Sunday, February 25, 2018

Pecan Wedding Cake

These days I am reviewing so many recipes, sometimes the obvious gets overlooked. When I came across this recipe, I read the title and ingredients and it struck me as unique. As a food blogger, anything of that nature, I simply have to make. I marked this and went and got the ingredients.

Finally, a few days before making, I realized that this recipe was very close to a recipe for Italian Cream Cake. Also, Italian Cream Cake was very close to a recipe for Hawaiian Wedding Cake. Then  there is Hummingbird Cake and so forth. In the end, this is not such a unique recipe. However, since I love Italian Cream Cake, I still decided to make this cake-in spite of it being a common favorite. 

This is not identical to Italian Cream Cake. It has 3 add in components instead of one. In addition to coconut, it has pecans and pineapple baked in. The most prominent add in is the crunchy pecans, while the coconut and crushed pineapple are each a close second. The frosting is the traditional cream cheese/buttercream style that everyone knows is the perfect topping for this type of cake.

Sometimes familiarity is a good thing. There is a reason recipes are called traditional favorites- they are always tasty and get everyone's approval. This three layer 9 inch cake makes a perfect addition to any dinner party or a simple dinner with family. If you love Italian Cream Cake, you will find that the extra add-ins make it even better.

Pecan Wedding Cake
adapted from 1001 Classic Recipes

5 large eggs (whites separated from yolks)
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
1/2 cup fresh pineapple
1/2 cup flaked coconut
1 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1/2 cup butter (room temp) plus 3 tbs melted
2 cups sugar
2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda

1/2 cup chopped pecans
2 tsp vanilla extract
4 cups of confectioners' sugar
3/4 or 1 1/2 sticks butter (room temp)
8 oz cream cheese (room temp)

For the cake, prepare three 9 inch cake pans by using a pastry brush to cover the interior of each pan with butter. In addition, place a parchment round on the bottom of each pan and butter the surface. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Take out a small bowl and whisk together the buttermilk, salt and baking soda. Set aside. This mixture should thicken as it sets.

Fill a bowl of a stand mixer with the butter and shortening. Beat on medium high speed for about 3 minutes, stopping at intervals to scrape down the sides of the bowl. The mixture should be smooth and silky when done. Add the sugar and both extracts and beat until thoroughly combined and fluffy.

Add one egg yolk and beat for 30 seconds to blend. Scrape the sides of the bowl. Repeat this process until all egg yolks are incorporated into the batter. Remove bowl from stand mixer and fold in 1/3 of the flour, then 1/2 the amount of the buttermilk mixture. Continue at intervals adding flour and adding buttermilk, blending after each addition. End with mixing in the last of the flour.

Drop the pineapple by tablespoons into the batter and mix until distributed. Do the same with the coconut. Lastly, add the pecans to the batter and stir until all add-ins are evenly dispersed. Set aside.

Add the egg whites to a clean bowl. Then beat on high speed until stiff peaks form. Add this to the existing batter by folding in, until whites are completely blended.

Divide batter into 3 equal parts. Add 1 part to each prepared pan and smooth the surface. Place each pan in oven-2 on one rack and 1 on the other. Bake for about 13 minutes, then rotate pans and bake for an additional 12 minutes. Use a tester to see if fully baked, if not let cook a few minutes more and check again. Bake time may take up to 10 minutes more.

Once fully baked, remove pans and set on rack to rest for about 5 minutes. Then invert each one onto the rack. Remove the parchment paper. Let cool completely before stacking and frosting.

To make the frosting, beat together the cream cheese and butter until smooth and silky. Add the extract and beat again, stopping occasionally to beat down the sides of the bowl. Then sift in 1 cup of confectioners' sugar. Beat, starting with low speed and then increasing so all sugar is blended. Scrape down sides of the bowl. Repeat process until all sugar is incorporated into frosting.

Place one layer on a cake board or serving platter. Using a spatula, smooth about 1/4 of the frosting onto the top surface. Stack another layer on top and repeat frosting process. Once all layers are stacked, frost the sides and sprinkle the top with pecans.

Tips and Notes:
1. You can toast the nuts if you prefer more crunch in and on the cake.
2. When frosting the sides, put a thin crumb coat on first, let set and then frost sides as normal.
3.  The frosting between layers was not very thick. If doing this again, I would increase the frosting recipe amount by 1 cup of confectioners sugar and 3 tbs of butter.
                                   **LAST YEAR:Snickerdoodle Pie**

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Nusstaler Cookies

Sometimes we need a diversion or a way to unwind the day. For bloggers, I believe, that diversion is to head to the kitchen and bake. A project in the kitchen allows your mind to focus on creating and discard the other events of the day. The end result is a clear mind as well as a tasty treat.

Today, cookies have been chosen as the diversion. Not just any cookies, but a form of shortbread. Shortbread...the unmistakable, buttery and melt in your mouth texture is hard to resist. In addition to that, the dough is quite open to variations. Some of the variations include chocolate chips and/or nuts.

This particular version is a traditional German shortbread cookie. The recipe incorporates hazelnuts and dark chocolate. Quite a winning combination. The yield is about 2 dozen cookies and does not require much time.

Nusstaler Cookies
adapted from Brooklyn homemaker 

1 tsp cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups hazelnuts
6-8 oz dark chocolate
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup or 1 stick butter
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract

The first step is to create the hazelnut flour. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread the hazelnuts on a baking sheet in one layer. Place pan in preheated oven and let nuts toast for about 10 minutes. As they toast, dampen a clean kitchen towel. Remove nuts from oven and place a handful of nuts on towel and rub vigorously to remove hazelnut skins. Rinse skinned nuts and place in a separate bowl to dry. Repeat the process until all the nuts have been skinned. Turn oven off.

Once the nuts have dried, place 1 cup of the nuts in a food processor and pulse until a nuts are fine, reserving the remaining 1/2 cup of whole nuts for garnish. After grinding the nuts, sift the flour, cocoa powder, salt and baking powder together. Using a spatula, scrape the bottom and edges of the food processor bowl, so the nuts do not cling to the crevasses. Then add the sifted ingredients to the food processor and pulse until all is blended together.

Take out another bowl and fill with the butter and sugar. Beat together for 30 seconds and scrape down sides of bowl. Repeat process 3 more times until mixture is light and fluffy. Then mix in the egg and vanilla, distributing evenly. Take out a wooden spoon and blend in 1/2 of the dry ingredients. Repeat with the remaining half until no dry streaks remain. Once thoroughly blended, cover bowl and place in refrigerator to chill for 1 hour. After about 45 minutes, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

After the chill process is complete, prepare 2 baking sheets by lining with parchment paper. Take out cookie dough and scoop batter into mounds (about 1 inch in diameter with 1 1/2 tsp of dough ) and place one dozen evenly on baking sheet. Then carefully flatten the mounds slightly, either using your hands or the bottom flat side of a glass or bench scraper. Place one hazelnut in the center of each mound.

Place in oven and bake for 10-13 minutes, or until golden on bottom and edges. Remove and let cool on baking sheet for 2 minutes then transfer to cookie sheet to completely cool. Repeat the process of forming and baking the rest of the cookie dough.

After the cookies have cooled, prepare a double boiler and place over medium heat. Then line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Chop 6 ounces of the dark chocolate and place in top pot of the the double boiler. Once all is melted, use tongs to carefully lower the bottom of each cookie in the chocolate. Let chocolate drip off and then place cookies on baking sheet. Once the chocolate is set, the cookies are ready to serve.

Tips and notes:
1. Grinding the nuts at home does not pulverize them, so there is a different result when using hazelnut flour. The home grind leaves the nuts in bigger pieces which affects the texture. Which you use is a personal preference.

2. Skinning the nuts is not a perfect process, so there will be some skin that remains. You can purchase the hazelnuts either with or without skins.

3. Cookies do not expand much in baking.

4. Flatten cookies to about a 1 to 3/4 inch height, otherwise the dough will remain as the round scoop when baked.

4. Due to the chocolate on the cookies, I store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
                                  **LAST YEAR:Mulled Wine Jammers**

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Blue Corn Zucchini Bread

As I look out into the back yard, I can see all my dog's toys. There they lay, some very much chewed on and some not so much. However, there is evidence that she is not the only occupant that strolls into the yard. Something has made regular visits and has not bothered to leave the area without a trace.

There in the back yard, lies a corn cob. In fact, there are still some kernels on the cob. This must be their food of choice. Since my dog believes that the back yard is hers, a recent battle took place with the invader. Based on the evidence, their only option to escape was to give up the food and sneak back on a better day. It must have been a squirrel, because I later that day I saw one in the top of a tree. Not just sitting there, but chattering and teasing my dog in retaliation due to the loss of the corn cob.

So today's post includes a form of corn. Not the kernels and not regular corn, but actually blue cornmeal. That is why the slice pictured above has a wonderful blue hue. The recipe includes flour, but the addition of the cornmeal gives it a nice texture. In addition to that, the loaf includes grated zucchini. The bread is moist and slightly sweet. It is tasty eaten plain, but slathering it with butter does enhance it even more.

This recipe makes one 9x5 inch loaf and the ingredient list is in grams.

Blue Corn Zucchini Bread
adapted from The Cooking Channel

283 grams zucchini (peeled and grated)
121 grams buttermilk
2 eggs
100 grams butter (melted)
100 grams sugar
94 grams coarse blue cornmeal
187 grams flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt

Prepare a 9x5 inch loaf pan by greasing the interior. Line the bottom and long sides with parchment paper, leaving some overhang. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Start by sifting together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Then whisk in the cornmeal and set aside. Using a medium size bowl, stir together the eggs, buttermilk, melted butter and sugar. Then fold in the grated zucchini.

Add the sifted ingredients to the batter in increments, stirring to combine after every addition. Lastly, transfer the batter to the prepared loaf pan and smooth out evenly.

Place the pan in the oven and bake until tester comes out clean. This should take about 30-40 minutes. The edge of the bread should have a golden hue. Remove the bread from the oven and place on a rack. Let cool in pan for about 15 minutes. Then invert on to rack and remove parchment paper. Invert again so the loaf is upright and let cool completely before slicing and serving.

Tips and Notes:
Due to the moist texture, this bread only keeps for a few days.
                            **LAST YEAR:Cappuccino Cheesecake**