Triple Cheese Ham Bake

broads april collage
Once again my five favorite cohorts and I have gotten together to bring you some delicious recipes. This month, we’re digging into our favorite pasta meals. (Yum….pasta!) Here’s a comfort casserole from me, with links to the other dishes at the bottom of the post.

Triple Cheese Ham Bake: the ultimate comfort food!

Triple Cheese Ham Bake: the ultimate comfort food!

Pasta is one of those comfort foods that we Baby Boomers were fed often, especially when times were tough and budgets needed to be stretched. In my family, pasta was usually cooked in the form of spaghetti, tuna casserole, goulash, or macaroni and cheese.

Pasta came in a bag and was boiled until it was almost falling apart. We hadn’t heard of cooking it “al dente”, buying or using fresh pasta, or – heaven forbid – making it ourselves.

This is a basic casserole, perfect for using up leftover ham. You can jazz it up with peas, broccoli, or asparagus tips if you’d like, to make it a complete meal. You could also use leftover chicken instead of ham.

Here’s the beauty of this casserole: you don’t have to boil the pasta! I mentally rate recipes by bowls and pans that will have to be washed. By using this method you will save the effort of washing a large pan and a strainer…a big plus in my book!

 

Triple Cheese Ham Bake
Print
Author:
An easy casserole that's a perfect way to use leftover ham. Serves 8.
Ingredients
  • 1 pound Rotini pasta (uncooked)
  • 2-3 cups cubed ham
  • 1 small can sliced olives (more to taste)
  • ½ cup chopped onions
  • 3 cups shredded cheese (I used cheddar, mozzarella, and three-cheese Italian)
  • 1½ cup milk
  • 1 cup cream
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • ½ teaspoon garlic salt
  • ¼ teaspoon coarse pepper
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • TOPPING:
  • 1 cup Panko-style breadcrumbs
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 375 F.
  2. Pour the dry pasta into a large casserole dish. (I used a 13x9x2" rectangular casserole.).
  3. Sprinkle ham over the pasta.
  4. Sprinkle olives and chopped onions over the ham.
  5. Cover with cheese.
  6. Heat milk, cream, chicken broth, garlic salt, pepper, and 2 tablespoons butter in a small pan until butter is melted. Pour over the cheese.
  7. Cover tightly with foil. Place pan on baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes.
  8. Remove foil. Combine Panko and melted butter. Sprinkle over casserole and return to oven for 30 additional minutes.
  9. Allow casserole to sit for 15 minutes before serving.

 

Cover the dry pasta with ham.

Cover the dry pasta with ham.

Add olives and onions and smother with cheese.

Add olives and onions and smother with cheese.

Pour liquids over the cheese, cover, and bake.

Pour liquids over the cheese, cover, and bake.

Let it sit for 15 minutes and serve!

Let it sit for 15 minutes and serve!

Here are the links for everyone’s pasta recipes. Hope you’ll check them all out!

From Tampa Cake Girl: Greek Pasta Salad

From Hun, What’s For Dinner?: Spring Pasta Salad

From Crumbs in my Mustachio: Caprese Pasta Salad

From Cooking from a SAHM: Ranch Pasta Salad

From Moore or Less Cooking Blog: Mexican Stuffed Pasta Shells.

Easter Recipe Collection

For several years I created recipes for my Food for Thought column in Yummy Northwest, and loved every minute of it. The website is in the middle of a transformation, so all of my past columns are archived for now, but you can still read them at any time. This Easter I’m posting photos of my Yummy Northwest favorites, with links to the recipes.

Easter hot cross buns watermark YNW
Easter Kulich Watermark YNW
Hot Cross Buns and Kulich were two recipes I created for an old-time Easter theme. This link will take you to both recipes:Old Time Easter Treats
easter egg clip art cropped


Easter bunnies watermark YNW



Easter Birds watermark YNW

easter lambs Watermark YNW

Easter sugar eggs watermark YNWLittle bread bunnies, birds, and lambs are fun to make, and kid-approved. Using the link below, you’ll find instructions for making bread critters and sugar eggs. Let your creativity loose on this project! I have a Rowdy blog about them, but there’s good info in this column too.
Bread Animals and Sugar Eggs

Who says you shouldn’t play with your food? Use your imagination and enjoy!

Lorinda

Savory Bacon Crackers



Savory Bacon Crackers verticalI can’t even begin to tell you how relieved thrilled I am to be posting this recipe for Savory Bacon Crackers. After countless tries, with results ranging from “marginal” to “close…but no cigar”, I finally produced crunchy, flavorful crackers that got gobbled up by the tasting crew.

I tried making them yeast-based (bleh), I layered the dough with butter (like croissant dough), I baked them hot and fast, and low and slow. I tried chilling the dough for days.

Meh.

In the end, it was just a matter of getting the proportions right and finding a way to make sure the crackers were crunchy all the way through. These aren’t flaky (like Ritz), but are delightfully light and crunchy, yet still sturdy enough for dipping. And did I mention they taste great?

Crushed bacon adds flavor and texture. Make sure you cook the bacon until it’s extra-crispy. I pan fry mine, then wrap it in paper towels and microwave for a minute or two and shake the bacon out onto another piece of paper towel to cool. Crush with a rolling pin or use a sharp blade – either a knife or an ulu – to make small crumbs.

Savory Bacon Crackers
Print
Author:
Makes almost 1 pound of crackers.
Ingredients
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon garlic salt
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • ¼ cup brown sugar, lightly packed
  • ½ cup finely crushed bacon - about 10 strips (reserve the grease)
  • 1 teaspoon liquid smoke
  • ¼ cup oil (I use peanut oil)
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • ¼ cup water
  • Sea salt
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 425 F.
  2. Grease two baking sheets with bacon grease (or you may use shortening if you prefer)
  3. In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, garlic salt, onion powder, pepper, brown sugar, and crushed bacon.
  4. Stir in the liquid smoke, oil, buttermilk, and water. Mix until well combined. This will be a soft dough, but shouldn't be sticky.
  5. Working with half of the dough at a time, either roll between two pieces of parchment (flour dough lightly if necessary) or roll directly onto the baking sheet, dusting the top with flour as needed.. Try to roll the dough out as thinly as possible...less than ⅛-inch. You may cut round shapes out, re-rolling the extra dough, or simply cut into squares or diamonds, using a pizza cutter.
  6. Place pans in preheated oven for 4 minutes. Remove both pans. Brush the tops of the crackers with bacon grease (or butter, if you prefer) and lightly salt. Using a spatula, flip the crackers over.
  7. TURN OFF THE OVEN. Open the door for 20 seconds. Place pans back in the oven, close the door, and leave the crackers to cook slowly for 1 hour, as the oven cools down. Check one to make sure it snaps crisply when broken. If not, leave them in the oven for another 30 minutes.

 

Crush the crisp bacon or finely chop.

Crush the crisp bacon or finely chop.

This is a must! Add Liquid Smoke.

This is a must! Add Liquid Smoke.

Roll them THIN, and cut however you like.

Roll them THIN, and cut however you like.

Brush with bacon grease, sprinkle with salt, flip over, and return to oven.

Brush with bacon grease, sprinkle with salt, flip over, and return to oven.

Do you have any idea how good these would be with my Succulent Salmon Dip? I’d leave the bacon out of the dip (unless you’re a really hardcore bacon fan) and offer a knife to spread the dip on each cracker. Ham spread would be yummy too.

Okay – this was my obligatory savory recipe before I go into full-blown Easter mode. I’ve stocked up on powdered sugar, chocolate, and sprinkles…and will be putting it all to good use soon!
Lorinda

Corned Beef Pot Pie

 

March Madness is here! Six of us bloggers are posting our favorite recipes to brighten up a gloomy month. I brought comfort food, but if you scroll down to the bottom (after you’ve read my post of course) you’ll find the links to the rest of the sweet, delicious desserts.11059508_921719024545139_911407867225079426_n

 



Corned Beef Pie and plate editedWe never, EVER have enough corned beef left after indulging in our St. Patrick’s Day feast. We love to nibble on it, make huge sandwiches, cook corned beef hash, and (provided I was smart and cooked two pieces) we adore Corned Beef Pot Pie. I’m guessing you will too, so hit those sales after St. Patrick’s Day and put a couple of extra packages of corned beef in your freezer!

Logic would tell you that a beef pie needs beef gravy, but corned beef is different – definitely not your traditional beef flavor. So I use chicken broth in my white sauce, which is delicate enough to allow the amazing flavor of the corned beef shine through.

If you have lots of leftover carrots and potatoes from your dinner, you could certainly use those instead of cooking more; they’d add even more flavor. Aim for 4 cups of veggies, and don’t worry about getting even amounts of each.

For this recipe, I’ll assume you only have leftover corned beef. Need a pie crust recipe? Here’s my favorite:

Never Fail Pie Crust
(makes 2 crusts)

1 cup chilled shortening
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vodka (or vinegar)
1/4 cup milk

  1. Mix flour and salt in medium bowl. Cut in the shortening until it looks like coarse crumbs.
  2. Mix vodka (or vinegar) into milk. Combine all at once into flour mixture.
  3. This can be rolled into crusts immediately, or flattened into disks and placed between sheets of plastic wrap and chilled first in the refrigerator.

Since I like big, thick top crusts, I usually double the recipe and freeze leftover dough. Just sayin’.

Corned Beef Pot Pie
Print
Author:
Ingredients
  • 2 cups carrots, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 2 cups cubed potatoes
  • 2 cups (or whatever you can spare) cooked corn beef, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1 cup chopped cabbage
  • 2 thin slices onion, chopped finely
  • 1 small can mushrooms (optional)
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 can (14.5 oz) chicken broth (I use low sodium)
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • ½ cup milk (more if necessary)
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • pepper and garlic salt to taste
  • Pastry for 2 crust pie
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 375 F.
  2. In a large pot, boil carrots for 4 minutes
  3. Add potatoes and boil for an additional 5 minutes
  4. Strain carrots and potatoes and put in a large bowl.
  5. Stir in corned beef, cabbage, onions and mushrooms (if using).
  6. In a large pot on medium heat, melt the butter.
  7. Gradually whisk in the flour, and continue to whisk and heat for 2-3 minutes.
  8. Slowly add the chicken broth, and then the cream, whisking continuously.
  9. Add the sugar, pepper, and garlic salt.
  10. Bring to a simmer and gradually add milk until the mixture is thick but pourable.
  11. Turn to low and cook for 5 minutes, stirring often. Mixture may thicken...add more milk as needed.
  12. Pour into bowl with the meat and vegetables, and stir to coat.
  13. Place pie crust into a deep pie pan and fill with the mixture, pressing down firmly.
  14. Place a top crust over the filling. Crimp the edges and cut vents in the crust.
  15. Put the pie on a baking sheet and bake for 1 hour, or until the crust is a rich golden brown.

 

Adding the cream sauce to the meat and veggies.

Adding the cream sauce to the meat and veggies.

Fill and top with upper crust.

Fill and top with upper crust.

Bake it until it's rich golden brown

Bake it until it’s rich golden brown



and....eat!

and….eat!

This rich pie will serve six people easily. If you let it sit for twenty to thirty minutes after it comes out of the oven, it will be easier to serve, and won’t burn any tongues. (Ahem.)

After the pie you’ll be ready for dessert, and there are some lovely choices in the links below!
Lorinda

From Tampa Cake Girl: Going Ape Over Banana Pudding Cake

From Hun, What’s For Dinner?: Chocolate Mousse Cake

From Crumbs in my Mustachio: Chocolate Raspberry Roll

From Cooking from a SAHM: Lemon Blueberry Puffs with Lemon Whipped Cream

From Moore or Less Cooking Blog: Fresh Strawberry Yogurt Cake

Pot o’ Gold Cupcakes



pot o gold cupcakesIf you’re looking for a last minute idea for St. Patrick’s Day, here are some delightful cupcakes. They are filled with ganache made with Irish Cream, but if you’re making these for the kidlings, you can use regular heavy cream instead.

Here’s the recipe, but if you’re in a hurry and need to use a cake mix, I won’t hold it against you. The important part is the filling (whooeee, it’s potent!) and the decorations.

Pot o' Gold Cupcakes
Print
Author:
Milk chocolate cupcakes are filled with Irish Cream ganache and decorated with buttercream icing and sour strip rainbows. Makes 24
Ingredients
  • GANACHE:
  • 4 ounces good quality dark chocolate, chopped
  • ½ cup Irish Cream liqueur (like Bailey's)
  • CAKE:
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 4 eggs, room temperature - divided
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • ½ cup whole milk
  • 2 cups cake flour
  • ¼ cup cocoa
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoons baking soda
  • Green buttercream icing, sufficient to frost 24 cupcakes
  • Junior mints (optional to use in place of ganache for pots of gold)
Instructions
  1. MAKE GANACHE:
  2. In a small pan on low heat, combine the chocolate and Irish Cream. Heat and stir gently until chocolate is melted and mixture looks well blended. Set aside, stirring occasionally while the cakes are made.
  3. MAKE CAKES:
  4. Heat oven to 350 F.
  5. Line 2 cupcake pans with paper liners.
  6. In a large bowl, beat butter until creamy.
  7. Slowly add sugar, beating continuously, and scraping bowl often. Beat until mixture is light and fluffy.
  8. Add egg YOLKS, one at a time, mixing well between each addition.
  9. In a small bowl or measuring cup, combine the vanilla, buttermilk and whole milk.
  10. In a small bowl, combine the flour, cocoa, baking powder, and baking soda.
  11. Beginning with the dry ingredients and ending with the wet, add alternately, approximately ⅓ of each mixture at a time, scraping the side of the bowl often.
  12. Whip egg whites until soft peaks form. Fold into the batter.
  13. Fill cupcake cavities ⅔ full and bake for approximately 20 minutes. A toothpick should come out cleanly when inserted into the middle of a cupcake.
  14. Cool in pans on racks for 5 minutes, and then turn out the cupcakes to cool thoroughly.
  15. Place ganache in a piping bag with a large round tip. Press tip into the center of each cupcake, almost to the bottom, and squeeze gently while pulling the tip back out. Don't try to put too much ganache in each one; they'll crack if you do. The remaining ganache will be used to make the pots of gold.
  16. Cover each cupcake with green buttercream icing. (I used a large closed star tip).
  17. Pipe a round "pot" on each cupcake. With a paintbrush, add gold powder. If you don't have any, yellow frosting or candy will do. OR you can use junior mints, cut the top off so a little white shows, and "paint" it with yellow food coloring.
  18. Place a small strip (about 3" of sour striped candy on each cupcake with one end next to the pot of gold.


Filling the cupcakes with Irish Cream Ganache

Filling the cupcakes with Irish Cream Ganache

Frost 'em purdy!

Frost ‘em purdy!

Add a little magic gold dust (or see other options in the recipe).

Add a little magic gold dust (or see other options in the recipe).

If you’d like more ganache in each cake, make two holes in each cake, or try unwrapping the cupcakes and squeezing the tip in the sides of the cakes.

This is the last St. Paddy’s recipe for this year. Onward….Easter is only a few weeks away!

Lorinda

 

Irish Pretzel Knots



Irish Pretzel Knots horiz 2A little chewier than a soft pretzel, but not quite as crunchy as a hard pretzel, these beauties go perfectly with an ice cold beer. (Preferably green beer if you’re making them for St. Patrick’s Day.)

I know, I know…pretzels are German, not Irish. But “Irish Knot Pretzels” just didn’t sound as good. Pffft.

If you look at images of Irish Knots on your search engine, there are some great designs you can use. I made simple Trinity Knots and a slightly more complicated Celtic Cross. And by “slightly more complicated” I mean that if you have reasonably good spacial abilities, these will be easy. For you. I struggle with spacial concepts, so my learning curve was really, really big. Looking at a picture and deciding which part of the dough rope went over and which went under…well…let’s just say I should have made a video – just for laughs.

It took me a while, but I finally nailed it. The rest were much easier!

It took me a while, but I finally nailed it. The rest were much easier!

But YOU can do it!  Of course, if you don’t want to, you can always just make pretzel bites or sticks. You could also dye the dough green, but the brown outside might have a funky hue to it.

I experimented this time with a lye bath and loved the results. Since I’ve been warned about liability issues, I can’t give you directions or advice about this. However, I will say that the pretzels were delicious. If you’re interested in using lye instead of baking soda, please spend some time searching for safety information and instructions.

Attempting to create a crunchy, hard pretzel was more challenging than I expected. I made a few small changes to my Pretzel Bomb recipe, and was pleased with the results. The pretzels pictured are slightly crunchy with a nice, chewy texture. But being stubborn, I was determined to get more crunch, and learned that putting them back in the oven for an hour at very low heat dried them out satisfactorily. For the record, The Man preferred the chewy version, liking them even more than soft pretzels.

Irish Pretzel Knots
Print
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 can (12 ounces) beer(or
  • 4 teaspoons brown sugar, divided
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 1 tablespoon softened butter
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 3½ cups bread flour
  • 9 cups water
  • ½ cup baking soda
  • 1 egg whisked well with 1 teaspoon water (egg wash)
  • Coarse salt
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 350 F.
  2. Cover two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
  3. Heat beer until very warm - about 110 degrees.
  4. In a large bowl (preferably using a stand mixer), combine warm beer, 1 teaspoon of the brown sugar, and yeast. Let sit for 6-8 minutes, or until bubbly.
  5. Add remaining sugar, butter, salt, and 3 cups of the bread flour. Mix well.
  6. Slowly add remaining flour. Dough should come cleanly away from the side of the bowl, and will feel slightly tacky. If it's STICKY, add a little more flour, 1 tablespoon at a time. Knead well - at least 5 minutes if you're using a mixer with a dough hook, or 8 minutes by hand. This will make the dough elastic.
  7. Work with small amounts of the dough at a time, using your hands to roll out thin ropes - about 18 inches long, if possible. Avoid rolling on a floured surface; you need friction! Try slightly spritzing your work surface with water or lightly buttering your hands before rolling.
  8. Create shapes with the ropes of dough. Use the blog photos to form Irish knots, or make your own creations. Set shapes aside until you have enough for one baking sheet.
  9. Bring water and soda to a boil in a large pot. Drop pretzels into water, a few at a time, for 30-40 seconds. Lift with a slotted spoon or spider, and set on prepared pan. Brush lightly with egg wash and sprinkle with salt. Bake for 30 minutes, or until very dark brown. Repeat with remaining pretzels.
  10. To achieve crunchier pretzels, return to oven set at 250 F for up to 1 hour. Test after ½ hour. If the pretzels are close to being dry, turn off oven and let them sit until cooled.

 

The first half of the knot.

The first half of the knot.

Another view

Another view…about 4 inches long.

Add second half.

Add second half.

An easier option - the Trinity Knot

An easier option – the Trinity Knot

 

What else can I tell you? I don’t let the dough rise first for these pretzels, because I’m looking for more crunch and less puffiness. If you’re after a soft pretzel, let the dough rise once for about an hour, punch down, and form your pretzels. Let them rest for 30 minutes before dipping or boiling them.
Keep your extra dough covered while you’re working. A damp cloth is good – even over the pretzels you’ve laboriously shaped while you’re working on enough for a full baking sheet. If the dough in the bowl rises, just punch it down and use it. Or you can let it sit, covered, in the fridge. Work as quickly as you can, but if you’re falling behind, the refrigerator is your friend.Beer and pretzels 1

I hope you’ll have fun with these. They’re good any time, of course, not just for St. Patrick’s Day.

Lorinda

Drunken Leprechaun Balls



leprechaun balls vertical with boozeYes, you read that correctly; I’m posting a recipe for Leprechaun Balls. There are so many jokes that will be left unsaid…probably.

These green confections are quite (ahem) firm – a cross between fudge and cookies. To make them you will need to bake a batch of green shortbread cookies, but trust me…the cookie recipe is very easy, and the balls are a slam dunk!

My shortbread recipe makes a little more than you’ll need, so you should end up with 6-8 extra cookies to munch on. I tried rolling the dough out on a cookie sheet and baking it in one piece, which worked pretty well, but it’s harder to get the center of the dough cooked completely that way. So…I recommend you make cookies, even if they’re just squares of dough. You’ll be crushing most of them, so the shape doesn’t matter.

Drunken Leprechaun Balls
Print
Author:
Green shortbread is baked and crushed, then blended with Irish Cream Liqueur and Whiskey for a tasty adult treat. Makes about 36.
Ingredients
  • SHORTBREAD:
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
  • ¾ cup powdered sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • green food coloring
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon milk (if needed)
  • BALLS:
  • 3 cups crushed green shortbread (recipe above)
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • pinch salt
  • 2 tablespoons corn syrup
  • ¼ cup Baileys (or other Irish Cream Liqueur)
  • 2 tablespoons Jamesons (or other whiskey)
  • powdered sugar and green sugar for rolling cookies in
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 350 F.
  2. In a large bowl (use a stand mixer if possible; this is very stiff dough) beat the butter until soft and creamy.
  3. Add powdered sugar and mix well.
  4. Add egg yolk and enough food coloring to create a deep green color, beating until mixture is light and fluffy. Scrape the sides of the bowl often.
  5. Add dry ingredients. (If using a stand mixer, you may want to switch to your dough hook.) The mixture will be very dry and stiff, but should come together into a dough. If it isn't cooperating, add milk a little at a time until the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl and you can form it into a ball.
  6. Roll dough out to about ¼-inch thick and cut into cookie shapes. (You can also form into small balls and press with a cookie stamp if you prefer. ) Place close together on baking sheets and bake for approximately 10-12 minutes. If you see a tiny bit of brown along the bottom edges, they are done. Don't overbake them, because green cookies turn an unpleasant color if they brown.
  7. Cool cookies on a rack and crush in a bowl until you have 3 cups. Eat the rest!
  8. BALLS:
  9. Combine the crushed cookies, nuts, and powdered sugar in a medium bowl.
  10. Add the remaining ingredients and stir well.
  11. Roll scant tablespoons of dough into balls and roll them in a dish of powdered sugar and colored sugar.
  12. Refrigerate until firm. These can be served chilled, which will give them the texture of fudge, or at room temperature, which will make them a little softer.
  13. I'm sure you know this, but just for the record: DO NOT SERVE TO MINORS.

Combine dry ingredients, then stir in wet ingredients.

Combine dry ingredients, then stir in wet ingredients.

Roll the balls gently in your palms, then dust with sugar.

Roll the balls gently in your palms, then dust with sugar.

leprechaun balls vertical
By all means, improvise. Use walnuts instead of pecans, switch the booze around and use 1/4 cup of whiskey and 2 tablespoons of Irish cream (you may have to add a little more crushed cookie in this case), or roll them in coconut or sprinkles. Pop Rocks? Hmmmm.

Enjoy! And…hello? Keep ‘em out of the reach of kiddies, of course.
Lorinda

For each petal on the shamrock this brings a wish your way. Good health, good luck, and happiness for today and every day. (Irish Blessing)

 

 

 

 

 

Petits Fours



petits foursHooo boy. Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, and I am just now getting this post up. Of course you can run to the store right now, cussing me out under your breath, or you can just adapt the recipe for St. Patrick’s Day or Easter. Or…you can take a shortcut or two, using a store-bought pound cake and even (I can’t believe I’m saying this) canned frosting for the filling. In a pinch you can skip the filling entirely; just cut the cake into cubes or hearts, dip in fondant icing, and decorate!

Yep…Sara Lee works just fine, but there are more crumbs and more waste.sara lee

Note: if you cut shapes for your petits fours, they will be a little harder to coat smoothly; baking the cakes in heart shaped pans keeps them from getting crumbly around the sides. Either way, the freezer is your friend! Freeze the little cakes before you slice and fill them, and then freeze them again before dipping.

I tried three icings for the coating: white ganache, melted white chocolate, and a poured fondant enhanced with white chocolate. Each had pros and cons, and what you choose will depend on your expectations. I wanted a thin, white icing with a little “snap” to it. I like it when the coating pops a little when I bite into a petits four. Here’s how the three options rated:

The white ganache looked lovely, but it didn’t have the “snap” I was looking for. I used Wilton’s bright white candy melts for this, and wasn’t too crazy about the taste, but the pastries looked very pretty. If you aren’t after a firm shell-like coating, this would be a good option.

Pretty and white, with fairly good coverage, but not firm enough for me.

Pretty and white, with fairly good coverage, but not firm enough for me.

For the melted white chocolate, I used Ghiradelli melts. They taste so much better than candy melts, and I really wanted this to work for me. I added a little coconut oil to thin the chocolate for dipping, and it went beautifully. There definitely was a satisfying “snap” when I tried one (or two). But…the color is more ivory than white, and it just didn’t look as pretty.

Nice and smooth, but ivory colored.

Nice and smooth, but ivory colored.

The third time’s the charm, right? The poured fondant was just what I wanted. It wasn’t quite as firm as the melted chocolate, but it was very pretty, tasted good, and covered well. ***DING DING DING*** – we have a winner!



Mmmmm. Just right!

Mmmmm. Just right!

The hardest part of this post is determining how much coating you might need. There are so many factors! The size of your pans determines how many pastries you will have to fill and coat. If you choose to buy a pound cake and cut it into shapes rather than baking your own, you will probably have a lot fewer petits fours to work with. I did my best, but you may have to adjust a bit, so it might be prudent to buy enough ingredients for a second batch if necessary. If you don’t need it, well…you can never have too much powdered sugar or white chocolate in your pantry, right?

heart panI used small silicone heart-shaped pans with 24 cavities in each. Filled approximately 2/3 full, my cake recipe made about 72 hearts. Traditional petits fours are approximately 1-inch cubes, so if you want the finished hearts as tall as they are wide, you may choose to a) use more filling, b) use two hearts for thicker layers, cutting off the domed top of each, or c) cut thin slices and make three layers.

WHATEVER YOU DO, FREEZE THE CAKES BEFORE SLICING. It will make things go much more smoothly.

Here’s the recipe I used, but any pound cake or sturdy, dense cake will work well.

Strawberry Cake Mini-Hearts
Print
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 4 eggs, room temperature
  • 1½ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon strawberry flavoring and a few drops of red food coloring.
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 350 F.
  2. Lightly spray silicone mini-heart pans with a non-stick spray. (I prefer a flour/oil mix like Baker's Joy.)
  3. In a large bowl, beat the butter well until light and creamy - at least 2 minutes.
  4. Add sugar gradually and continue beating for 2 minutes.
  5. Add eggs one at a time, beating very well and scraping the sides of the bowl between each egg.
  6. Sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together.
  7. Add the dry ingredients and buttermilk alternately, one-third of each at a time, beginning with the dry ingredients and ending with the buttermilk. Scrape the bowl well with a rubber spatula as you go.
  8. Stir in the flavoring and food coloring until combined.
  9. Fill the cavities of your pans ⅔ full. Lift and drop the pans a few times to settle the batter, or smooth lightly with a knife.
  10. Place the silicone pans on a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. If a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the center of a cake, and the top has begun to brown slightly, the cakes are done. Place pan on a cooling rack for 10 minutes before turning the cakes out.

 

For the filling, I used a couple of cups of fairly stiff buttercream icing, with a heaping tablespoon of strawberry preserves stirred in.

Slice the frozen hearts (cutting off the domed tops so they are level), generously add filling, and press the two layers together firmly. Use a knife to clean off any filling that’s pressed out, spreading it in a thin layer around the heart if you like; it will act as a crumb coat. For a clean line, it’s important not to have filling bulging out the sides, or gaps where there wasn’t enough filling.

Spread with a generous amount of filling.

Spread with a generous amount of filling.

adding filling

Smooth for a clean edge.

 

After filling the hearts, place them back in the freezer while you make the coating.

For the GANACHE COATING: melt 1 package (12 ounces) of Wilton Bright White candy melts in the microwave. Begin with 30 seconds, stir, and then heat at 15 second intervals, stirring each time, just until melted. A few small lumps are fine – they’ll continue to melt in the bowl. In a small pan over medium heat, bring 1/2 cup of heavy cream almost to a boil, stopping when you see bubbles around the edge of the pan. Pour slowly over the chocolate, a little at a time, stirring constantly. Stop when the texture seems right for dipping. (You may not need the whole 1/2 cup.)

For the MELTED CHOCOLATE COATING: melt 1 package (12 ounces) of Ghiradelli White Melting Wafers in the microwave. Begin with 30 seconds, stir, and then heat at 15 second intervals until most of the wafers are melted and just small lumps remain. Add 1 tablespoon coconut oil (or shortening) and stir slowly until the chocolate is completely smooth. If necessary, put the bowl back in the microwave for a few seconds.

For the POURED CHOCOLATE FONDANT: place 1 pound powdered sugar, 1/4 cup light corn syrup, and 1/3 cup water in a medium pan over medium-low heat. Stir well until mixture is very warm but not bubbling. Remove from heat. (You could use it at this stage, as a poured fondant icing…but I wanted it whiter.) Add 1 package (12 ounces) of Wilton Bright White candy melts and stir until melted. This should be just right for dipping, but if it is too thick, add a little hot water and stir well.

I had better luck dipping my hearts than pouring the icing over them. Still, you’ll want to use a baking sheet with a cooling rack (sprayed lightly with non-stick spray) over it to keep the coating from puddling up around each pastry.

Dip, shake, turn over and slide onto rack. Repeat.

Dip, shake, turn over and slide onto rack. Repeat.

Poke a toothpick in one frozen heart and dunk it in the coating. Don’t try to completely cover the area around the toothpick; this will be the bottom of the petits four!  Gently shake off excess, turn the heart over so you’re holding the toothpick like a flower stem, and use a fork to lift the heart off the toothpick and deposit it on the cooling rack to dry. Repeat many, many times.

If you have trouble removing the petits fours from the cooling rack, slide a thin metal spatula under each one. No one will look at the bottom! Also, if you set the finished petits fours on a little bed of sprinkles before you plate them or put them in paper cups, the sprinkles will stick to the bottom for a pretty effect and fun texture.

Decorate with conversation hearts, sprinkles, buttercream flowers, or chocolate designs. Store the petits fours in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Valentine Treat Collection



vday collageI thought that while you were waiting anxiously for me to produce my promised Valentine’s Day Petits Fours, I’d pacify you with a collection of past V-Day treats. While you’re making all of these, I promise I’ll be working on a new post for you.
rowdy logo from brenna valentines
Try these delicious deep chocolate cookies! Chocolate Oatmeal Raisin Cookies have a little kick of espresso and are filled with chocolate covered raisins.
vdayroundup1

rowdy logo from brenna valentines

For a delicious homemade version of Mallomars, put your apron on and make a batch of Vallomar Cookies. They’re a little time-consuming, but soooooo good.

vdayroundup2

rowdy logo from brenna valentines

Valentine’s Day is on a Saturday this month, so you’ll have time to surprise your sweetie with these filled doughnuts. Sugared, glazed, plain…there’s nothing like a fresh doughnut! Jelly Doughnut Hearts
vdayroundup3

rowdy logo from brenna valentines

Cinnamon Spiral Bread is great when toasted, used for special sandwiches, or made into french toast. Bake it in a heart shaped canape pan and slice into thin hearts.
vdayroundup4

rowdy logo from brenna valentines

Light and fluffy, these dainty angel food cakes will just disappear in your mouth! Chocolate Cherry Angel Cakesvdayroundup5

rowdy logo from brenna valentines

As if shortbread cookies aren’t rich enough, I added a chocolate ganache filling and topped them with raspberry jam. You’ve got to try these! Chocolate Raspberry Shortbreadvdayroundup6

Chocolate Oatmeal Raisin Cookies



Chocolate oatmeal raisin hearts vertical watermarkI tend to like making complicated creations, even though they aren’t very popular with people who work, have kids, or have a life. But today I made something easy.

Easy and unspeakably delicious, if I do say so myself!

I gave some to my guinea pig neighbor, Pam and she called them Chocolate Raisin Puffs because they were so light. I don’t know if they qualify as “puffs”, but it was a very nice compliment.

These chocolate oatmeal cookies are made with espresso powder and chocolate covered raisins, and when baked for precisely twelve minutes, have a slightly crispy outer layer (like the edge of a brownie) and are very tender inside. Seriously, I’d rather have these than brownies any day!

I made some in a silicone mini-heart pan, and they popped right out in a very cooperative manner. They may not be the prettiest cookies I’ve ever made, but in this case I truly believe it’s what’s inside that counts.chocolate oatmeal raisin hearts watermark

I really think that the combination of Special Dark cocoa and espresso powder took the flavor over the top. And unless you have a real aversion to raisins (in which case you could use chocolate chips) don’t skimp on the chocolate covered raisins. The cookie dough isn’t overly sweet, so the sweet, chewy raisins add important texture and sweetness. Here are what the drop cookies look like inside:


Chocolate oatmeal raisin cookies vertical watermark

Chocolate Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
Print
Author:
Makes 36 average cookies, or 72 small heart-shaped cookies using a 24-cavity silicone heart mold. These cookies are SO addictive, you may want to double the batch.
Ingredients
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon espresso powder
  • ¼ cup Special Dark unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 cups quick-cook oats
  • 11 oz (about 1¾ cup) chocolate covered raisins
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 350 F
  2. If you are making drop cookies, line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  3. In a large bowl, beat together the butter and brown sugar until light and creamy - at least 2 minutes.
  4. Add the eggs and beat 2 minutes. Scrape the bowl often. It will lighten in color and look just a little curdled; that's fine!
  5. Add the vanilla, espresso powder, cocoa, flour, salt, and baking soda. On low speed (cover the bowl if possible, or stir by hand first to avoid a mess) mix together until well blended.
  6. Stir in the oatmeal and chocolate covered raisins.
  7. Drop by rounded tablespoons onto parchment. The cookies won't spread much, so an inch and a half between each is fine. If you are using a silicone heart mold, fill each cavity ¾ full. (No need to grease the mold.)
  8. Bake for 12 minutes. Move baking sheet or silicone mold to a cooling rack and allow the cookies to cool. Cookies may be moved to the rack when barely warm. If you are making hearts, let them cool completely in the pan before turning them out.

ingredients

Beat the butter and brown sugar well.

Beat the butter and brown sugar well.

After the eggs are beaten in. It looks a little curdled, but that's okay!

After the eggs are beaten in. It looks a little curdled, but that’s okay!

Making heart cookies.

Making heart cookies.

Scoop for regular drop cookies.

Scoop for regular drop cookies.

See? Easy peasy. Don’t expect that from me too often, but when a chocolate craving hits, I realize the wisdom of being able to make cookies quickly!

If I’ve lulled you into a false sense of security with this simple cookie recipe, you’d better be prepared; I have Valentine petits fours on my mind…coming soon!

Lorinda