Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Raisin Blueberry Sauce

I like dessert. I guess it's a family thing. When we were in Hawaii this summer, my brother-in-law was blown away by all the sweets we got--pies, cakes, ice cream, you name it. He's not a dessert person. But Alicia told him, "When we were growing up, there was always dessert. Always." I guess I just thought that was normal.
Which brings us to this recipe, which I made because I felt I wanted something for dessert. I don't necessarily feel comfortable making a cake or a whole batch of brownies just for us, but raisin blueberry sauce sounded like a nice homey dessert that would pair well with one of our other favorite homey desserts, riz au lait (rice pudding). And I was right--it's sweet, tart, fruity, refreshing--a really nice counterpoint to the creamy, bland rice pudding.
But when I tasted it, I also thought, " really seems like I've made this before." And in a way, I have. The big differences here would be that this recipe involves raisins, a touch of cinnamon, and cornstarch right from the beginning. And of course less cornstarch because this is a sauce, not a dessert. I felt a bit like this was a rip-off--the same recipe in two different guises? But no matter: they're both worth making and I suppose they serve different purposes. I would definitely recommend taking 5 minutes and some blueberries (fresh or frozen) to make this sauce, which would be great not just over rice pudding but also with yogurt for breakfast, or pancakes, or pound cake...anything bland and creamy, I would say.

Here's the recipe. Make it in the morning and you'll have dessert in the evening.

Raisin Blueberry Sauce

1/4 c. (1.25 oz.) raisins
1/3 c. (2.3 oz.) sugar
1 T. cornstarch
1/8 t. cinnamon
Pinch salt
2 T. (1 oz.) water
1-1/2 t. (0.25 oz.) lemon juice
2 c. (8 oz.) blueberries

First you want to cook the raisins to soften them a bit. You can either steam them for 10-15 minutes, or you can put them in a microwave-safe bowl, add about an inch of water, and microwave about 2 minutes. Let cool while you make the rest of the sauce.
In a medium saucepan, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, and salt. Whisk in the water and lemon juice, and then add the blueberries. Put over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally with a rubber spatula, until the mixture comes to a boil. Turn down the heat to medium-low and let simmer another 2 minutes, again stirring just occasionally so as not to disturb the cornstarch too much. Drain the raisins if necessary and add them. Pour the mixture into a bowl and cool to room temperature; chill. Serve cold over something delicious.

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Farmer's Daughter's Cake

Now that I'm back home but school hasn't started (and the weather is cold and gloomy), I could bake any time I wanted to, but I usually feel I need an excuse--or at the very least, no other baked goods lying around.

This weekend I didn't really have an excuse but wanted to bake, so I was in the kitchen whipping up cake batter when my friend Gabrielle called, fresh from her holiday in southern France. "So what are you doing?" she asked me. I told her, and she laughed, "for a change..." I immediately invited her to come for tea. Now I had an excuse to bake and to clean house--a much bigger task!

This cake is another in a series of cakes whose frosting is twice as complicated to make as the cake. But then again, the cake takes maybe five minutes to put together, so who am I to complain? The frosting is not difficult, but takes time.

I read too late that you could/should make the frosting while the cake bakes because the frosting needs to cool before you can beat and spread it. I imagine that the cake and frosting would come out at the right temperature at the same time if you did it that way. As it is, we had to wait what was for the girls an eternity.

The cake is light and delicate--of course, it lacks some buttery richness (since it contains no butter), but we all liked it. The frosting compliments it really well, being dark and thick and rich. All together, this made a teatime treat that had disappeared completely by the time our guests had left. I guess I'm going to need to bake again soon!

Here's the recipe. Make it for friends, "for a change".

The Farmer's Daughter's Cake

2 large eggs
1 t. vanilla
1/4 t. almond extract
2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
1 c. (7 oz.) sugar--I used about 6.5 oz.
1 c. (8 oz.) heavy whipping cream
2 c. (8 oz.) sifted flour (I used a bit of whole wheat and it was, surprisingly enough, fine)

Heat the oven to 350. Grease an 8-inch square pan and coat it with breadcrumbs, wheat germ (that's what I did), or even finely ground almonds.
In a medium bowl with a mixer or hand mixer or even just a whisk, beat the eggs to mix, then beat in the vanilla, almond extract, baking powder, and salt to mix. Beat in the sugar and then the cream--each time you don't have to beat it much, just until everything is well mixed. On low speed beat in the flour just until smooth.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 35-40 minutes or until the cake starts to come away from the sides and a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool for 5 minutes, cut around the sides, let cool another 5 minutes, and unmold onto a rack.
While the cake is baking and/or cooling, make the frosting:

4 oz. unsweetened chocolate (it will melt faster if you chop it)
1/2 c. (4 oz.) milk
1-1/3 c. (9.3 oz.) sugar
2 egg yolks
1 T. + 1 t. (0.7 oz.) butter
1 t. vanilla

In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the chocolate with the milk and sugar. Remove from the heat and let stand for a minute. Beat the egg yolks a bit and add some of the warm chocolate mixture to it to temper it. Add the egg yolk-chocolate mixture back to the chocolate in the pot; return to low heat and cook, stirring, for one minute. Pour into a small bowl and add the butter and vanilla. Let cool to room temperature.
When you're just about ready to frost the cake, get out your hand mixer and beat the frosting for a good long time--Maida says 10-15 minutes. The girls did this, so I can't verify how long it actually took. The mixture should become smooth and shiny and a bit paler and have the consistency of thick syrup. Pour half of it over the cake, smooth, wait a few minutes for it to set, and then pour the rest over. It makes a rather thick layer. Julia recommends then sprinkling the frosting with coconut. It's really up to you. Let the cake sit for a few hours to fully set the frosting, then dig in.