Friday, August 31, 2012

Big-Time Peanut Butter Cookies

What happened to my cake-karma?! I messed up a cake this week! Well, it wasn't exactly inedible, but it just didn't turn out the way I expected it... I get grumpy when that happens... So I flipped through one of my new baking books yesterday, in search of something for consolation. "Big-time peanut butter cookies"... can't go wrong with that, I thought. And the recipe keeps its promise, they are easy-peasy and quick to make and they are scrumptious! Moist and nutty, with a chrunch from the peanut chunks and the bitterness of the dark chocolate... big-time!

(slightly adapted from: The Weekend Baker by Abigail Johnson Dodge)

284g peanut butter (smooth or crunchy, I took crunchy)
170g firmly packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
28g plain flour
170g chocolate chips (I used 78%), or candy coated chocolates such as mini M&Ms (optional)

Line two baking trays with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 180°C.

In a large bowl, combine peanut butter and sugar. Beat with an electric mixer on middle speed until well blended. Add the egg and the vanilla extract and mix until well blended. Pour in the flour and mix on low speed until well blended. Add the chococlate chips and fold in with a ladle.

Using a small ice-cream scoop or two tablespoons, scoop up rounded tablespoons full of the dough and, using your hands, shape into balls (about 4cm diameter). Arrange the cookies on the baking trays, leaving about 5cm space between them. Flatten them a little with a fork.

Bake one tray at a time until the cookies look dry on top, about 12 minutes. Take out of the oven and let cool onthe tray for 10 minutes. Then, transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Makes about 20 cookies. They can be stored in an airtight container in a cool place for about a week. You can also store them in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Apricot Tray Bake with Almond Streusel

When I said last week that I would love to have lunch with my team members from the office on my birthday, they said that they would invite me to lunch, but that they would never dare to offer me to bring cake. Never mind, I said, I'm going to take care of that myself ;-) Apricots are probably my favourite fruit, so I went for this cake I had bookmarked ages ago in a good old Betty Bossi book. Enough for a large crowd.

I had a really great day today! Thank you for all your birthday wishes and the cute presents! Lots of love to all of you!

(from Betty Bossi - Festliche Menüs)

For the dough:
150g butter, soft
250g sugar
1 sachet of vanilla sugar
2 lemons, grated zest
1 pinch of salt
4 eggs
200g sour cream
300g plain flour
1 sachet of baking powder
100g ground almonds
about 1 kg apricots

For the streusel:
50g butter, soft
50g sugar
1/2 sachet vanilla sugar
50g ground almonds
50g plain flour

Preheat the oven to 200°C. Line a 33x30 baking tray with parchment paper.

First, prepare the streusel. Beat the butter, sugar and vanilla sugar in a bowl with an electric hand mixer. Then, add flour and ground almonds and rub with your fingers until you have a crumbly batter. Put in the refridgerator.

Then, preprare the apricots. Wash and stone them and slice them into quarters. Set aside.

For the dough, beat butter, sugar, vanilla sugar, lemon zest and salt in a large bowl with an electric mixer until you have a soft batter. Add the eggs, one by one and mix well. Add the sour cream and mix. Then, in another bowl, mix flour, baking powder and ground almonds and add to your batter. Mix well.

Fill your batter into the prepared baking tray and smoothen down with a ladle. Arrange your apricots on the dough relatively close together. Scatter the streusel on your cake and bake it on the lower half of your oven for about 45 minutes. With my cake, it only took about 35 minutes.

Once it's cooled down, dust with icing sugar, cut into slices and serve.

Half of the above ingredients are enough for a 24-26cm diameter springform pan. Instead of the streusel, you could also use slivered almonds. The cake can be prepared a day in advance. It will still be moist after a day or two.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Brownies with Cream Cheese Baileys Ripple

Too much work, too less baking... Time to make up for that! Here comes the good stuff: My beloved cream cheese brownies with a tipsy twist. Just a splash of Baileys added to the cream cheese batter and you're good to go. These are for my grandma's 80th birthday. Looking forward to a big party today!

(adapted from: Myriam Zumbühl - Kochen mit Myriam)

125g dark chocolate
125g butter
2 eggs
200g sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract or one sachet of vanilla sugar
75g flour
1 pinch of salt

200g cream cheese (e.g. Philadelphia)
1 egg yolk
1 sachet vanilla sugar
2 tablespoons of Baileys

Preheat the oven to 220°C. Line a brownie tin (18x23cm) with parchment paper.

In a bowl, mix cream cheese, egg yolk, vanilla sugar and baileys.

Over low heat, melt butter and chocolate in a little pan and let cool a bit. Beat sugar and the eggs until pale and fluffy. Add vanilla sugar. Add the molten chocolate and mix well. Sieve in flour and salt and mix. Once the batter is smooth, pour into your prepared brownie tin.

Scatter cream cheese batter onto that with a spoon. With a fork, spread the batter a little and create swirls so that you get a marble effect.

Put into the oven and bake for about 20 - 25 minutes until the top is crispy and shiny but the inside is still moist. Let cool and then, cut into slices.

I doubled the recipe above.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Éclairs Choco-Menthe

I have deprived you of these lovely éclairs up to now, but since I did not bake this weekend, I had time for a new post on French food adventures. About three weeks ago, Alex and I decided to have another go at éclairs. This chocolate and mint combo is just amazing. Once you start making éclairs at home, you discover that the possibilities are endless. We are totally fond of them... more to come! And I, addict that I am, was already thinking about a peanut butter version... well anyway, on verra :-)

La pâte à choux
(from: Ginette Mathiot - Je sais faire la pâtisserie, a good basic choux pastry recipe in German is also available here)

2.5dl water (we used half milk, half water)
a pinch of salt
20g icing sugar
80g butter, cut into pieces
150g flour
4-5 eggs

Preheat the oven to 220°C. Line two baking trays with parchment paper.

Pour the water into a heavy saucepan. Add salt, sugar and the butter and place over medium heat until the butter melts and the mixtrue comes to a full boil. Add the flour all at once, stirring vigorously with a wooden spoon. Keep stirring until the mixture has formed a smooth mass and pulls away from the sides of the pan and some moisture has evaporated (about 3 minutes).

Take the pan away from the heat, transfer the dough into a large mixing bowl. Using a mixer, add the eggs one at a time and mix on medium-high speed, incorporating each egg before adding the next. When all eggs are incorporated, the mixture will be thick, smooth and shiny.

Transfer the dough into a pastry bag with a 1cm plain tip (we used a smaller one with toothed tip, worked fine). Pipe out fingers of about 7cm onto your prepared baking trays. It depends on how large you want your eclairs to be, keep in mind that the fingers will be about three times larger after baking than before.

Bake on the lower half of the oven until they are puffed and are starting to show some color, about 10-15 minutes, depending on their size. Then, take them out of the oven and let them cool on a wire rack. You can easily freeze these baked shells if you don't want to use all at once.

Chocolate and Mint Cream-Filling
(from: Eclairs - Petits choux, religieuses, croquembouches & cie by Marianne Magnier-Moreno)

110ml cream
130g dark chocolate, broken into pieces
a handful of fresh mint leaves
325ml milk
4 egg yolks
65g sugar
15g flour
15g cornstarch
1 pinch of salt

Bring the cream to a boil in a small saucepan. Add the chocolate and stir until the chocolate has melted. Put aside. Wash the mint leaves and dry them a little on a kitchen towel. Pour the milk into a saucepan, add the mint leaves and bring to a boil. Take away from the heat and take out the mint leaves.

Put the egg yolks in a bowl together with the sugar and the salt and mix well. Add the flour and the cornstarch and mix well.

Add the sugar to your mint-infused milk and heat it up again. When it comes just to the boil, take away from the heat. Add just a splash of the milk to your egg-mixture and mix well with an egg whisk. Pour this egg-mixture back into your saucepan with the milk and put back onto medium heat while constantly stirring. The mixture will thicken within 1-2 minutes. Take away from the heat. Add the chocolate ganache you have prepared in advance. Whisk until it is well incorporated. To cool the cream, cover the bowl with cling film, pressing it directly onto the top of the cream to prevent a skin from forming on the surface.

For the Glaze:

100ml cream
a few fresh mint leaves
100g dark chocolate, broken into pieces

Wash the mint leaves and dry on a kitchen towel. Put them into a mortar and mash them. Pour the cream into a small saucepan and add the mint. Bring this to a boil. Then, add the chocolate and stir until it has melted. Take away from the heat.

Assembling the eclairs:

When your pastry shells have cooled down, cut them open on the sides with scissors. Pour your pastry cream into a piping bag and fill the pastry shells. Brush them with the chocolate glaze... and stop yourself from eating all those lovely éclairs right away ;-)

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