Sunday, November 30, 2008

A Salad to Go Nuts Over - Quick Pecan Salad for Vegan Ventures 2


Subtly sweet and protein-rich with healthy fats, pecans work in
savory dishes with the same aplomb as they do in desserts.

Pecan Salad

Glistening in a simple dressing of olive oil, lemon, sugar and
spices, this filling salad can be ready in fifteen minutes.

Pecan Salad – Based on the Syrian Pecan Salad recipe from a vintage copy of The Compleat I Hate to Cook Book by Peg Bracken


8 – 10 cups salad greens, your choice (I used baby romaine)
2 cups raw pecan halves
1 cup chopped scallions (white and green parts)
1 tablespoon flavorless oil
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander seed
1 heaping tablespoon brown or other unbleached sugar
¼ cup olive oil
Juice of 2 large lemons
¼ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sea salt


In a large skillet over low heat, gently toss pecans in the flavorless oil until lightly toasted and warm, around 8 minutes. Remove from heat, then tip them into a large serving bowl to reserve.

Using the same skillet, again over low heat, toast cumin and coriander seed, stirring constantly until fragrant, about 20 seconds. Turn off heat. Add olive oil, lemon juice, sugar, salt and pepper, combining with a whisk. Let the ingredients gently heat in the stored heat of the skillet.

Add greens and scallions to the bowl with the pecans. Toss ingredients gently. Pour dressing over the salad, tossing once more. Scatter top with sea salt. Serves 4. –

This last-minute post is for Suganya of Tasty Palettes, hosting Vegan Ventures - Round 2, challenging the food community to create and share recipes that use no animal ingredients whatsoever.


Friday, November 28, 2008

Sugar High Friday - All That Glitters - The Round-Up

Known in the United States as Black Friday, today is the traditional kick-off to the holiday buying frenzy. I didn't do any shopping today; I had better things to do, like sort through forty-three gorgeously sweet creations submitted by wonderful bloggers eager to share their fascinating recipes, designs and techniques. I thank you all for your wonderful treats. It's an eye-popping round-up that I was very happy to have hosted. You glow, girls and boys! I wouldn't called today Black Friday at all. How could it be when we all know it's SUGAR HIGH FRIDAY - ALL THAT GLITTERS!?!


A daughter's last-minute guilt inspires a mocha
gateau with an intriguingly intricate glossy design.

Chocolate Espresso Cake
Deeba - Passionate About Baking
Gurgaon, India


A softly frosted fondant and foil frills are among the
finishing touches to an extravagant cream puff creation.

La Religieuse
Cathy - La Prochaine Fois
Austin, Texas, U.S.A.


Shot with simple table sugar, crispy chai
cookies twinkle in even the faintest light.

Sparkled Chai Cookies
Hannah - Bitter Sweet


The alluring fragrance of quince lights up a
kitchen for a sweet sauce featuring fall's harvest.

Apple-Quince Sauce
Sarah - What Smells So Good?
Oshawa, Ontario, Canada


Fruity-sweet squares of semolina and sugar
glisten in a classic Indian confection.

Mango Burfi
TBC - The Budding Cook


Carved Italian creams, as delicate, feminine and romantic
as cameos, luxuriate in the sweetest of floral elixirs.

Rosewater Panna Cotta
Dhita a.k.a. barefootster - Cooking Etcetera
Inner Mongolia, China


Coconut milk pastry cream provides a delicately
novel filling under a line-up of ganache-slick éclairs.

Coconut Milk and Chocolate Éclairs
Monica - The Sour Plum


Pretty as party dresses, tender little pink cakes
gather to gossip about all sorts of frilly things.

Pomegranate Petit Fours
Lori - Lori's Lipsmacking Goodness
Rochester, New York, U.S.A.


"Sugar-free, wheat-free, vegan" ambitious and creative
baker turns a chocolate nut dessert into a taste no less dangerous.

Chocolate Pecan Pie
Ricki - Diet, Dessert and Dogs
Toronto, Ontario, Canada


Melted ghee lacquers the surface of a crushed nut
and cardamom experiment that proves a sweet success.

Badam (Almond Halwa)
Sharmi - Neivedyam
Illinois, U.S.A.


The romance and mystery of the rose flavor the refined
curves of one of world's most-favored miniature butter cakes.

Rose Madeleines with Glittered Honey Lemon Glaze
Zita - Simplicious
Amman, Jordan


Vegan cookies are easier than you think. You'll put your stamp
of approval in the center of each one before you fill it with jam.

Jam Thumbprint Cookies
Mansi - Fun and Food Cafe
California, U.S.A.


As glamorous as Grace Kelly's gloves, a green tea and
amaretto terrine makes a movie-star entrance.

Matcha and Amaretto Cheesecake
Venus - L'Atelier Vi
Bay Area, California, U.S.A.


Dark, chewy, naturally sweet fruits replace nuts in moist,
deliriously rich squares of an easy, classic comfort cake.

Dark Chocolate Brownies with Dried Fruit
Lisa - Lisa's Kitchen
London, Ontario, Canada


Pastel-pale citrus and sweet spice sparkle on
the palate for a refreshingly frozen last course.

Grapefruit and Star Anise Granita
Lisa - Dandy Sugar
San Francisco, California, U.S.A.


A mistress of decorative arts carves a comma of a cake
evocative of an ancient and exquisite design motif.

Choco Floral Ecstasy
Swati - Sugarcraft India


Silver-beaded cashous create exciting
caché when pressed into heavily frosted cupcakes.

Chocolate Studded Cupcakes
Alex - Eating Leeds
Leeds, West Yorkshire, U.K.


A Daring Baker dares not let caramel get the best of her
for a French confection as decadent as it is distinctive.

Brilynn - Jumbo Empanadas
Ontario, Canada


Rich chocolate and fanciful adornments create
sweet holiday gifts that are simple to stir up.

Chocolate Spoons
Suganya of Tasty Palettes for The Daily Tiffin


Natural brown sugar melts into a sparkling mantle
atop tiny tins of egg-free pumpkin custard.

Pumpkin Mini Pies
Libby - The Allergic Kid
Tampa Bay, Florida, U.S.A.


A terrific trio of layered spice wakes the tastebuds
to the thrill of golden ginger in every bite.

Gingered Ginger Biscuits with Ginger
Lysy - Munchkin Mail
Warwickshire, U.K.


Homemade berry and cream cheese ice creams won't
have you singing the blues in this holiday tribute to Elvis.

Blueberry Ice Cream Pie
Elizabeth - Cake or Death


Like a beguiling gift box wrapped in festive cellophane,
a golden ganache cake tempts you to look inside it.

Chocolate Bling Bling Cake
Anne a.k.a. Foodie Froggy - A Foodie Froggy in Paris
Paris, France


You'll feel like a queen when you serve this crown jewel of a
cheesecake sparkling with ruby-red pomegranate seeds.

Gemstone Cheesecake
Katherine - From My Table...To Yours
North Shore of Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.A.


Gold dusting powder is the icing on the frosting of citrus
cupcakes baked for the sophisticated and adult diner.

Blood Orange Margarita Cupcakes
Denise and Lenny - Chez Us
California, U.S.A.


Don't cut that cake yet! You'll want to catch yourself
smiling in the high-shine reflection of rich red fruit.

Acai Mousse Tart with Acai Mirror Glaze
Anna - Pure Pastries
San Diego, California, U.S.A.


Working with hot, molten sugar is tricky business. Let this
practical guide to a simple candy teach you with its valuable tips.

10 Indian Chikkis (Brittles)
Ramki - One Page Cookbooks
Chennai, India


Do you like your cookie dough straight from the bowl?
Then you're going to love adding cookies into your dough, too.

White Chocolate Oreo Cupcakes
Shaheen - Ambrosia


A crafty baker designs a foil-lined display tree to do her
sparkling, mile-high cupcakes the justice they deserve.

Very Vanilla Cupcakes
Montreal, Quebec, Canada


An airy light angel cake lives dangerously, enrobed
in a devil of a dark and shiny ganache.

Angel Food Cake with Honey Ganache Glaze
Anna - Life's Too Short for Mediocre Chocolate
San Diego, California, U.S.A.


Blood-red cherries are sacrificed on the etched
pewter altar of a veganized dessert. Don't worry.
It's all for a delicious, cruelty-free cause.

Wine Dark Cherry Kanten
Lucy - Nourish Me
Melbourne, Australia


You'll need a very sharp knife to cut this creamy and dreamy
cake into clean servings. Ricotta makes for a super-moist
crumb reminiscent of pudding-in-the-middle recipes.

Chocolate Ricotta Cheesecake with Chocolate Gelatin Ganache
Priya - Priya's Easy 'N Tasty Recipes
Paris, France


Not too fond of the holiday fruitcake your boss is
walking your way? Best to bake your own with fresh,
homemade peels to show 'em all how it should be done.

Candied Peel
Kate: A Merrier World
Devon, U.K.


A devoted daughter conjures up a magical dessert to
treat her mom to a gluten-free birthday surprise.

Glitter Gelatin Torte
Sarina Nicole - Trini Gourmet


Easy, crackly, sugar-crusted cookies, easily eaten up,
give a novice baker a well-deserved boost of confidence.

Sparkly Snickerdoodles
Jenn - sweet * catastrophe
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S.A.


Like hand-crafted ornaments, these candy snowflakes
are so precisely prepared, you will want to make
an extra batch to hang on the tree.

Glittering Marshmallow Snowflakes
Winnie - Bake from Scratch


Sugared cranberries and maple glaze add to the merry
mix in a bundt cake built for every festive occasion.

All-in-One-Holiday Bundt Cake
Paula - Half-Baked
Alabama, U.S.A.


When such elegant and sumptuous desserts as delicately
crusted custard grace the earth, one sometimes wonders
why the planet also offers deep-fried Mars bars.

Carolyn - 18thC Cuisine
Shores of Lake Huron, U.S.A.


Pineapple isn't the only fruit you can turn over on its head
for a show-stopping, crowd-pleasing dessert.

Upside-Down Cranberry Cake
Mansi - Food and Fun


Dark chocolate shells encase caramel ganache for a box of
bon bons so luxurious, Marie Antoinette would have approved.

Salted Caramel Truffles
Kelly - The Pink Apron
Charleston, Massachusetts, U.S.A.


Hershey's Kisses lend an elfin touch to rich peanut butter
drops that disappear as quickly as they bake up.

Peanut Blossoms
Candice - Mmm, Tasty!
Toronto, Ontario, Canada


Pomegranate, pistachio and cardamom - three exquisite flavors blend
seamlessly in a crumbly, frozen treat sure to garner accolades.

Pomegranate Pistachio Ice Cream Sandwiches
Laurie - Mediterranean Cooking in Alaska
Anchorage, Alaska, U.S.A.


Butter, brown sugar and cinnamon burnish the
crannies and contours of a simple yeast cake
with a powerful flavor and fragrance.

Thanks, again, for the fantastic round-up - and a thunderous applause, too, for Jennifer, The Domestic Goddess, for creating an event that is still going strong for quite a few years now. Please let me know if there are any errors or omissions, and I'll make the changes right away. I'll be visiting your blogs next week to leave individual comments on your posts. ~~~

Sugar High Friday - All That Glitters - Cinnamon Bun Savarin

Cinnamon Bun Bundt Cake 3
Shiny with brown sugar cinnamon syrup, a coffee klatsch
bundt cake can also make a flash for a festive occasion.

Cinnamon Bun Bundt Cake 2
A savarin is among the easier yeast cakes to
prepare. Don't let your fear cheat you out of a
fine-crumbed, moist treat ready in ninety minutes.

Cinnamon Bun Savarin - Based on the Carnegie Mellon School of Computer Science recipe, followed almost to the letter.


2 cups all purpose flour
1 package (2 1/2 teaspoons) active dry yeast (use the traditional yeast, NOT the quick rise)
1 tablespoon very fresh ground cinnamon
2/3 cup milk
6 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)
3 eggs


In a large mixing bowl combine 1 1/2 cups of the flour, cinnamon and yeast. In a saucepan heat milk, butter and sugar just till mixture is warm (115 to 120 F) and butter is almost melted; stir constantly. Add to flour mixture, add eggs. Beat with an electric mixer on low speed for 1/2 minute, scraping bowl. Beat for 3 minutes on high speed. Using a spoon, stir in remaining flour. Cover; let rest 10 minutes. Spoon batter into a well-greased six-to-nine cup savarin mold or ring. (A bundt or tube pan work well, too.) Cover, let rise in a warm place till nearly double (about 30 minutes). Bake in a 350F oven for 25 to 35 minutes. Cool in pan 5 minutes; transfer, inverted to a wire rack over waxed paper for a few more minutes, then position cake on a serving plate. Tent cake with foil to keep it warm while you prepare the syrup.

Cinnamon Syrup - My own recipe


2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon very fresh ground cinnamon
1/2 cup water
4 tablespoons butter


Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir until the butter is melted. Remove from heat. Pour over still-warm cake, then dip a pastry brush in the pooled syrup to cover any spots missed. Cut cake using a very slow sawing motion with a serrated knife. Serve each piece with some additional syrup. If desired, garnish with a few raisins or nuts. Serves 6-10, depending on size of slices. --

Cinnamon Bun Bundt Cake 1

I'll be back much later on tonight with the dazzling Sugar High Friday round-up. See you then!

Been There, Done That ~

Peach Rum Savarin
Maple Walnut Layer Cake
Green Tea Cream Puffs

Other People's Eats ~

Yeast Donuts
Steinkogler Gugelhupf
Yeasted Nectarine Coffee Cake

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Through Thick and Thin - "Magic in the Middles" Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies - A Review

Magic in the Middles 2
Do you like your cookies thick?

Magic in the Middles 1

Magic in the Middles 3

Thick or thin? Crumbly or curvy? Sturdy or soft? When Desserts Magazine contacted me to kitchen test Magic in the Middles, a recipe from The King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion - The Essential Cookie Cookbook, I thought it would be a straightforward review addressing the standard questions: Does the recipe work? Do you like the finished product? Would you bake these cookies again? Little did I know that through some of my own fine tuning on the fly, I would be happily asking myself these points twice - for two different cookies. The answers were incongruous: no, yes, and yes. Here's why:

Magic in the Middles is one of King Arthur Flour's old-time favorite cookie recipes. A chocolate and peanut butter creation which recalls an iconic candy classic and translates it into a baked good, the recipe is time consuming with multiple steps, which can be frustrating for the novice baker. Essentially two recipes (one for the chocolate dough, and one for the peanut butter filling tucked into that dough), you will need plenty of counter space, mixing bowls and stamina to perform the careful measurements and assembly-line production. These caveats are not reasons not to bake these crowd-pleasing treats - as long as you keep in mind that a little water, which isn't noted in the recipe, will go a long way toward moving along your batches of cookies from the oven to a serving platter.

The chocolate dough, though all ingredients were well incorporated, was remarkably thick and dry, too thick and dry to be properly shaped into the small cups meant to contain the peanut butter centers. After four attempts resulting in misshapen broken dough that ill concealed the peanut butter, I employed my old trick of desperation used when pie crust is too crumbly to work: don't be afraid to add incremental extra water, no matter what the recipe says. A fat-based dough will get tough if it is over handled, but it is usually over handled because it is too dry. I added two tablespoons of water, working it in with a wooden spoon.

It made a great difference. The dough was softer and pliable, like modeling clay, and considerably easier to shape, although surprisingly, my experimentation was not quite over. After assembling and arranging half the batch on a cookie sheet, I noticed the raw cookies heavily cracked along the edges after depressing them with the bottom of a drinking glass. Not knowing if this was to be expected, I added an additional two tablespoons of water to the remaining dough. This time, the dough was exceptionally soft and pliable, like pizza dough. Unable to form well-defined cups, I flattened the dough in one palm with the heal of the other to form a three-inch disc, gathering up the peanut butter filling by closing my fingers around it. It created a perfect seal. I worked through the assembly of the remaining cookies with ease and speed.

As expected, the slight moisture modifications produced two very different baked results, the first ones were substantial with dense peanut butter centers; the second ones, soft and delicate with thin veins of peanut butter. Both versions had their advocates and disappeared very fast. And, yes, I would bake them again. Both ways to please everyone. So, now I ask you. Have a look at the photos. Which would you prefer, thick or thin?

Magic in the Middles - From The King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion - The Essential Cookie Cookbook - Copyright © 2004 - All Rights Reserved - Reprinted by permission

Reminiscent of a chocolate peanut butter cup candy (or a buckeye, if you’re into homemade candies), this recipe is one that’s been making the rounds for years. We guarantee these will disappear in a snap, whatever the audience—from hungry kids after a soccer game to your coworkers gathered around the office coffeepot.

Yield: 26 cookies ● Baking temperature: 375°F ● Baking time: 7 to 9 minutes

1 1/2 cups (61/4 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (11/2 ounces) unsweetened natural cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (31/2 ounces) granulated sugar (and extra for dipping)
1/2 cup (4 ounces) brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick, 4 ounces) unsalted butter
1/4 cup (2⅜ ounces) smooth peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg

3/4 cup (7⅛ ounces) smooth peanut butter
3/4 cup (3 ounces) confectioners’ sugar

● Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly grease (or line with parchment) two baking sheets.

● To make the dough: In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. In another medium-sized mixing bowl, beat together the sugars, butter, and peanut butter until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and the egg, beating to combine, then stir in the dry ingredients, blending well.

● To make the filling: In a small bowl, stir together the peanut butter and confectioners’ sugar until smooth. With floured hands, roll the filling into 26 one-inch balls.

● To shape the cookies: Break off about 1 tablespoon of the dough, make an indentation in the center with your finger, and press one of the peanut butter balls into the indentation. Bring the dough up and over the filling, pressing it closed; roll the cookie in the palms of your hand to smooth it out. Repeat with the remaining dough and filling.

● Dip the top of each cookie in granulated sugar and place on the prepared baking sheets about 2 inches apart. Grease the bottom of a drinking glass and use it to flatten each cookie to about 1/2 inch thick.

● Bake the cookies for 7 to 9 minutes, until they’re set. Remove them from the oven and cool on a rack.

Nutrition information per serving (1 cookie, 38 g): 171 cal, 9 g fat, 4 g protein, 7 g complex carbohydrates,13 g sugar, 2 g dietary fiber, 18 mg cholesterol, 98 mg sodium, 132 mg potassium, 37 RE vitamin A, 1 mg iron, 9 mg calcium, 62 mg phosphorus, 6 mg caffeine.

Magic in the Middles I

Magic in the Middles II

Magic in the Middles III

This post is for Susan of Food Blogga, hosting her Eat Christmas Cookies - Season 2 event. You can check out the recipes here as Susan receives them. Expect another extravagant round-up.