Sunday, March 28, 2010

Beef Bourguignon and Le Succes (sort of)

For our weekly Tuesday night Ladies’ Supper, I tried my hand at two new skills.  Beef stew and meringue.  One turned out well, the latter not too good.  This is odd because it's usually the opposite for me!  Dessert always turns out well!

There was a recipe for Beef Bourguignon in a recent issue of Everyday Food magazine so I thought I’d try my hand at beef stew.  This is a dish that I do not usually love, but my husband has been craving.  It turned out very tasty and was surprising simple to make.  The meat was SO tender and juicy.  We don’t eat much beef so this was definitely a treat. 

When I saw that this week’s recipe was for a meringue-based cake, I was a bit worried.  I’ve never made a meringue and I only have a hand-held mixer.  But, I figured I’d give it a try.


Soft Peaks:

Firm Peaks??:

After adding the almond/sugar mixture, the "batter" was completely deflated.  I'm not sure if I measured incorrectly, did not beat long enough or what my mistake was.  I tried to mix (I used a whisk) as minimally as possibly.  I also added the almond mixture in four batches.

I didn't want to make the Tea Ganache because I didn't think the cake was going to turn out correctly.  So, I just put some hot cream on top of a bag of chocolate chips and stirred.  The cake turned out sort of cookie-like.  I spread some ganache on top and we ate the "cake" layers like cookies.  They were okay.  Edible, for sure.  Better luck next time I try a meringue!

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Lemon Poppy Seed Sour Cream Cake


Wow.  This cake is all about the lemon.  I actually ended up with only about 1.7 oz of lemon juice so I added the equivalent ratio of sugar and I am really glad I didn't have the entire amount of lemon syrup.  I had a few girls over for dinner (I made Lois's Cuban Picadillo - yum) and this cake came out of the oven while we ate.  So, we ate it warm.  And it was Lemon-y.  

I am not a big fan of lemon, but my husband is and poor guy never gets to eat lemon cake.  He absolutely loved it.  The girls said they liked it, but it was a bit too strong.  This is an understatement.  

I brought it to work the next day and had a small piece.  The next day the flavors had mellowed and my criticism was the texture with the seeds.  The picadillo was also much better the next day! 

All in all, this was not my favorite cake.  It had mixed reviews.  Some glowing, some not so good, depending on the degree of lemon-lover.

That's it for me tonight! 
Le Creuset Giveaway!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Baking without the Home Field Advantage

My grandparents are in South Carolina visiting for a month from Wisconsin.  I made my way to my parents' house and stayed for a long weekend.  I was planning on baking my "Free Choice" cake from Rose's Heavenly Cakes.  I was excited about trying a coconut cake that according to Marie, the Original Heavenly Cake Baker, will be liked by those of us who are not fans of coconut.  And since my mother and grandmother practically jumped through the phone when I mentioned baking a coconut cake (why do people over 60 go crazy over coconut?), I figured I'd be up to the challenge.

But Friday night, I planned to whip up a (requested) batch of my staple brownies that are always loved by all.  This VERY simple recipe took me at least double the time it normally does and the brownies turned out so-so (I hated them and my husband said they were good for normal people's brownies).  :-)  I am guessing the difference was that my mother had "normal" flour when I use King Arthur religiously as my AP.  And then you can add in the time it took me to run to the store and buy baking powder since my mother's had expired in 2003!  But really that was worth it because I have a feeling she will be ribbed for years to come from her mother and sisters.  I obviously have not received my baking bug from my mother!  Anyway, I decided trying to make a new cake with new ingredients might not be the best idea in a strange kitchen.  And I was actually excited because her kitchen is so much bigger, better, cleaner and more organized than mine.  And her dishwasher works the way they ought don't have to essentially wash the dishes before putting them in!  C'est la vie.

While I might not have been able to bake my weekly cake, I was able to learn how to crochet, score my grandmother's German potato salad recipe, a slightly broken Lazy Boy and my Great Grandmother's china!!!  Not to mention spend a lovely weekend with my parents, sister, husband and grandparents!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

True Orange Genoise


Warning - My pictures turned out very blurry.  I guess something about the lighting was off.  Sorry in advance.  I also apologize for the lateness of my post.

Cake Step 1: Google "Genoise" to find out what the heck it is!

2: Get really nervous about making a cake without leavening.

3: Search for Seville oranges.

4: Abandon search for Seville oranges.

5: Make orange curd.

6: Search for free Triple Sec.

7: Abandon search for free Triple Sec and buy a bottle.

8: Make beurre noisette.

9: Make genoise - Yum, by the way!  My cake was much less than two inches, but it still tasted good.

10: Make ganache - used my newly acquired Scharffen berger.

11: Try Triple Sec - VERY sweet, but still good.

12: Make orange syrup.

13: Cut off crusts and then cut cake in half (badly).

14: Eat crusts.

15: Brush with orange syrup.

16: Spread ganache (poorly).

17: Eat at Super Bowl party!  These are the happy guests.

18: Eat again next day - Much better in my opinion.  The flavors seemed to mellow.

Time: one evening, one morning and one afternoon.  I would say this cake probably took at least 5 hours of active baking.  That does not include all the time spent running around looking for Seville oranges!  I'm sure it can be done quicker, but I'm very slow.

I didn't love the cake.  The orange/chocolate flavors were so strong, I couldn't taste the cake (my favorite part!).  It was good and my party guests raved.  I've never made a cake or even a dinner with this many steps!  Wow.  It was definitely an experience.  I know there are a lot of complicated cakes in this book and I have faith the results will be somewhere between good and great.  But I'm not sure if I'll make this cake again.  I wonder if the Seville oranges make the difference as it looks like most of the bloggers absolutely loved this cake.  I recently saw the substitution suggested with limes and I find that interesting, as well.  I used the suggestion in the book and cheated with Simple Orange juice.

I did like the chili I also made on Sunday!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Steak, Potatoes, Sauce, Soup and Orange Curd

This blog is actually encompassing two meals I prepared last week.  I love Martha Stewart and she did a show about blogs last month that led me to both this blog, Jeff and Martha, and Martha's book, Martha Stewart's Cooking School.  Everyone knows I need a cooking school, so I figured I'd check it out.  What I really love about the book is the detailed instructions about preparing meat.  I'm a one-pot-dinner kind of gal and my husband has often complained, "When are we going to eat anything besides stews?!"  And we do (on the nights he cooks!).  So I picked out two recipes, checked out what Jeff had to say about them and got to work.

The first: Pan-Seared Strip Steak with Mustard Cream Sauce.  This consisted of two steaks basically pan-fried in a bit of butter and then a mustard sauce with vermouth and cream.

I'm definitely a beginner saucier and don't even have a good sauce pan (all my pans are nonstick aka NO METAL!), so I was doomed from the beginning.  The instructions to wait to flip the steak until it pulls easily from the pan were vague and I ended up flipping too early.  I got a good temperature but it was definitely unevenly cooked.  But thankfully, still nice and pink in the center.  I took the pan off the heat, added the vermouth, heated and stirred.

The book says to "cook until liquid is almost completely reduced, about 45 seconds."  I waited, while stirring, probably about two minutes but there was still plenty of liquid and then....POP!  The sauce exploded all over the kitchen AND ME!

I got a nice burn on my face and right hand.  So this definitely reduced my enjoyment of the finished product!  I quickly added the mustard, cream and steak juices and served the very runny sauce with the steak.  I think if it would have reduced properly it would have been very tasty.  As it was, it was good with the mashed potatoes, but too weak to taste with the yummy steak (a treat for the two of us, for sure!).  I made a quick salad and some mashed potatoes with rosemary cream (from the book) and butter and this was a rich, fatty, delicious meal!  Too bad I had to eat it with a washcloth compressed to my lip. :-(

The second: "Indian-Spiced Split Pea Soup" was an interesting choice. Jeff from the blog gave it rave reviews, so I figured I'd try it out, especially since we needed a healthy dish after the previous steak and cream fiasco.  This was a sort of compromise since my husband loves Indian food and hates split pea soup and I hate Indian food and love split pea soup.  I figured we both might love or hate it.  It was a simple recipe, no real surprises.  The book says in several places to "salt to taste" and as a beginner cook, this is very hard for me.  I have realized how important salt is along the way, but I still tend to under salt,  a definite problem with this dish.  I also did not have any dried chilies as called for in the recipe, so I threw in some crushed red pepper flakes.  I have a tendency to over spice with hot spices, so I was conservative.  SO this lack of salt and spice made the soup very...boring.  I added some salt and more pepper flakes to my bowl and it was definitely improved, but still it was only just okay.  There are still leftovers in the fridge, so that is a real tell.

I have started on the Orange Genois that is part of the bake-along tonight.  I made the orange curd that is going to be the filling between the layers.  I think everything went okay.  This is another sauce-type recipe, so I was really worried.  And I conclude that there are no Seville oranges in Columbia, SC.  So I reduced regular orange juice, actually I used "Simple Orange" juice since I had it and I didn't have enough oranges to make fresh.  It tasted good, then I added the zest and now it tastes way too orange-y.  I'm hoping this will work out when it is layered between cake and ganache.  OH and I bought some coveted Scharffen berger chocolate because it was on sale at the fancy supermarket.  I'm very curious to see if there is going to be a noticeable difference compared to my regular Ghirardelli.   I also have a call out to all the local people I know with liquor cabinets for some triple sec for the recipe.  So far, no luck.  I hope I have time to make the cake Saturday afternoon (after work, before dinner) so I can put it together Sunday morning for our mini Super Bowl party.  Only time will tell!

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Pineapple Upside Down Cakes

My beloved computer is at a friend's house, hopefully being upgraded to the 21st century.  So, I'm writing on a hand-me-down (aka OLD!) laptop that sometimes gets internet connection.  I'll have to add pictures to this post later because my camera is not compatible with this computer(?).  But the good news is that my little pineapple cakes turned out very cute and even more delicious!  Well, I did have some trouble with flipping them out of the ramekins, so they definitely could have looked better, but I still think they're cute!

This was my first time with caramel or any candy, really.  I'm not sure if I did it correctly, but it tasted good.  The first caramel was very thick and didn't cover the bottom of the ramekins (I only used 6 and I'm glad because the cakes were small).  The second never got below 200 degrees on my candy thermometer.  (Rose said it was ready when it was up to 140 degrees, so I'm not sure why mine never dipped down.)  But I let it bubble for a bit over 5 minutes and ended up with about half a cup.  It really tastes good and is definitely going on my yogurt in the morning! 

Speaking of yogurt, I just bought two big containers of yogurt earlier this week (low-fat greek for me and fat free regular for the hubby) and then went out this morning and bought ANOTHER big container of full-fat for this recipe.  Our pot runneth over with yogurt!

These cakes taste good, the pineapple gives a bit of tart balance to the sweet cake and caramel.  I really like the moistness of the cake.  And the cherry in the middle might be my favorite part.  I almost left the cherry out because I didn't want to fork over the extra $3.50 for frozen cherries and I'm not a big fan of canned.  I'm really glad I did!  I'm curious to see how they taste when they aren't warm out of the oven.  And the pineapple caramel is the proverbial cherry-on-top.  My husband who for some reason hates pineapple (the only fruit he doesn't like!), pulled off the pineapple and gave the cake two thumbs up.

Pic 1. Beginning stage of caramel #1.
Pic 2. Before the batter - I cut the pineapple way too thick!
Pic 3.  Bubbly caramel #2.

Saturday, January 16, 2010


Wow.  This is super cool.  I was actually quoted by a stranger!  I don't think that has ever happened before.  I'm totally dorking out.  I can't believe that people actually care about/read what I've written.  That blows my mind.

Anyway, I've found some 9x3 in cake pans online, so I know they really do exist.  I'm about to see if they exist in Columbia, SC.  I've also had the epiphany that I am friends with several professional photographers and specifically one that takes food pics (among other things).  So I have emailed Scott Smallin for some advice.  We'll see if he gets back to me in time for my Tres Leches pictures.  In the meantime, here are some of his food pics:

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Rose's Heavenly Cakes

I ran across a baking book called Rose's Heavenly Cakes. It has completely revolutionized my baking. In fact, it is one of the few cookbooks I have actually forked out the money to buy (at full price none the less) instead of serially renewing a copy from the library. The recipes include weights as well as volume, so all you have to do is set a big bowl on a scale and keep adding stuff until the weights are correct. SO much easier then leveling cups and making a mess with the flour! I LOVE IT! And the few recipes I've made have been delicious. Apparently this is no new trick, Rose has been around forever and is a goddess in the baking world, but considering I'm new to cooking/baking, it's all news to me.

There is a blog called Heavenly Cake Baker which is a bake-along with recipes from the book. I'm going to try my hand at blogging on a schedule. Unfortunately, I can never take good food pictures, but I'll do the best I can! This week featured the Chocolate Streusel Coffee Cake. Luckily, I had all the ingredients in the pantry, except sour cream. So I picked up some sour cream from Target of all places and didn't even have to make a run for the grocery store. I did cheat and use regular brown sugar, not the muscavdo. I was visiting my family for our Christmas-in-January party, so it was a great opportunity to share a not-so-sweet sweet.

Unfortunately I am a huge procrastinator and this project is no different. As I mentioned, I was leaving for the two hour trip to my parents' house Friday after work. I was due at work at noon and I put off making the cake until Friday morning! So two hours before work, I started to make the cake. I started by preparing the pan and pulling out some cupcake liners....I'm not sure why this recipe makes a cake and two cupcakes. I'm not sure if this is something I misread because my cake seemed somewhat smaller than the picture in the book, nowhere near filling the pan. But I did read and reread the instructions and went with it. Next, I mixed the chocolate/sugar/cinnamon filling, breaking up the chunks with a fork as suggested. I did take out a stick of butter and two eggs when I first woke up Friday morning. But, of course, the butter was still cool and firm when I was ready to start baking. SO, I stuck the butter in the microwave for a few seconds. And it immediately melted! (You can see that I'm on my way to having a great morning!) This was my last stick of butter, so I considered scrapping the whole project. But I figured I'd try to whip the butter before giving up. It actually ended up fluffing up, slightly runny, looking better when I added the sugar. (I'm not privy to a fancy stand mixer and have to make do with a hand-held.) Next eggs and vanilla and it started to look normal, nicely fluffy pale yellow.

I measured the dry ingredients on the scale (love it!) and added them along with the sour cream in three batches into the wet. I made a bit of a mess with this because I underestimated my bowl size. I made my cupcakes and started to build the cake, adding half the batter, sprinkling the streusel and plopping a few spoons of the batter on top. Unfortunately, when smoothing out the batter, the chocolate mixed in a bit, so it wasn't as pretty as it could have been. Then there was the infamous hold-your-breath-and-flip moment, that ended with a perfectly intact cake on the cooling rack.

The cake itself was very moist and very good, not too sweet, which is what I expected. Everyone liked it, we ate it Friday night as a snack and then again Saturday morning with coffee (the best!). The bites with more chocolate where incredible. I will definitely try this cake again, but I will try adding more of the streusel mixture (double?). I think if the cake can handle it, this will kick it up to incredible for my tastes. All in all, with some of the troubles I ran into, this cake turned out great...and I (barely) got to work on time!