November 2009

Red Velvet Cupcakes

Today I am going to introduce you to a friend of mine, Angela AKA SpinachTiger. We met just a few weeks ago during the FoodBuzz Festival in San Francisco and although I haven’t known her for an extended period of time, I feel like we’ve been long time friends.

Angela happens to be a very talented, creative, funny, and outgoing food blogger. To help put that into perspective, she was nominated as one of the Bloggers we would most like to see have their own show on the Food Network. (Yep, that pretty much says it all…)

Saturday afternoon as we were waiting for the chartered bus to take us to the FoodBuzz Dinner & Awards Ceremony she casually mentioned that she was planing on hosting a “Cooking Red to Remember” day on her blog December 1st in honor of World AIDS Day and asked of I would like to participate.

Being that we had only met that same morning, I had no idea how deeply impacted she has been by this disease. I told her I would love to show my support and told her that I would be making Red Velvet Cupcakes, and we left it at that.

Once I went to her blog and I read her story I was speechless…

If you look at the top picture, you see one cupcake in the foreground, there standing strong is Angela, the cupcake in the background to your right is her brother James, and the one to your left is her cousin Sam. Although no longer in the foreground with Angela, they are forever present.

Red Velvet Cupcakes
  • 2½ cups cake flour (not self-rising) sifted
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened ductch-process cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1½ cups sugar
  • 1½ sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 6 tablespoons red food coloring
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1½ teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons distilled white vinegar
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. Whisk together cake flour, cocoa, and salt.
  2. With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat together sugar and butter until combined. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Mix in food color and vanilla.
  3. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture in three batches, alternating with two additions of buttermilk, and whisking well after each. Stir together the baking soda and vinegar in a small bowl (it will foam); add mixture to the batter, and mix on medium speed 10 seconds.
  4. Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each three-quarters full. Bake about 18-20 minutes. Transfer tins to wire rack to cool for about 15 minutes before removing the cupcakes. Cupcakes can be stored overnight at room temperature, or frozen up to 2 months in airtight containers.

Cream Cheese Frosting
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 5 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
  1. With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter and cream cheese until fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Reduce speed to low. Add sugar ½ a cup at a time, and then vanilla, and mix until smooth and combined, scraping down sides of bowl as needed.


Virtual Red Ribbon


This Thanksgiving Day was a little different from years past, in that it was the very first time my family and I participated in a Turkey Trot. It was a bit chaotic, but so much fun nonetheless. (My youngest might not agree 100% with that last statement though.)

When I initially signed us up for the 5K Turkey Trot my husband suggested that we buy a pre-made turkey dinner because I was going to be too tired to cook a complete dinner… [Nonsense!!]

Once he realized that I wasn’t going to budge on my decision to prepare the dinner myself, the planning was underway.

One of the very first words out of the mouth of my oldest while I was looking through my stack of fall issues of Gourmet Magazine, and other cookbooks were “Can we please have a traditional thanksgiving dinner?” In my opinion we always have a traditional thanksgiving dinner, turkey, ham, green veg, a starch, dessert, etc. I know he meant he didn’t want me adding any international influenced flavors.

One of the first items I decided upon was surprise, surprise… dessert! And as you can see, it was cheesecake, in the past it had always been of the pumpkin variety, however this year I decided to change it up a bit. Still providing flavors of fall I chose Maple and walnut, and everyone including my oldest loved it.

Following is the menu which generated big smiles, a very quiet dinner table (post giving thanks and table grace/blessing), and clean plate club members.

Thanksgiving Day Menu


Vodka Tonic with a twist of lime


Roasted & Salted Pistachios
Assorted Cheeses & Crackers

Main Course

Extra-Moist Roast Turkey (Brined for 24 hours)
City Ham
Haricots Verts with Bacon and Chestnuts
Smashed Potatoes with Roasted-Garlic Gravy
Sage Stuffing
Fresh Dinner Rolls


Maple Walnut Cheesecake

Maple Walnut Cheesecake
adapted from The Ultimate Cheesecake Cookbook
by Joey Reynolds

1 stick butter
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts
1 1/2 cups finely ground galletas marias
1/4 cup granulated sugar

Double wrap the bottom of a 10″ springform pan.

Melt butter over low heat. Combine butter with nuts, crumbs and sugar in a bowl and stir until throughly blended. Press crumbs over the bottom and sides of the pan.

4 8oz packages cream cheese
1 1/3 cups sugar
1 teaspoon maple extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon dulce de nuez de macadamia (Sweet Macadamia nut cream)
1/4 cup maple syrup
pinch of salt
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
4 large eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Boil water for the water bath in a medium sauce pan or in a tea kettle.

In a mixer, whip cream cheese on medium high speed for 5 minutes or until light and fluffy, add sugar and continue to beat for 2 more minutes. Add extracts, maple syrup, macadamia nut cream, salt, and walnuts and blend together thoroughly.

Reduce mixer speed to the lowest setting and add the eggs one at a time, mix just enough so that each egg has been incorporated into the batter.

Place the springform pan in a larger oven proof pan. Pour batter into the crust and place into a preheated oven, poor hot water into the outer pan so that it only reaches 1/2 way up the springform pan, bake for 50-60 minutes.

Turn oven off open the oven door slightly and let it sit there for another hour. Remove and place in the fridge allowing it to cool overnight.

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I did it to myself again… I signed up for more, this time it’s The Daring Bakers group.

This months challenge Cannolo (Cannoli is plural) was chosen and hosted by Lisa Michele of Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives. Using the cookbooks Lidia’s Italian-American Kitchen by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich and The Sopranos Family Cookbook by Allen Rucker; recipes by Michelle Scicolone.

Lisa added her own modifications/changes, so the recipe is not 100% verbatim form either book.

This was my very first time making cannoli and I must confess that I ended up having to make two different batches of dough. The first batch didn’t get rolled out as thinly as it should have and therefore didn’t blister upon frying.

But not all was lost with my first little batch of cannoli, I managed to squeeze a little Soprano humor while I was at it.

The second batch blistered a little bit more, but not as much as I would have liked it to. But being that I made these a couple of days before Thanksgiving, I wasn’t about to attempt to make a third batch.

Daring Bakers
Lidisano’s Cannoli [A combination of Lidia, Lisa and Sopranos]

Cannoli Shells
2 cups (250 gm/16 oz) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons (28 gm/1 oz) sugar
1 teaspoon (5 gm/0.06 oz) unsweetened baking cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon (1.15 gm/0.04 oz) ground cinnamon [I sub’ed w/ espresso powder]
1/2 teaspoon (approx. 3 gm/0.11 oz)salt
3 tablespoons (42 gm/1.5 oz) vegetable or olive oil
1 teaspoon (5 gm/0.18 oz) white wine vinegar
Approximately 1/2 cup (approx. 59 gm/approx. 4 fluid oz/approx. 125 ml) sweet marsala or any white or red wine you have on hand
1 large egg, separated ( you will need the egg white but not the yolk)
vegetable or any neutral oil for frying – about 2 quarts (8 cups/approx. 2 liters)
1/2 cup (approx. 62 gm/2 oz) toasted, chopped pistachio nuts, mini chocolate chips/grated chocolate and/or candied or plain zests, fruits etc. for garnish
Confectioners’ sugar

In the bowl of an electric stand mixer or a food processor, combine the flour, sugar, cocoa, cinnamon, and salt. Stir in the oil, vinegar, and enough of the wine to make a soft dough. Turn th dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and well blended, about 2 minutes. Shape the dough into a ball. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest in the fridge from 2 hours to overnight.

Cut the dough into two pieces. Keep the remaining dough covered while you work. Lightly flour a large cutting or pastry board and roll the dough until super thin, about 1/16 to 1/8″ thick. Cut out 3 to 5 inch circles. Roll the cut circle into an oval, rolling it larger and thinner if it’s shrunk a little.

         Oh, yeah? Who knows more about extortion, me or you?

           Log off, that “cookies” s*** makes me nervous!

Oil the outside of the cannoli tubes. Roll a dough oval from the long side around each tube/form and dab a little egg white on the dough where the edges overlap. (Avoid getting egg white on the tube, or the pastry will stick to it.) Press well to seal. Set aside to let the egg white seal dry a little.

In a deep heavy saucepan, pour enough oil to reach a depth of 3 inches, or if using an electric deep fryer, follow the manufacturer’s directions. heat the oil to 375 degrees F (190 C) on a deep fry thermometer, or until a small piece of the dough or bread cube placed in the oil sizzles and browns in 1 minutes. Have a tray or sheet plan lined with paper towels or paper bags.

Carefully lower a few of the cannoli tubes into the hot oil. Do not crowd the pan. Fry the shells until golden, about 2 minutes, turning them so that they brown evenly.

Lift cannoli tube with a wire skimmer or large slotted spoon, out of the oil. Using tongs, grasp the cannoli tube at one end. Very carefully remove the cannoli tube with the open sides straight up and down so that the oil flows back into the pan. Place the tube on paper towels or bags to drain.

Repeat with the remaining tubes. While they are still hot, grasp the tubes with a potholder and pull the cannoli shells off the tubes with a pair of tongs, or with your hand protected by an oven mitt or towel. Let the shells cool completely on the paper towels. Place shells on cooling rack until ready to fill.

Repeat making and frying the shells with the remaining dough. If you are reusing the cannoli tubes, let them cool before wrapping them in the dough.

I altered the cannoli filling recipe a bit…

Cannoli Filling
2 lbs ricotta cheese, drained
2 cups confectioner’s sugar, (more or less, depending on how sweet you want it), sifted
1 teaspoon espresso powder
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or the beans from one vanilla bean
1 teaspoon borghetti liqueur
3 tablespoons finely chopped good quality chocolate of your choice
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
3 tablespoons toasted, finely chopped pistachios
3 tablespoons finely chopped dark chocolate chips, chocolate Jimmies, or mini chocolate chops

Line a strainer with cheesecloth. Place the ricotta in the strainer over a bowl, and cover with plastic wrap and a towel. Weight it down with a heavy can, and let the ricotta drain in the refrigerator for several hours to overnight.

In a bowl with electric mixer, beat ricotta until smooth and creamy. Beat in confectioner’s sugar, espresso powder, cocoa powder, vanilla and blend until smooth. transfer to another bowl and stir in chopped chocolate, jimmies, or mini chocolate chips. Chill until firm. (The filling can be made up to 24 hours prior t filling the shells. Just cover and keep refrigerated).

When ready to serve, fill a pastry bag fitted with 1/2 inch plain or star tip, or a ziplock bag, with the ricotta cream. If using a ziplock bag, cut about 1/2 inch off one corner. Insert the tip in the cannoli shell and squeeze gently until the shell is half filled. Turn the shell and fill the other side. You can also use a teaspoon to do this, although it’s messier and will take longer.

Press or dip the cannoli in chopped pistachios, chopped chocolate,chocolate jimmies, or mini chocolate chips. Dust with confectioner’s sugar and/or drizzle with melted chocolate if desired.

Assemble the Cannoli

When ready to serve fill a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2 inch plain or star tip, or a ziplock bag, with the ricotta cream. If using a ziplock bag, cut about 1/2 inch off one corner. Insert the tip in the cannoli shell and squeeze gently until the shell is half filled. Turn the shell and fill the other side. You can also use a teaspoon to do this, although it’s messier and will take longer.


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Well here we are, day two of my adventures with Pumpkin pie brioche. If there is anything you take away from these two posts is that Brioche dough is very versatile and very tasty and with a little planning ahead you can whip up a number of tasty treats.

Oh, one of the things I would suggest you try is using the baked brioche to make French Toast, very tasty!

And as promised in my previous post here are the directions to bake the Brioche… in addition to the yummy dark chocolate filled croissants I concocted.

Pumpkin Pie Brioche Dough
from Healthy Bread In Five Minutes a Day
By Jeff Hertzberg, M.D., & Zoë François

Click here for brioche recipe ingredients

On baking day, grease a brioche pan or an 8 1/2 x 4 1/2-inch nonstick loaf pan. Dust the surface of the refrigerated dough with flour and cut off a 2-pound (cantaloupe-size) piece of dough. Dust the piece with more flour and quickly shape it into a ball. Place the ball in the prepared pan and allow to rest, loosely covered with plastic wrap, for 1 hour 45 minutes.

Thirty minutes before baking time, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, with a rack placed in the center of the oven. If you’re not using a stone in the oven, a 5-minute preheat is adequate.

Just before baking, use a pastry brush to paint the loaf’s top with egg wash, and then sprinkle with raw sugar.

Bake near the center of the oven for approximately 45 to 50 minutes. Brioche will not form a hard, crackling crust. The loaf is done when it is medium brown and firm. Smaller or larger loaves will require adjustments in resting and baking time.

Remove the brioche from the pan and allow it to cool on a rack before slicing or eating.

Note: I divided my batch of dough into three so I could make the doughnuts, brioche, and croissants. The baking times remained within the range provided.

Pumpkin Pie Brioche Croissants filled with Dark Chocolate
inspired from Healthy Bread In Five Minutes a Day
By Jeff Hertzberg, M.D., & Zoë François

1-1 1/2 pounds pumpkin pie brioche dough
dark chocolate spread
egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water) for brushing on the top crusts
raw sugar for sprinkling on top
melted dark chocolate for drizzling (optional)

Prepare 1 or 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Dust the surface of the refrigerated dough with flour and shape it into a ball.

Dust your work surface with flour and roll out the dough until it is a 1/8 inch thick rectangle.

Using a pizza cutter, cut the dough into 8 small rectangles, and cut each rectangle into 2 triangles each.

Gently stretch the triangles, using an off-set spatula place about a teaspoons worth of the dark chocolate spread (or to taste) on the lower half of the triangle.

Carefully roll the dough starting at the widest end until the point is tucked under the bottom. Curve the ends to create the croissant shape. Cover them loosely with plastic wrap and let them rest about 40 minutes.

If using a baking stone preheat the oven to 350 degrees F for thirty minutes, with a rack placed in the center of the oven. Otherwise a 5 minute preheat will suffice.

Using a pastry brush paint the tops of the croissants with egg wash and sprinkle with the raw sugar. Bake them for about 20 to 25 minutes, until golden brown and well set in the center.

Remove the croissants from the oven and let cool on a rack. Drizzle each with melted dark chocolate if desired.

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During my recent visit to San Francisco, while I was attending the First Annual Blogger Festival I had the great pleasure of meeting both Jeff Hertzberg & Zoë François authors of Healthy Bread In Five Minutes a Day.

You can only imagine how thrilled I was when I stopped by their table Saturday afternoon at the FoodBuzz Taste Pavilion to find that they were so generously giving away a signed copy of their new book to all of the FoodBuzz Bloggers who attended the Festival!

As a small token of my appreciation I’ve decided to dedicate this post to them, thanks again Jeff & Zoë, love the book! :)

Pumpkin Pie Brioche Dough
from Healthy Bread In Five Minutes a Day
By Jeff Hertzberg, M.D., & Zoë François

Makes enough dough for at least two 2-pound loaves.

3 cups white whole wheat flour
4 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tablespoons granulated yeast, or 2 packets
1 tablespoon kosher salt (increase or decrease to taste)
2 tablespoons vital wheat gluten
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1 1/4 cups lukewarm water
4 large eggs
1/2 cup honey
3/4 cup neutral-flavored oil, or unsalted butter, melted, or zero trans fat, zero hydrogenated oil margarine, melted
1 15 ounce can pumpkin puree

Note: The book also includes the recipe for making your own fresh pumpkin puree. Due to time constraints I chose to use canned pumpkin puree instead.

Whisk together the flours, yeast, salt, vital wheat gluten, and spices in a 5-quart bowl, or a lidded (not airtight) food container.

Combine the liquid ingredients with the pumpkin puree and mix them with the dry ingredients without kneading, using a spoon, a 14-cup food processor (with dough attachment), or a heavy-duty stand mixer (with paddle). You might need to use wet hands to get the last bit of flour to incorporate if you’re not using a machine.

The dough will be loose, but it will firm up when chilled. Don’t try to use it without chilling for at least 2 hours. You may notice lumps in the dough, but they will disappear in your finished products.

Cover (not airtight), and allow the dough to rest at room temperature until it rises and collapses (or flattens on top), approximately 2 hours.

Refrigerate the dough in a lidded (not airtight) container and use over the next 5 days. Beyond that, the dough stores well in the freezer for up to 2 weeks in an airtight container. Freeze it in 2-pound portions. When using frozen dough, thaw it in the refrigerator for 24 hours before use, then allow the usual rest/rise times.

Pumpkin Pie Brioche Doughnuts (Indian spiced whole grain doughnuts)
adapted from Healthy Bread In Five Minutes a Day
By Jeff Hertzberg, M.D., & Zoë François

1 1/2 pounds refrigerated pre-mixed pumpkin pie brioche dough
1/2 cup sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 freshly ground nutmeg
neutral-flavored oil for frying (canola, peanut, or vegetable blend) enough to fill a medium saucepan 4 inches from the top
flour for dusting and rolling out the doughnuts

In a medium bowl combine the sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Set aside.

Dust the surface of the refrigerated dough with flour and cut off a 1 1/2 pound piece.

Dust the piece with more flour and quickly shape it into a ball by stretching the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter-turn as you go.

Roll the dough into a 1/4 inch thick rectangle on a lightly floured surface.

Using a candy thermometer heat the frying oil to 360-370 degrees F.

While the oil is heating, use a 3-inch biscuit or round cookie cutter to cut the dough into about 12 circles. Use a 1-inch round biscuit or round cookie cutter to remove the centers of the circles to create the doughnut shape. Or use a 3-inch doughnut cutter. Reserve the centers to fry as well. Return any scraps to the bucket of dough.

Drop the doughnuts in the hot oil 2 or 3 at a time so that they have plenty of room to rise to the surface. Be careful not to overcrowd them or they will not rise nicely.

After 1 minute, gently flip the doughnuts over with a slotted spoon and fry for another minute or so until golden brown on both sides.

Remove the doughnuts from the oil and place them on paper towels to drain the extra oil. While still warm, dredge them in the bowl of spiced sugar.

Repeat with the remaining dough until all the doughnuts are fried.

Serve slightly warm.

Tomorrow I will post a follow-up to this post.

Pumpkin Pie Brioche “On baking Day”. I didn’t have enough (resting/baking) time today to actually bake the brioche.

It’s a good thing the dough keeps in the fridge for up to 5 days!

So Stay tuned…

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