Sunday dinner for four.

Dinner!

Dinner!

Dessert!

Dessert!

Beet and Carrot Slaw, January/February 2010, pg. 21

Our Sunday night dinner this past week included a beef roast grilled at a low temperature on our charcoal grill, mashed potatoes, beet and carrot slaw, and black forest upside-down cakes.

Dinner was delicious, especially the beet and carrot slaw.  I love raw carrots.  On average I eat them 6 days a week: on salad or just plain carrots (Bugs Bunny style).  I love the sweetness of them and crunch.  I also really like roasted beets.  They are sweet and have a very unique color and taste!  I had never had raw beets or beet greens before so I was looking forward to this colorfully sweet slaw.

The slaw was very simple to make, although a little dangerous and it turned my hands pink!  I must admit I was pretty nervous grating the beets, picturing myself loosing pieces of fingers, every time I pushed the beet down the grater.  Next time I won’t cut both ends off the beets, so I will have a little more to hold onto while grating.  Washing the grated beets took a lot more water than I expected.  They WOULD NOT stop bleeding pink!  I finally got relatively clear water and called it quits.  The slaw dressing was very good.  The sweetness from the orange juice and tangy taste of the mustard and vinegar complemented the vegetables well.

The beet and carrot slaw was a hit!  Everyone went back for seconds, but we still had one serving of slaw leftover.  P brought it for lunch a few days later and said it still tasted great, however, everything had a pink tint.  Definitely a recipe to eat the day you make it, if you want three distinct colors!  I will be making this slaw again.

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Black Forest Upside-down Cakes, January/February 2010, pg. 51

The black forest upside-down cakes tasted good but the baking process was not positive.  As I made the batter, I was convinced the cakes were going to be a disaster.

My parents had dinner with us, so I doubled the recipe.  I was not a fan of the recipes directions.  The recipe tells you to stir room temperature butter (it’s January, so room temperature is 65⁰F) and sugar with a wooden spoon until light and fluffy.  Are you joking me?!  That was NOT going to be possible, so I got out my electric hand-beater.  The butter and sugar never got light and fluffy, it didn’t seem like there was enough butter to get the fluffy texture you usually get after beating the two ingredients.  (Since I doubled the recipe, so I checked my math and I did put the correct amount of each ingredient in the batter.)  Then I stirred in the rest of the ingredients and the batter was not what I was expecting.  It reminded me of an extremely thick brownie batter.  The batter was so thick, it stuck to my wooden spoon as I was putting it into my cherry lined pans.  I pulled up a few of the cherries as I was trying to evenly spread the batter in the pans.  At this point, I was positive, we wouldn’t be having dessert…

I ended up baking the two cakes for about 45 minutes.  This was probably because of my pan choice.  I didn’t have ramekins, but I did have two 5” springform cake pans.  While I let the cakes cool for twenty minutes, I made the whipped cream.  I left out the rum, because I’m not consuming alcohol anymore, and followed my grandmother’s advice for homemade whipped cream.

Put a glass bowl and the metal beaters in the freezer for at least 30 minutes before making the whipped cream.  (Yes, specifically a glass bowl.  I’ve gotten scolded for using a metal bowl, I honestly don’t know the reasoning behind the glass bowl but that’s how grandma does it.)  The cream whips much faster if all the utensils are colder than the cream.  Add a teaspoon or two of white sugar and then whip together until you get the consistency you want.  Back to the cakes…

The springform pans worked really well!  The cakes looked perfect.  Although, I think the batter was a little thicker and I probably should have used a third pan or pans that had a larger diameter.  This would have made the cherry to batter ratio more equal.

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Everyone really liked the rich tasting cakes.  One small piece for each person was more than enough.  I had never had sour cherries before and they were very good and went well with the chocolate.  But, honestly what doesn’t go well with chocolate?  I also liked the portion size of the cake.  In hindsight I didn’t even have to double the recipe.  The four of us ate one of the two cakes that night.  Personally, the cake was a little too dense for me.  I am going to blame the density on the very thick batter.  At this point, the black forest upside-down cakes, are a one-time experience for me.

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Three desserts and nearly 2 dozen eggs

Who knew that December was such an eggy month?  I certainly didn’t.  Since there were so many sweets this month, M,G, and I decided to split them evenly.  And somehow I ended up with the Orange Cream Pavlova (8 eggs), the Chocolate Soufflé (4 eggs), and the Tangerine Cake with Citrus Glaze (6 eggs).  Okay, so that’s only 1.5 dozen, but you have to admit those are some egg heavy desserts.

Let’s get started.  I decided to make the Chocolate Soufflé at my mom’s house over the holidays, almost entirely because she actually had a soufflé dish, but also partly because it’s better to share supremely decadent desserts right?

The dish I used was slightly too large so you can't tell how puffy the soufflé was here, but I promise you it was very fluffy… until I cut into it with a spoon...

The dish I used was slightly too large so you can’t tell how puffy the soufflé was here, but I promise you it was very fluffy… until I cut into it with a spoon…

I may have made one (minor?) mistake with this recipe.  Instead of whipping the sugar with the egg whites, I may have melted it with the chocolate… (I also may have had a few drinks before making this).  As a result, I think the texture was very slightly grainy, which I don’t think it would have been if I had done it right.  Oh well.  The sugar coating the dish made a nice crust on the outside of the soufflé so it was really easy to pull out 4 servings and not losing a ton of chocolatey goodness to the dish.

Mmm… fluffy chocolate.

Mmm… fluffy chocolate.

Looking back, I might recommend eating this with a side of ice cream just for the warm/cold contrast.  The outcome is basically like eating super rich, deeply chocolate fluff.  All you tastes is chocolate.  In a good way.  It’s not exactly creamy, but its not exactly caky either.  It’s enjoyable.  And its really, really, really chocolatey.  It’s a holiday win!

My next venture into whipping egg whites was the Orange Cream Pavlova.  I managed to make this one while completely sober, so I added the sugar at the appropriate time.

This was so thick I had a really hard time molding it into a circle.

This was so thick I had a really hard time molding it into a circle.

This lazy girl didn’t bother drawing the circle on the parchment and I think I managed a pretty decent circle on my own.  If I had been entertaining with it (which I totally should have been) I might have made the effort, but I really don’t think it would make a huge difference.  Word of warning, baking meringues is a little bit tricky.  The magazine didn’t mention that having higher humidity would prevent your meringue from drying.  So I baked for 2 hours as instructed and left in the oven (without opening it) for 5 hours.  When I went to check it, it was still quite smooshy.  So I turned the oven on for another hour.  Smooshy.  Another hour, smooshy.  At that point it was getting too late in the evening to let it go much longer so I cranked the oven to nearly 500 for maybe 10 minutes, turned it off, went to bed and kept my fingers crossed I would have a crisp meringue in the morning.

Thank goodness I did.  I may have just given up on the whole dessert if I hadn’t.  Once the meringue was secured, I worked on the curd.  It was my first curd making experience so I wasn’t sure what to expect.  It was really quick.  You definitely need to keep your eye on it, because before I knew it, it was nearly boiling.  I almost went really lazy again and wasn’t planning to strain the finished curd, but at the last minute I did.  And I’m glad.  There was a ton of zest that came out and some little eggs chunks as well.  I’m pretty certain that wouldn’t have made any major impact on the dessert but at this point I’d been working on it for a full 24 hours so I wanted it to be good (and pretty).

Orange curd might be even more delicious than lemon curd.  And look at that color!

Orange curd might be even more delicious than lemon curd. And look at that color!

So the final step was whipping some cream.  I’ll spare you the details.  And then layering the meringue, then curd, then cream.  Ta da!!

The dessert that nearly killed me.  Isn't it beautiful?!

The dessert that nearly killed me. Isn’t it beautiful?!

Oh, what’s that?  You want to know how it tasted?  It tasted good.  It tasted citrusy and light and New Yearsy.  Did it taste so glorious that I didn’t mind all the effort and struggle of the meringue?  No.  Honestly, I didn’t love how hard it was to chew the meringue.  It hurt my tongue a little bit.  However, the combination of the orange curd and the whipped cream was a win.  Next time I would skip the meringue and go straight to a store bought angel food cake.  Now that would be heavenly.

And finally, the Tangerine Cake.  This was a fairly easy recipe to follow.  It did, however, make me realize I need to upgrade to a Microplane.  My rasp happens to be one that Everyday Food sent as a gift with subscription many many moons ago. For the most part it works just fine.  Or it used to.  It might be getting a little dull.  Also, the skin on a tangerine is pretty thin and the combination of dull rasp and thin skin led to more pith in my cake than I hoped for.  It did not effect the taste.

The magazine would lead you to believe that the glaze is thicker than it actually is...

The magazine would lead you to believe that the glaze is thicker than it actually is…

Most of my glaze slid right off the cake and onto the plate.  As a result, when serving the cake I scooped “extra” glaze onto each piece.  So, the flavor.  It was really orangey and good.  It had a really nice texture.  It was moist yet pleasingly dense at the same time.  I sent the majority of the cake to work with the bear.  It was a hit.  I really need to make up some sort of business card that he can set next to the samples next time.  After two different people asked him for the recipe, I asked him if he gave them the blog address… And he said not only “no”, but “no, I don’t know what your blog is called.”  Sigh.

If I was one to make cakes on a whim, I would keep this one in mind.  As it stands, this blog keeps me busy enough with other sweets that I probably won’t return to this again soon.  I hope you give it a try.

Chocolate-Peppermint Thumbprints

Chocolate-Peppermint Thumbprints

This photo would have been wildly appropriate if I had managed to write this post even reasonably close to when I baked these cookies...

This photo would have been wildly appropriate if I had managed to write this post even reasonably close to when I baked these cookies…

So these cookies were pretty easy to make.  The most tedious part was actually rolling the dozens of little balls that become the cookies.  I also found it curious how under baked they looked when they came out.  (The directions said it was ok and even desired so I ran with it).

All in all, the cookies were pretty tasty.  The chocolate cookie part itself is very slightly salty but it goes along well with the peppermint and the cookies stay nice and soft and super poppable (as in pop them right in your mouth!)

I’ve made chocolate peppermint EF cookies before (they were basically thin mints, yum!) so I had very high standards for these thumbprints.  These didn’t quite live up to my expectations (trust me, those thin mints were probably the best cookie I’ve ever made – I had them at a party and people were stuffing them in their coat pockets so they could take some home before they were all eaten). 

Something about the peppermint amount wasn’t quite perfect in my apparently very elitist opinion.  (Maybe I just need to upgrade my peppermint extract.)They were however, very good.  The bear ate loads of them.  So if you are in the mood for some post-season Christmas cookies, give these a try!

Pumpkin Cookies….YUM!

Chocolate-Glazed Pumpkin Cookies

November 2007, pg. 182

http://www.marthastewart.com/338160/chocolate-glazed-pumpkin-cookies

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I hadn’t made pumpkin cookies in a few years.  They were one of my two ‘Go To Cookies’ when I lived with B in Syracuse.  I suppose baking pumpkin cookies just wasn’t the same without B there.  So I was pretty excited that pumpkin cookies were in the November 2007 issue (and B is somewhat part of the experience)!

I baked the pumpkin cookies at my parents’ house when I was visiting last week and then mailed them to my brothers.  My mom and I like to bake cookies and then mail them to people (so we don’t gorge ourselves). Both of my brothers won’t be coming home for Thanksgiving so the chocolate-glazed pumpkin cookies would be a perfect snack for the coming holiday.  Plus my baby brother, who is twenty-six, LOVES baked goods with pumpkin.

In the past I have prepared fresh pumpkin for recipes requiring pumpkin puree, and this is the perfect time of year to get a fresh pumpkin.  However, Libby’s pumpkin puree is also easy to get this time of year and personally I think it’s just as tasty as fresh pumpkin (and there are less dishes to wash).  So I went with the canned choice.

The cookies were extremely easy and didn’t take much time to bake.  It took me less than 30 minutes to mix all the ingredients together and start dropping batter on the cookie sheets.  I did use my mom’s ‘cookie dough scoop’, which was amazing.  My finger didn’t get covered in raw batter!  I found out the scoop was a little larger than a ‘heaping tablespoon’ because I only made 25 cookies, not forty-two.  The cooking time still fell within the 15-20 minute range published in the EF recipe.  I took Hank for a hike while the cookies cooled.

Later in the day I melted the chocolate for the top of the cookies.  I did use the microwave, not the stove, to melt the chocolate.  I cook it for 20 seconds at a time, stirring in between.  I find it much easier than melting it on the stove and you dirty less dishes (which is very important when your only dishwasher is your own two hands).

The final product was delicious.  Of course my mom and I tried a cookie or two before packaging the rest up for my brothers.  The cookies were moist, spongy, and you could taste the pumpkin with the perfect amount of spice.  The chocolate-glaze made the cookies look really nice and of course taste better.  I’m not sure how the glaze will travel in the mail.  My brothers might get pumpkin cookies with chocolate crumbs.  Not that they care about how their cookies look, just how they taste!  Next time, I might put chocolate chips in the batter if the final product will be travelling.

In hindsight I should have baked one of the more difficult desserts from Issue 47 while I was visiting my parents.  They have a normal sized oven, that has a nice seal and you can trust the temperature setting.  If you remember from an earlier post, my kitchen is less than average…. Oh well.  The chocolate-glazed pumpkin cookies were a success and hopefully they will return to “Go To Cookie” status.

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Next, back to my own kitchen to bake a Maple Nut Tart!

Have I Mentioned I Like Custard?

I do. I do like custard.  If there is a creme brûlée on a menu, I pretty much have to order it.  Whenever I go home, I more or less force my mother to make tapioca pudding (she does all sorts of fun variations – last time it was like eating an almond joy).  The one thing that had prevented me from making the Chocolate Custard Cups in the past was a lack of ramekins.

Why not just buy some ramekins you ask?  Because I have sadly expensive tastes and the ramekins I want are $12 per ramekin.  One day, I shall have these and I shall post glorious photos featuring said ramekins, but for now…

Why yes, that is a mason jar!

Why yes, that is a mason jar!

We all know mason jars are great multi-taskers.  G had the brainstorm that I could probably use them as my ramekins.  She was right!  It would have been better if they were slightly shorter, but they did the job.  And the outcome, was this…

Topped with soft whipped cream!

Topped with soft whipped cream!

The chocolate in this is so deep and rich it’s wonderful!  I think I could have beat the eggs and sugar together for a bit longer for a slightly more creamy result… It is also possible that by failing to read the line in the instructions about loosely covering the top with aluminum foil (don’t judge me, I was thinking about the custard!) might have caused the top part to “bake up” slightly while the custard underneath stayed soft and creamy.

So if you have mason jars (or if you are fancy and have ramekins…) I highly suggest you put this in them!!!

sweet cupcakes for a sweet boy

Glazed chocolate cake recipe

Easy white icing

The frosted cup-corn-cakes

The frosted cup-corn-cakes

J via Hostess

J via Hostess

J is one.  We survived a whole year.  This isn’t a mom blog, so I’ll spare you the essay on how this makes me feel.  I will add, however, that the last dinner I ate before he was born was the Everyday Food lentil and walnut burgers.  They say spicy food makes you go into labor.  I think being nearly 38 weeks pregnant probably helps.  Anyway, I made two different versions of the cupcakes for his birthday party.  The base recipe is for a cake with a chocolate glaze.  The variation is to make cupcakes out of the batter and frost them with their white frosting.  I made a double batch of the cupcakes and frosted about 2/3 and glazed a 1/3.  That let us check off two recipes.  And it made the party look fancier.

The cupcake recipe is tasty and tender.  It holds up nicely to decoration.  I liked the sour cream in this recipe.  I think that’s what made it tender.  For sheer deliciousness and chocolatiness, however, I have to recommend the Hershey’s chocolate cake recipe.  It tastes like the chocolate cake from a Suzy Q.  It’s incredibly moist and so deeply chocolate-flavored.  It’s the only chocolate cake I make.  Obviously, I had to make an exception here and try this other recipe.   Will I make this recipe again?  Probably not.  I’ll use the Hersheys recipe like always.  Sorry, EF.

Let’s start with the frosted cupcakes:

camera 1

camera 1

Look familiar?  It’s supposed to look like candy corn. I split the frosting recipe into very rough thirds.  I knew I needed more yellow than orange and more orange than white, but not by much.  I colored the frosting with plain ol’ McCormick’s food coloring.  Yeah, the liquid.  If I was fancy, I would use paste food coloring.  If I was fancy, I would use orange coloring instead of four drops of yellow and four drops of red.  I guess I’m not fancy.  I’m completely satisfied with how the color turned out.  The yellow is eight drops of yellow, by the way.

The frosting recipe is not good, by the way.  A stick and a half of butter to a pound of powdered sugar beaten together?  Then you add a couple tablespoons of milk as needed?  No, that’s not how it worked out.  When I mixed the sugar and butter together, it was super thick.  I added probably 1/2 cup to 1 cup of milk to get it to where I could pipe it.

My inspiration for the decoration came from where 8 out of 10 women get their inspiration in late 2013: Pinterest.  “What’s Pinterest?” said the single men reading.  “Exactly,” said the women.  I didn’t have a big enough decorating tip to make it look like big, puffy whorls of frosting, like this.  Instead, I made tight swirls with the small star tip.  The yellow is one layer thick.  The orange has two layers, the second just a little bit smaller than the first to build the cone shape.  I started those layers from the center and worked my way out in a spiral shape.  That probably wasn’t the way to do it.  No matter how sure I was that I had the tip in the center of the cupcake at the beginning, my spiral was always just a little off-center at the end.  That meant I had to graft a quick line of frosting to make sure the whole top was covered.  By the time I got to the white frosting, I realized that I needed to start from the outside and work my way in.  So I started just inside the outer edge of the second orange layer and worked the frosting into a spiral, letting some extra come out at the very end to make a conical tip.  I remembered enough about cake decorating to remember that you have to release pressure on the bag before you pull up from frosting.  If you do that, the frosting stops where you want it to right there on the cake.  Otherwise, you get a bizarre little blob standing up straight in the air.

camera 2

camera 2

For the glazed cupcakes, I made the glaze recipe as written.  The stroke of genius was when I realized that I was essentially making a Hostess cupcake.  I had yellow frosting left over from the frosted cupcakes, so I decided that would be the filling.  I took a plastic baby spoon and dug out a little cone shape from each cupcake.  The point of the cone is down in the center of the cupcake.  I then ate the very tip of the cone (because really, what else are you going to do with excess cupcake besides eat it?), scooped about a 1/2 teaspoon of frosting on to the now-blunt tip of the cone, and placed it back down on the cupcake.  After the first try, I was able to get it so that the top of the cupcake was as even as it was before I took out the cone piece.

it kinda had to be filled, right?

it kinda had to be filled, right?

Then I turned the cupcake upside down, dunked it into the glaze to just past the tip of the paper wrapper (it looks prettier than leaving some bare cupcake around the edges), and set it down on a cooling rack.  Once the glaze was set, I took the excess white frosting and a writing tip, and piped a cursive “J” on each cupcake.  One important note: this glaze will not set and dry out like ganache.  If you think you’re going to wait until the frosting feels like the top of a real Hostess cupcake, you’ll be sorely disappointed.  But the glaze is nice in its own right.  It keeps a sheen that ganache doesn’t, and it’s got a pleasant, sticky texture.

Happy birthday, J.  If you ever read this, know that your mom went to these lengths because she loves you.  And she loves cupcakes.  If you’re old enough to read, you’ve probably worked that one out already.

So. Many. Cupcakes.

In honor of Halloween, I decided to write my post on Cupcakes Three Ways.  When you make cupcakes in three ways you end up with a lot of cupcakes.  Two dozen to be exact. And as I don’t have any kids to send them off to school or girl scouts with… I had to send them off with the bear I live with instead.  I waited for the perfect moment when he had a work potluck and went for it.

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When it comes to baking, you really can’t make too many alterations so I stuck with the recipe. I made six vanilla, six chocolate, and 12 black-and-white.  I also made the vanilla buttercream and chocolate buttercream.  However, since it was the “Autumn Potluck”, the bear I live with wanted maple frosting instead.  

So I winged it… it wasn’t a huge disaster but it also was not a huge success.  Mostly it still just tasted like vanilla buttercream with maybe a very small hint of maple at the end.  I think the raspberry would have been much more flavorful.  Or at the very least, I should have looked up a maple buttercream recipe rather than just taking the base vanilla recipe here and adding some maple syrup.

The cupcakes themselves were incredible!  They were that awesome texture that you can’t get with a box mix.  Super dense and buttery tasting.  I know the supposed desire in a cupcake is moist and spongy but I have come to find that texture less than satisfying and prefer the homemade route.  The black-and-white were my favorite so I could get a little of each and I preferred the chocolate frosting because really, who wouldn’t?  I also used some incredibly good (i.e. expensive) baking chocolate so the chocolate frosting was super rich and awesome. 

Like mac and cheese, cupcakes seem to be a favorite of Everyday Food, so while I might say I would make at least one of these variations again, I just don’t know.  Maybe next issue I’ll find a glorious pumpkin cupcake, or a lemon cupcake, or a coconut cupcake.  When it comes to cupcakes, it’s best not to limit yourself!