Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Almond Buttermilk Cake with Strawberry Coulis

almond buttermilk cake with strawberry swirl

Like I said before, sometimes my priorities change. Those cinnamon rolls? Their 2 hour required rising time just didn't fit in with my schedule. Hmmpf.

But I still needed something to take up to my in-laws' house over the weekend. Thus, this cake was born. Somehow, all of the stars aligned, and I had everything that I needed to make this cake, plus the additions and changes that I wanted to make to the original recipe. The basic recipe comes from Clotilde Dusoulier's cookbook, Chocolate & Zucchini. I've made this cake probably a dozen times, and each time I mix it up do something different. It really is a fool-proof basic recipe (no creaming the butter! no dirtying your mixer bowl!), and you can dress it up however you see it. For my in-laws, I decided that almonds and strawberries would be the perfect combination.

Did you know that a cup of buttermilk is a perfectly suitable substitute for a cup of yogurt? Well, now you do. Feel free to use either one in this recipe. I've posted the recipe below, with my changes in italics. Enjoy!

Yogurt (or Buttermilk) Cake
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 cup plain whole milk yogurt (I used 1 cup buttermilk, well shaken)
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract (or almond extract)
1 tbsp light or amber rum
1-2/3 cup all purpose flour ((I used 2/3 cup almond flour, and 1 cup all purpose flour)
1-1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
Good pinch of fine sea salt (I used scant 1/4 tsp regular salt)
Strawberry Coulis (recipe below)

1 - Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease the sides and bottom of a 10-inch springform pan (or cake pan). Line the bottom with parchment paper if the pan is not springform.
2 - Whisk together the yogurt (or buttermilk) and the sugar in a large bowl. Add the eggs one by one, beating well after each addition. Add the vanilla, oil, and rum, and whisk thoroughly.
3 - In another bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, soda, and salt. Pour the flour mixture into the yogurt/buttermilk mixture, and whisk until just combined.
4 - Pour batter into the prepared cake pan (I poured half of the batter into the pan, drizzled the strawberry coulis on top, and then poured the remaining batter into the pan - this will result in a marbled effect when it bakes up), and bake for 35-40 minutes, until golden brown on top and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer pan to a cooling rack and let stand for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the cake to loosen. Unclasp the sides of the springform pan (if using). If not, flip the cake onto a plate and flip it back onto the rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.
5 - Optional step: I dusted my cake with confectioner's sugar, and topped it with slivered, toasted almonds.

Strawberry Coulis
1 cup strawberries, washed and hulled
2 tbsp confectioner's sugar (or to taste - I had to add about 3 tbsp)

Place strawberries and sugar in food processor and process until smooth.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Things on my list...

rolls
{source}

First of all, what a wonderful weekend. I made that jam I was waxing poetic about last Friday. And boy oh boy, I don't know what it is, but seeing all of those filled jars lined up on my counter makes me so happy. It must be some sort of nurturing/mothering thing deep down inside me, but I love knowing that we have fresh homemade jam at our complete and utter disposal, just waiting in the freezer to be devoured. I failed, however, to start on the next wedding cake round. I was distracted by the warm weather, and the friends that came over on Friday, the gin that we drank...the enchiladas that we ate...

Oh, things on my list. Right. Here, in no particular order, are the things that I would rather be making, than sitting in my office cube right now.

- These homemade cinnamon rolls. We are visiting my in-laws this weekend, and I plan to surprise them by making these on Saturday morning, and I can't wait. They won't know what hit them.

- This waffle-falafel. What? This makes me almost as happy as that jam. We eat falafel and hummus probably once a month or so from this place, and it's so so good that I've never considered making my own. Now I'm tempted...

So...what is on your list of things to make? It's ok if your list changes hourly. Mine does.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Double duty strawberry jam

YES
{source}

I never thought I'd be interested in jam and canning and whatnot, but somewhere along the way I became an adult, and relish the thought of preserving all of the good summer produce into something that I can enjoy year round. And when I say summer produce, I really just mean strawberries. I don't know if it's because I used to pick strawberries with my grandmother every summer and have very fond memories of that, but strawberries are my true (fruit) love. And right now they are in season. Go to the store and buy some now. Seriously. I stood in our kitchen last night, eating strawberry after strawberry, and didn't even notice that I had polished off the whole package. Eh, there are worse things to be gorging yourself on, right?

So my weekend plans involve, you guessed it, strawberries. Strawberry jam on Saturday, then a test run for that wedding cake commission on Sunday, using the strawberry jam mixed with a little buttercream as the filling. I. Can't. Wait.

Oh, and since I already pledged that this is a food blog ONLY, I'll only post a link to these adorable baby shoes that I also plan to make this weekend. A dear couple that we know just successfully adopted a baby boy, and I cannot think of a better reason to make these shoes. Loafers! Who knew.

What are your weekend plans?

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Adorable wedding favors...

great wedding favor idea

Here. For my next wedding baking commission, I will definitely suggest these to the bride-to-be. I'm dying to make them, but my current bride-to-be already has her wedding favors. Anyone want me to make these for their wedding day? Please?

Monday, March 15, 2010

Milestones...

one year anniversary!

Today marks our one-year wedding anniversary. I cannot believe it. We celebrated this weekend and it was absolutely lovely. Late night romantic dinner on Saturday, brunch and jazz on Sunday...it was perfect. Turns out, I love being married.

Another milestone (for me) is that this marks my 201st post on my blog! (I somehow missed the big 200)...so what does that mean? That finally, after 200+ posts, I think I've finally discovered my true self, and that is as a baker. I tried for a long time to make this a design blog, a wedding blog (which it was, and served its purpose well), and a crafting blog (which it may still be that from time to time). I am finally ok with it not being all of those things, and instead to focus on my true passion - baking and cooking.

For the first time over the weekend, I completed my first bakery order. It was for a bridal shower, and I showed up with 3+ dozen mini cupcakes - half of them were chocolate cupcakes with two kinds of ganache (whipped AND poured) and topped with strawberries, and the other half were simple white cupcakes with vanilla buttercream frosting.

The night before, I really thought I was going to rip my hair out and/or go crazy, as the ganache wasn't doing what I wanted AND I had to make a mad dash to the grocery store for sugar (um, that was a first - I NEVER run out of sugar). But you know what? When I finally delivered them, set them up on my three-tiered cake stand, and stepped back, I was so incredibly proud of myself. I had managed to create something that not only tasted wonderful, but looked beautiful.

So here's to beautiful, beautiful milestones. And knowing exactly what you want to do in life. I'm still figuring it all out, but I feel like I'm one step closer.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Carrot Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

carrot cupcakes

This post redeems me. Although I actually made these cupcakes before I made the doomed garlic cupcakes, I still feel like it makes up for my egregious error. Right?

Anyway. Last weekend sometime I thought to myself, I would like some carrot cupcakes now. Isn't that weird? Does anyone else just get these serious cravings?

So I found a good recipe, bought all of the ingredients...and then didn't make them until a week later. So much for instant gratification. Apparently my cravings tend to go away if I ignore them. Who knew?

But a bridal shower on Saturday prompted me to action, so I made these. And they were goooood. The recipe called for raisins and walnuts, which I thought was a little much. I know it's probably a traditional carrot cake recipe, but I just didn't want all of that interrupting the moist, smooth batter, so I left them out. Feel free to add them if that's your sort of thing.

This cream cheese frosting recipe called for an entire box (yes, that's 16 oz.) of confectioner's sugar. Unless you're wanting to send all of your friends into diabetic shock, I'd suggest cutting back on that significantly (you'll see my modified recipe below). I only used about a cup, and it was perfectly sweet. Not too much, not too little, while still letting the cream cheese flavor come through. Because really, that's the real star of this frosting...

Carrot Cupcakes
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt (I used a bit more...of course)
1/4 tsp nutmeg
2 large eggs (room temp)
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup lightly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups grated carrots (about 4 of them)
1/2 cup dark raisins (optional)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and line 18 muffin cups with liners
2. Whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, baking powder, salt and nutmeg in a small bowl.
3. In another bowl, beat the eggs, sugar, brown sugar, oil and milk on medium speed until light and thick (I did this by hand, and it worked fine)
4. Reduce speed to low and add the flour mixture, beating until just blended. Stir in the vanilla, carrots, raisins, and walnuts until just blended.
5. Spoon the batter into the liners, filling them about 2/3 full. Bake until golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 20-22 minutes. Remove them from the pan, and allow to cool completely on a wire rack.

Cream Cheese Frosting
(1) 8 oz package cream cheese, at room temp
1/2 stick butter, at room temp
1-2 cups of confectioner's sugar, to taste
2-3 tbsp milk

1. Beat cream cheese and butter together on medium speed until light and fluffy.
2. Gradually add the confectioner's sugar and the milk, beating well until everything is well incorporated.
3. Add more milk if the consistency is too thick (mine never got too thick at all, and so I only ended up using 2 tbsp milk).
4. Frost your cupcakes.

Note: Keep frosted cupcakes and any remaining frosting in the refrigerator. This will keep the cream cheese frosting safe to consume, plus it just comes in handy when you need a spoonful of a little something cool and sweet. Not that I do that! Of course not.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Chocolate Cupcakes with Bittersweet Chocolate Strawberry Ganache

chocolate cupcakes

I have a lesson for you. Are you ready for it? Let me take you back to Saturday night, where I was being a wonderful wife and making my husband dinner. I had settled on this recipe for Baked Shrimp Scampi by Ezra Pound Cake, and I was going all out for it, and we were both excited to try it. So excited, in fact, that I broke out the knife and actually chopped up fresh garlic for the occasion. See, we usually get lazy and use the bottled kind, which is really sad, but it happens.

So anyway, the garlic. I chopped that garlic, I made the dish, it baked up quickly, and everyone was happy.

Fast forward to yesterday afternoon. Remember my wedding cake project? The wedding has been pushed back to April 20-something, so in the meantime I've been tasked with also baking cute cupcakes for the bridal shower. (This getting paid to do what I love thing - it's sort of nice!). Her wedding colors are red and black, so I figured what better combo than chocolate and strawberries, right? The recipe involves baking up a simple (and oh-so-tender and moist) chocolate cupcake, then filling them with a strawberry chocolate ganache, then topping them with ganache and a buttercream icing. Wow, right?

So I baked those puppies, making them into mini cupcakes instead of regular sized. Cute, right? I'm already on a roll. I chop up the chocolate, chop up the strawberries, heat the cream, and make two batches of ganache: one with strawberries (the filling), and one without (the topping).

I stuck the strawberry ganache in the fridge to let it thicken, and after I had removed the insides of each and every cupcake (which is a lot when you make minis), I took it back out of the fridge. I did a taste-test, and...what? What is that weird tangy flavor in the strawberry ganache? Hmm, it's not really strong, but definitely there. What...what the?

Guys. It was garlic. Garlic strawberry ganache. I had inadvertently chopped up the strawberries on the same cutting board that I used for the garlic on Saturday. Can you say gross and just...gross? Lesson: Keep your garlic/veggie cutting board separate from everything else. Yuck. I was so upset, I almost threw out the whole batch. But for some reason I soldiered on, and finished filling and icing the cupcakes, convinced that the subtle garlic flavor would somehow dissipate within the cupcake.

My husband says that he can barely taste it, and that no one looking for it would ever notice. I don't believe him. So, needless to say, my co-workers did NOT get to eat these. I was too embarassed to bring them to work.

All of this to say that the recipe was absolutely amazing, and I'll share with you soon. When I get it right, that is. But to redeem myself until then, I've got another post for you, sharing a recipe for carrot cupcakes that I also made this weekend. Really, we were up to our eyeballs in cupcakes. Which, really, isn't all that bad at all. That post is coming next!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Yay...

csa

I just signed up for the summer CSA with our local farm. I've never done this before, and until yesterday, I had no idea that one was so close to me. They even deliver to the Memphis Farmer's Market! I'm so so so excited. I love to cook and bake, and I think this will really help me move past my comfort zone, both with cooking techniques and with trying new foods.

It runs from May through August, and just a sampling of what I'll get is: strawberries, heirloom lettuces, swiss chard, kale, radishes, Asian greens, Italian chicories and endives, mint, oregano, English shelling peas, sugar snaps, and more...plus weekly gifts from the farm, including homemade jams, canned heirloom tomatoes, local honey, and baked goods!

To find your local CSA, go here.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Orange Bread

mandarins

So, I woke up on Sunday with a weird, subtle ringing in my ear, and a headache. As the day progressed, it turned into a sensitivity to light and any quick turns of my head immediately made me feel dizzy. My husband suggested that maybe I was experiencing a migraine. Me? I've never had a migraine! Why would I start to get them now, at 28?

Needless to say, Sunday was almost a complete waste. I managed to dizzily go grocery shopping, and then all I could do was sit on our porch, in the sun, and watch my husband work in the yard.

Maybe it was the sun, or the passing of time, but either way, whatever it was was gone by late afternoon, which meant that I could actually get up and do something without feeling nauseous. Oh,the glory! That meant that I got to do what I was looking forward to all weekend: to make this bread. Maybe it was thoughts of the citrusy zest, butter, sugar, and cinnamon that made me feel more like myself. All I know is that the smell of this baking in my oven somehow, somehow, just made everything feel great*. If you need any sort of pick-me-up, I would prescribe this bread. Go visit Simply Recipes for the details and full recipe.

*Or maybe it's because today is the first day of March! Not officially the start of spring, but we're almost there!