Oct 24, 2012

Chocolate Whiskey Tart

This tart contains two of my favorite components related to baking:

Chocolate with booze (or anything with booze)


Recipes from Baked 

If you're not familiar with Baked, ooooh you are missing out.  Baked, a bakery located in Brooklyn was founded in 2005 by two friends Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito. These guys know, understand, and appreciate 'Americana' baking.  You may remember my Gentleman's Apple Pie post, another recipe from the Baked, New Frontiers in Baking cookbook.

The guys just came out with their 3rd cookbook titled Baked Elements which features recipes prepared with their all-time favorite ingredients and each chapter is dedicated to a particular ingredient close to their heart.

This Chocolate Whiskey Tart (from the Booze chapter...amazing!) is one of the most sinful desserts I've made yet.  The chocolate is smooth, deep, and rich.  I've never tasted chocolate quite this intense, mostly due in part to the addition of Jack Daniel's, amping up the flavor and richness.  The crust (made of shortbread cookies) is crisp and slightly salty, contrasting effortlessly with the smoothness of the chocolate.

And then the whipped cream...infused with Jack Damn Daniel's.  I got a buzz before lunchtime preparing this cream.  Highly recommended if you ask me.

Lastly, this tart was beyond easy.  Don't roll your eyes at me and say 'yeh right you bake all the time.'  Really, nothing to it I swear.    However, I must make one very important note before we get baking.  Please do yourself a favor and purchase a high quality chocolate for this recipe.  As we're not working with many ingredients, the taste of the chocolate will inherently shine through and it's quality is key to achieving a silky texture. 

Ok I know I once told you it's okay to buy chocolate from Ikea, but that's for practicing or making s'mores.  This tart deserves a little splurge.

Simple Chocolate Whiskey Tart with Whiskey Whipped Cream
makes one 9" tart
printable version


For the Shortbread crust:
8 ounces (about 1 3/4 cups) shortbread cookies
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 ounces (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted

For the Chocolate Whiskey Filling:
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup whole milk
5 ounces good quality dark chocolate (60 to 72%), coarsely chopped
4 ounces good quality milk chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 large egg PLUS 1 large egg yolk
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons good quality whiskey (I used Jack Daniel's)

For the Whiskey Whipped Cream:
1 1/4 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons superfine sugar
2 tablespoons good quality whiskey (I used Jack Daniel's)

cocoa for dusting


To prepare the crust, preheat oven to 300 degrees F and position the oven rack in the center.  Lightly spray a 9" spring form pan with non-stick cooking spray.

In a food processor, pulse the cookies into very fine crumbs. 

Place crumbs into a bowl, add sugar and salt. Stir to combine.
 Pour melted butter over the crumbs and use a fork to mix to combine. 

Turn the mixture out onto the prepared pan and press it into the bottom and up the sides of the pan (using your fingers or the bottom of a metal measuring cup).

Place pan in the freezer for about 5 minutes to firm up.

Place the pan on a baking sheet and bake the crust until it is just dry to the touch, about 12 minutes (you do not want it to brown).  Remove the baking sheet from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool.

Increase the oven temperature to 325 degrees F.

To prepare the filling, in a medium saucepan oven medium low heat, stir together the heavy cream and milk.  Bring the mixture just to a low simmer (bubbles will start to form around the edge of the pan) but do not scald or boil.  Remove the pan from the heat.  Add the chopped chocolate and whisk gently until the mixture is completely smooth. 

Continue stirring to release excess heat.  Set aside for 5 to 10 minutes, or until the mixture is only slightly warm or has cooled to room temperature.

In a small bowl, use a fork to lightly beat the egg, egg yolk, flour, and whiskey. 

Use the tip of your finger to make sure the chocolate mixture has come to room temperature (not too hot or the eggs will cook).  Add the egg mixture and whisk until completely blended.

Pour the filling into the tart shell.

Place the baking sheet in the oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the edges are slightly set but the middle is still slightly jiggly.  Remove the baking sheet from the oven and transfer the tart pan to a wire rack to cool for at least 15 minutes.  Gently push up on the tart bottom to release the tart from the pan and cool completely.

To prepare the whipped cream, pour the cream into a chilled metal bowl and beat vigorously with a chilled whisk for about 1 minute or until soft peaks form (I mix on max speed on a kitchen aid mixer).

 Sprinkle the sugar and whiskey over the cream and continue whisking vigorously until stiff peaks form.

 Give your tart a generous dollop of cream, dust with cocoa and enjoy!

 Chocolate Whiskey Tart recipe from Baked Elements

Oct 11, 2012

Chick-O-Stick Peanut Butter Cookies

I've been making this peanut butter cookie recipe for 14 years and I will never, ever forget the time and place where I found it.

The wedding chapel at the Tropicana Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Bet you didn't expect that one coming, did ya?

When I was a freshman in college at UNLV, my roommate worked at the wedding chapel as a wedding coordinator.  She hooked me up with a job there too (as well as 2 of her other friends) so that's 4 fresh, young, squeaky-clean girls, all new to Las Vegas, all TOO young to be running weddings, working together at the Tropicana.  You just know some of those weddings were doomed in our hands, even if they were already doomed by the fact that they're getting married at the ghetto-fab Trop (although I must say it has since been renovated and I'm sure it's lovely).

Our jobs were to get the brides and grooms situated, pin on the flowers to the ever-stumbling-not-quite-drunk-but-getting-there grooms, play the music on the organ (and when I say play, I mean 'hit the play button' as the organ played cd's) video tape the ceremonies, collect the cash, and then repeat.

It was one of the most memorable jobs I've had, very Vegas-style.  Although I did work as a telemarketer for a dating agency once (more like for a week to be exact).  I had to call people AT RANDOM mind you, and ask if they'd like to come in and prepare a quick video about themselves for potential daters.  This is all well and good if people are interested in finding their true love (or their flavor of the week) but since we were calling people off random lists, I ended up calling a lot of seniors who couldn't even begin to hear me, and if they did, thought I was either the funniest phone call of their twilight years, or the devil. 

So back to the peanut butter recipe, because I could just go on and on about those Vegas years.  At the chapel, when you control the camera's to tape the wedding you really have to be paying attention to what's going on every second of the way as there are different camera's installed at different locations to tape exact parts of the ceremony.  Being 17, it wasn't my fault I wasn't too interested in watching Muffy and Steve renew their vows and sometimes lose concentration.  For example, on afternoon working the camera I happened to glance over to our coffee station and saw the box of C&H Sugar with a peanut butter cookie recipe on the side.  Wow it looked so easy, and it must be good if they put it on the box?!  Oh yeh, what was I doing?  Poor Muffy and Steve...so maybe their first kiss didn't have the perfect view on camera, but I scored the best peanut butter cookie recipe of my life, which I still make to this day, and now I'm sharing with you.

As for the Chick-O-Sticks, this was the first time I've ever worked with them.  My mom bought me a box when I was home, and lately every stash of candy I get my hands on is a new project, and here we are.  If you've never seen or tasted Chick-O-Sticks, they taste almost identical to the inside part of a Butterfinger candy bar.  Very flaky and sweet.

Crushed up inside the cookie they slightly melt and give an immense crunch and taste.  We're talking peanut butter explosion of happiness here.  And the color!  Look at that color!  Perfect for Halloween if you ask me. 

Chick-O-Stick Peanut Butter Cookies
makes about 2 1/2 dozen
printable version

1 cup creamy peanut butter
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup crushed Chick-O-Stick candies (about 28 pieces)
sugar for dusting


Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  To crush the candies, place inside a zip-lock bag and crush with a rolling pin.  Set aside.

Combine the peanut butter, sugar, egg, and vanilla extract in the bowl of a stand up mixer.

Mix until thoroughly combined.

Add the crushed Chick-O-Sticks and combine with a wooden spoon or spatula.

Using a cookie scoop, place balls of dough on a greased cookie sheet, about 2 inches apart.  Sprinkle generously with white sugar.  This gives the cookies an additional crunch, and a bit of bling-bling.

Bake for about 14-16 minutes until slightly browned.  Let cool on the cookie sheet for about 5 minutes, then move to a wire rack to cool.


Recipe adapted from C&H Sugar
Tropicana Wedding Chapel (because I just can't help myself)

Oct 9, 2012

Pumpkin Honey Cake

It's October.  Kiddie Halloween costumes are taking over Wal-Mart.  Trick-or-treat candy is in your face no matter what isle you turn down, inescapable in it's oh-so-temping tiny packaging...One little bag won't hurt, right?  Five boxes of Dots later you're feeling the guilt in your gut and the twinge of sugar making your teeth hurt.  I love this time of year.

My son and I just back from the US.  We went to visit my parents, so you know I did some stocking up on supplies while I was home.  My most coveted treasure, a 32 ounce bottle of Nielsen-Massey vanilla extract

Unfortunately you cannot purchase vanilla extract in the UAE (due to the alcohol content) so it's one of those staples that's in my suitcase on every trip back.  However a friend of mine just made her own homemade extract using scrapings from vanilla pods combined with vodka which you leave to marinate for a month or so...Prohibition style, no?  Maybe we can post on that later. 
I, for one, am one of those die-hard believers that one should NEVER use vanilla 'flavoring' or imitation vanilla.  I'd rather not bake if that was my only option.  If you don't believe me, try whipping up some cream, adding that powder-vanilla-wanna-be to half, and real vanilla extract to other.  Taste both and you'll be a believer too. 
And since fall is in the air, leaves are changing, you're pulling out all your sweaters from their sabbatical (well, not in our part of the world, however the temperature did reach 37 degrees C yesterday so it's a start I suppose...that's 98 degree F for my fellow Americans), it's time to bust out the autumn inspired recipes. 
And if you're like myself, I'm sure your sick-to-death of Pumpkin Pie, I mean really...we can do much better.  I was pretty intrigued with this recipe for Pumpkin Honey Cake.  I love using honey at any opportunity.  It has such a sweet, unique taste and color, very autumn-ish.  I knew I'd be fan of the recipe because half of the reviews people gave said 'this cake was too sweet' so yeh that is right up my alley. 
However with that said, my husband is one of those frustratingly annoying people who likes to complain about my over-abundance of sweetness (in my recipes that is, not me personally, hah!) and he actually really enjoyed this cake.  Additionally, the original recipe didn't call to baste the cake with Bailey's after it was cooled, but after reading some of the reviews that the cake was a bit dry, I thought it was better to add some moisture just in case.  I'm glad that I did because the texture was spot on.
I hope you enjoy this one and it becomes a new addition to your holiday repertoire!
Pumpkin Honey Cake
serves 8-10
For the Cake:
2 1/4 cups cake flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
3/4 cup canned solid pack pumpkin
1/3 cup sour cream
1/3 cup honey
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cups sugar
3 large eggs
2-3 tablespoons Bailey's
For the Frosting:
1 pound (16 ounces) cream cheese, room temperature *See note below
2 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup plus 1/4 cup canned solid pack pumpkin
1/4 cup honey
1/4 teaspoon (scant) ground allspice
1 cup chilled whipping cream
*Here in Dubai our cream cheese is sold in tubs, not in blocks like we have in the US.  It is much softer and unfortunately not very suitable to work with for frosting.  However it's the only option we have so we have to make do.  A bit of advice, when you first open the container, drain out any excess liquid.  Measure out what you need and place in a bowl.  Let it sit on the counter to come to room temperature.  You'll notice there will be more liquid in the bottom of the bowl, drain this out before using.  If anyone ever sees blocks of cream cheese on sale please email me and let me know...I will bake you something if you do :)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 15 1/2 x 10 1/2 x 1-inch jelly roll pan with foil, leaving overhang on the shorter sides.  Grease the pan using butter or shortening.  I use a sandwich baggie as a glove to make things easy. 
Add about 2 tablespoons of flour to the greased sheet and coat evenly.  Tap out excess into the trash.   
Sift 2 1/4 cups flour and next 5 ingredients into medium bowl.  Make sure you actually do sift this part, I know it can be a nuisance but almost every time without fail I find a small sliver of something in the cinnamon.  Additionally sifting is a very crucial step as it adds air to the flour, creating a lighter cake.  Also, sometimes the baking powder/spices can contain clumps due to humidity and it's best to sift them through. 
Whisk to combine.
Whisk pumpkin, sour cream, honey and vanilla in small bowl to blend.
Using a mixer, beat butter in large bowl until fluffy.
Gradually beat in sugar. Beat in eggs 1 at a time. Beat dry ingredients into butter mixture alternately with pumpkin mixture.
Spread batter evenly in prepared pan.
Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Cool in pan on rack.

To prepare the frosting, beat cream cheese, powdered sugar, 1/3 cup pumpkin, honey and allspice in large bowl until fluffy.  Be sure to sift in your powdered sugar as it can get quite lumpy.  This step helps guarantee a smooth frosting.
Beat whipping cream in medium bowl until stiff peaks form.  This can sometimes happen very quickly depending on your mixer and/or the quality of your cream.  Be sure to keep a close eye while whipping so you won't over-beat.
Fold whipped cream into cream cheese mixture in 2 additions. Spoon 1 1/2 cups frosting into small bowl to use for decorating; cover and refrigerate.

Once the cake has cooled completely, poke holes across the cake with a fork. 
Using a pastry brush, gently cover the cake with a layer of Bailey's.  No need to be overly-generous, just 1 even coat will do.  You don't want to cake to get too soggy. 

Using foil as aid, lift cake onto work surface. Cut cake crosswise into three 10 x 4-inch rectangles (reserve remaining cake for another use).  I found using a ruler was pretty helpful as I almost always cut crooked.  Make three marks every 4 inches on the top and bottom, then slice using them as guides.
Slide spatula under 1 rectangle; transfer cake to platter. Spread with 3/4 cup frosting.
Top with second cake. Spread with 3/4 cup frosting. Top with third cake. Using 1 cup of frosting, cover the cake with a crumb coat (which means you are 'sealing' in the crumbs so when frosting the final layer you will be crumb-free...some cakes can be quite crumbly).  Chill 1 hour.
Cover cake with remaining frosting using an off-set spatula.  I pipped some stars along the bottom to give the cake a finished look.  Let the cake firm up in the fridge for about 2 hours before serving.
Recipe courtesy of Epicurious