Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Pistachio Cake

I made a Pistachio Cake the other day, something I've been dying to try and finally got around to doing. My Blog challenges were done and I had some "free-lance" time. This Pistachio Cake is a very nice cake indeed. It's from Epicurious, amidst at least a dozen other pistachio cake recipes. It had cardamom , my favorite spice, and looked like it wouldn't take too long. Here's the recipe:

Pistachio Cake -
Rick Tramonto

3/4 cup unsalted shelled pistachios (approximately 4 ounces; not dyed red)
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup whole milk
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons finely grated orange zest (from 3 medium oranges)

Arrange oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F.

Butter 9-inch-diameter round metal pan and line bottom with waxed paper. Butter paper, then dust pan with flour, knocking out excess.

Using food processor, pulse pistachios until finely ground, about 40 seconds.

(Do not overprocess, or mixture will become paste.) Add flour, baking powder, cardamom, and salt and pulse briefly to combine.

In small bowl, combine milk and vanilla.

In large bowl using electric mixer at moderate speed, beat together butter and sugar until light and fluffy, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes.

Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Reduce speed to low and add pistachio and milk mixtures alternately in batches, beginning and ending with pistachio mixture and beating after each addition just until combined.
Add orange zest and beat just until combined.

Spread batter evenly in pan and bake until wooden skewer inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 30 to 40 minutes.

Cool in pan on rack 10 minutes, then run knife around cake to loosen and invert onto rack. Remove paper and serve warm or at room temperature with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

Add orange zest and beat just until combined.

Spread batter evenly in pan and bake until wooden skewer inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 30 to 40 minutes.

Cool in pan on rack 10 minutes, then run knife around cake to loosen and invert onto rack. Remove paper and serve warm or at room temperature with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

Some adventures along the way, well one happening: I followed the instructions and measures exactly and waited until the 30 min. checking time before looking in the oven - the cake had risen nicely but needed five more minutes. Next I noticed the darn thing deflating in the middle - it wasn't a crater but it was a wide bell curve. I felt really miffed. In the end, however, it looked okay and I slathered cream cheese frosting over the top so the curve didn't show. The next morning it was tested by my co-workers - they loved it. The skinniest guy had three slices and most of the others (including me) had two (we had a small group this week). They absolutely loved it!

But why did it deflate in the middle? - perhaps I could be a bit scientific for a change. I consulted my recently purchased copy of Bakewise by Shirley Corriher. She writes that most problems with deflating are caused by over-leavening (i.o.w. too much baking powder or baking soda). She recommends 1 to 1-1/4 teaspoons of baking powder per one cup of flour. My recipe had 2 teaspoons. I'm going to reduce the baking powder next time I bake the cake to see if it makes a difference. Shirley's book, by the way, is an absolute treasure of beautiful recipes and advice on how to make improvements to one's baking.

The cake's a keeper.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Chocolate Chocolate Cupcakes - Tuesdays with Dorie

Three Little Cupcakes All in a Row. Absolutely super, an absolute delight, absolutely to be made again for any chocky cupcake occasion! Making them was a breeze and I think the buttermilk is what made them so light and fluffy. One little slip, however. I didn't use the mise en place method as I ought to have done (I have even bought a lot of little dishes and bowls to organize my ingredients). The cupcakes were in the oven already; I turned around and saw a small blob of melted chocolate in a cup - the 2 oz. of melted chocolate in the recipe. Too late to do anything about it so I put it in the fridge (ate it the next day - frozen chocolate is quite delicious). But it did not make much of a difference to the lovely chocolately flavor of the cupcakes - this was the kind of chocolate cake I had as a child, with cocoa powder. No-one used chocolate for baking then.

I left them in the oven for 20 mins. before taking them out - some of them were not quite baked enough so I put them back in for 2 mins. Dorie's timing is perfect here. For the frosting I used the ganache recipe from Carole Walter's exotic Filbert Gateau* as I already had some in the freezer.
*Recipe for Carole Walter's Ganache Glaze
Makes about 1 cup, enough to cover the top and sides of a 9 or 10 inch layer or tube cake

6 oz. (good) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, like Lindt
6 oz. (¾ cup heavy cream
1 tbsp. light corn syrup
1 Tbsp. Grand Marnier, Cointreay, or dark Jamaican rum (optional)
¾ tsp. vanilla
½ - 1 tsp. hot water, if needed

Blend vanilla and liqueur/rum together and set aside.

Break the chocolate into 1-inch pieces and place in the basket of a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Transfer into a medium sized bowl and set aside.

Heat the cream and corn syrup in a saucepan, on low, until it reached a gentle boil. Once to the gently boil, immediately and carefully pour over the chocolate. Leave it alone for one minute, then slowly stir and mix the chocolate and cream together until the chocolate is melted and incorporated into the cream. Carefully blend in vanilla mixture. If the surface seems oily, add ½ - 1 tsp hot water. The glaze will thicken, but should still be pourable. If it doesn’t thicken, refrigerate for about 5minutes, but make sure it doesn’t get too cold!
As a decoration I used Bittersweet Chocolate - Guittard Sprinkles from King Arthur Flour. I think they are quite expensive but oh my, is it worth it! Regular baking aisle fare cannot compare to them. After all, they should last pretty long too - how often does one use them?

My co-workers were delighted with the Cupcakes, as they were with the Pumpkin Muffins. These last two recipes have been absolute hits. Many thanks to Clara of I Heart Food 4 Thought for picking the Chocolate Chocolate Cupcakes. Clara's lovely blog also has the recipe for them.

Next week - Rugelach.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Pizza! - For Daring Bakers October Challenge

Rosa of Rosa's Yummy Yums chose Pizza for the Daring Bakers October project. What an excellent choice - I have learned so much and maybe I will start making my own pizza now. What freedom of sauces and toppings, quantities and doughs. They say Brooklyn pizza is the best - sometimes it is, but sometimes it isn't, so now I can be independent.

This said and done, however, this was one rather difficult, tricky challenge for me, but I had a lot of fun and a great sense of delight at seeing my pizzas cook so nicely in the oven.

I'm a real novice with bread making - for one thing, YEAST. My yeast behaved very badly. Last weekend I optimistically planned to get ahead of the game and finish my challenge almost two weeks before the deadline. Not so! I prepared the Peter Reinhart dough with high hopes in spite of some peculiar behavior from my Kitchen Aid and dough hook. [The machine was banging and walking around the table and the dough hook kept on curling all the dough above it.] I survived this performance and finished with a nice batch of dough. I patted the dough into a round, cut six segments and placed them under saran wrap in the fridge.

Two days later, no rise; three days later, no rise. Thank goodness for our Q&A section - a fellow Daring Baker advised me the yeast must be old and that I should just graft a bit of new, fresh yeast onto the dough. I would like to have tried this - after all, I'd just used up 4 plus cups of flour, but it was not to be. In New York of all places there was not a package of Instant Yeast to be found. I went to four different shops (two regular supermarkets and two posh ones, as well as one I found to have closed down). They had plenty of Active Dry Yeast but no "Quick Rise" so I could not get an add-on to enliven my dough. This is a cautionary tale - do not use yeast that you cannot remember when last you bought it except that it must have been at least 18 months ago!

My Confession - I had to use another dough recipe (this one from Epicurious) that required the Active Dry Yeast and a warm rise. In fact, I'm a bit leery of a cool rise now but my fellow DB'ers do not seem to have a problem with it. I promise, I promise to try the Reinhart dough again someday, but by now I was actually in a state of panic - only a couple of days to go before posting. So this time I made less dough and let it rise for nearly three hours on my kitchen table; thank goodness it came out bouncy and puffy.

The tossing? I get an "E" for effort, but I did try to toss up my oddly shaped dough - I "tossed" them with mouse like timidity - they got a couple of inches in the air but I was so nervous they would fall on the floor I quickly let them land on my hands again. I have such a lot to learn about bread baking.

The outcome of my first pizza making adventures can be seen in my pics - wonky pies in odd sizes, but the baking is the part I loved. It was just wonderful to choose toppings and sauces and then to gaze into the oven, watching the sauce bubbling up and the dough giving a slight rise. I feel proud that I have actually completed this challenge, well, sort of.

My first pie is made with a "Tomato Herb Sauce" topped with mozzarella cheese and mushrooms; my second pie, the wee one, is made with "Pesto Sauce" topped with feta cheese and pepperoni. I can't wait to try them.

Thank you so much Rosa for this rigorous and exciting challenge - I plan to improve and make my own pizza for when friends come over.

The sauce recipes are from Great Party Recipes. They're really nice so I'm posting them here.

Pesto SauceJust a little of this savory pizza sauce goes a long way.

1 cup fresh basil leaves, packed
4 cloves garlic
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Combine all ingredients except olive oil in the bowl of a food processor and finely chop. Slowly add olive oil while running the processor on low speed.

Tomato Herb Sauce (Marinara Sauce)
The traditional pizza sauce recipe has never tasted so good.

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1 cup tomato sauce
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons tomato paste

In a medium saucepan, sauté garlic and onions in olive oil until tender. Add seasonings and continue cooking a few more minutes. Stir in tomato sauce, and then tomato paste. Simmer on low heat for about 10 minutes. Makes about 1 1/2 cups.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Pumpkin Muffins - Tuesdays with Dorie

This weeks choice is brought to us by Kelly of Sounding My Barbaric Gulp. I love pumpkin loaf, pumpkin scones, and now I love Dorie's Pumpkin Muffins. They have just cooled enough for me to have a little gobble - very good indeed. The texture is dense and soft, perfect for muffins. I love the crunchy walnuts and the golden raisins. The tops are a little bit too crusty for my taste - I think it must be the baking at 400 F. I think I'll bake them at 375 F next time.

I've wrapped them in Saran wrap and they're ready to go to work - they will really be delicious with butter and slightly warmed if any of my co-workers want to try them that way. The recipe is on Kelly's blog and in Dorie's wonderful book, Baking From My Home to Yours.

Thank you, Kelly. Excellent choice!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Lenox Almond Biscotti - Tuesdays with Dorie

This fabulous choice is picked for us by Gretchen of Canela & Comino

So far so good. Saturday night and starting my Lenox Almond Biscotti. I have rolled the dough into two 12x1-1/2 inch rolls and am keeping them in the fridge overnight before baking.

Sunday afternoon and back from my pilates class - I'm ready to do the first baking. Well, it took 25 mins. not 15, but then I had them in the fridge all the time, so this must have made the difference. They are out on the countertop now, looking quite nice (keeping my fingers crossed). Thank you Melissa of Baking a Sweet Life for your P&Q advice - it worked well for me.

2nd baking - have turned my oven down to 300 F and half of them are in the oven. I got almost 30 biscotti out of the dough. I kept them in the oven for 25 minutes; half way through I turned them on to their other side.

Great success - I am so excited; I can now make biscotti! They came out beautifully and taste delicious. I was thinking of including them in my next Operation BakingGALS package but they are quite delicate and I think they may crumble in transit; it might be better to take them to work. We have quite a few Italian-American guys at work so I'm interested in what they will say. Their wives are great cooks, judging from the delicious aromas of homecooked lunch meals, so the bar will be set high.

Now onward to Pumpkin Muffins for next week.



Bobotie is an Afrikaans recipe very popular in South Africa. It originated with the Malaysian population who, in the 17th century, brought with them to the Cape from the East Indies many delicious spicy recipes.

Bobotie is essentially ground meat with a variety of spices served on a bed of rice.

Here's the recipe, first the original in Afrikaans then my translation and adaptation in English (pretty free translation). It is from an excellent recipe book Kook en Geniet -by S.J.A. de Villiers, published in 1980 (11-th publication; first published in 1951). The measurements are all metric as S.A. went metric in the early sixties but Mrs. de Villiers has provided imperial measures alongside.

l kg (2 pd) gemaalde skaap-of beesvleis (of oorblyfsels van koue, gebraaide vleis)
2 uie
1 sny brood
250 ml (l k) melk
2 eiers
12,5 ml (1 e)kerriepoeier
18,5 ml (1-1/2 e) suiker
10 ml (2 t) sout; 2,5 ml (1/2 t) peper
6 ml (1/2 e) borrie
25 ml (2 e) asyn of die sap van 1 suurlemoen
6 amandels, in kwarte verdeel
125 ml (1/2 k) ontpitte rosyne
4 suurlemoen-of lourierblare of die gerasperde geel skil van 1 suurlemoen
37,5 ml (3e) blatjang

1. Dop die buitenste droe skilletjies van die uie af, sny die uie dan in dun skyfies en kerf dit fyn. Braai dit effens bruin in warm vet en indien rou vleis gebruik work, braai dit saam met die uie tot dit net effens gaar en los is.
2. Week die brood in die melk en druk weer die melk uit. Maak die brood fyn.
3. Meng al die bestanddele, behalwe 1 eier, 1/2k melk en die lourierblare.
4. Sit die mengsel in 'n gesmeerde, vuurvaste bakskottel, rol die blare op en steek hulle in the mengsel sodat hulle regop staan.
5. Bak dit 1 uur lank in 'n matige oond by 180 C (350 F) as rou vleis gebruik word en 45 minute lank as gaar vleis gebruik word.
6. Klop die orige eier en 125 ml (1/2 k) melk en gooi dit oor die vleis 'n halfuur voordat dit uit die oond gehaal word.
7. Dien dit op met gekookte rys en blatjang.


2 lbs. ground meat (lamb or beef) or left-over, cold, cooked meat
2 onions
4 Tbs. vegetable oil
1 slice bread
1 cup milk
2 eggs
1/2 Tbs. curry powder
1-1/2 Tbs. sugar
1 teasp. salt; 1/2 teasp. pepper
1 teasp. turmeric
2 Tbs. vinegar or juice of one lemon
1/4 cup of sliced almonds
1/2 cup of seeded raisins
4 lemon leaves or bay leaves or grated peel of one lemon
3 Tbs. chutney

1. Remove the outer peel from the onions, then cut the onions in thin slices and chop finely. (I used my food processor - didn't feel like cutting up tiny bits of onion). Saute until translucent in hot oil. If using uncooked meat, fry on low flame together with the onions until it is slightly done and a bit crumbly.
2. Soak the bread in the milk and squeeze most of the the milk out. Cut the bread in fine pieces.
3. Mix all the ingredients - except remaining egg and the 1/2 cup milk and the bay leaves.
4. Place the mixture in a buttered, fireproof casserole, roll up the bay leaves and place them upright in the mixture.
5. Bake one hour in a moderate oven (350 F) if using uncooked meat and 45 minutes if using cooked meat.
6. Beat the remaining egg and the 1/2 cup milk and pour over the meat half way through the baking. Remove dish from oven after one hour and let cool in casserole.
7. Serve with boiled or steamed rice and chutney.

I've just eaten the dish in the photo for supper. I put half a sliced banana on it and a teaspoon of Major Grey's Mango Chutney. It's a long time since I've tasted Bobotie, and a very long time since I've tasted a really good Bobotie - on a visit back to S.A. Today's dish is superb, a lovely example if anyone would like to try this recipe. Definitely a make again recipe.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Caramel-Hazelnut-Topped Brownie Cake - Tuesdays with Dorie

This week's choice, Caramel-Topped-Brownie Cake, comes to us from Tammy of Wee Treats. Thank you Tammy for such a great pick.

A nice easy cake to prepare, with rather an unusual method of melting the butter rather than creaming. It's odd how it suddenly does a crater cave-in just before being taken out of the oven - could it be something to do with the mixing method perhaps? I once made a Nigella Lawson chocolate cake with this method and it also caved in the middle.

However, with the caramel sauce and nuts on, it looked just fine as no-one could see the dip. I didn't do Dorie's TWD caramel sauce as it seemed too fussy - was feeling a bit tired and crochety, so I used a quick recipe from Diana's Desserts.I would recommend this recipe for any caramel sauce occasion; it was delicious and nice and thick after sitting on the sink top overnight.

My cake got two really polarized reviews at work:
The Boss - "Not my favorite."
The Shop Manager - a special phone call thanking me and saying, "It's the best of the lot so far!" Well, what can I say! Personally, I think it was just okay. If I make it again I would not use hazelnuts as they are hard on the teeth and give a slightly bitter aftertaste. I would also bake it for less than 40 mins. - It was a little bit tough around the edges.

So onward to Biscotti next week.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

The Fab Three

I've mailed my third round of goodies for Operation BakingGALS. It's funny but in each round - I bake three different kinds of cookies each time - I always discover one FIVE STAR recipe, a "Where have you been all my life?" recipe that I will now make again and again.

I don't have pics this time as I was in a rush to get to the Post Office, but I really want to reprint my discoveries:

Round 1 - Molasses Cookies *****
Round 2 - Celebration Cookies ***** (from Kara's Kitchen)
Round 3 - Snickerdoodles ***** (from Butterbur's Bistro)

Recipe for Molasses Cookies:
Heat oven to 350 F. Place parchment paper on cookie sheet.

3/4 cup Crisco (shortening gives a much better shaped cookie than butter in this recipe - I have tried both)
1 cup sugar
1 egg whisked
1/4 cup Grandma's Molasses
pinch of salt (less than 1/4 tsp.)
2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. ginger
1 tsp. ground cloves

1. Combine dry ingredients.
2. Cream together Crisco and sugar (about 3-4 mins.) with stand-alone beater.
3. Lightly whisk egg and add to creamed mixture - mix in until just blended.
4. Add molasses.
5. Slowly add dry ingredients.

Use Tbs. cookie scoop (level) and drop batter in balls onto cookie sheet.

Bake for 11-12 minutes - cookies must look a nice bronze/ginger color. Remove from oven and leave on baking sheet for a couple of minutes. Remove to wire cooler.


Round 2: (August/Sept.)

Recipe for Celebration Cookies
Yield: 3 dozen cookies

3/4 cup (1-1/2 sticks) butter, softened
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 recipe Celebration Cookie Mix (follows)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. In large bowl, combine butter, eggs and vanilla; mix until well blended. Add cookie mix to butter mixture; mix until well blended. Drop rounded Tablespoon scoops of dough 2 inches apart, onto greased baking sheet. Flatten cookies slightly if you want a crisper cookie.

Bake 13-15 minutes or until edges are golden brown. Cool 5 minutes; remove to cooling rack.

Celebration Cookie Mix
1/2 c granulated sugar
3/4 c sweetened dried cranberries
1/2 c white chocolate morsels
3/4 c packed brown sugar
1-1/2 c all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 c quick or old-fashioned oats
1/2 c pecan halves, coarsely chopped

Round 3: (Sept/Oct.)
Recipe for Snickerdoodles

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup margarine
1-1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla
3 cups flour
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 Tablespoons sugar

In a large mixing bowl, cream butter, margarine and 1-1/2 cups sugar. Blend in eggs and vanilla. In another bowl, sift flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt. Stir dry mixture into sugar mixture. Form dough into balls. Blend cinnamon with 2 Tablespoons of sugar. Roll the dough balls into the cinnamon-sugar. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes on an ungreased cookie sheet. Do not overbake. Cookies should be chewy in the center.
I hope I discover some more 5 STAR recipes with Round 4.It's always exciting to find something that is just that GOOD. I seem to have much more luck with checking out the blogs than with recipe books.