Monday Reviews- Baked Explorations

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I realized I haven’t talked about my dad much yet. This is mostly due to the fact that the man is never in the kitchen. His idea of gourmet is to fry some bologna in a pan and add “decorative mustard swirls”. One day I caught him eating a sandwich with as much gusto as one would an expensive steak, saying out loud, “this is amazing”. Curious what could garner such a response from a man who has dined all over the world I walked over to find him eating, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich (Jif and Welch’s respectfully).

He is easily impressed by the simple things in life.

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One of his favorite desserts is pound cake-this apparently goes back to a distant Aunt who used to make it for him when he was little. The first bundt cake I made for my dad reminded him of the cake from his childhood and came from “Baked Explorations: Classic American Desserts Reinvented”. This cookbook along with their first cookbook has quickly become my go to for everything from breakfasts to birthday cakes. It was written by the owners of the Baked Bakery in New York and it is my goal to get there before I turn 30. The whole premise of the book was to take classic American desserts and bring them back to life (strawberry jello salad anyone?) or in some cases make them better (black and white cookies).  Something to keep in mind is that many of these recipes have a lot of steps and some are a little trickier for a beginning baker. Others just take time, like the Mississippi Mud Pie cake. However no matter how many steps they take, each recipe consistently yields delicious desserts that will impress anyone you serve it to. What I love most about both this book and its predecessor is the passion the authors have for baked goods. From the photographs to the paragraphs before each recipe, you can’t help but be inspired to make something delicious for someone you love.

This is the cake I made my dad, I’m pretty sure he liked it even more then PB&J.

Olive Oil Orange Bundt Cake

Recipe from “Baked Explorations: Classic American Desserts Reinvented” by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito

Makes one 10-inch bundt

  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 4 large eggs, separated
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • ¾ cup good quality extra-virgin olive oil
  • Freshly grated zest of two oranges
  • 1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup confectioners sugar, sifted for dusting

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Generously spray the inside of a 10-inch Bundt pan with nonstick cooking spray. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the egg yolks until they are pale and light; slowly pour in the sugar until it is completely incorporated. Add the yogurt and olive oil and mix until thoroughly combined. Add the orange zest and vanilla, and mix until just incorporated. Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients in two parts, beating after each addition until just combined (this will take about 10 seconds). Scrape down the bowl and beat again for 5 seconds. In another large bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peas form. Scoop 1 cup of the egg whites in the batter. Use a rubber spatula to gently fold them in. After about 30 seconds of folding, add the remaining egg whites and gently fold until they are almost completely combined. Do not rush the folding process. Pour the better into the prepared pan and bake for 40-50 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time, or until a small sharp knife inserted into the cake comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool completely. Gently loosen the sides of the cake from the pan. Just before serving, dust the cake with confectioners’ sugar. The cake can be stored at room temperature, covered tightly, for up to 3 days.

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Bad Day Brownies

The beginning of this week was stressful and when I’m stressed I turn to baking. In a world of unknowns, I like the fact that if I measure out exact portions of chocolate, flour, sugar, and eggs I will be rewarded with a huge pan of brownies. These particular brownies are fudgy, covered in frosting, and the perfect antidote to a bad day.

Adapted from Design Sponge

Bad Day Brownies with Chocolate Frosting

4 squares (1 ounce each) unsweetened chocolate
2 sticks butter (1 cup)
4 eggs
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 package (6 ounces) semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Place a bowl over a pot of simmering water (don’t let the water touch the bowl). Add chocolate and butter stirring until melted. Remove from heat. Cool slightly.

2. In a small bowl combine flour, baking powder, and salt.

3. In a standing mixer with a paddle attachment beat eggs and gradually add sugar. When combined, add the chocolate/butter mixture and beat well. Add flour mixture and mix until just combined then fold in chocolate chips and vanilla.

4. Pour into a greased 13″ x 9″ pan. Bake for 30 minutes. Set aside to cool before frosting and cutting.

Chocolate Frosting
Makes about 2 cups

2 squares (2 ounces) unsweetened chocolate
3 tablespoons butter
1 pound confectioners sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3–4 tablespoons milk or heavy cream

Use the same process that you did with the brownies to melt the chocolate with the butter. Remove from heat. Beat in the confectioners sugar and vanilla. Add a little milk or cream to thin to spreading consistency. Cover up those brownies with some frosting and enjoy!

RTK note: The original recipe included 1 cup chopped nuts. Feel free to add pecans, walnuts, or your favorite nuts when you add the chocolate chips. I also think these brownies are best on the second day, the frosting sets into a decadent almost fudge-like consistency.

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One

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Can I share something with you? I’m a little nervous. This is my first post and it officially marks my foray into the blogging world. I’ve had this blog floating around in my head for a while but I wasn’t sure if I would have anything productive to offer the blogging community (I’m still not sure, if you want me to be completely honest). But food and family are my two biggest passions and I decided that, ready or not I was going to do this because it makes me happy. So. Here we go.

I guess now would be a good time for introductions. I’m a twenty something (26 if you want to get specific) working the typical 8-5 job in the corporate world. When I’m not working, most of my time is split between eating and spending time with my giant family (yes we include our dogs as family). So I thought I would make a little place to document my two loves and have something to refer to when my great-grandchildren want to know what I was doing when I was a twenty something, you know, back in the 2010’s. 🙂

As this is our first time together I don’t want to bore you with too many details, so, let’s talk about food shall we?

This first post is a celebration of sorts, so what better way to celebrate than with cake? Since honesty seems to be the theme of today’s post let me share another secret with you. Up until a few days ago, I despised confetti cake. Man that feels good to get out. But seriously, the box confetti cake (not to be confused with boxed yellow cake, because that is delicious) has never appealed to me. I tried it when I was 7 years old and still remember the dry, artificial, crumbly taste it left it my mouth. I refused to eat it ever again and never looked back. Until I saw this. Have you ever seen a more tempting picture? No? Me neither. I knew I had to make this cake, even though it called for vegetable shortening (something I try to avoid due to the copious amounts of cake I consume).

With the help of my best friend Alexis I made a two-layer cake, took out the almond, and opted for more vanilla. I also used brown sugar buttercream (adapted from Joy the Baker) to increase the sugar content of my cake. Friends, I am in love with this cake. I want to make it every day and eat it for breakfast. I love it so much that I am not going to waste any more of your time with words. Print this recipe out, find some shoes, and run to the store for some shortening.

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Celebratory Confetti Cake with Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting

Slightly adapted from thekitchn.com

(makes two 9 inch round cakes)

  • 4 egg whites from large eggs
  • 1 cup milk divided
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 3 cups cake flour
  • 1 ½ cups white sugar
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, very soft
  • 8 tablespoons non-hydrogenated shortening
  • 1/3 cup multi-colored jimmies (or one full container)

Heat the oven to 350 F. Lightly grease two 9-inch round cake pans. In a small bowl mix the egg whites, ¼ cup milk, and vanilla extract. Set aside.

Sift the cake flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into the bowl of a stand mixer with a paddle attachment. Mix for 30 seconds or until well combined. Add the butter and shortening and mix for another 30 seconds- 1 minute. Pour the remaining ¾ cup milk and continue mixing on medium speed for about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Gradually pour in the egg white mixture, mixing for 30 seconds after each addition. Mix for one more minute. Gently fold in the jimmies.

Divide the batter evenly between the prepared cake pans, bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Remove from oven and place the pans on a baking rack to cool. Then turn the pans onto a cooling rack. Let cool completely before icing.

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Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting

Adapted from Joy the Baker

1 ½ cups unsalted butter, softened

8 oz cream cheese, softened

½ cup light brown sugar, packed

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2-3 tablespoons heavy cream

2-3 cups powdered sugar depending on desired consistency

Cream the butter and cream cheese together in an electric mixer (be sure that the two are at room temperature to keep your frosting from getting lumpy). Add the brown sugar and vanilla and beat for about 2 minutes. Turn the mixer to low speed and add the powdered sugar one cup at a time.  Alternate with the heavy cream until you reach your desired consistency.