Saturday, March 29, 2008

Perfect Party Cake

This was a Daring Baker Challenge that came from Dorie Greenspan's Baking From My Home to Yours. This is a great book that I had briefly from the library but is definitely going on my cookbook wish list. It's got lots of great recipes and this cake definitely showcases that! As an instructor teaching pastry this mixing method sort of goes against what we teach, but being the obedient daring baker that I am, I followed the directions to a T and of course it came out great! One of the great things about this club is you are forced to try things that you may have otherwise amended or not done at all, and you end up discovering new and great recipes! With all that said, I debated long and hard about whether I was going to participate in this challenge or sit it out. Why? We are in the middle of a kitchen remodel and don't really have one at the moment! Luckily for me I have plenty of kitchens at work that I'm able to use, so I baked the cake and made the frosting there, then took it home with me! The space was tight and a little difficult to decorate, it's not my best but I still managed! Of course after given permission to change the flavors and frosting I did... maybe just habit, always having to make it my own, although those flavors would have been really good. I couldn't bring myself to make more buttercream- I'm around it all day at work. I was inspired by a dessert I had made at one of the restaurants I worked at. It was a Earl Grey Ice Cream Roulade. It was a chocolate sponge rolled up with earl grey ice cream and I garnished it with candied orange. The flavors worked so well together that I wanted to recreate them in the cake. I have since learned (unfortunately too late) that I didn't use enough tea, apparently to flavor a cake with tea it takes a lot! You can't detect tea in any part of the cake- I had it in the cake, and also in the frosting/ filling which was a whipped ganache. I covered the top with candied orange, which still worked well with the chocolate, regardless of the tea.

Here is the recipe for the cake used in the challenge, it made a great white cake. I didn't include the tea I put into the cake (the little dark specks you see) because that still needs some work. I used a earl grey whipped ganache as the frosting and filling, which I also am not going to post at this time, I would like to get the right proportion of earl grey before posting that recipe. Directions for the candied orange on top can be found here, from my earlier post. The only difference is I cut the strips very thin and drained the syrup from the zest, but didn't let it dry out at all, instead put it on the cake still moist and very soft (if it was really hard or chewy the texture wouldn't match well). As you can see I also used a different pan, a loaf pan that I trimmed down and sliced into three layers. You can do either without adjustment to the recipe. You could still use two loaf pans. This is a great white cake recipe and would encourage you to try it!
Perfect Party Cake (taken from Baking From My Home To Yours)
2 1/4 cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 ¼ cups whole milk or buttermilk
4 large egg whites
1 ½ cups sugar
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1 stick (8 tablespoons or 4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ teaspoon pure lemon extract

Getting Ready
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 9 x 2 inch round cake pans and line the bottom of each pan with a round of buttered parchment or wax paper. Put the pans on a baking sheet.

To Make the Cake
Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.
Whisk together the milk and egg whites in a medium bowl.
Put the sugar and lemon zest in a mixer bowl or another large bowl and rub them together with your fingers until the sugar is moist and fragrant.
Add the butter and working with the paddle or whisk attachment, or with a hand mixer, beat at medium speed for a full 3 minutes, until the butter and sugar are very light.
Beat in the extract, then add one third of the flour mixture, still beating on medium speed.
Beat in half of the milk-egg mixture, then beat in half of the remaining dry ingredients until incorporated.
Add the rest of the milk and eggs beating until the batter is homogeneous, then add the last of the dry ingredients.
Finally, give the batter a good 2- minute beating to ensure that it is thoroughly mixed and well aerated.
Divide the batter between the two pans and smooth the tops with a rubber spatula.
Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the cakes are well risen and springy to the touch – a thin knife inserted into the centers should come out clean
Transfer the cakes to cooling racks and cool for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes, unfold them and peel off the paper liners.
Invert and cool to room temperature, right side up (the cooled cake layers can be wrapped airtight and stored at room temperature overnight or frozen for up to two months).

Friday, March 21, 2008

Comfort food made healthier

It seems to be a constant struggle, how do you make the foods you loved as a kid and the foods you indulge in, healthier? My philosophy is to cut back on the fat where you can, but to also try to fit more vegetables into the dish to bulk it up and cut back on the fat per serving. The other way I look at it is, always trying to make foods that somehow contribute to your daily servings of fiber, vegetables, protein, whatever it may be, make it count- no empty calories. Granted there will be some here and there, but I believe if you take this approach daily, you can still eat foods you enjoy but create a healthier diet for yourself. This dish would be a classic example. The sloppy joes are loaded with veggies and the bun has whole wheat flour and lot's of flaxseed. I used ground flax and found that it created a really nice and chewy texture in the bread.

Sloppy Joes (serves about 6)

1 lb lean ground beef (or turkey, chicken or even crumbled tofu)
1 medium onion diced
1 green bell pepper diced
2 medium cloves of garlic finely chopped
2 cups grated butternut squash (either using a cheese grater or food processor)
1 1/4 cups tomato juice (this is flexible- tomato puree or v-8 or reg tomato juice)
1 cup BBQ sauce
1 TBS Worcestershire
1 TBS brown sugar

Brown the meat in a large saute pan. Cook through and set aside to drain on a paper towel. Drain all of the fat except about 1 TBS(if your meat is very lean you may have to add some oil. Saute all of your vegetables and garlic just beginning to get tender. Add the tomato juice and cook down until it has reduced by about half then add the BBQ sauce, brown sugar, and Worcestershire) and cook until for about 15 minutes and then add the beef back in. You want to make sure you cook it until the sauce is fairly thick adding the ground beef towards the end. This freezes well.

Flax Seed Rolls or Hamburger Buns (Makes 12 medium size rolls)

8 oz all purpose flour
10 oz whole wheat flour
2.5 oz rye flour
2 oz flax seed (about 1/2 cup)
1 1/4 tsp instant yeast
2 TBS honey
14.6 oz water
2 tsp salt

Mix all the dough except the salt. Mix until all the flour has been mixed in but don't start kneeding the dough yet. Cover and let this sit for twenty minutes. After the 20 minutes are up mix in the salt. This gives the yeast a head start and gets it working it also gives the flour a chance to absorb all the liquid, making it a lot easier to handle. Sprinkle the salt on top and either by hand or machine, mix for 5 minutes or so, until the dough is smooth and elastic. Put the dough in a greased bowl, cover and let it rise until double (in a warm place) this will take about 1 hour assuming the room is 70 degrees or so (if it's colder it will just take longer. Gently deflate the dough and let it double again (this should only take about 20 minutes or so). **Alternatively you can mix the dough and then just put covered bowl in the refrigerator overnight and let it proof slowly. The next day take it out and let it sit at room temperature for a few hours to give the dough a chance to warm up and then continue as normal** After the dough has doubled for the second time turn it out onto a very lightly floured surface and divide the dough into 3 oz portions (you can eyeball this or weigh it) and you should have about 12 buns. Roll them into a rough round and let them sit for 20 minutes covered. Meanwhile turn the oven on to 375 and prepare a pan with either parchment or grease. Crack 1 egg into a bowl, add a pinch of salt and 1 tbs water and stir until the egg is completely broken up. After the twenty minutes re-round the balls making sure you they are smooth all over. Place them on the sheet pan and take your hand and flatten each ball as much as possible (this will create a wider surface and more of a bun shape) let them rise in a warm place covered until they have doubled in size. This should take anywhere from 1/2 hour to an hour. After they are fully proofed brush some egg wash on each bun and press down gently again to help to flatten them (they bounce back quite a bit). Bake at 375 until a dark golden crust forms. Probably about 1/2 an hour. Let them cool completely before cutting in half. These freeze well.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Soda Bread

Here is a great recipe for Irish Soda Bread I came up with. I love using browned butter, I think it gives an indescribable depth of flavor. I have been very busy lately as we are getting ready to remodel our kitchen so I have actually been trying to post this for the last week, just never getting around to it. I realized that as I am posting it today, St Patrick's Day, it couldn't be more perfect timing!

Irish Soda Bread
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup spelt flour
1 cup rolled oats
3/4 cup all purpose flour
3 TBS brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 cup buttermilk
5 tbs brown butter
1 egg
1 cup golden raisins

Pre heat oven to 425. Mix all the dry ingredients in a bowl. Heat the butter in a small pan and continue to cook it over very low heat until it starts to turn brown. When you put a small amount of butter on a white plate or light surface the butter should look a golden brown color. This is what is called Beurre Noisette or browned butter. Scrape it into a medium bowl (along with all the little dark bits stuck to the bottom of the pan). Once it's no longer hot to the touch whisk in the buttermilk, whisking fast the whole time until everything is mixed in, then whisk in the egg and combine with dry ingredients and golden raisins. Mix just until everything comes together. Divide the dough into two equal sized balls, place them on a greased sheet pan (or one lined with parchment paper) and gently pat into a fairly smooth looking balls and make an x 1/2 " deep in each ball. Bake at 425 for 10 minutes then reduce to 375 and bake to 30-35min. This is best eaten right after it's baked but will be good as toast the following day.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

My New Favorite Cocktail

I recently discovered this drink one night at 820/ Mint and then later I was in Barnes and Noble and saw that Lucy Brennen, the owner and renowned mixologist had published a book, Hip Sips, and my cocktail was in there! This makes for a very strong cocktail (ie. very dangerous) but so nicely balanced. I slightly modified the recipe to cut down the vodka slightly.

In the book this was called 816, named after the restaurants address. The sucess in making this is seeking out some quality passion fruit puree.

2 oz citron vodka (get the good stuff)
1/4 oz Harlequin (or Grand Marnier or Cointreau)
1 oz Lemon-Lime juice (equal parts fresh squeezed lemon and lime juices)
1 oz simple syrup (equal parts of sugar and water brought to a boil and cooled down)
2 Tbs Passion Fruit Puree

Put all ingredients in a pint glass with ice cubes, cover with a cocktail shaker and vigorously shake for 10 seconds. Strain into a martini glass and serve.

To make your own Passion Fruit Puree: press 2 passion fruits worth of pulp through a sieve. Combine with 2 tbs of sugar, 1 tbs of water and 2 tsp of lemon juice in a blender. May need a little more sugar or lemon juice. Use immediately or freeze.

This book has inspired me to try more cocktails... certainly more to come!