Tuesday, July 15, 2014
Not only is this Vanilla Pound Cake beautiful, it is also delicious. I made it to bring to a friend's house for Independence Day here in the States, and dressed it for the occasion with strawberries, blueberries and whipped cream, to give it the appropriate red, white, and blue accessories.
But to be honest, I did like the cake best when it was solo. That is when the vanilla flavor really came out and I could savor the flavor and the texture in my mouth a bit longer (instead of shoveling it in my mouth on July 4, while sharing dallops of my whipped cream with the clever boy.) This cake is not only tasty when it is made, but it is also delicious the next day, and actually for several days thereafter if wrapped well in plastic wrap. In fact, I'd almost say it was even better a day later, as it seemed like the vanilla was even more prominent at that point.
This recipe is a definite keeper. It is easy and delicious. What more do you need?
Vanilla Pound Cake
adapted from Baking with Julia
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature, whisked to blend
1 cup milk, at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Position an oven rack in the lower 1/3 of the oven and preheat to 350F. Butter and flour a 10-inch tube pan or bundt pan and set aside.
Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together onto some waxed paper or parchment paper. Set this aside.
Beat the butter in an electric mixer using the paddle attachment at medium speed until smooth. Add the sugar in a steady stream while the mixer continues to run. Stop and scrape the bowl with a rubber spatula as necessary. Beat at medium until the butter and sugar mixture is very light and fluffy, 4-5 minutes.
With the mixer still on medium speed, add the eggs, 1 tablespoon at a time. If the mixture becomes watery or shiny stop adding eggs and turn the mixer to a higher speed until the mixture smooths out again. Then decrease the speed ad continue adding the eggs, scraping down the bowl and paddle as necessary. This process will take 3-4 minutes. The mixture is properly combined when it looks white, fluffy, and increased in volume.
Reduce the mixer speed to low and slowly add the flour alternately with milk. There will be 4 additions of flour and 3 of milk. Scrape the bowl frequently and mix until the batter is smooth after each addition. Add the vanilla and mix just to blend.
Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake for 55-65 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer the cake to a cooling rack and allow to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Invert the cake onto the rack, remove the pan, an cool to room temperature. Serve the cake in very thin slices.
Keep the cake covered at room temperature or wrap airtight and freeze for a month.
Very soon after making this pound cake, a friend told me that he was craving a chocolate pound cake. Anyone have a favorite recipe to share? I'd love to see it!
Check out the TWD blog to see what other bakers thought of this pound cake!
Saturday, July 5, 2014
Are you wondering what this has to do with meatballs? I'll tell you, I promise. We went to the yummy Italian place for dinner, where the clever boy absolutely went to town on these giant meatballs that we ordered. He LOVED them. A-HA! I thought. I must make giant meatballs! I decided to serve them with creamy polenta because, well, it's a really great idea and because the clever boy loves polenta as well. Win-win dinner plan!
After lots of research into the best Italian Meatball recipe, I settled on the recipe below. Though many swear by using beef, pork and veal in meatballs, I have a THING about veal so I needed a 2-meat meatball. These were perfect! Don't be alarmed by the long list of ingredients - they are easy to find and the recipe is pretty easy and fast to put together!
adapted from Simply Recipes
Makes about 16 meatballs
1 pound ground beef (at least 16% fat)
1 pound ground pork
2/3 cup milk (whole or 2%)
3 slices of white bread, crusts removed
1/4 cup ricotta cheese
1/4 cup grated parmesan or romano cheese
2 teaspoons Kosher salt
1 TB chopped fresh parsley
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
about 1 cup flour, for dusting
1/3 cup olive oil
2 1/2 cups (24 oz.) tomato sauce (your own or use following recipe)
2 TB olive oil
3/4 cup finely chopped onions
3/4 cup finely chopped carrots
3/4 cup finely chopped celery
2 TB chopped fresh parsley
1 garlic clove, minced
1 28 -oz. can crushed or whole tomatoes, including the juice (I recommend using San Marzano tomatoes if you can find them)
1/2 teaspoon dried basil or 2 TB chopped fresh basil
2 teaspoon tomato paste
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
If you are using the above recipe for tomato sauce, start with that. The sauce will simmer while you prepare the meatballs. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions, carrots, celery and parsley (I chopped them all together in the food processor). Stir to coat with the oil, reduce the heat to low, and cover the pan. Cook until the vegetables are soft and coked through, about15-20 minutes. Remove the cover, add the garlic, and increase the heat to medium-high. Cook the garlic for 30 seconds and then add the tomatoes. If you are using whole canned tomatoes, break them up with your fingers as you add them, otherwise just dump in the can of crushed tomatoes. Add the tomato paste and basil and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a low simmer, reduce the heat to low, and allow to cook uncovered until thick 15-30 minutes. Puree the sauce in a blender or food processor, or push through a food mill, and pour it back into the large skillet.
For the meatballs: Heat the milk in a small saucepan until steamy. Turn off the heat, tear the bread into little pieces, and soak it in the milk until the bread partially dissolves. Mash the bread until it is paste-like. Pour it onto a plate to cool.
In a large bowl, combine the meats, cheeses, eggs, salt, herbs, pepper, garlic and the bread-mixture (all of the ingredients ABOVE the flour for dusting). Mix well with your hands until it barely combines. Don't overwork the mixture, this will make for tough meatballs! It's ok to have some clear bits of bread or meat in the mix - better than than tough meatballs.
Pour the flour into a pie pan or other flat dish. Wet your hands and form meatballs. A traditional size is 2-3 inches. Mine were closer to 3+. Once the meatball is rolled in your hands, roll it in flour. Set each floured meatball on a baking sheet as you finish the other meatballs.
When all of the meatballs are ready, heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Brown the meatballs on at least 2 sides. They will continue cooking in the sauce, so don't worry about getting them all the way done.
Arrange the browned meatballs in the sauce, turning each one over so it is coated. Cover and simmer gently for 15-20 minutes. Serve with the sauce and creamy polenta!
adapted from The Kitchn
Makes about 4 cups
4 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup polenta or yellow cornmeal
1 cup cheese (optional)
1-3 TB butter (optional)
Bring the water to a boil and add the salt. Pour the polenta into the boiling water while whisking constantly. Turn the heat down to low and continue to whisk as the polenta thickens. Cover the pan and cook for 30-40 minutes, stirring vigorously every 10 minutes or so. Make sure you scrape down the sides and around the corners of the pan. If you are using cheese and butter, add this after the polenta is at the consistency that you prefer. Serve immediately, or cover and let sit for up to 15 minutes before serving.
Tuesday, July 1, 2014
Honestly, I am not sure why one might make a leaf-shaped focaccia bread. Maybe for a bread basket at a fancy Thanksgiving dinner? But then it would be sliced up already so no one would see the leaf shape. But I guess you could say this about any fancy shaped bread - the braids, the wreaths, etc. And I do love those. Maybe I was just not as excited about the leaf.
However, the dough is not at all difficult to make, only sort of time consuming, as it has to rest for at least overnight if not a bit more in order to get the texture that you want. And honestly, it must be pretty forgiving dough, as I messed up a bit and then had to finagle it a bit and it still worked out! I made a half recipe, and when I was measuring out my 3 1/4 cups of flour, I accidentally grabbed my 3/4-cup measure instead of the 1-cup measure. I kept thinking, "wow, this dough is really sticky and moist" and silently cursing the humid climate we have here in Houston. So I added a little more flour, and then a little more.... I did get the "window" in the dough, so I hoped for the best. I set the dough aside to rest for the first rise and started cleaning up the kitchen, and then noticed the cup measure switcheroo. Hmmm. I did debate in my head tossing the entire thing out and starting over, but laziness prevailed and I just hoped for the best. And it worked! So there you go! Forgiving dough! Bread success after chaos! I'll take it!
My fougasse looks so weird because I had troubles transferring the dough from my peel, where it looked nice and pretty and was a decent take on the photo in the book, to the hot baking stone in the oven. The dough preferred to stay on the peel, even though it was nicely dusted with cornmeal to help it slide better. I had to shimmy and shake it onto the stone and then sort of reshape it before slamming the oven door. I wonder if anyone else had a better method of transfer??
This is a tasty dough, and has a nice chew. I reviewed my thoughts of this recipe for when we did the focaccia, and that time I made it too thin and didn't get the nice puff that foccacia is supposed to have. This time I did and it was much better! I think the lesson to be learned here is to GO WITH THE FLOW and it will all turn out okay!
A nice lesson for life, I think!
This recipe can be found on pages 146-147 of Baking with Julia. Check out how the other bakers fared with this recipe by going to the TWD blog and clicking on LYL- Leaf-Shaped Fougasse.
Thursday, June 19, 2014
We made Mr. Clever Mom some Toasted Coconut Ice Cream for Father's Day! This is part of the clever girl's and my summer initiative to become ice cream pros. Thus far we have had good success, with an amazing chocolate ice cream for the clever girl's birthday. Since Mr. Clever Mom loves coconut desserts (see coconut cream pie and coconut cake for more options), we decided to try Toasted Coconut Ice Cream.
Yum. Again, success. Honestly, I think this is solely due to the fact that I am using David Lebovitz's book The Perfect Scoop, wherein he describes the ice cream process in detail. The toasted coconut flavor is perfect - not too much, just right, just like Baby Bear's porridge in Goldilocks! You toast the coconut and then let warm milk and cream steep with the coconut and vanilla beans for a while, to really get as much flavor as you can. Then you toss the coconut bits, so the ice cream is still perfectly creamy. Mmmm.
Toasted Coconut Ice Cream
adapted from The Perfect Scoop
1 cup shredded coconut, unsweetened
1 cup whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
3/4 cup sugar
big pinch of salt
1 vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise
5 large egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, or 1 teaspoon rum
Preheat the oven to 350F. Spread the coconut on a rimmed baking sheet and toast for 5-8 minutes, stirring frequently. When it is golden brown and smells incredible, take it out of the oven and allow it to cool.
Warm the milk, 1 cup of the heavy cream, sugar, salt and coconut in a medium saucepan. Once it is warm and steamy, remove the pan from the heat. Use a small paring knife to scrape the vanilla beans from the pod and into the saucepan, and put the pod in as well. Cover and allow to steep for at least one hour at room temperature.
Re-warm the coconut/milk mixture. Strain the coconut/milk mixture through a mesh strainer set over another medium saucepan. Press on the coconut with a rubber spatula to extract as much of the flavor as possible. Remove the vanilla bean pod, rinse and save for another purpose (like adding them to your sugar bowl for vanilla sugar!) Discard the coconut.
Pour the remaining 1 cup of heavy cream into a large bowl and set the empty (rinsed) mesh strainer over the bowl. Whisk the egg yolks in a separate bowl. Using a ladle, slowly pour the warm coconut-infused mixture into the egg yolks, whisking briskly the entire time. Pour the warmed yolks back into the saucepan and return to the stove.
Warm the custard mixture over medium heat, stirring constantly with a rubber spatula, until the custard is thick and leaves a line on the spatula when you wipe it with a finger. Pour the custard through the strainer and stir it into the remaining cream. Stir in the vanilla extract or rum. Set this bowl in an ice bath and stir until cool.
Chill overnight in the refrigerator and then freeze in your ice cream maker according to the maker's instructions.
I wonder, instead of throwing away the soaked coconut, if I could dry it out in the oven again and use it to sprinkle over the ice cream when serving?? Maybe something to try next time!
Another success on our ice cream journey. What should we try next??
Tuesday, June 17, 2014
Our recipe this week for Tuesdays with Dorie is Phylloccine Ice Cream Sandwiches. I have to admit that the entire time I thought about and prepared this dessert, I was pronouncing the name wrong. I didn't actually read the intro to the recipe (oops), otherwise it would have been very clear. The bed of the "ice cream sandwich" (which you can admittedly barely see at all in my photo) is a nest made of phyllo that is cut into ribbons like fettuccine. Thus, phyllo-ccine. Duh. Good job putting two and two together on that one. Ahh well...
I actually altered this recipe a bit. I made it an open-faced ice cream sandwich, as I thought that the phyllo nests were too big to use two. I wonder if I actually made them bigger than they were supposed to be. In looking at the photo in the book (again something I did AFTER making the dessert), the phylloccine nests look much smaller. The recipe calls for "one box of phyllo dough". Is it possible that there are boxes that come with less dough? The boxes I buy always have two packages/rolls of phyllo inside. Since I halved the recipe, I used 1 roll of phyllo and made 8 nests. Had I used only half of the phyllo roll, or made 16 nests instead of 8, I think the nests would have been a better size. Does this make sense? I only wanted to make 4 sandwiches, not 8. Anyway, since the nests were large, I used only one, on the bottom.
The layering of this "sandwich" is as follows:
- blob of brown sugar/rum flavored whipped cream
- phyllo nest
- raspberry/blueberry salad made with pureed raspberries, blueberries, and a little sugar
- homemade toasted coconut ice cream (look for recipe in following post)
- another blob of whipped cream
- homemade hot fudge sauce
- sliced figs and peaches around the sides of the nest
The sandwich was supposed to have two layers of the phyllo nest, the whipped cream on the side, and have a skewer of fresh berries coming out of the sandwich. I changed it up simply due to the fruit I had on hand. Peaches and figs aren't as skewer-able as berries! And I added the hot fudge sauce because, well, what isn't better with hot fudge sauce??
Honestly, I thought this dessert was just ok. There is a lot going on. And I felt like all that extra fruit and whipped cream detracted a bit from the deliciousness of my homemade ice cream. However, if you used a nice vanilla ice cream (as the recipe suggests), this would be a really elegant dinner party dessert that is pretty easy to make. I'd still leave out the whipped cream though, I just don't think it needs it - which is a lot to say, as I do love whipped cream!
You can find the recipe on pages 405-406 of Baking with Julia, or by going here. And be sure to check out what the other TWD bloggers thought of this one, by going here!
Saturday, June 14, 2014
David Lebovitz describes this chocolate ice cream as "perfect", "irresistible", "you won't be able to wait to dig in", and he is RIGHT. Wow. We all agreed that this is the best chocolate ice cream we have ever had, and I MADE IT! I can do this! The clever girl did not help with this one, as I made it over several nights as a surprise for her birthday. With Rainbow Cake, also a surprise.
She ate the ice cream and then ran around the house singing "I'm in love with the Ice Cream Girl", which is a song by Brady Rymer, a kids band that she enjoys. She also informed Mr. Clever Mom that he was in love with the Ice Cream Girl as well. Honestly, I think anyone who makes this ice cream will have people falling in love with them. It's that good. I know there are dishes out there called "engagement chicken" and such, that supposedly if you make for your love they will propose within days or something. Forget the chicken. Serve your love some of this ice cream and they will be forever yours. I promise.
Chocolate Ice Cream
adapted from The Perfect Scoop
makes 1 quart
2 cups heavy cream
3 TB unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate (or semisweet, if you prefer), chopped
1 cup whole milk
3/4 cup sugar
pinch of salt
5 large egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Whisk 1 cup of the cream with the cocoa powder in a medium saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat and allow to simmer at a very low boil for 30 seconds, whisking constantly. Remove from the heat and add the chopped chocolate pieces. Stir until smooth. Stir in the remaining 1 cup of cream. Pour this mixture into a large bowl. Scrape the saucepan with a rubber spatula as well as you can, but do not rinse it out. Set a mesh strainer over the bowl, and set the bowl in an ice bath. Set aside.
In the same saucepan, warm the milk, sugar and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. Once the milk is hot and steamy, use a ladle to very slowly pour it into the bowl of egg yolks, whisking constantly. This will keep the eggs moving around so you don't end up with scrambled eggs! Make sure the sauce pan is no longer on the heat when you do this.
Once all of the milk is whisked into the egg yolks, scrape the mixture back into the saucepan. Use a heat-proof rubber spatula and stir constantly over medium heat. Make sure you are scraping the bottom of the pan as you stir. Stir until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula. It is done when you can run your finger down the spatula and you leave a trail that does not fill in.
Pour the custard over the strainer (which is over the chocolate/cream mixture, which is in an ice bath), and stir until smooth. Add the vanilla extract and stir until it is cool.
Chill thoroughly in the refrigerator, preferably overnight. Then freeze it according to your ice cream maker's instructions. It is generally best to freeze the ice cream in the maker, transfer it to an air-tight container, and then allow it to freeze overnight in your freezer.
Get ready to taste the best chocolate ice cream ever!
This ice cream is amazingly creamy and SO chocolaty. It's a deep, rich chocolate. Mmmm. It is very difficult to resist eating the entire batch at once. And would that really be a bad thing? Aren't there supposed to be tons of antioxidants and stuff in chocolate? We'll go with that. Yep. Go ahead and eat as much a you want. It is good for your soul!
Thursday, June 12, 2014
The clever girl is 6 years old! It is hard to believe. I made her a Rainbow Cake for her birthday, as a total surprise. She had asked for a chocolate cake, and since I couldn't do a chocolate rainbow cake, I used chocolate buttercream frosting for the outside of the cake. I also made some homemade chocolate ice cream, which you will see on a separate post. (It was DELICIOUS, so make sure to check back for that recipe!!)
"How'd you DO that???"
Indeed. It actually isn't hard, it is just more time consuming than making a solid colored cake, as every layer cooks separately. And since I only have two 8-inch cake pans, it took a while to get all of the layers baked. The key is to start out with a great "white" cake recipe. I used a recipe from Cooks Illustrated, which I had never used before, and will now probably become my go-to white cake recipe. I think finding a good white cake recipe can be hard, but this one really hit it right. It is delicious!
White Layer Cake
adapted from Cooks Illustrated
alterations for Rainbow Cake in italics
makes 1 double-layer 9-inch cake (6-layer 8-inch rainbow cake)
2 1/4 cups cake flour, plus more for dusting pans
1 cup whole milk, at room temperature
6 large egg whites, at room temperature
2 teaspoons almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened but still cool
Red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple GEL food color. (Liquid color will not be vibrant enough and could change the structure of the batter - too much added liquid)
Set oven rack in the center, and heat to 350F. Butter two 9-inch round cake pans (8-inch round cake pans), line bottoms with parchment, butter parchment, and dust with flour. (Weigh your empty mixing bowl).
Pour milk, egg whites, and extracts into a 2-cup glass measure and whisk until blended. In the bowl of an electric mixer, mix the cake flour, sugar, baking powder and salt at low speed. Add the butter and continue to beat until the mixture resembles moist crumbs. There should be no powdery streaks.
Add all but 1/2 cup of the milk mixture to the crumbs and beat at medium speed for 1 1/2 minutes. Add the remaining 1/2 cup of the milk mixture and beat for 30 seconds more. Stop mixer and scrape the bowl. Return the mixer to medium speed and mix for 20 seconds.
Divide the batter evenly between the two prepared cake pans. (Weigh the full mixing bowl and subtract the weight of the empty bowl. This is the weight of the batter. Divide that number by 6 and this is the amount of batter you will put into 6 separate bowls. Gently whisk several drops of gel color into each bowl. The color of the cake will be the same as the color of the unbaked batter, so mix in enough color to get the vibrancy that you want. Pour two of the colors into the prepared 8-inch pans. If you have more than two 8-inch pans, lucky you! Do more! However for baking purposes, you should still bake only two at a time. If you need to re-use the pans, make sure you wipe them out each time, and run cool water over the outside bottom of the pan so that the pan is no longer hot before you re-butter, re-parchment, re-butter, and re-flour the pans.) Use a rubber spatula to spread the batter to the pan walls and smooth the top. Place the pans into the oven, at least 3 inches apart and 3 inches from the oven walls. Bake until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, about 23-25 minutes (12-13 minutes).
Let the cakes rest in the pans for 3 minutes. Invert onto wire racks, remove the parchment, and then re-invert onto a different wire rack. Allow to cool completely. (Do not worry if your rainbow layers are really thin, almost like pancakes. Once you stack them up with layers of cream or frosting in-between, you will have a very tall cake.)
For the layers in my cake, I used a stabilized whipped cream. You can use whatever you want. I thought that white in-between the rainbow layers would accent the colors nicely, and would be a tasty filling! If you choose to use frosting, you'll probably need to double your frosting recipe to have enough. There are several methods to stabilize whipped cream. I found one using non-fat dry milk and decided to try that. You can also use unflavored gelatin or cream cheese. For this cake, I used 2 1/2 cups of whipped cream, less powdered sugar, and a mix of vanilla and almond extracts, as I like that flavor combination!
Stabilized Whipped Cream
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 TB non-fat dry milk
~1 teaspoon vanilla extract
~2 TB to 1/4 cup sifted powdered sugar, to taste
Whip the heavy whipping cream and nonfat dry milk to a soft peak stage, then add the vanilla and powdered sugar (to taste). Whip to desired consistency. Whipped cream can be dolloped, piped, layered, and will keep its consistency for at least 24 hours, probably more!
Days later, the clever girl is still talking about her rainbow cake! Success!