up to 10 minutes, or longer). Switch over to paddle attachment, and with mixer on low speed, add softened butter in chunks until incorporated, and mix until it has reached a silky smooth texture. (If it curdles, keep mixing, and it will come back to smooth). Increase speed to medium, and beat until the mixture becomes thick and fluffy, about 2 minutes.

Add vanilla bean paste and salt, continuing to beat on low speed until well combined. Keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 day, refrigerated for up to 1 week, or in the freezer for up to 2 months. Thaw at room temperature. Bring chilled buttercream back to smooth consistency by bringing to room temperature and then beating on low speed with an electric mixer for a few minutes. (I had a hard time getting mine back to the same fluffy consistency, but I think I didn't have it warmed to room temperature, which might have been my issue.)

To make the caramel, n a medium saucepan over medium heat, stir the sugar and water until combined. Brush down the sides of the saucepan with a wet pastry brush, and increase the heat to medium-high. Stop stirring, and let the mixture bubble until it reaches an amber colour (about 350°F). Promptly remove the saucepan from the heat, and whisk in the heavy cream carefully until smooth, followed by the butter.

Clip a candy thermometer onto the saucepan, and return the mixture to medium-high heat until it reaches 248°F). Transfer the caramel to the heatproof bowl, and stir in the vanilla and sea salt. As the caramel reaches room temperature, it will become thick and spreadable. Store in a sealed jar in refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

To make the shortbread crumbles, preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat mat. In a medium bowl, combine the flour and sugar. Cut in the butter using a pastry blender or your fingers, until you have distributed the butter and achieved pea-size bits. Turn the mixture in an even layer onto the prepared baking sheet, and bake for 10 minutes. Remove the tray from the oven and, using a heatproof spatula, gently break up the mixture and return to the oven for 10 more minutes. Let tray cool completely on a wire rack. Once cool, keep in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

For the ganache frosting, place chopped chocolate in a large heatproof mixing bowl. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the cream, corn syrup and salt, and bring just to a boil. Pour hot cream mixture over the chocolate, and let sit for about 1 minute. Using a whisk, combine the chocolate mixture until smooth. Add butter and vanilla, and mix again until smooth. Mixture will thicken to spreadable frosting consistency, and eventually become solid at room temperature. To soften, simply warm and bring to desired consistency.

Prepare your fillings and frosting and ensure they are all at spreadable consistency. For the ganache, this will take about 15-30 minutes after making it, and about 30-60 minutes for the caramel. If you have made ahead, simply warm the ganache and let cool until spreadable, and do the same for the caramel.

Slice all three cake layers in half horizontally, so you have a total of 6 cake layers. Smear a small dollop of the ganache frosting on a cake plate, pedestal or cake board, and place your first layer cut side up (so bottom of the cake layer is touching plate), and using a small offset palette knife, spread about 1 cup of buttercream on the layer leaving about 1-inch around the edge, followed by one-third of the caramel and then a generous handful of shortbread crumble. Place your next cake layer on top, and spread about 1 cup of the ganache frosting all the way to the edge.

Repeat previous step until you get to the final cake layer. Place last layer face down (cut side down) and frost entire cake with the ganache frosting. Let sit for about 15 minutes and then finish with a thick coat of ganache frosting. Sprinkle on some Fleur de Sel. Finished cake can be kept at room temperature for up to 8 hours. Keep refrigerated if longer than 8 hours, but serve at room temperature.