Thursday, September 16, 2010

Cake time

Patient Girlfriend's birthday was yesterday, and what is a birthday without cake?  One of our favorite bakeries in Brooklyn made a cake months and months ago that Patient Girlfriend has been talking about ever since: moist yellow cake, vanilla butter cream frosting, raspberry filling, topped with coconut.  One of the things I love most about One Girl Cookies is that their cake stands on its own.  It is not just a vehicle for the frosting as is the case with so many cakes.

Mine turned out a fair shade less attractive than a One Girl Cake largely in part due to the thin consistency of my frosting.  Other than that, I, and Patient Girlfriend, were very very happy with the cake.

Sponge Cake

1 cup very soft butter (2 sticks)
1 1/3 cup self-rising flour
2 Tbsp corn starch
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
3 Tbsp milk

2 8 inch round cake pans, at least 2 inches deep

Pre-heat the oven to 350.  In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar.  Add the vanilla.  Add one egg at a time, with a bit of flour between each egg.  Add the rest of the flour and cornstarch and incorporate well.  Add a bit of  the milk slowly until the batter is very slightly runny (not easy to pour, but drops nicely off a wood spoon.)

Line the cake pans with parchment paper and grease or butter the sides.  Pour equal portions of the batter into each pan.  Bake for 25 minutes or until the tops are gold and the edges have begun to pull away from the pan.

Remove from oven and let cool 10 minutes before turning out the cakes.  Let stand until cool.


Raspberry preserves (reduced sugar if possible)
Shredded coconut

The filling is simple: spread enough preserves on the top of each cake to thinly cover the entire cake.  Sprinkle with coconut.  Done.

Carefully stack the cakes, topped sides facing each other.

Buttercream frosting 
1/2 cup very soft butter (1 stick)
3 cups confectioner's sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract 
1/3 cup milk

Cream the butter in a large bowl.  Add and combine the sugar, vanilla, milk.  Beat until smooth and firm.

Now to be honest, cake decorating is not something I have practiced extensively (as is evident by the pictures.)  This frosting spread well along the top of the cake, but was too runny to cover the sides cleanly.  Any suggestions?


1 small pomegranate, seeded
6 oz. fresh raspberries.

Cover the sides and top with pomegranate seeds, decorate the top with the raspberries.

 So it didn't turn out to be the prettiest thing I have ever made, though it is a lot prettier than some of the things that have come out of my kitchen.  The cake was delicious.  The frosting was sweet, but not sickeningly so, and most importantly, it did not overpower the flavor of the cake.  Hope you enjoy.

Bonk appétit!

Lime gelato...goes fut :(

I finally made a batch that was perfectly smooth, creamy and wonderful.  Too bad I ruined it with too much lime zest and not enough sugar...

On the plus side, I have an idea now of what I need to do to consistently make ice cream batches that come out with the consistency and texture I've been looking for.  Will update next week after some experimenting.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Rosemary Honey Gelato

Wow.  This was fun.  And delicious.  I decided to try and make this batch of gelato without eggs in an attempt to get a denser ice cream without anything extra to play with the flavors.  This is a Sicilian-style gelato that uses cornstarch to thicken the base while cooking.

A couple of notes: this batch was extremely intense right out of the machine; the honey flavor was sharp and the rosemary left a strong bite.  After letting the batch set in the freezer overnight, it seems to have mellowed considerably, though it could be seasonal allergies wrecking havoc on my ability to taste or smell anything.  I used eucalyptus honey which is very sweet and syrupy.  Next time, I think a darker, smokier honey would be better, as the sweetness does seem to get in the way of the rosemary.  I think a darker honey would also be better if I ever get my hands on some lavender so I can make lavender infused gelato.

Second, since this base does not use any egg, I decided to use whole milk with the hope of avoiding weird water crystals during freezing and setting.  This seemed to work out well; the gelato feels a little gritty when scooping, and the appearance is not quite as smooth as I was hoping for, but the taste is wonderful and no real iciness creeps in when eating.

Also, I hate straining.  All the recipes I read for gelato call for straining out zest and herbs prior to freezing.  I am of the opinion that these will add flavor and character to the batch when it is served.  So long as it is edible and does not look particularly nasty or messes with the texture of the ice cream, it stays in.  If you prefer to keep such things out of your ice cream, strain the mixture after it cools prior to freezing.

Bonk appétit!
Special Equipment:
Ice cream machine

2 cups whole milk
1 cup half and half (set aside 1/3 cup)
3 Tbsp corn starch
1/2 cup honey
1-2 Tbsp chopped rosemary

Makes about 1 quart

In a small bowl, mix the 1/3 cup half and half with the corn starch until the starch is dissolved and the slurry is smooth.  Set aside.

In a saucepan, heat the whole milk and remaining half and half, adding the rosemary after the liquid begins to heat through (2-3 minutes on medium heat.)  Add the slurry just before the mixture begins to boil.  Reduce the heat to low.  Add the honey.  Stir rapidly and thoroughly mix the honey, making sure it is completely dissolved.

Continue to cook and stir over low heat for several minutes, until the mixture begins to thicken.  Pay particular attention to scraping the bottom of the pan with a wood spoon or rubber spatula, as you want to avoid scorching.  Remove from heat before the mixture begins to boil and pour into a large bowl.  Set aside to cool or place the bowl in an ice bath.  While the mixture is cooling, a skin may form on the top.  Just whisk this back into the mixture.

Once the mixture is down to around room temperature, place the bowl in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight.  If you are able, give the mixture a little vigorous stirring every so often and taste check to see if the rosemary is strong enough for your liking.  If the rosemary is a touch weak, you can add more chopped herb to the mixture while it is cooling.

Again, I prefer to freeze the mixture for about an hour or two to make the machine process a little easier since the ice cream maker I use does not have a built in compressor.  If you find that your batches do not freeze well or remain very runny when in the machine, this may help out in getting a thicker batch.

I've found that when using a freezing core like the one here, if you can scrape the sides easily with a rubber spatula, you're in a good place as far as consistency is concerned.  Sometimes with this type of machine, the ice cream will freeze solid to the bottom and sides.  Generally, this means there is too much water in the mixture.  It is often a problem with sorbetto recipes, as they contain no milk fats.

One of the nice things about this recipe is that it makes for an excellent morning treat after a constant awakenings by cats.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Flaxseed Ravioli

This was my first time making pasta without a machine, also without enough eggs...  Fortunately, Patient Girlfriend reminded me that we had flaxseed in the fridge and that it makes an excellent egg substitute.  With that in mind, this is a basic pasta recipe with flaxseed replacing half of the egg requirements.  I actually wound up enjoying this as the flax gave the pasta a nice nutty flavor.  The filling I made was a simple, Greek inspired, onion and bell pepper mix that I cooked through, puréed, set to cool and then added yogurt and seasoning.

Time saving equipment (optional):
Food processor
Pasta machine

Ingredients (pasta):
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 egg, beaten
1 Tbsp flaxseed meal
3 Tbsp water

Mix the flaxseed and water in a small bowl and let sit for 2 minutes.  This substitutes for one egg.  The combination of 1 egg and 1 egg substitute seemed to work very well for the dough.

If using a food processor, sift the flour and salt into the processor and slowly add the oil and egg/substitute while the machine is running.  If the machine can mix the dough for upwards of a minute, the product should be a stiff smooth dough.  If the dough is too stiff for your machine, let it mix until smooth, then hand knead for 5 minutes.  You can hand mix the dough if a food processor is not available, the processor just saves a bit of time.

If using a pasta machine, roll out the dough in sheets according to the manufacturer's instructions.  If rolling by hand, divide the dough into two equal portions and roll out each on a floured surface until about 1/4 inch thick.  Fold the pasta into thirds and reroll.  Repeat 4-6 times, each time, rolling the dough a little thinner.  Keep the dough under a clean, dry dish towel while you prepare the filling.

Ingredients (filling):

1 small onion, finely chopped
1 small green bell pepper, finely chopped
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
salt, pepper, garlic powder, dill to taste (since the pasta dough is fairly nutty and flavorful, you can be fairly liberal with seasoning.)

Add the oil and water to a saucepan or wok and sweat the onion, adding the pepper after a couple of minutes.  Cook the vegetables through, seasoning to taste.  If you have access to a food processor, you can purée the mixture for a few seconds to make a finer filling.  Set the mixture aside and allow to cool, periodically draining off any excess moisture.  Once the filling is cool, add the yogurt and re-season if necessary.  Set aside while you finish the dough, again draining off excess moisture that accumulates.  


1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup oil oil

Lay out a pasta sheet and place a small portion of the filling in rows about two inches apart.  The firmer the mixture is at this point the better, and if it seems watery, just pour off the liquid prior to placing on the pasta sheet.  Brush a small amount of water between the filling portions and place another pasta sheet on top.  

Press down between each portion and then use a pasta cutter or sharp knife to cut the sheet into squares.  You can press the edges with a fork to help seal any uncooperative pieces.  Let the ravioli dry in the refrigerator then boil for about 5 minutes.

Sprinkle the cooked ravioli with the cheese and oil.  

Bonk appétit!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Double Chocolate Gelato (w/ peppermint patty pieces)

I haven't felt very inspired with my cooking lately, but this gelato wound up being quite nice.  No pictures this week since the combination of poor photography skills and brown ice cream really doesn't make for good viewing.

Before we start, a couple of things I have found about gelato making: fat is good - the higher fat content in the base, the more creamy the end product.  I tried making a couple batches of ice cream early on with low-fat and skim milks, but they came out more like an Italian ice with a pretty noticeable crystalline texture.  Low fat will result in faster melting time and may cause problems with thickening and consistency in the freezing process.

Most ice cream and even gelato recipes are custard based, that is, they incorporate egg yolk into the base to create a thicker, creamy mixture that is then frozen and aerated in an ice cream maker.  I was told that true gelato is not custard based which results in denser product when frozen.  Without an expert to consult on this point, I've simply been adding yogurt to the base as a thickening agent at the ratio of 2 tsp yogurt for each egg yolk called for.  The results have been quite nice.  Eventually, I'll try making a gelato without a thickener and will report back.

In this recipe, I used a combination of milk and dark chocolates in a 3:1 ratio.  It is certainly easy enough to change the types and amounts of chocolate to suit your tastes.  The end product in this recipe was not overly sweet, but very rich with the dark chocolate adding more of an undertone than real body to the ice cream.

1 cup heavy cream
2 cups half and half (you can use whole milk if you like, but half and half works well enough and cuts down significantly on fat and saturated fat content.)
50g dark chocolate
150g milk chocolate
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract.
2 Tbsp butter.
8 tsp plain yogurt or 4 egg yolks (I like plain yogurt because it takes the edge off the sweetness of the base, but feel free to use vanilla if you want.)
1/2 cup chopped peppermint patties (optional)

Yields about 3 pints.

Extra equipment:
ice cream machine
double boiler
candy thermometer

Melt the chocolate and butter in a double boiler until smooth, stirring constantly to avoid scorching.  Add the milks to the chocolate and blend over low heat.  Add sugar and increase the heat to medium/low and stir to dissolve the sugar.  Once the sugar is dissolved and the base is smooth, remove from heat and let cool slightly.  In a large separate bowl, whisk the vanilla extract and yogurt/eggs until well blended.  Slowly add the still warm base to the yogurt/eggs.  This is done to prevent the any curdling or scrambling that would occur if adding the yogurt/eggs directly to the very warm base.  Mix well.

Pour the mixture back into the sauce pan and stir over medium heat until the mixture is 170 degrees.  Little bubbles will begin forming around the edges and the mixture will thickly coat the back of a wooden spoon.  Remove from heat and allow to cool.  Refrigerate for several hours or over night.  Freeze in ice cream maker according to instructions, adding any the peppermint patty pieces after the ice cream begins to firm up.

Before freezing, I've found that sticking the mixture in the freeze for an hour or two helps in getting the ice cream to a nice thick density.  This is especially true if you are using an ice cream maker that does not have a built-in compressor.  Freeze in an air tight container for several hours before serving if you want it to be firmer.

As I said, this is may be closer to an American-style ice cream than a true Italian gelato given the use of a thickener and custard-style base, but in any event, it is delicious, rich, creamy, and a great cure for chocolate cravings.