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, June 28, 2012

Dessert Club - Frrrozen!

 We've had a nice couple of weather days here, in the 80's with low humidity.  But tomorrow it's supposed to start cranking up again to that serious southern heat natives and transplants alike dread so much.  Excellent timing to post D.C.'s Frozen Night.

 As usual, we found the possibilities endless, and, in an effort to seriously up my own game, I even tested some recipes in preparation.  You will see, none of us were disappointed.

Maple Bacon Pops

Butterbeer Ice Cream Sandwiches

Berry Ice Cream Pie with Coconut Whipped Cream

Ice Cream Crunch Bars

Chocolate-Covered Key Lime Pie on a Stick 
(even better than it sounds!!!)

Almost-Famous Chocolate Mousse Cake 

Torrone Semifreddo

Raspberry Ice Cream

Raspberry-Ginger Popsicles with Lemon Mousse Stripes

...and the winner of the evening, a molded confection of mango, coconut, blackberry, and blood orange...
Tropical Mosaic...

 ...with Homemade Magic Shell!

 We just never seem to fail to outdo ourselves.  I have to admit to being disappointed for not winning - I really loved both of my creations.  But am I surprised?  Everything, as always, was so delicious, exciting, and most importantly, COLD, that, as always, it was hard to choose.

 Here's my plate.  Unfortunately, take-home husband plates are hard to manage when we do Frozen Night, and believe me, I heard about it from several husbands, before and after.  One of them even has an internal clock that resets itself so whenever I see him he tells me how many days until the next Dessert Club.  Luckily for them, though sadly for us, Frozen Night only comes once a year.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Chocolate Peanut Butter Snack Bars

 Just to be clear.  These chewy gooey squares are NOT for dessert.  They are SNACK bars, and a snack is anything eaten between meals, including before know, while your whole wheat bread is toasting.

I know they have chocolate, butter, and sugar in them.  BUT.  There are also three different whole grains, and the healthy-ish benefits of peanut butter and dark chocolate.  In fact, in the name of transparency, I ran a recipe analyzer on these, and include the nutritional info at the bottom.   Definitely more indulgent than a cup of baby carrots, but for 170 calories, a better, and infinitely more satisfying, choice than something from the vending machine.  (That is, if you can eat just one!)

Peanut Butter and Chocolate Snack Bars (print recipe)
Makes 16 bars

3 tablespoons softened butter
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1/3 cup peanut butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
2 tablespoons milled flax seed
1 cup whole oats
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup dark chocolate chips (semi-sweet)

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and sugars on medium speed until creamy, 4-5 minutes. Add egg, vanilla and peanut butter. Beat until combined. Add cocoa powder and beat on low speed to prevent cocoa powder flying in your face!

2.  In a separate bowl, combined flour, wheat flour, flax seed, oats, baking soda and salt. Mix together. Combine dry ingredients into wet ingredients and stir until moistened. You may need to use your hands to get it all combined. Add chocolate chips and combine. Pour mixture into a greased 8-inch square baking dish. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until gooey and delicious. Serve immediately, or cut into bars and store.

Per bar: Cal 169, Fat 7.9g (Sat 3.4g), Chol 16mg, Sod 104mg, Carb 23.1g, Fiber 1.4g, Sugars 13.2g, Protein 3.8g

Recipe from Jenna Laughs

Saturday, June 16, 2012

High-Rise Lemon-Poppy Seed Muffins

 Ugh, FINALLY!  I FINALLY have a great lemon-poppy seed muffin recipe!  Everyone shout it with me,

To this point, I've been making - and gobbling - my Tuscan Lemon Muffins when I needed a good lemon fix.  And those are still nothing to scoff at, I love them.  But it's embarrassing; shouldn't every self-respecting baker have a rockin' lemon-poppy seed recipe?  If so, why are they so hard to find?

This recipe comes from Cook's Country, which always gives happy results.  (Although I had to change the yield, syrup proportions, and baking time for some reason.)  But in addition to results, for every single recipe they publish, they explain 1) what they were going for, 2) problems they faced, and 3) how they overcame the problems to achieve perfection, or nearly.  In this article, they were going for "a light crumb; a neat, rounded top; a balance of sugar and tang (it's breakfast, not dessert, after all); ease (anything made before 8 a.m. must meet that criterion); poppy seeds (obviously); and a bright and significant lemon presence."  Check.  Check, check, check, check, check.  I love that high, rounded top, and the flavor balance, perfect.  Enjoy!
High-Rise Lemon-Poppy Seed Muffins (print recipe)

Makes 20 muffins

3 cups (15 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 cup (7 ounces) sugar, plus 1/2 cup for the syrup
3 T poppy seeds
1 T baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups plain yogurt
2 large eggs
1 T grated lemon zest plus 1/4 cup juice (from 2 lemons)
8 T unsalted butter, melted and cooled

1.  Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees.  Grease standard muffin tin(s) to make 20 muffins.

2.  Whisk flour, 1 cup sugar, poppy seeds, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl.  In second bowl, whisk yogurt, eggs, and lemon zest together until smooth.  Fold yogurt mixture into flour mixture with rubber spatula until just combined.  Fold in melted butter.  (Batter can be refrigerated in covered container up to 24 hours.)

3.  Using a muffin scoop or greased 1/3-cup measure, fill muffin cups 2/3 to 3/4 full.  Bake until golden brown and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 18 to 20 minutes, rotating pan halfway through baking.

4.  Meanwhile, combine remaining 1/4 cup sugar and lemon juice in small saucepan.   Cook over medium heat until slightly syrupy, about 3 minutes.  Let muffins cool in pan for 5 minutes, then flip out onto wire rack.  Brush with warm syrup and let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Recipe adapted from Cook's Country, April/May 2012  

1 year ago: Watermelon-Jalapeno Popsicles 
2 years ago: Mint Lemonade
3 years ago: Sour Cream Hazelnut Bundt Cake 

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Pistachio Pound Cake

 For Mother's Day we had the whole clan over - my family, my parents, my brother & his family; thirteen in all.  Obviously, one dessert was not going to be enough. So I took my big stack of gotta-makes, and narrowed it down to two that I really, really wanted to try and that would complement each other if served side-by-side. 

First, this gorgeous pistachio loaf flavored with bright but subtle citrus and chock full of chopped pistachios; I never tire of how they make baked goods look and taste.  (And don't hold that overdone edge against the recipe; it's my pan for sure, I have cheap ones.  But since then have replaced some with my Mother's Day Williams Sonoma gift's to a future of even baking!)

Bon Appétit designates a couple pages at the beginning of each issue to recipes that readers have asked the magazine to request from restaurants they love.  I love it; they'd never give a house recipe to a customer who asks for it, but if Bon Appétit comes calling, they often do.  I've gotten some of my favorite recipes from this feature, this one included.  BA says, "Chef Raymond Vadergaag [of The Tasting Room in Houston] dresses up this citrusy cake with whipped cream and truffled honey, an unnecessary but welcome gilding of the lily."  And that's why I'm a blogger instead of a real writer.  At least I have good taste.
Pistachio Pound Cake (print recipe)
An original recipe from The Tasting Room at CityCentre in Houston
Serves 8 to 10

Nonstick vegetable oil spray
2 cups all-purpose flour plus more for pan
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
5 large eggs
2 T fresh lemon juice
2 T fresh orange juice
2 tsp finely grated orange zest
1 tsp finely grated lime zest
1 cup shelled, unsalted pistachios, coarsely chopped, divided

1.  Arrange rack in middle of oven; preheat to 325.  Coat a 9x5x3" loaf pan with nonstick spray.  Dust pan with flour; tap out excess.

2.  Whisk 2 cups flour, salt and baking powder in a medium bowl.  Using an electric mixer, beat butter on medium speed until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes.  Add sugar; beat until well incorporated, 1 to 2 minutes.  Add eggs one at a time, beating to blend between additions.  Add juices and zests; beat until well combined (mixture will look curdled), 2 to 3 minutes.  Add dry ingredients; reduce speed to low and beat just until blended.  Fold in 3/4 cup pistachios.  Pour batter into prepared pan; smooth top.  Sprinkle remaining 1/4 cup pistachios over.

3.  Bake cake, rotating halfway through, until a tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 1 1/2 hours.  Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely in pan.  Run a sharp knife around sides to loosen; unmold cake. 

(Can be made 1 day ahead.  Store airtight at room temperature.)
Recipe courtesy of Bon Appétit, April 2012

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Frozen Strawberry Souffles

Here she is, the adorable PINK winner of Dessert Club: Colors!  It was funny because the woman that made these was a little disappointed in them - "they taste like strawberry jam" (and what's wrong with that?) - and was very surprised when I announced she had won.  Which is all part of the fabulous fun that is Dessert Club.  But the rest of us, obviously, were impressed.  They were super fresh, summery, and creamy, three of my favorite traits in a dessert.  I'm sorry you couldn't be at D.C., but with these, you can make them and pretend.

Frozen Strawberry Souffles (print recipe)

Makes 6

4 pints fresh strawberries, rinsed and hulled
4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
5 1/2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
3 cups heavy cream
  1. Puree strawberries, lemon juice, and 3 cups sugar in a food processor. Press through a fine sieve into a bowl, discarding pulp. You should have 6 cups puree.

  2. Prepare an ice bath; set aside. In a medium heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water, dissolve gelatin in 3 tablespoons cold water. Add 1 1/2 cups of the strawberry puree; return mixture to bowl with remaining strawberry puree.

  3. Set bowl in ice bath until mixture is chilled and slightly thick, about 20 minutes, stirring frequently. In a separate bowl, whip 2 cups cream to stiff peaks, and fold into strawberry mixture.

  4. Cut parchment paper into 16 strips, each 2 3/4 by 10 inches. Tape each strip around a 3-ounce ramekin so it extends above the rim by about 2 inches. Place ramekins on a rimmed baking sheet; fill each with about 1/2 cup strawberry mixture. Freeze until set, about 3 hours.

  5. Remove from freezer 20 minutes before serving; remove parchment collars. Whip remaining cup cream with 2 tablespoons sugar. Serve souffles with whipped cream and strawberry slices.
Recipe from Martha Stewart

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Red Velvet Scones

 This.  This is what I would have made if I had gotten "red" for Dessert Club.  I'm not bitter.  I ordered a bottle of Red Velvet Cake Flavor from King Arthur Flour to be part of the "Colors" Dessert Club prize.  But when it arrived, I changed my mind and kept it for myself.  And used it to make these scones.  And I am not sorry one bit.

I think I patted them a bit too short.  But otherwise, delicious.  Winners.  One more recipe to give scones a good name. 

And that flavor!  It lends both the gorgeous red color (so you don't have to use all your food coloring) and a je ne sais quois flavor - chocolate with a subtle fruity hint?

Red Velvet Scones (print recipe)
Makes 12 to 14


3/4 cup heavy cream
1 large egg
1 tablespoon red velvet cake flavor
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup natural cocoa powder
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
sparkling white sugar, for decorating

1/2 cup cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup (2 ounces) confectioners' sugar, sifted
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract 

1 cup heavy or whipping cream 
1/2 pint fresh raspberries, for serving 
1. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Lightly grease a baking sheet, or line with parchment paper.

2. To make the scones: Combine the cream, egg, and flavor. Set aside.

3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa, sugar, baking powder, and salt.

4. Work in the butter until the mixture is crumbly.

5. Add the cream mixture, stirring just until the dough comes together.

6. On a lightly floured surface, shape the dough into a 1"-thick circle.

7. Cut scones into 2 1/8" rounds, and transfer to the prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle with sparkling sugar, if desired.

8. Bake the scones for 15 to 17 minutes. Remove them from the oven, and transfer to a rack to cool.

9. To make the filling: Beat the cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla until fluffy.

10. Add the cream, and whip until soft peaks form.

11. For each serving, split a scone in half; dollop on filling; add berries, and top with the other half of the scone.

Recipe from King Arthur Flour

1 year ago:  Coconut-Lime Berry Cake
2 years ago:  Perfection Pound Cake
3 years ago:  Fudge Ecstasies

Sunday, June 3, 2012

A Study in Blue

Is anyone else head over heels for the new Sherlock series?  I'm mad for it, dangling from the Season 2 cliffhanger by my fingernails.  The first episode of Season 1 is called "A Study in Pink", so I'm paying all geniuses involved  a little homage here as I wade through last month's efforts to come up with something blue for Dessert Club.

After realizing I'd just drawn the worst possible color, I set to brainstorming every possible way I could interpret "blue" into a dessert.  Bleu cheese.  Blue cornmeal/corn chip.  Blueberries.  Dried blueberries.  Blueberry preserves.  Blue raspberry.  Blue Jell-o (whatever flavor that is.)  Blue cotton candy.  "Blue ribbon ______." 

I first thought of some kind of blue corn muffin with a sweet blue cheese spread.  I ordered some blue cornmeal and collected recipes, intent on avoiding the "easy" route of just making something with blueberries, in favor of a more creative, and, if I was lucky, pleasantly surprising creation.  So I made some blue corn muffins.  A few kinds in fact.      
But they weren't very blue.  And they weren't very good.  Not when I would be competing with colors like white, pink, and brown.  Next I tried a blue corn biscotti with dried blueberries and pine nuts.  Sounded promising.  But even a dip in blueberry syrup or blue-white chocolate coating couldn't redeem them.  Where was Sherlock when I needed him?!

I looked at recipes I could make with blue Jell-o - poke cupcakes and the like, but I just couldn't bring myself to avoid natural foods that were at least close to the color blue, or blue in name.  So I reluctantly but resignedly turned to the blueberry.

I wasn't down about it for too long, though, because there are some amazing blueberry recipes out there.  I looked at blueberry crisp marshmallows, blueberry pie pops, and even considered trying to make a blueberry bagel (still might.)  In the end, I settled on a blueberry doughnut, because I simply love my doughnut pans and don't use them enough.  When my test batch came out of the oven, I started to look around the kitchen to see what on earth I could use to crank up the blue factor.  

I mashed blueberries to make the glaze, but it was really a bright pink more than a blue or purple, so I did add a few drops of blue food coloring.  Then I found a genius discovery in the back of my baking cupboard - a jar of lavender sugar my sister-in-law sent me from England, which I cherished but hadn't really known what to do with.
I glazed, sprinkled, took notes for next time, and I had my recipe.
The night of Dessert Club, I added dried lavender to the batter as well as the topping, just a little for some essence.  I took out the cinnamon and added a hint of nutmeg and ginger. 

And I stacked them all up on a bed of blue rock candy from World Market.
I didn't win Dessert Club this time around.  But I had quite a journey getting there.  It was good for me, having to think and improvise, push past my comfort zone, and risk making a mistake that would be all mine.  Kinda like a certain detective I know. 

Lavender-Blueberry Doughnuts (print recipe)
Makes about 24 doughnuts

3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp dried lavender buds
1/2 cup butter, melted and slightly cooled
1 cup buttermilk
3 large eggs, beaten
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup fresh blueberries, rinsed, picked over, and dried

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
Scant 1/4 cup fresh blueberries, mashed
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
2 to 3 drops blue food coloring, optional
Lavender sugar, for sprinkling

1.  Preheat the oven to 375 an position an oven rack in the center.  Lightly coat the doughnut pans with nonstick cooking spray.

2.  To make the doughnuts, in a large bowl, combine the flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg, ginger and lavender with a whisk. 

3.  In a medium bowl, combine the melted butter, buttermilk, eggs, and vanilla with a whisk until foamy, 1 to 2 minutes.  Pour the egg mixture into the flour mixture and stir with a large wooden spoon until completely combined.  Gently fold in the blueberries until just combined.  Do not overmix.

4.  Using a pastry bag with a hole cut in the tip just larger than a blueberry, divide the batter equally among the doughnut wells.  Bake the doughnuts for 8 to 10 minutes, until they spring back when lightly touched.  Remove them from the oven, invert the doughnuts on a wire rack, and allow them to cool completely.

5.  To make the glaze, combine the powdered sugar, mashed blueberries, lemon zest, and as much lemon juice as needed to make the right consistency.  Dip the top of each doughnut in the glaze and lift, allowing excess to drip back into the bowl.  Alternatively, use a pastry brush to "paint" the glaze over each warm doughnut.  Sprinkle with lavender sugar and serve.

Recipe adapted from So Sweet: Cookies, Cupcakes, Whoopie Pies and More from Sur La Table

1 year ago: Pistachio-Cardamom Cupcakes with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting (my Frosting for the Cause post)
2 years ago: Strawberry-Buttermilk Sherbet (so good)
3 years ago: Double Chocolate Mall Muffins
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