Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Darling Husband

I have a wonderful husband.  I have a wonderful husband who is smart.  Because I have a wonderful husband who is smart, he writes really nerdy research papers that get accepted to conferences in Europe that he must attend to present said papers.
I have a wonderful husband who always brings me back something from his travels in Europe.  This trip he went to Germany and Greece.  This trip, because he is a wonderful husband, he brought be back a baking book.
But my wonderful husband, he also has a playful side.  He brought me back a beautiful baking book from Europe...all in German.  I don't speak a lick of German and this whole book is totally in German.
I guess my wonderful husband just wanted to spend more time with me, reading German recipes to me :)  What a sweet guy!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Lemon Pavlovas

 Lately, each Wednesday, my mother, sister, grandmothers, aunt and I have gathered together at one or another's home for what we like to call "project night."  Its an evening where we come together and work on whatever crafty project we want.  My aunt and grandmother crochet, my sister scrapbooks, my mother cross stitches, and I continue hand quilting a Christmas tree skirt that I have been working on for four years.  This gathering is some comfortable, so familiar. 

When I was little, project night occurred each week during the fall and winter months without fail.  Back then I used to latch hook or make endless little loomed pot holders. When I was little, my favorite part was snack time.  Now I am in charge of bringing the sweets each week.  My mother loves pavlovas with lemon filling and so since it was an unseemly 90 degrees out this past September Wednesday, I made a treat that still tastes like summer.

Meringue for Pavlovas adapted from the Joy of Cooking
8 egg whites
1 teaspoon cream of tarter
2 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla

Beat the egg whites and cream of tarter together until foamy.  One tablespoon at a time, add the granulated sugar and beat until stiff peaks form.  Add the vanilla and beat to combine.  Plop spoonfuls of meringue onto cookie sheets covered with parchment paper.  Bake at 275 degrees Fahrenheit for 2 hours.  Allow to cool.  Fill with lemon cream right before serving or the lemon cream will dissolve the meringue.  Store in an airtight container.  Do not store in the refrigerator or freezer, the moisture will soften them.

Lemon Cream Filling
8 egg yolks
2/3 cup of lemon juice
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoon butter, at room temperature
5-6 drops lemon oil or 1 teaspoon lemon extract
1 cup heavy cream

Put egg yolks and sugar in a medium sauce pan.  Mix together.  Add lemon juice.  Put over medium heat and stir constantly. Do not allow to boil or the egg will curdle.  When the mixture thickens such that it coats the back of the spoon, remove from heat and add butter and  lemon oil.  Strain if necessary and put in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.  Beat heavy cream until medium peaks form.  Fold lemon curd into the cream.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Applesauce Cake

Fall is in the air!  The days are getting shorter, the nights crisp, the trees turning fiery.  I  have slow down for farm equipment and the field across the street is now empty, the corn making its way to the grain bins.  This cake tastes like fall.  The cinnamon and nutmeg paired with the tang of the cream cheese frosting.  The way the kitchen smells when this cake is baking is like warm cider.  This is one of my dad's favorite cakes and one of the few that I am confident to make from scratch.

Applesauce Cake
1/2 cup butter
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon all spice
2 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 cups applesauce
1/2 cup raisins (optional)
1/2 cup nuts (optional)

Cream together the butter and the sugar.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating them completely between each egg.  Add in the rest of the ingredients.  If you choose to use the raisins, you can plump them in a cup of boiling water.  Pour the batter in a 9 x 13 inch pan.  Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 35-45 minutes.  Allow to cool completely and frost with cream cheese frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting 
(This makes a "double" batch, I split and filled the inside of the cake.  If you are going to only frost the outside you can split this recipe in half.)
1 8 ounce block of cream cheese, room temperature
2 sticks butter, room temperature
7 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
6-7 teaspoons water (as needed)

Beat together the cream cheese and butter until smooth.  Gradually, and I stress gradually, add in the powdered sugar. (Nobody likes a powdered sugar shower).  Add the vanilla.  Add the water as needed by the teaspoonful to reach the desired consistency.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Rye Bread

Honestly, there is not much good for me to say about this bread.  This baby looks pretty but tastes terrible!  I was looking for a savory loaf to enter in a local baking competition.  Naturally I turned to Peter Reinhart's Bread Baker's Apprentice.  This book really has never failed me in the past.  The recipe for marbled rye looked so beautiful with its bulls eye swirls of dark and light rye.

Making the dough couldn't have been easier.  The two doughs are identical except for some coloring put into the dark rye.  Peter Reinhart recommends using caramel coloring, carob powder, or cocoa powder.  He warns against using cocoa powder because it can lend a bitterness to the dough.  The only thing I had was cocoa powder, so that is what I chose to use.  I have had trouble finding caramel coloring.  He was right, it does impart a bitter flavor into the bread which really turned me off.

I also had trouble with the bread being gummy.  I know that it is possible to overwork rye flour and I thought I was being careful.  I did use my stand mixer to mix the dough and so its possible that I overworked the dough without realizing it.  Maybe in the future I should hand knead rye bread.

This is the second time I have made this recipe without success.  Hopefully I can tweak my technique some more and have a reliable recipe for a savory direct method rye.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


 Just found this interesting article about some of the science behind bread baking and gluten.  I find it helpful in baking when I understand the chemistry behind the magic.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Peanut Butter Pie

Delicious, decadent, totally dreamy.  Once piece of this pie has probably more calories than are supposed to be consumed in a day, but soooo worth it!

Peanut Butter Pie adapted from Sugar Bitches
makes a single 10 inch pie

Graham cracker crust of your choice

12 ounces cream cheese at room temperature
1 1/2 cups peanut butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 8 ounce container of Cool Whip

Beat together the cream cheese, peanut butter, and sugar until smooth.  Fold the Cool Whip into the peanut butter mixture.  Smooth into pie crust.

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped (I used 70% cacao)
1/2 teaspoon butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Mix together the sugar and heavy cream into a small saucepan.  Stir until the mixture comes to a boil.  Simmer without stirring for 6 minutes.  Remove from heat and dump in the chocolate and butter.  Allow to sit for a minute and then stir until smooth.  Add the vanilla.

Add topping to pie and crushed peanuts if desired.  Refrigerate for at least 4 hours before serving or stick in the freezer.  If freezing, be sure to remove about an hour before serving so that the pie will be soft enough to cut.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Strawberry Bread

Typically, I only make this bread at Christmas time.  My mom and sister and I make a bunch of mini loaves to make and add to our cookie plates.  This bread is a perfect winter bread, it calls specifically for sweetened frozen strawberries.

Now due to a cancellation, my angel food cake had to find another home (my husband's work) and I had to find a new occupation for my  thawed strawberries.  Strawberry bread it is.  This bread is moist, sweet, and perfect for breakfast or gift giving.  You can easily wrap and freeze this bread and it tastes just as good as when you baked it.

Strawberry Bread
3 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 teaspoons cinnamon
2 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
1 24 ounce package frozen sweetened strawberries, juice and all
4 eggs, beaten
1 cup pecans, optional

Mix together wet ingredients.  Add dry ingredients.  Mix until just combined.  Add pecans last.

Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about an hour

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Just a good idea

I can't remember where I saw this, but adding some of that gripper shelf paper to my cake carrier changed my life.  Seriously.  I take dessert a lot of places and up until last Christmas I did not have a cake carrier.  I thought my cake carrier was awesome, but then I read about putting this non skid shelf paper between the cake and the carrier.  It makes a huge difference.  No more cake smears on the sides of the cake carrier.  It's so good!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Angel Food Cake

Angel food cake is absolutely, hands down, my favorite cake in the whole world.  Its the cake that I always ask for as my birthday cake.  Growing up, because we had chickens, we actually ate angel food cake fairly frequently.  My mother always said that fresh eggs made the best angel food cake.

This is my second attempt at making angel food cake.  The first time, a few years ago, I did not yet believe in the powers of cake flour and instead used all purpose flour.  Do not do it unless you want an angel food cake that is about 2 inches tall and quite heavy.

Angel food is a great summer cake.  Served with some strawberries and Cool Whip makes this dessert absolutely divine.  Served plain, this dessert is low in cholesterol and fat, which is always nice.

Angel Food Cake adapted from Betty Crocker
1 cup cake flour
1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar, divided
12 egg whites
1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tarter
1 1/ 2 tablespoons vanilla

Before starting, place your bowl (stainless or copper) and your beaters in the freezer.  Also, remove eggs from the fridge and allow to come to room temperature.  To be honest, I have know idea why you should do this, but my mother swears these are key elements to the success of the angel food cake.

Separate your eggs.  There can be no traces of yolk in your whites.  I find this to be a struggle sometimes.  But then I realized that I was an idiot keeping my bowl of whites under each precarious yolk.  I then learned that each time I plopped an egg white out, put it in another bowl so that on the last egg the yolk does not accidentally slip out and ruin a dozen egg whites.

Once the eggs are separated add the cream of tarter and beat until foamy.  Once the eggs start foaming, then add 3/4 of a cup of the granulated sugar 1 tablespoon at a time.  Continue beating until stiff peaks form.  A stiff peak is one that does not flop over when it is formed.  Take care not to overbeat the eggs.  This is especially possible when using a stand mixture.

what a stiff peak looks like

Sift together the remaining 3/4 and 2 tablespoons of sugar with the cake flour.  Once the egg whites are beaten to stiff peaks, fold the vanilla and the flour mixture into the egg whites with a rubber spatula.  Be sure to use a rubber spatula.  My mother only owns one rubber spatula and it is specifically for folding flour into the egg whites for angel food cake.

Once the flour mixture is folded into the egg whites, spread mixture into an ungreased angel food cake pan (or tube pan if you will).  Make sure the batter is even.  Bake at 375 degrees for 30-35 minutes.

Flip pan with cake in it immediately onto a clean plate.  Allow to cool upside down.  When the cake is completely cool, run a knife around the edges of the outside and inside of the pan.  Flip back onto the plate and allow cake to fall out.

Once the cake has fallen out of the pan, be sure to scrape the pan and eat it.  It is sooo tasty!  Serve cake plain or with sweetened strawberries and Cool Whip.

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