Sunday, October 31, 2010

Marie Helene's Apple Cake

French Fridays with Dorie made her fabulous recipe for Marie Helene's Apple Cake.  It couldn't have been simpler. Basically a thin, buttery batter is folded around apple chunks.  There is no flavoring other than rum. It is essential for the cake to rest several hours for the flavors to mellow together.  It was worth the wait.

This was an instant favorite.  

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Gutsy Cooks tarts and custard

If y'all want a peek at my little tart, head on over to Almond Cream Pie where I chronicle my ventures into cooking.  These are from SweetBites Gutsy Cooks group.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Angel Food Cake Anyway You Want

Pretend I am Mrs. Bale from As Time Goes By and check the weather forecast.
Quickly ascertain small window of opportunity before rain arrives and foils 
Angel Food Cake making.
Set out  ingredients according to Rose's Heavenly Cakes Basic Angel Food Cake recipe.  Scratch head and mutter 0.22 ounces of flour doesn't seem like enough but Rose knows best.  Continue measuring out minuscule mis en place before light bulb goes off.  Marie. Math.  Toss mis en place and start again or get out the Easy Bake Oven.

Deduct points.

Ancient angel food cake pan

Relic from the 1950's-angel food cake batter folder 

Antique beer bottle

Ask hubby if he would mind going to the store, yet again, for lemons?

Every frozen egg white in the freezer

Angel Food Cake Mantra
Please don't fall out of the pan. Please don't fall out of the pan.  Please don't fall out of the pan. 
  Have parchment paper ready for Plan B Trifle if it falls out of the pan.

Do a happy dance of joy it didn't fall out of the pan PLUS came out in one piece.
Five bonus points.

Take serrated knife and slice into something resembling three layers.
Try not to notice air bubbles.

Exercise a modicum amount of willpower and refrain from devouring lemon filling.  Slather onto two layers with finger pointing silicone spatula.

Pretend the layers match up.

Spackle whipping cream  over entire cake.
No such thing as too much whipping cream.

The most amazing angel food cake ever.  EVER.  I am humbled by the awesomeness of Rose's Basic Angel Food Cake recipe.  Exquisite.  It has gone straight to the top of the favorite list, even by those who professed not to like Angel Food Cake.


Lemon Cream Filling from Heaven Only Knows Where ie Mom's Recipe Box
3/4 cup sugar
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup boiling water
2 egg yolks, beaten
1 Tablespoon butter
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/8 teaspoon salt

Combine sugar and cornstarch in small pan.  Gradually stir in water; cook and stir over medium heat until thick and smooth.  Remove from heat.  Add egg yolks and blend well.  Add butter, lemon juice, zest and salt.  Cook and stir one minute or until thickened and smooth.  Chill and stir before spreading on cake.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Pick Your Own Farms

With fall upon us I thought you might enjoy this web site for locating farms via zip codes.  And wouldn't you  know it?  I popped mine in and lo and behold, a farm which grows MARIONBERRIES!  Y'all remember those elusive marionberries, right?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

One Year of Heavenly Cake Baking

I cannot believe an entire year has gone by since baking my first cake from Rose's Heavenly Cakes a la the Heavenly Cake Bakers.  The reason for my wanting to join Marie's group was my terrible habit of never being able to resist a cookbook only to read them like fiction.  My cookbooks are in pristine condition, except one, which my then young children's puppy chewed while on the bookshelf.  Martha Stewart was not amused; seriously not amused autographing it at a book signing lecture.  She would be absolutely mortified at Rose's poor book.  It's falling apart.  I haven't seen hide nor tattered piece of the outer cover in months.  And yet Rose couldn't have been kinder when she signed the book in San Francisco.

"Oh, this book has been used!" she happily exclaimed, cocoa powder dust and all.

That was a few cakes ago.

So here I am, still struggling along with my non-sequential right brained ineptness, yet I love it!  I eagerly look forward with anticipation each week to see which cake is up and how big of a headache am I going to get?  Sometimes I have to call in for back up.  My daughter will patiently read the instructions while I pull my hair out, drop whisks and spatulas, set off a smoke alarm or two with burnt caramel and/or turn cooked syrups into rock candy science experiments.  My cursing vocabulary has increased by leaps and bounds.

Other times I plot and plan out a recipe worthy of troop maneuvers.  Diagrams take on crazy illustrations with arrows pointing here and there and circling back around in dizzying configurations that any high school football coach would be happy to have in his play book.

Miracles do happen and occasionally I sail through a recipe, victorious and triumphant with all ingredients added in the correct order. It doesn't happen often.  

My daughter has asked  me on more than one occasion  "Is this really worth it?  Would an average baker do this?"  The most cutting question of all "Would grandma bother with this book?"  

My answer is yes.  Yes it is worth it.  It is worth using every pot, pan, bowl, whisk and spatula I own and then having to wash them again before the cake can be finished.  It's worth it to me and not just for the resounding applauds and compliments that come my way.  I still can't quite accept those.  But they still keep coming and apparently the week's baking project is hugely anticipated by those with whom I share the calories.  Baking from this book has been better than a college course.

Would my mom, an amazing home baker, bother with this book?  Oh, yes, I think she definitely would.  I think she would have loved nothing more than to knock the socks off the ladies in her bridge groups with one or two or more of these cakes.  More importantly, she would have taken on Rose's precision baking practices and embraced them, once she got the hang of a scale.  She was a great baker because of her precision and perfectionism.  There wasn't an ounce of devil may care rebellion when it came to baking.  Or anything else really.  Clearly that trait did not come down the DNA.  

Why do I muddle on each week, never sure if a cake is going to be the final straw which contributes to a complete emotional breakdown after babysitting three granddaughters under the age of nine, two puppies under the age of six months, with the baby needing to be driven to her mother's office twice a day?  Because baking along with everyone around the world truly is a joy.  Reading each baker's post is a  treat.  I get inspired, entertained and awed by the dazzling accomplishments.  I'm uplifted with some sort of  group energy when I don't think I can possibly make a seven page cake.  And when the little granddaughters elbow their way in and commandeer the pastry brush, I am delighted.  They will never find weighing flour on a scale mentally taxing because they find it so fun now.

                                          Puppy teething on Rose's Heavenly Cakes 

What have I gained from baking out of a book which raises the bar on baking methods?  I would never bake any cake without cake strips encircling the pan.  I cringe when I now attempt to bake something and the weights aren't given.  My wish list for Christmas this year?  A new instant read thermometer. I pay attention to my ancient oven's temperature, know more about the various types of sugar than anyone should and spend more on chocolate than I do on vegetables.  

I can't say baking with HCB has given me confidence, per se, but I am no longer intimidated.  Now, if the same could be said for yeast and pie dough, I will consider it a life well lived.

Thank you Rose.  Thank you Woody.  Thank you Marie. And a special heartfelt thanks to my fellow HCB'ers.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Gutsy Cooks

 Click here for the empanadas and white bean soup I made with the Gutsy Cooks.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Many-Splendored Quick Bread

This tea bread from Rose's Heavenly Cakes is a unique variation of the many zucchini breads which became quite popular.  Every Christmas zucchini bread was on my grandmother's plates of holiday cookie trays she gave away.  I was quite spoiled by that simple gesture and never bothered to make it on my own.  I'm very glad Rose created this recipe.

Combining zucchini with carrots, banana and lemon zest gave the bread a completely different flavor than ordinary zucchini bread.  I baked these in three paper pans, leftover from the Vanilla Bean Pound Cakes the HCB'ers made.   It is a lovely recipe and from the positive reaction, I'm quite certain it will be requested many times.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Gutsy Cooks

                                                                  Look Ma, I cooked!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Molten Chocolate Souffle and Lava Cakes

Molten Chocolate Souffle and Lava Cakes sounded like desserts I've often seen listed on restaurant menus but never ordered.  I really did not know what to expect.

The recipe was simple enough.  First a ganache was made with cream and chocolate.  Poured into a plastic lined egg carton was not as easy as it sounded, though.  The plastic wrap got fiddly.  Still, it worked and into the frig they went for cooling. 

The cake batter consisted of few ingredients; chocolate, cocoa powder, butter. eggs and sugar.  Folded together into a fluffy batter, it was poured into silicone cupcake molds.  Rose said to only use Baker's Joy.  Oh, joy......No grocery store in my town stocks Baker's Joy!  I finally found some at Michael's craft store but was too lazy to drive to the mall.  I opted instead for the clarified butter and flour dusting method she suggested.  

They baked fourteen minutes, as directed.  In my oven, it was a bit too long.  The house smelled incredible.  If I was staging an open house for sale, this is what I'd have baking in the oven!

After they shrank away from the sides, they easily popped out of the molds to finish cooling.

I've never heard of non-stick aluminum foil, don't own a non-stick pan but it was unnecessary.  Placed in the frig on a regular plate, they didn't stick at all.  Maybe this was not a good sign.  Maybe it was an indication they cooked too long.

I was not fond of the coating left by the butter and flour.  I should have followed my own instinct and dusted it with cocoa powder instead.  Everyone kept asking if there was paper on the bottom that should be pulled off.
I finally took a knife and scraped the "crusty" bottoms.

These are a nice little bite of chocolate but a bit too chocolaty for me, which is ironic since I'm the Queen of Dark Chocolate. Next time I'll go down to 50% chocolate for the batter and lighten the ganache with milk chocolate.  I started referring to these as Two Bite Brownies and let me tell you, everyone else loved these things.  Go figure.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Gerard's Mustard Tart

I actually managed to make my first ever tart, complete with REAL dough and not store bought.  This was a big day for me, for I am on my way to conquering dreaded pie dough phobia.  It is why I named the blog which houses my cooking adventures, Almond Cream Pie.

Let me explain.  In the oldest Betty Crocker Cookbook known to man, the one which fed me many wonderful things growing up courtesy of my mom, contains our family favorite; Almond Cream Pie.  No one has made it since, with success anyway.  We reminisce about Almond Cream Pie now and then.  I always figured if one day I could overcome dough phobia, as well as, custard cooked on the stove stirred for hours phobia, perhaps I could make this pie.  A mission was born.

If you care to see my tart ventures along with future cooking escapades, please feel free to click on over.  It's bound to be fraught with mishaps which may or may not involve smoke detectors and paramedics.  I make no promises but as one who's cooking is often referred to as blackened Cajun flavored, there's a good chance it will.  Come on down!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Orange Chiffon Tweed Cake with Milk ‘n’ Honey Sabayon Ice Cream

New ABC baking adventure! Let's make a chiffon cake. Flo Braker made it easy with her Orange Chiffon Tweed Cake with Milk 'n' Honey Sabayon.

Well, would you look at that?  This little inexpensive gizmo actually worked.  Orange peels were pulverized with sugar.

Fresh orange juice for the cake and a glass for me.  It was five a.m.
Sweet orange juice; such a treat.
The star of the show was an old hand crank beater. I always use it for whipped cream.  Today, it beat together eggs and honey.
Orange Sugar added and hand cranked again.
 Flour and grated chocolate folded into the billowing orange eggs with stiffly beaten egg whites.  The batter was then poured into an angel food cake pan and popped into the oven.  Clearly I was so overcome with excitement about finding this that I forgot to take pictures.

What is this thing lurking at the back of the stove under a garlic basket?  Well, I'll be darned!  Sugar ribbons from the Pineapple Puddings.  Maybe I could send it to Rose and Woody for analysis?  Or a crime lab?  That sugar episode made me want to learn to pull Taffy.

Hand crank beater met heavy cream which was then chilled while eggs and honey were beat into a puffy concoction.

Oh, heavens, now they must be whipped further over simmering water.  Was a trip to the ER in the forecast?  More importantly, did it really triple in volume?

Yes it did!  Quick Jeeves, the ice water bath to stop the cooking.  Phew, no honey scrambled eggs after all. Chilling the mixture gave me a hair brained idea.  What if I froze it instead into ice cream a la David Lebovitz?

Is it done?  Is it done?  Is it done?  Finally.

The moment of Orange Chiffon Tweed Cake or an Orange Chiffon Tweed Trifle?  A cake after all.  It didn't fall out of the pan. Note to self.  Find a glass long necked bottle before it comes out of the oven.

Three hours was a long time to wait for this cake to cool.  Non-nap-taking-teething-six-month-old littlest granddaughter helped me do dishes.  I needed an extra set of arms.

And it actually came out of the pan in one piece!  Another Will It Be Trifle moment averted.  Half my angel food cake pan with the removable bottom has gone missing.  I seem to remember it being absconded and filled with rocks.  Three year olds are inventive creatures.

Three very long hours later, I mean who can stand to wait for this thing to cool?  The aroma was maddening!

 Lining the bottom of the angel food cake pan with parchmont  helped it come out in tack.

This is a fantastic and easy chiffon cake.  A little doubtful about the Milk 'n' Honey Sabayon, because I don't like honey in baked goodies, the ice cream surprised me.  It is as good as Haagen-Daz.  Both are sure to be requested many times.  Everyone loved  this delectable orange chocolate combination.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Caramelized Pineapple Pudding Cakes with Store Bought Brioche

Caramelized Pineapple Pudding Cake with caramel which turned itself into a spun sugar art exhibit

Rose's Caramelized Pineapple Pudding Cakes is an incredibly rich dessert.  Rose includes a brioche recipe for the bread pudding base.  It sounded easy enough for someone not intimidated by yeast.  That would not be me.  Luckily Whole Foods had a lovely little loaf of brioche.

The brioche was trimmed, cut into cubes and dried in the oven, filling the kitchen with an amazing aroma.

Next caramel is made to line the ramekins.  Having a pastry brush dipped in water to wipe down any sugar crystals clinging to the inside of the pan helped prevent rock candy forming.  Sugar molecules are clever things.

Mixing the Creme Anglaise was very easy, except for frantic stirring ensuring the pot didn't turn into nutmeg flavored scrambled eggs. Poured over the brioche, it was left for a bit in the frig to soak up all the nutmeg goodness.

I am a Baby Boomer which means I grew up on canned pineapples, not freshly roasted ones.  I've never roasted any fruit before so this was a first and quite fun.  I mumbled quite a bit for not buying a pineapple corer at William Sonoma.and hacked away at the unsuspecting thing.  Caramelized sugar and pineapple juice basted the pineapple in my beloved cast iron skillet.

Once the pineapple cooled, I sliced as directed, although not managing terribly thin slices.  The soaked and drained bread batter was divided among ramekins then submerged into a am I going to the ER today bain marie, and tented with foil.  Forty minutes later we had lovely little puddings.

However, the caramel didn't quite cooperate with the puds.  It stuck to the bottom of the ramekins and was rock hard.  As I pulled the pineapple and sugar out, the caramel pulled into long ribbons!  It also turned itself into spun sugar without benefit of being swung across the kitchen with a lopped off whisk.  It made me feel very creative and quite avant-garde, turning out hip and modern sugar garnish.

The loads of leftover pineapple sauce was mixed with the minuscule Creme Anglaise and spooned onto the plate.  The very delicious Julie's Organic Caramel ice cream, possibly the creamiest ice cream in existence, was scooped on top.

The consensus was mixed.  Too much sugary flavored pineapple for the grandkids and myself.  Not enough for the grown kids, husband or Gena, our horse trainer. Or Daisy, the five month old Chihuahua quality inspector who figured out how to jump onto the computer desk via the chair.

We all, however, LOVED the brioche bread pudding.  Taking leftover soaked bread cubes, I made them into caramel free versions.  I seriously see this as being requested quite often, as in "Grandma, can you make that creamy bread pudding stuff only without the pineapple?"