A couple of months ago, I bought a tart pan, fully intending to make a tart recipe I'd found (which is now lost on the Internet somewhere, since I neglected to put the link into my Google Notebook). Despite my productive intentions, the pan got some time to mature in the cupboard before I finally pulled it out for this week's recipe (chosen by Caitlin of Engineer Baker).
[skip to recipe]
This cake, a polenta cake with ricotta, honey and figs, was a new taste experience for me. It's a very Mediterranean combination of flavors, and it feels very rustic and home-y. It's the kind of cake I would expect to find on a weathered wooden table by a window overlooking the Adriatic Sea.
Since the only other figs I've eaten have been inside a Newton, it was definitely time to branch out.
I really enjoyed this cake, and Dorie was right when she said that it improves after an overnight rest. The cake was delicious, not too sweet and very moist. The figs added a bit more moisture and a lovely texture to the cake.
The only modification I made to the recipe was to use my 9 1/2" tart pan instead of the 10 1/2" pan. Since I hadn't even used the pan I own, I couldn't really justify buying a new one for this recipe, so I made a few cupcakes with the rest of the batter and stuck a fig in each one :)
Fluted Polenta and Ricotta Cake
About 16 moist, plump dried Mission or Kadota figs, stemmed
1 c. (128 g) medium-grain polenta or yellow cornmeal
½ c. (71 g) all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 c. (240 g) ricotta
1/3 c. tepid water
¾ c. (148.5 g) sugar
¾ c. (239 g) honey (if you’re a real honey lover, use a full-flavored honey such as chestnut, pine, or buckwheat)
Grated zest of 1 lemon
1 stick (4oz or 113g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus 1 tablespoon (1/2oz or 14g), cut into bits and chilled
2 large eggs
Getting Ready: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Butter a 10 ½-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom and put it on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat.
Check that the figs are, indeed, moist and plump. If they are the least bit hard, toss them into a small pan of boiling water and steep for a minute, then drain and pat dry. If the figs are large (bigger than a bite), snip them in half.
Whisk the polenta, flour, baking powder, and salt together.
Working with a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the ricotta and water together on low speed until very smooth. With the mixer at medium speed, add the sugar, honey, and lemon zest and beat until light. Beat in the melted butter, then add the eggs one at a time, beating until the mixture is smooth. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients, mixing only until they are fully incorporated. You’ll have a sleek, smooth, pourable batter.
Pour about one third of the batter into the pan and scatter over the figs. Pour in the rest of the batter, smooth the top with a rubber spatula, if necessary, and dot the batter evenly with the chilled bits of butter.
Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until a thin knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. The cake should be honey brown and pulling away just a little from the sides of the pan, and the butter will have left light-colored circles in the top. Transfer the cake to a rack and remove the sides of the pan after about 5 minutes. Cool to warm, or cool completely.
--end of recipe--
Yum! I really enjoyed this cake. Even though I was skeptical about the figs at first, they went really well with the flavors and textures of this cake.
Now go and check out the blogroll to see all of the other creations this week!
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
A.'s birthday is on Friday, and since I'm not going to have a chance to make something for him then, I decided to make him a treat last week. Among his favorite foods are gooey desserts and white chocolate, so I flipped to the brownie recipes in Dorie's baking masterpiece and looked for the gooiest possible brownie, subbing in white chocolate for dark.
In the recipe, Dorie warns against heating the butter/chocolate mix to too high a temperature or it would separate. Well, it looked OK when it was in the pan, but I'm pretty sure mine separated, because I had a layer of some tye of liquid on top of the whole thing up until I mixed in the flour. I decided to push forward anyway, since I figured that would just affect the texture and not the taste. (And I didn't have any more white chocolate to start over.)
The brownies were seriously wobbly when I first tried to take them out of the oven, so I left 'em in a few extra minutes to set a little more. They smelled gorgeous, and the crust looked great after it cooled and sank down a bit.
Dorie said that these would be extremely gooey, but HOLY COW, these were pretty much oozing out everywhere. (Maybe due to the fat separation above...) That's not to say they weren't absolutely delicious, though.
They didn't really taste too much like white chocolate, more like a yellow cake flavor... but the gooey inside juxtaposed with the crisp crust made for a great overall texture (even if it was a bit gooier than normal). Kind of reminded me of creme brulee in bar form;) It also went really well with the raspberries!
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
This week's TWD challenge was chosen by Amanda, and I was so excited because carrot cake is my favorite kind of cake in the entire world. (With the possible exception of some type of Napoleon cake that I had this past Sunday at my cousin's christening. Although I'm not sure that one counts as a cake since it was mostly just pastry cream... delicious pastry cream.)
[skip to recipe]
This marks my first ever attempt at a layer cake. I must admit that I was a bit apprehensive, but I scampered out to buy two more cake pans and get started. Dorie's recipe calls for either walnuts or pecans and either raisins or dried cranberries, so I went for the less traditional walnut/cranberry combo.
The cakes turned out better than I had hoped! They look a little crispier on the edges than the one in the book (maybe b/c my cake pans are dark colored), with less chunky ingredients... but I wanted to smother everything in icing anyway, so I figured it was OK :)
(mmm... cream cheese icing)
I didn't have a leveler or anything, but they looked pretty flat to me, so I didn't trim the tops. After I finished icing, though, I think the layers kinda slid around on each other, so the cake skewed to one side (which I attempted to hide in the photos ;) )
Here is me being a total dork.
Ta-da! First layer cake complete :)
The icing was definitely NOT enough to cover the entire cake, by the way. Dorie said that it was, but as you can clearly see, I was eking out every last bit of icing to get it all around this cake. In the book's picture, it just had the top iced and not the sides... Dorie claimed it would be enough for the sides, too, but next time I'll have to make some extra.
And the obligatory shots of the finished product....
This cake was truly delicious! It wasn't what usually comes to mind when I think of carrot cake, mostly because there were so many chunky ingredients, but it ended up being very moist and delicious. The slight lemon flavor in the cream cheese icing just brought it all together.
Bill's Big Carrot Cake
Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan
Yields 10 servings
For the cake:
2 cups (284 g) all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
¾ teaspoon salt
3 cups (360 g) grated carrots (about 9 carrots, you can grate them in food processor fitted w/ a shredding a blade or use a box grater)
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans
1 cup shredded coconut (sweetened or unsweetened)
½ cup moist, plump raisins (dark or golden) or dried cranberries
2 cups (396 g) sugar
1 cup canola oil
4 large eggs
For the frosting:
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 stick ( 8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 pound or 3 and ¾ cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice or ½ teaspoon pure lemon extract
½ cup shredded coconut (optional)
Finely chopped toasted nuts and/or toasted shredded coconut (optional)
Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter three 9-x-2-inch round cake pans, flour the insides, and tap out the excess. Put the two pans on one baking sheet and one on another.
To make the cake:
Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. In another bowl, stir together the carrots, chopped nuts, coconut, and raisins.
Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the sugar and oil together on a medium speed until smooth. Add the eggs one by one and continue to beat until the batter is even smoother. Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture, mixing only until the dry ingredients disappear. Gently mix the chunky ingredients. Divide the batter among the baking pans.
Bake for 40-50 minutes, rotating the pans from top to bottom and front to back at the midway point, until a thin knife inserted into the centers comes out clean. The cakes will have just started to come away from the sides of the pans. Transfer the cakes to cooling racks and cool for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes and unmold them. Invert and cool to room temperature right side up.
The cakes can be wrapped airtight and kept at room temperature overnight or frozen for up to 2 months.
To make the frosting:
Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and butter together until smooth and creamy. Gradually add the sugar and continue to beat until the frosting is velvety smooth. Beat in the lemon juice or extract.
If you'd like coconut in the filling, scoop about half of the frosting and stir the coconut into this position.
To assemble the cake:
Put one layer top side up on a cardboard cake round or a cake plate protected by strips of wax or parchment paper. If you added the coconut to the frosting, use half of the coconut frosting to generously cover the first layer (or generously cover with plain frosting). Use an offset spatula or a spoon to smooth the frosting all the way to the edges of the layer. Top with the second layer, this time placing the cake stop side down, and frost with the remainder of the coconut frosting or plain frosting. Top with the last layer, right side up, and frost the top- and the sides- of the cake. Finish the top with swirls of frosting. If you want to top the cake with toasted nuts or coconut, sprinkle them on now while the frosting is soft.
Refrigerate the cake for 30 minutes, just to set the frosting before serving.
This cake can be served as soon as the frosting is set. It can also wait, at room temperature and covered with a cake keeper overnight. The cake is best served in thick slices at room temperature and while it's good plain, it's even better with vanilla ice cream or some lemon curd.
The cake will keep at room temperature for 2 to 3 days. It can also be frozen. Freeze it uncovered, then when it's firm, wrap airtight and freeze for up to 2 months. Defrost, still wrapped, overnight in the refrigerator.
Head on over to the blogroll to check out everyone else's take on this yummy dessert!
Friday, April 18, 2008
Thursday, April 17, 2008
I decided to make myself a nice, easy no-cook lunch yesterday. I've been sick and working from home all week, so I figured it would be the easiest thing to do.
Then, it totally backfired when I dropped the salad bowl and it shattered all over the floor, contaminating the lettuce and cucumber with ceramic shards. Sigh... can't get it right this week.
On the bright side, the white plate is part of our first wedding present! :)
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
I recently found an online baking group called Tuesdays with Dorie, which is a group of bakers making their way through Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours, one recipe per week. I decided it would be a great motivational tool for me to get baking, so I joined up!
This week's recipe was homemade marshmallows. This is actually candymaking, but it was really simpler than I expected. The hard part was trying not to eat them all in one go ;)
I decided to make mixed berry 'mallows (blueberry, raspberry & blackberry puree). Here's a shot of the 'mallows as they took their 3-hour nap before cutting:
Although I used parchment dusted with potato starch as the recipe suggested, it still took me forever trying to scrape the marshmallows away from the paper. I think next time I'd put some sort of grease in there too... maybe Baker's Joy on top of the parchment.
Voila, the end product:
They were very tasty! I actually liked them even better the next day because they were pretty soft that first day. I used pasteurized egg whites in the recipe, so they weren't as fluffy as they should have been. There are actually some other recipes that don't call for any egg whites, so I might do one of those next time I get around to the 'mallows :)
OK, this pic is only *sort* of about the marshmallows... I've been wanting to try to take pics of glass since reading Light: Science and Magic:
One last shot before the recipe!
And here is Dorie's recipe:
Makes about 1 pound marshmallows
About 1 cup potato starch (found in the kosher foods section of supermarkets) or cornstarch
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
2 1/4-ounce packets unflavored gelatin
3 large egg whites, at room temperature
3/4 cup cold water
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups (248 g) sugar
GETTING READY: Line a rimmed baking sheet -- choose one with a rim that is 1 inch high -- with parchment paper and dust the paper generously with potato starch or cornstarch. Note: I used a 9x9 square pan to make mine pretty tall. Have a candy thermometer at hand.
Put 1/3 cup of the water, the sugar and the corn syrup in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Once the sugar is dissolved, continue to cook the syrup -- without stirring -- until it reaches 265 degrees F on the candy thermometer, about 10 minutes.
While the syrup is cooking, work on the gelatin and egg whites. In a microwave-safe bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over the remaining cold water (a scant 7 tablespoons) and let it sit for about 5 minutes, until it is spongy, then heat the gelatin in a microwave oven for 20 to 30 seconds to liquefy it. (Alternatively, you can dissolve the gelatin in a saucepan over low heat.)
Working in the clean, dry bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or in another large bowl with a hand mixer, beat the egg whites on medium-high speed until firm but still glossy -- don't overbeat them and have them go dull.
As soon as the syrup reaches 265 degrees F, remove the pan from the heat and, with the mixer on medium speed, add the syrup, pouring it between the spinning beater(s) and the sides of the bowl. Add the gelatin and continue to beat for another 3 minutes, so that the syrup and the gelatin are fully incorporated. Beat in the vanilla.
Using a large rubber spatula, scrape the meringue mixture onto the baking sheet, laying it down close to a short end of the sheet. Then spread it into the corners and continue to spread it out, taking care to keep the height of the batter at 1 inch; you won't fill the pan (unless you are using a 9x9 pan!). Lift the excess parchment paper up to meet the edge of the batter, then rest something against the paper so that it stays in place (I use custard cups).
Dust the top of the marshmallows with potato starch or cornstarch and let the marshmallows set in a cool, dry place. They'll need about 3 hours, but they can rest for 12 hours or more.
Once they are cool and set, cut the marshmallows with a pair of scissors or a long thin knife. Whatever you use, you'll have to rinse and dry it frequently. Have a big bowl with the remaining potato starch or cornstarch at hand and cut the marshmallows as you'd like -- into squares, rectangles or even strips (as they're cut in France). As each piece is cut, drop it into the bowl. When you've got 4 or 5 marshmallows in the bowl, reach in with your fingers and turn the marshmallows to coat them with starch, then, one by one, toss the marshmallows from one hand to the other to shake off the excess starch; transfer them to a serving bowl. Cut and coat the rest of the batch.
SERVING: Put the marshmallows out and let everyone nibble as they wish. Sometimes I fill a tall glass vase with the marshmallows and put it in the center of the table -- it never fails to make friends smile. You can also top hot chocolate or cold sundaes with the marshmallows.
STORING: Keep the marshmallows in a cool, dry place; don't cover them closely. Stored in this way, they will keep for about 1 week -- they might develop a little crust on the outside or they might get a little firmer on the inside, but they'll still be very good.
RASPBERRY MARSHMALLOWS: Fruit purees are excellent for flavoring these candies.
For raspberry marshmallows, you'll need a generous 1/3 cup of puree; reduce the vanilla extract to 1/4 teaspoon. After the batter is mixed, gently fold in the puree with a rubber spatula. You can use the same measurements and technique for other purees, such as strawberry, mango and passion fruit.
CAPPUCCINO MARSHMALLOWS: Sift 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, 2 tablespoons instant espresso powder and 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon together into a small bowl. Stir in 1/3 cup boiling water and mix until smooth. Reduce the vanilla extract to 1/2 teaspoon, and add it to the espresso mix. After you add the sugar syrup and gelatin to the meringue, beat in the espresso mixture and continue.
LIGHT CHOCOLATE MARSHMALLOWS: Melt 3 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate and stir in 2 1/2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder. Reduce the vanilla extract to 1/4 teaspoon, and after the marshmallow batter is mixed, fold in the chocolate mixture with a large rubber spatula.
PUMPKIN SPICE MARSHMALLOWS: Whisk together 1/2 cup canned unsweetened pumpkin puree, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger, a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg and a pinch of ground allspice. After the marshmallow batter is mixed, fold in the spiced pumpkin with a large rubber spatula.
That's it! Thanks to TWD for having me, I hope to make lots more delicious treats this year ;) Check out the TWD page to see everyone else's photos and experiences!
Monday, April 14, 2008
Wednesday, April 9, 2008
A few weeks ago, A.'s cousin reached the ripe old age of 1, and her mom and dad got these beautiful cupcakes for the party! I'm not sure of the name of the company that made them, but I do know that they're located on Long Island... and that the cupcakes were delicious!
I loved the mix of large cupcakes and mini cupcakes. A. and I took one each of the mini cupcake flavors to sample :) From what I remember, there were red velvet (A.'s favorite of the day), Oreo, chocolate chip, and malt ball cupcakes. The large ones were funfetti...
and of course, it was mostly the kids who took the giant funfetti cupcakes... and all they did was lick off the frosting ;)
A.'s cousin got a beautiful cupcake of her own. It was the first time she'd ever had a sweet dessert, so she was pretty excited! (I love her party hat in the background, too)
On a healthier note, there was also a beautiful fruit display that was almost as popular:
I think she needs to perfect her technique a little bit, but she's trying ;)
It was such a fun day (Cookie Monster was there!!! ;) ) and I pretty much had a field day with the cupcakes. Hope you all like 'em as much as I did!
Monday, April 7, 2008
I originally wanted to make these with mini Cadbury Creme Eggs, but I could only find the large ones, which wouldn't do for a less-than-giant-sized cupcake. Plus, Easter is already over! So I decided to go with Dove milk chocolate with caramel candies... pretty good substitute, I'd say.
The recipe I used was Billy's Vanilla Vanilla recipe -- vanilla cakes with vanilla buttercream frosting. Personally I thought the frosting was overly sweet (6 cups of confectioner's sugar!!!)... plus, my apartment was too warm for it and it melted pretty quickly. Luckily, I was fast enough to get some photos in before it started melting down the sides of the wrappers!
Here it is with the surprise! I just put the candy on top of each one and covered with a little bit more batter. The cakes themselves came out great.
photos in my dessert gallery
If any of Adam's coworkers are wondering why they didn't get to eat any, it's mainly because we don't want you to catch my strep throat, which showed itself after I finished making them. And we're pretty sure you don't want any strep cakes.
Friday, April 4, 2008
A couple of friends and I went to Kitchenette the other day for lunch. Besides being the cutest place in existence, kind of like if Anthropologie opened a diner, the food was delicious! I had the Downtowner sandwich, which is highly recommended (can't really go wrong when garlic mayo is involved).
We were also sitting right by the dessert case, so we basically spent the entire time staring at it, trying to choose just one thing to get. Of course, I couldn't pick just one, so I ended up getting a cherry dessert bar and a red velvet cupcake. The cherry bar didn't last very long, but I managed to save the cupcake long enough to take a few photos. How could I not, when they packaged it in this Chinese takeout container?? (Like I said... cutest place ever.)
Wednesday, April 2, 2008
I was thinking last week about all of the types of cupcakes I want to make... the list keeps growing! I had too many recipes to choose from, so I made A. choose, and mojito cupcakes were his top pick.
They turned out to be very tasty, and they got rave reviews from coworkers and my rugby teammates alike :)
pics in my dessert gallery
I got the recipe here, and here it is with my notes, and grams instead of volume measurements:
Note: I got 24 regular cupcakes and 15 mini cupcakes out of this recipe, and still had a little bit of batter left over. Check the linked recipe for other baking options.
The frosted cupcakes should be stored in the refrigerator and will keep for a few days. The unfrosted cupcakes or cake can be stored, well-covered, at room temperature and will stay fresh for a few days.
For the cupcakes:
240 grams buttermilk, at room temperature
1 tbsp. dark rum
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
426 grams all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
227 grams/2 sticks butter, at room temperature
396 grams granulated sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Place a rack in the center of the oven. Set up your cooking vessel (muffin/mini muffin pan, baking cups, loaf pan, bundt pan... etc.!) I use nonstick spray with oil and flour (Baker's Joy or Pam for baking).
Combine the buttermilk, rum and vanilla extract. Set aside.
Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Sift and then set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter and sugar. Mix on medium-high speed until light and fluffy (about 4 to 5 minutes).
Reduce the speed to low, and add the eggs one at a time. Scrape down the sides of the bowl after each addition. (Psst I just got one of these and it is AWESOME. No more scraping for me ;) )
With the mixer still on low speed, add 1/3 of the dry ingredients and mix well.
Add half of the buttermilk mixture and mix well, scraping down the sides of the bowl if necessary. Mix for a minute or two.
Add another third of the dry ingredients (on low speed) and mix well.
Add the remainder of the buttermilk mixture, once again scraping down the sides of the bowl if necessary. Mix for another minute or two.
Add the remainder of the dry ingredients (on low speed) and mix for a minute or two, until the batter is smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl to ensure that all of the flour has been incorporated.
Fill the mini party cupcakes halfway with batter until you’ve used it all up. If you’re only making 30 mini cupcakes, then fill the 30 cups and pour the rest of the batter into the loaf pan.
Bake the mini cupcakes for 25 minutes and then test for doneness by inserting a cake tester into the centre of the cupcakes. If it comes out clean, they’re done. If not, bake for another 5 minutes. In my oven, the mini cupcakes took about 28 minutes.
If you’re also baking the loaf, that will require more time. In my oven, the loaf took about 50 minutes.
Remove the cupcakes from the oven and let cook for 5 minutes before poking holes in them with a skewer or toothpick. Immediately spoon the rum syrup over the warm cupcakes and let them soak it all up. Once they’ve cooled completely, you can ice them with the lime and rum frosting.
For the rum syrup:
198 grams granulated sugar
58.75 grams (1/4 cup) water
56.75 grams (1/2 stick) butter
1/4 cup dark rum
grated lime zest
a few sprigs of fresh mint (I crushed this a little with my fingers before adding, not sure if that actually helps or not)
In a small pot, combine the sugar, water and butter over medium-high heat.
Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring often.
Once the butter has completely melted and the sugar has dissolved, remove from the heat.
Carefully add the rum. The mixture will bubble and spurt so take care not to burn yourself.
Once you’ve mixed in all the rum, add the lime zest and mint and let the syrup infuse for 5 minutes before spooning over the cupcakes.
For the lime and rum frosting (this was more than enough for the 24 regular plus 15 mini cupcakes, especially since so much air is beaten into the cream cheese and butter):
1 8-oz. package cream cheese, at room temperature
1 1/2 sticks butter, at room temperature
114 grams icing sugar (I always sift this)
2 tbsp. dark rum
zest of 3 limes
In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the cream cheese and butter at high speed for 5 minutes.
Reduce the speed to low and add the icing sugar. Mix for a minute to incorporate the sugar and then increase the speed to high again and mix for another minute or two. The frosting should be light and fluffy.
Turn off the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the rum and the lime zest and mix at medium speed until well incorporated.
The frosting should be used immediately so make it once your cupcakes have soaked up the syrup and are cool. You can spoon the icing on with an offset spatula or knife, or you can use a piping bag to pipe a pretty design.