Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Crepes Suzette and a Book Review

If you've come in search of a delicious dessert, don't fret, I'm serving up Crepes Suzette in the second half of this post. But first, let's talk books.

Food for Thought is an online "book club" where members vote on a food-related book, read it, then review it online. You get bonus points for preparing a recipe from the book.

This month we read "My Life in France" by Julia Child and Alex Prud'homme. This is the book club's fourth book and is by far my favorite.

The book was written by Julia's great nephew, Alex Prud'homme, toward the end of her life. Apparently, Alex had discussed the idea for the book with Julia years before, but it wasn't until she was 91 that she decided it was time to sit down with him and get started on "the France book". Through many hours of discussions and sifting through a mountain of letters written by Paul and Julia to Paul's brother while living overseas, the story of Julia' s life from 1948 onward unfolds.

It seems Julia bounced around for some time after college, in her words "drifting". Enter World War II. I can only imagine that during that period in history, it was hard not to be drawn in some way to the war effort. Julia was. Because she was too tall to join WACs and WAVEs, she joined the Office of Strategic Services (OSS, and the predecessor to the CIA) and eventually found herself in Ceylon as the head of Registry. It was in this role that she met Paul Child, her future husband. After she and Paul married, his job led them eventually to France where Julia was deeply influenced by France, the French way of life, and most certainly by the food.

Julia tells of her first meal eaten after arriving in France, sole meuniere. It was a profound experience. More French delicacies followed and soon, she started experimenting in her own kitchen (she barely cooked up to that point.) She enrolled in the Le Cordon Bleu cooking school, and as they say, the rest is history.

Surprisingly, there is an element of suspense in the book. Although we know that the cookbook "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" was published and was a great success, you almost forget that, reading about all of the difficulties encountered by Julia and her co-authors, Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle. The cookbook was 10 years in the making, and I can't help but think that less persistent folks would have given up mid-way through.

Paul was an amateur photographer and many of his photographs appear in the book. I really enjoyed seeing Julia in her early years, before she became the culinary icon she is today.

I felt like reading her book gave me a sense of Julia as a person. When someone becomes immensely famous, it's easy to forget they're human, just like the rest of us. I also enjoyed reading about her fascinating life. She led a life and traveled in a way that I can only dream of.

My only criticism of the book is the occasional use of French language that wasn't translated.

The NY Times has a very nice review of the book here.

OK, if you're still with me, THANKS! Now, onto the crepes. There weren't any recipes in "My Life in France", but I figured the recipes from "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" were fair game and couldn't resist trying the Crepes Suzette, a classic French dessert. The origins are credited to at least five different "Suzettes", from what I can tell.

OK, a quick rundown... first you make the crepes, which are basically really thin pancakes. As with all things, it takes some practice getting them thin enough and round.

You're supposed to dip each side of your crepe in the bubbling orange butter, but I had already been standing there making crepes for 30 minutes, so I skipped that step. You're then supposed to fold the crepes in half and then in half again. I went straight to the folding.

You take your orange butter...

...and cook it in your "chafing dish" (or your trusty saute pan).

Collect the folded crepes in the pan and "baste them" in the butter (my words there).

All that's left is the eatin'. I enjoyed mine with some raspberries, maple syrup, and whipped cream

And how were they, after all of that work? Delicious! It's a given that pancake lovers like me will be smitten. A word of caution, though. They must be eaten immediately. They became soggy before the second helping.

As for the recipe, I'm still waiting for permission from the publisher to reprint the recipe on my blog. However, I did find several recipes that are close. This crepe recipe (click here for recipe) from Creperie Chez Suzette is very close to Julia's. Gale Gand's recipe on the Food Network site (click here for recipe) is very close to the orange butter portion (you can use any crepe recipe, really). Note that Julia's orange-butter prepartion is somewhat unique compared to most I found.

If you're interested, you can watch a video of crepes suzette being prepared ---> here with Tyler Florence and friend. It's a slightly different method, but it gives you an idea of the finished product. If I can work up the motivation to cook up another batch of crepes (takes a long time, but can be done ahead), I might just have to try this version.

OK, bon appetit, and we'll see you next month.

TWD: Coconut Butter Thins

Awesome cookie Alert! Awesome cookie Alert!

This week's installment of Tuesday's with Dorie brings us Coconut Butter Thins, chosen by Jayne of The Barefoot Kitchen Witch . I also made the Brown Sugar-Pecan Shortbread which was the very first recipe chosen for Tuesday's with Dorie by the TWD founder, Laurie, from Quirky Cupcake.

I didn't realize until I started measuring out ingredients that these are very close to the same recipe, with the exceptions being the sugar, nuts, and flavoring. Cool! I didn't have to think as hard. The shortbread contained ground pecans and cloves, while the butter thins contained ground macadamias, lime zest, coconut, and coriander. (I know, it's an unusual combination, but somehow it worked.)

There's the butter thins dough on the left and the shortbread dough on the right. I forgot to roll them out before refrigerating. So I let them set at room temperature for maybe 10 minutes and proceeded to roll them out. (I did refrigerate the cut cookies before baking.)

Not surprisingly, they both looked basically the same when finished... kind of flat, a little bumpy (not like the pretty shortbread squares in the book). And they were both really tasty.

The coconut butter thins...

... and the brown-sugar pecan shortbread.

Really, it's a disservice to call the Coconut Butter Thins tasty. "Tasty" is an understatement. They were flipping AWESOME!! I would put them squarely in my Top 5 Dorie Greenspan recipes. Maybe even Top 3.

I'm glad I only made 1/4 recipe. No, let me rephrase that... my thighs are glad I only made 1/4 recipe.

Thanks so much to Jayne for a terrific pick this week. If you'd like to see the recipe, check out Dorie Greenspan's book "Baking: From my Home to Yours", or take a peek at Jayne's blog.

See you next week when the gang rolls out Banana Cream Pie (can't wait!).

Friday, March 27, 2009

Rhubarb and Custard

I'm not sure if I've mentioned how much I love rhubarb.

Well, I'll mention it now. I love rhubarb.

As I was leafing through "COOK with Jamie" by Jamie Oliver, I stopped dead in my tracks (figuratively) at the recipe for Rhubarb with Custard.

After a quick read of the ingredients, I already knew I would love this dessert.

And I did. Love it, that is. I. Loved. It.

Not only was it absolutely fabulous as-is, it was a bonus three-for-one recipe. I ate some of the rhubarb with ice cream (some by itself, even) And then, on one of Jamie's suggestions in the book, I took the surviving custard and turned it into ice cream. All I had to do was throw the custard in my cheap-o ice cream maker with a little crushed up peppermint and voila! Peppermint ice cream!

A lot of bang for the buck, if you ask me.

Here's the recipe. Make it! You'll thank me.

Rhubarb with Custard
From the book COOK WITH JAMIE by Jamie Oliver. Copyright (c) 2007 Jamie Oliver. Used by permission of Hyperion. All rights reserved.

1 3/4 pound rhubarb, washed and cut into 3 inch pieces
4 tablespoons superfine sugar
zest and juice of 2 oranges
a thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
1 Proper Custard recipe (see below)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Put the rhubarb pieces in an ovenproof dish or pan, with the sugar, orange zest and juice and the grated ginger sprinkled over the top. Cover with foil and cook in the preheated oven for 15 to 20 minutes until the rhubarb has softened. The cooking time will depend on the variety and thickness of your rhubarb, so trust your instincts and keep checking it. Meanwhile, make your custard. Once your rhubarb is cooked, taste it to see whether you think it's a little tart - it may need a bit more sugar.

Serve the rhubarb either in a big serving bowl or in individual bowls, with a generous amount of your delicious homemade custard.

Proper Custard

2 cups plus 3 tablespoons whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
6 tablespoons superfine sugar
1 vanilla bean, scored lengthwise and seeds removed
8 large free-range or organic egg yolks

Mix the milk, cream, 4 tablespoons of the superfine sugar, the vanilla bean and seeds together in a saucepan. Bring to the point of boiling, then remove from the heat and leave for a couple of minutes to cool slightly - this will also allow the vanilla flavor to infuse.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar until pale. Remove the vanilla bean from the milk mixture, then ladle a little of it on to the egg yolks and whisk immediately. Add the remaining milk a ladleful at a time, whisking in well before adding the next. Pour the egg mixture back into the warm saucepan and cook very gently for a few minutes, stirring all the time using a rubber spatula or a wooden spoon. After a matter of minutes the yolks should cook just enough to thicken the custard and make it shiny - you should be able to coat the back of a spoon with it.

Once you've reached this point, take it off the heat immediately. If you cook it too fast, for too long or on too high a heat, the mixture will probably scramble. But don't worry; if you start to see flecks or lumps of egg in your custard, pull it off the heat right away and pour it into a cold saucepan to cool it down a little, then strain the custard through a sieve into a clean pitcher. Served hot or cold, it's delicious.

P.S. If you want to warm up cold custard, it's best to place it in a bowl over a pan of boiling water - this way it won't curdle.

Recipe notes:
- I didn't have fresh rhubarb, so I settled for frozen, it was still delish. I let the rhubarb thaw completely and drained off all of the liquid before starting.
- I used my Vanilla Bean Paste by Nielsen-Massey (LOVE that stuff!) since I didn't have any vanilla beans.
- I used regular granulated sugar.
- I refrigerated both parts overnight. I tend to prefer cold custard.

I wanted to mention that there were a lot of fantastic looking recipes in the book. Gotta love Jamie!

Daring Bakers: Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna

Wait until you hear about this month's Daring Baker's challenge... lasagna!

I know, I know, I agree with some of the others bakers that lasagna doesn't really qualify as "baking", although it is baked. But who cares! It's delicious and making homemade pasta for the first time... how fun! I can tell this won't be my last time.

(Check out the Daring Bakers, er, Daring Kitchen's new logo. This is one of many. They'll be popping up all over cyberland today as the Daring Baker's reveal the March challenge. )

The March 2009 challenge is hosted by Mary of Beans and Caviar, Melinda of Melbourne Larder and Enza of Io Da Grande. They have chosen Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna from The Splendid Table by Lynne Rossetto Kasper as the challenge.

OK, let's get to the nitty gritty. First up on the list of requireds was the spinach egg pasta. This was brand new, uncharted territory for me.

We were instructed to make a well in a pile of flour and add our eggs and spinach to that.

We were to stir and continue to mix, even though it would appear to be a shaggy mass. It would smooth out and come together eventually. Mmmm, are you sure? This is what it looked like after mixing, and mixing (and mixing).

Mine was definitely staying in the shaggy mass state. My new found experience with pie dough told me that there was not enough liquid in the mix. I eventually added another whole egg plus another white (you can see the white in the picture above).

OK, it fiiiiiiinally came together as promised.

Now for the rolling. We were to roll out at least part of the dough by hand. There were instructions about rolling, folding, and stretching. But, I just wasn't getting it. I started with a handful of dough and got it rolled out as best I could.

But, that was too much work, if you ask me. Enter the hand crank pasta machine.
Hallelujah! I began with the same size ball of dough as before, and started it through the pasta machine on the thickest setting.

...and kept cranking it through on successively thinner settings.

I even had to call in a reinforcement for that last setting. (Aaaw, I wonder how long he'll be wearing Pokemon pajamas. Sniff. Ahem, anyway...)

People, in case you can't tell... the pasta machine rocks!! The machine pasta was so much thinner than the hand rolled.

I left my pasta to dry overnight.

I made the Country Style Ragu recipe given in the challenge. It was quite tasty, but it was a lot of work!!

I made the bechamel and was glad it was relatively easy. I added a tub of ricotta cheese to the bechamel. I also layered regular spaghetti sauce along with the homemade ragu. Sorry, but I need a saucy, cheesy lasagna, folks.

I took some pictures of the assembly and the final masterpiece, but my pictures didn't turn out the greatest. I was rushed getting this made and out the door for a gathering.

Look at all of those noodles! I'd say I used two-thirds of them.

Let the layering begin.

Out of the oven...

Unfortunately, I didn't get a nice picture of the finished lasagna. I guess that's a testament to how good it was. I think there was one scraggly piece left when the dust settled.

Whew! It was quite an effort. More effort than I've ever put into any other lasagna. But it was delicious and well worth it. Thanks so much to our hosts for this month for introducing me to yet another fantastic homemade treat, pasta.

Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna (Lasagne Verdi al Forno)
(Serves 8 to 10 as a first course, 6 to 8 as a main dish)
Preparation Time: 15 minutes to assemble and 40 minutes cooking time

10 quarts (9 litres) salted water
1 recipe Spinach Pasta cut for lasagna (recipe follows)#1
1 recipe Bechamel Sauce (recipe follows)#2
1 recipe Country Style Ragu (recipe follows)#3
1 cup (4 ounces/125g) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano


Working Ahead: The ragu and the béchamel sauce can be made up to three days ahead. The ragu can also be frozen for up to one month. The pasta can be rolled out, cut and dried up to 24 hours before cooking. The assembled lasagne can wait at room temperature (20 degrees Celsius/68 degrees Fahrenheit) about 1 hour before baking. Do not refrigerate it before baking, as the topping of béchamel and cheese will overcook by the time the center is hot.

Assembling the Ingredients: Have all the sauces, rewarmed gently over a medium heat, and the pasta at hand. Have a large perforated skimmer and a large bowl of cold water next to the stove. Spread a double thickness of paper towels over a large counter space. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (180 degrees Celsius). Oil or butter a 3 quart (approx 3 litre) shallow baking dish.

Cooking the Pasta: Bring the salted water to a boil. Drop about four pieces of pasta in the water at a time. Cook about 2 minutes. If you are using dried pasta, cook about 4 minutes, taste, and cook longer if necessary. The pasta will continue cooking during baking, so make sure it is only barely tender. Lift the lasagne from the water with a skimmer, drain, and then slip into the bowl of cold water to stop cooking. When cool, lift out and dry on the paper towels. Repeat until all the pasta is cooked.

Assembling the Lasagne: Spread a thin layer of béchamel over the bottom of the baking dish. Arrange a layer of about four overlapping sheets of pasta over the béchamel. Spread a thin layer of béchamel (about 3 or 4 spoonfuls) over the pasta, and then an equally thin layer of the ragu. Sprinkle with about 1&1/2 tablespoons of the béchamel and about 1/3 cup of the cheese. Repeat the layers until all ingredients are used, finishing with béchamel sauce and topping with a generous dusting of cheese.

Baking and Serving the Lasagne: Cover the baking dish lightly with foil, taking care not to let it touch the top of the lasagne. Bake 40 minutes, or until almost heated through. Remove the foil and bake another 10 minutes, or until hot in the center (test by inserting a knife – if it comes out very warm, the dish is ready). Take care not to brown the cheese topping. It should be melted, creamy looking and barely tinged with a little gold. Turn off the oven, leave the door ajar and let the lasagne rest for about 10 minutes. Then serve. This is not a solid lasagne, but a moist one that slips a bit when it is cut and served.

#1 Spinach Egg Pasta (Pasta Verde)

Preparation: 45 minutes
Makes enough for 6 to 8 first course servings or 4 to 6 main course servings, equivalent to 1 pound (450g) dried boxed pasta.

2 jumbo eggs (2 ounces/60g or more each)
10 ounces (300g) fresh spinach, rinsed dry, and finely chopped; or 6 ounces (170g) frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry3&
1/2 cups (14 ounces/400g) all purpose unbleached (plain) flour (organic stone ground preferred)

Working by Hand:
A roomy work surface, 24 to 30 inches deep by 30 to 36 inches (60cm to 77cm deep by 60cm to 92cm). Any smooth surface will do, but marble cools dough slightly, making it less flexible than desired.
A pastry scraper and a small wooden spoon for blending the dough.
A wooden dowel-style rolling pin. In Italy, pasta makers use one about 35 inches long and 2 inches thick (89cm long and 5cm thick). The shorter American-style pin with handles at either end can be used, but the longer it is, the easier it is to roll the pasta.
Note: although it is not traditional, Enza has successfully made pasta with a marble rolling pin, and this can be substituted for the wooden pin, if you have one.
Plastic wrap to wrap the resting dough and to cover rolled-out pasta waiting to be filled. It protects the pasta from drying out too quickly.
A sharp chef’s knife for cutting pasta sheets.
Cloth-covered chair backs, broom handles, or specially designed pasta racks found in cookware shops for draping the pasta.

Mixing the dough: Mound the flour in the center of your work surface and make a well in the middle. Add the eggs and spinach. Use a wooden spoon to beat together the eggs and spinach. Then gradually start incorporating shallow scrapings of flour from the sides of the well into the liquid. As you work more and more flour into the liquid, the well’s sides may collapse. Use a pastry scraper to keep the liquids from running off and to incorporate the last bits of flour into the dough. Don’t worry if it looks like a hopelessly rough and messy lump.

Kneading: With the aid of the scraper to scoop up unruly pieces, start kneading the dough. Once it becomes a cohesive mass, use the scraper to remove any bits of hard flour on the work surface – these will make the dough lumpy. Knead the dough for about 3 minutes. Its consistency should be elastic and a little sticky. If it is too sticky to move easily, knead in a few more tablespoons of flour. Continue kneading about 10 minutes, or until the dough has become satiny, smooth, and very elastic. It will feel alive under your hands. Do not shortcut this step. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap, and let it relax at room temperature 30 minutes to 3 hours.

Stretching and Thinning: If using an extra-long rolling pin work with half the dough at a time. With a regular-length rolling pin, roll out a quarter of the dough at a time and keep the rest of the dough wrapped. Lightly sprinkle a large work surface with flour. The idea is to stretch the dough rather than press down and push it. Shape it into a ball and begin rolling out to form a circle, frequently turning the disc of dough a quarter turn. As it thins outs, start rolling the disc back on the pin a quarter of the way toward the center and stretching it gently sideways by running the palms of your hands over the rolled-up dough from the center of the pin outward. Unroll, turn the disc a quarter turn, and repeat. Do twice more.

Stretch and even out the center of the disc by rolling the dough a quarter of the way back on the pin. Then gently push the rolling pin away from you with one hand while holding the sheet in place on the work surface with the other hand. Repeat three more times, turning the dough a quarter turn each time.

Repeat the two processes as the disc becomes larger and thinner. The goal is a sheet of even thickness. For lasagne, the sheet should be so thin that you can clearly see your hand through it and see colours. Cut into rectangles about 4 by 8 inches (10 x 20 cm). Note: Enza says that transparency is a crucial element of lasagne pasta and the dough should be rolled as thinly as possible. She says this is why her housekeeper has such strong arms!

Dry the pasta at room temperature and store in a sealed container or bag.

#2 Bechamel
Preparation Time: 15 minutes

4 tablespoons (2 ounces/60g) unsalted butter
4 tablespoons (2 ounces/60g) all purpose unbleached (plain) flour, organic stone ground preferred2&
2/3 cups (approx 570ml) milk
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Freshly grated nutmeg to taste

Using a medium-sized saucepan, melt the butter over low to medium heat. Sift over the flour, whisk until smooth, and then stir (without stopping) for about 3 minutes. Whisk in the milk a little at a time and keep the mixture smooth. Bring to a slow simmer, and stir 3 to 4 minutes, or until the sauce thickens. Cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes, until the sauce thickens. Season with salt, pepper, and a hint of nutmeg.

#3 Country Style Ragu’ (Ragu alla Contadina)
Preparation Time: Ingredient Preparation Time 30 minutes and Cooking time 2 hours
Makes enough sauce for 1 recipe fresh pasta or 1 pound/450g dried pasta)

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (45 mL)
2 ounces/60g pancetta, finely chopped
1 medium onion, minced
1 medium stalk celery with leaves, minced
1 small carrot, minced
4 ounces/125g boneless veal shoulder or round
4 ounces/125g pork loin, trimmed of fat, or 4 ounces/125g mild Italian sausage (made without fennel)
8 ounces/250g beef skirt steak, hanging tender, or boneless chuck blade or chuck center cut (in order of preference)
1 ounce/30g thinly sliced Prosciutto di Parma
2/3 cup (5 ounces/160ml) dry red wine1 &
1/2 cups (12 ounces/375ml) chicken or beef stock (homemade if possible)
2 cups (16 ounces/500ml) milk
3 canned plum tomatoes, drained
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Working Ahead: The ragu can be made 3 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate. It also freezes well for up to 1 month. Skim the fat from the ragu’ before using it.

Browning the Ragu Base: Heat the olive oil in a 12 inch (30cm) skillet (frying pan) over medium-high heat. Have a large saucepan handy to use once browning is complete. Add the pancetta and minced vegetables and sauté, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, 10 minutes, or until the onions barely begin to color. Coarsely grind all the meats together, including the prosciutto, in a food processor or meat grinder. Stir into the pan and slowly brown over medium heat. First the meats will give off a liquid and turn dull grey but, as the liquid evaporates, browning will begin. Stir often, scooping under the meats with the wooden spatula. Protect the brown glaze forming on the bottom of the pan by turning the heat down. Cook 15 minutes, or until the meats are a deep brown. Turn the contents of the skillet into a strainer and shake out the fat. Turn them into the saucepan and set over medium heat.

Reducing and Simmering: Add the wine to the skillet, lowering the heat so the sauce bubbles quietly. Stir occasionally until the wine has reduced by half, about 3 minutes. Scrape up the brown glaze as the wine bubbles. Then pour the reduced wine into the saucepan and set the skillet aside.

Stir ½ cup stock into the saucepan and let it bubble slowly, 10 minutes, or until totally evaporated. Repeat with another ½ cup stock. Stir in the last 1/2 cup stock along with the milk. Adjust heat so the liquid bubbles very slowly. Partially cover the pot, and cook 1 hour. Stir frequently to check for sticking.

Add the tomatoes, crushing them as they go into the pot. Cook uncovered, at a very slow bubble for another 45 minutes, or until the sauce resembles a thick, meaty stew. Season with salt and pepper.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

TWD: Blueberry Crumb Cake (and Marshmallows)

Mm mm, yum! I really enjoyed this week's Tuesday's with Dorie recipe, Blueberry Crumb Cake. Thanks so much to Sihan of Befuddlement for the great pick. Not only was it a winner in the taste department (the crumb topping was fantastic!), but it also gets credit for making my house smell wonderful for days after baking.

I halved the recipe and made it in a 6-inch round pan.

In retrospect, I wish I would have used a slightly larger pan as it ran over just a tad (this seems to be a recurring theme lately).

My only other change was to use egg yolks in place of the whole egg. I also made Dorie's marshmallows (still trying to catch up), so I had a shortage of whites and an excess of yolks. Not surprisingly, my cake looks a little extra yellow.

Here are my marshmallows. I made half plain and half with a swirl of raspberry sauce, although the swirl looks more like a schmear.

I don't know why, but I kept thinking the marshmallows would be similar to divinity (which I LOOOOVE). But they weren't really. They actually tasted a lot like... marshmallows! (Why was I surprised? I don't know.) They were good, but I prefer divinity. I guess I'm jaded as to what fluffy white homemade confections should taste like.

I'm sure these marshmallows would have been awesome dunked in a big mug of hot chocolate, though.

OK, on to next week, when we make coconut butter thins. Please see Sihan's site for the cake recipe, or check out Dorie Greenspan's book, "Baking: From my Home to Yours". For the marshmallows, please visit Judy's blog at Judy's Gross Eats for the recipe.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Cookie Carnival: Inside-Out Carrot Cake Cookies

Hello fellow cookie lovers! The Cookie Carnival gang has another great cookie to share with the blogosphere this month - Inside-Out Carrot Cake Cookies, from the April 2004 issue of Gourmet magazine.

It's no surprise that I loved these cookies. After all, carrot cake is my all-time favorite cake.

We were supposed to make larger cookies and sandwich the cream cheese filling between them. Since I was taking these to a get-together, I needed more cookies than the recipe calls for. So instead, I made them smaller and topped them with cream cheese icing.

I did take a few of them, cut them in half and make a sort of half-sandwich cookie. Turns out, I liked them better as sandwich cookies.

If you're interested in these spicy delights, you can find the recipe at Epicurious.com or click ---> here.

Thanks to our host, Kate, from the Clean Plate Club for once again picking a fantastic cookie. If you'd like to join us Carnivalers, please let Kate know.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Cake Slice: Triple Orange Chiffon Cake

I'm one of those oddballs that doesn't mind cold, blustery winters. The idea of the outside world falling dormant and hibernating for part of the year is comforting to me.

Winter is a time of quiet hibernation for people too. Gone are the evenings spent chatting with neighbors on the sidewalk and the shouts of children playing baseball in the street. In their place is a quietness, a withdrawing to the comfort and warmth of home.

Winter is special, because without it, spring would not be that magical time of re-awakening.

Sprigs of green seem to defy the odds and poke their little heads out of the cold, dark earth. Likewise, neighbors emerge from their houses, anxious for fresh air and a chance to see old friends.

This month's Cake Slice recipe was Triple Lemon Chiffon Cake, a perfect excuse to sit on the porch and catch up with neighbors.

I opted for a triple orange chiffon cake, rather than lemon. The last four desserts I've made have been lemon flavored and I was ready for a change.

I decided to kick it up a notch by using the juice from a blood orange, a mineola orange, and a regular orange. (I wish I would have taken a picture of the combined orange juice, it was a gorgeous orangish-fuschia color.) I also subbed orange juice for the water called for in the cake.

In spite of all of that orange-ness, the cake still had only a slight orange hue. But it tasted delicious, the orange cream filling was light and lovely, as was the orange spiked whipped cream icing. I personally thought the cake was a little too spongy-textured, but it tasted wonderful. (Find the recipe ----> here.)

I quartered the recipe and baked in 4" pans.

Since this cake rose nicely, it made for quite the tall and skinny cake.

OK, that's it for this month. I'll catch up with you next month for the next fabulous recipe from "Sky High: Irresistible Triple Layer Cakes" by Alisa Huntsman and Peter Wynne. Please be sure stop by the Cake Slice blogroll and check out how the rest of the bakers fared.

P.S. the neighbors loved this cake!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

TWD: French Yogurt Cake with Marmalade Glaze

Wow, is it Tuesday already? How did that happen?

Well, it is and it did, and that means it's time for Tuesdays with Dorie already. This week, Liliana of My Cookbook Addiction chose the French Yogurt Cake with Marmalade Glaze for the TWD bakers to make, bake, and share with the blogging world.

Since I'm still in over-achiever mode (not sure how long that will last before I burn out with a loud "pffft") I also made a recipe from before I joined the TWD group. I made the Perfection Pound Cake, chosen by Laurie of quirky cupcake. (In the picture above, the pound cake is the one on the left.)

I found some adorable little aluminum foil loaf pans at the store, perfect for cutting the recipe down. I think I quartered one recipe and thirded (is that a word?) the other. Basically, I reduced both so each recipe used one egg.

I think I had too much batter in the yogurt cake pan. It ran over during baking a little. I'm guessing that is why the top fell. I thought the difference in cake batters between the two cakes was interesting. The pound cake batter was very thick.

The yogurt cake had a coarser crumb, but was moister than the pound cake. I also thought it was chewier somehow than the pound cake, in a good way.

We were supposed to use a marmalade glaze for our yogurt cake, but I don't care for marmalade, so I used a store-bought lemon curd instead. In addition, I didn't have any lemon zest, so I added almond extract for a slightly different flavor profile.

The verdict? Between my family and one set of neighbors, the other two parents and I liked the yogurt cake better, while all four kids and my husband liked the pound cake more. I did think that the pound cake got the prize for looks.

If you'd like to see the recipes, please see Dorie Greenspan's book "Baking, From my Home to Yours" or check out Liliana's site above for the Yogurt Cake recipe.

See you next week, when it's Blueberry Crumb Cake time.