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Wednesday
Dec162009

Oh Nuts: Peppernuts Cookies for Serious Eats

Peppernuts cookies for Serious Eats

Forget old letters and diaries—for me, old recipes are far more interesting. Not only do they teach us about the past, but they also offer the opportunity to share an intimate moment with the bakers of yesteryear.

So when I came across this employee-submitted recipe for Peppernuts (or Pfeffernusse in German), a small nut-shaped cookie in the Wilton Cookie Exchange book, described as being handed down over at least three generations, I immediately knew I wanted to give it a try.
While the first sheet came out crunchy, spicy, and overall pretty tasty, they had one fatal flaw: they were hopelessly unattractive.

Peppernuts cookies for Serious Eats

I decided to divide the remaining dough by making half of the cookies in the traditional way (by scattering bits of dough on the sheet and baking lumpy little cookies) and half by carefully shaping the cookies into rounds.

Though both versions tasted the same, the prettier ones disappeared faster.

You can check out the entire post and recipe at Serious Eats.

Tuesday
Dec152009

Sweet Art: Cuppie Has a Snack

Oh, Cuppie...
Oh, Cuppie. Your cuteness makes us forgive much of your mischief, but you may have gone too far this time. Cuppie, for the love of blog, what have you done?

Tuesday
Dec152009

Sweet Excess: Cool Ranch Dorito Creme Brulee

Cool Ranch Dorito Creme Brulee. Too much, or just enough? You be the judge--or better yet, don't--trust these tasters to do it for you. This video documents the reactions of tasters, and has a link to a recipe. This video comes via Phil, a very good friend of the CakeSpy enterprise.

Monday
Dec142009

Stalking Sweetness: The Tale of the Modjeska


While leafing through the most recent Williams-Sonoma catalogue, my attention was captured by this description of their caramel marshmallows (pictured above): "dubbed 'modjeskas,' these soft caramel confections were named in honor of a beautiful Polish actress by a fervent admirer".

Sounded like a nice way of saying "serious candy stalker" to me--that is to say, I had to find out more. A bit more lore was available on the Bauer's Candy website:

It's not a word you'll find in Webster's dictionary; it's the name of a Polish actress. Madame Helena Modjeska, famed queen of the European stage, appeared at the McCauley Theater in Louisville, KY. Her appearance in 1883 was the U.S. debut of the play "A Doll's House" written by Henrick Ibsen. Her theatrical performance was enthralling to a patron attending this debut, Mr. Anton Busath, owner of Busath Candies, who was honored by an introduction to the beautiful actress. He asked and was granted permission to name his confection after her. After Busath Candies closed in 1947, we began calling our "Caramel Biscuit" the "Modjeska" in honor of the creator, Anton Busath.


Not only did Modjeska grant permission for her name to be used, says this site, but "in fact, she even agreed to autograph a photo, which Anton then used to promote the candy—an early example of a celebrity endorsement. The rest is confectionary history."

Alas, no information was available on whether or not there was a Mrs. Anton Busath, and if so, how she felt about the candy's name.

What else can be said? Stalking has never been so sweet.

To purchase modjeskas, visit williams-sonoma.com or bauerscandy.com.

Monday
Dec142009

Cake Byte: Sweet Things Cupcakes Now Open in Tacoma!

Gingerbread cupcake from Sweet Things, Tacoma
You know what the world needs right now? More cupcakes.

Happily, Sweet Things is right on top of that need--they just opened in Tacoma, Washington. The shop specializes in cupcakes (both a daily assortment and special orders) and also has a retail section featuring cake stands, notecards, and other gift items. Based on the feedback of Tacoma guy-about-town Kevin Frietas, they're worth a trek:

We snagged a 4-box of raspberry vanilla, chocolate mint, chocolate chocolate, and red velvet. The raspberry vanilla frosting was excellent, the chocolate cake with mint frosting balanced well and didn't overwhelm one way or the other, the chocolate chocolate was dark and smooth, and the red velvet was tasty but forgettable. We spied their carrot cake and hopefully there will be more interesting flavors to come like lavender, sweet potato, and mocha cherry mentioned over at the TNT Diner back in May.

Winter Wonderland from Sweet Things, Tacoma
And they've really got some sweetness baking for the holidays, per an email from one of the owners:

For the Christmas Season we are offering a 4-pack consisting of Gingerbread, Eggnog, Candy Cane, and Winter Wonderland. The Gingerbread is frosted with a spiced buttercream and finished off with a trio of spice drops. The Eggnog cake has an accompanying eggnog buttercream, a light dusting of nutmeg, and two white chocolate 'straws'. Candy Cane is a deep, dark chocolate cake frosted with mint buttercream tinted the palest mint green color, and it is then rolled in crushed candy canes, and topped off with another dollop of mint buttercream with a sugar "candy cane". Lastly, our Winter Wonderland is our Classic vanilla/vanilla frosted in an icy blue vanilla buttercream, sprinkled with sugar crystals for sparkle and shine and topped with two cute white snowflakes.


Sounds like Washington just got a lot sweeter! I can't wait to try their cupcakes myself!

For more information, visit the Sweet Things Cupcakes website.

Monday
Dec142009

Sweet Charity: CakeSpy and Menu For Hope 6!

Menu For Hope donation
As totally sweet as it is to receive gifts around the holiday, sometimes it's even sweeter to give back. With that in mind, CakeSpy is happy to donate an original 11x14 framed watercolor painting featuring cupcakes and bacon (awesome!) as part of this year's Menu For Hope!

What is Menu For Hope, you ask? Here's the scoop, via Chez Pim:

Menu For Hope is an annual fundraising campaign hosted by Pim Techamuanvivit and a revolving group of food bloggers around the world. Five years ago, the devastating tsunami in Southeast Asia inspired me to find a way to help, and the very first Menu for Hope was born. The campaign has since become a yearly affair.

Each December, food bloggers from all over the world join the campaign by offering a delectable array of food-related items for the Menu for Hope raffle. Anyone – and that means you too - can participate. For every $10 donated, you earn one virtual ticket to bid on an item of your choice. At the end of the two-week campaign, the tickets are drawn and the results announced on Chez Pim on Monday, January 18.

So how do you get in on this sweet action? To Donate and Enter the Menu for Hope Raffle, here's what you need to do:

  1. Choose a bid item or bid items of your choice from our Menu for Hope main bid item list (the code for my donation is UW31).
  2. Go to the donation site at Firstgiving and make a donation.
  3. Please specify which bid item you'd like in the 'Personal Message' section in the donation form when confirming your donation. You must write-in how many tickets per bid item, and please use the bid item code (remember--mine is UW31).
  4. Each $10 you donate will give you one raffle ticket toward a bid item of your choice. For example, a donation of $50 can be 2 tickets for EU01 and 3 tickets for EU02 - 2xEU01, 3xEU02.
  5. If your company matches your charity donation, please check the box and fill in the information so we could claim the corporate match.
  6. Please check the box to allow us to see your email address so that we can contact you in case you win. Your email address will not be shared with anyone.
  7. Check back on Chez Pim on Monday, January 18 for the results of the raffle.

Thanks for your participation, and good luck in the raffle!

Monday
Dec142009

Sweet Variation: Alternate Construction for the Berlinerkranser

Norwegian butter cookies
Do you like the idea of the berlinerkranser , but not the idea of rolling and twisting dozens of cookies? Happily, there is a variation on the cookie which is a bit faster but no less delicious: using the same dough, the cookies can be formed into buttery little thumbprint cookies with pretty sprinkles on the side. Here's the recipe variation:

Berlinerkranser, Reconstructed

- makes about 36 cookies -

Recipe adapted from Betty Crocker's Cooky Book

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups butter (3 sticks)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons grated orange rind
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 cups flour
  • red and green candied cherries
  • (optional) red and green sprinkles, mixed together in a small dish

Procedure

  1. Mix butter, 1 cup sugar, orange rind, and eggs thoroughly. Stir in sifted flour until fully incorporated. Chill dough.
  2. Heat oven to 400°F. Break off small pieces of dough and roll into circles, a little smaller than a ping pong ball.
  3. With a finger, press an indent into each cookie and press a piece of candied cherry in the indent. If desired, roll the sides of the cookie in red and green sprinkles for a pretty effect.
  4. Bake for 12 minutes, or until set but not brown.

Monday
Dec142009

Sweet Holiday Cookies: Berlinerkranser For Serious Eats

Berlinerkranser
In spite of what the name may imply, the Berlinerkranser is actually not German at all—in just about every recipe I have seen, these rich wreath-shaped butter cookies are said to hail from Norway, where they are a holiday tradition.
Could it be the result of German immigration patterns? Or perhaps these buttery wreaths call to mind the holiday decorations from Berlin?
Alas, while I cannot answer these questions, I can attest to their deliciousness. Buttery, crumbly, and complemented with a whisper of tartness from orange zest and plenty of sweetness from candied fruit garnish, these cookies are like a bite of holiday cheer.
Berlinerkranser
You can find the full entry and recipe at Serious Eats.

Thursday
Dec102009

Lovin in the Oven: Almond Tea Cake Recipe

Almond Tea Cake
So, a few weeks ago I received this package in the mail with a bunch of recipes from Love N Bake, a company which makes fancy pastry fillings (almond paste, praline filling, chocolate filling, etc). "Whatever" I thought.

And then two days later, a big ol' box of said fillings arrived in the mail. Sweet! I was excited not only because they were free (cheapskate!), but because each flavor had recipes on the label (don't you just love back of the box recipes?). So I set to trying out the recipe on their almond paste package, for Almond Tea Cake. Don't let its unassuming appearance deceive you--this cake is heavenly. Simultaneously light and buttery all at once, it's got an amazingly luxuriant feeling in the mouth, and is equally as delicious as a breakfast treat, teatime companion or (with whipped cream) a respectable dinner dessert.

Almond Tea Cake

  • 1/2 cup almond paste (I used Love N Bake's...but you probably guessed that)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 stick (4 ounces) butter, softened
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • Optional: 1/2 cup white chocolate, cut into coarse pieces (I scattered them on top just before baking--yum)
Procedure

Beat the almond paste with the sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer. Add ther butter and beat until fluffy. eat in the eggs. Stir well and then fold in the baking powder, flour and vanilla.
Spread the batter into a greased 8-inch cake pan. If you'd like to add the white chocolate, add it now, scattering it evenly over the surface of the cake (it's ok if some sinks). Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the cake comes out clean. Cool on a rack, and unmold. If desired, dust with powdered sugar before serving.

Thursday
Dec102009

Holiday Beer Cheer: Beer Honey Torte With Banana and Rum Flambe Recipe

Honey torte w/ banana and rum flambe
In case you didn't know it, there's a website out there called BitterSweet Partnership--and it is dedicated to "unleashing women's love for beer". I know, who knew, right?
But I was instantly intrigued when they emailed me a rather delicious-looking dessert recipe (developed with UK chef Allegra McEvedy) which includes, of all things, an unlikely pairing of beer, bananas, honey and rum: a recipe for a Honey Torte with Banana and Rum Flambe. Now that sounded good enough to share! While I haven't tried the recipe yet, I thought it was fascinating enough to post. Feeling brave? Here's how you can make it:

Beewyched Christmas Honey Torte With Banana & Rum Flambé
Part of the Bittersweet Christmas Beery Menu

Ingredients

  • 1 bottle beewyched beer
  • 400g stoned dates – the stickier the better
  • 1 tsp bicarb
  • 50g sultanas
  • 150g butter, unsalted and at room temp
  • 2 eggs
  • 180g ground almonds
  • 100g plain flour
  • 30g soft dark brown sugar
  • half a tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 tbsp honey
Topping ingredients
  • 2 to 3 bananas
  • a handful of flaked almonds
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tablespoons soft dark brown sugar
  • 80ml rum
  • 1 tub vanilla ice cream
Procedure
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 160ºC. Simmer the dates and sultanas in the beer, stirring occasionally for 15 mins until like a very thick compote.
  2. Either vigorously by hand or with an electric mixer, beat the sugar and butter, then add the eggs one by one.
  3. Sift the flour with the bicarb and then fold into the mix, along with the honey, ground almonds and vanilla extract.
  4. Once the compote has reached a suitably dolloping consistency, spread it out thinly on a large plate/baking tray to cool down.
  5. Use a knob of butter to grease the inside of a springform cake tin about 20cm across by 6cm deep. Then toss in a small handful of plain flour and coat the inside lightly in it, knocking out the excess into the mix.
  6. When the date compote has stopped steaming, fold it into the mix and then tip everything into the cake tin.
  7. Cook for 1hr 10mins, then leave to sit for 10mins before lifting out onto a serving plate (ideally your torte will still be warm-ish when you are ready to serve)
  8. When it comes to the bananas, get a heavy-based frying pan onto a medium/high heat and melt the butter in it so that it starts to fizzle. Cut the bananas into oblique 2cm thick chunks and fry them and the flaked almonds for just a couple of minutes until the ’nanas begin to soften and get a slight colour.
  9. Sprinkle on the soft brown sugar and swirl and toss until all the sugar has melted in the butter and the bananas are coated. Spoon these on top of the torte then take the cake to the table and turn off the lights!
  10. In your smallest saucepan gently heat the rum until it’s steaming and just about to start simmering, then quickly pour the hot rum all over your cake and spark it up with a match. Voila!

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