Archive for February, 2011

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Two Steps Forward, One Step Back: The Case of the Reverse Red Velvet

February 24, 2011

So recently I was really craving some red velvet in my life. The problem is I get bored of the same things over and over again. For example, my dad absolutely loves chocolate chip cookies. He also likes most of the random cookies I’ve pieced together like Tazo Passion Chips, Triple Chocolate Tangelo, and White Chocolate Pistachio, but always defaults to requesting chocolate chip. Sure they are wonderful and delicious and homey, don’t get me wrong, but what they lack to me is a challenge. I’ve realized I like challenges. A lot.

Which brings me back to my dilemma; I wanted something that filled the void of being red velvet, without being red velvet per se. Thus came the idea for a reversed red velvet cake. In my head this cake would be cream-cheesy in the center and red chocolaty goodness on the outside. I feel this cake does just that, but left me a little “whelmed.” It turned out quite tasty and I was so happy to make a red icing without having to use a whole lot of dye (Pure red can be a quite the task to make, as more often than not it comes out pink or really fake nuclear red). The downside though, is that it just became a vanilla cake with a creamy filling and red chocolate frosting. It wasn’t as exciting as I had imagined.

Not all my ideas work out 100% of the time. At this point I’d like to quote one of my favorite teachers of all time.

“Take chances, make mistakes, get messy!” ~Ms. Frizzle

In baking and cooking, it’s important not to just have ideas, but to run with them. Make them into a reality. Worst-case scenario is that you make a wonderful mistake of a recipe (see here) or you learn how to improve your recipes slash realize they are awful. <(^_^)>

I may have lost this challenge to myself, but as a result I have even more new ideas that I want to try out.

Thoughts:

-If you don’t want to use cake mix in the frosting, you can substitute in a 2-3 Tbsp cocoa powder, an extra cup of powdered sugar, and red food coloring until you reach your desired level of crimson to chocolate ratio. Warning: You may need a LOT of red dye.

-This cream cheese pastry cream is fantastic! It reminds me a bit of the filling inside of those cheap and tasty Costco cakes, but hey — you can make it yourself! Woot woot!

-Trying out the cheesecake flavor of LorAnn oil I have discovered an essential flavor for my pantry. It tastes more like cake-batter than anything else. I foresee a lot of cake-batter flavored sweets and treats in the future.

-Next time I would cut each of the 8 inch cakes in half to have a total of 3 layers of pastry cream. That stuff is good. I could seriously eat it like pudding…well it kinda is just that.  <(>.>)>

Reverse Red Velvet Cake

Cake:

  • 2 c soymilk
  • 2 tsp. vinegar (apple cider variety if you have)
  • 2 ½ c. all-purpose flour
  • 4 Tbsp. cornstarch
  • 1 ½ tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 2/3 c. canola oil
  • 1 ¼ c. sugar
  • 2 drops of cheesecake flavor LorAnne oil (or 2 tsp vanilla extract)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 2 8-inch cake pans.

Mix together the soy milk + vinegar and set aside to curdle for about 5 minutes. Meanwhile in a large bowl sift together the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Add the oil, sugar, and flavoring to the curdled soymilk and beat together. Pour into the dry ingredients and mix until the lumpiness is gone.

Separate into the 2 cake pans and bake for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Set aside to cool.

Cream Cheese Pastry Cream

  • 2 c. soymilk (or milk)
  • 4 egg yolks
  • ½ c. sugar
  • 4 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 6 oz. cream cheese (¾ of a brick)
  • ½ tsp vanilla ( I used vanilla bean paste for some flecks)

In a medium saucepan warm the milk until scalding. Meanwhile, in a large bowl whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, and cornstarch until light in color. In a small bowl, heat the cream cheese in the microwave for 30-45 seconds until melted and smooth. Now, slowly whisk the milk into the egg mixture until it all comes together. Return to saucepan over medium-high heat. Continue whisking for 3-4 minutes until the mixture thickens and bubbles. Whisk for 1 additional minute then remove from the heat. Fold in the cream cheese, cover with some plastic wrap, poke some holes and refrigerate for an hour or until chilled (The plastic wrap should touch the surface of the cream, so a skin doesn’t form while chilling).

Red Velvet Frosting

  • 1 c. butter or margarine (softened at room temp)
  • 1 ½ c sifted red velvet cake mix
  • 3 c. powdered sugar
  • ¾ c. soymilk or milk (more may be necessary)

Cream the butter until light and fluffy. Sift in the cake mix along with ¼ c. of the milk. Slowly alternate additions of the powdered sugar and the milk. The resulting frosting should be a nice spreading consistency. If too thick add more milk, if too thin add more sugar.

To assemble: fill layer(s) with the pastry cream, frost and enjoy!

~Erik <(^_^)>

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“Dynamite Pizza”, or The Best Pizza You’ll Ever Eat

February 17, 2011

I put off writing about this for a while because I know pizza is simple and it’s been done.  A lot.  True, anyone can throw some toppings and cheese on a crust and bake it.  But I promise you haven’t lived until you’ve tried this one.

I came across this crust recipe a few years ago in Cooking Light magazine, and I haven’t strayed since.  The truly amazing thing about this recipe is that it makes four crusts from one recipe, and you can have them ready to go in your fridge or freezer – making for a really fast and delicious weeknight meal. Plus, there’s just so much potential for creativity here!

In the past Erik and I have done everything from Greek Pizza, to Tomato Basil Mozzarella Pizza, to a Barbecue Pizza (a personal favorite which always receives rave reviews).  But the one I want to share here now is one of our latest and more delicious creations:  a Spinach, Artichoke, and Asparagus White Pizza; inspired by spinach artichoke dip.  It’s a great combination of fresh, green vegetables and rich, delicious cheesiness.  It’s certainly a nice break from the monotony of pepperoni pizza with tomato sauce, and well worth the extra effort (though it doesn’t take much).

The White Pizza, before baking.

Dynamite Pizza Dough

  • 1  package active dry yeast (or 2 1/4 teaspoons)
  • 1  cup  warm water
  • 1 1/4  cups  cold water
  • 2  tablespoons  olive oil
  • 1  teaspoon  sugar
  • 1  teaspoon  salt
  • 5 cups unbleached bread flour
  • Additional flour, for kneading

*For Wheat Crust, use 4 cups all purpose flour and 1 cup whole wheat flour.

Dissolve yeast in 1 cup warm water in a small bowl; let stand 5 minutes. Combine 1 1/4 cups cold water, oil, sugar, and salt in a small bowl; stir with a whisk.

Measure flour into bowl of stand mixer fitted with a dough hook.  Add yeast mixture, and cold water mixture to the flour.  Mix on low 8 minutes or until dough begins to form. Let rest 2 minutes.  Mix on low 6 more minutes. Turn dough out onto a floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic (about 2 minutes); add additional flour if needed, 1 tablespoon at a time, to prevent dough from sticking to hands (dough will feel sticky).

Divide the dough in half (for thicker crust) or quarters (for thinner crust), and place each portion in a large zip-top bag. Seal and chill several hours or overnight. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before rolling out.  Roll and stretch dough to desired size and shape.

Pizza bakes at 500° for 12 minutes.

Note: You can freeze the dough in heavy-duty, freezer-safe zip-top plastic bags for up to 2 months; thaw dough overnight in the refrigerator.

The dough can also be divided into smaller portions for personal pizzas or calzone.

Baked White Pizza, SO delicious!

Spinach Artichoke Asparagus White Pizza

White Sauce:

  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter or margarine
  • 4 ounces (1/2 brick) cream cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 2 cups milk or soymilk
  • 1 tablespoon arrowroot powder
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon basil

In a small saucepan, melt butter over medium heat.  Add the onion and garlic powder, stirring frequently.  Melt in cream cheese.  Stir in arrowroot powder to milk.  Add milk mixture, parmesan cheese, oregano, and basil to saucepan.  Stir until sauce begins to thicken.

Toppings:

  • 1 can artichoke hearts, chopped (kitchen shears work well for this)
  • 15-20 blanched asparagus spears (about 3 cups, cut in 2-inch pieces)
  • 1 cup cooked spinach (frozen spinach thawed and drained well is the easiest)
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese

Assembly:

Makes 2 large pizzas.  If you only want to make one, reduce everything by half.

Place each prepared dough on a pizza pan.  Brush lightly with olive oil and spread on half of white sauce (it may look like there is too much sauce, but it soaks in quite a bit while it bakes).  Sprinkle spinach and mozzarella over sauce.  Top with artichokes and asparagus.  Scoop tablespoon sized balls of ricotta over the top of the pizza.  Bake at 500° for 12 minutes.  Indulge.

One last look at the finished pizza.

~Josie

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D is for Demerara Sugar (Raw raw raw ahh ahh)

February 5, 2011

That’s just fancy talk for raw sugar. It probably seems like a rather simple ingredient, and while it is, it is a welcome addition to a recipe IMHO.

Demerara sugar typically has a light golden brown color, similar to that of brown sugar but its texture is actually more like that of regular white granulated sugar. It has a much nicer crunch factor though. So what makes demerara sugar so different (I kind of want to call it D-Shugg)? Well, I’ll tell you <(^_^)> ! All sugar is not created equal. D-Shugg comes from pressed sugar cane juice that is steamed and then becomes a thick syrup. This syrup is dehydrated and voila! in its wake it becomes crunchy, slightly molasses-y, and delicious. Fairly simple and natural process right? It’s sad that it is generally more expensive that refined white sugar <(T_T)>.  Wamp wamp. On an interesting note, its name comes from the Demerara colony in Guyana where it was originally sourced. Use this tidbit to impress that special someone at the next party you go to. <(^_~)>

Also, here in the U.S. we have our own version of raw sugar referred to as turbinado. For this type, the cane juice is spun in a turbine or centrifuge. It has a slight taste difference than demerara but they are pretty interchangeable. Regardless of your choice of sweetness, raw sugar has a higher moisture content so try and store in an airtight container like you would brown sugars.

This is a large granule raw sugar my parents bought me on a trip to Hawaii.

This is the more commonly available sugar in the raw. It has much smaller granules and is lighter in color.

Raw sugar is excellent way to play with the texture of a recipe that may need a little extra something to break up its uniformity. Enter baked goods! Lots of sweet baked goods such as cookies, muffins, and scones benefit greatly from the power of D-Shugg. Give it a chance. Oh hey—look I’ve even included a simple recipe that is amazing with our new found friend! Yah!

Thoughts:

-I got this recipe from my friend Kelly via Josie. Be careful. They are addicting.

-One of the most widely available brands of turbindo is “Sugar in the Raw” if you can’t find Demerara anywhere.

-If you want a heartier cookie, substitute 1 c whole wheat flour+ 1 c all purpose for the flour.

They're just so Sparkly! ❤ <(^_^)^

Kelly’s Molasses Ginger Chews

  • ¾ c butter, softened at room temp
  • 1 c light brown sugar
  • ¼ c molasses
  • 1 egg
  • 2 ¼ c flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • Raw Sugar (demerara or turbinado) For Rolling

Preheat the oven to 375°.

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar. My favorite method of doing this is using a large wooden spoon and mixing and smashing until it is light in color and combined ^_^ Alternately you can use a mixer and cream together. In another bowl sift together flour, baking soda, salt, and spices. Set aside.

Stir in molasses and egg into creamed butter until well combined. Then add 1c flour mixture. Stir then add in remaining flour.

Rolling on the mix of the two raw sugars I had.

Chill for 15 minutes in the freezer. Scoop out dough and shape into balls and roll in raw sugar.

Bake for 10-12 minutes, until “lovely”.  Should make about 2-3 dozen depending on the size of your rolled scoops.

They really are lovely! So good! Om nom nom.

This cookie has it all. Sweet, spicy, chewy, crunchy. Noms.

~Erik <(^_^)>