August 28, 2010

Dimply Plum Cake

We're having a lazy morning around my house. My son slept in to 7:00 (haha, he's such an early riser) and we had a nice breakfast before we got to pressing projects like building duplo towers and folding laundry. Tonight we have a party to go to and the hardest part of the day promises to be a trip to Costco (on a Saturday). I'm also thinking over Baby Strawberry's upcoming birthday and what kind of baked good to make her. Surely something pink and covered in frosting. This cinnamon laced cake is delicious. I've made it before with pears or peaches so you can really use whatever similar fruit you have available (maybe I'll use raspberries next time). It's easy enough for my little man to whip up with me and I can pretend it's healthy with the whole wheat flour. Make this and in a few minutes your whole house will smell delicious. It's going to be a good day.

Let me know if you have any fabulous one-year-old birthday party ideas. Time is flying too fast and her day is only a couple of weeks away!

Dimply Plum Cake
from Anne Strawberry
Adapted from Baking by Dorie Greenspan

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon (or cardamom)
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup (packed) light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/3 cup flavorless oil, such as canola or safflower
Grated zest of 1 lemon or orange
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
4 ripe plums, pitted, halved, and sliced into thirds (6 slices per peach)

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter an 8-inch square baking pan, dust the inside with flour, tap out the excess and put the pan on a baking sheet. (I actually buttered my pan this time but a nice even spray of Pam with Flour would work here)

Whisk the flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon together.

Working with a mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the butter at medium speed until soft and creamy, about 3 minutes. Add the sugar and beat for another 2 minutes, then add the eggs, one at a time, and beat for a minute after each addition. On medium speed, beat in the oil, lemon zest, and vanilla. The batter will look smooth and creamy, almost satiny (with the whole wheat flour and cinnamon it will have a nice light brown color). Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients, mixing only until they are incorporated.

Run a spatula around the bowl and under the batter, just to make sure there are no dry spots, then scrape the batter into the pan and smooth the top. Arrange the plums in an evenly spaced pattern, lying each slice on it's side and slightly jiggling the pan just so the fruit settles comfortably into the batter.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes , or until the top is honey brown and puffed around the fruit and a thin knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Transfer the cake to a rack and cool for 15 minutes- during which time the plums juices will seep back into the cake- then run a knife around the sides of the pan and unmold the cake. Invert and cool right side up.

Optional Accompaniments: Serve with whipped cream or a dollop of pastry cream for breakfast. For dessert, add a small scoop of vanilla or cinnamon ice cream. It’s also cute frosted with a little cream cheese frosting.

August 24, 2010

Keys To Good Cooking

PhotobucketYesterday, a friend and I went to the farmers market. We both have little boys and baby girls so we were quite the site, with our carts full of children, diaper bags, and even some produce. My son was having fun showing off for my friend by helping her- picking up whatever was closest to give her to buy. Between trying to get him to grab the right kind of food, much less the perfect specimens, and taking care of the rest of the kids, we were a little distracted. So, I shouldn't have been surprised when I came home and started cutting some berries and found that even though I thought I'd made good choices, quite a few were under or overly ripe. I'm sure the same will be true of the apples and onions when I get to those. When I consider all the time (and money) I spend planning meals, clipping coupons, shopping, putting away groceries, and finally actually cooking and cleaning, it's a ridiculously huge part of my life! If it's going to be such a big deal (and it is, since I don't see my tall, hungry man giving up food anytime soon) I want to be efficient so I can enjoy the process as well as the end product. That's one of the reasons I'm so excited about a new book that TLC Book Tours asked me to review.

Keys to Good Cooking by Harold McGee isn't another recipe book, although I'll admit I love those. It's all about the right way to cook- from using your tools properly to selecting the best food. We all have different levels of experience, different preferences and products, but everyone can benefit from doing things right. I read through the chapter on meat preparation and appreciated the tips on keeping temperature in check to produce safe and delicious results. I don't want my family or my guests to get a sore jaw eating overcooked meat at my table but I certainly don't want them ending up with food poisoning either! I can't wait to learn more from this book and hope my husband doesn't laugh at me reading another cookbook. I'm not the only one who does that, right?

You can Preorder the book on Amazon and I'll have my final review up in October (You can see the master schedule for the rest of the tour here!) And come back later this week for one of my favorites- Dorie's Dimply Plum Cake.

TWD- Easy French Tarts

It's Tuesday again and I found a comforting familiarity making tart shells and pastry cream. This week's recipe, the crunchy custardy peach tart, didn't exactly come to fruition this week. I prepped the shells Saturday (just a quick whirl of the ingredients in my food processor and pressed into the tart pans) and planned to make the real deal for Sunday dinner. Last minute at Church, though, my husband invited some friends for dinner and I found myself in a frenzy! Instead of making the actual recipe (and trying something new, not!) I whipped up a batch of pastry cream and topped half with madarin oranges and the other half with homemade apple pie filling. While it wasn't the real deal, you really can't go wrong with pastry and cream. Thanks to Rachel for the push to make this yummy dessert.

Come back later this week for Greek (it's my brother's birthday and we're going all out!)

"Slightly Lighted" Pastry Cream
adapted from Baking by Dorie Greenspan

2 1/2 cups 2% milk
4 large egg yolks
1 egg
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch, sifted
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into bits at room temperature
Seeds from one vanilla bean (optional)

Bring the milk to a boil in a small saucepan.

Meanwhile, in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk the egg yolks together with the sugar and cornstarch until thick and well blended. Still whisking, drizzle in about 1/4 cup of the hot milk-- this will temper, or warm, the yolks so they won't curdle. Whisking all the while, slowly pour in the remainder of the milk. Put the pan over medium heat and, whisking vigorously, constantly and thoroughly (making sure to get the edges of the pot), bring the mixture to a boil. Keep at a boil, still whisking, for 1 to 2 minutes, then remove the pan from the heat.

Whisk in the vanilla extract. Let sit for 5 minutes, then whisk in the bits of butter, stirring until they are full incorporated and the pastry cream is smooth and silky. Scrape the cream into a bowl. You can press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface of the cream to create an airtight seal and refrigerate the pastry cream until cold or, if you want to cool it quickly--as I always do--put the bowl into a larger bowl filled with ice cubes and cold water, and stir the pastry cream occasionally until it is thoroughly chilled, about 20 minutes.

August 17, 2010

Apple Oatmeal Quick Bread

It's no secret that my tall man would subsist on carbs and meat alone if he could. I knew he would love this week's Dorie treat. I enlisted my little man to help me make it and it was super easy- even when my brain feels so fried from the heat that I'm practically forgetting to cook at all! Everyone loved it (especially baby strawberry- I made her a special mini loaf sans nuts). I'm still more partial to banana bread, I'll be honest. But I'm keeping this recipe up my sleeve for the next time my husband is begging for some carbs! Grab the recipe from Natalie.

Notes: I used one apple, peeled and diced, for the fruit and baked the batter into four mini loaves. They took about forty minutes in the oven and would do great in the freezer! Next time I'll add a little whole wheat flour. No one will notice, promise.

August 10, 2010

Mint Chocolate Ganache Fudge Ripple Ice Cream

I'm aware the title of this recipe is overly long, but what are you going to do? When I saw the simple and delicious chocolate ganache recipe for this week's Tuesday with Dorie treat, I knew it would be a great recipe to experiment with. I had a chocolate mint Lindt bar in my chocolate stash that provided all the inspiration I needed. I also had a lovely jar of homemade hot fudge sauce in my fridge from a banana split party and figured a little more chocolate and cream couldn't hurt, so I swirled it in after it finished churning. And since I can't leave well enough alone, I also added some chopped mint chips.

The final product? Delicious. And I don't even like chocolate ice cream. But like my tall man said (as he stared longingly at the final, toxic-for-him-chocolate-laden goodness) it's not nasty fake chocolate flavored ice cream. It's cream and chocolate, lovingly combined into frozen deliciousness. Yum.

Grab the recipe from Katrina. She's amazing with ice cream and I bet she even found a way to lighten up this cream laden treat!

Easy Hot Fudge Sauce
from Baked by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito

*Note- this yields a little over two cups of sauce- I will halve the recipe next time

6 ounces milk chocolate, finely chopped
6 ounces dark chocolate, finely chopped (I used milk and semisweet chocolate chips- it's almost a whole bag put together)
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup light corn syrup

Place both chocolates in a heatproof bowl and set aside. Bring the cream to a simmer over medium, stir in corn syrup, and remove from heat. Pour over the chocolate and let sit for 2 minutes. Whisk until smooth, starting in the center and moving out. Cool, cover tightly, and keep refrigerated.

Reheat the sauce in the microwave by cooking in 20 second intervals, stirring in between, until desired temperature is reached.

August 3, 2010

Carrot Cake Cookies

{printable recipe here}
I don't consider myself a picky eater but I might be, especially since I don't like carrot cake. Whenever I tell someone that, I get a very strange, glazed expression. Well, I don't love cake. I love frosting if that counts. And in my book the cream cheese frosting is the redeeming feature of the carrot cake. That said, these carrot cake cookies, this week's Tuesdays with Dorie treat chosen by Natalia, were lacking the most important part of the cake- the icing! They also contained my baking archenemy- coconut. I knew that had to go. Then, since I was so kind as to bake these in the middle of the hot afternoon at my mom's house while the AC ran away, I figured I should leave out the raisins, since she loves cooked raisins as much as I love sunblock, I mean coconut. After subbing in a little extra carrot, oatmeal, and craisins, the final result is actually really delicious. I think I'll sub in some wheat flour next time and no one will even notice. Yay!

I'll tell you the truth- I was kind of upset that I liked these. Not liking coconut has its perks. It's easy enough just to cross anything off my list that contains it. Cookies are tempting little devils and despite my convictions these wouldn't be worth eating, they were delicious enough that I have a slight stomach ache from ingesting all that frosting. I guess I might like carrot cake after all (though my tall man won't go that far- he was the first to say that my "gently frosted" cookies are about equal parts cookie and icing- but where's the crime in that?)

PhotobucketWhenever someone comes over and sees my beloved Silpats lining all my sheet pans, they ask what they are and why I use them. I guess I made a habit of it after I realized I would never have to grease my pans again (thanks, Kara, for the amazing gift!) Today I was to anxious to let the pans cool in between batches and so I tried using some air-bake cookie sheets to hurry things along. The cookies all came out flat and irregular, as opposed to the Silpat lined sheets that came out exactly as they were scooped. I defintely prefer the traditional half sheet pan (bonus if it comes with a lid, like this set!) and a nice, reusable Silpat. Let me know what you think (the pans and the liners are both part of the buy three get one free promotion on Amazon, so it was too much for me to resist!) I don't see myself going back to greasing my copious cookie sheets anytime soon.


Carrot Cake Cookies
from Anne Strawberry
adapted from Baking by Dorie Greenspan
{printable recipe here}

2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
3/4 tsp ground ginger
pinch of nutmeg
1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) butter, softened
2/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar (I always use dark but whatever you have on hand will work)
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 cup shredded carrots (about 4 large carrots)
1/2 cup rolled oats (regular Quaker oatmeal)
1 cup craisins
3/4 cup toasted, chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 375F. Whisk together the dry ingredients. Cream the butter and sugars for 2 minutes then add the egg, mix for one minute, and mix in the vanilla. Slowly add the dry ingredients in 2-3 batches, being careful not to over-beat. Stir in the add-ins with a spatula until barely combined. Scoop onto Silpat lined baking sheet and bake for about 15 minutes (they should just barely be set, starting to take on color and a little firm when touched on top). Top with cream cheese icing.