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My name is Lisa and I'm a crafty girl with wanderlust working as an engineer by day. My blog chronicles projects in my home as well as pictures and stories from my travels.

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Entries in Baking (36)

Wednesday
Dec022015

Cranberry Orange Cream Tart

I like to cook but I love to make desserts. Whether it is a work potluck or a family dinner I always sign up for making dessert. This past summer I made a berry mint cream tart to bring to a picnic. I loved the recipe and thought it would be fun to adapt the flavor to cranberry orange for the winter plus beef up the pastry a bit since I like a thicker crust. The result was a beautiful tart that tasted even better than it looked. It is definitely time consuming but worth the effort for a special occasion. I made this for Thanksgiving but I think it would also be fantastic for Christmas dinner or a New Years party.

Ingredients
5 cups fresh cranberries
4 cups sugar, divided
3 cups caster (superfine) sugar 
3 cups water
1 cup milk
zest of 2 large oranges
3 large egg yolks
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract, divided
1/2 cup heavy cream, chilled
3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
raw rice or pie weights for weighting down the shell    

Sugared Cranberries
- Make a simple syrup by heating the water and 3 cups of sugar in a pot until all the sugar dissolves
- After letting the simple syrup cool for ten minutes pour the cranberries into the pot
- Allow cranberries to steep for at least two hours
- Pour the caster sugar in a shallow dish, drain cranberries and then roll them in the caster sugar until coated
- Place sugared cranberries on wax paper and allow to dry 

Orange Cream
- Pour milk in a small saucepan and grate the peel of the oranges directly into the milk
- Bring the milk to a boil, remove from heat and then let stand for five minutes
- In a separate saucepan whisk together the egg yolks, 1/2 cup sugar, cornstarch and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Whisking constantly bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat causing the mixture to become very thick
- Continue to whisk the pastry cream while simmering for three minutes
- Place the pastry cream in a bowl, cover the surface with plastic wrap and then refrigerate until cool and firm
- Beat heavy cream until stiff peaks are formed
- Whisk pastry cream until it is smooth and then fold in the whipping cream until thouroughly incorporated 

Tart Shell
- Cream the butter with 1/2 cup sugar, salt and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract 
- Mix in the flour until a soft dough forms
- Butter a 10-inch tart pan with a removable fluted rim
- Press the dough in the tart pan covering the bottom and up the side of the pan
- Chill the shell for 30 minutes and prick the shell all over with a fork
- Line the shell with foil and fill the foil with the rice or pastry weights
- Bake the shell on the lower rack of a preheated 375°F oven for 15 minutes
- Carefully remove the foil (with the rice or pastry weights)
- Continue to bake for an additional 10-12 minutes until it is crisp and golden
- Allow the shell to cool on a rack for 5 minutes, remove the side of the pan and then cool completely 

Tart Assembly
- Spread the orange cream into the bottom of the tart shell using a spatula
- Gently place sugared cranberries on top of the orange cream, covering the entire tart 

Tips and Tricks
- Make sure that the simple syrup has cooled sufficiently before adding the cranberries otherwise you run the risk of the skins splitting
- For efficient time flow I recommend arranging the work as follows
   1) Prepare the simple syrup and let the cranberries steep
   2) Prepare the orange cream up to the point that the pastry cream is chilled in the refrigerator
   3) Make the tart pastry dough and chill
   4) Roll the cranberries in the caster sugar
   5) Bake the pastry shell and allow it to cool
   6) Finish the orange cream with the whipping cream
   7) Assemble the tart
- To make sure that there are no gaps of orange cream showing along the edges I like to place a row of cranberries around the perimeter of the tart first and then fill in the center 

For more dessert recipes try my No-Bake Mini Pumpkin Cheesecakes, Caramel Apple Cupcakes, Blackberry Rhubarb Pie or Chocolate Chili Cupcakes

Saturday
Oct312015

No Bake Mini Pumpkin Cheesecakes

Happy Halloween! To celebrate I thought that I would share my recipe for no bake mini pumpkin cheesecakes. They are easy to make plus they are delicious. I made a batch to bring in for my co-workers yesterday and they were a big hit.

Ingredients
- 1-1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
- 1/3 cup butter
- 3/4 cup brown sugar, divided
- 3/4 tsp. cinnamon, divided
- 1 package (8oz) cream cheese, softened
- 1 cup pumpkin purée
- 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp. ginger
- 1/8 tsp. cloves
- 1 pint whipping cream
- whole pecans (optional for garnish)

Graham Cracker Crust
- Use food processor or rolling pin to create fine graham cracker crumbs
- Melt butter and pour into bowl with graham cracker crumbs, 1/4 cup brown sugar and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- Mix up ingredients with a fork and measure out equally into small dishes
- Press crust into the bottom of small dishes to form bottom crust

Pumpkin Cheesecake Filling
- Mix together cream cheese, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves
- In a separate bowl, whip the whipping cream to stiff peaks and then gently fold it into the pumpkin mixture and top with a pecan for garnish
- Spoon pumpkin cheesecake filling on top of crusts and refrigerate for at least three hours before serving

Tips and Tricks
- You can use canned pumpkin puree, but I prefer to make my own from sugar pumpkins
- For reference I used 2oz square dessert cups for my mini cheesecakes

Monday
Jun152015

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

Summertime means fresh fruit is in season which obviously means it is time to make pie. One of my favorites is the classic strawberry rhubarb pie. It is my grandfather's favorite and I grew up loving to eat it with him as a special treat.

Ingredients List
- 3 cups rhubarb, cut into 1/2" cubes
- 3 cups strawberries, sliced
- 1 cup sugar
- 3 Tbsp. corn starch
- 1 tsp. cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1 large egg, separated
- 1 teaspoon water
- Large granule sugar (optional)
- Double pie crust pastry

Directions
- Cut the rhubarb and place it in a bowl with the strawberries
- In a separate small bowl stir together the sugar, corn starch, cinnamon and salt
- Pour sugar mixture over rhubarb and strawberries, tossing filling to coat the fruit
- Roll out half of the pastry and line the bottom of a pie plate with it, trimming off excess
- Roll out remaining half of the pastry
- Add filling to the pie plate and then top with pastry using lattice crust or other vented style top
- Whisk egg white and water together to make egg wash glaze
- Brush glaze on pie and sprinkle with large granule sugar if you like
- Bake for 20 minutes at 425° F, turn heat down to 350° F and back another 35-40 minutes until the crust is golden and the filling is bubbling

Tips and Tricks
- I make my own crust but you can also use store bought
- To make your pastry easier to deal with, keep it in the refrigerator until you are rolling it out
- To prevent your crust from browning too much, wrap it in tin foil for the first 20 minutes of baking

If you are interested, check out my apple pie recipe, my mixed berry pie recipe, my blackberry rhubarb pie recipe and my recipe for making pie crust from scratch

 

Tuesday
Mar172015

Mint Oreo Truffles for St. Patrick's Day

Happy St. Patrick's Day! I wanted to make some St. Patrick's Day treats to bring into work for my co-workers today but I had a TV conference for work last night so I didn't get home until after eight. Since I had no intention of staying up too late I had to make something on the simple side so I decided to make some mint oreo truffles which don't require any baking. 

Ingredients List
- 1 package of mint oreos (30 oreos)
- 6 oz. cream cheese
- 1/2 teaspoon mint extract
-
Dark Green and Vibrant Green Candy Melts
- Green sprinkles and non-pareils

Directions
Pulse oreos in food processor until they are finely ground.

Add cream cheese and mint extract to oreos and pulse food processor until mixture is fully combined. Form mixture into equal size size balls, place on a a tray covered in parchment paper and place in the freezer for at least one hour.

Place candy melts into a small microwave proof bowls or glasses that are tall enough to dip one of the truffles into it. Microwave them for 60 seconds and then stir. If some lumps still remain microwave another 30 seconds and then stir until smooth. Dip truffles into the melted candy and then place back on parchment paper. 

While the candy coating is still wet add sprinkles for a festive touch. Once the candy coating has cooled and hardened you can stack the truffles on a serving plate or package them in treat bags.

Tips and Tricks
- To make even sized balls I used a small ice cream scoop to measure out equal amounts of oreo mixture.
- If the mixture is too soft or sticky to shape into balls, place it in the refrigerator for a few minutes.
- If your melted candy starts to cool making dipping difficult, just put the bowl back in the microwave for a few seconds until it is smooth again.
Wednesday
Mar112015

Rosemary Sea Salt 

A few months back I made a large batch of rosemary sea salt. It is a great way to use up any rosemary that you have in your herb garden at the end of the growing season and adds something special to your pantry for your cooking. There are a variety of methods out there that you could use but below is the method that works for me.

Ingredients List
- 1/2 cup fresh rosemary leaves
- 4 cups sea salt, divided

Put the rosemary leaves and one cup of sea salt in a food processor.

Pulse the food processor until the rosemary leaves are finely mixed into the salt.

In a bowl combine the rosemary mixture with the remaining three cups of sea salt.

The salt and rosemary mixture will be damp from the moisture in the rosemary leaves so to dry it out, spread it on a a baking sheet and bake it for about half an hour on low heat (200˚F, 95˚C).

After letting the mixture cool, break up any salt that has clumped together and store in jars.

The rosemary sea salt makes a great gift and Frank and I have also have fun using it in our cooking. Enjoy!

Wednesday
Nov052014

Caramel Apple Cupcakes

Last week my department at work had its annual chili cook-off competition. I didn't enter a chili but I decided to make some cupcakes to share. Last year I made chocolate chili cupcakes and wanted to make something different this time. Fall is in full swing here so I decided to make caramel apple cupcakes.

To make the apple cupcakes I adapted Paula Deen's apple cake recipe to my preferences, like swapping out walnuts for pecans and increasing the amount of cinnamon. I also exchanged the vegetable oil for some of my homemade applesauce which is healthier and makes the cake really moist.

Cupcake Ingredients
3 cups diced cooking apples
1 cup chopped pecans
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon cinnamon
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups sugar
1-1/4 cups applesauce
3 eggs

Cupcake Directions
Preheat the oven to 325 F and prepare muffin pans with cupcake liners. Mix together apples, pecans, vanilla and cinnamon in a bowl.


In a second bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda and salt. With an electric mixer beat together the sugar, applesauce and eggs.


Add the dry ingredients to applesauce mixture and beat until fully combined. Fold the apple mixture into batter with a spatula or spoon.

Fill the cupcake liners 3/4 full and bake until toothpick inserted into the middle of a cupcake comes out clean, about 40 minutes.

To add a caramel component to the cupcakes I made Wilton's caramel buttercream icing and iced the cupcakes with a large star decorating tip.

The cupcakes are a great fall treat and were a big hit with my department. I am definitely planning to add this to my autumn rotation of baking treats.

Thursday
Jan022014

Homemade Spiced Rum Vanilla Extract

Now that Christmas has passed I can start sharing on my blog all of the Christmas gifts that I have been busy making the past several weeks. As a simple gift for friends and family I decided to make a bunch of bottles of homemade vanilla extract. The basic way to make it is to infuse a white alcohol, like vodka, with vanilla beans but I thought it would be fun to use spiced rum instead for a different flavor.

To make the vanilla I sliced Madagascar vanilla beans down the middle not quite to the end and trimmed the bottoms so they would fit in the bottles. I then placed two beans in each of the 8.5oz swing top square glass bottles that I had thoroughly scrubbed and then filled them up with spiced rum. I did this all back in November so that the vanilla beans would have enough time to infuse the spiced rum before I gave the bottles as gifts for Christmas.

To label the jars I made a simple design and used my Silhouette Cameo to cut it out from white vinyl. I then used transfer paper to apply the labels to the bottles and the vanilla extract was ready to give.

I made little cards with the following information to hand out along with the bottles:

Homemade Spiced Rum Vanilla Extract
Use in baking recipes just as you would with plain vanilla extract. Discard the vanilla beans when they are no longer covered in liquid or after two months when the beans are fully infused, whichever comes first. Shelf life for the homemade spiced rum vanilla extract is one year.

If you are making vanilla extract at home for yourself you can keep topping up your bottle with alcohol and replace the beans after they have finished infusing.

The homemade vanilla extract was a big hit with my friends and family this Christmas and I have to say that I loved the project so much that I saved a bottle for myself which I am excitedly using.

Thursday
Dec052013

Michigan Tailgate Cake: Beat Ohio

Saturday was the last Michigan football game of the regular season playing against arch rivals, OSU. For the tailgate cake I baked a chocolate cake and iced it with buttercream icing that I tinted maize. I kept things simple and decided to decorate the top with the phase "Beat Ohio".

To make the words I rolled out some blue marshmallow fondant and traced around a bowl to make a circle just smaller than the cake. I then cut away a line across the middle to make the top and bottom lines for the words. I then trimmed away three vertical lines leaving me with eight blocks for my letters. I then cut each block into a letter to spell out "Beat Ohio". I finished up the cake by transferring the fondant letters onto the cake and piping a border of blue stars along the base of the cake.

Kickoff for the game was a noon so we had a short but fun tailgate. As is tradition for the last home tailgate of the year we ate filet mignon provided by Gus and grilled by Frank. Frank also made an awesome crab bearnaise to accompany the steaks.

For the week prior to the game everyone had Michigan pegged as a huge underdog. Ohio was undefeated and ranked #3 in the country while Michigan's season had been lackluster. The game, however, ended up being very exciting as opposed to the blowout that had been predicted. Michigan scored first and at the half it was tied 21-21. Things looked a bit bleak in the second half when Michigan was down by 14 but they rallied and with less than a minute left they scored a touchdown to bring the score to 41-42. Michigan went for a two point conversion but it was intercepted basically ending the game. It was a great game, but I wish that things had worked out a little better for Michigan.

My Duke Blue Devils had an exciting day on Saturday, beating rivals UNC. The Duke-UNC game was at the same time as Michigan-OSU so the whole game I was continuously checking my phone for Duke updates. With the win Duke ended the regular season with their best record, 10-2, and will head to the ACC Championship game this Saturday against Florida State. Go Blue Devils!

Monday
Nov112013

Michigan Tailgate Cake: Winged Helmet Cake

On Saturday Michigan played Nebraska and Frank's tailgate theme for the week was Soups and Stews since the weather here has gotten a little chilly. I couldn't figure out a way to easily translate that into a cake so I decided to make a cake inspired by Michigan's iconic winged helmet for the tailgate.

I used a two layer chocolate cake recipe with the Wilton Helmet Pan to make the cake. I used some thinned white buttercream icing for a crumb layer and then used white icing to create a background behind the facemask and ear hole. I sketched out the lines for the wings with some icing and once I was happy with the shape I filled it in with maize and blue icing with a #16 star tip. I finished the helmet off by piping the facemask with some extra whipped chocolate ganache from the chocolate chili cupcakes I had made the day before. The facemask of the Wolverines' helmet is actually blue but I didn't think it would show up very well on the cake if I made it blue plus I think it is a crime to waste leftover chocolate ganache.

The tailgate was a lot of fun. It was a bit chilly but the sun was out most of the day and there was no miserable rain like two weeks prior at the Indiana game. Frank made his cheddar sausage soup which was perfect to keep everyone warm.

The game, however, was not so much fun to watch. Michigan played pretty poorly and for the second week in a row had negative rushing yards. They pulled ahead in the fourth quarter but Nebraska had a touchdown late in the game to seal their 17-13 win over Michigan. Hopefully the Wolverines fare better next week at Northwestern. Go Blue!

On a positive side note, my beloved Duke Blue Devils had a pretty good weekend with the football team beating NC State and the basketball team trouncing Davidson. The football team is now 7-2 which guarantees them a winning record which will be a first since 1994. I watched the basketball game on TV and all I can say is that Jabari Parker is awesome and I am looking forward to a great season. Go Duke! 

Saturday
Nov092013

Chocolate Chili Cupcakes

Yesterday was the annual chili cook off in my department at work. I just moved into the department this past summer so this was my first year participating. I didn't prepare a chili for the competition but I did want to contribute a dessert so I thought that making some chocolate chili cupcakes would be perfect.

To make the cupcakes I adapted my go-to one bowl chocolate cupcake recipe from Good Housekeeping's Illustrated Cookbook. I've had that cookbook since I was in high school and I still love it as a reference for basic recipes.

I started off by omitting the vanilla from the recipe and then added ancho chili pepper powder, cinnamon and mini chocolate chips. After baking I finished the cupcakes by topping them with whipped chocolate ganache and some red dragees for a little fun.

I think that the cupcakes turned out great with the extra little kick. Some of my co-workers were a little hesitant about them when I told them about the chili powder but in the end they were a big hit with everyone.

Ingredients
2 cups flour
1-3/4 cups sugar
3/4 cups unsweetened cocoa
1-1/4 cups milk
3/4 cups butter
3 eggs
1 tablespoon ancho chili pepper powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1-1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon double-acting baking powder
1 cup mini chocolate chips (optional) 

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
Beat together all ingredients except chocolate chips in a mixer at low speed until well mixed

Gently fold chocolate chips into the batter

Line two twelve cavity muffin tins with liners and fill halfway with batter
Bake for 20 minutes or until inserted toothpick in center of a cupcake comes out clean 

Let cupcakes cool and then ice with chocolate ganache or buttercream icing

Enjoy!