Archive | April, 2011

Mazurek – Polish Easter Cake

27 Apr

For those of you that celebrated Easter this past weekend I hope it was fabulous for you! It certainly was for me! It was nice to see family, eat some fabulous food, play some wiffleball (even hubby’s grandmother has a few swings!) and go on an Easter Egg Hunt! We managed to lose one of the eggs. It’s a good thing we used plastic eggs otherwise the back yard would start to smell!

It’s not too late to post about Easter food, right? I mean, even though this cake is traditionally served for Easter, it’s a cake that can and should be enjoyed year round. I had a lot of fun making this cake, and you can definitely make it your own by changing up the design.

I was originally going to write Happy Easter in Polish (which is Wesołych Świąt in case you were wondering) but I was literally baking and/or cooking for 6 hours straight on Friday night and about 2-3 hours Saturday morning that I was too lazy to write it out. But I like the simple design on this, and there were a lot of compliments.

The reason I picked out this cake was not only because it is traditionally served on Easter, but also because since my husband’s family is Polish, I pretty much HAD to make this cake. And they loved it!

Aren't they (we?) a nice looking family

Mazurek

From A World of Cake

  • 3 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 1/4 cup ground almonds
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • zest of 1 orange
  • 9 egg whites
  • 2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. The original recipe calls for a 10″ square or round baking pan. I used a 9″ round and it came out fine, I just let it bake for a few extra minutes. Butter and flour your pan and set aside.
In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, mix butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes. Add ground almonds, vanilla and orange. Gently stir in the flour until combined. Pour into another bowl and set aside.
Make sure you wash and dry your stand mixer thoroughly before doing the egg whites. With the whisk attachment, add the eggs and beat on medium speed until frothy. Then bump it up to the highest setting and whisk until stiff peaks form.
Gently fold the egg whites into the batter until just combined. Pour the mixture into the pan and bake for 30-40 minutes, until lightly browned. If you press your finger in the middle, it should bounce back.
Let cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then remove from pan and let cool on a wire rack.
Chocolate Ganache
  • 2.5 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 8oz semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
Using a double boiler, or a small sauce pan with a stainless steel bowl on top, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the chocolate chips and honey and stir until the chocolate has completely melted. Remove from heat and stir the vanilla.
At this point I let the ganache cool slightly and then using a spoon I spooned the ganache onto the cooled cake and spread evenly.
At this point, the rest is up to you! You can decorate however you want. I used pumpkin seeds, slivered almonds and candied orange peel. But feel free to use cookies, icing, different nuts, dried fruit, whatever you can think of! You are only limited by your imagination! My only advice is that if you are planning on using icing, make sure the ganache has cooled overnight before piping.
Don’t forget! Bloggers Bake for Hope Virtual Bake Sale is May 2-4. I’m making a Cream Cheese Coffee Cake from America’s Test Kitchen and there are TONS of other delicious offerings! Don’t forget to check it out!!!!
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BCAE: Let’s Bake a Cake!

21 Apr

I have to be honest, I’m definitely a better cook than baker. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve come a LONG way in my baking skills, but they still need some work.

Take cake for instance. I’m always frustrated when I make a cake. I get cake envy from those brilliant bloggers I read that can make huge thick layers of cake. My cakes never turn out like they do in the pictures. Their always sad and small.

So I decided to sign up for a cake baking class at the Boston Center for Adult Education. I had previously taken a cooking basics class there and really enjoyed it so I thought with a 3 hour cake baking class I could figure out just what the hell was wrong with me and cakes.

Our teacher was Michelle, and she has an extensive and impressive background. She is a former bakery owner, went to culinary school and is currently earning her Master’s degree at BU. I was definitely impressed.

The first thing she taught us was how to make a simple syrup. It was crazy easy. You basically add sugar and water, leave it along, and voila,  simple syrup is made.

Then it was time to make cake! We made 2 different kinds, a traditional vanilla cake and a chocolate cake. I learned that you can basically mix the crap out of the cake for as long as you want until you add the flour, then you want to make sure you don’t over mix. By mixing the butter and sugar thoroughly, you incorporate air, which makes the cake big and tender. I think this was step 1 in my cake problem.

I think we mixed the butter and sugar for at least 5 minutes. I know that I’ve never done that when I make cakes, so I know the next time I make cake I’ll let my mixer go for a LONG time. Michelle basically said to mix it for longer than you think.

Both cakes called for the milk/flour or sour cream/flour alternating technique. At this point we mixed the batter until it almost came together. Then, using a spatula, we incorporated the rest.

We made them into cupcakes because they don’t take as long as a cake, and the cake wouldn’t have cooled down enough for us to frost it. But don’t worry, she baked extra.

Both sets of cupcakes came out fantastic! The crumb was tender and moist, and I had a hard time not eating them all!!

Next up we made an Italian Meringue Buttercream. And when I say butter, I mean butter. This frosting has almost 2 POUNDS of butter in it. They aren’t kidding around.

This buttercream involved making another simple syrup, but this time it had to be brought to a specific temperature (242 degrees). I had never made this kind of frosting before, and it was a really interesting process. Basically you whisk the egg whites until frothy, add sugar and beat until stiff peaks form. Then, you turn the mixer to medium low and pour the sugar syrup in. Then you stir on high until the mixing bowl is cool to the touch. And believe me, it gets hot!!! A tip she gave us is that if you don’t have a ton of time, you can use a wet towel to cool the bowl.

Congratulations, you’ve just made Italian Meringue!!

Now, in order to make it into a buttercream, you start adding in butter. And more butter. And more butter. Adding small chunks and incorporating them until the buttercream “breaks” (like shown above). You’ll know that the buttercrea has broken because one second it’ll be nice and smooth and the next second it’s all choppy. Turn off your mixer baby, because you’re done!!

At this point, we learned how to assemble our cake! Michelle demonstrated how to cut off the top of your cake (and I volunteered to cut the second!). Basically you want to plant your hand on top of the cake, and glue your elbow to your side (the one holding the knife). Try not to move your hand that is holding the knife, but guide the knife all the way around the cake. By keeping your elbow as close to you as possible, the more straight the cut will be!

At this point we were running out of time, but she gave us a quick overview about the crumb coat. Basically you need to a) use an off set spatula b) never put your spatula into the frosting if it is covered in crumbs! Use a regular spatula to plop the frosting on c) use an edge to get as close to the cake as possible and get rid of excess frosting and d) refrigerate for a couple of hours before putting on the second coat. We didn’t have enough time for that so she went onto the next stage!

At this point she slathered on more and more frosting and evened it off until it looked pretty. Then she took some crushed candy bars and added them to the side of the cake. Hurray! Finished! And it was of course, delicious!

I definitely learned A TON from this class and I’m quite certain that my next foray into cake baking will be more successful. The BCAE is so wonderful and I’ve really enjoyed all the classes I’ve taken. In fact, I’ve just signed up for their bread baking class in June and I’m very excited! Can’t wait to report on that class as well!

Cream Cheese Coffee Cake – Bloggers Bake for Hope

19 Apr

Guys and gals, I need to tell you about a fantastic thing going on that I’m super proud to be a part of.

Cara from Cara’s Cravings and Jen from Beantown Baker are hosting a virtual baking sale to benefit Massachusetts Komen for the Cure. Breast cancer is something that is very prevalent in my family so I’m all for supporting this wonderful cause.

The rules of the bake sale are pretty simple. Bloggers Bake for Hope will take place between May 4-6. You’ll have the chance to bid on LOADS of baked goods (from at least 35 bloggers so far, check out some of the submissions). All proceeds will go to Komen for the Cure. Minimum bids start at $15.

Think about it. Who doesn’t love to eat baked goods? And sometimes you just don’t want to bake them yourself. And the best part is that it goes to a good cause! Win win for everyone! I’ll even let you tell people YOU made it. I’m that generous.

So what am I making you may ask? Well, it’s no secret that I love America’s Test Kitchen. I follow them on Twitter, I like them on Facebook. I have a magazine subscription to Cook’s Illustrated and I also have a membership to the website. I just bought their Slow Cooker Revolution cookbook. I watch their show every weekend.

Let’s just say I have dreams of working in the Test Kitchen. It’s kind of a big deal. And they are located in Brookline and sometimes when I pass by the Test Kitchen I want to knock on the door to see if Chris Kimball will answer.

So when I was thinking of what I wanted my submission to be, I knew I didn’t want to go the cookie or brownie route since there were already A LOT of those (not that it’s a bad thing!). I wanted to stand out in the crowd, if you catch my drift. Then I thought about an episode I watched recently where they featured a Cream Cheese Coffee Cake. It was perfect! Out of the box, but still able to be shipped easily. And based on the episode, it looked DELICIOUS.

I didn’t have a tube pan, so I had to use my bundt pan, but I still like how it came out. (Which reminds me, I need to get a tube pan now!) Beautiful swirls of cream cheese filling, and the lemon in the recipe just makes everything POP! And the almond lemon sugar mix that goes on top? Almost makes me want to bid on it for myself.

I’m going to be an evil little food blogger and NOT post the recipe. You can most certainly get it if you subscribe to America’s Test Kitchen. BUT, if you DO win this lovely cake for Bloggers Bake for Hope, I’ll include the recipe for you.

Sneaky, aren’t I?

So DON’T FORGET to head on over to Bloggers Bake for Hope May 4-6 and BID BID BID!!!

Cupcake Camp 2011

17 Apr

Last week I had the AWESOME opportunity to head over to Cupcake Camp at Arts at the Armory in Somerville on Wednesday. Cupcake Camp is a chance for people of all ages to gather in love of cupcakes. Professionals and amateurs alike get to show their creativity when it comes to lots of sugar.

Cupcake Camp also raised more than $2300 for Lovin’ Spoonfuls, an organization that takes foods that would otherwise be thrown away and gives them to those who need it most. It’s a GREAT organization and I was happy to support it.

The view of Cupcake Camp!

I was lucky to get in before the doors opened at 7PM and before mayhem ensued. People sure do LOVE their cupcakes and the line out the door and around the corner in the rain proved it.

I mean, how could you NOT love cupcakes? I ate so many cupcakes that I swore off cupcakes for the next year (Oh wait, I had a cupcake yesterday, nevermind). I really loved the cupcakes from Cupcake Mojo. I tried the orange creamsicle, complete with one of those candied oranges. LOVED IT!

Over at Treat Cupcake Bar, it was make your own cupcakes! With a base cupcake of chocolate, vanilla or swirl, and choice of 3 frostings and loads of toppings, people were only limited by their imaginations. I went simple with a swirl cupcake with cheesecake frosting and chocolate covered pretzels. They incorporated the toppings with the frosting Cold Stone Creamery style, and it was really tasty!

My good friend Barbara Ann from Biba’s Baked Goods  rocked the vegan cupcakes. I have tried a MANY of her cupcakes before, and they are all magnificent, and this time I went for a chocolate cupcake with chocolate ganache on top with some vanilla frosting in the center. Kind of like a hostess cupcake but 1000000000x better.

Mixx bakery had a great assortment of cupcakes. I had my eyes on the Salted Caramel, but I was so distracted from the THOUSANDS of cupcakes, that they ran out before I could try it. Drats! Guess I’ll just have to grab an order of them soon!

Whole Foods River Street featured some two bite cupcakes and some bigger decorative cupcakes. Always nice to see them!

Party Favors from Brookline had a great assortment of different flavors. I think I was in cupcake overload and just couldn’t stomach the larger cupcakes from them! But I have tasted their cupcakes before and they are good!

King Arthur Flour sponsored the event and they had a table up at the front where they were demoing how to decorate your cupcakes for Easter! It was very fun and whimsical, and the creations made were great!

The cutest cupcake in the world award went to JannaBee’s. These banana nut mini cuppycakes as they called them were delicious! And the bee on top was so cute, I almost didn’t want to eat it. Almost.

The amateur bakers brought it just as much as the professionals. Cara from Cara’s Cravings made some AMAZING Bailey’s Mint Chocolate Chip Mini Cupcakes. The mini cupcakes were the way to go. Unless you came with someone, or were feeding your friends that were helping out the leftovers that you couldn’t finish, it was REALLY hard to eat all of the full sized cupcakes. Not that they weren’t delicious, they were just BIG.

Jen from Beantown Baker made Frito cupcakes and cookie dough cupcakes. I didn’t try the cookie dough cupcakes but I DID try the Frito Cupcakes. These were PHENOMENAL. Chocolate cupcake, filled with peanut butter and fritos. Crunchy, salty, sugary, good. One of my favorites of the night.

A view of the amateurs side

I was really impressed with EVERYTHING. I’m totally doing this next year. Now just what to make?

So who was the mastermind behind Cupcake Camp? Well it was Liz of Free Food Boston! She’s pictured on the right with Ashley Stanley of Lovin’ Spoonfuls.  She did such an amazing job with this event. Way to go Liz!

And in case you wanted to know how successful Cupcake Camp was, this is what some of the areas looked like just an HOUR after the doors opened.

And….

If that’s not success, I don’t know what is. So grateful to have been able to come to Cupcake Camp! Can’t wait for next year!!

Guest Post at Cooking Whims!

14 Apr

Hey everyone! I’m guest posting over on Megan’s blog, Cooking Whims today. Make sure you go check it out!!

Coconut Curry Soup

Lots of good stuff happening! Enjoy!

Seder Plate Challenge

12 Apr

This past weekend I had the fantastic opportunity of attending a Seder over at fellow blogger Cara’s (from Cara’s Cravings) house along with some other fantastic bloggers! It was my first time participating in a Seder and I really enjoyed it!

 

Our Seder Plate

 

If you want to learn more about the Seder plate and what kinds of foods are served during Passover, check out Cara’s post on it. You’ll learn a lot!

My contribution to the Seder plate was the matzo encrusted asparagus and horseradish hollandaise. I was REALLY nervous about making hollandaise especially since I would be making it for the first time EVER at Cara’s house. And it almost turned into a DISASTER!

So here I am, whisking my hollandaise, and it’s looking absolutely BEAUTIFUL, when all of a sudden, it breaks. Panic follows. A quick Google search on my phone on “How to fix hollandaise: advises me to take a tablespoon of cold water and a little bit of the broken hollandaise and whisk until frothy and then continue to add the broken hollandaise until it’s all incorporated.

And well what do you know, it WORKED! We were all amazed. And I was just thankful that I didn’t turn into a loser in front of all my blogger friends. hah

 

The spread. Yum

 

It was really something, all of us coming together, sharing food (and gossip, heh) and learning about a culture that I frankly don’t know much about.

Everyone brought some fantastic food, check it out!

Classic deviled eggs from Megan.

Kale salad with walnuts, goat cheese and beets from Elina.

Crunchy apple slaw from Jen.

Charoset with matzo crackers and beet horseradish from Renee

Amazing Spiced lamb and eggplant matzo crepes from our host, Cara.

Cauliflower latkes from Melissa. These were surprisingly delicious. I’m usually not a fan of cauliflower, but these were awesome!!

And finally dessert!! Those little balls of wonder in the corner are wasabi truffles made by Shannon. A crystallized ginger center, wrapped in white chocolate and covered with wasabi. It was so creative and so awesome! And I believe those meringues in the background( made from almond and chocolate) were made by Cara. I may have eaten at least 8 of them.

And there you have it! I always talk about how blogging has opened so many new doors to me, and this is one of them! I had such a great time and I can’t wait to do it again!

Matzoh Encrusted Asparagus

Adapted from How Sweet Eats

  • 1 bunch asparagus
  • 1 package matzo crackers
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan
  • 3 tbsp dried oregano
  • 1 egg

Preheat oven to 425. Snap off the ends of the asparagus.

In a large plate, crack the egg and whisk slightly. Add a little bit of water to the egg and mix again. Set aside.

In a food processor combine the matzo crackers with the oregano and Parmesan. Add salt and pepper to taste. I had a bunch left over afterwards, so save the remaining mixture and use for something else!!

Dip the asparagus in the egg, making sure to drain excess, and then roll in the matzo mixture. Place on a wire rimmed baking sheet. Continue with all remaining asparagus.

Bake for 15 minutes, or until golden.

Horseradish Hollandaise

Adapted from here

  • 2 sticks butter, melted
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup horseradish, drained
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp light cream
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 1/2 kosher salt

First prepare the horseradish puree. Combine horseradish, cream, and vinegar in a food processor (or blender) to combine. Set aside.

Place egg yolks in a sauce pan and add water and salt. Whisk to combine. Place over medium low heat. Slowly pour in the butter, whisking constantly.

Once all the butter is incorporated, whisk until doubled in size. Immediately remove from heat and keep whisking until cooled. Add the horseradish puree. And if your hollandaise breaks at any point, just follow my instructions as stated above 😉

Cincinnati Chili

10 Apr

When you think of chili, obviously the first thing that comes to your mind is spaghetti, right?

I was reading an older issue of Bon Appetit magazine where they were talking about all the different chili’s that are found around the U.S. and the one that intrigued me the most was Cincinnati Chili. The obviously weird part about it is the spaghetti, but you know what? It works.

Also, you can’t really tell by the pictures, but it’s a thinner chili. The juices soak into the spaghetti so you always have a bite of the chili and it just intensifies as it soaks. I also really liked the spices that were used, which made the chili sweeter, which is a lot different from its spicier cousin, Chili con Carne.

I’ve never been to Cincinnati myself, but I can get behind their version of chili!

P.S. Have you “Liked” me on Facebook yet? I hope so, but in case you haven’t, give a click over on the side of this post and it’ll make me really happy.

Cincinnati Style Chili

As found in the Feb 2011 Bon Appetit issue

  • 4 tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 3 cups chopped onions
  • 6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 3lbs ground lamb
  • 2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa
  • 1.5 tsp ground allspice
  • 1.5 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1.5 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 4 2/3 cups beef broth, divided
  • 1/3 cup tomato paste
  • 3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1.5 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano
  • 1 tbsp packed brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 4 tbsp fresh parsley, divided
  • 1 lb spaghetti, cooked
  • 2 15-oz cans kidney beans
  • 1 cup chopped gouda cheese

Heat 2 tbsp oil in skillet over medium heat. Add onions and cook about 10 minutes. Add garlic and cook additional minute. Add lamb and cook until browned. Add cocoa, allspice, cinnamon, pepper and cloves and stir another 3 minutes. Stir in 4 cups of broth, tomato paste, vinegar, chili powder, oregano, brown sugar and Worcestershire sauce .

Bring to a boil and reduce to medium-low heat. Simmer uncovered for about an hour, until thickened. Spoon off the fat every couple of minutes. Stir often.

Thin the broth with the remaining broth. Stir in 2 tbsp parsley.

In a large bowl, combine the spaghetti and the beans along with remaining 2 tbsp oil. Season with salt and pepper.

Place individual bowls of spaghetti, pile the chili, and then add additional chopped onions and gouda cheese.

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