Tag Archives: baking

Cake! Cake! Cake!

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Cake! Cake! Cake!

I don’t think this was what Marie Antoinette had in mind when she suggested that they (the French peasants) eat cake, nom nom. Actually, the original quote is probably misattributed and apart from that, it’s supposed to say: “Let them eat brioche.” Oh, and did you know that there is a House episode titled “Let Them Eat Cake?”

I have a favorite birthday cake. I love love love it – well, if I didn’t love it, it wouldn’t be my birthday cake. The cake? It’s a Mocha Cake. It’s actually my Gran’s specialty. She used when my Mom was a little girl. Well, the cake was distributed among the entire family including the bunch of cousins, and everybody got a teeny sliver. A teeny sliver that everyone savored. And it was a treat – there were no mixers, no KitchenAid so all the mixing and beating of the dough was done by hand. I’ve beat whipping cream by hand, which already was a lot of work so I can’t imagine how much work that was. And since they didn’t have an oven, they had to take the cake to a bakery to have it baked there.

I didn’t take any pictures of the entire cake because it was just too tasty to take the time to photograph it

Gran doesn’t really work off recipes. Neither her cooking nor her baking is full of precise direction. Her Indian food recipes are something like “when the oil begins to pearl but not too quickly” or “when it smells right” or “depending on the meat.” Yeah, not so helpful. You need to really have a lot of experience for those directions to make sense. And my Indian cooking is nowhere on her level that I have had enough practice making those dishes. Whenever I cook something in that direction I end up being disappointed because it’s just not up to her or my Mom’s standards. Which means that I don’t get the practice in to get more cooking experience. I also don’t like going out for Indian food since it’s never as good as Mom’s. A catch-22.

I’m not making fudge, but since Gran fudges her recipes this was very appropriate. And darn it, now I want ice cream

Anyway, Gran has always fudged her proportions, which is pretty contrary to baking since it so based on chemistry – change the balance and you might end up with a cake mess. In fact, the last time I made a Mocha cake with her, she basically asked me dump 1 lb of butter in the bowl, plus a bunch of sugar – just based on her sense of proportion. And a bunch of eggs – I’m not sure how many since it’s a been a long time since we baked together, but it was at least 8 eggs. The mixing bowl was already full with that mix, so we separated the mass, and then she added flour and nuts and coffee according to her judgement. We ended up with 3 and a half cake ‘loaves’ – our neighbors and friends loved us. In fact, one of our friends always hopes that there’s some leftover mocha cake when she stops by for a meal.

The cake is basically a modified sponge cake, with less sugar than normal (so many cake recipes call for too much sugar). Apart from the usual suspects, it als consists of ground nuts, either almonds or hazelnuts, and mocha. The mocha is very concentrated coffee – instant coffee dissolved in very little water. I guess you could also use a very very strong espresso. Once the cake is in the oven you make your frosting. It’s a mix of butter, powdered sugar, more concentrated mocha and ground nuts, whatever you used in the cake. Once the frosting is done you stick in the fridge to keep it cool.

Then it’s time for the best part of the cake – apart from eating the cake of course. The completely cooled cake is carefully cut in half . If you’re ambitious, you can cut the cake into 3 layers rather than two. Just make sure you whip up some extra frosting. Now you’ll frost the bottom layer of the cake before adding the top layer. If your frosting is too, well, buttery and warm, stick it in the fridge til the frosting is cool and spreadable, not too solidified. Then you’ll frost the remainder of the cake. At the end, when you’re done you’ll add walnut pieces, preferable walnut halves as a decorative element. Stick the cake in the fridge to solidify the cake. Make sure to also store the cake in the freezer.

Mmmm, frosting (sorry for the blurry pic)

And then, then it’s time to eat! The end pieces are the ones everyone battles for, but the rest is just as tasty. Plus you savor every single bite since it’s made only once a year.

Star Wars party invitations

But – I think I want a Star Wars kind of cake too. I mean, how creative. And the geek in me would have so much fun. And can you imagine Star Wars cupcakes? You know, headshots as cupcake decorations? I think I need to tinker around with that. I probably will need to make the cake covering out of fondant, or if I really want to be decadent, I could also make them out of marzipan. Mmmm, marzipan.

I’ll also take a Star Wars party – the geek in me would have so much fun, plus it’s so much more practical than a Stormtrooper outfit, or Darth Maul or Leia slave costume. Tasty cake vs uncomfortable costume, hmmm, which one would win… Although, it is pretty awesome to see the costumes that people create. Plus there are apparently many Star Wars themed weddings – not my cup of tea, but I’m sure it’s a great wedding party. (Click on the images for more pictures from the different parties).

O.M.G.

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O.M.G.

Hey guys, I’m traveling today & tomorrow. I’ll be back online on the 22nd, so I apologize ahead of time if my response isn’t timely.

I love Potbelly’s chocolate chip and oatmeal cookies. That darn small cookie bag gets demolished really quickly in this household. So, I’ve been looking for a recipe to make my own. I tried to modify my favorite oatmeal cookie recipe, but it turned out a bit too dry (for my taste). I’d made them for my sister as an any-time-of-the-day, satisfy-the-cravings-after-a-nursing cookies after the birth of nephew #1. She really liked them and has been after me to make them again. I wasn’t to thrilled with that version and have since been on the hunt for a better recipe.

So anyway, the other day I was looking for other things to make with pomegranate seeds when I came across this genius recipe by Hidden Ponies for – wait for it – chocolate chip oatmeal pomegranate cookies. Wow. And I learnt some stuff too, apart from finding an awesome recipe. Want to know what? Well, first of all those little pomegranate seeds aren’t called seeds, they’re called arils (always good to learn something new). And second of all, it’s way easier peeling pomegranates in a bowl of cold water. Why didn’t I think of that before?

cookies!

chocolate pomegranate oatmeal cookies – even better than the Potbelly ones!

chocolate pomegranate oatmeal cookies

Guess who is eating warm cookies? Oh the temptation…

These cookies are so fast to make and so delicious. They still pretty soft when you get them out of the other and it’s hard to check the underside of the cookies if they’re a golden light brown, so I’d stick to the time recommended. Let them cool before trying to remove them from the cookie sheet and trying to devour them. Seriously, they’re that good. Prepare for a cookie eating attack.

Second of all, you can reduce the amount of sugar – the chocolate gives it plenty of sweetness. And the last few cookies were basically clusters of chocolate and pomegranate held together with the last little bits of cookie dough, so you can easily reduce the amount of chocolate chips.

The cookies are delicious and chewy (I’m not really a fan of thin hard cookies), and the pomegranate adds a burst of freshness. The others didn’t love them as much – boo – but that meant there were even more for me. My waistline is not happy.

Oh, and I thought that the cookies wouldn’t keep long because of the extra moisture from the pomegranates, but they actually lasted quite a bit (not withstanding my cookie munching), so they’ll easily keep over a week to two weeks (I even found two cookies that ‘someone’ (not me!) had put away in a tin and even though they were three weeks old, they were still good and still somewhat moist).

Try them, and I’m sure you’ll discover a new favorite cookie.

cookies in progress

cookie making steps

A dandy lion kind of dandelion

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A dandy lion kind of dandelion

We’re starting to edge from spring into summer, and some of the early blooming plants are starting to wilt. With all those groomed gardens wild herbs and grasses are harder to find. But sometimes there are very tasty, and healthy herbs to be found. For example, yarrow has multiple uses – it is supposed to be good for the stomach and the intestines. Cooked stinging nettle is a delicious spinach substitute. You can use Elderberries to make a delicious syrup, or elderberry pancakes. Yum. Btw, don’t use my word for these uses, please educate yourself before trying out any uses.

A plant that is so ubiquitous in this season is dandelion. Dandelions here, dandelions there, dandelions everywhere. Most people know dandelion as a salad green (both leaves and flowers), or dandelion tea which is good for your digestive system. But – did you know you can make other things out of dandelions? You can make dandelion syrup, especially refreshing when added to a glass of water, or dandelion wine (it’s alcohol free)? I’ve also heard that dandelion parfait is delicious as well – this recipe creates a dandelion honey that you use to make the parfait (sorry, link is in German).

I don’t this bee was too happy that I was harvesting all the dandelion flowers

And then I came across a post at Fog and Swell about making dandelion bread and I knew I just had to have a go at it. (I love that blog, btw). Anyway, a lot of the dandelions were already past their bloom. I was right at the end of their lifecycles – I found lots of dandelions ready to spread their seeds. While I had lots of fun blowing the seed of the dandelions, the new dandelions were just coming up. And do you know how hard it is to find a dandelion patch where you know that there haven’t been any dogs all over the field? Yuck. I love dogs, but really, I want to eat these dandelions.

But then I visited friends last weekend, and they were planning to mow their lawn – a lawn full of dandelions! So I delayed the mowing and off I went, plucking dandelion flowers with lots of help from my goddaughter. She was pretty fascinated by the idea the dandelions in a bread, although she really couldn’t imagine what they’d be like. I couldn’t either, but I was up for the adventure. I ended up with a big bowl of dandelions.

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dandelion petal and plucked buds

The recipe says to pick the dandelions early in the morning. Yeah, that didn’t happen since I went to the cookout on Friday afternoon. And I left out the dandelions in the sun to make all those little bugs that I found in the flowers fly away. Then I stored the dandelions under a damp cloth in the fridge. And then, then life intruded. I just couldn’t find the time to make the bread. Finally I had enough time on Wednesday. I feared that they’d gone bad or dried out, but actually there were still edible. All the buds had closed, and a few of the dandelion petals had darkened. I pinched off the yellow flower, discarding the green parts. And then I set off to make dandelion bread.

I originally planned to stick to the recipe as written. But since a few petals were darker I decided to add a bit of saffron to add to the yellowness of the bread. I used a little bit of hot water – half a tsp to a tsp, and added the saffron stems to release some of their color into the water. I kept thinking what flavor would work with the dandelion, and the honey, and decided to add lemon juice and zest. I added the zest of a lemon (pesticide-free) – I used a kitchen peeler since I didn’t have anything else on hand. It works surprisingly well if you’re careful. The zest, together with the juice of half a lemon was added to the cup with the saffron and water, and then the whole mix wandered into the mixed dough.

Dandelion Bread

The bread took longer to bake, probably due to the added moisture, so I decreased the temperature by 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius) after 25 minutes. I don’t remember exactly but I think the bread baked for approx. 40-45 minutes in total. The finished bread is delicious – it has a very light taste, with a mellow honey taste and a light lemony taste. The flavors mix really well. And it has an almost cake-like consistency – it’s almost heresy to eat it with butter, or butter and honey.

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dandelion cookie pile

So, I used up one cup of dandelion petals. I still had petals left over – half a cup of dandelion petals. I first thought I’d make a batch of dandelion muffins or dandelion syrup – dandelion wine seems to require a lot of dandelions. But guess what – I found a recipe for dandelion cookies! The basis of the recipes is pretty similar – it uses honey and canola oil, but the cookies include oats and vanilla, no milk. I once again added the juice of 1/2 lemon, and a bit of salt. As my gran says, any baking recipe should have a bit of salt and a bit of sugar, at least. The dough is very moist, so you just drop a larger teaspoon of the dough onto the cookie sheet. And ta da! You have delicious, mellow and tasty dandelion cookies.

Featured image is the Dandy Lions T-Shirt via Threadless. They really have awesome T-Shirts there.

6 bucks

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Sometimes you end up being overcharged. You might be in a tight spot and without alternatives so you have to give in, but still, it burns when you pay a ridiculous amount for something that really shouldn’t be that expensive. Are you wondering what I’m talking about? Well, this is the culprit:

Petit Four

The petit fours looks delicious right? The taste was delicious too. I ended up buying three of them – and I had to pay $6.50 for them!!!! That’s total price gouging. I had to pay that much for these little bites???? My problem was that I had to buy them. You see, I had this whole French themed photoshoot going on for Day 1 of the Knitting and Crochet Blog Week – and I didn’t have any alternatives.

See the delicious petit fours? I savored each one of them (not all on the same day!)

Next time I’m making my own petit fours – it’ll probably be a process with lots of little steps, and I’ll have to work very cleanly. Or I could make a petit fours cake. Mmmm, delicious. I just have to find someone/many someones to share it or my waistline won’t thank me.

Petit Fours Cake from Smitten Kitchen

I know what I ate last Friday

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OMG. I think Friday’s dinner was one of the best meals I’ve ever had. So delicious. We ate every last bit. No leftovers.

I mentioned the other day that I love Smitten Kitchen – so much so that I’m subscribed to the email updates. The other day I stumbled upon a recipe for these delicious corn, buttermilk and chive popovers. I’ve been itching to try it out, and figured the popovers would work well with salad. I love salad, especially non-classic iceburg lettuce and a dressing salad.  (How boring). I like to mix up my salad with different textures and tastes – something smooth, something crunchy, and something tangy. I love fruit or fruit juice or lemon in my dressing.

popovers

I get hungry just looking at them!

My sister had told me about a delicious Cauliflower and Broccoli salad, with strawberries and a poppyseed dressing, so I figured I’d try out the salad myself. Well, no poppyseeds in the household means no poppyseed dressing. So I searched Smitten Kitchen, and found a yummy Broccoli slaw recipe, with a buttermilk dressing. I was very tempted to make the slaw, but I figure there’s another day to try out that recipe. Anyway, buttermilk dressing on the salad and some sliced almonds took care of the salad. Add hot popovers, with a pat of butter. Yum yum yum. Judge for yourself.

yum, salad

pre-application of dressing