Monthly Archives: January 2008

Wicked ARF-5 a Day

I’m feeling a little bit wicked today, so I’m going to submit a luscious, rich dessert– pound cake– to Sweetnick‘s ARF-5 a Day event.

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You see (or maybe you don’t see- I finally got my camera in the mail yesterday, too late! alas for a picture of this), this isn’t just any pound cake. This is orange pound cake with marionberry preserves. And a small mountain of farm-fresh whipped cream. I don’t think whipped cream has any anti-oxidant properties– in fact, maybe the reverse– but don’t let that deter you. This is a fabulously cake, easy to throw together, fancy enough for company, rich enough to satisfy after a light meal, light enough from the citrus not to overwhelm, and a good way to use up the specialty jam you’ve got lying around begging to be showcased. You can also, incidentally, eat it for breakfast the next day and pretend that, since it has orange juice in it, it’s healthy. I promise I won’t tell.

Orange Pound Cake

2 c. flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 c. butter
rind of 1/2 an orange (more if you’d like)
1 1/4 c. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 c. fresh orange juice
1 t. vanilla
2 eggs

Mix dry ingredients. Add butter, vanilla, orange juice and rind. Beat 2 minutes. Add eggs and beat 2 minutes. Pour into loaf pan, lined with wax paper. Bake in 350 degree oven for 1 hour.

Serve with jam, fresh fruit, whipped cream, and/ or maple syrup. Or a nice caramel sauce. *drool*

 

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Filed under cake, dessert, fruit, vegetarian

Daring Bakers- Lemon Meringue Pie Jan 2008

Hello, and welcome to this month’s Daring Bakers Challenge! This month we all got together and baked lemon meringue pies… or in my case, tartelets! I made mine in cupcake pans, rather than free-form or in a pie tin, and they were not as aesthetically pleasing as they might have been… but I think they did just fine, don’t you?

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This was not only my first time making meringue pies, it was also my first time eating it! I thought it was interesting, but I admit to being a much bigger fan of whipped creams. My volunteer eaters, however, thought it was great, and that the texture was spot on. A lot of people had difficulty with this recipe, but I didn’t– I rather suspect that part of the reason I didn’t was because I used fresh farm eggs; while in ordinary baking, too-fresh eggs can make everything taste too eggy and feel too stiff, the freshness in these eggs seemed to give it extra structure.

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I modified this recipe to make it 2/5th the size, which still wound up filling 12 cupcake tins. I also made the filling and the crusts the night before, filling and topping the tarts the day of. The meringues lost some texture in the next 24 hours, but still tasted great… and thanks to the lemon, while the tarts were sweet, they weren’t ridiculously so.

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The recipe is from Wanda’s Pie in the Sky by Wanda Beaver, and was picked by Jen from The Canadian Baker.
Lemon Meringue Pie
Makes one 10-inch (25 cm) pie or 6 small ones– or 30 cupcakes!
Recipe from: Wanda’s Pie in the Sky by Wanda Beaver.
For the Crust:
3/4 cup (170 gram) cold butter; cut into ½-inch (1.2 cm) pieces
2 cups (475 mL) all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (60 mL) granulated sugar
1/4 tsp (1.2 mL) salt
1/3 cup (80 mL) ice waterFor the Filling:
2 cups (475 mL) water
1 cup (240 mL) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (120 mL) cornstarch
5 egg yolks, beaten
1/4 cup (50 gram) butter
3/4 cup (180 mL) fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp (15 mL) lemon zest
1 tsp (5 mL) vanilla extractFor the Meringue:
5 egg whites, room temperature
1/2 tsp (2.5 mL) cream of tartar (I omitted)
1/4 tsp (1.2 mL) salt
1/2 tsp (2.5 mL) vanilla extract
3/4 cup (180 mL) granulated sugar

To Make the Crust:
Make sure all ingredients are as cold as possible. Using a food processor or pastry cutter and a large bowl, combine the butter, flour, sugar and salt.Process or cut in until the mixture resembles coarse meal and begins to clump together. Sprinkle with water, let rest 30 seconds and then either process very briefly or cut in with about 15 strokes of the pastry cutter, just until the dough begins to stick together and come away from the sides of the bowl. Turn onto a lightly floured work surface and press together to form a disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for at least 20 minutes. (Mine was wetter than one might think reasonable at this point)

Allow the dough to warm slightly to room temperature if it is too hard to roll. On a lightly floured board (or countertop) roll the disk to a thickness of 1/8 inch (0.3 cm). Cut a circle about 2 inches (5 cm) larger than the pie plate and transfer the pastry into the plate by folding it in half or by rolling it onto the rolling pin. Turn the pastry under, leaving an edge that hangs over the plate about 1/2 inch (1.2 cm). Flute decoratively. Chill for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350ºF (180ºC). Line the crust with foil and fill with metal pie weights or dried beans. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Carefully remove the foil and continue baking for 10 to 15 minutes, until golden. Cool completely before filling.

To Make the Filling:
Bring the water to a boil in a large, heavy saucepan. Remove from the heat and let rest 5 minutes. Whisk the sugar and cornstarch together. Add the mixture gradually to the hot water, whisking until completely incorporated. Return to the heat and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly until the mixture comes to a boil. The mixture will be very thick. Add about 1 cup (240 mL) of the hot mixture to the beaten egg yolks, whisking until smooth. Whisking vigorously, add the warmed yolks to the pot and continue cooking, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil. Remove from the heat and stir in butter until incorporated. Add the lemon juice, zest and vanilla, stirring until combined. Pour into the prepared crust. Cover with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming on the surface, and cool to room temperature. (I chilled mine overnight.)

To Make the Meringue:
Preheat the oven to 375ºF (190ºC). Using an electric mixer beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar, salt and vanilla extract until soft peaks form. Add the sugar gradually, beating until it forms stiff, glossy peaks. Pile onto the cooled pie, bringing the meringue all the way over to the edge of the crust to seal it completely. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden. Cool on a rack. Serve within 6 hours to avoid a soggy crust (my crust wasn’t soggy even after 36… they didn’t last past that with houseguests around!).

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Filed under cake, Cookies, daring bakers, dessert, fruit, Uncategorized, vegetarian

Restaurant Week DC- Ruth’s Chris

Steakhouses aren’t usually my idea of a good time. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I don’t love steak dripping in butter, but the quality difference comes nowhere near the quality difference of making it at home. For restaurant week, though, I was willing to compromise a little to give the boy his favorite meal– steak and potatoes– without any dishes, and head out to Ruth’s Chris.

First of all, let me say, that this restaurant is so expensive for what it serves that I don’t think I would ever set foot in it normally– no matter how much money I had. It just isn’t a good value for what you’re getting at full price.  However, it was certainly worth it for restaurant week, even with the very limited menu.

The meal started with pretty good warmed bread and a basic salad. Everything was on the good side of average, with the exception of the “butter”, which, though room temperature, tasted very much like margarine. I wonder what they used.

Then, they brought out our main course– we both ordered the petit fillet, mine rare and the boy’s medium rare. Both came out perfectly cooked in a large pool of butter. Sooo unhealthy, but very tender and fantastic. They came out with a side of creamed spinach and a side of mashed potatoes, both of which were good (and equally unhealthy), but neither of which was as good as the ones I make at home, as we both agreed… and mine don’t even have cream (or usually butter) in them!

Last, we got dessert. I got bread pudding, which was more like a moist apple cake– good, though, and the boy got a flourless chocolate cake, which was just like flourless chocolate cakes everywhere, only with a hint of espresso.

All around, it was a decent value (at restaurant week prices) and the food was fine, but the real high point was the service, making it not worth coming back to again, likely even at restaurant week prices.

On a similar note, I ate a little less than half of each course served, and came out feeling fine, but the boy ate the whole thing (plus a little of my dessert), and threw up on the way home. Don’t know if he was sick or there was something wrong with the food, or if he just ate too much rich stuff… but either way, very sad!

Now, which should I blog about next… dumplings or orange pound cake? Decisions, decisions…

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Restaurant Week DC- Corduroy

Most of you probably know that this is Restaurant Week in Washington, DC. Fewer of you know that I went to Corduroy last night… but I did, and it was a great experience. I wasn’t able to take pictures of the food (my camera! that i ordered! is backordered and hasn’t showed up, and I don’t know how often I’ll feel comfortable dragging it out at restaurants.)

Corduroy is famous for having their full menu available on their restaurant week menu, which was fabulous as I’m not a seafood lover, and they do have a seafood focus. Which means that while I didn’t try the delicious-looking dish pictured below (picture from their website), I did see it coming out to other tables… and it looked really good!

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I would be remiss if I didn’t first praise the bread. Perfect sourdough, crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, and with a very pronounced sour taste.  Good enough to make me not mind that it wasn’t warmed– luckily the butter was (at least the first go-round)– cold butter that won’t spread correctly is one of my pet peeves, especially at nice restaurant. The service all around was impressive– I could really tell the difference between the professional servers they hired and the college students who serve at most restaurants. It was a nice touch, especially given how swamped and exhausted they must have been by the end of restaurant week.

For appetizer, I had a duck-egg salad. The duck-egg itself was soft-boiled perfectly, and seemed like it was perfectly prepared, but also tasted… well, just like a chicken egg. Not that that’s a bad thing, I like chicken eggs– but I expected there to be a bigger difference. The salad had really yummy mushrooms and duck chunks in it, and generally I enjoyed it, but found the sauce to be too salty. This was unfortunate, given that the chicken I ordered came with the same sauce. D’oh! Would have been nice to be warned about that when I ordered. The baby chicken I ordered was also good, tender and flavorful– but the greens I was s’pposed to eat it on were too salty to eat because of the mushroom sauce.

The boy had better luck with his orders– he had a lobster appetizer, which he liked but I didn’t try, and lamb with ravioli which… was delicious! I had serious ordering regrets– it was my first choice, and I didn’t want to order the same thing for the sake of variety– but the lamb was tender and rich, the ravioli savory and cheesy, and all around fabulous.

The dessert was definitely the highlight for me. I ordered the chocolate-hazelnut “kit kat”, which tasted like cruncy nutella (sweeter than I would have made it, but the taste and textures were exquisite. Definitely something I’d go back for even  without restaurant week prices.) The boy ordered tarte tatin, which was infinitely better than the one I made earlier this year. It was served with chocolate ice cream, which was good, but didn’t pair well for me. The caramel was definitely the best part of the tarte tatin, and I almost wished the apples weren’t there to get in the way.

All in all a good value and a nice dinner. Now, if only I had a camera and wasn’t backlogged two posts!

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Healthy Food for Lazy Days

Ugh. I hate winter. I hate winter so very much that I looked at the giant, teacup sized flakes marking DC’s second snowfall with disgust rather than amazement. It’s always been that way– even when I was a little girl, I “hibernated” during the winter, having to be pushed and scolded into leaving the house. I’m self-motivated now, but it’s frequently difficult for me to get out and go shopping for fresh foods and then stand around and chop up all those veggies.

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This (yet to be named) meal is the perfect solution for winter slumps; you can make a million variations of it to fit whatever you have in the house, it’s relatively healthy (the picture shows the boy’s version, which gets double-cheese) , and you can get it on the table in less than half an hour, with barely any chopping. Bonus points, too, for how easy it is to make it in individual serving sizes, which cuts down on dishes and steps and makes it an entertaining-friendly vegetarian meal.

Main Dish (per person)

1/2 c cooked quinoa (could substitute brown rice, bulgar, etc.)
1 c cherry tomatoes, halved (could substitute chunky tomato sauce or tomatoes)
1-2 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
3T fresh parsley if available
drizzle of olive oil
1 oz shredded or sliced mozzarella cheese (I’m sure others would be good, too)
salt, pepper to taste

Coat a small saute pan with a drizzle of olive oil. Toss in garlic and saute over medium-low heat until fragrant (2-3 minutes). Add tomatoes and 2T parsley and cook another minute or so, until tomatoes are warm and slightly squishy. Add salt and pepper (plus any other spices you’re in the mood for, it’s very versatile) to taste.

In a mini-loaf pan (or any other small oven-safe container), smooth cooked quinoa to form one even layer. Spread tomato mixture on top, then top with cheese. Sprinkle with remaining parsley for garnish.

Bake “loaf” at 375 for approximately 8 minutes, until cheese is thoroughly melted and preferable starting to brown a bit on the edges.

Serve with whatever veggies are at hand– to my mind, this pairs well with boiled pre-frozen veggies and a dash of butter; the squishier texture of pre-frozen just makes the meal more comforting.

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Filed under beans, cheese, vegetarian, veggies

Baseball Cakes

Some of you may know that my beau’s favorite sport is baseball. In fact, he’s a diehard Yankees fan (which I can tolerate only because I’m only a moderate Red Sox fan)– so, several months ago, I made these scrumptious cupcakes to celebrate the world series with him.

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I just can’t say enough good things about these; the cakes were moist and chocolate-y, while the cream cheese frosting was rich, tart. and super-smooth. Plus, the red piped frosting did a pretty credible job of turning the cupcake into a baseball. These were an all-around hit. In fact, I liked them so much that I haven’t used another recipe for chocolate cake since. Of course, it makes sense, as the original recipe comes from Orangette’s lovely blog. For once, I resisted the urge to mess with it, and I was so glad, as it turned out perfectly.

I topped the cakes with a fairly generic cream cheese frosting and let the frosting harden for 20 minutes or so in the fridge before piping on the lines with the storebought tube (yeah, not perfect– but I just don’t have the patience for such small things otherwise.)

Making cupcakes like this is fun and rewarding, but even if you’re not a sports or cream cheese fan, try the cake recipe.  It’s just that good.

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Daring Bakers- Pictures!

Welcome back and happy new year, all! It’s been a nice long break, and I’m back with pictures! In fact, I was even given enough gift money to buy a decent budget digital camera (yay!), so if you have any recommendations, please leave them in the comments. (Looking in the $150 range).

I have no pictures of Portland, but… oh my goodness, foodie haven! And if you ever get a chance to dine at Clyde Common, take it- great food and a good value (if you can, ask for the waitress we had, Joanna. She was fabulous!) In the meantime, here are the pictures of my buche de noel. Stay tuned for more kitchen experiments– I made dumplings!

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Marzipan Mushrooms
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