Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Little Beef Wellingtons

For Thanksgiving I roasted a huge Turkey and ate it and ate it and ate it. So for Christmas I wanted something different. I'd made Beef Wellington once before but with a beef tenderloin going for a whopping $75 I decided to trim it down. Instead I bought three small fillet mignons. I browned them in some butter and then cooled them to room temperature. In the same pan I sauteed some finely chopped mushrooms and a tablespoon of sherry. Since I don't like liver pate, I left that out of this recipe. To cheat a little I did use premade frozen puff pastry BUT I did go for the fancy all-butter kind by Dufour. Yum! I rolled it out and cut it into squares. A steak was placed in the middle of each and then the pastry was crimped together like a dumpling. I cut mini snowflakes out of the fourth square and "pasted" them on with a little water. An egg wash cemented all the pastry together and then I popped it in the oven at 400 degrees. Thirty minutes later, golden brown mini beef wellingtons emerged from the oven and onto our waiting Christmas plates. Admittedly, they don't look as perfect as I'd have liked them. Next time (and there will be a next time) I will probably wrap them in the pastry and put the seams on the bottom so they have a smoother, showier look. Despite their rough edges they were very tasty. Too bad I can't afford to have this kind of dinner every day.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Luke’s Monkey Cake

For Luke’s 1st birthday, I decided to create a cake based on his favorite stuffed animal: a monkey. I googled monkey cakes and found a dizzying array of ideas, but my favorite came from Martha Stewart. No surprise there. The recipe was for a banana cake with yellow and chocolate buttercream frosting. I baked the cake in a stainless steel bowl, cut into three layers to add a little height, and frosted. The ears were made of a cupcake cut in half. The cake was lots of fun to make and tasted very much like banana bread with decadent frosting. Luke certainly enjoyed it.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Better than a Reese's

Normally I am a chocolate snob - Valrhona, Scharffen Berger, Callebaut. But when confronted with a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup, I have no control. I could eat a whole bag. So, when I received my December issue of Cook's Country and opened it to their cookie contest, I was already planning my grocery list. Their contest winner entered a cookie called Fudgy Peanut Butter Mousse Cups. It was a bit of work but soooooo worth it.

The easy part was mixing a bag of sugar cookie mix with some chopped pecans and melted butter. This was pressed into the cups of a mini muffin pan and baked until golden brown. Once these cooled, a teaspoon of ganache was poured into each cookie cup. A mixture of peanut butter, cream cheese, powdered sugar, vanilla, and whipped cream formed the "mousse". I used a tiny ice cream scoop to divide this among the cups. Then more ganache was drizzled on top. Finally, a stint in the refrigerator firmed them up so they didn't gush all over when bitten.

I didn't eat the WHOLE pan but I admit I didn't leave many for my husband. Oops. Guess I'll have to make them again. Soon.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Snowman Cakes

For the bake sale at our church, I had a delicious vanilla cake I made from scratch a week prior waiting in the freezer. I was not sure what I wanted to do, but I wanted it to be playful and fun. I decided to use my biscuit cutters to punch out circles of cake to create snowmen. I cut my cake rounds in half to add a layer of butter cream. Then I cut the head circle first, overlapped into that hole slightly to cut the middle, and overlapped again into the open hole to cut the bottom. When I put them all together, they fit like puzzle pieces. I did a simple glaze of powdered sugar, meringue powder, and water over the top. I took a few coatings to get the white opaque. I used my left over white glaze and created colors for the eye, nose, etc. I should have thickened it a bit more, but it worked ok. Packaging for the sale was tricky because the cakes would pull apart easily. I placed them on rectangles of cardboard wrapped in wax paper and used cardboard cake rounds scored and folded to hold that rectangle in place. Getting only 5 total snowmen out of my cake, I decided to add to my bake sale offering with some mint chocolate covered graham crackers and pretzels. Thank goodness bake sale season is over!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Peppermint Biscotti

‘Tis the season to eat! As I contemplated recipes for two upcoming bake sales, I was asked to please not make chocolate chip cookies. Apparently, there are too many folks donating those this year. With “The Chewy” sidelined, I needed something different. A standout in the mile-long table of baggie cookied bliss. Biscotti! Tasty with a hot beverage, lasts for weeks, and endless decorative options. A glance in the pantry told me I had some peppermint extract in need of use, so peppermint became the default flavor. The italian treat was not one in my repertoire, but it was easy to make with the right recipe. The first I tried was a true italian recipe with no butter. The cookie was hard as promised, but I added a bit too much extract and gagged on the results. Sam loved it. I ventured off into an oil based recipe for the second batch. This created a more american style biscotti with a softer texture. No good. The third time was thankfully just right with 4T of butter and just 1/4t of extract. I couldn't decide how I wanted to decorate them, so I tried four different ways and liked them all. I continued doing all four and each bag for the sale has the four unique designs. Hopefully I’ll stop eating them before they make it into bags tonight.