Sunday, July 27, 2014

Surprise Inside Cake

Can you guess what's hiding under this vanilla bean buttercream?  It's a pleasant surprise!

  For the July Daring Baker’s Challenge, Ruth from The Crafts of Mommyhood challenged us to bake a cake. But not just any cake; she asked us to add in a special surprise for our eyes as well as our taste buds! 


Cherry Rainbow Cake!

This post marks my third anniversary in the Daring Bakers club!  Can you believe I have posted on this blog at least once a week since July of 2011!?  I have decided it's time to let go of that expectation of myself...  But I will continue my monthly commitment to the DB challenges, and hope to have more time on my hands to give each challenge the best of myself!  This cake definitely represents how much fun I've had since I started baking and blogging in 2011.  This month our challenge was to create a surprise for the eyes and this cake definitely does the trick!

I love recipes that are surprisingly simple.  This cake and frosting are not complicated at all.  The technique used to make this cake is called zebra striping and it's done by scooping alternating colors of cake batter into the center of a pan.  It's typically made with chocolate and vanilla and with thicker stripes.  I created rainbow colored batter and alternated the colors (in traditional rainbow order) with white batter, using a tiny scoop (the smaller the scoop, the thinner the stripe). 


I am glad I added white batter between the layers of color.  Since there is not much white showing in the cake, I am guessing the colors may have muddled together without the white buffer.  I also washed my scoop in a bowl of warm water between every color for most of the cake.  I tried letting the colors mix a little with a "dirty" scoop for the last few layers and things started to look a little messy.  The center of this cake was therefore mostly purple, with no clear swirl of color that I had hoped to see.  Clean your spoon if you want nice crisp lines, but feel free to experiment with pattern and color.  I had fun doing it!  I am imagining a green or black ombre cake...definitely lots of possibilities!

Rainbow Zebra Surprise Inside Cake
Serves 10 to 12.  White cake and frosting are both from the Sprinklebakes blog.

Cake:
1 box white cake mix
1 cup flour
1 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
1 cup sour cream
1 cup water
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
Gel food coloring in rainbow shades

1 teaspoon cherry flavored exact

Whisk together cake mix, flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, blend together the sour cream, water, eggs and extracts. With a hand mixer on low speed, gradually mix the wet ingredients into the dry until combined well. Spoon 1/2 cup of batter into 6 small bowls (1/2 cup in each bowl).  You will have about 1 1/2 cups white batter left in the large bowl.  Into each of the small bowls, mix 1/2 to 2/3 teaspoon gel food coloring in each color of the rainbow (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple).  Into the white cake batter, mix 1 teaspoon cherry flavored extract.  When you beat in the colorings and the cherry extract, mix well on high for one full minute, and wash your beaters between colors.  Prepare a large bowl of warm water and a towel next to your work space.  

Spray two 9 inch cake pans with baking spray and preheat your oven to 325F.  Plan to work on both cake pans at the same time, to save yourself the trouble of washing your spoon as often.  Using a 2 tablespoon cookie scoop, spoon batter into the center of the cake pans in this order:  white, red, white, orange, white, yellow, white, green etc.  Between each scoop, rinse and dry your scoop (within reason, mine was slightly soiled and a little wet sometimes). Continue the pattern until you run out of batter.  Your cake pans will be 1/2 to 2/3 full.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the center 
batter is cooked and the top is lightly browned.  Cool completely before frosting.

Vanilla Bean Buttercream:

2 cups unsalted butter, softened

5 cups powdered sugar
Seeds of 1 vanilla bean
2 tablespoons milk or cream

In a bowl using a hand mixer, mix together the butter and powdered sugar.  Begin on low speed until crumbly, and then increase to high and beat for 3 minutes.


Add vanilla bean and cream and beat again for another minute. If you find the buttercream is too thin or light, add up to one cup powdered sugar. Beat on high for about a minute more or until light and fluffy.


Frost the layers of cooled zebra cake with room temperature buttercream, as you would a birthday cake.  I did not level my cake layers, but you can if you like.  For the decoration, I used black sugar sheets cut into strips (and glued together using tiny bits of buttercream).  The polka dot toppers are black Sixlets.  They sell sugar sheets and Sixlets at Hobby Lobby and Micheals (or online).

Chill for several hours or overnight before serving, preferably.

Have fun and enjoy!


Saturday, July 12, 2014

Asian Chopped Salad with Marinated Chicken Nuggets

Finally, I am sharing a dinner salad!  I really do eat a lot of salads but I rarely put them on the blog.  Salads always seem too common sense to insult you with a recipe, I guess.  But this one, I got from the Wagamama Cookbook and while most of it can be toyed with, there is a dressing on here that is to die for.  I will share that recipe below.

For the salad, I chopped sweet peppers with cilantro and spring greens and lots of green onion.  And I topped it with these fried chicken nuggets.  The nuggets are made by marinating large cubed chicken thighs in fish sauce, garlic, ginger, cilantro, tamari and vegetable oil for a day.  The chicken pieces are then tossed lightly in cornstarch and deep fried in hot vegetable oil until golden.  Holy cow, do try this!  It's worth any amount of effort, and actually comes together pretty fast.  Note that for the salad pictured above, I added some amai sauce, which is dark, salty, tangy and sweet.  I really like to pack this salad with major flavor.  I often go very heavy on the spice and the ginger, but I try to be careful not to add too much dressing, or things all start to taste the same.

And here's the recipe I hope you try...
This comes from the Wagamama Cookbook, which is one of my favorite books of all time.  There are so many recipes in here that are knocking my socks off.

Wagamama Salad Dressing
Makes one cup.

2 teaspoons minced shallot
One inch section of fresh ginger, peeled and grated finely
One clove garlic, minced
1 1/2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon ketchup
1 tablespoon water
a bit less than 1/2 cup flavorless oil
3 tablespoons low sodium tamari sauce

Mix all together by shaking vigorously in a lidded jar.  Keeps in the fridge for several days.

You may be surprised how good this is.  I hope you try it!

Enjoy!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Rhubarb Sugar Cookie Crisp



I suppose I should be thinking about 4th of July recipes...but instead I'm worried about what to do with all the rhubarb in my fridge and freezer.  I saw something like these bars on the Smitten Kitchen blog.  The bottom is basically like a dense and chewy sugar cookie and the rhubarb is perfectly tart and sweet with a nice oatmeal crumb topping.

This recipe makes the perfect amount for a party.  It's true, though, that these bars are best when eaten cold from the fridge.

Rhubarb Sugar Cookie Crisp
From Smitten Kitchen.  Serves a party.

3 cups rolled oats
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/8 cups butter, melted
6 cups diced rhubarb, fresh or frozen
3 large teaspoons cornstarch
1/2 cup sugar

Heat oven to 375F. Line an 11 by 17 (or similarly sized) pan with parchment paper.

Place oats, flour, brown sugar and salt in a large bowl and mix. Pour melted butter over and stir with a fork until small clumps form.  Add a bit of flour if it seems greasy or pasty. Set aside 1 1/2 cups of the crumb mixture. Press the rest of the crumb mixture evenly in the bottom of the pan.

Mix rhubarb, cornstarch and sugar  in the large bowl.  Spread the fruit over the crumb base.  Scatter reserved crumbs over the fruit and bake for 40 minutes or until browning nicely.

Cool and slice into bars.  Chill well before serving.





Friday, June 27, 2014

Orange Spiced Skillet Rolls with Cream Cheese Glaze

This month the Daring Bakers kept our creativity rolling with cinnamon bun inspired treats. Shelley from C Mom Cook dared us to create our own dough and fill it with any filling we wanted to craft tasty rolled treats, cinnamon not required!


I just recently became obsessed with this skillet cinnamon roll on the Sprinkle Bakes blog.  I've also been going through a list of recipes from my grandma's church cookbook, and one happened to be called "Something Different Cinnamon Rolls."  It was my Grandma Betty that contributed that recipe to her community cookbook, and it's a fun one to get creative with.  The recipe includes yeast and flour and all that traditional stuff, with the addition of a box of cake mix.  So you can imagine the flavor combinations get endless at this point.  Chocolate mix with cinnamon chocolate filling...Lemon mix with lemon curd filling...Spice cake with almond and apricot filling...I could probably fill a notebook with these!

I went to the store pretty open to whatever came to mind in the cake mix aisle.  And I settled on carrot cake mix using orange juice in place of water, cinnamon brown sugar filling with orange zest, and a simple powdered sugar glaze with cream cheese and more orange zest.  These flavors are a total knockout and the skillet method creates endless layers of gooey goodness where almost every bite is the soft and warm center of a cinnamon roll that we all love!
Usually when you make cinnamon rolls, you roll up a rectangle of dough and slice it into little rolls.  This time, you will cut the dough into strips and wrap them around in a large pan.  It's kind of a messy process.  But it's worth it.


Orange Spiced Skillet Rolls with Cream Cheese Glaze
Makes one 10 inch, one 8 inch and one 6 inch roll (these are the sizes of cast iron skillets that I own).  You could also use a couple 9 inch cake pans.  The dough may also be rolled and sliced like regular cinnamon rolls to make 2 or 3 dozen small rolls.

Dough:
1 box carrot cake mix
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons active dry yeast
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups lukewarm orange juice (warmed gently on the stove)
5 cups flour

Filling:
2 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
Zest of one orange
10 tablespoons butter, softened

Glaze:
5 ounces cream cheese
5 tablespoons butter
5 tablespoons milk
Zest of one orange
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar


Dissolve cake mix, salt, yeast and vanilla in warm orange juice in a very large bowl.  Stir in flour one cup at a time.  If needed, add more flour in 1/4 cup increments until the dough is pulling together around the spoon and not sagging wetly into the bowl.  Cover and let rise for one hour.  Punch down and rise on the counter until doubled or in the fridge overnight, covered in greased plastic wrap (it will rise very tall overnight).  On a well floured surface, knead the dough for a couple minutes, adding more flour as needed to create a dough that is smooth and a little stickier than bread dough. 

Let the dough rest for a few minutes while you clean up the counter.  For the filling, mix together cinnamon, white and brown sugar and orange zest in a bowl.

Divide the dough in half and roll each piece into a large rectangle on a well floured surface (mine was about 16 by 12 inches and 1/3 of an inch thick).  One half at a time, warm the softened butter in your hands and spread the butter over the dough using your fingers.  Spread each rectangle of dough with half of the filling.  Trim the edges neatly and slice the rectangle into even strips about 2 1/2 inches wide (I sliced mine the long way but it may have been easier to go the other way and have shorter strips).

Roll up the strips into a spiral, overlapping the ends barely when needing to start a new strip, until your roll is too big to manage without sagging and falling over.  Place this roll in the center of your skillet.  Carefully wrap additional strips around the center roll until your skillet is full (or close to it).  I had almost exactly enough dough to fill a 10, 8 and 6 inch skillet.  Let rise about an hour or until puffy but not quite doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 400F.  An 8 inch roll will bake about 25 minutes.  Give or take 5 to 10 minutes for the smaller and bigger rolls.  Bake until a skewer inserted in the center of the roll comes out clean.  Cover the top with foil if it's too dark before the center is baked.

For the glaze, melt cream cheese, butter, milk and orange zest together in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Whisk until smooth (though there may be tiny lumps of cream cheese remaining).  Add powdered sugar and whisk vigorously until smooth. If the glaze is too thick, add a little milk to thin it out.

Glaze the rolls while they're hot and serve the rolls sliced into wedges while still warm.

Enjoy!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Popovers



I'm trying to think of how to describe a Popover to those that have never had one...They are actually sort of similar to a Flying Dutchman (also called a Pannekuken), at least the batter is similar.  But these are baked longer in a muffin tin so they are crispy and chewy.  They are also kind of like a cream puff in that they blow up with a kind of soft and eggy middle.  Popovers are served warm and fresh with butter and honey.  At least that's how we serve them.  I also love a little strawberry jam with mine.  Yum!

My mom used to make these on Sunday mornings sometimes.  When I finally did the same, my kids were super pumped and begging for more!
 
Popovers
Adapted from Sonja Huber's recipe in my Grandma Betty's church cookbook.
Makes about 15 small/regular or 6 large/jumbo.

2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup flour
1 tablespoon melted butter
1 cup milk

Preheat the oven to 375F.  Grease a muffin tin well and preheat the tin in the oven for at least five minutes.

Mix all ingredients together using an electric mixer on high until smooth.  Fill your hot muffin tins half full.  Bake 40 minutes for small popovers and 45 minutes for large.  Remove from the oven and slash the side/center of each popover with a sharp knife to allow steam to escape.  Return to the oven and bake small popovers 10 minutes more and large popovers 15 minutes more.

Serve immediately and enjoy!


Sunday, June 15, 2014

Beef Sashimi Salad


I'm fairly certain that ninety percent of people from the US will be grossed out by this salad because, yes, it's made with raw beef.  Specifically, tenderloin (and there is no better word to describe it than "tender") that's seared for a mere 15 seconds on each side then chilled until it's firm enough to slice wafer thin.  

I modified this recipe from one in the Wagamama Restaurant's cookbook.  If you're open to it and looking for a meal that will make you feel like a million bucks, try this!  I loved it better than anything I've ever eaten in a sushi restaurant, and while tenderloin is pricey, the meal cost me about $20 to make.  Compared to the bill at a good sushi restaurant?  Definitely worth the minimal effort it took to make this myself!

The beef is incredibly tender and creamy (similar in texture to tuna sashimi), the flavors are striking yet simple and a portion of salad is quite filling though you can also eat a ton of it, which you may want to do...Especially if you take the time to make the dipping sauce!  Sorry I didn't think to photograph the sauce.  It's brown, thin, punchy, spicy and slightly sweet.  Delicious!

  Beef Sashimi Salad
Adapted from the amazing Wagamama Cookbook.
Serves 2 to 3.

6 ounce beef tenderloin
one quarter head of savoy cabbage
half an english cucumber
4 small sweet peppers
half a red onion
3 green onions
half a seeded diced green or red chili pepper
handful fresh chopped cilantro
2 inch piece of peeled ginger cut into matchsticks
Lime wedge
Salt

Sear beef in a hot non-stick skillet for 15 seconds on each side.  Run under ice cold water until cool.  Wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the freezer for about one hour.  Slice all vegetables thinly, toss everything but the beef, lime and salt together and place in a large shallow bowl (or a pie plate).  Set this in the fridge to stay cold.

Slice beef thinly once it has firmed up in the freezer. Spread sliced beef over the vegetables.  Squeeze lime over all and give it a pinch of course salt.  Eat with chopsticks.

If desired, dip your bites of salad into a mix of 1/4 cup tamari sauce, 1/4 cup malt vinegar, 1/2 tablespoon sugar, one teaspoon sesame oil, half a sliced thai chili and one small clove minced fresh garlic all of which has been heated just until the sugar dissolves.  If using the sauce, omit the lime and salt.

Enjoy!

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Love Bird Card for Father's Day

I love making homemade cards, and this is one of my favorites that I learned back in the day when I ran a day care.  If you can get your little one to sit still long enough, you can turn their tiny hand prints into love birds!  


This card will get tucked away in a special place and for years to come Juniper's daddy can look back and marvel at how tiny her hands once were.

I used high contrast black and white for this card, but you could get really playful with it and turn the hand prints into little chickens in a colorful world...or a family of birds in the grass using all your children's hands...or even smooching birds for Valentine's Day!

I had a heck of a time getting Juniper's hand in place for a photo so Sophie stepped in to show you how it's done.  It's easy!  Just trace the hand and fill in the bottom wrist part with a curved line.  I prefer to trace both hands separately versus copying one because each hand has its own character.  I cut Junie's hand prints out of white card stock and used black and white chalk pencils for the eyes and legs.  The heart is cut out of tinfoil that I scrunched up and smoothed out again.


For the inside of the card, I manipulated a photo using PicMonkey, a process which I describe in this Accordion Picture Card post.  I found the idea for the lettering after googling the terms "fun Father's Day font."  I did mine freehand, which is why it's a little crooked (which is fine for us, because we are little crooked) but you could use a ruler to make it neater.  And don't forget to include the year in there somewhere, or on the back of the card!  You think you'll remember every detail forever, but you won't.  There are just too many beautiful moments to keep it all straight!  That's why we love documenting them in special ways.

Happy Father's Day Steve! And Happy Father's Day to you all!
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