Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Vanilla Bean Yellow Cake and Caramel Buttercream Frosting

I know...I know...I'm a total slacker. I told you I would post this yummy cake..and I'm just now getting to it. I have a good excuse...its almost thanksgiving and I have a 25 pound turkey staring at me right now!

I’m very excited about today. For one…I can totally redeem my hardships from TWD last week, and two, I stepped outside my comfort zone and tried 2 new recipes.

It was my brother-in-laws girlfriends’ birthday last week and the family got together to celebrate. So naturally, I volunteered to make the cake. I felt a little apprehensive when I asked what her favorite cake was and found out it was a yellow cake with caramel icing.
Now you might think, ok, yellow cake should be something easy to find right? Well for me, no! And Caramel Icing? Good luck finding a recipe for it. As you may have come to know I am an avid researcher and since my first love is chocolate…so far chocolate cake is the one cake I have truly conquered. My last yellow cake I made, I was really just ‘so-so’ about. I had to kick it into high gear last week and cross my fingers that whatever recipe I tried was going to work….b/c it had to!

This week, I busted out about 10 of my cake books (yes, I am a cookbook hoarder) to seek out not only a better yellow cake recipe, but a caramel icing recipe. Out of ALL my cake/cupcake/baking books….not a single one had caramel icing. And I own “The Cake Bible”! Shouldn’t something called the bible have all the answers? LOL! Then I leafed through my personal recipe files of things I have pulled off the internet that I keep in a THICK 3 ring binder. Low and behold, my first frosting recipe is a caramel buttercream from good ol’ Martha Stuart! I combined that with my thanksgiving issue of “Fine Cooking” magazine (which just happened to explain the technique of a perfect caramel) BINGO!

My next feat was settling on a yellow cake recipe. I don’t know about any of you, but when I look for a cake recipe, it has to have buttermilk in the ingredients. I know, sounds silly, but compare two cakes with and without. The taste difference is amazing. The Joy of Cooking had just what I was looking for.

My cake came together without a hitch. Now if I could just take some cake decorating classes, I could improve the design. Hey it’s all about flavor for me anyway!

Yes, I designed the cake plate myself. The birthday girl LOVES green and pink.

Yellow Buttermilk cake
Recipe derived from “Joy of Cooking”

Dry Ingredients whisk together and set aside:
2 1/3 cups sifted cake flour (I used regular all-purpose and it worked just fine)
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt

Cream Mixture:
¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/3 cups sugar

Whisk together lightly and set aside:
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
I added : 1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped (discard bean or use for vanilla sugar)

1 Cup Buttermilk

1. Cream butter with paddle attachment until creamy. Add sugar and beat until light and fluffy, 3-5 minutes. Then, gradually beat in the eggs/vanilla mixture. Beat for about 2 minutes.
2. On the lowest speed, alternate adding the flour mixture and buttermilk in 3 parts ending with the flour.
3. Pour batter into (2) 8-inch round cake pans lined with parchment on the bottom or greased and floured. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.

Caramel Buttercream
Courtesy of: Martha Stewart
Makes 8 cups
All you need!

2 ¼ Cups sugar (divided)
½ Cup heavy cream
1 ½ pounds (6 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
9 egg whites
1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1. To make the caramel: In a medium saucepan combine 1 ¼ cups sugar and ½ cup water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Brush down the sides of the pot with a moist pastry brush. (I put a lid half way over the pot to keep the crystallization down. Continue to cook, and do not stir, but swirl the pan until the caramel becomes a dark amber color (similar to a lighter maple syrup). Remove from heat and slowly stir in the heavy cream with a wooden spoon until combined. Set pan aside to cool completely.

This is what the carmel should look like when its done

2. In a mixing bowl beat the butter until creamy and pale.
3. In a clean mixing bowl mix together the remaining 1 cup of sugar and egg whites. Set bowl over a pot of simmering water and whisk gently until sugar is dissolved. (about 3 minutes)
4. Transfer bowl to a stand mixer. Using the whisk attachment, beat the whites on medium speed until fluffy and cooled. This should take about 10 minutes. Increase the speed to high and mix until you have stiff peaks. Then reduce the speed to MEDIUM-LOW and add the butter ¼ cup at a time. Beat well after each addition. Beat in vanilla.
5. Switch to the paddle attachment and add the caramel to the meringue mixture on the lowest speed for about 3-5 minutes.

Seriously, this buttercream method creates THE fluffiest frosting you will EVER encounter...its WELL worth the work.

6. You can leave it at room temp if you plan on using it the same day, otherwise store the buttercream in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 3 days. Bring it back to room temperature before beating until fluffy.

Ok so not the most even frosting job...but...we will get there. I told you...its TASTE that matters.
Me and the Birthday Girl!
Happy Birthday "A"!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

TWD: Thanksgiving TWOfer pie

This week’s recipe for Tuesdays with Dorie was the Thanksgiving TWOfer pie A.K.A. pumpkin pecan pie. I think I still have MUCH to learn in the world of baking because even I stumbled through this recipe. First off, I have never baked pie crust from scratch, let alone a pie. I make cakes, cookies, a TON of tarts, but no pies. I think much of that has to do with the fact that I really am not a huge fan of pie, unless its pumpkin pie. So I was actually pretty excited to give this a whirl.

The pie crust is essentially easy to do, and requires only a few ingredients. The hard part was getting it to roll out without sticking to my board! The other was trying to get my crust to NOT burn in the oven.

The smells from the pumpkin mixture were heavenly! I used bourbon to replace the rum because I didn’t have rum in the house, and I added pumpkin pie spice because you can never have too much spice!! In fact, I topped this baby off with freshly whipped cream and a dash of cinnamon!
The pie didn’t quite go off without a hitch. First, my crust got a tad brown. Second, my pie came out mushy despite the knife test. Third, I didn’t like the pecan mixture on top of the pumpkin mixture.

I may try this again…with my own alterations. Maybe just pumpkin next time.
Trying new things can certainly be humbling. But, like with any profession…practice makes perfect.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Teaser Post

3 words: Birthday, Caramel Buttercream, Trois Vanilla cake....coming up! Stay tuned....

I know...I'm evil...really I am.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

TWD: Black Aborio Rice Pudding --AKA Chocolate Rice Pudding

Today is like the first day of school to me for two reasons --In no particular order of importance:
1. Today is my first post for Tuesdays with Dorie!!
2. I am now a full time blogger, housewife, and food writer.
I was laid off from my job on Friday (this lovely Michigan economy just keeps getting better). I am lucky to be in a position to embrace these changes and turn them into something better. Like…TWD!

I must say my husband was actually happy for me…or maybe for himself. I’m not sure which. (He is just thinking of all the food he will be getting now that I have more time on my hands I am sure!)

So there I was, Monday morning…tapping my fingers on my kitchen countertop thinking…hmmm what shall I do today? I will make Rice Pudding for Tuesdays with Dorie!

First off, I can’t say that I have really eaten rice pudding…and secondly I have vague memories of eating tapioca pudding in the 1st grade sitting at the lunch table…and turning up my nose at it...then secretly throwing it out. So, I wasn’t really sure about making rice pudding. But to my surprise as I was stirring (and sampling) I was delighted by the taste. It was absolutely YUMMY! It was nothing like my tapioca memory in the 1st grade at all.

I will mention that I probably should have searched TWD questions on the site (I’m new to this guys, I will learn the ropes eventually!) but had I read the site carefully I would have realize there was a slight typo and would have cooked my pudding longer…instead…I ended up with rice soup.

My thought, “No Problem!” I will just put it back on the burner and try to cook off more liquid. I think I got a little crazy in the simmer department because it is now stiffer than stiff. In fact, I’m a tad embarrassed to post today.

In reality, it’s probably good for me to post, because I am human, and can make mistakes. The important thing is to learn from them…and do it better next time.

I will be back TWD…hopefully with passing flying colors next time.
Want the recipe?? You will have to buy the book...TRUST me...these recipes will make you drool!

Johnny's Meatball Subs

I got an email last week and it went something like this"

“Sis? Can I order one of your meatball subs for this weekend? I will bring the beer. Nice talk”

Yes, this was an email from my brother-in-law last week. He put in his ‘order’.

While I don’t run a restaurant…sometimes I feel like I do. OK it’s really more like a soup kitchen because I don’t get paid in money…I get paid in reward by my family’s gratitude.

I found this recipe of all places: 30-Minute Meals by Rachel Ray. While I know some don’t show the love for Rachel Ray, I happen to like her. Plus, if you have ever looked at the Forbes top money makers (for TV)…she ranked at #16 in 2007. You have to hand it to someone like her, not formally food trained i.e. she isn’t a trained chef, to make it this far as a cook on the Food Network (not to mention all the other endorsements she probably gets!). In addition to that, anything I have chosen to make from her show has always tasted great. (Ah-hem…stepping off my soap box….)

So back to these subs! So we already know they are simple and fast because they are from the 30-minute meal series. PLUS, they are SOOOO good! My spin is using ground beef and getting these rolls called “Papa Sticks” they are from a local market, Papa Joe, and have a lot of flavor themselves so you just can’t go wrong with these subs. But…be warned…these things are FILLING!!!
And yes, I named these Subs Johnny’s subs because my husband Johnny says he ‘invented’ using the papa roll…(are you rolling your eyes like I am? Moving on…)

Make too much? Make Leftovers! I used the leftover meatballs, added some sauce and added some cooked whole wheat penne pasta, and topped it with shredded mozzarella. In the broiler for 10 minutes it went. I used the left over rolls, by slathering olive oil, crushed garlic, parsley and parmesan on the top and popping those in the broiler as well. It was serious good!!! Beat that Rachel….it took me 20 minutes!!

Yummy meatball subs, with my Bells Oberon in the background!

Ingredients....all laid out

Meatball Subs Recipe:
1 ½ pounds ground Beef (ground sirloin) (Rachel used ground Chicken)
1T. grill seasoning blend (she recommended Montreal Steak Seasoning by McCormick)
1 egg
1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
½ cup Italian bread crumbs
¼ cup parsley leaves, chopped
Good drizzle of olive oil to moisten the mix
2 cloves garlic, chopped
¼ t red pepper flakes
1 can crushed tomatoes (I used San Marzano)
1 cup chicken stock
10 leafs fresh basil, torn
4 crusty sub rolls
1 ½ shredded fontina cheese

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

In a large bowl add ground beef, grill seasoning, egg, half of the grated cheese, bread crumbs, parsley, and the olive oil. Mix the meat with your hands and form 12 large meatballs into mini meatloaves. Bake the meatballs for 10-15 minutes (depending on how you like your beef cooked). Pull out the meatballs and turn the broiler on.

Meat before meatball /Meatball shape

While the meatballs are cooking, in a small sauce pan over medium heat add olive oil, garlic, red pepper flakes, cook for about 30 second. Add tomatoes and chicken stock, stir. Season the sauce with salt and pepper. Simmer for 10 minutes. Then, stir in basil.

Tomato sauce

Prepare the rolls: hollow out the sub rolls to make room for the meatballs. Put buns under the broiler to get lightly toasted. Then, fill rolls with meatballs and sauce, top with fontina cheese and Parmigiano-Reggiano and return the subs back to the broiler to melt the cheese until golden.
Hollow out the rolls

After toasting, add the sauce and meatballs

Top with cheese

Wednesday, November 12, 2008 long lost love.

(Picture taken by Ann T., my lovely neighbor!)

To tell you the truth, I have never even eaten a gingersnap in my life… until about a week ago. I sat back thinking about this wondering, how have I gotten through 27 years of my life without even sampling…just one??

Could that really be?

Maybe a gingerbread man at some point, but a gingersnap?? Never.

I will tell you that I have made up for lost time in the short span of a week. A co-worker of mine brought in a homemade batch of these little morsels and I couldn’t turn them down. Something about the delicious amber color and spicy, gingery smell kept me reaching back into the cookie basket for another. (yes, …and another!). I admit it. I’m totally addicted to these cookies.
So I turned to an old stand by, yesterday to make a batch of these for myself. I cracked open my “The Joy of Cooking” and away I went. To Gingersnap Heaven.

Tip: I tend to be a non-conformist so I chose to change the recipe a bit, but you can certainly follow it, "The Joy of Cooking" way if you would like! The key is: use good, fresh ingredients. I bought a DARK organic molasses and I truly think it made a difference. Molasses is one of the key in gingersnaps. When you find a key ingredient for something…if you are going to splurge… this is the item you splurge on.

Are you ready for a piece of heaven?

By: "Joy of Cooking"

¾ Cup butter
2 Cups Sugar

Stir in:
2 well beaten Eggs
½ Cup Molasses
2 t. Vinegar
(I added 1 teaspoon of Vanilla Extract)
Sift and Add:
3 ¾ Cups All purpose flour
1 ½ t. baking soda
2 to 3 t. ginger
½ t. Cinnamon (I added 1 teaspoon)
¼ t. cloves

Mix ingredients until well blended.
Form dough into ¾ inch balls.
Bake on greased cookie sheet for 12 minutes at 350 degrees.
ENJOY!!! I know I did!!!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

A week of Family

Sorry I have been MIA! This week has been all about family. I went to see my sister and her 3 little ones in Chicago last weekend, then my cousin has been in town from Traverse all week, and now I am expecting friends from California for the entire weekend! I think I really need to quit my day job :). I have been cookin' and plan on doing some posting early next week!

Stay tuned...I have also JUST joined Tuesdays with Dorie! Its a baking club and we follow Dorie Greenspan's book and I am SUPER excited to follow along!

Stay tuned...more fall....more holiday....more Thanksgiving....more Christmas recipes...coming up!