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Monday, February 28, 2011

HCB: Sticky Toffee Pudding

This week's selection from HCB is Sticky Toffee Pudding. I have to admit that I am not looking forward to this cake at all. It sounded very much like a spice cake, which we did not enjoy much. If this cake had ben scheduled last year, I would have probably skipped it. But as it is nearing the end for the group - with Marie only having 8 cakes left. And I'm over 2/3rd done with the book, I am determined not to miss any cakes from this point on.

So sticky toffee pudding it is for this week. I made 1/3 of the recipe, baked in silicone cupcake pans, sans wrapper. 1/3 recipe yield 5 cupcakes.

I actually didn't even realized that Rose provided the mini/individual serving option, to be baked in ramekins or small brioche mold. Had I realized it, I might have done that. I don't regret making mine in cupcake pans though, the result looked cute (and yes it's all about mini and cuteness at Knitty Baker's house). As my dear blogger friend Monica said, the cuteness is killing her (in a good way). Don't die on me Monica, I don't know what I'd do without you!

The cake is fairly easy to make. It calls for boiling guiness stout beer and then macerating dates in it. We don't drink beer so I followed Hanna's path and use ginger ale instead. I've never boiled ginger ale before and never add baking powder into it either. It was fun to see the ale hisses at the baking powder. Then add the dates to the hot ginger ale liquid.

While the ginger ale is cooling, I prepped the rest of the ingredients. The good thing about making 1/3 recipe is that it takes so much faster for things to cool down. So after 15 minutes the ginger ale mixture has cooled. I took Hanaa's advice and use my immersion blender to puree the ale.

Next mix the butter, sugar, and vanilla in the mixer. Add the eggs in 3 additions, beating after each one. Let me tell you that it's not easy splitting 1 egg into 3 additions, but I managed somehow. Once all the egg is added, add in the dry ingredients mixture and the dates mixture, alternating between the two.

While the cupcakes are baking, I contemplated making the sauce. It looks easy enough, but super rich. All that butter. I was, nevertheless, intrigued. Then I read the name of the sauce: "butterscotch toffee sauce." That just sounded so heavenly. So I made 1/5th of it. Crazy math, I know! But I figured that this way I get to taste it and find out what it's like, but not feeling guilty of using 2 sticks of butter.

I skipped out the creme fraiche because I forgot to buy it. On the 1st photo up above, I just poured the sauce over it. But then thought that I should still use pecans even though I have no cream. So there are pecans in the second photo. I couldn't decide which photo is better. I like the subtle-ness of the first one, but love the color pop of the second one. So I'm posting both. I hope you guys like the pictures :).

You can find the recipe on David Leite's website here.

Tasting impressions:
I had very low expectations of this cake. And it turned out better than the spice cake. I heated it up in the microwave (with the sauce) for 10 seconds and it's nice, warm, and moist. The sauce really add a nice flavor to the cake. And I love the crunchy pecan alongside it. I'm not sure this cake will be on a repeat list, but I'm glad I made it. At least now I know what sticky toffee pudding is!

Friday, February 25, 2011

FFWD: Short Ribs in Red Wine (sans Port)

This week's selection from FFWD is short ribs in red wine and port. I was looking forward to this recipe. I have never cooked with short ribs before and it sounded so good (how could anything braised in red wine for hours taste bad? :)).

The ribs that I got happened to be humongous, 5 of them are already 2.2 pounds, so that's all I bought. I decided to keep with the recipe and use the same quantity of vegetables.

First the ribs are broiled in the oven for 10 minutes. Then the vegetables are sauteed until a bit wilted and soft. Next is the part where I'm supposed to pour in the wine and port, reducing it to half. I decided to forgo the port for a couple of reasons. One, it's expensive. Two, the last time I made something with port, it was too heavy and my stomach was unsettled afterwards.

Then pour in the beef broth, add star anise, rosemary, thyme, parsley, and celery leaves and bring it to a boil. Place the pot in the oven for 3 hours at 350 degrees.

The recipe calls for cooking it for 2 hours, but by the 2 hour mark, the meat were not as tender as I'd like them to be. So I cooked them for 3 hours until they looked like they want to fall off the bone.

Cooking them for 3 hours resulted in them vegetables to be super tender, so when I strained them out, they turned into puree. Add that to the fact that there are not that much liquid leftover, resulted in a dense sauce, so no sauce reduction needed. The sauce is chunky and not pretty but since I'm serving this just for myself and hubby, we care only that it taste good.

And oh boy it is good. The meat is so soft and tasty and they peeled off the bone clean. I served this with roasted fingerling potatoes and carrots.

Monday, February 21, 2011

HCB Free Choice: Heavenly Coconut Seduction Cake

For HCB Free Choice this week I made the Coconut Seduction Cake. I was curious and excited about making this cake. Curious because I am not a big fan of coconut dessert (the real fruit I like) but this cake looks so pretty in the book. Excited because hubby LOVES coconut dessert, so I'm excited about making him happy (I know.. cheesy cheesy..).

It's not easy to take pictures of a white cake. I started with a completely white background and though it looks bright, the whole thing looks blah. So I switched to this colorful flowery cloth, which, I'm not sure if it's too busy. So I hope you guys like the pictures.

This cake is real easy to put together. I decided to go with Rose's alternative suggestion and use coconut milk instead of cream of coconut. Mostly because reading up on the cream of coconut ingredients, they all sound so hm.. scary. All those chemicals that I don't know about. Whereas coconut milk has about 1 ingredients. Clear as day!

This cake is similar to regular butter cake, with coconut milk substituting milk in this cake. Process the coconut and sugar in the food processor until fine. Then mix the egg whites with a bit of coconut milk, coconut extract, and vanilla extract. Mix all the dry ingredients in the mixer. Add in the rest of the coconut milk and butter. Then add in the egg mixture in 2 additions.

To make matter more interesting, I made 70% of the cake. I wanted to have enough batter for my 6 inch heart pan and have a few mini cakelets. I could have made just half the recipe and take some batter to fill the cakelets but then my cake would be short. So 70% it is - and it yield 1 6 inch cake and 4 mini cakelets.

While the cake is cooling, I placed the mixer and mixer bowl in the fridge. After the cake cooled, I made the cornstarch stabilized whipped cream. Paying more attention this time so it would not curdled. Though I guess if it did, it would not have mattered as the cream will be covered with shredded coconut anyway.

One complaint I have about this recipe is that it used 2 different shredded coconut. The one for the cake batter is unsweetened and the one for topping is sweetened. When I read this I rolled my eyes! I refused to buy 2 different coconut so I bought the unsweetened one instead.

Tasting impression:
YUM! I actually liked this cake. The coconut flavor is not too strong (that's why I like it :)). And I love whipped cream. Hubby love it as well.

Friday, February 18, 2011

FFWD: Green Beans with Pancetta

This week's selection from French Fridays with Dorie is Green Beans with Pancetta. I have only used Pancetta once - a long time ago - so I'm a bit curious as to how it would taste and how it would compare to bacon. Now bacon, that's a different story. I love bacon. In fact, I currently have some in the freezer :).

Anyway, back to pancetta. The recipe tells you to dice it and then saute on the pan. It does not, however, tell you to render the fat. Which basically means that once you get a nice pool of fat on the pan, you pour it off to a bowl. I like doing this with bacon as well. It makes them crispier, and also it's healthier. Ha, if you can call pancetta or bacon healthy, that is. But you would be amazed to see how much fat ended up in your bowl. I definitely do not want all that clogging my arteries.

While the pancetta is rendering, I boil some water. Once it comes to a boil, add some salt and throw in all the green beans. I set the timer for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, drain the green beans and immediately plunge it into a bowl of cold water with lots of ice. We are shocking the green beans so it stopped cooking. This also maintains their bright green colors.

Finally, leaving 1 Tbsp of the fat on the pan, add some butter, toss in the beans and cook, add in salt and pepper and stir in pancetta.

Tasting impressions:
It is pretty good. Green beans is one of the top favorite veggie in the house so am loving this one. As for the pancetta, it's not bad, but I still prefer bacon :).

Monday, February 14, 2011

HCB: Quail Egg Indulgence Cake and Chocolate Streussel Coffee Cake

This is Quail Egg Indulgence Cake or otherwise will be known as the "broken heart cake" in my house. The cake fell apart when I flipped it from the cooling rack. I contemplated not photographing it, but changed my mind, thinking that with the proper background and angle it might look interesting. Plus I like the "broken heart" name :).

This cake, as its name would suggest to you, calls for quail eggs. I have fond memories of quail eggs. Growing up, I was skinny as a toothpick. My concern mother, who is afraid people will look at me and think that she did not feed me, tried to feed me all kinds of things between meals to get me to gain weight. When I say all kinds of things, I really meant it. From fish oil in liquid form, a glass of milk, a bowl of ice cream, kraft cheese (the ones in singles pack), soft boiled eggs, and hard boiled quail eggs. With the exception of fish oil, I like all my "mandatory" snacks, quail eggs included. I have not, however, tried it in a cake. So when this cake comes along, I was determined not to miss it.

Mendy, a fellow Heavenly Cake Bakers, said that he found quail eggs at Whole Foods. I called my local Whole Foods and the very helpful employee there said they don't carry quail eggs, but they have duck eggs, FYI. So then I went to a nearby Asian grocery store and found some - $1.99 for a dozen.

The cake is pretty easy to make. The most difficult part is breaking the eggs and separating the yolks from the whites. I ended up using 7 yolks to get the required 28 grams, and 5 out of 7 yolks broke. The yolks are then mixed with vanilla and a bit of heavy cream.

Back to the cake. Mix the dry ingredients together, add in the butter and all but 1 Tbsp of heavy cream. Mix until combined. Add in the yolk mixture in 2 additions, beating for 15 seconds each time to incorporate.

I got a couple of 6 inch heart shaped pan last month at Ross for about 30% off the original price. I have stopped counting how many pans I have, I figured I will just buy if it's inexpensive and if it's something I will use several times. And I can see myself using this heart pan again, especially since it's perfect for half recipes.

I'm not sure why Rose said this cake serves two. It is quiet big and I can't imagine eating half of it in one sitting. Unless I'm super hungry or haven't eaten in a couple of days. In which case I'm pretty sure I can eat the whole thing.

Tasting impressions:
It is pretty good. It has a interesting flavor that I can only attribute to the quail eggs, as all the other ingredients are quite basic. I am not sure if I will make it again, since it requires a special trip to the Asian market. But I'm glad I made it.

I also made Chocolate Streussel Coffee Cake. Mainly because I want to scratch another cake off my list (32 cakes to go YAY!).

This cake is also easy to put together. The only thing that baffles me is that the cake turned out dense and looked like it's not baked at all even though I baked it for 50 minutes and a cake tester came out clean.

You can see in the slice picture below that the texture is weird. It tasted pretty good though and I like the streussel filling.

Monday, February 7, 2011

PPB: Love for Three Oranges

This is Love for Three Oranges from Rose Levy Beranbaum's Pie & Pastry Bible. Did you know that Love for Three Oranges is a title of an opera? It's a story about a prince who's addicted to tragic poetry. The doctors told the King that the prince's sickness can be cured with laughter, so then a mission began to find someone that can make the prince laugh successfully. Several people tried to make the prince laugh, one of them was a witch. The witch tripped over while trying, revealing her underclothes. The prince laugh. Pissed off, the witch cursed the prince with obsession for "love for three oranges." So then the search began for the three oranges, which turned out to be real oranges that upon opening each one materialized into a princess. Strange right? But I do find that opera story often does not make sense - and they tend to be very melodramatic (kinda like soap opera but much fancier). You can read all about this opera on Wikipedia here.

Back to the tart. I have been wanting to make this tart for a while. It is now citrus season and when I walked into Whole Foods last week I saw both tangerine and navel oranges up front and they are both on sale. I bought both right away. I've read the recipes briefly several months ago and I remembered 2 of the oranges' component: navel oranges and orange juice. I don't remember the 3rd orange but Julie over at Rose's forum mentioned she has used tangerine and loved it so I figured I should be safe buying tangerine :).

This tart is time consuming to make. None of the steps are hard but they take time. So much so that Rose even breaks it down for you for 3 days.

I made it over 2 days - yes I am crazy that way. But I also made 1/2 recipe, baked in 4 mini tartlet pans.

Day 1: Make the crust (chill, shape in the pan, and freeze), make the orange curd, make the caramel sauce, macerate oranges.

The crust is called sweet cookie tart crust - basically it's pate sucree. Easy to make, combine the flour, sugar, and butter until the butter is pea-size, then add the egg yolk and cream mixture. Chill the dough for 20 minutes. While the dough is chilling, I made the orange curd.

Orange curd is pretty easy also, whisk yolks and sugar in a pot, pour in the tangerine juice, add a pinch of salt, and butter. Place the pot over low heat, stirring constantly. I cheat and use medium heat, it's okay as long as you watch it and stir constantly! When you see steam, lower the heat or take it off the heat, while still stirring constantly. I found that I have absolutely no patience stirring citrus curd for 30 minutes - which is about how long it takes when I use low heat, so I have been cheating (sorry Rose!). So far it's been successful :). Once the curd has thickened, strain it, and mix in the orange zest (the tangerine doesn't have very appetizing-looking skin, so I use navel oranges' zest :)).

Next, macerate the oranges. Peel and supreme navel oranges. 1/2 recipe means that I should use 2 oranges, but I find that I need 3 to get enough slices. Then make the caramel sauce - cook water and sugar until it's dark amber, then pour in the cointreau. Once the sizzling stop, add in orange juice. Put the pot back over the heat until the caramel melted. Once all the caramel has melted, pour the sauce over the orange slice. Cover and store away.

By this point I have spent the whole afternoon in the kitchen. Tired and orange-d out, I spent the evening watching some mindless TV show :).

Day 2: Blind bake the crust, make the sponge cake layer, make the orange curd cloud cream, make the caramel glaze, compose the tart.

Rose said that if the crust has been frozen for more than 6 hours, you can bake it without any weights (beans/rice). Mine's been frozen for about 24 hours so I bake it as is. While baking, the bottom of the crust keeps rising so I had to poke it with a fork several times. Next time I will use the beans to weigh it down as I like a poke-free blind baking. Not a big deal, but it's just annoying having to remember to keep checking.

The sponge cake layer is very similar to the biscuit roulade. It might just be biscuit roulade. One of my favorite type cakes. I made 1/2 recipe baked in a quarter sheet pan.

The orange curd cloud cream calls for making gelatin-stabilized whipped cream and then fold it into the tangerine curd.

For the caramel glaze, drain the oranges and pour the caramel sauce into a pot. Boil until reduced to 1/4 cup. This is where I messed up. Rose said to boil until thickened and bubbly. It was bubbly pretty fast but it's still more than 1/4 cup so I kept reducing it. Until it turned into caramel goo - as in, there is no way it's pourable or spreadable onto the oranges.

Tasting impressions:
Where do I begin? I feel like I am in orange heaven. If there is any tragedy here it would be the tragedy of not making enough tarts. The orange cream is the star of this dessert, combined with the sponge cake it is super good! This goes to the top of the list of favorite tart - I am already plotting making it again!