Monday, November 24, 2008

Another cake for work...

We had another birthday at work! this means another opportunity for me to make a cake. This time the request for a simple white cake with raspberry filling. I'm sure you remember the Daring Baker's challenge when I made Dorie's perfect party cake, which was also a raspberry filled white cake, but I wanted to try a new recipe. The recipe I choose is another great find from Culinary Concoctions by Peabody. The cake turned out light and airy, yet moist and still flavorful. I just used the Wilton recipe for butter cream frosting. To make the raspberry filling I mixed equal parts raspberry preserves and butter cream frosting. The filling looked a little less red and a little more brownish (probably due to my all natural preserves) so I added 2 drops of red food coloring. Sadly I did not get a picture of the inside of the cake. Maybe next time!

Classic White Cake
(Source: Culinary Concoctions by Peabody)

White Cake
1 cup whole milk, room temperature
6 egg whites
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups cake flour
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter (6 oz), softened

Preheat oven to 350 F.
Grease two 9 inch cake pans with vegetable shortening, line the bottom with parchment paper, grease the parchment paper and flour the pans.
Combine milk, eggs whites and extract in a small bowl with a fork. Set aside.
Combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in an electric mixer and mix at slow speed with a paddle attachment. Add butter. Continue beating at slow speed until mixture looks like wet sand (If you’re doing this by hand, sift the dry ingredients together and rub in butter).
Add all but 1/2 cup of milk mixture and beat at medium speed for 1 1/2 minutes. Add remaining milk mixture and beat for an additional 30 seconds, scraping the sides of the bowl if necessary. Do not overmix.
Divide batter evenly between prepared pans and gently shake to smooth batter. Bake 30-35 minutes, until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Let cakes cool in the pans for 15 minutes then invert onto racks to cool completely before frosting. Unfrosted cakes can be frozen for 1-2 weeks.
Serves 12-16.

Adapted from Baking

Beef Tips and Mushrooms

Usually when I ask Jesse what he wants for dinner he says "I don't care" or "Whatever" and occasionally "Hamburger Helper" (Did you hear foodie hearts stop all over the world?) So when I ask him what he wants and he makes an actual suggestion - I run with it. That's what happened last week. He said he wanted beef tips and mashed potatoes. OK. I can do this. I mean I know I've had them before. But where to find a recipe... And that's where the trouble started. I couldn't find one that I liked. So I made one up. The sauce and the mushrooms were soooo good. The beef was tough. Really tough. If anyone has any suggestions on how to create tender beef tips, please leave me a comment. I'm not sure if it's the cut of meat I bought or my cooking technique. Oh well. The beef was edible and the rest was awesome. Maybe next time I'll skip the meat and just have mushrooms, gravy and potatoes for dinner!

Beef Tips and Mushrooms

1 lb beef (I used a sirloin beef tip type cut, obviously not the right choice)
3 tbsp olive oil plus enough to coat grill pan
2 tbsp butter
1 shallot finely chopped
1 package baby bella mushrooms
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp dry thyme
Black pepper to taste
1/2 cup red wine
3/4 cup low sodium beef broth
Splash of heavy cream

Start by seasoning beef with kosher salt and black pepper. Then heat the grill pan and coat with a little olive oil to keep meat from sticking.

Over medium heat melt butter and mix with olive oil. When the pan is hot add the shallots and cook for a few minutes. When the shallots start to turn a golden color add the baby bella mushrooms and seasonings. While the mushrooms are cooking put the beef on the grill pan.

After letting the mushrooms cook for 5 minutes (keep an eye on them) add the red wine to the pan and let it reduce by half(also scrape the bottom of the pan to get any brown bits that are sticking). Then add the beef broth and let simmer. Keep an eye on the beef and flip when ready.

When the beef is cooked to about medium remove from the grill pan and let sit for a few minutes. Then slice the beef on the diagonal and add the slices to the sauce pan. Let the beef simmer for a few minutes then add the heavy cream. Serve over mashed potatoes or egg noddles.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Italian Potato and Sausage Soup

OK, I'll admit it. I totally stole this idea from my friend Amber today. We were chatting and I asked her what was for dinner and she said Zuppa Tuscano. So I asked her to show me the recipe and then I ran with it :) I'm sure she won't mind. The recipe she showed me looked good, but I didn't print it out so I just sort of had to wing it. Below is the combination of what I remembered from her recipe and what I just made up. Thanks Amber it was great! Perfect for a cold winter day.

Italian Potato and Sausage Soup

1 lb mild Italian sausage
1-2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp red pepper flakes
2-3 strips bacon
1 shallot finely chopped
1 quart chicken stock
2-3 russet potatoes cut into bite size chunks
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup milk (or just use half and half instead of heavy cream and milk that would be the smart thing to do)
1 cup chopped Kale
Salt and pepper to taste

In a dutch oven or stock pot heat 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil. When the oil is hot add the sausage and brown. Once brown remove the sausage from the pot and set aside on a paper towel to drain. Now to the pot add the bacon and shallots. When the bacon is ready remove it from the pot and crumble it over the sausage, leave the shallots in the pot. To the shallots add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Then add the potatoes and let cook for 15 minutes or until fork tender. Next return the sausage and bacon to the pot and add the heavy cream and kale. Season to taste with salt and pepper and let cook for another 2-3 minutes. Serve hot with fresh grated Parmesan cheese.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Political Cookies

I have been debating whether on not I would put these on my blog. Politics can be a pretty sensitive subject with a lot of people and I don't really want to start any debates. But, after careful thought, I decided I would share these cookies with my readers (all 2 of you :)) Not just because these cookies are adorable (which they are) but also because I am proud of my candidate and I think it's OK for people to know that. The last presidential election was my first time voting for the President. At that time I felt like I was voting for the "lesser of two evils". I really wasn't excited about either candidate but I voted anyway. This time around I am actually EXCITED about someone. On that note, if you agree with me, then go Barack the vote! If you don't agree with me, then go out and vote! Sure I wish you would vote for my candidate but this America and everyone deserves to have their voice be heard!

Obama Sugar Cookies

I used this sugar cookie recipe. Then I made a big batch of Wilton's buttercream icing. I split it into three and colored one batch blue, one batch red and left one batch white.

To create the Logo design:

Step 1
Pipe a white circle around the edge of the cookie

Step 2
Pipe one half circle with white icing in the middle of the cookie

Steo 3
Pipe 3 diagonal white lines under the half circle.

Step 4
Using Red icing, fill in between the white lines

Step 5
Using blue icing and a zig zag motion fill in the space between the outer white circle and the inner half circle.

Step 6
Step back and admire you work then take a batch to your local campaign office. Then go VOTE!

Reese Peanut Butter Cake

Jesse's favorite candy has always been Reese Peanut Butter Cups. I swear he could eat an entire bag of them in a day. So when I saw this recipe on Annie's blog I knew I would have to make it for Jesse's birthday. This recipe is wonderful but can be sort of time consuming. If you ever have a day with nothing to do and feel like unwrapping a million Reese cups, make this!

Reese Cup Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake
(Source: Annie's Eats)

For the cake:
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 ½ cups sugar
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk
4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled (optional)

For decorating:
1 ½ - 2 batches peanut butter frosting
miniature Reese’s cups, halved and/or chopped

For the cake, center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350°. Butter two 9×2” round cake pans, dust the insides with flour, tap out the excess and line the bottoms with rounds of parchment paper. Place the pans on a baking sheet.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until soft and creamy. Add the sugar and beat for about 2 minutes, until thoroughly blended into the butter. Add the eggs and yolks one at a time, beating for one minute after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in the vanilla. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients alternately with the buttermilk; add the dry ingredients in 3 additions and the buttermilk in 2 (beginning and ending with the dry ingredients). Mix each addition only until it is blended into the batter. Scrape down the bowl and add the melted chocolate, if using, folding it in with a spatula. Divide the batter between the prepared cake pans.

Bake for 26-30 minutes or until the cakes feel springy to the touch and start to pull away from the sides of the pans. Transfer to wire racks to cool for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes, unmold them and peel off the paper liners. Invert and cool to room temperature right side up.

To assemble the cake, place one cake layer on a cardboard circle covered in foil. Spread peanut butter frosting on top of the cake layer. (If desired, sprinkle with chopped Reese’s cups.) Place the second cake layer on top of the frosting. Frost the top and outside of the cake with remaining peanut butter frosting. Decorate with halved and chopped Reese’s cups as desired.

Guts Everywhere!

Pumpkin guts that is. My latest self assigned project was to make my own pumpkin puree. Using the detailed instructions from Pioneer Woman I was able to successfully make 6 cups of pumpkin puree! With this pumpkin puree I decided to make a pumpkin pie. Below I have the instructions for the pumpkin puree, a crust recipe and the pie filling recipe. Also, if anyone has any pie crust tips for me, I would be extremely grateful! I'm crust challenge. It tasted great but looked AWFUL!

Pumpkin Puree
(source; Pioneer Woman Cooks rewritten in my own words)

Cut the tops of 3-4 small pie pumpkins (can be found in most grocery stores). Next scoop out all of the seeds. Then cut the pumpkin into 4 wedges. Bake the wedges at 350 for 45-50 minutes until they are fork tender. Let the pumpkin wedges cool then remove the skin. Drop chunks of the pumpkin into food processor and process until smooth. Store in 1 cup increments in ziploc bags in the freezer.

Pie Crust
(Same recipe as this DB challenge)

¾ cup (180 mL) cold butter; cut into ½-inch (1.2 cm) pieces

2 cups (475 mL) all-purpose flour

¼ cup (60 mL) granulated sugar

¼ tsp (1.2 mL) salt

⅓ cup (80 mL) ice water

Make sure all ingredients are as cold as possible. Using a food processor or pastry cutter and a large bowl, combine the butter, flour, sugar and salt. Process or cut in until the mixture resembles coarse meal and begins to clump together. Sprinkle with water, let rest 30 seconds and then either process very briefly or cut in with about 15 strokes of the pastry cutter, just until the dough begins to stick together and come away from the sides of the bowl. Turn onto a lightly floured work surface and press together to form a disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for at least 20 minutes.

Allow the dough to warm slightly to room temperature if it is too hard to roll. On a lightly floured board (or countertop) roll the disk to a thickness of ⅛ inch (.3 cm). Cut a circle about 2 inches (5 cm) larger than the pie plate and transfer the pastry into the plate by folding it in half or by rolling it onto the rolling pin. Turn the pastry under, leaving an edge that hangs over the plate about ½ inch (1.2 cm). Flute decoratively. Chill for 30 minutes.

Pumpkin Pie Filling
(source: Joy of Baking)

3 large eggs

2 cups fresh pumpkin puree or 1 - 15 ounce can (425 grams) pure pumpkin

1/2 cup (120 ml) heavy whipping cream

1/2 cup (110 grams) light brown sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon salt

In a large bowl lightly whisk the eggs. Add the remaining ingredients and stir to combine. Pour the mixture into the prepared pie shell and place on a large baking pan to catch any spills. Bake the pie for about 45 to 55 minutes or until the filling is set and the crust has browned (the center will still look wet). (A knife inserted about 1 inch (2.54 cm) from side of pan will come out almost clean.)