Posts Tagged ‘Everyday Cakes’
My excuse in making these is that I volunteered to bring some treats for my thesis class this week. Someone in my small class usually brings in a snack to share with the others, but up until now I hadn’t got the chance. How excited I was when no one beat me to volunteering to bring something this week! I had a lot of thinking to do, though: I had to bring something that everyone would enjoy, but everyone (as in random, normal people, not you foodie-like people who read this blog) usually enjoys philistine-ish cheesecake-cookie-dough-stuffed brownies or some such thing that I am much too snobby for. But I wanted them to like what I brought, and be happy and pleased and impressed that I made something so tasty.
(Vanity is a very bad fault of mine. As if that wasn’t already self-evident by the fact that I have a blog, or have made it my life goal to bake and cook for everyone I like so they will in turn like me more.)
Of course, while these are pretty gluttonous, they come from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, so that automatically meant that they were then not only satisfactory in my anti-philistine endeavor but that everyone would like them—because really, everyone likes anything produced by Smitten Kitchen. Seriously, it is a little crazy how Everyone, foodie or not, likes Smitten Kitchen. In fact, the only reason someone might not like that blog is just because it is seriously mind-boggling how universally appealing and wildly popular she is.
Anyway, so I knew these would be a winner. And, alas, they were! Everyone liked them, including my thesis adviser who said she usually doesn’t find baked goods “worth it.” (Some really aren’t worth it.) They are basically like slightly under-baked snickerdoodles in cake form. It’s a good thing. They’re made up of two different cake layers: one being a structured butter cake-like one, with the second having a more satiny smoothness which makes it “gooey” after it’s all baked up. The liberal sprinkling of cinnamon sugar on top brings the whole thing together and makes for a nice little crust. My photographs don’t really do the squares justice—I cut them up for packing after they had cooled down for only about 2 hours, and while they were definitely still good at this time, the longer they sat the more gooey the top became. Once again, it’s a good thing.
At the moment I am having something of a love-hate relationship with them, shared by my roommate, who earlier today said, “It’s a shame they taste so good.” Make them when you have people—lots of people!—to share them with. This recipe yields a whole lot of little devilish squares of goodness, and you don’t want square after square taunting you, distracting you, from the first draft of a thesis you happen to have due in two weeks.
One Year Ago: Chana Punjabi
Soft Cookie Base
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cream of tarter
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup whole milk
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons sugar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line the bottom of a 9 x 13-inch glass baking dish with aluminum foil, allowing the ends to hang over. Coat the aluminum foil with cooking spray or melted butter. Set aside.
For the cookie base, whisk together the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl; set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add in the egg and milk and beat until combined. The mixture will look a little curdled, but that’s okay–just make sure it’s all incorporated. Sprinkle the flour mixture over the wet and stir on low until just incorporated. Spread the dough in little dollops over the prepared pan, and smooth evenly. Set aside.
For the gooey layer, whisk together the corn syrup, milk, and vanilla in a small bowl; set aside. In the same bowl of the stand mixer that you just used (you need not wash it between layers), cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy (once again, about 2 minutes). Add the egg and beat until combined. Add 1/2 cup of the flour and stir until fully combined, then follow this with half the corn syrup mixture. Repeat this with another 1/2 cup of flour and the remaining corn syrup mixture, and then finish by combining in the last 1/4 cup of flour. Scrape down the bowl as necessary. Dollop the batter over the unbaked cookie base and spread into an even layer.
Mix together the sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle it in an even layer over the top of the batter. Use it all! Bake in the preheated oven until the edges have set but the center still looks gooey (this is important!), about 35 minutes. Let cool completely, about 2-3 hours. Lift the cake from the pan using the foil overhang, cut into 1 to 2-inch squares. Keep covered at room temperature for up to 3 days.
A “far” is a French custardy cake, one that’s more of a pudding than anything else (kind of like this French apple cake, but perhaps even a bit more pudding-like). Its crepe-like batter is thin, and when baked, its sides puff and billow up while getting a deep brown color. This version, with prunes, comes from Brittany (hence the Breton part), but to be honest I’m not sure if there are any other versions of French fars.
I first heard of this holiday cake from the blog Manger (my skilled abilities from my one semester of French urges me to tell you it’s pronounced mawn-jay with a very soft “j”). It’s one of those rare websites that is very singular in its nature, unable to be replicated by anyone. Perhaps that’s because no one else is possible so fortunate as to not only be beautiful with the most angelic-looking kids, but live in the idyllic French countryside with a pack of little soft dogs. To top it all off, she has an Icelandic husband (seriously, how many languages do their kids know?) who can take the loveliest photos to capture it all.
Manger’s version of far breton features prunes that soak in rum. The way she describes its pairing with the “homely batter” to make a “never-ending taste linger on until you have the last sip of coffee” was enough to sell me on the entire thing. While I chose to follow a different recipe though, one by Dorie Greenspan, I kept that same aspect of using only prunes, and soaking them in rum. They are scattered through the entire custardy cake, making bites vary between the thick and rich custard with the tart and juicy prunes.
Can we talk about prunes, just for one second? This is kind of a tangent, but I think its important. As I’m sure the whole world is aware, there’s kind of stigma surrounding prunes. I don’t know, something involving old people and digestive tracks. Anyway, that stigma has been driven so far so that all I see when I try to find them in the grocery store is “dried plums.” Really? David Lebovitz has an awesome post about this issue. Apparently they are a big delicacy in France, so I’m not sure why we’re so adamant about judging prunes and those who eat them anyway. They are delicious, and especially in this. And that is that.
Speaking of which, I hate to give off the impression that anything French or French-minded > anything in America, especially around the time of the holidays when I should be sticking strictly to American traditions. But I have to mention, Lindsey spent some time in Paris while studying abroad in Rome, and being the thoughtful twin sister that she is, she brought me back a heavy Paris restaurant guide, written in French. So even though I can read just about 1 out of every 20 words in the guide, I’ve kind of gone on a wanderlust for French things (per usual), and this far is a byproduct of that. Nonetheless, this is a beautiful cake that I hope to make even when I’m out of this kind of mood later on in the year.
One Year Ago: Classic Stout Gingerbread
Adapted slightly from Dorie Greenspan
Serves 6 to 8
2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup sugar
5 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
a good pinch of salt
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup small or medium-size pitted prunes (about 6 ounces)
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup rum
In a blender, combine the milk, eggs, sugar, butter, vanilla and salt. Blend for 1 minute, until fully blended and creamy. Add the flour and pulse, scraping down the sides a time or two, until just blended. Cover the blender container and chill for at least 3 hours or up to 1 day.
Meanwhile, combine the prunes and the 1/2 cup water in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat until almost all the water has been soaked or evaporated and the prunes have softened, about 10 minutes. Turn off the heat, pour the run over the fruit, and set aside to let the fruit cool completely.
When ready to bake the Far, position a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 375 degrees. Butter a 8 or 9-inch pan that has at sides at least 2-inches tall. Line bottom of the pan with parchment, butter it, then dust the pan with flour, shaking out the excess.
While the oven is heating, re-blend the batter just until smooth again, about 5 to 10 seconds. Pour about half the batter into the prepared pan. Place the prunes evenly into the batter, then continue to pour in the remaining batter. Bake in the preheated oven until sides are puffed and browned, and the center is golden, about 1 hour. The center should be just set, but it’ll still jiggle a bit; a knife inserted should come out clean though. Cool completely in the pan on a wire rack. Once cool, run a knife around the edge of the pan to loosen the cake. Invert the cake onto a plate, releasing the cake. Peel off the parchment, and invert again onto a serving plate. Dust the top of the cake with powdered sugar and serve.
My Fourth of July was spent in a manner most likely similar to that of most of my fellow Americans: with friends and family, out in the sunshine, eating myself confidently and without hesitation into a food coma. It was a wonderful time.
I hadn’t planned to cook or bake anything, and for the most part I didn’t. My mom slaved away in the kitchen during the afternoon to prepare a grilled feast for ten while I laid on the beach like the lazy sea anemones that surrounded me. I did however manage to pull through with dessert (surprise, surprise).
I wanted to make something my older sister, who has Crohn’s disease and whose stomach doesn’t do well with any sort of refined sugars, flours, dairy (besides yogurt or butter), and almost all types of grains and starches. Doesn’t sound like it leaves much, does it? The specific diet she follows is SCD, or specific-carbohydrate diet, if you’re familiar with those terms. Anyway I always try and bookmark recipes that look good and that are what I have come to call “Melissa-friendly” when I find any on the internet. I came across a recipe for a “paleo” chocolate snack cake at the blog Paleo Spirit, and I instantly knew that the moist-looking yet not too dense chocolate cake was something I had to save for a weekend when Melissa was home.
I was, however, a little nervous to be unarmed with my usual trusty standbys of refined white sugar and white flour. So I did what any normal person would do, and made a back-up, in the form of this key lime pie (always so good). Even when I finished the cake and had it displayed on my cake pedestal, I warned guests that it was little “experimental,” that it was sweetened naturally with honey and dates and that its only dry ingredients were cocoa powder and coconut flour. Up until the end, I had my doubts.
Lo and behold, every guest had a slice of both the pie and cake, and every one of them kept telling me how the cake tasted “just like normal chocolate cake.” But I kind of disagree. I liked it, liked it a lot, but it didn’t taste like your classic, dense yet smooth and intensely chocolate loaf cake (similar to this one here—and surprise! my first real blog post ever.) This cake is moist, tender, but the chocolate flavor is less forward. It’s sweet, but it has that more natural and heavy taste from the natural sweeteners of honey and dates. I guess what I’m trying to say is that it’s different, but neither worse nor better.
(The moral for me here may be that I sometimes need to stop trying to place everything as either good or bad, better or best or worse. Sometimes food is just what it is, and I shouldn’t obsess over finding just the “right” version of something. Something to keep note.)
Anyway, if you have specific diet needs, like say you can’t process white flour very well, or don’t stomach any heavy refined sugars, give this cake a try in place of your regular classic chocolate cake counterpart. If you don’t have any of those needs, try out this cake if you’re looking for something a little less heavy, a little more “healthy,” and a little less cloyingly simple and straightforwardly sweet. I especially loved the leftovers the next day, from the fridge. A damp and moist piece of chocolate cake as an afternoon snack? Don’t mind if I do, labels and presumptions set aside.
SCD Chocolate Cake (Grain-Free, Dairy-Free, Refined Sugar-Free)
Adapted slightly from Paleo Spirit
Serves 8 to 12
1/2 cup coconut flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch-processed)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
14 pitted medjool dates
1/4 cup honey
1 cup of unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, very soft
1 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 cup drip coffee or water
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9-inch springform pan with butter and line with parchment paper. Whisk together the coconut flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt until combined. Set aside.
Puree the dates in a food processor until completely smooth, about 20 to 30 seconds. The amount of date puree should total about 3/4 of a cup. Add the honey and applesauce and continue to puree until it creates a thoroughly combined and smooth mixture, about another 20 to 30 seconds.
Transfer the date-applesauce mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix in the soft butter until combined. Continuing on a low speed, add the eggs, one at a time, and then the vanilla and coffee. Mix until smooth and well combined—it’s okay if the mixture looks a little curdled almost, it’ll smooth out soon enough.
On low speed, sprinkle the dry ingredients into the wet mixture, and mix, making sure to scrape down the sides, until the batter is smooth. The texture should be stiff, similar to that of a brownie batter.
Pour into the prepared pan and gently smooth out the top. Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. The cake may look moist and maybe even unfinished, but if the toothpick is clean, take the cake out. Let cool completely. I like it served best chilled.
I’ve mentioned before that I go through phases of being intrigued by different cuisines. There was that time in late summer when I desperately wished I had been born Spanish and grew up having my days revolve around meals, tapas and drinks, and that period earlier this year when I wanted to associate myself with all things French (but who am I kidding here? I’m always in a French phase). Obviously, a romanticized stereotypical vision of this cuisine’s culture are required to accompany these culinary interests of mine.
Well everyone, I am happy to say that I am currently knee-deep in obsessing about another cuisine at the moment. It’s basically any food from the Middle East, but especially that of Lebanon, Turkey and Morocco. Waylon and I found a Middle Eastern grocery store downtown that has a little restaurant on its second floor, and it has now become our favorite place to eat when we go out not just because of how cheap it is, but because, guys it is just good. Think hummus, tangy tabbouleh and fried potatoes with paprika wrapped up in a warm pita good. Or sticky, warm and nutty baklava good. Since my first time visiting this restaurant I now have a Lebanese cookbook, medium-grind bulger and two types of zahtar in my pantry, and plans (albeit, a little abstract at the moment) to live in Beirut one day. Yeah, I told you my phases come on pretty strong.
Anyway, I had a little dinner party last week and guess what theme I went for? Yep, Middle Eastern. I pan-fried fresh, bubbly pita bread to be served with hummus, tabbouleh, zahtar, and yogurt and paprika marinated roast chicken. We piled different combinations of the flavors onto our pitas, each finding our favorite. For dessert I served this cake here, a sticky and juicy blood orange cake. It all seemed to work together, and the cake must have been alright—all that was left by the next morning was a thin, picked-at slice.
I think this cake is special because the tangy sweet orange syrup that’s poured on the cake after it comes out of the oven makes for a moist and juicy cake, just like the name insinuates. The candied orange slices on the top make for great textural and taste contrast, with the soft but slightly crunchy (from the semolina flour) cake crumb against the sticky bite of the blood orange. Oh yeah, and that’s besides the obvious fact that they make this cake look beautiful, in that rustic, humble kind of way.
The original of this recipe calls for satsuma oranges, but I’m I think the color and flavor of the blood oranges really stands out. Really any type of citrus works here though, so use whatever you’d like. Just make sure you cut the orange slices thin enough so they candy easily, and make sure you candy them all the way–you want the entirety of white pith part to look almost translucent, as if it were filled in. Oh, and there will be more candied slices than will be needed to top the cake. Take a hint from me and dip them in chocolate. And then eat them. This may or may not fit in with my current Middle Eastern thing, but that’s alright, I’ve still got this cake.
Juicy Blood Orange Cake
Adapted from Andrea Ruesing’s Cooking in the Moment, found via Bon Appetempt
4 to 5 thin-skinned satsumas, clementines, tangerines, blood oranges, or small navel oranges
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup semolina flour
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
To make the glazed oranges, finely zest one of the oranges to get around 1 to 2 teaspoons of zest in total. Set this aside and reserve it for the cake batter. Cut the orange in half and juice it, making sure not to get any seeds in the juice. You should have around the upwards of 1/3 of a cup; if not, you may need to juice a second orange to get enough juice.
Slice the remaining oranges into very thin rounds, no more than 1/4 inch thick. Remove and discard any seeds. If using a thicker-skinned citrus such as tangerines, blood oranges, or navel oranges place the thin slices on a plate. If using tangerines or blood oranges, microwave the slices on high for 2 minutes. If using navel oranges, microwave the slices on high for 3 minutes.
Combine the 1/3 cup orange juice, the lemon juice, sugar, salt and sliced orange slices in a medium saucepan over low heat and bring to a slow simmer. You may have more slices than liquid in the saucepan–this is okay, they’ll all get candied. Cook the slices in the simmering mixture for 7-10 minutes, mixing the slices around every once in awhile to distribute them among the syrup, until the peels are tender and the centers of the orange slices are starting to be translucent but not falling apart. If the peels are aren’t tender enough to cut with a fork (or still have any white of the pith), keep simmering until they are. Once candied, use a slotted spoon to transfer the slices to a plate. Continue to simmer the syrup until it has reduced to 1/2 cup, anywhere from 5 minutes to 15 minutes, depending on how long you simmered the orange slices and the size of your pan. Set aside.
To make the cake, begin by preheating the oven to 375 degrees F and buttering a 9-inch springform pan. If you don’t have one, butter a 9-inch cake pan and fit with a round of parchment paper on the bottom. In a medium bowl, whisk together the semolina flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Set aside.
Combine the butter and 3/4 cup sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat together on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 1 to 2 minutes. While the mixer is running, add an egg, waiting for it to incorporate completely and scraping down the bowl before adding the second egg. Add the reserved orange zest and combine.
With the mixer running on low, add the flour mixture to the egg and butter mixture a little at a time until all of it is incorporated, but do not over mix. It should be thick, almost like a brownie batter. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth out the top. Arrange the glazed orange slices in one layer on top of the batter—you will probably not use all of them, so just use the prettiest ones for your cake and eat the rest.
Bake the cake for 15 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 350 degrees F and bake the cake for 30 minutes more, for a total of 45 minutes, or until the cake is evenly golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan on a wire rack until warm, not hot. Remove the cake from the pan and place on a serving dish, if desired. Then, using a wooden skewer, poke holes all over the surface of the cake. Drizzle the reserved and reduced glaze over the top and brush to evenly distribute. This can be served warm or at room temperature.