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Last minute Valentine’s Day idea: chocolate covered strawberries

14 Feb

You can buy chocolate covered strawberries from the store for about $3 a piece, or you could make your own POUND of chocolate covered strawberries for around $8 (strawberries were on sale at my store this week).  And it takes about 10 minutes.  So… I feel like it’s clear which of the two you should do.

Start with a bag or bar of good chocolate chips (I have Ghiradelli ones here).  Also, use good strawberries- we had a two pound box from Costco but those weren’t as yummy as the one pounder from the regular store (though they were prettier and larger).  I followed the instructions on the bag for how to melt chocolate in the microwave.  I actually prefer this to the double boiler stovetop method because you won’t accidentally get any water in them, which would cause the chocolate to seize up.

Dump a bunch of chopped up chocolate or chips into a bowl, and microwave at 50% power for a minute and a half.  While that’s going, wash your strawberries and dry them.

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If your partner doesn’t do something for you for Valentine’s Day, it might be the last straw-berry confection you make for them. 

When the chocolate comes out it won’t be melted yet, just melting.  Stir it vigorously for a minute or so, then pop it back in the microwave at 50% power for another 30 seconds.  Meanwhile, line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silpat.  Once the chocolate pops out, stir, stir, stir until it’s perfectly smooth (really, try to get all the lumps out).

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Ironic how the more your stir, the less stir-dy the chocolate becomes.

Then take your beautiful dry strawberries and dip them in the smooth chocolate, twirling when you pull them out so you don’t get the chocolate tail.

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I wonder if the writer of Trees liked chocolate covered strawberries.  It’d be SERRE-en-DIP-itous.

Alternatively you can hold them upside down if the twirling isn’t your speed, and they’ll absorb their tails.

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If you gave a talk in a dark room but finagled a flashlight onto your chalk-holder, would the talk be CHALK-LIT?

So far we’ve spent 2 minutes total microwaving, 1 minute or so stirring, and 2-3 minutes dipping.

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Alternate photo for this caption: infinite line of strawberries with a single endpoint.  Array of strawberries.

You might be happy with them like this and be done!  I like the look of the drizzled white chocolate, so I broke up half a bar of white chocolate and microwaved it for a minute at 50% power, stirred, and microwaved again for another 30 seconds.

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Fork-ast for today: loooove is in the air

Use a fork for this part!  Then drizzle the white chocolate over the strawberries (the chocolate coating sets very quickly).

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Along with drizzles of white chocolate.  And, where I am currently sitting, drizzles of rain.

You can go pretty crazy on the drizzling and they’ll still end up looking awesome.

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If Jackson Pollack did this, would he make chocolate covered fish?  Gross!

.Let the berries sit while you clean your two bowls and spoon and fork.  Ten minutes!  Ta-da!  They look even fancier if you put them on a plate.

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Chocolate covered strawberries

One pound strawberries (actually I ate a few so there’s less than a pound here)

Half a bar of white chocolate

A bar of dark/bittersweet/milk/your choice chocolate or 1.5 c of chocolate chips

  1. Break up the chocolate bar into small pieces into a microwave safe bowl, then microwave for 1.5 minutes at 50% power.  Wash and dry strawberries.
  2. Stir chocolate vigorously until the bowl no longer feels warm.  Microwave for 30 more seconds at 50% power.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
  3. Stir chocolate vigorously until smooth.  If it’s still chunky, microwave for another 30 seconds and do it again.
  4. Dip strawberries into chocolate and twirl as you pull them out.  Lay on the baking sheet.
  5. Do steps 1-3 again but for the white chocolate, and use a fork.
  6. Use the fork to drizzle white chocolate over the strawberries.
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Coconut cream pie

13 Dec

It’s been a little while since I made a pie, and I love pie!  In an unusual fit of activity last week I bought a bag of coconut, a can of mandarin oranges, and a can of pineapple and made ambrosia (yum).  I had some leftover coconut, so decided to make a coconut cream pie.  Growing up I never had dried shredded sweetened/unsweetened coconut and I still find the texture a bit strange, but I have fallen in love with coconut macaroons [wow I can’t believe I haven’t blogged those!  That’s on the list now] and am coming around to having a twiggy texture in my sweets.

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This is vaguely tropical, so I bet it’s a PIErate’s favorite dessert.

Coconut cream pie is a basic custard pie: you bake a pie crust (I love the make-in-pan lazy one but I actually rolled and chilled one for this pie), slowly make a creamy set custard to fill it, and top the whole thing with whipped cream.  Next time I think I’ll make this a banana cream pie instead of coconut, just omitting the coconut and tossing in sliced bananas.  And by next time I mean tonight.  And by tonight I mean I paused writing this blog post, went and bought some whipping cream and milk, and then made this pie before continuing the post.

First you want to make the crust (or buy a store bought one as I often do).  I use a food processor to pulse together very cold butter with flour and salt.  Probably don’t use frozen butter because your food processor isn’t that strong, but fridge butter is great.  Do that (or use two knives or a pastry blender) until it’s pretty well mixed and your remaining bits of butter are maximum 2-3 pea sized.  Then drop in a tablespoon of ice water and press the dough together with your hands just until it holds together.  It’s gonna get real crumbly in there, and try not to knead it too much- we want flaky pie crust, not gluey pie crust.  Wrap it up in plastic wrap and stuff it in the fridge.

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If I saw one of the main characters of “Empire” throwing a piece of scrap paper in the trash, I’d just have to say “That’s the way the Cookie crumb-ples”

Fun “trick” for this- I add the ice water directly to the food processor, press a little bit, and then dump the whole thing onto a big piece of plastic wrap on my counter.  Minimize mess.  Then you can wrap it up in the plastic wrap (bonus- if the piece is big enough, you can use it later to roll out the dough!)

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Are you feeling sad?  No need to be so dough-lful, pie is on its way!

While the dough chills, you can measure you all your ingredients for the filling.  Also preheat your oven.  Usually I’m a lazybones and avoid recipes like this, where you have to stir a lot/mind something on the stove, but I cooked dinner while making this pie and it was perfect.  First, microwave your milk (I did two minutes) and while that’s going, measure and mix your dry ingredients in a pot on the stove.

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The best way to make your dreams come true as you reach for the stars… is the (coconut) milky way

We’re slowly incorporating sugar, milk, coconut milk, coconut, and flour together, adding a bit more at a time, until we have the texture we want.  Then at the end you stir in your egg yolks for richness and cook until everything is set.  This can actually take about as long as you want it to.  The first time I made this it was luscious and creamy and not a clump to be found in my custard, and it took about 35 minutes.  The second time (just now) it took maybe 15 and it’s a little lumpy but still delicious.

So mix your flour, coconut, sugar, and pinch of salt in the dry pot, then add 1/3 of the milk and stir over medium-low (35 minute method) or medium (15 minute method) until the flour has started cooking into the liquid and it’s a little bit thickened.  Then add 1/3 of the milk and stir stir stir again, until that’s thickened.  Finally add your third batch of milk and stir.  Each thickening takes 2-10 minutes depending on heat.

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I didn’t constantly stir, just every minute or so.  So once the pudding got started, I pulled out the chilled dough and rolled it out thinly between two sheets of plastic wrap (this is not necessary; it just makes it so you don’t have to wash the rolling pin and counter).  Lay it into your pie tin, poke a few fork holes in it so it doesn’t puff up, and toss it in your preheated oven.

Once the third thickening has happened, add a little of the hot pudding to some beaten egg yolks so that they don’t curdle when you put their eggy deliciousness into the custard, and cook for another couple minutes until you’re juuuuust about to bubble/boil (but don’t boil, ever!).  Turn off the heat, dump in half a stick of butter and some extracts (this is the key to flavor), and let cool.  Pull your pie crust and let it cool too.  Should take 20-30 minutes depending on how hot your kitchen is for both things to cool off enough to put one inside the other, and then stick it in the fridge.

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We can see the inside of this pie; it’s naked!  Oh the improPIEty!

After a few hours, make some whipped cream (I won’t tell if you use the ready made stuff, but the homemade stuff is GOOD) with a little sugar and vanilla in it, and put it on your chilled custard.  Chill again, overnight is best.  Toast some coconut in a dry pan on the stove for 30 seconds or so (til brown and fragrant), let cool, and decorate your pie with it.  Or don’t!

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I’m not so great with speeches but I would definitely call myself a toastmaster.

 

YUM.

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Here I am eating it out of the pan for breakfast.  Because I’m pregnant?  Or because it’s pie?

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Coconut cream pie, adapted from Rock Recipes:

Crust:

1/2 c (1 stick) butter

1 1/4 c flour

2-4 TB ice water

Using a pastry blender, two knives, or a food processor, cut butter into flour until pebbly and well mixed.  Add ice water 1 TB at a time just until the dough holds when you push it together with your hands.  Knead once or twice (just to hold together), wrap in plastic wrap, and chill.

Filling:

1 can coconut milk (1 3/4 c), light if you want

1 1/4 c whole milk

1/3 c flour

2/3 c sugar

1 c unsweetened dried shredded coconut

1/4 tsp salt

3 egg yolks

4 TB (1/2 stick) butter

2 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 tsp ALMOND extract

  1. Preheat oven to 400 for the pie crust.  Microwave milks for 2 minutes.  Mix flour, sugar, coconut, and salt in a pot.
  2. Over medium or medium-low, add 1 c of milks to pot and stir until combined, then stir occasionally  until slightly thickened.
  3. Add next 1 c of milks and stir occasionally until thickened.
  4. Roll out chilled pie crust, put in a pie pan, and bake for 11-15 minutes until golden brown, and then let cool completely.
  5. Repeat step 3.  In between stirrings, lightly beat the egg yolks, measure out the butter and extracts.  Add 1/4-1/2 c of hot pudding to the egg yolks (whatever measuring cup is handy) and stir, then add the egg yolk mixture to the pudding and cook for another few minutes until pudding-like.
  6. Turn off heat, add butter and extracts and stir, and let sit until cool.
  7. Put cool custard into cool pie crust and put into fridge for several hours

Whipped cream and topping:

1 c heavy whipping cream

2 TB powdered sugar

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 c shredded coconut

  1. Beat cream, sugar, and vanilla together for a few minutes until it turns into whipped cream (peaks hold).
  2. Meanwhile, toast coconut in dry pan over medium heat for 30-45 seconds until fragrant and light brown.
  3. Spread whipped cream over chilled pie.
  4. Sprinkle with cooled toasted coconut.

Peachberry pie, and news

11 Oct

Hello!  You may be wondering where I’ve been for three weeks.  Well, I’m still in Texas, and I have this old draft lying around that I never posted.  News at the end of the post!

I don’t know about where you are, but here in Texas it’s still summer and peach season.  I’ve made four peach pies in the last two weeks because they’re so cheap, so easy, and sooooo yummy.  I didn’t grow up eating a lot of peaches (I’m from Minnesota), but when I saw them for 88 cents a pound at the grocery store I remembered all the peach cobbler I’ve had in my travels since going to college.  Also I remembered that I still own the Moosewood cookbook, which definitely has an easy recipe for peach pie in it.

Of course, me being me I was unprepared with the number of peaches I had (I bought enough I promise but then we ate some oops), so I threw in some blackberries and strawberries I had lying around for one pie, and some blueberries in another, and the one in the oven right now is just peach.

For fruit pies, it’s nice to let the fruit macerate for a few minutes so that the sugar can suck the juices out.  So I make the filling first, then make the crust.  Peel and chop peaches, berries, etc. to make about six cups of filling.  Each medium-large peach gives a little less than a cup of peach slices, so with four peaches I had to add a dozen strawberries and a handful of blackberries.  Sprinkle the fruit with sugar and lemon juice and let sit while you make the crust.

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It’s not the secret to world peach but my news is berry exciting.

Generally with pies I buy premade frozen pie crusts because I am lazy, but sometimes I’ll do the slightly less lazy mix-and-pat in the pie pan which gives you a nice oil-based slightly salty crust that’s very flaky and tender, or I’ll do the much less lazy butter-based pie crust that I used in this pie.  Honestly I prefer pie crusts made with a mix of shortening for texture and butter for flavor, but shortening freaks me out so I don’t have it in my house.

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You’d butter scroll to the end of the post

This is the Moosewood pie crust recipe, where you cut together butter with flour and mix in cold liquid until it’s dough.  Pretty easy!  I used a knife to cut the butter into these small pieces, and a fork to break it into the dough until it looks like coarse crumbs and there’s no butter chunks bigger than a pea.

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You won’t fork-ive yourself if you don’t read the end

Then add your liquid and mix it with your fork, then with your hands, and roll it out on a floured surface.  I LOVE my French rolling pin the way I love my mortar and pestle- I’m a very tactile person and these things feel good! Roll out the dough to just a bit bigger than the pie tin, and then carefully drape it over the whole thing.  Trim the edges and make a pretty design on the crust if you want (I am not a prettyfying person so I just leave it plain).

Now you’re ready to finish the filling!  Preheat the oven now, and add the flour and spices to the filling (cinnamon goes with every fruit!)  Gently and thoroughly toss, so all the fruit pieces have some sticky flour on them.  We add flour so you don’t have soup inside a pie crust- I think adding a little cornstarch mixed with berry juices would also work.

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Glisten up, folks, cup your ears because I’ve got something to say

If I’m using a frozen pie crust/don’t have that much time, I just top the pie with the second pie crust, cut some slits in it to vent, and bake it.  But I waaaay prefer fruit pies with streusel topping.  Since I have a toddler, our house always has Ritz crackers in it.  Use a rolling pin to crush a sleeve of Ritz crackers- you can actually do this in the sleeve with little mess if you’re careful, or toss them in a plastic bag and whack away.

Then mix in melted butter, brown sugar, and that ever-present cinnamon.  Pour the fruit in the crust, pat on the streusel topping, and toss it in that preheated oven.  I like to put pie on a baking pan/cookie sheet in case of overflow (the bottom of my oven is a gross mess from previous drips).  Or put the baking sheet on the rack below.  Or forget it, like I did in this photo:

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All alone and pie-tiful in the oven.  What a pie-ty if it drips (this one did not drip though!)

Let sit for at least 15 minutes after baking so the inside cools a bit and glops up, then serve warm with vanilla ice cream (yummmm!)  We ate it too fast for me to take photos of the finished pie.

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Okay, time for NEWS/partial explanation for why I haven’t been posting.  I’m having another baby!!!  She’s due in March!  She’s also making my life a little complicated; I’d forgotten that I spent most of first trimester last time throwing up and lying down.  This time I laid down a lot, didn’t throw up a ton, but did have a lot of pain!  Now I’m into second trimester and ready to be a person again.  And by this time next year, my daughter will be becoming a person too!  Also, my son turned two last week, which is cool because those of you who have been reading this blog for a long time were there when I got engaged, married, and had my first baby.  Yay!!!

Peachberry pie (adapted from the Moosewood cookbook and allrecipes).

Crust: 1 c flour

4 TB (half a stick) very cold butter

2 TB cold water or milk

Filling: 6 c sliced fruit (6 peaches, or peaches and enough berries to fill in the rest)

1/4 c sugar

2 TB lemon juice (or squeeze half a lemon)

3 TB flour

1 tsp cinnamon

Topping: 1 c crushed Ritz crackers (about one sleeve)

1/2 c brown sugar

1/2 tsp cinnamon

4 TB (other half of the stick) butter, melted

  1. Mix the fruit with the sugar and lemon juice, let sit.
  2. Cut the butter into tiny pieces and mix with the flour for crust, until very small pieces (smaller than a pea) remain.  Mix in liquid teaspoon by teaspoon until a dough forms.  Roll out to bigger than the pie pan, and carefully place into pie pan.  Trim crust.
  3. Mix the flour and cinnamon for filling, gently mix into the macerated fruit mixture.  Pour into prepared crust.
  4. Preheat oven to 375.
  5. Crush the Ritz crackers, mix with brown sugar and cinnamon.  Melt the butter, and mix with the topping mix.  Pat filling evenly onto pie.
  6. Bake for 40 minutes, until bubbly on the edges and golden brown on top and crust.  Serve warm with ice cream

My mom’s Banh Xeo (Vietnamese turmeric crepes)

7 Sep

Over the past twenty years or so, bánh xèo has been a mainstay of family and friend gatherings if my mom is around.  Yen’s visiting home from college?  Better make bánh xèo!  You want to have some friends over for dinner?  Time for bánh xèo!  It’s a Saturday in October and the cousins are coming around?  Let’s do some bánh xèo, baby!

These are a super fun party food (where the party is the food): everyone gets a plate and a little saucer for dipping sauce, and the giant fresh pancakes go on platters in the middle.  You take a small amount with your chopsticks, trying to get the perfect mix of batter, onions, bean sprouts, and meat/seafood, and wrap it in a little taco of lettuce, mint, apple/cucumber, and whatever other herbs you have on hand.  Dip the whole taco in your sauce and eat it in two or three bites.  Then do it again.  And everyone does it at once!

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I don’t know about your storage capacity, but for me this is a mega-bite.

Note: these can definitely be made vegetarian or vegan.  The batter is vegan, and for filling we’ve had great luck with mushrooms, sprouts, and mung beans.  For the dipping sauce, substitute soy sauce for the fish sauce and add a little bit more lime and a little less sugar to balance out the saltiness.

I’m not usually a huge mise en place fan; I like chopping while things are cooking, but bánh xèo happen so fast that it’s worth it to put in extra prep.  For eating, you need to wash all your vegetables and put them out on a platter.  You’ll probably have time to make the dipping sauce while a pancake is cooking, but it takes a lot of time to pluck Vietnamese perilla (shiso would work in a pinch) and mint leaves off their stems, leaf lettuce, thinly slice cucumbers and apples, etc.  So lay those out.  Now the batter has to rest for ten minutes or so after mixing it, so do that before you start chopping your raw ingredients.

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I want to put a pun here but I can’t because the perspectives on this photo are too confusing.  The ingredients are on a counter; my feet are several feet below; the bowl on the right is inside a sink that the cutting board is hovering over.  

Growing up we always had squid in our bánh xèo, but we stopped doing that when we moved away from easily accessible Asian markets.  So now it’s mostly pork (a lean, unfatty cut like tenderloin is good here) and shrimp, mainstays of Vietnamese cooking.  My mom prefers buying the unpeeled shrimp because she says they’re sweeter and more flavorful (I agree), and we slice them in half down the spine so they cook super fast.  You want very thinly sliced pork; it helps if it’s chilled.  Also thinly sliced onions are key, as well as a ton of green onion (the more the better).  My mom puts in two bunches of sliced up green onion per packet of batter, which makes around 6-8 very large servings (depending on the size of your pan, that’s 10-20 pancakes).  Hence the party food-nature of this dish.

The batter is important- if you’re super hardcore I guess you could make your own, but we always buy from a bag.  Our favorite is the one with elephants on it, below–certain other brands are a little too gluey or not crispy enough, or include coconut flour and pretend that coconut flour+water=coconut milk.  If you can’t find Bon Con Voi Banh Xeo batter, just try to buy one that requires adding coconut milk.  Then follow the instructions on the bag: mix in the turmeric, a can of coconut milk, and a can or two of water (read the label).  Let sit while you chop the other stuff.

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Photo from this mysteriously empty website, Nguyen Eternal.  You don’t need to get on a boat to buy this bot, which is made here in the USA!  (Bot means flour in Vietnamese).

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In the shadow universe, the copy of me is so jealous of this batter.  She’s a green un-Yen. (Yes I have made this pun before no it does not get old.)

Now it’s time to cook!  Mix those prechopped green onions into the batter.  Heat up your nonstick skillet (or two if you’re ambitious).  Add in a bit of oil and a handful of thinly sliced onions, then after 30 seconds or so put in your thinly sliced pork and shrimp and cook them for a minute or two, until they’re done.

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Stop hogging all the space!  There’s MUCH ROOM in the pan; even the shrimps deserve some breathing room.

Now ladle on just enough of the batter to cover the pan if you swirl it.  Think the thinness of crepes.  I’d lean toward ladling on not enough, swirl, and then add in a bit more to fill the pan rather than having a thick gluey pancake.

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If the band Rudimental were making banh xeo, I bet they’d invite Ed Sheeran over for this step, so they could lay-it-all (LADLE) on him.

Now you’ll have a pale daffodil soft thing with some cooked meat inside it, and a clearly slightly liquid middle.  Fill it with a generous handful of bean sprouts (mung beans if you’re into that sort of thing too), and cover it with a lid to lightly steam the sprouts while cooking the pancake.  Give it about a minute (so this whole process is taking you about 5 minutes per pancake), until the pancake is no longer pale but a golden turmeric color, and its visibly cooked.

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I should invite my cousin Scott over and ask him to help me cook this, and then try to gently prod him into calling the middle uncooked portion liquid gold.  Take that, furniture polish!  

Gently fold it in half like an omelet, and slide it out of the pan onto a waiting plate.  Serve immediately with dipping sauce and that premade plate of veggies!

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My mom’s banh xeo.  Makes so much (serves 8 hungry people)

1 package of banh xeo flour

1 can coconut milk

2-3 bunches of green onion

2 lb pork tenderloin or butt or any non-fatty cut

2 lb shrimp

1 big onion (yellow or white is fine)

2 packages of bean sprouts

2 heads of lettuce (I prefer red leaf, my mom likes Romaine but she is wrong here)

2 cucumbers, 2 Fuji apples

2 bunches of Vietnamese perilla or shiso, 1-2 bunches of cilantro, 1-2 bunches of mint (the regular grocery store mint is fine)

2 limes

2 TB Fish sauce

2 TB Sugar

1 carrot and a carrot-sized piece of daikon if you’re feeling ambitious (we did not)

  1. Batter: Finely chop up all your green onion, then follow package instructions.
  2. Veggies: Wash everything.  Leaf the lettuce and herbs, cut the apples and cucumbers into thin slices (cut the cucumber in thirds lengthwise, then cut into slices).
  3. Dipping sauce: Mix two tablespoons of sugar with the juice of the limes and 2 TB of water until dissolved.  Add in two tablespoons of fish sauce.  Taste.  Adjust levels of everything until it’s not too sweet, not too salty, and not too sour.  If it’s overpowering, add more water.  If you’re ambitious, finely grate the carrot and daikon into the sauce; they’ll slightly pickle while it’s sitting and offer some textural contrast when you eat.
  4. Pancakes: Thinly slice pork (about 1/8 of an inch thick if you can, 1 inch by 2 inch rectangles), peel shrimp and slice in half, thinly slice onion. Heat large skillet over medium high.  Add about 1 TB of neutral oil and half a handful of onion, stir.  Then add 4-8 pieces each of pork and shrimp and gently saute until just cooked.  Ladle only a little bit of batter over the cooked ingredients, and swirl to cover pan.  Edges should cook very quickly.
  5. Cover pancake with a handful of bean sprouts, then cover with a lid.  Leave for 1-2 minutes, until bean sprouts are slightly steamed and center of pancake is cooked and edges are lightly browned.  Fold in half with a spatula, slide onto a plate, and serve immediately with veggies and dipping sauce.

Note: you’ll be in the kitchen for a while with this; we usually have two or three pans going at once to feed a big crowd.

Chocolate orange almond cake (gluten-free)

19 Jul

A few weeks ago I met a friend at one of his favorite new coffee shops in Philadelphia, Frieda’s, which is maybe called FRIEDA for generations and has a very cool mission of essentially being a cool hip young coffee shop that welcomes old people.  I spent three hours there working on math and eating breakfast and having an incredible chocolate cake that had this beautiful aromatic orange flavor and big chunks of orange in it.

We spent a long time raving over this amazing cake, and the chef/co-owner walked over and chatted with us (he’s on a first-name basis with my friend, who goes there all the time) and told me the recipe orally.  Oral recipes include things like “add some cocoa powder” and “top with chocolate ganache,” so this was an adventure!  I also busted out the digital scale for this, but then measured stuff out for all y’all in the recipe at the bottom.

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Spouse bought me the new bag of flour. Why settle for just dia-monds when you can have ALL-monds?  

The cake has very few ingredients, though I forgot to add the cocoa powder above.  First you boil the oranges for 2 hours as you’re a very patient person.  Just kidding!  I covered these in water, considered putting a plate on top but didn’t, and microwaved them for 15 minutes.

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When it comes to American playwrights, do you prefer Williams, or Inge?

Boiling the oranges pulls out the bitterness from the pith (the white part), which is great for what happens next.  But while the oranges are microwaving, you might as well measure out your ingredients and mix them: sift together the almond flour and baking powder and cocoa powder.  I don’t have a sifter so I use a whisk, but sifter would be better for end-result cake texture.  Whisk up the eggs to get some air in there, then whisk in the sugar.

My action shot was too exciting for this!

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I was too eggs-ited!

You can also, if you want, skip all of those steps and dump everything in the food processor after you blend up the oranges!  CAREFULLY pull the oranges out of the hot microwave water and CAREFULLY cut them in quarters.  They’ll be soft but not falling apart, but the juice inside might be HOT.  It helps to buy seedless oranges for this part, because you don’t have to fish them out.  Then throw ’em in the food processor or the blender!

 

Orange puree!  If you’ve got a big food processor you can throw in all the other ingredients now and pulse it all together.  If you don’t, mix the puree with the eggs and sugar, then mix in the dry ingredients.  It’ll be lumpy because of the almond meal.

We’ve been really into The Great British Bake-Off lately, and my spouse thought he’d try to make a Mokatine despite the fact that he never bakes… in fact this was the first thing I’ve EVER seen him bake.  Anyway, we ran out of parchment paper so I told him to “butter and flour” the pan.  He did not know what I was talking about, so here are pictures:

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He’s a stick-ler for details and wanted to know “how much butter”.  I said “enough?”

Using your fingers or a paper towel or a stick like I did, rub butter all over a pan until the whole pane has a thin layer of butter on it.  Then spoon a few (2-3) tablespoons of flour into the pan and shake it around, rolling on each edge, until it’s evenly covered in flour.  Dump out any remaining flour.

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Who needs flowers when you can have flour? (but darling if you’re reading this I still like flowers)

Note that I didn’t do a great job above: you can see where the flour didn’t stick to a part I didn’t butter enough.  That’s exactly where the cake stuck to the pan later.  SO BE THOROUGH with your buttering and flouring.  Or, yknow, keep parchment paper in stock so there’s no flour on your gluten free cake…

Bake!  Let cool completely before frosting (but don’t leave it out too long for fear of losing moisture).  Frosting is MAGICAL GANACHE.

Did you know about ganache??? Somehow I had not made ganache before, despite having a baking blog for almost four years… it’s SO EASY and SO MAGICAL.  I’m into caps today.  You just pour hot cream onto chopped chocolate, and stir it until it’s frosting!  I am lazy so I used chocolate chips, which have extra stuff on them to keep them in their shape, so my ganache wasn’t perfectly smooth.  But still, it’s so delicious and wonderful (ganache is the center of truffles!  I didn’t know!)

 

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All of the photos were in different shots so I couldn’t gif it for you.  It starts out looking like failed hot cocoa when you pour the hot cream on the chocolate and wait for a minute, then like good hot cocoa as you stir it, and then shiny dark melted goodness, and before you know it (after a few minutes of cooling) you have frosting!  Then you can just spread that thick delicious stuff all over the cooled cake, and serve!  We actually don’t like chocolate very much and I made this for a friend’s chocolate-themed birthday party.  I will definitely make this cake again, sans cocoa powder (it’s SO orange-y and SO almond-y and SO easy).

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Chocolate orange almond cake (adapted from David Hong at Frieda’s)

For cake:

2 oranges

300 g (3 c) almond flour

200 g (1 c) sugar

6 eggs

1 TB baking powder

1/3 c-1/2 c cocoa powder (I did 1 c and it was too cocoa powdery; 3/4 c is the Hershey’s chocolate cake recipe, I think 1/2 c would be great)

For ganache:

1 c heavy whipping cream

1 c good chocolate, chopped, or fancy chocolate chips

  1. Put oranges in a bowl, fill with water so oranges float, and microwave for 15 minutes.  Every five minutes, rotate the oranges so that a different side is floating out of the water.  Or put a small plate on the oranges to keep them submerged.
  2. Meanwhile, sift together the almond flour, baking powder, and cocoa powder, or whisk them well.
  3. Vigorously whisk the eggs until frothy, then whisk in the sugar until light and fluffy and pale.
  4. Carefully chop the hot, soft oranges into quarters, then puree in a food processor or blender.  Preheat oven to 375.
  5. Whisk orange puree with the eggs and sugar.
  6. Mix the dry ingredients with the wet and mix well.
  7. Butter and flour a springform pan or line with parchment paper.  Should work on any pan; I just used a springform.
  8. Fill the pan, bake for 40 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean (up to an hour).  Let cool completely before frosting.
  9. Heat up the cream over medium heat in a small saucepan.  It doesn’t need to boil, but should be pretty hot (if you aren’t sure, take it almost to boiling).
  10. Put the chocolate chips in a bowl, and pour the hot cream over.  Let sit for a minute, then start stirring with a wooden spoon or whisk.  Keep stirring until it turns into ganache.
  11. Frost your beautiful cake!

Trifling things (birthday cake trifle)

7 Jun

You may know from Twitter that I think about and read about social justice-related things a lot.  I’ve been quite stricken this week about a certain, horrible thing that’s happened, and I don’t have words/am very overwhelmed right now to write about it.  So instead we’re going to chat about trifling things today, specifically, trifle, which is a delicious combination of pudding and cake and whipped cream and sometimes other stuff (fruit).  Banana pudding is basically a trifle, so you know trifle’s gonna be awesome.

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Even when berry upset, trifle is a piece of cake, just a matter of pudding some ingredients together. (ignore the other fruits, they don’t (man)go in)

Last week was my birthday, so I decided to throw a little party and make a cake.  We didn’t actually want to be social for several hours, so it was a combination social hour + 3 hours of board games, and during those board game hours people kept popping into the kitchen to get another scoop of this birthday cake trifle!

I started the day before, by baking a Funfetti cake from a box.  You need a cake, if you make one from scratch that’s great too!  On the day of the party, I assembled the trifle a few hours early to give it time to meld flavors in the fridge.  You could do it even a few days early, but it gets mushier/more homogeneous, which is maybe what you want but not what I wanted.

I was worried about putting fruit in this trifle, but I had all that fruit that was going to go to waste, because baby decided he didn’t want berries this week, only bananas.  So I mixed up my blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries and sprinkled them with a few tablespoons of sugar to macerate (aka soak/sit) while preparing everything else.  This softens and sweetens them.

Make pudding (from scratch or I used a box).  Box pudding is SO magical and easy; even my 20-month-old could do it! …sort of.

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Sometimes he looks at me so whiskfully while I bake, so I let him help

Then either use cool whip/reddi whip or make your own whipped cream.  If you have a stand mixer/electric mixer, homemade whipped cream is really the way to go.  It’s SO DELICIOUS.  Take your cream, put it in a bowl, and start whipping it at half-power, then slowly up it to full power.  Add a few tablespoons of powdered sugar (I just tipped the bag toward it for a few seconds).  If you want, add extract (vanilla, almond, etc.), but I like it just pure and fresh and creamy and light.  Stop whipping when it looks not-liquid anymore.

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I really hope Willow Smith loves whipped cream and sings while making it.

Now gently fold the whipped cream and pudding together; this is the glue of the trifle that will eventually soak into the cake.  It doesn’t have to be perfectly mixed (again, I prefer non-homogeneity in this dessert).

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Aladdin’s little known-talent: trifle-making. I can show you the swirl/ shining, shimmering, splendid/ tell me, princess, now when did you last let your mouth decide!

Cut your cake into bite-size pieces.  Trifle is awesome because you can use any flavor you want!  Lemon cake would be so good here.  Also angel food cake.  Also chocolate cake.  Any cake!  Any pudding!  The world is your oyster/trifle!  Don’t make a trifle with oysters, please.

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If you want to fool someone into thinking this is healthy, say a sentence about salad, and then mention that you have some lattice (say it real fast).

Take a big, beautiful glass bowl (or a trifle dish if you own one and also why do you own one?) and smear some whipped cream-pudding on the bottom.  Then top it with a layer of cake-cubes.

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It’s for my birthday!  So it’s special!  A special cake-cube complex!

Now top that layer of cake-cubes with another layer of pudding-cream, and top that with berries.  You want to go all the way to the edge of the bowl so you can see the layers from outside.

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If you’re upset someone’s razzing you, at least you’re not black and blue

Then cover that with another layer of cake-cubes, then a layer of pudding-cream, then a layer of berries, cake-cubes, and if you’re me and ran out of pudding-cream, top it all with more whipped cream!

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If you’re failing at something and running on an empty stomach, why not have some trifle and try full?

I decorated the top with sprinkles and crumbled cake-cube.  Toss in the fridge for at least an hour, and serve with a deep serving spoon.

This has been a hard week for us because that adorable person up there is having some anxiety issues at daycare, and he’s only 20 months old!  Poor little dude.  We’re meeting with the pediatrician and the speech therapist later this week to figure out if we can do anything to help him be happier.  Parenting is a thing, and I’m still new to it, and my poor baby.  Anyways.  That’s why this post is about trifle!  Because sometimes you just need to make something delicious and easy, and it’s best if that something is light and fluffy and cloud-like too.  Baking is totally therapeutic.

20160604_165904Birthday Cake Trifle (serves 16 or so)

1 13×9 cake (you’ll have leftover cake) or use a 9×9 cake for a smaller trifle.  Any flavor

1 box of pudding mix (some flavor that goes well with your cake.  I did Funfetti cake-vanilla pudding)

1 pint heavy whipping cream OR 1 tub Cool Whip OR equivalent (reddi whip is also good)

1-2 pints of mixed berries or other fruit

2 TB sugar (optional)

1/4 c powdered sugar

3 c milk (or whatever it says on the pudding mix)

  1. If your fruit is a bit tart, toss with the 2 TB sugar to macerate, set aside.
  2. Make the pudding according to box directions.
  3. Fresh whipped cream: beat cream with whisk attachment of mixer at 2-3 speed, then slowly increase to full speed and add powdered sugar.  Beat for a few minutes, until it looks like whipped cream.
  4. Gently fold whipped cream into pudding.
  5. Cut cake into 3/4 inch-ish squares.
  6. Use a big beautiful glass bowl, and smear a small amount of pudding-cream on bottom.  Top with a layer of cake-cubes.  Top with a layer of pudding-cream.  Then a layer of fruit.  Repeat, alternating cake-cubes and fruit with pudding-cream–top layer should be pudding-cream.
  7. Decorate with cake crumbs and/or fruit.
  8. Refrigerate at least one hour.  Serve cold with a spoon.

Dutch apple pie

22 Mar

The first things I baked were “butter cookies” from my mom’s copy of Joy of Cooking, which she bought at a garage sale in the ’70s.  So probably that battered, well-loved, dog-eared copy (which I have somewhere in my house) is from the ’60s.  That’s where I learned to make my famous Jello parfaits (my parents even bought me an ice-cream parlour style old fashioned parfait glasses set for Christmas one year), as well as Dutch apple pie.  The “Dutch” part, in my mind, just means using an awesome streusel topping instead of a second pie crust as the top crust, as all fruit pies should.

Man, remember that amazing kringle from a few months ago?  Mmmm can’t wait for next Christmas season so I can buy another O&H kringle from Trader Joe’s.  I realize that Dutch and Danish come from two very different places but they sound sorta similar and it’s only an 8 hour drive between random points in the countries: that’s the distance between Austin and Wichita.  Though Austin food is very different from Wichita.  (Mmmm breakfast tacos!  And… Kansas foods?)

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Oats are oa(p)tional, I didn’t use them this time because I only had steel-cut oats at home and that would not work well for a streusel.

Whenever I see my mom I try to bake her a Dutch apple pie, and she often eats the whole thing.  My mom is 4’11” and tiny so imagine a tiny Vietnamese woman eating an entire apple pie.  It’s just as cute and impressive as it sounds.  Hence I usually make two, one for her and one for everyone else.  It’s about 3 large Granny Smith apples per pie, so my pies were light on the apple this time.

First thing: cut up your applies.  I peel, core (cut into eights by making a tictactoe grid around the middle), and slice thinly.  Others cut in quarters, ignoring the tictactoe, and then chop out the seeds/stem and then slice.  Whatever works for you.

 

Put the sliced up apples in a bowl, squeeze a lemon over them, and toss with sugar and cinnamon.  The sugar macerates the apples and they get nice and juicy while you prepare the crust (if you want; I used store-bought) and streusel.

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Sugar and spice and everything nice, that’s what baby boys add to bowls.  (Look at his little baby hand!)

Every time I make a Dutch apple pie my streusel is a little different.  It’s the same general principle: brown sugar/white sugar, oats/flour, and butter.  You use two knives or a pastry blender to cut the butter into the sugar mixture, until the mixture resembles “coarse crumbs” aka the butter pieces are smaller than peas.  You can also use a food processor and carefully pulse it.  Food processor is nice if your butter is frozen; otherwise you’ll want to put it outside the fridge for maybe an hour so it’s just a little soft/easy to cut up.

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She knows I’m just trying to butter her up, but streusel is so appeeling

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Time to dust for fingerprints, it’s a messy crumb scene in here.  (This is not coarse enough by the way, keep cutting up the butter into smaller pieces)

So unwrap or make your crusts (I love this lazy crust made right in the pie tin), layer the apples prettily into them (or dump them in), and sprinkle with the streusel topping.

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Bless us and these thy gifts… pie-ty 

Then toss those pies in the oven, step back, and enjoy them after they start smelling delicious!  They’re great warm with vanilla ice cream on top.

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Dutch apple pie

Makes two pies (8 slices each)

5-6 large Granny Smith apples

1/4 c white sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/2 lemon or 1 tsp lemon juice

Two pie crusts (frozen or homemade)

1/2 c butter

1/2 c brown sugar

3/4 c total mix of oats and flour

  1. Peel the apples, core them, thinly slice.  Preheat oven to 400.
  2. Sprinkle sugar, spices, and lemon juice over apples, toss them together.
  3. Mix oats, flour, and brown sugar.  Cut butter into small pieces into the flour-sugar mixture using two knives, until coarse crumbs.
  4. Put the sliced apples into crusts, and sprinkle streusel evenly over the pies.  Bake for 40-45 minutes, until topping is lightly browned.
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