Tuesday, April 26, 2011

TCS: Cold Oven Cream Cheese Pound Cake

It's been awhile since I've baked along with everyone over at The Cake Slice. Life got in the way for awhile. Add in my inherent tendency towards procrastination and there just wasn't time. So despite being late this month, I'm proud that I actually got off my...couch...and into the kitchen to make this months cake.

I've been trying somewhat unsuccessfully to live more of a gluten free life. Mostly because eating gluten I've found leaves me feeling exhausted and scatterbrained, not to mention cranky.  But after last weeks attempt to bake gluten free cookies, I was a little leery about trying it with a cake. And as I understand the Gluten Free baking world, one does not typically take a recipe and swap out the main ingredient without repercussions. So yes, of course, I thought "hey, I'll just switch out the KAF Gluten Free Flour for the cake flour. And while I'm at it, I'll just toss in some arrowroot powder for binding and swap out some of the flour for cornstarch."

I consider myself extremely lucky that I have a cake to talk about at all, not to mention one that was actually pretty good and even tasty. The cake was tender without the funky gritty aftertaste I found with the rice flour I'd used for the cookies last week. Then again, with two sticks of butter and a package of cream cheese, this cake had some tasty friends to help it on its way. The only issue, and it was minor, that I did have was that the outside of the cake (crust for want of a better word) had a somewhat curious taste...not unpleasant but there a slight bit of chewiness there.

To be on the safe side, I baked the cake for 65 minutes...lucky for me as it was done. And actually, lucky for me that the cake came out of the pan and I had skipped the flouring process when I was prepping the pan from sheer laziness.

Overall, I really liked this cake. For gluten free, way better than I had expected and makes the prospect of gluten free baking much more appealing (thanks KAF). The photo doesn't do the cake full justice...I took the picture late at night with overhead lights but it does have a nice color to it in real life.

Rating: A-

From: Cake Keeper Cakes by Lauren Chattman

3 cups King Arthur Gluten Free Flour
(minus 3 tbsp/replaced by 3 tbsp cornstarch)

1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 sticks butter, softened
1 tsp arrowroot powder
8 oz cream cheese, softened
2 1/2 cups sugar
6 eggs (room temperature)
1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp lemon zest powder

Adjust rack to lower middle position. Grease bundt pan and flour (trust me, the flouring step is important as I learned when I fought to get the cake out of the pan.) Combine flour, baking powder, salt, cornstarch and arrowroot powder in bowl.

Combine butter, cream cheese and sugar and cream using electric mixer on medium high for 3 minutes or until fluffy. Lower speed to medium and add eggs, one at a time, scraping down as needed after each addition. Beat in vanilla, ginger and lemon zest.

Turn mixer speed to low and add flour mixture in half cup increments, scraping down bowl as needed. After last addition, increase speed to medium for 30 seconds. Pour into bundt pan.

Put cake in cold oven. Turn heat to 325 and bake WITHOUT OPENING DOOR for 65 to 80 minutes. I highly recommend checking at 65 minutes as my cake was already done at that point. Cool in pan for 15 minutes and invert onto rack. Cool completely before slicing and serving.

Store cake in cake keeper at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Gluten Free Thin Mints Style Cookies

There are some words that strike fear into my culinary heart.

Whipping egg whites. Folding with a light hand. And now a new one.  Gluten free baking.

Now mind you, it's not an official diagnosis by my doctor. Just a suggestion from one of my friends who thought that my irritability, tiredness and spaciness seemed to coincide mostly after I'd been eating something with gluten. And gave me a challenge to try going gluten free for a week. I would of course like to blast holes into the theory, except that I'm very crankily unhappy  to announce that I have more energy and concentration just after 24 hours of not eating gluten products. So, I might just have to settle for pelting said friend with dinner rolls until I feel better. Just for bringing logic into my happy food based life.

I'm really really REALLY hoping that this is just something that got triggered into going overboard because of a lot of stress. And that if I"m really good about behaving myself I might be able to go back to the real deal. But in the meantime, I'm at least going to  give gluten free baking the benefit of the doubt until the weather gets warmer for ice cream. At least to post about it. I very happily eat ice cream when it's well below zero.

As for gluten free baking, I did try making these mint cookies t with brown rice flour and wasn't too happy with them. I know that Bob's says they grind the flour super fine but it still tasted gritty to me. Didn't stop me from eating several of the cookies although I think that had more to do with the fact that they were covered with chocolate that helped console me somewhat.I have a box of King Arthur Flours multi purpose gluten free flour that I think I'll try again with the recipe to see if that would help at all. Either that, or pulverize the brown rice flour in my food processor to see if fixes the gritty issue.

Overall, these were okay. Given my preference for chewy cookies, I should have probably gone with another one from the book but I think with practice and time, I might try these one more time to see if I can fix the issues I had with it.

Thin Mints -Style Cookies
from: The Ultimate Gluten Free Cookie Book by Roben Ryberg
1/3 cup oil
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup brown rice flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 egg
1/8 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp xanthan gum
1 tsp vanilla extract

12 oz broken milk chocolate bar
2 tbsp confectioner's sugar
1/2 tsp mint extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease cookie sheet.

In medium bowl, combine oil and sugar. Beat well. Add brown rice flour and beat well. Scrape sides of bowl down at least once during mixing. Add remaining ingredients and beat well. Beat until dough comes together. Dough will be soft and oily to the touch.

Roll small balls of dough and flatten slightly on cookie sheet. Bake 8-9 minutes or until tops are dry (mine took closer to 12 minutes in electric oven). Cool well - cookies should be crisp when completely cooled.

Melt milk chocolate in microwave, 1-2 minutes on high or until melted. Stir in sugar and mint extract and mix until creamy. Dip cookies into chocolate and place on waxed paper.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Dilly BLT Pasta Salad

No need to worry.

If you think that the earth did stop spinning for one brief second last week, you are correct. Not only did I cook twice (and blog about it to boot) I actually cooked from one of my brand new cookbooks. Regarding my dozens of other abandoned and neglected cookbooks, let's just all pretend they don't exist and avoid that sad topic for another day.

One of my favorite things to get for a quick evening meal (although out of sheer laziness it's few and far between) is Jewel's BLT pasta salad. Totally yummy and all it requires of me is to find a clean dish and a fork (although, I've been known to eat directly out of the container at times and skip the plate altogether). This recipe is not quite as convenient and does require more organization but it's just as equally yummy and should last me for a few lunches or dinners easily this week.The recipe states that it serves four, but I think I could easily get six fairly nice sized meals out of this as long as I stay out of the kitchen and stop picking out of the bowl.

Apart from eating several slices of the bacon and having less for the salad, the only other substitution I made was to swap dill for the thyme called for. One, because I had no thyme and having discovered how awesome fresh dill tastes, I wanted to use some more of it before I have to throw it away. Also, in an effort to eat somewhat healthier, I did use fat free mayonnaise and fat free sour cream. Comparing the store bought version with this, there was definitely a little decrease in the flavor but I think that if I had added a little more dill it would have complemented the overall dish nicely.

Overall rating, a solid A. And with the lettuce and tomatoes in there I can rationalize it as being healthy for me, hopefully enough to compensate for all that lovely bacon! Plus, even the bacon has got to be good for me because I made it in the oven laid out on a cooling rack on top of a cookie pan. So that makes it healthy with all the grease dripping below. Right?

Dilly BLT Pasta Salad
Slightly Adapted from: Food Network "Great Easy Meals"

12 oz tri-colored rotini pasta
1/2 cup milk
12 oz lean bacon
1 can fire roasted diced tomatoes with onion
1 tbsp fresh dill
1 clove garlic, minced
Kosher Salt and fresh ground pepper
1/2 cup fat free maynnnaise
1/4 cup fat free sour cream
4 tbsp chopped scallion greens
5 cups chopped romaine hearts

Cook pasta according to directions. Drain, toss with milk and set aside.

Cook bacon in oven, laid out on rack slightly elevated over cookie pan so that grease drips below and does not saturate bacon. Drain on paper towels. Crumble into bite sized pieces.

Toss pasta with diced tomatoes, dill and garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Mix mayonnaise, sour cream and 3 tbsp chives with pasta until evenly combined.Add lettuce and toss again to coat. Top with reserved bacon and remaining scallion greens. Serve at room temperature.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Blueberry Upside Down Cake with Yogurt Sauce

This happened to be one of the books I bought sight unseen. I had drooled (and bought) Roland Mesnier's other book, "Dessert University," after a visit to my local library. Come to think of it, this was also during the dreaded cake phase I was going through where I felt I had to have cake books. All of them. Now.

Fortunately, my wallet did not agree with the decision to buy all of the available cake books. So, I had to make do for a few weeks while this stage lasted by checking out books at the library. But on impulse, based on my love of "Dessert University" I bought his other book sight unseen over at Amazon. And since this book was the opposite of what I normally go for in cookbooks, I didn't do much with it. We're talking no glossy pages or full color photos. In other words, no visual string pulling on my culinary heartstrings. So I tucked it away on my bookshelf and left it there for a few years. Until I had one of my rare, "I must have cake and bake it myself moments" that inspired me to finally crack this open again and give it a second chance.

As recipes go, this is a slightly complicated simple recipe. There's a minimum of ingredients which is always a plus with a baking technique that I've had very little experience with. But I would still give this a enthusiastic thumbs up for flavor and texture. The cake was very light, with the blueberries playing a big role in providing sweetness. I wasn't terribly fond of the yogurt sauce recommended to go along with the cake and would prefer a lightly sweetened whipped cream instead. It's a cake that would be very easy to overbake (as I did) so start checking your cake early. After a few hours of sitting, the juice from the blueberries will soak into the cake making it very tender and melt in your mouth. I would prefer this as a dessert although the recipe also recommends it for breakfast and brunch. Be warned - it's a dessert/brunch/breakfast with a short life span...it was great the day of, but it had definitely gone slightly stale by the next day.

My only substitution was to use frozen blueberries instead of the fresh recommended which worked out well. I also skipped the step of melting jelly and glazing the berries, mostly for convenience.

Blueberry Upside Down Cake with Yogurt Sauce
From: Roland Mesnier's Basic to Beautiful Cakes 

3 cups blueberries
4 large eggs
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup plus 1 1/2 tbsp all purpose flour
pinch salt
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 cups plain yogurt mixed with 1/4 cup honey 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Grease cake pan. Line bottom with parchment paper and grease paper. Arrange blueberries in even layer on bottom of pan.

Pour 2 inches of water into medium saucepan and bring to bare simmer. Combine eggs and sugar in bowl of stand mixer. Place bowl over simmering water and whisk constantly until egg mixture is lukewarm and reads 86-90 degrees ( I went by touch).

Return bowl to stand mixer with whisk attachment. Whisk on high speed for 5 minutes. Reduce speed to medium and whisk until mixture is cool, thick and creamy, approximately 12 minutes.

Using rubber spatula, fold in flour, salt and vanilla. Pour batter over blueberries, Tap cake pan on counter 4-5 times to eliminate any large air pockets. Bake until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, approximately 40 minutes.

Remove cake from oven and let cool in pan 5-10 minutes. Invert onto plate, berry side up. Allow cake to cool completely. Serve with yogurt sauce if desired.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Ricotta, Ham and Scallion Tart

 Egg and ham to me are just a marriage made in heaven. Whenever I have the chance to go out to breakfast, it's pretty much a given that I'll order either an omelette or a skillet, heavy on the ham. Somehow, in the back of my mind, I can rationalize the fact despite being about  to eat hundreds of calories in this innocent looking food, I can still rationalize it as being healthy when I compare it with the pancake side of the menu.So when I saw this recipe in my latest impulsive cookbook purchase, I was off to the grocery store. Even more amazing...I ONLY HAD THE BOOK FOR A WEEK BEFORE I COOKED FROM IT!

It's the little things in life that mean a lot.

 However, my quest to not burn a crust continues. Although this recipe calls for refrigerated pizza crust, it still gave me the culinary twitches. I put tart exactly where I was told to, at the right temperature, checked the tart early and STILL burned the crust.

No matter. The rest of the tart was still delightful. While mixing the ingredients together, I realized that the filling wasn't going to be enough for the size of the tart pan so I doubled that part of it(reflected below.).

My only problem with the recipe was that the list of ingredients did not include water (I added it to ingredients below) but it was called for in one of the steps. Also, I felt that the tart could have benefited with a touch of salt. Apart from that,  I would definitely make this again. It's a light, simple and quick meal after work, even for someone as lazy as me.

Ricotta, Ham and Scallion Tart
Modified slightly from Food Network Great Easy Meals

3 tbsp unsalted butter
One 13.8 oz tube refrigerated pizza crust dough
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 large eggs
2-3 bunches scallions
4 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
3-4 tbsp chopped fresh dill
freshly ground pepper
5 oz deli sliced ham
2 tbsp water 

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place baking sheet on top rack of oven  (I did not do this but placed tart pan in correct area with burnt crust after 18 minutes.)

Grease tart pan. Line pan with pizza dough, press carefully against sides and trim excess dough.

Whisk ricotta, cream and eggs in medium bowl. Mince enough green scallions to make 2 tbsp, add to ricotta mixture with parsley and dill. Season with pepper. Slice remaining scallions into small pieces.

Heat 2 tbsp butter in skillet over high heat. Add sliced scallions and water, cook until scallions are tender, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat, add ham. Spread most of scallion mixture on crust. Pour in ricotta mixture and scatter remaining scallion mixture on otp.

Bake tart for 20 minutes or until crust is golden and filling set. Rest in pan for 5 minutes, then slice and serve.