Monday, July 14, 2014
This time of year I get a little nostalgic when it comes to this blog of mine. It's almost three years since I first pressed the "publish" button and sent out my story of cheesecake and a department store cafeteria. Over the past few months I came to the decision that I needed a new start on this blogging adventure, and to that end a redesign is in the works. There will be a new name, new design, new statement of purpose, and a new, user friendly site that should better tell the story of me, my culinary history, and what I hope to achieve here. With that in mind, it seemed to make sense to revisit that first post, and indulge once again in those sweet memories of my childhood, as a sort of fond farewell to "Devil's Food". This time the cake is Red Velvet Cake, which was a signature of the T. Eaton store bakeries. My version is simpler and smaller in size, but it's still a rich, red, delicious cake with a smooth creamy white frosting. I'm looking forward to my new site, and I hope you'll all visit often. It's going to be fun...See you back here soon!
Red Velvet Cake
(makes one 9-inch layer, to serve 8 to 10 people)
For the Cake:
3 large egg whites
1 bottle red food color (1 fluid ounce or 2 tablespoons)
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla paste or extract
1 3/4 cups sifted cake flour
1 cup sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 cup sifted, unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 cup canola oil, at room temperature
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at cool room temperature
1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk
For the Frosting:
3 ounces best quality white chocolate
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/2 tablespoon sour cream
A few drops of almond extract
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Set the oven rack in the lower third of the oven. Coat the bottom of a 9x2-inch cake pan (with at least an 8-cup capacity) with shortening, top with a parchment round, then coat with baking spray with flour. In a medium bowl, whisk the egg whites, red food color, and vanilla, just to lightly combine. In another medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, cocoa, and salt. With a stand mixer, fitted with the paddle (or with a sturdy hand mixer), combine the oil and butter and mix on medium speed for 1 minute. Add the flour mixture and buttermilk. Mix on low speed to moisten the dry ingredients, then raise the speed to medium and beat for 1 1/2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. On medium speed add the egg mixture, in two parts, beating well after each addition. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, smooth the top, and wrap the pan with a cake strip. Bake for 25 to 35 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean, and the cake springs back when gently pressed in the center. Let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
To make the frosting:
Melt the white chocolate carefully and gently. Allow it to cool, but still remain fluid. Place the cream cheese, butter, and sour cream in a food processor and blend until smooth and creamy. Scrape down the sides. Add the cooled melted white chocolate and pulse it in until smoothly incorporated. Add the almond extract and pulse it in.
When the cake is completely cool, place it on a serving plate and adorn the top with swirls of frosting. Store any leftovers in the refrigerator for several days.
(from "Rose's Heavenly Cakes" by Rose Levy Beranbaum)
Monday, July 7, 2014
Is there anything better than summer fruit for a very special dessert? This caught my eye as I was browsing my list of favorite food blogs and there was the answer to my question. I don't usually like fruit crisps, but this one was so appealing I had to give it a try. And, given the fact that my neighbor had brought me some perfectly ripe peaches, I was already ahead with the ingredient list. I chose to make individual crisps in eight ounce glass jars. Mine are Weck jars, short and wide-mouthed, and perfect for this dessert. I filled four of them almost to the top with the fruit mixture and then packed on a lot of the crumble (everything shrinks as it bakes, so be generous). There was some crumble leftover, but I'll have no trouble finding a way to use it. If you prefer, make the crisp in a large baking dish; you'll have all the surface area you need for all that delicious topping.
The best summer fruit, and a crumbly topping of oats, hazelnuts, brown sugar, and butter.
Peach and Berry Crisp
(serves 4 very generous individual servings or 8 regular servings)
For the Fruit Mixture:
3 peaches, halved, pitted, and sliced 1/4-inch thick (about 2 generous cups)
1 cup blackberries
1 cup blueberries
1 cup strawberries, washed, hulled, and sliced in half (or quartered, if large)
1/4 to 1/3 cup sugar, depending on the sweetness of your fruit
2 tablespoons freshly-squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
For the Crumble Topping:
2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup chopped hazelnuts
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 packed cup light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 stick (4 ounces) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
Preheat the oven to 375°F. In a large bowl combine the fruit, sugar, lemon juice, flour, and ground ginger. Toss gently to combine. Make the crumble topping by combining the rolled oats, hazelnuts, flour, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, and ginger. Add the butter to the dry mixture and blend it in, using the tips of your fingers, until it is evenly incorporated. Place the fruit mixture in your choice of baking dish (or individual ramekins or glasses), and top with the crumble mixture. Bake for about 30 to 35 minutes, or until the topping is golden brown and the fruit is bubbling around the edges of the baking container. Set aside to cool a bit, then serve while still warm, with vanilla ice cream.
(very minimally adapted from "Vibrant Food" by Kimberley Hasselbrink)
Wednesday, July 2, 2014
Ahhh, the long summer holiday weekend approaches and what will you be doing? Spending time at the lake or the beach? Visiting with family? Or just lazing about at home, enjoying the weather and some pure leisure time? Because good food is so important to any weekend gathering I thought these cookies might come in handy as a quick and easy sweet treat. They are indulgent, no doubt, with their hefty size and generous coating of cream cheese frosting, but it's just once a year, right? I've dressed them up in patriotic colors, save for the all red one, which is the token Canadian cookie. I have eaten that one in honor of Canada Day. If you start now you can have a batch of these beauties ready to tote along with you by the end of the day. Happy 4th and have a great weekend!
Who doesn't like cookies and milk?
The recipe for these sugar cookies is from the amazing and talented Melissa Coleman who blogs as "The Faux Martha". You can find it here.
Saturday, June 28, 2014
I love to bake bread. There is something very elemental in the entire process. Simple ingredients, combined with yeast, work their magic and a delicious and beautiful loaf is the result. This bread is a symphony for the senses: a soft and tender crumb, crunchy walnuts, chewy raisins, and the fragrance of cinnamon. It's a handsome bread that can be shaped into a loaf or a boule, and I'm sure it would make great breakfast rolls too. You can put this recipe together quickly and have your walnut-raisin bread the same day or let it rise slowly in the refrigerator overnight. Either way, it's a keeper, and a simple bread you will want to make time and again.
(makes 2 loaves, shaped as you choose)
3 1/2 cups (16 ounces) unbleached bread flour
4 teaspoons granulated sugar
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons instant yeast
1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 large egg, slightly beaten
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 tablespoon walnut oil
1/2 cup milk, at room temperature
3/4 cup water, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups (9 ounces) raisins, rinsed and drained
1 cup (4 ounces) chopped walnuts
Additional melted butter*
1/2 cup granulated sugar*
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon*
Stir together the flour, sugar, salt, yeast, and cinnamon in a large mixing bowl. Add the egg, butter, walnut oil, milk, and water. Stir together with a sturdy spoon until the ingredients come together and form a ball. Adjust with flour or water if the dough seems too sticky or too dry and stiff. Sprinkle flour on your work surface and begin kneading the dough. The dough should be soft and pliable, tacky but not sticky. Add flour as you knead, if necessary, to achieve this texture. Knead by hand for approximately 10 minutes. Sprinkle in the raisins and walnuts during the final two minutes of kneading to distribute them evenly and to avoid crushing them too much. (They may want to fall out of the dough, but just keep pushing them in and eventually they will stay put). Butter a large bowl and place the dough into it, turning to coat all sides. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough ferment at room temperature for about 2 hours, or until doubled in size. (Or place the bowl in the refrigerator and let the dough rise slowly overnight. Allow it to come to room temperature before you attempt to shape it). Divide the dough into two equal pieces and form into loaves. You can use standard loaf pans or fashion a free-form round (or boule), as pictured above. If you use loaf pans, butter them well before placing the dough. Proof the shaped dough at room temperature for 60 to 90 minutes, or until the dough is once again almost doubled in size. Preheat the oven to 350°F with the oven rack in the middle position. Bake the loaves for 40 to 45 minutes, rotating the pans half-way through, until golden brown. The finished bread should register 190°F in the center and sound hollow when thumped on the bottom surface. Remove the breads from the pan(s) and cool on a rack for at least 1 hour before slicing.
*To apply the cinnamon sugar coating combine 1/2 cup granulated sugar with 2 tablespoon cinnamon. As soon as the bread comes from the oven, coat it generously with melted butter (3 to 4 tablespoons) and roll the loaves in the cinnamon sugar. As the bread cools the topping will become crunchy.
(gently adapted from "The Bread Baker's Apprentice" by Peter Reinhart)
Tuesday, June 17, 2014
I like strawberry shortcake with cake, not biscuits. Perhaps that may stir some controversy as to the correct version of this quintessential summer dessert, but I won't be drawn into it. I soak the cake with lots of sweet strawberry essence, pile on the juicy berries, and top it all with mounds of lightly sweetened, softly whipped cream. Here is a simple way to get individual portions of cake for your strawberry dessert: cupcakes. I have made a basic pound cake into cupcakes and they provide the perfect platform for all that strawberry goodness. It couldn't be easier; here is what you do:
Pound Cake Cupcakes
(makes 12 cupcakes)*
8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at cool room temperature
8 ounces granulated sugar
8 ounces large eggs ( about 4 whole eggs, plus 1 egg yolk), beaten lightly to break them up.
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1 teaspoon vanilla paste or extract
8 ounces all-purpose flour
Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line a cupcake or muffin tin with paper liners (or spray with cooking spray). In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment (or with a sturdy hand-held mixer), cream the butter until soft and light. Add the sugar and beat until the mixture gains volume and turns very light in color. Add the eggs gradually and blend them into the butter-sugar mixture. Add the grated zest, orange juice, and vanilla paste. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour and mix only until just combined. Portion the batter into the cupcake tin and bake for about 20 to 25 minutes, or until they test done.
To serve your dessert: Wash, hull, and thickly slice the best strawberries you can find. Sweeten them to taste with a little sugar and a dash of Cointreau and let them macerate for an hour or so (refrigerate if you will be serving the shortcake later in the day). When ready to serve, whip a quantity of heavy cream to soft peaks, adding a little sugar as you go. For each serving, split a cupcake and set the bottom on a plate, spoon on a generous amount of strawberry liquid, top with sliced strawberries, then a large spoonful of whipped cream. Set the top of the cupcake on the tower of strawberries and cream, and garnish with additional cream and a berry slice or two. Enjoy!
* The batter can be baked in a greased, 9-inch loaf tin at the same oven temperature for about an hour to yield a traditional pound cake.
Friday, June 6, 2014
Dinners alfresco, refreshing and cooling drinks, quiet, easy evenings; this is what summer is all about. Later this evening we'll be enjoying this twist on that old summer favorite the "Arnold Palmer". But instead of mixing iced tea and lemonade, the pitcher will be full of a combination of freshly-squeezed ruby red grapefruit juice, rooibos tea, and a little simple syrup, just to keep things sweet. This variation has all the charm of the original; tart citrus flavor tempered by the distinctive flavor of the tea. It's refreshing and it's pretty. Mix up a pitcher tonight and see if you don't agree.
You will need about 2 red grapefruit to yield a cup of juice.
Mix the fresh juice with the cooled, brewed tea and simple syrup in a pitcher.
Pack a tall glass with ice and a few reserved grapefruit slices.
Pour, sip, relax, and enjoy. Repeat as necessary...
Ruby Red and Rooibos
(makes about 31/2 cups)
2 teaspoons loose-leaf or 2 bags rooibos tea
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup fresh Ruby Red grapefruit juice (from 2 grapefruit)
Grapefruit slices, for garnish
Brew the tea in 2 cups of boiling water for 4 minutes; strain or remove the tea bags. Let cool completely. Meanwhile, combine the sugar and 1/2 cup water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Let cool completely , then combine with the grapefruit juice and the tea in a pitcher. Refrigerate until ready to serve, up to 2 days. Serve over ice, garnished with grapefruit slices.
-from Martha Stewart Living, The Food Issue