Tag Archives: Vanilla

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.┬áThis 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!

Vanilla Bean Spiced Pork Chops

18 Nov

So one day I was perusing Twitter when I saw that Katie over at Good Life Eats and Jamie at My Baking Addiction were hosting a Holiday Recipe Exchange with a different ingredient every week and a chance to win some fabulous prizes. I thought, Hey, I can do that! Sounds like fun!

Come join the fun at the My Baking Addiction and GoodLife Eats Holiday Recipe Swap sponsored by Beanilla.

 

When I was thinking about what I wanted my submission to be for this week I wanted to think outside the box. There was a good chance almost everyone would be submitting baking recipes, and there was no rule stating that it HAD to be something sweet, even though the first thing you think of with an ingredient like vanilla is something sweet, cookies, cupcakes, ice cream, you get the drill. So I started thinking about what I could do with a vanilla bean.

Then I did a Google search (Where would we be without Google? Lost, that’s what) on vanilla dry rub and came up with A LOT of good ideas. I decided to make a dry rub for some pork chops that I was planning on buying.

 

Vanilla Bean Dry Rub

  • 1 vanilla bean, scraped, with the actual bean chopped into small pieces
  • 1 tbsp light brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp allspice
  • salt and white pepper, sprinkle or two

I took two thick cut pork chops (it equaled just under a pound) and cut then in half. Combine the dry rub ingredients together, I find using my hands to mix everything together works best. You can really smell the vanilla as everything comes together.

Apply liberally to the pork chops, making sure to get all sides. The chopped pods will probably fall off, so just put them back on after. Either make immediately or store in your refrigerator for up to 24 hours.

Once your ready to cook with them preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Then grab your cask iron skillet and put it in medium high heat on the stove top. Cover with olive oil and once the oil is hot add your pork chops. Cook on each side for about 3-5 minutes, remove from pan and then set aside.

At this point I made an apple/onion mixture which involved 2 apples, cut into chunks, and half a medium onion, sliced along with 1/4 cup of apple cider, and a dash of the following: garlic powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice. Mix together thoroughly and add to the skillet and cook for an additional 5 minutes, until slightly soft. Add the pork chops to the top and put it in the oven for about 15 minutes.

I also made some roasted red potatoes to go along with this lovely concoction.

It came out really delicious and very different from what I normally do with pork chops. You can clearly see the vanilla bean and there is an essence of vanilla that compliments the pork in a great way. And the juices from the apple/onion mixture also taste great on the pork.

So hopefully in my attempt to be original you’ll ALL vote for me (voting opens on November 21st!), so I’ll win the fabulous swag gift from Beanilla.

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