Thursday, July 29, 2010

Chocolate Pound Cake


About a week ago, I bought a book that I've been wanting for quite some time now: I'm Just Here for More Food by Alton Brown. It's about all the hows and whys of baking from a scientific perspective. I have never, ever (ever) been interested in science, but I was fascinated by this book. It is so helpful to actually understand the reason behind every step of the baking process, and I'm sure that I am going to be more successful in my baking endeavors from now on.

The book also includes quite a few recipes, including the Chocolate Pound Cake recipe I made today. I really like that the recipes include measurements by weight (in addition to volume) and are categorized by mixing method. Each mixing method is written on a little flap at the beginning of each section, so you can fold it over the page of any recipe in that section. Genius!

This pound cake was delicious, which is not surprising considering every recipe I have tried from Alton Brown has been a success. The chocolate flavor was subtle, and the texture was perfectly soft and moist. In fact, after I tasted it I wished I hadn't frosted it at all. What?! These are words I never thought I would say. After all, frosting is the proverbial (not to mention literal) icing on the cake. However, the chocolate glaze I used didn't really add anything, and I thought it was actually too chocolatey. I guess that will teach me to taste my baked goods before I pour chocolate all over them! 

Chocolate Pound Cake

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
3 cups sugar
5 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
6 tbsp cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
1 cup whole milk

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 325˚F.

2. Grease and flour a 10-inch tube pan and set aside.

3. Assemble the batter via the creaming method, alternating additions of the flour/cocoa mixture with the milk. Given the amounts involved, start with dry and end with dry.

4. Pour the batter into the pan and bake for 1 hour and 20 minutes, until the internal temperature hits 212˚F, or the cake leaves the sides of the pan.

5. Remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool 15 minutes in the pan, then turn out onto a rack to cool thoroughly. It will keep, tightly wrapped at room temperature, for 1 week.

Creaming Method:

1. Scale or measure all ingredients. Fats should be pliable but solid (no sign of melting). If kitchen temp is over 70˚F, chill the mixing bowl.

2. Combine all Dry Goods (except sugar) by pulsing in food processor.

3. In a small bowl, beat eggs together along with any extracts.

4. Using a stand mixer, with the paddle attachment, on medium speed:
  • Mix the fat(s) alone for a minute to spread them around the bowl.
  • Add sugar(s) slowly and beat until mixture lightens noticeably in texture and increases slightly in volume.
5. Reduce the speed to "stir" and add the eggs very slowly, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary.

6. Work in the Dry Goods in three installments alternating with any additional liquids, such as milk. Always start with the dry ingredients and finish with the wet for a smoother batter.

7. Stir in any bits and/or pieces (chocolate chips, nuts, etc.).

8. Bake according to the recipe's instructions.

Source:
Brown, Alton. "Chocolate Pound Cake." Recipe. I'm Just Here for More Food. New York: Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2004. 208-9.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Cupcake Royale

Source: www.facebook.com/CupcakeRoyale

Bad news: I didn't bake anything this week. Good news: I ate the most delicious cupcakes ever from Cupcake Royale in West Seattle! Cupcake Royale is one of the many cupcake bakeries I have been wanting to go to for quite some time, and today was the perfect opportunity since Stephen and I were already planning to go to Alki.

I knew before we even walked through the door that I would have trouble deciding which flavor to order. Should I go for something traditional or something I've never had? Vanilla cake or chocolate cake? Vanilla frosting or chocolate frosting? Ultimately I was unable (and by that, I mean unwilling) to choose just one. Neither was I able to choose just two. So, in the end, Stephen ordered the Royale with Cheese, and I ordered the Coconut Bunny, the Red Velvet, and the Classic. Yes, I ate three cupcakes. Don't judge me.

Third Place: The Classic (vanilla cake with chocolate buttercream)
I thought this would be my favorite of the three I ordered, since it is one of my favorite cake-frosting combinations. And make no mistake, it was delicious. I just liked it slightly less than the other two flavors I ordered. The cake itself was perfect, but I thought the frosting was a little too chocolate-y. Who knew such a thing was actually possible?

Second Place: Red Velvet
This was actually the first time I ever tried red velvet cake, and needless to say, I was not disappointed! My favorite part was the cream cheese frosting. The frosting wasn't overly rich, and it was the perfect compliment to the cake. This definitely will not be my last encounter with red velvet cake.

And the winner is... the Coconut Bunny! (vanilla cake with coconut buttercream) This cupcake was amazing. It tasted like a huge, soft, cupcake-shaped frosted sugar cookie. Everything about it was perfect. End of story.

I will definitely be returning to Cupcake Royale. Even Stephen said that it should become part of our yearly Alki tradition, and he isn't nearly as obsessed with baked goods as I am. Bottom line: you need to taste these cupcakes. Good luck picking just one.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Banana Bread


I don't like bananas all that much, but I do enjoy a variety of foods that are banana-flavored. This includes but is not limited to Banana Laffy Taffy, Banana Slurpees, and Banana Chocolate Vivanno Smoothies. If I am going to eat a raw banana, it has to be slightly under-ripe. As soon as my bananas start developing brown spots, it's time to make banana bread!

Banana bread is delicious. Moist, dense, and slightly sweet. Even better if it's fresh from the oven with a teaspoon of butter, which is how I enjoyed mine today.

I've made this recipe before, but today I made a couple substitutions. I used whole wheat flour instead of all-purpose, and I used Egg Beaters instead of eggs. The former was an attempt to make the recipe healthier; the latter was because I was too lazy to buy eggs.

In other news, I'm ending my cheat day hiatus early. Who was I kidding? Four weeks without a cheat day? Ha. You can expect something rich, calorie-dense, and unabashedly indulgent next week.


Banana Bread

24 servings

1-1/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 large eggs
1-1/2 cups mashed ripe bananas
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped nuts

Directions:

1. Move oven rack to low position so that tops of pans will be in center of oven. Heat oven to 350˚F. Grease bottoms only of two 8x4-inch loaf pans or one 9x5-inch loaf pan with shortening or spray with cooking spray.

2. In large bowl, stir sugar and butter until well mixed. Stir in eggs until well mixed. Stir in bananas, buttermilk and vanilla; beat with spoon until smooth. Stir in flour, baking soda and salt just until moistened. Stir in nuts. Divide batter evenly between 8-inch pans or pour into 9-inch pan.

3. Bake 8-inch loaves about 1 hour, 9-inch loaf about 1 hour 15 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minute in pans on wire rack.

4. Loosen sides of loaves from pans; remove from pans and place top side up on wire rack. Cool completely, about 2 hours, before slicing. Wrap tightly and store at room temperature up to 4 days, or refrigerate up to 10 days.

Source:

"Banana Bread." Recipe. Betty Crocker Cookbook: Heart Health Edition. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley Publishing, Inc., 2008. 68.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Peanut Butter & Jelly Muffins


As I said last week, I'm skipping my over-the-top "cheat" days for awhile, and I admit I have been a little disappointed all week thinking about how I wouldn't be baking something insanely decadent today. However, I was determined to find a recipe that would still be delicious, while not going overboard on calories. I decided on Peanut Butter & Jelly Muffins from Cooking Light.

I haven't always loved peanut butter and jelly. I remember being at my aunt's house with my sister and three cousins when I was about five or six. My aunt was making lunch for all of us--peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I told her that I didn't like peanut butter and jelly; she told me that was too bad. And who could blame her? If I were making lunch for five kids, I wouldn't be taking special requests either. Besides, who doesn't like peanut butter and jelly?!

Anyway, my tastes have matured since then. I absolutely love peanut butter. In fact, I have a peanut butter sandwich for lunch every day. And let's face it--jelly sure doesn't make anything worse.

These muffins were definitely a success. I couldn't resist eating one about 30 seconds after I pulled them out of the oven, so the jelly was still warm, gooey, and delicious! They are not overly sweet or overly peanut butter-y. As Goldilocks might say, they are just right.

The only changes I made to the recipe were to use soymilk instead of nonfat and almond extract instead of vanilla. I definitely recommend the almond extract if you want the muffins to have a distinct nutty flavor.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Muffins
12 servings

1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-1/4 cups fat-free milk
1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup egg substitute
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup strawberry jam

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 400˚F.

2. Combine flours, sugars, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl; stir with a whisk.

3. Make a well in center of mixture. Combine milk and next 4 ingredients (through vanilla); add to flour mixture, stirring just until moist.

4. Spoon batter into 12 muffin cups lined with baking cups or sprayed with cooking spray. Fill each cup half full with batter.

5. Spoon 1 teaspoon jam into each cup. Spoon remaining batter on top to cover jam.

6. Bake for 20 minutes or until muffins spring back when touched lightly in center. Let col in pan 5 minutes. Remove from pan, and cool on a wire rack.

Source:
Scarbrough, Mark. "Peanut Butter and Jelly Muffins." Recipe. Myrecipes.com. 2007.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Bread Pudding


Today I decided to make bread pudding, which is something I had never eaten before, let alone baked. I used Paula Deen's recipe for The Best Bread Pudding. After looking through dozens of recipes, I chose this one because it combined several flavors I love: brown sugar, pecans, and vanilla.

I'm not really sure what to think about how it turned out. Since I've never had bread pudding before, I don't know what consistency it's supposed to have, but mine was mushier than I was expecting. Also, the sauce didn't turn out well at all. It consists of butter, sugar, egg, vanilla, and brandy, although I used rum extract instead. The rum flavor was way too overpowering (I'm sure I used too much), and I must have done something wrong because the end result didn't look like a sauce at all. I felt like I was pouring rum-flavored melted butter all over my dessert.


I guess I'd have to say this recipe was a flop; it's one of the only desserts I've ever thought was too sweet. The best part was definitely the brown sugar and pecan topping. Then again, I would be happy eating brown sugar all on its own.

Although I was underwhelmed by how my bread pudding turned out, I was very pleased with the Pillow Cookies I made earlier. The recipe came from bakerella.com, and I've been thinking about it every day since I first saw it. What are Pillow Cookies, you ask? Pillow Cookies are what you get when you place 1-inch fudge brownie squares inside 1/2 cup balls of chocolate-chip cookie dough and bake them until golden brown. They are insanely delicious.

I'm certainly glad that I made them today, because today is my last "cheat day" for the next 4 weeks. I really don't like the term "cheat day," but I don't know what else to call it. Planned indulgence? Splurge day? Day-necessary-for-keeping-my-sanity? I digress.

Anyway, I stick to an eating plan six days per week and eat whatever I want one day per week. But lately I've started to get a little out of control on that one day, especially since I started baking on a regular basis. I've managed to maintain my goal weight for the past year, and I certainly don't want to gain any back, so I've decided to skip my "cheat day" for the next four weeks. Also, I've discovered that buying ingredients for all these recipes can get quite expensive, and I certainly don't have a lot of money to spare these days.

The point of all this is that I may not be baking for the next few weeks, and if I do, I will probably be choosing healthier recipes for which I already have the ingredients. I'm thinking about trying some healthy muffin recipes that were posted on My Food Diary, which is the website I use to track my nutrition and exercise. I would definitely recommend it as a tool for anyone who wants to lose weight! Paula Deen's bread pudding, on the other hand, may not be as helpful in that department.

The Best Bread Pudding
Prep: 10 min Cook: 50 min
8-10 servings

Bread Pudding:

2 cups granulated sugar
5 large beaten eggs
2 cups milk
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 cups cubed Italian bread, allowed to stale overnight
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 cup chopped pecans

Sauce:

1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 egg, beaten
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup brandy

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Grease a 13 x 9 x 2 inch pan

2. Mix together granulated sugar, eggs, and milk in a bowl; add vanilla. Pour over cubed braed and let sit for 10 minutes.

3. In another bowl, mix and crumble together brown sugar, butter, and pecans.

4. Pour bread mixture into prepared pan. Sprinkle brown sugar mixture over the top and bake for 35-45 minutes, or until set. Remove from oven.

5. For the sauce: Mix together the granulated sugar, butter, egg, and vanilla in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir together until the sugar is melted. Add the brandy, stirring well. Pour over bread pudding. Serve warm or cold.

Source:
Deen, Paula. "The Best Bread Pudding." Recipe. Foodnetwork.com. 2007.