Sunday, February 27, 2011

{DBC} florentine cookies

Part 2 of the Daring Baker's February Challenge: Florentine cookies! Part 1 was a panna cotta with a balsamic strawberry compote, the recipe for which can be found by clicking the link.

Initially, it made sense to me. Panna cotta, classic Piemonte dish, Florentine cookies, presumably from Florence, Italian theme. Not so. These cookies allegedly come from Paris, France. Though, I've also heard that they come from Tuscany, so everyone could just be confused.

Which is fine, because they are deeeeeelicious. They're crispy, light, and actually work well alongside the denser panna cotta. I sandwiched mine with melted chocolate, but I like them pre-chocolate very much as well. Perhaps in future I'll just do a lattice drizzle, or leave them chocolate free.

Florentine Cookies
Adapted from The Daring Kitchen

You'll need:
  • 2/3 cup [about 10 tbsp] butter
  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup dark corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla

  • 1 1/2 cups bittersweet chocolate

Preheat the oven 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. [note: do NOT substitute with aluminum foil - you need the parchment paper.]

In a medium saucepan over medium flame, melt the butter. Remove pan from heat and stir in oats, sugar, flour, corn syrup, milk, salt, and vanilla. Drop small balls of dough, about a tsp, onto baking sheet 3/4 inch apart, and flatten slightly with the back of a spoon. Bake for 6-8 minutes until edges are golden brown. The cookies will spread out during baking, so be mindful. Let cool at least 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.

Meanwhile, melt chocolate. Once cookies are cool, spread a thin amount of chocolate on the flat side of one cookie and sandwich it with another. Or, pipe chocolate artfully over the tops of the cookies without sandwiching them. It's really your prerogative here.

In other news, I've eaten so much this weekend I could explode. I haven't experienced food coma in quite some time now, and let me just say, I haven't missed it. Not that it wasn't all delicious, of course. Just...

Let's just say it hasn't been one of my smarter food weekends.

Hopefully it'll wear off when I go to bed.

That is, if the oh-so considerate folk on the bottom floor decide not to turn the base up to absurd levels at bizarre hours of the morning and give me an unappreciated wake-up call.

{DBC} vanilla panna cotta with balsamic strawberry compote it time to go to Spain yet?

[hello midterm season goodbye social life]

Another Daring Baker's Challenge! I can't believe it's already been a month since the last one. Admittedly, I was nervous about it, particularly since both this and the previous one lie in the realm of mousse-like custards, and I wasn't totally satisfied with the last one. This time, though, we're taking a trip to one of my favorite countries, Italia.

Panna cotta, originally from the northern region of Piemonte, is a custard-like dessert of milk, cream, sugar, and gelatin. When chilled, the gelatin causes the custard to set into the shape of whatever bowl it's poured into, and thus can be turned over onto a plate or served as is in the bowl. Often, panna cotta is eaten with berries, fruit coulis, or any sort of of dessert sauce.

Gah, just hearing the name makes me want to hop on a plane and go back to Italy.

For this month's DBC, we had to prepare a panna cotta of some sort with Florentine cookies [the recipe for which I will post up separately]. I decided to go with a classic vanilla panna cotta topped with a tart, balsamic strawberry compote. I prepared the panna cotta on Friday, allowed it to set in the refrigerator overnight, and had Tommy over [as always!] on Saturday to help with the compote and the Florentine cookies.

The panna cotta recipe given for the challenge used 3 parts heavy cream and 1 part whole milk, but I didn't have enough whole milk on hand so substituted with 1 part half and half. The given recipe also used a combination of honey and granulated sugar, but I wanted to cut the sweetness a bit so used only granulated sugar. It's a pretty versatile dish, though, so feel free to play around with it. Just make sure to keep the appropriate ratios in mind!

Vanilla Panna Cotta
Adapted from epicurious

You'll need:
  • 1/4 cup cold water
  • .25 oz [about 2.5 tsp] unflavored gelatin powder
  • 2 cups whipping cream
  • 1 cup half & half
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla

Pour 1/4 cup cold water into a small bowl. Sprinkle gelatin over top of water and let stand for about 15 minutes, until the gelatin softens. Heat water in the microwave in 15-second intervals until gelatin dissolves. Set aside.

Combine whipping cream and sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Remove pan from the heat and stir in vanilla and gelatin. Divide custard mixture into ramekins. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and chill until set, at least 6 hours and up to one day.

To unmold panna cotta, dip ramekin in a bowl of hot water for about 20 seconds. Invert ramekin onto a serving plate, gently shaking and tapping the sides of the ramekin to loosen the panna cotta. Top with desired sauce and serve immediately.
However, panna cotta can be served in ramekins without unmolding. Just top with desired sauce before serving.

Balsamic Strawberry Compote
Adapted from savory sweet life

You'll need:
  • 1 pound [about 2 cups] chopped strawberries
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 1/2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, cook strawberries, sugar, and balsamic vinegar for about 10 minutes. The sauce is done when it can coat the back of a spoon. Remove from heat. Let cool to room temperature before pouring on the panna cotta.

we had a pretty epic feast this afternoon.
The consistency of the panna cotta is beautiful: silky smooth and bursting with vanilla flavor. The compote is also a delicious contrast; the acidity of the balsamic strawberries plays off the delicacy of the panna cotta well. I checked out some of the other bakers' desserts and they are absolutely stunning! Mine leave much to be desired in comparison, but the others have given me inspiration. Be sure to creep on tastespotting and foodgawker in the upcoming few days, as I'm sure each will be flooded with images of some gorgeous panna cotta.

In other news, a combination of watching Tangled for the fifth time and finishing ACII has left me in a very Italian mood. Not that the former really took place in Italy, but the kingdom dance always makes me feel as though I'm perusing Sicily. Plus, all the snippets of Italian [most often cursing, but nevertheless] in ACII has made me want to retake the language.

[The cursing is unrelated here. Sort of. I can't help it that cursing sounds so much more emphatic when it's done in Italian.]

Anyway, my point is, I need to get me on a plane to Italia ASAP.

Ciò che si mangia con gusto non fa mai male.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

chocolate chip cookie dough cheesecake bars

I've had the most epic headache all weekend. Woke up in excruciating pain yesterday, took as many meds as I could find through blurry vision, threw a cold, wet rag over my forehead and eyes, and went back to sleep for as long as possible. Pain lessened, I was able to function relatively normally for the remainder of the day and night, then woke up this morning with a dull ache, yet again. Though, not half as bad as yesterday's.

You know what I think it is? Spring fever. Forrull. Which is odd, as I've never really had spring fever before. I even looked it up: "weariness (despite an adequate amount of sleep), sensitivity to changes in the weather, dizziness, irritability, headaches, and sometimes aching joints and a lack of drive are the most common" [thank you wikipedia].

It makes total sense, seeing as how I have never felt less motivated to do something productive in my LIFE. I just want to sleep off this headache for about a week straight. I think that'll be good for me. A mental health week. Full of napping and baking.

Amidst my lack of motivation this weekend, I found some time [i.e. threw astronomy aside] to bake. Chocolate chip cookie dough cheesecake bars, to be precise. These are for Jeremy, who turns 20 on Tuesday. He and Zack are often on the receiving end of leftover desserts that Noosh and I can't bear to keep in the apartment [lucky them], but for the most part they've been peanut-butter-and-chocolate based. So this time I decided to shake things up a bit.

This recipe has a few components, but isn't difficult at all.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cheesecake Bars
Adapted from browneyedbaker

For the crust, you'll need:
  • 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs [about 8 whole graham crackers]
  • 5 tbsp butter, melted

For the cookie dough layer, you'll need:
  • 5 tbsp butter, melted and cooled
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips

For the cheesecake layer, you'll need:
  • 10 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 egg 
  • 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 tsp flour

For the ganache, you'll need:
  • 10 oz semisweet chocolate chips
  • 5 tbsp heavy cream

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Line and grease an 8x8-inch square pan. To prepare crust, combine melted butter and graham cracker crumbs. Mix thoroughly and pour onto the base of the pan. Spread crumbs evenly, pressing them into the base, and bake for 6 minutes, until lightly golden brown. Let cool on a wire rack.

To prepare cookie dough layer, combine cooled, melted butter and sugar and mix until well blended. Add in flour and mix. Add in vanilla and chocolate chips. Pour cookie dough on top of the cooled graham cracker crust and spread evenly. Refrigerate while making the cheesecake filling.

To prepare cheesecake filling, beat cream cheese and sugar on medium speed until smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add in vanilla and egg, and beat until well blended. Toss the chocolate chips in about a tsp of flour, and then stir into the cream cheese mixture. Pour filling on top of the cookie dough base. Bake at 350 degrees for about 45-55 minutes, until the filling has set. Let cool completely on a wire rack.

To prepare ganache, combine chocolate and heavy cream in a microwave-safe bowl and melt [about 1 minute in the microwave]. Let cool at least 4-5 minutes. Pour ganache over cooled cream cheese, and spread evenly. Refrigerate bars for at least 2 hours before cutting. Store bars in the refrigerator.

Man these are delicious. Yes, I did eat one. And maybe a little more than one. But it was worth every carbohydrate.

Helps that I got rid of them this evening too.

But that's besides the point.

Ready for this week to be over already.

And it hasn't even started?

Ugh, motivation, don't leave me just yet...

Happy birthday, Jerm :)

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

coconut burfi

Sitting with my laptop outside in 60 degree weather? In the middle of February? What sorcery is this?!

...I'll take it.

I've been basking in the glory that is the sun for the past few days. A welcome change after frigidly cold January weather. Reading Bécquer for lit courses, being distracted by birds whilst in philosophy, drinking iced coffees in between classes without feeling like an idiot for ordering an iced coffee in the middle of winter; it's all so poetic. Or perhaps I've been reading too much post-romantic Spanish literature.

In any case, the main point is that I love this weather. I love being able to enjoy my ten-minute walk to work without my hands numbing over to the point where I can't even tell if they're still attached to my wrists. I love being able to sit outside during my one-hour break between classes instead of wishing ill upon every person who opens the door to Starbucks and lets the draft in. I love not having to borrow friends' sweatshirts [and failing to return them in a timely fashion...sorry, Matt] because of being absurdly under-dressed for the chill.

I am extremely cold-sensitive, in case you were wondering.

Luckily, Cville has been blessed with gorgeous weather this week. And how better to enjoy the weather than by doing something charitable?

Tomorrow evening, the MSA is hosting a Pakistani Cultural Bazaar to raise money to help rebuild the lives of the flood victims. I knew I wanted to help out as best as I could, so I offered to make something of the food variety. [Will also potentially be providing my services as a henna tattoo artist if need be, but that has yet to be solidified.] Anyway, at first I wasn't quite sure what to make. Cookies? Brownies? Cake balls? Oreo truffles? ...nah.

This is a cultural event, after all. A time to appreciate, what for most people are, foreign customs and values, to think of those who are severely under-assisted and need our help and support, and be unified by shared compassion and humanity. I wanted to make something that showcases the FOB within me, that will bring a little bit of Pakistan to everyone who attends. And that can only mean one thing:

Mithai. Specifically, coconut burfi.

Burfi is one of my favorite Pakistani desserts. Plain burfi is basically condensed milk cooked over medium heat with sugar until it solidifies into a dough. The dough is poured into a pan and left to set, then cut into small pieces and devoured. Burfi comes in a variety of flavors, and can be prepared with fruit [usually mango or coconut], spices like cardamom, or nut flours [almonds or pistachios]. I will never in my life be able to replicate the burfi my uncles buy for me from the mithai shops in Karachi, which is probably be a good thing because I can eat that burfi by the pound, but nevertheless, I can attempt.

Mom made these for the Eid party we threw back in the fall, and since then I've been pestering her for the recipe. She graciously [read: finally] obliged my request, and showed me how to make them when I went home last weekend. The recipe is, to my surprise, extremely easy, and extremely quick. Cook time is about 15 minutes total. Cool time is a bit longer, about 2 hours, but if you're like me, you'll just stick the pan in the fridge once it's cooled for like half an hour and eat it after 15 minutes of refrigeration.

 Coconut Burfi 

You'll need:
  • 1 tsp butter
  • 2 cups whole-milk ricotta cheese [never use skim or fat-free dairy when baking, unless specified; it throws off the texture]
  • 1 heaping cup of granulated sugar
  • 1 pound unsweetened coconut [note: This is not coconut flour, nor is is shredded coconut. It's as if you ran unsweetened shredded coconut through a food processor and pulverized it into a powdery crumbs. Can be purchased in any international super market.]
  • 2 drops kewra [can substitute with 2-3 drops coconut essence]
  • food coloring, as desired

Line a 9x13-inch pan with aluminum foil and set aside. In a medium, shallow pan over medium heat, melt butter. Add in ricotta and sugar, and stir until melted. Add in kewra and food coloring. Reduce heat to very low and add in coconut. Stir until coconut absorbs all the liquid, 10-15 minutes. Be sure to stir frequently to prevent coconut from burning. The coconut mixture should be firming up. Once all the liquid has been absorbed and coconut has had time to cook some, pour the dough out onto lined baking sheet. Press dough evenly across the pan and flatten out with the back of a spatula [or your palm]. Leave burfi out to cool and set, at least 45 minutes. Cut burfi into small diamonds and serve.

Burfi will stay good for 3-5 days in an airtight container. If refrigerated, will stay good for up to a week.

I suppose it's not necessary to color your burfi, but I think it gives it a unique touch. For this batch, I went with about 5 drops of green food coloring. Also, the reason I ended up using 3 pans was because I used a total of 24 oz of coconut rather than 16 [and adjusted the ratios accordingly].

What I love about this recipe is that it's not overly sweet, and the coconut is not overpowering. It's a relatively light dessert, as far as mithai goes [which is pretty much on the opposite spectrum of "light"], and very palatable for people who aren't huge coconut fanatics. I am, though, which means that I am one happy camper with this recipe.

Here's to hoping that tomorrow's Bazaar is a success!

Monday, February 14, 2011

confessions of a chocoholic ~ chocolate souffle cake with salted caramel sauce

I. Love. Chocolate.

Dark, deep, rich chocolate. None of that "milk chocolate" nonsense. And even less, white chocolate [not even really chocolate?]. But give me some bittersweet or dark chocolate, and I am one happy camper.

Make that a flourless chocolate souffle cake?

I'll be your best friend.

Valentines Day means people are
a) lovey-dovey to the point of irritation
b) broody to the point of irritation

Then there are those who eat their feelings. That would be me. Though, without the negative implications of the aforementioned statement. Rather, I eat because...that's what I do [have you met me?]. I just use Valentines Day as an excuse to make something decadent. This year, the dessert of choice was chocolate souffle cake with salted caramel sauce.

Noosh and I enjoyed a womantic dinner of Boylan burgers and sweet potato fries [carb-counting today? please.], and then somehow made room for pleasantly enjoyed this amazingly rich dessert. I had made salted caramel a while back, reserved specifically for this cake, and I've been counting down the days to eat this. I really, really, really am obsessed with salted caramel. Threw some pecans on top for kicks and an extra crunch ['twas a good choice] and dug in.

Chocolate Souffle Cake
Adapted from Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey

For the cake, you'll need:
  • 1 cup [2 sticks] unsalted butter 
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 pound bittersweet chocolate
  • 8 large eggs, separated
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tbs bourbon [I used 1 tsp bourbon extract]
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp cream of tartar 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line the base 10-inch springform pan with parchment paper and grease the base and sides. Combine chocolate and butter in a microwave-safe bowl and melt [begin with 1 minute and 30 seconds, stir, and continue melting in increments of 15 seconds until smooth]. Set melted chocolate aside. In another bowl, whisk egg yolks and salt. Whisk in 1/2 cup of sugar and beat on medium-high speed until yolks turn a pale yellow color, 4-6 minutes. Whisk in the bourbon and vanilla. Slowly whisk in melted chocolate mixture until uniform. Set aside.

In a clean, stainless steal bowl, beat the egg whites and cream of tarter until frothy. Increase speed to high and beat until soft peaks form. Gradually add in the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar, one tablespoon at a time, and beat until stiff peaks form. Fold 1/3 of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture to lighten the batter. Add in the rest of the egg whites and fold gently until just combined. Pour batter into pan and bake for 45 minutes, until a toothpick comes out almost clean [it's fine if a few crumbs stick to it, but there should not be liquid batter coating the toothpick]. Let cake cool at least 30 minutes before removing from the pan [it may have 'sunk' a little bit, which is fine].

Drizzle warm salted caramel sauce over cake right before serving. Top with chopped pecans. Serve with whipped cream, if desired, to offset some of the sweetness.

poked holes over the top for the sauce to seep in

This dessert is not for the faint-hearted. Really.

In terms of what to serve this with, I definitely suggest salted caramel if you want a sauce. Anything sweeter would be far too much, since the cake itself is so rich and dense. Lightly sweetened whipped cream or vanilla ice cream would also be good choices.

Man. This cake is good. Like, really good.

Though, not sure I would recommend eating this after a heavy dinner of burger and fries.

It makes for a good treat though... if you haven't eaten anything all day...

Ugh. Sugar.

So bad.

And yet...

Happy Valentine's Day!

    Sunday, February 6, 2011

    super bowl football truffles

    Super Bowl Sunday.

    Honestly? I don't care much for the Super Bowl. And it's not because I'm a girl, and I can't appreciate the game, and I don't know what's going on. On the contrary, I much enjoy watching football, and can follow it pretty well [it's not that difficult, to be honest]. But being at school, I don't have time to keep up. I actually kept up with NFL pretty well in high school [senior year is when I discovered that my father actually also watches football, so there was lots of bonding happening], but at college my interest has dwindled.

    It may help that our team did atrociously my first year, and since then I haven't given the sport a second thought.

    Now, I use Super Bowl Sunday as an excuse to release pent up aggression, yelling for a team that I really have no strong attachment to [particularly this year, since the Giants aren't playing], and eating copious amounts of game day foods. Chili, nachos, wings, pizza, brownies.

    Well, that's a lie. Low-carbing isn't really conducive to enjoying game day foods. But we are having some friends come over in a few hours for a nice evening of potluck dinner, playing video games, and alternating between the Super Bowl and the Puppy Bowl. And even though I can't be eating them [though, let's be real, I'm going to try one], I've made some Oreo truffles for the occasion.

    Maybe we'll even be able to keep our attention on more than just the first quarter with these in front of us.


    Noosh as my hand model.

    Super Bowl Football Oreo Truffles
    Adapted from bakerella

    You'll need:
    • 1 package Oreos, or any such cream-filled chocolate cookie
    • 1 8-oz package of cream cheese, room temperature
    • 5 oz melting chocolate
    • 2 oz melting white chocolate

    Cover a large baking dish with parchment paper. Using a food processor, grind Oreo cookies to fine crumbs. Mix crumbs with cream cheese. Shape dough into football-shaped balls and place parchment paper. Refrigerate for at least 45 minutes. Melt melting chocolate [if you don't have melting chocolate, melt 5 oz of chocolate chips with 1 tbsp of shortening] and dip truffles into chocolate. Place back on the parchment paper and refrigerate for an additional 30 minutes, until chocolate sets. Melt white chocolate and pour into a plastic or piping bag. Snip one corner and pipe football designs on firm truffles. Refrigerate until serving.

    So cute. So easy. So yummy.

    Perfect for a lazy Super Bowl Sunday afternoon.

    Friday, February 4, 2011

    coconut layer cake with laymon curd filling

    I thought I had escaped Birthday Season back in December. Not so.

    But I don't mind. In fact, I love birthdays. Joyous, happy, blessed, yummy. 

    Really, I love birthdays because they give me an excuse to drink coffee and eat a vanilla bean scone for breakfast. Because, what the hey, I'm having cake suffering from sugar coma later anyway, right?

    Tonight we celebrated Chelsea and Rudhdi's joint birthday via dinner at Cafe Europa followed by cake and merriment at my apartment.

    Of course, I knew I was going to bake. But I knew I had to bake something special. Especially since Chelsea and Rudhdi are two of my closest foodie friends, not to mention good cooks themselves. The pressure was on.

    I decided on a coconut layer cake with lemon [laymon] curd filling and a coconut cream cheese frosting. Why coconut? Mainly because I have been craving something coconut for a while now. Also because I've had lemon curd in the freezer from the Biscuit Joconde Imprime a while back. And because I feel coconut is just about as quirky, sophisticated, and lovable as Chelsea and Roods. You are what you eat, right?

    Coconut and lemon is quite an interesting combination, and one that is rather popular in baking. I never would have guessed, though. Probably because I've had a lot of coconut in my day [hello, motherland] and lemons are somewhat uncommon in Pakistani cuisine [my father, actually, is not keen on the taste of lemon, so you'll only really find limes in my parents' fridge]. Ergo I've never had the idea to put the two together. Which is too bad, since it is divine.

    I suppose any choice of filling would work, though. Actually, I think mango curd would be equally as delicious. Raspberry and strawberry would too. Chocolate. Coffee. Anything. Ugh, I just love coconut.

    Anyway, ramblings aside, this cake has three components: the coconut cake, the cream cheese frosting, and the lemon curd filling. As always, I'll give you the recipe below.

    Coconut Layer Cake with Lemon Curd Filling and Cream Cheese Frosting
    Adapted from Paula Deen's Lady & Sons Just Desserts and Tastespotting: The Blog

    For the coconut cake, you'll need:
    • 1 cup [2 sticks] butter, softened
    • 2 cups sugar
    • 4 eggs
    • 3 cups cake flour
    • 1 cup cream of coconut
    • 1 tsp coconut essence
    • 1 tsp vanilla

    For the cream cheese frosting, you'll need:
    • 2 8-oz packages cream cheese, at room temperature
    • 1 cup [2 sticks] butter, at room temperature
    • 2 tbsp cream of coconut
    • 1 tsp coconut essence
    • 1 pound confectioner's sugar

      • desired filling, prepared as directed [for my lemon curd filling, click here]
      • 2 cups toasted coconut, for garnish

      Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and line the base and grease a 9-inch springform pan. In the bowl of a standmixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until incorporated. Alternate adding in flour and coconut cream in increments, beginning and ending with flour. Add in coconut and vanilla essences and mix until just combined. Pour batter into greased pan and bake for 60-75 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean. Let cool completely.

      Meanwhile, prepare cream cheese frosting. In the bowl of a standmixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat butter, cream cheese, and vanilla until fluffy, about 5 minutes. Lower speed and gradually sift in confectioner's sugar. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate until using. Cream cheese frosting can be prepared and refrigerated a day in advance.

      To assemble cake, cut cooled cake into three even layers. If cake has fluffed up in the center during baking and formed a 'bump', trim a bit off the top of the cake to flatten it. Place one layer on desired serving plate, flat side up [always make sure the flat side is up, as this will make it easier to frost]. Spread a thin layer of frosting on the layer. Refrigerate for thirty minutes. [This method is called the crumb coat - it traps the moisture inside the cake and makes it easier to frost, as it prevents the frosting from pulling crumbs off the cake layers.] After refrigeration, spread a generous layer of lemon curd over the crumb coat. Gently spread a layer of cream cheese frosting over the lemon curd. Place second layer on top. Repeat with crumb coat, refrigerating for thirty minutes, and frosting with lemon curd and frosting. Place third layer on top. Frost the top and sides of the cake with a thin crumb coat and refrigerate for thirty minutes. Use remaining frosting to finish frosting the cake. Press toasted coconut onto the top and sides. Refrigerate until serving.

      After spreading the cream cheese frosting over the lemon curd, I sprinkled a small handful of shredded coconut on top for a little extra coconuttiness. The coconut flavor in the cake and cream cheese frosting is very mild, which is nice, but I like to taste my coconut.

      I also baked this in an 8x8-inch square cake pan, because it is universally known that square cakes are much classier. [That's a total lie; I just really wanted a square cake.]

      The cake turned out muuuch denser than anticipated. I originally wanted four layers, but overestimated the amount of batter I'd need per layer [I baked the three layers separately] and they ended up thicker than I would have liked. That on top of the lemon curd and cream cheese frosting made for messier layers than I would have liked. Meh. Practice makes perfect.

      And everyone else enjoyed it, which is all that I wanted in the end. [And for them to take it away from me because there was no way this cake could stay in my possession].

      Happy twentieth birthday(s), Rudhdi and Chelsea! Love love love.

      om. nom.

      Tuesday, February 1, 2011

      chocolate peanut butter squares

      ,I've said before how peanut butter and chocolate is one of my all-time favorite combination of flavors. I was reminded of why when I baked these. Peanut butter chocolate squares for my dear friend Angie.

      Just a small gift. I hadn't seen Angie in ages it felt, so I popped by earlier today with these. Crunchy, creamy, chocolate-y, yummy.

      Chocolate Peanut Butter Squares
      Adapted from Once Upon a Chef

      For the crust, you'll need:
      • 2 cups Nabisco chocolate wafers [I used about 12 full Nabisco Chocolate Graham Crackers]
      • 4 tbsp butter, softened

      For the filling, you'll need:
      • 2 cups confectioner's sugar
      • 6 packed tbsp brown sugar
      • 1 1/3 cups smooth peanut butter
      • 6 tbsp butter, softened
      • pinch of salt

      For the ganache, you'll need:
      • 12 oz bittersweet chocolate chips
      • 6 tbsp heavy cream

      Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Line and grease an 8x8-inch square pan. To prepare crust, pulse wafers and butter in a food processor until it forms fine crumbs. Pour crumbs into the pan and press evenly into the base of the pan. Bake crust for 8 minutes. Let cool completely on a wire rack.

      Meanwhile, prepare peanut butter filling. Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer and mix with paddle attachment on low speed until the filling comes together. Do not whip or overmix. Put bowl in fridge until using.

      To prepare ganache, combine chocolate and heavy cream in a microwave-safe bowl and melt [about 1 minute in the microwave]. Let cool at least 4-5 minutes before using.

      To assemble squares, pour 1/4 of the ganache on top of the cooled crust and spread evenly with a spoon [this will allow the peanut butter to stick to the crust]. Put pan in freezer until ganache hardens, about 5-10 minutes. Once firm, pour peanut butter filling on top of crust. If firm, you can use your hands. If it's still soft, use a spoon to spread it evenly. Pour the remaining ganache over the filling and spread evenly. Cover pan with plastic wrap and put in freezer for at least an hour, until squares set [or keep pan in the fridge for at least 3 hours] before cutting. Store squares in the fridge and serve cold.

      I was worried about using chocolate graham crackers, because I wasn't sure what to expect in terms of taste. But they worked out splendidly. They didn't hold together super well though, so I'll up the amount of butter used in the crust in future [I only used 3 tbsp for the crust in this batch]. The filling was divine, and ganache is always phenomenal. Good quick recipe to keep in your repertoire.

      I really just hate the lighting in my apartment. It's probably due to the fact that all light comes from lamps or the window, seeing as how there is no ceiling light. Noosh and I were discussing the merits of having a little food photography station set up in the living room.

      That, though, maybe a bit more expensive obsessive than I'm willing to pay admit.