Saturday, March 29, 2008

Daring Bakers - Dorie's Perfect Party Cake

Saturday afternoon and I'm cutting it fine. I suppose I could say I'm at the substantial completion stage.
It seems to be going okay - the cake has come out light and smelling sweetly of lemons; it has a good texture except for one large bubble in the middle of one of the layers. I'm not going to make four layers; will just have to make do with two. I'm a bit disappointed the layers did not rise higher so I don't dare cut them. The buttercream was a deluxe experience. All in all I have probably had the equivalent of a slice of cake by now as I have been licking the spoon, beater and knife right from the beginning. Maybe I should bury my face in the buttercream! I'm going to finish it later this evening in time to meet the deadline, but I will have to keep the cake in the fridge until Monday morning as it's going to the Office. The most difficult choice in my life right now is how to decorate it - should it be with coconut as it says in the recipe? With strawberries? With coconut and strawberries? Or maybe even chocolate shavings? I have a few hours to make a decision.

Later - Behold the 2-layer buttercream cake! Putting it together was easy and I think it looks quite pretty. Will add the decorations (coconut flakes it was decided) early Monday morning so they won't get all soggy in the frosting and the fridge.

Main fun - preparing the buttercream. Main anxiety - worrying about cake done-ness and rising. I just love DB's!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Presto Pasta Nights - Pasta with Tomatoes and Goat Cheese
The joy of Presto Pasta Nights for midweek meals! Quick, delicious and doing for at least two suppers. This one is absolutely delish - it's from Gourmet Magazine September 2000 and it earned the Epicurious 4 forks and the 100% "Would Make It Again" grade. Here it is:

1 lb gemelli or penne

2 3/4 lb cherry tomatoes, halved

5 to 6 oz soft mild goat cheese, crumbled

2/3 cup coarsely chopped Kalamata or other brine-cured black olives

3/4 cup torn fresh basil leaves

Cook pasta in a 6-quart pot of boiling salted water until just tender, then drain. While pasta is cooking, toss tomatoes with salt to taste in a bowl and let juices exude. Toss hot pasta with goat cheese in a large bowl until cheese is melted and coats pasta. Add tomatoes with juices, olives, basil, and salt and pepper to taste and toss to combine. To prevent basil leaves from discoloring, don't tear them until just before pasta is done. Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Once Upon a Feast

A shot of tonight's supper, "Spaghetti Alla Carbonara" - it was very tasty and so quick to make. Even though I was tired after work I breezed through the cooking. Pity the photo didn't come out better. The recipe is from a treasure of a book, "Mary Berry's Complete Cookbook," published (revised & updated) in 2003. It's the kind of book I cover with plastic when I take it to the kitchen; heaven forbid if it were to get a crumb or an oil spot on it! It's an English publication, which I bought through this year. The recipes are delicious, ranging from soups through cakes, and they are in American measurements as well as the UK metric. (Some of her recipes are on UKTV as well.) Here's the recipe for my supper:

Spaghetti Alla Carbonara
Serves 4

1 lb spaghetti
salt and black pepper
6 oz diced pancetta or streaky bacon, any rinds removed
1 garlic clove, crushed
4 eggs
4 oz Parmesan cheese, grated
1/4 pint single cream (1/2 cup)
chopped parsley to garnish

Cook the spaghetti in large saucepan of boiling salted water for 8-10 minutes until just tender.
Meanwhile, put the pancetta or bacon into frying pan and heat gently for 7 minutes until the fat runs. Increase the heat and add the garlic. Cook for 2-3 minutes or until the bacon is crisp.
Break the eggs into a bowl. Add the bacon and garlic mixture, using a slotted spoon. Add the Parmesan cheese, season generously with salt and pepper, and whisk until well blended. (Don't need to add the salt - it's already salty enough from the bacon.
Drain the spaghetti and return to the hot pan. Stir in the bacon and egg mixture and toss quickly until the egg just begins to set. Stir in the cream and heat gently. Serve at once, sprinkled with parsley.

Meanwhile, I'm going to make some of the super pasta dishes in the roundups - how does one choose, there are so many delicious looking recipes!

Monday, March 17, 2008


I have already written up my post but it's disappeared so this is a rewrite. The Brioche Raisin Snails are fabulous! I tasted one slightly warm - really a melt in the mouth bread. (Read that brioche was a favorite of Marie Antoinette).
It was more work than I was expecting - a three step process over 2 days, but well worth it in the long run. I think they will taste best warm so when I take them to the Office tomorrow I'll pop them in the microwave for about 10 secs. Thank you, thank you, thank you for this wonderful club.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Weekend Cookbook Challenge - Crockpots etc.

Hi there! Had a wonderful time with this challenge - I haven't used a crockpot in years so hauled my old West Bend crockpot off the top closet shelf, dusted and washed it and put in the food. Forgot how easy it was to cook this way as I did all the ingredient prep. the day before. The recipe book is modern: "Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Recipes for Two," by Beth Hensperger, published 2007. Here's the recipe:

Red Curry Chicken Braised in Coconut Milk

1 red chile, seeded (I used one dried red chile)
1 tablespoon red curry paste
1 medium-size yellow onion, chopped
One 1-1/2 inch chunk fresh ginger, peeled
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
1 tablespoon Asian sesame oil
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon honey
Pinch of salt
2 to 3 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, trimmed of fat
One 13.5-ounce can coconut milk
1/2 chopped dried mango pieces

1. Place the chile, red curry paste, onion, ginger, lime juice, sesame oil, soy sauce, honey, and salt in a food processor and process until smooth to make a loose puree. Scrape into a heavy quart-size zipper-top plastic bag. Add the chicken and mix around to coat completely with the paste. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.

2. Place the chicken in the slow cooker. Without shaking it, open the can of coconut milk. Carefully spoon off the top one-third of the liquid in the can (about 1/2 cup) and add it to the chicken. (The thick portion on top is called the coconut cream; reserve the remaining coconut milk for another purpose.) Stir well to distribute the ingredients and coat the chicken with coconut cream. Add the mango pieces and stir again. Cover and cook on HIGH for 2-1/2 to 3 hours. Serve hot.

Thanks to Lisa of La Mia Cucina for hosting this Crockpot challenge - I might actually start using it more often now; they seem to have come into fashion again. Heather of Sherry Trifle-Lovely Cats

Photo of my efforts: I think it looks quite good although I haven't tasted it yet. Am looking forward to next month's challenge whatever it is.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Hi: Just want to greet - I have taken the plunge and started my own blog as I have joined so many fantastic sites that throw out challenges for baking and cooking - probably my favorite occupation and the most relaxing and creative for me. I now belong to "Daring Bakers","Tuesdays with Dorie", and "Weekend Cookbook Challenge." I spotted another one on making pasta dishes - I might join that as well, so I have a lot to keep me busy.

My first challenge was the Daring Bakers' "French Bread," then TWD's "Snickery Squares," and their "Apple Pie-Cake." I'm going to put them up here so I'll have something on my site until the next time, although, technically, I did not have my own blog then. Here they are:

Subj: My Daring Bakers French Bread - Feb. 29

Three very pale and hard crusted baguettes, a bit too salty but really tasting rather good. I ate a whole baguette as soon as they cooled. My pictures are for first rising and my finished product, with Phoebe, aka "The Princess Fluffy" in the background.

It has been quite an adventure and I can't wait for the next challenge. Just wish my bread had browned instead of having the color of cottage cheese! I am determined to try again with boules instead of baguettes. I think my room temperature was a bit too warm so I have bought a $2.00 thermometer from Sid's Hardware in Brooklyn for my next bread, and am tempted by a baking stone and pizza paddle I have seen on I used my stand mixer dough hook for kneading, and a piece of cardboard to turn the baguettes onto the baking tray and a plant water sprayer for the baking phase, so it really wasn't that expensive to get stuff together - not counting the Julia Child CD of course (about $40.00), which I couldn't resist.

I am so pleased I joined this group. I know it will hone my skills and get me beyond the nice comfy sponge cakes and cupcakes I usually make.

Subj: My Tuesdays with Dorie Snickery Squares - Mar. 3

I've just finished my Snickery Squares. I like them - perhaps next time I will choose semi-sweet chocolate rather than bitter-sweet. Otherwise, they are quite delicious. I enjoyed the caramelizing, a first for me, so now I have learned a new baking skill. The peanuts didn't turn white when I dunked them in the boiling sugar but they came out tasting good anyhow. Got lots of compliments at Wednesday night's potluck.

Subj: My Tuesdays with Dorie Russian Grandmothers' Apple Pie-Cake - Mar. 11

I really enjoyed this challenge - the crust making went very well; I had it in the fridge for a day and it was not too sticky to roll out; used foil and some sprinkled flour to get it to go smoothly and it flipped quite easily into the dish. I used Golden Delicious apples and baked it for 65 mins. I just loved the puffy rising of the crust due to the baking powder. What would I do differently next time? Use foil strips to cover the edges of the pie dish as the edges got too brown and use a mix of different types of apples for more flavor; otherwise it was a winner. I took it to the Office on Monday and it got excellent reviews so I felt much encouraged. I have never baked an apple pie before now. Am looking forward to the Brioche Raisin Snails for next week. Lovelycats.