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."

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Parker House Rolls

I have no idea what "Parker House" is. All I know is, we went strawberry picking. So I made freezer jam. So I wanted a really good dinner roll to put it on. So I found this recipe and it looked as good as any to try. Unfortunately it was lacking in some details, like how thick to roll it, or how many rolls it makes. But I think I can wing a roll recipe.

OK, fine, a simple internet search informed me Parker House rolls are "made by flattening a ball of dough with a rolling pin so it becomes oval-shaped, then folding the oval in half. " Check. "They are made with milk and are generally quite buttery, soft and slightly sweet with a crispy shell." Well, lucky me. I chose well. Didn't even know the definition but it was exactly what I was looking for.

And now, lucky you. Because I am giving you a good recipe, the dough part of which can be made in the bread machine (or not), with some details filled in. So whip these up and get your jam on.

Parker House Rolls
1 1/3 cups milk
2 to 3 T butter
1 egg
1 T plus 1 tsp granulated sugar
2/3 tsp salt (I know, what a ridiculous measurement! Just estimate)
3 1/3 cups bread flour
1 pkg (2 1/4 tsp) yeast

Finishing touches:
About 3 T butter, melted
1 egg, beaten

1. Warm milk in microwave or on stovetop until skin temperature or just warmer. Add in butter so it melts a little but not all the way. Add to bread machine pan. Add egg and the rest of the roll ingredients. Choose DOUGH cycle and press START.

2. Remove dough to a clean, floured surface. Knead for about 5 minutes, adding flour as needed. Roll out to about 1/2 to 3/4-inch thickness and cut using a 2 1/2-inch round cookie or biscuit cutter. Brush tops with melted butter. Fold circles in half and place in buttered muffin tins. Cover and let rise 35 to 45 minutes (mine rose longer because I didn't think ahead and preheat the oven during this rise.) WHILE THEY ARE RISING, PREHEAT OVEN TO 400.

3. If you didn't already, preheat oven to 400. Brush roll tops with beaten egg and bake for 17 to 22 minutes (I slightly overcooked mine at 25 min.) Serve warm or room temperature. Yum! Makes about 15 rolls.
Recipe from

Monday, May 24, 2010

Chock-Full of Chocolate Chip Cookies

Backstory: Elinor Klivans, author of The Essential Chocolate Chip Cookbook, wanted to see just how many chocolate chips she could cram into a cookie. Pure genius! So she put together a really good dough and added chips until it was bursting, or rather, "chock-full." Turned out to be about 2 cups of dough to 4 cups of chocolate chips (most chocolate chip cookie recipes have reverse proportions), which came out to about 50 chocolate chips in each cookie. Will someone please give this woman an award?
When I made them, I doubled the recipe and could only bring myself to add 6 cups of chips. It was practically all chips in the bowl and I was afraid if I added any more the cookies wouldn't hold together! It's not that I don't believe, Elinor. It's that I have to ease into it. Next time I'll add more, I promise. Eventually I will get to your level. And it will be a whole lot of fun getting there.
Chock-Full of Chocolate Chip Cookies
1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
6 T granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 cups (24 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips

1. Position a rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat oven to 350. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment or silicone liners.

2. Sift the flour, baking soda, and salt into a medium bowl and set aside.

3. In a large electric mixer bowl, beat butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar on medium speed until smoothly blended, about 1 minutes. Stop the mixer and scrape the sides of the bowl as needed during mixing. Add the egg and vanilla and mix until blended, about 1 minute. On low speed, add the flour mixture, mixing just until incorporated. Mix in the chocolate chips by hand using wooden spoon until evenly distributed.

4. Use a tablespoon to drop heaping spoonfuls of dough (about 3 level tablespoons each) onto the prepared baking sheets, spacing the cookies 3 inches apart. Bake cookies one sheet at a time until the edges are slightly browned and the centers are golden, about 15 minutes. Cool the cookies on the baking sheets for 3 to 6 minutes. Use a wide metal spatula to transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. Makes about 27 cookiesRecipe from:

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Chocolate Chip Date Cookies

I'd never actually eaten a date straight until I opened the can for this recipe. I'd had some kind of totally unfounded bias against dates, much as with prunes, as something I didn't want to eat. But when I went to England last year, and tasted the heaven that is Sticky Toffee Pudding, I decided if dates are good enough for that, they're good enough for me. (I have a couple of Sticky Toffee Pudding recipes on file and will eventually make one.)
So I bought them and opened the can and started to chop for these cookies. I picked up a piece and popped it in my mouth. Chewy, yes, sweet, yes, just as one would expect of dried fruit. Waiting for the flavor, waiting. And then it came. Very, very mild. Almost like a raisin but much less raisin flavor. In fact, I realized dates are PERFECT for baking because they are soft, sweet, and chewy and have very little flavor of their own. Especially when surrounded by chocolate, as they are in these cookies. Yay for dates! Let me just see what else I can make with them...

Chocolate Chip Date Cookies
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1/2 cup milk
2 tsp baking soda
1 egg
1 1/2 cup flour
2/3 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 cup dates, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup chopped nuts (pecans or walnuts)
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
Confectioners' sugar, for dusting

1. Preheat oven to 375. In a large bowl, cream butter and brown sugar. Mix milk with baking soda; add to butter mixture. Add egg and beat to blend thoroughly. Mix in flour and cocoa; blend thoroughly.

2. Stir in dates, nuts and chocolate chips. Drop by heaping teaspoonfuls, 2 inches apart, on parchment-lined cookie sheets. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until springy to the touch. Remove to a wire rack to cool. Dust with confectioners' sugar. Makes about 3 dozen.

Recipe from Fairfax County Chocolate Lover's Festival Cookbook

Friday, May 14, 2010

Triple-Decker Strawberry Cake with Strawberry Buttercream Frosting

(I know, I know. "That's not Strawberry Frosting," you say. I can't fool you people for one second. Just read on and everything will be explained.)

Berry season is coming up, and there's nothing like fresh strawberries. But honestly I can get pretty good ones year-round at the grocery store so it's always a good time of year to make this cake. But don't substitute frozen - they get too mushy and juicy. I think it's important to have at least one big pink cake in your repertoire; you never know when it will come in handy, especially in a house like mine, full of girls.
This cake is supposed to be frosted with Strawberry Buttercream Frosting (recipe follows.) But for my daughter's birthday this year she wanted a strawberry cake with chocolate frosting, and in our house the birthday girl gets what the birthday girl wants, at least when it comes to cake. It was still really good with the chocolate, but I think it would be out-of-this-world with strawberry frosting, or even simple vanilla.

Triple-Decker Strawberry Cake (print recipe)
1 pkg (18.25 oz.) plain white cake mix
1 pkg (3 oz.) strawberry gelatin
4 T all-purpose flour
1 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup whole milk
4 large eggs
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh strawberries and juice

1. Preheat oven to 350. Spray three 9-inch round cake pans with nonstick cooking spray, then line the bottoms with rounds of wax or parchment paper, also sprayed. Set pans aside.

2. Place all cake ingredients (cake mix through strawberries with juice) in a large mixing bowl and blend on low speed for 1 minute. Stop machine and scrape down sides. Increase mixer speed to medium and beat for 2 minutes more. Divide the batter among the prepared pans and place in oven on center rack. (If your oven is not large enough, place two pans on the center rack and place the third pan in the center of the highest rack.)

3. Bake cakes until they spring back when lightly pressed with your fingers and just start to pull away from the sides of the pans, 33 to 35 minutes. Remove from oven and cool on wire racks for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the edges, invert each onto a rack, remove wax or parchment paper from bottom, and invert again onto a wire rack to cool completely (so the cakes are right side up.) Allow to cool completely, 30 minutes more.

4. Prepare the frosting and assemble the cake.
Since we had strawberry cake with chocolate frosting for her family-party, I made chocolate cupcakes with strawberry frosting for my daughter's friends-party. I pretty much just wanted that frosting! It makes plenty so I had lots leftover to make graham cracker sandwich treats, which I love with any flavor frosting, but they are especially great with this fresh fruity spread.
Strawberry Buttercream Frosting
8 T (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
4 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted, or more if needed
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh strawberries and juice, or more if needed
1 cup halved fresh strawberries, optional, for garnish

1. Place butter in large mixing bowl and blend on low until fluffy, 20 seconds. Stop the machine and add 4 cups powdered sugar and 1/2 cup strawberries with juice. Blend on low speed until the frosting is creamy and of a spreadable consistency. If it is too thin, add more sugar; too thick, add more chopped strawberries.

2. To assemble cake, stack layers right side up with frosting between each. You can do 1/3 of the frosting between each layer and on top and leave the sides unfrosted, torte style, with strawberry halves to garnish the top. Or you can do a little less between each layer and finish it by frosting the top and sides. Either way is fabulicious.

Recipe adapted from:

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Chocolate Chip Muffins

I am still working my way through that Williams-Sonoma Muffins cookbook. This is probably one of the simplest recipes in there, but simple is so welcome sometimes. You know it will be good. You know it will be easy. You know people will like it. And yet it's a new recipe, so it's still a bit of an adventure, not the same thing you always make.

Muffins are always best fresh or eaten within a day. Some lend themselves to a season but these are just as good with hot cocoa as they are with lemonade, so just keep them in your back pocket for that time when you want to whip something up from scratch without having to go shopping. Mmm, I could go for one right now...

Chocolate Chip Muffins
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
3/4 cup buttermilk
2 large eggs
1 T vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat the oven to 350. Grease 12 standard muffin cups with butter or nonstick cooking spray or line with paper liners.

2. In a bowl, whisk together the melted butter, buttermilk, eggs, and vanilla until smooth.

3. In another bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Make a well in the center and add the buttermilk mixture. Beat until smooth and well-mixed, about 1 to 2 minutes. Using a large rubber spatula, fold in teh chocolate chips just until evenly distributed. Do not over mix.

4. Spoon the batter into each muffin cup, filling it level with the rim of the cup.

5. Bake until golden, dry and springy to the touch, 20 to 25 minutes. A toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean. Transfer pan to wire rack to cool for 5 minutes, then unmold muffins and let cool completely. Serve at room temperature.

Recipe from:

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

5-Minute Mug Cake

It's not pretty. It's not elegant. It's not delicate. It's not "the best cake I've ever had." But it's pretty good. And it's hot. And it's fast. And it's chocolate. And it might be just what you needed this afternoon.Of course the biggest problem with baking is that it takes so much time. Other problems are that it takes so many ingredients, it makes so many servings (and my family won't eat it all so I either have to wait for company, eat it myself, or throw it away.) Too often if I need "just a little something" I go for something store-bought and not that good, like an Oreo or a Tootsie Roll. Ho-hum.

But. This little mug cake changes that. It was super quick to make; I didn't time it but from starting to pull the ingredients out to putting it in the microwave was probably 5 minutes or less. And then it cooks for about 3 minutes. And then you have a fresh, hot, slightly pudding-y chocolate cake ready to be spooned out and nearly-burn-your-tongue-on. If you've got ice cream, throw on a scoop. In fact, you could probably whip one of these up during a commercial break, put it in the microwave, and then run back to get it when it beeps or at the next break (if you ever actually get to sit down and watch TV. I remember those days.) So cozy. So needed.5-Minute Mug Cake
4 T cake flour or all-purpose flour
4 T sugar
2 T unsweetened cocoa powder
1 egg
3 T milk
3 T oil
3 T chocolate chips
Splash of vanilla extract
1 medium-to-large mug

1. Add dry ingredients to mug, and mix well. Add the egg and mix thoroughly. Pour in the milk and oil and mix well. Add the chocolate chips and vanilla, and mix again. Make sure there's nothing dry at the bottom.

2. Place mug in the microwave and cook for 3 minutes (at 1000 watts.) The cake will rise over the top of the mug, then sink when it's taken out. Allow to cool a little, and tip some out onto a plate or eat from the mug. Serves 1 to 2.Recipe from Fairfax Chocolate Lovers Festival Cookbook, 2009

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Lemon Layer Cake with Lemon Cream Frosting

One of my fluffier pleasure reads lately was a novel called Eat Cake by Jeanne Ray. It was kind of enjoyable, not particularly inspiring or redeeming. In fact, it made me even more nervous than I already am to enter middle age. Not really what I needed right now. Our heroine is at the center of a family fraught with changes - kids, husband, parents all going through things, needing help from her in different ways. Losing herself in serving everyone else, and only escaping when she can make a cake, which she eventually *SPOILER* tries to turn into a business. Naturally, cake recipes abound at the end of the book so at least I took those away with me before returning it to the library. Several are boozey - not my piece of cake - but a couple looked really good including this lemony tower.

The cake is very good, with a nice crumb, though I might add some lemon extract next time. But the star of the show is the cream frosting, which is simply whipped cream folded in with homemade lemon curd. I salivate just thinking of it. It's easy to make, not too different from lemon pie filling, and so awesome turned into a cake topping. Be sure to refrigerate it, though, if there's any left after serving. Whipped cream does not do so well sitting out at room temperature.Lemon Layer Cake with Lemon Cream Frosting
2 cups sifted cake flour (not self-rising; sift before measuring)
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup whole milk
2 1/2 T fresh lemon juice
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs

1. Preheat oven to 375. Butter two 8-inch round cake pans and line bottoms of each with rounds of wax or parchment paper. Butter paper and dust pans with flour, knocking out excess.
2. To make cake, sift together flour, baking soda, and salt. Stir together milk and lemon juice (mixture will curdle and that's a good thing.)

3. Beat butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer until creamy. Gradually add sugar, beating until pale and fluffy. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Alternately add flour mixture and milk mixture in batches, beginning and ending with flour, mixing at low speed until just combined.
4. Divide batter between pans, smoothing tops. Bake in middle of oven until a tester comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Cool in pans on racks 10 minutes, then invert onto racks, remove paper, and cool completely.

*(This batter can be baked in 16 muffin cups for about 15 minutes; or in a 9x13 pan about 25 minutes. Halve cake crosswise to form two 9x6.5-inch rectangles and layer in same manner as described below.)

Lemon Cream Frosting
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup confectioners sugar
Lemon curd (recipe follows), chilled

1. Beat cream and confectioners' sugar with clean whisk beaters until it just holds stiff peaks. Fold one third of whipped cream into chilled lemon curd to lighten, then fold in remaining whipped cream.

2. To assemble cake, put 1 cake layer, rounded side up, on a cake plate and spread with one fourth of frosting. Top with second layer, rounded side up, and spread top and sides with remaining frosting.

Lemon Curd (for frosting)
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tsp finely grated fresh lemon zest
1/2 cup sugar
3 large eggs
3/4 stick (6 T) unsalted butter, cut into bits

1. Whisk together juice, zest, sugar and eggs in a 2-quart saucepan. Stir in butter and cook over moderately low heat, whisking frequently, until curd is thick enough to hold marks of whisk and first bubble appears on surface, about 6 minutes.

2. Transfer lemon curd to a bowl and chill, its surface covered with plastic wrap, until cold, at least 1 hour. Makes about 1 1/3 cups

Recipe from Gourmet Magazine, January 2001 via:
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