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Archive for January, 2009

Coco Cake

I got my Food and Wine February ’09 issue awhile ago and saw this yummy cake in the back.  It was the Six-Layer Coconut Cake with Passion Fruit filling.  Oh my gosh, it looked so good that I just had to make it.  I need a reason to make it and since our Chinese New Year dinner was coming up, I figured I’d try it out.  You really have to make this cake because it is so good!  Everyone just loved it!  The cake had a subtle coconut flavor and the filling was yummy!  I couldn’t find passion fruit nectar so I just went with mango.  The combination was awesome.  The cake is more dense then other cakes that I’ve made.  Since it was a six layer cake, I think the consistency of the cake was perfect or else it wouldn’t have held up.  The frosting was light and just right for the cake, not too sweet.  I couldn’t find coconut flakes so I just used shredded coconut.  Mmmm…this cake was delicious, I will make this again for sure!

Six-Layer Coconut Cake with Mango Filling adapted from Food and Wine

Ingredients

CAKE

  • 4 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/4 cups unsweetened coconut milk
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 6 egg whites

FILLING

  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1 cup passion fruit nectar or puree (Used Mango nectar)
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 vanilla bean—split, seeds scraped (Didn’t have any so omitted)
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons

TOPPING

  • 2 cups large, unsweetened dried coconut flakes (Used sweetened shredded coconut)
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons sugar

Directions

  1. Make the cake: Preheat the oven to 350°. Line the bottom of three 8-inch round cake pans with parchment paper and spray with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt at low speed. Mix in the butter, coconut milk, water and vanilla until combined. Scrape down the bowl and beat at high speed until very smooth, 2 minutes.
  3. In a medium bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form, 2 minutes. Fold half of the egg whites into the batter until incorporated, then fold in the remaining whites until no streaks remain. Divide the batter among the cake pans. Bake for about 45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the centers comes out clean. Cool the cakes in the pans on a rack for 15 minutes, then invert them and let cool completely, about 2 hours.
  4. Meanwhile, make the filling: In a saucepan, whisk the sugar and cornstarch. Whisk in the passion fruit nectar, egg yolks and vanilla seeds and cook over moderate heat, stirring constantly, until thick, 6 minutes. Remove from the heat; whisk in the butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, until incorporated. Scrape the filling into a glass bowl, press a sheet of plastic wrap on the surface and refrigerate until chilled, about 2 hours.
  5. Using a serrated knife, cut each cake in half horizontally to create 6 layers. Set one layer on a cake plate. Spread with 6 tablespoons of the filling. Repeat with the remaining 5 cake layers and filling, ending with a layer of cake. Refrigerate until firm, 1 hour.
  6. Meanwhile, make the topping: Spread the coconut on a large rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 5 minutes, stirring once, until lightly toasted. Let cool. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the cream with the sugar until medium-firm peaks form.
  7. Frost the top and side of the cake with the whipped cream and coat with the coconut. Refrigerate for 1 hour before serving.
A slice of heaven...

A slice of heaven...

Inside of Coco Cake

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Cookies and Cream Cake

Cookies and Cream Cake

Brian’s birthday was coming up so I asked him a month in advance what kind of cake he wanted.  It took him a while to come up with something and he finally decided on a cookies and cream type cake.  I didn’t know any recipes off the top of my head so I was surfing around other food blogs in my reader and came across Annie’s Eats Blog.  She had a cookies and cream cake in her blog that looked absolutely delicious!  She also other great things on her blog that you guys should check out.

So we had dinner over at my inlaws to celebrate his birthday and I brought the cake over.  It was such a big hit!  A couple people said it was the best cake ever!  I had a couple of changes to the recipe, instead of the hershey’s perfect chocolate frosting, I just made a white frosting.  And since my hubby loves cookies and cream so much,  I decided to double the amount of oreos in the filling.  That’s why the filling was more gray then it is white like Annie’s cake.  It was so yummy!

Cookies and Cream Cake adapted from Annie’s Eats

Ingredients:

For the cake:

2 cups sugar

1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour

¾ cup cocoa powder

1 ½ tsp. baking powder

1 ½ tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. salt

2 eggs

1 cup milk

½ cup vegetable oil

2 tsp. vanilla extract

1 cup boiling water

For the filling:

1 ¼ cups heavy cream

1/8 cup confectioners’ sugar

¼ tsp. pure vanilla extract

10 chocolate sandwich cookies,  chopped (I used 20 oreos)

For the frosting:

2 sticks of butter, softened

5 cups confectioners’ sugar

1/2 cup milk

2 tsp. vanilla extract

Directions:

To make the cake, preheat the oven to 350°.  Grease and flour two 9-inch round baking pans.

Stir together the sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl.  Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed for 2 minutes.  Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin).  Pour batter into prepared pans.

Bake 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks.  Cool completely.

To make the filling, in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine the heavy cream, confectioners’ sugar and vanilla.  Beat on low speed until all sugar is incorporated; increase speed to high and whisk until stiff peaks form.  Gently fold in chopped cookie pieces with a rubber spatula.

To make the frosting, mix butter, milk and vanilla until smooth. Stir in 4 cups of sugar and beat until smooth. Keep adding ½ of sugar until frosting is at the right consistency.

To assemble the cake, place one cake layer on a cardboard cake circle.  Pipe a ring of the chocolate frosting around the outside edge of the cake.  Fill the area inside the ring of frosting with a thick layer of the cookies and cream mixture.  Place the second cake layer on top.  Frost the sides of the cake layers with chocolate frosting.  Pipe a decorative border of the chocolate frosting on top of the cake.  Fill the area inside this border with a thick layer of the cookies and cream mixture.  Garnish with extra chocolate sandwich cookies and whipped cream if desired.

Slice of Cake

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Cocktail Bun

My favorite chinese pastry of all time is the cocktail bun or as some of you might know it as chinese coconut buns. These yummy treats are filled with sweetened coconut on the inside and a soft, fluffy bread on the outside. It’s a bun of love. Now, this is the first time I’ve ever made this and finding the right recipe was pretty dang hard. I was just surfing the net one night looking for some steamed bao recipe and came across the Corner Cafe blog. It’s a really cool blog and has a lot of hard to find asian recipes. Since Chinese New Year is just around the corner, I thought it would be perfect to bring to our family get together dinner that we’re having.

The filling was perfect! The bread wasn’t as fluffy as I would’ve liked but I think it was because I was rushing through the process and didn’t let it proof long enough. I will try the recipe again and see it I can get it fluffier the second time around.

You’ll first have to make the Japanese style sweet bun for this. Then you make the coconut filling and put it all together. Now I have never really made any asian pastries before and this is my first time using what they call a water roux. I’ve never seen it before and I’m not sure what it does exactly so this was new and interesting for me. Maybe that’s their secret!

Japanese-Style Sweet Bun Dough from Corner Café’s Blog

Makes 16 buns

[Ingredients]
375g bread flour
100g plain flour
35g milk powder
75g caster sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 sachet (7g or 2 1/2 tsp) instant dry yeast
1 egg, lightly beaten
150ml (approx.) lukewarm water, adjust as necessary
40g butter, cubed

Water-Roux Paste *:
25g (just under 2 tbsp) bread flour
125ml (1/2 cup) water

* Water-Roux is basically 1 part bread flour to 5 parts water.
http://cornercafe.wordpress.com/
[Preparation]
Water-Roux :
Mix flour and water in a small saucepan. Cook over low to medium heat, stirring continuously until it reaches 65ºC. It should have thickened to a paste at this stage, that is when you stir you can see the bottom of the pan. Remove from heat, place a cling film over the paste and leave until lukewarm, or room temperature, before using. (Alternatively if you don’t have a thermometer, cook as before until it starts to thicken, then continue to cook for about 1 more minute before removing from heat.) This water roux can be kept in an airtight container after cooling in the refrigerator for 1 day if not used immediately. However DO NOT USE if it turns grey in colour, that means it has gone bad.

For the Bun Dough:
1. Sift bread flour, plain flour, milk powder, caster sugar and salt onto the working surface. Add instant dry yeast and mix well. Form the flour mixture into a well. Add lightly beaten egg and lukewarm water roux and mix in. Gradually add just enough lukewarm water to form into a slightly sticky, soft dough. Knead for 10 minutes until smooth and elastic. During hand kneading, the dough also needs to be thrown onto the working surface once every few minutes between kneading to improve the dough structure. (I usually just pick up the dough to about head-high and throw it down onto the working surface 10 to 20 times every few minutes between kneading.)

2. Knead in butter until incorporated. (In many cookbooks, they mentioned that the dough at this stage should be able to be pulled and stretched into membrane, but it’s hard to achieve with hand kneading. I usually stop kneading when the dough sticks to the work surface and stretches like chewing gum when pulled!) Form the dough into a round ball and let it rise until double in size in a large greased bowl, cover with cling film (should take about 1 hour in warm weather, longer in winter months). Optimum room temperature for this first prove is 28°C with a humidity of 75%. To test if the dough has risen properly, dip a finger into bread or plain flour and poke down into the centre of the dough as far as your finger will go and pull out again – the hole should remain if it is ready. If the dough springs back, then it is not ready, continue to prove further.

3. Punch down, knead briefly and form into a ball shape. Then divide into 16 equal portions. The easiest way is to first divide equally into 4 larger portions first, then divide each of these again into quarters each. Form each into balls and let rest for 10 minutes.

Cocktail Bun Recipe from Corner Café’s Blog

[Ingredients]
1/2 portion Japanese-Style Sweet Bun Dough (from above)
1/2 egg, lightly beaten for eggwash
White sesame seeds

Cocktail Bun Filling:
100g softened butter
45g plain flour, sifted
50g milk powder, sifted
45g caster sugar, sifted
20g desiccated coconut

Mexican Topping:
30g softened butter
10g caster sugar, sifted
20g plain flour, sifted
http://cornercafe.wordpress.com/
[Preparation]
1. To prepare the Cocktail Bun Filling: Mix everything together. Divide into 8 equal portions.
2. To prepare the Mexican Topping: Cream softened butter and sugar until pale. Fold in flour. Transfer into a small freezer/snack bag with a tiny cut at one corner for piping (or use a piping bag fixed with a 1/2cm or smaller round nozzle).
3. Prepare the Japanese-Style Sweet Bun Dough as directed in Japanese-Style Sweet Bun Dough post up to step 3.
4. Take one of the 8 small divided balls and roll out with a rolling pin into a flat circle. Place one portion of the Cocktail Bun Filling in the centre of dough circle.
5. Gather the outer edges of the dough circle and wrap up the filling. Pinch the edges together to seal in the filling. Roll the sealed dough with your palm on the work surface lightly up and down to shape the dough into a cylindrical shape. Repeat with the other 7 dough balls.
6. Let rise, lightly covered, until double in size on a lightly greased tray. When ready, brush with eggwash. Then sprinkle a little sesame seeds onto the buns and pipe 2 lines of the Mexican Topping on top of each bun.
7. Bake in preheated 190°C oven for about 12-15 minutes, or until golden brown.

The filling was delicious but I just need to let it rise more...but it's still very yummy!

The filling was delicious but I just need to let it rise more...but it's still very yummy!

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Peanut Butter Cookies

PB Cookies

I had dinner with some friends this past weekend that I haven’t seen in ages! It was nice catching up with them and a couple of them mentioned my blog and how yummy everything looked. One of them asked if I could make her some cookies cuz she was craving some…so I asked what type she wanted. She suggested soft chewy peanut butter cookies. Now I’ve never really made peanut butter cookies before and the ones that I have tasted had a crisp and crunchy texture, not my type of cookie. I had made peanut butter blossoms in the past and I liked the texture and taste of the cookie so I thought I would use the same recipe except leave out the “blossom” part of it. It turned out great, nice and soft, just how I like it!

NOTES: My modifiications are in red.

Peanut Butter Cookies adapted from Hershey’s

Ingredients:

  • ¼ cup shortening (Original recipe called for ½ cup)
  • ¼ cup butter (Not added in original recipe)
  • 3/4 cup Creamy Peanut Butter (I used Jif)
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup packed light brown sugar (I used dark brown sugar)
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions:
1. Heat oven to 375°F.

2. Beat shortening, butter and peanut butter in large bowl until well blended. Add 1/3 cup granulated sugar and brown sugar; beat until fluffy. Add egg, milk and vanilla; beat well. Stir together flour, baking soda and salt; gradually beat into peanut butter mixture.

3. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Use fork to to push down on each dough ball to create crisscross fork marks; place on ungreased cookie sheet.

4. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned.

Yield: 31 cookies for me

PB

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Pasta Bolognese

Pasta Bolognese

So over the holidays, I was stuck at home because of the big snowstorm that we had.  I was flipping through the channels and came across the show, “Secrets of a Restaurant Chef” on the food network.  She was making Pasta Bolognese.  I was intrigued…I’ve always liked making my own pasta sauce from scratch.  My friends always give me a hard time because they don’t get why I even bother when I can just buy it in a jar.  Really…it’s not the same.  Homemade sauce is so much better!  I have never made bolognese sauce before and she made it look really easy.  It was pretty simple, just a bit time consuming.  I wouldn’t make this for a weekday dinner but you can definitely make it over the weekend and just freeze it and eat it whenever you can.  The sauce was so yummy!  I fed it to both Brian and my mom and they just loved it.  I also made the garlic knots to go with it and it was a perfect meal!

Note:  I didn’t add the olive oil in the last step because I didn’t think I needed it.  Be sure to allow enough time for this, don’t try to rush the process.  You really don’t want to add all the water at once and then just let it boil down because that want, you’re just gonna end up with boiled meat sauce.  Also, make sure you use kosher salt because if you salted it as much as she did in the video with regular table salt, it would be way too salty!  It’s fine if you don’t have kosher salt, just use less table salt and keep tasting!

Pasta Bolognese adapted from Secrets of a Restaurant Chef

Ingredients

  • 1 large onion or 2 small, cut into 1-inch dice
  • 2 large carrots, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 3 ribs celery, cut into 1-inch dice
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for the pan
  • Kosher salt
  • 3 pounds ground chuck, brisket or round or combination (I used ground round)
  • 2 cups tomato paste (I used a 12 oz and an 8oz can)
  • 3 cups hearty red wine (I used Cabernet Savignon)
  • Water
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 bunch thyme, tied in a bundle
  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • High quality extra-virgin olive oil, for finishing

Directions

In a food processor, puree onion, carrots, celery, and garlic into a coarse paste. In a large pan over medium heat, coat pan with oil. Add the pureed veggies and season generously with salt. Bring the pan to a medium-high heat and cook until all the water has evaporated and they become nice and brown, stirring frequently, about 15 to 20 minutes. Be patient, this is where the big flavors develop.

Browning the veggies...make sure they really do brown!

Browning the veggies...make sure they really do brown!

Add the ground beef and season again generously with salt. BROWN THE BEEF! Brown food tastes good. Don’t rush this step. Cook another 15 to 20 minutes.

Add the ground beef to the mix...make sure you really brown the meat too!

Add the ground beef to the mix...make sure you really brown the meat too!

Add the tomato paste and cook until brown about 4 to 5 minutes. Add the red wine. Cook until the wine has reduced by half, another 4 to 5 minutes.

Last stage!  Add tomato paste and wine...

Last stage! Add tomato paste and wine...

Add water to the pan until the water is about 1 inch above the meat. Toss in the bay leaves and the bundle of thyme and stir to combine everything. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer, stirring occasionally. As the water evaporates you will gradually need to add more, about 2 to 3 cups at a time. Don’t be shy about adding water during the cooking process, you can always cook it out. This is a game of reduce and add more water. This is where big rich flavors develop. If you try to add all the water in the beginning you will have boiled meat sauce rather than a rich, thick meaty sauce. Stir and TASTE frequently. Season with salt, if needed (you probably will). Simmer for 3 1/2 to 4 hours.

During the last 30 minutes of cooking, bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat to cook the spaghetti. Pasta water should ALWAYS be well salted. Salty as the ocean! TASTE IT! If your pasta water is under seasoned it doesn’t matter how good your sauce is, your complete dish will always taste under seasoned. When the water is at a rolling boil add the spaghetti and cook for 1 minute less than it calls for on the package. Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water.

While the pasta is cooking remove 1/2 of the ragu from the pot and reserve.

Drain the pasta and add to the pot with the remaining ragu. Stir or toss the pasta to coat with the sauce. Add some of the reserved sauce, if needed, to make it about an even ratio between pasta and sauce. Add the reserved pasta cooking water and cook the pasta and sauce together over a medium heat until the water has reduced. Turn off the heat and give a big sprinkle of Parmigiano and a generous drizzle of the high quality finishing olive oil. Toss or stir vigorously. Divide the pasta and sauce into serving bowls or 1 big pasta bowl. Top with remaining grated Parmigiano. Serve immediately.

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Blueberry Coffee Cake

BB Coffee Cake

So my mom really loves blueberry coffee cake.  She’s always asking me to make her some whenever I have the chance.  I’ve tried the recipe from Ina Garten and really do love the recipe.  I wanted to try a difference recipe and just compare the two and see which one is better.  I must say, Ina Garten’s Blueberry Crumb Cake turned out better.  It had more flavor to it and was a bit fluffier.  This recipe was still good but I prefere the other one instead.

Also, the blueberries in this cake was spread out on top instead of mixed in.  I prefer to have my blueberries mixed in with the cake.  I also thought the streusel topping from Ina’s cake was better.

Blueberry Coffee Cake from Joy of Baking

Streusel Topping:

1/3 cup (45 grams) all purpose flour

1/3 cup (65 grams) granulated white sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 cup (56 grams) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces

Cake Batter:

1 cup (140 grams) all purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup (56 grams) (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature

1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated white sugar

1 large egg

1/2 teaspoon

pure vanilla extract

1/3 cup (80 ml) milk

2 cups fresh blueberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C).  Butter an 8 inch (20 cm) spring form pan and line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper.  Set aside.

For streusel topping:  In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, and ground cinnamon.  Cut in the butter with a pastry blender or fork until it resembles coarse crumbs.  Set aside while you make the cake batter.

In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.  Set aside.

In the bowl of your electric mixer, with the paddle attachment, cream the butter.  Add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy.  Add the egg and vanilla and beat until incorporated.  Add the flour mixture, alternately with the milk, and beat only until combined.  Spread the batter into the bottom of the prepared pan, smoothing the top with an offset spatula.

Evenly arrange the blueberries on top of the cake batter and then sprinkle with the streusel topping.

Bake for about 45 – 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.  Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool slightly.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes 8 – 10 servings.

Here’s a side by side comparison of the two:

Blueberry crumb cake from Ina Garten

Blueberry crumb cake from Ina Garten

Blueberr Coffee Cake from Joy of Baking

Blueberry Coffee Cake from Joy of Baking

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