Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Texture almost outranks taste of Brown Sugar Almond Cake with Caramel Frosting

Once in a rare while, I will make a dish or dessert whose texture almost outranks its taste.
    The texture of Brown Sugar Almond Cake with Caramel Frosting (click for the recipe - but watch out, it's missing an ingredient and has too much of another, read below*) is truly amazing. It’s moist yet fluffy, and it stays that way for about three days if kept in the fridge.
   A few samplers of this cake remarked on the cake’s terrific texture.
    I think the secret behind the texture is the unusual and clever step of blending canned pear halves with almonds to a thick purée, then blending that further with buttermilk and other ingredients.
    Not only is the texture great, the cake is also delicious. It is very family friendly, and works well for all sorts of occasions and situations from brunch to packed lunches.
    Another great feature of the recipe is an easy caramel frosting for which the refrigerator does most the work of thickening up the base caramel.     
    *The recipe I linked to above is the closest thing I could find on the Internet to the recipe I used from the cookbook Bon Appetit: Desserts. It is nearly identical to the one I used from the cookbook, with two glaring exceptions – it’s missing an amount of white granulated sugar, and has too much golden brown sugar.
    The recipe tells you to put both sugars in a blender, but only the golden brown sugar is listed in the cake ingredients.
    The recipe, according to the one I used, needs 3/4 cup white sugar and 1/2 cup golden brown sugar.
    The cake easy to make.
    Canned pear halves, drained well, are blended with blanched, slivered almonds in a food processor. Buttermilk, white sugar, golden brown sugar, butter, two eggs, and vanilla and almond extracts are put into the processor and the mixture is blended well. As the recipe says, it may look curdled, but this is fine.
    The wet ingredients are added to dry ingredients of cake flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt, and everything is stirred together to blend.
    The batter is poured into a nine-inch square cake pan that’s been lined with buttered wax paper. The cake is baked, then cooled slightly before being turned out of the pan and cooled completely.
    The frosting is made by combining dark brown sugar, whipping cream and dark corn syrup in a saucepan, then stirring over medium heat until the mixture comes to a boil. After two minutes of boiling, the mixture is poured into a bowl and chilled until cold and beginning to thicken, about one hour.
    Butter and powdered or confectioner's sugar are beaten together until smooth, then the cold brown sugar mixture and vanilla are beaten in.
    The frosting is spread over the cake, and toasted sliced almonds are sprinkled on top.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Chocolate Brownie Cookies are not the best I've ever had, but they're pretty darn good

One would think that cooking magazine editors have tasted the whole gamut of mighty fine-tasting cookies.
    That’s why I was immediately drawn to a recipe for Chocolate Brownie Cookies (click for the recipe) in a recent issue of Food & Wine magazine. The intro said that Dana Cowin, F&W’s editor-in-chief and a cookie connoisseur, declared that these cookies are the most delicious she’s ever had. The recipe is from Belinda Leong of B. Patisserie.
    Well, I thought when I read the intro, who am I to sit idly by and pass on this easy-looking recipe when it was certified golden by the editor of a major cooking magazine and the payoff was so potentially huge?
    I dutifully tried them, and was definitely pleased with the results.
     So was my husband, his co-workers, and my co-workers.
    While I can’t declare these to be the best cookies I’ve ever had, they are certainly very good.
    The recipe has an unusual step of freezing the cookie batter for one hour. Although I am far from an expert on the manner, I think freezing the batter might help firm it up to be more like dough in order to scoop it up portions of it and put them on the baking sheets.
    The cookies are easy to make.
    Chopped semisweet chocolate and butter are put in a large bowl, which is set over a saucepan of simmering water. The chocolate and butter are melted, a process which takes about seven minutes. I did the melting on a medium-low temperature, which kept the water simmering yet kept it boiling.
    In another bowl, room-temperature eggs and sugar are beaten together until thick and pale, then vanilla, salt, the melted chocolate, flour and baking powder are added.
   Mini semisweet chocolate chips are stirred into the batter, which is scraped into a shallow baking dish. The dish is covered and put into the freezer until the batter well-chilled and firm, about one hour.  I used a glass 9x13” baking dish to do this, and covered it with aluminum foil.
   Baking sheets are lined with parchment paper, and two-tablespoon-sized mounds of dough are scooped onto them.
   The cookies are baked for 10 minutes, cooled on the pan for 10 minutes, then transferred to a rack to cool completely.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Banana-Chocolate Chip Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting one of the best I've baked, husband says

My husband says it’s one of the best cakes I have ever baked, and I have baked a lot of cakes.
    Banana-Chocolate Chip Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting (click for the recipe) was a hit with us from the very first bite.
    The banana cake was beautifully moist, studded with the perfect amount of chocolate chips. The peanut butter frosting was soft and heavenly.
    It’s a very family-friendly dessert. Everyone will dig into this one.
    Because it’s a double-layer cake, it has an extra bit of fanciness that makes it a nice ending to a family gathering meal.
    On the website epicurious.com, this recipe received mixed reviews. Some loved it, others not at all.
    This puzzled me, because I found, obviously, that it worked very, very well.
    My guess is that people who didn’t find it successful may have not followed the recipe to the letter. This is the fastest way I know to ruin a perfectly good recipe.
    Make sure to use very ripe bananas, just as the recipe directs. It gives the cake a terrific depth of flavor, contributing greatly to its success.
    And use full-fat sour cream – that’s going to help the flavor too.
    The cake is easy to make.
    Two 8x8x2-inch square cake pans are coated with non-stick spray, lined with parchment, then sprayed again.
    Sugar, butter, and brown sugar are beaten together until light and fluffy, then eggs and vanilla are added and mixed in. A mixture of flour, baking soda and salt is added, then mashed bananas and sour cream are added and beaten in. Mini chocolate chips are folded in.
    The cakes are baked for about 35 minutes. To ensure even baking, halfway through the baking time I switched the position of the pans, and moved the parts that were facing the back to the front. After they are baked, the cakes are cooled for 10 minutes, then turned out of the pans and left to cool completely.
    The frosting is made by beating creamy peanut butter, powdered sugar, room temperature butter and vanilla together.
    The frosting is spread on top of one cake, and the other is put on top. The rest of the frosting is put on the sides and the very top of the cake.