Sunday, April 25, 2010

Sweet Melissa Sundays: Strawberry Rhubarb Cobbler Pie


This week's recipe from The Sweet Melissa Baking Book, Strawberry Rhubarb Cobbler Pie, was chosen by Tracey of Tracey's Culinary Adventures. The pie was delicious and absolutely perfect for the lovely spring weather we have finally received in the Pacific Northwest. Some notables from my experience: this was my first time cooking with rhubarb, and I liked it; I think I've finally nailed pie crust; and strawberries make your hands smell like candy--yum! I had the same problem that pretty much everyone else had: the filling was still soupy when the crust and cobbler topping were done. But the pie still tasted great, and I'm sure the soupiness can easily be fixed by adding more fruit and more cornstarch. Thanks, Tracey, for choosing another fantastic recipe. If you'd like to make this delicious spring pie, you can find the recipe HERE.
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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Cake Slice Bakers April 2010: Banana Cake with Chocolate Frosting


I was a little bummed when Banana Cake won the vote for this month's recipe from Southern Cakes by Nancie McDermott. I like banana bread, but I never crave it. I basically make it when my freezer is over-flowing with over-ripe, black bananas. But I went ahead and made it, and was thrilled with the results. If you, like me, merely like banana bread, the extra sweetness of the cake--and of course the chocolate frosting--will quickly win you over. And if you love banana bread, I'm pretty sure this will knock your socks off!

The banana cake didn't give me any of the common cake-from-scratch problems. The texture was great, the cake was light and tender, and it was perfectly moist. The only problem I had was with the frosting. I've made lots of cooked chocolate frosting before, and I've never encountered this problem: the milk and chocolate formed a weird, clumpy paste, while the butter simply floated on top. No amount of whisking could combine the three ingredients. Dumping it all in the mixer with the powdered sugar did solve the problem, however, and the frosting tasted fantastically fudgey!

Another winner from Southern Cakes! If you'd like to see how the other Cake Slice Bakers fared, check out the blogroll!

Because I am too lazy to type out the recipe, I'll just link to Monica's blog, Lick The Bowl Good. I'm sure you'll thank me for doing that after you look through a few posts and bookmark ALL OF THEM!
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Sunday, April 18, 2010

Nana's German Cookies


I've mentioned my sweet Nana a few times before on this blog. She is a wonderful cook who passed a lot of delicious recipes on to my mom, who, in turn, passed them on to me. Nana's German Cookies have been a family favorite for as long as I can remember. Their pleasant blend of chocolate chips, spicy batter, and sugary icing are delicious, old-fashioned, and homey.

Nana's German Cookies

for the cookies:
4 eggs
2 1/4 cups brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 1/2 cups flour
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup raisins (optional)
1 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a jellyroll pan with cooking spray and set aside. In a large bowl, cream eggs and sugar until well combined. Add salt, cloves, cinnamon, and flour; mix until combined. Gently stir in chocolate chips, nuts, and raisins. Spread batter in prepared pan, and bake for 20 minutes, until lightly golden. While the bars are baking, prepare the glaze. Pour glaze over hot bars and spread evenly. Allow bars to cool and glaze to set before cutting.

for the glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
1 Tablespoon butter, softened
splash vanilla extract or maple flavoring
milk (up to 1/4 cup)

Combine powdered sugar, butter, and flavoring in a small bowl. Whisk in the milk, a few Tablespoons as a time, until the desired consistency is reached. It should be about as thick as pancake syrup.
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Sunday, April 11, 2010

Sweet Melissa Sundays: Chocolate Malted Layer Cake


I almost forgot to post this week's recipe from The Sweet Melissa Baking Book because I made it almost a year ago! My husband is a huge fan of chocolate malts, so when I saw this recipe, I knew it would be perfect for his birthday. Tall, moist layers of devil's food cake covered in a sweet, malty chocolate frosting! I'm not a huge malt fan, but I thought the combination in this case was delicious! I've stated before that this devil's food cake recipe is my favorite, and I promise, it will become your favorite too.

Thanks to Nicole of Sweet Tooth for choosing this fantastic recipe. You can find the recipe on her blog HERE.
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Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Lemon-Filled Coconut Cake


I was very excited to be in charge of Easter dinner this year. My husband's brother and his family were visiting my in-laws, who live about 40 minutes from us, so it probably would have made more sense for all of us to have dinner at my in-laws' house, but I called dibs and that was that. Coconut cake seems like the perfect dessert for Easter Sunday, and this one was particularly delicious. The lemon curd filling gave the cake a bright, sunny flavor, while the toasted coconut was nutty and sweet. It was a marriage of flavors that worked really well together. I cut the pieces a little small so there would be leftovers. Shhhhh! That's between you and me!

Lemon-Filled Coconut Cake
The recipe for the cake comes from Southern Cakes by Nancie McDermott. The recipe for the lemon curd comes from Sky High by Alisa Huntsman and Peter Wynn.

for the cake:
2 1/2 cups flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
5/8 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup milk
1 stick butter, softened
3 eggs

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 8" round cake pans very well. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine all dry ingredients. Blend briefly. Combine vanilla and milk. Add 1/4 of the milk mixture, plus the butter and eggs, to the flour mixture, and beat on medium until thick and smooth, about 2 minutes. Add remaining milk and beat only until smooth. Pour batter into prepared pans, and bake for 30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle of each comes out clean. Cool in pans for 5 minutes, then flip onto a cooling rack to cool completely.

for the lemon curd:
3 whole eggs
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup plus 1 Tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
grated zest of 3 lemons
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

Whisk together the whole eggs, yolks, sugar, lemon juice, and lemon zest together in a medium bowl. Transfer to a small non-reactive saucepan. Gently heat the mixture, whisking until it thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon. Make sure not to boil the mixture. Pour the mixture through a sieve into a heatproof bowl. Stir in the butter and cover the curd with plastic making sure the plastic touches the curd. This should prevent a skin from forming on the curd. Refrigerate until cold.

for the frosting:
3 cups sweetened, flaked coconut
1 brick cream cheese, softened
1 stick butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 lb powdered sugar

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Spread the coconut out on a baking sheet, and place in oven. Bake, stirring occasionally, until coconut is lightly toasted. Remove pan from oven, and set aside to cool. In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and butter until smooth. Add the vanilla and powdered sugar, and beat until smooth and fluffy.

putting it together:
When cakes are cool, place one cake top-down on a serving plate or cake stand. Spread a nice, thick layer of lemon curd on top, staying about 1/2" from the edges. Place the other cake right-side up on top. Cover the top and sides with cream cheese frosting, then cover the entire cake with toasted coconut. Chill until ready to serve.

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Saturday, April 3, 2010

Hot Cross Buns


Hot Cross Buns are one of those things I've been meaning to make for years. Every Easter, I put Hot Cross Buns on the menu, and then something comes up, the Hot Cross Buns are forgotten, and another Easter goes by without them. And since they are specifically an Easter food, I have to wait a whole year for another chance at them. I finally got around to making them this year! And....they were pretty good but not amazing. But I think they could be great with a few modifications.

The recipe I chose to use is from the America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook, one of my go-to cookbooks. It is the kind of cookbook where you can say, "I think I want to try making _____________." And they have a recipe for it. Anyway, the recipe for Hot Cross Buns begins with a basic sweet bread dough that can be made into breakfast buns, cinnamon rolls, sticky buns, etc. The dough contains sugar, melted butter, and buttermilk (as well as the usual bread staples of yeast, flour, etc.), and produces soft, rich, lightly sweetened buns. To make the plain rolls into Hot Cross Buns, you simply slash a cross in the top and brush an eggwash on before baking, then drizzle a simple icing on when they come out of the oven. The dough came together very easily, and the recipe had instructions for both immediate baking and an overnight rest in the fridge, which allows you to have warm breakfast buns in the morning without having to wake up at the crack of dawn.

My only problem with the recipe was the plainness of the finished product. Cinnamon rolls are filled with cinnamon and sugar and are topped with frosting. Sticky buns are filled with whatever deliciousness goes inside, and then they sit in a puddle of pecans and caramel sauce. Hot Cross Buns are filled with.....nothing. And topped with.....next to nothing. The bites of bun that were covered in frosting were delicious. But there just wasn't enough frosting for me. The problem is easily fixed by adding more frosting. When I make these again next year, I will probably make a thinner glaze to pour over the entire surface of the baked buns, then drizzle the thicker crosses on after the glaze sets. And I might add some citrus zest, because now that I think about it, that sounds kind of amazing. And I should point out that while I thought they were just OK, my 4-year-old thought they were the best thing ever. She polished off two of them and cried when I said she couldn't have a third!

Hot Cross Buns
from the America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook

for the dough:
3/4 cup warm buttermilk (about 110 degrees)
6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3 eggs, beaten
4 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 package (2 1/4 teaspoons) rapid-rise or instant yeast
1 1/4 teaspoons salt

for the eggwash and the frosting (these are the amounts called for in the recipe for the frosting; adjust as desired):
1 egg
1 Tablespoon water
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1 Tablespoon milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Whisk buttermilk, butter, and eggs together and set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer (fitted with a dough hook), combine remaining ingredients. With the mixer on low, add the buttermilk mixture and mix until the dough comes together, about 1 minute. Increase the speed to medium-low and knead the dough for about 10 minutes. At the end, the dough should stick to the bottom of the bowl but not the sides. If needed, you can add an extra 1/4 cup flour in small increments. Turn the dough out onto a clean, lightly floured surface, and knead until smooth, about 1 minute. Place dough in a greased bowl, cover, and let rise until doubled in size, about 2 to 2 1/2 hours. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide into 12 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a ball and place in a greased 9x13" pan. Cover with a piece of greased plastic wrap. If you are making them immediately, let rise until doubled, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours. If you want to make them ahead of time, put the covered rolls in the fridge for up to 16 hours. Before baking, let them sit at warm room temperature until doubled, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Using a very sharp knife, gently cut an X in the top of each bun. Whisk the egg and water in a small bowl and brush the eggwash over the tops of the buns. Bake until golden, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool 5 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk sugar, milk, and vanilla together. Drizzle the frosting into the X on the top of each bun.

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