Sunday, January 29, 2006

Ginger and Spice and Everything Nice

So here is my second attempt at Sugar Low Friday. I ended up making the Spiced Ginger Cake after all..... I used honey instead of granulated sugar. Well... I used one cup of honey for one cup of the sugar... I still used 1/2 cup regular sugar. And there was sugar in the glaze... but hey.... subbing SOME honey was a start. I did end up having fresh ginger after all.... I had forgotten that I had some in the freezer.

This is a lovely little cake. She's not an all out smack you in the face with her stunning good looks type... she is more the "she has a great personality" type. I followed the directions to the letter.... even letting the cake sit for a day so the flavors could "come together". I had a slice this morning and it is really nice with coffee. The ginger flavor is much more delicate that I thought it would be. It calls for a cup of chopped crystallized ginger so I figured the ginger flavor would be very pronounced, but it was subtle. Barely there and sweet.

Now, I am not really sure how the substitution of the honey for the sugar affected the cake texture since this is the first time I have made this.... but the cake was delicate and moist. I am sure the honey helped with the moistness as did the glaze... So maybe honey will become a permanent ingredient in this recipe....

Spiced Crystallized Ginger Cake
Before serving this cake, let it stand for a day, well wrapped, so the flavors can develop further. Then enjoy a slice with a cup of tea in the morning or with coffee after dinner.

For the cake:

3 cups cake flour

2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg

1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp. ground cloves

16 Tbs. (2 sticks) unsalted butter

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar (here is where I used 1 cup of honey)

4 eggs, lightly beaten

1 tsp. finely grated fresh ginger

1 tsp. vanilla extract

2 tsp. finely grated lemon zest

1 cup milk

1 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger, tossed with 1 Tbs. flour

For the glaze:

1 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup water

1 Tbs. rum

Confectioners’ sugar for dusting

Have all the ingredients at room temperature. Position a rack in the center of an oven and preheat to 350°F.

Grease and flour a rosette cake pan or a 9-by-13-inch cake pan.

To make the cake, over a sheet of waxed paper, sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves; repeat until well blended. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the flat beater, beat the butter on medium speed until smooth and creamy, 30 to 45 seconds. Reduce the speed to low and gradually add the granulated sugar, beating until blended. Increase the speed to medium-high and continue beating, occasionally scraping down the sides of the bowl, until the mixture is light and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the eggs a little at a time, beating each addition until incorporated before adding more, until the mixture is thick and creamy, 1 to 2 minutes; stop the mixer occasionally and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Beat in the fresh ginger, vanilla and lemon zest. Reduce the speed to low and fold in the flour mixture in three additions, alternating with the milk and beginning and ending with the flour, until just blended and no lumps of flour remain. Then fold in the crystallized ginger. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, spreading the batter so the sides are slightly higher than the center.

Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, about 1 hour. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and cool the cake upright in the pan for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the glaze: In a small saucepan over low heat, combine the granulated sugar and water and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat and stir in the rum.

Set the rack over a sheet of waxed paper and remove the cake from the pan. (If using a 9-by-13-inch pan, keep the cake in the pan.) Generously brush the warm cake with the glaze. Let the cake cool to room temperature.

Dust with confectioners’ sugar just before serving. Serves 16.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

You know you are at the local white trash grocery store when the woman behind you is
  1. In her pajamas.......... in public
  2. Buying 3 jars of Stage 2 baby food
  3. Buying a pregnancy test
  4. Asking the cashier if they sell boxes of Philly Blunts


Friday, January 27, 2006

Low is the New High....

Sugar Low Friday.... is it really the same? Grated my thighs let out a sigh of relief at the mention of Sugar Low as the theme.... but my mind, heart and tongue said... bleh. Is it possible to live in the realm of desserts without sugar and fat? I wasn't sure but I was going to find out... I thought of it as a challenge.... but then again me being in the kitchen is a challenge in it's self. I started by researching some methods of substituting honey for sugar. I had originally planned to get a head start on SHF this month and work on it last week... but that of course didn't happen. So here I am in the final hour wondering... do I have time to make this Spiced Crystallized Ginger Cake subbing out honey for the sugar.... All the ingredients have to be at room temp and I don't have any fresh ginger... Should I attempt this? Oh... why not. I will post on it tomorrow....

In the mean time I did make a low sugar vanilla custard with crushed pineapple. It's nice and all but it just lacks something...... what is it?? Oh yeah... SUGAR! This recipe comes from a Weight Watchers cookbook I have had for a few years. I was on Weight Watchers for a few hours once and those hours coincided with a trip to the book store and a particularly bloated day.... so hence the purchase of the book. I have made one other thing out of the the book that was okay but really it just sits on the shelf and serves as a daily reminder that structured diets just don't work for me. And so the fat lives......and multiplies.

Weight Watchers Coconut Custard

* I didn't have any coconut extract that is why mine is vanilla.....

Makes 4 (very small) Servings

1 cup low fat milk
1/3 cup instant non fat dry milk powder
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon coconut extract (or vanilla, rum, banana, etc)
2 eggs
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
4 teaspoons toasted coconut

Preheat oven to 350. Spray 4 custard cups with nonstick cooking spray.
In a medium saucepan combine the milk, dry milk, sugar and coconut extract; cook , stirring frequently, until the mixture boils and sugar dissolves.
In medium bowl, whisk the eggs until light; gradually pour the hot milk mixture and the vanilla. Pour into custard cups and sprinkle with coconut. Place the cups in a shallow posting pan; pour hot water half way up the cups. Bake until custards are set, about 20-25 minutes. Refrigerate, covered, until chilled.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Mocha Choka La La Yah Yah.....

After 2 valiant, yet failed attempts at making a cake this weekend, I finally came out on top with this Mocha Chocolate Chip Cheesecake. This picture is horrific and does not do this baby justice. She looked much prettier in person..... but like me, photographs HORRIBLY. So forgive her ugly mugg.
Now, let's talk a little bit about the cake mistakes first...... Sponge Cake. Man, I tell ya... Sponge Cake is a high maintenance little priss. With the careful "folding in" of all those egg whites and the need for the cake to be in a metal pan UNGREASED.....something about the cake needing traction to "climb" up the sides of the pan.....WHEW! A lot of work.
So I made her batter and had a mini debate with myself on if I should put it in a non stick pan, like I REALLY ( and I mean REALLY) wanted to, or if I should follow the directions and pour the batter in a metal pan with no grease....aghhhhhh! "Okay okay... follow the damn directions, Chan. Just do what they say and everything will come out fine... Just fine. The directions are obviously there for a reason." So I poured the batter out of the non stick pan I had already had it in (I was resisting authority at first...) and into a vintage tart pan I found on eBay. It is the ONLY bakeware I have that is metal and not non stick. I popped her in the oven where she rose beautifully. Her color was fabulous , she sprang back to the touch and...... she was gloriously stuck to the pan. I mean she and that pan had become one... there was no seperating those two. I didn't even try...I mean who am I to come between a Sponge Cake and her Pan? So we just ate her straight out of the pan.. from the middle out. And she was DELICIOUS! I added in fresh orange zest when mixing the egg yolks and that little bit of zest really did add a beautiful hint of orange. I am absolutely going to try this one again and I am going to put her in a non stick pan.... I think this would be a fabulous cake to carve and decorate. She has a firm body and very very little crumb. I will post again on this one.
The second cake I made to make up for this one sticking to the pan was a horrid mess... not even worth talking about. She was ugly and dry with a deep hole in the middle. The edges were almost burned and her center was still a raw goopy mess. I just threw her away... horrible.
Now... On to the glorious cheesecake. I think I have the cheesecake down pat. If I have learned how to make anything these past few months I have learned the cheesecake. The basic cheesecake lessons I have learned are these:
  1. All ingredients MUST be at room temperature. Let all the ingredients sit out for about 2 hours...
  2. Baking in a water bath REALLY does keep the cake from cracking.
  3. Slowly cool the cake....leave it in the oven with the door propped open with a wooden spoon for at least an hour.
  4. DO NOT overmix. Again, DO NOT overmix. Mix all ingredients until just incorporated. I know the hand mixer makes you feel powerful... it is the power tool of the kitchen... but please for the sake of the cake...put it down.
  5. Bake in a regular cake pan lined with parchment.... screw the springforms.

Those 5 little things really do make a huge difference in the way my cheesecakes come out. I mean, cheesecakes are no big deal to make. There are only a few ingredients and you can really get creative on flavoring them.... plus, hell... it's CHEESECAKE!

This one is Mocha with Chocolate Chips. I have never been a huge fan of mocha/coffee flavored things so I was a little skeptical when I was reading the recipe. But the picture of the cake sold me... I love love love anything with chocolate chips. The recipe is from The Whimiscal Bakehouse , a neat little cake deocrating book with some really good recipes. The recipe from the book calls for homemade chocolate cookies to be used for the crust but I was lazy and just used Nabisco Famous Wafers....

Here is the recipe:

3 cups chocolate cookies, crushed
¼ cup sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, melted

Crush cookies in food processor. Mix in sugar and butter. Stir until well combined. Press into 9” cake pan buttered and lined with parchment paper. Set aside.

2 ½ pounds cream cheese, at room temp
1 ½ cups sugar
½ cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon instant espresso
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
6 large eggs, at room temp
1 ¼ cups mini semi sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350.
Beat cream cheese on medium speed until smooth. Gradually add in sugar. Meanwhile simmer cream. Remove from heat and dissolve espresso and vanilla. Add the espresso mixture to cream cheese and beat on low to incorporate. Add in 6 eggs one at a time, beating on low until just incorporated. Pour filling into the crust. Scatter chocolate chips on top and carefully swirl the chips in with a small knife.
Place tin into larger pan filled with hot water. Bake for 60 to 75 minutes, or until cake is golden brown on top and set. Cool cheesecake in oven with heat turned off and door propped open for at least an hour. Let cool outside oven at least another hour. Cake can be then wrapped and placed in oven or freezer until ready to eat…..

Ohhh this is a tasty little cake. The mocha flavor is not too strong and even those who don't care for coffee will love this. Of course the chocolate chips melt beautifully in the cake and add just a hint of chocolate. So very delicious....

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Happy Workers

My sister helped host a baby shower for one of her friends, Amanda. Amanda is such a sweet girl and she absolutely cracks me up... I love being around her... so I wanted to help out as well. I volunteered myself as the cake girl.... suprise suprise! I figure the more I do these cakes for real events the better I will be.....My sister went through my (ever growing) collection of cake decorating books and settled in on baby cakes decorated with tiny fondant bees. Amanda is dressing her baby's room in bumble bees and these cakes went right along with the theme! To do one of these little cakes is really no big deal.. and it doesn't take long at all to whip out one of those little bees... but holy crap.. 30 of those little suckers took me a while. The most time consuming part was definitely the crumb coating.... That literally took me allllll daaaayyyy looongg.... I was so very sick of buttercream by the end of it. I was covered in buttercream....I had it in my hair, all over my hands, all over the table, my apron was stiff from it all, and I later found some in my ear..... I HAVE NO IDEA HOW IT GOT THERE! Scary, really.

I was on top of my game for this one and made all the bees a few days in advance... I stored them in an air tight container and had to hide them from Kathryn. She, somehow knew they were going on top of cakes and associated them with cake from the start. She would climb on top of the table and just stare and them and say " MMMMMMmmmmm.... Cake. Oh Mommy, cake." I used a cake recipe from Colette Peters' Book Cakes to Dream On. She claims that it is a basic white cake, but my sister and I decided it was more of a caramel cake. The recipe I used calls for dark brown sugar, so that obviously is where the caramel flavor comes from. The cake bakes up well and carves up nicely when cold. I personally liked the taste of the hummingbird cake better but, as you know, had a hard time with the cream cheese frosting as a crumb coat. This cake I used was nice and the vanilla buttercream complimented it well...... and buttercream holds up MUCH better than the cream cheese frosting.

As you can tell by the photos I had an issue getting them all the same height... but I am sure I can fix that next go around. All in all, these little babies were... well... a piece of cake. Great for a novice beginner, like myself... and they make a cute display when all together....

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Giada Disaster Caught on Tape

My roommate from college, Sticks (we call her that because she is quite thin!), sent me this link. You have to check it out... so hilarious!

Giada Disaster

Monday, January 09, 2006

seven SEVEN sev/en 7

Miss Alicat at Something so DAMN Clever tagged Kat and I for the 7 meme....I accept! Kathryn's answers are in PINK....
Seven Things To Do Before I Die:
1. Live in Italy for a year.
2. Learn to fluently speak Spanish, so I can talk to my mother in law.
3. Publish a book of some sort.
4. Jump out of an airplane.
5. Own a business.
6. Grow fingernails.
7. Kat: Grow up to be a beautiful woman.

Seven Things I Cannot Do:
1. Wake up looking rested. I always look like ass on a cracker in the morning.
2. Paint anything without getting absolutely covered in paint. Seriously.
3. Cook without my flip flops on.
4. Stop biting my pitiful little nails... they are so sad. And ugly.
5. Be on time FOR ANYTHING...
6. Sleep with socks on.
7. Kat: Use the potty... for now.

Seven Things That Attract Me to Blogging:
1. It keeps me motivated to keep baking when I feel like giving up.
2. Meeting all the coolie o's that like to cook like I do.
3. I love the tight knit community food bloggers have.....
4. Blogging is a great creative outlet for a kept wife such as myself.(Alicat)
5. Foodporn. Lots of foodporn. (Alicat)
Okay.... so I only have five....

Seven Things I Say Most Often:
1. Kathryn, stop.
2. Kathryn Maria.... STOP NOW.
3. Do you want to sit on the naughty chair?
4. I know, right?
5. Ellie, NO! Ellie STOP.. STOP ELLIE. Alright.... OUTSIDE ELLIE!
6. I'm running to the grocery store.
7. Kat: Oh wow mommy, cake!

Seven Books I Love:
1. Where the Red Fern Grows - Wilson Rawls
2. A Million Little Pieces - James Frey
3. White Oleander - Janet Fitch
4. Bridget Jones' Diary
5. Comfort Me With Apples - Ruth Reichl
6. Me Talk Pretty One Day - David Sedaris
7. Kat: Where the Sidewalks End..... At bedtime.

Seven Movies/DVDs That I Watch Over and Over Again:
1. The Wiggles - Yummy Yummy
2. Finding Nemo
3. Shrek
4. Sesame Street -Let's Make Music
5. Dora - Super Babies
6. The Wiggles - Wiggly Safari
7. Curb Your Enthusiasm

Seven Bloggers I Want To Join In Too:
1. The Domestic Goddess
3. 101 Cookbooks
4. Buttercream and Roses
5. The Chubby Hubby

Saturday, January 07, 2006

My Little Clabber Girl

Sometimes when I am contemplating the world and my place in it, I wonder why it is that I love my kitchen so much. I wonder why it is that I feel the most comfortable in my kitchen. I wonder why, when I am bored (which, trust me, is not very often) I automatically go to the kitchen and start to cook..... without thinking. Then I start to wonder why it is that I love to cook so much. Is it an innate womanly instinct to feed my family? Is it the measuring and the sifting? Is it that I feel somewhat connected to the chef's whose recipes I copy, thinking if I can make crabcakes like Emeril, then I must be on the same level.... right? Wrong. I think it is just that I simply love the act of making something. From nothing.

And really more than anything I love this....

and this...

Kathryn has been promoted from Taste Tester to Official Kitchen Sidekick. I swear to God, I get all misty eyed when I see her rolling out dough and cutting out little stars with her cookie cutter. I could care less that the cornstarch mess will take me about 3 to 3 and a half days to clean up because it stretches from the kitchen all the way across the house to the bathroom. I just love to see her in the kitchen. I love that she wants to be in the kitchen..... and I love that she likes to get her hands dirty. I know, I know... she is a kid and what kid doesn't like to play in messy cornstarch.... but damnit she is my kid...and these are memories that she is making with me.... and I hope she remembers these times all of her life.... I know I will.

Okay, enough with the sappy kid crap.....but she really is the reason I am trying to learn all this....

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Recipe Index

The Recipe Index is currently being updated - Please check back another day!

Raspberry Truffle Cheesecake


Pineapple Mango Upside Down Cake

Fondant Cakes

Cookies & Brownies
The Holy Grail Brownies
Orange Dream Cookies

Ice Creams

Other Confections