Monthly Archives: April 2008

TVP vs. Tofu Allergies

Someone found my little home on the internet yesterday by searching for whether or not someone who can’t have tofu can eat TVP (textured vegetable protein.) While it’s too late for them to read this, I thought it was it was a question worth answering.

Soy Plant

Some observant readers may remember that I cannot have tofu or soy milk; something about the way the soybean is processed (or the quantities it’s normally eaten in) makes me ill; I suspect an allergy, but I’m not sure. TVP contains soy protein, and can thus cause problems for people who are allergic to the proteins (rather than the processing) of soy. However, it is not only soy protein, and since any people with soy allergy can tolerate small to moderate amounts of soy protein, you may be able to eat TVP without problems. I recommend that you start in very small doses and then increase serving sizes as desired until you know how much you can tolerate.

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Filed under Other Interests, Uncategorized, vegetarian

Daring Bakers April 2008– Success!

Those who know me well know that I don’t do well with fiddly details. You see, at work, I’m a perfectionist I work with statistics and economics and data analysis, I have to be precise and perfect all the time, and when I come home, I want to make ginormous sticky measures and play around. Plus, I don’t seem to have the coordination to make pretty little fussy things, though I do hope to improve my cake decorating skills this year. So, when I tell you that making these chocolate-dipped cheesecake pops from the aptly named cookbook Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey by Jill O’Connor was dead simple, and that it is nowhere near as difficult as it looks, please believe me. In fact, not only were they gorgeous and individually portioned– perfect for parties– but they were also easy enough that I’d be willing to do it again, and have been requested to do so for a friend’s wedding! Plus, I got to wander around the Dupont Circle farmer’s market this morning giving them out to my unsuspecting food providers as a thank you for hanging out in the wet to make sure that I eat well this week.

And, really, if even I can make them look so pretty, imagine what you can do. I made half of them plain chocolate-dipped (O Organics chocolate bits), and half covered with toasted hazelnut bits. I also did 2 covered in some leftover sprinkles, but didn’t get to take a picture of them. Next time I think I’ll also try colored sugar, and I’ll probably try it with darker chocolate. I also might use a little more shortening than the recipe called for- the chocolate coating was a little thick, but it was probably my fault as– big surprise– I altered the recipe! Well, really adjusted it by 4/5ths.

You see, I order my dairy (for the most part) from a loverly company called South Mountain Creamery. They deliver it to me at work, and I take it home. The creamery is fabulous, and having access to it, I couldn’t imagine using Philly cream cheese, as dependable and thick as it is, for this cake. South Mountain Creamery, however, only delivers the plain flavor of cream cheese in 1-lb containers. The recipe called for 5! 8-oz packages of cream cheese, and I really did not want to buy 3 of them and have half a pound making its’ way to my hips. I suppose I could’ve halved it and had the same problem, but that isn’t like me. I have to do it the hard way. So, I made 4/5ths, made the main cake in a 9″ cake pan, and filled 24 mini cupcake liners, hoping with a very little bit of excess batter. Unfortunately, I must have overwhipped the batter, because the cupcakes and cake sank a lot after rising, making the mini-cupcakes unusable as pops. Luckily, they were tasty on their own; Had they lasted long enough, I would have piped some chocolate into the sunken center and decorated that. However, I had to bring them into work before I could, to get them out of my greedy little hands.

I can’t recommend this recipe enough. Please make it! It’s creamy, the chocolate crackles under your tongue, and you can personalize it so many ways. Plus, even if you can’t find lollipop sticks, it works fine on straws, and then you get pretty bright colors. A giant hit. Thank you so much to Elle, Deborah, and the rest of the Daring Bakers for this recipe.

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Filed under cake, cheese, chocolate, daring bakers, dessert, Food Blogs, holiday, Uncategorized, vegetarian

Birthday Gift

My beau gave me a lovely surprise last night. I got home to six lovely long-stemmed red roses on the table, and a chilled glass of white wine. He then took me to the restaurant we went to my first night in DC, the day we came to look for my first apartment after finding that I got into Georgetown, Old Ebbit Grill. We had a lovely dinner (roast chicken, mashed potato, and green beans– the basics, but the basics done right), followed up with a classic creme brulee, with “Happy Birthday” written on the plate in chocolate ganache, and a candle inside– but no singing, as requested. Perfect! And then, for the surprise…

strawberries

He took me for a drive– to a movie, I thought– but instead, the car pulled into the parking lot of the Ritz Carlton in Pentagon City, where he had a swimsuit and a change of clothes waiting. And, as a final surprise, his brother (who’s a manager at another Ritz) sent me these gorgeous chocolate covered strawberries.

strawberry

They were gorgeous, sweet, fruity, and– best of all– served on sugar pebbles. How beautiful is that presentation? I, of course, had to be geeky and take pictures on my cell phone to mark the occasion. I’m still not entirely clear on how they got the gold plate in, but I sure felt spoiled! And just in the nick of time. I know I’ve been traveling a lot lately, but I really needed a relaxing break… and this was it. I’m much cheerier and more motivated now, ready to enter my 24th year– one sweet treat at a time. And, not to wreck the surprise, but my Daring Bakers challenge will be served at my birthday dinner tonight. Can’t wait to post that!

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Filed under dessert, Other Interests, Uncategorized

Rosemary

I’m suffering from a bit of burnout, but luckily, I have incredibly large amounts of rosemary to help me deal with it. Anyone have suggestions for what to do with mass amounts of rosemary? I suppose I can dry some if I can manage to not grow mold on it in the process.

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Butterscotch Buttermilk Banana Cake (Idiotproof)

This cake…. well, it’s fabulous. Really fabulous. Light, fluffy, sweet but not cloying, moist– and *impossible* to screw up. It even acts as a natural air freshener. Y’know how I know that?

Well, to begin with, I had never even heard of banana cake. Banana bread, yes, banana cake, no. But when I ordered extra bananas for banana bread (has anyone else noticed that Safeway delivery never gives you what you ask for? ahem…), the boy requested banana cake. Banana crunch, cake, actually, to mock his favorite banana crunch cake from Entenmann’s. I looked for an “official” mockup recipe, but couldn’t find one… so I figured I’d wing it.

I started out with a basic buttermilk banana cake recipe… and proceeded to destroy it. I ran out of granulated sugar, so I subbed in brown sugar. I accidentally added an extra cup of flour, so I tossed in 2/3 cup more buttermilk. I used up some leftover egg yolks not realizing that I’d need more whites later, and didn’t feel like wasting more eggs… so I threw in some butterscotch schnapps, baking soda, and baking powder. And then we decided to go out to dinner, so I tossed the batter in the fridge for an hour and a half before making the topping and baking it. Yet it came out perfectly. The cake part, that is. The topping melted and caramelized, not turning into a crunch, so if that’s a problem for you, pick another topping recipe (or use cream cheese frosting.) If it’s not, use this one, and optionally put on walnut bits or banana slices as well.

Preheat oven to 350F, and butter/ oil 2 9″ round baking pans.

Cake:
1 stick (1/2 c) butter
3/4 c granulated sugar
3/4 c brown sugar
2 egg yolks
1 C buttermilk (can sub in 1 C milk with a squeeze of lemon juice or vinegar)
2 T baking soda
1 T baking power
3 c flour
1 t vanilla extract (better to leave it out than to use artificial)
1/2 oz butterscotch schnapps
3 large bananas, mashed
Optional: 1 cup broken up walnuts or almonds, 1 t cinnamon, 1/4 t cloves and/or nutmeg

Topping:
1 c brown sugar
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) butter
1 oz butterscotch schnapps
Optional: up to 2 c rolled oats, chocolate chips, nuts, etc
Optional: Banana slices

Instructions:

Beat butter and sugars in the bowl until fluffy. Add egg yolks, one at a time. Dissolve baking soda and baking powder in buttermilk and add to bowl gradually. Add flour one cup at a time, stirring constantly. Mash vanilla and schnapps into bananas, then mix into the cake batter. Add nut pieces and spices if desired and divide the batter equally between the two pans.

In a new bowl, dump in all topping ingredients except for banana slices and mix together until it forms small, discrete chunks. I think that the ideal way to do this is with your hands, but if you’re squeamish, a fork or a mixer will do. It just won’t chunk as nicely. Distribute banana slices evenly on top of the batter in the pans if desired. Then, sprinkle topping chunks on top of batter as evenly as possible.

Bake the cakes at 350 for approximately 40 minutes (took closer to 30 in my oven), or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and dry– this will be approximately 15 minutes after the smell starts to lure your family, neighbors, and stray dogs into your kitchen. Ideally, serve with milk.

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Daring Bakers– March

dbmarch

Also known as the blog post in which our heroine spends a long time baking a cake that she doesn’t like in the end. Sigh. Last month’s Daring Bakers challenge, which I missed the deadline on while I was in Sudan, didn’t seem hard to me. And, indeed, while it involved an obscene amount of dishes, it wasn’t particularly hard. It even gave me a chance to break out my brand new cake layer-er. Unfortunately, in the end, it wasn’t just my cake-decorating skills that were lacking. Something must have gone wrong (could it be the two days in the refrigerator?) The cake was heavy, kind of mushy, and overwhelmingly lemony. The raspberry was not enough of a contrast, in color or in flavor– maybe I should have used more? And while Melissa’s birthday party went swimmingly, I wished that the cake had been a giant, fluffy dream of a cake rather than dense lemon bar. The buttercream method, however, is something that I may use again. It was too heavy in texture for my taste, but frosted beautifully and smoothly and keeps its shape nicely at room temperature, making it easier and better to work with than my tastier butter-only version. Hmm. DB seems to be teaching me a lot about meringue!

Dorie Greenspan’s Perfect Party Cake

For the Cake

2 1/4 cups cake flour (updated 25 March)
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 ¼ cups whole milk or buttermilk (I prefer buttermilk with the lemon)
4 large egg whites
1 ½ cups sugar
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1 stick (8 tablespoons or 4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ teaspoon pure lemon extract

For the Buttercream
1 cup sugar
4 large egg whites
3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
¼ cup fresh lemon juice (from 2 large lemons)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For Finishing
2/3 cup seedless raspberry preserves stirred vigorously or warmed gently until spreadable
About 1 ½ cups sweetened shredded coconut

Getting Ready
Centre a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 9 x 2 inch round cake pans and line the bottom of each pan with a round of buttered parchment or wax paper. Put the pans on a baking sheet.

To Make the Cake
Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.
Whisk together the milk and egg whites in a medium bowl.
Put the sugar and lemon zest in a mixer bowl or another large bowl and rub them together with your fingers until the sugar is moist and fragrant.
Add the butter and working with the paddle or whisk attachment, or with a hand mixer, beat at medium speed for a full 3 minutes, until the butter and sugar are very light.
Beat in the extract, then add one third of the flour mixture, still beating on medium speed.
Beat in half of the milk-egg mixture, then beat in half of the remaining dry ingredients until incorporated.
Add the rest of the milk and eggs beating until the batter is homogeneous, then add the last of the dry ingredients.
Finally, give the batter a good 2- minute beating to ensure that it is thoroughly mixed and well aerated.
Divide the batter between the two pans and smooth the tops with a rubber spatula.
Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the cakes are well risen and springy to the touch – a thin knife inserted into the centers should come out clean
Transfer the cakes to cooling racks and cool for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes, unfold them and peel off the paper liners.
Invert and cool to room temperature, right side up (the cooled cake layers can be wrapped airtight and stored at room temperature overnight or frozen for up to two months).

To Make the Buttercream
Put the sugar and egg whites in a mixer bowl or another large heatproof bowl, fit the bowl over a plan of simmering water and whisk constantly, keeping the mixture over the heat, until it feels hot to the touch, about 3 minutes.
The sugar should be dissolved, and the mixture will look like shiny marshmallow cream.
Remove the bowl from the heat.
Working with the whisk attachment or with a hand mixer, beat the meringue on medium speed until it is cool, about 5 minutes.
Switch to the paddle attachment if you have one, and add the butter a stick at a time, beating until smooth.
Once all the butter is in, beat in the buttercream on medium-high speed until it is thick and very smooth, 6-10 minutes.
During this time the buttercream may curdle or separate – just keep beating and it will come together again.
On medium speed, gradually beat in the lemon juice, waiting until each addition is absorbed before adding more, and then the vanilla.
You should have a shiny smooth, velvety, pristine white buttercream. Press a piece of plastic against the surface of the buttercream and set aside briefly.

To Assemble the Cake
Using a sharp serrated knife and a gentle sawing motion, slice each layer horizontally in half.
Put one layer cut side up on a cardboard cake round or a cake plate protected by strips of wax or parchment paper.
Spread it with one third of the preserves.
Cover the jam evenly with about one quarter of the buttercream.
Top with another layer, spread with preserves and buttercream and then do the same with a third layer (you’ll have used all the jam and have buttercream leftover).
Place the last layer cut side down on top of the cake and use the remaining buttercream to frost the sides and top.
Press the coconut into the frosting, patting it gently all over the sides and top.

Serving
The cake is ready to serve as soon as it is assembled, but I think it’s best to let it sit and set for a couple of hours in a cool room – not the refrigerator. Whether you wait or slice and enjoy it immediately, the cake should be served at room temperature; it loses all its subtlety when it’s cold. Depending on your audience you can serve the cake with just about anything from milk to sweet or bubbly wine.

Storing
The cake is best the day it is made, but you can refrigerate it, well covered, for up to two days. Bring it to room temperature before serving. If you want to freeze the cake, slide it into the freezer to set, then wrap it really well – it will keep for up to 2 months in the freezer; defrost it, still wrapped overnight in the refrigerator.

Playing Around
Since lemon is such a friendly flavour, feel free to make changes in the preserves: other red preserves – cherry or strawberry – look especially nice, but you can even use plum or blueberry jam.

Fresh Berry Cake
If you will be serving the cake the day it is made, cover each layer of buttercream with fresh berries – use whole raspberries, sliced or halved strawberries or whole blackberries, and match the preserves to the fruit. You can replace the coconut on top of the cake with a crown of berries, or use both coconut and berries. You can also replace the buttercream between the layers with fairly firmly whipped sweetened cream and then either frost the cake with buttercream (the contrast between the lighter whipped cream and the firmer buttercream is nice) or finish it with more whipped cream. If you use whipped cream, you’ll have to store the cake the in the refrigerator – let it sit for about 20 minutes at room temperature before serving.

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Filed under cake, daring bakers, dessert, holiday, vegetarian

Veggies!

I have returned safely (dare I say triumphantly?) from South Sudan, and I have to say that one of the things I’m most excited to get back to is regular vegetable intake. You see, in Sudan (and most of east Africa), it is quite common for anything that grows to be fertilized with, uh, human waste. And that makes it not so much edible for those of us with delicate western stomachs unless they’re either peeled thoroughly or cooked to death. Even then, you have to be careful. So it was with great joy that I came back to cooking with this veggie-full meal.

place-setting.jpg

This, in case you can’t tell, is spring’s first snow peas (yay!)  steamed and tossed with butter, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Oh, and on the side roasted onions stuffed with mashed potatoes (potato, un-chick’n stock, cream, stone-ground mustard, parmesan cheese, salt, pepper) and caramelized onions. I happened to hollow out the onion first and cook the insides separately, but the least labor intensive (but more time-consuming) way to do it is to bake large sweet onions whole (preferably brushed with oil) at 350 degrees for 1 1/4 hours .  Put potatoes next to it, wrapped in foil for 30 minutes, then mash them. When the onions are tender, halve them and scoop out the insides– leave 2-3 layers. Chop the centers, caramelize further as desired, then add them to the mashed potato mix. (I added them all, but I *love* onion. You may like less.) Fill the onion-halves with the potato mixture and bake, sprinkled with cheese if desired, for another 10 minutes.

You could probably vary the seasonings in the stuffing in a million different ways and still have it taste good.

onions.jpg

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