Caitlin of Engineer Baker was the lucky gal who got to choose the recipe for this week's Tuesdays with Dorie challenge, and her choice had me wondering how an engineer's mind works. I mean, polenta with ricotta cheese in a cake? Together? The combination sounded like a high-brow experiment that only the best-of-the-best scientist could execute. Even Dorie admitted that the cake was the result of a whim. To a novice in the kitchen, like myself, this recipe seemed to be a disaster waiting to happen.
But that's the point of joining baking groups such as Tuesdays with Dorie, isn't it? I joined to challenge myself and try new things, like new flavors and mixtures. When I thought about the recipe in this light, I decided to go with it and make the cake. I was really hesitant about this recipe, even when I was walking through the aisles of my local grocery store and looking for the different ingredients. However, I felt that I had to bake this cake, so I got together everything on Sunday evening and went to work.
Ingredients (adapted from Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours)
- 1 cup low-fat ricotta cheese
- 1/3 cup tepid water
- 1/4 cup white sugar
- 3/4 cup honey
- 1/8 cup lemon juice
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
- 2 large eggs, room temperature
- 1 cup yellow cornmeal
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 cup large mixed raisins
Next, in a stand mixer I beat together the water and ricotta cheese until they were smooth. While this went on, I popped the butter into the microwave until it was melted and then set it aside to cool a bit. I went back to my stand mixer and added the sugar, honey, and lemon juice to the water/ricotta cheese combo. Dorie originally asked for grated lemon zest, but I didn't have any lemons in the house. However, I did have a bottle of lemon juice, so I squirted a bit of it into the mixing bowl.
Now I have to say a word or two about the honey because I was pretty excited about this part. A couple of years ago, I spent a semester studying in France. Though I was "studying" abroad, I spent most of my traveling around the country and I happened to visit Aix-en-Provence during one of my weekend escapades. As the name of the city describes, Aix is located the Provence region of France which is known for lavender. So when I came across some lavender honey while shopping through Aix's weekend market, I instantly bought some to bring home to Oklahoma. My family wasn't too crazy about the honey and opted to use generic honey for breakfast toast, so the jar of honey just sat in my pantry for a some time. Then along came this recipe, and now my lavender honey is all gone.
Once the last trace of honey was mixed in, I poured in the melted butter and beat it into the batter. Then I beat in the eggs one at a time. The dry ingredients were added last, and they were stirred into the mixture just until they barely disappeared.
I poured the smooth batter into a 10-inch, fluted, ceramic pie pan that had been sprayed with Baker's Joy baking spray. I stirred in the raisins right before I set the cake into an oven preheated to 325 degrees F. After about 45 minutes of baking, I pulled the cake out of the oven and allowed it to cool on the counter.
I was pretty skeptical about my success with this recipe when the cake first came out of the oven because it was really moist. It was so moist that I could literally press some liquid out of it. Luckily, as the cake cooled, it dried out a little and my family was able to enjoy the first taste of it. My parents and I became big fans of the recipe, but my mom absolutely loved it. She's a big fan of cornbread, so this seemed to be the perfect sweet treat for her. We couldn't taste the lavender, though. The only complaint that we had about the cake was that it was a bit too sweet. I already cut the white sugar content in half, but it was still sweet. I'm wary of completely cutting out the white sugar, so I probably won't be as liberal with the honey next time. Adding less honey might even help with the extreme moisture content. However, this recipe is definitely a keeper and I will be making it again some day.
Zio's Italian is my favorite to-go place for a dinner in downtown OKC with friends. It's a chain restaurant and doesn't serve the absolute best food in the area, but it's cheap and they never have a bad night. When you walk into the restaurant, you know you'll get a pretty tasty meal. Each time I visit the place, I order the spinach artichoke pasta without fail. Penne pasta is topped with creamy alfredo sauce flavored by spinach, artichoke, cheese, and garlic; strips of grilled chicken complete the plate. I'm such a big enthusiastic for this dish that I've even converted others. My mom and I take turns ordering this dish whenever we go out to Zio's.
When I was feeling adventurous and charitable on Sunday evening, I decided to make dinner for my parents and recreate my favorite pasta dish at home. I browsed around the internet for a recipe for "spinach pasta," but none of the search results were what I was looking for. So I took a spinach-artichoke dip recipe and adapted it to go with pasta rather than pita chips or crackers.
- olive oil
- 4 garlic cloves
- 5 ounces of fresh baby spinach
- 8 ounces of frozen peas and carrots
- 1 jar of Alfredo sauce
- 1 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese
- 1/3 cup of shredded parmesan cheese
- 1/2 pound of boneless, skinless chicken breast tenderloins
- 13 ounces of whole-wheat penne pasta
While the sauce simmered, I washed and chopped the tenderloins into chunks. I put them into the sauce and let it cook for about 20 minutes. In the meantime, I boiled the pasta in a separate pot. Once everything was cooked, I tossed the pasta with sauce.
This was a pretty easy dish to put together, and it was comparable to my favorite at Zio's. The whole-wheat pasta wasn't soft enough to my liking. Zio's doesn't use whole-wheat pasta, but I wanted to try it out. I feel that the whole-wheat pasta doesn't mesh well with the sauce. I probably will use regular ol' pasta next time.
I topped the pasta with little zucchini chips. I got the recipe off of my friend Allie's new cooking blog. They are very good, so if you want try these things out, head on over to her site!
It's Tuesday once again, and you know what that means...the latest episode of Tuesdays with Dorie! This recipe was chosen by Amanda of slow like honey, and I was pretty pumped about making a carrot cake. That is, until I saw the recipe for this cake; spanning over two pages, the recipe had a decent-sized ingredient list and there were a lot of instructions to go with it. Bill's Big Carrot Cake. The name of the recipe even seemed intimidating. Plus, I had never attempted making a layer cake before, and I wasn't sure if this week was the greatest time-wise to be challenging myself with that sort of task since I'm trying to memorize all the steps in doing a physical exam by Thursday.
Then Megan came to the rescue. She informed me last week that the recipe could be cut in half easily and suggested that I make cupcakes. Her tip worked like a charm! When cut in half, the recipe in Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours, makes 14 perfect little cupcakes (not mini cupcakes, though; these are regular-sized ones). I was tempted to squeeze all of the batter into 12 cupcakes, but other members of TWD said that they were having problems with overflowing cupcakes and sinking ones as well.
For the cake (halved from the original recipe in the book):
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 cups grated carrots
- 1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans
- 1/2 cup sweetened, flaked coconut
- 1/4 cup moist, plump raisins
- 1 cups sugar
- 1/2 cup canola oil
- 2 large eggs
- 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 pound or 3 and ¾ cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Last night I actually made the cake, and it came together like clockwork. I whipped the sugar and oil together in a stand mixer until it was uniform and not at all smooth (did anyone else get this combo to a smooth consistency?). Then I added the eggs one at a time and mixed them until it was a smooth. Next came the dry ingredients, and I was careful to stop beating them in as soon as the last trace of flour was gone. Lastly, I stirred in the carrots, raisins, pecans, and coconut.
I scooped about 1/4 cup of the liquid batter into each cupcake tin lined with liner. Then I placed the 14 cupcakes into the oven. My mom was making meatloaf last night, so I had to share the oven with her and baked my cupcakes at 350 degrees F instead of the 325 degrees F as required by Dorie. My cupcakes were good to go after 20 minutes, but this time might have to be shortened for others following this recipe at 350 degrees F because the heat was flowing divvied between the meatloaf and the cupcakes.
I took them out of the oven and let the cupcakes cool in the pan for about 5 minutes. Then I plopped them out onto a rack to cool to room temperature.
While the cakes were cooling, I made the frosting. I wanted these cupcakes to be topped with mounds of frosting just like all the cupcakes I saw on Martha Stewart a couple of weeks ago for her Cupcake Week. Hence, I didn't halve the frosting recipe. I creamed together the butter and cream cheese before adding in the sugar and lemon. I was pretty stingy with the powdered sugar, so I only added enough to get the consistency that I wanted. I didn't come close to using a pound of powdered sugar, but you might have to if you want a stiffer frosting.
I had big plans of using a pastry bag and piping the frosting out onto the cupcakes. I was excited about finally using the mini cake decorating kit that I had purchased months ago. However, I was too lazy to wash out the pastry bag, so I improvised and used a Ziploc bag. I cut off one of the corners and inserted the pastry tip. I spooned the soft frosting into the bag and began to make all these funky designs on top of the cupcakes. When I said, "funky," I didn't mean it in a good way. This was the first time that I worked with a "pastry" bag, so I had no control over what was spilling on top of the cakes. Additionally, the Ziploc bag decided to give out towards to the end, and a ton of frosting just gushed all over the place. I resorted to using a trusty butter knife to smooth on the frosting after that point. At least I had way more than enough frosting to cover the cupcakes.
After I frosted the cupcakes, I placed them in the refrigerator overnight so that the frosting could set. I had a cupcake for breakfast this morning, and I thought it was pretty tasty. The pecans might have been too coarsely chopped for my liking, but that's just a minor critique. I liked this recipe, and I wouldn't be opposed to making it again.
Friday night was my school's awards banquet. As you can imagine, it was a pretty dry night since all that awards banquets really do are hand out plaques to people and give recipients a chance to acknowledge everyone that's contributed to their success. However, I had some pretty great company, so it was bearable. Plus, I got to finally check out the Skirvin.
The Skirvin is a hotel located in downtown Oklahoma City, and it's considered historic in this part of the country. It was recently renovated, so I was pretty excited to see the fancy decor. The ballroom certainly lived up to my hype; a grand staircase led up to a mingling area that was decked out overhead with Anthropologie-esque chandeliers.
The hotel was definitely nice, but I couldn't say the same for the food served us that night. The chicken was dry, there wasn't enough sauce, and I could have done with more of the vegetable medley. However, the hotel more than made up for the less than stellar entree with dessert. Pictured above is a chocolate mousse tower, and it was super rich and divine. I loved it, but I think I liked my friend's carrot cake better. Fortunately, he learned to share sometime during his childhood so I got a pretty good portion of his cake. If only I could have taken a better picture of the cake...no worries, since I'll be making some carrot cupcakes tonight for this week's installment of Tuesdays with Dorie.
To unwind after my final exam of the test block last Friday, I spent the evening cruising through various foodie blogs to get back into the swing of things. Mandy over at Fresh from the Oven had just updated her blog with her review of a Nutella Cupcake recipe, and as soon as I saw the pictures, I knew that I had to try it out. I became a huge fan of Nutella while studying abroad in France, and ever since I came back to the States, I make sure that my pantry is stocked with some of the chocolate-hazelnut goodness. Unfortunately, I've been enjoying other sweets so my current jar of Nutella was nearing its expiration date. I thought these cupcakes would be a great way to use up the spread.
- 10 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- 3/4 cup white sugar
- 3 large eggs, room temperature
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 3/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 12 teaspoons Nutella
Then it was time for the dry ingredients. Now, the recipe called for sifted flour, but I really don't like to sift flour so I skipped this step. Instead I just skimped a bit on the flour, and this seemed to work out fine for me. However, if you're a perfectionist, then definitely sift the flour.
I just stirred in the flour, salt, and baking powder until the batter looked decently uniform. Next, I distributed the yellow cupcake batter into 12 cupcake tins lined with paper liners. This was a lot harder than it sounds because the batter was pretty thick for me. What was even harder was actually mixing in the Nutella. After dropping a teaspoon of Nutella onto each cupcake, I took a toothpick and swirled the spread into the cupcake batter. I had forgotten how thick Nutella was, so this step was extremely time consuming. Perhaps warm up the Nutella a bit before attempting this step; this might speed up the process. Once the Nutella was sufficiently mixed in and my forearms cried for a break after all that twisting and turning, I placed the cupcakes in the center of an oven preheated to 325 degrees F. After 20 minutes of baking, the cakes were ready to come out.
As with the pound cake, these cupcakes came out a little dry. Again, I think my oven is running a tad warm, so I'll have to use an oven thermometer for future baking adventures or at least cut back on the baking time. The taste of the cupcakes were all right. The cupcake part was a wee bland, but when I bit into the Nutella swirled part, it was fantastic! It was especially great when I bit into a gooey glob of Nutella; tasters seemed to really enjoy this so I would suggest not swirling the Nutella too much into the cupcakes. Leave little of pockets of Nutella to shock the tastebuds. I plan on making these cupcakes again, but perhaps with a different base.
The recipe for this week's Tuesdays with Dorie was Marshmallows, as chosen by Judy of Judy's Gross Eats. I was ambivalent to the idea of making homemade marshmallows, but my decision not to make these sweet morsels this week was pushed by my parents. My mom and dad weren't too keen on the idea of marshmallows, and since they are the main consumers of baking attempts, I had to forgo the marshmallows.
I wanted to participate in TWD in some way this week, so I chose to make one of the recipes that the group had completed before I joined the group. I was tempted to bake Almost-Fudge Gateau, but I already had the ingredients for the Perfection Pound Cake in the house so that was the winner for me.
Ingredients (from Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours)
- 1/2 pounds (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 1 cup of white sugar
- 4 eggs, room temperature
- 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon of salt
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
In a stand mixer outfitted with a paddle attachment, I whipped together the butter and sugar on high speed for a full five minutes until the mixture became pale and fluffy. The results of the high speed beating looked so delicious that I wanted to stop right there and simply eat the sweetened butter. I trekked on for the sake of Dorie Greenspan, though.
Next came the eggs. I added each egg one at a time and made sure to mix the batter for 1 minute between each addition. I had to scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl many a times because everything kept on creeping up. It was kind of annoying because it was late, it was taking up a bit of time, and I still had over an hour of baking time ahead of me. After the eggs were all added, the vanilla was mixed in.
The dry ingredients were added last. Now, Dorie said to whisk the flour, salt, and baking powder together before adding them into the butter/egg/sugar/vanilla mixture. However, I didn't feel like pulling out another bowl and dirtying a whisk, so I skipped this step. I added the flour half of a cup at a time and mixed it into the batter on low speed. In between each flour addition, I added the salt and baking powder. Dorie warned us not to overwork the batter, so I actually stirred in the last half cup of flour by hand. Once that was all done, I poured the batter into a 9x5-in loaf pan that had been sprayed with Baker's Joy spray. After smoothing the top with a spatula, I popped it into a oven preheated to 325 degrees F. Then I waited.
The wait was pretty long. I checked the cake at the 45 minute mark to make sure it wasn't browning too quickly (it wasn't), and then left it in the oven for another 25 minutes. All in all, the cake baked for 70 minutes, just as Dorie said. I let the cake cool in the loaf pan for 30 minutes before removing it and letting it cool to room temperature.
I ended up wrapping the cake in saran wrap around 12:45 AM, but I did manage to sneak in a taste before going to bed. I was absolutely shocked by how buttery the cake tasted. I automatically cut back on the amount of butter I use in a recipe, but I decided against doing that for some odd reason. I really regretted it when I sampled the cake. I don't enjoy it when a baked good is overpowered by the taste of butter. Plus, the cake ended up being on the dry side. I think my oven might run a bit warmer than normal because I allowed the cake to bake for 70 minutes, and Dorie said that the cake should bake for 70-75 minutes. I really need to put my family's oven thermometer to use and maybe cut back on the cooking time.
I tried the cake this morning before class and liked it a bit better. I guess I just need to get used to the butter flavor or maybe the the butter flavor mellowed a tad. My parents didn't comment on the taste; they just said that the cake was dry. So the cake wasn't bad, but I'm not sure that I would make it again...
I can't believe it's been nearly two weeks since I've last made a post! I'm terribly sorry about the long stay away, but I had some more pressing issues to attend to (i.e. five exams last week). I survived a excruciating test block and am now back with a vengeance! I'm pretty excited about the two baking projects I have lined up for this week.
Anyway, the last exam of my test block ended on Friday, and I was ready to have a good time on Saturday. Luckily, my brother had decided to organize a fashion show featuring local clothing businesses and local models for that night. So on Saturday night, I got into my car and headed down to Norman. My first stop was Campus Corner.
Campus Corner was something I didn't fully discover and take advantage of until my senior year of college. It's a little square area within walking distance of campus and just filled to the brim with local eateries and boutiques. It even houses my favorite little bakery, Cookies 'n' Cards, which serves this divine Pistachio Fudge cupcake. Saturday night I decided to meet with a dear friend and eat at The Earth.
The Earth is a fairly new vegetarian eatery, and it's quickly becoming my favorite. Before all of your carnivores out there (I'm guilty here) get all grossed out at the prospect of eating some hippy, vegetarian place, you really shouldn't knock it before you try it. The place serves some fantastic imitations of traditional meat dishes such as Messy Mary, the vegetarian sister of Sloppy Joe, and "Chicken" Ranch Burger. My friend and I ordered burgers, a Chili Cheese one for him and a avocado/vegan mayo/alfalfa sprouts one for me. We were quite pleased with our meal, which was served with a side of potato chips and corn tortilla chips. The potato chips were really tasty, and they are now on my list of to-order for next time.
We finished the meal by trying the vegan raspberry cheesecake. The cheese cake looked so beautiful with its gooey layer of raspberry sauce and its chocolate graham cracker crust. I was pretty excited and had some high expectations because my brother had said it was good. However, the cheesecake fell well below expectations. The raspberry sauce was way too tart and too overpowering. I couldn't taste and enjoy the "cheesecake" middle nor the chocolate crust. I was disappointed with the cheesecake, but my main plate more than made up for it.
Once my stomach was full of meatless goodness, I headed over to campus and witnessed an awesome fashion show. The clothes were cute, the runway music was TOTALLY AWESOME, and I couldn't have been prouder of my brother.
I was even introduced to a new band--Voxtrot, who opened and closed the fashion show. All together, it was a fun night and a good way to celebrate the end of my test block.
The Earth Cafe
750 Asp Avenue
Norman, OK 73069
My parents have this strange preference of me not baking when it's warm. This normally doesn't bother me much, but since Oklahoma experienced some pretty warm weather the past few days, I had to put off baking this week's Tuesdays with Dorie challenge until the last minute. I was tempted to pass up this week's TWD because I have exams next week and have been studying like crazy, but I knew I would definitely not be able to participate next week when the test block was in full swing. Plus, I couldn't pass up on something called "Gooey Chocolate Cake," which was chosen by Leigh of Lemon Tartlet.
It was a late night baking session for this time around due to studying and my newest guilty pleasure, Dancing with the Stars (I can't help it! I used to idolize Kristi Yamaguchi, and she's totally kicking butt on the show right now). The recipe called for bittersweet chocolate, and I was super excited because I finally could bust open the Ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate bar that I had purchased a couple months back. I was a bit nervous about chopping chocolate, thinking that it would require a lot of elbow grease, but it went smoothly.
Since everyone in my family has been trying to eat healthier and cut back on our sugar intake, I halved the recipe and only made three servings. My parents made fun of me because I had pulled out all of these bowls, spoons, and pans for only three little cupcakes. The mixing and baking portion of making this cake was really simple, but the cleaning was another story. I hate making such a mess when I'm in the kitchen.
Ingredients (from Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours; 3 servings)
1/6 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 ounces bittersweet chocolate: 2 ounces coarsely chopped, 1/2 ounce finely chopped
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
1 large egg, room temperature
1/2 large egg yolk, room temperature
- 3 tablespoons sugar
After I sifted the dry ingredients, it was smooth sailing from then on. The butter and bittersweet chocolate melted nicely together, the eggs and sugar whisked up beautifully, and the thick, dark batter filled three cupcake molds perfectly. Everything was smooth sailing until I cut into one of the Gooey Chocolate Cakes. It must have been an early April Fool's for me because the little cakes weren't gooey at all in the center. I followed the directions and baked them for the 13 minutes that the recipe called for, but I didn't end up with molten cakes. Did I mix the batter too much? Was my light hand not light enough? Since I only had 3 servings instead of 6, did I need to decrease the cooking time? I don't know, but it didn't really matter in the end because the cakes tasted good with a nice dollop of ice cream on the side.
I will probably make this recipe again sometime in the future because I really want to experience a gooey chocolate cake. I mean, who doesn't like molten chocolate flowing from a baked morsel?