Sunday, March 27, 2016

Meyer Lemonade Cake

Citrus fruits really do remind me of spring and summer. I definitely have spring fever! Luckily I have a window at work, since it is getting more difficult to stay inside.

Lime and lemon are my favorite citrus flavors.  However, with the introduction of the Meyer lemons, I am more apt to use these in baking instead of regular lemons.  Since they are the result of a cross between lemons and oranges, the lemon flavor is less acidic but still prevailing. This recipes uses around 6-8 lemons. That worked out well, since Meyer lemons are sold by the bag around here.

This cake is a perfect way to brighten up your day. I changed the recipe a little to make the lemon flavor stronger in the cake. With zest in the batter and a soaker on top with candied lemon peel, it really packs a lot of luscious lemon flavor in every bite.  The cake part is reminiscent of the texture that you find in a pineapple upside down cake.

This recipe makes 2 single layer, 8 inch cakes. One for you and yours and one for the neighbors or co-workers.

Meyer Lemonade Cake
adapted from Serious Eats website

Ingredients/Cake and Soaker
1 cup or 2 sticks of butter
8 oz  plain yogurt
4 eggs
3/4 cup lemon juice
1 tbs lemon zest (takes about 2-3 lemons)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup candied lemon peel (takes about 4 or 5 lemons, recipe below)
2 1/2 cups sugar
3 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt

Ingredients/ Candied Peel
4-5 lemons
1 cup water
2 tbs corn syrup
1 cup sugar

The first step will be making the candied peel. Set up 2 pots full of water and a bowl or sink full of ice water. Also, have a strainer close at hand.

Place both pots of water over high heat. As you wait for the water to boil, take the lemons and peel off strips, using a potato peeler running it down the length of the lemon. Take care to get as little of the pith as possible. After all lemons are peeled, slice the peelings into thin strips.

The next process is to blanch the lemon strips. The blanching will be done three times. Put the strips in the first boiling pot of water and let boil for 20 seconds. Remove pot from heat and pour into a strainer. Then take strainer of strips and submerge in ice bath, just deep enough to cover and cool the strips. Take empty pot and refill with water. Place over high heat and let come to a boil. As it heats up, follow the same blanching process using the boiling water in the second pot and the recently heated water in the first pot. Leave strips in strainer.

For the candy syrup, put sugar, corn syrup and water in a pot over medium high heat. Stir occasionally, letting mixture come to a boil until sugar is dissolved. Add blanched lemon strips.

Correct the temperature of the liquid to a simmer mode, liquid should have occasional bubbles. Cook at this temperature for about 20 minutes. Liquid will be thicker and lemon peels will start to curl. Remove from heat. Let cool completely before using.

For the cake, prepare two 8 inch round cake pans by greasing the interior and lining with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Using a stand mixer, cream together butter and only 2 cups of the sugar until mixture takes on a much lighter texture. This should take about 5 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating into butter/ sugar blend for about 30 seconds. Repeat the same process with each egg, until all are blended in. Sprinkle in zest and beat for another 30 second. Mix in the vanilla extract. Set aside.

In another bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Mix the sifted ingredients into the batter in 3 stages, alternating with the yogurt. The start of the process as well as the end will be with blending in the dry ingredients.

Lastly, stir in only 1/2 cup of the lemon juice until completely blended into the batter. Divide batter equally and empty into each prepared pan. Place in oven and let bake for about 20 minutes and rotate pans then bake for an additional 20 minutes. Cake is done when it springs back when lightly touched in the center and turns a golden hue or use a toothpick to check if done. Remove pans and place on rack. Let cakes cool in pans 20 minutes.

As cakes cool, make the soaker by filling a pot with the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar and 1/4 cup of juice. Place over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally. Once the sugar has dissolved , remove from heat. Brush mixture over cooled cakes. Let the cakes remain in the pan for another 10 minutes.
Invert the cakes onto a rack covered in wax paper and quickly invert again so drizzled side is face up. and cakes have cooled for 20 minutes. Then garnish with candied peel.

Tips and Notes:
1. The cakes are very sticky so springform pans would insure the appearance of the surface,removing the cakes prior to soaking is a good idea.

2. The soaker has too much syrup compared to the actual peels, so cutting the liquid ingredients  in half would be better.
                            **LAST YEAR: Havana Cupcakes**

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Chocoberry Cupcakes

Like most bloggers, it is hard for me to make something "plain", especially when it comes to cupcakes. I cannot remember the last time I made a cupcake that was just one flavor. Since the opportunity is there to combine flavors, I take full advantage of it.

Take these cupcakes, for instance. They are a double-decker of chocolate and strawberry flavors, in the cake part as well as the icing. Fruit, due to their acidity, do not make a good addition to cake batters. Unless I am making a bread or fruit like cake- I never use fresh fruit in cake batters. Imitation fruit flavor is also something I try to refrain from.

In order to get a good fruit flavor, there are 2 choices. You can either use dried fruit powder or natural extract. For these cupcakes I used natural extract, Olive Nation brand. Regarding the chocolate, there are many brands to choose from...., Valrhona, Ghirardelli, Callebaut..etc. As usual, quality ingredients mean quality taste.

The cupcakes are moist and airy, and deliver that chocolate covered strawberry flavor that we all love. The topping is a repeat of the same flavors-just a bit stronger and sweeter. The chocolate ganache swirled with strawberry icing adds the right touch of sweetness to the cupcake. Since it is lighter than regular buttercream icing, the cake flavor stands out more.

This recipe makes about 24-28 cupcakes.

ChocoBerry Cupcakes
by Flourtrader

1 1/3 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
4 egg whites, room temp
1/2 cup butter, room temp
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter
3 oz melted and cooled bittersweet chocolate
2 tsp strawberry extract
red food coloring ( optional if you want a pink tint)

1 cup plus 2 tsp heavy cream
1 tbs butter
8 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped into pea sized chunks
1 tsp strawberry extract
1 cup confectioners sugar
milk (measurement based on desired consistency)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease the top edge of muffin tins and line the cavities with baking cups.

Start on the cupcakes by filling a medium bowl with the butter.  Beat, occasionally scraping down the sides of the bowl, until smooth. Add the sugar and vanilla.  Blend the mixture on low speed until evenly distributed. Set aside.

Using another medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Set aside.

Then pour 1/4 of the egg whites into the sugar butter mixture and beat for 30 seconds. Repeat this process until all egg whites are incorporated into the batter. After this, you will blend in 1/3 of the sifted ingredients, running the mixer on low speed. Then pour 2/3 cup of buttermilk into the batter and beat on low. Follow the same stages with the sifted ingredients and buttermilk, ending with the the dry ingredients folded into into the batter.

At this time, measure out half of the batter and put into a clean bowl. Using 1/2 of the batter, mix in the melted chocolate until evenly blended. For the other half of the batter, add 2 tsp strawberry extract or dried fruit powder and stir. If desired, mix in a few drops of red food coloring until the pink hue meets your expectations.

Take out 2 scoops for spooning the batter into the cupcake cavities. Use one scoop for the chocolate and one for the strawberry batter. You can spoon the chocolate batter on the bottom and strawberry on top, like I did or do side by side batters, whichever you prefer. The cavities should be filled to the 2/3 mark, with an even distrubution of strawberry to chocolate batter.

Bake for about 20 minutes or until tester comes out clean.  Remove and place pan on rack for 5 minutes and then transfer cupcakes to rack to finish cooling.

To make the chocolate ganache, place chopped chocolate in a heat proof bowl with a wide bottom, I used a pasta bowl. Spread the chunks out to a even layer on the bottom of the bowl.Then, place a saucepan over medium high heat and pour in heavy cream and add butter. Cook until butter is melted and mixture comes to a boil. Once boiling, remove and pour over chocolate chunks. Let sit undisturbed for about 5 minutes and then stir mixture is smooth.

At this point, you can dip the tops of the cupcakes into the chocolate. Make sure that you take time to let the chocolate drip off before standing upright and that the cupcake paper does not get any chocolate on it. Once all the cupcakes are covered with the ganache, then start on making the strawberry swirl.

Sift confectioners sugar into a medium size bowl. Add 1 tsp strawberry extract or dried strawberry powder and 1 tbs of milk. Whisk until a smooth icing is formed and stir in a few drops of red food coloring (if desired). Continue to work to achieve a piping consistency to the icing, either by adding more confectioners sugar or more milk. Once the consistency is right, fill a piping bag and pipe a decorative line or swirl on top of the cakes.

Let stand at room temperature for about an hour before serving or storing so topping will set.

Tips and Notes:

1. Due to the egg whites and the baking soda/powder, act quickly when creating the separate batter and spooning into the cavities.  My two layers came out with some air between the two when baked.

2. The thickness of the ganache is a personal preference, so how much liquid you use can be altered. However, bear in mind that you want to "dip" the tops, not have to use a knife to cover the cupcakes.
                                             **LAST YEAR: Alfredo Bread**

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Bajan Sweet Bread

This particular recipe I found tasty and interesting. Some of the instructions were a little vague, but I would like to think that it was due to the fact the person made this hundreds of times since it is a traditional recipe. Based on that, I have changed up the method as well as the ingredient list to help improve upon the recipe.

One of the things I am aware of when creating any kind of dough is that texture can be altered by how much you work with the dough. Over working dough can change cut out cookies from crisp to tough. Regarding this particular bread, if not kneaded it is very crumbly. The more you knead it, the firmer it becomes.

My loaf resulted in a crumbly texture, however, it had a wonderful flavor. The combo of brown sugar, nutmeg and coconut is worth trying and is sure to be remembered after you take one bite.

Before we get started, note that this recipe makes three 8 inch loaves.

Bajan Sweet Bread
adapted from Just Bajan

1 grated coconut or 3 cups unsweetened coconut
1 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups butter
1/4 cup shortening
4 cups or 2 lbs self rising flour
2 cups or 1 lb brown sugar
1/2 cup milk
1 cup chopped nuts or chopped glace cherries or raisins (optional)

1/2 cup unsweetened coconut
2 tbs sugar
1 tsp coconut extract
2 tbs water

Grease the interior of 3 loaf pans and line 2 sides and bottom with parchment paper, leaving overhang on the sides.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Start by making the filling. Fill a saucepan with sugar, coconut extract and water and place over medium heat. Add the coconut and stir. Let cook for about 5 minutes, stirring constantly. This is in order to make the coconut more tender. Remove from heat and let cool. 

The next step in making the bread is to cream the butter and shortening together in a large bowl.  Once smooth, beat in the brown sugar, scraping down sides occasionally, until completely blended into the butter mixture.

Fill a small bowl with the milk and stir in the vanilla. Also, using a separate bowl, sift the flour, salt and nutmeg together.

 Using a wooden spoon, mix in one cup of the sifted ingredients into the sugar/butter mixture. Then blend in 1/2 of the liquid. Next, mix in 2 cups of the flour. Add the rest of the liquid and fold in until no liquid remains. Pour in the remaining sifted ingredients and blend until all binds with the dough. Lastly, if you are using the add in options of nuts or fruit, fold into the dough. The dough will be heavy, like cookie dough, so you may choose to mix with clean hands.

At this point, you will need to decide if you want a firm type of bread or crumbly. The recipe recommends kneading it for about 2-3 minutes.

Then divide dough into 6 even pieces. Place 1 piece in the bottom of each prepared pan and smooth out evenly, making a bottom layer. After each loaf pan contains a bottom layer of dough, empty saucepan of coconut filling into a sieve and drain off any liquid. Divide the filling into 3 equal amounts and spoon an equal amount of filling in a thin line, lengthwise, down the center of the dough. Then put remaining dough on top, smoothing out evenly.

Bake for about 30-45 minutes until the center comes out clean.

Tips and Notes:

1. The dough was very heavy to work with, not like regular dough. If there was to be a next time on this recipe, I would experiment by making the dough into cake-like cookies instead of loaf bread.

2. I love coconut so I doubled the filling ingredients. If you choose to do this, be aware that it may cause some sinking in the middle.

3. I did knead the dough to keep it from being crumbly and it did not help. Perhaps adding more liquid would be beneficial. This recipe just said add liquid until dough is formed. There were not any measurements given, it was not even listed on the ingredient list. The recipe however states use milk, coconut water or regular water.
                                **LAST YEAR: Celtic Celebration Cake**                                  

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies

Eating or even smelling foods can bring you back to a certain memory or place in time. To most people, homemade cookies remind them of their childhood. Back then, our palates craved the simple flavors. We were not quite ready for Chili Chocolate Macarons and mom was not about to spend a lot of long hours in the kitchen making cookies.

Of course, the cookies that were in the cookie jar were drop cookies. We all know they are about the easiest cookies to make. They may be easy, but these type of cookies are traditional favorites, such as chocolate chip or oatmeal. This particular recipe is a delicious blend of two classic kind of cookies: chocolate chip oatmeal and peanut butter.

They are not heavy on the oatmeal like a standard oatmeal cookie, but the end result is a good balance between both textures and flavor. Also, they stand up well when shipped or dunked in a glass of ice cold milk.

The instructions below are for about 4 dozen cookies. Enough to spread around or to store for later, depending on the size of your family.

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies
adapted from The Ultimate Cookie Book

1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups oats (old fashioned)
1 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup creamy or chunky peanut butter
2 cups brown sugar, packed
1 cup chopped milk chocolate bar or chips
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper.

Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside. Fill the bowl of a stand mixer with peanut butter and butter. Beat until fluffy and smooth. Scrape down the sides and add the brown sugar and continue to beat until thoroughly blended.

Add both eggs and vanilla to the butter mixture. Then mix at medium speed for about 1 minute. After blended, beat in 1/2 cup of sifted ingredients and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Continue with the process until all the dry blend is incorporated into the cookie dough. Remove bowl from stand mixer.

Using a wooden spoon, mix in the oats and then the milk chocolate chips/chunks. Using a scoop or a spoon, drop dough onto prepared baking sheet. Space about 2 inches apart.  Place in oven and bake until edges of cookies are golden brown, which is about 10-12 minutes.

After you remove them from the oven, place baking sheet on rack to let rest for 1 minute. Then transfer cookies to cooling rack and let cool completely.

Tips and Notes:
1. I use parchment to preserve my cookie sheets, however, this recipe states use un-greased baking sheets-so either is an option.

2. Natural peanut butter can be used, however, it does not have a stabilizer to keep the oil from separating. Therefore, it will need to be well blended before adding it as an ingredient.
                                     **LAST YEAR:Pineapple Macadamia Tart**