Friday, August 31, 2012

Ginger Plum Skillet

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I'm gonna brag to you a little bit. I got this cast iron skillet for $2! Talk about a steal. I've been coveting these skillets for years and now I'm the proud owner of a perfectly seasoned 9-incher. My life is awesome.

The only bad part about it is the guilt trip I've been getting sent on every time I reach into the cupboard and merely glance in Skillet's direction. I'm sorry I've been avoiding you, but today is finally the day!

Just look at this beautiful cake...dark crust, tender plum slices sunken throughout a super moist cake layer and accented with just the right amount of spices. And if you don't have a cast iron skillet, you can bake this in a regular 9" cake pan, too, but the time will differ, so just be sure to check along the way!

Ginger Plum Skillet [click to print]
makes one 9" cake
  • 1 c. flour
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. white pepper
  • 1/2 c. buttermilk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 c. unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 c. sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 medium plums, pitted and thinly sliced
  • 2 T. coarse sugar
  • 2-3 T. candied ginger, finely chopped (optional)
  • 2-3 T. apple jelly
1) Preheat oven to 375 F.

2) Whisk together flour, ginger, powder, soda, salt and pepper; set aside. In a separate bowl, whisk together extract and milk; set aside. 

3) Cream butter and sugar. Add egg and beat until well combined. Alternately add flour and milk mixtures in about 3 additions, beginning and ending with flour mixture. 

4) Pour batter into skillet. Arrange plum slices on batter surface. Sprinkle coarse sugar and candied ginger over top and bake 30 minutes or until top is golden brown. Using a pastry brush, coat top of cake with this layer of apple jelly and allow to cool in skillet. 

Source: Adapted from Stacey Snacks Online

Thursday, August 30, 2012

L'Academie and Cream Puffs

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Gimme a woot woot! I started my first-ever actual baking class a couple weeks ago at L'Academie de Cuisine and I am in love! I've been a butter-smelling, batter-tasting, brainstorming-recipe-combos-in-my-free-time crazy person for the last couple of years and I thought it would be fun. Right again, Molly. Thank you.

Each week Chef Mark, who worked at the White House and trained with Chef Mesnier (he's famous)---how cool is that?!---teaches us about all kinds of beautiful pastries and I take pages of tiny scribbled, yet ridiculously organized, notes on every detail that comes out of his mouth. It's fascinating!

These are some beautiful cream puffs, made out of choux pastry and filled with fresh whipped cream. Way better than the frozen store kind, fyi. The rich buttery pastry shell is just barely crisp and browned in the oven while wonderfully soft and flavorful on the inside. Then, when you bite into the little guy, it bursts open with chilled, silky cream and you have to close your eyes to let your mouth enjoy every bit of flavor!

I'm going to apologize right now for only sharing mouthwatering imagery of class projects and miscellaneous baking attempts. These projects are best explained with detailed step-by-step images and my camera/laptop can only handle so much flour/butter/eggs mixed in between the buttons.

So basically what I'm saying is you should probably invite me over to have a baking party. Oh yeah!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

In Season: Raspberries

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I almost let Raspberry season pass me by without so much as a mention! That would have been no good.

If you can believe it, I used to not like Raspberries very much. They always seemed kind of mushy, and just a little sour, to me. But that's store-bought Raspberries. If you get some fresh from the Farmer's Market or, even better, straight from a thorny berry bush, you are in for a treat! They have a deep ruby color and a brighter flavor, if that makes sense. Each little berry is like a capsule of juicy flavor that just explodes in your mouth!

On the east coast (Beast Coast!), Raspberries are generally in season through September. But if you're going for fresh, wild berries, be sure to get picking soon before the birds gobble them all up without you!

Need some suggestions for a great Raspberry dessert? Give these a try:

Friday, August 17, 2012

Frozen Cherry Ganache Cake

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Boys/Men are the hardest to come up with gifts for. Every year at Christmas, it's a no-brainer that my Dad and little brother (who's no longer that little) get at least one box each of chocolate covered cherries. They practically inhale those things with their minds.

But what do you do when their birthdays fall earlier in the year, when you're wishing for something slightly refreshing but still packed with that decadent chocolate-cherry combination? Frozen ganache cake, that's what.

This is another one of those ice cream-esque cakes that melts a little differently than regular ice cream but is so rich and creamy. The cherries cut beautifully in the center layer, making for a very eye-catching presentation. Perfect to wow the birthday boy!

Plus, this is one of the easiest cakes of your life! The hardest part is exercising self-control as you wait for the layers to set!

Frozen Cherry Ganache Cake [click to print]
makes 3 mini loaves

  • 2/3 c. heavy cream 
  • 2 c. semisweet chocolate chips
  • 2 c. cherry pie filling
1) Line mini loaf pans with parchment paper, or one regular loaf pan, and set aside. 

2) Heat the cream in a small saucepan until hot but not boiling. Pour over chocolate and allow to sit about 30 seconds. Stir chocolate mixture until smooth. 

3) Divide chocolate among loaf pans, filling each about 1/3. Carefully spoon cherry filling over chocolate layer. Top each loaf with remaining chocolate and chill in freezer until firm. To serve, cut with a knife dipped in hot water. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Salted Vanilla Bean Caramel Sauce

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The first time I tried to make caramel sauce, it was a disaster. I wasn't sure how long and dark to cook the sugar but when it started smoking and suddenly going from golden to amber to blackness, I knew it was bad. So I grabbed my pot, ran out the door and dumped the mess in the bushes so it would cool off faster and not be stuck in my pot forever. Pouring hot, burning sugar onto little dry pieces of mulch is probably not the best choice. (No bushes were permanently harmed and no fires were started in the failure of this caramel sauce.)

But here's a trick I learned...don't start eating dinner while you're waiting for the sugar to cook because once it starts cooking, it cooks really fast! Also, I found that gently swirling the pan to distribute the heat more evenly was a lot more effective than stirring. That helped me ruin a few other batches after the bush incident.

Wondering what to do with all this fresh, sweet caramel? How about one of these ideas: 

Salted Vanilla Bean Caramel Sauce [click to print]
Makes about 1-1/2 cups
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 1/4 c. water
  • 1 c. heavy cream
  • 1 T. unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp. vanilla bean paste (OR seeds of 1 vanilla bean)
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
Heat cream and butter in small microwave safe dish until just warm and butter is melted; set aside.

Spread sugar in medium saucepan; add water. Heat on medium-low heat until mixture becomes mostly clear. Do not stir! This could cause the sugar to crystallize and get all chunky and non-caramely. Gently swirl the pan to prevent hot spots and burning.

Continue heating, about 10 minutes, until mixture turns medium amber and immediately remove from heat.
While whisking continuously, slowly pour in about half of cream mixture. Continue whisking until evenly combined. Whisk in remaining cream. Add vanilla bean paste, extract and salt. Stir well and allow to cool to room temperature. Store in airtight container in fridge.

Source: Adapted from Annie's Eats, previously Cook Like a Champion

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Lemon Poppyseed Yogurt Bread

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Every morning when I open my fridge, sitting right beside that head of cauliflower and bag of carrots, is a giant tub of vanilla yogurt just staring me down. Like it has any business looking at me like that. I've eaten most of it with chopped fresh fruit or mixed up in a smoothie, but I need more variety!

So sweet bread it is.

These cute little mini loaves are practically healthy, packed with fresh lemon juice, yogurt and olive oil. And they're so soft and moist with a gentle lemon flavor with the glaze giving them a nice, tangy punch. Mmm!

Serve this bread up for a lovely brunch sometime. And please invite me. 

Lemon Poppyseed Yogurt Bread [click to print]
makes 4 mini loaves OR 1 regular loaf

For the bread
  • 1-1/2 c. flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1-1/4 c. vanilla yogurt
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 T. lemon zest
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp. lemon extract
  • 1/2 c. olive oil
  • 2 T. poppy seeds
For the glaze
  • 1/2 c. lemon juice
  • 1/4 c. sugar
  • 1 T. honey
Preheat oven to 350 F and coat mini loaf pans with nonstick cooking spray. 

Whisk together flour, powder and salt; set aside. In separate bowl, whisk together yogurt, sugar, eggs, zest and extracts. Whisk in oil and seeds. Pour into loaf pans. Bake 20-25 minutes or until edges are golden and top springs back when touched lightly. Allow to cool. 

For the glaze, combine juice, sugar and honey in small saucepan. Heat on medium low until sugar is dissolved. Bring mixture to a boil and then reduce to a simmer for 7-8 minutes or until slightly thickened. Allow to cool slightly then pour over loaves and serve. 

Source: Adapted from Novice Baker
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