Friday, October 29, 2010

Honey Pear Cake

Recently, I was the lucky recipient of several fresh pears from a co-workers pear tree. These pears were small and their skin was mottled.  Beautiful, they were not.  But when you stuck your nose into the bag and inhaled, the most wonderful pear scent emerged.  I knew I had to bake something with these pears.  Something simple, yet special.  Something that would really showcase their flavor.  Pear cake was the answer.  This cake was found on and the original recipe is here.

Honey Pear Cake adapted from Martha Stewart
1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 eggs
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup honey
1/2 milk
1/2 cup peanut oil
1 teaspoon lemon extract

Beat together the eggs, granulated sugar, and brown sugar until thick.  Add the oil, honey, milk, and lemon extract and beat until combined.  Add cinnamon, nutmeg, soda, and baking powder.  Beat until combined.  Add the flour and beat until just combined.  Pour batter into a greased and floured 10 inch springform pan.  Bake at 325 degrees for 45-55 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Allow to cool.  If desired, top with caramelized pears.  

1 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup sugar
4-5 small Bartlett pears cut into thin slices
1/4 cup honey

In a skillet, melt butter.  Add sugar and cook until sugar is fully melted.  The sugar will turn brown and caramelize.  Add the pears and cook until very soft.  Add honey and cook for a few more minutes.  Pour on top of cake. 

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Daring Bakers October: Doughnuts!

I have been wanting to make doughnuts for a long time and as usual I have never found time.  The hot oil intimidated me.  Of course, that's when the Daring Bakers Challenge comes in.  I chose to make the first recipe of classic yeasted doughnuts, but decided to switch it up by adding apple cider instead of milk.  It is the season for apple doughnuts and I love them.

The October 2010 Daring Bakerschallenge was hosted by Lori of Butter Me Up. Lori chose to challengeDBers to make doughnuts. She used several sources for her recipesincluding Alton Brown, Nancy Silverton, Kate Neumann and Epicurious.

Yeast Doughnuts

1 cup apple cider
1/3 cup shortening
4 teaspoons instant yeast
1/3 cup warm water
2 large eggs, slightly beaten
1/4 cup sugar
pinch of kosher salt
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
4-5 cups all purpose flour

  1.  Melt shortening in a glass measure in the microwave
  2. Put the cider, yeast, shortening and warm water in a large bowl (for stand mixer if you have one)
  3. Add the eggs, sugar, salt, nutmeg, and half of the flour. Using the paddle attachment of your mixer (if you have one), combine the ingredients on low speed until flour is incorporated and then turn the speed up to medium and beat until well combined.
  4. Add the remaining flour, combining on low speed at first, and then increase the speed to medium and beat well.
  5. Change to the dough hook attachment of the mixer and beat on medium speed until the dough pulls away from the bowl and becomes smooth, approximately 3 to 4 minutes. If you do not have a dough hook/stand mixer – knead until the dough is smooth and not sticky.
  6. Transfer to a well-oiled bowl, cover, and let rise for 1 hour or until doubled in size.
  7. On a well-floured surface, roll out dough to 3/8-inch thick. (Make sure the surface really is well-floured the dough is very sticky)
  8. Cut out dough using a 2 1/2-inch doughnut cutter or pastry ring or drinking glass and using a 7/8-inch  ring for the center whole. Set on floured baking sheet (of course I did not follow this part of the directions and my dough stuck like crazy leading to misshapen doughnuts), cover lightly with a tea towel, and let rise for 30 minutes.
  9. Preheat the oil in a deep fryer or Dutch oven to 365 °F/185°C.
  10. Gently place the doughnuts into the oil, 3 to 4 at a time. Cook for 1 minute per side or until golden brown.
  11. Roll in granulated sugar.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Roasted Squash

When I was a little girl, my grandmother used to like to take a squash (butternut, acorn, whatever was available), split it open, scoop out the seeds and bake it in the oven for a long time with butter and brown sugar.  She used to call it dessert.  Me, being the "wise" child that I was, refused to eat that mushy garbage called squash that my grandmother tried to lie and tell me was delicious, that it was a treat. (I mean, this is the same woman who told me that eating the crust on my bread would make my hair grow long and beautiful).  Oh, what a fool I was!  Squash made that way is AMAZING!  My friend Mandy grows an fantastic garden every year and I am always a willing recipient of her over stock.  She makes a fantastic pot roast and roasted butternut squash with garlic and butter that is to die for.  I recently made a new recipe calling for roasted butternut squash rather than canned pumpkin that tastes like fall in quick bread form.  I have totally fallen in love with baked and roasted squash.  It's super easy to make and can be added to a plethora of recipes or just eaten on its own.

Roasted Butternut Squash
1. Cut squash in half lenghwise
2. Using a spoon, scoop out the seeds and stringy bits
3. Place facedown on a pan with sides (I used a jellyroll pan here but I have used a bread pan for small squash)
4. Bake at 350 degrees for about an hour or until the squash is squishy
5. Remove from oven and ALLOW TO COOL.
6. Scoop out insides or peel off skin
7. Enjoy immediately.  If desired, squash can be frozen for several months or refrigerated for up to 3 days

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Fun with Fondant and more Rainbow Cake

I have a nephew now.  He is just over a month old and absolutely delightful.  Never in a million years did I think this miniature human being would move me and my family like he does.  He, of course, is super cute and an honestly good baby.  He cries when he needs something and just hangs out otherwise.
Colored batters
I come from a family of celebrators.  Any excuse to get together and eat cake, we take it.  So, obviously, we would have a one month birthday party for our newest addition.  I decided to seize the opportunity to practice some fondant critters and make rainbow cake.  I have been seeing rainbow cake everywhere and what would be better for a one month birthday celebration than whimsical rainbow cake.  You can see from my previous post that my first try with the rainbow cake didn't fly so well so I just stuck to the recommendations on the back of the cake mix box.  Consequently the batter was a bit thinner than when I added sour cream and it made the finished cake more tie-dye than rainbow, but that was ok.  It looked awesome anyway.  It now seems to be my sister's favorite way to eat white cake.
batter before the oven
Tie-Dye Rainbow Cake
1 white cake mix
3 eggs
1/3 cup of oil
1 cup water
red, yellow, green, blue, and violet gel food coloring

Mix cake mix, eggs, oil and water together.  Separate batter into six different bowls (no Indigo for me, poor lonely Indigo).  Using a toothpick, add desired amount of food coloring to batter.  If using gel colors, remember that it takes some time for the color to reach full vibrancy.  I don't have orange food coloring, not even sure Wilton makes it, so I just mixed red and yellow.

Grease and flour a 9*3 round cake pan.  Scoop 1-2 scoops of red batter into the pan.  Next scoop 1-2 scoops orange batter and put it directly on top of the red batter. Then scoop 1-2 scoops yellow batter and put it directly on top of the orange batter.  Lather, rinse, repeat with the remaining colors.  I had to repeat the pattern about 3 times in total.  The batter will spread itself out.

Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Frost and decorate as desired.  I used the American Buttercream that my family is so fond of.
cake after baking
American Buttercream adapted from Wilton
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup shortening
4 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
5-7 tablespoons of water

Beat together the butter and shortening until smooth.  Add the vanilla.  Slowly add the powdered sugar.  If the mixture gets too thick and your mixer is having trouble, add some water or milk a one tablespoon at a time until the desired consistency is reached.

I only frosted the outside of this cake.  Double the recipe if filling the cake.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Rainbow Fail

Note to self: If the cake mix already has pudding in it, don't add more pudding and then some sour cream.  Too heavy.  Your mother in law warned you against this pudding on pudding situation and you did not believe her.  Believe now.

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