Sunday, February 28, 2010

Warm Gingerbread Pudding Cake - by Summer

Not only have I never made a pudding cake before, I have never eaten one either.  I wasn't sure what to expect from this recipe, however, this past Christmas was the first time I ever made gingerbread cookies.  I loved making them, so when I saw this recipe, I knew I wanted to try it!

Like Lisa - finding the crystallized ginger was a bit of a challenge.  My normal grocery store didn't carry it, so I went to a different one that had it way over priced.  I ended up going to a Penzey Spices store.  The women working were super helpful and I found the ginger much more reasonably priced.

The recipe was pretty easy to follow.  The water on top of the cake looked very strange, but fortunately Lisa posted first.  I could tell from her picture, that I was doing things right.

 Just out of the oven

I think I could have cooked the cake a couple of minutes longer, although it was springy and cracked on top.  My husband is a fan of whipped cream, so of course he was game to try it.  Here is his serving:
 Although, now that I look at the picture of the one to show off this dessert, it appears to have just as much whipping cream!
I thought this dessert was pretty good.  I can see how it would be great during the holidays or on a really cold winter day.  Of course the challenge that I would find is trying to make it for company.  To serve warm, means you need to make it while your guests are present, and I am the type that likes to have as much prepared prior to the guests arrival.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Warm Gingerbread Pudding Cake - by Lisa

"Best yet!" declared my husband upon devouring his dessert. And I have to agree! This was a delicious cake! Adding whipped cream was the perfect topping, yet it would still be divine without it.

There were several steps involved in making the cake, but overall it isn't a complicated recipe. I think I was overdoing things a little by trying to simultaneously make dinner and prepare dessert. I should know better than attempting such a feat when following a brand new recipe! :)

One special thing the recipe calls for is crystallized ginger. I had a bit of an adventure with this item. I have never used this ingredient before, so when I spotted it on the shelves of spice section, I nearly had a heart attack when I saw the price tag registered $13.99 for a 2.7oz jar. Fortunately, I have a nice little money saving trick up my sleeve - the bulk food department! I have utilized this option countless times. Not only does it save me a ton of $$, but I am also able to buy in the quantity I need and therefore always have fresh (dried) spices and herbs in my cabinet. I was able to get the crystallized ginger for a fraction of the price - $1.22. I also did the same with the clove and spent only $0.22.

Overall, I followed the recipe nearly to the letter. The only change I made was omitting the nutmeg. My system can't tolerate the spice, so I have to make sure I don't consume any of it. Here is a "before" shot of the cake.

As Beth mentioned in the recipe, it was the "weird" stage of making the cake. The final step before putting it in the oven is pouring a butter/water mixture over the batter. It definitely looked weird, but the cake came out beautifully!

My husband and I both loved the sweet/spicy flavor of the cake. Eating it while still warm is definitely the way to go. It was quite moist on the bottom, cake like in the middle and just barely crisp on the top. A perfect combination in each bite! We are both looking forward to having this for dessert all week!!!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Molten Dark Chocolate Cakes - by Summer

"This is my favorite thing you have made so far" my husband told me tonight as he was eating his cake.  I have to say I was a little nervous because he isn't a big sweets or chocolate person, and I didn't think he would like these cakes at all. 

I was very excited to try this recipe as I love all things chocolate - especially chocolate cake.  Over the years, I have seen many recipes for this cake, but have never made it.  The main reason is that clearly you have to eat the cake right after it comes out of the oven and trying to get the timing right seemed difficult. However, I was excited to see in this recipe that you can make it ahead of time and then put it in the fridge to bake later - sweet!

I thought this recipe was once again pretty easy.  I would say the biggest pain was buttering the little ramekins.  I originally thought the ones I had were too small, but I had 8 of them, so I was just going to bake them for less time.  As it turns out, they were the right size, so I only made 6 like the recipe called for.

I didn't have instant espresso powder, but instant coffee, so I used that instead.  In fact, I didn't even think that it would be an issue, but I wonder if that could have altered the taste of them.  It's an optional ingredient, so the next time I think I would leave it out.

I ended up baking these for a minute less than it called for and unlike Lisa, I wasn't worried about the eggs being cooked, even though I probably should be (2 weeks, + or - a few days till baby arrives!). 

As I mentioned before, I loved being able to prepare them ahead of time and then baking later.  I ate mine before my husband, so I only popped one in the oven.  This helped because if the baking time was off, I could have adjusted it for his.  And now tomorrow I can make the rest and have a tasty dessert all over again!  We didn't have any ice cream on hand, but I might just have to pick some up tomorrow.

I will definitely make these again.  In fact, I really want to make this for my dad, and maybe add some raspberry sauce to go with these cakes.  One of the other reasons why I like these so much is the portion size was perfect.  I think this is my favorite recipe to date!

Molten Dark Chocolate Cakes - by Lisa

I felt like this recipe might deserve a little extra attention, so I opted to wait for my hubby to spirit away our little guy for an hour or so before settling into this week's project. I am glad I waited, because there were a decent number of smaller steps that were definitely better served by having my full attention.

Overall, I'd say this was a medium-level skill requirement. For melting the chocolate, I opted to follow Beth's helpful tips that she supplied in a comment on my prior entry. While I generally trust my cast iron cookware to do a smooth and even job, I didn't want to take any chances, so out came the double boiler! I think it worked really well, and the butter and chocolate melted down at a nice slow rate. Incidentally, chopping the chocolate was much easier this time around. I think it was partly because I used all Ghiardelli chocolate this time (much thinner bars) and partly because I wasn't hurrying along.

I do think I might have made an error in my process. I'm not sure I whisked the egg/cream mixture long enough. As I was trying to fold the chocolate and egg mixture together, I noticed the egg mixture was on the runny side so I wasn't folding so much as I was stirring. It was at that moment I realized that if I had whisked them longer, it probably would've yielded a slightly more solid mixture that would have allowed for better folding. Lesson learned for next time! :)

I ended up letting them bake for about a minute longer than called for. I was a little nervous about how to tell when they were done and also a bit paranoid about making sure the eggs were properly cooked. (Expecting baby #2 at the end of summer!) As a result, the center was slightly more cooked than it should have been. The top center was a little looser, and the rest of the middle was moist but not molten. Another lesson to remember for next time!

The cakes were definitely yummy right out of the oven. Unfortunately I didn't have any ice cream on hand to serve with them. Doh! I'm sure peppermint ice cream would go real nicely with them. :) I think next time I might try Beth's suggestion for swapping out the bittersweet chocolate with semi-sweet. I generally don't care for dark chocolate - my sweet tooth is just too strong!!

ETA: I did not use the instant espresso powder that was an option for this recipe. I really really really dislike anything that even has a hint of coffee or espresso flavoring. Can you tell I am not a coffee drinker? ;) I would bet that most folks who are coffee drinkers would not have noticed the addition of the espresso powder, but based on prior experience I know I would've been able to tell. :P

Monday, February 15, 2010

Silky Chocolate Nutella Mousse - by Lisa

Chocolate + Nutella + Mousse = 3 of my favorite things. Woo hoo! I was very excited to try out this recipe. Combining three of my favorite treats into one dish? Divine!

Overall, this was a pretty easy recipe to put together. The ingredients were all straight forward and common. If it didn't require some chilling time, it'd almost be something that you could throw together at the last minute. Like Summer mentioned, the most time consuming part of the recipe was chopping the chocolate. Boy do I need some practice chopping chocolate! Beth's tips were definitely helpful, but my poor weak wrist was crying for a reprieve by the time I was nearing the end of the chopping. LOL! Maybe my knife needs some sharpening too.

I took a cue from Summer and made up an extra batch of whipped cream to dollop the top. We also got some huge strawberries today, so naturally I had to add those as a garnish as well!

The flavor of this mousse was intensely rich. I couldn't even finish my glass! But it was definitely delicious! My only concern was the texture. For some reason, it was a little gritty. I'm not sure what might have caused this. I don't know if it was the cream (over whipped?) or maybe the quality or consistency of the chocolate (combination of Ghiradelli's and Baker's). This is something I'll have to be on the look out for the next time I make this. Because, oh yes, there will be a next time! :D

I have to say, adding the strawberries was the perfect finishing touch. I mean, who doesn't like chocolate and strawberries? Overall, this made for quite the delicious Valentine's treat!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Silky Chocolate Nutella Mousse - by Summer

This week's recipe was a little intimidating to me, I think primarily because of the word "mousse" in the title.  I have never made mousse before, so the unknown was a little scary.  It was pretty silly to have this fear because the main ingredients (and there aren't many to begin with) were chocolate and whipping cream.  Both of which, I have worked with many a times.

Of course all that worry was for nothing.  This was another easy recipe.  The hardest part or the most time-consuming was chopping the chocolate.

Funny story about the chocolate.  The recipe calls for 10 oz of semi-sweet chocolate.  I always have semi-sweet chocolate chips on hand at home, but thought I would splurge and buy some Ghiradelli chocolate chips because they were on sale this week.  I shared, what I thought was a time-saving tip with Lisa over the phone earlier this week.  I really don't like chopping up chocolate and thought the chips were the perfect solution!

Then last night I was reading through the recipe and decided to read about chopping chocolate which is in the back of the book.  Low and behold, it said explicitly if the recipe calls for semi-sweet chocolate bars to NOT use chocolate chips.  Opps!  It's a good thing I read that!  So this morning I ran out bought some semi-sweet chocolate bars.  I also emailed Lisa to warn her - just in case she decided to use the chips. 

Pictured below is the melted chocolate.

 Grab a spoon and dig in!

I really like the taste of the mousse.  Nutella is a chocolate-hazelnut spread and you can't taste the hazelnut at all.  I made some whipping cream to go on top of the mousse.  My husband also enjoyed this, although it was really rich for him (he isn't a huge sweet person or a chocolate fan like I am!) 

The only problem with the recipe is that it makes a lot.  If you are going to have a lot of people over, I would highly recommend because it is so easy to prepare and you can make it in advance.  Another thought I had for this recipe was to use it as cake filling!  I will definitely make this mousse again!!!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Hello Dollies by Summer

I want to start this post out with a couple of notes before I get into the Hello Dollies.

First, this past weekend Lisa visited me and she brought a slice of her Peanut Butter Banana bread. We did a little taste-test. Even though they looked different, they tasted the same. I was surprised, maybe because of the different appearance, but my husband pointed out that it shouldn't be too shocking since we followed the same recipe.

Second, Beth Lipton, the author of You Made That Dessert found our blog and left us a comment! I had always planned on sending her a note at some point to tell her about our little project, but figured I would wait until we were further into it. I guess this means that no matter what - we can't stop now!

Onto the Hello Dollies! Unlike Lisa, I never really had these growing up. I have seen them lots of places, but just always figured that they were hard to make. I have no idea why I thought that, because as Lisa mentioned, these were the simplest recipe yet!

The only thing I changed was pecans for the walnuts. I really thought I had walnuts on hand, but I only had pecans. Fine by me, because I like pecans better. I also toasted them before I chopped them. After reading Lisa's post, I decided to decrease the amount of salt to just under a teaspoon.

I think I might have slightly over-baked the bars. I had them in for 25 minutes (recipe stated 25-30 min baking time), but I should have probably checked on them a bit sooner. I also cooled them exactly for 20 minutes and then cut them. I didn't have any problems getting them off of the foil.

I like these bars, and I was actually looking in my cupboards to see what else I could add to them. Ultimately, I decided to stick to the recipe, but next time I will try the butterscotch chips. I think in the future I will use even less salt or omit all together. The salt in the crust just didn't taste right to me. Of course, I love all things sweet, so the sweeter, the better!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Hello Dollies - by Lisa

It took me forever to remember the name I know these treats by - Seven Layer Bars!!! I remember my mom would make these from time to time and I absolutely loved them! I had forgotten all about them until I saw the photo in this cookbook.

In my quest to rediscover the Seven Layer name, I noticed this recipe is missing what may be a critical ingredient: butterscotch chips. So I decided to be a bit of a rebel and added butterscotch chips to half of the pan. This way I can stay true to the recipe but also instantly taste test the difference. (In the photo above, the butterscotch versions are on the right.)

This recipe was extremely easy to follow. It's mostly just assembling a bunch of packaged goods. It turns out I didn't have quite enough graham cracker crumbs, but it was no big deal as we have an ample supply of graham crackers on hand at all times. I speedily processed the remaining crumbs and proceeded to assemble the rest of the dish. I'd say the most time consuming part was drizzling the condensed milk over the whole concoction. It is thick and heavy, so it took its sweet time draining out of the can. I kept myself amused by making all sorts of little designs and watching them blend into one another.

The foil trick (lining the pan with foil first) didn't seem to work quite as smoothly this time around. I think a combination of the condensed milk and somewhat thin crust contributed to difficulties in getting the bars separated from the foil. I even made sure to let it cool for about 45 minutes.

In the taste test comparison, I definitely like the ones with the butterscotch chips better. They added a bit of extra sweetness. The non-butterscotch side definitely felt a little lacking without 'em. One other thing that stood out was the salt factor. The author has you add 1 1/4 teaspoons of salt to the crust. I normally like a sweet/salty combo, but I think this was a little too much salt for my tastes. Overall tho, the bars are pretty much as yummy as I remember! I will definitely make these again but with butterscotch chips on the whole thing and less salt!