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Posts from the ‘Cakes’ Category

Mocha Dacquoise Cake And The Winners Of the Giveaway

I usualy try to keep my posts consise, short,  but this one requires a lot of explanation so in advance let me apologize. This was quite an ordeal, the cake did not turn out exactly like I wanted, there were a few bumps in the road, as a matter of fact I had to keep changing things as I went along. The fillings were a disaster, I originally had the idea to use a Mocha Mousse as one of the fillings which sounds good in theory, but in practice not so much. When I put the mousse on the bottom layer and placed another layer on top of it and gently pressed down it oozed out all over the sides, it was not firm enough. The dacquoise although they feel firm in reality are fragile, very fragile. The French Buttercream was a disaster. I beat the egg yolks until tripled in volume and were thick and light in color. I brought the sugar syrup to 265 which is really past the hard ball stage on the thermometer, with the mixer running drizzled the hot syrup down the side of the bowl as directed, two problems with this 1. the sugar syrup when it hits the side of the bowl hardens so I moved it away from the side of the bowl and 2. the beater flung hardened sugar strands everywhere. OMG, it was a mess. I managed to make it adding the butter in pieces until combined. I had sugar candy stuck on the side of the bowl and sugar strands wound around the whisk from when the syrup hit it. Because the syrup was hard ball stage the buttercream was very stiff, which I guess is a good thing because it stays put unlike the mousse. Last minute I also made a buttercream recipe I saw on Food52 from Merrill Stubbs. It is a quick and easy version of a French buttercream using egg yolks, butter, powdered sugar and flavoring of your choice. It takes about 10 minutes to make is silky and thick and really a great frosting or filling. This went in as a filling, it wasn’t quite enough for a thick layer of filling but at this point it was ok. To cover up all the imperfections I frosted with the Chantilly but used my recipe for stabilized whipped cream frosting.

I tried the recipe from Saveur for the Dacquoise and failed pretty badly, not exactly sure what happened. The batter was runny, the dacquoise were like thin crisp mishapen sugar cookies. I know there is supposed to be a crispness but this was more cookie like.  IMHO I think there is too much sugar in the recipe. It’s also possible I over processed the almonds and sugar. The batter spread and didn’t look anything like the photo’s (sorry no photo’s) and video’s I’ve seen of how to make Dacquoise and certainly didn’t look like the one in the Saveur video (the video is included in the link above). Humph… I decided to search for another recipe and found one from Fine Cooking that looked good. It seemed pretty simple, the proportion of the ingredients sounded right and loved that it used hazelnuts and almonds (love hazelnuts).

misshapen, flat and really crisp first attempt

Second attempt, instead of rounds I made a rectanglar cake.  The recipe from Fine Cooking is wonderful, the batter is perfect, holds it’s shape when piped onto the baking sheet, I feel like this will be a success. The batter is super easy, and quick to put together. I have actually become quite good now at the dacquoise. Because one of the layers bit the dust, I quickly made a half a recipe which I can now make without even looking at the recipe and put it on top.

Final Analysis:

Perfect batter, ready for the long bake

Dacqoise

From Fine Cooking

1/2 cup toasted hazelnuts

1/2 cup toasted almonds

1 1/3 cup powdered sugar

1/8 tsp kosher salt

6 egg whites

1/3 cup granulated sugar

French Buttercream

7 large egg yolks (about 1/2 cup)

12 oz- 3 sticks usalted butter softenend

2/3 cup strong coffee

1 cup (7 1/2 oz) sugar

 Chantilly

2 cups heavy cream divided

2 1/2 tsp cornstarch

1/4 cup confectioners sugar

1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Buttercream

Recipe on Food52 by Merrill Stubbs

6 oz soft unsalted butter

2 egg yolks

2/3 cup confectioners or powdered sugar

1 tbs vanilla extract

Put all the ingredients in the bowl of the stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and beat until thick, silky and spreadable. Thats it, so easy!!

Instructions

Dacquoise

Pre heat oven to 225 degree’s and position a rack in the middle of the oven. Draw three 10×3 rectangles onto parchment paper, turn over and place on sheet pan spray with cooking spray, butter or oil and set aside.

Add the hazelnuts to food processor and pulse just until it is a fine powder, no longer otherwise it will turn to paste. Next pulse the almonds the same way. Place the nut flour in mixing bowl and sift the powdered sugar over and add the salt. Stir with rubber spatula to combine.

In stand mixer fitted with whisk attachement beat the egg whites for 3-4 minutes until there are soft peaks. Add the granulated sugar in 3 additions beating well after each addition and the egg whites are thick and glossy and hold a stiff peak.

Sprinkle the nut mixture on top and gently fold into the meringue until combined. The consistency will be thick and gooey. You can either use a piping bag with a 1/2 inch plain tip or spread the batter in the rectangles 3 inches apart as they will expand.  Place in the oven and bake for approximately 2- 3 hours or until they are firm to the touch. Turn off the oven and let them sit with oven door closed for 6 or more hours. NOTE: Although the recipe does not say to, I rotated the pans every now and then to ensure even browning. I used 2 sheet pans because I was afraid they would run (they didn’t) and the pan on the lower rack browned more quickly. Also the dacquoise were done at just slightly over 2 hours, so I turned off the oven and let them sit for about 6 hours. After turning off the oven I waited about 20 minutes and then gently loosed them. Believe me, it helped greasing the parchment they gave way easily and there was no sticking.

 French Buttercream

In a high sided saucepan over medium heat, add the coffee and sugar, set a candy or deep fry thermometer in the pan and cook until it reaches 265 degrees.

Meanwhile in the clean bowl of a stand mixer whip the egg yolks until tripled in volume and the color has lightened significantly, approximately 8 minutes.

Once the syrup has reached the temperature, remove and slowly pour the mixture into the yolks, whisking on medium low speed. Continue to run the mixer for 20-30 minutes, letting it cool completely. Once fully cooled, add the butter one tbs at a time, whisking until fully incorporated after each addition. The buttercream will thicken noticeably when all the butter has been fully incorporated.

Chantilly

To a small saucepan add 1/2 cup cream, whisk in the confectioners sugar and corn starch. Cook on medium heat until the mixture thickens. Immediately remove from the heat, scrape into a bowl and set aside, stirring frequently until cooled completely.

Place 1 1/2 cup cold heavy cream in mixing bowl and start beating using either whisk attachment on your stand mixer or hand held is fine also, add the cream cornstarch mixture and flavoring of your choice, continue to beat until thick and stiff peaks form. Cover and refrigerate until ready to assemble the cake.

Assembly

The layers were not even at all, some were smaller, some larger, there was some overhang and the layer that had the failed mousse attempt was cracked and broken. Dacquoise is very fragile and does well when filled and covered and refrigerated overnight or longer. Because the layers were uneven in size I trimmed them with kitchen shears as a knife just doesn’t cut it. The pieces and crumbs I pressed into the bottom layer that had some canyon size gaps, mixing with a little of buttercream from the sides of the cake. Talk about kitchen hacks, this cake was hacked every step of the way.

Anaylysis:

Will I ever make this again, maybe. The perfectionist in me wants to keep making it until I get it right but it literally was hours and days of work. The dacquoise I have down pat and it’s really not hard. I don’t think I will ever make the French buttercream again, it’s just not worth the effort and the results did not knock my socks off. I really like Merrill’s shortcut version of a French Buttercream, it tastes almost exactly like it, it’s fool proof, quick and easy. All in all I actually loved the challenge, it didn’t matter that it was a partial fail, I learned a lot and made something with a fair degree of difficulty and it was edible, I learned what to do and what not to do, what works and what doesn’t. Because of that I view this as a success for the simple fact that I did it! Tasting it though, it did kind of knock my socks off, the cake is delicious, the dacquoise retained its crunch kind of a melt in your mouth crunch and I am really glad I used hazelnuts. Ok maybe I will make it again.

The Winners

Selected by feeding everyone’s names into Random.org the winners of the cookbooks are and Annie@Give me meatloaf and Teagan@Teagans Books. Congratulations to you both. Watch for an email, I will need your mailing address so we can get those books out to you asap.

Happy Valentines Day-Chocolate Layer Cake With Whipped Chocolate Caramel Ganache Frosting

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I don’t really celebrate Valentine’s Day but one thing I love to do is make a special dessert, usually containing chocolate. The cake is chocolate, my favorite go to recipe from Hershey and the frosting is one that I developed and entered in a contest at Food52, I was lucky enough to win the contest with this simple and very delicious frosting, there is no added sugar so it’s not cloyingly sweet and is it’s very light. Three layers of cake piled high with chocolate caramel whipped ganache is a great way to celebrate this day that celebrates love. Speaking of love, February 13th is Percy’s gotcha day, I will forever be grateful to Emily for letting me adopt Percy and although he cannot have chocolate cake I will make him a special dinner, his outfit a vest, white shirt and red bow time was made by an uber talented designer I met on Instagram see her work @thestylishbisou, she is amazing.  I made a 8 inch 3 layer cake and the recipe for the ganache made just enough to fill and frost the top, you can easily double the recipe for more frosting to cover the entire cake.

I am bringing this special Valentines cake with me to Fiesta Friday #158 and the co hosts this week are Ai @ Ai Made It For You and Petra @ Food Eat Love Check out all the gorgeous food and join us all at the party.

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Hershey’s Best Chocolate Cake

makes 24 cupcakes, two 9 inch layers or three 8 inch layers

1 3/4 cup all purpose flour

3/4 cup unsweetened natural cocoa powder

2 cups sugar

1 tsp salt

1 1/2 tsp baking soda

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

2 tsp espresso powder (optional)

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1 cup whole milk at room temperature

2 large eggs at room temperature lightly beaten

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup boiling water

Heat oven to 350 degree’s. Line muffin pan with liners or butter and flour cake pans.

Whisk dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl. In 4 cup measuring cup add the wet ingredients and whisk together. Add to the dry ingredients and mix with electric mixer for 2 minutes. In the meantime put water on to boil and add the 1 cup boiling water to the batter and mix with electric mixer for 1 minute or until combined.

The batter will be thin, thats ok it’s supposed to be that way. Pour into prepared pans and for cupcakes bake 20-25 minutes. Layer cakes 30-40 minutes depending on size of the pan. Cake is done when tester inserted in middle comes out clean.

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Whipped Chocolate Caramel Ganache

Chocolate Caramel Sauce:
1 cup sugar
6 tablespoons salted butter cut into tablepoon-size pieces
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 ounces dark chocolate (I used bittersweet)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Put the heavy cream in a glass measuring cup and microwave on high for 45 seconds, add chocolate and microwave another 30 seconds Stir until its smooth, add the vanilla extract and stir to combine, add the butter to the warm chocolate cream and set aside .
In large saucepan add the sugar, turn heat to med/high and let sit until it starts to liquefy. Swirl the pot and gently move  with a heat proof spatula.  Cook until it turns amber in color.
Remove from heat and add the chocolate cream. Stir until its incorporated. Be careful when adding the cream and butter the hot liquid sugar will bubble and could burn you. Store in a container at room temperature until ready to use. If you make this ahead of time, simply place the bottle or jar in hot water to warm the caramel so it’s pourable. Note: I changed this slightly, instead of adding the butter and then the choolate cream. I added the butter to the warm chocolate cream and added it all at once after removing the caramel from the heat.
Ganache :
4 ounces dark chocolate broken into small pieces
4 ounces milk chocolate broken into small pieces
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 tablespoon liquor (I like cointreau or kahlua) or vanilla extract
1/2 cup chocolate caramel sauce
Heat cream to scalding (not boiling). Pour over the pieces of chocolate that are in a mixing bowl. Let sit 5 minutes then stir until there are no pieces of chocolate and it’s smooth and shiny, then add the chocolate caramel sauce and stir to combine.
Place bowl in an ice bath or in the refrigerator until cooled but not COLD  — it will stiffen fairly quickly if it gets too cold. Remove from the ice bath and beat with a mixer or whisk until the ganache is fluffy and spreadable. Frost the cake immediately. Best served at room temperature.

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Percy

Percy

Cupcakes And Calendars

Cover of our calendar

Cover of our calendar

January is turning out to be a really busy month, work is busy and thats a good thing.This is also my anniversary month, 5th year blogging, honestly it kind of blows my mind.  I have been really busy also with the work I am doing with a group on Instagram @Grumble Inc, we are a rapidly growing group of pet parents that do fun events on Instagram and raise money for animal rescue groups. The need is great and never seems to end. We work with other rescue and charitable groups holding online auctions to not just benefit rescue but to help out individuals who may not have the funds to pay for emergency or much needed veterinary care which includes surgery and other urgent issues. We recently put together an 18 month calendar with photo’s of our Instagram friends and all the proceeds go to @pugqueen who does amazing work rescuing pugs. Percy is featured on October 2017. The calendars are $15 plus shipping and we have sold about 150 so far.

Percy upper right corner

Percy upper right corner

On the rescue front you remember the little puggle I spoke about, Luna. Well she is doing great and is in a foster home where she is getting much needed medical care and evaluation for her seizure disorder. The great news is that she has only had one seizure since she has been in foster care and is thriving and happy. We have someone waiting for her who is giving her a forever home as soon as she is ready for adoption.

Luna

Luna

I am president of our block association and every year I plan a holiday party, this year has been a disaster. We planned on having it in December at a members home but a few days before the event we had to cancel because she was sick. I rescheduled to January 7th, after the holidays but thats ok, we had to cancel because of bad weather. NYC got blasted with a major snow storm and frigid temperatures. Most of the day yesterday was blizzard like conditions with the wind blowing and snow coming down fast and furious. Now I am thinking we will have a welcome Spring party, plans are in the works. The weather forecast did not call for the heavy snow or blizzard like conditions so I made cupcakes to take with me to the party. My go to chocolate cake recipe from Hershey’s it never fails and always produces a moist, chocolately and delicious cupcake. My favorite way to serve them is with a cream cheese buttercream frosting. Simple and delicious.

cupcakes

cupcakes

The recipe for the cupcakes is so easy to make, the recipe also makes an excellent layer cake. I love that there is no creaming of butter and sugar, you put all the ingredients in one bowl and mix it all together. I have posted this recipe several times here but it’s so good I feel good about posting again. There is no butter in this cake only vegetable oil. You don’t have to use hershey’s cocoa but it’s best to use cocoa powder that is not Dutch Process for this cake, use natural cocoa powder. If you don’t understand the difference read this article on Epicurious about the different types.

Hershey’s Best Chocolate Cake

makes 24 cupcakes, 2 9 inch layers or 3 8 inch layers

1 3/4 cup all purpose flour

3/4 cup unsweetened natural cocoa powder

2 cups sugar

1 tsp salt

1 1/2 tsp baking soda

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

2 tsp espresso powder (optional)

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1 cup whole milk at room temperature

2 large eggs at room temperature lightly beaten

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup boiling water

Heat oven to 350 degree’s. Line muffin pan with liners or butter and flour cake pans.

Whisk dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl. In 4 cup measuring cup add the wet ingredients and whisk together. Add to the dry ingredients and mix with electric mixer for 2 minutes. In the meantime put water on to boil and add the 1 cup boiling water to the batter and mix with electric mixer for 1 minute or until combined.

The batter will be thin, thats ok it’s supposed to be that way. Pour into prepared pans and for cupcakes bake 20-25 minutes. Layer cakes 30-40 minutes depending on size of the pan. Cake is done when tester inserted in middle comes out clean.

Cream Cheese Frosting

8 oz softened (room temperature) unsalted butter

8 oz cream cheese softened to room temperature

4-6 cups powdered sugar

2 tsp vanilla extract

approximately 1/4 cup milk or half and half

Cream the butter and cream cheese until soft and fluffy. Add powdered sugar a cup at a time mixing between each addition. Add the vanill and milk. When adding the milk do it slowely, and stop when it’s spreading consistency you may not need 1/4 cup or you might need a little more. You judge how much you add so that you reach the desired consistency.

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Pips Lemon Christmas- A Guest Post From Teagan Riordain Geneviene

 

Taken from Pinterest

Happy New Year Everyone.  On the first day of 2017 I wanted to do something special, not only are we starting a brand new year but this is my 5th year of blogging, in a few days will be the anniversary of A Pug In The Kitchen. Last year for my anniversary post I invited Teagan of Teagan’s Books to guest post and I had so much fun doing it I decided I would ask her again to collaborate with me. Teagans books are special, she takes me to a happy place with characters that come to life, mystical, magickal and a little bit of the supernatural are woven into stories that are so beautiful I honestly can’t and don’t want to stop reading. Whether it’s her amazing serials or a novel she never disappoints.  Teagan graciously penned this snippet with one of my favorite characters, Pip a flapper from the 1920’s. In doing some research of food in that era, citrus, specifically lemons were very popular so thats what we did, incorporated lemons not only into this delightful snipppet but also into a recipe for a lemony dessert.  I found a recipe for a lemon pound cake from the 1920’s that was served at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in their tea room. The cake was a disaster, it stuck to the bottom of the pan and didn’t come out in one piece,  but I didn’t let that deter me, I managed to salvage the cake, turning it upside down (the top of the bundt cake was missing) and serving it with a lemon sauce, like a lemon pudding cake, sort of.  I hope you all enjoy what Teagan has written for us all and again wishing all of you a joyous, healthy, happy and prosperous 2017. Take it away Teagan.

Pip’s Lemon Christmas

young-lucille-ball-pensive-peach

It had been a grand and glorious year.  However, it pos-i-lute-ly had ups and downs.  At that moment I was in one of the downs.  Even the long distance telephone call from my best friend Mona failed (miserably I might add) to cheer me.  She might not be sure where she wanted her future to go, but at least it was going somewhere.  All my friends were moving forward, going somewhere.  Me?  It didn’t look like I would ever get anywhere.

Not only was I going nowhere, I seemed to be going there all by myself.  Worse, it was Christmastime.  Even my Pops suddenly had to go up north on business.  I offered to go and keep him company…  Okay, so I begged. 

“Young ladies have no place at business meetings,” he told me in the stern, no nonsense voice that meant I wouldn’t get anywhere with my plea.

Idly, I looked at the lace covered table, lemons artfully arranged as a centerpiece.  I took one of the tangy fruits, tossed it in the air and caught it.  I pondered as I tossed the lemon. 

What would any self-respecting flapper do in such a situation?  Refuse to be a sourpuss, that’s what a flapper would do!

I decided as I tossed the lemon.  If all I had for Christmas was lemons, then I’d make lemonade — so to speak, especially after I found the bottle of hooch Pops had squirreled away.  I would have rather had the champagne I knew he hid some place, but that had been ages ago and I couldn’t remember where I saw it.

Gin will do just fine, I told myself.

Suddenly inspired, I gave the yellow fruit a final toss.  I went to the shoebox that held Granny’s recipes.  She had given me instructions for all sorts of citrus treats, and I was a sourpuss with a sweet tooth.

1920s-lemons-king-tut-brand

A little while later I was cleaning up the kitchen as it filled with citrusy baking aromas.  Just as I picked up the remains of my lemons, a loud knock pounded at the front door.  It startled me so badly that I ran to the door with barely a wipe to my juice drenched hands.

“Delivery!” the words came with another thunderous knock.

I threw open the door and the cool December air hit my face.  It was downright brisk, for Florida anyway.  There was a truck in the driveway and a young man with a name embroidered on his jacket — Ronny.  I took the package, barely looking at the guy who handed it to me.  My hands tore at the twine excitedly, even before I went inside.  Meanwhile Ronny the delivery man wrote something on the receipt clamped to his clipboard.

“If you’ll sign here, Miss?” he asked.

There was a card inside the package from my friend Mona.  The front of it said “I’m sorry you’re alone at Christmas.”  Hurriedly I stuck the edge of the note between my teeth and tucked the package under my arm so I could take the clipboard and sign the form.

Only then did I notice what a cutie the guy was.  He tilted his head all the way to his shoulder and read aloud the note while I signed.  As soon as I heard him speak the words, I blushed scarlet.  To make matters worse, he made a sympathetic aww sound that made me feel like a six year-old.

In my flustered flurry of motions, taking the note from my teeth, trying to stick it back in the package, and pushing my hair back… wouldn’t you know I touched a lemon coated finger to my face.  I yelped as the citrus stung my eyes.  It made tears stream down my cheeks.man_ray_tears

The guy sounded guilty when he pleaded to know what the matter was, as if he had caused it.  The only word I could manage to utter was, “Lemons!”

He pulled my hand away from my face and lightly sniffed it.  He gave a little chuckle that made me want to bean him.

“Yep, that’s lemons all right.  For a minute there I was afraid you got bad news,” he commented.  “But I guess being alone on Christmas Eve is bad enough.”

For some reason his comment made me lose my composure.  I burst out in real tears and sobs, no longer caused by the stinging citrus.  I plopped down on the porch and sat there with the package in my lap.  This upset poor Ronny.  He started blabbering apologies, clearly unsure of why he was asking for forgiveness.

“Look sweet cakes, you’re my last delivery.  Let me help you wash your face and get rid of that lemon juice before you put your fingers in your eyes again,” he offered in a contrite voice.

I insisted that it was okay, and with a sniffle, silenced my sobs.  Too embarrassed to look at him I turned my attention back to Mona’s gift.  Her card had fallen, but Ronny picked it up and handed it to me.  I took it from him and with a deep breath I spoke the words that humiliated me a moment before.

“I’m sorry you’re alone at Christmas,” I read the elegant script on the outside, and then opened the card.  “So you’ll just have to make your own party.”

Antique champagne Glasses

What?  Digging through the packing paper I found two sparkling etched crystal goblets.  I held up one of the glasses to watch the light play on it.  I looked at Ronny, feeling utterly bemused.  He returned my gaze with a twinkle in eyes that I suddenly noticed were a heavenly shade of blue.

Ronny picked up the other empty glass and playfully tapped it against the one I held.  I suddenly remembered where Pops hid the bubbly.

The end

***

Copyright © 2016 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene

All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission.  Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights.

All images are either the property of the author or from Pinterest unless stated otherwise.

when life gives you lemons...

when life gives you lemons…

Pound Cake With Lemon Sauce

You can use homemade cake or just go buy Sara Lee Pound Cake for this. The star is really this pucker worthy lemony sauce served over the cake. It couldn’t be easier to make and has only a few ingredients.

Lemon Sauce

Adapted from a recipe on Epicurious

2/3 cup sugar

2 1/2-3 tbs cornstarch

1 1/2 cup water

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

zest of 2 lemons

1 tbs unsalted butter

Whisk sugar and cornstarch in heavy bottom non reactive saucepan, add the water and cook over medium high heat until mixture thickens and starts to boil, add the lemon juice and zest and continue cooking until it comes to a boil again and immediately remove from the heat, add the butter and whisk until combined. Refrigerate until slightly thickened and serve. It can be made a day ahead just bring to room temperature before serving.

Did the delivery man join Pip?

Did Ronny join Pip, I think so?

Best Damn Fruitcake The Start Of Holiday Baking

Festive

Festive

It’s been a little while since I’ve posted anything, things have been kind of crazy and time has gotten past me. Cooking has not been a priority except what I need to sustain myself. I am going to make a concerted effort to post more, cook more, develop recipes, it’s my passion that frankly has taken a back seat to other things and I feel like I am unbalanced. I need to get back in the groove so to speak and am hoping that all the cooking that I am doing will help me to get my mojo back. In January my blog will be 5 years old, thats a long time and I am proud of how this site has evolved and also saddened that I have let it slip away lately. It has taken me a while to get some balance after the passing of Nando and Izzy. Percy is helping me and is such a good boy, he has brought joy back into my life. I am so thankful for that.

The Holidays are upon us, for me that means a lot of time in the kitchen baking. Cookies, mini loaves, cakes and pies, it’s a very important part of the holidays for me and this year will be no exception. The title of this recipe may sound kind of funny but that’s actually what they called it in Pure Wow which is where I first found this recipe. I have changed it considerably from the ingredients to the baking time and temperature. That said this is the BEST fruitcake I have ever had. A far cry from the commercially prepared and dreaded Christmas gifts that many of us grew up on. No green and red candied or fake fruit, there is actually noticable cake with a balanced amount of fruit and nuts. I make this every year and although these photo’s are from last year as I have not started my baking yet it will be made this year many times over, it is included in my gift baskets for friends and family who all agree that it really is The Best Damn Fruitcake.

fruit cakes

fruit cakes after a good soaking and brushed with a little plum jam

Best Damn Fruitcake

Makes one 9 inch loaf or 3 mini loaves

1 1/2 cups dried fruit of your choice- I used cherries, cranberries, apricots, pears and golden raisins. Use however much you like of each so that you have a total of 1 1/2 cups

1 1/2 cups nuts chopped- I used pecans, hazelnuts, pistachio’s and almonds. Use whatever you like, however much of each so that it equals 1 1/2 cups

1 1/2 cup booze or fruit juice like apple cider- (I have used cognac, bourbon, port, also have thrown in some Poire William), heated on stove top or in microwave until hot not boiling .

12 tbs unsalted butter at room temperature

1 cup packed light brown sugar

2 eggs at room temperature

2 tsp vanilla

1 tbs orange or tangerine zest

1 1/2 cup flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

pinch of cinnamon

1 tbs retained liquid from fruit

Demerara or turbinado sugar for sprinkling

Instructions

Pre heat oven to 325 and prepare your loaf pan or pans. Butter or spray with cooking spray.

Pour the hot booze or juice over the fruit and let sit for at least 30 minutes. The longer the fruit sits in the liquid the better it is in my opinion, the recipe only has the fruit macerate for 10 minutes, but it can easily sit overnight or 48 hours.

Drain the fruit but retain the liquid, you will need it later so don’t discard.

Place the drained fruit and chopped nuts in a bowl and set aside.

In your mixer with paddle attachment cream the butter and sugar for about 4-5 minutes. It should be light and fluffy, scrape sides as needed. Add the eggs one at a time beating well between additions and scraping the sides of the bowl. Add the vanilla, orange zest and cinnamon.

Whisk together the flour, salt and baking powder. Add to the butter mixture and beat only until combined adding 1 tbs of retained liquid from the fruit. Remove the bowl from your mixer and add the fruit and nuts and fold in until combined. Add the batter to the pan or pans, smooth the top and sprinkle with the sugar. Bake with the rack in the middle of the oven. If you are making one loaf for about 90 minutes or more (watch carefully) or until tester comes out clean. If mini loaves approximately 40-50 minutes. They will be golden brown. Remove from the oven and spoon some of the retained liquid on the loaf or loaves and let cool in the pan for about 10 minutes. Remove from pan and finish cooling on rack, spoon some more liquid on them and wrap in plastic or cheese cloth and store in air tight tin, These are best served 48+ hours after baking. Over the next couple of days continue to spoon more of the retained liquid on the loaf re wrapping and storing in the airtight container until you are ready to serve.

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Block Party, Tofu, And It’s Finally Autumn

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It has been a crazy few weeks, the last week especially. Saturday the 24th our block association (I happen to be President)  had our annual block party and the planning and preparation was non stop,  I was so nervous, hoping and praying that it did not rain. The last block party was cancelled because of heavy rain and one thing for certain is that you cannot control Mother Nature.  I watched the weather report every day and was so pleased that the weather was beautiful, we started out with some rain in the morning but it cleared to a bright, sunny slightly cool day. Everything went well, a few technical issues but our neighbors all banded together and the problem was solved. The block party is carefully orchestrated and members of our block all work together as a team. I started in June by filling out all the paperwork for a city permit which includes closing our street to cars, getting a sound permit from the police, getting insurance for the day among other things we have to do to prepare. We always have a blow up bouncy castle for the children to play in, this year we were so lucky that the local police precinct brought their rock climbing wall, the police supervise the children and make sure they are safe. We hired a DJ so there was great music and we collaborated with the local elementary school which is on the block and they provided a rock band comprised of students who attend after school programs at the Brooklyn Music School, they were amazing. When they played Nirvana’s great song “Smells Like Teen Spirit” the crowd went wild. All in all a great day for our neighborhood, we grilled burgers, hot dogs, veggie burgers and fish, there were assorted beverages and we had a bake sale.

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rock climbing wall- not our block but thats what the wall looked like

It is starting to feel like Fall, up until a few days before the party it was almost 90 degree’s, humid and pretty miserable. All of a sudden, there is a slight chill in the air and the telltale signs of Fall are slowely becoming apparent. Today walking to the store I noticed they were setting out beautiful  Mums, I love the colors and when displayed with pumpkins it makes such a beautiful Fall decoration, some local shops have painted fall scenes on their windows, our neighborhood seems to come alive at this time of year. The days are shorter and I am so happy to not be using my air conditioner which has run non stop the entire summer, it was so unbearably hot. I am looking forward to Halloween, a favorite holiday of mine, there is nothing about this time of year that I don’t like.

I’ve barely had time to cook or post on the blog, and have been absent on all social media as well. I continue with the change in my eating, avoiding sugar, grains, flour etc… but have not cut dairy or fats and I’ve lost weight. This is going to be a life style change for me, it’s not a diet, of course there will be times when I indulge but I plan on staying on this course for the long run. For the block party I had a bake sale and made cookies and cupcakes, I gave some to neighbors and the police and sold the rest. I love making cupcakes and made vanilla and chocolate using my favorite chocolate cake recipe from Hershey’s Cocoa can and my Tender Yellow Cake recipe for the vanilla cupcakes. The frosting is a simple vanilla buttercream using butter, cream cheese, confectioners sugar, vanilla and cream.

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My meals are small and consist of mostly vegetables and protein. I recently made a quick and easy stir fry using tofu shirataki, noodles made from tofu and Japanese yam, they are wonderful and so easy to prepare. I used what I had on hand, kale, red bell pepper, zucchini, egg and garnished with peanuts. This is not really a recipe you can use whatever you have on hand.

Tofu Noodle Stir Fry

Made 2 servings

red bell pepper sliced into strips

zucchini chopped or cut into strips

kale, leaves only, no stems chopped

2 scallions, white and light green parts chopped

1 tbs minced ginger

1 clove garlic chopped

soy sauce

toasted sesame oil

neutral vegetable oil to cook the vegetables

tofu shirataki noodles

1 egg beaten and cooked into a thin omelette, cut into strips

chopped roasted peanuts for garnish

First pour the noodles (they are fresh and are packaged in liquid) into a strainer and rinse well several times. Set aside to drain.

Heat vegetable oil in a skillet and add the ginger, scallion and garlic, cook until it’s fragrant and soft. Add the vegetables and cook until the vegetables are cooked through. Cook the egg either in the microwave or skillet and cut into strips. Add the tofu noodles to the vegetables and stir to combine, add soy sauce and a few splashes of sesame seed oil to taste. Stir in the egg and serve with some chopped peanuts.

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Tofu is a great source of protein and I think of it like white walls, a blank pallet waiting to be transformed and enhanced. I bought a package of firm tofu the other day and made a marinade using white miso, soy sauce, mirin, honey, ponzu, rice wine vinegar, ginger and garlic chili sauce. I patted the tofu with a paper towel to remove excess liquid, cut into bite size pieces and added to the marinade and let it sit overnight in the refrigerator. The next day I oven roasted at 425 degrees after drizzling with some sesame oil.  The tofu absorbed the flavor of the marinade and became crisp on the outside, tender on the inside and was delicous with some broccolini steamed first then finished in the oven drizzled with the marinade from the tofu and some sesame oil.

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No Bake Chocolate Cheesecake Low Sugar

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I am working very hard to change my eating habits and as I’ve mentioned before one thing I have a real problem with is going without dessert. I made that cheesecake with the fruit topping which was delicious but I wanted to try something I didn’t have to bake. This is really a non recipe, only a few simple ingredients but it turned out absolutely delicious. Again it’s all about portion size and I made these in little cupcake papers. They are tiny but just enough to satisfy. What I love about this is that there is no cooking or baking required and it’s ready in a flash.

No Bake Chocolate Cheesecake

Makes 6

8 oz cream cheese

2 tsp organic stevia

1 tsp vanilla

3 1/2 oz dark chocolate broken into pieces

1/2 cup half and half or heavy cream

Carrs whole meal biscuit

chocolate to drizzle

ground hazelnuts to garnish ((I used King Arthur toasted hazelnut flour)

Heat the half and half or heavy cream in the microwave to scalding approximately 40 seconds. Add the chocolate and let sit for 5 minutes. Stir until smooth, if you need to put it back in the microwave do it for 20 seconds.

Place cream cheese,stevia and vanilla in the food processor and pulse until creamy. Add the chocolate mixture and process for a few seconds until combined and it’s smooth.

Place a whole meal biscuit at the bottom of the cupcake liners and spoon a little of the cheesecake mixture on top. Smooth the top and refrigerate until set. About 4 hours.

I used cupcake cups with straight sides but you can use regular cupcake liners. Removing was fairly simple, I ran a small flexible offset spatula to loosen the edges then tore the cupcake paper to release and using the spatula I lifted the cheesecake onto the plate.

Serve with a drizzle of chocolate sauce and a sprinkling of ground hazelnuts.

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Black and White Cookies For Fiesta Friday #127

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Black and White Cookies are an iconic treat made famous in New York City. There are multitudes of articles and opinions of who makes the best. Russ and Daughters, Zabar’s, Glasers, the opinions are as numerous as the number of black and whites in NYC. In doing some research I saw that one theory of origin is that it was was first made in Utica, NY and called “the half moon” (my hometown) at Hemstroughts Bakery (my families favorite bakery). You can see reference to the black and white on one of my favorite Seinfeld episodes and it is thought to be “the New York snack”.  History aside, these are some seriously delicious cookies, or really they are small cakes. The cookie part is like a sponge cake, soft and voluptuous and the glaze is sweet and the perfect topping for this substantial cookie.

I thought I would try my hand at making the “black and white” and studied some recipes and my favorite was one from Epicurious. It seemed very easy to make and the cookies looked wonderful. The recipe makes eight large cookies, now they say to put about 1/4 cup batter 2 inches apart on a large sheet pan, maybe mine was not large enough because some of my cookies ran together. I don’t really care that they are not perfectly round, as long as they taste good. Let me tell you, this is a really good recipe, the cookies are delicious. The cookie came out exactly as it should, flat on the bottom and domed on the top, it has a tender crumb and is very cake like. The glaze is wonderful as well. This recipe is a keeper.

I made these cookies with 2 things in mind, first of all my young cousin who lives in NYC just had surgery and I am going to see her tomorrow, her favorite thing is the black and white so I am bringing some to her. Next I am lucky enough to be co hosting Fiesta Friday #127 this week with the lovely and uber talented Jess @Cooking Is My Sport. You are all invited to the party!!

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Black And White Cookies

Recipe on Epicurious

1 1/4 cup AP flour

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1/3 cup butter softened to room temperature

1/2 cup sugar

1 egg

1/3 cup buttermilk (I didn’t have buttermilk so I thinned some creme fraiche, worked great)

1/2 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degree’s. Whisk together or sift the flour, baking soda and salt.  In your stand mixer with the paddle attachment cream the butter and sugar for about 3 minutes until light and fluffy. Add the egg and beat to combine well. Mix the vanilla with the buttermilk. Add the flour mixture alternately with the buttermilk ending with the flour mixture. The batter is quite thick and I used a heaping 1 1/2 tbs scoop for each cookie. Line your cookie sheet with parchment and spray lightly with cooking spray. (In retrospect I would not bake all 8 cookies at the same time because some of them ran together slightly) place the scoops about 2 inches apart and bake for about 15 minutes (I took them out at 13 minutes). Place cookies on cooling rack and make the glaze.

Vanilla and Chocolate Glaze

1 1/4 cup confectioners sugar

1 tbs clear corn syrup

2 tsp lemon juice

1-2 tbs water

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder.

1/4 tsp vanilla

Mix the sugar, corn syrup, lemon juice and vanilla together. Add water as needed until it’s spreading consistency, it will be thick. The recipe said to divide into two bowls, I didn’t do that. When the coolies were cool I spread the white part with a small offset spatula, when that was done I added to the remaining glaze the chocolate, 1/2 tsp corn syrup and another tbs of water and spread that on the other half of the cookie (it saved me from getting another bowl dirty). Make sure the glaze is set before storing them.

Really good

Really good, quality control, cooks perogative taste testing.

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Pavlova With Strawberries And Elderflower Whipped Cream

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Normally I don’t post 2 days in a row, but today is the summer soltice which happens to also fall on the same day as the full moon, the strawberry moon,  a once in a lifetime occurrence the last time this happened was in 1948,  so to celebrate I made Pavlova, an ethereal, light and beautiful dessert, I used strawberries in honor of the strawberry moon and they happen to be at their peak now.  I’ve never made one before, I’ve seen them all over blogs and food websites and it’s been on my bucket list for a while now. After making the rhubarb cordial I have been thinking of different ways to use it besides in drinks. This dessert came to mind, pavlova with strawberries that are macerated in the rhubarb cordial piled onto the meringue layer and topped with whipped cream that is gently flavored with elderflower. I found so many recipes online for the meringue and believe it or not they all varied in cooking temp, ranging from 180 degrees up to 300. I opted for Ina Gartens recipe which bakes at the lower temp of 180, I didn’t want it to brown but to stay white.

It is a dreamy dessert, beautiful to look at, I love the way the layers are each a little different making it just a little off, slightly cracked, perfect in it’s imperfection. It is elegant and delicious. If I sound smitten it’s because I am. Strawberry and rhubarb are a great combination and although this contains only a rhubarb liquor the flavor though subtle is still there. This is a decidedly adult dessert, and if you don’t happen to have any of the rhubarb cordial, macerating the strawberries in sugar is delicious and will be family friendly or you do not have to macerate the berries, slicing and layering on the cake is perfectly fine. The lovely syrup that the strawberries were sitting in is then drizzled over the finished cake when served. The recipe was delicious as it was but next time I would make a few minor changes.

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Pavlova

4 extra large egg whites at room temperature (I used large eggs)

pinch of kosher salt

1 cup sugar (Next time I will use 3/4 cup sugar)

2 tsp corn starch (I would increase the cornstarch to 3 tsp)

1 tsp white wine vinegar

1 tsp vanilla

Slice some strawberries and sprinkle with sugar, I poured a scant 1/2 cup of rhubarb cordial on them and macerated for an hour or two. Remove strawberries, drain in sieve over a bowl and set aside, save the rhubarb syrup it’s wonderful drizzled on the pavlova.

Pre heat the oven to 180 degree’s or the lowest setting on your oven. Prepare a sheet pan by lining with parchment and draw circles 8 inch round on the parchment and turn over so the pencil or pen is not touching the batter, or do as I did and use three 8 inch parchment rounds (had to use a half and quarter sheet pan) I wanted 3 thinner layers rather than one thick layer.

Put the egg whites in your stand mixer with the whisk attachment, add the pinch of salt and whip until they are thick and foamy, slowly add the sugar about a tbs at a time and beat them until they are glossy and stiff (about 2-3 minutes).  Fold the corn starch and vanilla into the egg whites. Spoon onto the parchment rounds and smooth. Bake for 1 1/2 hours turn off the oven and leave in the oven until completely cooled. I liked using the parchment rounds because it was very easy to peel them off the meringue rounds.

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To Assemble

Whip the cream, add the sugar and vanilla and if you have a tsp of elderflower syrup. I used 1 cup of heavy cream, a generous tbs of sugar and 1 tsp vanilla.

Place a meringue round on serving plate or cake stand. Spoon some of the strawberries on and top and some whipped cream. Place the other meringue round on top, repeat and top with last meringue, spoon some of the whipped cream on top and decorate with berries.

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Ice Cream Cake With Hot Fudge Sauce, A Guest Post And Fiesta Friday #122

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This is a very special post, first of all it’s a guest post for my dear friend Cheryl of Cheryl “Cheffie Cooks” Wiser. Now if you don’t know Cheryl, in a nutshell she is Super Woman, mother of 5 (including twins), she has 9 (yes NINE) blogs that she keeps up with daily. I can barely manage one, how does she do it, like I said she is Super Woman. Well, Cheryl is going away on a much needed family vacation and has asked some of her friends to do guest posts, I am honored and thrilled to be the first guest post while Cheryl is away. She lives in Florida and her recipes are family friendly, simple, tasty and are made with readily available ingredients. I also have to mention that she has published 1477 (maybe more now) recipes on the Tasty Kitchen website. Visit Cheryl and her 9 blogs, you will be amazed as I am and she is one of the nicest people you will meet.

I wanted to make dessert, a cake,the first cake in theory would have been great but it flopped big time and went straight to the circular file if you know what I mean, as I lamented my failure I got an email from the editors at Food 52, my recipe for Brooklyn Blackout Semifreddo Cake is going to be in their new Ice Cream cookbook, what an incredible honor, it gave me an idea, an Ice Cream Cake will be the perfect dessert. I used the same sponge cake recipe for the blackout cake but instead of a semifreddo I decided to just use ice cream from the supermarket. Lazy, maybe but it’s ok it’s still delicious. You can use what ever ice cream you like, homemade is wonderful but if not, buy your favorite flavors. It is served with a rich, thick warm hot fudge sauce that I like to spike with kahlua, that is purely optional of course but it’s really good.

This special ice cream cake is going to be rushed (before it melts) over to Angie’s for Fiesta Friday #122. This week’s co hosts are Mollie @ The Frugal Hausfrau and Aruna @ Aharam

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Chocolate Sponge Cake

Makes 1 large (10-inch) loaf cake plus extra scraps

  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 8 large eggs at room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place milk and butter in a glass measuring cup and microwave for 45 seconds, or until the butter is melted. Using a stand mixer with the wire whisk attachment (or a hand-held electric mixer), whip the eggs and sugar on medium-high for approximately 8 minutes, or until the mixture is pale yellow, tripled in volume, and thick.
  2. With the machine still running, slowly add the heated milk and butter. Sift together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt. Fold it into the egg mixture; there should be no lumps. Fold in the vanilla.
  3. Grease a 1/2 sheet pan, line with parchment, grease the parchment, and sprinkle with sugar or dust with flour. Pour batter into the pan, spread so that it is evenly distributed, and bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Allow to cool for a couple of minutes in the pan, then run a knife or flexible offset spatula around the edges to loosen. Invert onto a wire rack, remove parchment, and let cool completely.

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Hot Fudge Sauce:

4 oz milk chocolate cut into pieces

4 oz dark chocolate cut into pieces

1/2 cup heavy cream

1 tbs vanilla extract( or optional 2 tbs kahlua coffee liquor)

Place chocolate pieces in mixing bowl, bring cream almost to a boil, scalding. Pour over the chocolate and let sit for 5 minutes. Stir until smooth and creamy, add the vanilla or optional kailua if like

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Assembling the cake:

2 pints of your favorite ice cream flavors softened. I used Il laboratorio del Gelato brand (made right here in NYC, it’s amazing),the flavors are malt and bourbon pecan.

The cake should be cut into rectangular slices that will fit snuggly into the loaf pan, I used a 10 in pan and cut three 5×9 1/2 inch slices, make sure to save the scraps.  Line the pan with plastic wrap with enough overhang so that it will cover the top of the cake.

Soften the ice cream so that it is spreadable consistency. Place first layer of cake at the bottom of the pan add ice cream and smooth. If the ice cream is melting place in freezer between layers. Add another layer on top of the ice cream and repeat. Place top layer of cake on, cover with plastic wrap and place in freezer all day or overnight or at a minimum 2-4 hours. NOTE: I use a pint of ice cream in between each layer

To serve, take the cake out of the freezer about 10-15 minutes before serving. Slice and spoon some of the hot fudge sauce on top.

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