Wednesday, May 28, 2008

I'm bringing comfort back.....

When was the last time you had a pound cake that didn't come wrapped in plastic or from a rectangular foil pan? Its been a while for me too. So in the spirit of bringing comfort foods back here is a good old fashioned pound cake. Perfect with whipped cream and fresh fruit for summer. Its fantastically moist and has a light vanilla flavor, just think this is what you would think a pound cake was a few decades ago. You wouldn't even think about eating a cake from the grocery store. But times have changed and I want to change them back. So here is another old school staple in bundt cake form. Make this and enjoy the greatness of a simple cake.
Vanilla Bean Pound Bundt Cake

2 3/4 cups of AP Flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 sticks of butter - unsalted and softened
1 3/4 cups of sugar
6 eggs
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons of vanilla bean paste

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Spray a 12 cup Bundt cake pan with nonstick baking spray. Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt. Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add in the vanilla bean paste. Add in half of the flour on low speed. Then add in the milk and the other half of the flour mixture. Pour into the prepared pan and spread to make the top even. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes to 1 hour and 30 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then turn out cake onto a cooling rack to cool completely.

Shrimp and Pea Spring Pasta

I love late spring. The produce starts to come in and is extremely fresh. It just tastes fantastic. But I haven’t had a change to go to the Farmer’s Market yet so while yearning for the fresh taste I decided to make this for dinner last night. It was really good, creamy and warm and the peas were fantastic. I love pasta, it’s pretty much my downfall. Well carbs in general are, if its carbohydrate loaded I’m all over it. So at least I got some vegetables and some protein in my stomach as well with this dish. I think this will be the start to a new era on my blog. I was just posting things that I would bake and would never post what I ate for real food. Then P said why don’t you post what you make for dinner as he is a big fan of most dinners at our house. So I figured what the hell I will. So I hope you enjoy the new “Real Food” that will be making some appearances on the blog now. Don’t worry it will still be primarily a baking blog. (Most days I’m too tired to even pick up a camera after cooking dinner)

Shrimp and Pea Spring Pasta

1 1lb of Pasta – Spaghetti, Fettuccine any long noodle you like
1 ¼ cups of heavy cream
1 cup of grated parmesan cheese
1 cup of frozen peas
12 – 15 medium shrimp – depends on how many people you are feeding I would do about 4 shrimp per person
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 tablespoon of Trinidad seasoning (from Penzey’s)
Salt and Pepper to taste

In a plastic bag add in the shrimp, olive oil and Trinidad seasoning. Let sit for 5 minutes while you gather the rest of your ingredients.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt the water and then add in your pasta and cook as directed on your pasta box. While the pasta is cooking, cook the shrimp a few at a time in a large skillet over medium heat and once they are nice and opaque move the cooked shrimp to a plate. Continue until all of the shrimp are cooked. Once the last shrimp has been removed add in the heavy cream and scrape up all of the bits off of the bottom of the pan. Let the cream come up to a simmer and then add in the parmesan cheese. Stir until the cheese has melted and let the whole mixture bubble away to thicken and reduce slightly. Once the sauce has thickened add in the peas and shrimp. For the shrimp it is up to you if you want to leave the tails on or not. I chose not to have the tails on. Once the peas and shrimp have warmed through taste the sauce and season to taste. Drain your pasta once it is done cooking and add it to the sauce and toss to combine or if you have picky eaters let them add the sauce on their own serving of pasta. Serve with extra parmesan cheese.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Turtle, Turtle

My friends were having a Housewarming/ Memorial Day party last night and of course I offered up my baking skills to bring something to the party. I was trying to think of something to make and was having a hard time. So when I saw these I knew what I was going to do. So I did two takes on turtles. Who doesn't love a turtle it has a little bit of everything for everyone, chocolate, caramel, and pecans. The bar recipe I got from my boss they are really good and slightly addictive, ok really addictive. It was fun to use similar ingredients in 2 different ways and come up with something totally different. I had a lot of fun making these on a theme because I'm not really a theme baker. I would say personally the little cheesecakes hit the spot for me last night. But there were no leftovers so I would say that both recipes are pretty tasty.

Butter Pecan Turtle Cookies

Crust -
2 cups of AP Flour
1 cup of packed brown sugar
1/2 cup of softened butter

Caramel -
2/3 cup of butter
1/2 packed brown sugar
1 cup of whole pecan halves

Topping -
1 1/2 cups of milk chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350. In a large bowl combine the crust ingredients and mix until well combined. It will look like fine crumbs. Press firmly into a 13x9 pan. Sprinkle the pecans over the crust. In a saucepan combine the brown sugar and butter and cook over medium heat. Stir it constantly until the entire surface of the mixture begins to boil and let it boil for 30 seconds to a minute. Pour over the crust and pecans. Bake for 17-21 minutes or until the entire caramel is bubbly and the crust is light golden brown. Once removed from the oven sprinkle the chocolate chips over the top and let melt. Let cool completely and then cut into bars.

Mini Turtle Cheesecakes

8 oz of cream cheese softened to room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla
2 teaspoon AP Flour
4 oz dark chocolate, melted
1/4 cup sour cream
1 egg
Caramel dessert sauce and Pecans

Preheat oven to 325. Line mini muffin pan with paper cups. In a bowl combine the cream cheese, sugar and vanilla until light and creamy. Add in the flour and blend until smooth. Pour in the chocolate and sour cream and mix to combine. Add in the egg and mix. Use a teaspoon size scoop to add the cheesecake batter to the muffin cups. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until the center is almost set. Let cool to room temperature for at least 10 minutes then refrigerate for 8 hours to overnight. Before serving drizzle on some caramel sauce and top with a pecan.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Magic of a Bundt Cake

While on vacation my mom stayed at our house to dog sit and bought bananas. I swore I would eat them but now its Thursday and they are almost completely black so I knew I had to do something with them. I wasn't really feeling like making banana bread so I needed another option. So while looking through cookbooks last night for cake recipes to try out for my nieces birthday cupcakes I found this recipe. How perfect the ease of banana bread but in a nice easy cake form. Really who doesn't love a Bundt cake. I know I do, I grew up on them. My mom makes a mean Pudding Bundt cake. So its really comforting to me to bake and eat Bundt cakes. However, I think they are starting to be a thing of the past from my childhood and my mother's youth. The trend now is for really gourmet food, really fancy food. Perfectly decorated cakes and unique flavors. Now do not get me wrong, I love the trend in food to make more exotic ingredients readily available to the masses. It has afforded me not having to travel to the city for ingredients, but I feel like we have lost some of the comfort foods from our past. I for one will not lose those foods and this is a perfect example, simple, easy and oh so comforting. Let's bring comfort foods back.

Banana Bundt Cake

3 cups of AP Flour
2 teaspoons of baking soda
1/2 teaspoon of salt
8 0z of room temperature unsalted butter
2 cups of sugar
1 tablespoon of vanilla extract
2 large eggs, room temperature
4 overly ripe bananas, mashed
1 cup of sour cream

Preheat oven to 350. Spray a 12 cup Bundt cake with non stick spray. Combine the flour, baking soda and salt in a bowl. In a mixer beat the butter until creamy then add in the sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and then the eggs one at a time beating well between each one. Reduce the speed to low and add in the bananas and mix well. Add in half the flour and mix to combine, then add in the sour cream and mix to combine. Add in the rest of the flour and mix until just combined. Pour the batter in the pan and smooth the top so that its evenly distributed in the pan. Bake for 60-75 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Check the cake after 30 minutes and if its browning to quickly cover it with a foil tent. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes then turn out to cool to room temperature. It tastes even better the next day so this is perfect to make ahead. The sweet smell of the bread baking permeated my whole house so I don't know if it will make it to the next day.

Adapted from Classic Banana Bundt Cake by Dorie Greenspan in Baking from My Home to Yours.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Cinnamon Coffee Cake Bread

I love cinnamon, the warmth and flavor it gives food I can't get enough of it. This has been a life long love affair, cinnamon toast, cinnamon toast cereal from my youth were my favorite breakfasts. I think I drove my mother crazy with the amount of cinnamon sugar I would go through making toast. I think I ate it almost every day so we went through alot. It was a staple by the toaster there was always a small bowl of it ready to use. This was before shakers were really prevalent, we did later get a shaker and it made it much easier to apply to the toast. Because of this I have a hard time understanding why people buy pre made cinnamon sugar mixes. This is just one of the many convenience items we have now in our society that I really don't understand. Back to the recipe, when ever I see a cinnamon recipe I always bookmark it to make because no matter what it is I know I will like it. So when I saw this recipe I knew I had to make it and wasted no time in making it. I have been craving sweets ever since I got back from vacation. Because everyone knows that diets go out the window on vacation so my definitely did go out the window. So this is my first post after vacation and it really hit the spot, the cinnamon filling mixture was fantastic. For being a quick bread it is a little more involved but it once it is done it looks more complicated than it really is.

Cinnamon Coffee Cake Bread

2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup butter at room temperature
1 cup white sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup brown sugar
2 heaping tablespoons ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray a 9x5 inch loaf pan with non stick spray. Mix the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together in a bowl and set aside. Mix the buttermilk and vanilla in a measuring cup and set aside. Mix the brown sugar and cinnamon together in a bowl and set aside. In a bowl cream the butter and white sugar together and then add in the eggs one at a time. Add 1/3 of the flour mixture and mix to combine, then add 1/2 of the buttermilk mixture. Repeat this and end with the flour. Pour 1/3 of the batter into the prepared pan and top with 1/3 of the cinnamon mixture, repeat so that the final layer of cinnamon mixture is the topping on the bread. Bake for 50-60 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Use What You Have

This week has been a doozy and its only Tuesday night. P and I are going on vacation on Thursday it will be a nice break from everything. But with the economy how it is,it is going to be a short vacation only until Sunday. But none the less its a vacation and 2 days off of work. I won't go on a rant about the price of gas, food, travel and everything else that is bothering me at the moment, but I will say that I don't know how much longer we can go on like this. But because of the economy I have been trying to be a little more conscious of what I buy and make sure I use it. So I had to use up my blackberries that P had bought me and I always have puff pastry in the freezer, I normally buy it on sale and stock up. So I figured why not make a little puff pastry tart. They turned out really well and of course are one of those trick desserts. Its 5 minutes to chop and prep fruit and place it on the puff pastry squares. But to non bakers it looks really pretty and slightly complicated. So if you need to impress this is a really easy way to do it. And any type of fruit works.

Pear and Blackberry Tarts

8 oz of Blackberries
2 Pears, chopped into bite size pieces
2 tablespoons of sugar
2 sheets of puff pastry, thawed or you can make your own

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut each sheet of puff pastry into 9 squares. Place the squares about an inch apart on a piece of parchment paper or silcone baking mat. Mix together the blackberries, pears, and sugar until the sugar is evenly distributed through out the fruit. Place a heaping tablespoon of fruit onto the center of the square making sure to leave a border around the fruit. That way the pastry can puff up around and hold in all of the fruit. Place in the oven and bake for 10-15 minutes or until the edges of the puff pastry have puffed and are golden.
If you want that sheen that you see on bakery tarts, melt a little apple or apricot jam and spread a thin layer over the warm tart with a pastry brush. And that is it its pretty straightforward and easy.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Trial Run

Everyone has a dream, something that you want to do with your life. I have always wanted to be a chef or caterer. It hasn't been in my life plan or style to do that but you never know what will happen. Before I started this blog I was asked by friends of ours to make their child's birthday cake. I was extremely flattered and of course said yes. It was a learning experience for sure and it did turn out well. Now that P and my nieces are going to have their first birthday, his sister asked if while we were down there if I could make cupcakes. Of course I said yes. She is still working out the details for the party and what she is looking for in cakes but mentioned a mint and chocolate cake. So I decided to try my hand at a mint chocolate cupcake. The batter I have made before just as chocolate cupcakes and its really easy and makes a lot of cupcakes in a small amount of time.

Mint Chocolate Cupcakes

2 1/2 cups of AP Flour
1 1/4 cups of cocoa powder
2 1/2 cups of sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons of baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoons of baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons of salt
2 large eggs plus 1 egg yolk
1 1/4 cups of heavy cream
1/2 cup of vegetable oil
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1 teaspoon of peppermint extract
1 1/4 cup of water at room temperature

1/2 cup of Milk Chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350. Line 2 cupcake pans with paper liners. Combine the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a bowl and whisk until combined. In another bowl combine the eggs, yolk, heavy cream, vegetable oil, extracts and water. Once the wet ingredients are combined add them to the dry and stir until the batter is almost smooth. Since this was an experiment, I made one pan just the cake and the other pan I put half the batter in and then added 3 or 4 chocolate chips in each cup then put the other half of the batter on top. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.

I just put a simple ganache glaze over the top of the cakes as I had no powdered sugar in the house. I'm not happy with how it came out so feel free to put what ever kind of frosting you would like on it.

P thought the cake had good flavor but were rich enough with out the chocolate chips.