Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Cherry Cobbler--imperfect but popular

Somehow we've been having trouble getting it together to have people over lately. Lots of travel, lots of "stuff" going on, other people's schedules...But we finally had a nice group over on Saturday, so I made the Washington State Cherry Cobbler.
I always give myself way too many tasks and way too little time whenever there's a dinner party involved. Even the other night, we were just having a barbecue, but I had to fix two salads and fancy fixin's for the burgers and clean the house and oops! here come a couple of little editing projects that I could probably do on the side...well, I didn't have a lot of time to throw together this cobbler.
Fortunately, it's really quite easy, especially the half-assed way I put it together. It calls for canned cherries since, as Maida correctly points out, the cherry season in the South lasts for about two days. So no cherry pitting--hooray for that. I wonder if frozen cherries might have been better, though. The syrup from the cherries is thickened with flour on the stove to make the cobbler base, which was a bit fussy but had the advantage of cooking the biscuits as soon as they hit the hot filling.

Here's my overexposed cherry mixture in the pan.
The biscuit dough comes together in about a minute in the food processor. I had guests coming in about 20 minutes at this point, and there was no way I was going to roll out and cut the dough, even into squares. So I went for the drop biscuit approach. This is what that looked like.

Of course after I had sprinkled the biscuits with some raw sugar and put the whole thing in the oven I saw the part about glazing the biscuits. I was not about to pull the dish out of the oven for that, and I think they looked and tasted just fine.
In fact, the guests were delighted. One asked me how I'd gotten the biscuits to be so crumbly, and one didn't say much, just abruptly pulled the dish toward herself to ensure that she would get seconds. Success! Now I just need to find more dinner guests, with that big banana cake coming up...

Here's what I made:
Washington State Cherry Cobbler

2 cans dark sweet cherries in syrup
Orange juice or other liquid, if necessary
1/4 c. (1.25 oz.) flour
1/8 t. salt
1/4 t. allspice
1/4 t. cinnamon
1/3 c. (2 oz.) sugar
1 T. butter
2 T. lemon juice

Get out a baking dish that holds at least 2 quarts. You don't have to butter it, but I sprayed mine. Drain the cherries over a measuring cup. If you don't get 2 cups of liquid, top it off with orange juice (that's what I did--I needed about 1/2 cup more). Put the flour, salt, allspice, cinnamon, and sugar in a saucepan. Slowly whisk in the cherry juice--try to get out the lumps as you go. I actually ended capturing some lumps in a strainer and straining them back out again, but that's just who I am. Put that over medium heat and cook, stirring with the whisk or a heatproof rubber scraper, until the mixture comes to a gentle boil. Let it cook, stirring, another minute, then take it off the heat. Add the butter and lemon juice (maybe a drop or two of almond extract would be good as well) and stir until melted. Then add the cherries and pour that into your baking dish. Heat the oven to 450 and get out your food processor: it's time to make biscuits.

1 cup minus 2 T. (4.4 oz.) flour (I used half whole wheat pastry flour)
1 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
1/4 t. baking soda
2 t. sugar
2-1/2 T. butter, cold and cut into pieces
6 T. (3 oz.) buttermilk
1 T. raw sugar (or regular, if you don't have raw sugar)

Put all the dry ingredients in the food processor and whiz for a couple of seconds until blended. Then add the butter and pulse a few times until the butter is pea sized. Then pour in the buttermilk and pulse until it's just come together. Scoop out the dough with a teaspoon and put little balls of dough all over the cherry mixture. Sprinkle them with the sugar.
Put the dish in the oven and bake it for 15 minutes, or until the biscuits are nice and brown and the cherries are bubbly. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.
This just barely served 7, which is pretty good since it's only supposed to serve 6.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Eating an elephant

One of the quirky features of our local public radio station is a call-in show called the Gestalt Gardener. The host, a good-old-boy hippie, cajoles listeners to "just chill" about their gardens. Do you have spots on your roses? Take off your glasses! And when someone calls moaning about all the kudzu or mimosas or other weeds in their garden, he tells them, "Do you know how to eat an elephant? Just take one bite at a time."
So why do I bring this up? Well, mostly because Maida prefaces her recipe for Peanut Banana Bread with a story about how she developed a recipe for an elephant meat omelet (involving peanuts and bananas) as a publicity stunt during a GOP convention. Well, double yuck to that. Fortunately, the banana bread is yummy.
I also thought of it because this blog and keeping up with it can seem like eating an elephant. Except one with a lot of chocolate frosting. I don't have Alicia's insane schedule and still it seems like a lot to do sometimes. But at least each bite of this elephant have been delicious so far (except for that nasty chocolate cake).
I can't find my pictures of my banana bread, so you'll have to take my word for it. I made this for breakfast Saturday morning, and I first had to go to the store for peanuts, so I really didn't feel like waiting around for 1 hour and 15 minutes for a loaf to bake. Therefore, I made six mini-loafs and six muffins, and that worked out perfectly. The muffins still took a good half hour, though.
This is a nice banana bread--the peanuts give it an extra zing. I bet it would be really good with some coconut added. And Alicia will be happy to note that the raisins don't have much of a pronounced presence. So don't be afraid to take another bite...

Here's the recipe I made.
Banana Peanut Bread

1 stick (4 oz.) butter, room temp
1 t. baking powder
1 t. baking soda
1 scant cup (6.5 oz.) brown sugar
1/2 t. vanilla
3 large eggs
3 large ripe bananas (12 oz. peeled), mashed
1/3 c. (2.6 oz.) sour cream (I used light)
1-3/4 c. (7 oz.) sifted flour (I used half whole wheat)
1 c. (4 oz.) salted peanuts, coarse chopped (honey roasted might be nice here)
(1/2 c.[1.4 oz.] coconut)
1/2 c. (2.5 oz.) golden raisins

Heat the oven to 325. Grease 6 mini loaf pans and put papers in six muffin cups (you could probably get about 18 muffins at least out of this instead). Beat together the butter, baking powder, and baking soda until it's light and creamy, then gradually beat in the brown sugar and beat that for 1-2 minutes. Add the vanilla and then the eggs, one at a time, scraping the bowl as needed. Then add the bananas and sour cream and beat until just barely mixed. Add the flour and mix that in until it's just incorporated. Finally mix in the peanuts and raisins (and coconut, if you want). Scoop the batter into the pans you have prepared and bake the muffins about 25-30 minutes; the loaves will take 40-45 minutes. Let cool on a rack for about 5 minutes before popping out and enjoying with a nice cup of tea.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

EZ Truffles

This is such an easy recipe--little work, big impact. It's basically just ganache, which is chocolate melted with cream and/or butter. This recipe has both. It was the perfect recipe for me to make this weekend, since between jetlag and a trip to Tuscaloosa and the beginning of a new session at the ELI, I had very little time to spend in the kitchen. I think it involved about 20 minutes of hands-on time, with lots of wait time in between. Perfect.

This Valrhona chocolate had been waiting patiently in my stash for a chance to really shine in a recipe. Since it wasn't enough for even a quarter recipe, though, I augmented with the Trader Joe's. It made for a very bittersweet truffle. Claire said it needed sugar.

Here's the chocolate, melted down with cream and butter to luscious smoothness. That sat in the fridge for a good 36 hours.

Here are some unlovely (but delicious) mounds of truffle. They went back in the freezer for a couple of hours.

Here are the finished truffles, rolled in ground toasted hazelnuts and placed in cute candy cups. The recipe has you roll them in unsweetened cocoa powder but offers this as an alternative. I think that with the very bittersweet chocolate I chose, cocoa powder would have taken them over the edge into bitterness territory. Besides, chocolate and hazelnut--what's not to like? Maybe subbing Frangelico for the rum would make the combination even more pronounced. Either way, it's lovely to have an elegant little snack stashed in the freezer. And it's a good thing that I only made a quarter recipe!

Here's the recipe I made. It made about a dozen little truffles.

Joan and Judy's Truffles

3.5 oz. semisweet or bittersweet chocolate
4-1/2 T. cream
1-1/2 T. butter, room temperature, cut into about 6 pieces
1 T. dark rum (or any other liquor you like)
About 1/4 c. (1 oz.) hazelnuts, toasted and ground

Microwave the chocolate and cream about 45 seconds (stop and stir after 30 seconds) and stir until smooth and melted. Stir in the butter until it's melted, then add the rum. Refrigerate or freeze this until firm (or until you're ready to make truffles). Get out a baking sheet and line it with waxed paper, then spoon out mounds of chocolate about the size you would like to eat. Put that back in the freezer for a while. You can toast (don't forget to rub off the skins) and grind the hazelnuts while you're waiting for the truffles to freeze. Get some candy cups ready. Then take the truffle mounds out of the freezer. Roll each one into a ball, and then roll the ball in hazelnuts and nestle the truffles in the candy cups. Pack them into a Tupperware and put them back in the freezer. Get them out to serve with coffee after dinner or any time you need chocolate therapy.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Barron's Brownies: Baking brownies in Paris

OK, the pressure was on. I was invited to a cocktail party for other American parents of 8th graders attending the international school near Paris that Julia's going to. There are three American classes, and the parents in Julia's class were asked to bring desserts. So I decided that Barron's Brownies would be perfect.
The Barron's part is especially relevant here, since many of the parents there work for posh multinational firms, and I felt that I needed to provide something especially American but also special and delicious. These brownies really did the job.
To ensure success, I brought supplies from home:

It was kind of a mistake to buy/bring the Sam's Club vanilla, but it was cheap and came in a plastic bottle. I put a vanilla bean in the bottle before I left, so hopefully when I get back to France, it'll smell better.

This is my mother-in-law's oven. We (the oven and I) don't get along. You may be able to notice that there are no temperatures on the dials--just cryptic numbers and settings. The booklet that comes with the oven has vague directions like "if you're making cake, set it on regular at 4-6." Whatever. I went for 5 and it seems to have worked, though the brownies were done about 10 minutes early. Next time I'm bringing an oven thermometer.

Look at those lovely giant lumps of French butter melting with the chocolate. I got all traditional: I melted the chocolate on the stove and buttered the pan with real butter.

Here are the blurry brownies, with teapot. I chilled and cut them into small squares so as to be more elegant, and I kept them chilled until the party. They were fudgy and chocolatey and delicious, and the walnuts really added a lot to the overall experience, I found--without that crunchy, slightly bitter edge, they might have been too sweet.
The brownies went over well--I noticed the hostess put aside a plate for herself, which is always a good sign. I probably didn't need to double the recipe as I did, but I think a lot of people enjoyed that sweet taste of home.

Here's what I made:
Barron's Brownies

4 oz. unsweetened chocolate
8 oz. semisweet chocolate
8 oz. (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1/2 t. salt
1 t. vanilla
Scant 2 c. (12 oz.) sugar
4 eggs
1/4 c. (1 oz.) sifted flour
8 oz. (2 c.) walnuts--halves and/or large pieces

Heat the oven to 325 and butter/spray a 9x13 inch pan. Melt the chocolate and butter together, either in a pan over medium-low heat or in the microwave (remember to stir every 30 seconds). Then add the salt, vanilla, and sugar and mix that well with a wooden spoon. Add the eggs one at a time, making sure each is beaten in well. Then add the flour--Maida says to beat it for about a minute or until it is "smooth and shiny and comes away from the side of the pan." I just beat it until incorporated. Then add the nuts. Turn the mixture into the prepared pan and bake for 40 minutes, though I highly recommend checking on them after 35 minutes. A toothpick should come out clean. Cool the brownies completely at room temperature, then freeze or chill them until cold. Cut the brownies into quarters, and then you should be able to cut 12 small squares from each quarter. Pack into a Tupperware and get ready to party!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Tea (Cakes) but mostly sympathy

It appears that I'm not getting around to baking or blogging lately. It has just been too busy. My top priorities are family, work, and exercise. Baking just hasn't been fitting into those categories much lately.
I have, however, made two of the many items I am scheduled to make. I just don't have photos of either of them. Cassandra might have photos of the Tea Cakes -- I'll ask her. If so, I'll post those later.
I hope we do have pix of the Tea Cakes, because mine look far different than Maria's do. Since I'm the one that is supposed to stick to the recipe, I rolled mine out and cut them with a cookie cutter. This is fine with me because I really enjoy rolling/cutting cookies. It reminds me of Christmas.
But this was some sticky dough. I refrigerated it for more than 24 hours before I rolled it, which was a good thing. I had to flour like crazy to get it to roll out, and had to move at lightening speed so it didn't get to soft before cutting and transferring the cookies. A la Cassandra, I used the tape measure to roll the dough to the exact thickness it was supposed to be -- and used a 3-1/2 inch round cookie cutter like Maida said. I had divided the dough into four sections, and was able to roll and cut each of those four sections. The scraps were worthless. I guess I could have put them together and chilled them for another 24 hours, but I decided that due the hugeness of these cookies, I really didn't need more than the number of cookies I had already cut out.
As Maria said, these cookies, while already huge, became more huge because they spread while baking. But they were very beautiful looking. Very perfect looking, in fact. I didn't even want to eat one at first because they looked like something you would see in a high end bakery.
I did finally force myself to eat them. They are very good cookies. Like Maida said, they are plain. They are not too sweet. Mine did not have the texture of a Madeline as Maria described. Mine were nice and crunchy throughout.
I packed these up 2 cookies to a bag and sent them off in school lunches (and work lunch for me). They were gone in a week. I would definitely make these again.

While the Tea Cakes were going out in school lunches, I held off on making anything else. I also held off because I really didn't have anytime to make anything else. I bought all the ingredients for the next 5 items, thinking that would prompt me to make them. It didn't. But finally an opportunity arose. The Girl Scout troop was going camping, and I was responsible for dinner. What an opportunity to make the Oreo Cookie Cake.

But of course, I had no time to make the Oreo Cookie Cake. The week before the camping trip, I did not arrive home before 8:00 p.m. any day. When I did get home, I was wiped out. I had already advertised the fact I was bringing a homemade cake, so I had to make it. Thursday night, despite the lateness of my arrival home, I got the ingredients out and baked that cake.

Fortunately, it is a very simple cake to make. The most complicated part of the recipe is cutting the Oreos into quarters and making the little tunnel in the cake for the Oreo batter to settle into. Otherwise, it took about 10 minutes to throw the batter together. My cake came out of the pan perfectly. It looked so perfect that I thought maybe I would skip the frosting. However, I had bought a huge amount of chocolate which was cluttering my baking supplies, so decided Friday morning to make the frosting too. The frosting was even easier than the cake. Yay.

After making the frosting, I threw the nicely frosted, but unphotographed, cake into the cake carrier and packed it into the car with the rest of the camping supplies. And there it sat all day Friday, all Friday night. Saturday, it got to sit in the blazing sun of the desert. The chocolate frosting did weep a little bit, but not too bad. Finally, around 3:00 p.m. on Saturday, we voted to eat cake and milk for our snack. It was quite tasty, despite all its sitting around. It tasted fresh and Oreo-y and chocolately. Mo and Maddy had two pieces. Mo had one more piece that night.

There was still half of the cake left after the trip. I couldn't get myself to eat anymore though. It was looking a little worse for wear after sitting around the campsite all weekend. I would, however, highly recommend this cake for any camping trip. It held up like a champion through heat, wind, and chilly nights.

What do I need sympathy for? I've got 4 more desserts to make to catch up with Maria. We'll see if I can do it.

Thursday, October 8, 2009


Cheesecake is a beautiful thing. People are so impressed by it, but it's so darned easy to make--maybe 5-10 minutes of active work, and then you just bake and chill. Sure, you have to make sure you bake at just the right temperature for just the right time so that it doesn't crack (see my picture below), but even if it does crack, it's still going to taste good.

Now, this Bulls Eye Cheesecake is a bit more complicated than your average cheesecake because it involves two colors of batter, poured carefully into the pan to form a bullseye pattern. Pretty darned fancy. But not that hard. If I can make this swirl, so can you.
I had some rather negative notes on this one from the last time I made it--the batter was "too liquid" and there was "too much almond." I'm guessing I used light cream cheese only for the first, since I didn't have that trouble this time, and I did cut down on the almond extract.

Maida wanted a one-piece cheesecake pan. I didn't have one, so I used this silicone pan. It was a good size, but I should have sprayed it with Pam or something.

Oops--cheesecake cracked. Look how it cracks along the bullseye lines. Isn't that weird?

I've had these amaretti in the freezer since we were in Italy oh, 2,3 years ago. Finally I had a recipe that called for them. They were a lot softer than the mega-expensive Amaretti di Saranno. Maybe that's the freezer time...

My cake did not unmold beautifully. Doesn't exactly look like the one on the cookbook cover. Guess I should have greased the pan.

The cheesecake still looked pretty darned cool and tasted very good, though I should have cut back on the sugar a bit more. Sami said it made his throat hurt, it was so sweet (I blame that on the amaretti). But still, this thing disappeared pretty darned quickly.

Here's the recipe I made.

Bulls Eye Cheesecake

2 lbs. cream cheese, room temp (I used half regular and half light)
1/4 c. (2 oz.) sour cream (I used light)
1 t. vanilla
1/8 t. almond extract
1/4 t. salt
4 large eggs, room temp if you think about it
scant 2/3 c. sugar (maybe 4.3 oz.)
scant 2/3 c. brown sugar (same)
1 t. powdered instant espresso
1 T. cocoa powder
About 1/4 c. crumbs made from graham crackers or Amaretti or Nilla Wafers or whatever's in your pantry (Oreos? Pecan Sandies?)

Heat the oven to 350 and grease well a springform pan (wrap it with aluminum foil first) or deep cake pan. Also find a large roasting pan or something that the springform fits in without touching the sides.
Dump the cream cheese into your mixer bowl and beat it until it's nice and smooth. Maida feels strongly about this, so scrape your bowl down and beat it well. Now add the sour cream, vanilla, almond, and salt, and then the eggs one at a time, scraping and beating well after each addition. Now put half the batter into a different bowl. Add the white sugar to one bowl, and add the brown sugar, instant coffee, and cocoa to the other. I pushed those through a sieve. It was fussy, but you don't want a giant lump of instant coffee/brown sugar in your cheesecake! Make sure both mixtures are nice and smooth.
Now comes the fun part. Get out two 1-cup measures. If they have spouts, you're in luck. If not, just do your best like I did. Pour one cup of one kind of batter into the middle of the cake pan (bullseye!). Then pour a cup of the other kind right on top. It will spread out and make rings. Keep alternating until all the batter is gone.
Pour hot water into the large pan that your springform is going to sit in. The water should go up about 1-1/2 inches. Put the springform in there, if it's not there already, and then CAREFULLY put the whole thing in the oven. Let it bake for 1-1/2 hours. Then CAREFULLY take the pan out of the water and let it cool to room temp. Maida says to wait until the bottom is room temp. Then invert the cake onto a plate, but not the plate you want to serve from. Sprinkle the crumbs over the top (which will soon be the bottom), and then flip the thing over. Try your best not to squish the poor thing. Then chill the cake (probably at least 4 hours; I chilled it overnight) and be ready for cheesecake time!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Sour Cream Apple Tart

Man, it takes me a long time to get around to writing. Reminds me of my college days...Really--I used to do a lot of baking to avoid writing. Now I do a lot of baking and then avoid writing about it. And so it goes.
I made the Sour Cream Apple Tart last weekend, a day after the Oreo Cake. We didn't have any more dessert in the house at the time, so I thought it would be OK. And there was a promise of a chill in the air, which seemed perfect for an apple dessert.
This tart is a production number and a half, I have to say. None of the steps is particularly difficult, but there are a lot of them, and I must say I'm not necessarily convinced that the sum is as good as the parts. But I took lots of pictures, so you can see each step.

First, we have the cream cheese pastry, baked to a golden brown. Maybe I should have left it in another couple of minutes. I did not blind bake it with pie weights because I hate doing that. As usual, my pastry shrank and did not cover the whole pan. Oh well...Let me just say this is not my favorite tart pastry recipe. There are so many better, flakier ones out there.
This was easy enough--coating the crust with apricot jam.
Then I sautéed a mass of apples with butter and sugar and piled those into the crust.
Next comes a layer of caramel. The caramel seemed a bit runny to me. I checked the proportions two or three times, and I did it right, but I still ended up with a lot of caramel running out under the tart pan. (Note: bake this baby on a foil-lined baking sheet!)
Crowning glory: big layer of slightly sweetened sour cream.
Here's a cross section slice, so that you can see the apples, the caramel that's all run out, and the massive layer of sour cream.

Did I mention the huge amount of sour cream? It really kind of overwhelmed everything else. I think that you could make this tart with 2 cups of sour cream and it would be fine--it would be a pain to spread properly, but I think the balance would be better. But one thing I liked about this tart is that it isn't too sweet, unlike many of Maida's desserts.
Claire had this for breakfast every morning, and then for afternoon snack when she got home, and I'm sure Sami and I had our share as well. I would call this a qualified success. But here's the recipe so you can try for yourself:

Sour Cream Apple Tart

4 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
4 oz. butter, room temperature
4 oz. flour (1 c. sifted)

Beat together the cream cheese and butter until smooth, then add the flour on low speed and beat until incorporated. Maida says that this takes a long time, but mine was done right away. Scrape this out onto a piece of waxed paper, form it into a ball, wrap it, and chill for an hour or so. While it's chilling, look for your 11-inch tart pan. That's the really big one. When it's chilled, roll it out on a floured surface as far as it can go. I found that it really didn't go far enough to cover my whole tart pan with good edges, but that's another story. Anyway, transfer it to the pan and fold over the edges if you have rolled it out big enough. Put the dough in the freezer and preheat the oven to 400. When the oven is preheated, or after about 15 minutes, take the dough out and prick it all over with a fork. Then put it in the oven for about 15 minutes. Don't leave the kitchen during that time because pastry burns really easily at that temperature. When it's golden brown, pull it out, whether that takes 10 or 25 minutes. But make sure it's really baked to an even golden brown. Now for the apples.

1/3 c. (3.6 oz.) apricot jam
2 lbs. pie apples--Maida recommends Granny Smith or Jonathan, I used McIntosh, which were tasty but rather mushy
5 T. (2.5 oz.) butter
2 T. sugar

While the crust is freezing/baking, you can be doing two things. One is to put the apricot jam in a little Pyrex dish and microwave it for about 45 seconds or until it's bubbling. The other is to get to work peeling and slicing those apples. You want probably about 12 slices per apple (Maida says 15, but my apples were rather small). When the crust is out of the oven, spread the hot jam over it and then put the jammy crust in the oven for 2 minutes to set the jam. I think the idea here is to protect the crust from getting soggy. Reduce the oven temperature to 350.
Back to the apples: Get out a large frying pan and melt half the butter in it. When the butter is nice and hot, add about half the apples and 1 T. sugar and sauté them until they're nice and tender but hopefully not falling apart like mine did. This probably will take a good 5-8 minutes. When the apples are done, transfer them to a plate and do the second batch the same way.
If you used less mushy apples than I did, you can spend time and burn your fingers arranging the apples carefully on the crust in a sunburst pattern as Maida recommends. But no-one is going to see that because of the large layer of sour cream, so you could also just dump the apples on the crust and spread them out in an even layer. Whatever floats your boat. Now it's time to make the caramel!

2/3 c. (5.3 oz.) cream (I wonder if 1/2 cup would be better)
1/2 c. (3.5 oz.) sugar

OK, put the cream in a Pyrex measuring cup and microwave it for about a minute (but watch that it doesn't boil over). Put the sugar in a small saucepan or frying pan and put it over medium-high heat. Stir it until it melts, and then keep stirring until it's a nice caramel brown. Then take it off the heat, and CAREFULLY pour in the hot cream. That will bubble all over creation and might just make a huge mess. When the bubbles have died down enough that you can safely stir it, stir until smooth. You may need to put it back over the heat until the caramel is smoothly dissolved in the cream. Let it cool off for just a bit, and then pour it over the apples.
Now it's time for the last layer (hooray!)

3 c. (24 oz.) sour cream (1 used 2 cups of regular and one of light)
2 T. sugar
1 t. vanilla

Stir all that together and pour it on top of the apples. Very carefully, so that the caramel doesn't darken the sour cream, spread it over the apples, but not all the way to the crust (you don't want the crust getting soggy). Then bake for 7 minutes (on that foil-lined baking sheet, please). Let the tart cool to room temperature, then refrigerate it, probably overnight. Enjoy a delicious balanced breakfast!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Oreo Cookie Cake

I have this thing about junk food—chips, salty snacks, certain processed foods, and cookies. I love it too much, so I keep it out of the house. That’s why at any party, I’ll pass up the quinoa salad and go straight to the seven-layer dip with the Fritos. After all, the quinoa salad is something that I would make at home, but the Fritos are verboten. This is all to explain how excited I was to have an excuse to buy Oreos for Maida’s Oreo Cookie Cake. I love Oreos too much. So this cake would have to be good, right?

I chose this recipe for this weekend for a reason: I knew I could give most of it away. It was Habitat Faith Build Weekend--5 houses in 1 weekend. Now I can't swing a hammer--my construction gift is picking up trash--but I can provide baked goods. So as soon as this yummy cake was remotely ready, I sliced it up, wrapped each slice individually, and packed them in a shoebox. I sent the box with a man driving to the work site encouraging him to deliver it to the "Methodist houses." Who knows if it ever got there--or if they liked the cake. All I know is that we sure did!
I actually used the camera this time, so we'll just do a photo essay.
Here's the batter--look at all those yummy Oreos going in there! It's a pretty sturdy sour cream cake batter. Definitely worth licking the bowl.

Product placement! Nabisco--I would like my check please :-). But you must agree that it came out nicely.
Amazingly enough, the cake unmolded from my temperamental Bundt pan without a fight.

Mmmm...ganache. I used 72% chocolate, so it wasn't very sweet at all. It was a nice contrast.

Buttery cake and ganache and softened Oreos. Works for me! The cake sliced beautifully. This reminds me of the sour cream coffee cake I sometimes make for Saturday breakfast. Take out the Oreos (and ganache) and add streusel, and this becomes breakfast.

This is what I came home to on Sunday. Probably a good thing.

Here's the recipe I made:

Oreo Cookie Cake

14-15 Oreo cookies (that's about 1 row: 2 more rows for you!)
2 sticks (8 oz. butter), room temperature
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1 t. vanilla
1/4 t. almond extract
1-1/2 c. (10.5 oz) sugar (I actually used about 10 oz.)
3 large eggs
2-3/4 c. (11 oz.) sifted flour (I used about 4 oz. white whole wheat)
1 c. (8 oz.) sour cream

Heat the oven to 350 and spray your Bundt pan really well. Chop the Oreos into quarters. Restrain yourself from snacking. Cream the butter, baking soda, salt, vanilla, and almond extract until it's nice and soft, then add the sugar gradually. Beat for another 2-3 minutes. Then add the eggs one at a time, beating until well incorporated after each. Then on low speed add the flour in three additions alternating with the sour cream in two additions.( I find that if you give the flour a bit of a fold in with the rubber spatula before you turn the mixer on, it doesn't fling the flour quite so much.) Wait, don't put the Oreos in yet! Put about 1/3 of the batter in the pan. Then add the Oreos to the batter and fold them in by hand. Spoon this batter on top of the plain batter. Maida suggests making a trench in the batter to keep it even. I did that, and it did seem even, so knock yourself out. Bake the cake for an hour, or until the toothpick comes out clean and the cake feels springy. Then let it cool for 15 minutes before you unmold it. Let it come to room temperature.
When the cake is just about cool, make the ganache:

6 oz. semisweet/bittersweet chocolate (since there's no added sugar in the ganache, make sure it's chocolate that's at a good sweetness level for you)
1/2 stick (2 oz.) butter
about 1 T. cream

Put all that in the microwave and cook on high for 30 seconds. Stir it and put it back in for about 15 seconds. It should be all nice and smooth and glossy.
Pour it over the cake so that it looks kind of casual and drippy. It's a lot of glaze and should cover the cake pretty thickly and completely.

Let the cake stand until the glaze sets and "transfer to a cake plate." If it makes it that long.