Posts tagged desserts
Sure, glorified Chex mix studded with chocolate and powdered sugar pops up (affectionately known as puppy chow at our house). But brownies seem relegated into the last-minute-I-just-remembered-I-had-to-make-something category. It’s too bad.
Here’s my theory–most brownies just aren’t pretty enough. I thought about that the other day as I was flipping through a flyer for holiday gifts and the Perfect Brownie Pan Set was right on page one. Really? A whole pan dedicated to baking neatly cut brownies. Again, my thought is that folks really want to make brownies good enough for the cookie tray. But forget about an extra pan!
If you really want to spruce up your brownie, try a few of these tweaks. And hey, if it doesn’t work for you, you can still buy the brownie pan later…
•Wax paper to the rescue!
Brownies get crumbly when you cut them in the pan. Try coating your regular brownie pan–mine is a 9×13″ casserole dish–with cooking spray. Then press in a piece of wax paper onto the bottom and sides of the pan (parchment paper works even better–but I always have wax paper on hand, not so for pricier parchment). Once the brownies have cooked and cooled you can lift them out of the pan on the waxed paper and then cut.
•Chill, then cut
Using a paper lining–either waxed or parchment–is the first step, the next is to wait to cut your brownies. If I’m not in a rush, I’ll put the whole brownie pan in the fridge overnight and cut on day #2. If I need the brownies that day, it’s into the freezer for an hour or so. Once the brownies are chilled, then lift them out of the pan, using the paper, and then onto a cutting board.
Resist the urge to just start cutting. Look at your rectangle’s worth of brownie and make your cuts from corner to corner instead of just across. Diamond-cut brownies are so much prettier! (And you’ll have to eat all the extra ends:)
Now that you have a perfectly cut brownie (no extra pan insert required), it’s time to add pizzazz. My standby is to melt about 1/4 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips along with a tablespoon of butter in the microwave until smooth. Then, using a fork I drizzle chocolate across the cut brownies. Another trick: fill a Ziploc baggie with 1/2 cup of smooth peanut butter. Place the sealed bag (make sure there’s no extra air) into a cup of warm water. Let it sit for a couple minutes and then trim a small hole in one corner of the bag. Make peanut butter patterns on your brownies then add chopped peanuts to complete the look. Refrigerate for about 1/2 hour more to set.
•Top it again
Along with drizzling chocolate or peanut butter over your brownies, what about adding crushed Oreos, candy canes, mini chocolate chips…I could go on, but you get the idea.
Do you have any tricks for making your brownies, well, more presentable?
Growing up, we never had pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving. Ever. Our holiday dessert was usually a tart with a mosaic of macadamia nuts, pecans and chocolate chips. I’m not sure how pumpkin pie got taken out of our holiday mix, but I liked that our family didn’t have the usual spread of stuffing and cranberry sauce.
It wasn’t until I was in college that I fully realized the appeal of traditional favorites–and that I was the only one who thought that buttered egg noodles with poppy seeds was Thanksgiving staple. Who knows how certain family food traditions get started!
We now have a holiday tradition for ending our turkey-day meal with cheesecake, chocolate raspberry cheesecake. I’ve included the recipe below, but I don’t want to make you nervous about trying this because the directions go on and on. See, I want you to have the best, crack-free, dense cheesecake possible so I’ve included ever little trick along the way.
Remember, making a good cheesecake is all about patience, not talent (this is from someone who’s never mastered souffles). Even better, cheesecakes are best made a day or two ahead, meaning you won’t have to figure out how to have enough oven space for your turkey, rolls, and, of course, green bean casserole.
Pssst: Don’t forget the $60 King Arthur Giveaway going on now until November 29th.
9 ounces chocolate wafers
3 tablespoons butter, melted
12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chips are fine
1 cup heavy cream
¾ cup raspberry jam
2 packages cream cheese
*Make sure the cheese is at room temperature
¾ cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
For the crust: In a food processor, grind up the chocolate wafers (I also add just a touch of salt). I use Pepperidge Farms chocolate goldfish as the base for my crust—they’re not overly sweet like Oreos with cream filling. Add the melted butter to the crushed cookies. Here’s the tricky part. You’ll need a 9-inch springform pan. Surround the outside of the pan with aluminum foil (I’ll explain more on this later.) Cut a round piece of parchment paper to fit the bottom part of the pan. Spray the pan with cooking spray then insert the paper and spray again. Press the cookie crumbs into the pan and half way up the sides with your fingers (I’ve tried this with spoons, but frankly fingers are best). Put the crust into the fridge while you prepare the filling.
For the filling: Preheat the over to 325 degrees. In a large, glass measuring bowl, melt the chocolate and the heavy cream together in the microwave. Melt the two slowly. I usually start at half the power level for around two minutes. When the chips start to lose their shape, I finish the melting process by stirring the mixture vigorously. Add the jam to the chocolate mixture, stir and let it cool about 10 minutes.
In another large mixing bowl, beat together the cream cheese and the sugar. As I noted in the directions, it’s key to have the cream cheese at room temperature. (Eggs, too!) Beat the sugar and cream cheese for at least 2 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Now, add the vanilla and the chocolate-raspberry mixture. Beat all the ingredients together for at least 5 minutes (I set a timer).
Here’s another tricky part—creating a water bath for your cheesecake. water bath keeps your cheesecake dense and smooth instead of dry. You’ll need a large, glass baking dish. I wish I had a larger one, but my biggest is 9×11” so I have to improvise. (I also add a larger, cookie baking pan under the casserole dish to make it easier to get it into and out of the oven.) make several aluminum balls and place them in the center of the baking dish because the casserole dish isn’t wide enough. Next, gently press the springform pan into the casserole dish. Pour the cheesecake filling into the crust, making surethat your aluminum balls stay in place and keep your pan level. Add about a half an inch of water to the bottom of the casserole dish (not into your cheesecake!). Carefully put the whole contraption into the preheated oven.
Bake for 1 ¼ to 1 ½ hours or until the cheesecake just jiggles in the center. Once the cheesecake is set, turn off
the oven and leave the door open. Wait one hour and then remove the cheesecake. Carefully pull it out of the water bath. Gently release the springform mechanism, but don’t remove it. Use a butter knife to separate the crust from the pan (this will ensure that the top doesn’t crack). Put your cheesecake into the fridge for at least one day before serving.
If you’re taking this dessert to a party, make sure you cut it at home in thin slices—there’s nothing worse than your cheesecake getting hacked to pieces in the rush to serve dessert. Make your job—or your host’s—easier by cutting it beforehand. If I’m serving the cheesecake at home, I put one slice on the plate, add a dollop of fresh whipped cream and then sprinkle with cocoa. If I have fresh raspberries or mangos, I’ll add a few of those too. Enjoy!
Note: I’ve had this recipe for years, it comes from an old recipe book called 365 Great Chocolate Desserts by Natalie Haughton
Open only two months out of the year, Bierberg Bakery has been on my list of “must see” culinary enclaves for nearly three years. I heard it mentioned in passing when I was working on a story about visiting Columbus, Ohio, over the holidays. A Google search turned up a handful of entries, with not much more detail than “try the cookies.” No website. I tried an email address. No response. I tried calling. Nothing.
How does a bakery survive with virtually no advertising—not even a working phone number—and it opens October 20th and closes New Year’s Day? (I learned later that the magic phone number is only answered during those two months.) Over the past weekend, I was able to get my questions answered and even sample a few cookies.
Helen Bierberg Walsh seemed more comfortable working as we talked. With a pastry bag in hand, pressing out hazelnut cookies onto a parchment lined seemingly football-field-sized pan. She explained that her grandmother, Theresa Bierberg, had started the bakery in 1913 to support her family (her husband had fallen ill after a stroke). Before immigrating to Columbus, Theresa had trained as a baker in Germany. Helen recalls that her grandmother had told her children she had “made a cake for the Kaiser,” which would be the equivalent of the president of the United States requesting a sweet from your bakery.
Helen’s father, Gustav (or “Gus”) took over the bakery from his mother—Theresa’s other son became a Catholic priest. The bakery moved from its original location to 729 South Fifth Street in the German Village section of Columbus in 1971. Since then, for two months out of the year, Helen continues her family’s tradition of making holiday cookies for those who know where to find her.
I sampled the Wilhelm cookies that you’ll see Johanna making in the video above. The bars have raspberry filling tucked between two layers of thin pound cake, topped with marzipan and then dunked in chocolate. After trying just one, my Christmas list came to mind and I thought of all the people who would be receiving a specially wrapped box of Bierberg confections for the holidays. I asked Helen whether she shipped cookies and she said, “Sure. But it has to be ordered before December 10th.” I figured this was because the cookies wouldn’t arrive in time for Christmas if they were ordered after that.
“No,” Helen explained. “After that it just gets too crowded at the post office.”
For over a year, Pam Turkin put in long hours through the weekend tweaking and perfecting her recipe for buttercream frosting. “I bet I made 100 batches,” recalls Turkin of her efforts. Along with buttercream, Turkin baked different varieties of cupcakes trying to find the right balance of sweetness, flavor, moistness and that indescribable something that just makes cupcakes so alluring: See Just Baked’s Fat Elvis cupcake for an example☺
During the week, Turkin worked in marketing and advertising often traveling for her job. She’d noticed on her travels little boutique cupcake shops dotting each coast and yet when she got home to Michigan, she couldn’t find a similar shop. “I just got it into my head that a cupcake shop was one thing I wanted to bring Detroit,” says Turkin. To date, she’s brought four retail shops, called Just Baked to Michigan.
Turkin’s first store opened in Livonia in 2009. Other stores followed in Ann Arbor, Royal Oak, Twelve Oaks Mall in Novi, and soon the first franchise in Canton, just across the street from IKEA. While Turkin admits baking, marketing, planning and everything else involved with running the cupcake shops have eaten away most of her time, her family has been supportive all along the way. Granted, her five kids acted as the official taste-testers in the early days of her business!
So far, Turkin’s keeping mum on her cupcake recipes (darn!), but she passed along a recipe for her pumpkin cookies to share with MKES readers.
What three ingredients do you always keep stocked in your pantry?
Fresh eggs, fresh butter, potato chips
Your favorite meal to make or serve?
I love to cook. My favorite meal to cook is Thanksgiving dinner—the turkey, stuffing, I love the smell of it, the look of it—I love everything about it.
We all have a favorite indulgence, for a foodie like you it must be something spectacular?
Easy, shortbread. We make our own homemade shortbread to use in a lot of our cupcake bottoms. Many of the cupcakes are layered. We also use crumbled shortbread as a topping for our strawberry cheesecake cupcakes. My employees know to stash a little extra shortbread in the back for me.
What’s one of your worst cooking mistakes?
My mother never cooked, but she happens to make one thing really well and that’s brisket. No matter what I do, I either overcook or undercook it. Every time I make it it’s just wrong. I’ve given up.
There are so many great Michigan-made food products, what is your pick?
I love Faygo sodas. When I think of Detroit I think of Faygo, it’s indicative of Detroit. I had the opportunity to go to the plant—it has to be the best smelling place in the world. It smells just like orange cream soda.
What do you suggest for first-timers to Just Baked? What menu item should they make sure to try?
Our Grumpy cake cupcake is definitely our bestseller. With the holidays coming up, though, I’d have to recommend the pumpkin pie cupcake—it’s my personal favorite. Then there’s the sweet potato pie cupcake that we also only do around this time of year and that’s really good too. *By request Turkin also has gluten free and vegan cupcakes available.
When we made calzones the other day, I had that thought. Usually, I just roll out the leftover dough, throw on a little butter, cheese and garlic and have breadsticks for the kids. The breadsticks are tasty, for sure, but I was in the mood for something different.
I rummaged through the refrigerator for ideas, here’s what I came up with–raspberry ricotta calzones. I mixed about 1/4 cup ricotta, a teaspoon or two of sugar, 1/8-1/4 cup of fresh raspberries and then stuffed the one calzone just as you would with the savory variety. Next time I’d also either add a few chocolate chunks or a healthy helping of fresh lemon zest. You can also brush the filled calzone with a little milk or heavy cream and a sprinkling of raw sugar before baking. Serve warm, leftovers will get soggy.
My kids raved about a dessert we tried at Peppermint, a nearby Thai restaurant (actually, they devoured everything they had, but the dessert was the easiest one to figure out all the ingredients:).
We decided to recreate it at home. Truth be told, my oldest had to bring in a food to share in one of her classes, so we thought it was a good excuse to give it a try.
These were simple to put together and really tasty. If I were making this to serve, I’d pair it with some vanilla ice cream drizzled with caramel and chocolate sauce and pop these along the side.
Prep time: 20 minutes
1 package small square wonton wrappers (3-inch squares)
Oil for frying
Heat your oil to medium-high heat while you prepare your eggrolls.
Cut the bananas into 1-1 1/2 inch sticks–cut the banana into a 1-inch piece, then divide lengthwise into fours.
Put out the wonton wrappers on either a cutting board or cooking sheet. Place a cut piece of banana in the center of each wrapper. Add a teaspoon sized dollop on each banana piece.
Have a shallow bowl of water handy. Using your finger add a little water to the edge of the wrappers to help them stick. Fold on corner of the wrapper in toward the filling. With the other two sides remaining fold them in toward the first folded side and press down to make sure the dough sticks. Finally, fold over the top side. The packets should not contain any air, just filling.
Repeat with the remaining wonton wrappers or until you’re ready to stop making little banana packets:)
Fry the packets for about 2-3 minutes, turning occasionally. Serve warm. We discovered cold banana eggrolls weren’t so tasty.