Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Icebox Cake

I've heard people talk about Icebox Cakes for many years. Nabisco Famous Cookies, you know, the thin, chocolate ones in the yellow carton, have a recipe right on the box. Still, I don't think that I've ever had one, or even made one for that matter.

Everyday Food September 2009 ran a recipe that I thought I should try. It just seemed so simple.

first mix 1 1/2 cups heavy cream, well chilled with 1/3 cup of confectioner's sugar till soft peaks form.

in another bowl, mix 1/2 cup heavy cream with 1/3 cup peanut butter until it's smooth.

then fold peanut butter mixture into the soft cream.

place 7 chocolate wafer cookies (one centered, 6 surrounding) with a dab of the cream mixture to secure them in place. add 2/3 cream mixture to the wafer layer, repeat 5 more times. finish with cream mixture.

It was really that simple, and looks really good. It now has to sit for 8 hours, at least, to give it a cake like texture.

As you are probably noticing, our kitchen is closer and closer to being done. Thank goodness photos can be edited, just out side this shot is all sorts of projects in process. The closer it gets to do, the more I can cook!

Thursday, August 6, 2009


I found it. Or at least, another one. Back on June of 2007 we sent out a request for Carrot Cake recipes. We compiled a few of them, and made all of them in October.

The Silver Palate Cookbook was our winning submission.I think that this carrot cake from Food & Wine, January 2009 (Recipe is at the end of the blog) could give it a run for it's money. I put it together in a pretty quick minute.

Mix all the dry, mix all the wet, beat eggs and sugar. Combine. Add carrots and pecans. Bake.

The cake is a moist, yet strangely light, not gummy and bursting with pecan and especially carrot flavor. How many times have you made a carrot cake to not taste the carrots, but only the spices? (Really, I like these spices, but if I wanted a spice cake.....) These worked really well together.

I wish I could remember that it's really easy to put these things together. What I did remember was to set out the butter to make it room temperature. It really does help.

My only complaint with this cake was how loose the frosting was. I kept wishing it was an Italian Meringue or something a bit firmer. When cooled in the fridge, however, it's a right good frosting.

In comparing it to the Silver Palate, they are essentially the same, there is less flour & sugar in the cake and less butter and powdered sugar in the frosting. (I may use the Silver Palate Frosting Recipe next time.)

One other difference in this baking experience, I remembered to take a photo! The thing I forgot - to charge the batteries. Gotta love the new iPhone's camera - at least in a pinch.


Classic Carrot Cake with Fluffy Cream Cheese Frosting

Food & Wine, January 2009



1 cup pecans (4 ounces)

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup vegetable oil

1/2 cup buttermilk

1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

4 large eggs

2 cups sugar

1 pound carrots, peeled and coarsely shredded


2 sticks unsalted butter, softened

Two 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

2 cups confectioners’ sugar


Preheat the oven to 325°. Butter two 9-inch cake pans; line the bottoms with parchment. Butter the paper and flour the pans.

Make the cake: Spread the pecans on a baking sheet and toast for 8 minutes, until fragrant. Cool and finely chop the pecans.

In a bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. In a small bowl, whisk the oil, buttermilk and vanilla. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the eggs and sugar at high speed until pale, 5 minutes. Beat in the liquid ingredients. Beat in the dry ingredients just until moistened. Stir in the carrots and pecans. Divide the batter between the pans and bake the cakes for 55 minutes to 1 hour, until springy and golden. Let the cakes cool on a rack for 30 minutes, then unmold the cakes and let cool completely.

Make the frosting: In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the butter and cream cheese at high speed until light, about 5 minutes. Beat in the vanilla, then the confectioners’ sugar; beat at low speed until incorporated. Increase the speed to high and beat until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.

Peel off the parchment paper and invert one cake layer onto a plate. Spread with a slightly rounded cup of the frosting. Top with the second cake layer, right side up. Spread the top and sides with the remaining frosting and refrigerate the cake until chilled, about 1 hour. Slice and serve.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Daring Bakers April challenge is...


The April 2009 challenge is hosted by Jenny from Jenny Bakes. She has chosen Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake as the challenge.

We got to use the basic recipe linked above, and we could flavor it anyway we wanted. Really lots of wonderful experimentation this month. Even if you don't normally browse other DBer's sites, you ought to this time. Especially check out this one. Really, click the link if you want to see which kind of cheesecake I'm making next. ?*&
!# Brilliant!!

I did not do anything so notable, but it was just fine. I added a little pomegranate to the batter; otherwise the filling was as written in the recipe. I made them in miniature in the cutest removable bottom pan. The crust is crushed frosted oatmeal cookies mixed with cinnamon and butter, and is really delicious. It's kind of chewy and sweet but not too sweet. The cheesecake batter is tasty, nice and creamy. I tend to like my cheesecake a little on the dry side, but this was very good for a creamy/wet one. The tart contrast of the kiwi was quite nice and sort of pretty.

Everyone in the foodie blogosphere seems to be ga ga for little spoons, figured I might as well jump on the band wagon.


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The beginning ...

...of something good?

You know how it goes. You make something terrific and people say- Ooh, you should sell this! You hear that enough and you start to wonder if you could sell some things. How would it work? What exactly could you sell? Where could you do it? Who would buy your stuff? How could it happen without disrupting your life or costing too much to get started? Etc. Etc.

Let it be said, I'm interested in cooking for money again. Not as a full time gig, however. I enjoy cooking and entertaining, and I enjoy the rest of my life which does include a 1/2 time job teaching. I don't want for that to change. But, how great would it be to have some people who regularly or occasionally bought some baked goods from me or hired me to cater parties?

I've mentioned this to several people in the last couple of months and I intend to put together a reasonable list of things I could offer, including some prices. That's in the works, but not yet ready. In the mean time, if you're in need of any items or catering don't hesitate to give me a call.

One of my dear friends, who has listened to me ruminate on this project, had an occasion this last weekend where my services were exactly what she needed. She'd gotten in over her head a little bit in throwing a birthday brunch for a family friend. The guest list grew and grew and things took a serious turn when she discovered that the menu needed to be kosher for passover. Yikes! No bread for brunch?? What about birthday cake? This put a serious wrench in her well laid plans. We talked and she offered to hire me to provide some quiche and a cake, and she handled the rest.

Kosher for passover is different than regular kosher- the main restriction for us was no flour, no leavening, and for those of you jumping to the logical birthday cake option of a flourless chocolate cake with ground nuts, due to an allergy, no nuts were permitted either! You can use ground matzoh as a substitute for flour, but without time to do a trial run and tweak a recipe, I figured I would use a recipe that I knew. I chose the Chocolate Oblivion cake from the Cake Bible. It's a pound a chocolate, a half pound of butter and 6 eggs. This satisfied the dietary rules, and is darn tasty.

A flat, dark, kind of dull looking single layer simply would not do for a birthday cake. The dense texture of this "cake" made it a little challenging to fancy up. I decided on a raspberry whipped cream piped on top with some pretty fresh raspberries. This was not the time to try new things, since I had to make the delivery in less than an hour, but I wanted to make it even more dazzling. On the second try, a band of white chocolate lattice/scroll work/squiggles whatever you want to call it, worked! It was even sturdy enough to survive the car ride and made it in good shape.

For the quiche, large potato latkes served as the crust, and the filling for one was mushroom, spinach, sun dried tomato and feta. The other was caramelized onion, asparagus and chive. I made a third for our own brunch on Sunday of the remaining fillings and it was really good. I like the Silver Palate quiche custard formula of 1 1/2 cups of cream to 3 eggs. And, if you can use flour, their pate brisee recipe makes a perfect crust.


Saturday, April 4, 2009

Pignoli Cookies

My friend Greer joined me one Tuesday and we made some cookies together. It was nice to have company in the kitchen again as Robb has been MIA for a while now.

These cookies came to be made because Greer bought some at an Italian market and totally loved them. She found a recipe and we got to work. They are very simple. You mix almond paste with sugar and egg whites and roll in the nuts- voila!

The only difficulty we observed was that in mixing the almond paste at the start, it was easy to end up with lumps, especially if the paste is a little dry. We pushed it through a sieve when we noticed this. I made the cookies a second time later and with really fresh paste and a thorough mixing, no lumps. I also made a discovery about almond paste. I prefer the smoother texture of the Solo brand paste in a can over the Odense brand in a tube.
(This turns out to be smooth enough so long as the paste is soft, just mix pretty well once you add the whites.)

The cookies end up sort of crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. They are insanely sweet; Kevin loved them!

Fooling with the almond paste made me crave almond croissants and linzer torte type things. Almond is just darn yummy. Maybe more almond-y things will be coming...


1 cup pine nuts
2 egg whites
3/4 c granulated sugar
1/2 c powdered sugar
12 oz. almond paste

Mix paste until it's pretty creamy. Add sugars and mix in egg whites. Roll in nuts. This made about 15 cookies, you could make them smaller and that might be better- the ratio of less soft middle to more crispy outside would be better. Bake at 375 for 20-25 min., less for smaller cookies.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Daring Bakers March Challenge: Lasagna??

Yes, lasagna. Quite a twist, but it is baked after all, and it highlights some of the new stuff happening with the huge gang of DBers. There is going to be another group using the Daring Kitchen website, welcome the Daring Cooks! For now, I'm going to stick with the baking folks and wait and see what the cooks do. Their challenges will be revealed mid month, and the bakers will continue to show off their work at the end of each month. It's all a work in progress, but there ought to be a blogroll available soon so you can check out other members.

The lasagna this month was fun. I enjoyed making the pasta. Kevin is the pasta maker in our house and I think I probably hadn't made any pasta in more than 10, or 12, or oh my, maybe 15 years? Wow, that makes me feel old! This pasta was right up my alley- just sheets of lasagna noodles- perfect. I loved making them with spinach, so pretty.

In addition to making the noodles, there was a ragu/bolognese sauce that began with grinding veal, pork and beef. It was a nice version of bolognese, and I find I like bolognese in stuff rather than as the primary sauce, so this was perfect.

The other element to this lasagna is a bechamel sauce which made it quite rich and sort of fluffy at the same time? It's probably the mix of fresh pasta and the bechamel together that created the light or at least soft texture. I'm struggling not to say that it was rich and light at the same time, but that's really my impression. It was meaty, creamy and light. You'll just have to give it a try and see what I mean.

Even if you don't make the sauces, you might just make some fresh pasta. It makes a world a difference in lasagna, and any other pasta dish for that matter. I've included all the instruction below, much of it is overly wordy, but the descriptions may be helpful to some of you who want to give it a try.


The March 2009 challenge is hosted by Mary of Beans and Caviar, Melinda of Melbourne Larder and Enza of Io Da Grande. They have chosen Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna from The Splendid Table by Lynne Rossetto Kasper as the challenge.

What we want you to do:

- make the pasta recipe as follows (we’ve included alternative instructions for those with dietary requirements). Hand-making your own pasta is the main challenge for this month. While you should make your own pasta to complete the challenge, please don't feel that you need to buy a pasta machine. Lynne's recipe gives instructions for hand-rolling the pasta with a rolling pin and we'd like you to do the same
- a white (béchamel) sauce must be used. We’ve included a recipe but you’re welcome to use your own favourite recipe if you have one.
- we’ve also included Lynne’s recipe for the meat ragu sauce that is part of the finished lasagne. However, this sauce is optional and you are welcome to make up your own sauce (particularly if you don’t eat meat), or use your own favourite meat ragu sauce recipe. If you choose to use your own recipe, please include it with your post.
- Sweet pasta is unusual but here is a traditional pasta recipe for our sweetest bloggers at Emilia-Romagna Turismo http://www.emiliaromagnaturismo.it/engl … ?Numrec=78 This pasta would be paired in a lasagna dish with things like cream, raisins, pinenuts, orange, rosewater, prosciutto etc.

The most important part of this challenge is the hand-made Spinach Egg Pasta. We’ve also included Lynne’s recipes for béchamel (white) sauce and meat ragu but you can choose to use your own bechamel and ragu (or vegetarian sauce) recipes. Please follow Lynne’s instructions for the final assembly.

All recipes below from The Splendid Table: Recipes from Emilia-Romagna, the Heartland of Northern Italian Food by Lynne Rossetto Kasper (published by William Morrow and Company Inc., 1992).

Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna (Lasagne Verdi al Forno)
(Serves 8 to 10 as a first course, 6 to 8 as a main dish)

Preparation Time: 15 minutes to assemble and 40 minutes cooking time

10 quarts (9 litres) salted water
1 recipe Spinach Pasta cut for lasagna (recipe follows)#1
1 recipe Bechamel Sauce (recipe follows)#2
1 recipe Country Style Ragu (recipe follows)#3
1 cup (4 ounces/125g) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Working Ahead:
The ragu and the béchamel sauce can be made up to three days ahead. The ragu can also be frozen for up to one month. The pasta can be rolled out, cut and dried up to 24 hours before cooking. The assembled lasagne can wait at room temperature (20 degrees Celsius/68 degrees Fahrenheit) about 1 hour before baking. Do not refrigerate it before baking, as the topping of béchamel and cheese will overcook by the time the center is hot.

Assembling the Ingredients:
Have all the sauces, rewarmed gently over a medium heat, and the pasta at hand. Have a large perforated skimmer and a large bowl of cold water next to the stove. Spread a double thickness of paper towels over a large counter space. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (180 degrees Celsius). Oil or butter a 3 quart (approx 3 litre) shallow baking dish.

Cooking the Pasta:
Bring the salted water to a boil. Drop about four pieces of pasta in the water at a time. Cook about 2 minutes. If you are using dried pasta, cook about 4 minutes, taste, and cook longer if necessary. The pasta will continue cooking during baking, so make sure it is only barely tender. Lift the lasagne from the water with a skimmer, drain, and then slip into the bowl of cold water to stop cooking. When cool, lift out and dry on the paper towels. Repeat until all the pasta is cooked.

Assembling the Lasagne:
Spread a thin layer of béchamel over the bottom of the baking dish. Arrange a layer of about four overlapping sheets of pasta over the béchamel. Spread a thin layer of béchamel (about 3 or 4 spoonfuls) over the pasta, and then an equally thin layer of the ragu. Sprinkle with about 1&1/2 tablespoons of the béchamel and about 1/3 cup of the cheese. Repeat the layers until all ingredients are used, finishing with béchamel sauce and topping with a generous dusting of cheese.

Baking and Serving the Lasagne:
Cover the baking dish lightly with foil, taking care not to let it touch the top of the lasagne. Bake 40 minutes, or until almost heated through. Remove the foil and bake another 10 minutes, or until hot in the center (test by inserting a knife – if it comes out very warm, the dish is ready). Take care not to brown the cheese topping. It should be melted, creamy looking and barely tinged with a little gold. Turn off the oven, leave the door ajar and let the lasagne rest for about 10 minutes. Then serve. This is not a solid lasagne, but a moist one that slips a bit when it is cut and served.

#1 Spinach Egg Pasta (Pasta Verde)

Preparation: 45 minutes

Makes enough for 6 to 8 first course servings or 4 to 6 main course servings, equivalent to 1 pound (450g) dried boxed pasta.

2 jumbo eggs (2 ounces/60g or more)
10 ounces (300g) fresh spinach, rinsed dry, and finely chopped; or 6 ounces (170g) frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
3&1/2 cups (14 ounces/400g) all purpose unbleached (plain) flour (organic stone ground preferred)

Mixing the dough:
Mound the flour in the center of your work surface and make a well in the middle. Add the eggs and spinach. Use a wooden spoon to beat together the eggs and spinach. Then gradually start incorporating shallow scrapings of flour from the sides of the well into the liquid. As you work more and more flour into the liquid, the well’s sides may collapse. Use a pastry scraper to keep the liquids from running off and to incorporate the last bits of flour into the dough. Don’t worry if it looks like a hopelessly rough and messy lump.

With the aid of the scraper to scoop up unruly pieces, start kneading the dough. Once it becomes a cohesive mass, use the scraper to remove any bits of hard flour on the work surface – these will make the dough lumpy. Knead the dough for about 3 minutes. Its consistency should be elastic and a little sticky. If it is too sticky to move easily, knead in a few more tablespoons of flour. Continue kneading about 10 minutes, or until the dough has become satiny, smooth, and very elastic. It will feel alive under your hands. Do not shortcut this step. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap, and let it relax at room temperature 30 minutes to 3 hours.

Stretching and Thinning:
If using an extra-long rolling pin work with half the dough at a time. With a regular-length rolling pin, roll out a quarter of the dough at a time and keep the rest of the dough wrapped. Lightly sprinkle a large work surface with flour. The idea is to stretch the dough rather than press down and push it. Shape it into a ball and begin rolling out to form a circle, frequently turning the disc of dough a quarter turn. As it thins outs, start rolling the disc back on the pin a quarter of the way toward the center and stretching it gently sideways by running the palms of your hands over the rolled-up dough from the center of the pin outward. Unroll, turn the disc a quarter turn, and repeat. Do twice more.

Stretch and even out the center of the disc by rolling the dough a quarter of the way back on the pin. Then gently push the rolling pin away from you with one hand while holding the sheet in place on the work surface with the other hand. Repeat three more times, turning the dough a quarter turn each time.

Repeat the two processes as the disc becomes larger and thinner. The goal is a sheet of even thickness. For lasagne, the sheet should be so thin that you can clearly see your hand through it and see colours. Cut into rectangles about 4 by 8 inches (10 x 20 cm). Note: Enza says that transparency is a crucial element of lasagne pasta and the dough should be rolled as thinly as possible. She says this is why her housekeeper has such strong arms!

Dry the pasta at room temperature and store in a sealed container or bag.

#2 Bechamel

Preparation Time: 15 minutes

4 tablespoons (2 ounces/60g) unsalted butter
4 tablespoons (2 ounces/60g) all purpose unbleached (plain) flour, organic stone ground preferred
2&2/3 cups (approx 570ml) milk
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Freshly grated nutmeg to taste

Using a medium-sized saucepan, melt the butter over low to medium heat. Sift over the flour, whisk until smooth, and then stir (without stopping) for about 3 minutes. Whisk in the milk a little at a time and keep the mixture smooth. Bring to a slow simmer, and stir 3 to 4 minutes, or until the sauce thickens. Cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes, until the sauce thickens. Season with salt, pepper, and a hint of nutmeg.

#3 Country Style Ragu’ (Ragu alla Contadina)

Preparation Time: Ingredient Preparation Time 30 minutes and Cooking time 2 hours

Makes enough sauce for 1 recipe fresh pasta or 1 pound/450g dried pasta)

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (45 mL)
2 ounces/60g pancetta, finely chopped
1 medium onion, minced
1 medium stalk celery with leaves, minced
1 small carrot, minced
4 ounces/125g boneless veal shoulder or round
4 ounces/125g pork loin, trimmed of fat, or 4 ounces/125g mild Italian sausage (made without fennel)
8 ounces/250g beef skirt steak, hanging tender, or boneless chuck blade or chuck center cut (in order of preference)
1 ounce/30g thinly sliced Prosciutto di Parma
2/3 cup (5 ounces/160ml) dry red wine
1 &1/2 cups (12 ounces/375ml) chicken or beef stock (homemade if possible)
2 cups (16 ounces/500ml) milk
3 canned plum tomatoes, drained
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Working Ahead:
The ragu can be made 3 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate. It also freezes well for up to 1 month. Skim the fat from the ragu’ before using it.

Browning the Ragu Base:
Heat the olive oil in a 12 inch (30cm) skillet (frying pan) over medium-high heat. Have a large saucepan handy to use once browning is complete. Add the pancetta and minced vegetables and sauté, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, 10 minutes, or until the onions barely begin to color. Coarsely grind all the meats together, including the prosciutto, in a food processor or meat grinder. Stir into the pan and slowly brown over medium heat. First the meats will give off a liquid and turn dull grey but, as the liquid evaporates, browning will begin. Stir often, scooping under the meats with the wooden spatula. Protect the brown glaze forming on the bottom of the pan by turning the heat down. Cook 15 minutes, or until the meats are a deep brown. Turn the contents of the skillet into a strainer and shake out the fat. Turn them into the saucepan and set over medium heat.

Reducing and Simmering: Add the wine to the skillet, lowering the heat so the sauce bubbles quietly. Stir occasionally until the wine has reduced by half, about 3 minutes. Scrape up the brown glaze as the wine bubbles. Then pour the reduced wine into the saucepan and set the skillet aside.

Stir ½ cup stock into the saucepan and let it bubble slowly, 10 minutes, or until totally evaporated. Repeat with another ½ cup stock. Stir in the last 1/2 cup stock along with the milk. Adjust heat so the liquid bubbles very slowly. Partially cover the pot, and cook 1 hour. Stir frequently to check for sticking.

Add the tomatoes, crushing them as they go into the pot. Cook uncovered, at a very slow bubble for another 45 minutes, or until the sauce resembles a thick, meaty stew. Season with salt and pepper.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Double Daring Bakers: Cinnamon Rolls

Heavenly cinnamon aroma... really, is there a better smell wafting through the house? Some may argue that garlic might rival the sweet spicy fragrance of cinnamon for first place. Hmm, call it a tie then.

This recipe is from the Daring Bakers from September of 2007. I joined in December of 2007, so just a couple more of these make-ups to go! The DBers are growing like crazy- CRAZY!! I think there are more than 2000 members, and they are from all over the world. Some of my favorite members are in Jamaica and Australia and France! The organizers/founding members are constantly working on making the group better, namely by doing a massive overhaul of the website. Check out the new logo to the right. The Daring Kitchen now includes superheroes: Miss Measure, The Vanilla Fairy, The Chopping Ninja, El Spatulla, Lady Whisk, and The Mighty Flame.

The cinnamon roll recipe comes from the Peter Reinhardt book I keep yapping about- The Baker's Apprentice. These rolls are good, but I think I don't love cinnamon rolls. When I eat one, I feel like something is missing, they are kind of dull. That missing thing comes from the fact that they are cinnamon rolls not sticky buns! I really prefer sticky buns. This recipe can make either, and I had hoped to try out the sticky buns as well, but I didn't get to it.

See the host's blog for the recipe and some wonderful photos of the sticky bun version.

Happy Baking!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Jalapeno Cheese Rolls

To inaugurate my new Viking 7 qt. 1000 watt stand mixer (yahoo!!) I made some bread from Paul Prudhomme's Louisiana Kitchen. The mixer handled this 3 loaf recipe with ease. The bread is fantastically delicious. The recipe makes nice rolls too. I made 2 loaves and a few rolls from the recipe below.

The next time, and there will be a next time, I'll make all rolls. I loved the soft outsides of the rolls once pulled apart. At 3/4 c of peppers it sounds like it might be scaldingly hot, but it is a nice balance against all the added fat of the shredded cheddar.

~ 8 c A.P. flour
1 lb. grated cheddar cheese
3/4 c minced jalapenos
1/2 c sugar
1 1/2 t salt
2 c warm water
3 pkg dry yeast
2 T + 2 T lard or veg. oil

Mix flour, cheese, peppers, 7 T of the sugar and salt. Proof yeast in water with 1 T sugar. Add lard to liquid. Add liquid to flour and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic. Let rise covered in an oiled bowl until doubled. Punch down the dough. Divide into 3 loaves and put into greased pans, or take about 1 1/2 inch pieces and roll into balls and fit into greased 9 x 13 pan. Proof loaves and rolls until they are almost doubled again. Bake at 325 for about an hour.

Happy baking!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Double Post of Daring Baker Goodness

This month's recipe is the Chocolate Valentino and an accompanying ice cream. The Valentino is a pretty standard flourless chocolate cake- eggs, chocolate and butter. In this version the eggs get separated and whipped up so it's not just a chocolate custard, but has a fluffier texture. The type and quality of the chocolate really determines the flavor of the cake. We used a 62% semisweet chocolate that we have liked in everything else we've made. Not this, though. The cake had a chalky dry quality and terribly bitter flavor. Robb had been especially keen for this one- was sure we were going to love it. I don't know why we didn't. The chocolate is tasty on its own and has been in other things we've made.

It's always fun to make ice cream, and it did provide some moisture and sweetness against the very chalky tasting cake. We made an apricot ice cream- pureed dried apricots in a typical custard base. It was fruity and creamy and a beautiful pale color.

The second Daring Baker item that I recently made was the milk chocolate and caramel tart. It's pretty good-nice to have a milk chocolate recipe for a change. The crust has quite a bit of cinnamon which is a nice compliment to the caramel and milk chocolate layers.

Happy Baking!

The February 2009 challenge is hosted by Wendy of WMPE’s blog and Dharm of Dad ~ Baker & Chef.
We have chosen a Chocolate Valentino cake by Chef Wan; a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Dharm and a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Wendy as the challenge.

Chocolate Valentino
16 oz. chocolate, roughly chopped
5 oz. unsalted butter
5 large eggs separated

1. Melt chocolate and butter, cool.
2. Butter, paper, butter pan.
3. Whip the egg whites to stiff peaks

4. Mix yolks together and add to cooled chocolate.
5. Lighten, then fold together.
6. Bake at 375˚ for 25 min., the batter should fill 8” spring form pan 3/4
Will test wet, internal temp is 140˚, the top of the cake will look similar to a brownie.
7. Cool 10 then turn out.Chocolate Shortbread Pastry
To make 3 tarts, 9 ½ inches (24 cm) square
or 10 inches (26 cm round)

1 cup butter, softened CREAM in f.p. ADD 150 g 10x, 50 g gr hazelnuts, 2 t cinn. MIX in 2 eggs, 1x1. SIFT 400 g cake flour, 2 ½ t b powd. & 1 ½ T cocoa and mix in.

Form into a ball and chill overnight.

Blind bake 15 min. @ 325˚

Milk Chocolate and Caramel Tart
One 9-inch(24-cm) square pan; 1 10-inch (26-cm) round baking pan

CARAMELIZE 1 cup granulated sugar to golden. ADD 1 c xx cream or crème fraiche, and ¼ c butter. Cool.

BEAT 2 eggs & 1 yolk, ADD 2 ½ T flour. ADD to caramel mix. Pour into shell and bake 15 min. Cool.

BEAT 1 ¼ c xx cream to stiff and fold into 8 oz. melted milk choc.

SMOOTH over caramel mix. Chill for one hour in the refrigerator.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Back to Baking Through ...the Cake Bible

Yes, finally! We have returned to The Cake Bible. Robb and Janet actually got together for a day of baking and made a couple of things: The Scarlett Empress p.177, and Orange Glow Chiffon Cake p.155.

The Empress was OK, we had made the sponge cake and rolled it up with raspberry puree back in, dare I say... October. It sat patiently waiting in the freezer until this past week. This was not a great idea, but when we tucked it away, we thought we'd be back to it in a couple of weeks, not in several months! The texture of the cake didn't suffer, but the flavor did. We decided to push ahead and get it done, even with the not so tasty cake. This spectacle of the Empress is what we were interested in, and we figured it would be just fine if we didn't greedily gobble up every morsel.

The outside of the cake is slices of jelly roll and the filling is a vanilla Bavarian cream. It's a nice idea, an unusual twist compared to a regular buttercream filled layer cake. The flavor possibilities are endless, and all you need is a bowl to use as a mold.

We decided to whip out another cake while we were waiting for the Bavarian cream to set up. In the sponge-type cake section of The Cake Bible are a bunch of chiffon cakes and we chose the Orange Glow Chiffon Cake. Chiffon cakes have all the lovely qualities of angel food cake, along with an improved texture and flavor due to the addition of fat- oil and egg yolks. Go figure, fat makes stuff taste good. I loved the chiffon cake, it needs no frosting and satisfies a cake jones without much trouble.

Happy Baking!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Double Daring Bakers: Mirror Cake

Finally, the much anticipated mirror cake! This was a Daring Bakers recipe from early 2007. I joined the group in December that year and there were still folks talking about the Strawberry Mirror cake. It is impressive looking, that's for sure.
The top is a shiny mirror like surface of jellied berry juice. In my case, I used strawberries and some other mixed berries- blackberry, raspberry and blueberry. I think one of the challenges that people face when making this is resisting the temptation to pour a bunch of juice on the top. The thin, only 1/16" layer of the mirror is really elegant once it's done, but doesn't feel like enough when you're pouring it on.
To assemble the cake, you make a Bavarian cream with fruit puree and fill the bottom of a spring form pan. You situate a layer of sponge cake in the cream, add more Bavarian cream, another cake layer, and top with more cream. My layering job filled the pan to the very top, so I improvised with a collar made of transparency paper- a tip learned from making the French Yule Log in December, thank you Daring Bakers! I was able to pour the juice layer on top and it set up without too much of it leaking down the sides. Whew!

Here's the cake firming up with the collar made of strips of transparency paper (yes it's taller than is needed). This actually worked out pretty well. I was able to smooth the top of the cream against the edge of the pan and get a nice even layer of the fruit jelly. On some of the images I found of the mirror cake, I noticed that it was pretty when whole, but any unevenness in the mirror layer was noticeable once it was cut. The accident of getting the pan too full is one I will definitely repeat!

See this post for the recipe. We liked this one a lot. Sort of reminiscent of the Strawberry Maria which was also a favorite.

Happy Baking!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Daring Bakers January Challenge: Tuiles

Whew, just made it!
Really. Just now, in about a half hour, I made these.

I didn't procrastinate this month so much as I kept waiting for inspiration. I hoped that Robb would come over and we would get back into our groove of Tuesday baking. I hoped that I would tackle so many projects in the early part of the month before the Spring semester began, including making the templates for these cookies.

I never did sort out the template situation- making some, finding some to buy? What shape? Also, how to shape and cool the things once done? I couldn't justify buying the cornets- cream horn molds or cannoli molds, even though I really wanted them. So I just made do this morning. I piped a bit and smeared it into a circle and tried to get it reasonably thin and even. I used little ramekins to shape them into cups. I will say that I didn't put a lot of love into this. The challenge for me was just getting it done well enough to take a photo. Done is done.

That said, these were pretty good. I made the savory version and made a tuna... mousse? No, better call it what it is- tuna salad. I fancied it up with spinach dip, capers, gherkins, toasted sesame seeds and Chinese chives. While rummaging around to find something, anything!, to make this more than a scoop of tuna salad, I remembered this jar of spicy red pepper. I think it's Polish. In any case, it's good, and spicy, and pretty. I colored some of the batter and put some polka dots on the tuiles, that turned into smears. I also piped stripes to make the pretty curls. The flavor of the tuiles was definitely enhanced by the spicy pepper, and it was quite compatible with the tuna.

Please check out the other DBers efforts. There are many wonderful and creative examples. There was a sweet option, but I chose the savory one below.


Savory tuile/cornet recipe
From Thomas Keller "the French Laundry Cookbook"

1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons (65 grams/2.1/4 ounces) all purpose flour
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt (= 2/3 teaspoon table salt)**
8 tablespoons (114 grams/4 ounces) unsalted butter, softened but still cool to the touch
2 large egg whites, cold
2 tablespoons black sesame seeds

In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, sugar and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk the softened butter until it is completely smooth and mayonnaise-like in texture. Using a stiff spatula or spoon, beat the egg whites into the dry ingredients until completely incorporated and smooth. Whisk in the softened butter by thirds, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary and whisking until the batter is creamy and without any lumps. Transfer the batter to a smaller container, as it will be easier to work with.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Make a 4-inch hollow circular stencil. Place Silpat on the counter (it is easier to work on the Silpat before it is put on the sheet pan). Place the stencil in one corner of the sheet and, holding the stencil flat against the Silpat, scoop some of the batter onto the back of an offset spatula and spread it in an even layer over the stencil. Then run the spatula over the entire stencil to remove any excess batter. After baking the first batch of cornets, you will be able to judge the correct thickness. You may need a little more or less batter to adjust the thickness of the cornets.

There should not be any holes in the batter. Lift the stencil and repeat the process to make as many rounds as you have molds or to fill the Silpat, leaving about 1 1/2 inches between the cornets. Sprinkle each cornet with a pinch of black sesame seeds.

Place the Silpat on a heavy baking sheet and bake for 4 to 6 minutes, or until the batter is set and you see it rippling from the heat. The cornets may have browned in some areas, but they will not be evenly browned at this point.

Open the oven door and place the baking sheet on the door.*** This will help keep the cornets warm as you roll them and prevent them from becoming too stiff to roll. Flip a cornet over on the sheet pan, sesame seed side down and place 4-1/2 inch cornet mold at the bottom of the round. If you are right-handed, you will want the pointed end on your left and the open end on your right. The tip of the mold should touch the lower left edge (at about 7 o'clock on a clock face) of the cornet.

Fold the bottom of the cornet and around the mold; it should remain on the sheet pan as you roll. Leave the cornet wrapped around the mold and continue to roll the cornets around molds; as you proceed, arrange the rolled cornets, seams side down, on the sheet pan so they lean against each other, to prevent from rolling.

When all the cornets are rolled, return them to the oven shelf, close the door, and bake for an additional 3 to 4 minutes to set the seams and color the cornets a golden brown. If the color is uneven, stand the cornets on end for a minute or so more, until the color is even. Remove the cornets from the oven and allow to cool just slightly, 30 seconds or so.
Gently remove the cornets from the molds and cool for several minutes on paper towels. Remove the Silpat from the baking sheet, wipe the excess butter from it, and allow it to cool down before spreading the next batch. Store the cornets for up to 2 days (for maximum flavor) in an airtight container.
This month's challenge is brought to us by Karen of Bake My Day and Zorra of 1x umruehren bitte aka Kochtopf. They have chosen Tuiles from The Chocolate Book by Angélique Schmeink and Nougatine and Chocolate Tuiles from Michel Roux.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The BIG Bread Sandwich

If I could have only one cook book (perish the thought!), it would be The Silver Palate. My original copy is well worn. I saw the 25th anniversary edition and initially I was confused. 25 years. Since what? It can't be 25 years that I've had this book. Quick calculation... OMG!! It has been twenty-five years. Granted, I was a sprite when I purchased my first copy, but still. The new edition is updated with color photos, and the familiar and wonderful illustrations of the original are still there, too.

I feel like I am sharing some secrets when I say that many of my "go to" recipes are from this book- gravlax, ceviche, carrot and orange soup, pasta puttanesca, pate brisee, sour cream apple pie, blackberry mousse- just to name a few off the top of my head. I think I have such a fondness for this book because it was in the kitchen (along with a few other select books) of the first real restaurant I worked in. I was learning to cook at the time- this was even before culinary school- so I was really learning!! Many of the recipes we used at the restaurant were straight from the SP with modifications made only in terms of quantity and a la minute preparations. I find, still, that I have very few notes of changes to recipes after all these years.

I have always been intrigued by The Big Bread Sandwich. The first edition has a wonderful illustration, which has been replaced by an enticing color photo in the second edition, and it was finally too hard to resist. Plus, I had the great excuse of throwing a brunch for Kevin's birthday, and there were plenty of willing eaters- see Lila above, she's always in the center of the action. Unfortunately, none of Kevin's family made it for the celebration.

The bottom layer is sweet and hot Italian sausage (12 sausages) with green and red (and yellow and orange) bell peppers (7), and sliced black olives (1 c). The middle is prosciutto (1 lb. in very thin slices), fontina (8 oz. in very thin slices), arugula (2 c) and tomato (no tomato for Kevin's version), with a garlic anchovy dressing. The top is Eggplant Livia with seasoned ricotta cheese. It is fabulous.

Included is a recipe for the BIG loaf of bread. I'm getting more and more confident with yeast breads, so I dove in and made it. It was terribly exciting to make the enormous loaf- it barely fit on the largest sheet pan I own!! It would be completely reasonable to purchase a good loaf of bread and enjoy the sandwich all the same, see Dan's sandwich below made with a tasty purchased loaf and the tomatoes included, that he's made twice already!

The sandwich is delicious and the idea is great. Purchase yourself a copy of the Silver Palate and get to work exploring all the wonderful recipes!

Here's Kevin blowing out the candles on his birthday cakes (carrot and German chocolate). Dixie dog must have elbowed Lila out of the way to get the front row seat!
(I'll post separately about his birthday present-thanks again to everyone who contributed. XOXOXO to all!!)


Eggplant Livia
1 lb. eggplant
1 c olive oil
2 dried red chiles
2 crushed garlic cloves
1/4 c red wine vinegar
2 T oregano
1 T basil
1 c oil for frying
Mix oil, chiles, garlic, vinegar, herbs.
Slice eggplant into 1/4 rounds. (You can salt it if you want. I don't.) Fry slices in oil in batches until brown. Drain. Add to marinade and refrigerate overnight. Bring to room temp to make the sandwich.

Seasoned ricotta
1 c ricotta
1/4 c grated pecorino
2 T parsley

Garlic Anchovy Dressing
3-4 anchovy fillets
1-2 cloves garlic
1 T dijon
1 yolk
1/4 c red wine vinegar
1 c olive oil

BIG Bread
4 c 110 degree water
2 T molasses
2 pk active dry yeast
11-12 c A.P. flour
2 1/2 T salt
3 T olive oil

Mix the water and molasses, sprinkle yeast over to proof. Start adding flour. Add salt once about 1/2 the flour is mixed in. Get about 10 c flour mixed in and turn out to knead dough, mixing in remaining flour. Knead until dough is smooth and elastic.
Oil a big bowl, let dough rise covered until doubled. Punch down, knead 5 minutes. Let rise again until doubled. Shape dough into a large oval loaf and put on cornmeal dusted baking sheet. Cover and let rise until doubled- it should be about 12 x 14. Rub the risen dough with flour. Slash the top. Bake 15 minutes at 450. Reduce to 375 and bake another half hour.

To assemble:
Cut the loaf into 4 slices. Put the sausages and peppers on the bottom layer and drizzle with some of the cooking oil. Sprinkle with s&p, oregano and fresh parsley and black olives. In the next layer dress the bread, then top with prosciutto, fontina, arugula and tomato and drizzle the dressing on top, too. Add more s&p, oregano and parsley. Smear the seasoned ricotta on the top layer, cover with the eggplant and drizzle with the marinade. You need to wrap it and put in between a couple cookie sheets and weight it for a few hours before you serve it. Let it come up to room temp for full flavor.

Saturday, January 24, 2009


A while back I purchased Peter Reinhart's "The Bread Baker's Apprentice" and I have been playing around with some of the recipes. For our Christmas Eve fete, to go along with Stefan's delicious cioppino, I made sour dough bread. This is a San Francisco thing- the fisherman there are credited with creating the fish and shellfish stew. The required accompaniment for nearly everything, and especially cioppino in San Fran is sour dough bread. In fact, the bacteria in the yeast and bacteria balance that makes the famous flavor is named Lactobacillus sanfranciscensis.

Sour dough breads are made with a starter. It's a mixture of flour and water which sits at room temp and the wild yeast on the flour and in the air does its thing gobbling up the sugars in the flour and releasing carbon dioxide which is what makes the bread rise. The starter can be kept and maintained forever. Some San Fran sour doughs claim to trace their mother starters back to gold rush time- Wow!

I didn't find the sour dough loaves that I made to be sour. It was decent home made bread, but it wasn't like the sour dough loaves from San Francisco, or even those in Seattle. This may be because the yeast and bacteria on my flour were different (airborn yeasts in a region tend to take over), or maybe the culture hadn't been going for long enough to get enough sourness established.

With the starter hanging out in the frig, I turned to consider bagels. The Double Daring Baker's December challenge (yes, still catching up) was bagels. I used the starter to make the "sour dough" version of bagels from the Reinhart book (recipe below) and the DDB recipe which you can find here.

The basic procedure is to make a very stiff dough, let is rise, divide, shape, rise, boil, bake. This is one time that I wish I could get everyone a taste. The Reinhart bagels are the best I have EVER had. They aren't very sour despite using the starter. I may try the sponge method described in the recipe below and see if there is a difference.

bagels waiting to be boiled

bagels boiling

finished bagels- some with seeds and salt

The DB recipe is ok. Kevin thought that if we didn't have the totally amazing, best ever bagels as a comparison, we'd have been quite happy with them.
They rose quite quickly compared to the Reinhart recipe and had a slightly fluffier texture, although they were REAL bagels, not the round bread passed off as bagels at the grocery store.

The Daring Baker Bagels

Peter Reinhart recipe for 12 large bagels

Sponge (In case you don't have 35 oz. starter)
1 t instant yeast
18 oz. bread flour
20 oz. room temp water
Stir together and cover. Sit at room temp for a couple of hours. It should foam and bubble, and double in size.

1/2 t instant yeast
17 oz. bread flour
2 3/4 t salt
2 t malt powder or 1 T honey or brown sugar (I tried honey and brown sugar. Both gave good results.)
Add the yeast to the sponge. Add 3 c of the flour, salt, and malt. Combine, slowly working in remaining flour to create a stiff dough. Knead for 10 min. The dough should be pliable and satiny, not tacky.
Divide into 12 equal pieces. Form into balls and let rest for 20 min. covered with damp towel.
Shape the dough balls into bagels- either make a rope and stick the ends together or poke a hole through the middle and shape it. Put the bagels onto oiled parchment lined sheets, mist with spray oil and cover. Let sit at room temp for about 20 min. Bagels are ready to be retarded when they pass the float test. Put one in a bowl of water- if it floats it passes. If it does not float, wait and test again in 10 minutes.
Put the covered pans in the frig overnight. They'll keep for a couple of days.
When you're ready to bake, heat the over to 500, and put a pot of water with 1 T baking soda on to boil. Boil the bagels for 1 min. each side (2 min. for chewier bagels) and return to the oiled parchment that you've sprinkled with a little cornmeal.
While wet, sprinkle with seeds and salt, or leave plain. Bake for 5 min. Rotate pans, reduce temp to 450 and bake another 5 min. ENJOY!!
These bagels kept well, 2-3 days. I will be experimenting with freezing them next.


Thursday, January 15, 2009

Black Cake

This has been tested and verified as the real deal by folks who know. Greer and her family are from Jamaica- see her happy face below. For those of us unfamiliar with the Jamaican Black Cake, it's like fruitcake.

Hold on; don't go running from the room. It's good fruitcake.

Yes, there is such a thing.

My Dad found this recipe last December, 2007 that is, in the New York Times. I don't know what possessed him to be interested in it, or to forward it to me. Maybe it struck him as similar to mincemeat with all the booze and fruit? He's a Big Project cook (which reminds me of the latest revamp of Fine Cooking mag. There is a new section in each issue dedicated to weekend projects- the first is croissants, we're definitely making those!) The major project of mincemeat is a recipe for another time involving a whole cow's tongue, suet, and pounds of dried fruit, fresh fruit and bottles of booze... and canning. Talk about a project.

We made the black cake together last year and liked it. We are fruitcake fans, but really this isn't that gross green maraschino cherry thing, promise! In fact, we liked it so well that this year we both separately planned to make it. Dad arrived here for Christmas with a sample of his and I had the fruit soaking for mine. We had plenty of cake, that's for sure!!

Below is the Christmas Eve dessert scene at Greer and Stefan's house following the amazing feast of cioppino and the rest. As I think about it, I'd like to get them to make some more cioppino and invite me over- I hope my telepathic desires will be received...
You can see the whole Black Cake in the foreground- AND the plum cookies with the shaved pecorino cheese. Delicious!

Don't be afraid that the ingredients are going to cost a fortune and that you'll have 4 cakes- dive in and make this!

BLACK CAKE from NY Times December 2007

1 lb. prunes
1 lb. raisins
1/2 lb. golden raisins
1 lb. currents
1 1/2 lbs. dried cherries (or 1 lb. dry cherries, 1/2 lb. glace cherries) (I used all dry cherry)
1/4 lb. mixed candied citrus (I used citron)
2 c dark rum, plus more for brushing cake
1 1/2 cherry brandy
1/4 lb. blanched almonds
1 c white or light brown sugar for burning (or 1/4 c molasses which is what I used)
1 lb. butter
1 lb. brown sugar (Dad used dark and I used light-dark is probably better)
10 eggs
zest of 2 limes
2 t vanilla extract
1/2 t angostura bitters
4 c A.P. flour
4 t baking powder
2 t cinnamon

1. Combine prunes, raisins, currants, cherries, candied peel, rum and brandy. Sit for at least 2 days.

2. Grind fruit and almonds to a rough paste, leaving some chunks of fruit intact. Add more brandy or some wine if needed. Can work in batches in the f.p. or blender.

3. If burning sugar, melt 1 c sugar until it is almost black. It will smoke. Add 1/4 c boiling water, turn off heat. It will splatter.

4. Cream butter and brown sugar to smooth and fluffy. Mix in eggs 1 x 1. Add zest, vanilla and bitters.

5. Combine flour, baking powder and cinnamon and fold into butter mixture. Stir in fruit paste and black sugar or molasses. If the batter is light, add more molasses or sugar- should be medium-dark brown.

6. Divide between 4 8" (or 3 9") buttered and papered pans. (Recipe calls for 2 layers of paper, but I'm skeptical). Bake at 250 degrees- yes TWO hundred fifty degrees- for 1 hour. Reduce oven temp to 225 and bake for 2-3 more hours. Will test clean.

7. While cakes are hot, brush with rum. Brush with more rum when cakes are cool. Turn out and serve. Wrap, and store in a cool, dry place for up to one month.

Happy Baking!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Travel back to 1942

My New Year's resolution for 2008 was to read The Art of Eating, by M.F.K. Fisher.  A compendium of her writings on food from 5 previous books.  I've failed at finishing it in one year -- I have a tendency to read one essay then put it down then read another.  I've, sadly, spent more time last year with it being put down than reading.  But I'm determined to finish it this year, along with The Odyssey by Homer. 

One of the books that this includes is How to Cook a Wolf, teaching people to cook well using the ration books that they received in war time. It somehow seems appropriate in our current financial crisis mode.  So, I've been turning down corners and saying, "I've gotta make this." So today I did.

War Cake
M.F.K. Fisher

2 cups flour, white or whole wheat
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup shortening (bacon grease can be used, because of the spices which hide its taste)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon other spices (cloves, mace, ginger..)
1 cup chopped raisins or other dried fruit (prunes, figs, etc.)
1 cup sugar, white or brown
1 cup water

Sift flour, soda and powder together.

Put remaining ingredients in a pan and bring to a boil. Cook five minutes. Cool thoroughly. Add the sifted dry ingredients and mix well. Bake 45 minutes or until done in a greased loaf pan in a 325 to 350 (F) oven.

Whenever I would ask my grandmother how to know if something was done, she'd say, "It feels done".  Not helpful to a little kid.  But as I was trying to talk to J about this cake, I was trying to explain why I was letting the cake cook a bit longer, after I touched it.  And I said, "It just doesn't feel done."  Grandma was right. 

This warm-spiced fruit-type cake is just that: warmly spiced with cinnamon, ginger and cloves that would have covered up any bacon taste, but I used butter instead.  What drew me to it was the fact that you boil the fat with the spices and sugar instead of creaming them together.  After you boil it for 5 minutes and let it cool completely it gets a bit syrupy. The dried fruits are softened and not the hard overly chewy bits in some fruitcakes.  This must also add to the overall moisture of this cake.  The texture is moist and dense.  Just lovely. It was a bit difficult to get out of the pans, but I think if you cool it completely, it will come out better.   Ms. Fisher says that the cake would keep well.  I can see my grandmother making something like this and wrapping it in wax paper. 

Full disclosure:  The photo included here is from my second try at making this cake. I bet my grandmother never left her cake in the oven to begin working on her blog like I did.  This time, I doubled the recipe and as you can tell, we liked it so much we didn't wait to take a picture, we just dove right it.  Luckily we have one in the freezer.  (Please notice the cake plate: a gift from my Mother and Father-in-laws.  A wedding gift to them, and the best "re-gifted" Christmas gift I've ever received.)

Until I started to read How to Cook a Wolf, I always wondered why my Grandma had a jar of bacon grease on the stove -- Now, I realize now that she was born in 1899 and was 29 when the Depression hit and old habits are hard to break.