Monday, 28 February 2011

His results - Cranberry Sorbet

This is a delicious treat.

It came together in no time, especially since I could use my cheap, low tech, charity-shop-find ice cream maker. I think it cost me £4, still in it's box. I've churned out many a pint of delicious ice cream with it. The sorbet is tart, sweet and has a very intense flavour. It's yummy by itself but it seems a shame to not serve it alongside something. It wouldn't need to only go along with a desert either. I like hot and cold together in savoury meals too. On the side with a roast meat would be great. Floating icebergs in a rich soup would be magic too. I'll be thinking of what else to try it with!

Friday, 25 February 2011

Her results - Cranberry Sorbet

I had forgotten to be on the lookout for fresh cranberries, so when I saw this recipe I called the produce departments at Fiesta and Whole Foods. I was told by both that fresh cranberries are rarely available beyond the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. No frozen value brands were in stock either, so I ended up with two 10oz bags of frozen organic cranberries grown in the American Pacific Northwest. I paid $8, which was neither exorbitant nor a pittance, either. I grabbed a few Texas-grown oranges, and that was all I needed to get started.

I decided to use all 20oz of berries, so I adjusted all the other ingredients accordingly.

In no time, my berries softened and I was left with a bowl of soft fruit and juice. Adding the rest of the ingredients, including a little Triple Sec, gave me the following mixture:

After cooling the mixture and running it through my food processor, I filled my sink with ice and began chilling the mixture quickly and thoroughly.

I finally placed the bowl into the freezer. I pulled the bowl out every 30-60 minutes and whisked it, as David Lebovitz suggests for those of us without ice cream machines. Thankfully this wasn't as much of a drag as I had expected it would be! After about four hours I left it alone, and the next morning I had a sorbet with a pretty nice texture:

I love fruit desserts, but I'm often just as happy with the whole fruit itself. That said, I have a theory that making sorbet is one of the surest ways to take a fruit and make it even nicer. I can now confirm that this holds true for cranberries.

This sorbet has a bold flavor, which should surprise no one. I sampled a few whole cranberries before I began baking, and I wouldn't opt to eat a full cup of them. I quickly ate a cup of this sorbet, though! The sorbet's flavor is close to that of the cranberries themselves; the tart and bitter notes are still clear. But the orange juice and sugar do a good job of sweetening, and the results are grown-up and yummy. Unsurprisingly, I think this dessert tastes quite like the cranberry sauce we enjoy at Thanksgiving dinner. As such, this sorbet would be particularly nice as an unexpected holiday dessert. February is an a-okay time for it, too!

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Recipe 44 - Cranberry Sorbet

A few weeks back I picked up three big bags of cranberries for a pittance on last gasp clearance at the greengrocers. I put them in the freezer and warned Her to be keeping her eye out for some as a recipe involving cranberries was likely to pop up here soon.

I fancied sorbet and was very glad to see old faithful Mr Lebovitz have a recipe pop up near the top of the search results.

The recipe is here.

I have a cheap ice cream maker but She'll need to follow the advice for those without.

We'll need:

100g sugar
125ml, plus 60ml water
340g fresh or frozen cranberries (if frozen, thaw first)
pinch of salt
125ml orange juice, preferably freshly squeezed
optional: 1 tablespoon orange-flavored liqueur, such as Cointreau or Grand Marnier

Friday, 18 February 2011

Her results - Heritage Red Velvet Cake

I was excited to finally make a red velvet cake. I was happy to finally make a layer cake, period. He and I are both bike commuters, and transporting big cakes to our friends and co-workers isn't easy so we generally steer clear. But this time, we made an exception.

The batter was easy to make. It was, as mentioned in the recipe, incredibly thick. The red food coloring & cocoa paste looked so pretty as I mixed it into the batter. It reminded me of a de Kooning painting at MFAH.

Pulling my cake out of the oven, my first remark was, "Huh, it didn't rise much." He blamed the leavening method, and I think he's right.

I decided to cut the cake into hearts (probably not the first thing my friends would expect of me), mainly since I wanted to find enough crumbs to coat the finished cake. In the end, this was the smartest move ever: I thought the finished cake was yucky (more on that later), but the edge scraps were delicious! The cake scraps had a light, sweet taste and were particularly delicious dipped in the frosting. I didn't get to eat much, though, because as I expected it took every last tender crumb to finally coat my cake.

My icing turned out just right - much thicker than His. It's one of those little mysteries of the world. Frosting the cake was really easy except at the pointy end, where for some reason the icing wanted to slink down the cake. I had to refrigerate the cake and icing briefly to finally get it to stick on there. Coating the cake with crumbs was easier than I expected. I used strips of parchment paper under the edges of the cake and a small silicone brush to move crumbs across the icing as needed. I still managed to make a huge mess, but that was to be expected.

I had to refrigerate the cake because I wasn't going to share it until the next day at work. Something went horribly wrong; I don't know if it was just the fridge, which we all know can change the texture of a cake, or whether it was the icing plus the fridge, or what, but the cake went totally gross over night! I let the cake come to room temperature before slicing it, and it was only when I cut into the cake that I could see how dense and stodgy the cake had become. The cake was in no way light and fluffy. I took a few bites of my slice and tossed it into the trash. I don't like eating dessert that isn't delicious. I put the cake into the student lounge and ran away. I didn't want anyone to know I made it! It disappeared quickly, so maybe I'm being overly critical, but then again maybe everyone else took a couple of bites and tossed it into the trash, too!

Thursday, 17 February 2011

His results - Heritage Red Velvet Cake

This was OK... It was a tasty cake but a bit dense. The vinegar and soda thing is weird and ineffective leavening technique. The frosting is insanely rich and sweet and the recipe makes double what you need. Fostings like these don't exist in british baking so I suppose that goes some way to explain why I don't really have a taste for them. My frosting was also very runny even with a a bit more than the suggested icing sugar.

It was a tasty enough cake but, with a few tweaks, could be a lot better. I'd look elsewhere for a red velvet recipe really...

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Recipe 43 - Heritage Red Velvet Cake

I found a cool blog, Sprinkle Bakes, where I saw a striking sprinkle encrusted cake. It is one of the most fabulous cakes I have ever seen, so I don't want to bake it until the two of us have sprinkles worthy of the cause. Thankfully, I also found a recipe on the same blog for Heritage Red Velvet Cake, which is another stunner. I have never made red velvet cake, and I'm very excited to try it. Please visit the recipe link above for the method and photo, but below I have posted the list of ingredients. Looks like this one is going to be particularly fattening!

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
2 cups of sugar
1 cup butter, softened
2 eggs
1 tbsp cocoa powder
1 1/2 tbsp liquid red food coloring
1 cup buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp cider vinegar

Cream cheese frosting:
2 - 8oz packages of cream cheese, softened
1 cup butter, softened
2 tsp vanilla extract
4-5 cups sifted confectioners' sugar

Friday, 11 February 2011

His results - Brazilian Carrot Cake

This was insanely easy! It also worked just fine in a pair of loaf pans.

The texture was fantastic. Moist and tender.

It was a huge hit at work but I prefer my cakes a little sweeter. I'd agree with her and suggest using a little extra chocolate topping. It's a great cake though and I'm sure it would be versatile.

Try it!

Her results - Brazilian Carrot Cake

Brazilian Carrot Cake turned out to be a simple, tasty and surprising dessert. When I saw the recipe posted here, I didn't immediately think it would be delicious. And even when I was mixing up the dessert, I thought, "Hmm, I wonder what all that carrot is going to taste like in a cake." I don't understand the point of mixing up the batter in a blender and I wonder if this is a Brazilian cultural thing. I think surely any method of blending the batter would work.

For the record, it took me five small carrots (instead of two) to reach the required number of grams. I realize that small is a relative term, and I do live in Texas where it's said that everything is bigger... As I was chopping up the carrots with a knife, bits and pieces were ricocheting around the kitchen so I tossed the carrots into my food processor for quick, fine results. I'd suggest this step - it was only a matter of minutes until my batter was in the pan and into the oven.

The end product was a sweet and fluffy cake that sounds more unusual than it actually is. If it wasn't for the orange flecks that are visible in each slice of cake, I doubt I'd ever guess that this was a cake full of carrots.

With a mild, sweet flavor the cake tasted different from plain yellow cake but in a way that wouldn't give many people pause. The drizzle of chocolate glaze was a nice touch, too. I only wished there was a bit more atop each slice. And I loved the shape my new Classic Nordic Ware Bundt pan gave the cake! Thank you, Food Librarian, for pointing my boyfriend to this pan!

This cake was an easy way to try out the another culture's cuisine. If that aspect of this recipe appeals to you, check out the Japanese Cheesecake that we baked.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Recipe 42 - Brazilian Carrot Cake

The criteria for this week's recipe were simple.

1) it should be quick. She has her family visiting her so would like to get the baking done ASAP.

2) it should allow Her to use the bundt pan I bought her on a recent anniversary

3) it should be delicious

4) it should be something not too similar to anything we've already done

I think I've done well in choosing this Brazilian Carrot Cake recipe from the Technicolor Kitchen. This isn't the first time I've chosen a recipe from there and I doubt it will be the last. I visit the blog daily. I like the little anecdotes that come with the recipes, I like the glimpse of life half a world away, and I love the incredible photography.

This sounds like a nice, interesting cake. We'll need:

250g carrots – approx. 3 small carrots
260g all purpose flour
320g sugar
4 eggs – if you use very large eggs cut down to 3
200ml vegetable oil
1 tablespoon baking powder
pinch of salt

Chocolate icing:
4 tablespoons hot chocolate powder or 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
4 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 tablespoons milk

Her results - Grapefruit Pudding Cake

I made this recipe from my friends' kitchen. I was house-sitting in the suburbs and watching over a couple of cute dogs, Howard and Leonard. I love these little guys:

I bought my grapefruit (a large, sweet, red, local variety) and some other ingredients and treats at Hubbell & Hudson, a really cool but ridiculously upscale grocery. I wish I had enough dough to spend nearly $100 on a cooking class at their Viking Cooking School. Instead I visited the bistro where I tried the croissant pudding with calvados pearls and vanilla sauce. YUM.

I have to admit that the grapefruit pudding cake was not what I expected it to be. Looking at the pictures, I imagined it would be a citrusy sponge cake with a pudding layer that rose to the top. If I had carefully read the recipe, I would have realized that the cake called for no butter, nearly no flour, lots of milk, two egg yolks, and a couple of egg whites whipped to stiff peaks. Clearly, those ingredients are bound to result in something airy and custardy.

I ended up baking this twice since my first try didn't go so well. It seemed fine when I pulled it out of the oven and removed it from the water bath to cool:

But when I inverted my first ramekin onto a plate, I was surprised to see this:

Hahaha! At the bottom of the ramekin was an eggy layer, followed by a very runny custard, with a fluffy layer at the top. Disgusting, and even worse when inverted onto a plate! I decided that I probably hadn't folded the eggs into the batter sufficiently. Indeed, when I inspected my pictures, I saw that my pre-oven ramekins had a bright layer liquid at the bottom:

So I tossed out the first batch and tried again. This time I used a KitchenAid mixer to beat my egg whites to stiff peaks. I got even stiffer peaks in a fraction of the time it had taken me to whisk the whites by hand. This time I also waited until the last minute to mix the grapefruit juice and milk, to make sure that the milk wouldn't curdle. I don't think I encountered that problem the first time around, but I wasn't taking any chances with my second attempt!

These tured out better. My cake was shockingly light and the pudding was nice though still too thin. The dessert was yummy - light, sweet and citrusy - but I don't think I'll make it again. I can't put my finger on exactly what it is that really bugs me about this recipe. As I mentioned, I was thrown for a loop by the name (I just don't see this as "cake"). One other downside is that unless you have a true knack for food styling, these are prettier if eaten out of the ramekins. They aren't very attractive when plated unless you garnish them nicely. Someday I'll start focusing on how to garnish nicely, but for now I'm just trying to avoid catastrophes!

Thursday, 3 February 2011

His results- Grapefruit Pudding Cake

In the photo with the recipe it shows a square piece of this cake (inverted, so I followed their lead). They'd clearly baked it in a larger dish and trimmed it but the only instructions were for baking in a ramekin.

I'm happy to report it worked fine in the larger dish I used. I left it in the oven for the longer end of the guide time then, when it came out lifted it out of the hot water immediately and left it to cool on a rack.

When I cut it the centre was very slightly runny but the reason was I got a bit impatient and cut it before it was fully cool. Beware of that!

It was a yummy cake anyway. It was nice and tart from the zest with a lovely creamy pudding base. The 'cake' layer was, as always with egg white based fluffy fairly insubstantial. I was glad that it was a little thinner in mine than in the other folks. This was great for me although she had a little more of a struggle with it I think... It was the first recipe for a very long time where I kept the whole thing to myself! It was both pretty small and slightly impractical to transport. And delicious...
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