Friday, May 29, 2009

Spicy Carrot Slaw

I love this salad. It's spicy, sweet, earthy, and tangy... and that makes it easy to pair with just about anything. It's a fantastic side for grilled food in lieu of cabbage [coleslaw], or a topper for tacos, or curries, or dinner salads. It only takes about about two minutes longer to prepare than it takes to shred the carrots... which is really short if you use a food processor or pre-shredded carrots.

Recipe: Spicy Carrot Slaw

4 large carrots, shredded [about 2 cups]
2 limes, juice and [optional] zest
1 pepper, stemmed, seeded, and minced [jalepeno, serrano, or habenero, pick your speed]
1 tsp cumin seed, toasted [or 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin]
salt and pepper to taste

Crush cumin seeds with your fingers when combining all ingredients in large bowl. Serve immediately, or make ahead and chill. The carrots will release some juice over time, so pre-made slaw may require a slotted spoon to serve.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Multi-Grain Chocolate Chip Cookies

I'm moving -- next week -- and packing up my kitchen makes cooking pretty awkward... but sometimes you've just got to make a soothing batch of cookies, especially when you need to use up some random pantry ingredients. These were surprisingly good. The oat flour makes them nice and crispy on the outside, but perfectly soft in the middle. Chocolate chip cookies are JG's favorite and he's always resisted my attempts to "healthen" them. These, he loves.

Recipe: Multi-Grain Chocolate Chip Cookies
As always, you can just use all purpose flour, but the oat flour is key to the texture and well worth seeking out.

7 Tbs butter (you could use 6 or 8, but I had 7 left)
1 cup sugar
2 Tbs yogurt [plain fat-free]
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 Tbs coffee liquour (I was out of vanilla extract, it worked really well)

1 cup whole wheat flour (I used white whole wheat)
1 cup oat flour (key)
1/2 tsp kosher salt
3/4 tsp baking soda
12 oz. bittersweet chocolate (I usually chop it, but I had a bag of Ghiradelli 60%)

[Optional step: In a small skillet, brown 3 tbs of butter until the solids turn the color of almond skins. Pour into a metal or shatterproof glass bowl and transfer to the fridge to cool. Once it's opaque but still soft, add it to the remaining butter and sugar in the mixer]

Preheat oven to 350F. Combine butter, sugar and yogurt in a standing mixer and beat on medium high until smooth (it won't really cream, but the color of the butter will get paler). Reduce speed to medium. Add whole egg and beat until combined, scrape down the bowl, then repeat with the egg yolk and the liquour.

Add the dry ingredients and mix on low until almost all of the flour is incorporated, then add the chocolate and mix in. [You don't actually have to worry about the cookies getting too tough because there's no gluten in the oat flour.]

Drop by rounded tablespoons on a parchment-lined sheet. Bake 12-15 minutes or until edges begin to brown. Slide onto a cooling rack and wait at least a few minutes before eating.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Beef Cake

I don't tend to do novelty cakes, but my mom asked me to make a cake for my little brother's graduation... I think she was thinking of a sheet cake with "Congratulations" piped across. I did this instead:
It makes a little more sense to know my brother majored in agriculture and he's working on a black angus cattle ranch. The cake turned out even better than I hoped. I achieved the look of fine-grain leather by not heating the fondant before I rolled it, a definite no-no with store -bought fondant, but my version was a little more pliable [and even pleasant to eat] ... a bonus, the cake slices looked just like well-crusted brisket.

Recipe: Beef Cake
The individual components can be made ahead and chilled until ready to use. I should have done a triple recipe to fill my cake pans better, but I was winging it at the time. I don't have a low-fat frosting recipe, although adding the pureed dry fruit makes the filling marginally better for you. In my opinion, if you want a healthier cake, just dust it with powdered sugar or cocoa powder, or a super light drizzle of glaze. Frosting is frosting... and this frosting recipe comes from Smitten Kitchen, which is an excellent resource for layer cakes. The "soil" in the picture is borrowed from a chef friend's dessert menu and I can't share it [but it was tasty!].

2 recipes Rum Cake,
--replace lemon with amaretto
--add 1/2 cup cocoa powder to dry ingredients
red food coloring as desired

Pour batter into one 9x13 and one 8x8. After they're cooled, wrap the cakes in plastic wrap, stick them in the freezer until frozen solid, cut in half to form two layers, refreeze, then cut to desired shape and assemble on cake board [or refreeze until ready to use.

Frosting and Filling:
1 recipe Buttercream frosting
1/3 cup cocoa powder
8 oz dried plums [prunes]
4 oz dried dates
2 tablespoons amaretto
red and black food coloring

Add cocoa powder during mixing. Color 1/2 the frosting with black food coloring, and set aside. In a food processor, puree plums, dates, amaretto, and food coloring until mostly smooth add remaining frosting, a dollop at a time, until well combined. Refrigerate until ready to use.

1 lb Whiskey Marshmallows [substituting rum for whiskey]
1 to 1.5 lbs powdered sugar
black food coloring to desired color [I also added a tiny bit of green]

Spray mixing bowl with oil. Microwave marshmallows until soft ~1 minute then transfer to mixing bowl. Add powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time and beat until soft and pliable. Knead in food coloring, spray with oil, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate until ready to use.

1-2 Tablespoons rum or amaretto
Corn starch

Spread a thin layer of the black frosting underneath the cake to adhere it to the cake board. Take off the top layer and spread all of the red filling. Replace top layer [and sprinkle with a little more rum if the cake feels a bit dry]. Spread a thin layer of frosting over the top and sides of the cake. It's fine if the crumbs come through, because this will all be covered by the fondant. Let it dry at least 30 minutes. Meanwhile, remove fondant from fridge (still wrapped) and let it warm to room temp.

Thoroughly dust a counter with corn starch, unwrap fondant onto counter and sprinkle top with cornstarch. Roll out to ~1/4 thick in roughly the desired cake shape (plus a good 2 inches around to cover the sides, dusting as needed to keep from sticking. Gently lift the fondant to check for stuck spots and scrape with a knife to unstick (this will stay the underside, so it doesn't have to be perfectly beautiful. Bring the cake as close as humanly possible. Roll up the fondant onto your rolling pin [I actually had to roll around my arm] and transfer it to the cake. IMPORTANT: It's nearly impossible to adjust the fondant once it's on cake, so make sure you line it up before you put it down. Fold edges over sides without stretching and cut with scissors to fit the cake form. Use a pizza cutter to trim the base, then gently smooth all edges and seams with your fingers. Use the top side of a butter knife to indent the fondant with any desired details.

At this point, the cake should not be refrigerated again until after presentation as doing otherwise will cause condensation beads (and food color runs) on the fondant.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Whole-Grain Rum Cake

Growing up, I always asked for rum cake for my birthday... it seems I've always liked cooking with liquor. The recipe I grew up with called for cake mix and instant vanilla pudding, but I figured I could do a little better for my 30th birthday. This version uses ground almonds, lemon, yogurt and a combination of white whole-wheat and oat flours. It uses a couple more bowls than the traditional recipe [with an optional frying pan] but it pays off in spades. These were a hit, and I didn't even tell people they were pseudo-healthy.

Recipe: Whole-Grain Rum Cake with Almond and Lemon

You can, of course use other flours. The oat flour makes it nice and tender, and I think it's worth seeking out. You can also use olive oil in place of the butter, but the cake will be a little more dense because you can't really cream it with the sugar. I considered omitting the butter entirely because a lot of the rise comes from the baking powder/lemon/ yogurt reaction... but chickened out because I wasn't sure it would work and I'd already tweaked the recipe quite a bit.

1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
1/2 cup oat flour
2 oz almonds, toasted [1/3 cup whole, probably 1/8ish cup almond meal]
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter
3/4 cup sugar
3 eggs, separated
1 lemon, zest and juice, divided use
3/4 cup fat-free yogurt
8 tablespoons spiced rum, divided use
1/4 cup powdered sugar or superfine sugar

Preheat oven to 350F. Spray 1 tube pan or 2 cupcake pans with oil and set aside.

In a standing mixer, whip egg whites until soft peaks form ~2 minutes. Scrape into another bowl and add sugar and butter to the mixing bowl and cream ~3 minutes. Meanwhile pulse the almonds and flours in the food processor until finely ground. [alternatively, put it all in a ziploc squeeze out all the air, and whack it with a frying pan until it's reduced to fine crumbs]. In another bowl, whisk together yogurt, rum, and zest/juice from half of the lemon.

With the mixer running, add yolks one at a time to the butter mixture. Scrape down the sides, and add 1/2 of the flour mixture, then all of the yogurt mixture, then the rest of the flour, scraping the sides between each addition. Add 1/3 egg whites, and stir in, then add the remainder, folding it in carefully to keep it from deflating.

Pour into prepared pan. Bake 35 minutes or until cake starts to pull away from the sides of the pan. While the cake is in the oven, whisk 3Tbs rum and juice and rind from the other lemon half with the powdered sugar and a pinch of salt to make a glaze. Out of the oven, pour final 2 tbs of rum over the cake and let it cool 15 minutes, then unmold onto a serving platter and drizzle the glaze. Dust with additional powdered sugar just before serving.