Saturday, December 29, 2007
Growing up in Pennsylvania in a Pennsylvania Dutch family I had never eaten or even seen, that I recall, Red Velvet cake. I'm sure it was out there, somewhere, but no where in my world. Then we moved to the South. Here in Lower Alabama Red Velvet cake is practically a staple food item. It shows up everywhere and is always greeted with delight. I remember the first time I tasted Red Velvet cake. I was about ten years old, and it was a discovery of pure delight! I loved everything about it. The cake was impressively tall, at least three layers, and moist with cream cheese icing full of pecans. And the color... vibrant Christmas red. I was instantly in love! My mother however, did not share these sentiments. We rarely, almost never, had any foods with food coloring in them, much less a cake made with a whole bottle of the stuff. Mom never made it for us, but I knew the cake would be a part of any gathering we went to, especially any church function. As an adult, I out grew of my love for the red confection and had never made the cake myself. I was recently asked to make cupcakes for a Christmas party. I wanted to make something festive and thought how cute red velvet cupcakes would be. Having never made the cake myself, I didn't have a tried and true recipe of my own. My back up plan is usually to call Mom. That was out in this case. So I searched my cookbooks and the internet. I first tried a recipe from the Joy of Cooking. It was pretty good, but not as moist as I would have liked. I thought this may be becuase I was using a cake recipe and need to use a recipe that stayed moister for cupcakes. On my second attempt, I almost made Paula Deen's recipe for but was a bit put off by the 1 1/2 cups of vegetable oil. I was hoping to find a recipe using butter. I came across this recipe on recipezaar. It used butter instead of oil, so I decided to give it a try. However, I gasped in horror at the 2 ounces of red food coloring. That's two whole bottle's of red dye...Yikes!!! So instead I used 2 TBL of food coloring. It seemed like plenty to me. The batter was very red. These cupcakes were pretty good as well but not as flavorful as I would have liked. Maybe all that food coloring is the key?!
The cream cheese frosting however, was great. I made it in the food processor. It's a super quick and really good recipe from The Joy of Cooking. It's great for decorating with although it does get a bit soft and needs to be put back in the fridge to set up again. I had fun decorating the cupcakes and used them for several parties I catered during the holidays.
But I'm still searching for that red velvet cake I remember from my youth. Next time I may give Paula Deen's recipe a try, after all she's the grande dame of Southern cooking.
Cream cheese frosting recipe
Food processor method:
8 ounces cold cream cheese
6 TBL unsalted butter, softened
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 cups confectioner's sugar
Combine in food processor and pulse just until smooth and creamy.
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
Here is my entry for the Click photo event. The subject for December is nuts. With pecans in abundance here, I decided to use them in my entry for the contest. These mini bourbon pecan pies are a real bite of southern comfort!
Go here for the recipe.
Check out all the other participants on Junglbundi. Wish me luck!!
Sunday, December 23, 2007
I really didn't have any problems with the recipe. My cake stuck a little to the parchment paper and cracked a bit on the last roll, but I was able to cover it with the buttercream. The buttercream was great! So rich and decorating with it was easy. I made the cake on Friday and served it for my mother's birthday on Sunday. It was a beautiful birthday cake although my nephew, five, wanted to know why grammy wanted a log cake for her birthday!
This was a really fun Christmas challenge. Be sure to check out all the other Daring Baker's logs!
Recipe Quantity: Serves 12
Thursday, December 20, 2007
For many, me especially, memories and traditions of Christmas are tied to cookies. Which cookie is as diverse as the people themselves. Growing up always had a variety of different cookies every year. Sugar cookies, thumbprint cookies, chocolate kiss cookies, and several others would be included in our Christmas tradition. For me however, Russian Tea Cakes were always my favorite. It was the only time of the year that we made them. They're rich, buttery with a little crunch from the nuts, and just the perfect bite size. They even look like Christmas, like little snowballs. Which is another one of the several names this cookie goes by. They're also known as Mexican wedding cakes, snowdrops, southern pecan butterball, Italian nut cookie and I think there are a few more out there. It seems almost every culture has a version of this melt in your mouth shortbread nut cookie. Historically, this cookie has been a reserved for celebrations;weddings, christenings, and for many including my family, Christmas.
This is a simple cookie to make, with only a few ingredients. Because there are so few ingredients in the cookie, using high quality butter and vanilla extract are the secret to making this cookie great. My favorite part of making this cookie is rolling them in the powdered sugar after they come out of the oven. When you drop them into the sugar is tricky part. Too soon and the sugar melts and you burn your fingertips, too late the cookie cools the sugar doesn't stick well. These are all part of my memories of making this Christmas cookie. Oh and you can't eat just one. They're just begging to be popped into your mouth.
1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup finely chopped nuts ( I always use pecans, but you can use almost any nut you have on hand.)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1. Heat oven to 400ºF.
2. Mix butter, 1/2 cup powdered sugar and the vanilla in large bowl. Stir in flour, nuts and salt until dough holds together.
3. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Place about 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheet.
4. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until set but not brown. Remove from cookie sheet. Cool slightly on wire rack.
5. Roll warm cookies in powdered sugar; cool on wire rack. Roll in powdered sugar again
Friday, December 14, 2007
I love making Christmas cookies. I usually make several different kinds over the Christmas season and end up eating way too many and giving them away to family and friends. Which I'm sure is greatly appreciated, but this year I came across the Drop in and Decorate cookies for donation, started by Nine Cooks. King Arthur Flour joined in and made up a kit you can use with everything needed to throw your own party. What a great idea! Bake cookies have your friends come by and decorate them, and then donate the cookies to charity! Not only is it a really fun excuse to have a party but you get to do something nice for others as well.
My next door neighbor works for a Senior Center. She was thrilled with the idea and took all the finished cookies to distrubute among the residents at the facility.
I invited everyone to drop in on Sunday from 2-5 p.m. What a party we had! At first some people were a little intimidated by the pastry bags filled with Royal icing. However, once they gave it a try, they were ready to decorate everything in sight!
We decorated dozens of sugar cookies and put them into cellophane bags tied with ribbons. They were adorable when finished and it was a wonderful feeling knowing the smile they'd bring to someone else this holiday season.
I decided to have the party a little too late to order the King Arthur kit, but Nine Cooks has all the recipes and ideas on their site. The cookie recipe is very tasty and rolls out easily. I also made a batch of sugar cookies from another recipe and although very tasty it was MUCH more difficult to roll and cut out.
So invite your friends and family to come over and have your own Drop in and Decorate party. It will fun stress-free party that will bring a little Christmas joy to others!
We had a couple artistic decorators!
What's for lunch honey? is hosting this month's Monthly Mingle, so drop by and check out all the other Drop in and Decorate parties going on!
Friday, December 7, 2007
Tuesday, December 4, 2007
Check out the rickrack, which has made quite a return to fashion as well. I guess all things old are new again, but with a modern twist!
Monday, November 26, 2007
**UPDATE I used my rosemary rolls to make a sandwich for lunch today and OMG it was one of the best sandwiches ever! I used turkey and baby swiss with peach chutney... Wow... The rosemary roll was so good with the turkey and chutney. Now I wish I'd made all my rolls with rosemary instead of half plain:( Oh well I guess it's an excuse to make more!
Saturday, November 24, 2007
I read about the International City Swap event on Shelley's blog At Home in Rome. It sounded like such a fun idea. Basically Shelley paired up people from all over the world to send a box of something that they thought best represented their city. I was to receive a box from Allie in San Francisco and send a box Cinzia in Rome. How fun!! I was so excited when my box arrived! Look what I got. San Francisco sourdough bread, in my opinion one of the best breads in the world. She also sent my an artichoke from the Farmer's Market. Thanks Allie:) I had a great time participating this swap. I hope Cinzia enjoys what I've sent to her!
Friday, November 16, 2007
I was recently asked by a friend to make a Chocolate Khalua cake for 50 for a birthday party. Because there would be alot of children at the party as well as adults, she asked if I make cupcakes. This party was right before Halloween. A little late posting, I know, but life... Anyway, she didn't want it to feel like a halloween party so we decided to do the cupcakes in fall colors. What fun!! I couldn't wait to get started! She also asked that they be vanilla since the cakes I was making were very rich chocolate. So here's what I came up with, these are just a basic white cupcake with buttercreme frosting.
The sunflowers were time consuming but so fun to make. I heard later that the adults at the party like they cupcakes as much as the children:)
Wednesday, November 7, 2007
Anyway, it was to be Hubs last meal before deploying to Iraq and I asked what he'd like for dessert. (the rest of dinner had already been decided on.) Well he said pecan pie as he was walking through the kitchen to pack. No sweat I can make that in my sleep. Anyway dinner was under wraps, I thought. Then several minutes later he walks back through the kitchen and throws out "How about Tart Tatin?" What can I say?? "okay" (weakly without conviction) "Oh, you don't have to, pecan pie is fine" he says sensing my hesitation. "No I'll make it. I've been intimidated long enough! I can make tart tatin! I will make it!! If you want Tart Tatin for the last home cooked dessert you'll have in a year, then that's what you'll get!!" Well actually, I just said "I'll make the tart tatin!" This time with a little more confidence.
As I reread through the recipe(the one I've kept from Nov 2003), I realized there are only 4 ingredients in the tart. Apples, butter, sugar, salt. Wow. It's amazing what can be done with so few ingredients. Here is the recipe I used from Fine Cooking. All the pictures with the step-by-step instructions are included on the website.
So I've done it! I'm no longer afraid of Tart Tatin! It's not an easy dessert to make but not as bad as I'd feared. Give yourself plenty of time to make this. It takes 30 minutes, at least, to caramelize the apples. There's no quick way around that!
Making the caramel was the most worrisome part for me. The recipe stated it needed to be a rich mahogany color and not to under cook the caramel. I think I cooked my caramel a bit too long, but it still tasted great. My Pate Brisee making skills are not what they need to be but the crust tasty.
I'll make this again...someday...but I won't be afraid:)
Sunday, November 4, 2007
After marrying and moving away I really missed those fresh, organic pecans that were so plentiful on our farm. Buying pecans from the grocery store was always a disappointment. They can be anywhere from a year to two years old before you buy them. Those dried out nuts are nothing like the plump nuts we picked up, cracked out, and ate.
Hubs and I moved back near my family a couple years ago and since that time the pecan crop has been nearly non-existent. No nuts at all, so unfair! This year however things have amazingly turned around. In spite of a terrible drought though out whole southeastern US, this years pecan crop has been unbelievable. So many nuts in fact that many of the pecan trees have lost large limbs from the weight of the nuts. All the nuts on the farm are organically grown, picked up and hand shelled on the premises. For more info or to order pecans check out the farm blog http://waterberryfarm.blogspot.com/.
Hubs is not much a dessert person, he could take it or leave it. Unbelievable, I know! However pecan pie is one of the few desserts he doesn't ever pass up. Especially Bourbon Pecan Pie, a family recipe I've been making for years.
Monday, October 29, 2007
That's what pumpkin pie is made of... Yeah it's that time of year. I know the change of season is nice for many reasons but I get excited about change of foods. Sure you can have pumpkin pie any time nowadays, but to me it's the quintessential right of passage to the fall season. The color, the scent of cinnamon and ginger, it all just screams FALL! I crave that first bite of pumpkin pie, ideally to be savored while looking out the window at the changing leaves while drinking a hot cup of coffee. A slightly silly thing to become excited about but oh well, that's what does it for me:) (nerdy I know)
Over the years I've tried several different pumpkin pie recipes, but I always come back the the one on the back of the Libby can for Libby's Famous Pumpkin Pie. In my opinion it's the perfect pumpkin pie recipe. I like the balance of the spices and how smooth and silky the pie's texture is when baked. With a few of the recipes that I've tried I was disappointed with the texture of the pie. I've had a few that were slightly grainy. I've never had that happen with this recipe. The only modification I make is I add about 1/2 cup of half and half to the recipe for 2 pies. I think that the pie is just a little more silky with the addition of half and half. I've also recently discovered cinnamon whipped cream. YUM!! It's wonderful with this pie and super simple.
1 cup of whipping cream
1/4 cup of confectioner's sugar (you can use regular sugar if you like)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Whip cream until slightly thick, slowly add the sugar, cinnamon and vanilla. Whip until cream holds soft peaks. Dollop liberally on pie!
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
By the way all the food has to be cooked ahead of time and only warmed at the museum because no cooking is allowed. So coming up with a menu that could be made ahead, but still needs look "artistic"(event directors idea), was a bit of a challenge.
So I hit the ground running, shopped for all the food and started cooking.
For the entree I made chicken and mushroom filled crepes with a mornay sauce and asparagus
Unfortunately, in the chaotic frenzy of trying to keep the crepes warm and get them served as quickly as possible, I forgot to get a picture. *sigh* Not superwoman after all:(
Perfect! Individual, beautiful and very chocolatey.
This is a low-fat recipe however I used all full fat dairy for mine. I wanted a very rich chocolate taste. I also added 2 tsp Gran Marnier into the batter.
1 x box (15.5 oz/440 g) low-fat brownie mix (I made brownies -not low fat)
2 cups 1% cottage cheese
1 cup light sour cream (not fat-free)
1 x pkg (8 oz/250 g) light cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
6 ounces (170 g) semi-sweet chocolate squares, melted and cooled slightly (see Tip)
1 cup fat-free egg substitute or 4 whole eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup fresh raspberries
Melted chocolate for drizzling (optional)
I cooked mine in a flat bottomed silicon muffin pan. I undercooked the brownies and took them out of the oven when they had just set up some. Then I let them cool slightly and pressed the brownie down to give as much room for cheesecake on top. I had to watch the cheesecake cook time carefully. Mine took between 20-25 minutes to cook. Take care not to overcook.
Spray a 9-inch springform pan with cooking spray. Prepare brownies according to package directions, baking in springform pan instead of regular cake pan. Brownies should bake in 20 to 25 minutes.
Remove pan from oven and reset temperature to 325ºF. Set brownie crust aside to cool slightly while you prepare filling.
To make filling, whirl cottage cheese, sour cream and cream cheese in a blender until perfectly smooth. Scrape out mixture into a large mixing bowl. In a small bowl, sift together sugar, cocoa and flour.
Gradually add sugar mixture to cream-cheese mixture and beat on medium speed of electric mixer until well blended. Add melted chocolate and beat again, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary. Add eggs and vanilla. Beat just until eggs are incorporated into batter.
Before pouring batter over crust, lightly grease sides of pan. This will help prevent cheesecake from cracking as it cools. Pour batter over brownie crust and smooth top.
Place on middle oven rack and bake for 60 to 70 minutes. Cake will be puffed up and center will jiggle slightly when pan is shaken.
Turn off oven, open oven door halfway, and leave cake in oven to cool for 1 hour. Remove from oven, run knife around edge of pan to loosen cake from sides, and cool completely. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
To serve, remove sides of pan, slice thinly (it’s rich!), and serve with fresh raspberries and chocolate drizzle, if desired
I whipped cream with powdered sugar and a tablespoon of Gran Marnier and piped that on top. I drizzled chocolate sauce on the plate and topped the whipped cream with grated chocolate and served with raspberries.
Thursday, October 11, 2007
We were staying very close to this roti stand that the locals swear make the best roti on the island. I would have to agree. We ate lunch there several times. The food is all prepared fresh and when it's gone it's gone. The best food comes from places like this:
So for the most part we ate, lay on the beach, ate, walked around town and shopped, ate, swam, ate, walked on the beach, which can really work up your appetite:)