Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Red, White, and Blue Mini Layer Cakes for Two

This month's What's Baking challenge, from Heather of Hezzi-D's Books and Cooks, was to bake a layer cake. And I love layer cakes! You get more icing and filling than other cakes! Why not have layers? The logic seems to work, at least for me.

Since the 4th of July is coming up just around the bend, I decided to make my layer cake patriotic with red, white, and blue components. Red was simple, because I love red velvet, blue was just a spin-off of red velvet now called blue velvet, and since hubby had just taken a trip to Junior's recently and brought me some cheesecake, I had cheesecake on the brain. The assembly resembles our wedding cake as well! Our wedding cake was chocolate and vanilla layers with actual NY cheesecake in the middle covered with chocolate ganache. Well, this is similar, red and blue velvet cake with cheesecake piped in the middle covered with white chocolate ganache. And if you are thinking to yourself, "Which was better?", all I can say is... I'm not going to argue with either one!

1 1/2 lbs cream cheese
1 1/3 cups sugar
5 large eggs
16 ounces sour cream
1/4 cup flour
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoons lemon juice

Cake: (Red Velvet/Blue Velvet)

2 1/2 cup cake flour
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp salt
2 eggs, room temp
1 1/2 cup oil
1 cup buttermilk
1 tbsp gel food color, approx.
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp white distilled vinegar

White Chocolate Ganache:
8 oz white chocolate
2/3 cup heavy cream

*Makes 3-4 mini layer cakes*

1. Let's start with making our cheesecake, since it has to cook and cool the longest. You may recognize this cheesecake recipe from an earlier post here. It's the same minus the crust.

2. Start by creaming the softened cream cheese. Then add the sugar and eggs, one at time, while continuing to beat on low.

3. Add flour, lemon juice, and vanilla. Stir. Fold in the sour cream.

4. Pour batter in a 9" springform pan and bake on 325 degrees for about an hour and fifteen minutes. No need to be worried about cracking or appearance for this cheesecake seeing as it be piped later. Once cooled, place in fridge until time to assemble cake.

5. Now, let's work on our cakes. We are going to make red and blue velvet cakes in 9" cake pans. To do so, we are going to simply divide the batter and add red food coloring to one half and blue food coloring to the other half. If you wanted to make a few more mini cakes, you could double the recipe and dye each batch, red and blue respectively. This recipe is from an earlier post of red velvet stuffed cupcakes.

6. In a medium bowl, sift together all of the dry ingredients for the cupcakes: flour, sugar, baking soda, cocoa, and salt. Set aside.

7. In the bowl of a stand mixer add all the wet ingredients: eggs, oil, buttermilk, food coloring, vanilla, and vinegar. Beat until smooth.

8. Slowly add the dry mix into the wet mix and blend for a minute or two until fully incorporated. Pour batter into two greased and floured cake pans.

9. Bake at 350 for 28-33 or until fully done. Test with toothpick. Set aside to cool.

10. Once both the cheesecake and cakes are fully cooled, you can begin to make the white chocolate ganache. Place the white chocolate, slightly broken up, into a double boiler over low heat.

11. Stir and let chocolate melt slowly. Add in the heavy cream and continue to stir over low heat. Once fully melted, continue to stir for about 2 minutes, then remove from heat and allow to cool for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally while cooling.

12. Time to assemble! Start by using a cookie cutter or I used a biscuit cutter to make 3 " circles. Depending on the exact shape of the pan and cutter, you will yield either three or four of each color. Place the blue circles on a baking rack. Blue cakes will be bottoms and red cakes will be tops, but you can feel free to switch 'em up!

13. Scoop cheesecake into a piping bag fit with a coupler and large round tip. Begin piping on top of each blue cake circle to fill the surface. Continue with all bottoms. Place red circles on top of the cheesecake filling to finish the cake tower.

14. By now, the ganache should be fully cooled. Be sure to place a dish or cookie sheet under the baking rack to catch the drips. Start spooning white chocolate ganache over the cakes and let it drip down the sides.

15. Depending on the thickness you desire, you may want one or two coats of ganache. I did two on mine. After the first coat, pop them in the fridge for 10 minutes and then apply second coat!
That's it! Now you have a perfect patriotic dessert for the 4th of July! Enjoy!

Also featured on: Savory Sunday, Mangia Monday,Moutherwatering Monday, Made from Scratch Tuesday, Tempt my Tummy Tuesday, This Chick Cooks

Friday, June 24, 2011

Quattro Formaggi Pizza with a Twist

So my husband is obsessed with this one pizza from our area that is a white pizza with cheddar on it. He will always hands-down choose that pizza over any others, so I figured it's about time I make it for him! I changed it up a little bit and threw in some extras so it's basically four cheese white pizza with a twist. And needless to say, Robert gave it a try and loved it! He said this pizza his new favorite. Hope you enjoy this yummy pizza!

1 pizza crust dough, whole wheat (we bought ours for a local pizzeria, but you can make our own or buy one at the grocery store)

2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour
1 cup of heavy cream
3/4 cup of pecorino romano cheese, grated
2 tsp pepper
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp oregano
1 clove of garlic, crushed

Cheeses and Toppings
12 oz Mozzarella cheese, grated
8 oz Ricotta cheese
4 oz cheddar cheese, sliced
2 oz Pecorino Romano, grated
half of a fresh red pepper, cut into thin strips (or a roasted red pepper)
15 leaves of fresh spinach
1 tsp garlic powder

1. Start out by making the pizza sauce, and since this is a white pizza, it's an easy, but flavorful alfredo sauce for the pizza base.

2. Melt your butter and mix in the flour with a wooden spoon over medium heat. Keep mixing until the flour is fully dissolved into the butter (about 3 minutes).

3. Add in the heavy cream and stir to incorporate. Let cook for another minute or two while stirring.

4. Lower the heat and add in your spices; pepper, nutmeg, oregano, and crushed garlic. Stir and let simmer on very low.

5. Stir in cheese and remove from heat. Set aside to let cool.

6. While the sauce cools, start prepping our pizza dough. Shape your dough into an flat oval with your palms and place on a your work surface. Sprinkle some corn meal over the dough and flip it over. Start rolling your dough until it reaches your desired thickness.

7. Transfer your dough to a pre-heated pizza stone or a metal pizza pan/cookie sheet lightly greased with shortening and stretch it to cover the surface. (Your pizza stone should be warmed in 475 degree oven for about 10 minutes) Spread alfredo sauce onto dough.

8. Now time to start adding the cheeses! Sprinkle on the mozzarella. Next, lay the cheddar slices on top, spacing them slightly apart until you cover the pizza.

9. Using a ice cream or cookie scoop, Start scooping ricotta balls onto the pizza, keeping them spread apart. Sprinkle on pecorino romano cheese.

10. Scatter some red pepper slices and spinach leaves over the pizza. Sprinkle some garlic powder over the pizza and get ready to eat!

11. Pop that pizza in a 425 degree oven for 15-20 minutes, until the cheeses are fully melted and slightly golden brown. Hope you enjoy your pizza!

Also featured on Foodie Friday and Full Plate Thursday

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Watermelon Fruit Basket

It's starting to get that hot streak back, which I was more than happy left those last two weeks. And while I live to bake, sometimes when it's really hot outside I just don't want to turn on the oven at all. It's on those occasions that all the no-bake desserts are my best friends.

Since it's been so warm out recently, I turned to a fruity sweet snack instead of another baked treat. This is a super easy and very fun fruit dessert to make, plus it's healthy! It can be used as a centerpiece, a dessert item, or just part of a backyard party. And all you need is a little bit of time, a knife, and a melon baller/cookie scoop.

This watermelon basket was made to celebrate my favorite uncle's recent promotion. He's now the head honcho of the east coast! We also made a cake decorated with the his company logo, but I didn't think it turned out quite cute enough for blogging. He's pretty into all things healthy so this dessert was right up his alley. Hope you enjoy this fruit basket!

1 whole watermelon
1 pint blueberries
1 pint strawberries
1 pineapple, cut into chunks
1 pint of raspberries
6 kiwis, sliced

1. The only tricky part to this endeavour is making the basket. Be sure your watermelon has a flat bottom so it will be able to stand freely and is as blemish free as possible. Begin by using a pairing knife to score the portions that are going to be cut away. You will be removing the top half of the watermelon on the outer edges. Basically, from halfway up the watermelon to the top will be completely removed except for about 3 inches in the middle for the handle.

2. Then using a sharp knife, cut out the top right and left portions, being careful to leave the middle section for what will be the handle.

3. Remove sections of pulp from inside the basket bottom and inner handle, placing them aside to later be shaped into melon balls. Continue until the watermelon is hollow.

4. Using an ice cream scoop, scrape around the hollow inside to make it even and smooth. (No need to be too fussy though, it will be covered up with all the yummy fruit soon!)

5. Using a sharp knife, begin making diagonal cuts on your handle to make the triangular edges. Continue along all the edges of the handle and basket.

6. Then start filling your basket with the fruit. Blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries can go in whole. The pineapple can simply be cut into chunks. The watermelon (and any other melon too, we usually use cantaloupe or honeydew as well) needs to be balled. Using a cookie scoop or melon baller, stick the end in the melon and turn it around full circle, then pull it out and you have a melon ball! Feel free to add in any other fruits you like as well.

7. Toss all the fruit together in your watermelon basket and you are all set! (I placed the kiwi slices on top and did not toss them in because they are more delicate.) You can also serve this with a fruit dip, like this Irish Cream Fruit Dip. If you have any leftover strawberries and blueberries, these Red, White, and Blue Berries are perfect for upcoming 4th of July parties. Enjoy!

Also featured: Mangia Mondays, Mangia Mondays, and Mouthwatering Mondays

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Marinated Chicken Kebabs

Here's a quick and easy marinade for chicken kebabs! Perfect for these months of summer heat to do all the cooking outside!

2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp salt
3 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp ground black pepper
2 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp dried pepperoncino
2 tsp lemon juice
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
3/4 cup of olive oil
1/4 cup corn oil
3 tbsp water
3 lbs chicken cutlets, cut into cubes
wooden skewers

1. Whisk all the dry ingredients together in a bowl. This mixture is basically a homemade version of a Good Season or other Italian dressing dry mix and can be stored for approx. 2 months in a sealed container. You could even double or triple this recipe and have it in your pantry(use approx 3- 3 1/2 heaping tbsp for each batch.) Then when you are ready to make the dressing, you have it on hand!

2. Add the olive oil, corn oil, and water to the dry seasoning and whisk to blend well.

3. Place the chicken cubes and the dressing together into a sealed bag or container and refrigerate overnight (at least 4 hours) to let the flavors become fully absorbed.

4. Soak your skewers half an hour or so before you are ready to assemble to help prevent burning. Slide the marinated chicken pieces onto the skewers.

5. Now you are ready to grill! Throw your kebabs on the grill until fully cooked, rotating halfway through to even char all sides. Enjoy your chicken kebabs as appetizer, a quick dinner, or a barbecue side dish!

Also featured on: Mouthwatering Mondays, Mangia Monday, and Mangia Monday

Stuffed Crust Pepperoni Pizza

So today my little brother, John, is graduating from 8th grade. I can't believe he's that old already!! And his birthday is this weekend so it's a super party packed weekend ahead (and don't forget Father's Day is in there too). One thing that anyone who knows John is aware of is eating habits. He is the most particular eater ever. (As I've mentioned before in my younger days, I tended to be a picky eater too but I surprisingly grew out of it). And my little brother is no different! His favorite foods consist of the ever famous Kraft Mac and Cheese, Chicken cutlets, Pizza, and Eggo Waffles. But at least there is some good homemade food he likes too. And pizza is probably his favorite food ever. So for this weekend of celebrating, we will be having some homemade pepperoni pizza for my ever picky, ever crazy, ever silly, little brother!

1 pizza crust dough (we bought ours from a pizzeria, but you can make one or buy one from a grocery store too)

1 1/2 cup of quick marinara sauce
10 oz mozzarella cheese, shredded
1 tsp salt
3 tsp pepper
1 clove of garlic, crushed
3 oz Pecorino romano cheese
5 oz pepperoni, sliced thick (or about half a stick)
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp basil
12-14 mozzarella sicks, cut into thirds

1. Shape your dough into an flat oval with your palms and place on a your work surface.

2. Sprinkle some corn meal over the dough and flip it over. Start rolling your dough until it reaches your desired thickness.

3. Transfer your dough to a pre-heated pizza stone or a metal pizza pan/cookie sheet lightly greased with shortening and stretch it to cover the surface, even have some overhang if possible. (Your pizza stone should be warmed in 475 degree oven for about 10 minutes)

4. Now I wanted to try something different with this pizza, so I took mozzarella sticks chunks and lined them around the edge of the pizza pan and rolled the overhang of crust on top of the mozzarella sticks to make a stuffed crust. Be sure to pinch the dough together or the melted cheese will escape-a lesson I learned.

4. Spread your sauce over dough top with mozzarella cheese. Sprinkle on your seasonings; salt, pepper, oregano, and basil.

5. Add the pepperoni slices. I purchased a stick of pepperoni and used a mandoline to cut them. It was a super fast and easy way to cut pepperoni and you can gauge the thickness you desire.

6. Sprinkle on your Pecorino Romano cheese(and you can use more than the suggested amount above, it's ok. I won't tell anyone) and maybe even a little extra mozzarella too since this is a stuffed crust pizza, it's all about the cheese.

7. Bake your pizza for about 15-20 minutes on 425 degrees. I also like to broil the pizza on low just for a minute when it's done to crisp the pepperoni. Enjoy your pizza!!

Also featured on: Ultimate Recipe Swap and Full Plate Thursdays