My First Daring Baker’s Challenge

April 27th, 2008

Have you ever played Candy Land? The wonderful board game where you navigate through the land of candy…running from Lord Licorice, hanging out with Princess Lolly in the Lollipop forest and ultimately saving the King in the castle! As you can imagine, I loved this game as a child. It is a simple straightforward game made so much more interesting by a Candy Cane Forest and Gum Drop Mountain. I could never decide who I wanted to be, eitherPrincess Lolly or Queen Frostine. They were both so beautiful and lived in such delicious places.

Ok, I know that you are wondering why I am reminiscing about some board game I played last night…er…um…15 years ago…Well, my first Daring Bakers challenge, Cheesecake Pops, as chosen by Deborah and Elle, would fit in perfectly in Candy Land. They could live right next to the Lollipop Forest with their bright colorful sprinkles, chocolate coating and yummy cheesecake center.

I am very excited to be joining the Daring Bakers. Every month the members are secretly given a recipe to follow to the letter and then blog about it on the designated day. This was a fun challenge and I brought my pops into work for a baby shower. Everyone loved them! I followed the recipe as it was written and used the microwave method to coat them in chocolate.

Cheesecake Pops
(adapted from Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey by Jill O’Connor)

Makes 30 – 40 Pops

5 8-oz. packages cream cheese at room temperature

2 cups sugar

¼ cup all-purpose flour

¼ teaspoon salt

5 large eggs

2 egg yolks

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

¼ cup heavy cream

Boiling water as needed

Thirty to forty 8-inch lollipop sticks

1 pound chocolate, finely chopped – you can use all one kind or half and half of dark, milk, or white (Alternately, you can use 1 pound of flavored coatings, also known as summer coating, confectionary coating or wafer chocolate – candy supply stores carry colors, as well as the three kinds of chocolate.)

2 tablespoons vegetable shortening

(Note: White chocolate is harder to use this way, but not impossible)

Assorted decorations such as chopped nuts, colored jimmies, crushed peppermints, mini chocolate chips, sanding sugars, dragees) – Optional

Position oven rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees F. Set some water to boil.

In a large bowl, beat together the cream cheese, sugar, flour, and salt until smooth. If using a mixer, mix on low speed. Add the whole eggs and the egg yolks, one at a time, beating well (but still at low speed) after each addition. Beat in the vanilla and cream.

Grease a 10-inch cake pan (not a springform pan), and pour the batter into the cake pan. Place the pan in a larger roasting pan. Fill the roasting pan with the boiling water until it reaches halfway up the sides of the cake pan. Bake until the cheesecake is firm and slightly golden on top, 35 to 45 minutes.

Remove the cheesecake from the water bath and cool to room temperature. Cover the cheesecake with plastic wrap and refrigerate until very cold, at least 3 hours or up to overnight.

When the cheesecake is cold and very firm, scoop the cheesecake into 2-ounce balls and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Carefully insert a lollipop stick into each cheesecake ball. Freeze the cheesecake pops, uncovered, until very hard, at least 1 – 2 hours.

When the cheesecake pops are frozen and ready for dipping, prepare the chocolate. In the top of a double boiler, set over simmering water, or in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water, heat half the chocolate and half the shortening, stirring often, until chocolate is melted and chocolate and shortening are combined. Stir until completely smooth. Do not heat the chocolate too much or your chocolate will lose it’s shine after it has dried. Save the rest of the chocolate and shortening for later dipping, or use another type of chocolate for variety.

Alternately, you can microwave the same amount of chocolate coating pieces on high at 30 second intervals, stirring until smooth.

Quickly dip a frozen cheesecake pop in the melted chocolate, swirling quickly to coat it completely. Shake off any excess into the melted chocolate. If you like, you can now roll the pops quickly in optional decorations. You can also drizzle them with a contrasting color of melted chocolate (dark chocolate drizzled over milk chocolate or white chocolate over dark chocolate, etc.) Place the pop on a clean parchment paper-lined baking sheet to set. Repeat with remaining pops, melting more chocolate and shortening (or confectionary chocolate pieces) as needed.

Refrigerate the pops for up to 24 hours, until ready to serve.

P.S. Check out the other Daring Bakers’ Creations…

An Ode to Joy! Part II

April 21st, 2008

I have become the unofficial birthday cake baker at work. When everyone started finding out that I was going to law school, I believe they were more concerned about missing my cakes than me. I enjoy baking the cakes. I love being able to try new recipes and coming up with something to wow the birthday recipient.

This past weekend we threw my co-worker a party and I volunteered to bring the cake. He really likes chocolate cake so that was my only guideline. Now, I will admit that when I know there is going to be a keg at the party, I will go buy a cake mix, make some homemade icing, come up with a fun decoration and call it a night. Why should I slave over a cake when everyones’ taste buds will be dull from beer? On Saturday, I woke up itching to bake but too lazy to go to the store. So I took inventory of what we had and did some research on chocolate cake recipes. I stumbled across this recipe Nana Edie’s Devil’s Food Cake that looked amazing. I had everything needed except for the semi-sweet chocolate. I just had unsweetened. Well, I broke out my trusty friend the Joy of Cooking and figured out a conversion. Unsweetened chocolate + sugar = semi-sweet chocolate! It turned out great!!! In talking with a friend, he recommend filling it with strawberries so I filled it with strawberry jam and iced it with my mom’s chocolate frosting. It was quite delicious!

Devil’s Food Cake with Strawberry Filling
(adapted from Nana Edie’s Devil’s Food Cake)

1/2 cup milk (not nonfat)
1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
3 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 cup water
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups + 7 teaspoons sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup strawberry jam

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Butter 2 (8- by 2-inch) round cake pans and dust with flour, knocking out excess.
3. Stir together milk and vinegar and set aside to “sour” (mixture will curdle).
4. Melt chocolate and butter with water in a saucepan over low heat, whisking until smooth. Cool slightly.
5. Sift together flour, baking soda, and salt.
6. Beat sugar into chocolate mixture with an electric mixer.
7. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition, then beat in vanilla.
8. Add flour mixture and beat on low speed just until combined.
9. Add soured milk and beat on high speed 2 minutes.
10. Divide batter evenly between cake pans.
11. Bake in middle of oven until tops of layers spring back when touched lightly and edges have just started to pull away from sides of pans, about 35 minutes.
12. Cool layers in pans on racks 5 minutes.
13. Run a thin knife around edges of pans, then invert layers onto racks to cool completely.

Chocolate Frosting
6 tablespoons butter, softened to room temperature
6 tablespoons cocoa
1 box confectioner sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup milk

1. Cream the butter and cocoa together.
2. Mix in vanilla.
3. Slowly add confectioner sugar and milk until it creates a frosting. Add the milk slowly because sometimes you do not need the whole amount.

Assemble cake:

1. Warm the jam in the microwave for about 30 seconds to make it spreadable.
2. Pour over the first layer and spread.
3. Place second layer on top of the first layer.
4. Spread the chocolate frosting on the top and down the sides.
5. Decorate as you please.

P.S. Do not forget to enter my Dollar Dish Duel!!!! More details here.

Mom, what do I need to make…

April 7th, 2008

My mother hears this phrase and other similar ones fairly frequently. Often, I find myself at the grocery store, trying to figure out what to make and unable to remember something essential…so, I call my mom.

My mother taught me to cook. Ever since I was a young girl, I have been at my mother’s elbow watching her cook and helping her. As I became more confident in my cooking, I would pore over her cookbooks, give her a grocery list and make dinner for my family with her guidance. I owe the majority of my knowledge and skills to her teaching and example. I find myself still turning to her for advice and help.

The most recent question I had for my mother was regarding our family’s hot fudge sauce. I had a huge craving for it but I could not remember for the life of me as to whether it was condensed milk or evaporated milk…so, I called my mom! It is a very simple recipe and delicious over ice cream. We used to make it on Friday nights for a quick chocolate fix! I took the photos a few weeks ago and my mother keeps asking why I have not blogged about it yet, so here it is Mom. Thanks for the advice!

Hot Fudge
(adapted from Marvelous Mocha Pie)

3 oz unsweetened chocolate
1/4 cup butter
2/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup evaporated milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

1. Bring chocolate, sugar and butter to a boil over medium high heat.
2. Gradually add evaporated milk and cook until thickened.
3. Cool and add vanilla.

P.S. Nothing this time. Short post, tired Ginny!