Monday, 9 April 2012

Her results - Banana and Lemon Cake

Banana and lemon aren't a logical pairing but they work well together. In my opinion, bananas taste comforting and sweet while lemon is lively and tangy. Put banana and lemon together and the result is a robust flavor that somehow avoids being too out-there.

I baked this cake twice because the first time I baked it, it didn’t look pretty enough to get my stamp of approval. Thankfully, the second time I baked it, it not only looked better but it tasted better, too. My colleagues, our students and I scarfed down the cake in no time flat. Everyone seemed to agree that it was good.

Before baking this cake for the second time, I bought fresh baking powder and baking soda to help ensure that the cake would rise up to be light and fluffy. I also toasted my walnuts to bring out their flavor and I reduced their quantity to 60g to make the cake less uniformly nutty.

The cake itself was moist and tasted a lot like banana bread but with a finer, more cake-like crumb. The icing was a bit odd, but I can’t identify what made it less palatable than my ideal lemon buttercream. If I ever make this cake again, I’ll substitute an award-winning lemon buttercream or lemon cream cheese frosting. That said, the icing was pretty much what you’d expect and it glided onto the cake easily.

The lemon zest lent the icing little yellow flecks that looked pretty. I accentuated the yellow flecks with sparkling yellow sprinkles that looked vibrant and added a nice crunch! I also topped the cake with candied citron, which served the dual purpose of being cute and being a good slicing guide. 1/16 of this 9" cake is a nicely sized slice, and I think 1/8 of the cake would be too much for most. Perhaps there's a sweet spot somewhere in the middle.

Saturday, 10 March 2012

His results - Banana and Lemon Cake

The cake was good, the frosting was a bit much for me.

I don't know what else to say. Sometimes life's just too much. Do what you can. If you can at least put up the pictures and write a sentence I guess you're not doing too bad.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Recipe 72 - Banana and Lemon Cake

Back in 2000, I spent a summer as an Economic Botany (useful plants) intern at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew in London, England. It was a great place to work. More than anything, it made me realize how much I value working somewhere beautiful, around others who also value that beauty.

While working at Kew, I picked up three cookbooks: Chocolate, Berries and Bananas. I have no idea why I bought those books. In the twelve years that have passed, I think I've only ever tried out one recipe: Banana Muffins. Ha! To my credit, I think I used to bake those muffins quite a lot... Generally speaking, I rarely use my cookbooks and I hope I slowly made good use of them over the course of my life.

After leafing through about ten of my cookbooks, I finally settled on Banana and Lemon Cake from, you guessed it, Bananas!

Banana and Lemon Cake
Light, moist and flavoursome, this cake keeps very well and it's everybody's favourite.

Serves 8-10

For the cake
250g (2 1/4 cups) plain flour
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
115g (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
200g (scant 1 cup) caster sugar (aka granulated sugar)
75g (1/2 c) soft light brown sugar
2 eggs
1/2 tsp grated lemon rind
225g (1 cup) mashed, very ripe bananas
1 tsp vanilla essence
60ml (4 tbsp) milk
75g (3/4 cup) chopped walnuts

For the icing
115g (1/2 cup) butter, at room temperature
450g (4 1/2 cups) icing sugar (aka confectioners sugar)
1 tsp grated lemon rind
45-75ml (3-4 tbsp) lemon juice

To decorate
lemon-rind curls

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4. Grease two 23cm/9in round cake tins and line the base of each with non-stick baking paper. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl.

Beat the butter and sugars in a large mixing bowl until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, and stir in the lemon rind.

Mix the mashed bananas with the vanilla essence and milk in a small bowl. Stir this, in batches, into the creamed butter mixture, alternating with the sifted flour. Stir lightly until just blended. Fold in the walnuts.

Divide the mixture between the cake tins and spread evenly. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Leave to stand for 5 minutes before turning out on to a wire rack. Peel off the lining paper and leave to cool.

Make the icing. Cream the butter in a bowl until smooth, then gradually beat in the icing sugar. Stir in the lemon rind and enough of the lemon juice to make a spreading consistency.

Place one of the cakes on a serving plate. Spread over one-third of the icing, then top with the second cake. Spread the remaining icing evenly over the top and sides of the cake. Decorate with lemon-rind curls.

Sunday, 26 February 2012

His Results - Potato Chip Cookies

I really wanted to use Seabrook's crisps for these cookies but I couldn't find ready salted ones in the few shops I checked. I managed to pick up these unsalted ones though and added a couple of hearty pinches of sea salt flakes.

The mixture was really easy to put together. I rolled the balls of dough in sugar and then mushed some smashed up crisps and black sea salt flakes on the top of each.

They looked beautiful like that I thought. I love the texture of the sugar coated exterior. The first batch I cooked pretty much as instructed, checking a little earlier than suggested and they were pretty overdone. The second lot I baked for ten minutes and they were about perfect.

These are really delicious. I gave some to a few friends and they agreed. Don't skimp on the salt!

Monday, 20 February 2012

Her Results - Potato Chip Cookies

I just savored my last bite of my final potato chip cookie and it was a little bittersweet - not flavor-wise but experience-wise. They were pretty darn good and it was sad to finish the last one.

Ultimately, these cookies are simply good, interesting shortbread cookies. Sure they have 1/2 cup (42g) potato chips but it's the other ingredients including the 1/2 cup (62g) toasted pecans that you sense when you're eating them. The potato chips the secret ingredient, not the star of the show.

The finished product had a nice crunch, not quite as significant as the crunch of a potato chip but getting on for it! The crunch came from it being a shortbread cookie, from the pecans and from the layer of sugar that coated each cookie's surface surface. It's also noteworthy that the cookies weren't too sweet despite having been rolled in sugar right before baking. In other words, don't skip that step.

Also don't skip the extra salt suggested by the adapted recipe and don't skip the potato chip topping. Even with the extra salt my cookies weren't noticeably savory. The potato chip & flaked sea salt topping provided the only true glimmers of saltiness. It was just right! For comparison eat a Lays chip, which are about 400+% saltier by my unscientific estimation.

Of the 71 recipes we've tried during this experiment, this was one of my colleagues' favorites. I will keep it in my repertoire. Happy baking, everyone.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Recipe 71 - Potato Chip Cookies

I like sweet and salty foods. Both apart and together. Especially together. We've cooked plenty of them and it's time for another: potato chip cookies, recipe from the Smitten Kitchen.

We'll be needing

225 grams unsalted butter, at room temperature
200 grams granulated sugar, divided
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1/2 cup chopped and toasted pecans (not for me!)
1/2 cup finely crushed potato chips
250 grams plain flour

Potato chip salt finish (optional)
1 tablespoon crushed potato chips
1 1/2 teaspoons flaked sea salt

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Her Results - Orange Tea Cake

I got exactly what I expected out of this recipe: a simple, flavorful, fluffy cake.

I accidentally forgot to buy sour cream, so I cobbled together a chain of substitutions I found on the web. First, to make buttermilk, I measured 1T of white vinegar into a 1c measuring cup and filled with 2% milk. I gave that about five minutes, and then I whisked my cup of buttermilk with 1/3c melted butter. I forgot that my cold milk would cause the butter to seize up, so I had to sit that bowl into a bath of warm water to liquefy it again. No wonder it took me a while to make this simple cake! At any rate, I used 1/2 cup of this mixture as a substitute for sour cream and it worked really well.

As you can see, the batter was thick and fluffy.

The method and ingredients are different, but the taste of this cake immediately reminded of some Fresh Orange Muffins we made back in October 2010. Another recipe we made in January of last year, Orange Cornmeal Cake, is probably my favorite of the three orange-infused desserts we've made. This week's cake was the least sweet of the three, which is just an observation and not a complaint. Since I began dating an Englishman I have become more and more open to "sweets" that aren't very sweet.

Sunday, 29 January 2012

His Results - Orange Tea Cake

I wasn't really in the mood for baking today. It's a pretty soothing activity though. I baked at my own speed and finished well ahead of her.

I didn't get any pictures until it came out of the oven. Looked pretty promising.

It tastes nice too. It has a slightly bitter streak because of all the zest I put in. Not all that sweet which is unsuprising given the amount of sugar in the recipe. It's lovely and moist today, hopefully it will be as good tomorrow when I take the majority of it in to work.

Recipe 70 - Orange Tea Cake

I'm feeling like eating something light and fluffy but flavorful, so I've chosen Orange Tea Cake from The Food Librarian. The recipe was adapted from Orange Cake from Epicurious. Both are great sites to explore for sweet and savory recipes.

Here's what we'll need:

1 stick (113 grams) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup (150 grams) sugar
4 teaspoons (equals 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon) finely grated fresh orange zest
2 large eggs
1/2 cup (115 grams) sour cream
1/4 cup fresh orange juice (I needed two medium oranges to get enough zest and juice for this recipe)
1 1/2 cups (192 grams) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Powdered sugar for dusting

The Food Librarian needed two medium oranges to get enough zest and juice for this recipe.

Her Results - Supernatural Brownies

I'm coming to realize that I have spent a lot of money on baking supplies. It's worth it but I seriously go through a lot of butter, sugar, eggs, flour and more. Here's what went into this week's "supernatural brownies".

To line my pan, I used a method I learned last January when we made some knockoff Andronico's adult brownies. Lay one sheet of parchment paper east-to-west and a second sheet north-to-south, and removing the brownies from the pan is a snap. Be sure to butter both the pan and the parchment paper.

I used a combination of semi-sweet and bittersweet chips, which seemed to be a good call. One area where I'm a bit stingy is chocolate. I find it hard to buy bar chocolate because it's at least twice as expensive as chips.

Since you add together eggs and a slightly warm chocolate-butter mixture for this recipe, I feel like it's as important as ever to let your eggs come to room temperature before mixing everything together.

The brownies mixed up and baked up in a very simple fashion. Whereas my baking partner used a pan that made multiple single-serving brownies, I used one big 9x13 pan. As the recipe suggested, I did need to trim the edges as they got overdone in sacrifice for the center of the pan to be cooked just right.

These brownies were pretty darn good. There's nothing special that I can say about them, but I suggest the recipe, especially as it's simple and calls for a minimal number of bowls which is always a plus!

Saturday, 28 January 2012

His Results - Supernatural Brownies

I have had a really tiring week. I'm worn out and have no energy to write this.

These brownies were a little ray of light though. They really were delicious.

My auntie gave me this pan for my birthday last year. The recipe said to cut off the edge part but that's totally unecessary: the edges were great too and the textural contrast was nice.

I was pleased to have plenty of edge. I can certainly see me making these again.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Recipe 69 - Supernatural Brownies

I've had this in my recipe bookmarks folder for nearly two years now. I'm not sure why I've never made them apart from having a huge stack of bookmarks. This week I couldn't decide which recipe to choose so I asked a friend to think of a number between 1 and 50. He chose 32. The recipe for Supernatural Brownies, posted here on the Brownie Project and adapted from Nick Malgieri was the 32nd bookmark in the folder so away we go!

We'll need:
226g unsalted butter
226g bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
4 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
200g granulated sugar
180g firmly packed dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
120g all-purpose flour

His Results - Sweet Revenge's ''Pure'' Cupcakes & Buttercream

We made some batter

Baked it

Then made some frosting
And piled that on top

And it was good!

The texture on these was great when they were fresh but they went a bit hard really quickly. A lot quicker than most cakes. I enjoyed these but I used really nice Madagascan vanilla. Since the taste of it is so prominant I highly recommend you go for the good stuff!

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Her Results - Sweet Revenge's ''Pure'' Cupcakes & Buttercream

I haven't decided what I think about these cupcakes, but making them was fun. The technique was fairly traditional but a little more laissez-faire than what I’ve come to expect. For example, we added the sugar and the eggs to the fat all at once instead of first creaming the butter and sugar…

I looked high and low at my grocery for Mexican vanilla and never found any. After reading on the Internet that Madagascar vanilla is just as good, I decided to use what I believed I had at home. To my disappointment, I only had some random junky regular store-brand vanilla extract at home. I think that my cupcakes took a hit for lack of quality vanilla extract. That’s sad. Next time…

I loved making the parchment paper cupcake liners, and I’m happy to add that skill to baking toolkit. It was really easy. I’m slow as heck so it took me a while, but I didn’t mind. I like the way the liners look, and I also like how they easily open and create a nice little disposable 5.5” square “plate” for each cupcake. If you are making these for the first time, be very careful to really press the creases of the liners against the walls of the muffin tins. This gives you a “cupcake shaped” cupcake. If you are lazy and don’t press the folds nice and flat, you will end up with cupcakes with very swirly pinwheel-esque edges. Nobody wants that.

My cupcakes turned out a little too spongy. They rose nicely and were fairly light and fluffy, but their texture wasn’t quite as delicate as I prefer. This might have been baker error, so when I get some great vanilla extract I’ll need to try baking these again.

Also, I wasn’t very keen on the frosting. It tasted a little generic, perhaps thanks to my subpar vanilla extract. I also think that the vegetable shortening, while helping my frosting hold its shape, left it slightly less tasty than it could have been if it was made with only butter. I used a small St. Honore icing tip. This is the fanciest frosting I have ever done in my life, meaning that I have a looong way to go before I begin my career as a cake decorator.

I feel like I’m being overly harsh on these cupcakes, but the truth is that I have some amazing cupcake joints in my vicinity, and my cupcake standards are VERY high. Unrealistic, probably. Until I can make cupcakes as good as Celebrity and Crave, I’ll never be satisfied.

I paired my cupcakes with New Orlean's own Dixie Brewing Company's Dixie Jazz amber light beer. I liked it pretty well, and I love the label.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Recipe 68 - Sweet Revenge's ''Pure'' Cupcakes & Buttercream

He received some pretty cake decorations from his aunt for Christmas, so I think we should make Sweet Revenge's ''Pure'' Cupcakes and Buttercream in hopes that he can put his present to use. He likes to save things, so perhaps this won't come to fruition the way I've planned, but we'll see... I found the recipe on Sweet Revenge sounds completely awesome! It's "NYC’s only cupcake, beer & wine bar." I believe I can recreate this at home...

For 12 cupcakes and buttercream to top them, we'll need:

Cupcake Ingredients
113g unsalted butter, room temperature
200g sugar
3 large eggs
195g self-rising cake flour
121g buttermilk
1.5 T. Mexican vanilla

Buttercream ingredients
141g (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
36g (3 T.) vegetable shortening
575g confectioners' sugar
61g milk
1 T. Mexican vanilla

Plus Turbinado or demerara sugar, for sprinkling

Her Results - Mantecados

At the MBA program where I work, around 15% of our Full-Time MBA students some from countries outside the USA. When I brought my montecados to work, I asked a student from Spain if he’d try one and let me know if it tasted authentic. He said the texture was right, but he was curious where the almonds were. Good question!

I looked up montecados on Wikipedia and got confirmation that nuts are often a key ingredient. My co-baker is a nut-hater (which is clearly insane), but I’m not sure whether or not He intentionally chose a recipe that omitted nuts. Wikipedia told me lots of other interesting tidbits including that Mexican Wedding Cookies, which are popular both in the USA and south of our border, are a regional variation of these cookies. To be honest I never would have made the connection, but it makes sense…

Our nut-free montecados were interesting and tasty. I’ve never had a cookie so soft and powdery before. The sensation of these cookies in my mouth reminded me of the sound you sometimes hear when you walk through fresh snow – a pretty, muffled sound of soft compaction. That was just one aspect of these cookies that was unique and enjoyable. Additionally, the flavor was distinctive. Notes of cinnamon, lemon and licorice (I used Sambuca as anisette) intertwined into a subtle, perfume that I would have never have been able to break down into its component parts had I not known which ingredients we used. Several of my colleagues commented similarly, and everyone seemed to enjoy the cookies. I don’t think they’re for everyone, but they’re cool to try if you have an open mind.

Saturday, 14 January 2012

His Results - Mantecados

I made these in this nice new bowl my Auntie got me for my birthday. I've had it a while and used it quite a lot but I don't think I've shown it off before. It has "Let them eat cake" around the side and is a particularly fetching shade of red. I love using big porcelain bowls for baking. Better than plastic or steel for sure.
The dough was slightly different to make than a lot of biscuit mixes but very simple. It came together pretty quickly. For me at least. She is a lot slower than I am. While she was catching up I cooked up a batch of Tuscan white bean soup and made my packed lunch for the next day.

Then they went into the oven and came out looking rather lovely.

I thought these were yummy. Using shortening obviously means they have a great light, crumbly texture. I wish I'd bumped up the anise flavour a little more. The lemon was spot on though. They're very nice!

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Recipe 67 - Mantecados

I wanted to bake these before christmas since they are christmassy treats. Unfortunately we were both mega busy and didn't get much baking time. Never mind, we'll make them now. Better late than never as they say.

The recipe is here. We'll be needing:

  • 430g vegetable shortening
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 330g granulated sugar
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 2 shot glasses of anise (or vodka and anise flavouring)
  • 1 lemon peel, grated
  • juice from 1 lemon
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 900g unbleached white flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 egg white, beaten for glaze

That's clearly enough to make about a thousand of the things so I'll make half that I think!

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Her Results - Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

It doesn't just seem like it's been forever since we baked these oatmeal raisin cookies, it's basically been forever! Sorry for our absence. I had a great time these past few weeks visiting my family in rural Kentucky. It was great to relax and also great to eat my family's yummy food. My Aunt Martha made a mixed berry trifle and some peanut butter balls that were both delicious, my Aunt Becki made more desserts yet, and my Grandma Sue cooked and baked her head off as usual. Ooh, and my Granny Pat made a buttermilk pie! My family is so lucky to have those ladies in our lives. We might be eating pizza rolls and animal crackers if it wasn't for them! Thankfully, I am learning to bake, as evidenced by these oatmeal raisin cookies.

Here's what I can remember from baking these:

1) I didn't use freshly ground nutmeg because I didn't have any on hand. Even though the final product was delicious, I still regret it.

2) Even though it wasn't particularly odd, I was surprised by the method for making the cookies, which involved stirring the oats and raisins into the flour mixture right before stirring the dry mixture into the wet mixture.

3) I was surprised how big these cookies were and how few fit onto a sheet!

4) My cookies took SIGNIFICANTLY less time in the oven, at least five minutes less, than prescribed by the recipe.

5) I made these cookies under extreme duress. November and December were really tough months at work. I work for the Rice MBA for Professionals program, and my team and I were "repping hard" (an urban colloquialism that basically means busting our tails and doing the right thing!).

6) My cookies were well loved despite the abundance of other delicious sweets that were around because of the holidays. I think this means I need to make these cookies again, this time using fresh nutmeg. I'd like to add some walnuts, too!

Friday, 6 January 2012

His Results - Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

It seems like a long time since we baked together and made these cookies. I don't remember every detail of them but I do remember that I put the first batch in for longer than called for and they were really over done.

I also remember that they were rapidly devoured at work when I took them in, despite there being a ton of other stuff available with it being christmas.

They were super easy too. I liked them. As with pretty much any cookie or cake a generous sprinkle of nice sea salt flakes does wonders. As does nice brown sugar!
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