Sunday, April 27, 2008

Daring Bakers Get A Little Cheesy!

Greetings! It's time for yet another Daring Bakers Challenge! This month we've got the yummy and super-delicious Cheesecake Pops!! Deb from Taste and Tell and Elle from Feeding My Enthusiasms were the lovely hostesses for this month, and God bless them, they picked such a mouth-watering choice, perfect for my mom & sister's Breast Cancer 3-Day bake sale.

These turned out so well, I loved how much freedom we were given as far as decorating and stuff goes. So much fun!! Here's the recipe:

Cheesecake Pops
Makes 30 – 40 Pops
-5 8-oz. packages cream cheese at room temperature
-2 cups sugar
-¼ cup all-purpose flour
-¼ teaspoon salt
-5 large eggs
-2 egg yolks
-2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
-¼ cup heavy cream
-Boiling water as needed
-Thirty to forty 8-inch lollipop sticks
-1 pound chocolate, finely chopped – you can use all one kind or half and half of dark, milk, or white (Alternately, you can use 1 pound of flavored coatings, also known as summer coating, confectionary coating or wafer chocolate – candy supply stores carry colors, as well as the three kinds of chocolate.)
-2 tablespoons vegetable shortening
(Note: White chocolate is harder to use this way, but not impossible)
Assorted decorations such as chopped nuts, colored jimmies, crushed peppermints, mini chocolate chips, sanding sugars, dragees) - Optional
Instructions: Position oven rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees F. Set some water to boil In a large bowl, beat together the cream cheese, sugar, flour, and salt until smooth. If using a mixer, mix on low speed. Add the whole eggs and the egg yolks, one at a time, beating well (but still at low speed) after each addition. Beat in the vanilla and cream. Grease a 10-inch cake pan (not a springform pan), and pour the batter into the cake pan. Place the pan in a larger roasting pan. Fill the roasting pan with the boiling water until it reaches halfway up the sides of the cake pan. Bake until the cheesecake is firm and slightly golden on top, 35 to 45 minutes. Remove the cheesecake from the water bath and cool to room temperature. Cover the cheesecake with plastic wrap and refrigerate until very cold, at least 3 hours or up to overnight. When the cheesecake is cold and very firm, scoop the cheesecake into 2-ounce balls and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Carefully insert a lollipop stick into each cheesecake ball. Freeze the cheesecake pops, uncovered, until very hard, at least 1 – 2 hours. When the cheesecake pops are frozen and ready for dipping, prepare the chocolate. In the top of a double boiler, set over simmering water, or in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water, heat half the chocolate and half the shortening, stirring often, until chocolate is melted and chocolate and shortening are combined. Stir until completely smooth. Do not heat the chocolate too much or your chocolate will lose it’s shine after it has dried. Save the rest of the chocolate and shortening for later dipping, or use another type of chocolate for variety. Alternately, you can microwave the same amount of chocolate coating pieces on high at 30 second intervals, stirring until smooth. Quickly dip a frozen cheesecake pop in the melted chocolate, swirling quickly to coat it completely. Shake off any excess into the melted chocolate. If you like, you can now roll the pops quickly in optional decorations. You can also drizzle them with a contrasting color of melted chocolate (dark chocolate drizzled over milk chocolate or white chocolate over dark chocolate, etc.) Place the pop on a clean parchment paper-lined baking sheet to set. Repeat with remaining pops, melting more chocolate and shortening (or confectionary chocolate pieces) as needed. Refrigerate the pops for up to 24 hours, until ready to serve.

My thoughts: The cheesecake recipe is AMAZING! So smooth and delicious, I fully plan on using it in the future for whenever I need to make a cheesecake (I'll probably halve the recipe, as this makes a lot of batter). However, I doubt I'll make the pops themselves again, because it's just too much of a pain the ass to roll them and dip them. I had to freeze the cheesecake, then roll the balls, after that I had to re-freeze the balls in order to get them hard enough to dip. I also went through 2 packages of white chocolate, and three packages of semi-sweet chocolate in order to coat all 46 of the pops that I had. Maybe if I had chosen to use the wafer chocolate or something, I don't know, maybe it would have streched a bit further. Oh well, they still turned out really well, very nice presentation and they sold really well at the bake sale. This recipe didn't take me nearly as long as I had expected (this IS a Daring Bakers Challenge, of course), but they certainly tasted like they took a long time!


Tuesday, April 22, 2008

An Awesome Long Weekend!

So, the hubby and I decided to take a four-day weekend to visit his family before we move to Alaska, and it was so much fun!! I knew we'd be eating and eating and eating tons of good food while we were gone, so in preparation, I decided to make a healthier dinner of baked salmon with sauteed asparagus, zucchini & squash, with some quinoa. Super-easy, and super-yummy.
Now, my husband's best friend from high school is living with the sous chef and the head pastry chef from one of the nicest restaurants in Walla Walla, Whitehouse Crawford. I actually got to go bowling with the head pastry chef, can you believe that?! It was like a foodie celebrity sighting, lol!
On Friday night, we popped by the restaurant for dessert, and he recommended the creme brulee for me. It was DIVINE!! The sugar crust cracked puuuuuuuuurfectly when I got it, it made me giggle! I scarfed this badboy down in a most unladylike manner, but I didn't care, I was in creme brulee heaven!!

He recommended the puff pastry atop lemon meringue drizzled with blackberry sauce for my husband, and boy, it was impressive!! So many different flavors to taste. We shared with each other, of course!

So, if you're ever in the area of Walla Walla, definitely make a trip to the Whitehouse Crawford, even if it's just for drinks and dessert. They serve tons of local wines (there are over 100 wineries in Walla Walla) and they staff there is really friendly. Two thumbs WAY up!


Monday, April 14, 2008

It's Royal Foodie Joust Time!

Hello, once again! Here we are, ready and rarin' for another Royal Foodie Jous!! Last month Michelle of USVFood won, and she was ingenius in picking mango, cardamom and brown sugar as her three ingredients for this Joust.

Naturally, about 84,000 recipes went flying through my mind!! Should I go sweet or savory? (I almost did both!!). I decided to go sweet this time. Here's my entry!

Mango, Cardamom & Brown Sugar Mascarpone Phyllo Tarts:

- 3 to 5 sheets of phyllo pastry
- 1, 6 oz raspberry yogurt
- Two mangoes, peeled and sliced into bite-size pieces
- 4 to 6 oz mascarpone cheese (depending on how thick you want the consistency)
- 1/2 tsp cardamom
- 1/2 tsp brown sugar
- chocolate shavings for the top

Instructions: Heat oven to 350F. Cut the phyllo sheets into circles about 4 inches in diameter. Lightly grease a muffin tin, then place each phyllo pastry round into the muffin cups, to form the tart cups. Bake for about 8-10 minutes until light golden brown. Cool on a wire rack. In a bowl, mix together the remaining ingredients, with the exception of the chocolate, until well combined. Spoon mixture into the cooled tart cups carefully, then shave some of the chocolate on top (I used some of the yummy Vosges chocolate I got in my Blogging By Mail package!!). Serve immediately, otherwise they'll get soggy. Adapted from this recipe:,,FOOD_9936_34630,00.html

I've been making this recipe for about a year now, and I love it because it's fairly inexpensive, I can make it in a snap, and it always goes over really well. I only wish they had photographed better, because they looked so amazing! My friend Terry ate six in a row, one right after the other! I guess they really were that good!


Saturday, April 5, 2008

I Am So Going To Miss This...

I may or may not have mentioned this before, but the husband and I will be moving to Kodiak, AK this summer (in three months, give or take), and I am gradually getting used to the idea of us living there. We already have a house lined up, and I have been in contact with my future co-workers, so that when we move I'll just slide right in to my new position.

However, I have a lot of trepidation about how restricted we'll be, in so many aspects. For me, being a foodie, I'll only have Safeway, Wal-Mart and the on-base Commissary to shop at for groceries. This concerns me. But, there isn't much I can do about it.

In the mean time, I have decided to take as much advantage of my favorite places to shop while I still can (dead woman walking, people!). Today, we took my brother in-law and his girlfriend to do some sightseeing in Seattle (Experience Music Project & the Science Fiction Museum) and on the way out of town, we realized we had some time to kill. And lo and behold, at that moment, we were driving right through Chinatown!

I've been to Uwajimaya a handful of times, but mainly I was there on a mission, picking up some catered food for events and whatnot. I didn't get to actually do any shopping for myself all the time I've been there in the past. Today was much different!

We must have spend about 2 hours in Uwajimaya, oohing and ahhing over, well, everything!! We only intended to pick up a few snacks to munch on at home, but ended up needing two of those hand baskets that quickly filled up! We were amazed at the selection, and had I had more moolah, I would have stocked up on fish as well, but alas, we were trying to keep it under $50 (which we did... just barely).

The sake/beer aisle was incredible. I didn't know where to start. I'm kind of a dummy when it comes to recognizing quality sake, but my brother in-law's girlfriend was such a sweetheart and helped me choose which one I would most enjoy. (I'm sipping on some plum sake as I type this, and it's very good, much better than the white wine I usually swig during blog posts).

My husband and I loved the drink aisle, it was so huge, and again, the selection was vast. I got a Hello Kitty lychee juice that I'll be drinking tomorrow with lunch.

Once we got home, I dumped all our bags on the kitchen table for a quick shot before we dug in. The sweet stuff is mainly for me, as the husband doesn't have a big sweet tooth (yeah, just wait till he tries this stuff! He said that last night before he had a cupcake, and quickly changed his tune). There's some Asahi beer (very good, I had a sip) and another kind of beer that my brother in-law's gf likes, some assorted hot & spicy rice snacks (some w/seafood, some made from shrimp, etc), some matcha chocolates, chocolate covered mushroom bisquits, a sparkling dessert sake and plum sake, strawberry filled koala bear cookies, chili rice crackers and my Hello Kitty lychee juice.

I really am going to miss living in Seattle, with access to just about anything within minutes of my house (ok, so Uwajimaya is more like 30 minutes from my house, but it's within walking distance of where I work). I suppose I'm just going to have to splurge big time whenever I come home to visit!!

Friday, April 4, 2008

A Very Matcha Birthday

My brother in-law's birthday is in a few days, and I really wanted to make something really tasty for him this weekend while he and his girlfriend are visiting with us. See, my brother in-law is one of those freakishly smart people: he spent the last eight years teaching himself Japanese, and has gotten to the point where he could test out of his first three years of college. Yeah, you could say I'm a wee bit intimidated by his giant brain.

I really like his new girlfriend, she is such a sweetheart, and she makes him so happy. So, I decided to ask her to help me in making his birthday cupcakes. I wanted to make something Asian-inspired, and I had been eyeing these delicious-looking Matcha Green Tea Cupcakes on Chockylit's blog, Cupcake Bakeshop (, for the last year. I had the recipe printed off and lurking in my cupboard for far too long, it was time to put these bad boys to the test.

And OH. MY. GOODNESS. These were by far my best cupcakes to date. The cake is soft and pillowy, and the matcha cream cheese frosting is totally irresistable, I wanted to squeeze the frosting bag directly into my mouth, like a Whip-It. I remained ladylike, and chose to squeeze the frosting onto my finger "by accident", then devoured it like a beast.

My frosting turned out paler green than on Chockylit's webpage, but that may be because my matcha powder was from a pre-made drink packet, not a large tin or anything. And I had to keep adding powdered sugar in order to get the frosting to stiffen enough to pipe. Here's the recipe:

Cupcakes~28 regular cupcakes / 350 degree oven
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs
2-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1. Beat butter on high until soft, about 30 seconds. 2. Add sugar. Beat on medium-high until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. 3. Add eggs one at a time, beat for 30 seconds between each. 4. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Add to mixer bowl. Add the milk and vanilla. Mix to combine. 5. Scoop into cupcake papers about half to two-thirds full (depending on whether you want flat or domed cupcakes). 6. Bake for 22-25 minutes until a cake tester comes out clean.

Green Tea Cream Cheese Frosting
12 ounces or 1-1/2 packages of Philly cream cheese
1/2 stick butter
4 cups sifted powdered sugar (I actually used about 5 cups in total)
1 tablespoon matcha green tea powder (I used two tbsps)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1. Bring cheese and butter to room temperature by letting it sit out for 1 or 2 hours 2. Sift powdered sugar into a bowl or onto parchment 3. Beat butter and cheese at medium speed until creamy. 4. Add half of the sugar, the green tea powder, and the vanilla. Beat until combined. 5. Gradually add remaining sugar (more if you have to) until you get to the consistency and sweetness you like.

Frost and decorate as desired.

I topped the birthday boy's cupcake with a senbei cookie (little tiny fortune cookie with a ginger sugar coating). He LOVED them. These went over way better than I was expecting. It would be in my best interest to commit this recipe to memory, because I have a feeling I will definitely be using it again.


Tuesday, April 1, 2008

On, No! I'm Late!

Whoa! I totally forgot to do my Daring Bakers post this month!! I've been so crazy-insane-busy this week, that it totally slipped my mind. Which is nuts, because I so enjoyed this challenge, as it was Dorie Greenspan's Perfect Party Cake, and it definitely turned out to be so!

I decided to make this cake with the help of my mother and sister for an Easter Egg Hunt we were to attend on Easter Sunday. I had no idea how many people were going to be there, but I should have known by the sheer amount of how many eggs were involved (a whopping 12,000! Plastic, of course, not the real thing, that would be pure madness!). I should have made 2 or 3 cakes, instead of just the one, because this baby went over so well!

Here's the recipe:

For the Cake

2 1/4 cups cake flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

1 ¼ cups whole milk or buttermilk (I prefer buttermilk with the lemon)

4 large egg whites

1 ½ cups sugar

2 teaspoons grated lemon zest

1 stick (8 tablespoons or 4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature

½ teaspoon pure lemon extract

For the Buttercream (this is the BEST buttercream I've ever had!)

1 cup sugar

4 large egg whites

3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature

¼ cup fresh lemon juice (from 2 large lemons)-I used Meyer lemons

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For Finishing

2/3 cup seedless raspberry preserves stirred vigorously or warmed gently until spreadable

About 1 ½ cups sweetened shredded coconut

Getting Ready

Centre a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 9 x 2 inch round cake pans and line the bottom of each pan with a round of buttered parchment or wax paper. Put the pans on a baking sheet.

To Make the Cake

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.Whisk together the milk and egg whites in a medium bowl. Put the sugar and lemon zest in a mixer bowl or another large bowl and rub them together with your fingers until the sugar is moist and fragrant. Add the butter and working with the paddle or whisk attachment, or with a hand mixer, beat at medium speed for a full 3 minutes, until the butter and sugar are very light. Beat in the extract, then add one third of the flour mixture, still beating on medium speed. Beat in half of the milk-egg mixture, then beat in half of the remaining dry ingredients until incorporated. Add the rest of the milk and eggs beating until the batter is homogeneous, then add the last of the dry ingredients. Finally, give the batter a good 2- minute beating to ensure that it is thoroughly mixed and well aerated.

Divide the batter between the two pans and smooth the tops with a rubber spatula. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the cakes are well risen and springy to the touch – a thin knife inserted into the centers should come out clean

Transfer the cakes to cooling racks and cool for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes, unfold them and peel off the paper liners.Invert and cool to room temperature, right side up (the cooled cake layers can be wrapped airtight and stored at room temperature overnight or frozen for up to two months).

To Make the Buttercream

Put the sugar and egg whites in a mixer bowl or another large heatproof bowl, fit the bowl over a plan of simmering water and whisk constantly, keeping the mixture over the heat, until it feels hot to the touch, about 3 minutes. The sugar should be dissolved, and the mixture will look like shiny marshmallow cream.Remove the bowl from the heat. Working with the whisk attachment or with a hand mixer, beat the meringue on medium speed until it is cool, about 5 minutes. Switch to the paddle attachment if you have one, and add the butter a stick at a time, beating until smooth. Once all the butter is in, beat in the buttercream on medium-high speed until it is thick and very smooth, 6-10 minutes. During this time the buttercream may curdle or separate – just keep beating and it will come together again. On medium speed, gradually beat in the lemon juice, waiting until each addition is absorbed before adding more, and then the vanilla. You should have a shiny smooth, velvety, pristine white buttercream. Press a piece of plastic against the surface of the buttercream and set aside briefly.

To Assemble the Cake

Using a sharp serrated knife and a gentle sawing motion, slice each layer horizontally in half. Put one layer cut side up on a cardboard cake round or a cake plate protected by strips of wax or parchment paper. Spread it with one third of the preserves. Cover the jam evenly with about one quarter of the buttercream. Top with another layer, spread with preserves and buttercream and then do the same with a third layer (you’ll have used all the jam and have buttercream leftover). Place the last layer cut side down on top of the cake and use the remaining buttercream to frost the sides and top. Press the coconut into the frosting, patting it gently all over the sides and top.


The cake is ready to serve as soon as it is assembled, but I think it’s best to let it sit and set for a couple of hours in a cool room – not the refrigerator. Whether you wait or slice and enjoy it immediately, the cake should be served at room temperature; it loses all its subtlety when it’s cold. Depending on your audience you can serve the cake with just about anything from milk to sweet or bubbly wine.


The cake is best the day it is made, but you can refrigerate it, well covered, for up to two days. Bring it to room temperature before serving. If you want to freeze the cake, slide it into the freezer to set, then wrap it really well – it will keep for up to 2 months in the freezer; defrost it, still wrapped overnight in the refrigerator.

I wasn't able to make as many layers as I wanted to, because my cakes didn't rise as much as they should have (I didn't get the memo to use 2 1/4 cups flour, vice 2 1/2 cups flour, until after I had made my cake. However, instead of the raspberry filling, I mixed some pineapple with some whipped cream for nice tropical kick to add to the coconut. I just loved how springy (both physically and metaphorically with the season) and light the cake was, and the buttercream was to-die-for. Seriously, you must make this cake NOW, for whatever excuse you can come up with. Nah, scratch that, you never need an excuse for cake!!

I so enjoyed this challenge, and am eagerly looking forward to April's challenge, it's going to be so fabulous, you have no idea!! Mmmm.... I want more cake now!!