Monday, August 31, 2009
I could tell that I've made this one before because it had a comment: "Not bad, but not great." Wow, that was inspiring. I could tell why: 1 cup of powdered sugar to 1 egg white. I'm not a huge meringue fan, and these are awfully sweet, even though I dialed back the sugar a bit. But still, they're good enough that I had to stash them away to keep from nibbling :-).
A week or so ago I made French toast that called for 3 egg yolks, and I was smart enough to freeze the whites. I felt pretty smug about that, I have to say. I suppose that you'd have two egg whites left over from the coffee cake, too. But other than making sure you have egg whites, there's nothing to this recipe--it came together before the oven had preheated. I've got them stored airtight now to protect them from the, um, humidity, and I hope that the crowd at Randolyn's will enjoy them. (Yes, Claire, I'll save you a few as well...)
Here's the recipe I made:
Savannah Chocolate Chewies
8 oz. pecans (I used an entire bag of Trader Joe's Dry Roasted Pecan Pieces, which I highly recommend)
3 c. (12 oz.; I used about 10.5 oz) powdered sugar
2/3 c. (2 oz.) cocoa powder
1 T. instant espresso (Maida calls for 1 t. but I thought more would cut through the sweetness)
2 T. flour
3 large egg whites
1/2 t. vanilla
Heat the oven to 350; line two cookie sheets with parchment. If you aren't using the TJ's pecans, chop your pecans rather fine. Then put the egg whites, vanilla, and salt in the bowl of the mixer and sift in the dry ingredients. This may not be necessary, but I decided to avoid lumps, especially since my instant espresso was looking distinctly clumpy. Then turn on the mixer to low until the dry ingredients are incorporated. I was sure this would never happen, but it did. Then crank up the mixer speed and beat the stuff for a full minute. Take the bowl out of the mixer and stir in the pecans. That's it! Now scoop out the dough, one teaspoon (a dessert spoon) at a time, onto your parchment-lined sheets--I think I got exactly 2 dozen cookies. Maida says to bake these one sheet at a time, but I have a convection oven and it's hot outside, so I put in both sheets and baked for 13 minutes. They should look all dry on the outside. These cookies will never win a beauty contest. Let them cool on the paper for about 5 minutes, then transfer to a rack to cool. After you've nibbled a few to test the optimal temperature, store these airtight and vow to give them away at the first opportunity.
Sunday, August 30, 2009
I proved that once again today when I made the Cream Cheese Coffee Cake. OK, I'm totally out of order, but I really needed a project today, and I always make something special on Saturday mornings, so this fit in perfectly.
This really is quite the project, even though it wasn't that difficult. It just takes a really long time. Claire and I didn't have "breakfast" until about 11. Good thing I had cut up that ginormous melon I got at Whole Foods yesterday (making lemonade from airport lemons)--that tided us over nicely. Got up at 6:30, made dough (which comes together really fast in the food processor), and let it rise while I went to The Evil Empire (7:30 on Saturday morning is a great time to go there!) to buy cream cheese and other necessities. Got home, started laundry, did some dishes, and then Claire was up in time to make the filling for me. She did a great job with that. The directions for making the braid weren't all that clear, and even though I usually don't need pictures in a cookbook, some line drawings would have been helpful. Nonetheless, we rolled out the dough and brushed on the apricot jam and spooned on the filling and braided it up. I even used a ruler to cut the dough strips! Then another hour to kill--editing and laundry and dishes and trying to avoid the reality of a too-empty house. Finally it was time to bake that sucker. I hadn't noticed that you were supposed to shape the dough on the aluminum foil. Fortunately, I had formed it on a silicone rolling mat (thanks, Dad and Sharmyn!) that was oven-safe, so I could just transfer that baby to the baking sheet. I then made a little foil shield around the coffee cake to protect against leakage. If Julia hadn't taken the one operating camera to France (which was a good thing, mind you!), I could have shown you how that looked. But there was actually little to no leakage. And it really did "look spectacular" and "taste sensational". I made just half the recipe, but hardly dare say that there's one little end piece left. Let me just say that I only had three thin-ish slices. Don't know where the rest went (do you, Claire?)...
Verdict: it's a keeper. The dough is really nice to work with--rolled out easily and didn't give me any trouble at all. The filling was just right, and it looked pretty darned professional. If I can figure out how to upload cell phone photos, I'll show you just how good :-). In the meantime, here's the recipe I made:
Cream Cheese Coffee Cake
3 T. (1.5 oz.) unsalted butter, melted
1/3 c. warm water
1-1/2 c. (7.5 oz.) flour (I used about half white whole wheat and half all-purpose)
2-1/4 t. (1 envelope) instant yeast (I have a jar of bread machine yeast in the fridge)
1/4 t. salt
1/4 c. sugar
Mix together the water, butter, and egg in the measuring cup. Put the dry ingredients in the food processor and buzz until they're mixed. Then open the feed tube and pour in the wet ingredients. Process that for one minute. Mine formed a ball first, then got soft and mushy. It turned out OK, though. Then turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead it for 1 minute. Put the dough into a greased bowl, cover it, and let it rise for a couple of hours. While it's rising, get your cream cheese out of the fridge to soften.
1-1/2 t. water
1-1/2 t. rum
1-1/2 t. sugar
1/4 c. (1.2 oz.) golden raisins
1 8-oz. block cream cheese, room temp.
1/4 c. (1 oz.) powdered sugar
1 egg yolk (save the white!)
1/2 t. vanilla
grated rind of about 1/2 orange
about 3 T. apricot jam (don't mix this into the filling!)
Put the water, rum, sugar, and raisins in a microwave-safe bowl; cover and zap for 1 minute on high. Let that sit and cool while you mix together the cream cheese, sugar, egg yolk, vanilla, and orange rind. When that's all nice and smooth, beat in the raisins.
If you have a Silpat or something like that, get that out. Flour it lightly and turn the dough onto that. Roll it into about a 12-inch long rectangle (maybe 12x8? I didn't measure...). Face the dough lengthwise, if that makes sense. (See? A picture is worth a thousand words!) Then mark about 1-1/2 inches on each side of the dough--these are the parts of the dough that will form the braid, and they need to stay "naked" for now. Brush the apricot jam onto the middle of the dough, then cover that with cream cheese filling. Now mark the bare dough at one-inch intervals, and cut it into strips, so that you have a sort of fan pattern on both sides. Now fold up the top and bottom like a burrito, and then carefully fold each strip over the filling, alternating to make a braid. If it looks good and the filling is covered, you're in good shape. Now cover the masterpiece and let it sit on the counter for another hour while you tend to your business. I bet you could also refrigerate it overnight, let it sit on the counter, and then bake it up in the morning. So anyway, shortly before your hour is up, preheat the oven to 350 and mix together
The egg white you saved
About 1 T. milk.
Pick up the Silpat and move it carefully onto a baking sheet. Uncover the dough and brush it with the egg white mixture (Maida wants another egg yolk for that purpose, but the white worked fine for me). Then roll up some long strips of aluminum foil into "snakes" and surround the braid with them, as a kind of side support. Now put it in the oven and let it bake about 25 minutes, until it's gorgeous and golden brown. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Maida says to let this cool to room temp, but we had it very warm and it was delicious. It's also delicious at room temperature. This should really serve at least 4, but it did quite nicely for 2.
Friday, August 28, 2009
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Some Southerners have an irritating habit of calling anyone "not from 'round here" a Yankee. To me, a Yankee is someone from the Northeast, so I don't believe I qualify. But if enjoying Indian Pudding makes me a Yankee, all righty then. Or should I say "yup."?
Alicia described the process of making this stuff so well that I don't need to add much. One thing that possibly made my Indian Pudding a bit better than average is that I used this fancy stone-ground corn meal. Upscale corn products--only in the South.
I had Julia photograph me pouring the milk over the porridge. That was kind of fun. And I baked sweet potatoes at the same time as the pudding. But you could also do some chicken broth or stew or chili or Julia Child's Boeuf Bourgignon if you felt like it, I believe. Three hours is a long time--in that time I wrote a blog entry, made dinner, ate dinner, cleaned up after dinner, had a long phone conversation, and probably a bunch of other stuff I can't remember. Fortunately we're having a spell of cool weather, so I didn't feel too guilty about leaving the oven on. Still, this would be much better as a cold-weather dessert.
Changes: I put a piece of vanilla bean in when I was cooking the cornmeal, because that's how I roll. Otherwise, by the book. And my cornmeal didn't stick to the pan. Maybe I didn't cook it long enough...
Verdict: I tried this the first time shortly after I had read Alicia's blog post, so that might have colored my reaction. I had it hot with hard sauce and vanilla ice cream, and I was ambivalent about it. I'm not so big on the milk crust, and the pudding had separated and suffered in its creaminess. Claire had a taste and asked if she could have some for breakfast the next day.
That's when the pudding really shone--straight from the fridge. The hard sauce wasn't all melty like it was with hot pudding, but the texture was nice and it tasted (tastes) good. The girls both had big bowls after school today. They hate raisins, true, but I found that the long cooking kind of melted the raisins and made them hard to really distinguish. Are you using golden raisins, Alicia? We all felt it tasted like something familiar. Claire said rice pudding and Julia said pumpkin pie. I think they're both right. Nothing wrong with either of those desserts!
I'm not so sure about the hard sauce. It's not as good as Granny's, or at least the consistency is different from the one I remember. The girls love it because "it tastes like frosting."
So anyway, if you're looking for a dessert that eats like breakfast but you can put brandy butter and vanilla ice cream on it, this is the dessert for you!
Here's what I made.
2 T. sugar
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. ginger
1/4 t. nutmeg--freshly grated, of course
1/4 t. salt
5 c. milk (I used whole. I wonder if you could go 2% or lower)
1/2 c. (2.5 oz.) cornmeal
1/4 vanilla bean, scraped (optional)
2 oz. (1/2 stick) butter
1 c. maple syrup (this is when it pays off to buy in bulk!)
1/2 c. (2.5 oz.) golden raisins
Mix together the sugar and spices in a little cup and set them aside. Microwave 3 cups of the milk until it's hot, about 3 minutes on medium-high power. In a large saucepan, mix together the cornmeal and 3/4 cups (cold) milk. You should have 1-1/4 c. cold milk lurking around still. Gradually add the hot milk to the cornmeal mixture, throw in the vanilla bean if you're so inclined, then put that over medium heat and stir it for a long time until it's somewhat thickened. Maida says 20 minutes, Alicia says 10, and I didn't keep track. Probably closer to 10. While that's cooking, preheat the oven to 350, grease a baking dish, and find a big pan you can put the baking dish in (for that water bath thing). I went ahead and put water in the big pan, even though that's technically cheating. I hate pouring boiling water into a dish in the hot oven. Go figure. But I digress. Take out the vanilla bean and throw your sugar mixture, butter, maple syrup, and raisins into the cornmeal mush. Mmmm...mush! Pour that into the greased baking dish. Then get out a big spoon and pour the milk over the spoon, as you move the spoon around, into the dish. You're basically trying to float the milk here. Then very carefully put the whole shebang into the oven and set a timer for 30 minutes. When that goes off, turn the oven down to 300 and go about your business for another 2-1/2 hours. During that time, take the other half stick of butter out of the fridge, because you'll want to make hard sauce:
1/2 stick (2 oz.) unsalted butter, softened
1 c. (4 oz.) powdered sugar
1/2 t. vanilla
1 T. cream
1-2 t. rum, bourbon, or brandy (I used Courvoisier. Don't tell Sami.)
Dump all this into a bowl and whip it with the electric mixer until it's fluffy and frosting-like. Try to restrain yourself from eating it.
OK, when the pudding comes out of the oven, I recommend waiting a long time before consumption. Maybe put it in the fridge overnight and have it for breakfast. After all, it's whole grain, dairy, and fruit!
Serves about 8, I think.
Sunday, August 23, 2009
But yesterday we were having people over to grill out, and Indian Pudding just doesn't go with the old backyard BBQ, I thought. So I "cheated" and went to the next recipe: Strawberry Shortcake! How American is that? And this is the "real" shortcake with the biscuits, not the spongecake.
This was one of my favorite desserts when I was a kid. Mom would make it with Bisquick drop biscuits, which she would split and butter (actually margarine--shudder), and then layer on the sliced, sugared strawberries and the whipped cream (sometimes Cool Whip--shudder). And we snarfed it down--it was especially good with those farm-fresh Modesto strawberries. Even the Cool Whip couldn't ruin those delicious strawberries!
So I was feeling good about making Maida's strawberry shortcake, which I'd never made. Her deal is that you make two big separate biscuits, which you layer with fruit but not cream and then serve with more fruit and whipped cream on the side. Makes for a rather dramatic presentation individually, though it looks a bit plain on the cake plate.
Let's see, how did I deviate? I added a bit of whole-wheat pastry flour (because I do, in fact, have five different kinds of flour in my big freezer) and some vanilla to the biscuit dough. I also used 2 lbs of strawberries and 1 lb. of raspberries in the fruit because Sam's (yes, Sam's--deal with it) had much nicer raspberries than strawberries overall. I also used some raspberry eau de vie instead of Kirsch because we had it. And I put a bit of that raspberry eau de vie into the whipping cream as well.
The verdict? Everyone was delighted, and the cake is pretty much gone, but I wasn't that thrilled. I found the shortcake to be bitter. I think 4 teaspoons of baking powder for 2 cups of flour is a bit over the top. And I would use raspberry jam instead of strawberry jam next time--I don't really like the cooked-strawberry taste of strawberry jam. What I would have given for some of Mom's yummy freezer jam...
So, you tell me--is my nostalgia overcoming my good taste, or is this just not the end-all and be-all of strawberry shortcake?
This is the recipe I made:
3 lbs. strawberries, sliced (or 2 lbs. strawberries and 1 lb. raspberries)
2 T. Kirsch or whatever fruity liqueur you have around
12 oz. (1 cup) strawberry or raspberry jam
Go ahead and get the strawberries sliced and ready before you make the cake. Also, measure out the jam into a microwave-safe bowl.
2 c. (8 oz.) sifted flour (part whole-wheat is OK)
4 t. baking powder (I would try 1 T.)
1/4 t. salt
1/4 c. (1.2 oz.) sugar
4 oz. (1 stick) unsalted butter, in small dice
1/3 c. milk
1 t. vanilla
Heat the oven to 450. Grease two 8-inch cake pans (consider lining these with parchment; my cakes stuck). Get out the food processor and give the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar a buzz. Then pulse in the butter until you have coarse crumbs--not too much. Mix the egg with the milk and vanilla and pour that in; pulse until it holds together. Press the dough into the pans and bake for about 10 minutes or until they're nice and golden. Cool on racks.
While the shortcakes are baking, melt the jam in the microwave for about 1 minute on high. Add the Kirsch to the strawberries/raspberries and give that a toss.
When you're ready to eat dessert, and you shouldn't wait too long after you take the cakes out of the oven, mix the jam and the Kirsch with the strawberries. Then whip some cream:
1 c. heavy whipping cream (Maida says 2, but the 6 of us couldn't even finish 1)
1-2 T. powdered sugar
1 t. vanilla
1-2 t. Kirsch or what have you
Whip that with an electric mixer until it reaches the consistency you like in a whipped cream.
OK, now put this together (see photos above). Put the ugly, cracked cake layer on your cake plate and cover with about half the fruit. Put the better-looking cake on top. Meh. Then get your dessert plates out. Cut a slice of cake, put it on the plate, and surround it with fruit and cream. Much better. Repeat for however many people are eating, and devour. This will probably serve 8. Maida suggests this for brunch, in which case it would probably serve 4. What--it's fruit and biscuits, right?
Thursday, August 20, 2009
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Cakes like this can make me nervous, because all that fruit and stuff can make it too wet and heavy and "healthy tasting." Healthy tasting is good for a salad, but usually not so good for a cake. And I courted this problem by doing Heidi Swanson-like stuff like subbing in half white wheat flour and using part walnut oil for the canola oil. But no worries: this is no lightweight cake, but it's got just the right texture--moist without being soggy. (By the way, did you know the word "moist" is one of the most-hated words in English? I guess these people don't bake...)
As I mentioned, I made a few changes: I used half white wheat flour. I ran out of canola oil, so I used a couple of tablespoons of butter, a couple of tablespoons of walnut oil, and the rest canola. The walnut oil gave it a nice nutty edge without being too much. I bet coconut oil would be really good in this too. I also added a glug of vanilla just because I love it. But I left in the raisins. Which makes me wonder--are you still a raisin hater, Alicia? Are you going to leave the raisins in your banana bread and in your Indian pudding? Do your kids eat raisins?
Julia, after she had just inhaled about a piece and a half of this, complained that the raisins took a perfectly good cake and made it "all health foody." Raisins, she proclaimed, suck the life out of grapes. A girl after your own heart. I found that steamed golden raisins were delightful in this. I guess it's just a matter of personal taste.
Finally, another plug for weighing. I find that it's so much more convenient and accurate than measuring for things like carrots and bananas. Fortunately, the Cake Bible has weight equivalents for almost everything. Take the carrots. My cup of grated carrot (3.5 oz.) came from one large-ish carrot, when Maida calls for about 3 medium carrots. It would have made a huge difference if I had used 3 of my carrots! And since I only had frozen bananas, it was a lot easier to weigh out 8 oz than it would have been to thaw and mash until I had a cup.
This is the recipe I made:
Banana Carrot Loaf
1 c. (5 oz.) golden raisins
1 c. (4 oz.) sifted flour
1 c. (4 oz.) sifted white wheat flour
1 T. cocoa powder
1 t. baking soda
1 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 t. salt
2 large or 3 small eggs
1 scant cup (6.5 oz.) dark brown sugar
1 t. vanilla
3/4 c. salad oil (or 1/2 cup salad oil plus 2 T. melted butter plus 2 T. walnut oil)
1 cup (8 oz.) mashed ripe banana
1 c. (3.5 oz.) grated carrots
Heat the oven to 350; spray a loaf pan. Put the raisins in a microwave-safe bowl, add a tablespoon of water, cover, and zap for a minute on high. Let that cool. Sift together the dry ingredients (I would do the sifting because cocoa and baking soda both like to clump) and set them aside. Now crack the eggs into the big bowl of the mixer and beat until they're combined. Add the sugar, vanilla, and oil and beat until that's all well incorporated. Now add the banana, carrot, and raisins, and again beat until incorporated. Finally add the dry ingredients and stir that carefully until it all comes together. Pour that into the prepared pan and bake for about an hour, or until a toothpick inserted all the way down comes out clean. Let cool in the pan on a rack for about 15 minutes, then unmold and let cool on a rack. Give it at least an hour to cool before you slice into it, inhale it, and complain about raisins.
Sunday, August 16, 2009
This picture has crumbs -- the fault of the food arranger (me) rather than the photographer. They look delicious, don't they? But I'm . . just . . .not . . . hungry. So I wrapped each of the 16 very large brownies carefully in clear cellophane, packed them into a box, and they are sitting patiently on the counter waiting to be distributed to friends, family, co-workers, and the guy who sells buckets of balls at the driving range. Wrapped like that, they look too perfect to eat.
I'll bring them on our hike tomorrow. I'm sure that after a couple of hours of hiking, they won't look too perfect to eat!
Saturday, August 15, 2009
This was a great brownie recipe--simple, straightforward, super yummy. There have been a lot of brownie recipes on the Internet lately with a *lot* of fancy chocolate and technique (I like Bridget's comparison of some of them). This is just a straightforward brownie recipe with unsweetened chocolate and "only" 1 stick of butter. Not that there's anything wrong about that!
My go-to brownie recipe is Maida's All-American Brownie recipe, which is a one-bowl recipe. Actually, the recipe on the box of Baker's unsweetened chocolate is pretty similar to that. In a one-bowl recipe, you melt the chocolate and butter together in a big microwave-proof bowl, then add vanilla, sugar, eggs, and flour (and nuts/chocolate chips/whatever). So easy, it's hard to understand why people use mixes.
So I was a little peeved to see that the "Brownie Schrumpf's" recipe involves one extra bowl--the one used for melting the chocolate. The recipe also takes somewhat longer because you cream the butter, sugar, and eggs. I was worried that this would lead to the brownies being cakey and dry, but no worries. They were moist and fudgy and yummy.
Note that I use the past tense. I believe we have two more brownies on a plate, but I sent the rest with our exchange student as she moved into the dorms today. If it's true that brownies are, as Maida says, "the best way to win friends and influence people," then Marjorie should have a lot of good friends very soon. Were you able to influence people with your brownies, Alicia?
Here's the recipe I made:
Brownie Schrumpf's Brownies
4 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped coarsely
4 oz. (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temp
2 t. vanilla
1/2 t. salt
scant 2 cups sugar (13 oz.)
4 large eggs (I used 5 small)
1 c. (4 oz.) sifted flour
1 c. (4 oz.) coarsely chopped walnuts
Heat the oven to 350 and spray a 9x13-inch pan. Melt the chocolate in the microwave (2 blasts of 30 seconds). Cream the butter with vanilla and salt until it's soft and fluffy. Gradually add the sugar and beat that for 2-3 minutes (this won't get that fluffy due to the high sugar-to-butter ratio). Add the eggs one at a time, beating until incorporated and scraping down the bowl in between each egg. Beat in the chocolate, and then beat in the flour just until everything is incorporated. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, and sprinkle nuts on top of half the brownies (this gives people a choice between nuts and no nuts, and it also gets the walnuts nice and toasted). Bake for about 25 minutes, but check after 20 minutes. The toothpick you put in the brownies should come out with a few crumbs attached to it. Mine came out dry after 22 minutes, but my brownies were not. Whew! Cool the brownies, and if you have patience and you want the brownies to look perfect, freeze them for a while before you cut them into perfect little squares. If you're like me, wait for the brownies to be barely firm enough to cut, and then go to it. I made a lot of little brownies--probably more than 32. And now they're all gone. I hope they perform their social function!
I did forget to tell you what kind of chocolate I used for the frosting. The semi-sweet was Ghirardelli Semi. The milk was plain old Hershey's.
Man, I'm looking forward to the Brownies already. I'm stopping by Michael's on my way home tonight to buy cellophane. I'm going to individually wrap them and shove them into my purse. Maybe I can get the guy at the counter at the driving range to give Natalie an extra bucket of balls or something useful like that.
Friday, August 14, 2009
Right, the cake: the cupcakes were pretty much gone, so I decided to make what I thought would be our next dessert: Chocolate Sauerkraut Cake. Aside from it having sauerkraut in it, it did look like a good cake for a crowd: a big 2-layer chocolate cake with chocolate frosting. I figured that the strong coffee and chocolate flavors in the cake, plus the pound of chocolate frosting, would offset any "ickyness" associated with the sauerkraut. After all, you have to be careful when you're cooking for Frenchies...
By the way, I still don't get the point of this recipe. The sauerkraut doesn't enhance the recipe; in fact, the recipe seems designed to mask the sauerkraut's taste. Was the origin a sauerkraut recipe contest? It's a mystery to me.
I made the cake pretty much to the letter, except for using about half and half dark and milk chocolate in the frosting. I was able to make the cake when no one was home, so no one could see the sauerkraut going into the cake batter. I pretty much had to avert my eyes as well, and that addition also kept me from licking the bowl, which is probably a good thing. Unfortunately for my bowl-licking propensities, the frosting had no sauerkraut in it.
Results: The cake was quite crumbly. I wish my camera worked so that you could see all the crumbs on the plate. One layer cracked and needed a lot of frosting to glue it together. But it's moist and chocolaty, and the frosting is really yummy (it's pretty much the same frosting as for the last cake). There's only about a quarter of the cake left over from last night, and no one said, "ew, what's in this cake?" So I would say it's a qualified success: not so bad for a novelty cake.
Here's the recipe, in case you have leftover sauerkraut:
Chocolate Sauerkraut Cake
2/3 c. (4 oz.) drained packed sauerkraut
2-1/4 c. (9 oz.) sifted flour
1/4 t. salt
1 t. baking powder
1 t. baking soda
1/2 c. (1.5 oz.) Dutch-process cocoa
10 2/3 T. (5.3 oz.) unsalted butter, room temp.
1 t. vanilla
1-1/2 c. sugar (10 oz.)
3 large eggs
1 c. cold, strong coffee
Heat the oven to 350. Line two 9-inch round cake pans with parchment circles and then spray and flour them.
Rinse the sauerkraut and drain it. Squeeze it, but "don't overdo it." Pulse it in a food processor until it's in pretty fine pieces but not a purée.
Sift together the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and cocoa.
Beat together the butter and vanilla in the large bowl of an electric mixer. Then gradually add the sugar and beat about 2-3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each until it's well incorporated and scraping down the sides between each. Then alternately add the dry ingredients in three additions and the wet ingredients in two additions. Make sure it's all smooth, taste it now, and then remove the bowl from the mixer and stir in the sauerkraut.
Divide the batter among the cake pans and smooth the tops. Bake for about 22-25 minutes, "until the tops of the cakes just barely spring back when pressed lightly with a fingertip. Do not overbake." (I think I did overbake; thus the crumbliness). Cool the pans on a rack for a few minutes, then invert onto the rack. Let the cake cool completely.
16 oz. chocolate, some milk and some dark (I used most of a Ritter Sport milk bar, a Hershey's Symphony bar, and a Ghiradelli 60% bar)
1 c. sour cream
Break the chocolate into pieces and put into a big microwave-proof bowl. Microwave for 30 seconds, stir, and microwave for another 30 seconds. Stir until everything is melted. Add the sour cream and beat by hand or with a mixer until smooth. Find someone to frost your cake for you, and use it (the frosting) right away.
Serves about 20 people, if you cut your pieces small enough.
Oops, you're supposed to refrigerate this! Maybe that's why it crumbled? I really should read my recipes. Must find room in fridge...
Let me tell you--this was not a popular decision among the family. Sami actually took his cupcake apart and then layered it for "the proper effect." I wish I'd gotten a picture of that. Julia informed me that it "wasn't the same." And she's right. But even so, these were darned fine cupcakes. Claire even told me that she wanted the same cupcakes for her birthday (the girl thinks ahead--her birthday's in April!) but with vanilla frosting--"the chocolate frosting is too rich, Mommy." OK, so three voices of complaint. So maybe next time I would just halve the recipe and make a two-layer cake.
The only other change I made was to use more dark than milk chocolate in the frosting (a matter of preference). What kind of chocolate did you use, Alicia? I found Ritter Sport on sale, and then I had some Milka semisweet left over from vacation. I think that chocolate had melted and cooled about 5 times before I used it. I also left out the walnuts. Actually, I was going to put walnuts in a couple of the cupcakes, but I forgot. I think they would have been good, but I have a lot of nut-haters in the family.
What Maida and Alicia point out is that when you're not out buying cake pans or looking for a clean pastry bag, this is a really easy recipe. Once the butter is soft, the batter is made by the time the oven is preheated. The frosting (which I made in the microwave, even though I have a double boiler) can be done before the cake is out of the oven. And it's really good--it's a model of the classic yellow cake with chocolate frosting that so many of us have had for our birthday cake. It's tender, buttery cake with really rich chocolate frosting. How could you go wrong? Well, you could subvert the original intention of the author. At the end of the recipe she writes, "Now, how about that? I salute you." I had the feeling I was getting the finger :-).
Here's the recipe I made:
American Chocolate Cupcakes
1 c. (4 oz.) sifted flour
1 t. baking powder
1 tiny pinch (1/16 t.) baking soda
1 tiny pinch salt
4 oz. (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 t. vanilla
a few drops almond extract
scant 1/2 c (3.3 oz.) sugar
1 large and 1 small egg (1-1/2 large eggs)
3 T. milk
Heat oven to 350 and line 9 muffin cups with papers. Sift or whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda (which you could probably leave out), and salt in a small bowl. In the big bowl of your mixer, beat together the butter and extracts, then slowly mix in the sugar. Let that beat for 2-3 minutes. Then add the eggs one at a time, beating until well incorporated after each addition. That should take another 2-3 minutes. Then very carefully add the flour in three additions alternating with the milk in two additions (so 1/3 flour, beat for a couple of seconds. Scrape down, add half of the milk, beat for a couple of seconds. Repeat until everything's gone.). You should have a nice smooth batter, which you will enjoy licking from the beater. Spoon this into the muffin cups and bake for about 15-18 minutes until they're golden and a toothpick comes out clean. Cool on racks.
Frosting (really a sour cream ganache, if you want to be picky about it)
4 oz. semisweet or bittersweet chocolate
3 oz. milk chocolate
Tiny pinch salt
1/4 t. vanilla
1/2 c. (4 oz.) sour cream
Break up the chocolate and put it into a microwave-proof bowl. Microwave for 30 seconds, stir, and microwave another 30 seconds. It'll be mostly melted but a little clumpy. Just keep stirring and it'll be OK. Get out your hand mixer and add the salt, vanilla, and sour cream to the chocolate and beat it at low speed until it is "as smooth as satin." It really will be. Let it sit on the counter for an hour or so and then go to it. I just swirled mine on with a butter knife. I wish I'd had sprinkles.
Makes 9 delicious cupcakes that everyone will love if you don't tell them it was supposed to be layer cake.
Thursday, August 13, 2009
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
So last night I made the cake layers themselves. There are FOUR cake layers. I only had two pans -- so I had to run to Michael's to pick up more pans. To take the cake layers out of the pans, I needed 5 racks. I only have 2. Next purchase -- 3 more cake racks. These four layers have one stick of butter a piece -- you do the math. My poor stand mixer could barely get through the mass of butter . . . I mean batter . . . in the bowl. Per Maida's option, I threw walnuts into half of the batter, so that when the cake is done, the nut-filled layers will alternate with the buttery-plain layers.
Monday, August 10, 2009
Maida was interviewed some time ago, and I found this interesting tidbit in her interview: "What is the quintessential American dessert?Why change what everyone says? It's apple pie. I think the saying that something is "as easy as pie" is ridiculous. I think pie is the most difficult dessert I know! It's much easier to make a soufflé which people think is difficult but it isn't. A pie is difficult. You have to be awfully good and on top of that you have to be lucky."
So I guess we are both awfully good and both lucky. Because I think our pies look beautiful!
Warm day. I froze the bowl. I froze the bowl with flour in it. I froze the Crisco. Crisco. Not some awful trans-fat free Crisco substitute. I used a pastry blender. But then, I love using pastry blenders. I used ice water. I sprinkled and tossed, sprinkled and tossed, sprinkled and tossed. I made TWO crusts. Cassandra meticulously measured my circles to ensure they were exactly 12" in diameter. I laboriously cored and sliced the apples and THEN peeled them, because I find that is the only way to get every speck of peel off the apple. I did use super cheap crappy Granny Smith apples and wished every second I had good apples (apple pie in August probably wasn't a good choice for first recipe.) And I put butter all over those apples. But that second crust just wouldn't fit over the apples. I channeled Julia and talked in a squeaky voice about how it didn't matter what it looked like in the kitchen. Then pulled crust off of places and put it in other places and made some semblance of a decent looking pie. So this is what my pie looked like before it went into the oven:
Pretty ugly. No fluting at all.
Then I used the foil screen for the baking -- which I left Pete in charge of, because I had to go out to the mall to try to find Natalie "cute" golf clothes. Ha! To dream the impossible dream.
When we got back, this is what we found:
BE-A-utiful! Yes, it had sunken a bit. But it was still a spectacular pie, the entire house smelled like apples and cinnamon (and was about 90 degrees because we don't have AC), and I also kept the oven clean by remembering, at the last second, to shove a cookie sheet in under the pie. Thank god!
Pete and I had to immediately leave for a party, and I was so sad to leave that pie. Natalie took care of the first slice photography.
Only thing I would have changed is I would have put the pie on the Blue Minton china . .
When Pete and I got back from the party, less than half of the pie was left. And now, despite the fact that we were gone from 8:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m., the pie is GONE!
Pete wants Boysenberry Pie next. Maida doesn't do Boysenberry. But her Blackberry Pie is the most stained, disgusting cookbook page in any cookbook I own.
200 recipes -- two per week. One down. My family was able to dispose of it nicely, despite our obsession with weight.
I think this works great. I'll make the recipe EXACTLY LIKE MAIDA. I can comment on what I would change. You just feel free to change away.
What I would change about this recipe? Absolutely nothing. It was the most perfect apple pie I have ever eaten. And I've eaten a lot of apple pie.
I love the way Maida describes this: "This is the traditional, old-fashioned, 'American as apple pie' apple pie. Once you have made it, you will glory in the spotlight, be thrilled with pride, and be in apple-pie-in-the-sky heaven." I love how enthusiastic she gets about her desserts.
One thing I noticed about this recipe is how much of it I skimmed over. Maida Heatter is an excellent writer for beginning cooks. I used to follow every direction of hers to the letter, and that was a good thing for me. Now I look briefly at the ingredients and directions and just go my own way. Same for you, Alicia? We should have our girls try out some of these recipes for us and give their feedback on the quality and clarity of the directions...
Another thing is that I didn't follow the recipe exactly as written. Are we going for full accuracy, or are we allowed to riff on these things?
So here are the changes I made: I made only a top crust, because the bottom crust is so often just a soggy extra 100 calories or so. Maybe you're better at bottom crusts than I am, but that's been my experience. I think for the next pie I'm going to make cut-outs and put them on top, like Mark Bittman www.nytimes.com/2009/07/29/dining/29mini.h
Other than that, it was pretty much the same. Are we posting the recipe?
Here are my apples--three pounds of Granny Smiths (because a 3-lb. bag of Granny Smiths is $2.50 at the Evil Empire). They fill up that pie plate pretty much to the rim!
Now here comes the crust. There's a reason I want to do the cut-out thing for the next pie--this crust would not look pretty for me! I couldn't get it fluted or anything...And I chilled it properly and everything!
And as for the final results--well, it wasn't pretty. At least I didn't have to clean the oven--I put the pie on a Silpat on a baking sheet, but it didn't boil over too much. Probably the lack of bottom crust. No, my problem was that my convection oven was probably too hot, and even though I dialed down the baking time, I got distracted and didn't check on it in time.
Yep, burned and lumpy. But delicious! Did I forget to mention that? The crust was nice and flaky, and the apples held together but were still juicy. The filling tasted mostly of apples, not overwhelmingly of cinnamon. It wasn't too sweet and tasted great with a smallish scoop of ice cream. I would probably appreciate warm apple pie more if it weren't 95 degrees outsid, but this recipe is a keeper for sure.
Maria's Apple Pie, USA
Adapted from Maida Heatter's Book of Great American Desserts
1/2 c. (2 oz.) sifted whole-wheat pastry flour
1/2 c. (2 oz.) white flour
1/2 t. salt
3 T. (1.5 oz.) shortening, cut into little pieces--this is possible with the Spectrum
3 T. (1.5 oz.) unsalted butter, cut into little pieces
3 T. ice water
Whiz together the flours and salt in the food processor. Add the (cold!) butter and shortening and give that about 5 short pulses until the fat is incorporated into the flour in small pieces. Pour over the water and pulse again until the dough just barely begins to hold together. Put the dough on a piece of waxed paper and wrap it up, pressing it gently together as you wrap it. Chill the dough for at least an hour.
Roll out the dough until it's very thin and either trim it to fit the top of your pie pan, or cut it into shapes. Lay that on a cookie sheet on waxed paper and chill while you peel and slice your apples:
3 lbs. tart apples (you can buy apples in cheap 3-lb bags. I would use Granny Smith, Pink Lady or McIntosh. I would not use Gala or Fuji!!!)
3 T. flour
2/3 c. sugar (about 5 oz)
1 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. nutmeg
1/4 t. salt
Preheat the oven to 450. Get out a baking sheet, something like foil or a Silpat to protect it, and a 9-inch pie plate. Spray the pie plate with cooking spray if you want. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Peel the apples, quarter them, and slice each quarter. You should get at least 12 slices for each apple. Put the apples in a big bowl, and add the sugar mixture. Mix that with your hands until the apples are all coated. Then pour all that into the pie plate. It will be a tight squeeze.
Then get out your top crust and put it on. I just turned the paper upside down onto the filling and that worked fine. The cut-outs could be artfully arranged on top.
Put the pie pan on the protected baking sheet and put it in the hot oven. After 15 minutes, turn down the heat to 425, and let the pie bake another 30 minutes or so (check to see how it's doing after 30 minutes). The top should be brown, but not as brown as mine, and the filling should be all bubbly. Try to wait for an hour or so, then get out the plates, forks, and ice cream and dig in!
Maybe we can dig up some biographical information about Maida. I just know from her books that she is from a famous broadcasting family, lives in Florida, and had a wonderful, doting husband like Julia's Paul. And that she's friends with everyone because she always carries brownies in her purse to give away.
Which brings me to the greatest challenge of this baking challenge for both of us, I think--giving this stuff away! We can both bake well--we have the techniques down, and I know my big sister has done the full-fledged buttercream food-styled cakes that I can't be bothered with. But we're both obsessed with our weight and can't be having cakes and pies and brownies sitting around the house. But it's not that easy to give away dessert anymore! Everyone is "on a diet" or whatever. Ugh. So as well as considering the apple pie we're making this weekend, I'm trying to figure out who besides me and my family is going to be eating it. With luck, I'll get to have fun baking and making some lucky people with great metabolisms very happy!
Because I find the Julie/Julia Project so fascinating, I have decided to take my favorite cookbook and make every recipe from it. The problem was deciding which cookbook to use. I decided to make it a dessert cookbook -- because my family's non-meat eating habit makes any other type of cookbook difficult. But which cookbook? I love all my dessert cookbooks.
I was able to narrow it down to three:
Now each of these books has its merits. Rose Levy Berenbaum -- she is just so masterful at everything she bakes. Cookies, cakes, pies, pastry -- it's all amazing. But I'm afraid that after 2 years of pies, I will never be able to enjoy Thanksgiving dinner again.
"Baking with Jim Dodge" was an impulse purchase I made years ago, and never regretted. I love everything that I have made out of this book. It is dogeared, covered in flour and egg drippings, and very well loved. And it has a great variety of baked goods so I doubt I would get sick of baking or eating the choices from this book.
Maida Heatter's Book of Great American Desserts. Maida Heatter, the doyenne of desserts. The queen of calories. I have every single one of her dessert cookbooks, and love them all. This one is even missing its cover, its been used so often. This woman has made more desserts than I can even imagine. And just look at her!
I couldn't find a full-length photo of her, but she's skinny! How is that even possible?
So I decided on Maida Heatter. I couldn't use one of her single subject books, since I would have the same problems as faced with Rose's single subject books. Thus, I made my decision: Her Greatest American Desserts book. 200 recipes. Pies, cakes, cookies, brownies, even candy.
I can't wait to start.