Tuesday, October 9, 2007

In This Kitchen, Carrot Cake is a Vegetable

The forecast for today was hot. Not as hot as yesterday -- we broke records all up and down the Hudson River. You know, it's very pretty river. And, it's ours.

It didn't get that hot today. All our preparing. I even wore shorts. Guess I wouldn't be talking about it, except that it's October! And, 90 degrees yesterday (or there abouts) is just plain wrong.

However, today wasn't wrong. It was warm to start, but while the 4th cake cooled (Mind you that is not the 4th pan with cake in it, but the 4th kind of cake we made today. We actually used 7 pans for our 4 cakes- la de da.), J and I sat out on the back steps and commented on how cool it had gotten. And, now as I write this, it rains. Sometimes rain makes me think of sadness. Sometimes, it's more like a promise of things to come. Really, I love rainy days and mondays. (Mondays are a part of my weekend!) Rainy nights are good too. They mean a restful sleep. Cool rooms. The lightening makes the world light up in split second intervals and somehow it all seems more doable. All this, plus it'll be more seasonable tomorrow. (We are so lucky to have a stream of consciousness section from Robb in this installment, hopefully this therapy is doing him some good!)

This week was carrot cake. We made the Golden Wheat Carrot Ring (pg 75). There is a sprinkling of cinnamon/sugar, RLB's first adornment suggestion. It was suggested that the white chocolate Cream Cheese Buttercream would also be a nice compliment, but someone (namely me) totally spazzed on getting the white chocolate. In my defense, I had to take my dog to the groomers, pick up colored construction paper to fabricate this thing for a class I'm teaching in Boston....basically, I didn't write it down, so it didn't happen. Mea Culpa, Mea Maxima Culpa. (if you're only going to know a little Latin, that's the phrase.)

Here's a pic of my doggie so you know how cute she is.

This cake tasted good. And, the grated carrot had a lovely orange speckling. The cake itself was a nice "wheaty" brown -- probably from the whole wheat flour it used. Interestingly enough, 1 cup of Whole Wheat Flour was about 1 oz heavier that 1 cup of Cake Flour. We never thought of how much heavier it could or would be. The wheat flour did come through the finished product. It was really noticeable to J, but not as much to me. This cake is a wonderful breakfast/coffee type cake. You could be happy with a slice and a cup of tea to start your day. It strongly reminded me of the zucchini and pumpkin cakes we've done recently. (M said to me yesterday, that Pumpkin Cake was amazing -- and that was two cakes ago!)

Then we made the Carrot Cake from the Silver Palate Cookbook. Why did we do this? RLB's recipe didn't seem like it would yield a "carrot cake" like the ones we grew up with. The Silver Palate recipe did. And, honestly, this is the recipe that a local restaurant must use for their carrot cake. It is a perfect carrot cake. We even used their Cream Cheese Icing. And, boy howdy did it taste good. (It's the triple layered cake on the pedestal in the photo.) The taste was deep and rich. In other cakes I wanted to add nutmeg or cloves or some woodsy, earthy type spice. While this cake didn't have any in it, the depth of flavor brought that to mind, surprisingly. We used a new tool, well new to me, a cake comb. What a groovy invention. (Sorry for the really bad pun.) Here's a picture if you don't know what one is.

We made Linda's (J's Mom) recipe. One thing about getting recipes from people who've cooked for a long time, is that they tend to have shorthand versions of recipes that are mostly a list of ingredients with instructions like "mix it until it looks right," which seems to be a common instruction included in pie crust or biscuit recipes passed down within families. And, while an accurate instruction, it's not that helpful if you don't know what Looks Right is!! Well, J got Linda's recipe over the phone and wrote everything she said in order to record all her nuggets of wisdom for posterity, or whatever. This included and I quote the recipe "1 1/2 tsp. of vanilla & not that fake stuff" and "Bake for 25 minutes, ... or until done. It may be done sooner." That makes one wonder if the baking time is really 20 minutes, or perhaps even just 15? With practice, we'll know what done looks like. Maybe we'll even translate that in to a measure in time for the next generations of bakers... or not, why should they have it any easier?

There was a moment of worry with these cakes. We realized that we were at the end of our Pam. For those of you who haven't had this happen, when you run near the end of the can, it sputters. That means that it's not evenly coating your pan. Therefore, you will have trouble getting cakes out of pans. Out of this came a series of learnings:

1. Parchment can be your friend.
2. What does come out can be cut into circles to create lovely variations.

The ones we created are the two rings on the silver tray with the powdered sugar and the small three tiered cake. We used the store bought icing for this one. It is our gift to K. We thought, it turns out mistakenly!! that he preferred the tub 'o frosting to the real stuff. What was that handy turn of phrase, oh yes, mea culpa. Actually, I really like it. All I need is a graham cracker and a spoon and I'd be happy.

The 9 X 13 pan is a "Faux Carrot Cake" recipe we made from a friend of mine at my new salon. Sandi and I got talking about carrot cakes and she sent me this version:

'faux' carrot cake recipe

20 oz crushed pineapple (drain and set aside juice)
2 eggs lightly beaten w/ pineapple juice
2 cups flour
1 cup coconut
1 cup chopped walnuts
2 tsp baking soda

mix flour and baking soda together in separate bowl combine all other ingredients
then mix in flour and stir until just mixed; pour in greased & floured pan 13 by 9 or 2 round cake pans

bake at 325 for about 45 mins or until sides start to pull away and center springs back

1 stick unsalted butter
4 oz cream cheese
2 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
beat cream cheese, butter & vanilla till fluffy add in sugar slowly and beat till smooth frost cake when cool

We were both shocked when we looked at the recipe and there wasn't any fat or salt in it. It comes together in more or less the same fashion as other cakes, but it's a bit drier, and paler. When it's baked, it doesn't brown until the very end of the time. Then, it turns a nice brown that looks a bit like a potato latke. It makes an interesting cake, one that would benefit by the addition of some oil or melted butter. We might consult the CB for an idea of how much oil to add to the proportions of flour, etc.

I did like the icing. It was a bit thinner than the Silver Palate version, making it pourable. But, with a bit of fridge time, it set up nicely. It had a very nice tang and was not overly sweet.

Wow, a behind the scenes photo. Here we are loading them up to "ship" to our network of cake eaters. Can you see the tasting plates?

There was a point where we had to stop, not because we were tired or because we had run out of anything, but because there was no more room in the oven.

Now, that is baking through, isn't it?


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