Olive Oil Cake: On Weddings and Wonderful Weekends

Olive Oil Cake for a backyard wedding

Olive Oil Cake for a backyard wedding

This past weekend I was back in CT with (most of – we missed you Oop!) my fam for the wedding reception of one of our nearest and dearest. We have known the family for more than 30 years, when the moms met on the Guilford Green because their similarly aged children were being similarly age-appropriately annoying, I think. They have a beautiful house on gorgeous property just one town over from where I grew up, so we all, except for the littlest, all the way out there in Denver, converged on the homestead for the weekend. It was really lovely. The party was gorgeous, the food was delicious and the dancing was most excellent. The fam represented on the dance floor, it was a very impressive performance, actually. They can really cut a rug. It was really lovely to be home.

A couple months ago, the bride asked if I would be willing to make an olive oil cake for the reception. The menu was tapas and paella, and it fit nicely, plus they are particularly fond of them. I said I would love to. I was thrilled to be able to do something for them, and I figured it definitely had to be easier than the fondant craziness I have made for other weddings. I tested a couple of options, this one was really delicious, but I wasn’t sure how it would work in larger format. So I found another one and it is a winner. It is really great, and even better, it is a dream to put together.

Olive Oil Cake sounds a little confusing perhaps. Like maybe it’s savory instead of sweet, or a side dish like cornbread, rather than dessert. It looks like cornbread too, so that doesn’t help clarify things. But make no mistake, this is definitely cake. It’s sweet – quite sweet, actually. It doesn’t need any kind of glaze or frosting, though I could probably get behind a nice glaze. It’s dense, but not heavy. It’s really moist, but not at all greasy, and the olive oil gives the edges a really nice crispness. It has a really great olive oil flavor. It is a perfect dessert, but isn’t too sweet for breakfast (I know, cuz I tried it) or for a tea time snack. Best of all, it comes together like a dream and there is a really good chance you have everything right in your kitchen already. It is so very easy. Two bowls, some measuring cups and spoons and a whisk. No electricity needed. Also, ALSO, it multiplied really easily and well with no negative effects. Delightful! (It calls for a 10″ round pan. For a 16″ square pan, I multiplied times three and it was just right. A 16″ pan cut in wedding cake slices easily served  the 80 guests. I had made two. Luckily I think it is going to freeze really well.)

Basically, if I haven’t been clear, MAKE THIS. Fo realz. It is perfect. For a party or for brunch or for a shower or for your office or just because you’re bored.

Just make it.

For tea

For tea

Of note…

Today, on THIS day, SCOTUS, I am happy and proud and thankful. Love Is Love. Keep Calm and Marry On.

Aaron Hernandez, you are the worst. Tim Tebow, how good are you at catching stuff?

It’s the summer, which means 4th of the July, which means the best holiday ever. Hot weather? Check. Lots of outdoor picnic foods? Check. Beer? Check. FIREWORKS? Yesssssssssss.

Still reading Strong Poison. I have not had lots of time for reading.

Olive Oil Cake (makes one 10″ cake)

From Food & Wine

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 3/4 cups granulated sugar

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 1/2 tsp kosher salt

1 cup olive oil (I used extra-virgin, the Whole Foods brand)

1 cup whole milk

3 large eggs

1/4 cup Grand Marnier

zest of one orange

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 10″ cake pan with cooking spray and line the bottom with parchment paper.

In a mixing bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder and soda, and kosher salt. In a second bowl, whisk together olive oil, milk, eggs, Grand Marnier and orange zest. Whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, and mix until just combined.

Pour into prepared pan and bake for one hour, until a cake tester inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean. Sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar if you want. Or don’t! Serve with your choice of accoutrements, whipped cream, sweetened mascarpone, berries, ice cream. Enjoy!

B&G Classic: Banana Bread

A classic...

It boggles the mind that I have yet to write about Banana Bread, as it is currently one of the most frequent products of time spent in my kitchen. It is so mind-boggling, in fact, that I had to go back through all my old posts to confirm I hadn’t written a post already and forgotten about it.

For some reason, this banana bread is a huge hit. I don’t know why, since it seems pretty basic, but people LOVE it. It is oft requested by my work peeps and since we get groceries and produce delivered to the office, over-ripe bananas are pretty easy come by. I have everything else on hand most of the time, and it takes maybe 20 minutes of active time to get this recipe together. Regular banana bread making is a no-brainer.

This recipe is mostly Martha’s, with a few B&G adjustments. I like to sub in some brown sugar for some of the white sugar in her recipe because, why not? Brown sugar is delicious and it adds some nice depth.  I also leave out nuts, but sometimes add in chocolate instead because chocolate is delicious.

This is just great, I am not sure if there is more to say about it, because I am pretty sure most of us have had banana bread. If you haven’t had banana bread because you don’t like bananas, I urge you to try it, or get someone else to make it and then try it, because while it is totally banana-y, it is also one of those things that people who hate bananas manage to love anyway, because it’s a different kind of banana-ness. Or if you don’t like it because you’ve only had bad ones, I recommend you try it because this is a good one, and I suspect it will change your mind. It’s very sweet, which I like, but could easily be adjusted if you preferred otherwise. The addtion of sour cream or greek yogurt makes it very moist, and it has great banana flavor. It is a delight when it is still warm, it is a delight when it is cooled the next day, it is a delight when it is toasted, it is a delight as a bed for an ice cream sundae, and I am pretty sure it would be a delight as the basis for a bread pudding, which, now that you mention it, I am TOTALLY going to try pretty much immediately. I am going to leave some of this out to get stale.

Next time you have bananas that got a little too ripe, don’t despair, make banana bread! You will be very popular.

breakfast of champions.

Classic Banana Bread (makes 2 standard loaves or one large tube cake – recipe can easily be halved)

Adapted from The Martha Stewart Cookbook

2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 cup sugar

1 cup dark brown sugar (not packed)

4 eggs

3 cups all purpose flour

2 tsp baking soda

2 tsp salt

2 cups mashed very-ripe bananas (about 6)

1 cup sour cream or greek yogurt

2 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup chocolate chunks (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350. Prep two loaf pans or a tube pan with butter or cooking spray, set aside.

Cream the butter and both sugars in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy. (A handheld mixer or by hand would work too!) Add the eggs in one at a time, beating well between each addition. Sift together dry ingredients in a medium bowl and add to the butter mixture, mixing until just combined. Add the banana, the sour cream and the vanilla and mix until combined. Fold in chocolate (or nuts if they float your boat) and pour into prepared pans.

Bake the banana bread in the center of the oven for at least an hour until golden and a cake tester insterted in the middle of the loaf comes out clean. Loaf pans will likely take an hour or an hour and five minutes, tube pan will take about an hour and fifteen minutes.

Enjoy!!

In which I make (finally) something sweet…

Great Gatsby’s Ghost! I just realized I have not posted anything sweet on here since LAST AUGUST! That’s crazy! I have certainly made sweet things, and I have most definitely eaten sweet things, but apparently, I showed them no love here. I’m aghast. That changes today.

Well, hello there!

I made Hello Mollys and I actually made them incorrectly, though it appears that no one but me was the wiser. Hello Mollys are better known as Seven-Layer bars, Congo Bars or Hello Dolly Bars, but they happen to be the specialty of one of my favorite relations, whose name happens to be Molly, and as a result, in our family, these are called Hello Mollys. She makes them at Christmastime, so I always think of them as a Christmas treat, but that is actually not the case at all. There is nothing seasonal about them, and even if there is, I made them a couple weeks ago (I know! Why can’t I stay on top of this?!?) and everybody at work loved them in spite of the time of year. When I made these, I promptly sent an e-mail to Molly telling her I had done so, and I had followed her recipe, and that I liked hers better. I think I have since figured out why that was the case…

If you look these up on the webs, there are definitely some variations, but there are more similarities than differences. The name Seven-Layer Bars comes from the cookies having –you guessed it – seven layers. Each of the layers is an ingredient, so I suppose they could also be called Seven-Ingredient Bars. I don’t know where the name Congo Bars or Hello Dolly Bars came from. Irrelevant to the discussion at hand… The layers/ingredients are: butter, graham cracker, chocolate chips, walnuts, coconut, condensed milk and almonds. Is that seven? Yep! That’s it. That’s what you need. You might even already have all that stuff in your kitchen! The recipe is super easy to remember too, since all the amounts, except for the butter, are the same (though you can feel free to play with them and adjust proportions to your liking.)

getting layered

It goes something like this – melt a stick of butter in a 9×13 baking pan (this is where I went wrong, I am not sure exactly what size mine was, but it was bigger, and I didn’t have a 9×13  – I have remedied that situation.) Once the butter has melted and you’ve swirled it around the pan, you add 2 cups of graham cracker crumbs and spread it around to make an even layer. Then add two cups of chocolate chips and spread it around to make an even layer. Then add two cups of lightly chopped walnuts, and spread them around to make an even layer. Then add two cups of shredded coconut and spread it around to make an even layer. Then it gets crazy! (and also, this is the other place I went wrong.) Open two cans of sweetened condensed milk and pour it over the top. Last but not least, sprinkle two cups of sliced almonds over the top, spread around to make an even layer, and then bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes. When I made them, I sprinkled the almonds on first and THEN poured the condensed milk over, so they got coated too and got kind of shellacked on to the cookies. When Molly does it, the almonds stay flaky on the top and some of them end up falling off and they so they are not quite as almond-y or something. I don’t know, I just know I like hers better…I am not a huge nut fan, so that might be why. As I mentioned, no one at work thought that anything was amiss, so they work either way. I want to make these again, but I want to sub in some butterscotch chips for some of the chocolate, and I want to use salted peanuts instead of walnuts. And I would also like to perhaps sub in fancier chocolate instead of just regular chocolate chips, and then use pistachios? I don’t know about that one, but I’d be tempted to try it. Probably in a smaller pan since that would mean a lot of pistachios, and they are ‘spensive.

So there you go, if you have a potluck coming up, or you feel like bringing something when you go to someone’s house, or you just feel like making yourself a delightful treat, these truly couldn’t be easier. And so quick! You have to leave in 45 minutes? No worries! Make some Hello Mollys and slice ‘em when you get where you’re going. Just don’t burn yourself on the walk or ride over there. Wear your oven mitts. (But don’t leave them behind, because then you won’t have them anymore.)

yum

Phew! Something sweet! Balance has been restored…now on to more pressing matters.

1. The Olsen twins: Am I supposed to be able to tell them apart? Please advise.

2. I had to have an emergency root canal on Monday afternoon. I sort of suspected I might, when I spent all of Sunday trying to figure out if I could mainline Advil, or if I had any connections to unsavory characters that specialize in pills. I was really hungry that night so I made myself an egg and not very toasted toast, hoping it would be soft enough to get down my gullet without causing pain, but a wayward crumb crept over to the left side of my mouth, resulting in 20 minutes of tears until the feeling that someone was pounding nails into my tooth roots subsided. Monday afternoon in the dentist chair also saw 20 minutes of tears when I realized that the last root canal I had was under the blissful influence of Valium, and this one was going to have to be Valium free, and also, did you know how expensive root canals are when you’ve already used most of your dental benefits this year getting a beautiful shiny crown that is also about to be defaced? I felt really sorry for the dentist, who had never met me, because he had to deal with a grown-ass stranger lady falling apart in his chair on a Monday afternoon when he probably thought he’d get to go home early. And then, apparently, it was a really difficult tooth to deal with. Sorry guy. I am afraid of dental work and I have difficult teeth. I am not proud of either.

3. Have I told you about the Honey Badgers? I don’t think I have, and that makes me remiss. The HBs are a group of fantastic, hilarious, loyal, gorgeous ladies that I am lucky enough to keep company with. The name Honey Badgers does not, in fact, come from creepy coyotes, but from this. (Gram, don’t even bother, you won’t enjoy that…) HBs 4 dash eva.

4. I read a  lot of blogs and websites and there are a couple in particular I’d like to share with you…Gifts that Give is a blog by my friend Meg with fantastic daily ideas about gifts that give back. She has excellent taste and I want pretty much everything on there. The Hairpin makes me laugh every single day. Tastespotting is inspirational. Gilt Taste is just trouble. That is just the tip of the iceberg. I’m not gonna lie, I love the internet.

5. I also read a lot of more traditional reading material like books and magazines. (Do books on Kindle count as traditional?) Right now I am reading “In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin” by Erik Larson. It is great. Erik Larson is really good. He also wrote “The Devil in the White City” which I could not recommend more highly. He writes non-fiction in the most enjoyable, readable way imaginable, and he writes about major events with a focus on one or two players, and the books are great. I also read The New Yorker on my Kindle, and I am very excited for my upcoming vacation, so I can catch up on the back issues that I have gotten half way through that are still languishing on there waiting to be finished. A couple of issues of Vanity Fair will also be accompanying me to the North Carolina shores in a week and a half. I hope no one in my extended family is hoping to like chat with me or anything while I am there.

6. I will be on vacation in about 10 days with 46 other people. That is not a typo. There will 46 walking around humans in two large houses on the beach. 46 of my favorite humans in existence. I CAN NOT WAIT.

7. Bruins. Game 7. Up by one. Nervous. Also, I love the name Peverley. I could say it all the time. I want it to be my name. I wonder if he’s single? (Related: playoff beards are G-R-O-S-S. Not a fan.) UPDATE: 2-0, I’m less nervous.

Hello Mollys (makes 18-24 cookies)

1 stick butter

2 cups graham cracker crumbs

2 cups chocolate chips

2 cups lightly chopped walnuts

2 cups sweetened shredded coconut

2 cans sweetened condensed milk

2 cups sliced almonds

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Melt the butter in the baking pan (you can do this on top of the stove, but even easier to stick the pan and the butter in the oven as it heats up.) When the butter is melted, swirl the pan around so it coats the entire bottom as evenly as possible. Add the graham cracker crumbs to the pan and spread over the bottom in an even layer. Add the chocolate chips to the pan and spread them in an even layer. Do the same with the walnuts and then the coconut. Pour the cans of condensed milk evenly over the layers, and top with the sliced almonds. Bake for 30 mins. Cool, cut into bars and enjoy!

In which I am so behind the times and there will be some changes around here…

don't actually eat your cupcakes with a fork...

Cupcakes are the new black. Or maybe they were the new black, and now they’re the old black. Or perhaps they are still the current black. I am not sure, but I know they are quite the food trend, what with the cupcake shops popping up all the over the place. I like cupcakes, there’s not much to dislike, really, they are cute, and often gorgeous to look at, and oh so portable, but to be honest, mostly I find them, much like my as yet unrequited love for Seth Meyers, enjoyable, but ultimately unsatisfying. Either the cupcake is too dry, or the frosting is too cloyingly sweet, or it’s just not right.

So all this to say I am behind in the cupcake love, but I have found myself thinking quite a bit about them of late, as B&G is making two wedding cakes this fall, one of which will actually be a small cake and lots of cupcakes. I did a cake tasting for these lovely folks, and had to come up with all sorts of interesting combinations, so it was cupcakes all over the place for a couple of days. They had two specific requests: that one of the cupcakes be red velvet with cream cheese frosting, and that one have some sort of caramel frosting involved. I had never been much for red velvet cupcakes. I didn’t really understand the point. They aren’t yellow cake, they aren’t chocolate, but they don’t really have any other discernible flavor, plus they’re so red. But I soldiered on, and as it turns out, I love this recipe. I am not exactly sure how to describe it, but I really really enjoyed it. The frosting? Not so much. It was fine, and passable, and cream-cheesy, but I think I will keep working on it. I know there is fantastic potential for cream cheese frosting, and I will find it.

As for the chocolate and caramel combo, I have found my new love.

come to mama

I still have not found the perfect chocolate cupcake, I am working on that, but the caramel buttercream, based on a recipe from Martha, is sweet manna from heaven. I never want to be without it for all the rest of my days. There is no way to describe it other than perfection. Truly. Make this. Put it on stuff. Thank me. Repeat. But you don’t have to thank me every time. That’d be excessive.

And now for the big changes. Perhaps you have picked up on the subtle clues: the extended stay in Florida in February and March, the week on the Cape, all the gorgeous day time natural light photos, and determined that there has been a dearth of regular 9-5 employment around here. And you would have been correct. I am not going to lie, it has been a pretty fantastic couple of months, but it’s time to get back to the grind. I am back to office employment in about 10 days, and I have so many things to cram in to that time. First on my list is beach time. I went today. Tip: monitor your application of spray-on sunscreen closely, just because you spray in the vicinity of the back of your legs, you are not guaranteed a burn free afternoon at the beach. Keep it in mind. Also in the next 10 days, I have some sewing projects to attend to, a refrigerator to clean, and some exciting things to cook, a new language to learn, a couch to steam clean, a business plan to write, a shower to scrub, a half marathon to train for, and several books to read. Imma be busy. I best get some rest.

And so I leave you with these: Two great halves of some delightful cupcakes.

Red Velvet Cupcakes

Adapted from Pinchmysalt.com

2 1/2 cups cake flour

2 tbl cocoa powder (unsweetened)

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 cup buttermilk, divided, at room temperature

2 oz. red food coloring liquid, or 1 oz. food color gels

2 eggs, at room temperature

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp white vinegar

Preheat oven to 350 and line two twelve cup cupcake tins with paper liners.

Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, salt, baking powder and baking soda into the bowl of a standing mixer. Mix on low speed with the whisk attachment for 30 seconds or so until the dry ingredients are well combined. In a measuring cup or small bowl, mix together 3/4 cup of the buttermilk with the food coloring. With the mixer still on low, add the buttermilk mixture, and then the butter, mix on slow to combine and then turn the mixer up to medium high speed and beat until light and fluffy.

In a small bowl or measuring cup whisk together the remaining 1/4 cup of buttermilk, the eggs, the vanilla and the vinegar, then add to the batter in three additions, folding in until just combined each time.

Pour the batter in to the prepared cupcake tins and bake for 20-22 minutes until a tester inserted into the middle of the cakes comes out clean. Let cool completely, and top with your favorite frosting, cream cheese or otherwise, and enjoy!

Caramel Buttercream (makes 4-5 cups)

Adapted from marthastewart.com

1 1/2 plus 2 tbl sugar, divided

1/4 cup heavy cream

4 egg whites

3 sticks plus 2 tbl unsalted butter, softened

1 tsp vanilla extract

In a heavy bottom saucepan, stir 1/2 cup plus 2 tbl of sugar with 1/4 cup of water just to combine. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, without stirring, brushing down the sides of the pan with a clean wet pastry brush to avoid crystallization. Cook until the sugar is a deep amber color. Remove from heat and stir in the heavy cream. Set the caramel aside until cool.

Whisk together the egg whites and the remaining cup of sugar in a mixing bowl, preferably of a standing mixer, and rest it over a pan of simmering water. Heat for a couple of minutes, whisking occasionally, until the sugar is dissolved. Whip the egg whites and sugar together on high speed until the mixture forms medium-firm peaks. Add the vanilla and the butter one at a time and whip like crazy until the buttercream comes together. This may take some time, do not fear, just let the mixer do its work until the frosting is the texture of mayonnaise. Change to the paddle attachment on the standing mixer, and add the caramel to the buttercream. Mix until the frosting and the caramel come together, and use to frost your favorite cake or cupcakes.

In which there’s a little birdhouse in my soul…

Will induce random happiness

There are lots of things that make me happy. It doesn’t usually take much. It also doesn’t take much to make me cry. I did it twice today, which makes me sound like a crazy person, but I’m really really not. I am not talking about soul shaking purging all your feelings crying, it actually takes a lot (of emotion or of alcohol-those of you that went to high school with me, and good old Mary know to what I refer) to make me do that, I’m talking about the tears right at the surface ready to spring forth at the merest encouragement kind of crying. In this case brought about first by a very heartwarming story on ESPN.com (go ahead a read it and try to tell me it doesn’t give you a catch in your throat) and second by the season finale of Parenthood that I watched on TiVo. Man oh man, that one got me more than once.

But this is about things that make me happy, and today they are many and varied.

Gimlets. I know I have talked about my gimlets before, and I am still working on the measurements to share with you, so you can enjoy this fantastic refreshing beverage as well, sit tight.

The summer. I love when it’s warm. Warm holidays are my favorite. 4th of July is my most favorite because of the fireworks, but Memorial Day comes close because there is always outdoor food cookery and daytime drinking parties.

These:

please, let me explain

I honestly think crocs are the ugliest shoes ever created and are appropriate in public only for small children, but I broke down and got some because I absolutely abhor being barefoot. Unless I am at the beach or under my covers, there are shoes on my feet. I do not like to have dirty feet, and the idea of cooking barefoot gives me the icks. You could lose a toe. So I need to be wearing shoes. Except that the very first thing I like to do when I come in from outside is take whatever shoes I am wearing off. I needed a solution for this. Slippers don’t work because I cook a lot and they get spilled on and gross, and I couldn’t think of another option, so I got some crocs. And I have worn them every single moment I have spent in my apartment since. I don’t have to drag in the city filth on the bottom of my shoes, and I don’t have to risk toe decapitation. And so now they make me happy. And they have NEVER seen the out of doors. And they never will. Not only are they crocs, they are bright yellow crocs, so I will never be tempted. They have never even gotten the paper. Think slippers, but more sanitary.

The fact that my legs don’t look totally glow in the dark in that picture.

Professional sports championship match ups. Go Celts. ’57, ’59, ’60-’66, ’68, ’69, ’74, ’76, ’81, ’84, ’86, ’08…’10!

They Might Be Giants.

The kindness of strangers. A stranger did me a solid, and ended up shooting herself in the foot as a result of her totally unnecessary good deed. All is right with the world now, but it took a couple of extra steps for it to get there, and to show my gratitude, I decided to bake so I could give her a treat when we met today. I made homemade Oreos. It made me really happy to make them, and I hope it makes her happy to eat them.

So much better for you...

I actually regret making these. They are way too easy to put together, and they really are good. They may be habit forming. I have to get the rest out of the house ASAP. The cookies are crispy and a little salty and perfectly not totally sweet, and the filling is upscale Oreo. I have eaten two of these dipped in milk. And two before I thought of pouring myself a glass of milk. Again, I have to get these out of here.

They really are easy. The cookie dough is done in the food processor.

Combine dry ingredients:

flour, cocoa, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt

Then add butter and an egg and pulse until it looks like this.

dough

Then rounded teaspoons onto parchment lined cookie sheets. And then they get smooshed a little into disks.

smooshed

And then baked for nine minutes. They puff up a little and then deflate and crisp up as they cool.

the crunchy exterior

The filling is butter, shortening, confectioner’s sugar and vanilla extract. It comes together in five minutes and then you pipe it onto the cookies and match them up.

the creamy interior

I had cookies put together and boxed up from start to finish in less than an hour. These really do come together quickly. Make them soon.

gifted

This recipe came from Smitten Kitchen. I am going to have to pay Deb royalties. This is getting silly.

Homemade Oreos (Makes 25 to 30 sandwich cookies)

From Smitten Kitchen

For the cookies:

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch process cocoa

1 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1 cup sugar (apparently the original recipe says you can use 1 1/2 cups sugar. I’m ignoring that because they would be too sweet. Delicious, but not Oreos.)

1/2 cup plus 2 tbls (1 1/4 sticks) room-temperature, unsalted butter

1 large egg

For the filling:

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) room-temperature, unsalted butter

1/4 cup vegetable shortening

2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar

2 tsp vanilla extract

Set two racks in the middle of the oven. Preheat to 375°F.

In a food processor, or bowl of an electric mixer, thoroughly mix the flour, cocoa, baking soda and powder, salt, and sugar. While pulsing, or on low speed, add the butter, and then the egg. Continue processing or mixing until dough comes together in a mass.

Take rounded teaspoons of batter and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet approximately two inches apart. With moistened hands, slightly flatten the dough. Bake for 9 minutes, rotating once for even baking. Set baking sheets on a rack to cool.

To make the cream, place butter and shortening in a mixing bowl, and at low speed, gradually beat in the sugar and vanilla. Turn the mixer on high and beat for 2 to 3 minutes until filling is light and fluffy.

To assemble the cookies, in a pastry bag with a 1/2 inch, round tip, pipe teaspoon-size blobs of cream into the center of one cookie. Place another cookie, equal in size to the first, on top of the cream. Lightly press, to work the filling evenly to the outsides of the cookie. Continue this process until all the cookies have been sandwiched with cream.

In which I do a week in review…sort of…

I have quite a bit to say about the last couple of weeks, so I shall provide a quick rundown, both in food and life:

First, I have made several things recently, both from the Great Recipe Rescue of Aught Ten and otherwise, which, for whatever reason, don’t really merit their own blog post, but I think I would like to share them with you anyway.

For instance, Sticky Rice with Mango.

yum.

This was something I was introduced to at work. During one of my late nights at the office with my comrades in arms, we ordered Thai food, and my friend Mark ordered this for dessert. He let me try it and I swooned. I immediately ran out and bought a giant bag of glutinous rice and a can of coconut milk, but since I thought it was going to be difficult and since the rice requires a significant soaking before it is cooked (24 hours is preferable) I hadn’t gotten around to making this until recently. I am very sorry I waited. It does require a fair amount of soaking time, but other than that, this really couldn’t be easier. So easy, I never bothered posting about it. If you want to make it, search for a recipe online, get yourself some glutinous rice and have at it. Apparently, it is traditionally cooked in a pot and basket like this, but I don’t have one of those (I will someday though, because I am sort of in love with it) so my cooking vessel looked like this:

a large pot, a strainer, and some cheesecloth. Homemade sticky rice basket.

Worked just fine…be creative, you’ll figure something out.

Also? I made this butter cake. This was from the recipe rescue. It was tasty, but I thought it odd that they suggested serving it on its own, since it is essentially one layer of a yellow layer cake, but a bit more delicate, so it would difficult to use as a layer cake. I served it with strawberries and whipped cream and it was really good, but really, just a cake.

butter cake avec fraises

I also made these crackers one night when my family came over for dinner. They are like Cheez-Its for adults, but way better, because I don’t really like Cheez-Its (fake orange cheese in a snack that I don’t like? What?) They are really great, and easy and a crowd pleaser. And consist of ingredients that I pretty much always have on hand. I am quite sure they will be made over and over and over again.

Dignified snack food

And now? For my first life observation? The LOST finale. I can’t help it. I have been a fan since the beginning. It might be the only show I have ever watched every single episode IN ORDER. I was hooked from the start. And the further I get from the finale on Sunday night, the more I actually like it. Here’s why. I wanted Jack and Kate to be together. I have always wanted Jack and Kate to be together. I am a romantic, and they are supposed to be together in my romantic world. I know there are those that disagree, but just because two people (looking at you Kate and Sawyer) hook up one time in a sex cage, it doesn’t mean they are destined to spend eternity together. (I can’t believe I just typed that sentence in a forum Grammie reads…blame the LOST writers.) I mean it wasn’t flawless, poor Sayid. I understand that the idea is that the time these people spent on the island was the most important time in their lives, and therefore the throw away relationship between Sayid and Shannon comes to represent that in the finale. Fine. But instead of spending eternity with the love of his life, Sayid has to suffer through infinity with the single most annoying character in the series? No fair. At least she was looking fantastic, I guess. Those are my thoughts. I liked the throw down on the cliffs, I hated the hokey Christian Shephard speech, even though it technically defined the whole final season, and I am curious…the sideways world? It was purgatory for all the characters even though they died at different times? Did they all have to be ready to move forward together before any of them did? Was that just Jack’s sideways world? I don’t think so. Confusing. Also, apparently the MIB’s name in the scripts was Samuel. My research told me that. Word. That is simplistic. I have more thoughts, but I know there are not all that many LOST fans amongst my faithful readership, so I will move on.

Back to the food.

There was a roasted tomato risotto that I made with the slow roasted tomatoes I have been making quite a bit of lately.

Risotto with Roasted Tomatoes

I used the leftovers for more fried stuff with cheese. And it was good.

And there was a chicken curry. First I had to make curry powder:

one of my new favorite things.

And then I made my chicken curry. It is a recipe from Epicurious.com, and I think it is the one that my Florida friend Megan made for me one night when I was down there, when I took a deep breath and steeled myself to eat some curry that I wasn’t entirely sure I would love, and I cleaned my plate.

Curried chicken, with accoutrements

And there were more tarts…and look at the pans I used! Huzzah! I made these for the Kentucky Derby, and three of us did a number on them.

spicy shrimp with leeks, fig jam with gorgonzola and coppa, ricotta and roasted tomato, ricotta and olive with orange zest, sweet onions with gorgonzola, olives and rosemary to name a few

And there were these little guys:

frik and frak

I made ramp MAYONNAISE to go with it. Mayonnaise. All by myself. With a wooden spoon. It was fun. And there WILL be a post about it. Because it was that fun.

ramp mayo. by hand.

Alright, I think that’s that. A little week(s) in review if you will. I still have lots of other fun things to talk about though, so don’t worry, I haven’t totally cleaned out my photo files.

And now, to end on a serious note, because I have some great recent food memories from that part of the world…there are MILLIONS of gallons of oil in Gulf and no one seems to be doing anything about it. WHERE IS THE OUTRAGE?? I am not sure if I care at this point whose fault it is. There is plenty of time for finger-pointing and punishment after someone fixes it, but it has been over a month, and for some reason, we can not get the oil to stop? And now it is being relegated to second page news. Time to step up. FIX IT.

PS: Umm, this might be awesome, could you imagine if it malfunctioned like the soda machines sometimes do and spit out two?

In which I just knew…

Sometimes I can tell everything about a dish by the name alone. And so it was with this Raspberry Brown Butter Tart. I could picture instantly what it would look like, I could imagine what it would taste like, and I knew instantly I would love it. LOVE IT. How right I was.

oh my

The crust is shortbready and sweet, with a hint of vanilla. It gets really crisp. The filling is also quite sweet. It’s like a brown butter custard. It is nutty and eggy and awesome. It would probably be too sweet on its own, except the raspberries cut the sweetness perfectly. It is perfection. I am not even sure there is anything else to say about it. Amazing.

On this Mother’s Day, because I am pretty sure she would love it too, even without any chocolate, this one is for Mom, aka Mommy, Mary, MP, Mary Pat, Ma Dukes or big Mare the Perm Goddess (that one courtesy of my brother, oh how lucky moms of boys are.) I am not sure how she is not permanently exhausted from getting the four of us to adulthood. There were some serious personalities in our house growing up. But somehow she smiled and laughed way more than she yelled, she encouraged all our weirdness and supported all our whims. We got to grow into ourselves and figure out who we were knowing there was someone who thought we were pretty awesome no matter what. We didn’t always deserve it, but she was unwavering, and I know none of us have said thank you enough. Happy Mother’s Day, Mom, and thanks.

ready to bake

Raspberry Brown Butter Tart

Bon Appetit, June 2009

For the crust:

7 tbls unsalted butter, melted

1/3 cup sugar

1/4 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup plus 1 tbl all purpose flour

Pinch of salt

For the filling:

1/2 cup sugar

2 large eggs

Pinch of salt

1/4 cup all purpose flour

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, diced

2 6 oz. containers fresh raspberries

For crust:

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 375°F. Using rubber spatula or fork, mix melted butter, sugar, and vanilla in medium bowl. Add flour and salt and stir until incorporated. Transfer dough to 9-inch-diameter tart pan with removable bottom. Using fingertips, press dough evenly onto sides and bottom of pan.

Bake crust until golden, about 18 minutes (crust will puff slightly while baking). Transfer crust to rack and cool in pan. Maintain oven temperature.

For filling:

Whisk sugar, eggs, and salt in medium bowl to blend. Add flour and vanilla; whisk until smooth. Cook butter in heavy small saucepan over medium heat until deep nutty brown (do not burn), stirring often, about 6 minutes. Immediately pour browned butter into glass measuring cup. Gradually whisk browned butter into sugar-egg mixture; whisk until well blended.

Arrange raspberries, pointed side up and close together in concentric circles, in bottom of cooled crust. Carefully pour browned butter mixture evenly over berries. Place tart on rimmed baking sheet. Bake tart until filling is puffed and golden and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Cool tart completely in pan on rack.

Remove tart pan sides. Cut into wedges and serve.

Note: when you press the crust into the pan, it first seems that it can’t possibly be enough. Stick with it. If you make sure it is evenly distributed, it will be enough.

perfecto

In which I talk about my new favorite cake in the whole world…

buttermilk cake with berries

Summer is apparently here in the Hub. It was 71 degrees when I woke up at 7 am Monday morning. That makes for some uncomfortable cooking temperatures around here. To top it off, we are having a bit of a water emergency in these parts. I have been forced to boil all water for dish washing. It’s really really annoying. Let’s hope the powers that be are on top of this.

*****

I don’t like to throw things away. I think I may actually be on the hoarding spectrum. Very high functioning, mind you, but on the spectrum. Luckily, however, my need to have organization in my house and a permanent (tidy) place to keep stuff, means I have become relatively decent at purging. When I realized that it was not practical to move my collection of back issues from the eleventeen food magazines I receive monthly, I thought I would try to consolidate. So I started tearing out every recipe that sounded even remotely interesting, from every magazine I had (after reading thoroughly from cover to cover of course) and painstakingly cutting around the article and accompanying photo and gluing them on to card stock that I then slipped into sheet protectors and put into binders organized by type of food. I just read that sentence and feel perhaps there is something seriously wrong with me. Apparently I do not care for the interwebs which also houses every one of these recipes. As you can imagine, this was time consuming, and while I stayed on top of it long enough to create a minimum of a dozen binders, I have, in recent years, fallen behind. All this is to say I was digging through a box of recipes I had torn out at some point (and purging many of them) and found a recipe for raspberry buttermilk cake from the June 2009 issue of Gourmet. (Deb from Smitten Kitchen, it turns out, also made this in a more timely fashion…)

upside-down

I have made this three times, and it is just so so good. It comes together in minutes, and bakes in no time at all, and you are encouraged to eat it when it is still warm, so in less than an hour you can go from raw ingredients to a perfect delicious cake. All the ingredients are ones you may have on hand, or are easily acquired. This is easily adaptable, and therefore I am not even going to call it raspberry buttermilk cake, because that sounds so limiting. I have made it with raspberries and blackberries, and I hope to make it with blueberries sooner rather than later. I also added citrus zest because I felt like it. I highly recommend it. A raspberry-orange zest combo was sweet and delicious and perfect for dessert or with tea, and a blackberry-lime version was great with vanilla ice cream, but was tart enough that it would have made a great Sunday morning breakfast treat. What I am saying is that you should make this and quick. You won’t regret it. I might do the same.

blackberry-lime

Buttermilk Cake with Berries

Adapted from Gourmet, June 2009

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

2 oz. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened

2/3 cup plus  1 1/2 tbl sugar, divided

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp citrus zest (optional but I wouldn’t leave it out)

1 large egg

1/2 cup well shaken buttermilk

1 cup fresh berries of your choice

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Butter and flour a 9″ cake pan, or spray with flour cooking spray.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a small bowl. Beat butter and 2/3 cup sugar together with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about two minutes. Beat in vanilla and zest. Add egg and beat well. At low speed, beat in flour mixture in three batches, alternating with buttermilk and beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat until just combined.

Spoon batter into cake pan and scatter berries evenly over the top. Sprinkle with remaining 1 1/2 tbl sugar and bake for about 2o minutes until cake tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto cooling rack for an additional 10-15 minutes. Invert back onto serving plate and enjoy!

a little bit of heaven...

Update! Apparently our water is back! Though it may be too late for me. My stomach isn’t quite right. Blerg.

In which I finally share some Easter desserts…

I am running a little behind. I am all over the map, really. I make all of this great stuff and take pictures and then they languish, untouched in my photos folder and time slips away and I never share them with you. These Easter desserts, for instance. I went home to my parents’ house Easter weekend, for dinner Saturday night, and brunch Sunday morning. Extended family was going to bring the total to 11, and I said I would make desserts. I was leaning towards lemon desserts, both because they are springy, and because my dad is particularly fond of them. Blueberry goes so nicely with lemon, but I didn’t want to be too repetitive, so while I settled on lemon blueberry bundt cakes for brunch dessert, I needed something a bit more refined for dinner dessert. In a nod to my Florida family, right in the  middle of strawberry season, I went with this.

strawberry lemon tart

The base of this tart is just a sweet press in tart dough, and the lemon cream is actually “The Most Extraordinary French Lemon Cream” from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking from My Home to Yours. I added the strawberries myself. The lemon was creamy, not so different from curd, except that it has whole eggs instead of just yolks, and about double the butter, so the color is muted and creamier, and the lemon flavor is big but not tart like curd. It was delicious, but I am not certain it was “The Most Extraordinary.” I may have to tackle this again at some point and see if anything changes. Perhaps without any additional fruit. Or at least not strawberries, as since they were sliced, they gave off quite a bit of moisture. It made the cream a little runny when it was cut into. It was okay, I just would have preferred it held up a bit better. But it was delicious. And it looked gorgeous, and it turned out that this baby was my birthday cake, which was just fine with me.

Happy Birthday to Me.

For brunch I decided on a lemon blueberry bundt cake I found on the Martha Stewart website. I wanted to do a bundt cake mostly because I actually wanted to do bundt cakes, plural. I have a silicone individual bundt cake pan that I got back when I was into buying cookware that looked interesting but that I had no plans to use for several years. Usually the tendency was directly related to sale prices. I have two pieces of silicone bakeware, and I think that is all I need. One is a miniature tart pan, which came in handy for these. Handy because when trying to make something that can be so delicate in such a tiny size it helps to be able to bend the pan to your will. But I am reserving judgment on the bundt pan. The first batch I steadied by putting a baking sheet under it, the second I did not. The first ended up brown just where the silicone pan was touching the cookie sheet. The second ended up a bit too brown over all I think. Observe:

baked and browned.

I was not actually all the that pleased with either batch. Though the recipe itself was delightful. And when I served them I put the better ones on top, filled the centers with lemon curd, sprinkled with blueberries and powdered sugar and they looked very springy indeed. And everyone liked them, especially my mom. So I suppose ultimately my mission was accomplished.

lemon blueberry bundt cakes with lemon curd

The Most Extraordinary Lemon Cream Tart with Strawberries (says it serves 8, but we got  at least 11 decent sized slices from this)

From Baking from My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan

1 cup sugar

Grated zest of 3 lemons

4 large eggs

3/4 cup fresh lemon juice (from 4-5 lemons)

2 sticks plus 5 tbsp butter (10 1/2 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon size pieces, at room temperature.

1 9-inch tart shell made with sweet tart dough, fully baked (see below)

2 containers strawberries, rinsed and sliced

Getting ready:
Have a instant-read thermometer, a strainer and a blender (first choice) or food processor at hand. Bring a few inches of water to a simmer in a saucepan.

Put the sugar and zest in a large heat proof bowl that can be set over the pan of simmering water. Off the heat, rub the sugar and zest together between your fingers until the sugar is moist, grainy, and very aromatic. Whisk in the eggs, followed by the lemon juice.

Set the bowl over the pan and start stirring with the whisk as soon as the mixture fees tepid to the touch. Cook the lemon cream until it reaches 180 degrees F. As you whisk, which you want to do constantly to keep the eggs from scrambling, you’ll see that the cream will start out light and foamy, then the bubbles will get bigger, and then, as it gets closer to 180 F, it will start to thicken and the whisk will leave tracks. The tracks mean the cream is almost ready. Don’t stop whisking or checking the temperature, and have patience – depending on how much heat you’re giving the cream, getting to temp may take as long as 10 minutes.

As soon as it reaches 180 F, remove the cream from the heat and strain it into the container of the lender (or food processor); discard the zest. Let the cream stand, stirring occasionally, until it cools to 140 degrees F, about 10 minutes.

Turn the blender to high (or turn on the processor) and, with the machine going, add the butter about 5 pieces at a time. Scrape down the sides of the container as needed as you incorporate the butter. Once the butter is in, keep the machine going – to get the perfect light, airy texture of lemon-cream dreams, you must continue to bend the cream for another 3 minutes. If your machine protests, and gets a bit too hot, work in 1-minute intervals, giving the machine a little rest between beats.

Pour the cream into a container, press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface to create an airtight seal and refrigerate at least 4 hours, or overnight. (The cream will keep in the fridge for 4 days or, tightly sealed, in the freezer for up to 2 months; thaw it overnight in the refrigerator.)

When you are ready to assemble the tart, just whisk the cream to loosen it and spoon it into the tart shell. Place the sliced strawberries on top of the cream, as artistically as you’d like. Serve the tart, or refrigerate until needed.

Sweet Tart Dough (makes enough for one 9″ tart crust)

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar

1/4 tsp salt

1 stick plus 1 tablespoon (9 tablespoons) very cold (or frozen) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

1 large egg yolk

Put the flour, confectioner’s sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse a couple of times to combine. Scatter the pieces of butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is coarsely cut in – you should have some pieces the size of oatmeal flakes and some the size of peas. Stir the yolk, just to break it up, and add it a little at a time, pulsing after each addition. When the egg is in, process in long pulses – about 10 seconds each – until the dough, which will look granular soon after the egg is added, forms clumps and curds. Just before you reach this stage, the sound of the machine working the dough will change – heads up. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and, very lightly and sparingly, knead the dough just to incorporate any dry ingredients that might have escaped mixing.

To Press the Dough into the Pan: Butter a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Press the dough evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the pan, using all but one little piece of dough, which you should save in the refrigerator to patch any cracks after the crust is baked. Don’t be too heavy-handed – press the crust in so that the edges of the pieces cling to one another, but not so hard that the crust loses its crumbly texture. Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer, before baking.

To Fully Bake the Crust: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Butter the shiny side of a piece of aluminum foil and fit the foil, butter side down, tightly against the crust. (Since you froze the crust, you can bake it without weights.) Put the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake the crust for 25 minutes. Carefully remove the foil. If the crust has puffed, press it down gently with the back of a spoon. Bake for another 8 minutes or so, or until it is firm and golden brown. Transfer the tart pan to a rack and cool the crust to room temperature before filling.

For the Lemon-Blueberry Bundt Cake (or Cakes) recipe, see here. To make 12 individual cakes, use a scant 1/2 cup of batter for each small pan.

In which I am in a bit of a quandary…

ricotta cheesecake

I made a ricotta cheesecake a while back and have been a bit torn about sharing it with you because on the one hand, the cake and the pictures are GORGEOUS. On the other, it was only kind of so-so flavor wise. I had really high hopes because the batter was honestly one of the most amazing delicious things I have ever had the pleasure of eating. I was pumped for it to come out of the oven. But the final product was lacking. Not offensive in any way, just not exciting. But I’ll start from the beginning.

It all starts here...

6 eggs, separated.

1 1/2 pounds fresh ricotta...

...pureed

When ricotta is pureed the texture is like a thin yogurt or a creme fraiche, but it tastes like ricotta. It was pretty cool.

The pureed ricotta is mixed with the six egg yolks, sugar, a touch of flour, a pinch of salt and the zest of an orange.

gorgeous.

Whisk it together until smooth. This tastes unbelievably delicious.

Then the egg whites get beaten with sugar until they form very stiff peaks.

stiff and peak-y

Fold the two together.

folding.

This gets baked in a buttered and sugared springform pan at 375 degrees.

ready.

Until it looks like this.

puffy and gorgeous.

The cake came out of the oven puffed up, and then sunk a little bit in the middle. It was really light for a cheesecake, but much denser than a souffle. It was a gorgeous color, I was ecstatic when it came out of the oven. This was the prettiest thing I have ever made. But the taste didn’t live up to the visual appeal. It didn’t taste like much, which was shocking since the batter was unreal. I should have just eaten that with a spoon. But I have a plan. I think I am going to increase the egg whites, add some Grand Marnier and make it an actual souffle. I suspect I will have to reduce the amount of ricotta, but it’s gonna be good. I suspect a souffle will taste more like the batter in its pre-cooked state, but I am not sure why I suspect such a thing. I’ll keep you posted.

slice

So in spite of my indifference to the final outcome, I will share the recipe. Experiment and report back.

Ricotta Cheesecake

From Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook

Unsalted butter, room temperature, for pan

3/4 cup sugar, plus more for pan

1 1/2 lbs fresh whole milk ricotta cheese, pureed in food processor until smooth

6 large eggs, separated

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

finely grated zest of 1 orange

1/4 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 375. Generously butter and sugar a 9-inch springform pan. In a large bowl, whisk together the ricotta, egg yolks, flour, 6 tablespoons sugar, zest and salt until combined, set aside.

Place the egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment; beat on low speed until foamy. With the mixer on high, gradually add the remaining 6 tablespoons of sugar, beating until stiff and glossy, 3 to 4 minutes.

Using a rubber spatula, fold a third of the egg-white mixture into the ricotta mixture until combined. Gently fold the remaining egg white mixture until just combined. Pour into pan and bake until center is firm and the top a deep golden brown, about 1 hour.

Transfer to a wire rack and cool ten minutes. Place another wire rack on top and invert cake to rack to remove from pan. Reinvert cake and cool completely, top side up. The cheesecake is best eaten the day it is baked but can be refrigerated, covered loosely with plastic wrap, for up to 3 days. Let sit at room temperature for 20 minutes prior to serving.

post flip...a little incident of stickiness, the crack is more artistic, no?