29 June 2010

TWD on the road: Rum-Drenched Vanilla Cake

This weekend, I was visiting my friends Maura and Jonathan in Burlington, Vermont, another place you really should visit if you have a chance.  They were amazingly energetic and enthusiastic hosts and had a kajillion fun ideas, of which we were only able to do a few, since I only had four days.  I had such a great time!  This has been a really wonderful month.  (The cat would disagree, but she doesn't pay rent, so whatever.)

We spent a lot of time doing outdoors stuff.  Now, before you wrinkle up your delicate widdle nose, we weren't like camping or kayaking or rolling logs or wrestling moose or anything like that--just walking around some of the area's outdoor attractions, of which there are many.  On the penultimate day of my visit, they took me berry picking, WHICH I have been wanting to do for ages but never made it out when I was in North Carolina, and I can't find places to do it here in central Pennsylvania.

We were going for the novelty of it, but what do you think really happens when you put three PhDs in a big field with a big box and say, "put some stuff in here"?

Absolute overkill, that's what happens.

Fortunately, I am just diligent enough a TWDer and they are just indulgent enough hosts that I had already made a loaf from this week's TWD recipe, Rum-Drenched Vanilla Cakes (chosen by Wendy of Pink Stripes), a lovely simple and delicious recipe that I will most assuredly make again with a new title because I feel a mite silly calling it all of that.  Poor titling, but fantastic idea and execution.  And very convenient to have when you've got a bounty of fresh berries on hand!

Vanilla beans are ridiculously expensive, and I totally forgot to pack some in my mad dash to get out of the house (I also forgot to pay the cat sitter, go me), but they had some vanilla paste in the cabinet.  So I used that instead, and I think it worked well, if it was a bit messy.

Jonathan went out and got a bottle of Barbancourt rum, which I don't think I've had before but thought was pretty good.  I'm no rum aficionado, but I do think I've not been able to find any in my liquor stores to match the kind I found on a grocery store shelf in Santo Domingo years ago.  I am still clinging to the last couple ounces of that stuff.  I will probably have it forever.

I didn't know what to think about this whisking business.  Was I to whisk by hand or by Kitchenaid?  I had dismaying visions of 19th century women beating up pound cakes by hand (trust me, you don't want to do that) but this was much easier and the batter came out very smooth and familiar.

Though I only did half the recipe, I made the whole recipe of rum syrup.  Since I never had the cake before, I chickened out and only used half of it anyway.  I was pleased that it soaked up right away.  I had had to cover the cake with foil halfway through, but the finished result was still nice and soft when it came out.

I wrapped the finished cake and we let it sit for...two days, I think?  before eating it.

We all liked it a lot (or so they said.)  Maura said, "I can see craving this cake,"  and Jonathan was impressed with the restraint of the rum and the vanilla, as was I.  You can taste them both but they don't suckerpunch you in the face.  (Though I will be waiting on those bourbon balls, M.)  Holy mother of sugarcane was this ever good.  This is a definite makeagain.  And I hope I get to go back to Burlington!

21 June 2010

TWD: Dressy Chocolate Loaf Cakes

Hi everyone! I'm back in Northeastern Town, for a few days, anyway. 

First of all, Louisville?  You should SO totally go to there.  I am disappointed that I was usually too tired to go exploring much (reading and scoring 125+ exams a day for 6 days will kinda do that to ya), but what little I did see was surprisingly awesome.  I have every intention of dragging someone there if for nothing but the Bourbon Trail.

This week's TWD recipe was chosen by Amy of Amy Ruth Bakes.  Excellent selection!  I wasn't sure what to expect from this one, but it was a real winner.  It's a quick and easy variation on the humble chocolate layer cake;  only this one is done in a loaf pan instead of round or square pans, torted and filled with preserves and then iced with a super easy icing (it's just chocolate and sour cream.).  I was able to bang this out in a couple of hours.

I have very few pictures this week.  For one, the cake was so fast and easy to do, there really wasn't much of interest to photograph;  for two, my bum of a camera finally quit me, in spectacularly dramatic fashion, after a 5 year relationship.  Meh.  He wasn't no good noway.

The batter was mixed in standard butter cake fashion.  It came out to be a pretty thick batter, so I knew it'd be a nice sturdy cake, good for torting.  I did half the recipe and got three small loaf pans out of it.

Normally, when I torte cake, I refrigerate the aych out of it first.  It makes cutting it neatly so, so much easier.  In this case, I was impatient, plus I figured the cakes were small and sturdy enough to not really need it.

 I was right.  They sliced beautifully with a sharp knife.

For the filling, I used the last of a jar of apricot-raspberry preserves, which went very well with the iced cake.  I did the whole recipe of filling and of icing but I still only had enough for two cakes.  This was fine by me.

All in all, it's a very simple and satisfying layer cake.  The cake itself is a perfect texture, the icing is not overpoweringly sweet or bitter, and the preserves add a nice polite bit of interest. If I was sitting around the house and in the mood for chocolate cake, I'd totally consider making this one.  It's a little simpler than my *ahem* State-Fair-blue-ribbon-winning-chocolate cake, but it does the job. 

14 June 2010

TWD: Raisin Swirl Bread

 I think this modern-day still life bodes well, don't you?

This is gonna be a quick post, too.  I'm still on the road in Kentucky, where I am reading and grading Advanced Placement examinations (if you've got a kid who took them this year...um, my apologies in advance.  I have their best interests in mind, I swear!).  It's a very VERY busy schedule--long days of introspection into the minds of America's sixteen-year-olds will WEAR YOU OUT--so I can't say all I want to about this bread.  What I will say is 1) it's easy;  2) it came out perfectly;  3) it's fabulous; 4) thank you Susan, selector of this recipe!

The dough came out the perfect consistency without any extra add-ins of flour or milk.  Nice and satiny and non-sticky but still soft.

It also rose much faster than I expected--but then I remembered my yeast was "rapid rise."  Oops.

Since I had no oranges, I added a tablespoon of orange juice to the dough and plumped the raisins by simmering them in Grand Marnier.  

all ready for the oven

all ready for the rack

all ready for the eatin'

Is there much else to say?

13 June 2010

Pies With That: Bourbon Ginger Cream Pie

I was struggling to come up with an idea for this month's You Want Pies With That? theme, which was "Summery Drinks."  Pyrex Priestess Sarah gave me a plethora of ideas, including a bourbon and ginger pie, at which point I was like, um, YEAH!  (In case you don't know:  A bourbon and ginger is just what it sounds like:  ginger ale with a good dose of bourbon in it.  Like a rum and coke, but not.)

So alls I had to do was come up with a way to incorporate the taste of a bourbon and ginger into a pie.  I wanted to really try to capture the hot-sweet taste of ginger ale and the boozy finish of the bourbon. 

First, the crust.  I decided to start out big, making a crust from ginger cookies.  I haven't made cookie crust in forever and it was easy to toss together but baking was dodgy.  It initially seemed too buttery, but it cooled fine.

 it ain't pretty but it'll do.

I decided for the filling to go calorie crazy and make a variation of the French Custard from The Whimsical Bakehouse Cookbook.  First I made a ginger pastry cream by steeping chopped ginger in heated milk.

This was pleasantly ginger-flavored but wasn't quite enough to give me the really hot taste, so I added about a teaspoon of ginger directly to the finished cream and let it cool.  Now it had the proper STRONG make-your-eyes-water-ginger flavor, which was going to be important to keeping the integrity of the flavor in the next step. 

When the pastry cream was cold, I stirred in a tablespoon of bourbon and then made a bourbon whipped cream and folded it all together.

This gave me the right taste--gingery with a finish of bourbon.  The crust was a perfect accompaniment and I loved the creaminess of it.  SO SO GOOD.  Hooray!

*Strangely enough, I am typing this from Kentucky.  Go me.*

Bourbon-Ginger Cream pie


1 1/2 c ginger cookie crumbs
3-4 T butter, melted
1/8 c sugar
Mix all of the above together and pat into 9 inch crust.  Bake 7-8 minutes at 375 degrees and set aside to cool.

1 cup milk
1T chopped ginger
3 egg yolks
1/3 c sugar
1 pinch salt
2 T cornstarch
2 t chopped ginger
1 1/2 c heavy whipping cream
2 T confectioners' sugar
2T bourbon

In saucepan, steep 1 T ginger in milk and heat till boiling.  While the milk heats, beat yolks, sugar, and salt on medium till light and fluffy.  Add in cornstarch.  Slowly beat the hot milk in, then return to saucepan and whisk while returning to a boil over medium-low heat.  Boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly.  Stir in remaining ginger, pour into bowl and place plastic wrap on surface.  Refrigerate till cold.

When the pastry cream is cool, whip heavy cream, confectioners' sugar, and 1 T bourbon till stiff.  Stir remaining bourbon into cold pastry cream and fold pastry cream into whipped cream.  Fill and garnish pie.  Chill till ready to serve.

08 June 2010

TWD (on the road edition): Tender and Devilish Shortcakes

Today is my first TWD from the road!  I'm not on the road right now, but I was when I made these last weekend, when my lovely friend Sarah and her equally awesome husband Tom were gracious enough to feed, shelter, and entertain me on demand for four whole days in their adorable little light-filled townhouse in Charleston.

I am very bad about taking photos when I visit places.  I just don't ever think to do so, even when I have my camera in hand;  I'm always too busy just living in the experience of the moment.  I'm going to be kicking myself repeatedly if I ever get to be an old lady.  I'm getting to the point that I forget I've even gone on certain trips.  Some months back an old high school classmate posted photos of a band trip on Facebook, tagged me in some of the photos and I could not for the LIFE of me recall where the aych we were.  She eventually titled them, so I now know it was Cincinnati, but I still don't remember anything about that trip though it must certainly have been a big deal to me at the time. 

So I am afraid I don't have spectacular photos of Charleston to share.  I do, however, have pictures of things.  I love household stuff, though I have little of it myself, and Sarah and Tom have tons of fun and interesting collectibles all about the house.  Every day there was something new and delightful I hadn't noticed before.  I had not seem S or T in at least a year when I walked into the house, but I realized my like for them is about 6x more profound than I previously thought when I came into the living room and spied this:

I dare you to tell me that's not one of the best things you have ever seen in a living room.

Sarah also collects vintage dishes and glassware (and best of all, actually uses them) and is particularly--justifiably--proud of her growing collection of vintage Pyrex.  I think they are pretty fabulous and berated myself for not thinking of it.  Here's a sample:

This is her favorite pattern. I like it too.

I'm a fan of this one, as well.

Anyway, they were also indulgent enough to let me have the kitchen to make my TWD entry for the week on Memorial Day.  After hearing T proclaim that "it's not really dessert if there is no chocolate,"  I decided to make half recipes of the regular shortcakes and the "devilish" ones.

in vintage Pyrex, of course!

I whisked together the dry ingredients and smooshed in the butter and then stuck the bowls in the freezer while we enjoyed dinner.  It was fast and easy.  Once we were about ready for dessert I took them out to mix up and bake.

It was then that I noticed that the "Devilish" recipe calls for milk and egg, while the "tender" recipe only calls for heavy cream as a binder.  Perhaps that is why my results were so wildly different.  I tried the "tender" recipe first and could not get the dough to come together at all.  I just got tough little lumps.  I kept mixing, thinking it was too cold, but it wouldn't cooperate.  So I set it aside to move on with the chocolate ones, which came together beautifully.

I got 6 good-sized shortcakes out of it, which baked up perfectly and we went ahead and had them with berries and whipped cream.  I think they were a success.  They were more cakey than biscuity, but they were fluffy and delicious and just the right amount of sweet.

While those baked, I went back to work with the original recipe.  I finally broke down and added milk--I think I added about 1/4 cup--to make the dough look like the chocolate dough.  I also added a splash of vanilla.  I was petrified by that time that I'd overworked it and they would be all tough and dense, but they came out nicely. 

We were all full of homemade pizza and chocolate shortcake by then, but we divided one up and tasted it.  They weren't so great when hot;  they didn't seem thoroughly cooked, but they tasted wonderful, much like rich buttery shortbread.  The next morning we had them for breakfast and with a quick warm in the oven they were heavenly and perfectly baked.  This was a very successful recipe, I think.  I had a go-to shortcake recipe I liked already, but this might take its place for taste and ease.  Thanks to Cathy at The Tortefeasor for this week's selection!  (She'll post the recipe there.)

someone appreciates my return

01 June 2010

TWD: White Chocolate Brownies (with Lemon Cream Cheese Icing)

This will be a quick post today, but in short:  congrats to CB for FINALLY getting her long-desired post, and to Marthe for picking it.  This recipe was super fast and pretty easy, and I like them quite a bit--though I'd maybe argue with calling them "brownies";  they look and taste like "blondies" to me, all buttery and cakey.

 yay white chocolate!

I melted the white chocolate in the microwave instead of the stove, and rather than buying an orange I used lemon zest.  I thought the pan prep directions were overkill (butter pan, line bottom, butter liner, flour pan and liner) and I still had trouble getting the brownies out.  I also had to bake them way long--45 minutes for an 8x8 Pyrex pan and they were still a little damp in the center.  If I made them again, I'd probably decrease the oven temp by about 25 degrees. 

I knew I was going away for the week so I couldn't really do the meringue (plus I THINK IT'S EVIL);  instead I decided on a lemon cream cheese icing that was very good with the brownie, fluffy and not too sweet. 


Lemon Cream Cheese Icing
3 oz cream cheese
1/4 c butter, softened
1 1/2 c 10x sugar
2 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp lemon zest
1/8 tsp salt
Cream butter and cheese together.  Beat in sugar.  Add lemon juice and zest and salt and beat until fluffy.


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