ffwD–Caramel-topped Semolina Cake

Yum...caramel...

HAPPY BLACK FRIDAY! If you’re reading this, then you must be on your way to a sale, coming back from a sale or waiting in line to pay for your sale items! Or, you could be like me and you’re doing your Black Friday shopping online/having others get things for you while they’re out. Yeah, I’m that girl.

Anyway, for my final November ffwD recipe, I chose the caramel-topped semolina cake. End with the sweet stuff, right? This recipe piqued my interest because I’m not too familiar with Cream of Wheat. I admit I’ve never actually tasted it. I was an oatmeal girl growing up. Still am.

So, of course when I went to the store to buy semolina or Cream of Wheat, there were nothing but “family-size” boxes for entire families. Seeing as I’m a single gal and was unsure whether I’d like Cream of Wheat, I thought the best option would be to buy the smallest box of single-serving packets I could find.

This posed another dilemma: to purchase original or flavored Cream of Wheat. Since I didn’t know how Cream of Wheat would taste, I was on the fence. Unflavored is just that, unflavored and thus, no motivation for me to eat it later. Brown sugar flavor would possibly entice me to make a bowl for breakfast, but how would this affect the cake, which is the primary purpose for the purchase. In the end, I decided to get the brown sugar flavored variety so I could at least try and eat it for breakfast. Plus, I’ve seen pictures of plain Cream of Wheat with butter on it, and it kind of made me gag a little.

Preparing the batter was a bit perplexing because I had many things on my mind. While I was waiting for the Cream of Wheat to thicken, I was puzzled as to how thick it was supposed to be. I was distracted by the warm brown sugar smell being emitted. I was worried about whether this cake would flip out of the pan as my metal cake pans have all seemed to go yucky on me all at the same time and I was reduced to using a glass 9-inch pie plate.

To be honest, I was probably over-thinking this cake. (Hey! I’m an attorney! I get paid to over-think!) However, I’ll chalk it up to the unfamiliarity of the main ingredient instead. I think the cake ended up a little flatter that supposed to be, but it was delicious and pretty similar to the picture! My sister tasted it and said she could do without the fruit. In addition to my concern over the Cream of Wheat, I had purchased a bag of dried mixed fruit, so I painstakingly took out all the dark raisins and left the golden raisins, pineapple, apple and apricots. Not wanting to waste the rest of the bag, I gave the leftover dried fruit to my sister’s girlfriend. She liked the cake. But, our consensus was that I should just make flan next time.

This recipe can be found in Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table: More Than 300 Recipes from My Home to Yours.

See the fruit?

This is probably easier to see

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Pear Walnut Bundt Cake


First, a huge thanks goes out to my sister and mother of Chunklet for researching and finding this recipe for me! This cake was so simple to assemble that I was on the phone with my friend and sorority sister (Codename: GPL) during the whole process!

I needed to use a little bit of elbow grease to mix the wet and dry ingredients together because the resulting batter is extremely thick, chunky, and somewhat heavy. Make sure to have a firm grasp of your rubber spatula when scraping and spreading the batter into the pan. This batter is not for the weak! My hand even started to cramp a little. But, you don’t need full attention to prep this cake.

The cake started to smell really good about 40 minutes into baking and the resulting cake was amazing! This cake can easily be eaten for breakfast or with tea! Plus, this recipe could double as an apple-walnut cake if preferred. Just make sure to have something else to do while the fruit and sugar mixture is standing.

As for my substitutions, I didn’t use an entire four cups of chopped pears because I had eaten one for a snack earlier in the day. So, I ended up mixing in only 2 and 1/2 cups. Plus, I used chopped walnuts for the pecans and only let the chopped pears and sugar stand for half an hour.

*Adapted from allrecipes.com
4 c. peeled, cored and chopped pears (I used 2&1/2)
2 c. sugar

4 egg whites
2/3 c. canola oil
1 c. chopped walnuts

3 c. sifted all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cloves

Combine the pears and the sugar and let stand for an hour.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Spray a 10 inch bundt pan with non-stick cooking spray. Slightly beat the egg whites and combine them with the oil, chopped walnuts and pear mixture. Stir the flour, salt, baking soda, nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves. Stir in the pear mixture. Pour batter into the prepared bundt pan.

Bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour and 10 minutes. Remove from oven ant let cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes before removing form pan.

Weekend Food–Sunken Nutella banana muffins

I did it! I bought a jar of Nutella yesterday determined to make a recipe with it. Let me say this, I thought the spread would be a little more workable straight out of the jar, but it’s rather thick and sticky. Then I thought, “Well, it is roughly a nut butter with chocolate.” So, I just let it rest on the warm stove for a couple of minutes to make it more pliable while I gathered the rest of the ingredients for the Nutella banana muffins.

With my baking, I’m rather wary when it comes to substitutions. I like having a recipe in front of me with clear instructions. When I see things like, “Can be substituted with” or “Try adding this”, I usually won’t because I’m concerned that incorporating some new ingredient will affect the chemical process of the dish’s baking, rising or melding.

Now, the recipe for Nutella banana muffins I used called for 1&1/2 cups of all-purpose flour. However, my attempt at daringness got the better of me, and I substituted the same amount of oat bran instead. My reasoning behind this was that I’ve made banana nut muffins like this before and those worked out fine. Plus, I thought the oat bran would give the muffins a slightly healthier twist.

Well, what I ended up with were muffins that were sunken in the middle like this:

"Sunken" muffin

After tasting a sample muffin and figuring the muffins would solidify upon cooling, my next thought was how to “disguise” the sunken part. I came up with this:

Just dollop some Nutella in there!

And then I thought, “Let’s take this one step further!”

Top it with bananas as an added garnish!

I actually felt pretty nifty by putting the Nutella and fresh banana on top. I mean, the recipe didn’t say to do that and the pictures turned out okay. Plus, I felt all fancy, like when the television chefs tell you to “garnish with what’s actually in the dish”. I remember a certain Hamptons chef liked doing that to make the dish look more festive.

In all seriousness, this muffin is actually quite tasty if you don’t mind the oat bran taste or texture. Feel free though to make the batter properly with all-purpose flour, lest you feel the need to garnish your muffins as well! If you do end up using all-purpose flour, the resulting muffins will be a light brown color.

*Adapted from Anali’s First Amendment adaptation from deliciousdays.com

1 stick butter, melted
2 lg. ripe bananas
2 eggs
1/2 c. sugar
1/3 c. Nutella
1/2 c. vanilla rice milk
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. baking powder
1 & 1/2 c. oat bran (or AP flour)

In medium bowl, melt butter. Mash bananas into butter with a fork. Mix in all the remaining ingredients except the oat bran. Stir well with a wooden spoon. Add oat bran and stir just until combined. Pour batter into muffin pan (greased or with liners) and bake for about 30 minutes at 350 degrees.

Healthy Apple Brown Betty

A single serving in an individual rammekin

A yummy spoonful

The dish running away with the spoon!

I know; it’s another apple post. But, who cares? It’s fall! Plus, in keeping with the spirit of Halloween and spookiness, I’m sending this post from the past by using the “Schedule a Post” option! (Insert creepy music here!) I’m having a minor surgical procedure done on Friday, so I won’t be able to post for a couple of days.

Anyways, in an effort to incorporate healthier baking into my kitchen rotation, I came across this apple brown betty recipe from Ellie Krieger. Because Krieger is a registered dietitian and nutritionist, I trusted that the two tablespoons of butter called for were okay this time. However, next time I make this (and I definitely will!), I’ll probably substitute Smart Balance for the butter just to see how it tastes. Oh, and if your oven runs hotter than normal (like mine), the dish was ready after 20 minutes of baking.

5 large Golden Delicious apples (about 2 pounds), peeled and thinly sliced
1 c. apple cider
3 tbsp. brown sugar, divided
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. ground cinnamon, divided
2 tbsp. butter, divided
3 slices whole-wheat bread (1-ounce each) crusts included (to make about 2 1/4 cups crumbs)
3 tbsp. chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Combine apples, apple cider, 1 tbsp. brown sugar, vanilla, 1/2 tsp. cinnamon in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until apples are tender but not mushy, about 10 minutes. Stir in 1 tbsp. butter until melted, remove from heat and transfer apple mixture to a 9-inch glass pie plate.

Place bread in food processor and process until crumbs are formed, about 15 seconds. Melt remaining 1 tbsp. butter in microwave for 20 seconds. Toss crumbs with melted butter, walnuts, remaining 2 tbsp. brown sugar and remaining 1/2 tsp. cinnamon. Scatter crumb mixture on top of apples and bake for 30 minutes, until topping is crisped and lightly browned.

ffwD–Marie-Helene’s Apple Cake

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First let me say, this cake was so delicious that it deserved its own slide show! I made this apple cake for dessert when my surgical oncologist friend, Candelabra, was visiting earlier this month. I wanted to stay true to the recipe and use a variety of apples and had planned on buying four different types of large apples. However, I was told that certain apples were better for baking, so I ended up buying five medium apples, 2 Granny Smith and 3 Gala.

I was surprised at the small quantities called for in the recipe and was concerned about how little cake mix it made. I started to tell my friend to not peel and cut the fifth apple, but it was too late because she was already finishing the last apple. So I thought, “baked apples always taste good”, and we proceeded to fold in all five medium chopped apples into the cake mix. The mixture looked more apple-y than cake-y, but we kept going.

About twenty minutes into baking, the smell of this awesome cake started permeating through my apartment. When I pulled it out, I was impressed by how the um, abundance, of apples made a design on top. Later, I realized that I had also used a 9-inch springform pan instead of an 8-inch, so that probably contributed to the look of the cake as well. Although my cake did not turn out picture-perfect like in the cookbook, I was crestfallen for only a second because the taste of this cake was so yummy. All I could say was, “Oh my gosh. This cake? Oh my gosh.”

We cut into the cake as soon as we felt it had cooled enough, which was probably all of three minutes because the smell was so enticing. We didn’t bother with ice cream or whipped cream. The cake was plenty moist and every piece of apple was coated in cake. I was amazed!

Oh, I didn’t use rum in the cake and instead doubled the amount of vanilla because I had Madagascar bourbon pure vanilla extract on hand. The remaining cake, what little was left, tasted great the next morning for breakfast with some skim milk. Cake breakfast? Yes, please!

Weekend Food

 

"Cheater" Cherry Cheesecake

Pan-Fried Onion Dip

“CHEATER” CHERRY CHEESECAKE
Let me take you through the scant experiences I’ve had with cheesecake. When I was growing up, my mother would spend the majority of her cooking time preparing entire meals from scratch. Rarely did I see her use shortcuts, except when it came to desserts. If we had dessert, it was something fun like no-bake cheesecake.

During college, my dormitory had a kitchen attached to the commons room. But, the kitchen was so rarely used that it seemed more like an afterthought than something purposefully built to be utilized. As such, it was never used by me or my dorm mate and sorority sister, (Codename: GPL). Instead, when we felt like “baking”, we’d buy a no-bake cheesecake and use a blender to combine the ingredients. Then, we’d refer to the whole thing as “baking no-bake”. The conversation would typically go like this:

GPL: “My Trees & Shrubs of North Carolina class was cancelled. Let’s bake no-bake.”
YC: “Fine. We should rinse out the blender first.”
GPL: “Okay. An afternoon of baking no-bake. Let’s sit on the Sigma Nu bench while it sets.”

Fast forward to after graduation, and I’ve moved to Chicago. My mother, who lives out of state, calls me while waiting for her doctor’s appointment and tells me that she read a Martha Stewart magazine that featured a traditional cheesecake. You know, the one where you use a springform pan and bake the whole thing in a water bath? My mother was so excited about the possibility of making a cheesecake this way that she ripped the magazine page out and purchased a springform pan immediately after her appointment. She then proceeded to visit me that weekend, recipe and springform pan in tow, and made the traditional cheesecake for the first time ever in my apartment complete with homemade blueberry topping.

Now, I’m all for making cheesecake the traditional way for those who have the patience, but I don’t. Nor do I feel that a no-bake cheesecake would be enough nowadays because I actually want put in some effort. In steps Nigella Lawson. As one of my favorite cooking personalities, Lawson has mastered the art of simplifying a recipe without sacrificing taste or the involvement that comes with home cooking. Plus, her British accent seems to make the recipe effortless, even though it may not be. After making one of her recipes, you have a nice sense of accomplishment while muttering, “Wow. That was easy!”

In her cookbook, Nigella Express: 130 Recipes for Good Food, Fast, Lawson included what I call a “cheater” cherry cheesecake recipe that was a happy medium between the traditional baking route and the no effort no-bake. This cheesecake turned out great! I don’t own a springform pan, so I just left the whole thing in the pie pan. I also used lime juice instead of lemon because that’s what I had on hand. A big thanks goes out to Yakiudon for giving me the idea to make a cheesecake for the blog! And, GPL, I hope you’re feeling better soon!

1&1/4 c. graham cracker crumbs
6 tbsp. soft butter
2 tbsp. granulated sugar
10 oz. cream cheese
1/2 c. powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. lemon juice
1 c. heavy cream
1 10-oz. jar fruit spread or conserve

Mix the graham cracker crumbs with the butter and sugar until the mixture coheres. Press this mixture into an 8-inch springform pan; press a little up the sides to form a slight ridge.

Beat together the cream cheese, sugar, vanilla, and lemon juice in a bowl until smooth. Lightly whip the cream, and then fold into the cream cheese mixture. Spoon the cheesecake filling on top of the graham cracker base and smooth with a spatula. Put it in the fridge for 3 hours or overnight.

When ready to serve, unmold the cheesecake by removing the sides of the springform pan and spread the fruit spread over the top.

Serves 6-8

PAN-FRIED ONION DIP

Even though I haven’t fully gotten into the spirit of autumn baking and cooking, I am geared up for football snacks! Yes, I could just buy the pre-made onion dips from the store, but how would that be fun? So, leave it to the only other food personality I can stand to come up with an easy onion dip recipe: Ina Garten!

Somehow, I doubt that Garten watches a lot of football in the Hamptons, but I can appreciate this dip all the same. Just make sure to have something else to do while the onions are caramelizing. A “cheater” cherry cheesecake, perhaps?

I first read about this dip from Brown Eyed Baker, so credit goes to her as well for posting the recipe!

2 lg. yellow onions
4 tbsp. unsalted butter
1/4 c. canola oil
1/4 tsp. ground cayenne pepper
1 tsp. salt
11/2 tsp. ground black pepper
4 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 c. sour cream
1/2 c. mayonnaise

Cut the onions in half and then slice them into 1/8-inch thick half-rounds. Heat the butter and oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the onions, cayenne, salt and pepper and saute for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 to 30 more minutes until the onions are browned and caramelized. Allow the onions to cool.

Place the cream cheese, sour cream and mayonnaise in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until smooth. Add the onions and mix well. Serve at room temperature. Refrigerate any leftovers.

Weekend Food

Whew! This past weekend was busy! After a week of kitchen deprivation, I was cooking and baking nonstop from Friday’s mustard tomato tartlet to Sunday’s strawberry almond tartlet. Well, at least it felt nonstop despite eating at a Japanese restaurant on Saturday. But, I did purchase the items I needed for Sunday’s recipes on Saturday!

First up is Jack’s Favorite Cake* from Worth Tasting: A Culinary Tour through the Architecture of the Palm Beaches.
The cake’s namesake is none other than golf legend, Jack Nicklaus. The recipe was submitted by his wife, Barbara, a Junior League of the Palm Beaches sustainer and a recipe contributor to the League’s three previous cookbooks.

This cake is a twist on a spice cake with chopped prunes and a buttermilk glaze. I will say that I was skeptical about the prunes, but this cake was really good. The warm buttermilk glaze that soaks through the warm cake is absolutely delicious. Plus, the moist bits of prunes are a pleasant contrast to the spiciness of this cake. As a side note, I added an additional teaspoon of ground cloves beyond the recipe’s teaspoon of cinnamon and teaspoon of nutmeg. Hence, the darker cake color.

A slice of Jack's Favorite Cake

 

See the glaze soaking through?

Next, I made what I call “Julia Child chicken”, namely because this was the first recipe I tried from her magnum opus, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Specifically, the recipe is Suprêmes de Volaille aux Champignons*, or chicken breasts with mushrooms and cream. I absolutely love mushrooms, and Julia has taught me that butter and cream are never bad. But, just in case, I wilted down a bag of baby spinach in some Smart Balance with chopped garlic as a side dish. Delicious!

Julia Child chicken & spinach

Finally, one of the commenters to my blog (Codename: GPL) requested raspberry almond tarts. Due to the excitement of my new mini-tartlet pans, I was on a quest to make these dessert tarts. But, the raspberries in the store did not look quite right, so I stayed with a safe bet and purchased strawberries for strawberry almond tartlets* instead. I brought some samples to work, and they were a hit! I also made a tartlet without almonds for my friend, Candelabra, who is allergic to almonds (tragic!). She thought it was delicious!

Before the fresh strawberries

 

After adding the fresh strawberries

*You’ll notice that I did not type out any of the recipes within the post. This post was a little on the longer side with the photos, so if anyone would like any of the recipes I mentioned, just leave me a comment with your email address!

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