Thursday, August 27, 2009

This S**t is Bananas, B-A-N-A-N-A-S

You might think that being unemployed would give me more time to bake. On the one hand, you're right - it does. On the other hand, my husband says i'm making him fat and spending too much money on groceries. So, if you're wondering why I only post about once a week, that's why. Here's the thing. I could start making more, but only if people want to eat what i make. Therefore (thence? thus?), I'll make you an offer: I will share my confections with those who are willing to come pick them up from me, because lets face it, i shouldn't have to do all the work AND deliver! It won't solve the grocery bill problem, but at least I won't be making my husband fat.

This Banana cake completely makes up for my semi-failure with the yellow cake. It was awesome, though not soul saving. And what made it even better, was the delightful almond butter cream icing. mmmmm.

For the Banana Cake (from the complete Baking cookbook):

Preheat the Oven to 325 and spray two 9" round pans with nonstick spray.

you'll need:
3 cups cake flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups mashed ripe bananas (about 4 large ones)
6 tbsp buttermilk (you can make this by mixing vinegar with regular milk - look online to find the proportions, i can't remember)
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped pecans (it says so in the book, but i didn't have any, so i left them out)

Of course, I didn't have any butter milk (well actually, i did but it was like 2 weeks past its expiration date, so that doesn't count), so of course I had to call Justin to go to the store for me on his way home. This is why the first requirement for any place I live is that it be really, really, really near a grocery store. I NEVER remember to make sure i have all my ingredients before I start.

Start by whisking together the flour, baking soda, salt, and baking powder. Don't confuse the baking soda and baking powder measurements, i've done this before and it never ends well.

In a mixer bowl fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar till creamy. Then beat in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Next add the bananas, buttermilk and vanilla and mix until blended. I was worried because it looked a little curdled, but i guess it's supposed to look like that, because it turned out great!

Using a wooden spoon gradually stir flour mixture just until incorporated and fold in pecans. Okay - why always a wooden spoon? I don't think it makes a difference... Can anyone explain to me how a WOODEN spoon is different from a plastic spatula? Does the wood make the cake taste better?

Divide batter evenly between prepared pans and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. About 40 to 50 minutes. Let cool in pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes before transferring to rack to cool completely.

Icing next:

all you need is
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened, cut into cubes
3 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar
1/4 cup milk, preferably whole
2 tsp almond extract.

Like when making the cake, I neglected to make sure I had all my ingredients before starting to make the icing. Turns out I didn't have any whole milk, only skim. So, I asked my dear husband, and he said I could mix the skim milk with just a little heavy cream, which I did have. So, if you have heavy cream by some odd circumstance, you can mix it with your skim milk and it works.

Also, the recipe for the icing says to use a food processor, which I have but for which I have no room. I used my mixer.

Mix/process butter until smooth, about 30 seconds (probably more in a mixer), scrape down the bowl and add confectioners sugar. Mix/process until it just begins to gather then with motor/blade running, drizzle milk and almond extract in and mix or process until smooth. I made a really big mess doing this.

I thought the icing recipe made a little less than I would've liked since I used it as a layer between my two cakes and on the top, but I made it work. However, I suggest that if you plan on serving this as a birthday cake or something, you make at least 1 1/2 times the recipe just to have plenty for decorating.


As Julia Child would say (and Julie from the movie Julie & Julia) - Bon Apitiet! (How do i spell that?)

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Icing on the Cake

Cliche, I know, but i just couldn't help it! Yes - today i made icing. Well, not actually icing, I made chocolate ganache. And here's the thing, the ganache was excellent. Rich, chocolatey, creamy, in short, everything that ganache should be. The cake however, was a little lacking. The flavor was good, but it was just too dense. I think the problem may have been not whipping the butter and sugar up enough - learn from my mistakes - just whip it!

Still, I highly recommend the ganache filling/frosting. And, i'll try another cake recipe and post again soon.

For ganache frosting and filling

1 pound fine-quality semisweet chocolate (I used Godiva chocolate chips)
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter

Finely chop the chocolate, or in my case, just get chocolate chips. In a 1 1/2- to 2-quart saucepan bring cream, sugar, and corn syrup to a boil over moderately low heat, whisking until sugar is dissolved. Remove pan from heat and add chocolate, whisking until chocolate is melted. Cut butter into pieces and add to frosting, whisking until smooth.

Now, smitten kitchen says to do this:
"Transfer frosting to a bowl and cool, stirring occasionally, until spreadable (depending on chocolate used, it may be necessary to chill frosting to spreadable consistency). I found that stirring this over a bowl of ice water did a great job of cooling it off quickly and evenly. Spread frosting between cake layers and over top and sides."

But i just poured it right on still warm! Believe me it was deeeeeelish.

I actually have a good trick for frosting a cake, i learned it from my mom. You probably already know it, but just in case, I'll pass it along. The best way to keep icing from getting all over the plate is to use a little bit of aluminum foil - I use 4 separate pieces and overlap them just slightly along the edge of the plate (so they'll be easy to pull from under the cake). Then remove the foil and there you go!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Comfort Cake

Tonight I am going to start with a word to the wise: when feeling slightly inadequate, a little bit hard to please, and in the mood for something that resembles comfort food, don't turn to the Harrods Book of Cakes & Desserts (circa 1986). This book will not make you feel better about your cooking abilities. Everything inside is insanely complicated and most of the recipes use words i don't know.

Instead, try turning to one of your favorite cookbooks, something trusty, easy. That's why tonight I went with "the Complete Baking Cookbook." Just yellow cake with chocolate frosting - it sounded good. I didn't have time to make the icing, so i'll post that tomorrow. Anyway, it says in the book that for best results you should freeze the cake for one to two days before icing, so really I'm just being a good decorator.

So here's how it goes:

Preheat the oven to 350 and spray 2 9" round cake pans with nonstick spray.

3 1/2 cups cake flour
4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup cold water
1 tbs vanilla extract
1 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
5 eggs

Now, I know it seems like 1 1/2 cups of butter is a lot. But, that's why it tastes so damn good. Butter makes EVERYTHING better. I think i could write entire sonnets, odes, lyrical poems even, to butter. And, it's a verifiable fact that I've always loved butter. When i was a kid i actually liked to eat butter straight off the stick, now i just like butter in everything I eat. Okay, now that I've finished professing my love of all things butter - I'll get to the instructions.

Start by whisking together flour, baking powder and salt in one bowl. In a second small bowl, stir together water and vanilla. Set aside.

In mixing bowl cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy (about 2 minutes). Add eggs, one at a time, eating well between each addition. Here's my suggestion about this. Break the eggs (one at a time) into a separate bowl before adding into the butter/sugar mixture. That way if you're like me and you get a little egg-shell in the way you can just pick it out, instead of throwing out all that delicious butter and sugar.

Next using a wooden spoon (i don't have one at my apartment so i used a plastic spatula) stir in the flour mixture, alternating with the water mixture, making three additions of flour and two of water, until just blended.

Divide the batter equally between prepared pans. Bake until light brown and a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, about 28 to 36 minutes. Let cool in pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes before transferring to rack to cool completely.

(Yes, i realize my oven is a little gross on the bottom - please feel free to come over and clean it for me)

This last instruction may have been my problem. Justin took the cakes out for me and decided very sweetly to go ahead and turn them out onto the wire rack for me. Unfortunately he did this almost immediately, and proceeded to brake one of my cakes right in half. I'll recognize the gesture though and i'll glue it back together with icing tomorrow. Anyway, as i said earlier, the cookbook says that for best decorating results you should wrap the cakes in plastic wrap and freeze for 1 to 2 days. Icing recipe and completed product coming tomorrow!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Soul-Saving Almond Cake

Finally, I'm back! Back from the beach, back from a wedding in Houston, basically just back. I know I've been negligent but you'll just have to forgive me. However, I haven't been a total failure. As promised on facebook, I made an almond cake. And this isn't just any almond cake, it's a soul saving almond cake. You may have in the past asked, can music save your mortal soul? No. This cake can - it says so on

Now, i understand that the pictures of this cake don't do it justice (at all) but just trust me on this one. It's pretty damn good. It's moist, a little crumbly, and gets better over time.

2 sticks butter, softened, more for buttering pan
1 cup sour cream, at room temperature
1 tsp baking soda
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour (measured after sifting)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
7-oz tube almond paste, cut into small pieces
4 egg yolks, at room temperature
1 tsp almond extract
Confectioners' sugar, for sifting over cake

Making the Cake:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and butter sides and bottoms of one 9-inch springform pan generously. Mix together the sour cream and baking soda in a small bowl. Sift the flour and salt into another bowl. The website i got this recipe from said to sift the flour first, before measuring. I've never done this, which could be why my cake always falls in on itself, but that doesn't change the taste, believe me.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle, cream the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the almond paste, a little at a time, at medium speed, and beat for 8 minutes or so.

Beat in the egg yolks one at a time, and mix until incorporated. (I'll let you know when i find something good to do with egg whites, other than meringues which i don't like much). It will look curdled but don't worry. Blend in the almond extract and sour cream mixture. Reduce mixer speed to low and gradually add the flour mixture, just until blended. Then pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly.

Okay, i realize this isn't my best photography, but it's just supposed to be illustrative of cut up almond paste, egg yolks all nice and separated, and butter which i actually remembered to take out of the fridge to soften instead of trying to microwave it.

Bake about 1 hour. It is done when you press the top and it returns to its shape, and also shrinks from the sides of the pan. Okay, actually i never had the experience of having it return to its shape, but that's what amaturegormet says, so i'll trust it. Remove from the oven and place on a baking rack to cool in the pan. When ready to serve, sift confectioners' sugar on top and slice like a pie. And actually, Justin and I both think it's just as good, maybe better, without the powdered sugar on top, so that's your call.


Really, try this cake. Also, you can leave comments on this blog (just so you know - i've had a lot of comments on facebook and i won't be posting blog updates there for too much longer i think). Also, this means you should bookmark me so you can comeback and visit!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Beach Food: Part Deaux

A few things are on my order of business today - such as leaving for the beach. As predicted, I haven't packed, haven't finished cooking, and am tremendously disappointed about my swimsuit. The reason I'm disappointed though, is that I'm not going to get it! Turns out that they canceled the order. LAME.

However, what is not lame, is the recipe for Chocolate chip oatmeal cookies that I am about to share with you. This is a recipe that was originally a Betty Crocker recipe for plain old chocolate chip cookies. which are fine, just a little anticlimactic. These cookies however, are awesome, especially because the recipe was modified by none other than my Granny. Try them out and see if you don't agree.

Granny's Chocolate chip oatmeal Cookies

1/2 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup shortening
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups all purpose or whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon water
12 oz of semisweet chocolate chips
2 cups oatmeal

Preheat your oven to 375. In a large bowl mix together sugars, shortening, egg, and vanilla, then stir in remaining ingredients (chocolate chips and oatmeal last). I do have a few words to the wise on this recipe: only make this with an electric mixer if you have something kind of industrial, like a kitchenaid stand mixer. I almost burnt out my parents hand mixer a few years ago trying to stir in the chocolate chips and oats.

sorry these photos are a little dark, my kitchen doesn't have amazing lighting and these were taken around midnight last night.

Drop the dough by rounded teaspoonfuls (or if you're like me then just use your fingers) onto the ungreased cookie sheet. Bake until light brown, about 8 to 10 minutes. cool slightly before removing from cookie sheet. Makes about 3 1/2 dozen. That's a lot of cookies folks!

I actually made my dough and about half the cookies last night, and just finished them up this morning. But my main project for today was Raspberry-topped Lemon Muffins, again, recipe courtesy of (can you tell how much i love that website?). However, when i went to the store this morning, the raspberries sucked. They were mushy and gross looking, so instead, I bought blackberries. Believe me, the muffins are just as fabulous, really you could probably make them with just about any berry.

Blackberry-topped Lemon Muffins
Yield: 14 large or 56 miniature muffins

1 1/8 cups sugar, divided
4 teaspoons finely grated lemon peel (from two large lemons)
2 cups all purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 large egg
1 cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 1/2 1/2-pint containers (about) fresh raspberries, or in my case, blackberries.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Line 14 standard muffin cups (or 56 minis) with paper liners. Muddle 1/8 cup sugar and lemon zest in small bowl until sugar is slightly moist. Something like this:

Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt in medium bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat remaining 1 cup sugar and butter in large bowl until smooth. Beat in egg. Beat in buttermilk, then vanilla and lemon sugar. Beat in flour mixture.

Divide batter among muffin cups. Smitten Kitchen says to top each large muffin with 4 raspberries (or mini muffins with one each). However, since i used blackberries, which were much larger, i just played it by ear, some of the muffins got 4 berries and some got 2. Bake muffins until lightly browned on top and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 35 minutes (baking time is supposed to be on the shy side of 20 minutes for mini muffins).

As Rachel Ray would say... YUM-O. okay, i promise i wont ever say that again.

Now, I know you'll all miss me while I'm gone at the coast, at least, all two people who have ever seen this blog will maybe miss me a little. But, don't worry, I'll be back Tuesday, and rest-assured that I will be posting again soon!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Beach Food

This weekend Justin and I are taking our first vacation as a married couple (other than the honeymoon). We're going on a family vacation to Port Aransas! And, I'm not gonna lie, I'm stoked about the beach. I even ordered a new, ridiculously over priced, awesomely vintage (well, vintage style that is), swimsuit. Of course, i ordered the swimsuit online and haven't gotten it yet, but hopefully it will arrive before we leave, probably just in time for me to be tremendously disappointed that it doesn't look as fabulous on me as it did on the model online.

So the point of all this is that tonight I was on a mission. I baked 2 pies, made a double recipe of oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, and made an amazing cake called "blueberry boy bait." Granted, I still have plenty to do, like pack, and make something breakfast-y. It's likely I'll be freaking out tomorrow half an hour before we're supposed to leave with only half my stuff done and my entire suitcase left to pack. I didn't actually pack for the honeymoon until the day of my wedding (we were supposed to leave straight from the reception hall that night). In other words - I'm probably screwed even after all my baking tonight.

Key Lime Pie was first because it has to chill, the longer the better. This is a recipe my friend Jennifer gave me and my favorite thing about it is that it's cooked. As my husband will tell you, I have an unreasonable paranoia about raw eggs. Really, terror is a better word. I haven't eaten raw cookie batter since I was about 3 years old (you know, before they knew what salmonella was). I can't help it, that's just how I was raised. I've tried buying the pasteurized eggs, but it doesn't assuage my fear. So - no raw eggs.

Key Lime Pie
1 small Graham cracker crust (i use the pre-made ones, it's just easier in these beach kinds of situations)
3 egg yolks
1 tsp key lime zest
2/3 cup key lime juice
1 can sweetened condensed milk

Start by mixing the egg yolks and zest for about 3 to 5 minutes until yolks are thick and pale yellow. Something like this:

Slowly add the sweetened condensed milk, with mixer on low speed add in lime juice (also slowly). pour in the pie crust and cook 10 to 12 minutes at 350
cool at room temperature then refrigerate 3 to 4 hours before eating. if you absolutely must, you can freeze the pie for a slightly shorter wait period between cooking and eating. Whip cream is optional, but delicious.

Blueberry Boy Bait was my next project, recipe courtesy of

2 cups plus 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon table salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen (if frozen, do not defrost first)

1/2 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen (do not defrost)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

start by preheating the oven to 350 degrees and greasing and flouring a 13 by 9-inch baking pan.

Whisk, or in my case, mix with a fork, two cups flour, baking powder, and salt. With electric mixer, beat butter and sugars on medium-high speed until fluffy, about two minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until just incorporated and scraping down bowl. Reduce speed to medium and beat in one-third of flour mixture until incorporated; beat in half of milk. Beat in half of remaining flour mixture, then remaining milk, and finally remaining flour mixture. Toss blueberries with remaining one teaspoon flour. Using rubber spatula, gently fold in blueberries. Spread batter into prepared pan.

try not to drop your spoon in to the bowl while you're mixing.

Next scatter blueberries over top of batter. Or, if you're anything like me, you can methodically place the blueberries over top of batter. Stir sugar and cinnamon together and sprinkle over batter.

Bake until toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes. Cool in pan 20 minutes, then turn out and place on serving platter (topping side up).

Chocolate Chip Oatmeal cookie recipe coming tomorrow!