Tackling Tiramisu

There are very few non-chocolate desserts that I will give the time of day.  My absolute favorite non-chocolate dessert is butterscotch brownies, which continue to baffle me with their non-chocolaty deliciousness.  There are some things that cannot be rationally explained and I believe this is one of them.  Next on my list of acceptable non-chocolate desserts is tiramisu, but only a handful that I have tasted in my life are up to snuff.  One absolute deal-breaker is any trace of almond.  In my opinion, it does not belong in tiramisu.

I tried to make tiramisu once before in my life.  It was not a success.  I went a little overboard on the coffee and put in about twice what the recipe called for because those lady fingers just didn’t look saturated enough as I was assembling the dessert.  The next day, my tiramisu was sitting in a puddle.  The taste wasn’t bad, but I definitely had a texture issue to work out.  Unfortunately, I had volunteered to make this dessert because my mom’s boss and his family were coming over for dinner.  They were sports and cleaned their plates.   It was on that fateful day that I learned firsthand the valuable lesson that one should never prepare an unfamiliar dish for the first time when company is coming over, particularly company you would like to remain in good standing with.  Instead, I would highly recommend preparing something that you have perfected.

My mother did not get fired in case you were wondering.

Since my tiramisu had knocked me down instead of picking me up, it was a while before I was emotionally ready to tackle it again.  My neighbor Anna is Italian and a wonderful cook and baker, so I decided it was safe to try to make tiramisu again with her.

I only allowed myself to measure the dry ingredients and did not deviate from the recipe in the slightest.

For the most part.

When Anna and I were discussing the ingredients for the dessert, I offered to pick up the lady fingers.  She informed me that that would not be necessary as we would be making the cake portion ourselves because it would be a better texture and flavor.  Boy was she right on about that.

This recipe is a long one, but it’s not difficult.  It originates from Southern Living magazine, circa 1988. Heregoes:

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Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line a half-sheet pan with wax paper and then butter and flour the wax paper so the cake does not stick.

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Separate 4 eggs and let them come to room temperature.

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Melt 3 tablespoons of butter and let it cool.

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Brew some potent coffee and put 1 cup of it aside to cool. (I would recommend drinking the rest of it if you’re sleepy because this is going to take a while.)  Add ¼ cup of sugar and a miniature of Kahlua to the coffee.

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Sift together 1 cup of all-purpose flour, ¼ teaspoon of baking powder, and ¼ teaspoon of salt.

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In another bowl, beat together the egg yolks and ¾ cup of sugar until light and thick.  This will take about 5 minutes so I would recommend stretching beforehand if using a handheld mixer.

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It will look something like this when it’s ready.

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Then pour in 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, 1 tablespoon of water, and 1 teaspoon of ‘niller extract.

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I love vanilla extract.

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I also really like this nifty little gadget that allows one to dust cocoa powder on things.

Sorry, I got sidetracked by the idea of something chocolate.

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In yet another bowl, beat the egg whites on low speed until they are frothy and then add in ¼ cup of sugar.  Increase the speed of the mixer to medium and beat the egg whites until they are stiff but don’t overbeat.

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Add half of the egg white mixture and half of the flour mixture to the egg yolk mixture.  Fold the mixtures together until combined.  Repeat with the remaining half of the mixtures.

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Pour the batter onto the sheet pan.

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Spread the batter evenly across the sheet pan using a spatula.

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Then pop it in the oven for 15 or 20 minutes or until golden brown on top and the center springs back.

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Let it cool for a few minutes in the pan and then turn it out onto wax paper and let it cool completely.

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Carefully remove the wax paper from the bottom of the cake as that is not a texture you want in your tiramisu.

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Then, cut off the edges of the sponge cake so no one has to experience a crunchy/stiff bite of tiramisu. Remember, it’s all about texture.

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For the filling, beat 1 cup of heavy cream until it forms peaks.

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Then beat together ½ cup sugar and 1 pound of mascarpone cheese.

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Fold together the mascarpone mixture and the heavy cream.  If you’re feeling rebellious, add a few drops of vanilla extract into the mixture.  In my experience, a little extra vanilla extract never hurt anything.

It was Anna’s idea.

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Next, cut the cake in half and place one half on a serving dish.

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Brush half of the coffee mixture onto the cake using a pastry brush.

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It should look something like this.

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Dust the cake generously with cocoa powder.

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Then sprinkle on some chocolate shavings.

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Spread half of the filling mixture over the first layer of cake.

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Easier said than done. Don’t be alarmed if some of the chocolate shavings get mixed in.  No one will ever know and it will still taste good.

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Repeat this process with the second layer of cake and filling.

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Coffee mixture…

Cocoa powder and chocolate shavings.

Filling…

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Some more cocoa powder…

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Smooth the sides with a knife.

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Decorate the top with dark and white chocolate shavings.

Then let the cake sit overnight in the refrigerator and enjoy the next day (preferably not with your mom’s boss unless this is at least the second time you’re making this recipe).

Here are the recipe cards:

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(We deviated from the recipe a little bit by adding Kahlua instead of sherry or Marsala.  Don’t tell anyone.)

Y’all hurry back,

Sugarlump

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Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

I once had a peanut butter chocolate chip cookie at a local restaurant in the town I grew up in.

It changed my life forever.

After that day, it became my mission to perfect a peanut butter chocolate chip cookie recipe.

It took many a flop for me to get to where I am today.  I tried several recipes I found online and none was peanut-buttery enough.  So I tinkered with this and that and I think I’ve got a good thing going.   The trick is to put in A LOT of peanut butter.  Shocking, I know.  Also, take the cookies out of the oven before they look done.  I mean it. If you leave them in there until they look done, they will turn into bricks.  And no one likes to eat peanut butter chocolate chip bricks.

If you want to become instantly popular among your younger sister’s high school pals, I would suggest making these cookies.  After I made the cookies for the youngsters the first time, I was hit up for a double batch almost every time they came over.  I nearly broke my mixer once when I received a triple batch request.

There were never any cookies left by the time Eugene’s friends went home.

Here’s how to become instantly popular among your sister’s friends:

Assemble butter, peanut butter, sugar, light brown sugar, eggs, all-purpose flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and chocolate chips but NOT vanilla extract.  I don’t know what that was doing there.

Ingredients (recap):

1)      1 stick of unsalted butter, softened

2)      ¾ cup of peanut butter

3)      1/3 cup of light brown sugar

4)      2/3 cup of sugar

5)      1 egg

6)      1 ¼ cup all-purpose flour

7)      ½ teaspoon baking powder

8)      ½ teaspoon baking soda

9)      ¼ teaspoon salt

10)   1 cup chocolate chips (preferably 60% bittersweet)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Measure out the first 4 ingredients and throw them into a mixing bowl.

I would highly recommend spraying your measuring cup with cooking spray to help that peanut butter slide right into the bowl.  Keep a spatula handy in case the peanut butter gets pesky.

Cream the butter, peanut butter and white and brown sugars until light in color.

Add the egg and mix until incorporated.

Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Add dry mixture to wet mixture and mix until just combined.

Stir in chocolate chips by hand.  I would have taken a picture but I was stirring.

Drop the dough onto a baking sheet using a large spring-loaded cookie/ice-cream scoop for even cookies.  Press down to flatten the cookies to ¾” thick.  The cookies should be about 3″ in diameter.  If you only have a medium size cookie/ice-cream scoop like the one pictured above, your cookies will be about 2″ in diameter.    Press any straggler dough into the sides of the cookies so they look prettier and more uniform when they come out of the oven.

Bake for 8-12 minutes (depending on your scoop size) or until just barely starting to brown.  The cookies will look underdone.  Let the cookies cool for 5 minutes on baking sheet and then serve or finish cooling them on wire rack.

I tidied up the edges of the dough for the cookies on the left and neglected to do so for the batch on the right.  The ones on the left are much more attractive.   However, I over-baked the cookies on the left and the ones on the right were just right.  You really have the watch these suckers.  The MOMENT you see just a hint of brown on the cookies, remove them from the oven to cool IMMEDIATELY.

I mean it.

You’ll thank me.

Y’all eat up,

Sugarlump

Things I Never Tire Of

Things of which I never tire:

1)      Sunsets

2)      Laughter

3)      Shoes

4)      Floor plans

5)      Chocolate

6)      Family and close friends

7)      Mystery

8)      Sitting on a porch

9)      The unconditional love of my little furballs

10)   Mexican food

In an ideal moment, I would be sitting on a porch of a home I designed the floor plan of, with family and friends, furballs at my feet, eating Mexican food followed by something chocolate, while laughing in a fabulous pair of shoes, pondering the great mystery that is life, as the sun sets.

 

Y’all keep it real,

Sugarlump

“One Lovely Blog” and “Inspiring Blog” Awards

A gigantic thank you to the Unconfirmed Bachelorette for nominating me for the One Lovely Blog and Inspiring Blog awards.  You’re too kind. 🙂

In accepting this award, it is my pleasure to complete the following:

  1. Link back to the blogger who nominated me.
  2. Post the blog award image on my page.
  3. Tell 7 facts about myself.
  4. Nominate 15 other blogs and let the nominees know they been chosen.

7 things about me:

  1. I realized at age 19 on an amusement park ride that I am somewhat claustrophobic.
  2. I don’t have a favorite color as I prefer different colors in different contexts.  As a designer, I’d like to think I could make any color appealing with the right companions.  Except mauve.  I really don’t like mauve in any situation.
  3. I’ve never broken a bone. 
  4. I love wholesale clubs.  Especially ones that carry 5lb bags of Ghirardelli 60% cocoa bittersweet chocolate chips.
  5. There was a period in my life when I shopped almost exclusively at Gap Boys.  Thank goodness that phase is over.
  6. On a semi-regular basis, I have dreams (nightmares) that I am late for high-school lacrosse practice and don’t have athletic clothing, a lacrosse stick, a mouth guard, goggles or my locker combination.  I don’t know what this means, but I’m sure it’s serious.
  7. Two of my favorite TEE-vee shows are Reba and Dexter, which could not be more opposite.  I think that just about sums me up.

 And, now, for my nominees:

  1. http://thecountrychick.com/
  2. http://silvermoonfarm.wordpress.com/
  3. http://apronhead.wordpress.com/
  4. http://beautifulsimplemeaningful.wordpress.com/
  5. http://undertheskysofark.wordpress.com/
  6. http://seasonsgirl.wordpress.com/
  7. http://twocatsviews.wordpress.com/
  8. http://lynettemia.wordpress.com/
  9. http://blog.humbleabode.com/
  10. http://emsbytes.wordpress.com/
  11. http://barbellsandbuttercream.com/
  12. http://threepointskitchen.com/
  13. http://thisbountifulbackyard.com/
  14. http://goodlifefarm.wordpress.com/
  15. http://finickydesigner.wordpress.com/

A lot of the blogs I like have the same theme that I do.   I wonder: Do I like these blogs because I like the theme? Or do I like these blogs because the writers like the same things that I do and therefore I feel a connection?  Seriously, like half of the blogs I nominate have the “forever” theme.  It’s so warm and nostalgic.  So informal and yet tidy looking.  It’s how I like things to be.

Y’all hurry back,

Sugarlump

Super Sweet Blogging Award

A big ol’ thank you to Texas and Carine over at Texas, a Cat in New York for nominating me for the Super Sweet Blogging Award!  You are so sweet to nominate me.  I am very touched.  🙂

1.       Cookies or cake?

I’m big on texture and I love the fluffiness of cake against a nice, rich icing.  But I really like cookies, too.  This is hard.

2.       Chocolate or Vanilla?

CHOCOLATE.  ALL.  DAY.  LONG.

3.       What is your favorite sweet treat?

Rainbow cookies from Roma Bakery in Bluebell, PA.

4.       When do you crave sweet things the most?

At all times.  I have a big, bad sweet tooth.

5.       If you had a sweet nickname, what would it be?

That’s easy:  sugarlump!

Now, I would like to pass along this award to a baker’s dozen of sweet blogs:

  1. http://catbird365.wordpress.com/
  2. http://observetal.com/
  3. http://aikoyoshida.wordpress.com/
  4. http://kaitlynkirby.com/
  5. http://splashofsomething.com/
  6. http://ramblingsfromjewels.wordpress.com/
  7. http://countrygirllifeonthefarm.com/
  8. http://the-dairy-maid.com/
  9. http://westeastern.me/
  10. http://ninagarden.wordpress.com/
  11. http://homeon129acres.wordpress.com/
  12. http://kathyschronicles.com/
  13. http://crazycowboywife.wordpress.com/

Thank you for sharing your sweetness!

Sweet dreams y’all,

Sugarlump

One of those Mornings

Yesterday morning was one of those mornings.  You know, one of those mornings that you NEED coffee.   Most mornings I want coffee, but the situation yesterday morning was much more severe. Usually procuring some coffee is not a big deal.  The office … Continue reading

Absurdly Simple Chocolate Sauce

When I crave chocolate, I MUST have it.  One chocolate item that really satisfies my cravings is chocolate sauce.  I’ve even been known to eat it straight.  I am not ashamed.  Dark chocolate is good for you. Now, I am … Continue reading

Pearly Whites

I am writing this with Crest White Strips on my teeth. I find them very uncomfortable so I decided to distract myself by blogging.

I’m not sure why these white strips are so problematic for me, but I have an awful time getting them to stick to my teeth.  I have to avoid talking or closing my mouth when I have them on or else they seem to lose their grip on my chompers.

To help with issue, I have started using a paper towel to remove as much moisture as possible from my teeth before I put on the white strips.  If you’ve never tried this before, I would recommend it just to see what it’s like.  It is a very bizarre feeling.

I’ve taken a poll among family and friends and it seems as though I am the only one who has such difficulty with this teeth whitening process.

I guess my teeth are shaped funny.

I know that makes me sound quite attractive, so I would just like to clarify that I had braces and my teeth are straight.  I don’t look like a jack-o-lantern.

I really detest these white strips.

On the bright side, they are preventing me from eating, which I’ve already done enough of today.

I really want some chocolate.

Ding.

My 30 minutes is up.  I can’t wait to pull these things off.

My teeth had better be so sparkly by next week that you need sunglasses to look at me.

Y’all come back,

Sugarlump