Sunday, September 29, 2013

Daring Bakers: Chocolate Coconut Pastel de Tres Leches (3 Milk Cake)

I am not very consistent with my Daring Bakers challenges, but I gave it a go this month for Pastel de Tres Leches!  How could I resist?  Inma was our September 2013 Daring Bakers hostess and WOW did she bring us something decadent and delicious!  Pastel de Tres Leches or Three Milk Cake, creamy yet airy, super moist but not soggy, just plain delish!

Living in Houston, I have definitely had Tres Leches Cake (as we call it here) before.  The promise of an airy, not soggy version was very intriguing to me, but I also wanted to do something a little different than the "typical" Tres Leches.  Enter Inma's option of a chocolate coconut version!  Whooee, now we are talking!

To be honest, it is not a difficult cake to make, other than all of that FOLDING.  I am not a good folder.  There, I have said it.  It is something I do while holding my breath every time because I know I am not good so my confidence each time is in the toilet.  I need a lesson in folding.  Anyone know where I can get one?  Not an online video tutorial but someone who will stand next to me and help me do it right.  HELP!  Truly, I want to master folding!

The recipe has very few ingredients.  Eggs, sugar, vanilla, flour, water and cocoa powder.  If you made the original version it would be identical but take out the water and cocoa powder.   That's it, people!  And the amount of sugar is quite low for a cake, just 1/2 cup, because of all of the sweet milk you'll be pouring over it.  The tricky part is this - you whip the egg whites and sugar to stiff peaks and then beat the egg yolks until they are nice and fluffy.  Then you have to FOLD the egg yolks into the whites.  Scary part #1.  But wait, remember the ingredient of FLOUR?  Well, you then "shower" the egg white mixture with sifted flour, little bits at a time, and keep gently FOLDING it in.  ACK.  Seriously scary part # 2 through a zillion!  Now, mix the cocoa powder and water together into a paste, and FOLD that into the mix.  Horrifyingly scary part number zillion+!  That is lots of folding and lots of me holding my breath.  Thankfully I did not pass out. 

Pour that batter into a cake pan and bake until a toothpick comes out clean.  In the mean time, make the 3 milk syrup.  The cake would not be Tres Leches without this crucial element!  Mix together a can of sweetened condensed milk, a can of coconut milk, and a cup of heavy cream, and allow it to simmer for 5 minutes.  It needs to cool completely before you use it.  If you were making the original recipe, you would take out the coconut milk and use a can of evaporated milk instead.  And add in a cinnamon stick.

Cut the cake in half horizontally, poke holes liberally with a fork, and start soaking that bad boy with the milk syrup.  I brushed in as much as I could before it was just seeping out all over my platter, and then put the cake into the refrigerator overnight.  I covered the milk syrup and refrigerated that as well.  In the morning, I brushed in more syrup.  I did the same in the afternoon and again before totally constructing the cake that evening.  I still didn't get all of the syrup into the cake but I did the best I could!

Spread some whipped cream on the top of that cake layer, and sprinkle with some toasted coconut.  Then put the other cake layer on top, cut side up.  I drizzled more of the syrup over the top layer as well.  I was not sure if I was supposed to pour the milk into that layer or not, so I didn't at first.  Looking back, you should probably do the same to both layers but then I have no idea how you'd get that second layer off of it's plate and onto the first layer without it falling to pieces.  However, I am fairly sure this is what I was supposed to do!  Oh, well!  Spread whipped cream all around the cake and sprinkle more toasted coconut on the top and sides.  If you were doing the original version, you would use some sort of fresh or canned fruit here and in the filling.

DIG IN.  Yum.

One of my best girlfriends was over for dinner the night I made my Tres Leches cake.  She said it was "pure loveliness", like a blend of chocolate cream pie, coconut and tres leches all together.  She said the toasted coconut really "made" the dessert.  She cleaned her plate.  So did the rest of us!  Delicious.  Inma did not steer us wrong.  This was one super awesome cake, that really was airy and not soggy!  Thank you Inma for this "lovely" challenge!

Coconut Three Milks Cake
Serves 12

Sponge cake
5 large eggs, separated
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
1/4 cup water
3 TB unsweetened cocoa powder

Coconut syrup
1 can (~14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk
1 can (~12 oz.) coconut milk
1 cup heavy cream

Topping and filling
2 cups whipping cream
1/2 cup sugar (I used a bit less, maybe more like 1/4-1/3 cup)
1 cup shredded coconut (I used unsweetened coconut, and used more like 2 cups total)

Sponge cake
Preheat the oven to 350F.  Butter a 9x9-inch square pan or 9x9-inch round cake pan, line the bottom with parchment, and butter the parchment.

Separate the yolks and the whites, putting the yolks in a small mixing bowl and the whites in a large mixing bowl.  Beat the whites on medium speed for 3-5 minutes, or until soft peaks form.  Gradually add the sugar and whip until stiff peaks form, about 5 minutes.  Set aside.

Beat the egg yolks at medium-high speed until pale colored and creamy, about 5-6 minutes.  Stir in the vanilla.  Pour the egg yolks over the egg whites and gently fold until just combined, being careful to not lose any volume from the egg white mixture.

Fold in the flour little by little in the form of rain.  Mix until just combined.  Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Allow to cool completely, then split the cake into two layers.  Flip the top of the cake onto a cake platter so the cut edge is up and liberally poke with a fork to help the cake absorb the milk syrup.

Coconut Syrup
Pour the three milks to a saucepan and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat and allow to simmer for 5 minutes.  Remove from heat and allow to cool completely.

Once cool, brush all of the milk syrup into all of the sides of the cake.  Do the top layer the same way if you want, though I have no idea how you'll get the soaked layer up onto the first layer when the time comes!  Rest the cake in the refrigerator overnight to complete the soaking process.

Topping and Filling
Put coconut into a dry skillet and allow to lightly toast.

Whip the cream, and when soft peaks form, gradually add the sugar.  Continue whipping until stiff peaks
form, about 2 minutes.

Layer some whipped cream onto the bottom cake layer and cover with a little less than half of the toasted coconut.  Put the top layer on and cover the entire cake with the remaining whipped cream and toasted coconut.

Printable Recipe

Yum.  A mouthful of creamy delicious goodness.  If you have had tres leches before and thought it too soggy or too sweet for you, give this one a try.  It is perfect!

Monday, September 23, 2013


The clever girl and I had lots of "girl-time" this past weekend, as Mr. Clever Mom was out of town.  So I thought we'd get really "girlie" and play hair salon!  You see, the clever girl is going to be a flower girl in November, and I want to do something fancy to her hair for the event.  She has a beautiful gown, complete with a tiara and everything, so obviously (to me anyway) she needs a fancy 'do for the big event.  Plus, playing hair salon is just fun and a special thing for that sweet girl, so why not?

I decided to go crazy and see what kind of curl I could get into her very fine, straight hair.  I have this very vague memory of my grandmother putting my hair up in rags when I was little, as a solution to sleeping in uncomfortable curlers.  Ah-ha.  Now what should I use for the curlers??

Here is a fantastic use for those boxy t-shirts you get at all sorts of random events that you never wear!  I used one from a run I did with a girlfriend last fall.  Cut the t-shirt into strips, about 2 inches by 6-8 inches each.  Get the hair nice and damp.  Part the hair into sections that are about 2 inches square, wrap the bottom of the hair around the middle of the "rag", and roll all the way up to the head.  Then just tie the two ends together in a single overhand knot.  Not a complete knot, but just the first part you do like when you are going to tie your shoe.  Now keep going all around the head, and voila! 
Your kid's head (or your own head) will look something like this!  The clever girl has very fine hair and not a lot of it, so if the hair you are using is thicker, you will need more rags and cutting them to be 8 inches in length will probably be helpful.  The benefit of rags is that they are soft and you can sleep on them much more easily than curlers, even the foam ones that they came out with when I was a kid.  There may be some new-fangled soft curler out there on the market now, but why buy that when you can use an old t-shirt??

In the morning, gently untie all of the rags and put them aside for when you do this fun trick again.  DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT put a hairbrush to the hair.  Just gently separate the curls with your fingers.  If you use a hairbrush, you'll end up with a big frizz-head.  Now, that could be what you are going for, and if so, go for it!  But if you want curls, stay away from the hairbrush.

And you'll end up with something like this:
Had I used some gel or mousse in her hair when it was wet before I rolled it, the curls would probably have stayed a bit better.  As it was, they relaxed quite a bit though honestly, it just got prettier and prettier, I thought.  By early afternoon, they were long ringlets instead of the super-boingy curls you see above.

The clever girl LOVED it.  She "boinged" all over the house all morning, just like Tigger.  I just kept staring at her.  Was this my clever girl with these curls?  She looked so different but the same all at once! 

Ah, yes.  Still my silly clever girl!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

TWD: Baking with Julia - NOT Espresso Profiteroles

Our recipe this week for Tuesday's with Dorie was Espresso Profiteroles.  I am not a huge coffee fan and since I would be sharing this dessert with my 5 year old, I didn't fancy the idea of the extra caffeine for her right before bedtime.  Caffeine + 5 yr old = bad idea (in my house anyway).  And, to be honest, I just didn't feel like espresso. 

So I used water instead of coffee (boring, right?) and left out the espresso powder.  I could probably have jazzed it up more, but my creativity level was low at that moment.

These profiteroles were filled with ice cream.  YUM and EASY.  The recipe suggested cinnamon ice cream, which I admit would have been super delicious, however I didn't make homemade cinnamon ice cream (lazy) and I didn't find cinnamon ice cream in the crappy grocery store by my house.  (I decided to make these in the spur of the moment one day so the ingredients were not purchased at my regular fabulous grocery store.)  I found some salted caramel ice cream and, I must say, they were pretty tasty!

In addition, I was supposed to use Grand Marnier in the chocolate sauce.  I thought we had some but I couldn't find it and used Amaretto instead.  Did I deviate too much from the original recipe?  Maybe... 

Okay, this reminds me of a funny story about Grand Marnier that I just have to share.  Many moons ago, I visited my sister and she was making chocolate truffles for some event for work.  And she needed some Grand Marnier.  So we drove around to MANY liquor stores asking for Grand Marnier.  No one had it.  It was crazy!  How could this be?  Finally, I told my sister she should ask for "Grand Mar-i-ner" (pronounced totally wrong) and low and behold, we found that secret treasure!  We still laugh about this story together!  Ahhh...

Back to these profiteroles.  Easy and yummy.  That is all I have to say.  They LOOK like they should be hard but they aren't at all.  I love recipes like this!  Oh, and messy.  Messy is definitely a big component to these treats!
 A messy messy girl...

But a yummy dessert is worth getting a bit messy for!

This recipe can be found on pages 411-413 of Baking with Julia.  Be sure to check out the Tuesday's with Dorie blog and click on the LYL tab to see what the other bakers though of this recipe!

Espresso Profiteroles
adapted from Baking with Julia
makes 12-16 servings of 3 profiteroles each

1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup brewed coffee (or water)
3/4 stick unsalted butter
2 TB sugar
1 TB finely ground espresso beans (optional)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
5-6 large eggs
1 large egg beaten with 1 teaspoon cold water, for egg wash

Position the oven racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat to 400F.

Put the milk, coffee/water, butter, sugar and espresso (if using) into a 2-quart sauce pan and bring to a full boil over medium heat.  Stir frequently with a wooden spoon until the butter is melted.  Continue to stir and add the flour all at once.  Stir energetically and without stopping until the flour is thoroughly incorporated.  Continue to cook and stir for another 30-45 seconds, while the dough forms a ball around the spoon.  A light crust will be visible on the bottom of the pan.

Remove the pan from the heat and transfer the dough into a medium bowl.  Immediately beat in the eggs, one at a time, stirring vigorously with a wooden spoon to incorporate each egg before adding the next one.  The first couple of egg will be most difficult, but it will get easier with each egg.  After you have incorporated 5 eggs, take a look at the dough. The dough is ready when, as you lift your spoon, it pulls up some of the dough and then detaches and forms a slowly bending peak.  If the dough is too thick and doesn't do this "peak", add the 6th egg.

You must pipe the dough while it is warm.  Spoon the dough (it is called choux paste) into a pastry bag fited with a 1/2 inch plain tip (or a star tip will work fine) and pipe quarter-sized puffs onto a parchment-lined baking sheet, leaving 1 inch between puffs.  If you do not have a pastry bag, a zip-top bag would work too, just cut off a corner and twist the top like a pastry bag.   Finish piping each puff with a small twist at the end, so there isn't a point on top.  It is like writing the letter C.  Or, give your puffs a point on top!  If you get a point, just dab the point with a moistened fingertip and it will go down.  Brush the pastries with the egg wash.   I forgot to do this!

Bake for 20 minutes, then lower the oven temperature to 350F and bake for another 5-7 minutes, until the pastries are golden and feel hollow.  Halfway through the baking period, rotate the baking sheets top to bottom and front to back.  Transfer the sheets to cooling racks and allow the puffs to cool completely before cutting and filling.

Chocolate Sauce
(I halved this recipe and had PLENTY)
11 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 1/4 cups whole milk
6 TB light corn syrup
2 TB unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 TB Grand Marnier or other orange liquor (or other liquor of your liking!)

Put the chopped chocolate in a medium bowl and set nearby.  Put the milk and corn syrup in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil.  Slowly pour the hot milk over the chocolate and stir until the chocolate is melted.  Add the butter and continue to stir until the butter is melted and thoroughly incorporated into the sauce.  Stir in the liquor and serve while warm. 

You can make this sauce up to 1 week in advance, just store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator.  Warm the sauce in a double boiler or slowly in a microwave. 

To serve, cut each puff in half crosswise and fill with ice cream.  Drizzle with warm chocolate sauce.  Serve 3 puffs to each person.
Printable Recipe

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Pumpkin Waffles

I know it is summer Pumpkin Waffles seem more "fall-like" in nature, but really, can't we eat pumpkin all year round?  I had a hankering for pumpkin waffles one morning so summer or not, we had them!

And YUM.  They are a perfect deviation from the "regular" waffle.  The pumpkin flavor is very light, and is enhanced by pumpkin-pie-like spices.  Who doesn't want pumpkin pie for breakfast?  Sounds good to me!

Pumpkin Waffles
adapted from smitten kitchen

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
4 large eggs, separated
2 cups buttermilk, shaken well
1 cup solid-pack canned pumpkin
3/4 stick (6 TB) unsalted butter, melted
cooking spray or vegetable oil for waffle iron

Preheat oven to 200F and preheat waffle iron.

Sift dry ingredients together (flour through cloves).  Whisk egg yolks, buttermilk, pumpkin and butter together in a large bowl until smooth.  Whisk in dry ingredients until just combined.

With an electric mixer (hand or stand) whisk the egg whites until they hold soft peaks.  Gently fold them into the waffle batter until just combined.

Spray or oil waffle iron and spoon batter (amount varies depending on waffle iron manufacturer) into waffle iron.  Cook according to manufacturer instructions.

Serve right away or transfer to a cooling rack sitting in a rimmed baking sheet and place in the preheated oven.  This will help them to stay warm and crisp while you make more!

Serve with warm maple syrup.
Printable Recipe

What a great way to start the day.  Sure, it isn't fall weather yet, but I just can't wait until then to have some pumpkin waffles!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Maple-Orange Pork Tenderloin

This is one of our favorite pork tenderloin recipes!  My mom found it first and passed it my way.  It is easy to do, the hardest part is remembering to marinate the pork for an hour before cooking.  I often forget that a recipe needs to marinate and then run out of time and have a frenzy about NOW what do I make for dinner!

Maple-Orange Pork Tenderloin
adapted from Taste of Home
serves 6+
1/2 cup maple syrup
2 TB reduced-sodium soy sauce or Tamari
2 TB ketchup
1 TB Dijon mustard
1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon grated orange peel
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 pork tenderloins, 1 pound each

Combine the first 9 ingredients (through garlic) in a gallon-sized resealable plastic bag.  Add the pork, seal the bag and swish it around so the entire tenderloin is coated in the marinade.  Refrigerate for 1 hour. 

Preheat the oven to 375F.  Remove the tenderloin from the bag and reserve marinade.  Place pork in a roasting pan lined with heavy-duty aluminum foil.  Bake, uncovered, for 30-40 minutes, until a meat thermometer reads 145F.  Let pork rest for 10 minutes.  While pork rests, put the marinade into a saucepan and bring it to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.  You must allow the marinade to boil in order to kill any yucky germs from when it was touching the raw tenderloin. 

Slice the tenderloin and drizzle with maple-orange sauce. 
Printable Recipe

This recipe is so easy and is delicious.  I generally make half of the recipe, which is plenty for the three of us plus a small portion of leftovers.  My daughter loves the fact that it has a sauce - sauces make everything better!  Give it a try.  It might become a go-to recipe for you, too!

Friday, September 6, 2013

Orange Sweet Rolls

I tend to make sweet rolls once a year, for Christmas morning, but they are not the orange kind.  In fact, I have never had an orange sweet roll before but they sounded so enticing that I had to give it a try!

These are supposed to be similar to the Pillsbury version, but I can't say whether they are or not, as I have never had them!  What I can say is that the dough was nice and soft and light and the orange flavor was nice and strong.  I would probably increase the cinnamon sugar mixture in the inside, and maybe add some nutmeg in there as well next time.  I do not normally put an icing on my sweet rolls but this one was nice.  Not so much icing that it overwhelmed me (icings on cinnamon rolls tend to do that to me) but a nice addition to the roll.  One interesting thing about these rolls is that not only is the orange flavor in the icing, it is baked into the dough as well!  An orange double whammy! 

I prepared the rolls in the evening and baked them the following morning.  I just personally can't see doing all the work for sweet rolls in the morning!  That is too much for me! 

Orange Sweet Rolls
adapted from Sally's Baking Addiction

1 package active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
1/2 cup warm water
fresh orange zest from 1 medium orange
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
2 TB unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 - 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 TB sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 TB unsalted butter, at room temperature
(I would increase the sugar/cinnamon amounts here)

1 cup powdered sugar
1 TB orange juice
fresh orange zest from 1 medium orange
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Dissolve the yeast in the water and allow to bloom for about 1 minute.  The yeast will get a bit creamy looking.  The water should be about 105F-115F, a bit warmer than body temperature but not too hot.  Stir the water/yeast mixture, then add the orange juice and zest, sugar, salt, egg, butter and 1 1/2 cups of the flour.  Beat everything together with an electric mixer (stand or handheld) on low.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.  Using a wooden spoon, stir in enough of the remaining flour to make the dough easy to handle, about 1 1/2 to 2 more cups.  The dough should be soft, not sticky, and should spring back when you poke it with your finger.

Transfer the dough to a floured surface and knead with your hands for 5-6 minutes.  Form the dough into a ball and place it into a lightly greased bowl.  Flip the dough over so all sides are lightly greased from the bowl.  Cover the dough and let it sit in a warm place until it is doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours.

Line the bottom of a 9x13 inch baking dish with parchment paper.  Turn the risen dough out onto a floured surface and roll to a 15x9 inch rectangle.  Make sure the dough is evenly thick and as squared at the corners as you can.

For the filling, mix the sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl.  Spread the dough with the softened butter and sprinkle generously with the cinnamon-sugar.  Roll the dough tightly along the long edge and pinch the long edge closed along the roll.  This is a good time to smooth the roll and even the edges a bit.  After you do this, cut the dough into 15 even rolls using a very sharp knife or thread/un-flavored un-waxed dental floss (details on how to do this here).  Arrange the rolls cut side up in the prepared pan.  Cover the rolls and let them rise in a warm place for 30 - 60 minutes.  If you choose to bake the rolls in the morning, stop here.  Put the rolls in the refrigerator overnight.  In the morning, take the rolls out of the refrigerator and allow them to come to room temperature.  You can sit them on the counter and wait, OR gently float the pan in a roasting pan filled with hot water, OR put the pan in the oven set at "proof" or 200F.

Preheat the oven to 375F.  Cover the rolls with aluminum foil and bake for 25-30 minutes, until the tops are golden.  Transfer the pan to a rack and allow to cool for about 15 minutes.

While the rolls cool,mix all icing ingredients together.  When ready, drizzle the icing over the rolls and serve!
Printable Recipe

I found the buns to have a very strong orange flavor.  If you prefer a lighter flavor than this, use less zest in the dough and icing!


Tuesday, September 3, 2013

TWD: Baking with Julia - Blueberry Muffins

This week for Tuesday's with Dorie, we had an option of two recipes to make:  Blueberry Muffins or Sweet Berry Fougasse.  The Sweet Berry Fougasse appears to be a berry and streusel topping on the top of foccacia bread.  I made the focaccia bread in February, so I decided to make the muffins since that would be baking a recipe I haven't yet tried from this book.  I'll have to read some of the other TWD bloggers thoughts about the Sweet Berry Fougasse.  If it was a total hit, I may have to give it a try!

But let's forget about that other recipe for now and just think about Blueberry Muffins.  I have made a variety of different blueberry muffins, though I don't really have a favorite recipe.  While I liked this recipe, it didn't totally blow me away.  I think it maybe needed a bit more flavor.  Maybe some lemon zest would be good, or even just some vanilla or almond extract would give it that extra punch I need.  However, texturally, this blueberry muffin is perfect.  It is very light and airy and sort of melts in your mouth!  And there are lots of blueberries inside, which is crucial! 

Blueberry Muffins
adapted from Baking with Julia

1 3/4 cups cake flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon salt
1 pint fresh blueberries
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup sour cream
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 large egg yolk, at room temperature

Put a rack in the center of your oven and preheat to 400F.  Butter or spray 18 muffin cups or line with paper liners. 

Sift the cake flour, baking soda, cream of tartar and salt together 2 times and leave the dry ingredients in the sifter, sitting on waxed paper or parchment so it doesn't fall out onto your counter.  Remove one or two tablespoons of the flour mixture and toss with the blueberries.  In a separate small bowl, stir together the milk and sour cream.  Set aside.

In a stand mixer with a paddle attachment or with a hand mixer, beat the butter on medium speed until it is light and pale, about 3 minutes.  Add the sugar and beat again for about 3 more minutes, until the mixture is no longer grainy.  Add the egg and yolk and beat until fluffy, about 2 minutes.

Remove the bowl from the mixer and sift half of the flour mixture into the bowl.  Add half of the milk/sour cream mixture and gently fold the ingredients together with a rubber spatula.  Do not overmix - stop when the ingredients are barely combined.  Add the remaining dry and wet ingredients and fold only until just mixed.  Sprinkle the blueberries over the top of the batter and fold them in gently.

Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tins, filling each cup about 2/3 full.  Bake for 18-20 minutes, until the flat tops are golden and they spring back when touched.  Remove the muffins from the pans and cool on a rack for 10-15 minutes before serving. 

These muffins will stay great for a day.  If you are not going to serve them within a few hours of baking, put them into a plastic bag.  They will keep for one more day this way and will be nice sliced and toasted.  To keep them longer, wrap them airtight and freeze for up to a month.  Thaw, still wrapped, at room temperature.
Printable Recipe

If you are looking for a blueberry muffin recipe, I do suggest giving this one a try.  I will definitely make this one again, as the texture is perfect!