Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Elvis Cake Truffles

More than a few days ago I was lucky enough to play host to the Philadelphia Food Blogger Potluck and Meet-Up. This was the third such meeting since we started the get togethers at the end of last year, and I for one had a wonderful time. I took a few pictures you can see in this Flickr set of the goodies everyone brought and the silliness that ensued as the night wrapped up.

This post is about the delightful little candies I made for this event. My Elvis cake is always a hit with friends and at A Full Plate, but I wanted to challenge myself and transformed the traditional Elvis cake into a bite sized candy treat. Inspired by Bakerella and my previous attempt at Red Velvet Cake Bon Bon's, I created Elvis Cake Truffles!
elvis 1 (2)
The truffles were a hit, but the recipe made far more than even a group of 30 ravenous food bloggers could consume in one night, so I ended up packing three or four in Ziploc bags and forcing them upon my guests as they left.

For the cake:

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1/2 cup butter or shortening
1 cup milk
3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 eggs
2 mashed bananas
1/2 tsp banana extract
2/3 cup mini chocolate chips, more for sprinkling on the finished cake

Mix together the flour, baking powder and salt and set aside. In a large bowl, cream sugar and shortening until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition. Add flour mixture alternately with milk, beating just to combine. finally, stir in vanilla, mashed bananas, and banana extract. Pour batter into a prepared 13X9 baking dish. Sprinkle the cake with mini chocolate chips and bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean.

Cool the cake completely, then crumble it up in a very large bowl.

Cream Cheese Frosting:

One 8 oz package of cream cheese, softened
4 oz butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups confectioner's sugar

Cream the softened cream cheese and softened butter together in the bowl of an electric mixer, add vanilla. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and slowly add the confectioner's sugar. Beat until thoroughly combined.

Add the entire batch of frosting to the bowl of cake crumbs and use your hands to smash it all together into a paste like consistency. Using a spoon or a cookie scoop, form 1 1/2 inch balls and place on a cookie sheet. Chill the Elvis cake centers in the freezer for about two hours.
elvis (4)
Thank goodness my friend Angela was in town visiting for our birthday, because she helped me roll all the centers and then dip them in peanut butter coating. This process can be very time consuming, but two sets of hands are better than one, and we got all the candies dipped in record time. To cover all of my truffles I used Wilton's Peanut Butter Candy Melts, and it took three whole bags. Work in batches, melting the candy melts in a large microwave safe bowl, but check the bag for more specific instructions.
elvis (6)
However, these candies were less than beautiful. I even went out and purchased candy dipping tools and forks that were supposed to make the experience easier, but they didn't work as well as a fork for me. I think the candy melts had a different consistency compared to the white chocolate bark I used for the Red Velvet Bon Bon's.
elvis_crop

Regardless of their homely appearance, these Elvis Truffles were delicious. They definitely echoed the flavors of the original Elvis cake, but had the added crunch of a candy shell and the fun of eating with your hands.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

PBE_bar
This recipe is my entry for the first ever Peanut Butter Exhibition! The Peanut Butter Boy and I got to talking one day about starting a new blogging event devoted to peanut butter, The Chocolate Peanut Butter Gallery jumped on board, and here we are! For this flagship roundup the theme is cookies. I decided to borrow elements of my most successful cookie recipe ever, Coconut Toffee Almond Crunch Cookies, and add peanut butter flavors on multiple levels. The result was totally awesome! These cookies are sweet, salty, chewy, crunchy, and of course, peanut buttery!
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14 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup peanut butter, smooth or creamy, your choice
1 cup white sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup quick oats
1 bag toffee chips (10oz)
1 cup dry roasted peanuts
3/4 cup sweetened flaked coconut
1 1/2 cups cornflakes, crushed a little bit

In a stand mixer, cream butter, peanut butter and sugars until fluffy. Add the vanilla extract and eggs and mix until creamy. In a separate bowl, mix flour, salt, and baking soda. Add these dry ingredients to the butter and sugar mixture. I like to mix the toffee bits, oatmeal, coconut, peanuts, and corn flakes together in a bowl before adding them to the cookie dough and if you use the bowl you just mixed the dry ingredients in, you'll save yourself washing a dish.
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Add the toffee and nut mixture to the dough and mix by hand. The dough is very stiff, but you want to mix it well so the cookies stay together.
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Drop about 2 tablespoons of dough about 2 inches apart on a parchment lined or non-stick foil lined cookie sheets. Because of the sticky toffee involved in this cookie, you won't want to skip lining your cookies sheets with silicon mats or parchment paper.
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Bake for 13 minutes at 350 degrees. Cool on wire racks store in an air tight container.
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You can still enter your Peanut Butter cookie recipe into the first Peanut Butter Exhibition round-up by sending your information to pbe@peanutbutterboy.com with "PBE #1" in the subject line. All the details can be found here. The deadline for this event is April 28th at 12pm (Pacific Time), so get cooking!
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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Hikari

Having Japanese food with a vegetarian and a non-fish eater can be a bit of a challenge, but Hikarai restaurant on Liberties walk always makes what could be tough a litle easier. Friendly waitstaff and a gorgeous interior design add to the appeal of this restaurant and sushi bar.
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As always, we over ordered. I blame myself. I like to order lots of dishes not only to experiment with new things, but I also like to photograph everything and then share the best of the best with you, dear readers. We started with the Nagimaki, thin pieces of beef wrapped around scallions, grilled, and served with a sweet and salty teriyaki sauce. I liked the sauce and the onions imparted a nice flavor to the beef, but the meat was a bit chewy. That aside, I'd order this again simply because the flavor was so good.
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The seaweed salad was also good. At some places, I feel like seaweed salad is an afterthought or at most just a side dish, so minimal effort is put in to making it taste the best. Not so at Hikari, this salad had the perfect balance of soy, rice vinegar and seasame.
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It's hard to go wrong with gyoza. We opted for the fried vegetarian variety, and they were good, but could have used a little zip. I would have loved a little siracha to dip them in instead of the soy, but just because I love it on everything, doesn't mean it's an appropriate condiment for everything.
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It was hard to object to the Yaki Tori, as it was so similar in flavor to the Nagamaki. White meat chicken was skewered with green onions and grilled, then served with teriyaki sauce. This dish was just as tasty as the beef version above.
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Shannon tried the Tempura Udon. Udon are soft thick noodles served in a mild broth. This was the first time Shannon had this kind of noodle and found them a bit too soft for her tastes. I adore them when served like this, but also enjoy them as a replacement for rice in stir-fry dishes.
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The udon soup came with tempura vegetables that you could float on top of the soup and eat with noodles. The tempura batter was light and crispy, exactly as it should be.
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Definitely try the Yasai Maki, spring greens, cucumber, avocado, asparagus and kanpyo (dried gourd shavings) make a light and fresh roll with tons of crunch and crispness.
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My favorite of the night was one of Hikari's speciality rolls called the Sprunchy. A spicy tuna roll is topped with avocado, tobiko (bright red flying fish roe), crunch, and spicy sauce, then beautifully arranged with seaweed salad as an accompaniment. Don't miss this roll, it's so delicious!
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Hikari has also been expanding their menu to include more vegetarian, as well as Korean items. We tasted one of these new dishes and I recommend you try it too. Jap-Che is a noodle dish made with thin glass-like noodles laced with seasame oil, mushrooms and lots of other veggies. This was Liz's favorite dish of the night, so I'm sure we'll be ordering it again and again now that it's on their menu.
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We ended the night with a refreshing vegetarian sushi that was a bit on the sweet side. Mango, avocado and mint were rolled inside of a thinly sliced cucumber and then drizzled with a sauce of honey, lemon and soy. I was wary, but it was lovely and made me feel cleansed after eating as much as I did at this meal.

If you're in Northern Liberties and hankering for Japanese or Korean food, check out Hikari on Liberties walk.

Hikari
1040 N. American Street
#701
Philadelphia, PA 19123

Hikari on Urbanspoon
215.923.2654

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Peanut Butter Exhibition

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A new blogger friend, The Peanut Butter Boy, and I got to talking recently about how awesome it would be to create a blogging event devoted solely to Peanut Butter. I'm a huge fan as you can tell from my many sweet peanut butter recipes, and well, the Peanut Butter Boy loves it so much he decided to name himself the Peanut Butter Boy! We've also gained support from The Chocolate Peanut Butter Gallery. Together we've decided that the first Peanut Butter Exhibition event will be cookies, so break out that parchment paper and get those creative Peanut Butter juices flowing!

Submission Details:

To enter your recipe, please submit the following information to pbe@peanutbutterboy.com with "PBE #1" as the subject:

Name
Blog URL
Title of Recipe
Recipe
Recipe Permalink URL

Other Rules:

1 entry per person so choose wisely and only submit your own recipes, no stealing! Pictures are highly recommended, but not required. Also, please link back to this page to indicate that you are entering the recipe into this contest. Feel free to use any of the PBE logos to link back here. The deadline for submissions is April 28th at noon (Pacific Time).

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Judging Criteria: Uniqueness, Peanut Butter Weight, Drool Factor, Preparation Time

If the first Peanut Butter Exhibition is deemed a success, future events will surely occur, (maybe even with prizes!) so tell all your blogger friends and feel free to repost on your own site.

Blogless?

Don't worry if you don't have a blog, you can still submit your winning recipe. Follow the same procedure above excluding "Blog URL" and "Recipe Permalink URL" and feel free to email the picture along with the recipe!

Logos courtesy of the talented Kristina Sacci.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Red Velvet Bon Bon's

red velvet cake balls
I stumbled across a recipe on Bakerella for Red Velvet cake balls made with a red velvet cake mix and a can of frosting. I thought I'd try my hand at them because they looked fairly easy and I was interested in making a unique dessert for a co-worker.

I used this Red Velvet Cake recipe, but if I were to make these again, I'd use a box mix just to save some time and food coloring!

Bake the cake in a 13X9 inch pan and let it cool completely. While my cake was cooling I made a homemade cream cheese frosting. Just like with the cake, if I were to make these again, I'd probably use a container of cream cheese frosting from the store, just to save some time. (Hint: This recipe is simple, but each step requires time, considerable time. Which is probably why Bakerella used box mix and canned frosting in the first place!)

Cream Cheese Frosting

One 8 oz package of cream cheese, softened
4 oz butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups confectioner's sugar

Cream the softened cream cheese and softened butter together in the bowl of an electric mixer, add vanilla. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and slowly add the confectioner's sugar. Beat until thoroughly combined.
red velvet balls
When the cake is completely cool, crumble it up into a large bowl, and add the entire batch of frosting to the cake crumbs. Mix until the cake and frosting have become a consistent smooth paste. I used my very clean hands for this step despite the inclusion of a wooden spoon in the above picture.
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Using a spoon or a cookie scoop, form 1 1/2 inch balls and place on a cookie sheet. This process can take some time, and I'm impatient, so a number of my candies were larger than 1 1/2 inches. Chill the red velvet cake centers in the freezer for about two hours.

When chilled, melt white chocolate bark in a microwave safe bowl until melted. Quickly dip each chilled center in the white chocolate and coat completely. Place on a parchment lined sheet to let the chocolate set completely. I found this process incredibly messy and slow. I'm not an expert candy dipper, and I don't have any proper candy making tools. The chocolate in my bowl kept setting up before I could dip very many of the centers, making the coating process tedious and long.

The end result however, was extremely delicious. When a few of the candies were still drying, I sprinkled a few candy sprinkles on top. They added a nice bite and crunch to the contrast of the smooth red velvet cake center and the creamy white chocolate. I also ran out of white chocolate 3/4 of the way through, so ended up covering the rest with semi-sweet chocolate chips melted with a teaspoon of canola oil. Because of this I can attest to the fact that they are equally delicious covered in chocolate.

Store bon bon's in the refrigerator. Makes between 4 - 5 dozen.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Jamaican Jerk Hut

It took me years to eat at Jamaican Jerk Hut on South Street. It's on a strange part of the South street just west of Broad, with a vacant space on one side and the Hut's own yard and picnic area on the other. The restaurant is small, only five tables are available inside, and one menu lines the wall next to the counter.
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Notice the lack of prices, we did too, but hopefully they'll fix that soon. The menu has a variety of traditional Jamaican menu items, but also some BBQ and fresh juice.
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Patties are savory Jamaican turnovers filled with spiced meat. I enjoyed the yolky pastry far more than the filling. It was spicy and flavorful, but was also too mushy to be delicious.
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Jerk is a Jamaican seasoning blend often consisting of cloves, cinnamon, scallions, nutmeg, thyme, and garlic, but primarily allspice and scotch bonnet peppers. This mixture is used as a dry-rub on various meats and fish. This plate is a Jerked chicken breast quarter with rice and peas, Jamaican cabbage, and a fried plantain. Scotch bonnet peppers are some of the hottest peppers on earth, and I have to admit my mouth was on fire and I was sweating trying to eat my dinner. I love all kinds of Mexican hot sauces, Siracha,and Chili garlic sauce, but the Jerk seasoning at the Jamaican Jerk Hut is some of the hottest stuff I've ever put in my mouth. In addition to the heat, I was confronted with small pieces of bone throughout the plate. In traditional fashion, the chicken is chopped up with a cleaver before serving. You can actually hear this occuring when you dine in, which is kind of cool. But it wasn't cool how I kept getting little pieces in my mouth. I thought the rice was a little on the dry side, but I loved the cabbage. It wasn't over cooked, and was mild enough to cool my mouth a little bit.
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We also enjoyed the curry shrimp, served with the same accompaniments as the first entree. The shrimp were large and plentiful on this platter.
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The spinach and groundnut stew is a savory dish of spinach, tomatoes, onions, and peppers, in an African style peanut sauce. It tastes strongly of peanuts and spinach, which are both things I like, but I'm just not sure I like them together in one dish. Everyone else liked it, so that should say something about the dish, or maybe it just says something about me?
jamaican jerk hut
The only thing I wouldn't suggest would be the potato curry roti. I've had roti before and enjoyed them, but the potato curry filling in this thin wheat flour bread was soggy and tasted like nothing despite the hint of yellow color.

Jamaican Jerk Hut
1436 South St
Philadelphia, PA 19146-1631
Phone: (215) 545-8644
Jamaican Jerk Hut in Philadelphia

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

In honor of Shannon's birthday I combined two of her favorite things for the ultimate birthday treat. She's an avid eater of my Oatmeal Cream Pies, and is also one of the many peanut butter fanatics in my life. After a little brainstorming and a trip to the store, I came up with these Oatmeal Peanut Butter Sandwich cookies. I'm not a huge fan of rolling and cutting out cookies, it just seems like so much work to me! But these were pretty easy and were super delicious, so I suggest you try them out.
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For the cookies:

1 1/2 c all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 c quick oats (NOT instant)
1 c sugar
2 Tbsp molasses
1/2 c salted butter, softened
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract

In medium bowl combine flour, soda, cinnamon and oats. Mix well with a wire whisk and set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream sugar and butter at medium speed. Add egg and vanilla and beat until slightly lighter in color. Add the flour-oat mixture, and blend at low speed until just combined. Do not over-mix the dough or it will become tough. Separate the dough into two balls, flatten them into disks, and wrap each in plastic wrap. Chill for at least an hour.
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After the dough has chilled you can begin the cutting out process. Start with one disk of dough, leaving the other in the fridge to stay cool. On floured board using a floured rolling pin, roll out the disk to 1/4 inch thickness. Cut cookies with a 2-inch round fluted cookie cutter dipped in flour (I used the biscuit cutter you see above). Repeat procedure with the second disk, reworking scraps until all the dough is used. Bake cookies on parchment lined baking sheets 1/2 inch apart for about 11 minutes or until the bottoms of the cookies turn light brown. Transfer immediately to a wire rack to cool completely.

While the cookies are cooling, prepare the filling.

Filling:

3/4 cup of peanut butter, smooth or chunky, your choice
1/4 cup of butter, softened
2 Tbsp milk or half and half
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1 cup confectioner's sugar, sifted to remove lumps

Cream butter and peanut butter together until well combined. Add milk, vanilla and brown sugar. Slowly sift in the confectioner's sugar and stir to combine.
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When all the cookies are cool, drop a generous scoop (rounded tablespoon) on the bottom side of half the cookies, top with another cookie and press slightly to spread the filling evenly.

Makes about 36 sandwiches.