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Recently finished reading The Good Widow: A Novel by Lisa Steinke. All I can say is “wow.” In a general sense, this book is based on the premise of The Pilot’s Wife. But this one has some totally different twists and turns. A young wife is met at the door by police, informing her that her husband has died in an auto accident. Then she finds out he died in Hawaii – not Kansas, where she thought he was, on business. Then she finds out there was a woman in the car. Then she meets the fiance of the woman passenger and the two of them embark on a fact-finding mission in Hawaii to discover the truth. Well, I’m just sayin’ . . . the plot thickens. And thickens. And thickens clear up to the last few pages. Hang onto your seat. A really, really good, suspenseful read.

The Girl Who Wrote in Silk by Kelli Estes. What a WONDERFUL book. It opens up a shameful part of America’s past, but one you might not have heard about before this. In the late 1800s thousands of Chinese workers were brought to the West Coast to help with a variety of construction projects and a myriad of other things where laborers were needed. Many settled, married and made a new life for themselves. But suddenly the white population didn’t want them here anymore and they summarily ordered them ALL out of our country. This book chronicles a young Chinese girl, who was on a ship that was supposed to take her family to China, but the ship’s captain decided en route to dump them all overboard, to drown. The girl’s father knew it was going to happen and in order to save her, he threw his daughter off the ship as they were passing Orcas Island (in the San Juan Islands west of Seattle). She was saved. The book switches from that time to current time as a woman is rebuilding her family’s home on Orcas and finds a beautifully embroidered silk Chinese robe sleeve hidden under a stair step. The book is about that sordid past and the young girl’s descendents, and about the woman who is rebuilding. Stunner of a novel. Good for a book club read, I think. It has a reader’s guide at the back with good questions for book groups.

How It All Began: A Novel by Penelope Lively. I find it hard to describe this book – it’s wonderful. I loved it. But describing it is perplexing. The title relates to one of the characters, a woman of a certain age, who is mugged, and has to go live with her daughter and son in law for awhile since she’s stuck with crutches and has mobility problems. That starts the cavalcade of events that spread around her, with the characters. And she knows nothing whatsoever about them, hardly. They’re all somewhat inter-related (not much family, but mostly by circumstance) and they all get into some rather logical and some peculiar relationships. You engage  with each and every one of them; at least I sure did; and was trying to tell some of them to back away from what they were about to do. Or “be careful;” or “don’t go there.” That kind of thing. There is nothing insidious, no mystery involved – it’s all about these people and what happens to them. I was sad when the book was finished. The author, Lively, does add a chapter at the end – I wonder if it wasn’t part of the master plan – that kind of tidies up everything, and you get to see all of the characters move on with their lives, happy or not, but mostly happy. Really enjoyed the book. Am not sure it would be a good book club read, as the only thing to discuss are the characters themselves. Lively paints these characters well; you can just picture them as they get themselves in and out of relationship mischief.

The Last Midwife: A Novel by Sandra Dallas. It’s a very, very good read. It tells the story of an older married woman who lives in a small mining town in the Colorado rockies (this is the mid-1800’s), and is well known by all because she’s the only midwife in the area. Often people can’t pay her anything, or very little for her days of service with little or no rest or food. Suddenly, a couple accuse her of strangling their infant. Hence the story is about how this small town rallies or rails for or against Gracy. She didn’t commit the crime, but not everyone can be convinced since the angry father is a wealthy and influential man in the area. There’s plenty of relationship issues here, which make really great fodder for a novel. And there are plenty of characters in the book that you’ll love or hate. Some secrets get dredged up too. Oh, such a good read.

 

Tasting Spoons

My blog's namesake - small, old and some very dented engraved silver plated tea spoons that belonged to my mother-in-law, and I use them to taste my food as I'm cooking.

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Posted in Desserts, on January 13th, 2018.

sicilian_love_cake

Oh, mouth watering going on here. As I write, I have 2 pieces left over in my refrigerator. They won’t last long . . . what you see is a kind of cheese layer on the bottom, a chocolate cake in the middle, plus a “frosting” that starts with an instant chocolate pudding mix.

Now that my bible study group is back to normal weekly meetings again (after a break for Christmas), we met at my house, and that meant DESSERT. Sara (daughter) had mentioned making this cake and that her family had loved it. So I looked up the recipe, and read all kinds of different reviews of it (not everyone was successful at baking it correctly) but nearly everyone raved about how GOOD it was, plus the unusualness of it. Sure enough!

Most likely you’ll need to make a trip to the grocery store for 28 ounces of whole-milk ricotta cheese and about 14 ounces of mascarpone cheese. And perhaps a chocolate cake mix box AND a package of chocolate instant pudding.

What happens here: first you mix up a chocolate cake mix according to the box directions (eggs, oil or butter, water) and it’s poured into a 9×13 pan. Then you mix up a batch of the kind-of cheese layer consisting of mascarpone cheese, eggs, ricotta cheese, sugar and salt. Once it’s smooth and sort-of light, that gets poured all over the top of the raw cake batter in the 9×13 pan. Into the oven it goes and bakes for nearly an hour. In that time, the heavier cheese layer sinks to the bottom and the lighter chocolate cake rises to the top. Here is where the directions online (recipe comes from Valerie Bertinelli) are incorrect and so far no one at the Food Network has seen fit to correct the recipe info. The cake must bake nearly an hour to get all of it done in the middle. Mine took 60 minutes.

sicilian_love_cake_panThen the cake has to be allowed to cool completely – and I’m just telling you – it takes longer than you think. Because of the denseness of the cheese layer (the most likely reason) it took at least 1 1/2 hours for mine to cool to a bit warmer than room temp. THEN, you mix up the frosting. Which consists of a small box of chocolate instant pudding, 10 ounces of mascarpone cheese and a cup of milk. It makes a lovely spreadable consistency which you put on the top of the cake. And serve it right away. Everyone who had it that night raved about it. Me included.

It does keep – but it must be refrigerated because you’re dealing with milk and cheese products that could easily make not-nice bacteria.

VARIATIONS: So I read, this cake can be made in many flavors – you’re only limited by the types of cake-mix flavors and instant pudding flavors. So, lemon-lemon, spice-butterscotch (maybe), vanilla-vanilla. Use your imagination. But since I’m a choco-holic, this may be the only flavor combo I’ll try.

What’s GOOD: well, the flavor and texture of this cake is just so different. Good-different. Delicious! The cheesy (kind of like cheesecake) layer is smooth and tasty, the chocolate cake layer is well, like a chocolate cake, and then the frosting, which isn’t very sweet, has a lushness about it too. Altogether wonderful. Don’t let the more savory frosting lull you into thinking this is a lower calorie dessert. Nope. Very high, likely from the mascarpone and ricotta cheese. But worth it – yes, indeed. I’ll definitely make this again!

What’s NOT: only that you do have to make 3 layers of stuff, so a bit more work than just mixing up a boxed cake mix and a frosting. But I’m just sayin’ . . . it’s worth it, in my opinion.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

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Sicilian Love Cake (Chocolate)

Recipe By: Valerie Bertinelli
Serving Size: 12

BATTER:
1 Chocolate cake mix
MASCARPONE-RICOTTA FILLING:
4 ounces mascarpone cheese — 1/2 cup
28 ounces ricotta cheese — 3 1/2 cups (whole milk)
3 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
FROSTING:
1 1/4 cup mascarpone cheese — (10 ounces)
4 ounces chocolate pudding mix — INSTANT type
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup milk

1. Preheat the oven to according to package instructions for a 9×13” pan. Coat baking dish with canola oil or cooking spray.
2. CAKE BATTER: Prepare the batter according to box instructions. Pour the batter into the prepared dish and set aside.
3. CHEESE FILLING: Combine the mascarpone, ricotta, eggs, sugar, and salt in a bowl of a stand mixer and whisk until smooth. Gently pour the filling onto the cake batter so the top is completely white.
4. Bake cake until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean and the chocolate layer has risen to the top, about 55-60 minutes. Let the cake cool before frosting it, which may take up to 2 hours.
5. FROSTING: Just before serving, make the frosting: In a stand mixer, blend together the mascarpone, instant chocolate pudding mix, sugar and milk in a small bowl until smooth and thickened. Using an offset spatula, spread the frosting evenly all over the cake and serve. If you have leftovers, cover and refrigerate. It will keep just fine for several days.
Per Serving (doesn’t include cake mix additions): 456 Calories; 25g Fat (48.4% calories from fat); 13g Protein; 48g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 119mg Cholesterol; 395mg Sodium.

Posted in Desserts, on January 8th, 2018.

hazelnut_choc_torte_sliice

So wonderfully rich with chocolate and textured with hazelnuts. Altogether a great dessert for chocolate lovers everywhere.

My mouth is watering. That happens sometimes as I’m writing up a blog post. The picture is added into my writing/editing window first (after I’ve already sized it and added text to the photographs) and I get to stare at it while I write. I’m a sucker for chocolate and try so very hard not to have much. That recommendation that we not have more than an ounce a day . . . hmmm. I haven’t ever measured – my chocolate sin of choice is Ghiradelli dark chocolate chips. I have a container in my pantry and when I’m craving, I go grab a small handful – hopefully no more than about 8-10 of them. If I’m being good, I don’t go back to the container later in the day to have more. Right now – I’m writing this up about a week before Christmas – I’ve got Christmas cookies on hand, plus a plate full of new Christmas cookies given to me by friends, and I’ve got my favorite Bishop’s Bread that I made over Thanksgiving weekend. I’ve had a slice today, in lieu of a little mound of chocolate chips. As I write this, I’ve just made myself a second coffee latte and enjoyed the slice with it.

hazelnut_choc_torte_nuts_sidesSo, this cake. Oh my. I wish it was a purely flourless cake so I could make it for my cousin Gary, who must eat gluten-free. I suppose I could use a different cake batter to accommodate that. He loves-loves chocolate, so maybe I’ll do that for him. The cake is very light and fluffy, mostly because you separate the eggs and beat the whites and fold them into the cocoa-laden batter. The batter also has a lot of finely ground toasted hazelnut “flour” in it to give it a boost of hazelnut flavor. It’s baked in a higher-sided 8” cake pan (that you’ve buttered and dusted with cocoa powder). Once baked you allow it to cool before upending it and right side upping it again, then pouring a chocolate ganache over the top and down the sides. Meanwhile, you have slightly more chunky hazelnuts at-the-ready to gently pat onto the sides of the cake. Let it set for awhile so the ganache firms up, then slice and serve with sweetened whipped cream.

The recipe came from a cooking class with Tarla Fallgatter. You may not want to read the calorie count on this one – just know it’s a treat, and you’ll hopefully have only one slice. Make it to share with others. Then you’ll feel virtuous. Maybe.

What’s GOOD: the chocolate flavor is intense in this cake. Not for the faint of heart when it comes to the cocoa bean, for sure! It’s rich. Very filling, but oh-so-good.

What’s NOT: just the calorie and fat content, I’m afraid!

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

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Hazelnut Chocolate Torte (Cake)

Recipe By: from a cooking class with Tarla Fallgatter, 2017
Serving Size: 8

CAKE:
2 3/4 cups hazelnuts — toasted, skins removed (divided use)
3/4 cup unsalted butter — melted and cooled
3/4 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder — plus more for dusting the pan
1/3 cup all purpose flour
6 large eggs — separated
1/2 cup light brown sugar — packed
1 pinch salt
1/2 cup sugar
GANACHE:
12 ounces bittersweet chocolate — chopped
3 ounces heavy cream
WHIPPED CREAM:
1 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

NOTE: the hazelnuts are used in the batter and also to press onto the sides, so note there are 2 quantities needed.
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter an 8-inch cake pan (with 2″ sides), dust with cocoa powder and tap out the excess.
2. Grind 1-3/4 cups of the hazelnuts in a food processor with the flour. Pour out into a bowl and set aside. Process remaining hazelnuts to a medium texture and set aside (for patting onto the sides of the cake).
3. Mix together cocoa powder and hazelnut/flour mixture. Beat egg yolks and brown sugar until very thick.
4. In another bowl whip the egg whites with a pinch of salt added until it reaches soft peaks. Add the white sugar and beat until the peaks are stiff.
5. Fold egg white mixture into the egg yolk mixture in THREE additions. Pour the reserved cocoa mixture over the egg mixture; gently fold in with rubber spatula until just combined (some streaks may show). Fold in the melted and cooled butter.
6. Pour batter into prepared pan. Smooth the top. Bake until the center comes out clean, 35-40 minutes. Transfer cake to a wire rack to cool completely. Run a knife around the outside edge and invert cake onto the wire rack, then turn over, right side up. Allow cake to cool 15-20 minutes at least.
7. Place a piece of plastic wrap or parchment underneath the wire rack (to catch drips).
8. GANACHE: Place chocolate in a small bowl. Bring cream to a boil and pour over the chocolate pieces and let stand for 5 minutes. Stir until all the chocolate has melted and mixture is smooth. Set aside until thickened to the consistency of thick cake batter, about 10-15 minutes.
9. Pour chocolate ganache over the top of the cake and use an offset spatula to gently coax the ganache barely over the edges, using spatula to spread on the sides as much as possible. If there is enough ganache make a second coat of frosting on the cake. Press the reserved hazelnuts on the sides of the cake, pressing in so the nuts will hold. Dust top of cake with a bit of cocoa powder. Serve with whipped cream.
10. WHIPPED CREAM: In a bowl combine heavy cream and sugar. Beat until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and serve on top or alongside the cake slice.
Per Serving: 1002 Calories; 91g Fat (74.9% calories from fat); 18g Protein; 50g Carbohydrate; 11g Dietary Fiber; 261mg Cholesterol; 103mg Sodium.

Posted in Desserts, on November 29th, 2017.

mocha_chip_chiffon_cake

Very different . . . it’s almost like an angel food cake, it’s so light and fluffy. This doesn’t contain anywhere near the number of egg whites, so it can’t BE one, but it’s flavored with espresso granules and finely minced semisweet chocolate.

I follow a blog from a guy, Phillip Oliver, who is crazy about Maida Heatter, and it’s called MadAboutMaida. He blogs about her recipes (exclusively, I think). The cookbook this recipe came from isn’t one I own, so can’t give promises that this is exactly the recipe from the cookbook, but I’m guessing it is. It’s from her book Maida Heatter’s Cakes.

mocha_chip_chiffon_closeupWhen I saw his photo of the cake, it just spoke to me. I love light and tender cakes, so I decided to make it for a group function since it serves 12 people. It’s a straight-forward chiffon cake recipe except for the addition of chocolate chips and espresso powder. It takes a couple of bowls and 7 eggs, but it’s not difficult. It bakes up high and fluffy, and once cooled (the way you cool an angel food cake, inverted onto a narrow-topped bottle) it may take a spatula to dislodge the cake. Mine came off the tube pan easily, with just a bit of a nudge. The finished cake is very moist so it does stick to the sides, but not with difficulty.

When served, I had some vanilla ice cream too, which was nice with it. Or you can serve it straight. With coffee, please!!

What’s GOOD: so light and tender, you’ll truly think you’re eating an angel food cake. Easy to make. The espresso and chocolate flavors are subtle, so don’t expect a chocolate-centric cake cuz it isn’t!

What’s NOT: nothing really, unless having to use two bowls to make a cake is too much! One for the cake batter, the other for the egg whites.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Mocha Chip Chiffon Cake

Recipe By: Mad About Maida blog, 2017
Serving Size: 12

3 ounces semisweet chocolate — chopped VERY fine
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
1 tablespoon espresso powder — or instant coffee granules
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
7 eggs — separated
1/2 cup Kahlua — or Tia Maria or other coffee-flavored liquor
1/4 cup cold water
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
Powdered sugar to sprinkle on top

NOTE: This cake has the texture of an angel food cake, although it isn’t, as it contains egg yolks. It’s super light and fluffy.
1. Preheat oven to 325°F. You will need a tube pan, the type that has two pieces and which comes apart. Do not spray or butter the pan.
2. Chop the chocolate into pieces that are 1/4 diameter or less. Do not use chocolate chips as is, as the pieces will sink to the bottom of the cake.
3. Sift together the flour, 1 1/4 cups of sugar (reserving the rest), the powdered coffee or espresso, baking powder and salt.
4. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and add the oil, egg yolks, coffee liqueur, water and vanilla. Whisk together until smooth. Use a large spatula to fold in the chopped chocolate. Set aside.
5. In a separate mixer bowl, beat the egg whites until they are foamy. Add the cream of tartar and beat on high speed until soft peaks are formed. Always use the whisk beater for egg whites. Start out slow and gradually increase the speed until full speed. Reduce the speed and add the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar. Increase speed to high and beat again until stiff peaks are achieved. Beat for an additional minute to be sure the mixture is stiff.
7. In three additions, slightly fold in about 3/4 of the yolk mixture. Do not fold in thoroughly, just barely! Then fold the whites into the remaining yolk mixture, being a bit more thorough this time. Pour the batter into the pan and bake in the center of your oven for 1 hour and 10-15 minutes until the top springs back when pressed. The top will crack during baking. Internal temperature should be 198-205°F.
5. After removing the pan from the oven, invert it on a narrow bottle and let it cool completely. After cooling, use a long, sharp knife and gently run it around the rim of the pan and around the center tube. Carefully slide the pan apart and run the knife along the bottom of the pan under the cake. Remove the cake from the pan. If it is still sticking, use the knife to saw it carefully from the pan.
6. Use a flat pan, dish or an elevated cake plate. Sprinkle with confectioners sugar, if desired.
Per Serving: 382 Calories; 14g Fat (34.8% calories from fat); 6g Protein; 54g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 124mg Cholesterol; 254mg Sodium.

Posted in Desserts, on November 11th, 2017.

salted_caramel_apple_parfait_glassdish

My mouth is watering looking at that photo. ‘Tis the season of apples. This one’s not hard, although there are 4 steps to it: (1) caramel; (2) apples; (3) crunchy pecan and oat granola; and (4) whipped cream.

Having had this at a cooking class with Susan V a month or so ago, I knew I’d make it. So when my son and family decided to have a small family gathering, I offered to bring this. I could make everything ahead; all I had to do was heat up the caramel a little bit so it would pour (microwaved it) and layer the caramel, apples, granola and then add a bit of whipped cream on top.

sugar_turning_to_rocksFirst I made the caramel – it was very easy and I made it in my really good (All-Clad copper core) saucier pan (not nonstick, and it’s not dark colored). The sugar (see photo at left) actually turns into sugar rocks – that’s what it’s supposed to do, so don’t think you’ve done something wrong. Once upon a time I did that (thought I’d bungled the sugar melting part and threw it out!) You need to be able to SEE the caramel as it develops, adding the heavy cream at the end (see next photo). This caramel sauce is really easy, however. I let it cool in the pan for about 5-10 minutes, then poured it into a glass jar and let it cool completely. Then I made the granola – rolled oats and pecans. They are pan-toasted (easy); just don’t let them burn. You want the granolacaramel_bubbling to be toasted but not blackened. Then you pour a melted butter and maple syrup mixture over the toasted granola and pour that out onto a plate to cool. Then I transferred that to a jar.

Then it’s the apples (photo below). Very easy. Peel and slice the apples (not too thin) then add them to a wide frying pan with melted butter and cinnamon. You stir them as they cook – you do want them to be nice and soft. Do use an apple variety that doesn’t fall apart – I used Honey Crisp. If you use Granny Smiths, you’ll likely need to add more maple syrup to make them sweet enough. pan_fried_applesUsing Honey Crisp doesn’t require much sweetening. Anyway, once the apples are cooked, add maple syrup to coat and you set them aside. I put them into a plastic container so I could transport them.

All I had to do then was whip some heavy cream (no added sugar as the dessert is plenty sweet) and added a tiny tetch of vanilla. It took all of about 5 minutes (with my grandson Vaughan right by my side, licking his chops and waiting for the whipped cream bowl) to put it all together.

At the cooking class, Susan raved about a new cookbook she’s just purchased (this recipe came from it) called Eat Delicious: 125 Recipes for Your Daily Dose of Awesome by Dennis Prescott. He’s made a name for himself mostly via Instagram and Twitter. He has jillions of followers. Some of his recipes are on his website: DennisThePrescott. He doesn’t write a blog – he just posts recipes. Since I don’t do much Instagram, and I don’t do Twitter, I’d not heard of him. Have you? . . . Anyway, Susan said she’d made several things from his new cookbook and said they were all really fabulous.

What’s GOOD: loved the combo of the salted caramel, the crunchy granola and the super delicious apples. This dessert is SO perfect for a fall dinner. The recipe says it serves 8-10 – I’m just mentioning that it doesn’t make really large portions. That was fine for this dinner, but you might want to increase the size of it if you know your family would want to devour it or you know you want leftovers!

What’s NOT: there are 4 steps to making this, but really, everything can be made ahead. All except the whipped cream, which could be made a few hours ahead.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

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Salted Caramel Apple Parfaits

Recipe By: Eat Delicious by Dennis Prescott
Serving Size: 8

CARAMEL:
1 cup sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon sea salt
APPLES:
2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 pounds apples — Honeycrisp, or other sweet crispy apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
GRANOLA:
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1 cup pecan halves — chopped
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
WHIPPED CREAM:
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. SALTED CARAMEL: In a high-sided nonstick pan, heat the sugar over medium heat, stirring continuously. It will turn into strange rock-ish pieces—that’s normal! See photo. Slowly but surely, the sugar will melt and turn into a gorgeous amber colour. When the sugar has melted entirely and is now golden brown in color, carefully stir in the butter and let it melt. It will bubble like crazy. Stirring continuously, slowly pour the cream into the pan in a slow and steady stream until it has been incorporated into the caramel. Let the mixture bubble away for 1 minute, then remove from the heat. Stir in the vanilla and sea salt and very carefully pour it into a medium heatproof bowl. Set aside.
2. APPLES: Heat a large skillet over medium heat and melt the butter. Add the apple chunks and cinnamon and cook, stirring often, for about 15 minutes, or until the apples are very soft. Add the maple syrup and give the pan a toss to coat the apples. Cook for 1 minute, then transfer to a bowl and set aside.
3. GRANOLA: Heat a large, dry skillet over medium heat and add the oats and pecans. Cook, turning every minute or so, until the oats are fragrant and have started to brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a plate.
4. Place the pan back on the burner and melt the butter and maple syrup. When the syrup is simmering, remove from the heat and stir in the oats and pecans. Mix thoroughly to evenly coat the oats, then transfer to a plate and set aside.
5. WHIPPED CREAM: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or whisk by hand or use a hand-held mixer), whip the cream until thick, then fold in the vanilla.
6. Build each parfait with about 2 tablespoons of the salted caramel, a scoop of the apples, and 2 tablespoons of the granola. Top with a dollop of whipped cream, then repeat. Finish with a final drizzle of caramel and serve.
Per Serving (assumes you’ll use all the caramel – you might not): 587 Calories; 40g Fat (59.0% calories from fat); 5g Protein; 58g Carbohydrate; 5g Dietary Fiber; 96mg Cholesterol; 299mg Sodium.

Posted in Desserts, on October 18th, 2017.

pear_walnut_upside_down_cake

It’s pear season, you know. Don’t let it slip by without trying this. Although, if you use Bosc pears (recommended) you can generally find those year around.

Since I’m a fan of America’s Test Kitchen, it was a given that I would try this when they made this cake on a recent program. My mother used to make a pear pie, and I always loved it, and seems like I don’t use pears enough. Here’s a good occasion to do so.

pear_walnut_pears_onbottomReally, I don’t think there’s ever been a time when I haven’t loved whatever ATK recommended and I’ve since made. This cake is much like the old standby, pineapple upside-down cake, but using pears here, and walnuts in the cake batter. Use Bosc pears if you can get them – they bake up just perfectly in this cake. They’re placed in the prepared pan in a spoke-shaped pattern, and it does take exactly 2 1/2 pears to do it right, providing you’re using a 9” cake pan (with higher sides, not just a regular cake pan). Amazon carries one – USA Pan Bakeware Round Cake Pan, 9 inch, Nonstick & Quick Release Coating, Made in the USA from Aluminized Steel for $14.99. I didn’t  used to have a cake pan that size, but bought one many years ago and I use it often, so have felt I got my money’s worth from buying yet another kitchen item.

pear_walnut_bakedTo make the cake batter you first start with toasted walnuts in the food processor along with the flour, salt and B.P. and soda. That’s set aside, and eggs are added to the processor and pulsed a couple of minutes until they’re pale yellow. Then you add in melted butter and oil and lastly, the walnut/flour mixture. That’s poured over the pears and into the oven it goes for a bit over an hour. It needs to cool 15 minutes or so (you DO want the cake to invert properly), then carefully turn it over onto a wire rack to cool completely. See photo at right when the cake came out of the oven. Mine was still slightly warm when I served it – I think it needs some whipped cream – I forgot to take a photo of it with the cream added.

What’s GOOD: everything about this was good. The pears still retain some texture and they add a lovely flavor to the cake. It’s really pretty to serve. The servings are not overly large, and probably a good thing as the cake tastes rich. This recipe is a keeper.

What’s NOT: nothing other than a few extra steps in making the cake batter, but well worth it.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Pear-Walnut Upside-Down Cake

Recipe By: America’s Test Kitchen
Serving Size: 8

4 tablespoons unsalted butter — melted
1/2 cup dark brown sugar — packed (3 1/2 ounces)
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 whole Bosc pears — ripe but firm (8 ounces each)
CAKE:
1 cup walnuts — toasted
1/2 cup all-purpose flour — (2 1/2 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
3 large eggs
1 cup sugar — (7 ounces)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter — melted
1/4 cup vegetable oil

Notes: It is strongly recommended to baking this cake in a light-colored cake pan with sides that are at least 2 inches tall. If using a dark-colored pan, start checking for doneness at 1 hour, and note that the cake may dome in the center and the topping may become too sticky. Serve with creme fraiche, or lightly sweetened whipped cream.
1. TOPPING: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 300°F. Grease 9-inch round cake pan and line bottom with parchment paper. Pour melted butter over bottom of pan and swirl to evenly coat. Combine sugar, cornstarch, and salt in small bowl and sprinkle evenly over melted butter.
2. Peel, halve, and core pears. Set aside 1 pear half and reserve for other use. Cut remaining 5 pear halves into 4 wedges each. Arrange pears in circular pattern around cake pan with tapered ends pointing inward. Arrange two smallest pear wedges in center or cut the pieces to fit.
3. CAKE: Pulse walnuts, flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda in food processor until walnuts are finely ground, 8 to 10 pulses. Transfer walnut mixture to bowl.
4. Process eggs and sugar in now-empty processor until very pale yellow, about 2 minutes. With processor running, add melted butter and oil in steady stream until incorporated. Add walnut mixture and pulse to combine, 4 to 5 pulses. Pour batter evenly over pears (some pear may show through; cake will bake up over the fruit).
5. Bake until center of cake is set and bounces back when gently pressed and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 1 hour 10 minutes to 1 1/4 hours, rotating pan after 40 minutes. Let cake cool in pan on wire rack for 15 minutes. Carefully run paring knife or offset spatula around sides of pan. Invert cake onto wire rack set in rimmed baking sheet; discard parchment. Let cake cool for about 2 hours. Transfer to serving platter, cut into wedges, and serve.
Per Serving: 501 Calories; 29g Fat (50.9% calories from fat); 7g Protein; 56g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 111mg Cholesterol; 235mg Sodium.

Posted in Breads, Brunch, Desserts, on August 21st, 2017.

almond_puff_slice

Almond Puff Loaf. Oh gosh. Love this.

It had been decades since I’d last made this. I used to make it back in the 1960s – I’d found a recipe in one of my homespun cookbooks. Then one time I made it and it failed completely, and I had no idea why. The 2nd layer kind of spread out all over everywhere (now I know what happened) but after that failure, I thought oh well, I won’t try that again. Then it was featured recently on King Arthur Flour’s blog, and I was reminded about my previous love of it, then distress of it. As I read, I discovered that you must use large eggs, not extra large. I used to buy extra large all the time, but then about 10-15 years ago I read that bakers use ONLY large eggs because they’re more consistent with the normal size used in almost all baked things. And it was mentioned that if you use extra large eggs, this baked goodie might fail. Ah-ha! That must have been it. If you go the blog write-up then go to the recipe itself at King Arthur Flour, you’ll read all the details, if you’re interested. They actually mention how much one large egg weighs. One website says an average large egg weighs (just the egg part) 50 grams.

I served it at one of my book club meetings recently, held here at my house. The recipe is Danish in origin, and I wanted to make Danish goodies because the group was reviewing The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living. We had such an interesting discussion of the book because I invited my friend Janet to come and talk about her experiences in Denmark. Her son lives there with his wife and children, and Janet and Dick visit them regularly. She shared some stories about celebrating Christmas in Denmark (many different traditions), and she also brought a beautiful candle (candles are really, really important in Denmark, and NOT scented) with an unusual glass surround with pine boughs. My meeting was held in my family room – I lit about a dozen candles, had lights on (low) wherever I could (and had it not been mid-summer and hot, I would have lit the fireplace [fireplaces are big deal for hygge]).

almond_puff_fullAnyway, this Danish – well, it’s NOT like a “real” Danish (as we in American might call it), the kind you’d buy at a bakery. This is a pretty easy one to make at home. It has a bottom layer (look at the photo up at the top to see the layers), a top layer that’s like cream puff batter which rises quite a bit in the baking because of the eggs in it, then once baked (it takes an hour) you spread warm jam (I’m quite enamored with Trader Joe’s Peach Bellini jam) on top, then sprinkle on some toasted almonds, then drizzle with a simple powdered sugar icing.  There are a bunch of steps, but none is difficult in the least. A bit of stirring, mixing, melting, spreading, etc. After doing all the layering, I cut it into slices about 1 1/2” wide, 3” long (across). The photo above is of one of the finished loaves – it’s about 10” long and 3-4” wide. The puff was still warm when I put it onto a serving plate and invited my friends to grab a piece, along with coffee (another integral part of Danish life) and makes for a lot of hygge (HOO-GAH). We laughed a lot about how much difficulty we have pronouncing it.

What’s GOOD: this is altogether delicious – it has crunch, almost like croissant flakiness in the middle (but it isn’t, it’s cream-puff flakiness), the jam and almonds adding a nice mouth-feel. There were some pieces left over and I invited my friends to take them home – there was none left after that. Now that I’ve figured out about only using LARGE eggs, I’ll be making this again someday. And then, I love almond anything, so that was an added bonus for me.

What’s NOT: If you don’t like managing all the different layers, maybe this isn’t for you, but it’s not difficult in the least. You do need to start about 1 1/2 hours ahead since it must bake nearly an hour. And it really should cool for 10-15 minutes before serving (I didn’t because I’d run out of time!).

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

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Almond Puff Loaf

Recipe By: King Arthur Flour (but this is an old-old recipe I’ve had for decades)
Serving Size: 16

FIRST LAYER:
1/2 cup butter — cut into pats or 1/2-inch cubes, (8 tablespoons)*
1 cup All-Purpose Flour
1/4 cup water
*If you’re using unsalted butter add 1/4 tsp salt
SECOND LAYER:
1 cup water
1/2 cup butter — (8 tablespoons)*
1 cup All-Purpose Flour
3 large eggs — at room temperature; warm them, in the shell, in hot tap water for 10 minutes if they’re cold from the fridge
1 teaspoon almond extract
*If you’re using unsalted butter add 1/4 tsp salt
TOPPING:
2/3 cup jam — or preserves (preferably apricot or peach)
2/3 cup sliced almonds — toasted in a 350F oven for about 7 to 10 minutes, or until they’re a light, golden brown
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar — or glazing sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 teaspoons milk — or water (approximately)

NOTE: Be sure to use only LARGE eggs.
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease (or line with parchment) a large cookie sheet.
2. First layer: In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine the butter, flour, and salt (if you’re using it), working the butter into the flour with a pastry blender or fork, your fingers, or a mixer. Mix until everything is crumbly, then stir in the water. The dough will become cohesive, though not smooth.
3. Divide the dough in half; if you’re using a scale, each half will weigh about 4 5/8 – 5 ounces. Wet your hands, and shape each piece of this wet dough into a rough log. Pat the logs into 10″ x 3″ rectangles on the sheet, leaving at least 4″ (but preferably 6″) between them, and 2″ on each side. These puff up in the oven (hence the name), and you need to leave them room for expansion.
4. Second layer: In a medium-sized saucepan, bring the water and butter to a boil. Stir until the butter melts, then add the flour (and salt, if you’re using it) all at once. Stir the mixture with a spoon till it thickens, begins to steam, and leaves the sides of the pan; this will happen very quickly. Transfer the stiff batter to a mixing bowl, or the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat it at medium speed for 30 seconds to 1 minute, just to cool it down a bit.
5. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition; beat until the batter loses its slippery look, and each egg is totally absorbed. Mix in the almond extract.
6. Divide the batter in half. Spread half the batter over one of the dough strips on the pan, covering it completely to the outer edges. Repeat with the remaining batter on the 2nd and dough. With a spatula (or your wet fingers) spread the batter until it completely covers the entire bottom layer of dough. Smooth it out as best you can.
7. Bake the pastry for 50 minutes to 1 hour, or until it’s a deep golden brown. Remove it from the oven, and transfer each pastry to a wire rack.
8. Topping: Spread each warm pastry with about 1/3 cup of jam or preserves.
9. Sprinkle the toasted almonds atop the jam. By this time, your beautifully puffed pastries are probably starting to sink; don’t worry, this is all part of the plan.
10. Icing: Stir together the sugar, vanilla, and enough milk or water to form a thick but “drizzlable” icing.
Drizzle the icing atop the pastries. Cut into squares or strips to serve.
Per Serving: 257 Calories; 16g Fat (54.4% calories from fat); 4g Protein; 26g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 71mg Cholesterol; 138mg Sodium.
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Posted in Desserts, on August 9th, 2017.

danish_dream_cake

An easy cake to make with a kind of caramel coconut and brown sugar topping.

A couple of weeks ago I hosted one of my book groups here at my home. In this particular book group, the hostess chooses the book herself and leads the review of it. I had several books in mind, but then my friend Janet showed me a book she was given on a recent trip to Denmark, It’s called The Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way to Live Well. (By the way, hygge is pronounced hoo-ga.) Janet’s son Eric lives in Copenhagen and married a Danish woman, a physician. He speaks fluent Danish (he works for a Danish world relief organization) and he gave the book to his mom, and pointed out a photo of himself in the book (he’s friends with the author). I was enchanted with the book.

Image result for danish book of hyggeDid you know that the Danes are the happiest people on earth? So researchers say. This little book, a kind of handbook of sorts, tells you how and why that’s so. As an example, the first chapter is about candles. So, for my book group, I decided to veer away from reading a novel (our usual format), and have them read this book and so we could talk about the ideas in it, and to make some Danish goodies. I knew I’d be making Almond Puff (recipe up soon), but I wanted something else to serve along with fresh fruit, as we discussed all the different things that make the Danes so happy. And I invited my friend Janet to come to the meeting and share some of her experiences as they have visited their son and his family over the last decade or so.

In case you’re as enchanted with the book as I was, I just want you to know that the American edition (link above) is an slight alteration to the U.K. edition which contains dozens and dozens of photographs. I was sad to see that my copy didn’t have the photos. It’s in color with illustrations, but doesn’t contain the photos. Janet brought her copy and passed it around so everyone could see.

So, this Dream Cake. I found the recipe online (there are dozens of them). You make a very ordinary yellow cake batter and pour it into a 10×14 glass baking dish, bake the cake, and just before taking it out of the oven you make the hot butter/brown sugar/coconut topping that is poured over the top. It hardens as it cools (to a kind of chewy caramel consistency), then you cut it into squares and serve it. It’s REALLY good. Easy to make, and might even be a kind of Snacking Cake, except that in Denmark, this is like their “national” cake. Everyone makes it. It’s in all the bakeries and you can find it everywhere, apparently. They serve this to guests, and it’s also a staple in every Danish kitchen.

What’s GOOD: it’s a simple dessert to make, and the topping is the thing that puts it over the top – makes it so very good, chewy, sweet. Altogether good. It freezes well, too, though I wouldn’t do it for a long time. I made this a couple of weeks before I had the event at my home, then very slightly heated it in the oven before serving.

What’s NOT: it’s a little bit hard to cut – I finally used a sharp-edge spatula to cut through the caramel. Once I got the first piece out it wasn’t quite so difficult. You might try a sharp knife – that might work better.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

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Danish Dream Cake (DROMMEKAGE)

Recipe By: Nordic Food Living (website)
Serving Size: 16

CAKE:
9 ounces AP flour
9 ounces sugar
2 ounces unsalted butter
3 large eggs
3/4 cup milk
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla sugar — or vanilla (liquid)
TOPPING:
4 1/2 ounces unsalted butter
1/4 cup milk
7 ounces light brown sugar
3 1/2 ounces coconut flakes — unsweetened

1. CAKE: Whisk eggs and sugar until light and fluffy.
2. Melt butter in a saucepan, then add milk to the butter. Add to the bowl of eggs and sugar. Add liquid vanilla, if using.
3. In a separate bowl mix the AP flour, vanilla sugar (if using) and baking powder. Mix with a whisk, then add it to the egg mixture and whisk to a smooth batter.
4. Preheat oven to 400°F. Grease a 10×14″ glass baking dish with butter (or line it with parchment).
5. Pour the cake batter into the dish and smooth it out to the corners. Bake for about 20 minutes.
6. TOPPING: About 5 minutes before the cake is done, melt butter in a saucepan. Add milk and brown sugar and let it boil for about a minute.
7. Add coconut flakes and mix well.
8. Remove cake from oven and pour topping mixture evenly over the cake, using a knife to spread it evenly.
9. RETURN TO OVEN and bake another 10 minutes. Remove and allow to cool. Cut into squares to serve.
Per Serving: 302 Calories; 13g Fat (37.9% calories from fat); 4g Protein; 44g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 67mg Cholesterol; 104mg Sodium.

Posted in Desserts, on July 24th, 2017.

amaretto_ice_cream

Oh my goodness, was this ever delicious! Homemade (simple) vanilla ice cream with Amaretto added and some almond extract too.

Having been invited to friends for dinner, I asked what could I bring – Joan said an appetizer or dessert. I opted for dessert. Since peaches are in season (and oh gosh, are they delicious this year!) I thought I’d make a peach cobbler. I used the recipe I’d made a year or so ago – Peach, Blackberry & Almond Crisp but I used just peaches. The brand “I AM RIPE” from Costco was the perfect choice for the peaches – gosh are those peaches wonderful. I made a big 11×14 pan of it (without the blackberries). So then, knowing I needed to serve whipped cream or ice cream with it, I thought I’d make some Amaretto ice cream. I researched recipes, but knew I didn’t want to make the longer-prep one with eggs or egg yolks. I wanted the simple stuff (cream and 1/2 and 1/2, sugar, flavorings). Found a recipe online and just altered it a tad. I wanted a more pronounced almond flavor, so I used less vanilla then added almond extract. This recipe uses quite a bit of Amaretto (more than some ice cream recipes); hence the ice cream doesn’t ever get totally hard. Made for easy scooping, I’ll say that for sure.

There’s nothing to this, providing you have an ice cream machine. I didn’t even chill the cream/half-and-half mixture because it was already cold. All I’d added to it was sugar and flavorings. This recipe makes about a quart.  Into my ice cream container it went (that long red thing you see in the back of the photo) and I froze it for about 3 hours. The peach crisp was still slightly warm when I served it. I had enough to give extras to Joan and Tom, and to take some to my friends Gloria and Grant, AND to have 2 servings of it myself. And I’ve got exactly one scoop left of the ice cream as I write this. It’ll likely get eaten today. Right out of the container!

What’s GOOD: the Amaretto flavor is very pronounced (I liked that part) and it was super easy to make. A keeper of a recipe. I’ll be making this again for sure.

What’s NOT: nothing that I can think of. It was really delicious.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

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Amaretto Ice Cream

Recipe By: Adapted slightly from allrecipes.com
Serving Size: 8

2 1/8 cups heavy whipping cream
1 1/16 cups half-and-half
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup amaretto
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon almond extract

1. Using a whisk, mix heavy cream, half-and-half, and sugar in a large bowl until sugar is dissolved. Add amaretto liqueur and both extracts.
2. Pour milk mixture into an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions until ice cream reaches ‘soft-serve’ consistency. Transfer ice cream to a lidded container. Freeze at least 2 hours before serving. Note: this ice cream won’t ever be super-hard because of the liquor in it, so serve it as soon as you scoop it!
Per Serving: 367 Calories; 27g Fat (68.2% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 26g Carbohydrate; 0g Dietary Fiber; 99mg Cholesterol; 37mg Sodium.

Posted in Desserts, on July 12th, 2017.

bittersweet_choc_almond_torte

Would you ever guess I like chocolate? Ha! I need a daily (small) chocolate fix, and was ever so glad when the FDA or someone announced some years ago that an ounce of chocolate a day is good for us. Hooray! My challenge is keeping the chocolate to ONE ounce.

This torte is all about chocolate and almonds. There’s Amaretto and almond extract in the cake/torte part, then there are toasted almonds sprinkled on top when you serve it. The word decadent comes to mind here. The cake/torte part is certainly easy to mix up – it’s got the usual ingredients (sugar, butter, chocolate and numerous eggs) but then it also contains the Amaretto too and some espresso powder as well. AND the almond extract which gives this an extra boost of almond flavor. You do have to bake it in a water bath – that may be the only down side to making this if you hate that part.

choc_almond_torte_coolingIn my previous home I designed the kitchen myself and had a small Gaggenau baking oven, the kind that you could bake things without a bain marie (water bath). It was really, really nice to have, but the oven was very small and barely would fit a casserole dish – so small that a regular 9×13 pan wouldn’t fit in it unless it was small for its size. I had just one 9×13 pan that would fit. Other, smaller baking dishes were no problem, though. Fortunately I had a 2nd, regular oven for the larger pans. When I designed my current kitchen in 2006, I bought Dacor brand appliances (plus the Sub-Zero refrigerator and freezer), and the two ovens I have, as good as they are, don’t have that kind of a baking oven. In the Gaggenau, it had to do with the insulation around the oven – it had deep insulation so the heat was very gentle. I don’t know that Gaggenau makes that kind of baking oven anymore. Maybe to the professional trade.

choc_almond_torte_frostedWell anyway, back to this torte. You DO need to use a water bath – just place the torte in a large and deep baking dish or pan and pour in warm water (hot tap water works) while it bakes. Then you need to make the ganache which is nothing but bittersweet chocolate and heavy cream. Once the cake cools an hour you spread it over the torte (which you’ve removed from the pan – carefully). Ideally, let it cool completely before serving, but do serve it within a few hours with a dollop of whipped cream and the toasted almonds. And a lovely mint leaf if you have one. Yum. This was from a cooking class with Tarla Fallgatter.

What’s GOOD: I loved-loved the almond flavor in this – it’s VERY intense almond. And very much chocolate. You’ll swoon with each bite if you’re a chocoholic and love almonds like I do! A real treat.

What’s NOT: only the hassle of the water bath, I suppose. Maybe the calorie and fat content – cut small pieces so you won’t feel so guilty! This torte is definitely worth making.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

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Bittersweet Chocolate Almond Torte

Recipe By: Tarla Fallgatter, cooking class, 2017
Serving Size: 10

TORTE:
1/3 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
4 ounces unsalted butter — cubed
12 ounces bittersweet chocolate — cut in pieces
1 teaspoon espresso powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup Amaretto — or cold-brewed coffee
2 teaspoons almond extract
6 large eggs
GANACHE:
1/2 cup heavy cream
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate — cut in pieces
GARNISH:
1/2 cup sliced almonds — toasted
1/2 cup heavy cream — beaten with sugar and vanilla to taste
mint sprigs

NOTE: This “cake” is almost the consistency of a firm pudding. That’s the way it’s supposed to be.
1. Preheat oven to 325°F.
2. Butter a 9×2″ round cake pan, line with parchment paper and butter the top of the parchment.
3. Bring water and sugar to a boil; remove from heat. Add butter, chopped chocolate, espresso powder and salt and let sit for a few minutes until chocolate has melted. Stir until smooth. Add Amaretto and almond extract. Set aside.
4. Whisk eggs until thick. Add chocolate mixture and fold gently. Pour batter into prepared cake pan and place cake pan inside a roasting pan. Add warm water to pan, halfway up the side of the cake pan. Bake until puffed and soft to the touch, 40-45 minutes. Remove roasting pan from oven, then remove cake pan to a cooling rack. Let cake cool one hour. Run a knife around inside of the cake pan; invert onto a platter and peel off the parchment; cool completely.
5. GANACHE: Heat cream, add chocolate and let it sit for a few minutes until the chocolate has melted. Stir until smooth. Let cool slightly. Spread mixture over the top and down the sides of the torte. If needed, very, very carefully slide the cake onto a serving plate or tall cake stand. Cake is very tender and soft.
6. Sprinkle top with toasted almonds and serve with sweetened whipped cream. Garnish with a mint sprig on each slice.
Per Serving: 549 Calories; 50g Fat (74.7% calories from fat); 11g Protein; 27g Carbohydrate; 7g Dietary Fiber; 185mg Cholesterol; 113mg Sodium.

Posted in Desserts, on June 22nd, 2017.

ginger_spice_cake_dried_cherries

Think gingerbread. Think spicy gingerbread.

As you’ve read here before, every few weeks I entertain a bible study group here at my home, and I always make some kind of dessert. Since I love to bake, it’s often a cake of some kind. I’d read about this cake somewhere, and found it online at Taking On Magazines, a blog. The cake just sounded so good, and the night I served this, it was still feeling like winter.

You mustn’t expect a light and fluffy cake here – it’s pretty darned hard to get that when you use molasses anyway. Just know, if you decide to make this, that it’s a fairly firm, dense cake. Delicious, but more on the heavy side. The original recipe called for a chocolate icing, but I ran out of time, so served it with whipped cream. I actually think it would be best served with vanilla ice cream. I think the icing would make this cake truly over-the-top rich. But, I didn’t try it, so I could very well be wrong about that part.

The dried cherries (the tart, Montmorency type) are soaked in hot espresso, along with the spices. AND real Dijon mustard. What an odd ingredient – I have no idea the reason for it, but I had it, so I used it! My only recommendation, when you’re preparing the fresh chopped ginger – make sure it’s very fine, and that you include no threads of it. I used 3 different graters, including what is supposed to be a ginger grater, and none worked very well, so I ended up chopping and then mincing it like crazy with a very sharp butcher’s knife. If you have any threads visible, remove them, as they aren’t very appetizing in the cake. I thought they were cat hairs (embarrassing!) but no, they were ginger threads. Whew!

This is a regular cake – nothing unusual about the preparation of it. A stand mixer helps since it’s a thick batter. Cut it in relatively narrow pieces, and I think it will serve more than 12. I have half of it in my freezer to pull out next month when I have family visiting. That with vanilla ice cream will make a very nice and easy dessert.

What’s GOOD: the flavors are really good – you can taste the minced up dried cherries, and all the warm fall spices are tummy-warming. Even the black pepper. Just know this is a dense cake.

What’s NOT: nothing, really. This kind of dense, dark cake may not be to everyone’s taste. Do serve it with something to cut the richness of it (whipped cream, ice cream, or the icing).

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Ginger Spice Cake with Dried Cherries

Recipe By: From Taking on Magazines blog
Serving Size: 12

1/2 cup unsalted butter — room temperature, plus more for pan
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
3 large eggs
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour — plus more for the pan
1 cup light molasses
1 cup dried tart cherries — finely chopped
1/2 cup crystallized ginger — finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh ginger — peeled, finely minced
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 cup espresso coffee — hot (I used decaf)
1 tablespoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
CHOCOLATE ICING: (optional)
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons espresso coffee — hot, or strong coffee
8 ounces semisweet chocolate — or bittersweet

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Butter Bundt pan. Dust pan with flour, tapping out excess. Combine cherries, crystallized ginger, grated ginger, and Dijon mustard in a medium bowl. Pour espresso over cherry mixture and set aside. In a medium bowl whisk 2 1/2 cups flour, ground ginger, baking soda, salt, allspice, cinnamon, and pepper.
2. Using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat 1/2 cup butter in a large bowl until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add brown sugar and beat for 2 minutes. Beat in eggs one at a time, then beat in molasses.
3. Strain cherry mixture into a small bowl, reserving soaking liquid. Add dry ingredients to butter mixture in 3 additions, alternately with soaking liquid in 2 additions, beating to blend between additions. Fold in drained cherry mixture. Scrape batter into prepared pan.
4. Bake until top of cake springs back when lightly pressed in the middle, about 1 hour. Let cool in pan on a wire rack. DO AHEAD: Can be made 2 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.
5. Remove cake from pan. May be served as is, or with icing. Or serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.
6. Spoon chocolate Icing over cake, if using, allowing it to drip down sides. Cut cake into wedges to serve.
7. ICING: Heat cream in a small heavy saucepan over medium heat until tiny bubbles form around the edges of pan. Stir in hot espresso. Place chopped chocolate in a medium bowl. Add hot cream mixture; let stand for 1 minute, then stir until icing is melted and smooth. DO AHEAD: Icing can be made 3 days ahead. Let cool completely at room temperature, then cover and chill. Rewarm icing slightly before using.
Per Serving: 483 Calories; 19g Fat (33.7% calories from fat); 6g Protein; 77g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 87mg Cholesterol; 508mg Sodium.

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