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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

FFWD: Spiced Butter-Glazed Carrots

Would you believe me if I told you that I made both My Go-to Beef Daube and Leek & Potato Soup but forgot to take pictures of them?

In my defense, it was late and I got lazy, thinking that I would just take pictures of the leftover the next day, which of course never happened. Note to self, next time, just take a picture anyway, even if it's a crummy quality, because having some pictures is always better than no picture.

The beef daube was very good. It made me think of Julia Child's Boeuf Bourguignon. The only difference that I noticed was the turnips and the lack of pearl onions. The leek potato soup was good as well. Nothing special, but hearty, and it's a good thing to come home to a bowl of warm soup after a long day.

Anyway... I digress. Let's move on to this dish, shall we?

There could not be an easier dish to make. Melt butter, sautee 1/2 an onion and garlic until they soften. Then add the cardamom pods and ginger, saute a bit more. Add the carrots, mixing it good so they are all coated with the butter and spices. Add some chicken stock, bring to a boil, then let simmer for 10 minutes or until they soft. In my case, by the 10 minute mark they are very tender and fragrant.

Tasting impressions:
Very good and tasty. And healthy to boot. I made this with 6 carrots because that's all I have but next time I'll make a bigger batch of it.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

HCB: Cranberry Crown Cheesecake and Financier Style Vanilla Bean Pound Cake

Another catch up week for me, as it turned out. First we have Cranberry Crown Cheesecake.

I am not a big fan of cheesecake, but I am curious about this cake. It has more sour cream than cream cheese in it, and the cranberries component sounds yummy.

This cake is pretty easy to make. Even though I make my own ladyfingers it, it only took a couple of hours to put together. Not bad compared to some of the other cakes in the book.

I made 1/2 recipe again in a 7 inch pan. Not sure whether 1/2 recipe ladyfingers would be enough, I made 2/3 recipe. Turned out to be the perfect amount, have just enough ladyfingers for the sides and the bottom.

The cheesecake batter came together very easily. First whisked the cream cheese and sugar until well blended. Next add the eggs vanilla mixture. Finally, add in the sour cream until blended.

I put the cake pan inside a 9 inch silicone pan that I got for $5 on ebay last year. This is the 1st time I used the silicone pan, and it felt good using it, considering it's $5 hehe. The silicone pan is then placed inside a baking pan with an inch of hot water.

I must have overbaked the ladyfingers, because only after 15 minutes, the tip started browning, so I cover the edges of the cake with foil for the rest of the baking time.

After the cake finished baking, I left it in the oven for an hour, as Rose prescribed. I was a little worried about this, what if the cake overcooked. But I thought to myself that I should trust Rose, as always. After the 1 hour mark, I let the cake rest at room temperature for another hour, before storing it in the fridge overnight.

At this point, I realized that I had forgotten to spray the pan with baking spray prior to baking. Shoot! Now I'm really worried and stressed, what if the ladyfingers stuck to the side of the pan.

As you can see from the pictures, that didn't happen. I don't know why it didn't, but I'm glad regardless.

Tasting impressions:
This is really good. I'm not a cheesecake fan, and hubby isn't either. But we both love it. It paired up really nicely with the cranberry topping (which was so good btw, that I made more of it, with the rest of the frozen cranberries).  Hubby said it's the best cheesecake he's ever had. I remembered that he said the same thing about the Baby Lemon Cheesecakes. Which tells you one thing: Rose's cheesecakes are awesome :).

Financier-Style Vanilla Bean Poundcake

I wasn't planning on making another cake this weekend. But yesterday I felt like having some dessert, and as the cheesecake needs to be refrigerated for a day, and I have leftover egg whites at room temperature, I thought of this cake.

This is the easiest cake to make in the book. I made 1/2 recipe and it took me 15 minutes to put everything together. The 15 minutes even includes mis-en-place, using the microwave to soften the butter, and weighing the batter into each of the 5 financier cavity. It took longer to bake the cake (18 minutes). Of course what's really sad is that it took us 5 minutes to eat the 5 cakes.

I have to apologize for the bad picture. I brought 3 of the cakes to my husband, who was upstairs - along with 2 cups of coffee - as a surprise. I didn't want the coffee to get cold so I didn't bother doing the fancy photo shoot and just snap a quick one with the camera.

Tasting impressions:
I had a feeling I will like this cake, after reading what the HCB bakers thought of this cake. I tend to like light and airy cakes more, and though I do like pound cakes, sometimes they are too much. This little babies are really good, too good perhaps as we both wolfed down all 5 of them in minutes.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

HCB Free Choice: Spice Cake with Peanut Buttercream and Whoopie Pie

Spice Cake with Peanut Buttercream

I had some free time this weekend, so I thought I'd play catch up on the cakes I've missed. Here is Spice (Cup)Cakes with Peanut Buttercream.

As usual, I made 1/2 recipes and felt like making cupcakes. By the way, I'm beginning to think that I am developing an addiction to cupcake shapes. A few months go by and I haven't made cupcake and I would miss it.

This cake is super easy to make. The hardest part about it is sifting all the dry ingredients. I'm not a big fan of sifting, but it's not a step that I'd dare skipping. As I was prepping the ingredients, I thought of Hanaa. Why? Because Hanaa is one HCB who loves to add spices to her cakes, and this cake has both cinnamon and cloves. A quick search on her blog, and I found that she's made this cake back in September, and added ground nutmeg, ginger, and all spice. Hanaa, I wish I have your courage of playing with spices in cakes.

The buttercream is also super easy. At first I was dreading it when I read this cake uses buttercream. I haven't made buttercream for a while, and the last couple times I made mousseline, they curdled. No chance of that happening with this one. Nothing could be easier than having to combine all the ingredients in a food processor.

Since the cake was so easy, I thought I had a bit of fun decorating it.

Tasting impression:
The cake is really good, soft, tender, and light. The buttercream I am not so sure of. I like the peanut flavor but combined with the cream cheese and butter, it taste too creamy. After I ate one, I feel like I would not be hungry for hours. I know it's my fault, 1/2 recipe of cupcakes to 1 recipe of buttercream. It is not an even distribution. But even if it's 1:1, I am not sure I like the taste combo very much.

Two Fat Cats Whoopie Pie

For this recipe, I made the buttercream first. Rose said in the book that once you're done, to congratulate yourself for making the perfect buttercream. Somehow that makes me think that this buttercream must be hard. True enough, somewhere she said it's similar to mousseline. Uh oh. So I made it first, thinking that if it didn't turn out, then I wouldn't even bother to make the whoopie cakes.

It all started out so well. I combined the sugar, water, and corn syrup over low heat until the sugar dissolved and the mixture started bubbling. Took it off the heat and proceeded to beat the egg whites with a hand mixer. Added cream of tartar and beat until stiff peaks. Put the sugar mixture back on the heat and boil until it reached 248 degrees. Then poured it onto the egg whites while mixing. Btw, is it just me or is it always fascinating to see egg whites change texture into the smooth, shiny, and silky meringue.

So far so good....

Once the meringue is cooled, Rose tells you to beat butter and powdered sugar until it's smooth, creamy, and white. Added the meringue and this is the part where I messed it up. Rose said to beat for 10 seconds until combined. I beat a bit too long, about 30 seconds, and the cream curdled a bit.


Ok, deep breath, let's taste it.

Taste fine so I made the pies.

I remembered from reading all the HCB who made this that the pie turned out so big. Keeping that in mind, I measured 20 grams (instead of the 40-something grams per instruction).

The result?

I think it's still too big. I'd prefer to make this somewhat bite size, as in, I can eat it in a couple of bites. So maybe next time I would try 15 grams.

Tasting impressions:
Yum!  It is so good. The marshmallow cream is super yummy and combined with the pies it is awesome. As I am typing this sentence I took the last bite of the one pictured about (with all the Xmas tree sugar around it). I am still not hungry from the Spice cupcakes 2 hours ago, but I gotta have a whoopie pie! (I think tonight's dinner will be a very small salad...)

Heavenly Cake List

Apple Upside Down Cake (Oct 19, 2009)
Plum and Blueberry Upside Down Torte (Aug 8, 2010)
She Loves Me Cake (Jan 1, 2011)
White Velvet Cake with Milk Chocolate Ganache (Nov 14, 2010)
Heavenly Coconut Seduction Cake (Feb 21, 2011)
Southern Manhattan Coconut Cake w/ Silk Meringue Buttercream (Apr 18, 2011)
Whipped Cream Cake (Sept 4, 2011)
Karmel Cake (Apr 4, 2011)
Spice Cake w/ Peanut Buttercream (Dec 19, 2010)
Golden Lemon Almond Cake (Sept 27, 2010)
Lemon Poppy Seed Sour Cream Cake (Apr 12, 2010)
Woody's Lemon Luxury Layer Cake (Nov 16, 2009)
Apple-Cinnamon Crumb Coffee Cake (May 24, 2010)
Marble Velvet Cake (Aug 8, 2011)
Chocolate Streusel Coffee Cake (Feb 13, 2011)
Swedish Pear and Almond Cream Cake (Jun 5, 2011)
Cradle Cake (Jan 31, 2011)
Sicilian Pistachio Cake (Mar 15, 2010)
Gateau Breton (Jun 20, 2010)
Sticky Toffee "Pudding" (Feb 27, 2011)
English Gingerbread Cake (Nov 13, 2011)
Fruitcake Wreath (Jan 10, 2011)
Rose Red Velvet Cake (May 31, 2010)
Chocolate Tomato Cake w/ Mystery Ganache (July 17, 2011)
Chocolate Covered Strawberry Cake (Jun 14, 2010)
Chocolate Banana Stud Cake (July 19, 2010)
Devil's Food Cake with Midnight Ganache (Mar 13, 2011)
Chocolate Layer Cake with Caramel Ganache (Aug 30, 2010)
Bernachon Palet d'Or Gateau (Nov 20, 2011)
Double Chocolate Valentine (Feb 15, 2010)
Chocolate Velvet Fudge Cake (Dec 6, 2010)
Black Chocolate Party Cake (Nov 14, 2010)
Classic Carrot Cake w/ Dreamy Creamy White Chocolate Frosting (Dec 14, 2009)
Pumpkin Cake (Nov 3, 2009)
Many-Splendored Quick Bread (Oct 18, 2010)
Banana Refrigerator Cake with Dreamy Cream White Chocolate Frosting (Apr 12, 2010)
German Chocolate Cake (Aug 14, 2011)
Chocolate Ice Cream Cake (July 5, 2010)
Miette's Tomboy (Apr 10, 2011)

Angel Food Cake (Oct 10, 2011)
Chocolate Tweed Angel Food Cake (Jan 25, 2010)
Chocolate Apricot Roll w/ Lacquer Glaze (Mar 21, 2010)
Genoise Rose (Jun 28, 2010)
White Gold Passion Genoise (Aug 21, 2011)
True Orange Genoise (Feb 8, 2010)
Genoise Tres Cafe (Jan 23, 2011)
Chocolate Genoise w/ Peanut Butter Whipped Ganache (Nov 21, 2010)
Moist Chocolate Raspberry Genoise (Mar 7, 2011)
Red Fruit Shortcake (Jun 27, 2011)
Catalan Salt Pinch Cake (Oct 2, 2011)
Almond Shamah Chiffon (Oct 26, 2009)
Orange Glow Chiffon Layer Cake (Mar 28, 2011)
Lemon Meringue Cake (Aug 1, 2010)
Tortas de las Tres Leches (Jan 17, 2010)
Apple Caramel Charlotte (SepT 20, 2010)
Chocolate Raspberry Trifle (May 30, 2011)
Saint Honore Trifle (May 2, 2010)
Holiday Pinecone Cake (Jan 16, 2011)

Cranberry Crown Cheesecake (Dec 25, 2010)
Pure Pumpkin Cheesecake (Nov 7, 2011)
Coconut Cheesecake w/ Coconut Cookie Crust (May 1, 2011)
Ginger Cheesecake w/ Gingerbread Crust (Sept 18, 2011) 
No-Bake Whipped Cream Cheesecake (July 24, 2011)
Lemon Canadian Crown w/ Ladyfingers (July 4, 2011)
Ladyfingers (Sept 12, 2010)
Tiramisu (Sept 12, 2010)
Sybil's Pecan Cupcakes (Apr 5, 2010)
Chocolate Featherbed (Aug 16, 2010)
Hungarian Jansci Torta (Oct 5, 2009)
Le Success (Mar 29, 2010)
Zach's La Bomba (May 16, 2011)

Yellow Butter Cupcakes (Apr 17, 2010)
Chocolate Butter Cupcakes (Jun 7, 2010)
White Velvet Butter Cupcakes (May 8, 2011)
Designer Chocolate Baby Grand (July 25, 2010)
Gold Ingots (Sept 6, 2010)
Chocolate Ingots (Sept 6, 2010)
Peanut Butter Ingots (Oct 23, 2011)
Plum Round Ingots (Aug 1, 2011)
Financier Style Vanilla Bean Pound Cakes (Dec 24, 2010)
Mini Vanilla Bean Pound Cakes (Mar 20, 2011)
Baby Lemon Cheesecakes (May 17, 2010)
Quail Egg Indulgence Cake (Feb 13, 2011)
Marionberry Shortcakes (Aug 22, 2010)
Coffee Chiffonlets w/ Dulce de Leche Whipped Cream (Aug 28, 2011)
Individual Pineapple Upside Down Cakes (Sept 25, 2011)
Caramelized Pineapple Pudding Cakes w/ Classic Brioche (Oct 4, 2010)
The Bostini (Nov 1, 2010)
Deep Chocolate Rosebuds (Sept 10, 2011)
Molten Chocolate Souffle and Lava Cakes (Oct17, 2011)
Chocolate Bull's-Eye Cakes (Jan 1, 2011)
Barcelona Brownie Bars (May 22, 2011)
Baby Chocolate Oblivion (Nov 9, 2009)
Two Fat Cats Whoopie Pie (Dec 19, 2010)
Mud Turtle Cupcakes (Jun 20, 2011)

Double-Chocolate Whammy Groom's Cake (Dec 5, 2011)

Monday, December 13, 2010

Holiday Baking

This is Pecan Pie from Rose's Pie & Pastry Bible. I don't make pies as often as I'd like. But I just purchased Lyle's Golden Syrup and wanted to try it asap. Somehow the 1st thing that came to mind is Pecan Pie.

It is pretty easy to make, first make the crust. Once cooled, place all the pecans in the crust, and proceed to make the filling. The filling is really easy. Combine all of it in a pot under low heat and stir until it's thick. This step is the hardest, because I find it completely boring to stand there and stir constantly. I think next time I should bring a novel or something and read while waiting. Rose said this takes 7-10 minutes but it took me 20 minutes (and it felt like an hour).

This pie comes with a bittersweet glaze, which is basically melted chocolate with cream added - like ganache before it's thickened. I need to learn how to make parchment cone, it broke midway so then I just ended up applying it with a spatula.

Oh well, that's what the whipped cream is for, to make it prettier and cover all the imperfection :). Since we are planning to eat the pie over several days, I made stabilized whipped cream and added bourbon.

Tasting impressions:
Really really good. I was afraid of it being too sweet with the golden syrup and the sugar, but I think because it used brown sugar it taste less sweet. The whipped cream is really yummy and added a nice flavor to the pie.

I also made some cookies yesterday. The sugar cookies are from Susan Purdy's Pie in the Sky. It is my go-to sugar cookies recipes and it's very good! I also tried to make gingerbread cookies from RHC, but I used regular molasses (instead of light) and even though I reduced the quantity, they taste too strong. I still decorated some of them, for practice.

So for my HCB readers, these are why I am slacking off and did not make the Vanilla Bean financiers. I was going to make it yesterday but ran out of time.

So there you go. Holiday Baking at Knitty Baker's house. More to come...

Friday, December 10, 2010

FFWD: Sweet & Spicy Cocktail Nuts

This is Sweet & Spicy Cocktail Nuts from Dorie Greenspan. It is so easy to make and so good. Dorie said that this is one of those recipes that you can tweak as  you wish - try different spices and flavor combo - so you can truly make it your own.

I decided that I will follow her spices combo as is to see what it taste like. I've never made spiced nuts before, anyway. For the nuts I used cashews, walnuts, and pecans. Coat the nuts with egg whites. Then combined the spices: sugar, salt, chili powder, ground cinnamon, and cayenne. Mix everything together, spread on a silpat and bake.

1/2 hour later and voila! Yummy nuts that are quite photogenic :).

Tasting impressions:
Very very good. Crunchy and slightly sweet. I was being sparing on the cayenne and am finding there's not enough kick here, so next time will up the cayenne - and try other spices.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Playing with natural light

I had some free time last Sunday and decided to test out the new-found source of natural light in my house: my bathroom. I am not kidding, my bathroom is south-facing and apparently it got a pretty good source of light throughout the afternoon. Who knew, I've lived here for a while and never realized. Well, in the past, I never really cared about whether there's light or not. And now that I do care, during the week I'm at work, and on the weekends I'm in the kitchen.

Anyway, I got some Satsuma oranges last week and decided it would be a good test subject for the photography.

Here they are taken with studio lights (a.k.a. natural light bulbs).

Not bad, but not impressive either.

Now here they are with natural light.

Better right?

Want more?

So what are you waiting for? Go grab your camera - find a natural light source in your house and start shooting. Even if it's in your bathroom!

Now excuse me while I go find another yummy fruit to shoot at :).

Monday, December 6, 2010

HCB: Chocolate Velvet Fudge Cake

This is Chocolate Velvet Fudge Cake from Rose's Heavenly Cakes.

I was looking forward to this cake, feeling like having some chocolate cake lately. So looking forward to it that I bought the Nordic Ware 6 cup bundt pan. This pan has been on my list for a while so I finally "succumbed" and got it.

This cake is on the Quick & Easy list and boy it is quick and easy. So quick and easy it is that after mixing all the dry ingredients with butter and cocoa mixture, I tasted the batter a little bit with my fingers, and then thought to myself, hm... it's very bitter (I had just bought Schaffenberger cocoa powder and am using it for the 1st time). How come it's very bitter, I continued to ponder. And then a light bulb moment: crap, I forgot to add sugar. Quickly add sugar, mix it a bit (yes I had exceeded the prescribed mixing time at this point). Then add in the eggs & water mixture. Poured in the pan and hoping and praying that the extra mixing will not be catastrophic.

Well it did but for a different reason, I think. Rose said to use a silicone bundt pan, which can only mean one thing, I thought, that this cake must be pretty sticky. So I sprayed the pan generously and went to all the nooks and crannies with a silicone brush. With all that effort, my cake came out like this.


Oh well, nothing but a generous dusting of powdered sugar can't fix.
 Tasting impressions:
The cake is very dense and fudgy. And very chocolat-y, in a good way. I really like the chocolate taste (yay Schaffenberger cocoa powder). I think it's a bit too dense for me (wonder if the extra mixing is the cause). It would be so good with some vanilla ice cream, but by itself is a bit plain. Hubby gave it a 6 (out of 10), saying - and I quote - "for a beginner baker this is good, but for you it's a 6." Hmm... I guess that made me feel good about myself LOL. See what 1 year baking from RHC did, it turned us into cake snobs!

Additional tasting impressions:
I just had a full slice of cake now (earlier I only had a couple of bites) and am now vowing to give this cake another chance. Which means a RE - DO, sometimes in the future. Not exactly sure when, with 42 cakes to go from the book. I will use a different cocoa powder then, and perhaps with a side of vanilla ice cream :).