Sally’s Baking Addiction: June, 2018 Challenge: Brownie Baked Alaska 🍨

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For the month of June, Sally challenged us to make a retro baked Alaska. The twist: no cake base! Sally admits that she does not like cake combined with ice cream. My son is the same way. I also never eat cake mixed directly with ice cream, I don’t like the soggy cake texture 😳

So I knew my family would love the brownie, cake and merengue combo. This is such an easy dessert to make, and the entire thing can be assembled, frozen and then torched right before you serve it to your guests. I decided that Father’s Day would be a great time for us to try this out.

There is a little prep work that needs to be done the night before. The ice cream needs to be shaped and frozen. I purchased my ice cream, but I do like to make it from scratch, perhaps next time! This 9 inch, 2.5 quart mixing bowl will hold 3 quarts of ice cream. I chose mint chocolate chip since it is one of my hubby’s favorite flavors. The ice cream is softened and placed into a mixer with a paddle attachment, and beaten until creamy. The softened ice cream is placed into the mixing bowl, which has been lined with plastic wrap. This will make unmolding much easier! Wrap it tight and place in the freezer for at least 8 hours. I put mine in overnight.

The next day I made one of Sally’s brownie recipes. She has many to choose from, you will find the one you like😊. I went with the Chewy, Fudgy Homemade brownies😋 So glad I did! Super easy and so tasty!

First melt butter and chocolate together and let cool slightly. Whisk in the sugars, eggs and vanilla.

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Add the flour, cocoa and salt

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Fold in the dry ingredients and a cup of chocolate chips

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Bake in a 9 inch pan, which fits the circumference of the bowl.

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Let this cool completely, then add it to the bowl of frozen ice cream. Invert the brownie, rewrap and keep frozen while you prepare the merengue.

 

Set the egg whites, sugar and cream of tartar over simmering water. Whisk until the sugar is dissolved, then place in a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Add the vanilla and beat until stiff, glossy peaks form.

 

Generously spoon the merengue onto the unmolded ice cream and brownie bombe.

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This can be frozen until you are ready to serve, or you can get out your handy torch and go for it! No torch? No problem, just use the broiler function in your oven. But don’t walk away!!

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The left overs stayed in the freezer for several days and still tasted great! We enjoyed this so much, and it was so easy, that I decided to serve this at the second Yoga Retreat that I catered this past weekend.

I went with the individual cupcakes for the Yogis 🧘🏻‍♀️. The only difference was that the brownie batter was placed into a lined muffin tin, and there was no pre-freezing involved.

The cooled brownie cups were unwrapped, a scoop of ice cream was added, then the merengue as previously described. I assemble 8 and placed them in the freezer for after dinner.

The yogis had fun torching their own desserts 😃 .

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1529732028525This was a fun, easy summer dessert 🍨. Another great idea from Sally’s Baking Addiction!🙏

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A Yoga Retreat 🧘🏻‍♀️, and I am the Caterer👩🏻‍🍳 😬

That’s a scary thought huh?! You might be wondering how this happened, I know I was!

Last January we went Mexico to attend a yoga retreat. I did a few posts on that trip. This was the same location as the previous yoga retreat, which we loved! Our yoga instructor, Lisa Shifler for both of those retreats, recently moved to Twisp, WA, 4 hours east of our home in Redmond. She told us that she was building a “yoga Shalla” on her property and would be holding retreats this summer.

We were all sitting at breakfast, talking about her plans when she said she was looking for someone to do the cooking for two weekends in June, during the women’s only yoga retreats. I blurted out “I will do it!” And she said “great!” 😳

What was I thinking!! After my head stopped spinning, I realized that this would be a great challenge and experience for me. And, with the first one in the books, I can honestly say it was a blast!

I had never been to Twisp before, which is located in the Methow Valley. I have heard great things about the area so I was excited to see the area. It is as advertised!

This is the Methow River, and it is so relaxing and I love the sounds of the water flowing along.

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I drank a lot of coffee sitting next to this beautiful scenery💕

And all the blooms were out. 🌼🌸🌹It is sunny on this side of the mountains, as they get less rain than the Seattle side.

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Lisa’s yoga Shalla was so cute and inviting!

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Lisa decorated with articles from her two trips to India

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And, bought Mexican blankets, a nod to our other retreats .

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But I had a job to do! I made two desserts, both gluten free, dairy free as one of the ladies has Celiacs. Friday night we had a chocolate cake with bruleed bananas. Saturday’s dessert was this angle food cake with triple berry sauce and ice cream (for the dairy folks). Some of you may remember these from instagram, as I have been recipe testing for the last few weeks.

Then I had two brunches to prepare, both had gluten free options as well.

Our first morning we had crustless quiche, one with cream cheese and one without. There was also fruit salad, mango-orange Greek yogurt, gluten free granola, breakfast potatoes (not shown), cranberry & pistachio biscotti and sourdough bread that I had made a few days earlier.

Sunday’s brunch also included the yogurt and granola option, along with a French toast bake, gluten free pancakes and bacon.

Lisa also made some gluten free steel cut oatmeal both days and I never got to taste it! Hopefully I will next time😊.

I am happy and proud to report that no one got sick!! That was my biggest fear, and we all were pleasantly full for the weekend.

The weekend wasn’t all about yoga, we had some creative time. We painted inspirational rocks from the river. I have a couple weeks to think about the next design and am hoping to come up with a better idea for my second rock!

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We also went into the town of Winthrop to do some shopping. I had never been there before, and found it to be a cute town. I have travel blogged about Leavenworth, a nearby town that has a Bavarian theme. Winthrop is fashioned after an old western town.

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This dude was in front of the Putt Putt Golf Course.

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Like most tourist towns, there were plenty of ice cream and coffee shops. I love the mottos and sayings of these two in particular!

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The weekend was a success! The 8 of us had a great time shopping, eating and stretching!

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The Yogis, relaxing and shopping

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Lisa, (left) is our instructor and Teena (right) also teaches in the Seattle area.

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And I am now thinking about what to prepare for the last week in June, when I will head back for the next, and final, retreat. Any suggestions??

 

Sally’s Baking Addiction: May, 2018 Challenge: Classic Cheesecake 🍰

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Last month we made croissants, which was pretty time consuming. I think Sally took pity on us and assigned a much less cumbersome challenge for May: the classic cheesecake.

If you have ever made a cheesecake, you know that they are not that difficult. There are very few ingredients, the only tricky part is baking it in such a way that you don’t have a giant crack in the center. It is not that hard really. You just need to use a water bath and be sure to avoid over mixing the cheese cake filling.

I didn’t want a huge cake, so I opted for these mini cakes so my hubby could unload take them to his coworkers! I didn’t need to create the water bath, just had to keep an eye on them while they were in the oven. I also decided to top each with chocolate ganache, which absolved me of any cracking issues 😉

First up, the graham cracker crust. The crushed cracker crumbs were combined with vanilla sugar and butter. Sally used regular sugar, I just prefer to reinforce the vanilla flavor by baking with the vanilla sugar I always keep on hand for dessert preparations.

The result is a sandy, textured mix that is spooned into a paper lined muffin tin.

 

This recipe makes about 9 cakes, and they were pre-baked for 5 minutes at 350ºF.

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While these cooled, I made the filling. This was so fast and easy! Cream cheese, more vanilla sugar, sour cream, vanilla, lemon juice and an egg were placed into the bowl and mixed until just combined.

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Try not to whip this! No extra air should be incorporated to avoid cracking while baking and this is a very thick mixture. Just a few tablespoons are needed to cover each of the crusts.

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The pan goes into the 350ºF oven for about 20 minutes. The cakes are done when the edges are just set, and the center is still a little jiggly (just like a full cheesecake). Make sure these cool completely by placing them in the fridge for, at least, 2 hours. I actually made the cakes and refrigerated overnight. They will sink a little in the center, but just add a topping of fruit or chocolate and they will be perfect!

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So easy and tasty 😋! Another awesome Sally recipe. Try either the full cake, or these minis, for a fast and delicious dessert, and let me know what you think👩🏻‍🍳 💕

Sally’s Baking Addiction: April, 2018 Challenge: Croissants 🥐

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Sally threw down her toughest challenge yet when she went for laminated dough! I have talked about my feelings for laminated dough a few times already. You may remember that I had to make this many times in culinary school and had no desire to revisit those days!

But I have a tough time turning down a challenge! And, Sally has a novel approach to making laminated dough. There are more steps that require longer refrigeration times, but they are quite easy! Check out her site first, she has wonderful videos and tips to help along the way!

We begin by making the dough, which is straight forward.

Butter, flour, sugar, salt, yeast and milk were combined. The dough was kneaded in the mixer and rested, in the refrigerator, for 30 minutes. This allowed the gluten to relax so it could be rolled out in the next step.

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The measurements from here on are important. The goal is to encase the butter layer completely within the dough. So, I had to take my time to make sure that this rectangle was exactly 14 in X 10 in. Use your hands, a rolling pin, a measuring stick and lots of flour!

Once the rectangle was the correct size, and the corners were squared off, the dough was ready for its first long rest. The directions were to rest for 4 hours or overnight. I chose to leave this, covered, in the fridge until the next morning.

 

Lamination and Turns

The next day I made the butter layer.

Three sticks of room temperature butter, and 2 tablespoons of flour, were thoroughly combined. The butter layer was spread onto a parchment paper in the precise measurements of 7 in. X 10 in. This smaller rectangle was cooled in the refrigerator for 30 minutes, until solid. It is important that the butter be cold!

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After 30 minutes, the butter layer was laid in the center of the cold dough layer from the day before.

The dough was folded over the butter, completely encasing the butter layer. The dough has now been “laminated”.

Make sure the dough is pinched tight around the butter so that the butter will not ooze out of the edges when it is rolled out in the next series of steps!

 

The dough was rolled out to 10 in X 20 in this time. When this dimension was achieved it was time to fold the dough. Fold the top third down, then the bottom third up, until you have a smaller rectangle, like the one at the bottom right. That is the “first turn”. You will do this twice more, for a total of three turns. This is what makes the layers of flaky pastry!

If the dough is too warm then refrigerate for 30 minutes in between each turn. In my kitchen, I was able to do two turns and then had to cool the dough for 30 minutes before finishing the third, and final, roll out.

The dough needs to rest again for 4 hours or overnight. Since I did this in the morning, my dough rested for 5 hours before I finished baking the croissants later that evening.

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The dough after three turns, and before going into the fridge for the second long rest.

Shaping and Baking

The dough was rolled out again, this time 8 in X 20 in. Cut the dough in half lengthwise, then again three times to make 8 4in X 5in squares. Cut each square diagonally to make 16 triangles.

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check out the layers! 

Gently stretch out the triangles to make the base more centered and the triangle a little longer. Make a small cut at the base of the triangle to make it easier to roll up. Curve the final form into a crescent shape. Let them sit at room temp for 30 minutes to being the final proof. Finish proofing in the fridge for 1 to 3 hours, you want them cold going into the oven. I left mine for 1 hour.

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Brush with an egg wash and bake at 400F until golden brown. That was about 30 minutes in my oven 😊

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The verdict? They were delicious 🤤 😋 I will be honest, I am not a croissant person and really don’t enjoy eating such a buttery bread. I know I am not “normal” where these are concerned. But I did try one to assess flakiness and taste. I was impressed with Sally’s technique! It was easier than the regular laminated dough process, but does take more time. Breaking it up over a couple days did make it simpler. And, Sally gives some great tips for freezing or making ahead to aid in your planning.

If you have ever wanted to try making croissants but felt intimidated by the process then give this a try! It really is simple, and my family loved them😊💕

Sally’s Baking Addiction: March, 2018 Challenge: The Naked Cake 🎂

 

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Have you heard of naked, or semi naked cakes? 🍰 I am going to be very honest, I am not a fan of this style of cake decorating. It drives my crazy to leave the cake unfinished. I don’t find it “chic” or stylish to see the sides of the cake, must be the control freak in me!

But, that is the point of a challenge, is it not? So, I sucked it up and went for it. Aside from the instructions to not frost the sides, we were free to choose any type of cake and frosting combo we desired. I knew I would be in Seattle the week before our son’s 22nd birthday. So, the choice was easy! Ryan loves funfetti cake with vanilla icing, and has a ginormous sweet tooth.

Sally’s funfetti cake recipe is straight forward, and I was happy that it did not come from a box! It is basically a vanilla butter cake with sprinkles, and came together easily.

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Then the sprinkles were folded into the mix

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This batter is quite dense and thick. I decided to split this into two, 6 inch baking rounds, with the intent of splitting each to create four layers. It took awhile longer to bake than the times listed in her recipe, as she called for 9 inch pans.

And yes, I did weigh the batter so I could divide it exactly into the two pans (control freak remember, 😜). I let the cakes cool, wrapped them up to be frosted (or not frosted!) the next day.

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I was happy with the look of the funfetti cakes. They look just like the box mix

I made Sally’s vanilla frosting, just as she directed, and started icing, sort of..

This Was Killing Me!!! How can this be a finished cake 😫

I had a small amount of frosting left over and we were allowed to decorate the top. I dyed that remaining frosting blue, and I had no idea what to do with it. So, I put the cake in the fridge and walked away!

I needed a time out! I was making a birthday dinner for my son, daughter and her boyfriend, where the cake was the dessert. I went to Costco and bought some sandals. I went to Soma and bought two new bras (TMI 😂). Then I went to Safeway for some inspiration for this cake!

Since there is an abundance of Easter candy in every grocery store since February 15th, I bought mini robin’s eggs and mini M&Ms. If I cant frost it, then I am going to cover as much as I can with candy 🍭 🍬

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I felt a little better, but was still thinking that this is the ugliest cake I have ever made!

Ryan chose those sparkler candles for his cake and I was ready to light this sucker on fire 🔥 🔥 🔥

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The funny thing is that the kids loved it!

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I will admit that I was happy with how even all four layers were and the amount of icing was equal in each layer. See? I have symmetry issues 😉

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Even big sis liked it

All in all, it worked out well! I met the challenge, mostly, and Ryan loved his sugar bomb cake 🎂

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I hope April’s challenge will let me finish completely! 😳

Something Delicious and Different for your Easter Table 🐰

I made these Chocolate Covered Peanut Butter Eggs last year. My blog was pretty new at the time, so I am guessing most of you haven’t seen that post. I talked about my grandmother as the  inspiration for making these decorated eggs. She was rather unique, so if you are interested, take a look at those first couple of paragraphs💕

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This is barely a recipe, they are that easy! You can find numerous recipes for homemade Reese’s all over the internet. I followed The Recipe Critics formula. Simply combine smooth peanut butter, powdered sugar,  melted butter and a small amount of milk. Mix on low speed with a paddle attachment, the dough will be crumbly and that is ok!

Pull the dough together on a floured board and roll out to, roughly, 1/2 inch thickness. Use an egg shaped cutter to stamp out the shapes. I didn’t have one, so I made templates out of parchment paper. I traced around the circumference of a large egg and cut out the patterns.

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I then used the templates, and a sharp knife, to make the peanut butter eggs.

The eggs need to be refrigerated for, at least an hour. This will help with the chocolate dipping process. Melt 1 bag of milk chocolate chips with 1 Tablespoon of shortening. The shortening will give the eggs a nice shine.

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I used a fork to submerge the eggs into the chocolate. I did have to use a second bag of chips to have enough chocolate coating for 21 eggs.

Honestly, you could stop right here and devour these after the chocolate sets. There is no shame in that 😋 Your family and friends would be thrilled with them, just as they are!

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This is a giant Reese’s Cup! 

If you want to go the extra step, this is how I decorated my eggs. I used a royal icing recipe that makes a firm consistency. Some royal icing formulas are soft and have a marshmallow type texture. Delicious, to be sure, but those won’t hold the definition of the piping tips particularly well. You will have softer lines, like the leaves in this picture.

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They are leaves, but without veins. My icing was too warm at this point 😞

I like Antonia74’s recipe for this project. It is still tasty, but with a stronger consistency.

I made a batch, divided it up and started coloring! The icing was bagged up, with a variety of flower tips, and I was ready to go.

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I like to use disposable bags with coupler attachments. I can then change my flower tips to make different colored flowers, lines and flower petals.

It may take a few tries for you to get the look you want. I tend to practice a few times on my cutting board or parchment paper to see how the flowers will look before moving to the eggs. If you do make a mistake, not big deal! Wait for the icing to dry and pop it off the surface of the chocolate!

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This is a better example of leaves with the details I wanted. See the veins in the leaves?

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As I said before, if you don’t have the time for all the decorating, just eat them plain! I want to wish you all a Happy Easter🐰🐥💕!

Chocolate Covered Peanut Butter Easter eggs

  • Servings: About 20 large eggs
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

Beautiful, festive and with all the taste of a Reese's peanut butter cup! These Eggs will be the highlight of your Easter Buffet

Credit: The Recipe Critic and invisible-no-more.com

Ingredients

-3 cups Powdered sugar

-1 and 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter

-1/4 cup butter, melted

-2 Tablespoons milk

-1 to 2 bags milk chocolate chips

-1 to 2 Tablespoons vegetable shortening

 

Directions

  1. Beat together powdered sugar, peanut butter, and butter together. At this point the dough will be crumbly. Add two tablespoons of milk and continue to beat together until the dough softens. If the dough still seems crumbly that is ok.
  2. On a floured surface, roll the dough out to desired thickness. About ½ thickness. You can use egg cookie cutters or with a knife, shape the dough to look like eggs.
  3. Place eggs on a cookie sheet and put in the freezer for an hour.
  4. When you are ready to dip them, add the chocolate and 1 Tbsp shortening in a microwave and melt 30 seconds at a time. Stirring it after every 30 seconds and being careful not to cook the chocolate to burn. Of, melt chocolate and shortening over a double boiler
  5. Dip each egg in chocolate. I used a fork to help cover in the chocolate. Place them on parchment paper to set.
  6. If more chocolate is needed, melt the second bag with the shortening. Enjoy!

Antonia74's Royal Icing recipe

Ingredients

-3/4 cup warm water

-5 Tablespoons meringue powder

-1 teaspoon cream of tartar

-1 kilogram (2.25 pounds) of powdered sugar

 

Directions

  1. In a mixing bowl, pour in the warm water and the meringue powder. Mix it with a whisk by hand until it is frothy and thickened…about 30 seconds.
  2. Add the cream of tartar and mix for 30 seconds more.
  3. Pour in all the powdered sugar at once and place the bowl on the mixer.
  4. Using the paddle attachment on the LOWEST speed, mix slowly for a full 10 minutes. Icing will get thick and creamy.
  5. When the icing is just sitting on the counter, be sure to cover the bowl with a dampened tea-towel or paper towel, to prevent crusting and drying.
  6. Tint with food coloring* or thin the icing with small amounts of warm water to reach the desired consistency.

*I prefer gel colors so they will not change the consistency of the icing, and the colors are more intense.