Sunday, April 27, 2008

Daring Bakers - Cheesecake Pops

Yay! It's Daring Bakers time again! This month's challenge was hosted by Elle of Feeding my Enthusiasms and Deborah of Taste and Tell. And they chose cheesecake pops!

I was ecstatic when I saw the selection at the beginning of the month, because I absolutely love cheesecake! So creamy and cheesy and mmmm.... yeah. I'm also kind of obsessive about cheesecake quality, and am on a neverending quest for the perfect cheesecake recipe, so I always jump at the opportunity to try a new one! And this was more than just a new cheesecake recipe, it was an entirely new method of preparation and serving! See how cute each pop was on it's own little stick?

Awww. So happy. We were allowed to dip the pops in any kind of chocolate we wanted, and then decorate with anything we could think to stick on it! Needless to say, mine look rather plain compared to some of the pops those other Daring Bakers made. But they still make me really happy. I chose to dip them in white chocolate, because I was feeling like I wanted something that would add mild sweetness without too sharp or overpowering a flavor. After all, the cheesecake is the most important part in my book! And also because white chocolate was all I had in my freezer at the time... hehe. And since it was all I had, I decided the least I could do was make it colorful... so I made purple and blue cheesecake balls.

They had so much personality, though. See, this one is the "Allison ran out of sticks and dipped me with her fingers and then ate me so that no one would know" ball:

And this one is the "I'm so swirly and it makes me cool, even though it's really because the chocolate cooled too fast on me" texture-happy ball:

Haha I had way too much fun with these...

In the end, they all tasted amazing. I carried them around with me everywhere I went the day I made them, and received more than one marriage proposal in response. And seriously, I can't ask any more than that from any dessert recipe... =)

So thank you, Deborah and Elle, for a seriously fun challenge! The Daring Bakers are fabulous!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Strawberry White Chocolate Mocha Macarons

So, one day a couple months ago, I ran into my friend Amy as we were both on our way and running late for the same class. She offered me gum, and while I don't normally enjoy gum, this was strawberry gum, and it's hard to pass up any kind of strawberry sweetness that's being offered to me... So I accepted, and began to chew it just as we walked through the cinema courtyard (where they have a small coffee stand). I paused, "Why does this gum taste like coffee??" Amy looked at me like I was insane. The conversation that followed was something like this:
"omg it does taste like coffee!"
"I'm pretty sure there's no coffee in the gum."
"mmmmm strawberry and coffee..."
"that sounds disgusting."
"I am now inspired to make cookies."

But I didn't actually make the cookies... I had this idea that white chocolate would be a good cohesive flavor for the strawberries and coffee, and it took me forever to procure decent white chocolate. And I got caught up in other things to bake... but these were always lurking in the back of my mind. So when I went to the grocery store last week and saw a ton of beautiful strawberries under a sign that said 69c/lb, I knew exactly what I had to do.

I have made macarons before, with much success, but this was my first time making plain shells. The macarons I have made in the past have always been chocolate or pistachio. So I tried a recipe that I had not used before, and was very happy with it! The shells baked perfectly, and any macaron baker will know that perfectly baking shells equals love. You can find the recipe here at à la cuisine.

As for the filling... it ended up a product of much improvisation, when I couldn't for the life of me get my white chocolate ganache to set. I wanted to have a coffee buttercream and incorporate the strawberries into a white chocolate ganache, and then just have both fillings in each macaron. But apparently strawberries equal liquidy ganache? I even tried this twice, reducing the cream content to barely anything the second time, and the ganache still would not set. Soooo I kind of just dumped it all into the buttercream (half expecting a disaster) and danced around happily when it all came together and tasted lovely. The result of this was delicious filling and a ridiculous Frankenstein recipe for it. But here is the recipe, nonetheless.

Strawberry White Chocolate Mocha Buttercream Filling

1 cup chopped white chocolate
1/2 cup heavy cream
4 medium/large strawberries
1 tsp granulated sugar

2 egg whites
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup butter
3/4 tsp instant coffee granules
3 tsp water

Whisk the egg whites with the 1/2 cup sugar over a pan of simmering water until they are warm and the sugar has dissolved.
Beat until stiff peaks form.
Add the butter a tablespoon at a time, beating after each addition. Continue to beat until buttercream is smooth.
Dissolve the coffee in 3 tsp water, and gradually beat this into the buttercream.
Dice the strawberries, sprinkle the tsp of sugar over them, and toss to combine. Set aside.
Heat the cream in a saucepan. When it reaches the simmering point, pour it over the white chocolate. Let sit for a minute or so, and then whisk to combine. When the mixture is smooth, stir in the strawberries. Cover and refrigerate, and hope that it will set up like ganache is supposed to. When it doesn't do this, chuck it in the buttercream (gradually), and beat it in until the mixture is uniform and smooth.
Pipe the filling into the cookies and refrigerate overnight. Let the cookies come to room temperature before serving.

And see how beautiful those strawberries were? This is what I had for breakfast. Me and my toast with nutella and fruit.... =)

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Obsessive much?

I have a confession to make.  Kind of a big one.  I'm kind of ashamed, but not really.  

I'm in love, and it has nothing to do with food.  His name is Jimmy Gnecco and for the past month or so I have been watching youtube videos of him perform in the time that I normally reserve for baking.  He's part of the band Ours and their new album was just released today.  I've loved them for years, but they haven't put out an album since 2002, so for a long time they were kind of on my musical back burner.  But I recently rediscovered them and fell madly in love.  I wasn't going to post about this, because... well, it doesn't have anything to do with food.  But then I realized that I hadn't posted about anything for about 2 weeks, and then I realized that besides my being incredibly busy with film stuff, Jimmy Gnecco was the reason why.  

So, for exactly this one post, I will use this blog as a way to say "OMG GET OUT OF THE KITCHEN NOW AND GO LISTEN TO THIS FREAKIN BAND! cause cake can wait for this."  

Yeah.  Honestly, I could write pages and pages on why they are so amazing, and am intentionally restraining myself from doing so.  So I'll just say that their music is very melodic, beautiful, and powerfully emotional.  In fact, it's powerful in general, which is what I love most about it.  

Also, if you like them, I can not stress enough that you should go watch youtube videos of them performing live.  I am of the opinion that, in many cases, the live recordings of their songs are actually way better than the album mixes.  Also, Jimmy is such an incredible performer (for many reasons) that I don't even consider the experience of listening to their songs complete unless I can see him singing (because it's so wonderful to see someone put so much energy and emotion into a performance).  

So go check them out!!

And don't worry, I promise I will post more dessert soon.  =)