Wednesday, April 18, 2007

SHF #30: Orange Blossom Cake with Candied Orchids

This is what I came up with for a flower themed cake for Sugar High Friday #30 Flower Power hosted by Coconut Chutney. This was a really great theme, forced me to experiment with using real flowers- something I've never done before. I was at the local farmers/public market this past Saturday morning, and I passed by a vendor who was selling fresh herbs. I noticed a little plastic container of fresh flowers also. The nice lady handed me an orchid to taste, she said it was from a vanilla orchid plant. Didn't taste like much, but she had me hooked- I was intrigued and just had to buy the pack of flowers, besides, they were only $1! So with flowers in hand, I came home wondering what I should do with them. Good ol' Epicurious always has good ideas for everything, and so I decided to candy my flowers. And oh what a fun but messy (and tedious) project that was. You can see the results below. But now I decided I needed a cake to go with those flowers, so an orange blossom scented cake evolved out of my foggy thoughts. This cake is heavier- like a pound cake. If I were to make it again, I would make it in loaf pans and serve as a pound cake, no frosting, I would probably have a dollop of lemon-lime curd to go with it. But regardless, the cake still tasted really good and decadent in this form.

Candied Flowers (this recipe is adapted from Epicurious)

Edible flowers (pesticide free, organic, nontoxic)
sugar (I probably used ½ cup or so- didn’t really keep track.)
1 egg white
½ tsp water

Beat the egg white with the water. Then brush your flowers with the egg/water mixture. Sprinkle sugar all over the flower. Make sure you cover the flower completely, otherwise you will have problems with them wilting. Place flowers on a wire rack and allow them to completely dry. According to Epicurious, the flowers can be stored in an airtight container for up to one month. I don’t believe this as some of my flowers (the daisies, but not the orchids) were getting a bit wilty after a couple of days. I found the best flower to use was the orchid, but also the individual petals of the carnation were really nice also.

Orange-Blossom Cake with Orange-Blossom Buttercream and Candied Flowers

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 ½ cup sugar
5 eggs
1 grated lemon or orange zest
1 Tbl orange extract
4 teaspoons orange-blossom water
1 ½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
2 ½ cups flour, sifted
1 cup milk + 3 tsp apple cider vinegar Preheat to 350°F. Grease & flour two 9 inch round cake pans.

Beat butter in a large bowl until fluffy. Gradually add sugar, beating until well blended. Beat in the eggs one at a time, lemon zest, orange extract, and orange-blossom water. Add the baking powder and salt. Beat in the flour and milk/vinegar mixture alternately into the butter/eggs.

Divide batter between the two prepared pans. Bake cake until golden on the edges, firm, and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 35-40 minutes. Cool cakes on a wire rack.

When cakes are cool, fill the two layers with lemon-lime curd. I really liked Dagmar’s recipe at A Cat in the Kitchen, so that’s what I used. Then use remainder curd to frost sides. For the top of the cake use the following recipe for Orange Blossom Buttercream.

Orange Blossom Buttercream

½ cup (1 stick) butter
½ cup powdered sugar
1 cup (1/2 pint) heavy whipping cream
½ tsp orange blossom water

Beat the butter and sugar well. Add cream gradually, and orange blossom water, continuing to beat until nice frosting consistency. Frost top of cake.

Then decorate cake with the candied flowers.

BBQ Bacon Makes Everything Taste Better

Clockwise from top right: Grilled Asparagus, Red Onions, Potatoes,
Bacon, and Sesame Bread

Mmmm, grilled veggies and bacon. Nothings better than that.

Marinade (dump & pour method):
balsamic vinegar
olive oil
garlic powder
basil (dry)
oregano (dry)
rosemary (dry)
spicy brown mustard
fresh ground pepper
Mix all ingredients in a large dish/pan.

Wash 3 bunches of asparagus and trim ends, add to marinade.

Dip 8 oz of bacon in the marinade and then thread bacon onto a metal skewer.

Slice 2 red onions in half, and add to marinade.

Wash 3 medium sized potatoes. Microwave potatoes for 2 minutes. Flip potatoes over and microwave for another 3 minutes. You want the potatoes to be almost cooked through but not soft. Slice potatoes into thick slices, add to marinade. If potatoes are too soft, they will fall apart on grill.

Allow all vegetables to marinade for a half hour or so. Start your grill, get the coals nice and hot. Grill the potatoes and onions first. While the potatoes and onions are on the grill, place the skewer of bacon on top of them, allowing the flavor of the bacon to melt over the potatoes. Baste with remaining marinade. When potatoes and onions are cooked through, they should be soft and charred on the outside. Take them off the grill. Put asparagus on the grill and put the skewer of bacon back on top, as seen below. Grill asparagus until done. Take hunks of good bread (Italian/Sesame/French/whatever you like) and place on grill for a minute or so. Serve and enjoy.

Skewer of bacon sitting on top of asparagus while grilling.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Browniebabes Treat Chocolate Right

Myriam at Once Upon a Tart has called upon all brownie lovers to answer her Browniebabe challenge, so here is my response to the call.

Brownies bring back a lot of childhood memories for me because they were the very first thing that I ever made all by myself (without mom's help) at the age of 10 years old. I always loved to cook, helping my mom with dinner, cakes, cookies, whatever, but now I was given the chance to make something myself, and brownies are really the perfect place for a child to begin to learn how to cook. The ones I used to make were a pretty basic, really sweet, fudgy dense brownie. But now, 13 years later, I usually prefer the not-as-sweet, cakier brownie that focuses on conveying a depth of intense chocolate flavor. That's right, I said it, I'm in the cakey-camp, terrible aren't I? But not to worry, I still do appreciate those rich, gooey-sweet types of brownies.

It's been a while since the last time I made brownies, so I didn't have a treasured recipe on hand, so I decided to read a whole bunch of recipes on Epicurious. From reading those recipes, I formulated my own recipe. I use less than the common 2 cups of sugar, more than the common 3/4 cup flour. A lot of cocoa was really intensified with some cinnamon and espresso grinds- it might sound funny, but it makes for an amazing result. Also, the addition of dark chocolate chips and white chocolate chips give these cakey brownies an extra chocolate pizazz.

Mocha & White Chocolate Chip Brownies

3/4 cup (1 ½ sticks) butter, softened
¾ cup cocoa
1 ¼ cups sugar
2 tsp espresso grinds (or you could use instant espresso)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 large eggs
¼ cup milk
1 ½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup semisweet chocolate chips
¾ cup white chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375°F. Grease the bottom and sides of a large jelly roll baking pan with shortening, and then line bottom of pan with parchment paper and grease parchment well with shortening.

In a large bowl, mix the butter, cocoa, sugar, espresso, vanilla, cinnamon and salt, and then add the eggs 1 at a time, whisking after each addition until batter is smooth. Add milk. Continue beating batter until it is very smooth, almost whipped. Stir in flour. Add both types of chocolate chips, stirring to combine.

Pour batter into prepared pan, and spread it out till even. Bake in the middle of the oven until top is firm and edges just begin to pull away from sides of pan, about 20 minutes, be very careful not to over bake!

Cool brownies in the pan on a rack. Cut into 40 squares and store in an airtight container.

Big ol' pan of yummy brownies

If it's any indication, the guys at work really liked them

Sunday, April 8, 2007

A Feast for Easter

Happy Easter everyone! Here are some pictures of my day of food...

Peach cake for breakfast- yum
This is a recipe that I got from my grandma this past summer, and it is just fabulous! It's easy, delicious, and you can use whatever fruit you like- plums, pears, apples, apricots, etc. It is kind of like a fruit cookie bar or a crostata more than a full-fledged cake. The crust is thin and some what crunchy depending on how long you cook it, and the sugar on the peaches caramelizes a bit to make a scrumptious topping.

Grandma’s Peach Cake

In a medium bowl, combine until they hold together:
½ cup butter
1 ¼ cup flour
½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
¼ cup sugar
¼ tsp salt
1 egg
2 Tbs milk

Grease a 9”x13” cookie pan & preheat oven to 400°F. Press dough into the pan.

In a medium bowl, combine:
4 large peaches (more or less), sliced
½ cup sugar
1 Tbs flour
3 Tbs lemon juice
1 tsp cinnamon

Arrange peaches in a single layer over the dough. Bake cake for 40-50 minutes, or until the dough is cooked through on the bottom and the peaches are soft.

When I think of Easter dinner, I think of lamb. It seems to me like the perfect meat to serve, so fitting for the holiday, plus I don't get lamb very often (even though I love it) so it makes it that much more specialer. This is a recipe that I just kinda threw together, one of those walk in the pantry and start dumping and puring spice in a bag. It is Middle Eastern inspired, sort of similar to a kabob, only I left my leg of lamb whole. I did butterfly it though, in order to make it cook faster and more evenly on the grill.

I Love Lamb!

BBQ Lamb with Middle Eastern Spices

In zip loc bag or other marinating container combine:

1 Tbl Cumin
1 Tbl Coriander
1 Tbl Turmeric
1 tsp hot Paprika
1 tsp cinnamon
1 Tbl garlic, chopped
¼ cup yogurt
2 Tbl lemon juice
fresh ground pepper

Add to marinade, and massage meat:
2-3 lb leg of lamb, semi-boned and butterflied

Allow meat to marinate overnight in refrigerator. An hour before cooking, take meat out of the refrigerator and sprinkle with:
2 tsp sea salt
½ cup fresh cilantro, chopped

Start your barbeque, preferably the good ol’ charcoal kind, and make sure you have some nice hot coals. Barbeque your lamb to desired doneness (I like it medium in the center, and done on the ends- this way your guests will be able to find a doneness level that they like.) Slice and serve with sauce (recipe below).

Shiraz Lamb Sauce:

In a small sauce pan combine:
½ cup Shiraz wine
any and all dripping/blood from the lamb
½ tsp garlic powder
fresh ground pepper
sea salt

Simmer sauce over low heat for 5 minutes. Sauce will be thin, it is just meant to be a jus of sorts for the lamb. Serve hot with the lamb.

Lemon & Garlic Roasted Potatoes

Preheat oven to 400°F. Combine in a large glass baking dish:

6 large potatoes, chopped into bite-sized chunks
2 red onions, chopped into bite-sized chunks
2 Tbl garlic, chopped
the zest of one lemon
the juice of one lemon
½ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
sea salt to taste
fresh ground pepper to taste
¼ cup olive oil

Bake potatoes, covered with tin foil for 30 minutes. Then uncover them, stir and return to the oven (uncovered) and cook till tender and brown, about 40 minutes.

Spiced BBQ Lamb with Lemon & Garlic Roasted Potatoes & Asparagus

Pure chocolate for dessert

Recipes coming soon...

Dark Chocolate & Almond Cake with Anisette & White Chocolate Cream

It's like a chocolate landscape...

Sunday, April 1, 2007

KWV 2006 Steen

I love wine for one simple reason. Every bottle, every vineyard, every region is unique, always a new and exciting experience. And because of that, there are hundreds of thousands (millions maybe?) of new wine experiences that one could possibly have in a life time. Wine is exciting, diverse, and versatile; you can drink it by itself or pair it with food. Wine is produced on every continent (well not Antarctica), allowing you, the drinker, to travel the world through a bottle of wine. Wine reflects where its grapes were grown, says something about the local culture, climate, and people of its home turf. Wine has many virtues, and because of this, I have decided that wine needs to become apart of my food blog, making this a food and sort-of-wine blog. I hope you enjoy, I will warn you that I am no professional wine taster, but I give it my best.

This KWV 2006 Steen from South Africa is a light bodied wine with aromas of tart, sweet green apples and faintly reminiscent of hay. It is a refreshing semi-dry white wine and tastes of tart lemons with a hint of pear. I would treat it much the same way you would treat Sauvignon Blanc, serve chilled, could be enjoyed on its own on a hot summer day, or pair with chicken, seafood, or salad etc. This KWV Steen contains 12.5% alcohol. I think this is a great buy ($7.99), it is delicious, bracing, and a thoroughly enjoyable, easy drinking white wine; great for ringing in the spring time!