Monday, October 27, 2008

Star Cake

I made a simple small cake for Grandpa Dewey's birthday. I was going to make a monkey because he's famous for making our girls laugh with monkey noises, but I think the filling is too soft to hold up such a heavy figure. Plus, I have two cakes to make this week and I'm sure I'll get enough of making figures (one of which will have a monkey)! White cake with pistachio cream filling covered and decorated with fondant.
Pistachio Cream Filling
1 pint heavy whipping cream
1/4 c sugar
3 tablespoons pisatchio pudding mix
Whip the cream until soft peaks form. With the mixer on low, gradually add the sugar. Once added, turn the speed up to high and whip until stiff peaks form. Fold in pudding mix. Use immediately, or store in the refrigerator in an airtight container.


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

TWD- Pumpkin Muffins

Ok, so I did make Pumpkin Muffins last week (admittedly, before I saw what this week's TWD recipe was), but I was still excited to try this recipe, which was chosen by Kelly. The muffins are moist and tender, with chewy golden raisins.
The recipe makes a lot of batter- I filled the muffin tins about 2/3 full, with still a lot of batter left. So I kept on filling until most of the batter was gone- the cups were almost 100% full. The recipe calls for sunflower seeds as the topping, but I crumbled TJ's Cinnamon Alphabet Cookies on top. The muffins baked up beautifully- with tall (but not overflowing) tops and the cookie crumbs got toasty and golden. Good thing I was paying attention (kids were napping)- mine were done in 18 minutes instead of the 25 stated in the recipe. Maybe I should've taken them out a minute earlier, too- they were the tiniest bit dry.
The muffins aren't as sweet as mine, which was good, but I think I prefer mine (and mine are healthier, too).Yes, I know that's a V, not a U, but I couldn't find a U. And RVCA does it, so why can't I?

Check out Kelly's blog for the recipe!

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Cake Slice- Hot Chocolate Chiffon Cake

I'm so excited- this is the first Cake Slice Bakers recipe. This is a new baking group started by Gigi and Katie making cakes from Sky High: Irresistable Triple-Layer Cakes. I LOVE making layered cakes! The recipe is really for a cappucino chiffon cake, but we're not coffee or alcohol drinkers so I substituted hot chocolate (made with sugar, unsweetened cocoa powder and water) for the cappucino and was pleased with the results. Instead of the rum, I increased the amount of hot chocolate for the cappucino and added the almond extract.I thought the 6 cups of whipped cream was a little much- I honestly had a stomachache after my not-really-that-big-slice. Three one-inch layers of whipped cream, plus the amount on the sides proved too much for me. Next time, I'd cut down that amount.

The cake reminds me a lot of tiramisu (probably even more so if coffee was used)- once soaked, the cake is moist and dense with fluffy whipped cream. I omitted the nutmeg as my husband hates it and has MEGA nutmeg detector. I cut the cinnamon down a little, too- the cinnamon flavor was still quite strong. Maybe we have sensitive taste buds?

Makes an 8-inch triple layer cake
1/4 cup of neutral oil (ie. vegetable, canola, or soybean)
6 eggs separated
6 tablespoons of freshly brewed espresso cooled to room temperature
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
1 and 1/3 cups of cake flour*
1 and 1/2 cups of sugar
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of cream of tartar
Cocoa powder or cinnamon for dusting
(*The recipe calls for cake flour and if you only have all-purpose flour on hand, you can substitute 3/4 cup (105 grams) all purpose flour plus 2 tablespoons (30 grams) cornstarch.)

Espresso Syrup
1/3 cup hot freshly brewed espresso
1/3 cup of sugar
1/3 cup dark rum, such as Meyers*
(*if you want to leave out the rum you can use molasses thinned with pineapple juice and flavored with almond extract to equal 1/3 cup. Or use 1 to 2 teaspoons of rum extract flavoring but you'll have less syrup.)

Vanilla Whipped Cream
3 cups of heavy cream
1/3 cup of sugar
2 teaspoons of vanilla

1. Preheat the oven to 350F degrees. Line the bottom s of three 8-inch round cake pans with parchment paper but do not grease.
2. In a medium bowl, combine the oil, egg yolks, espresso, and vanilla; whisk lightly to blend. In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, 1 cup of sugar, the baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Set aside.
3. In the large bowl of an electric mixer, whip the egg whites with the cream of tartar on medium-low speed until frothy. Raise the mixer to medium high and gradually add the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar. Continue to beat until soft peaks form. Do not whip to stiff peaks or the cake will shrink upon cooling.
4. Add the espresso-egg mixture to the dry ingredients and fold together just until combined. Add one fourth of the egg whites and fold them gently into the batter. Fold in the remaining egg whites just until no streaks remain. Divide the batter among the pans.
5. Bake the cakes for 18 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Allow the cakes to cool completely in the pans. Once cooled run a knife around the edge of the pans to release the cakes. Invert onto a wire rack and remove the parchment papers.
6. To assemble the cake, place one cake layer flat side up on a cake stand or platter. Soak the cake with 1/3 cup of the espresso syrup. Spread 1 and 1/3 cups of whipped cream evenly over the top of the cake. Repeat with the next layer the same steps. Finally top with the third layer. Soak with syrup and frost the top and sides of the cake with the whipped cream.
7. To decorate the cake smooth out the whipped cream as much as possible on top. Lay a paper doily on top and sift cocoa powder or cinnamon over the doily to reveal a lacy detail.

Espresso Syrup
makes 1 cup
In a bowl, stir together the espresso and sugar. Stir until the sugar dissolves. Add the rum and let cool to room temperature.

Vanilla Whipped Cream
makes 6 cups
Place the cream, sugar, and vanilla in large chilled mixing bowl with chilled beaters. With the whip attachment, beat the cream until stiff peaks form.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Pumpkin Chili with Homemade Cornbread

In the pumpkin frenzy that's happening while my husband's out of town, I made pumpkin chili last weekend when I thought maybe it was going to be fall (the temperature was a chilly 71 degrees)! The pumpkin added a zesty orange color and just a hint of warm pumpkin flavor in the background.
With homemade cornbread drizzled with honey, it was the perfect fall dinner (never mind that it was 85 degrees the next day)!

Pumpkin Chili

1 lb lean ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 16-oz can kidney beans, undrained
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 14-oz can crushed tomatoes
1 14-oz can tomato sauce
1 package chili seasoning
1 bay leaf

Heat a large pot over medium-high heat. Brown ground beef; drain. Add onion and garlic and cook until onion and garlic are soft, about 5 minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients, bring to a boil. Turn down heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes (add water if chili gets dry).

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Pumpkin Pancakes

Sorry, TWD-ers but I'm not a fan of biscotti and there's no one here to eat it, so I skipped this week. But I did make pumpkin pancakes last weekend (Sunday was Pumpkin Day- stay tuned for the pumpkin chili I made). And they were a hit with the kids (of course, anything with syrup is a hit, I guess). They were light and fluffy, but still cakey. Topped with syrup, it was the perfect breakfast (could've used some whipped cream, though!).

Pumpkin Pancakes
makes about 8 pancakes
1 cup all purpose flour
4 tablespoons brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 cup skim milk
1/2 cup canned solid pack pumpkin
1 large egg

Mix flour, brown sugar, baking powder, soda and cinnamon in a large bowl. Whisk milk, pumpkin, and egg in a medium bowl. Add to dry ingredients and whisk until just blended.
Coat a large nonstick skillet with cooking spray over medium heat. Drop batter by 1/4 cupfuls into skillet. Cook pancakes until bubbles form on top and bottoms are golden, about 3 minutes. Turn pancakes over. Cook until bottoms are golden brown, about 2 minutes. Serve with maple syrup.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Nourish the Children and G-Star

Pursuant to my recent post, select G-Star stores are donating meals to Nourish the Children for every $100 in purchases through Oct. 19th in connection with Millenium Campaign End Poverty 2015. If you live in Dallas or California (SF, LA, OC), please drop by G-Star and support this wonderful cause!

(sorry, for some reason, I can't get this to show up. But thanks to generous contributions, over 1000 meals have been donated!)

Friday, October 10, 2008

Pumpkin Muffins

Ok, with my husband out of town and because my kids go to bed at 7, I have a lot of free time in the evenings. I did go to the library today so I could read, but really, baking is SO much more fun! I've been wanting to make some muffins for the kids for breakfast and snacks and since my husband doesn't like pumpkin, I thought this is the perfect time for pumpkin muffins (although, when I asked my 2 year old what we should make with pumpkin, she said, "pumpkin cupcakes!!!" This is close, right?). I looked through some other muffin recipes I like and did some adjusting. This is what I came up with:These are SO good. If it's possible for a pumpkin muffin to taste like pumpkin pie, I swear these do. I even burned my arm taking them out of the oven, but it was SO worth it (should I be concerned that the burn mark has kinda bubbled up? Gross!)
Pumpkin Muffins
makes 18 regular-sized muffins
2 1/4 cups flour

2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup canned pumpkin
1/3 cup light sour cream

1/4 c skim milk
1/3 cup canola oil
2 large eggs
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 400°.
Combine flour, cinnamon, baking soda, ginger, and salt in a medium bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Make a well in center of mixture. Combine brown sugar, canned pumpkin, sour cream, milk, canola oil, and eggs, stirring well with a whisk. Add sugar mixture to flour mixture; stir just until moist.
Spoon batter into 18 muffin cups coated with cooking spray. Bake at 400° for 13 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove muffins from pans immediately; cool on a wire rack.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

BB- Butternut Squash Risotto

This week's BB recipe was for Butternut Squash Risotto, chosen by Rachel of Rachel Likes to Cook. I LOVE risotto so I was excited to make this. I've made it in the past, but not for a while because, while he loves most all other Italian food, my husband doesn't particularly care for it. This has decidedly un-Italian ingredients in it, but it was not a disappointment! I halved the recipe since husband is out of town.
First off, the butternut squash. There's almost nothing I hate more than peeling and cutting butternut squash. But I was saved by Trader Joe's- they carry packages of cut & peeled squash (you can bet that's the only reason I used it in the recipe. I REALLY hate peeling it). Roasted in olive oil and salt & pepper (a side note: I just saw today- does Rachael Ray SERIOUSLY say "S&P" for salt & pepper?!!!), the squash was tender and sweet.
I substituted the pancetta for ham and added mushrooms. Also, saffron is not in my cupboard and definitely NOT in the budget since I would never use it again, so I added 1/4 t of curry powder to give it a different kick. I also omitted the parmesan since I didn't think it would taste good with the curry powder.
As usual, the cooking seemed to be going right on schedule, but as the risotto absorbed more liquid the process got slower and slower. Mine took longer than a total of 30 minutes- the last ladels of stock took probably 15 minutes alone to absorb. Well worth it, however.
The thing I love about risotto is it's so versatile- you can uaw any number of ingredients to mix it up! It takes a while to cook, but ordering it at a restaurant is always pricey so it's worth making it at home. Especially when it's so easy!

Butternut Squash Risotto
by Ina Garten
1 butternut squash (2 pounds)
2 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
2 ounces pancetta, diced
1/2 cup minced shallots (2 large)
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice (10 ounces)
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 teaspoon saffron threads
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Peel the butternut squash, remove the seeds, and cut it into 3/4-inch cubes. You should have about 6 cups. Place the squash on a sheet pan and toss it with the olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Roast for 25 to 30 minutes, tossing once, until very tender. Set aside.
Meanwhile, heat the chicken stock in a small covered saucepan. Leave it on low heat to simmer.
In a heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven, melt the butter and saute the pancetta and shallots on medium-low heat for 10 minutes, until the shallots are translucent but not browned. Add the rice and stir to coat the grains with butter. Add the wine and cook for 2 minutes. Add 2 full ladles of stock to the rice plus the saffron, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Stir, and simmer until the stock is absorbed, 5 to 10 minutes. Continue to add the stock, 2 ladles at a time, stirring every few minutes. Each time, cook until the mixture seems a little dry, then add more stock. Continue until the rice is cooked through, but still al dente, about 30 minutes total. Off the heat, add the roasted squash cubes and Parmesan. Mix well and serve.
(yes, Melissa, I ended up making it tonight. I only tasted a little- maybe the girls will eat it tomorrow? Fingers crossed...)

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

TWD- Caramel-Peanut Topped Brownie Cake

This week's recipe was chosen by Wee Treats by Tammy. The recipe is for a brownie cake base, topped with salted peanuts mixed with gooey caramel. Flipping through the book a few weeks ago, I saw the picture of this and the description that it's reminiscent of a Snickers bar, and I told my husband we should try it. Then lo and behold, it's this week's recipe!
I made mine in a 9" springform since I don't have an 8". I should've adjusted the baking time accordingly, because I baked mine for 30 minutes (the receipe says 40-45) and it was a little dry- did anyone else have that problem? These are not baked beans- it's the caramel/peanut topping. The recipe says to cook until the caramel is a rich, dark brown, which seems a little ambiguous to me. It says to cook 10 minutes, but mine took longer than that. Then, I stepped away for a minute, came back, and it was D-A-R-K! Darn the 2 year old and 1 year old rascals!
I think it turned out ok, though. Since the caramel was a little overcooked, we served it warmed with vanilla ice cream. Only one slice for my husband and me and the rest was given away!
Check out TWD for the recipe and the blog roll!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Hamburger & Hot Dog Cupcakes

These are my husband's favorite cupcakes. Chocolatey, dense and not-too-sweet. The hot dogs and hamburger decorations were for a BBQ we had with friends. Topped with simple almond buttercream (that was supposed to be red, but I got tired of thinning the gel food color to make it red enough!).Chocolate Cupcakes
Adapted from Everyday Food
Makes 12
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup sour cream
Frosting of choice
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 12-cup standard muffin tin with paper liners.
Into a medium bowl, sift together cocoa, flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside. In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each, then beat in vanilla. With mixer on low speed, add flour mixture in two batches, alternating with sour cream and beginning and ending with flour.
Pour batter into cups, filling each 3/4 full. Bake until a toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes.
Cool in pan 5 minutes; transfer to a wire rack to cool completely, then frost and decorate as desired.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Carmel Toffee Chocolate Bars

We had some friends over for dinner the other night and I saw these in Dorie Greenspan's Baking, From My Home to Yours and I thought, hmm, that's a lot of things I like just in the title! And then the picture in the book is these cute ice cream sandwiches wrapped in waxed paper. I had to try them.
The cookie is like a shortbread- buttery and crumbly (no eggs or levening) with flecks of chocolate mixed in. The recipe says to bake it until it's percolating like coffee, which it surely does. Topped with chocolate and toffee bits- what's not to love?
I then paired it with my husband's favorite Burnt Almond Fudge ice cream that his mom makes. The name is deceiving; since none of us like nuts in ice cream, it's really just chocolate ice cream with almond extract. I tweeked it a little since I didn't have evaporated milk. I love homemade ice cream, but always have a difficult time with the consistency. No matter what ingredients I use, it always seems to be too icy. Any suggestions?

Burnt Almond Fudge Ice Cream

2 c whole milk

2 c heavy cream

1 can evaporated milk

1 c sugar

1/3 c cocoa powder, sifted

2 t almond extract (you can use less; we like a lot of almond flavor)

With a whisk mix ingredients well. Pour into ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer's directions. Makes 2 quarts.