Friday, 30 April 2010

Recipe 14 - Chocolate Rum 'n' Raisin Cake

This week I'm choosing a recipe from a book I bought on a clearance rack at the Rice University bookstore. The book, Kitchen Library Desserts by Jane Price, seems to be everything I'd want in a recipe book, as long as the recipes turn out to be good! The pages are large and each recipe is accompanied by a full page color photograph.

I have a bad habit of hemming and hawing over what to bake. So this time I decided I would open the book and roll with the first recipe I saw. I got Chocolate Rum 'n' Raisin Cake. Why not try it? I'm excited and I hope it's tasty.
The recipe has about 3700 calories total.

Chocolate Rum 'n' Raisin Cake
Serves 8 (more for us)
Preparation Time: 20 minutes +
Cooking Time: 1 hour 20 minutes

2 T dark rum
50g raisins, finely chopped
160g self-rising flour
40g all-purpose flour
35g unsweetened cocoa powder, plus extra, to dust
65g superfine sugar
45g demerara sugar
210g unsalted butter
1 T golden syrup or dark corn syrup
125g chopped dark chocolate
2 eggs, lightly beaten
confectioners' sugar, to dust
whipped cream, to serve

Preheat oven to 325 Fahrenheit, gas mark 3. Grease a deep 8 inch round cake pan. Line the base and sides of the pan with parchment paper.

Combine the rum, raisins, and 60ml hot water in a small bowl and set aside. Sift the flours and cocoa powder into a large bowl and make a well in the center.

Combine the superfine sugar, demerara sugar, butter, golden syrup, and chocolate in a saucepan. Stir over low heat until the butter and chocolate have melted and all the sugar has dissolved. Remove from the heat. Stir in the rum and raisins.

Using a metal spoon, stir the butter mixture into the dry ingredients until combined. Add the eggs and mix well until smooth. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and smooth out the surface.

Bake for 60 - 90 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the center of the cake. Let the cake cool in the pan for 1 hour before turning out onto a wire rack. Dust the cake with cocoa powder and confectioners' sugar before serving. Serve warm with whipped cream.

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Her results - Dandelion Bread

My friend Courtney and I scoured the neighborhood for dandelions. Strangely, we don't seem to have them here. I know that they grow in other areas of Texas and perhaps even in other areas of Houston, but they don't grow in my neighborhood. I wonder if intensive lawn care practices or the heat and humidity keeps them away? He and I decided that I might as well buy some edible flowers. The ones I bought at Whole Foods were pretty and I liked that their packaging wasn't corporately labeled.

The batter was easy to put together, and I poured it into a loaf pan.

The loaf baked up to be pretty. It needed about 15 extra minutes in the oven.

I think it tasted nicest on the first day. It had a nice crust and soft interior and I personally thought that it had an unusual taste. It wasn't bad, but I don't think I'll ever make it again. A few of my co-workers tried it and enjoyed the experience. One said it tasted like a bread her grandmother made, and the other said, "this tastes like soda bread." So maybe it's less unusual tasting than I think it is. It wasn't particularly pretty sliced, but not bad looking either.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

His results - Dandelion Bread

It was a mixed weekend in terms of results really.

I had a really nice time collecting the petals for the bread. I had a nice wander over the local racecourse. You can see in the photos that they trim the grass in the middle but around the perimeter there were a bunch of lovely bright dandelions.

Since the recipe said an increase in petals would be good I decided to bump up the amount. I wasn't too sure how much I had though. Was it a cup when they're pretty packed, or a cup when they're all fluffed up? That makes a big difference. I probably ended up using around 2 cups of fluffed up petals. America really needs to wake up an embrace the gram.

I used this reasonably tasty acacia blossom honey for the bread. It was the end of the jar. I'm pretty excited about getting the replacement. I like honey a lot and try to buy something new each time.

When I'd mixed it all up the batter was very, very pretty. I was excited for it. I was sure it would turn out beautiful.

It didn't. I think the problem was too many petals. I baked it for the time stated and it was still very runny in the center. I kept going with it, putting it back in the oven for 5 minutes and checking but it took for ever and never really got done. I guess the moisture in the petals stopped it from drying properly. After an age in the oven I finally gave up on it ever being properly baked and pulled it out.

In the end it wasn't too bad though. Especially towards the ends where it was more done. It was slightly chewy, and mildy, but interestingly flavoured. I'm sure it's not how it was supposed to turn out but it was definately pretty tasty and better than I thought it was going to be as I stood around waiting for it to be ready and cut into it to see the slightly stodgy interior.

I'd say the morals here are:
1) if you increase the petals decrease the milk
2) the U.S. needs to go metric so my baking doesn't get jacked up again

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Recipe 13 - Dandelion Bread

Over the last week or two there's been a noticeable improvement in the weather here. I've had this recipe bookmarked for a while now and I was really happy to notice the dandelions have started flowering.

It looks pretty good right? This simple recipe comes from a blog called Fat of the Land about foraging for your own food. It was adapted from a book called The Dandelion Celebration by Peter Gail. Rather than true bread this is actually a soda bread. That means it'll be quicker and easier to make and She won't get nervous as she seems to do at the idea of making full on yeast based breads. Hopefully we'll make something yeasty soon though. I make quite a lot of bread and would like to turn Her into a bread baker too.

This recipe will make a barely sweet loaf. I'm looking forward to a morning walk to gather the blooms for this. It'll beat a trip to the supermarket for ingredients! I think I'll bump up the amount of petals, assuming I don't get bored part way through collecting them. Perhaps a cup and a half or so. It comes to a little less than 2000 calories total.

Dandelion Bread

Before making this recipe, you'll need to harvest a cup of dandelion petals. This shouldn't take more than 15 minutes with the right flowers and technique. Choose tall, robust dandelions that have been allowed to grow unmolested. Abandoned lots and field margins are good places to look. Generally the presence of dandelions indicates herbicides are not in use, but roadside specimens can contain the residue of other chemicals. Choose your spots wisely. You'll want to harvest in the morning, before the flowers have fully opened. Grasp the yellow part of the flower (the petals) and twist away from the green sepals and stem. Discard any greenery. I prefer the bread to the muffins.

240g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup dandelion petals (or more)
60ml canola oil
4 tbsp honey
1 egg
350ml milk

Combine dry ingredients in large bowl, including petals, and mix. Make sure to separate clumps of petals. In separate bowl mix together milk, honey, oil, and beat in egg. Add liquid ingredients to dry and stir. Batter should be fairly wet and lumpy. Pour into buttered bread tin or muffin tin. Bake at 400 degrees. A dozen muffins will take 20-25 minutes. Bread will take 25-30 or more minutes. At 25 minutes, check doneness of bread with a toothpick. If still too moist inside, lower oven temperature and continue to bake, checking every five minutes.

Her results - Squirrel Sugar Cookies

I made my cookie dough in my grandmother's kitchen, where as a child I learned to cook and bake. I used her KitchenAid stand mixer, which wasn't around when I was younger. It was fun for a change, but I find it more fulfilling to use my hand mixer for cookie dough. What was really nice was being in a larger kitchen with more windows!

I incorporated some beautiful green and brown eggs that I bought at the farmer's market in downtown Lexington. Like Thom, I experimented with the sugar. I used 3/4 dark brown sugar and 1/4 granulated white sugar in an effort to darken up the dough a bit. The brown sugar didn't darken up the dough much, but the baked cookies held their shape nicely.

I didn't have fun sprinkles so I used some coarse sanding sugar on their tails. It's hard to see on the baked cookies in the picture above, but when you held a cookie in your hand it looked subtly pretty. My little squirrel cookies turned out less dark than I had hoped, and they were strangely puffy and cakey. That wasn't an explicitly bad thing, but it was surprising. This wasn't the best adaptation of a recipe, but they tasted nice and I was satisfied. In my opinion, my grandmother and aunt showed me up with a delicious butter pecan birthday cake and "30" sugar cookies. We need to learn my aunt's favorite sugar cookie recipe. Those things are addictive!

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

His results - Squirrel Sugar Cookies

I decided to try something a little different with these and mainly used palm sugar rather than caster. I got it a little while back from the Asian supermarket nearest my house. I sliced the sugar cake up finely with a serrated knife. About 2/3 of my sugar was that, for the remainder I used dark brown sugar. I decided to not mix that into the mixture too thoroughly to see how it looked.

As well as squirrels I dug out a couple of other cutters, a nice moon and cat arching its back. It was also another fine opportunity to use the fancy rainbow sugar She bought for me.

We made the dough one day and left it in the fridge over night. It was pretty sticky and soft when we made it but it firmed up well when chilled.

Having the brown sugar only partially mixed gave the dough a cool wood grain sort of effect. I'm definately going to try something similar again some time because I'm sure with a little tinkering you could make it look super cool.

As the dough warmed a little bit it became very sticky. I had to pop it back into the fridge a couple of times and flour everything really well as you can see here.

My first batch spread quite a bit which was a little disapointing. Strangely the next two batches were much more well behaved. I'd chilled the sheets of cookies really well before putting them in the oven which is supposed to help stop spreading. I did a bit of reading and it seems that the finer the sugar the more likely cookies are to spread (excluding icing sugar which has corn flour in it which helps counteract the spread) I think for that reason caster may have been better. Palm sugar certainly gave them a great taste though and apprently has some health benefits. The strangest thing to me though was the texture. As we mixed them up I queried the amount of baking powder and soda; I was suprised how much was called for. They turned out pretty cakey because of all those leavening agents rather than the crisp, dense cookies I expected to get having read the name of the recipe. Regardless, they were delicious, just know they're not your typical sugar cookie!

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Recipe 12 - Squirrel Sugar Cookies

We're back! We had a great time together in England. This weekend I'm travelling home to KY for my birthday, and I'll be cooking in my mom's kitchen. I might be pressed for time, so I chose something simple that lets us use a funny tool that I got for both of us back in January:

We love squirrels. You may think we're crazy, but we had a few that we liked to feed almonds to when we lived together.

I've modified a sugar cookie recipe that Jessie Oleson (aka Cakespy) posted on Serious Eats.

Cutout Cookies
- makes about 24 cookies-

1/2 cup (1 stick / 114 g) butter, softened
1/2 cup (100g) sugar
1 egg
1/8 cup (30ml) half and half
1 1/2 cups (180g) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

1. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg and beat well. Add in the half and half and mix until incorporated.

2. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir this mixture into your wet ingredients, a bit at a time, mixing well.

3. Cover and refrigerate for about 3 hours.

4. On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough to about 1/4 inch thickness. Cut the cookies with a cookie cutter. Place about 1 inch apart. Chill cookies on the cookie tray for another half hour in the fridge, if it will fit in your fridge; this will make the shapes a little crisper.

Note: You can roll the dough out on parchment paper, which you can transfer directly to the baking sheet. If you don't use the parchment paper trick, use an ungreased cookie sheet to bake.

5. Bake at 325°F (gas mark 3) for 6 to 8 minutes, or until the edges are just lightly browned. After about five minutes, remove to wire racks and let cool completely.

Monday, 5 April 2010

A step out of the kitchen

You may be wondering where this week's recipe is. Well, there isn't one because this week we've left the transatlantic kitchen and shall be sharing a real kitchen. It's one of those special little windows where we get to see each other. We might bake something during the time we're together. If we do then expect it to get the usual treatment. Otherwise, normal service shall be resumed a week from now!

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Her results- Japanese Cheescake

It's official, I'm a big fan of Japanese cheesecake. It is light and fluffy, tasty and easy to make. I made mine in a 9"x9" square dish and I accidentallyi ate 3"x9" on the first day. By noon the next day I had given the rest away to friends and coworkers. They seemed to like it quite a bit. This project has been fantasic, but it's dangerous for me. I rarely think of sweets unless they're staring me in the face, at which point I tend to abandon self-control! I had to fight off the urge to make a second batch this week.

On a technical note, I had to discard about 1/4 of my batter because there wasn't enough space in my dish. Two loaf pans seems to be a good way to deal with this unless you prefer to reduce the amount of batter you make in the first place. And I forgot to grease or line my pan but it thankfully caused no problems. Great recipe!
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