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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

Here's a treat for Halloween. The zucchini here makes the cake very moist, and the espresso powder enhances the chocolate flavor. I'm not a huge fan of frosting, so I love the chocolate glaze, too. As I looked up the source to post, I found a note about mixing the chocolate chips with half-and-half as another topping option, which sounds decadent.

Now for the trick. My boys' birthdays are 5 days apart, on either side of Halloween. I made this cake for the October birthday, but guess what. Mom was the only one to eat a piece! Next year I'm putting candles in ice cream.

A note about altitude: I have made both the original recipe and a cake with altitude adjustments. I can't remember a difference, but I also haven't tried them side by side.



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Chocolate Zucchini Cake


Source: King Arthur Flour http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/chocolate-zucchini-cake-recipe

Cake:
8 T butter
1/2 c vegetable oil
1 3/4 c sugar
1 teas vanilla extract
1 teas baking soda
1/2 teas baking powder
1/2 teas salt
2 eggs
1/2 c sour cream, buttermilk, or yogurt
2 1/2 c flour (I use a mix of wheat and all-purpose)
3/4 c dutch process cocoa
2 teas espresso powder, optional
3 c shredded zucchini (about one 10" zucchini)
1/2 c chocolate chips (I like dark)

Icing:
1 c chocolate chips (I used dark this time, but might try semi-sweet next time)

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Lightly grease a 9x13 pan.

In a large mixing bowl, beat together the butter, oil, sugar, vanilla, baking soda, baking powder, and salt until smooth. Beat in the eggs. Stir in the sour cream, buttermilk, or yogurt alternately with the flour. Add the cocoa and espresso powder, mixing until smooth. Fold in the zucchini and 1/2 c chocolate chips. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake the cake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the top springs back lightly when touched, and it seems set. To ice the cake: Slide the cake out of the oven, sprinkle it evenly with the 1 c chocolate chips, and return it to the oven for 5 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove the cake from the oven, and use a cake spatula or rubber spatula to spread the chocolate chips into a smooth glaze. Cool on a rack.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Sweet Potato Wedges with Lime Mayo

I travel with recipes. Not so much when I'm staying in a hotel, or visiting my brothers in Europe, but when I know I'll have time to cook and people to cook for. Our recent trip to Albuquerque was a perfect opportunity. I brought an entire cookbook with me, along with probably 10 recipes printed out. We ate these lovely sweet potato fries for lunch one day, with BLTs. The dip is tangy and cuts the sweetness of the fries nicely.

The cookbook I brought was Dinner: A Love Story by Jenny Rosenstrach, who also authored this recipe (although it's not in the book). My friend Susie gave me the book for Christmas last year, knowing my penchant for not only recipes, but writing about food. Jenny describes the development of family dinner in her home over the course of her life as she wed, had children, modified her career, and as those children grew. Jenny's approach is practical and funny, and she includes tips for entertaining as well as mid-week meals. In addition to the book, she maintains a blog at http://www.dinneralovestory.com/.


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Sweet Potato Wedges with Lime Mayo


Source: Jenny Rosenstrach and Andy Ward via http://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/sweet-potato-wedges-with-lime-mayo

3 sweet potatoes (about 1 1/2 lbs), peeled, each cut lengthwise into 8 wedges
2 T vegetable oil
Kosher salt, fresh ground pepper
1/3 c mayonnaise
1/4 teas finely grated lime zest
2 teas fresh lime juice
Chopped fresh cilantro (for serving)

Preheat oven to 450F. Toss sweet potatoes and oil on a foil-lined large rimmed baking sheet; season with salt and pepper. Roast, turning once, until golden brown and crisp, 25-30 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk mayonnaise, lime zest, and juice in a small bowl.

Season fries with salt, top with cilantro, and serve with lime mayo for dipping.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Uncle John's Aebleskivers

My brother John served his LDS mission in Denmark. Later, when my family visited his family he delighted us by making ableskivers. We loved dipping the spheres in a variety of sweets. I wanted to learn how to make them since our visits were rare; at this time we were living overseas. Ableskivers are fairly well known to American diners nowadays but in the late 80s it was difficult to find an ableskiver pan. We finally found one at Smith and Edwards, the big overstock store just off I-15 north of Ogden, Utah. I hauled the cast iron pan to Bahrain in my luggage. I soon found that cooking these for a family of hungry eaters would be more efficient  if I had a second pan. I procured another. (I have to give credit where credit is due and admit that John gave me one pan but I can't remember  if it was the first or the second. I do remember the Smith and Edwards shopping experience, however.) You should be able to find a pan (or two) in a number of places. But Google will spell it aebleskiver in an online search.

For years these have been a Saturday morning favorite breakfast or Sunday dinner when I have family or friends eating with me. During their recent visit, Adam and Gabe got to eat ableskivers for the first time.



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Uncle John's Aebleskivers


Yield: lots and lots--when I made these for my grandsons I kept careful count but have since lost the record. I believe it likely the yield was around 85. This recipe could be easily halved.

4 eggs, separated
3/4 c sugar
5 c flour (you may substitute up to half wheat flour or wheat pastry flour, if you like)
1 T baking powder 
4 c milk, plus a bit more if needed
1/2 teas cardamom powder, optional
1-2 T butter, melted, for the pan
jams, sugars, honey, etc., for dipping

Place the aebleskiver pan over medium heat and preheat the pan. Depending on your stove you will have to watch and change to keep the heat at a level that doesn't burn the outside of the aebleskivers before the insides are cooked. A scorched but gooey aebleskiver is, to say the least, undesirable. 

Whip the egg whites to a stiff meringue. Set aside. In a large bowl mix the egg yolks and stir in the sugar. Measure flour in a bowl and stir in the baking powder and cardamom, if using. Add the flour and milk to the egg yolk mixture, alternating 3 times, stirring well with each addition. The batter should be like a thick pancake batter. Gently fold the egg whites into the batter. You're ready to cook.

You may oil the pan with cooking spray but I like to have a bowl of melted butter and a pastry brush nearby to lube the pan between batches. This is the best way to get butter on these spheres.

Once the pan is oiled or buttered, use an ice cream disher to pour the batter into the pan up to the level of the opening. Of course, if you don't have a disher, just use a quarter cup measure. Let the aebleskivers cook until browned on the bottom then turn them over using a chopstick. The tops will be covered with bubbles, like pancakes just before turning. I push the stick right down the middle to the bottom of the batter and pull it up to flip it over. There will be runny batter held by the cooked portion of the sphere; just let it flow into the bottom and set the cooked part on top. You may have to re-seat the aebleskiver a bit with your fingers or the back of a spoon. Let them continue to cook. Knowing when these are done becomes easier with experience. Use a toothpick as a tester and keep cooking until there is no liquid clinging to it. The toothpick can also be used to remove the aebleskivers from the pan when they are done.

I like to cook several batches of aeblelskivers before calling a big group to the table and keep them warm 200 degree oven.

Allow diners to choose from several options for dipping: cinnamon sugar, powdered sugar, demerara sugar, jam, honey, or Nutella. Each person should place several dippers and some aebleskivers on a plate and dig in.

If there are leftovers, they can be frozen for a month or so. They'll start to get a bit tough if they are in the freezer longer.


Sunday, October 20, 2013

Fresh Tomato Soup

Yes, I know it's fall now and most people don't have garden tomatoes anymore. However, I came home from my trip to New Mexico to find that a bunch of green tomatoes I picked before the freeze had turned red while sitting in my basement. So, I seized the opportunity to make fresh tomato soup.



Obviously these pictures are two different batches of this recipe. In the top picture, the soup is blended enough to make it soup, but it was still a little chunky. The vegetables were unpleasantly crunchy, so for the second batch, I cooked the vegetables for quite a long time and then blended for maybe 20 seconds.  This soup was pleasingly smooth and lighter in color. Paired with grilled cheese sandwiches, this is a fabulous meal.

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Fresh Tomato Soup


Adapted from Vegetables Every Day by Jack Bishop

2 T olive oil
1 small onion, minced
1 small carrot, peeled and minced
1 small celery stalk, minced
1 teas minced fresh thyme or oregano (or 1/2 teas dried)
3 lbs ripe tomatoes
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 c chicken or vegetable stock
shredded fresh basil leaves (optional)
croutons (optional)

Prepare the tomatoes. Place the tomatoes in boiling water for about a minute, then plunge into a bowl of ice water. Core, peel, and chop the tomatoes. You should have about 4 c pulp. Depending on the size of your tomatoes, this can take a while. About halfway through preparing your tomatoes, and depending on how soft you want your veggies, you may want to start the vegetables.

Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add the onion, carrot, and celery and cook over medium heat until softened. (The original recipe says about 5 minutes, but I probably did 15-20 minutes.) Add the herb and tomatoes and cook until the tomatoes lose their shape, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Add the stock and simmer until the flavors have blended, about 5 minutes. Puree the soup in a blender until quite smooth. Adjust the seasonings and serve immediately. Basil and croutons sound like a nice garnish, although I've never done it. Also, the original recipe reports that the soup works well chilled.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Salted Crispy Rice Treats

Betsy and I spent 10 days together just before and during the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta which ended Sunday. Michael was able to join us for a few days, too (limited leave days, you know). The little boys were with Mommy at Grandma and Grandpa's house so I feel pretty spoiled to have had them all with us.

I made this grown-up version of the familiar treat while my visitors were with me. Betsy and I both feel a little shamefaced that we share an affection for Rice Krispie Treats, at least the homemade kind. But our fondness for the confection grew recently when I found this recipe. The original instructions don't call for drizzling melted chocolate over them but I couldn't see that it would hurt anything. It didn't!




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Salted Crispy Rice Treats


Adapted from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman
Yields 16 2-inch squares

1 stick (8 T) unsalted butter, plus more for the pan
1/2 teas flaky salt
1 pkg. (10-oz) marshmallows, large or miniature
6 c crispy rice cereal, regular or brown rice
1 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, optional

Butter an 8-inch square cake pan (it will need to have 2-inch sides)

In a large pot, melt the stick of butter over medium-low heat. It will foam, then turn clear golden, start to turn brown and smell nutty. Stir frequently and watch closely so it doesn't get darker than the color of a pecan shell.

As soon as the butter has browned, remove it from the burner. Stir in the salt and then the marshmallows. The residual heat should melt the marshmallows but if you need to, return to very low heat for a short time. The marshmallows should be smooth but retain their opaque whiteness.

Remove the marshmallow mixture from the stove and stir in the cereal, stirring it until coated. Spread into the prepared pan and press it firmly into the corners. Use a piece of parchment or wax paper, sprayed with oil to keep it from sticking. If your hands are tough, you can butter your fingers and press the mixture down without resorting to the paper. Apparently a silicone spatula will work fairly well, too.

Let cool. Melt chocolate in microwave, 10-20 seconds at a time, depending on your microwave's power. I  used a spoon to drizzle the chocolate, but it wasn't very efficient. Just yesterday I read that you can put warm chocolate into a ziplock bag, clip a tiny bit of a corner, and squeeze a thin drizzle out. I haven't tried this; I'll report back when I do.

You may also mold this in a 9X13 cake pan, but the treats will be thinner, of course. I'm sure you could double it, too.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Lemon Curd

The first time I tasted Lemon Curd was when I lived Bahrain and a British neighbor gave me some she had made. I've been a fan ever since, although I often purchased it after that first tasting. Since finding this recipe, I eat it only when I can make it. One must become comfortable with tempering eggs for a custard because that is what curd is; although it is flavored with fruit juice rather than cream or milk.

Lemon Curd can be used as a spread on bread, scones, or crumpets (if you can find them). It makes a lovely topping for cake, ice cream, or cheesecake.



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Lemon Curd


Source: cooksillustrated.com

1/3 c lemon juice, from 2 lemons
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
1/2 c sugar
2 T unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces and chilled
1 T heavy cream
1/4 teas vanilla extract
pinch table salt

Heat lemon juice in small nonreactive saucepan over medium heat until hot but not boiling. In the meantime, whisk eggs and yolk in medium nonreactive bowl; gradually whisk in sugar. Whisking constantly, slowly drizzle hot lemon juice into the eggs, then return mixture to the saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon or heat resistant spatula until mixture registers 170 degrees on an instant-read thermometer and is thick enough to cling to a spoon. When the spoon or spatula leaves a clear trail (which quickly disappears) in the bottom of the saucepan, the curd is ready. If you leave it on the heat any longer, the spatula will leave a wide, clear trail as the curd becomes thick and pasty. (For good photos of what to look for go to cooksillustrated.com and look at the photos at the end of the recipe.)

Immediately remove the pan from heat and stir in the cold butter until incorporated; stir in cream, vanilla, and salt, then pour cur through a fine-mesh strainer into a small nonreactive container. Cover the surface of the curd directly with plastic wrap; refrigerate until needed. After the curd has cooled you may remove the plastic and cover with the lid of the container.

Notes:

This recipe can be easily doubled, which is what I usually do.

At higher altitudes water boils at a lower temperature than at sea level. In candy making one lowers the target temperature to correspond with the temperature difference; for example, at my altitude, I subtract 10 degrees. I've thought it might be the same in this recipe, but I have found that at 160 F, the curd is not sufficiently thickened.  However, it gets a bit too thick if I let it cook to 170 F. Cooking to 165 F results in the best texture. Those of you at a similar elevation (4900 feet) may want to do the same. It's best, though, to use the photos at Cook's Illustrated as a guide.