ANNOUNCING: Change is part of life, and apparently, it's part of blogging, too. As of September 5, 2013, I'm merging The Virtual Goody Plate with Disco Mom Takes on the World and whatever else may henceforth spill from my fingertips (and kitchen), into one great new blog. I hope you'll join me there in exclaiming, "THIS IS AWESOMELAND."

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Mexican Hot Chocolate Skillet Cookie

 A couple of weeks ago I was craving something very rustic and comforting, but different than my usual go-to's.  A skillet cookie was amazingly just the thing - one big awesome cookie, that just happened to call for some of the Mexican chocolate I got in my Easter basket, loaded with butter and sugar, and a delicate hint of cinnamon, all packed into one heavy cast iron skillet, and baked in it, just like a trail cook would make.  Exactly

But, you know, I'm not really a pioneer.  And I didn't have enough Mexican chocolate, so I did part Mexican, part Trader Joe's pound plus bittersweet chocolate bar, which was delicious.

And we served it up with vanilla ice cream and some Fat Toad Farm Goat's Milk Caramel Sauce I picked up in Vermont a few months ago.  Just like a trail cook would.  You know, if he could.

Mexican Hot Chocolate Skillet Cookie (print recipe)
Makes approximately 8 servings

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 large eggs
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 cups grated Mexican chocolate (like Ibarra brand or Nestle Abuelita; if you can't find Mexican, semi-sweet American may substitute)

1.  Preheat oven to 350.  Grease the bottom and sides of a 10-inch cast iron skillet and set aside.

2.  In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder and cinnamon.  Set aside.

3.  In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add eggs and continue to beat.  Beat in dry ingredients, mixing just until a smooth, uniform dough has formed.  Beat in chocolate for a uniformly chocolate dough.

4.  Press your finished dough evenly into the bottom of the prepared pan.  Bake for 28 to 35 minutes, being careful not to overbake.  The finished cookie will be puffy with a cracked crust over the top.  Remove the baked cookie; slice and serve immediately or allow to cool for 15 minutes and serve warm with ice cream.

Recipe from Scarletta Bakes

1 year ago: Rhubarb-Ginger Sorbet
2 years ago: Parker House Rolls (although these are better)
3 years ago: Chocolate Everything Cookies 

Monday, May 28, 2012

Zucchini Coconut Muffins

 Summer is one of my four favorite seasons, and zucchini is one of the main reasons.  For me, there is no such thing as too much zucchini, and no such thing as too many zucchini recipes.  I didn't have one that pairs it with coconut yet (and you know I love me some coconut), so when my KAF catalog came with this recipe on page 22, no brainer.  Whip 'em up, feed 'em to house guests.  Don't even ask if they like them, because they'd be crazy not to.

I think I read somewhere that a new "flavor trend" is pairing coconut with ginger.  Which sounds like heaven to me, and which pairing also comes packaged up in this what's-seeming-to-be-practically-perfect-in-every-way cakelet.  And no, you don't have to order "coconut milk powder" from King Arthur just to mix it with milk for the glaze.  You can just buy a can of actual coconut milk; it's even better, and with the leftover, make one of these.  Here's to a summer full of fruity - and zucchini-y - recipes!

Zucchini Coconut Muffins (print recipe)
Makes 12 muffins

2 large eggs
1/3 cup honey
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp coconut extract
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 cup white whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 cups (8 ounces) grated unpeeled zucchini (about 1 medium)
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

1 cup confectioners' sugar
2 T coconut milk powder, optional (I substituted coconut milk for the powder & milk)
2 T milk
1/4 cup toasted coconut

1.  Preheat oven to 350.  Lightly grease a 12-cup muffin pan.

2.  For the batter, combine eggs, honey, oil, sugar, and coconut flavor until smooth.  Add the dry ingredients and mix until well combined.  Stir in the zucchini and coconut.

3.  Scoop the batter into the wells of the pan, about 1/4 cup per muffin.

4.  Bake for 24 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.  Remove from oven; cool in pan for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

5.  For the glaze, sift together the dry ingredients; mix in the milk.  Dunk the top of each muffin into the glaze and sprinkle with toasted coconut, if desired. 

Recipe from King Arthur Flour

1 year ago: Caramel-Hazelnut Brownies
2 years ago:  Chock-Full of Chocolate Chip Cookies
3 years ago: Magnolia's Famous Banana Pudding

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Dessert Club: Colors!

Photo courtesy of Be Different Act Normal
 Dessert Club has become too fun.  Too delicious.  Too easy.  So we've decided to start challenging ourselves...sometimes.  For this month's festivities, we each drew the name of a color out of a bag, and had to do our best to represent that color with a dessert.  For the most part, we were not disappointed.  Except me, who drew blue, and wished I'd thought it through a little more carefully before putting the colors in the bag.  You know there's no naturally-occurring blue food, right?  But my blue experiments will come in another post.  Let's stick to the rainbow.
Red Velvet Cheesecake

Frozen Strawberry Soufflé

Orange could not make it...
Yellow made Daffodil Cake, cover below, and when she tested it, it came out perfectly.  Unfortunately DC was on a very humid day, and you know how meringue can be, so it didn't quite make it that night.

Avocado-Key Lime Mousse in Brandy-Snap Baskets

Lavender-Blueberry Doughnuts (mine)

 Blueberry-Lemon "Brownie" 
with White Chocolate Blueberry Glaze

Coconut Cake with Lime Curd Filling

Strawberry-Pina Colada Wontons 
with Vanilla Bean-Key Lime Dip

Root Beer Float Cakes

Blackout Pudding

Here's what my dish looked like.  Poor me.  Poor all of us.
 As usual, it was tough to decide what to vote for.  My favorites were the strawberry soufflé, dessert wontons, and the blackout pudding.  What would you most like to taste?  The soufflés won it, with a three-way tie for second place, there was so much sweet goodness in the spread that night.

She won candied orange peel, blue cornmeal, mylar cake doilies, and a rainbow decorating sugar set.
 Here was someone's take-home box before putting the lid on.  "Colors" night was glorious.
In June, we do the theme, "Frozen" again.  I've got a stack of recipes inches thick.  So, so hard to choose!!!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Gâteau de Crêpes

 This true labor of love was the YUMMY winner at our most recent Dessert Club.  Eighteen layers of thin, buttery crêpes and smooth vanilla pastry cream, with a crunchy brulee top...what, I ask, is there not to like? 

The competition was stiff.  The judges, discerning.  But the votes came in and the votes don't lie - Gâteau de Crêpes was the cake to beat all.

Gâteau de Crêpes
Serves 10 or more

For the crepe batter:
6 tablespoons butter
3 cups milk
6 eggs
1 1/2 cups flour
7 tablespoons sugar
Pinch salt

For the vanilla pastry cream:
2 cups milk
1 vanilla bean, halved and scraped
6 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch, sifted
3 1/2 tablespoons butter

For assembly:
Corn oil
2 cups heavy cream
1 tablespoon sugar or more
Confectioners’ sugar

1. The day before, make the crepe batter and the pastry cream. Batter: In a small pan, cook the butter until brown like hazelnuts. Set aside. In another small pan, heat the milk until steaming; allow to cool for 10 minutes. In a mixer on medium-low speed, beat together the eggs, flour, sugar and salt. Slowly add the hot milk and browned butter. Pour into a container with a spout, cover and refrigerate overnight.

2. Pastry cream: Bring the milk with the vanilla bean (and scrapings) to a boil, then set aside for 10 minutes; remove bean. Fill a large bowl with ice and set aside a small bowl that can hold the finished pastry cream and be placed in this ice bath.

3. In a medium heavy-bottomed pan, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar and cornstarch. Gradually whisk in the hot milk, then place pan over high heat and bring to a boil, whisking vigorously for 1 to 2 minutes. Press the pastry cream through a fine-meshed sieve into the small bowl. Set the bowl in the ice bath and stir until the temperature reaches 140 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. Stir in the butter. When completely cool, cover and refrigerate.

4. Assemble the cake the next day: Bring the batter to room temperature. Place a nonstick or seasoned 9-inch crepe pan over medium heat. Swab the surface with the oil, then add about 3 tablespoons batter and swirl to cover the surface. Cook until the bottom just begins to brown, about 1 minute, then carefully lift an edge and flip the crepe with your fingers. Cook on the other side for no longer than 5 seconds. Flip the crepe onto a baking sheet lined with parchment. Repeat until you have 20 perfect crepes.

5. Pass the pastry cream through a sieve once more. Whip the heavy cream with the tablespoon sugar. Fold it into the pastry cream.

6. Lay 1 crepe on a cake plate. Using an icing spatula, completely cover with a thin layer of pastry cream (about 1/4 to 1/3 cup). Cover with a crepe and repeat to make a stack of 20, with the best-looking crepe on top. Chill for at least 2 hours. Set out for 30 minutes before serving. If you have a blowtorch for creme brulee, sprinkle the top crepe with 2 tablespoons sugar and caramelize with the torch; otherwise, dust with confectioners’ sugar. Slice like a cake. 
Recipe from New York Times, 5/15/05 who adapted the batter from ”Joy of Cooking” and the pastry cream from ”Desserts,” by Pierre Herme and Dorie Greenspan, all via Smitten Kitchen and Dessert Club member A. M. 

Monday, May 14, 2012

Buttermilk Cheddar Biscuits

Oh, man.  I saw Ina Garten make these years ago, and I've been sitting on the recipe, as with so many others, until the time was right.

First of all, the flaky layers are awe-inspiring, how they rise, as they bake, into towers of pillowy satisfaction.  And those golden freckles of melted cheddar take them way, way over the top.

I'll concede, not the healthiest item on the blog.  But a cheddar biscuit goes with a lot of healthy things, like veg-loaded soups, salads, or omelettes.  Or it could just be your meal or snack, any time of day.  It is so tender, so flavorful, so darn deliciously flaky.

And thank you, Ina, you crazy upper-class diva with manicured gardens, beck-and-call husband, and fantasy-bubble life not a one of us can relate to.  Apparently I needed permission to make square, rather than round, biscuits, saving both time and dough.  And you gave it to me.  For that, and the nirvana that was eating one of these warm out of the oven, I thank you.
 Buttermilk Cheddar Biscuits (print recipe)
Makes 8 biscuits
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
1 T baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt
12 T cold unsalted butter, diced
1/2 cup buttermilk, shaken
1 cold extra-large egg
1 cup grated extra-sharp Cheddar cheese
1 egg, beaten with 1 T water or milk
Sea salt for sprinkling, optional

1.  Preheat oven to 425.

2.  Place 2 cups of flour, the baking powder, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  With the mixer on low, add the butter and mix until the butter is the size of peas.

3.  Combine the buttermilk and egg in a small measuring cup and beat lightly with a fork.  With the mixer still on low, quickly add the buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture and mix only until moistened.  In a small bowl, mix the Cheddar with a small handful of flour and, with the mixer still on low, add the cheese to the dough.  Mix only until roughly combined.

4.  Dump out onto a well-floured board and knead lightly about 6 times.  Roll the dough out to a rectangle 10 by 5 inches.  With a sharp, floured knife, cut the dough lengthwise in half and then across in quarters, making 8 rough rectangles.  Transfer to a sheet pan lined with parchment paper.  Brush the tops with the egg wash, sprinkle with salt, if using, and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the tops are browned and the biscuits are cooked through.  Serve hot or warm.

Recipe adapted from Ina Garten

Thursday, May 10, 2012

OREO's Birthday Cake

Finally, finally, here is the star of Dessert Club: Cakes!  This beaut won first place for PRETTY and second place for YUMMY, with a very discerning crowd, so you know it's amazing.  And I happen to know its maker worked long and hard to perfect it.

She was inspired by the birthday-cake-flavored Oreos that have been about, probably limited edition, to celebrate the classic cookie's 100th birthday.  I have always liked Oreos, but also took them for granted until I served a mission in Toronto, Canada, for eighteen months.  Turns out Canada's Oreos are different from America's - why did no one tell me?! - and I had to write home begging for regular installments of the "authentic" treat. 

And finally, just a trivia tidbit.  I've typed "oreo" so many times putting this post together, I had to wonder where the name came from.  Five seconds of research just taught me there is no definitive word on the matter, but the most popular theory is that the name is a combination of taking the "re" from "cream" and placing it between the two "o"s in "chocolate" - making "o-re-o."  Good enough for me.  
OREO’s Birthday Cake (print recipe)
Chocolate Oreo cake with Cake Batter Cream Cheese Frosting
In honor of, and inspired by, Oreo’s one hundredth birthday!

Birthday Cake Oreos - 1 package Oreos (21 cookies)
1.  Chop 12 Oreos (a little more than 1/2 of them), and toss with 2 Tbsps flour and set aside for the chocolate cake.
2.  Separate cookies from filling for remaining Oreos (9 cookies), reserve filling for frosting and cookies for decoration.

Chocolate Oreo Cake

Butter, for greasing the pans
1 3/4 cups flour, plus more for pans
2 cups sugar
3/4 cups cocoa powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk, shaken
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee (I used an “Americano” from an espresso machine)
1/2 package Oreos, prepared as above

1.  Preheat the oven to 350. Butter two 8-inch round cake pans. Line with parchment paper, then butter and flour the pans.

2.  Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix on low speed until combined. In another bowl, combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs and vanilla.

3.  With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry. With mixer still on low, add the coffee and stir just to combine, scraping the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula.
Stir in the Oreo chunks.

4.  Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 30 minutes, then turn them out onto a cooling rack and cool completely.

Cake Batter Cream Cheese Buttercream Frosting
2 stick salted butter, softened
8 oz cream cheese, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
5 cups powdered sugar
1 cup yellow cake mix (DRY MIX–NOT BATTER)
Filling only (not cookie part) from Oreos reserved for frosting, 9 cookies

1.  In the bowl of a mixer, beat butter, cream cheese, Oreo filling and extracts on medium speed until smooth. Add powdered sugar and cake mix and beat on low until just combined. Increase speed to medium and beat until fully combined.

2.  If frosting is too thick, mix in a bit of heavy cream or milk until desired consistency is reached.

Cake from Ina Garten adapted by Bean Town Baker
Frosting inspired by and but created by Dessert Club member S.W.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Blackberry-Swirl Pound Cake

 This amazing concoction was a bit of a happy accident.  VERY happy.

Over spring break I cleaned out the fridge, freezer, and cupboards and made an effort to use up some older stuff.  I had four bags of frozen blackberries in the back of the freezer, that I'd gotten last summer on a BOGO deal, and forgotten about.  I knew had a couple of blackberry recipes in my files, so I went hunting.

SO GLAD I went with this one.  Because this pound cake is UH-MAZING.  Light, tender, buttery, and sweet.  Everything a pound cake should be.  And with a blackberry swirl?!  So delicious.
Blackberry-Swirl Pound Cake (print recipe)
Makes 9 servings
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
6 ounces blackberries (1 1/3 cups)
1 1/4 cups plus 2 T sugar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp coarse salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
2 large eggs, slightly beaten
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup sour cream, room temperature

1.  Preheat oven to 350.  Lightly butter a 5-by-9-inch loaf pan and line with parchment, leaving a 2-inch overhang.  Butter parchment.  Good luck with this.  I just use my really good nonstick spray and skip the parchment.

2.  In a food processor, puree blackberries with 2 T sugar.  In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, salt, and baking powder.

3.  In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat together butter and 1 1/4 cups sugar until light and fluffy, 5 minutes.  Add eggs and vanilla and beat to combine, scraping down bowl as needed.  With mixer on low, add flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with sour cream, beginning and ending with flour mixture.

4.  Transfer half the batter to pan and dot with 1/2 cup blackberry puree.  Repeat with remaining batter and puree.  With a skewer or thin-bladed knife, swirl batter and puree together.  Bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, about 1 1/4 hours.  Let cool in pan on a wire rack 30 minutes.  Lift cake out of pan and place on a serving plate.  Let cool completely before slicing.

Recipe from Everyday Food, July/Aug 2010

In fact, after making it with blackberries, I thought, this is so easy, I could make it with any fruit!  So the next week, I made it with strawberry swirl.  And with had it for strawberry shortcake.  Heaven. 

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