Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A Tiny Twist on Gingerbread Houses (gingerbread cake houses that is)

mini gingerbread houses, Snowy Village Cakelet Pan Williams-Sonoma ButterYumThis week's Heavenly Cake Bakers selection from Rose's Heavenly Cakes was the English Gingerbread cake. The cake is supposed to be baked in an 8-inch square or 9-inch round cake pan, but when I saw this adorable Village Cake Pan by NordicWare, I knew immediately that I wanted to use it for this week's cake.

mini gingerbread houses, Snowy Village Cakelet Pan Williams-Sonoma ButterYumOh my, I can't stand it. They're so darn cute!!!

Mini gingerbread houses, Snowy Village Cakelet Pan Williams-Sonoma ButterYumTh village pan comes with it's own recipe, but Rose's gingerbread cake recipe worked perfectly without any adjustment. One recipe filled the pan twice, using 1/3 cup of batter for each house (recipe makes 12 houses) - baked in the lower third of a 325F oven for 15 minutes. Cooled in pan for 10 minutes, then turned out onto a cooling rack to finish cooling. I sprayed the pan with Baker's Joy (flour/oil baking spray). The little houses popped right out of the pan without any trouble at all.

mini gingerbread houses, Snowy Village Cakelet Pan Williams-Sonoma ButterYumI actually made the recipe twice, once using Lyle's Golden Syrup, and once using the alternate light corn syrup. The darker cakelets were made with Lyle's, and as you might have guessed, they tasted a little better than the ones made with corn syrup... more gingerbready. The corn syrup ones tasted more like a spice cake - not bad, but not nearly as gingerbready.

mini gingerbread houses, Snowy Village Cakelet Pan Williams-Sonoma ButterYumI allowed myself to kick back and play a bit with royal icing.
It was a great way to relax during the pre-Christmas hustle and bustle.

Thanks so much for visiting and Merry Christmas!

mini gingerbread houses, Snowy Village Cakelet Pan Williams-Sonoma ButterYum

mini gingerbread houses, Snowy Village Cakelet Pan Williams-Sonoma ButterYum

mini gingerbread houses, Snowy Village Cakelet Pan Williams-Sonoma ButterYum

mini gingerbread houses, Snowy Village Cakelet Pan Williams-Sonoma ButterYum

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Pioneer Woman Picked One Of My Photos!!!!

Pioneer Woman Black & White Photo Contest Finalist by ButterYumWhoo-hoo. Pioneer Woman picked one of my photos for her recent photo assignment "Black & White Photography". I feel like I hit the lottery (I guess I did, the blog lottery!). This news definitely made my day, especially since we're in the midst of one of the worst snow storms to hit the greater Washington DC area in 30 years.
Update: It's three days later and I just found out my photo didn't make the latest cut of finalists. I'm a little bummed, but it's really okay. I'm truly happy to have been included to begin with.

The snow has been falling for about 12 hours and is supposed to continue through tomorrow morning (another 24 hours). Here are a few photos from the storm.

December 18, 2009 Snow Storm Virginia ButterYumAs the snow was beginning to fall last night.

December 19, 2009 Snow Storm Virginia ButterYum

December 19, 2009 Snow Storm Virginia ButterYumOops, we meant to put the patio furniture away before the storm hit.

December 19, 2009 Snow Storm Virginia ButterYum

December 19, 2009 Snow Storm Virginia ButterYum

December 19, 2009 Snow Storm Virginia ButterYumI love this shot!

That's all for now. I'll post more photos when the snow stops falling. Thanks for visiting and sharing in my excitement. If you'd like to see more of PW's black and white photo pics, click here.

Okay, time to head into the kitchen. I have beef stew to braise, cookies to make, and cakes to bake. I hope the power doesn't go out!!! See you later!

Day Two:
It's nice to have wonderful neighbors who own heavy machinery.

After 24 hours the snow is still falling, but the driveway is finally clear - let's hop in the car and go on a scouting mission.
(so glad we kept that snow blower from our days in MN)

So pretty.


Here we are at a neighbor's house, 4 houses away from ours. The road was not passable beyond this point so we had to turn around. Sorry you can't see the lovely wreath, eagle statue, or lantern, all buried under the snow.

Well that was a fun 1/4 mile drive. Now we're headed back home. Can you see how narrow the path in the road was - just barely wide enough to drive through.

The morning after - hooray, the snow has finally stopped falling.

I think this is more snow than we've had in this part of Virginia for the past 4 winters combined.
The official total accumulation according to a neighbor who has a weather station data recorder thingy in his yard - 18.25 inches.
Last year we never even pulled out the shovel.

Bye for now.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Giant Sugar Cookies

Martha Stewart Old-Fashioned Sugar Cookies ButterYumMy oldest daughter has a "signature cookie" that she likes to bake, so I knew it was just a matter of time before her little sister decided she needed to find a signature cookie of her own, so she pulled out the Martha Stewart Cookie Book and started thumbing through the recipes.

Her initial selection was a chocolate gingerbread cookie, but she quickly changed her mind when she read that the cookie dough had to rest in the fridge for a couple of hours before baking (an impatient baker, just like her mom). Pick number two didn't require any refrigeration so it was quickly bumped up to the top of the list - her selection - huge 4-inch Old Fashioned Sugar Cookies from the soft and chewy chapter.

The recipe calls for both white granulated sugar and brown sugar. Also lemon zest and juice, but we decided that we'd like to try orange next time (lime would also be good). Overall they were great - the dough is a snap to put together, and it's really easy to portion using a 2-inch ice cream scoop as directed by the recipe (a #20 scoop).

I'm pretty proud of my little one. She gathered all the ingredients, read through the recipe instructions before beginning, and after I helped her with the first couple of batches, she was able to completely take over the remaining batches without any assistance from me. This was her first solo baking experience, and I can surely say she's a natural! I feel so blessed that both of my daughters will be able to bake for me if ever I decide to hang up my apron!

Old-Fashioned Sugar Cookies
adapted from Martha Stewart's Cookies
makes 18 4-inch cookies

3 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar (dark brown is fine too)
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest (orange or lime would also be nice)
1 cup unsalted butter, room temp
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (orange or lime would also be nice)
Sanding sugar for sprinkling (Turbinado or 'Sugar in the Raw' could also be used)

Preheat oven to 350F. In a med bowl, combine flour baking soda, and salt; set aside. In stand mixer bowl, cream sugars and zest with the paddle attachment (I used my favorite BeaterBlade attachment). Add butter and beat until light and fluffy (a minute or so). Add eggs, one at a time. Add juice. Reduce speed and slowly add reserved dry ingredients. Mix just until incorporated.

Using a 2-inch ice cream scoop (#20), drop dough onto silicone or parchment lined cookie sheets (6 per sheet). Be sure cookies are spaced 3 inches apart. Press dough slightly to flatten the tops, sprinkle with sanding sugar. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove immediately from cookie sheet and cool completely on wire racks. Store in airtight container.

Notes - recipe can definitely be doubled (use a 6-qt or larger mixer). For best results, bake one tray at a time. Be sure cookie sheets are completely cool before using. To maintain soft, chewy texture, store cookies in an airtight container soon after they've cooled completely.

Martha Stewart Old-Fashioned Sugar Cookies ButterYum

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Our First Snow of the Season

Today we woke to the first snow of the season. A very heavy, sticky snow as you can see.

Great for snowballs :)

Poor little dove. Brrr.

Just before dusk... love the bluish cast. Goodnight from Virginia!

Update - I just had to post these pics from this morning... I love the ever changing sky!!

Just before Sunrise.

Here we are just a few minutes later.

Have a wonderful day.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Really Yummy Baked Oatmeal

Need a really simple breakfast that can feed a hungry crowd, can be prepared far ahead of time, requires no attention while baking, is completely satisfying, and fills the house with the most wonderful aroma of cinnamon? Look no further than this baked oatmeal recipe.

I know it doesn't look very appetizing, but don't confuse this wonderful stuff with the mushy instant prepackaged variety - this oatmeal is lightly sweetened, has a wonderful almost chewy texture, and the flavor is buttery and Cinnamony. I serve it with just a splash of cold milk, but you can add dried fruits or nuts if you like. For a slightly healthier version, you can reduce the butter by half and sprinkle in a little wheat germ or flaxseed, but for company I make the recipe as is.

You'll be asked for this recipe again and again!
Hope you'll give it a try.

Baked Oatmeal

serves 4-6 (recipe can easily be multiplied - see note below)

1 1/2 cups quick oats
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 cup milk
1 egg
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla

Mix ingredients together and pour into a greased 9" square baking dish (or an 11x7 dish, or a deep dish pie plate). Bake at 350F for 25-30 minutes. Be careful to not crowd your baking dish, this oatmeal puffs up a bit while baking.

Double recipe fits in a 9x13 dish - bake 35-40 minutes.
Triple recipe fits in an 11x14 dish - bake 45-50 minutes.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Pumpkin Cheesecake

Pure Pumpkin Cheesecake ButterYumWelcome to the latest installment of Heavenly Cake Bakers. Today's feature, Pure Pumpkin Cheesecake from Rose's Heavenly Cakes by Rose Levy Beranbaum.

This is the lightest cheesecake I've ever tasted - almost mousse-like... and it's so soft and creamy that it's more like pudding than traditional cheesecake. How something so soft and creamy can keeps it's cheesecake-like shape is beyond my comprehension - leave it to Rose to figure out how!

gingersnap cheesecake crust ButterYumThis cheesecake features a crust made of gingersnaps, pecans, butter, salt, and sugar.

pumpkin puree for cheesecake ButterYumThe filling is slightly nontraditional as it starts with pure pumpkin puree that is cooked with turbinado sugar to thicken the puree and intensify the flavor.

cooking pumpkin puree for cheesecake ButterYumThis process only takes a few minutes. I was quite surprised how quickly the turbinado sugar dissolved in the pumpkin puree.

mixing cheesecake batter in food processor ButterYumThe hot pumpkin mixture is then pureed in the food processor for a minute before adding heavy cream, room temperature cream cheese, and eggs. The food processor mixes the ingredients very quickly. Only one caveat...

... be sure you have a large food processor. The work bowl of my 11-cup Cuisinart wasn't large enough to handle the mixture without overflowing slightly. I had a feeling this was going to happen so I was able to transfer my batter into my pan quickly - otherwise the mess would have been much worse.

Next time I'll either mix the batter in my KitchenAid stand mixer using my favorite new BeaterBlade attachment, or possibly mix the batter in a blender, being careful to incorporate as little air into the batter as possible.

cheesecake water bath ButterYumThe cheesecake batter is then poured into the 9-inch springform pan which is either wrapped with a double layer of heavy duty foil, or better yet, is placed neatly inside a 9.5-inch silicone cake pan. I normally despise water baths, but the silicone pan made this process fool-proof, and it was so much easier than messing with foil. The silicone pan is then placed into a 12-inch cake pan or large roasting pan, and the outermost pan is then filled with 1-inch of very hot water. I happen to have a couple of 12-inch cake pans in the house - so nice to be able to use them for something other than baking 12-inch cake layers.

The cheesecake is baked for 45 minutes before turning off the oven and letting the cheesecake rest for an additional hour before removing it from the oven to cool at room temperature for yet another hour, and lastly, chilling in the fridge overnight.

Before serving on day 2, a caramel glaze, which can be made up to 3 days in advance, is drizzled on the surface.

making caramel ButterYumTo make the caramel glaze, combine sugar, corn syrup, and water in a sauce pan over med heat. Note to Heavenly Bakers - I used Lyle's Golden Syrup instead of corn syrup - Rose says they are interchangeable and I prefer the flavor of Lyle's.

making caramel ButterYumIt's really hard to check the temperature of such a small amount of sugar syrup, so tilting the pan and holding the candy thermometer backwards every few minutes helped me monitor the caramel's progress.

making caramel ButterYumWe're almost there... once we get to this color things start moving along quickly, so just another few seconds.

making caramel ButterYumHere we are - 360F exactly.
Quickly remove from the heat and add the cream to stop the cooking and keep the caramel from burning.

making caramel glaze ButterYumStir, stir, stir - then add the butter and stir some more.

making caramel glaze ButterYumPour caramel into a greased glass measure and allow to cool for 3 minutes before adding the vanilla extract; stir to combine.

using squeeze bottle ButterYumCool caramel completely before using. Rose suggests piping the caramel on the cheesecake using a piping bag or zip top bag with the corner cut off. I thought I'd have better control if I used this squeeze bottle, which worked really well.

Pure Pumpkin Cheesecake, ButterYum, Rose's Heavenly Cakes, Heavenly Cake BakersI still managed to pull out my piping bag - these swirls of whipped cream were piped with a large tip and the swirls were dotted with pecans before drizzling the caramel glaze. I wish I would have thought to drizzle the glaze before adding the whipped cream (don't like the ends of the glaze stripes showing - live and learn).

My husband absolutely loved this cheesecake. I thought it was extremely delicious, but in my mind, cheesecake should be a bit less light and silky, and a bit more heavy and substantial. If you're on the lookout for a light and silky cheesecake, you really must give this one a try!

Rose has graciously posted this recipe on her blog, so I'm happy to share it with you. Here it is.

Pure Pumpkin Cheesecake
w/Gingersnap and Pecan Crust

Makes one 9-inch cheesecake to serve 12-16
original recipe by Rose Levy Beranbaum
4-1/4 oz. gingersnap cookies (about 17 two-inch cookies), broken into pieces
2 oz. (1/2 cup) pecans, toasted
1 Tbs. granulated sugar
2 pinches table salt
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon (optional)
4 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted

1 cup unsweetened pumpkin puree (Rose recommends Libby's)
1 cup granulated sugar or turbinado sugar
2 cups heavy cream, chilled
1 lb. cream cheese at room temperature
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks

Caramel Sauce
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup heavy cream, heated
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

24 toasted pecan halves

Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Grease the bottom and sides of a 9x2½-inch or higher springform pan. Wrap the pan in a double-layer of heavy duty aluminum foil (the kind that comes in the 17" width) to keep the cheesecake dry while it bakes in the water bath.

Make the crust:
In a food processor, process the cookies with the pecans, sugar, salt, and cinnamon (if using) until the cookies become fine crumbs, about 20 seconds. Add the melted butter and pulse about 10 times, just until incorporated.

Press the mixture into the base of the prepared pan and partway up the sides. The easiest way to do this is to use a flat-bottomed, glass to press the crumbs over the bottom and then use the back of a spoon to press them into the edges and part-way up the sides of the pan. Keep pressing until you have a thin even layer. Cover the crust with plastic wrap and refrigerate until needed.

Make the filling:
In a small, heavy saucepan, stir the pumpkin puree and sugar together. Over medium heat, bring the mixture to a sputtering simmer, stirring constantly, about 5 min. Turn the heat to low and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture has darkened and thickened to the consistency of applesauce, about 5 min.

Scrape the mixture into a large food processor and process for 1 min. with the feed tube open (so steam can escape), scraping down the sides. With the motor running, add the chilled cream. Add the softened cream cheese and process for 30 seconds or until smoothly incorporated, scraping down the sides two or three times. Add the eggs and yolks and process for about 5 seconds, just until incorporated.

Bake the cheesecake:
Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Set the pan in a larger pan (a 12x2-inch cake pan or a roasting pan) and surround it with 1 inch of very hot water. Check that the oven is at 350°F and bake the cheesecake for 45 min. Turn off the oven without opening the door and let the cheesecake cool for 1 hour. Transfer the cake to a rack (the center will still be jiggly) and cool to room temperature, about 1 hour. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or overnight.

Make the caramel:
In a med heavy bottom pan, stir together the sugar, syrup, and the water until the sugar is completely moistened. Heat, stirring constantly, until the sugar dissolves and the syrup is bubbling. Stop stirring completely and allow it to boil undisturbed until it turns a deep amber (360°F). Immediately remove it from the heat and slowly and carefully pour the hot cream into the caramel. It will bubble up furiously.

Use a high temperature spatula, to stir the mixture until smooth, scraping the thicker part that settles on the bottom. If any lumps develop, return the pan to the heat and stir until they dissolve. Stir in the butter. The mixture will be streaky but become uniform after cooling slightly and stirring.

Allow it to cool for 3 minutes. Gently stir in the vanilla extract. Cool to room temperature before drizzling on cheesecake.

Unmold, garnish, and slice:
Be sure the cheesecake is thoroughly chilled. Have ready a serving plate and another flat plate or clean plastic cutting board that's at least as wide as the springform and covered in plastic wrap. Wipe a hot, damp cloth around the outside of the ring (or use a hair dryer). Run a metal spatula or a thin knife inside the ring. Release and gently loosen the ring and then lift it off. Set the plate with the plastic wrap on top of the cheesecake and carefully invert the pan. Heat the base of the springform with a hot, damp cloth or hair dryer and lift it off. Set the serving plate lightly on the bottom of the cheesecake (which is now facing up) and reinvert the cake. Lift off the plastic-wrapped plate.

Arrange the pecan halves around the perimeter of the cake. To cut neat slices, use a sharp, thin-bladed knife dipped in hot water (shake off excess drops) between each slice.

To see the original post about this recipe on Rose's blog, visit: