Saturday, December 27, 2014

Peperkoek with Rum Glaze

For the month of December, Andrea from 4pure took us on a trip to the Netherlands. She challenged us to take our taste buds on a joyride through the land of sugar and spice by baking three different types of Dutch sweet bread.

Andrea describes this festive bread as such:
"Peperkoek or Kruidkoek is a Dutch sweet quick bread made with warming spices. While we eat this bread for breakfast and lunch, we also have some at our tables for all meals... The recipes listed in the challenge use gingerbread spices. The gingerbread spice blend I use is the one common in the Netherlands."

For this challenge, I followed the recipe fairly close to the original, but rather than using ground ginger in the dry spice blend, I added a good amount of fresh grated ginger to the batter.  I also cut the wheat flour with some white flour and replaced some of the brown sugar with molasses.  And while I expected this sweet bread to be more of a cake, it turned out to be what I would consider the perfect gingerbread.  It is slightly dense and chewy, slightly sweet and entirely festive and warming on a cold Christmas morning.

For the rest of Andrea's Dutch bread recipes, see the original challenge PDF here!


Servings: 12

Gingerbread Spice Blend  (makes 2 to 3 tablespoons)
  • 3 tablespoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper (I used black pepper, actually)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground star anise
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground mace
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup dark molasses
  • 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
  • 1/4 cup fresh ginger, peeled and grated
  • 2 tablespoons ground gingerbread spices
  • 2 cups dark brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
Rum Glaze (via Sprinklebakes):
2 cups powdered sugar
1 tablespoon dark rum
Drizzle of milk or cream
Preheat the oven to 350°F and coat a 10 inch bundt pan with baking spray.
Put the eggs, molasses, water, ginger, spices and brown sugar in a bowl. Whisk until everything is dissolved.
Add the flours and the baking powder into the bowl and mix all the ingredients with a wooden spoon until the flour is wet. There may be some lumps left- do not over mix.
Pour into the baking tin and bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.
Take the cake out of the oven, allow to cool in the pan for 5 minutes
After the 5 minutes take the cake out of the pan onto a wire rack to cool down to room temperature.  
For the rum glaze, combine the powdered sugar and rum in a medium bowl. Add milk a few drops at a time while whisking. When the mixture is thick and drops from the whisk in a very thick ribbon back into the bowl, then the correct consistency has been achieved. If the glaze is thinned too much, add additional powdered sugar. Try to keep the glaze quite thick (I wish mine would have been a bit thicker).  Place the cake on a wire rack set on a sheet pan.  Pour the glaze over top of the cake, allowing it to run down the sides.

Let the cake stand uncovered until the sauce hardens.  Serve sliced into wedges.

Enjoy, and happy holidays to you and those you love!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Chocolate Eclair Paris Brest

The November Daring Baker’s challenge took us for a ride! Luisa from Rise of the Sourdough Preacher challenged us to make Paris-Brest, a beautiful pastry celebrating the Paris-Brest bicycle race.

A Paris Brest is made with the same dough as an eclair, though typically it's sandwiched with almond and hazelnut flavored crème mousseline and decorated with slivered almonds and powdered sugar.  Our Daring Baker's hostess, Luisa, was completely open to us being creative thinkers with this challenge, so I recreated a chocolate doughnut filled with vanilla pudding and glazed with rich chocolate.  I served this chilled, sliced into wedges, and it was fantastic. 

Pate a choux is used for making cream puff type desserts, because it blows up in the oven and can be filled with pastry cream or other things, both sweet and savory.  And it's super easy to make!  I made two eight-inch rings of pastry and they both fell a bit when I pulled them out of the oven.  Instead of splitting the rings into two layers I used each as sort of a top and bottom "bun" for my doughnut sandwich.  The filling is real vanilla bean pastry cream and it is SO yummy.  Once chilled, this ginormous doughnut slices up nice and clean. It's not a super refined dessert...but it was really fun to make and kind of charming in a way.

Choux Pastry (pate a choux)
Use a deep saucepan for this. When you whisk in the eggs you'll want plenty of room to groove.

½ cup butter
1 cup water
¼ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 large eggs, room temp

Egg Wash:
1 egg mixed with 1 1/2 teaspoons water until smooth

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 375°F.

In a large sauce pan, combine butter, water, and salt. Heat over medium until the butter melts, then remove from stove. Let this cool off the heat for 2 minutes.

Add flour all at once and beat the mixture fiercely with a whisk until the dough pulls away from the sides of the pot.

Add one egg, and beat until well combined. Add remaining eggs individually, beating vigorously after each addition.

The mixture should be somewhat glossy, very smooth, and very thick but not stiff.

If desired, prepare your parchment by tracing a 6 inch circle with a dark pencil. Flip your paper over and you'll be able see the pattern from above. Pipe three layers of dough in a ring with a half inch round tip or a bag with the corner snipped off, or use a
 star-shaped tip. If you don't have a star tip, use a fork to trace some lines on its surface, this will help the choux pastry to rise properly. Brush with the egg wash.

Bake for 20 to 30 minutes until golden and puffed. Remove from the oven and cool completely. Slice in half horizontally and fill the bottom layer with pastry cream (recipe below), capping it with the top layer.  Or use two intact rings for the two layers of the doughnut sandwich, piping pastry cream between them..

Set the "sandwich" on a wire rack over a sheet pan and top with lukewarm chocolate glaze (recipe below) and chill until set.  Slice and serve immediately.

Pastry Cream
2 cups whole milk
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
6 egg yolks
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 tablespoon cold unsalted butter

In a medium saucepan, heat the milk and vanilla bean to a boil over medium heat. Immediately turn off the heat and set aside to infuse for 15 minutes. In a bowl, whisk the egg yolks and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the cornstarch and whisk vigorously until no lumps remain. Whisk in 1/4 cup of the hot milk mixture until incorporated. Whisk in the remaining hot milk mixture. Pour the mixture through a strainer back into the saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat, whisking constantly, until thickened and slowly boiling. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter. Let cool slightly. Cover with plastic wrap, lightly pressing the plastic against the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Chill at least 2 hours or until ready to serve. The custard can be made up to 24 hours in advance. Refrigerate until 1 hour before using.

Chocolate Glaze
1 cup heavy cream
8 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

In a small saucepan, heat the cream over medium heat just until it boils. Immediately turn off the heat. Put the chocolate in a medium bowl. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and whisk until melted and smooth. Set aside to cool a bit if you want it thicker.  Warm it up a bit if you want to thin it out.


Monday, October 27, 2014

Austrian Sachertorte

The October Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to us by Korena of Korena in the Kitchen. She took us to Austria and introduced us to the wonders of the Sachertorte.

I've made many chocolate cakes in my day, but none quite like this.  This is a real-grown-up chocolate cake.  Dense and not too sweet, lightly flavored with apricot, glazed with more dark chocolate and served with real unsweetened whipped cream.  My daughter Penelope, as I've said before, has highfalutin taste in desserts, so this made the perfect birthday cake for her this week!

To give you a little history of the Sachertorte (I should be doing that when presenting you with all of these foreign treats, shouldn't I?  I'll start now...)

In 1832, Prince Wenzel von Metternich instructed his personal chef to create a special dessert for several important guests. The head chef, having taken ill, let the task fall to his sixteen-year-old apprentice, Franz Sacher, who was in his second year of training in Metternich's kitchen.  The guests loved the cake and Sacher went on to have a career as a pastry chef.  Sacher's eldest son Eduard carried on his father's culinary legacy, completing his own training in Vienna, during which time he perfected his father's recipe and developed the torte into its current form.  Since then and to this day, the cake remains among the most famous of Vienna's culinary specialties.  And it's a very consistent cake...chocolate sponge cake...apricot...chocolate glaze..the word "sacher" written on top with writing chocolate.  I (for once) changed very little from the original recipe this month, but if you'd like to take a gander at the original Daring Bakers challenge recipe, click HERE!


For the Cake
¾ cup good quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped
9 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar
6 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup granulated sugar
1 cup flour
Pinch of salt

For Assembly
Apricot Glaze (recipe below)
Chocolate Glaze (recipe below)
Writing Chocolate (recipe below)
1 cup cold heavy whipping cream

1. Preheat oven to 350°F with a rack in the center of the oven. Butter and flour the sides of a 9-inch spring form pan, then line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper.
2. Place the bittersweet chocolate in a heat-proof bowl and heat over a small saucepan of barely simmering water (make sure that the bowl is not touching the simmering water) or in the microwave until just melted. Set aside to cool completely, stirring often.
3. Place the butter in a large mixing bowl and beat with the paddle attachment of a stand mixer or electric mixer on medium speed until very light and creamy. Add the powdered sugar on low speed, then increase to medium speed and beat again until light and creamy.
4. Beat in the egg yolks, one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl.
5. Add the cooled chocolate and vanilla and beat until well-mixed and very light and creamy, scraping down the sides of the bowl.
6. In a very clean bowl using the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites with about one tablespoon of the granulated sugar on high speed until foamy. Gradually add in the rest of the granulated sugar and continue beating the whites until they form soft, shiny peaks.
7. Vigorously stir about 1/3 of the whipped egg whites into the chocolate mixture to lighten it, then gently fold the remaining egg whites into the chocolate mixture with a spatula until just a few streaks of egg white remain. Be careful not to deflate the egg whites.
8. Stir together the flour and salt and sift half of it over the chocolate mixture. Fold in with a spatula until almost incorporated. Sift over the remaining flour and fold to combine completely.
9. Spread the batter evenly in the prepared spring form pan.
10. Bake in the preheated oven for 35-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
11. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then run a knife around the edge to loosen it from the pan and remove the sides. Carefully invert the cake onto a rack and remove the bottom of the pan and parchment paper, then turn the cake right-side up onto a rack and allow to cool completely.

12. Assembly: Turn the cake upside-down so that the perfectly flat bottom of the cake is now the top. Cut the cake horizontally into 2 even layers.
13. Place one layer of the cake on a cardboard cake round (or the bottom of the spring form pan) and spread generously with about half of the apricot glaze. Allow it to soak in.
14. Place the second cake layer on top and spread the top and sides with the remaining apricot glaze. Work quickly before the glaze has a chance to set and use a metal offset spatula to smooth the top. Place the cake on a rack set over a plate or baking sheet lined with waxed paper and allow the apricot glaze to set.
15. Make the chocolate glaze and pour it over the top of the cake, first around the edge and then in the middle. Spread the excess glaze over any bare spots using a metal offset spatula. Before the glaze has a chance to set, move the cake to a serving platter.
16. With the writing chocolate, pipe the word “Sacher” in the middle of the cake and add any decorative flourishes you wish. Chill the cake until the glaze is completely set, at least 1 hour.
17. To serve: Whip the heavy cream to soft peaks (this is best done in a cold bowl with cold beaters).
18. Cut the Sachertorte into wedges with a large sharp knife dipped in hot water and wipe off the blade between cuts. Serve each wedge of cake with a large dollop of whipped cream.

Apricot Glaze

1¼ cup apricot jam or preserves (it's best to not use low sugar jam)*
2 tablespoons rum or water

1. Boil the jam and rum/water in a small saucepan over medium heat.
2. Cook, stirring often, until the mixture thickens and drips slowly from the spoon, about 2-3 minutes.
3. Strain through a wire mesh sieve, pressing firmly on the solids. Use while warm.
*I used low sugar jam and I think it prevented my apricot syrup from setting up properly.  When I poured my chocolate glaze over the cake, the jam/syrup slid off which is why the sides are all lumpy.  Usually sachertortes are beautiful and smooth!

Chocolate Glaze

1 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
½ cup water
4 oz good quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped

1. Place the sugar, corn syrup and water in a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.
2. Attach a candy thermometer, reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring, until the mixture reaches 234˚F, about 5 minutes.
3. Remove the saucepan from the heat and whisk in the chocolate. The glaze should be smooth and shiny and a little thicker than Hersheys syrup.  If needed, whisk in little bits of chocolate while hot until it's the consistency you are looking for.  Use immediately once it hits the right thickness.

Writing Chocolate

¼ cup chopped good quality chocolate
½ teaspoon vegetable oil

1. Heat the chocolate until just melted, then stir in enough vegetable oil to get a pipeable consistency. If necessary, let the chocolate mixture cool slightly to thicken so that it is not too runny, or whisk in a pat of room temp butter to thicken.
2. Place the chocolate in a piping bag with a tiny tip or use a small Ziplock bag and snip off the corner to make a small hole.  Practice writing on waxed paper before writing on the cake.


Saturday, September 27, 2014

Chodské Koláče (Kolache from Chodsko)

The September Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to us by Lucie from ChezLucie. She challenged us to make a true Czech treat –Kolaches!

The Daring Bakers were offered three recipes this month:  One of which I really wanted to eat, and one of which was far more creative, totally inspiring and quite tedious.  Obviously, I chose the latter, because somehow I seem to be drawn to tedium...and the creative possibilities were not lost on me either!  The process was a ton of fun, and the outcome was kind of surprising.  I've never eaten a pastry that tasted quite like this.  This is my favorite part of the Daring Bakers challenges.  At first glance, baked goods seem so similar from one region to another, but they each have their own unique difference that makes each a totally new experience.  If you'd like to see the other recipes for creamy filled pastries, Pražský koláč (Prague Kolach) and Dvojctihodné / Moravské koláče (Two fillings / Moravian Kolaches), click here!

I really loved working with this pastry's dough.  It it soft and wet and rich and insanely tender when it's been baked.  I don't even know what to compare it to.  It's not greasy or flaky.  It's very light and slightly yeasty.  I will be making this dough again soon and next time will fill it with quark filling and homemade chunky applesauce.  Quark is a fresh cow's milk cheese, similar to fresh goat cheese.  I had never had it, and had kind of a hard time finding it!  Quark is tangy and soft.  If you're looking for a substitute...maybe ricotta?  Especially homemade ricotta (you will find a super easy recipe in this post) would be nice.

My decorations for these pastries were inspired by the beautiful asters decorating the woods edging my yard. I love this time of year in Minnesota and I think the look of the kolace really reflect the beauty of the season!

Chodské Koláče


For the dough:

2 teaspoons dry active yeast
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup lukewarm milk
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 egg, lightly beaten

1/4 cup butter, softened
zest of ½ lemon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 tablespoons dark rum
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon oil
1 lightly beaten egg for brushing

For the quark filling:

1 1/2 cups (about 3/4 lb) quark
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup sugar
A splash/pinch of rum, lemon zest and vanilla extract to taste
1 teaspoon corn starch
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1 egg white (save the yolk)

For the poppy seed filling:

1/2 cup poppy seeds
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup boiling water
1 egg yolk (leftover from the quark filling)
2 ginger-bread or vanilla wafer cookies, ground (or more if needed for thickening the paste)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

For the jam filling:

1/2 cup jam of your choice (traditionally they use plum jam, I used orange marmalade)
A splash of lemon juice and rum to taste
1 teaspoon corn starch

For the decoration:

Almond slivers, pine nuts and golden raisins
[Optional:  Stir almond slivers into water that has been dyed pale purple with food coloring.  Drain and dry in the open air for a while before using.]


In a bowl, mix together yeast and 1 teaspoon sugar. Add about half of the warm milk, mix well and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon flour. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 10 – 15 minutes.

In a bowl of your electric mixer (or in a large bowl) mix remaining flour, sugar and milk, egg, butter, lemon zest, salt, rum, vanilla, oil and the yeast mixture. Knead with dough hook (or by hand with a wooden spoon) on low speed for about 10 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for about an hour to double its volume.

Meanwhile, prepare fillings (instructions below) and set them aside.

Punch down the risen dough, fold it and let rise to double again.

Divide the dough into 6 equal pieces on a floured surface.

Prepare 2 large sheet pans with parchment paper. Using floured hands, roll each piece of dough into a ball and press it out into a circle with your fingers into a circle about 6 inches in diameter. While you're pressing the dough out, create raised rims around the edges with your fingers, kind of like you're preparing a pizza crust.

Brush the edges with beaten egg.

Decorate each kolach with quark, poppy seed filling and jam filling, and with almonds and raisins.  I started each kolach with a generous layer of quark, then decorated the top as I pleased.

Bake in a preheated 350°F oven until edges turn golden brown, about 20 to 25 minutes.

Quark filling:
In a bowl, mix quark, butter and sugar well. Add whipping cream, rum, lemon zest, vanilla extract and corn starch and mix together. In a clean bowl of your electric mixer using clean beaters, beat egg white on high until stiff, then carefully fold the whites into the quark mix.

Poppy seeds filling:
Finely grind poppy seeds with sugar in a food processor and carefully add boiling water. Mix in the egg, ground cookies and cinnamon. The consistency should be like frosting.  Add more ground cookies until the filling is smooth and slightly thick.  Taste it and add more sugar and cinnamon if you like.

Jam filling:
Mix together all ingredients.  Add a bit of hot water if it’s too thick to spread easily.

Happy decorating!  Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Cinnamon Cream Cheese Ensaimadas

 I am so grateful to the Daring Bakers club members for exposing me to foods that I wouldn't otherwise hear of, much less have the pleasure to eat!  The August Daring Bakers' Challenge took us for a spin! Swathi of Zesty South Indian Kitchen taught us to make rolled pastries inspired by Kurtoskalacs, a traditional Hungarian wedding pastry. These tasty yeasted delights gave us lots to celebrate!

This month, we were offered recipes for a pastry called Chimney Cakes, and also these spiraled rolls called Ensaimadas.  The Chimney Cakes look like a lot of fun!  But basically out of laziness, I only baked the Ensaimadas, which were pretty easy to make and very tasty.  I would compare these to deep fried mini-donuts in flavor and texture.  Even though I tried to "fill" the rolls with cream cheese, it melted into the dough so it gave the rolls a nice flavor and the pastry was very moist.  But there weren't layers of cream cheese in them at all.  I also opted to sprinkle the tops of the unbaked rolls with a thick layer of sugar and cinnamon, and I'm glad I did!  Delicious!  My Ensaimadas were close to authentic but not quite.  Traditionally, they are made with lard (which I did mix with the cream cheese) and doused in powdered sugar after baking.  I am guessing the originals are also reminiscent of doughnuts in texture and flavor.  I also thought of a Churro when eating mine.  

For the original Daring Bakers recipes for both chimney cakes and ensaimadas, see here!

Makes 4 single serving rolls.

1 1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
1/2 cup lukewarm milk
1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
1 egg, room temperature
1 tablespoon oil
7 tablespoons lard, softened, divided (butter can be substituted)
5 tablespoons cream cheese, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Mix the yeast and milk in a small bowl until the yeast has dissolved and let it rest for about 5 minutes or until foamy. In a large bowl, whisk the flour, sugar and salt together. Using a spoon, add the milk and yeast to the flour mixture until the ingredients form a soft dough.  The dough might be slightly dry.  If it is at all soggy and wet, stir in a little flour. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in a warm room or in a cold oven with the light turned on. Allow the dough to rise for about an hour or until the dough has doubled in size.

Using your fingers, stir the egg and oil into the dough until fully incorporated.  The dough will be super sticky and a little chunky.  Turn the dough onto a well floured surface, sprinkle with flour and knead for five minutes.  Add flour as needed, and wash your sticky hands every so often, until the dough is smooth and slightly tacky.  (It also helps to use a putty knife to fold the dough at first until it's not as wet.)  Cover the dough and let it rest for 30 minutes. 

Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface into a rectangle about 13 inches by 18 inches (trimmed to even out the edges).  In a small bowl, mix together 5 tablespoons of lard, cream cheese and vanilla until blended.  Using your hands, spread this mixture over the dough. Slice the dough into 4 equal sized rectangles, as pictured.

Roll up each rectangle starting on the long side and using your hands shape each piece of rolled dough into a rope about 16 inches long.

Wrap each rope into a loose snail shape on a parchment lined sheet pan (two on each of two large pans) with ample space between them.

The snail shape should include a bit of space between the coils, as this dough will rise until nearly tripled in size. Cover the rolls and place the sheet pans in the refrigerator overnight.

In the morning, remove the rolls from the fridge.  Leave them sit at room temperature until they are nearly tripled from their original size (or if they already are, you may bake them right away).  Heat your oven to 350F. Brush the top of the ensaimadas with the remaining 2 tablespoons of lard, melted.  Sprinkle the rolls with a mix of sugar and cinnamon.  Bake for 20 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through if you're forced to bake them on two racks. Remove from the oven when browned on top.  Cool on wire racks and serve fresh.

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.

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!

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