Sunday, June 22, 2008

Allergy Warning: This Product Contains Dairy

I have been dreaming about making a Tres Leche cake for the past week now, ever since I had a piece at my friend's birthday dinner at Cafe Habana City. It was the third, maybe fourth time I'd ever tried it...and boy was it goooood. A simple description of tres leche (or leches) cake? How about a sinfully rich slab of sweet milky deliciousness? Filled with condensed milk, evaporated milk, and cream/half-and-half/whole milk (it depends on the recipe), it's got more milks than you can shake a stick at. If you're even slightly lactose intolerant, don't even think about eating or even looking at it. Or do it anyway, like I do, knowing full well that you're going to give yourself a tummy ache. It's worth it.

This really should've been posted with the last post, since it was part of the baking bonanza that occurred yesterday. However, it wasn't ready until today since the milk mixture had to soak into the cake overnight. My sister and I both peeped anxiously at the cake as it was resting in the fridge, wondering why it should soak so long and what would happen if we just eat it now??? Would we create a tear in the space-time continuum? That's a risk we weren't willing to take. It was a long hard wait, but we made it! It's an odd, odd thing...but even after pouring over 3 cups of liquid over it the cake seemed dry. Huh? Definitely not like the restaurant ones :(

Wanna make your own? Try out Alton Brown's recipe. He's a generally trustworthy guy, if you ignore my cranberry muffin incident. (Yes, I know this is the second time I've referenced it, but how can I ever forget something like that?) I did make some changes though (don't I always?)...instead of half-and-half I used a mixture of heavy cream and 2% milk. After all, half-and-half stands for half milk, half cream. Duh. The recipe calls for a cup, but half-and-half only comes in pint containers and I hate to buy more than I know I'll use. I hate to waste, so I used half a cup of cream out of my pint of heavy cream and made the difference up in milk. Of course that meant reducing the topping, but believe me--it still made plenty. I used 1/4 cup powdered sugar instead of the 8 ounces of granulated sugar called for. That would've just put it over the top. ^_^

On a side note, I'm pretty happy with how the photo came out. I have the broken cover of our kitchen skylight to thank for that, because it cast a mega beam of sunshine juuust in the right spot on my counter.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

A Saturday Baking Bonanza

I can't exactly remember the details, but some time ago I signed up to be a recipe tester for Cook's Illustrated magazine. I'm a pretty big fan of the magazine and website, and if I'm lucky enough on a Saturday afternoon I can catch their television program "America's Test Kitchen" on PBS. For those of you not familiar with the premise of the organization, they do extensive testing of recipes, products, techniques, and cooking gadgets. In other words, when you use one of their recipes you can be sure that it's pretty much no-fail and will taste amazing.

I've been receiving e-mails from them with recipes to test and a corresponding survey to complete, but so far this is the only recipe I've attempted--Chewy Chocolate Cookies. The other recipes they've sent have either not interested me or required too many ingredients I would need to buy and subsequently never use again. These cookies were okay, but if I ever make them again I'll make a few changes. First, I would cut out the step of rolling the dough in granulated sugar prior to baking. At first I thought this would make it easier to shape the cookies and reduce stickiness, but after handling the dough with relative ease I think the step could be eliminated. I'd also make these guys a bit smaller. Make that a LOT smaller. The entire batch of dough was portioned into 16 cookies but could have easily made a full 36 and still end up with a decent size cookie. The current size is generous, yes, but in my opinion it's more than one person can eat. Or should eat.

A while back my sister's boyfriend asked me if I knew how or have ever made focaccia bread. My answer was "no," but it got me to thinking that maybe I should make it, and soon. I turned to my trusty Allrecipes site to read up on some recipes and member reviews and found this recipe. I made two modifications though: less yeast and no olive oil on top (I figured we could dip in olive oil when we ate--like at those nice Italian restaurants). The recipe calls for 1 Tablespoon (3 tsp.)of yeast...a standard package contains 2-1/4 tsp., and I wasn't about to open another pack for the rest. I knew I could get away with using less if I increased the proof time. The resulting bread pretty darned tasty, but next time I'll stretch the dough into a bigger slab before baking. I followed the directions by patting the dough out to 1/2", but my final product was too puffy, too tall, too bready...if that makes any sense.

Well these aren't baked goods per se, but they did come out of my oven and it's just too pretty a picture not to post. :) On the left are crawfish cakes. Yes, that's right. Crawfish cakes. Sounds good, no? I chopped up some leftover tails I had in my freezer from a crawfish boil earlier this year and threw them into a standard crab cake recipe. Of course I made the mistake of forgetting that the tails were already seasoned, so with the added salt in the recipe the cakes ended up being a little salty for my taste.

Pictured on the right are some roasted vegetables I prepared using a package of Italian dressing mix and a touch of olive oil. It's officially summer time (though it's been feeling like it outside for quite some time now), and with it comes a bounty of summer squash. Yellow squash and zucchini are two of my favorite vegetables, as are sweet red peppers. Normally I'm unwilling to shell out the bucks to buy them, but there was a sale at Albertsons I couldn't pass up. I still had a pound of carrots in my fridge from when I made carrot cakes, so I wanted to use those up too. (parboiled first, of course) If it wasn't such a rainy Saturday, I'd have thrown these into my veggie basket and popped them onto the grill with some portbellos. Then I would be in veg-u-ble heaven!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Shortcut Carrot Cupcakes

I'm feeling generous today, so maybe it's time for some recipe sharing. Carrot cakes I've made in the past were 'from scratch' recipes that were only so-so in terms of taste and texture. Some of this had to do with the fact that the great majority of carrot cake recipes call for ungodly amounts of oil or butter. I've seen recipes that call for 1.5 or even 2.0 cups of oil. CUPS. Yeesh. Try as I may, I just can't bring myself to use that much oil in anything, so I typically resort to the age-old trick of substituting half the oil with applesauce. That's all fine and dandy, but for this round I decided to find a recipe structured on a smaller amount of fat to begin with. It's no secret that most of my cakes come from a box, so without further delay...

Carrot Cupcakes (makes about 24)

4 eggs

1/2 cup oil
4 oz. jar carrot baby food
18.25 oz. box yellow cake mix*
2 tsp. cinnamon*
1/2 tsp. nutmeg*
1/4 tsp. cloves*
3.4 oz. box instant vanilla pudding
1 lb. carrots, peeled and finely grated
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)

*You can save time by using a spice cake mix instead of these.

Preheat oven to 350°F and line 24 muffin cups with paper liners.

In a mixing bowl, beat eggs, oil, and carrot baby food until smooth. Add cake mix, spices, and instant pudding to bowl and beat on low until combined, about 30 seconds. Scrape down sides of bowl, then beat for 2 minutes on medium speed. Fold in grated carrots and nuts, if using.

Portion batter into 24 muffin cups. (I was worried about overflow so I ended up making 28 cupcakes, but it turns out the batter doesn't rise all that much. Making 24 would give you a nicer, taller crown or "muffin top" than what I have pictured.)

Bake at 350°F for 30 minutes, or until cakes test done. Let rest in pans for 5 minutes, then remove cupcakes to cool on wire racks before frosting.

White Chocolate Cream Cheese Icing (Yield: about 3 cups)

8 oz. cream cheese
2 oz. butter, softened
6 oz. bar white chocolate, melted and cooled
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups powdered sugar

Beat cream cheese and butter together until smooth. Add white chocolate and vanilla and continue to beat until incorporated, scraping sides of bowl as necessary. Gradually add powdered sugar, and continue to beat until fluffy and spreadable.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


Blueberries are definitely up there on my list of favorite foods, so buying a mega-carton of blueberries at Sam's was a no-brainer for me. Problem is, there's no one else in my household who shares my great affinity for these delectable blue morsels. It's not a big deal for me to just sit and eat blueberries until I'm sick, but I decided that a better option for using them up before they spoiled was to bake them in something. Well not just any something--blueberries are at their happiest when that something is a blueberry muffin. I mean who says "no" to a blueberry muffin, really? I defy you to find that person.

If a blueberry muffin = love, then a giant muffin cake would surely = Love. Capital "L." Times a hundred.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Thanks Cakespy!

Five weeks ago I decided that it was high time I got off my lazy rear and take up the "Couch to 5K" program. I'm on week 6 of the 9 week schedule, which means I *should* be running 5 km on the 4th of July. Hooray for Independence Day! From there, I'll just need to work on pacing and I'll be race-ready in no time. A proper runner has to have proper running attire, right? Enter my new jogging tank designed by Jessie Oleson of Cakespy.

It's supposed to be a sleeveless tank/singlet-type shirt, made of that newfangled micro-dry-performance-stain-resistant-anti-microbial-and-whatnot-material. But on me it looks more like a muscle shirt because I ordered a size too big. *sigh* I based my size guesstimate on how the shirt looked on the online model, who is definitely wearing a size Small. But who cares when the design is described as "The most magical design ever?" Cupcakes and unicorns...what could possibly top that?

Oh and you might be wondering if the picture I posted is of me wearing it? No, it's just a cropped photo of the shirt on a hanger. Why not just put it on, take a picture, and crop that? Well I did, and quite frankly, taking a picture of and then posting a shot of my chest is well...creepy. :)