Thursday, April 02, 2009

Coconut Cake- Happy Birthday to ME!

I usually make the Chocolate Angel Food Cake for my birthday.  I bought all the ingredients, and was ready to make it this morning, until I changed my mind, and made this Coconut Cake. We had a little party this afternoon and had some cake.  Amazingly good.  This is yet another Ina recipe.  She says 10-12 servings, but this would easily serve 16.  

Coconut Cake
10 to 12 servings

3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for greasing the pans
2 cups sugar
5 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons pure almond extract
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the pans
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup milk
4 ounces sweetened shredded coconut
For the frosting:

1 pound cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract
1 pound confectioners' sugar, sifted
6 ounces sweetened shredded coconut
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease 2 (9-inch) round cake pans, then line them parchment paper. Grease them again and dust lightly with flour.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium-high speed for 3 to 5 minutes, until light yellow and fluffy. Crack the eggs into a small bowl. With the mixer on medium speed, add the eggs 1 at a time, scraping down the bowl once during mixing. Add the vanilla and almond extracts and mix well. The mixture might look curdled; don't be concerned.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. With the mixer on low speed, alternately add the dry ingredients and the milk to the batter in 3 parts, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Mix until just combined. Fold in the 4 ounces of coconut with a rubber spatula.

Pour the batter evenly into the 2 pans and smooth the top with a knife. Bake in the center of the oven for 45 to 55 minutes, until the tops are browned and a cake tester comes out clean. Cool on a baking rack for 30 minutes, then turn the cakes out onto a baking rack to finish cooling.

For the frosting, in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the cream cheese, butter, vanilla and almond extract on low speed. Add the confectioners' sugar and mix until just smooth (don't whip!).

To assemble, place 1 layer on a flat serving plate, top side down, and spread with frosting. Place the second layer on top, top side up, and frost the top and sides. To decorate the cake, sprinkle the top with coconut and lightly press more coconut onto the sides. Serve at room temperature.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Broccoli and Bow Ties

I like to get away with making only 2 dishes for dinner- one protein, and the other starch and veg. So this definitely fills the bill. I make this and barbecue some chicken thighs, (like I did tonight), or I'll bake chicken fingers in the oven. My kids both eat this-I think the bow ties help disguise the fact that there is broccoli in here- and there are no onions, ( a deal breaker in this house).
It comes from the ever wonderful Ina Garten, in her Barefoot Contessa Family Style cookbook. Another recipe from Ina that is fantastic and easy- always.
For those counting the points- divide by 8 servings- no cheese- each serving is 4 points. Add a chicken thigh-take off the skin!- and your whole meal is 7 points.

6 to 8 servings

Kosher salt
8 cups broccoli florets (3-4 heads)
1/2 pound farfalle (bow tie) pasta
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons good olive oil
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 lemon, zested
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup toasted pignoli (pine) nuts
Freshly grated Parmesan, optional

Cook the broccoli for 3 minutes in a large pot of boiling salted water. Remove the broccoli from the water with a slotted spoon or sieve. Place in a large bowl and set aside.

In the same water, cook the bow-tie pasta according to the package directions, about 12 minutes. Drain well and add to the broccoli.

Meanwhile, in a small saute pan, heat the butter and oil and cook the garlic and lemon zest over medium-low heat for 1 minute. Off the heat, add 2 teaspoons salt, the pepper, and lemon juice and pour this over the broccoli and pasta. Toss well. Season to taste, sprinkle with the pignolis and cheese, if using, and serve.

To toast pignolis, place them in a dry saute pan over medium-low heat and cook, tossing often, for about 5 minutes, until light brown.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Rice Krispies Treats

Rice Krispies Treats!  I usually have my cookie jar replenished once every week or so.  But, it's getting close to swimsuit season again, so the cookie jar has remained empty.  Abbie wanted some cookies, so I suggested Rice Krispies Treats instead.  I've made a couple of small changes to the original recipe- but according to my calculations, each bar is worth only 1 Weight Watchers point.  Yum!

Rice Krispies Treats
1 tbs. unsalted butter
5 oz. regular marshmallows
3 cups Rice Krispies cereal

Lightly grease, or spray a 9" X 9" cake pan.  Put marshmallows into a microwave safe bowl with the unsalted butter.  Microwave on high 2 minutes, stirring after 1 minute.  Put Rice Krispies into a large bowl.  Add the marshmallow mixture to the cereal and mix thoroughly.  
Press into prepared pan.  Allow to cool.  (I usually put the pan in the fridge).  Cut into 16 squares.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Tacos with Homemade Flour Tortillas- Dinner

This was inspired by a recipe I found in Gourmet.  The recipe calls for bagged cole slaw mix from the grocery store, but the cole slaw from Bakesale Betty's restaurant in the Temescal neighborhood of Oakland is so much better than a plain bag-mix.  This was my first attempt at making tortillas.  I used some of my leaf lard from the freezer.  I don't think I would say that these tortillas were much better than what I can buy at the store.  Is that the fault of the recipe, or me?  I don't know, but I think I'll try corn tortillas next.  The flank steak rub was really good, and very easy.  I've posted the entire recipe here as written in Gourmet, (including bag cole slaw mix and store-bought tortillas).

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup lard
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 cup warm water

Special equipment: pastry blender, comal (Mexican griddle; optional), six- to ten-inch-long wooden dowel (found in hardware stores)

Stir together flour with salt in a bowl, then cut in lard with a pastry blender or your fingertips until the mixture resembles meal. Drizzle vegetable oil over and stir in warm water with a fork until a dough forms. Knead on a lightly floured surface until smooth and elastic, about 4 minutes, dusting hands occasionally with flour if dough is sticky.
Form dough into a ball, cover with plastic wrap, and let rest 1 hour. Heat a dry well-seasoned cast-iron comal, regular griddle, or skillet over moderately low heat until hot. Cut dough into 12 equal pieces and form into balls.
When rolling out 1 ball at a time with dowel, use just enough flour to prevent dough from sticking; you don't want excess flour coming off on the comal. Keep remaining dough covered with plastic wrap. Roll out each ball into a 7-inch round, maintaining an even thinness as you roll. Cook 1 tortilla on comal as you roll the next.
Tortilla will bubble and puff, and bottom will be browned in spots in 45 seconds. Turn it over and cook second side in same way, moving tortilla around to compensate for any hot spots on comal if necessary. Transfer to a kitchen towel. Stack and cover tortillas as cooked. They can be frozen (cool thoroughly first). Rewarm thawed tortillas on comal before using.

When rolling out 1 ball at a time with dowel, use just enough flour to prevent dough from sticking; you don't want excess flour coming off on the comal. Keep remaining dough covered with plastic wrap. Roll out each ball into a 7-inch round, maintaining an even thinness as you roll. Cook 1 tortilla on comal as you roll the next.
Tortilla will bubble and puff, and bottom will be browned in spots in 45 seconds. Turn it over and cook second side in same way, moving tortilla around to compensate for any hot spots on comal if necessary. Transfer to a kitchen towel. Stack and cover tortillas as cooked. They can be frozen (cool thoroughly first). Rewarm thawed tortillas on comal before using.

Carne Asada
Total Time: 15 min

1 tablespoon ancho chile powder
2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 (1-to 1 1/4-pounds) piece of flank steak
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
8 (7-to 8-inch) flour tortillas
3 cups packaged coleslaw mix (7 ounces)

Accompaniments: sliced pickled jalapeños; sour cream; lime wedges

Preheat oven to 350°F.
Stir together ancho powder, cocoa, and cinnamon.
Pat steak dry and season with 3/4 teaspoon salt, then coat with spice mixture. Heat oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until it shimmers, then cook steak, turning once, 8 to 9 minutes for medium-rare.
While steak cooks, wrap tortillas in foil and warm in oven.
Let steak rest 5 minutes on a cutting board, then thinly slice across the grain at an angle.
Serve steak with warm tortillas and coleslaw mix.

Bakesale Betty's Cole Slaw

The vinaigrette
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

The coleslaw
1 small red onion, very thinly sliced
1 cup red wine vinegar
2 jalapenos, seeded, cut in half and sliced crosswise
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/2 green cabbage, core and outer leaves removed, and very thinly sliced
Kosher salt

For the vinaigrette: Combine mustard, vinegar and salt in a bowl. Slowly whisk in olive oil until well blended.

For the coleslaw: Macerate onions in red wine vinegar, and let sit at least 20 minutes. Remove onions and discard vinegar. Toss onions with jalapeno, parsley, cabbage and salt. Toss with vinaigrette until evenly coated.
Note- I don't use nearly as much vinaigrette as called for here.  I make a half recipe and use about 1/2- 3/4 of what I've made.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Leaf Lard

I have been looking for leaf lard for a while now. It is supposed to make the very best pie crust you will ever eat. I asked a butcher about it a couple of years ago. He told me he had a 50 pound bucket that I could buy. That was a little too ambitious for me. A couple of days ago, my brother and I were at the Ferry Building in San Francisco, and I remembered someone telling me that I could find leaf lard at the Golden Gate Meat Company. I talked to the butcher, and was carrying a bag with 2 lbs. of white fat in it minutes later. I found easy instructions on how to render the fat online. Some people do it in the microwave, or their crock-pot. I used my dutch oven- one of the most versatile pots I own, and my oven. The following directions are from the Flying Pigs Farm website.My ground leaf lard ready to go into the oven.
After 2 hours in the oven.  Ready to strain.
Strained fat.
Approximately 6 ounces of fat in each tin.
Frozen blocks of lard.

From the website-
The trick to rendering lard is to do it low and slow, so that the small amount of water in the lard can evaporate. But the lard must be pulled from the heat before it turns too dark or hot. It’s actually a very simple procedure: you heat the lard, strain it, and then cool it. But it takes several hours, so plan accordingly. The recommendations that follow are for rendering lard in the oven. Some people use a double boiler or a Crock Pot instead. In addition to some type of pan, you'll also need cheesecloth and a sieve or colander, an Instant Read thermometer, and storage containers. Expect a yield of approximately 70%. The slower the process, the higher the yield.

Grind the lard in a meat grinder or cut it into small pieces.
Turn the oven on to 300 or 325º. Put the lard into a heavy wide pan, such as a roasting pan, and put it into the oven.
Some people pour a very small amount of water into the pan first—just enough to cover the bottom—to keep the lard from scorching in the beginning. Eventually this water will boil away, but it takes longer to do it this way. If you keep a close eye on the lard, it’s not necessary.
Stir the lard frequently. As the water evaporates the temperature will rise. Check temperature frequently with an Instant Read thermometer. Be forewarned that this will take a long time at low heat. As the lard renders, the cracklings (brown bits of crispy fried tissue that do not render) will float to the surface. When the lard is almost done and the cracklings have lost the rest of their moisture, they will sink to the bottom.
When the temperature reaches about 255º, remove the pan from the oven and allow the lard to settle and cool slightly. The lard will be a gold color, but it will turn white when it solidifies.
Carefully strain the lard through several layers of cheesecloth lining a sieve. Fill ice cube trays or muffin tins with the strained lard. This will allow you to easily take out a small portion when you need it. Cool quickly, and then freeze. After it’s frozen, store it in Ziploc bags. It will last in the freezer for a very long time, more than a year or two. It will last in the fridge for several months.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Chocolate Panna Cotta Cake

Beautiful and delicious cake. I made this for a baby shower I'm throwing. I love the chocolate band. This is the same technique I used for my sister-in-law's birthday cake last year, with the white chocolate band. I don't have 2 spring-form pans, so I used a spring-form pan for one layer, and a regular cake pan for the other. Make the final cake in the spring- form pan, if you need to do the same. I also used 9 inch spring-form and cake pans- I don't own a 10 inch. It worked out fine, but I had a lot of panna cotta left over, and the cake is quite tall. I put the leftover panna cotta into ramekins, and let the kids eat it like chocolate pudding.

For the cake-
Nonstick vegetable oil spray
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup hot coffee
1/2 cup hot water
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
3 large eggs
1/2 cup sour cream

Panna Cotta:
1/2 cup water
5 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
7 1/2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
5 ounces high-quality milk chocolate, such as Lindt or Perugina, chopped
2 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
2 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/4 vanilla beans, split lengthwise

Chocolate Band:
2 16x3-inch strips waxed paper
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped

For cake:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray two 10-inch-diameter springform pans with 2 1/2-inch-high sides with nonstick spray. Place chocolate and cocoa in medium bowl. Pour hot coffee and hot water over; whisk until smooth. Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in another medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat oil and both sugars in large bowl 1 minute (mixture will be crumbly). Add eggs 1 at a time, beating to blend after each addition. Beat in sour cream. Mix in half of dry ingredients. Beat in chocolate mixture. Add remaining dry ingredients; beat on low speed just to blend (batter will be thin). Divide batter between pans (layers will be shallow).
Bake cakes until tester inserted into centers comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Cool in pans on rack.

For panna cotta:
Place 1/2 cup water in small bowl. Sprinkle gelatin over; let soften 10 minutes. Place both chocolates in large metal bowl. Combine cream, milk, sugar, and vanilla extract in large saucepan. Scrape in seeds from vanilla beans; add beans. Bring to boil, stirring until sugar dissolves; remove from heat. Add gelatin mixture; whisk to dissolve. Pour cream mixture over chocolates in bowl; whisk until completely melted. Place bowl over a larger bowl of ice water. Stir often until mixture thickens like pudding, draining off water and adding more ice to larger bowl as needed, about 30 minutes. Remove from over water.
Pour 1/2 of panna cotta over cake in 1 pan (mixture may drip down sides of cake). Freeze 45 minutes. Keep remaining panna cotta at room temperature.
Remove pan sides from second cake. Using large metal spatula, carefully slide cake off of pan bottom and place a top panna cotta in cake pan. Pour remaining panna cotta over, filling pan completely. Chill overnight. DO AHEAD: Can be covered and frozen for 2 weeks. Defrost overnight in refrigerator before continuing.

For chocolate band:
Line large baking sheet with foil; set aside. Place another large sheet of foil on work surface; place waxed paper strips atop foil, spacing apart. Stir chocolate in medium bowl set over pan of simmering water until smooth. Pour half of melted chocolate down center of each waxed paper strip. Using small offset spatula, spread chocolate to cover strips evenly, allowing some of chocolate to extend beyond edges of paper strips, making sure strips are completely covered. Using fingertips, lift strips and place on foil-lined sheet. Chill until chocolate just begins to set but is still completely flexible, about 2 minutes.
Cut around pan sides to release cake. Remove pan sides from cake. Using fingertips, lift 1 chocolate band from foil. Wrap band around cake, waxed-paper side out, lining up 1 long edge with bottom of cake (band will be higher than cake). Repeat with second band, arranging so ends just meet, pressing band onto uncovered side of cake. If bands overlap, trim any excess paper and chocolate. Using fingertips, press top edge of band in toward cake, forming slight ruffle. Chill until chocolate sets, 5 minutes. Gently peel off waxed paper. Chill cake. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Chill.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Birthday Cake- Golden Chiffon Cake

Aundra's birthday cake this year.  Not as fancy as last year's, but still very good.  I made a chiffon cake for this.  We were going to be at 6000 feet, and I didn't want to mess around with baking.  I also knew that I had to freeze this cake, and didn't want it to dry out.  It stayed really moist. Chiffon cake is very similar to angel food, I think.  It's frosted with a nice french buttercream, flavored with strawberry sauce.

Chiffon Cake- makes 2 8-inch layers
224 g. cake flour
7 g. baking powder
194 g. sugar #1
zest from 1/2 lemon
113 g. vegetable oil
112 g. egg yolks
128 g. water
6 g. vanilla
226 g. egg whites
96 g. sugar #2
1 g. cream of tartar

Sift together the flour, baking powder, first sugar; add the lemon zest.
In a separate bowl, whisk the liquid ingredients; add the dry ingredients slowly to make a smooth batter.
Whip the egg whites, sugar #2 and cream of tartar to medium peaks.
Fold the meringue into the batter in three stages until there are no streaks.
Pour into ungreased, papered pans- 550 g. per pan.
Bake at 335 degrees convection for about 30 minutes or until done.
Remove from pans when cooled.