Friday, February 25, 2011

hello kitty pocket pies

After making heart-shaped pocket pies for Valentine's Day last week, it dawned on me that I could make pocket pies in any shape I wanted!  I could just use large cookie cutters to cut out the shape, and a fork to crimp the edges - no pocket pie mold required!  So I made Hello Kitty pocket pies.  (You must have noticed my slight obsession with Hello Kitty by now -see my Hello Kitty cake, another cake, cupcakes, mini cupcakes, ice cream cake, and cake pops!)

Using my largest Hello Kitty cookie cutter, I cut out pie crust for the tops and bottoms of the pies, then filled them with my apple pie filling (diced apples, flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon, and ground cloves).

The eyes, nose and bow served as my steam vents (so that the crust wouldn't get soggy during baking).  After crimping the edges with a fork, brushing with egg wash, and sprinkling some sandling sugar on top, I baked them at 400 F for 20 minutes.  And out came Hello Kitty apple pie!

I made a couple of these for my friend Hsing to give to her daughter Avery (she just turned 6!), and I also made a couple for my friend Karyn in exchange for an adorable clippie (check out her handmade clippies at Zoette Boutique!).  I also froze a couple so that I could bake them off whenever we want apple pie.

I can't wait to try making pocket pies with other shapes too! (Although nothing beats Hello Kitty!)

*** Update:
You can now find my recipe for Hello Kitty Pocket Apple Pie and Pocket Pies in my new book, "The Hello Kitty Baking Book"! Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

matcha green tea chiffon cake

My friend Diana's birthday was on Valentine's Day, and since she loves green tea I decided to make her something with matcha green tea powder.  Since I've been experimenting with chiffon cakes lately (see here and here), I baked her a two-layer green tea chiffon cake.

To keep it light, I filled and frosted it with whipped cream that I made with heavy cream, matcha green tea powder, and powdered sugar.  I wanted to try something different from my usual basketweave cakes (see here, here, and here), so instead I piped simple vertical lines along the sides, and piped a beaded border.  I wasn't too happy with the results though - since I was piping with whipped cream (instead of buttercream), the lines were not smooth (and resembled worms, in my opinion).  Next time I'll try this with buttercream or royal icing, or maybe just a larger sized tip for more of a "columns" effect.

To tie in with Valentine's day, I decorated it with chocolate hearts that I piped onto waxed paper, and assembled into a "bouquet" in the middle of the cake.

As a finishing touch, I dusted the middle with just a touch of green tea powder.  At first I liked this effect, since the chocolate became speckled with green, but after a little while the green tea powder melted into the whipped cream below it and started to look like green mold :( Sorry Diana!

In the end, the cake was tender and light, and perfect after a big birthday meal of artisan pizza.  Hope you had a happy birthday Diana!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

heart-shaped apple pocket pies

I bought a heart-shaped pocket pie mold from Williams-Sonoma a while ago (after my cousin Angie showed me her round latticed pocket pie mold - so adorable!), and when Valentine's Day rolled in it was the perfect time to put it to use!

I used my favorite all-butter pie crust recipe (flour, sugar, salt, butter, and ice water - so easy!  It's also great for chicken pot pie.).  When closed, one side of the mold acts like a cookie cutter to cut out a piece of pie crust for the bottom of the heart, and the other side cuts out the piece for the top of the heart.

Then open the mold, place the pieces in, fill the bottom piece (mine was filled with diced fuji and braeburn apples mixed with flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon, and ground cloves), and close the mold to crimp the edges in place.  The mold didn't do a great job with this part though, so instead I just crimped around the edges with a fork.

I assembled the pocket pies and put them in the fridge before we went out for Valentine's dinner (with the kids, of course).  Then when we got home, I popped them in the oven at 400 F for 20 minutes, and Valentine's dessert was served!

Monday, February 14, 2011

mini coffee chiffon cupcakes with cocoa whipped cream

After last week's experiments with chiffon cake, I thought to myself, what would chiffon cake taste like in cupcake form?  So I decided to find out.

I made the same coffee chiffon batter (since I looooooove coffee), and baked it up as regular cupcakes and also as mini cupcakes.  The results were drastically different.

The mini cupcakes turned out great!  They were light, fluffy, and springy.  The regular cupcakes, however, sank in the middle.  The texture was still nice, but they just didn't look very nice.  I'll need to play with the baking times on those in the future.

So I decorated the minis with cocoa whipped cream, dusted the tops with cocoa powder, and topped it with little chocolate hearts that I had piped onto waxed paper.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Cocoa Whipped Cream

1 cup heavy cream, cold
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
pinch of salt 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In the bowl of a standing mixer, whip all the ingredients together at high speed until stiff peaks form. Use immediately, or store covered in the refrigerator (and re-whip before using).

Mini Coffee Chiffon Cupcakes

3/4 cup coffee
1 cup flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 eggs, separated
1/2 cup vegetable oil 
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

Preheat the oven to 325F. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt. Add the egg yolks, vegetable oil, cooled coffee, and vanilla. Stir until combined.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the egg whites and cream of tartar. Beat at high-speed until peaks form. 

Add the batter to the whipped egg whites in thirds, gently folding until combined each time. Be careful not to over-mix or deflate the egg whites.

Pour the batter into a mini cupcake pan lined with baking liners. Bake at 325F for 20-25 minutes. 

Let cool and top with whipped cream and a chocolate heart. Dust the tops with cocoa powder, if desired.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

coffee chiffon cake

I've been wanting to try making a chiffon cake for a while now, so when we found out it was our our friend K's birthday last week, I thought it would be the perfect time to try making one.  I decided to try this recipe for coffee chiffon cake.

It took me three tries to get a decent chiffon cake.  The recipe called for an angel food cake tube pan, but I wanted to make a layer cake with two 8" pans instead.  I knew that I'd have to change the baking time, but I just didn't know by how much.  I ended up underestimating the baking time for my first batch - I had never made chiffon cake before and didn't know what to look for to tell if it was done.  But the toothpick came out clean so I assumed it was done!  I was wrong.  A few minutes after being taken out of the oven, my cakes started deflating ... and pulling away from the sides of the pan ... and eventually collapsed into a sad, lumpy mess.

So I made a second batch.  This time I almost doubled the baking time, still not knowing how to tell if it was done or not.  But when I pulled it out of the oven, it was already collapsed!  What was I doing wrong?

After a couple of searches on the internet (thanks Google!) I discovered that I was preparing the pans wrong.  Angel food and chiffon cakes rely on the whipped egg whites for their height, and if you grease the pans (which I was doing, like I normally do for regular cakes), the cake has nothing to grip onto for stability while rising.  And so it will collapse.  Aha!

So I had to make a third batch.  This time I didn't grease the pans at all, but still kept a piece of parchment paper on the bottom of the pan.  When I took the cakes out of the oven, I set them upside-down to cool (as Google instructed me to do), to help keep the cakes from deflating.  After they had cooled, I turned them right-side-up and was happy to see that they didn't deflate at all!  But ... as soon as I used my offset spatula to release the edges of the cake from the cake pans, they deflated.  But only a little bit.  So I was still happy.

To go with the lightness of the chiffon cake, I filled it and covered it with cream that I whipped up with cocoa powder and sugar.  Then I dusted the top with more cocoa powder, and decorated it with some whole coffee beans.  Hope you enjoyed it K and C!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

homemade oreos

I'm back from 2 1/2 weeks of vacation in Hawaii!  We were visiting my husband's family for a "late Christmas" with them.  Since I didn't bake at all during vacation, and thus have no baked goods to post about, I'll show you what I made before our vacation!

I made a few desserts this year for Christmas, which included homemade oreos.  I had envisioned a fresh, chocolatey cookie filled with creamy goodness that would far surpass any store-bought oreo.  Sadly though, these cookies did not live up to my expectations.

My first mistake was the cookie recipe I used (usually epicurious doesn't let me down, but in this case maybe I should have looked for a Martha recipe?).  The cookie came out very crumbly - but I didn't want crumbly, I wanted a substantial and dense chocolate cookie!

And the other poor decision I made was the filling that I chose to make.  I wanted a white filling, but didn't want to use white chocolate ganache (I'm not a huge fan of white chocolate), and I also didn't want just a regular vanilla buttercream, so I settled on making a nice cream cheese filling.  Unfortunately, this resulted in a melty filling that didn't hold up well once out of the fridge.

I think next time I'll just forego the white filling and make a dark chocolate ganache filling instead.  Or maybe I'll just stick to making macarons. :)