Friday, February 25, 2011

Mocha-Almond Cake for two

The baking urge hit today, and it hit hard. Unfortunately, it is time to go grocery shopping so there isn't a whole lot around the house to bake with. We have two eggs, but we also like to do eggs for breakfasts in the mornings on weekends so I was faced with a dilemma. After doing some searching online, I found a few recipes for chocolate cake that didn't use any eggs and did some combinations and made some changes. My first attempt baking a cake without eggs, and I'm pretty pleased with the result.

This was also a fun experiment with the 6 inch cake pan. We don't need a whole 9-inch two layer cake for two people, so I cut down the recipe by half and made a 6 inch two layer cake. The only difficulty with this was the baking time. It was just a matter of setting the timer for smaller intervals and checking the cake often. 
Lop-sided cake... this is the reason for my cake-guillotine.

No-egg Chocolate Cake

  • 2-1/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 cups white sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1-1/2 cups water
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon and 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup mini chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350, grease and flour a 6 inch round pan.
2. In a large bowl, sift together flour, cocoa powder, soda and salt. Add sugar and mix together.
3. Add oil, water and vanilla and mix thoroughly.
4. Pour into pan. Bake for 40 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Mocha- Almond Frosting
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 1/2 tablespoons hot brewed coffee
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 cup butter, softened
2 tablespoons half & half

1. Whisk together sugar and cocoa in a bowl. Combine coffee, vanilla and almond extract in another bowl. 
2. Beat butter at medium speed until creamy; gradually add sugar mixture alternately with coffee mixture, beating at low speed until blended. Beat in half and half, 1 tablespoon at a time until smooth and mixture has reached desired consistency.

*A word about the frosting: DELICIOUS. It is so creamy and light. If you don't have or want to use the almond extract, use a full teaspoon of vanilla extract in the frosting instead.*

Assembling the cake:
1. When cake layers are completely cool, place bottom layer on serving plate. Trim tops of both layers to create flat, even pieces. Spread a layer of frosting on top of the cake. Top with second layer of cake and frost top and sides. 
2. Sprinkle with toasted slivered almonds. 

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Italian Beef Stew with Rosemary

This is a great example of a recipe that tastes amazing but looks less so. The first time I made it for the fiance, he immediately asked when I was going to make it again. I rarely repeat recipes other than the few basics such as tacos, chili and the like, simply because there is just so much good food out there and I want to try to make it all. But this is so fantastically good (even though it doesn't look so great) that I'm more than happy to oblige whenever he wants. Plus, it's really easy to make and great for days when you have chores or something else to do as well since there is a lot of non-hands on time with this recipe.

Italian Beef Stew with Rosemary (4 servings)

1 1/2 lbs lean beef (I usually just get the already cut up stew meat at the grocery store)
3 cups canned peeled tomatoes with basil (I can never find these in the store, so I usually just add my own basil)
3/4 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon thyme
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup butter
1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 sprig fresh rosemary
8 thin slices French or Italian bread
1 clove garlic- peeled

1. Trim meat, cut into 1 inch cubes.
2. In a saucepan combine tomatoes, celery, parsley, oregano, thyme, olive oil, salt and pepper. Cover and bring to a boil. Simmer for 30 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Put sauce through a food mill and set aside (I don't have a food mill, so I just ran it through the blender for a couple seconds).
3. Meanwhile, heat half the butter in a wide flame proof casserole dish. Add beef and cook, stirring until meat loses color. Add chopped garlic and stir. Transfer meat to another dish.
4. Add wine to casserole dish and cook over high heat until it is reduced by half. Add the meat, rosemary and tomato sauce. Cover and simmer for 1.5 to 2 hours.

5. Spread remaining butter on bread slices, toast on both sides in oven. Rub both sides with the garlic clove. Place 2 slices of bread into a warm soup bowl, spoon meat and sauce over all.

Monday, February 14, 2011

"faux-garden" Breadsticks

Along with the lasagna and red velvet cupcakes, for Valentine's I made breadsticks that are very similar to my favorite restaurant breadsticks from a shall-remain-unnamed chain Italian restaurant. As a child I remember being excited to eat there simply because it meant I automatically got to have the breadsticks. This home-made version makes a less-greasy breadstick, which I thought was an improvement. The last few times I ate at the restaurant I thought the breadsticks just had a little too much topping or whatever on them.

The recipe itself is really simple, using ingredients I had on hand already. I also have a focaccia recipe I really enjoy for Italian meals, but I have the feeling that these may take over the "go to recipe" spot. My one issue (which really was a non-issue, but the time saved would help on a week night or busy day) was my usual complaint that a hand mixer just doesn't do bread doughs very well. I mixed in the first couple cups of flour (I did them one at a time and put in the water alternately because I was using the hand mixer, I doubt this is necessary with a stand mixer) but ended up doing the last half by hand. Now I wasn't in a rush, and kneading dough is actually quite stress relieving, but this would be leagues simpler with a stand mixer, I am sure. Yes, there is one on the wedding registry. I think that may have been one of the first things we actually scanned with the gun. So now, onto the recipe!

1 package active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water, 1 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons warm water
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
4 1/4 cups all purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon salt

Topping ingredients:
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
pinch oregano

1. Place 1/4 cup warm water in bowl of mixer, sprinkle in yeast and set aside until foamy (5 minutes). Add flour, butter, sugar, salt and additional warm water; mix until slightly sticky dough forms, about 5 minutes.

2. On a lightly floured surface, knead dough by hand until smooth and soft, about 3 minutes. Roll into a 2 foot long log, cut into 16 1 1/2 inch long pieces. Knead each piece slightly and shape into a 7 inch long breadstick.

3. Arrange breadsticks 2 inches apart on parchment lined baking sheets. Cover with a clean cloth, let rise in a warm spot until almost doubled, about 45 minutes.

4. Preheat oven to 400° F. Make the topping: brush 1 1/2 tablespoons of the butter and sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Bake until lightly golden, about 15 minutes.

5. Meanwhile, combine the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt with the garlic powder and oregano. Brush warm breadsticks with the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons melted butter and sprinkle with the flavored salt.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day!

I realize that the last post on this blog is from November. I've been thinking about blogging since the last post, but what with the whirlwind of the holidays and then devouring most meals before I have time to photograph them, it's been a bit of a difficult task to complete. I did quite a bit of baking and cooking over the holidays, made special cookies for the Superbowl (with Green Bay in the game this year it was practically a holiday around here), and various meals in between. I received "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" as a Christmas present this year, so I've been cooking quite a bit out of that too (mmm butter!). I made a pact with myself that I wouldn't post any of those recipes on this blog, although it is quite tempting.

The time has definitely come to post again. For Valentine's Day this year, the fiance and I are having a lovely dinner at home and enjoying each other's company. I've been thinking a lot about our Valentine's celebration last year, when we lived 450 miles apart, and I think I prefer this year's celebration infinitely better. He had a gig the night before and I had to teach on the Monday following, so we ended up meeting in the middle and walking around a mall. We had a nice dinner at a certain Australian restaurant, but having to drive to our respective cities alone afterwards was quite a let-down.

My Valentine's present to the fiance is a meal of his favorites, so that means lasagna, and also Red Velvet Cupcakes for dessert. I'll eat ANYTHING that has cream cheese frosting, so the Red Velvet Cupcakes were a double positive. I do have a wedding dress to start thinking about fitting into, so I used a recipe from Cooking Light to help make these a little less guilt-inducing. The end result is moist, delicious, and gorgeously red, oh and did I mention, CREAM CHEESE FROSTING?! That alone is make-your-knees-weak delicious. All in all, this recipe is getting filed away for many, many future uses. So enough with the backstory and on to the recipe!

Red Velvet Cupcakes
2 1/2 cups cake flour
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 cup sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 large eggs
1 1/4 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 teaspoon white vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons red food coloring

1. Preheat oven to 350° F.
2. Place 24 cup liners in muffin pan, coat with cooking spray.
3. Combine cake flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Stir with a whisk.
4. Place sugar and butter in a large bowl, beat until blended (about 3 minutes). Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
5. Add flour and buttermilk alternately to the sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour. 
6. Add vinegar, vanilla, and food coloring; beat well.
7. Spoon into prepared muffin cups. Bake for 20 minutes, until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
8. Cool in pan for 10 minutes on wire rack; remove from pan. Cool completely before frosting. 

Cream Cheese Frosting
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
4 teaspoons buttermilk
1 8 oz block cream cheese, softened
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 1/4 teaspoon vanilla

1. Beat butter, buttermilk, and cream cheese with mixer on high until fluffy.
2. Gradually add powdered sugar; beat until smooth.
3. Add vanilla; beat well.