Chocolate decadence.

chocolatetorte

Yes, it tastes as good as it looks.   The torte is dense, and taste of chocolate is INTENSE.

You can purchase the mix in your grocery store, in the baking isle (if they carry this brand).   Who knew you could find something this decadent and delicious in a box?

 

 

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Christmas lasagna.

lasagna2016

I’m not Italian, but some years ago I started a Christmas tradition — lasagna!

Why not lasagna?

It’s a perfect Christmas meal.   It’s filling, hot, and has red and green in it (well, mine does, because I put spinach and green onions in it).

We’re doing Christmas tonight instead of tomorrow because my daughter has to be at her boyfriend’s parents house tomorrow.    I just finished the lasagna and it’s now just waiting to be eaten.

Here’s the recipe, which I posted last year and will post again.

Lucky Otter’s Lasagna

Ingredients
1 lb. ground beef, drained.
1 32 oz. jar or can of tomato sauce
1 large can of tomato paste
1 box pot-ready lasagna (you can use the kind you have to boil too, but it’s more work and always falls apart for me)
green onions
16 oz. shredded mozzarella cheese
Parmesan or Romano cheese
1 container Ricotta cheese.
2 eggs (they make the cheese mixture more fluffy)
chopped frozen spinach (1 small box or 1/2 16 oz. bag)
Olive oil
Italian seasoning
garlic (optional–I can’t eat it)

Mix the sauce, tomato paste, a little olive oil and Italian seasoning in saucepan. In another pan, cook the ground beef until done. In another pan, steam the spinach and drain. In a separate bowl, mix the ricotta cheese in with the eggs and then add the steamed spinach and the eggs (wait until spinach cools some before doing this).

How to assemble.
Get the pan ready (use a lasagna-sized foil or glass pan) by pouring a little olive oil on the bottom and then a layer of sauce.
On top of that lay the lasagna sheets (if pot ready there is no need to boil them first), then spread half the ricotta-spinach mixture.
Sprinkle about a third of the shredded mozzarella on top of that.
Put half of the ground beef on top of that and spread out.
Pour another layer of sauce on top of that.
Put another layer of lasagna sheets on top.
Spread the other half of the ricotta-spinach mixture.
Put another third of the mozzarella cheese on top.
Sprinkle the other half of the ground beef.
Spread another layer of sauce.
Put another layer of lasagna sheets.
Pour the rest of the sauce on top.
Sprinkle the last third of the mozzarella cheese.
Put a layer of parmesan or romano cheese on top (this browns nicely).
Green onions (chopped) to garnish.

Bake at about 300 ° for about an hour. Serves about 10.

 

Scooby snacks!

scoobysnacks

Just pulled these out of the oven!

Krispy Kreme bread pudding.

Sometimes creative ideas come out of the prospect of having to throw something away.

I was given a box of a dozen stale Krispy Kreme (plain glazed) donuts and they sat in my refrigerator for a week. When I tried to bite into one yesterday, it was hard as a rock. I was going to toss them in the trash, but suddenly I had a better idea.

I thought of the bread pudding I used to make using stale old (non-moldy) bread. I decided why not make a bread pudding out of the Krispy Kreme donuts? Everything would be the same, except obviously since the donuts are already sweet, not as much sugar would be needed.

So I got to work. Here is the result, and it tastes as good as it looks!

krispy_kreme_pudding2 Krispy_Kreme_pudding

Here is my recipe (I made this one up as I went along but I think it’s very similar to standard bread pudding recipes):

Ingredients:
1/2 cup brown sugar; 1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons course grained turbinado sugar (optional)
2 tablespoons of powdered cinnamon
2 large eggs
2 cups milk
12 stale Krispy Kreme donuts
1 1/2 stick butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:
1. Grease 9 x 13 baking pan with butter or margarine. (I prefer glass)
2. Cut or break donuts into small pieces and put in large mixing bowl.
3. Mix milk, eggs, cinnamon and vanilla together in another bowl
4. Melt 1 stick of the butter in the microwave until soft, add to the donut pieces and mix until moistened
5. Mix in the milk, vanilla, cinnamon and egg mixture
6. Stir in large bowl until ingredients are well mixed.
7. Spoon mixture into baking pan; flatten on top with spatula.
8. Sprinkle the turbinado sugar on top (this gives it a nice crunchy texture)
9. Cut 1/2 stick butter into small pieces and spread pieces on top.
10. Bake at 300% until butter is completely melted and the pudding turns bubbly and golden brown on top (about 20 minutes)
11. Set aside and allow to cool
12. Serve and enjoy!

The best cake I ever ate.

princess_cake

When I was about 14, my mother and I spent a weekend in Connecticut with some Swedish friends of hers. I never forgot the cake they served. I think it was probably the best cake I ever had. I couldn’t get enough of it. I was told it was called a Princess cake and is a traditional dessert in Sweden.

Wikipedia has a good article about this delectable cake. It has an interesting history too.

A princess cake (prinsesstårta in Swedish) is a traditional Swedish layer cake consisting of alternating layers of airy sponge cake, pastry cream, and a thick-domed layer of whipped cream. This is topped by marzipan, giving the cake a smooth rounded top. The marzipan overlay is usually green, sprinkled with powdered sugar, and often decorated with a pink marzipan rose.

The original recipe first appeared in the 1930s Prinsessornas Kokbok cookbook, which was published by Jenny Åkerström, a teacher of the three daughters of H.R.H. Prince Carl, Duke of Västergötland. The cake was originally called grön tårta (green cake), but was given the name prinsesstårta or “princess cake” because the princesses were said to have been especially fond of the cake. The princesses were H.R.H. Princess Margaretha (1899–1977; later Princess of Denmark), H.R.H. Princess Märtha (1901–1954; later Crown Princess of Norway), and H.R.H. Princess Astrid (1905–1935; later Queen of the Belgians).[3] The cake is widely featured in Tom McNeal’s book Far Far Away.

princess_cake2

I attempted to make a Princess cake once, but didn’t have much luck with the whipped cream, which turned to a gooey liquid and created a mess of the beautiful smooth marzipan coating. It’s not an easy recipe, but if you want to try making one yourself, here is a recipe that looks good: http://www.pbs.org/food/recipes/prinsesstarta-princess-cake/

For the marzipan, some grocery stores sell it in ready made tubes in the baking section, which could save you time instead of having to crush the almonds yourself. You can also use a good storebought jam instead of making your own, which may simplify things. The chocolate piping in this recipe is optional. I don’t think it’s necessary. The fondant rose is a nice touch, but also is optional. A dusting of powdered sugar on top of the marzipan with no further embellishments still looks great.

Ingredients

For the vanilla custard:
600ml (20 fl oz) milk
1 vanilla pod, split in half lengthways and seeded scraped out
6 free-range egg yolks
100g (3½ oz) caster sugar
50g (1¾ oz) cornflour
50g (1¾ oz) unsalted butter

For the jam:
200g (7 oz) raspberries
175g (6 oz) jam sugar

For the sponge:
4 large free-range eggs
150g (5½ oz) caster sugar
75g (2½ oz) cornflour
75g (2½ oz) plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
50g (1¾ oz) butter, melted

For the fondant rose:
25g (1oz) pink ready-to-roll icing
icing sugar, for dusting
To decorate:
750ml (1⅓ pints) double cream
50g (1¾ oz) dark chocolate (36% cocoa solids), melted

For the marzipan:
400g (14 oz) ground almonds
150g (5½ oz) caster sugar
250g (9 oz) icing sugar, plus extra for dusting
2 medium free-range eggs, beaten
1 tsp almond extract
green food coloring paste (do not use liquid food coloring)

princess-cake640x360-288x162
The finished result of this recipe.

Directions
For the vanilla custard, pour the milk into a pan with the vanilla seeds and vanilla pod and place over a low heat until just simmering. Remove from the heat.

In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks, sugar and cornflour together until pale and creamy.
Remove the vanilla pod from the warm milk. (You can rinse this off to use in making vanilla sugar.)

Stir the warm milk slowly into the egg mixture. Pour the mixture back into the pan and cook over a low heat for 4-5 minutes, whisking, until the mixture thickens. (It should be very thick.)
Remove from the heat and beat in the butter until melted and incorporated. Transfer to a bowl, cover the surface with clingfilm to prevent a skin forming and leave to cool. Set aside to chill in the fridge.

For the jam, tip the raspberries into a deep saucepan with the sugar and two tablespoons of water. Cook gently over a low heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is dissolved. Bring the mixture to the boil and boil vigorously for about four minutes, or until the temperature reaches 104C/219F on a sugar thermometer. Transfer to a heatproof bowl and leave to cool completely.

For the sponge, preheat the oven to 180C/160C(fan)/Gas 4. Grease and line the base of a 23cm (9 in) springform tin with baking parchment.

Put the eggs and sugar into a large bowl and using an electric mixer, whisk together until the mixture is very pale and thick and the whisk leaves a trail on the surface when lifted. This will take about five minutes.

Sift the cornflour, flour and baking powder over the egg mixture and carefully fold in using a large metal spoon. Fold in the melted butter, taking care not to over mix.

Pour the mixture into the lined tin and bake for 25-30 minutes until the sponge is golden-brown and has just started to shrink away from the sides of the tin. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool. When cool enough to handle, turn out on to a wire rack to cool completely.

For the fondant rose, roll 10 little pieces of fondant into small balls about the size of a cherry stone.

Dust two small pieces of greaseproof paper with icing sugar and one by one, place the balls of fondant between the sheets of greaseproof and flatten each ball out with your fingers, to a thin circle, approximately 2cm/1in in diameter. These form the petals. Roll the first petal up like a sausage to form a bud and wrap the remaining petals around the bud to make a rose. Bend and curl the edges of the petals, to make them look more realistic. Leave to dry for at least an hour.

To assemble the cake, using a serrated knife, cut the cake horizontally into three even layers. Place one of the sponges onto a serving plate. Spread a very thin layer of custard over the base of the first sponge.

Spoon a quarter of the custard into a piping bag fitted with a small plain nozzle and pipe a border around the edge of the sponge – this is to contain the jam.

Spoon the jam over the sponge, and spread evenly within the border.

In a bowl, whip 600ml/20fl oz of the double cream to firm peaks. Fold half of the whipped cream into the remaining custard.

Spread one-third of the custard cream over the jam.

Place the second sponge on top and spread over the remaining custard cream.

Place the third sponge on top. Spoon over the remaining whipped cream covering the sides and smoothing into a small dome shape on the top. Set aside in the fridge for an hour.

For the marzipan, mix the ground almonds and sugars in a mixer fitted with a dough hook, before adding the eggs and almond extract.

Knead in the bowl until it forms a stiff dough. Turn out onto a surface dusted with icing sugar. Using a cocktail stick add a tiny amount of green food coloring and knead to an even pastel green color.

Roll out the marzipan on a surface lightly dusted with icing sugar, to a 40cm/16in diameter circle, large enough to cover the cake. Lift the marzipan up over the cake and using your hands, shape the marzipan around the sides of the cake to get a smooth finish. Trim any excess.

Whip the remaining 150ml/5½fl oz of cream to medium peaks and spoon into a piping bag fitted with a small star nozzle. Pipe around the base of the cake.

Spoon the melted chocolate into a small paper piping bag. Snip off the end and pipe a swirl over the top of the cake. Top with the fondant rose.

pink_princess_cake
A pink princess cake.

You can also order a Princess cake from several online sources. They aren’t cheap, but the expense may be worth it if you’re not a pretty advanced baker. I couldn’t find any simple recipes for this cake.

Here are a few online outlets where you may order one.

Copenhagen Bakery and Cafe: http://www.copenhagenbakery.com/product/Princess-Cake/
Schubert’s Bakery: https://www.schuberts-bakery.com/whipped-creme-cakes/swedish-princess-cake.html
IKEA used to sell these cakes too, but all I could find on their site was a miniature version that looked like a cupcake. Here it is, if you’re interested: http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/30206306/

I hate cream cheese icing!

The holidays are coming and the cold weather is here, and baking is on my mind. I adore red velvet cake, especially around the holidays, but every recipe I’ve seen for it says you must use cream cheese icing. But I can’t stand it–even though sweetened, it still tastes like cheese. It doesn’t go with cake.

Now I love me some cheese, but not with dessert. Fine, I’ll make an exception for cheesecake, even though I don’t love cheesecake as much as most people do. Cheese is tart and salty and belongs with meat, potatoes and pasta, not with cake! Yeah, I know cream cheese is mild and spreads easily, but it’s for toasted rye and bagels, not cake.

I can’t even purchase a red velvet cake because I know it will probably be covered with cream cheese icing. It looks just like buttercream and that’s such a mindfuck. The only way to tell the difference is after the cake is a few days old, the cream cheese forms little cracks where the icing hardens, like the crust that forms inside the foil wrapper of a block of Philadelphia brand cream cheese. Ewwww!

creamcheesebuttercream
Cream cheese or buttercream? You can’t tell by looking at it.

Everyone seems to love cream cheese icing, and there aren’t even too many complaints about it on the web. I don’t get it. What’s so great about it? It’s disgusting. It’s not healthier than buttercream. It’s still loaded with fat and cholesterol.

Give me good old buttercream any day, which tastes awesome on red velvet cake and any other kind of frosted cake. But not just any old buttercream will do. I can’t stand storebought buttercreams (the kind in the can) which are way too sweet, and even worse is the fake “buttercream” used in supermarket bakeries and on Wal-Mart’s cakes and cupcakes. That stuff tastes just like Crisco and leaves a greasy, unpleasant feel in your mouth.

No, a good buttercream must be made from scratch. When made properly, it’s sweet without being too sweet, and has a fabulous buttery taste that doesn’t coat your mouth with grease the way commercial buttercreams do. It spreads easily on the cake, and it looks fantastic. Here’s the buttercream I’ll be using on the red velvet cake I plan to bake tomorrow:

Lucky Otter’s Perfect Buttercream Frosting

3 cups confectioner’s sugar
1/2 stick unsalted butter (softened for 1 minute in microwave–do not melt!)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract *
Milk to achieve desired consistency (usually 2-3 tablespoons)

Mix the first 3 ingredients in a bowl until a stiff paste forms. Add tablespoons of milk while stirring until frosting is of a spreadable consistency.
Do not ice the cake until it is completely cooled.

* You can substitute vanilla extract with lemon extract, almond extract, or any other type of extract depending on what type of cake you are making.