Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Strawberry Shortcake

Strawberry shortcake is one of those things I took for granted. It seemed like a dessert that lacked any real umph and so I never tried it. It seemed too simple for me. But recently, I have been thinking about beauty in simplicity and went back and took a look at a shortcake recipe in one of my cookbooks - Baking Illustrated by the Editors of Cook's Illustrated Magazine. This cookbook is a fabulous one. It's one of the best I have and if you are an avid baker, I urge you to grab one for your cookbook stash.
Stawberry shortcakes are indeed simple, consisting of a scone-like biscuit filled with strawberries and topped with a cloud of whipped cream. I had just made a batch of strawberry compote with fresh whole strawberries that I intended to use for this treat. This extra jamminess made for a tantalizing breakfast choice.
If you want a simply beautiful treat for breakfast, as a snack, or any time of the day, really, try a homemade strawberry shortcake.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

A St. Patty's Day Chocolate Stout Cake

I love holidays! And 19 years ago, I met a guy who introduced me to several holidays I hadn't quite been celebrating yet. (Thanks, hun!) Then I married him and had two little leprechauns who thoroughly enjoy celebrating these holidays as well. And as a mom of two young kids, I have to admit that holidays take up quite a bit of my time - Christmas, Easter, Halloween to name a few. These special days demand so much from us moms - planning, shopping, decorating our house only to remove the decorations a few weeks later, among other things.
Well, today is St. Patrick's Day! A less major holiday but having Irish descent in our family, it is one to celebrate nonetheless.. And you all know how I celebrate - copious amounts of flour, eggs, butter, sugar........ :-) When thinking of what to bake for today, two things came to mind - green and beer. I was not too keen on doing something so literal as green this year, so I focused on the beer.

My husband loves a good stout. With its deep, complex flavor, color and aroma, I'd have to say as a non-beer drinker that I prefer it over other types of beer as well. I've always wanted to make a chocolate stout cake. Stouts and chocolate go quite well together and I knew a cake would be no different. I selected Guinness, since we had it on hand and found a wonderful recipe that brought out the taste of the beer but in a very subtle way. My hubs seemed to taste the beer much more than I did in the cake, which seemed to make sense to me since he drinks it a lot more than I do. Either way, it is an intense ultra-chocolatey cake with great moisture and texture.

Another great feature of this cake is that it's not too sweet, which makes it the perfect vehicle for any frosting you desire. I chose a peanut butter buttercream with a blanket of salted caramel between the cake layers. I felt the salted caramel would work well to cut through the sweetness of the buttercream. The result was a cake that is dangerous to keep in my fridge. I'm glad I'll be giving this one to my friend when I see her this weekend. The recipe I used is not complicated at all. It took me around 20 minutes to get it into the oven. It can also be made as a pound cake which I would imagine would be amazing with a blizzard of powdered sugar over top.

Happy St. Patty's Day, friends!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Elmo Birthday Party

This past weekend I made a few cupcakes for a friend who's baby was turning one. The party was "Elmo" themed and it seemed only fitting to make Elmo cupcakes. I had been wanting to make some sort of Elmo cake or cupcake for a while, so I was excited to use this opportunity to do so.

The cupcakes were carrot cake with cream cheese frosting. I like to use these flavors for the little ones because I feel it's slightly healthier than doing just a vanilla or chocolate cake. They're having a veggie - carrots and a protein - cream cheese! Ok, well, sorta...

The birthday boy was so adorable! He just dove right into those cupcakes when his mommy put them in front of him and he kept going until his parents decided he'd had enough. It was the first time I truly enjoyed watching one of my edible creations be torn apart.

I had such a fun time making these cupcakes and they were so well received that I cannot wait to make these again - maybe even the whole Sesame Street monster crew next time!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

A Savory Post: Stuffed Zucchini Boats

As much as I have divulged to you my intense love of baking, this doesn't hold true for cooking. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy cooking, but I don't love it. Cooking is something I have to do for my family and the harriedness of most days leaves me rushing to throw together something that is quick and easy, yet homemade and tasty. Dinners also have to be something we will all eat with minimal coaxing, so as to maintain my sanity at the end of the day.
There are people who are naturals at this - they can look in their fridge and create a masterpiece from what's at hand. I am not one of those people. So trying to figuring out what to make for dinner most nights adds to the stress of this seemingly harmless question: What's for dinner? I bet you're wondering where I'm going with this. How is she going to end up at dessert? Dessert for dinner, perhaps? No. As much as I myself could eat dessert for dinner every night of the week, I would not subject my family to that (though I think my kids would gladly vote for it).
As I was preparing dinner this morning (You heard me right. I have a busy evening, so I prepped dinner this morning. Don't you do that sometimes?), I was thinking about how people are always so impressed with it - the healthfulness, the ease with which it comes together, the delish factor. So I decided to post it on my blog! That's right - a savory recipe on my sweet blog! I think pizza was the only other savory recipe I have posted in my short blogging career.
I'm not sure where this recipe came from - I might have caught it on TV one day or read it somewhere - but I'm delighted to share it with you.This dish is fun to make and fun to eat - Stuffed Zucchini Boats. It is made by scooping out the innards of a zucchini and filling them with a yummy ground turkey mixture and then baking and topping them with cheese. It satisfies all healthy dinner requirements and I can throw it together in under 15 minutes and then refrigerate until dinner time, when I bake it off to oozy, bubbly, cheesy goodness. Today, I served them with garlicky breadsticks, which was just baked strips of pizza dough brushed with a mixture of melted salted butter and minced garlic. Kids enjoy the fun factor, getting to eat "boats" for dinner and I am happy knowing that dinner, for today anyway, was a success.

Stuffed Zucchini Boats
(Origin, unknown)

6 large zucchinis, well scrubbed
1 t salt

1 lb ground turkey
1 t salt
1/2 t pepper
1/2 red onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1/2 green bell pepper, diced
2 T ketchup
1 T Worcestershire sauce
1 T tomato paste
1 egg, beaten
1/4 c parmesan cheese

6 T ketchup
3 T Worcestershire sauce
1/4 c parmesan cheese

Preheat your oven to 350F.
Cut the zucchini in half lengthwise and scoop out the flesh to 1/4" thickness. Place the zucchini on a sheet pan. I like to cover my pans in foil. It makes for an easy clean-up. Slice a thin piece off the bottom of each zucchini half so that they stay in place when on your tray rather than roll around. Sprinkle 1 t salt over the zucchini and let them sit while you prepare the filling. This helps to pull out any excess moisture from the zucchini.

In a bowl, combine all of the filling ingredients and mix to thoroughly combine. Wipe the zucchini of any excess moisture and then use a spoon to fill the zucchini boats with the turkey mixture.
To make the topping, whisk the ketchup and Worcestershire sauce to combine. Spread on top of the stuffed zucchini.

At this point, the zucchini can be covered and refrigerated until you are ready to bake them.
When you are ready to bake, put the tray, uncovered, in your preheated oven on the middle rack. Bake for 30 minutes. Take out the tray and sprinkle the zucchini boats with 1/4 c parmesan cheese. Place it back in the oven for an additional 5 minutes, so the cheese can melt.
Serve warm and enjoy.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Raspberry Yogurt Cake

We've had such a mild winter compared to the usual here in the Northeast. We've been spoiled and I have been enjoying every moment of it (except when Mother Nature decided to drop some wet and dangerous snow on us en route to the airport for a trip to sunny Florida... go figure). And now that February is history, and March is stampeding in like a lion, Spring is knocking on our door. Spring used to be my favorite season. The mild temperatures and reemergence of light jackets, skirts, and bright colors brightened my mood and energized me for the rest of the year. But when my daughter turned two, Spring reared its ugly head. Since then my Springs have been filled with itchy noses, red and puffy eyes, and constantly fighting to keep pollen out of our house so my daughter could enjoy her home as allergen-free as possible.
So, as a result of my latest dealings with Spring, my second favorite season has taken the #1 spot - Summer! The other day, I was thinking about Summer - flip-floppy, sunscreeny days, sitting lazily poolside, trips to the beach, etc. As usual, all my thoughts eventually lead to baking and I was inspired to make a light cake using berries in some manner and was pleasantly surprised when I found a large container of beautiful plump, crimson raspberries at my Costco!
What better way to dream about summer than sitting with a warm cup of coffee and a freshly baked slice of Raspberry Yogurt Cake topped with a light Cream Cheese Glaze. This cake was soft and fluffy and complemented so well by the slightly tart raspberries and creamy glaze. The yogurt in the cake added a moisture that remained for days. I think it lasted about 3 days at my house. It's great for dessert, a mid-afternoon snack, or every time you pop into the kitchen for something.. This cake would be great without any berries or with any other berry you like. And it would be just amazing topped with a dollop of lightly sweetened whipped cream in place of the glaze! 

Raspberry Yogurt Cake
(cake adapted from Bon Appetit Desserts by Barbara Fairchild, glaze adapted from Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook)

3 c all-purpose flour (divided into 2 1/2 c and 1/2 c)
1 1/2 t baking powder
1/4 t salt
1 c (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 c granulated sugar
2 T freshly squeezed orange juice
1 t almond extract
2 t orange zest, fine
3 large eggs, room temperature
6 oz plain yogurt (Greek yogurt works well)
12 oz washed and dried raspberries

Cream Cheese Glaze:
4 oz cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 c powdered sugar
1/2 t almond extract
1 T freshly squeezed orange juice
3 T milk (more, if needed)

Preheat your oven to 350F. Lightly butter a 12- to 15-cup bundt pan. In a bowl, whisk 2 1/2 c flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside. Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy (around 3 minutes). While this is working, combine the raspberries and 1/2 cup of flour. Toss together until each raspberry is completely covered in flour. This helps to keep the raspberries suspended in the cake during baking, rather than having them settle to the bottom of the pan. Set the raspberries aside. Then, to the butter and sugar mixture add the orange zest, juice, and almond extract. Mix until well incorporated. Add the eggs one at a time, making sure to incorporate each one before adding the next. Once the eggs are well mixed in, add the yogurt and blend until well mixed. Slowly add your dry ingredients and mix until just blended, ensuring not to overmix. Using a spatula, fold in the flour-coated raspberries to the batter.
Spoon the batter into your prepared bundt pan and smooth off the top. Bake in the preheated oven for about 1 hour and 10 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
Let the cake cool for about 10 minutes and then invert it onto a serving platter and continue to let it cool.
While the cake is baking, make your glaze.
In a bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and powdered sugar until light and fluffy. Then add the extract, orange juice and milk until well combined. You may add more powdered sugar or milk to thicken or thin out the sauce depending on your desired consistency. I like mine a little on the thicker side so it will coat the cake substantially for a yummy glaze to cake ratio in each bite... :) Drizzle atop your cake and serve.
Keep it refrigerated for up to 5 days.