Monday, May 21, 2012

Portuguese Sponge Cake with Vanilla Bean Pastry Cream

I frequently commit myself to making desserts for family gatherings without having the smallest idea as to what I should make.  This happened to me this past weekend.  I wanted something summery and hopped on TasteSpotting to see what was trending in the foodie world and quickly came across a recipe for Pao de Lo (Portuguese Sponge Cake) with Vanilla Bean Pastry Cream on Portuguese Girl Cooks.  Ding Ding, we have a winner. 


This  dessert has everything: spongy cake, citrus liquor, vanilla bean pastry cream, fresh fruit, and whipped cream.  While rich (pastry cream!) it is still light enough for a hot afternoon.  The pairing of orange zest and liquor with fresh strawberries brightens the cake and makes the individual flavors pop while they complement each other oh so well.


(oh the beautiful vanilla flecks)
 
Pao de Lo (Portuguese Sponge Cake) 
with Vanilla Bean Pastry Cream

Cake:
  • 6 eggs, at room temperature and separated
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • zest of 1 orange (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon orange juice
  • Approximately 1/4 cup orange liquor for soaking sponge
  • fresh fruit for filling and topping
Whipped Cream:
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
Vanilla Bean Pastry Cream:
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 vanilla bean scraped and seeded, or 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
For the Cake:

Adjust rack to the middle position, and preheat oven to 350F. Generously butter and flour a 9-inch springform pan.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites and salt on high speed until stiff peaks form. Transfer to a small bowl.

Using the same bowl (you don't have to wash), beat the egg yolks, sugar, orange zest, and orange juice, on high speed until light and well combined, about 3 to 4 minutes. On low speed, slowly add the flour mixture, and mix until just combined. By hand, gently fold in the egg whites until fully combined. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick in the center comes out clean, about 45 minutes.

Let cake cool in pan.

For the Pastry Cream:

In a medium, heavy bottomed saucepan, combine the milk, vanilla bean seeds and pod. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Once it comes to a boil remove from heat.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the whole egg, egg yolks, sugar, and cornstarch until smooth. Slowly whisk in half of the milk mixture. Pour the egg mixture back into the saucepan containing the milk, and place over medium heat, whisking constantly. The pastry cream will begin to thicken, keep cooking until it begins to boil. Once it comes to a low boil, continue to cook for an additional 2 to 3 minutes. The whole process will take about 10 minutes.

Transfer to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap over the surface of the pastry cream, so a crust does not form. Refrigerate until cool to use immediately, or store in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

For the Whipped Cream:

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk heavy cream and powdered sugar until medium peaks form, about 4 minutes. Be sure not to over mix or it will become grainy. 

Set aside about 1 cup of the whipped cream. Gently fold the remaining whipped cream into the pastry cream until well combined. 

Assembly:

Slice cooled cake in half, and brush or drizzle liquor on the cake. Spread half of the pastry cream on top and layer with fresh fruit. Place the top of the cake on top, and cover with remaining pastry cream. Using the whipped cream you set aside, dollop and lightly spread some on top of the pastry cream. Top with your favorite fresh fruit.

  

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Peach Pie, Oh My My!

As we all know, today is Mothers' Day.  Hubby's mom asked that we not buy her anything but instead just spend time together.  What better way to spend time together than with a meal?  My mother-in-law LOVES birds (she is an avid birdwatcher) so I bought a cute hummingbird cookie cutter with the intention of making cutely frosted cookies for dessert.  But fate had other plans.  As hubby and I were running some errands yesterday, we passed by a roadside stand selling Ruston peaches.  Ruston is a town not too far from mine that is known for its peaches and strawberries.  They are the best you will ever have; it's the only food I'll buy from the side of the road.  Because the peaches were small, hubby suggested I make a pie.  Bye bye hummingbird cookies, hello peach pie!

 (Jumbo lemons and the two peaches too bruised to sustain a peeling)

I wasn't sure how I felt about peach pie when hubby suggested it.  I have nothing against pie, but I'm not about to marry it.  Amusingly, hubby and I took a New Years trip to Natchez, MS where I happened to buy a cookbook of pies, Mrs. Rowe's Little Book of Southern Pies.  I pulled it out and just happened to open up to the peach pie recipe, I kid you not. 

 (I even got to put the hummingbird cookie cutter into use! I'm also very proud of my flaky crust)

I was worried the pie might be goopy, like so many fruit pies are, but this was pie was seriously perfect.  So perfect and delicious that even though I commented to multiple people after peeling and slicing the peaches that I would never do such a task again, I would definitely do it again for this pie.   


Fresh Peach Pie
(Mrs. Rowe's Little Book of Southern Pies, page 38)
  • 1 pie crust - enough for a double crust pie
  • 5 cups peeled and sliced fresh peaches 1
  • 1 1/2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 425F.  Line a 9-inch pie plate with 1 rolled out crust.

Put the peaches in a bowl, add the lemon juice, and gently stir to coat.  Separately, combine the sugar, flour, cinnamon, and nutmeg, mix thoroughly, then add to the peaches.  Gently stir to coat the peaches, then spoon the filling evenly into the crust.

Brush the rim of the crust with water, cover with the second rolled-out crust, seal and crimp the edges, and cut a few steam vents in the top.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until golden brown.  Remove from the oven, brush with the melted butter, and cool on a wire rack for 1 hour before slicing.  Serve at room temperature or slightly warm.

Great with homemade vanilla ice cream!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Roasted Beets

I've decided I need to expand our vegetable vocabulary, with a focus on  local and seasonal ones.  I've started going to our Saturday Farmer's Market and I try to get something new each time.  A couple weeks ago, I got golden beets and this week I got red ones.  I roasted the golden with potatoes (yum) and turnips (not yum), and we liked them so much I decided to try roasting the red solo.  Shocking surprise: beets not from a can are delicious!



Roasted Beets with Goat Cheese
  • 1 bunch of red beets, trimmed and peeled*
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • goat cheese
 Preheat oven to 400F.  Cut the beets into bite-size pieces.  I cut each beet into 4 slices, then cut those slices into quarters.  Drizzle with olive oil and salt and bake 20-30 minutes, or until fork-tender.

Sprinkle with goat cheese and serve. 

* It would be wise to use gloves and take care while handling the beets as they turn everything bright pink!

S'mores Tart

We recently visited some of my family in Austin and I brought them a few baked goodies as a thank you.  One such treat was the crowd-pleasing s'mores bites.  I had some of the graham cracker dough left over and I just couldn't let that go to waste, right? For some reason, I find tarts superbly pleasing (I think it's the fluted edges) and I was too lazy to think of a filling that would go as amazingly with a graham cracker crust as chocolate and marshmallows.  So s'mores tart it was!



S'mores Tart
  • 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/3 cup flour
  • 3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt 
  • 1 1/2 cups milk chocolate chips 
  • 25-30 marshmallows
Preheat oven to 350F.  

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugars. Beat in the egg and vanilla.  In a small bowl, whisk together flour, crumbs, baking powder, and salt. Add to the butter mixture and mix on low speed until combined. It will be kind of clumpy.  Press into 10-11 inch tart pan.  

Spread a single layer of chocolate chips over the dough.  Bake 10-15 minutes, or until chocolate is softened.  Remove from oven and use a spoon or spatula to spread the chocolate into a one smooth layer.

Using sharp kitchen shears, cut each marshmallow in half and place cut side down on top of chocolate.  Turn oven to broil; return tart to oven and watch closely until marshmallows are golden and delicious.

Try not to eat it all in one sitting.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Brisket

So I'm a few posts behind.  That's what a trip, a houseguest, and laziness will do to a blog.  Also, hubby and I got chickens so we've been spending a good deal of time learning about them and designing a coop.  But anyway....


For Easter, I decided to try my hand at brisket, having always been too scared to attempt it before.  My grandpa used to make the best brisket ever, but I was entirely too young during those days to pay attention to, or even remotely remember now, what he did other than cook it for what seemed like forever in the pit.  My dad also makes a delicious brisket, seasoning it with a hodgepodge of spices in the pantry, cooking it mostly in the oven, and and then smoking it on the pit for the last hour.  I planned to follow his method, but also wanted a recipe for guidance.  A lady at work shared the Beef Brisket "To Die For" recipe from our local Junior League ladies' cookbook "Something to Talk About" which is a cookbook I happen to own.   And while I might not be dying over it, this is a pretty enjoyable recipe.


Beef Brisket "To Die For"
(Something to Talk About: Occasions We Celebrate in South Louisiana, pg. 165)
  • 1 8-10 lb brisket, trimmed 
  • Cajun or Creole seasoning
  • 1 3/4 cups ketchup
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 10-oz can tomato soup
  • 2 tbsp liquid smoke (I omitted this because I smoked the brisket at the end)
  • 2 tbsp yellow or Dijon mustard
  • 2 tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
Preheat oven to 325 to 350F.   Season brisket generously with Cajun seasoning in a large roast pan with cover.  (Because I smoked mine, I used one of those disposable pans and covered it with foil.)  

Combine ketchup, brown sugar, soup, liquid smoke (if using), mustard, and Worcestershire in a bowl and mix well.  Pour over brisket.

Bake, covered, for 3 to 4 hours or until fork-tender.  

(Once the brisket was fairly tender, I put it in the pit for another 45 minutes to give it a nice, authentic smokey flavor.)

Slice thinly and enjoy!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Cookies and Cream Cake

Yesterday was my nephew's third birthday.  We had a small crawfish boil with my dad, and I of course offered to bake a cake.  Since my nephew had cookie cake on Friday and another cake today at his party with his friends, I decided to try out an idea I'd been brewing for a few days: a cookies and cream cake.  The idea was to have a layer of broken Oreo pieces on the bottom of each cake layer.  Much to my surprise, the cookies pieces floated to the top; perhaps if I'd stuck with my original idea of putting down a layer of whole Oreos, they would have stayed put.  


I wanted to make this cake with a light, whipped frosting; I searched around the web and couldn't find exactly what I wanted.  Most were glorified whipped cream.  I tried one recipe, only to have it end in utter failure, then I tried this recipe for The Best Whipped Frosting over at Can You Stay for Dinner?  It was definitely a winner and it has been marked as a go-to frosting recipe.  So creamy and light.  LOVE IT. 

 For the cake, I adapted the White Cake recipe from my trusty Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook, using cake flour instead of all-purpose.  This resulted in a denser, spongier cake which hubby really enjoyed.

(My nephew actually didn't like the cake, though I'm fairly certain he didn't even try it.  Oh well! His rejection only broke my heart a little bit =D)

Cookies and Cream Cake

Cake 
  • 1 package Oreo cookies
  • 4 egg whites
  • 2 1/4 cups cake flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 1 1/3 cup buttermilk or sour milk
Frosting
  • 1 cup milk
  • 5 tablespoons flour
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar (not powdered sugar)
  • 1 cup crushed Oreo crumbs
For the Cake:

Allow egg whites to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.  Meanwhile, grease two 9 inch round cake pans.  Preheat oven to 350F.

Break up half of Oreos, roughly into quarters.  Line them in a single layer, fitted as closely together as possible, in the bottom of each cake pan. 

In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. 

In a large mixing bowl, beat butter on high speed for 30 seconds.  Gradually add in sugar and vanilla, beating until well combined.  Beat for an additional 2 minutes, until the mixture is light and fluffy.  Add egg whites one at a time, beating well after each addition.  

Alternately add flour mixture and milk, mixing after each addition just until combined.  Pour into prepared pans.  

Bake for 20-30 minutes, or until a wood toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.  (Note: the toothpick may come out chocolately, you just don't want it to come out with uncooked batter.)  Cool in pans for 10 minutes, then remove cakes and cool thoroughly on wire racks.  

For the Frosting:

In a medium saucepan, whisk one cup of milk with 5 tablespoons of flour. Heat over medium until the mixture begins to sputter, whisking constantly. Continue to stir as the mixture thickens. You will know it’s done when it reaches the consistency of thick cake batter, after about 7 minutes of heating and whisking. Stir in 2 teaspoons vanilla extract and set aside to cool COMPLETELY.

Now, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, or using a hand held mixer, beat 2 sticks of softened butter (1 cup) with 1 cup of granulated sugar until light, fluffy, and white in color, about 3 solid minutes of beating on medium-high speed. You want the sugar to be totally incorporated into the butter.

Be sure that the milk/flour mixture has completely cooled, and add it to the butter/sugar mixture. Beat all ingredients for about 1 minute on high speed, scraping down the bowl halfway, until they are smooth and well blended. 

Assembly:

Level the cakes, if necessary.  Pipe a thick border of frosting along the top of the bottom layer to dam the frosting filling.  Spread a layer of frosting evenly within the frosting border.  (You may make this layer as thick or thin as you like, depending on your preference.) Place the second layer of cake on top, and frost it.  Dust with Oreo crumbs.  (I did this by blowing crumbs out of my hand onto the cake, but this was MESSY.  One day I'll figure out how the professionals do it.)

Monday, March 19, 2012

Fondant

I don't like fondant, the stick, moldable, "great for decorating" icing.  I like my frosting light and creamy, not stiff and gritty.  I don't like the taste and I don't like the feel.  Also, cake decorating isn't one of my strengths; I'm not an artistic gal.  That being said, I will do anything for my nephew.  His birthday is coming up and he LOVES Mickey Mouse.  My sister came across this adorable cake and posted it in Facebook, looking for a recommendation of someone who could make it. 


 


At first, I said there was no way I could decorate a cake so nicely. I mean, look at that thing! It's freakin' adorable! Cakeadelic is an artist!  But then I started to think "I haven't really challenged myself lately" and I can't avoid fondant forever.  And this is my nephew's third birthday.  He's not even just my nephew; he's my godson.  And for only being three, this kid has been through A LOT (two heart surgeries!).  And he's so darn cute.  So, for Dylan, I decided I'd give this adorable Mickey cake a try.  (And don't worry, Disney, I never planned to benefit financially from it.)  

Of course, before making such a cake for Dylan's party, I would have to do a practice one, or two, or ten.  We all know fondant can be tricky; who hasn't seen the multitude of cake decorating shows on Food Network?  I decided to take it easy on myself for my first go with fondant.  I decided to do a single layer cake, made from a box, and used a premade frosting.  (You have to apply a thin layer of buttercream to the cake so the fondant has something to stick to.)  Also, there are two ways you can make fondant: you can go all out with gelatin and glycerin and boiling things, or you can heat some marshmallows then beat in an unimaginable amount of sugar.  I took the easy route and bought myself some marshmallows.  I used this recipe from Allrecipes.com. 


This is the end result, my first cake using fondant.


I'm pretty pleased with myself.

Zucchini Fries

I'm a day late posting, but I have two posts to upload so things even out, right?  This first post is a super easy recipe that is also super delicious.  It's a recipe for zucchini fries that my sister shared with me.  It's a great weeknight veggie that is easy, flavorful, and healthy.



Oven Baked Zucchini Fries
  • 1 lb zucchini (approximately 3)
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 packet Shake & Bake coating mix
  • 1 egg

Heat oven to 450F.

Trim the ends of the zucchini.  Cut in half cross-wise, then cut into 1/4 to 1/2 inch sticks.

Put cheese and coating mix into shaker bake; shake gently to combine. 

Whisk egg in medium bowl. Add zucchini a few sticks at a time; toss to coat. Use tongs to place 5-6 zucchini sticks in the shaker bag. Close bag and shake to evenly coat.  Spread onto baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray. Repeat with remaining zucchini.

Bake for 12-13 minutes, or until golden brown.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Shrimp Stew

I mentioned last week that hubby and I had been sick.  This left me with a near constant craving for soup, which is very odd for me.  And even odder still, I really wanted shrimp stew.  That's weird because I'd never had shrimp stew.  It just sounded like something I wanted to eat.  Can you crave something you've never had?  I guess so.   


Having a general idea of what shrimp stew was (a traditional Cajun comfort dish), I did some searching online at checked out various recipes.  I came across recipes from the big names (Emeril, John Folse) and a few from fellow bloggers.  They were all basically the same and what I expected; a roux (varying from light to dark), with the trinity (onions, bellpepper, and celery), shrimp stock, shrimp, and seasonings.  Some had tomatoes, some had potatoes.  So, with that knowledge in hand, I took a look in the pantry, and then I tried my hand at crafting a pot of shrimp stew.  


(Hello shrimp stew; how do you do?)

Shrimp Stew

  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • 4 cups seafood broth*
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 - 1 tsp Tabasco
  • salt, to taste
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper
  • 1 lb peeled shrimp**
  • chopped green onions, to garnish

In a large pot, heat oil over medium heat until smoking.   Slowly add flour, stirring vigorously, until fully incorporated.  Cook over medium-low to medium heat, stirring constantly, until milk-chocolate brown.

Stir in onions and garlic and cook until onions are soft and fragrant.  Whisking vigorously, slowly add water.  You must do this slowly and steadily or the roux and water won't come together.  Once the water is fully incorporated, whisk in the stock.  Add tomatoes, oregano, Tabasco, salt, and red pepper.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook, covered for 45-60 minutes. 

15 minutes prior to serving, add in shrimp.  Serve over white rice, garnished with green onions. 


*Preferably, you would buy fresh, head-on shrimp and use the heads and tails to create your own broth.  I made this on a weeknight, so while I had a big bag of shrimp heads and tails in the freezer, I wasn't willing to spend the time making the stock in addition to making the stew.  

**As I just mentioned, it would be preferable to use really fresh, head-on shrimp.  In that instance, you would want to buy 2-3 pounds of shrimp, since about half the weight is head and shell. 

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Homemade Chai

Hubby and I have spent the last week being sick (yay sharing sinus infection cooties!), so there has been almost no cooking in our household.  So here I find myself, Sunday night, with nothing readily available to post.  To the archives I must go!

For some reason, a memory arises of a time, many a year ago, when I made my own chai.  Chai, for those who aren't familiar, is a spiced Indian tea, usually made with a strong black tea and spices such as cardamom, ginger, and cinnamon.  If I had the ingredients, I would so love to whisk some up right now.  Alas, I don't, so I will have to make do with posting and dreaming.  I don't remember where the recipe comes from; I believe my aunt gave it to me once while I was visiting her. 

Homemade Chai
  • 1 2-inch piece of fresh ginger, cut into thin rounds
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 tsp black peppercorns
  • 10 whole cloves
  • 6 cardamom pods
  • 6 cups cold water
  • 6 bags of black tea (such as Darjeeling)
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • ½ cup brown sugar
Combine first 5 ingredients in medium saucepan. Using mallet or back of large spoon, lightly crush or bruise spices. Add 6 cups of water; bring to boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low, partially cover pan, and simmer gently for 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Add tea bags and steep 5 minutes. Discard tea bags. Add milk and sugar. Bring tea just to simmer over high heat, whisking until sugar dissolves. Strain chai into teapot and serve hot.

Serves 6