Sunday, November 29, 2009

Praline Pumpkin Torte

Between October and December, if my mother needs a dessert suggestion she knows she will hear this from me. I love this cake.

3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup butter
3 tablespoons whipping cream
3/4 cup chopped pecans

4 eggs
1 2/3 cup sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
2 cups cooked or canned pumpkin (not pie filling)
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice, which I never have so I use a combination of cinnamon, ground cloves, and nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt

1 3/4 cups whipping cream
1/4 cup confectioners sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Additional chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a heavy saucepan, combine brown sugar, butter, cream. Cook and stir over low heat until sugar is dissolved. Pour into three well-greased 9-inch round baking pans. Sprinkle with pecans; cool.

In a mixing bowl, beat eggs, sugar, and oil. Add pumpkin and vanilla. Combine dry ingredients; add to pumpkin mixture and beat just until blended. Carefully spoon the batter over the brown sugar mixture. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool cakes for 5 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks to cool completely.

Place one cake layer, praline side up, on a serving plate. In a mixing bowl, beat cream until soft peaks form. Beat in sugar and vanilla. Spread one-third of whipped cream over cake. Top with second cake layer and spread with one-third of whipped cream, and repeat with the third layer. Sprinkle with additional pecans if desired. Store in the refrigerator. Serves 12 to 14.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Bourbon Pecan Pie

From Ezra Poundcake, this pie is deep and rich and went perfectly with coffee after the holiday meal.

Toasting pecans with cinnamon - that is genuis!

I made one change in the recipe; there was not a bottle of dark Karo syrup to be found anywhere in town so I used 1/2 cup molasses for the 1/2 cup dark corn syrup instead. It complimented the bourbon nicely.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Sweet Potato Bundt Cake with Spiced Sugar Glaze

I made this cake a couple of years ago and likely vowed not to ever make it again. I killed my garbage disposal by stuffing sweet potato peel in it.

This time the process went much more smoothly. I love this cake: the glaze is toffee-like and the cake is moist with a great texture and tastes of the holidays.

Recipe from the novel Eat Cake by Jeanne Ray.

3/4 cup golden raisins
1/3 cup dark rum, plus more if needed
3 cups flour, plus more for the pan
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus extra for salting the water
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
3 large sweet potatoes
4 large eggs
2 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup toasted nuts, such as pecans or walnuts (optional)

1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons whipping cream
1 tablespoon reserved rum from cake recipe

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 10-inch fluted Bundt pan.

2. In a nonreactive bowl, soak raisins in the rum for at least 30 minutes. Sift together the flour, baking powder, soda, salt and spices.

3. Peel sweet potatoes, cut them into chunks, place in salted water, bring to a simmer and cook until tender when pierced with a knife. Drain and let dry for a few minutes, then mash coarsely. Measure 2 cups of sweet potatoes and reserve.

4. In a mixer fitted with a whisk, beat the eggs to break them up, then add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in the vegetable oil and vanilla. Drain the raisins, reserving the liquid. Add 1/4 cup of the rum to the batter. Add the sweet potatoes and mix until thoroughly combined.

5. Add the flour mixture to the batter in three additions, alternating with the buttermilk (start and finish with the flour). Fold in raisins and nuts, if using. Pour the batter into the Bundt pan and bake for 80 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes and then invert onto a wire rack.

6. While the cake is cooling, make the glaze: Mix the sugar, butter and cream in a heavy saucepan. Bring to boil over medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Continue to boil until the mixture thickens somewhat, 3 minutes, stirring often. Remove from heat and add about 1 tablespoon of reserved rum (add fresh rum, if needed).

7. Set the cake and cooling rack over a baking sheet. With a toothpick, punch holes all over the cake. Pour 1/3 of the glaze over the cake. Wait 15 minutes, then pour the remaining glaze on top. You must glaze the cake while it's hot. Allow cake to cool completely.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Roasted Asparagus and Onion Risotto

We tweaked a recipe for Asparagus Risotto and came up with this one, where we roast the onions and asparagus together. I think roasted or caramelized onions are one of the best things under the sun and this risotto has become our go-to side dish recipe. It tastes rich without being heavy and is the perfect side for roasted chicken and makes a great Sunday night meal.

1 pound asparagus, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
1 yellow onion, coarsely chopped
7 1/2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/4 cup olive oil
3 cups uncooked Arborio rice
1 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon butter
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese (We often use closer to 1/2 cup cheese.)
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Put asparagus and onion pieces on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast for about 20 minutes.

In a large saucepan, bring broth to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and maintain at a simmer. Spray large heavy skillet with cooking spray and add rice. Cook over medium heat for about 3 minutes, then add the wine and cook until absorbed.

Stir in 1 cup simmering broth. Cook until broth is almost completely absorbed, stirring frequently, then add another cup of simmering broth. Repeat until only about 1/4 cup of broth remains (discard remaining broth)*, which should take about 20 minutes.

Add roasted asparagus and onion; heat through. Remove from the heat; add the butter, Parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper and serve to appreciative eaters.

*This note is from the original recipe. It's odd, isn't it? One time we made it and didn't need that last bit of chicken broth. One time we used it all. Just do what feels right.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Tie-Dyed Cupcakes

The Child's birthday is today and we took cupcakes to school for the class snack. I saw this rainbow-cupcake idea at the Cupcake Queen blog a few weeks ago. It's genuis - so easy and so effective.

Start with a box of white cake mix and divide it into how many colors you want, remembering to reserve some white. Next time I'll probably let more cake batter remain plain white for more contrast.

Plop a bit of each color into the cupcake liners.

Swirl around a bit using a spoon.


Frost and top with sprinkles.

For the frosting, I mixed 1 stick of softened unsalted butter with about 3 cups of sifted confectioners sugar, 2 teaspoons of vanilla, and enough milk (probably 4 tablespoons) to make it smooth and spreadable. Good yet very sweet.

I'm sure The Child's teachers will be thrilled with all that sugar the kids ingest!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Salmon with Maple-Lemon Glaze

This recipe was in a spring issue of Cooking Light. That particular issue is still in my cookbook holder. The cover is bright and cheery and the magazine has a number of dishes I kept meaning to make, like this one. We tried it one night last night and it is delicious. Easy and tasty.

Fresh: Finish the fish under the broiler to caramelize the glaze into a tasty browned crust. Serve with roasted potato wedges and peas.

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 tablespoon canola oil
4 (6-ounce) skinless salmon fillets
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Cooking spray

1. Preheat broiler.

2. Combine first 4 ingredients in a large zip-top plastic bag. Add fish to bag; seal. Refrigerate 10 minutes, turning bag once.

3. Remove fish from bag, reserving marinade. Place marinade in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave at HIGH 1 minute.

4. Heat a large ovenproof nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle fish evenly with salt and pepper. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add fish to pan; cook 3 minutes. Turn fish over. Brush marinade evenly over fish. Broil 3 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork or until desired degree of doneness.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Fried Peach Pies

The pastry recipe my mother swears by, the one her mother also used, is the one in the classic red-and-white checked Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook:
• 1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• 1/3 cup shortening
• 4 to 5 tablespoons cold water
Stir together flour and salt. Using a pastry blender, cut in the shortening until pieces are pea-size, being careful not to overwork the dough.

Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of the water over part of the mixture; gently toss with a fork. Push moistened dough to the side of the bowl. Repeat moistening dough, using 1 tablespoon of the water at a time, until all the dough is moistened. Form dough into a ball, again, not kneading the dough. Messing with the dough too much causes gluten to form, which is good in bread but not so much in pie pastry.

At this point, you can refrigerate the dough while preparing the filling.

Peach Pie Filling

Place the dried peaches (2 6-ounce packages) in a medium saucepan and add enough water to barely cover. Bring to a boil, turn down the heat, and let cook until most of the water is evaporated and the peaches are tender. Use a potato masher to mash.

Drain off the remaining water and taste. Depending on how sweet you like your peaches, add 1/2 to 3/4 cup of sugar. I'd add just a dash of cinnamon here but that's just me.

(My grandmother also makes a mean fried apple pie that she puts apricots in the filling. Talk about good.)

Make the fried pies:

On a lightly floured surface, use your hands to slightly flatten dough. Roll dough from center to edges until it’s about 1/4-inch thick. Cut out circles about 5 to 6 inches in diameter.

Place about 2 tablespoons of filling in the center of each and fold over dough to make a half-moon shape. Use a fork to crimp the edges together.

In a black skillet (or other heavy pan) heat 1 inch of canola or vegetable oil to 350 degrees. Cook pies for about 2 minutes per side. Let drain on paper towels.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Apple, Walnut, and Gorgonzola Crostata

From an episode of Giada at Home:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons ice water

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
4 small Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/4 to 1/2-inch thick slices
1/4 cup granulated sugar (I used 1/8 cup dark brown and 1/8 cup white sugar. Dark brown sugar has such a caramely flavor.)
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/3 cup crumbled Gorgonzola

1 large egg, lightly beaten

For the crust: In a food processor combine the flour, salt, and sugar. Pulse to combine. Add the butter and pulse until the butter is finely chopped and the mixture resembles a coarse meal. Add the mascarpone cheese and lemon juice and pulse a few times. Add the ice water and run the machine just until the mixture is moist and crumbly, but does not form a ball. Do not over mix. Turn the dough out onto a sheet of plastic wrap. Press into a disc, cover, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

For the filling: Place an oven rack in the lower third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Melt the butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the apple slices, sugar, and cinnamon. Cook, stirring frequently, until the apples are softened, but not mushy, about 5 minutes. Set aside to cool for 10 minutes. Stir in the lemon juice, lemon zest, walnuts, and Gorgonzola.

Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit the inside of a 12 by 17-inch baking sheet and place on a work surface. Place the chilled dough on the parchment paper. Roll the dough out into an 11-inch circle, about 1/4-inch thick. Lift the parchment paper and transfer to the baking sheet. Spoon the apple filling into the center of the dough. Spread the filling evenly, leaving a 2-inch border. Fold the dough border over the filling to form an 8-inch round. Pleat the edge of the pastry and pinch to seal any cracks in the dough.

Using a pastry brush, brush the crust with the beaten egg. Bake until the crust is golden, about 25 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

This was right tasty but when I make it again I'll do a few things different:
* Use a different apple. Granny Smiths are tart. Tart, tart. I'd use a combination of Golden Delicious and Red Rome.

* Dust the pastry with a sprinkling of raw sugar before baking. It'd give the crust a nice, sugary crunch.

* Still with the apples...I'd up the sugar to about 1/3 to 1/2 cup even using a sweeter apple.

* I'd add just a touch of freshly grated nutmeg.