Saturday, June 26, 2010

Chocolate Mascarpone Pavlova Pie.....My First Daring Bakers' Challenge

The June 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Dawn of Doable and Delicious. Dawn challenged the Daring Bakers’ to make Chocolate Pavlovas and Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse. The challenge recipe is based on a recipe from the book Chocolate Epiphany by Francois Payard.

How suitable that the the first Daring Bakers' Challenge that I am privy to is a pavlova. You see, I have always considered my chocolate angel pie to be my signature dessert and the similarities are...well, see for yourself.

For a link to the recipes that were provided click here.

One of the problems that I've had with my chocolate angel pie is that it relies heavily on eggs that aren't issue these days to be sure. I get around it using dried egg whites and pasteurized eggs, but it's kind of a pain. When I saw the pavlova recipe, I couldn't help but want to adapt it into an angel pavlova pie--no raw eggs to deal with! Check it out:

I used my own recipe for the meringue crust since it was so similar. The only change I made was to mix in 1/3 cup cocoa powder. Yum...why didn't I think of a chocolate crust before? It did turn out a bit more crumbly with the addition of the cocoa.

I always spray a glass pie plate with cooking spray before spooning in the meringue. If you skip this step, you won't be able to get the crust out of the pan in one me.

Doesn't the meringue turn out pretty? I bake it for an hour in a 250 degree oven, turn the oven off, and leave it in (don't open the door) overnight.

Yay! I found some decent chocolate at Trader Joe's. I used 6 bars (a little over 9 oz). Instead of melting the chocolate in a pan, I microwaved it for about a minute and twenty seconds.

The recipe provided called for 1 3/4 cups mascarpone. Yikes! That stuff is a little pricey. Plus, it sounded like an awful lot, especially if you were supposed to use it in the sauce on top, too. I ended up getting just one 8 oz. container and combining it with 4 oz. of softened cream cheese.

I did add the Grand the stuff! Next time, I'll add some fresh orange zest, too. The chocolate in this is so intense, the orange flavor was a little lost. I whipped up  8 oz of heavy cream with 2 tablespoons of powdered sugar, folded this into the mascarpone mixture, and then folded it all into the chocolate.

After I filled the meringue with the chocolate mascarpone, I put some plastic wrap on it and chilled it for a few hours. In the mean time, I whipped up some Creme Anglaise (just a fancy name for custard sauce).

I basically used the recipe provided for this, only adjusting the amounts. Since I used 4 egg whites in the meringue, I used the 4 yolks for the custard and adjusted the milk to 1 3/4 cups. That's a vanilla bean in the really added a wonderful flavor. Since I only bought the one container of mascarpone, I omitted it from the topping altogether; I simply whipped up another 8 oz of heavy cream with a little powdered sugar and folded it into the Creme Anglaise. the whole family raved about this "new" angel pie. The husband (who doesn't like meringue) liked the chocolate version, and the daughter (and her friends) couldn't get enough of the chocolate mascarpone....fudgy, they said. And me---I adored the custard sauce on top of the deep chocolate filling. I sprinkled a little orange zest on the top, mainly for aesthetics, but it ended up giving it even a little more flavor.  Definitely a keeper, this recipe. I'm liking this Daring Bakers' thing.....

Monday, June 14, 2010

Rhubarb Cake with Custard Filling

Have I mentioned how lucky I am to have a co-worker who brings me fresh produce from her sister's farm? This year, the sister has an abundance of rhubarb that she was nice enough to share, not once, but twice so far---two big bags! The first bag was easy to polish off. I made the Strawberry-Rhubarb Slab Pie, some Strawberry-Rhubarb Cupcakes, some loaves of Rhubarb Bread and a couple of pies. I even had to buy a few extra stalks at the grocery store. The second bag is a little tougher to finish up....I really should chop it up and freeze some for when I can't find it anymore.....but, first, I have to bake up a little more rhubarb goodness. I searched the Internet and found this recipe. The custard filling was the selling point for me.....

Rhubarb Cake with Custard Filling

Original Recipe Found Here (go ahead and give this site a little love--the recipes look pretty good!)


- 2 cups flour
- 1/2 tablespoon cinnamon
- 3/4 cup brown sugar - packed
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup shortening - butter flavored
- 2 cups quick oats

- 8 eggs
- 3 cups sugar
- 1/2 cup flour
- dash salt
- 6 cups fresh or partially thawed frozen rhubarb
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter - cut into small pats

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In medium bowl, combine crust ingredients with fork or pastry blender. Reserve 1 cup.

I think next time I'll use butter instead....

So far so good...pretty easy stuff.

Chopping the rhubarb is my least favorite activity. Peeling off some of the outer skin makes it a bit easier, but I still had a few "strings"

Don't forget to set aside that one cup of topping!

Place the rest in bottom of 9x13x2 pan. Press down.

In large bowl with whisk or hand mixer, beat eggs; add in sugar, flour and salt. Mix well.
Add rhubarb, stir to mix.

 Slowly pour filling on top of crust.

Sprinkle with reserved oat mixture; dot with butter.
Bake 1 to 1 hour 20 minutes, until custard is set in the center.

Addicting, to be sure....

I was kind of proud of myself this time around...I made very few changes (I only added a little vanilla in to the custard mixture). The result is pretty good, with a tart/sweet custardy filling, although this is more of a bar than a cake. I imagine that the sugar could be cut down a bit in the filling, especially if you like it to be more tart, and I have seen a version of this recipe with a meringue topping (something that would not go over well at my house). With 8 eggs and all of that sugar, you want to make sure to keep the pieces small, but all in all, I'd say it's a keeper!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Peanut Butter Cup Oatmeal Cookies

It's been awhile since I've made cookies...just good old fashioned cookies. I've been leaning toward the exotic lately, what with avocado cupcakes and the like. Don't get me wrong...I love creating new and different things (occasionally they turn out pretty good), but sometimes you just have to wrap your lips around something a little bit more familiar. So, when I found these at Trader Joe's.......

Aren't they ever so cute?

.........they just begged for me to put them in a cookie. This is what I came up with:

Peanut Butter Cup Oatmeal Cookies

3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 1/2 cups quick cooking oats
1 package (8-12 oz) mini peanut butter cups (or sub peanut butter chocolate chips)*

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Place the butter, peanut butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar in a large mixing bowl. Beat together on high for one to two minutes or until light and fluffy.

Add the vanilla and the eggs; continue to beat for another one to two minutes.

In the mean time, combine the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda in a medium bowl. Whisk together until well combined. Fold the flour mixture into the butter mixture. Add the oatmeal and mix thoroughly. Carefully fold in the mini peanut butter cups.

Ok--mybad--I didn't use the whole container of mini peanut butter cups. A bit of sampling was done beforehand.

Drop the cookie dough by rounded tablespoons unto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for about 12 minutes, or until the cookies just start to brown around the edges. Allow the cookies to set on the cookie sheet for a few minutes before transferring to a cooling rack. Makes about 2 1/2 dozen.

I like to use a cookie scoop so all of the cookies are a uniform size.

Kinda hard to keep your fingers out of the cookie dough, isn't it?

Even harder to let them cool.....

Weren't these Lucite containers a big deal in the '70's? My sister was cleaning out her kitchen and gave me this beauty. It's perfect for cookies!

Makes you want to hike on over to Trader Joe's, no? While you're there, pick up an extra container of mini peanut butter cups for me!

*Udate!!--Reeses has come out with mini peanut butter cups. To die for! :) Also, if you google, you can find some sugar-free varieties.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Who Grills Avocados? Cat Cora Does......

And now I do, too!

Saturday was quite the exciting day for me. I was lucky enough to be invited to meet Cat Cora, who was in the Twin Cities to give a cooking demo and to promote her new book, Cat Cora's Classics with a Twist. Actually, the nice people with Macy's Culinary Council were gracious enough to offer me a press pass and VIP seating...and I certainly couldn't resist!

I really wasn't sure what to expect---after all, I had never met an Iron Chef before! It turns out that Cat Cora was fascinating, not just because of her fame as a Food Network star, or because she is an accomplished cookbook author, but also because of her work with the "Chefs Move to Schools" program, part of Michelle Obama's Let's Move campaign. As a matter of fact, Cat had just been to the White House on Friday, along with hundreds of chefs from across the country, ready to take on the challenge of ousting childhood obesity. To further support the First Lady's initiative, the chefs are encouraged to adopt a school in order to support parents in the nutritional education of their children. Cat is doing her part by adopting her son's school in Santa Barbara.

As for the event at hand, Cat was demonstrating a couple of recipes from her new book. While we waited for her arrival, we were treated to a mini version of her watermelon margarita (sans alcohol, but oh so good):

It was quite the trick to balance this on my lap and take a picture, so don't be judging the picture quality today....

When she arrived, we, the invited bloggers, had a chance to have our pictures taken with her.

I didn't get a chance to meet everyone, but, for the most part, these are the ladies of the Minnesota Blog Pantry. I did have the opportunity to chat with Crystal of Cafe Cyan and Jodi and Patricia from Two Girls Cooking. Hopefully, I'll be able to get acquainted with more of the women at future events. Oh, and I can't forget Sue Zelickson, the lovely woman in the front (standing next to Cat Cora). Sue is a longtime Minnesota foodie--a columnist for Minnesota Monthly and host of a radio show on WCCO.

After our picture taking session, Cat went to work putting together a couple of recipes from her new book. She started with her Grilled Chili-Lime Flank Steak Soft Tacos with Charred Pineapple Salsa. What a treat to watch and listen to her while she prepared this most delicious dish. Her demo was a great example of her philosophy of putting a "twist" on classic food. Here, she used fresh ingredients, adding a new dimension to her flavors by grilling the fruit for the salsa and making a "quick" and easy marinade for the meat. All the while she was cooking, she gave us tips (always use a sharp knife to mince your herbs to avoid bruising) and insight into the whys of her methods (grilling the pineapple adds a smokey, caramelized flavor to the salsa). Luckily for us, we each got a taste of this recipe, too:

For her second recipe, Cat took an old family favorite and freshened it up....Grapefruit and Cherry Ambrosia with Honey Cream. It was terrific!

Cat wrapped up her demo by taking questions from the audience. She talked about her four boys and how she connects with them while she's on the road, and she answered questions about her stint as an Iron Chef. For the record, she doesn't know the secret ingredient until the battle begins, but she has about 15 minutes to group with her team before she starts cooking. The chefs all go into it with a plan, so if the plan is "Greek cooking", for instance, then they just incorporate the secret ingredient into the pre-planned dishes. According to Cat, this works out 85% of the time. If the ingredient just doesn't work with the theme, then there is a "Plan B". Interesting stuff.

Throughout her cooking demonstration, Cat stressed how much she loved grilling fruit. She even mention avocados a few times, and, in fact, she has a recipe for Grilled Avocado Salsa in her book. Well, after my avocado cupcake experiment turned out so well, I couldn't wait to try avocados on the grill. Yikes, these things are good....and so easy:

Use avocados that are still a little firm. Pour a little olive oil on them.

Sprinkle a little salt and pepper on top.

Grill them for just 2 or 3 minutes.

I topped mine with a little lemon juice...delish!

Who knew that a cooking demonstration could be so enjoyable? Or that an Iron Chef could be so cordial?

To try some of Cat Cora's recipes, simply visit The Marketplace at Macy's. I hear that the Hearts of Palm with Blue Cheese Salad is quite tasty....or the Minnestrone Soup with Burnt Ends....