Devilish Good Day

Today was an awesome day!

First of all, I have finally turned a corner with the medical issues I’ve been dealing with.  In actuality, recovering from the surgery itself hasn’t been too bad.  What I didn’t expect is to have an allergic reaction to the sterilization solution they used which resulted in a horrible rash over much of my upper body.  I have been so itchy that I have wanted to crawl right out of my skin.  I have tried every non-itch cream and lotion on the market and while a few of them will temporarily soothe the itchiness, it does not last long and I have been going crazy.  I am grateful to say that the rash seems to finally be going away.

Second, I got to sleep in today.  This may not seem like a luxury considering our current work status, but we have literally had appointments every single day for weeks. With some confusion over the time change last night, I managed to oversleep and miss church today. I felt bad that I missed church, but it was so nice to sleep as late as I wanted to and then basically be lazy all day long.  So I surfed the internet and did some artwork.  It was wonderful!

Third, we received some letters from friends this weekend and read through them today.  We loved the thoughtful notes and the sweet picture.  We feel very blessed to have good friends who think of us and keep us in their prayers.  And by the way, I had a doctor tell me this week that they have done research that shows that prayers actually do work (not that I am surprised by that, but I think it’s interesting that the medical community acknowledges it.)  So, thank you for keeping us in your thoughts and prayers.

And to top off our day, we had a special dessert.  You see, we have  had to eliminate milk completely from my daughter’s diet.  That means milk and butter substitutes and NO chocolate (because of the milk in it).  But I found a great recipe for Devil’s Food cake with chocolate mousse and chocolate ganache and it was entirely dairy free.  This was a great recipe that I would use again even if I didn’t need it to be dairy free.  The recipe was also egg free but I used a real egg since I didn’t have any of the egg substitute on hand.  You can find the recipe here:

So I’m hoping that this is just the first day of a really great week.  The weather is supposed to be warming up and we’re even supposed to see 50 degrees on Wednesday!  I hope everyone else has a great week as well.

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Chocolate Decadence

It’s no secret that I love to bake.  As a friend once told me that it is my “happy place” which is definitely true.  The thing is, I’ve been having an internal struggle for the past while because while I know that baking makes me happy ( good thing), it also results in yummy, high calorie treats that are a temptation for my hubby who has been focusing on losing weight (bad thing).  I have been debating what to do with this situation for quite some time.  I secretly hoped that if I hung in there long enough that the medical issues would pass and life would be back to normal.  I suppose that I have finally come to terms that the medical issues are really not going to resolve in the near future and even when they do, we are going to have to adjust our lifestyle.  So, while I am not giving up entirely on decadent desserts that have far too many calories, I have decided that I must focus more on food that is healthy for us and some desserts that can be eaten without completely blowing one’s diet.

Today’s recipe is taken from a magazine that we’ve enjoyed the past while called Eating Well.  I love that they have the nutritional info on each recipe so that I know it fits within the calorie and sodium restrictions.  The February issue has some great chocolate desserts that have a reasonable amount of calories.

I decided to try the flourless chocolate cake called “Chocolate Decadence.”  This recipe is proof that you can have decadence without destruction.  Most flourless chocolate cakes call for tons of butter and eggs which, although delicious, really hike up the calories.  This version calls for heating a small amount of flour, sugar and low-fat milk (rather than cream)  on the stove and then pouring it over high quality cocoa and chocolate.  Then egg whites are whipped and added to it.  It is baked, cooled and then refrigerated overnight before serving (if you can wait that long).  You can find the recipe here.

I was extremely pleased with the way this turned out and definitely consider this a go-to recipe from now on.   One serving is 164 calories but the cake is so rich that you could definitely get by with a smaller piece and still feel completely satisfied.

I totally wanted a picture to put with this post but unfortunately I do not have one.  When I served it the first time it was rather late in the evening and I didn’t feel like taking the time to style and photograph it.  Then we ended up serving the rest of it rather spontaneously one night when we had company, and I didn’t even think of it until I had licked my plate clean.  Well, I guess you know what that means — I’m just going to HAVE to make this recipe again real soon.  Give it a try yourself — I think you’ll really like it!

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Ginger Cheesecake with Gingerbread Crust

This week we had another free choice as to what we wanted to bake.  I looked through the list of the cakes Marie baked before the group officially started and narrowed down what I wanted to try.  The cake that caught my eye was the Ginger Cheesecake with Gingerbread Crust.  This cheesecake is a perfect fit for this time of year because it has ginger and cardamom added to it.  And not only that — the cake is encircle with gingerbread cookies!  Now what could be more adoreable than that?

To be fair, the gingerbread cookies are optional in this recipe. If you want, you can purchase gingersnaps and grind them up for the crust.  But seriously, the gingerbread cookies are the funnest part of this recipe.  So for me, there was no question on whether or not I was making them.

The gingerbread dough was easy to mix up.  The dough is flavored with molasses and the spices of ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. The dough is put in the fridge for a couple of hours to firm up.  When I took it out later in the day, the dough was easy to work with and rolled out nicely.  I cut out the small gingerbread boys and girls and then cut out squares to be crushed up for the crust.  The crust is made by adding butter and a little salt to the cookie crumbs.  I elected to leave out the salt since we are watching the sodium in our home.

The cheesecake itself went together quite easily also. One unique part of this recipe was the addition of ginger juice. To acquire ginger juice, you take a large piece of fresh gingerroot and grate it.  Then you squeeze the grated ginger to extract its juice. (The gingerroot is then disposed of. )     The main components of the cheesecake batter are cream cheese and sour cream.

The cheesecake is baked in a water bath for an hour and then left in the oven with the door closed for another hour.  Then you cool it on a wire rack for another hour before putting it in the fridge overnight.  So this dessert definitely has to be made the day before you want to serve it.

To serve the cheesecake, run a hot knife around the inside of the pan to release it, and place on a serving plate.  Then you press the gingerbread cookies around the outside.  You can use jam to adhere the cookies a little more securely to the cheesecake.

My family really liked this cheesecake.  The ginger flavor was quite strong but not too much.  It was refreshing to have something a little out of the ordinary and these spices just feel like Thanksgiving to me.  And if you make this cheesecake, don’t leave out the cookies because they were our favorite part of this dessert (I’ve already received a request to make more).

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Swedish Pear and Almond Cream Cake

I’m a little late posting this week’s HCB project, the Swedish Pear and Almond Cream Cake.  My tardiness is not because this was a difficult cake to make  but just because I  ended up working more than expected and didn’t get my post finished. The cake itself went together quite easily.

Combine the dry ingredients.

Add the liquid ingredients.

Add the almond cream (the most difficult part  was finding the almond paste).

Add the pear.

Bake and eat!

The results:  Very tasty!  It was simple but good!

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The Bostini

Today’s assignment with the Heavenly Cake Bakers was the Bostini.  I have been waiting impatiently for this recipe to come up since the first time I thumbed through Rose’s beautiful cookbook.  The picture of a mug full of pastry cream, topped off with a small cake on top and covered in hot fudge indeed looks heavenly.  This recipe is basically a sophisticated variation of Boston Cream Pie, with orange added to the cake for an extra twist.

There are basically three parts to this recipe: First, the Orange Glow Chiffon Cupcake Batter, the Vanilla Bean Pastry Cream Sauce, and finally the Chocolate Butter Glaze.  However, none of these steps takes an extensive amount of work so don’t let that discourage you from attempting this dessert.

The Orange Glow Chiffon Cupcake Batter went together very easily.  This is an oil based cake so once the dry ingredients are mixed, you add oil, egg yolks, orange zest, orange juice and vanilla.  The  batter  thickens up nicely. In a separate bowl, you make a meringue which is then folded into the batter.   The result is a light orange batter which pours easily into the cupcake pan.  The instructions call for a silicone pan but since I don’t have one, I used my aluminum pans and I lined the bottoms with parchment.  The full batter recipe yields 12 cupcakes and so I decided to halve the recipe to end up with 6 cupcakes.  Now I do not understand what happened, but out of my half recipe of batter I actually came out with 12 cupcakes.  This is really weird and I do not understand.  Last week when I made the 8 cup version of angel food cake batter I also ended up with way too much batter and ended up filling a loaf pan with the extra.  Anyway, the cakes baked up nicely.

The next step was the Vanilla Bean Pastry Cream Sauce.  This sauce is supposed to be a cross between pastry cream and creme anglaise.  The first step was quite interesting in that you scrape the vanilla bean seeds into the sugar and salt mixture and mix it up with your fingers which I have never seen done before.  This mixture is heated with heavy cream until it comes to a simmer.  Then there is a quick exchange when you mix  some of the cream into the egg yolks and then put the egg yolk mixture back into the cream.  I didn’t get any pictures of this since it was rather quick moving and I was afraid if I stopped to take pictures Iwould have a curdled mess on my hands.  The sauce is then heated a few minutes longer and it becomes very thick.  After straining the mixture you put it it directly into custard cups and refrigerate.  Now I seemed to have the opposite problem I did with the batter because with the pastry cream I again made a half recipe which should have yielded six servings.  I had 8 oz. cups rather than the 6-7 oz. cups, but I only needed to make 3 Bostinis so I figured I would have plenty left over.  I barely had enough to fill 3 of the glasses and even then I didn’t fill them as full as I wanted to.  I really am not understanding what is happening with these measurements and yields.

The last step couldn’t be easier.  Basically you heat the butter in a saucepan and when it is simmering you add chopped chocolate.  The recipe calls for 62% chocolate.  Normally I use Ghirardelli chocolate but this time I tried Nestle Chocolatier.  The sauce came out shiny and smooth.  My mouth was watering.

To serve the Bostini, you please a cupcake upside down over the custard and then top with fudge glaze.  Since I didn’t have quite enough custard I put an extra layer of cupcake in so that I could still have a nice dome above the glass.  This did make it a little difficult to eat though.  Next time, I think I will actually put that extra layer of cake in the middle of the creme and add a layer of glaze.  That way, it will break up the custard a bit and in my opinion it will be even better.

We were very pleased with the Bostini and look forward to having it again.  It is definitely a showpiece dessert that tastes as great as it looks.

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Angel Food Cake with Lime and Coconut

This week’s baking project was the basic Angel Food Cake that could be dressed up any way we wanted.    Since I was planning to cook Thai food on Saturday night, I thought it would be fun to keep that theme going.  I did a little bit of looking on the internet and decided to make an angel food cake with lime and coconut, since  those are two predominant flavors in Thai Cooking.  (I found that recipe here: http://www.squidoo.com/angel-food-cake-recipes)

Since there are so many different sizes and shapes of angel food cake pans, Rose provides a recipe that uses one egg white per one cup batter so that the reader can easily multiply the recipe to the size of the pan.  The pan I have is 8-cup capacity, or half the size of a full sized pan, so I multiplied the recipe by 8.

The first thing is to make a meringue by beating the egg whites and sugar to stiff peaks.  Then the dry ingredients are added and folded in a little bit at a time.  Once in the pan the batter should be about 1/2″ from the top of the pan.  Now I’m not sure what happened with mine because I ended up having enough batter left over to fill a small loaf pan.

We have a fairly new toaster oven that has a convection oven setting on it and I decided I wanted to give that a try.  Since I’m fairly new to the whole convection thing I decided to bake it at 325 as I’ve heard that you should reduce the temp when using convection.  I wasn’t sure how long to bake it but I was thinking about 20 minutes.  I watched the cake rise a few inches above the pan and then it started shrinking back into the pan.  Since I had read in the instructions that this is typical, I didn’t worry about it.  It appeared to be done after about 23 minutes so I removed it and set it on a raised cooling rack.  We had some shopping to do so we left for a few hours.  When I came back, I noticed that the cake was now far below the top of the cake pan by about 1-1/2 inches or more.  So I’m not sure if this is an indication of it not cooking long enough or what.  The bottom of the cake also seemed very moist even though it felt done.  If anyone knows, please leave a comment for me.

The lime custard is made by mixing 2 eggs, 2 egg yolks, 1/2 cup sugar, 6 T. lime juice, 2 tsp lime peel and 1/2 cup butter together in a double boiler and heating to 160 degrees.  Then you strain the custard and refrigerate until completely cool (I made mine the night before we were going to have the cake).  After it is completely cooled, you beat 1 cup whipping cream and 1/2 tsp vanilla to stiff peaks and gradually add 3 T. sugar.  Gently fold the whipping cream into the lime mixture.

I cut my angel food cake into third horizontally, and filled it and frosted it with the lime custard.  Then I pressed toasted coconut onto the outside.

I got rave reviews on this cake!  The flavor of lime went perfect with the light texture of angel food cake. It was also the perfect complement to the Thai food.  We will definitely be making this again and very soon I am sure.

Next week is the Bostini and I can hardly wait.  I have been drooling over this recipe since the first time I looked through Rose’s book.

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Chocolate Pumpkin Bread

Today is a very special day because today I am going to share with you one of my very favorite recipes: Chocolate Pumpkin Bread.  I don’t know who to give credit to for this recipe as I believe it came from the newspaper when I was young.  My Mom happened to see it, cut it out and decided to give it a try.  Needless to say, it was a big hit and she often made it to give as gifts during the holidays.  Last weekend I decided to make my Mom’s Chocolate Pumpkin Bread to take to a party.  I have had several people ask for the recipe so here it is.  I hope you all enjoy it.

  • 1-1/4 cups oil
  • 3 oz. unsweetened chocolate
  • 3-1/2 cups sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 29 oz. can pumpkin
  • 1-1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1-1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 3-3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1-3/4 tsp salt
  • 1-1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1-1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1-1/4 tsp ground clove
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 8 oz. chocolate chips
  • 1 cup chopped nuts

Melt together over low heat half of oil with chocolate; set aside.  Cream remaining oil with sugar.  Beat in eggs.  Add melted chocolate mixture and blend.  Combine pumpkin and vanilla and add to batter.  Slowly blend in sifted dry ingredients until moistened, then beat well until no lumps appear.  Stir in chocolate chips and nuts.  Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour or until firm for small loaf pans, 1 hour 15 minutes for large pans.  Let stand 10 minutes, then remove from pans and cool.  Makes 3 loaves (9×15); 4 loaves (8×4); 7 cans or 7 mini loaves.

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Many-Splendored Quick Bread

Although I didn’t have to work this weekend, I kept myself pretty busy catching up on some housework and doing a little baking project of my own.  ThereforeI was happy that this week’s HCB project was a quick bread that is on the Quick and Easy List.  It was indeed pretty quick to throw together.  I think that grating the zucchini and carrot were the most time consuming part which didn’t take long at all.

The flavor components are of course the zucchini and carrot and also include a banana, instant oatmeal and walnuts.  The ingredients make it sound pretty darn healthy don’t you think?  I am curious to know what the nutrition information looks like and am wishing that Rose had included that in her book.  I know —  I’m probably the only one in the world that wants nutrition info for a cookbook on cakes.  But with all of hubby’s health issues lately it is something we have had to focus on more and so I really do think it would be helpful to have.

Anyway, back to the quick bread.  First step is to toast the walnuts.  Next, you mix the dry ingredients.  In a separate bowl, you make the batter and you can just throw all the ingredients in the KitchenAid and mix it up.  Add in the dry ingredients and the nuts and you’re done.  This recipe make one 8-1/2″x4″ loaf.

The flavor is pretty good, although not wow. However, if it is a somewhat healthy kind of snack to eat, then it might be a good thing to have on hand.  I will be figuring up the nutrition info on this and then making a final analysis.

 

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Molten Chocolate Souffle and Lava Cakes

Mmmm. . . . chocolate!  I’m so happy we got to do a nice deep chocolate cake this week.

I’ve tried making molten chocolate cake before but I always seem to have trouble getting a nice gooey middle without the cake itself being underdone.  Rose has solved this problem by using chocolate ganache in the center so that it will stay liquid.  This seems like a pretty basic idea and I’m just wondering why in the world no one else has ever done this.  Kudos to Rose for coming up with a brilliant idea.

The ganache needs to be made a few hours ahead of time so that it can hold the shape of a ball.  Now I will be honest here — I read through the instructions and the whole saran wrap in an egg carton thing just sounded like a whole lot of work and mess to me.  Therefore, I decided to do this step my way which I think worked just fine.  I made the ganache by heating the cream and pouring it over the chopped chocolate.  Then I put the bowl of ganache into the fridge overnight.   The next day when I was ready to make the cakes, I scooped the cold ganache from the bowl using a small scoop.

The cake batter  is made by melting chocolate, cocoa and butter. Then eggs and creme are mixed into the chocolate.  The last step is to make a meringue from egg whites and sugar, which is also folded into the chocolate.

I was really wishing I had some small brioche pans or other decorative shaped pan.  Since I did not, I used a muffin pan.  The cups are filled three-fourths full and a ganache ball placed in the center.  The instructions say specifically not to push the ball down into the batter.  I baked the cakes for about 12 minutes and let them cool in the pan for about half an hour.  The cakes were very pretty and puffed up when I first took them out of the oven but after cooling, they fell.  The ganache seemed to be coming out of the tops of my cakes which I guess then becomes the bottom so I guess that’s okay.

I served the cakes with a little sweetened whipped cream and they were very well received.  I thought that it was a nice cake texture and really loved the soft ganache inside.

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