OK, I’m done

FullSizeRenderWell that didn’t take long. A few sprightly jaunts through fluffy snow were fun, but as far as this season goes, I’m done. Might have lasted a bit longer had the sun poked its nose out once in a while through the layer of blech that’s taken up permanent residence in the PNW skies. Or if the sweet cottage I live in comfortably during three seasons didn’t suddenly become a walk-in refrigerator when the mercury dipped below 40. Fifty-two degree floors are swell for slowly cooling chocolate truffles. I am not a chocolate truffle.

I grew up in a place with four seasons and actually do like winter, at least for the first month or so. Snow capped mountains and fluffy trees are all quite beautiful, and the quiet that surrounds you during a snowy hike can be sublime. But in my corner of the map these days, the surrounding shades of gray number far more than 50, and elicit more whine than moan. I know this swath of mid-winter bleak isn’t unique to this region, but frankly, we seem to excel at it. Know why there’s so many microbreweries, wineries and cider houses in the Pacific Northwest? We’ve got to find someway to get from January to April. You think it’s coincidence that two of the three states with legalized weed are here? Enough said.

When the mid-winter crap-mood hits me hard, I seek out sunshine. Since I have neither feathers nor greenbacks to fly south for the winter, I try to find my sunshine culinarily. Often that takes the form of certain scurvy-preventing citrus mixed with vodka. But this time my muse is a cider maker, and my sunshine beams forth through a combination of peaches and hard cider. This Peach Hard Cider Sauce is pretty awesome stuff. The combo of peach and cider is truly a match made in heaven, the crisp green apple flavor of the cider bringing out the best in the peach. And since frozen peaches are perfect for this sauce, it’s an easy antidote for the sunlight-deprived days of winter.

IMG_4026I originally made the sauce to top the cake recipe at the end of this post (and it was amazing), but then I discovered something. The sauce makes a ridiculously good cider cocktail too. Think bellini, but with dry hard cider instead of prosecco . It’s also pretty great on toast, pancakes, pound cake, or ice cream. 

Sure there’s still a lot of winter left, but that’s ok. Now I can make my own sunshine. 🙂

 

Peach Hard Cider Sauce

Makes about 2 cups

  • 3 cups frozen peaches (about 1 lb.), chopped
  • 3/4 cup hard cider (I used a national brand, green apple flavor, but if you are lucky enough to live in or near Salt Lake City, Ruby from Mountain West Hard Cider would be perfect for this!)
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup to 1 cup sugar (depending on your taste and sweetness of peaches)
  • A pinch of salt

Add everything to a saucepan and bring to a boil. Turn down to a slow boil and cook for about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally so the bottom doesn’t burn. At this point, if you are going to be making the Almond Polenta Cake below, remove 1/2 cup of the syrup you now have in the pot and set aside to use in the cake. Continue cooking another 5-10 minutes until the peaches are mostly broken down and the sauce is thick.

Let the sauce cool for about 15 minutes, then carefully puree in a blender in batches (or use a stick blender if you have one.) Keep in a jar in the refrigerator.

Hard Cider Bellini

Spoon 2 teaspoons of peach hard cider sauce into the bottom of a champagne flute or tall thin glass. Top with hard cider. Stir until combined.

IMG_4022Almond Polenta Cake with Peach Hard Cider Sauce

Makes one 9″ cake, or four 4″ little cakes

The inspiration for the cake is a version of Nigella Lawson’s Lemon Polenta Cake, changed a bit to accommodate what I had on hand and pair with peaches. The recipe calls for fine polenta, but I had medium on hand, and it gives the cake a great texture and a little crunch. However, the star of the show is definitely the cider syrup and sauce. And if you’re looking for a gluten-free recipe everyone will love, this is it.

For the cake:

  • 1 ¾ sticks soft unsalted butter (plus some for greasing)
  • 1 cup superfine sugar
  • 1 3/4 cups almond meal
  • 1 cup fine polenta or cornmeal ** (I used medium grind)
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder (if you are gluten-free, double check that this is too)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 tsp grated orange zest
  • 1/4 cup hard cider
  • 1/2 cup reserved peach cider syrup from above
  • Peach hard cider sauce (see recipe above)

Line the base of pan with parchment paper and grease paper and sides lightly with butter. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Beat the butter and sugar till pale and whipped. Mix together the dry ingredients and beat some of this into the butter-sugar mixture, followed by 1 egg, then alternate dry ingredients and eggs, beating all the while. Finally, beat in the orange zest and cider and pour, spoon or scrape the mixture into your prepared pan.

Bake in the oven for about 40 minutes for 9″ cake, or about 30 minutes for small cakes. Cake is done when a tester in center comes out cleanish and, most significantly, the edges of the cake will have begun to shrink away from the sides of the pan. Remove from the oven to a wire cooling rack, but leave in pan.

Prick the top of the cake all over with a toothpick. Warm up the reserved peach syrup and pour over the cake, and leave to cool before taking it out of the pan. When the cake is completely cool, spread the peach hard cider sauce over the top.

If you like what you read here, please help me spread the word. Meantime, I’d love you to join me on Facebook (please click the ‘like’ button), and check out what else is going on in my kitchen at cookinginmyheels.com. Thanks!  🙂

 

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In a Perfect World…

FullSizeRender - Version 2“In a perfect world…” I find myself falling back on that phrase a lot lately. Been having a bit of an internal whine-fest, stomping around grumpily because it feels like things are more uphill slog than downhill jog these days. So when my days are less happy than sad, less confident than scared I try to think of what that “perfect world” might look like. Doesn’t necessarily make things better, but it does help pass the time and brighten my mood on long hikes when I’m cranky and whining to squirrels.

Of course the obvious perfect world requests that no one would get sick, suffer loss, hunger or fear always apply. So would the perfection of always being near enough to loved ones to score a hug whenever needed. There’d always be more than enough of whatever is lacking – money, time, love, laughter, peace. But what if you dove in deeper? Here’s just a few ideas I’ve come up with lately:

In a perfect world;

  • calories would magically reduce when butter, cream or bacon are added to a dish;
  • every swipe of my debit card would immediately be replenished (with 25% interest) from Donald Trump’s campaign fund account. And yes, I’d go on a shopping spree. BIG one;
  • Kardashians would still do stuff, but no one would watch, or care;
  • differing views on politics, religion, or sports would be well reasoned and discussed with respect toward all opinions, and if that could not be accomplished things would just be settled with a dance-off.
  • the only polar icecaps melting would be the one in the back of my freezer, and;
  • every day at around 4PM, there would be kaffee and kuchen.

I grew up in a world not necessarily more perfect, but one that often included the calm late afternoon break of caffeine and something sweet. As a kid who loved any break involving food, that world seemed pretty perfect to me. Call it afternoon tea or kaffee und kuchen, it was the time when the world slowed a little and you could recharge your battery before heading into the rest of the day. My grandmother was a firm believer in kaffee und kuchen. Actually, my grandmother was a firm believer in dessert after every meal, but I seem to remember afternoon kuchen the best. If you were lucky enough to stop by her home around 4, you’d likely be sitting in front of a cup and saucer of white porcelain with tiny blue flowers, a slice of cake on your plate, and the most pressing stress you’d have to deal with is deciding with or without whipped cream. With, always.

So I suggest in today’s imperfect world of too much information, too little respectful reasoned debate, and a 24/7 technology stream attached to the end of our hands,  that we reinstitute kaffee and kuchen time. No technology, just cake and conversation. I’m betting the world won’t end if we all took an hour break in the late afternoon. It might even make it just a little bit more perfect.

File Sep 10, 10 42 59 AMSince most of us don’t have the time in our busy worlds to bake a cake every day I’m sharing one that can last a few days, provided you don’t leave a knife on the plate for hungry passersby.  The inspiration for this cake was a recipe for Farm Apple Cake I found in Bon Appetit magazine many years ago. Heavy on the butter and eggs (1&1/2 sticks butter, 4 eggs), this cake is dense but not overly sweet, with fruit both mixed in the batter and sliced on top. It also has no leavening in it other than the air whipped into the butter and the eggs as they are added, giving it an almost velvety rich texture, and a bit of a crispy meringue-ish top.

File Sep 10, 10 46 23 AMI’ve adapted the original recipe to pears instead of apples (thus the name change) since that’s what I had on hand, upped the spice a little and subbed cognac for the Vin Santo the original recipe used. It’s perfect for afternoon tea, makes a great morning coffeecake, and since Rosh Hashanah begins this evening, would be a lovely addition to any sweet New Year celebration.

ORCHARD PEAR CAKE (Adapted from Bon Appetit, Farm Apple Cake,1998)

Makes 8-10 servings

  • 2 cups cake flour
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • ¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 tsp orange or lemon zest
  • 2 cups plus 1 tbsp sugar
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • 3 tbsp Cognac
  • 1 medium pear, peeled, quartered, cored, cut into 1/3 –inch pieces
  • 2 pears, peeled, quartered, cored, thinly sliced

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F. Generously butter 10-inch springform pan. Dust pan with four, tap out excess.

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Whisk flour, cinnamon and salt in medium bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat butter and citrus peel in large bowl until fluffy. Gradually add 2 cups sugar, beating until mixture is well blended and fluffy. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating until well blended. (Don’t worry if it looks a little curdled – it will smooth out when the dry ingredients are added.) Mix in all but 1 tbsp flour mixture, then cognac. Toss 1/3-inch pear pieces with 1 tbsp flour mixture in small bowl; add to batter.

 File Sep 10, 10 44 50 AM File Sep 10, 10 44 21 AM  File Sep 10, 10 43 54 AM

Transfer batter to pan. Place sliced pears in overlapping rings atop cake. Sprinkle with 1 tbsp sugar.Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached, covering loosely with foil if browning too quickly, about 1 hour 20 minutes. Let cool 15 minutes. Run a small knife around cake to loosen. Release pan sides; cool. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Cover with cake dome; store at room temperature).

If you like what you read here, please help me spread the word. Meantime, I’d love you to join me on Facebook (please click the ‘like’ button), and check out what else is going on in my kitchen at cookinginmyheels.com. Thanks!  

Real Girl Power

No, this is not one of those positive affirmation filled posts dripping with feministic references to what women (girls, whatever) can accomplish. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, and coming on the heels of the US Women’s World Cup win last weekend the temptation is certainly there. But this isn’t going to be one of those things. This is about something even better. This is about a group of gals that have been around since before “girl power” existed, or rather, since it was given a name. These gals have had power all along, despite being told they didn’t. And I had the privilege to be invited into their sassy sisterhood a few weeks ago for a peek into what has come to be known as The View.

First let me clarify. I’m not referring to same-named broadcast broadfest, though the name of this group is a tongue-in-check reference to it. This View is a weekly convergence of some of the coolest septua and octogenarian babes I’ve ever encountered. They live in an “adult” community out on eastern Long Island, and trust me, if the fun these ladies have is what it means to be an adult, I want to go to there! I was able to get limited access and secret handshake for this awesome society by having exited the womb of one of its members. They don’t invite just anyone you know. Well, actually, they probably would.

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Labels like married, divorced, widowed, single, etc. don’t matter here. Call them feminists or not, they don’t seem to care nor feel the need to make the distinction. But these sassy gals are trailblazers none the less. My generation and all that followed wouldn’t be what we are today, or have what we do without these bold beautiful broads. They did what they had to, lived within the confines of whatever the times and society threw at them, and moved forward through challenges we can’t even imagine. And from what from I can tell, most if not all did whatever the hell they wanted when no one was looking (and probably  when someone was looking, too.)

Weekly View topics range from “the exalted to the raunchy” (thank you, Astheta), and membership in this “Ol Girl’s Club” isn’t difficult. No dues other than what their lives have already paid. After that all that matters is a willingness to share, to listen, and to laugh till you piddle. And, gentle readers, the wisdom we could glean from this wonderful group? That’s REAL girl power. ❤

2015-06-18 13.23.59Strudel just screams of wise wonderful Omas, doesn’t it? Beautiful well-aged hands gently coaxing simple dough to the size of tabletops and transparency of wedding night chemise. Yeah, I’m not doing that. What’s more, I have not an ounce of guilt about it. Probably helps that my Oma never made strudel, because she wasn’t doing that either. But my mom does, and that’s where this strudel got its start.

My mother is an amazing cook and baker. She is not, however, a patient woman when it comes to these things. Which is great because it means her recipes both yield something delicious, and won’t send you screaming from the room or launching  bakeware across kitchens in fits of frustration. This strudel recipe is a perfect example of her wonderful lack of patience. Easy and incredibly adaptable to what’s in season, it’s the height of simplicity and flakey fruity sweet awesomeness.

Easy Fruit Strudel

Makes one strudel that serves 6-8

  • 1 sheet of purchased puff pastry (since this is sold frozen, you’ll want to defrost the pastry in the fridge overnight.)
  • 1 1/2-2 cups pitted cherries, berries, sliced peaches or whatever fruit you have (apple, naturally work swell here too.)
  • 1/4 cup sugar or more, depending on sweetness of fruit and your taste
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1-2 tablespoons cookie crumbs, bread crumbs, cake crumbs (this is to sop up fruit juice)
  • 1-2 tablespoons chopped nuts (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons chilled butter, cut into small pieces (about 1/4″ size)

Preheat oven to 375ºF and cut a piece of parchment paper to fit a sided baking sheet. Toss together in a bowl the fruit, sugar, cinnamon and salt. Set aside for 15-30 minutes.

On a floured board, roll out the sheet of puff pastry to a 12″ x 16″ rectangle. This is why rulers are a baker’s friend. Do measure and trim to that size. It takes a few seconds but makes a prettier strudel. Lay the pastry onto that piece of parchment you cut, with the long side facing you.

2015-06-18 12.40.46Once the fruit has sat long enough that some juices have formed, sprinkle the crumbs down the middle third of the pastry dough the long way, leaving about an inch on either end. Distribute the fruit over the crumbs. Try to resist overfilling the strudel, which only helps it burst and leaves a mess of fruit on your pan. Start with a cup, add from there. Dot the fruit with the pieces of butter.

Using the parchment to help you, fold the inch borders you left over the fruit on the ends. Wet your finger with water or milk and run a 1/2 inch line along the top edge of the dough. This will help it stick together. Now using the parchment to help you, fold the bottom third of dough over the fruit. Do the same with the top, pressing a little where you wet it to help it seal.

2015-06-18 12.42.10Again, use the parchment to help flip the strudel over so the seam is on the bottom. Now lift the parchment and strudel and place on your pan. You may have to curve the strudel a little to fit your pan. With a serrated knife, make a few slices through the top of the dough for steam holes.

Bake 25-30 minutes, until the crust is puffed and golden brown. Remove entire parchment and strudel to rack and cool 15 minutes. Dust with powdered sugar and serve.

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If you like what you read here, please help me spread the word. Meantime, I’d love you to join me on Facebook (please click the ‘like’ button), and check out what else is going on in my kitchen at cookinginmyheels.com. Thanks!  

The Expert?

2015-03-19 14.53.33I was recently invited to be a panelist at a local food conference. My fellow dias food wonks included successful specialty food company CEOs, a food scientist (yup, they exist), service providers and the like. What was I doing there? Well, according to the convener of this tasty gathering, I was the “recipe development expert”. I’ve been to my share of conferences over the years, many of which I produced during a former life in trade association management. I was most often the introducer, occasionally the moderator but very rarely the ‘expert’.

Let’s face it, ‘expert’ is a title best bestowed by others, especially if you want it reasonably believable. Self-inflicted expertise, at least in my view, seems a little narcissistic and always a bit suspect. The minute someone tells me they are an “expert”, I can’t get the vision of George Castanza standing there uttering ” the sea was very angry that day, my friends” out of my head. Being called an expert myself made me a bit uncomfortable.

Yet there I was on the dias, and as it became my time in the spotlight I could sense the audience’s anticipation of the finely honed pearls of wisdom this ‘expert’ was going to spew. Was there revelatory commentary? Earth-shattering insights inspiring frenzied note taking? Burning bush proclamations? Nope. I simply told folks what I had learned by doing the thing I was supposedly expert at. Most important, I relayed the discoveries I made through missteps and mistakes. After all, isn’t that what expertise is anyway? Something you’ve learned by getting your hands dirty, trying it, failing, and trying it again until you get it right.

I suggest the next time someone tells you they’re an expert, you ask them about their biggest mistake. If they really are expert, they’ll probably tell you, and I bet it’s the best thing they say.

2015-03-18 20.55.54This week, gentle readers,  you get two dishes for the price of one!  The first, Guinness Chocolate Cake with Whisky Glaze was the intended confection. The cake is adapted from Nigella Lawson’s Guinness Chocolate Cake, and the glaze a miracle of butter, brown sugar, cream and whisky. Put the two together, and OH HELL YES!!

The second recipe is the result of a mistake that has likely happened to every baker out there. See that lovely cake in the pan at the top of the picture?  Pretty, isn’t it? It was, until it decided to fall apart when released from its pan. However, having been around this block before, and knowing full well there was no way I was going to toss an incredibly moist and wonderful pile of chocolate goodness, the Whisky Cake Trifle was born. The best things are discovered by mistake!

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Guinness Chocolate Cake with Whisky Glaze

(Inspired by Nigella Lawson, and a bottle of whisky)

Makes one 9-inch cake, or four 4-inch mini cakes.

FOR THE CAKE:

  •  Butter for pan
  • 1 cup Guinness stout
  • 10 TBSP (1 stick plus 2 TBSP) unsalted butter
  • ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 2 cups sugar
  • ¾ cup sour cream
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 TBSP vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 ½ tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp instant espresso powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Prepare the pan: Butter a 9-inch springform pan, or four mini-springform pans. Since someone, somewhere decided new springforms need a waffled bottom, I always cut a piece of parchment the size of the bottom, butter it, and line the pans. Saves trying to pick cake out of all those waffled nooks and crannies. I also wrap the pans with foil just in case, having learned that one from watching batter flow out of too many springform pan bottoms.

In a large saucepan over medium-low heat, melt the butter and  Guinness together. Whisk the cocoa, sugar, and espresso powder together in a medium bowl. Once the butter melts, remove from heat, add cocoa mixture and whisk to blend.

In a small bowl, combine sour cream, eggs and vanilla; mix well. Add to Guinness mixture. Add flour and baking soda and salt and whisk again until smooth. Pour into buttered pan, bake until risen and firm, 45 minutes to an hour depending on your oven. Cool cakes completely before removing pans (trust me on this and learn from MY mistake.) While you are waiting for the cakes to cool, make the glaze.

2015-03-18 20.40.13FOR THE GLAZE(Great on the cake, great on ice cream, great on a spoon!)

  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 4 TBSP butter
  • 1 1/2 tsp instant espresso power
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 TBSP bourbon or your favorite whisky
  • 1/2 tsp salt

In a saucepan over medium heat, melt butter, espresso powder, and brown sugar together. Add cream and simmer 1 minute. Remove from heat, and whisk in sugar and salt until smooth. Stir in the whisky and let cool.

When the cake(s) are cool, remove pans and pour glaze over the top so it covers and drips down sides. If the glaze is too thick, pop in the microwave for a few seconds to heat and thin a little. Let cakes sit on a rack until the glaze has firmed up again. You can serve immediately or make these ahead – they last a few days, if you’re let them! 😉

2015-03-19 14.55.26Whisky Cake Trifle

(Happily created from the outcome of a mistake!) Serves 8 – 10

  • 1 recipe crumbled Guinness Chocolate Cake
  • 1 recipe Whisky Glaze
  • 1 recipe Tangy Bourbon Cream (see below) 

Tangy Bourbon Cream: Beat together the following until thick (this won’t get as stiff as regular whipped cream): 1/4 cup sour cream, 3/4 cup heavy cream, 1 1/2 tsp sugar, 1 TBSP Bourbon. Fill 8 stemmed dessert dishes or wine glasses 2/3 full with crumbled cake. Spoon some cream over the cake, and a few tablespoons of whisky glaze over the cream. Add spoon, and ENJOY!

If you like what you read here, please help me spread the word. Meantime, I’d love you to join me on Facebook (please click the ‘like’ button), and check out what else is going on in my kitchen at cookinginmyheels.com. Thanks!  🙂

Cawfee Tawk

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©cookinginmyheels.com

“One coffee, dark” I said. ‘Um, we only have one brew’ she said, looking puzzled. “OK”, looking puzzled myself, “that’s fine, and I’d like it dark.” The look changed from puzzled to a little apprehensive, and the cadence of her speech slowed to ‘english is not your mother tongue’ speed. “I’m sorry, but we only have one brew, and it’s medium, not dark.” I was about to embark on another round of this early morn banter when the thought hit me…Karin, this lovely young woman speaks coffee, NOT cawfee.

A couple of years ago I wrote about the ritual of ordering coffee in Italy: pay first, then go to counter with receipt, or face the mockage of barista and local. I suppose a visitor from a foreign land could be forgiven her ignorance. Countries have their language and cultural norms to respect, and once I learned how, I could practically pass for local. But it wasn’t until the exchange with my local barista that I realized that coffee here (or back in my old there) speaks its own dialect too.

If you grew up in or around NYC, by the time you came of coffee age you knew the language. Step up to any deli or bodega or coffee cart counter, plop down your buck, place your order. Your choices? Regular, light, dark, black. The cardboard cup placed in your hand with its snappy “We are happy to serve you” and random blue and white Grecian theme contains the fully formed caffeinated quaff. Pull back the plastic tab on the cap, try to secure it to the thingy sticking up in the middle, fail, just rip a hole in it, wrap multiple napkins around blazing hot cup, and drink. If you ordered a “regular”, that cup contained your morning joe with milk and one sugar. Light and sweet was, well, light and sweet (lots of milk, 2 sugars.) Dark, my coffee of choice, was a touch of milk. And black, sans cow.

My guess is this ‘cawfee’ shorthand was created sometime shortly after the earth’s crust cooled and the first naugahyde diner banquette was installed, in an effort to help speed things along. Coffee in NY up until the time of the revolution sparked by Starbucks, was purely utilitarian. That first cup a necessary early morning stimulant to get you from point A to B without ripping someone’s head off, or cluelessly stepping off curb and getting hit by a bus. Civilization could function seamlessly as long as that cardboard “We are happy to serve you” was in your hand. Out here in the PNW, coffee is religion. A java church on every corner, the sacrament dosed in ounces from beans lovingly roasted in-house and lavishly described with terms like “after notes” and “floral”. It’s good, great in some cases, but it takes a Gotham gal a little time to get used to. So the next time I order from my favorite drive-thru, I’ll try to remember to translate my cawfee dark before I get to the window.:-)

DSC07832A coffee-themed recipe is clearly called for, and in the spirit of caffeine-fueled indulgence I’ve got one that’s quick, easy, and under 200 calories to boot. Fast Espresso Pudding is just a variation on a chocolate pudding recipe I found a few years ago. I was having one of those days, when the incoming crap storm from work was making me cranky, and something soothing and chocolate was necessary to calm jangled nerves. Already in my jammies (ok, so what if it was 5:30pm), the thought of leaving my cozy nest to go to the market for box pudding just wasn’t going to fly. So I figured, why not make it on my own? Happily, the experiment worked, with just a few ingredients I already had and could pronounce without consulting a chemistry text. To be fair, this isn’t as good as my more elaborate chocolate pudding recipe, but for a quick fix, it’s perfect!

Fast Espresso Pudding Makes 4 approximately 1/2 cup servings

  • 3 TBSP instant espresso powder
  • 2 TBSP unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 TBSP corn starch
  • 5 TBSP sugar (or more, according to taste – I like things a little less sweet)
  • 2 cups whole milk (I’ve done it with 2% but anything lower and the pudding tends to be a little grainy)
  • A pinch salt

Whisk together everything but the milk in a saucepan. Add the milk and whisk until combined. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring continuously, until the mixture comes to a boil and thickens. IMG_0418Pour into cups and let cool for 30 minutes on the counter. Refrigerate for another hour until set. If you want to avoid a skin on top, cover with plastic before cooling on counter, making sure to press the wrap onto the top of the pudding. I like to froth some milk and add a dollop on top and a little cinnamon before serving. Calories: approximately 170 per serving.

If you like what you read here, please help me spread the word. Meantime, I’d love you to join me on Facebook (please click the ‘like’ button), and check out what else is going on in my kitchen at cookinginmyheels.com. Thanks!  🙂

It’s a springform….it’s a spatula….IT’S SUPERBAKER!!!

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A superhero needs appropriate foot ware

I think in some strange parallel universe, I’ve become a superhero. Well, maybe not exactly a superhero. Whatever is sub of that. A semi-superhero? A demi-hero? Whatever it’s called, several times in the past month, good friends in mild to elevated degrees of culinary distress have summoned me to help save the day. Surely that’s the definition of hero, right? No, there wasn’t a giant rolling pin symbol projected into the night sky, nor red “bundt-phone” with a direct line to my oven. And other than a dishtowel thrown over my shoulder, I was cape less. But if a good friend calls with a houseful of guests in 4 hours and no dessert, or “Kaaa-rin” is called with mild urgency from the kitchen, SUPERBAKER springs into action.

When I’m invited to friends for dinner I’m not exactly planning on cooking.  But when it’s what you do, and everybody knows it, there’s no avoiding it.  I supposed it’s no different from being a plumber and asked to opine on a host’s leaky faucet. And my friends know as long as I’ve already been handed my glass of wine or cocktail, I’m happy to jump in when the need arises. After all, who doesn’t want to be a hero, and as one of the people eating, I’ve a vested interest in a tasty outcome.

Sure the cape of culinary superhero is a lofty mantle, but it’s one I was born to bear. My mother can make the best pan gravy you’ve ever had pretty much out of thin air. My brother can create delicious geographical phenomena and related topography from meatloaf. My dad could make a killer Sunday breakfast and clean out the refrigerator simultaneously. And of course, my grandmother was the Wonder Woman of potato salad. So if you need someone to run faster than a weeping meringue, leap tall souffles, or whip stiff egg whites with a single hand, look no further. It’s a springform….it’s a  spatula…IT’S SUPERBAKER!!!

  2014-08-04 13.52.24 2014-10-16 09.08.48

A few weeks ago, I was called into action when a dear friend needed a dessert for a Rosh Hashanah dinner she was hosting.  I immediately knew what I would make – an apple honey cake a friend had sent me from a favorite blog. But, it being fall in the land of orchards, my hostess in distress was tired of apples and pears, so my honey cake had to be free of both. Fear not kids! With SuperBaker on the job, the day would be saved! (Cue the dramatic music….)

Anyway, after a cup of coffee’s worth of time on the internet I found an intriguing version of the traditional holiday cake. It included a good hit of spice, some late season plums, and with a good glass of red wine in the mix too, how could it possibly be anything but wonderful. So here it is, courtesy of the New York Times and one of my culinary heroes, Melissa Clark.

Red Wine Honey Cake With Plums (Melissa Clark, NYT, 8/23/13)

Makes 10-12 servings

NOTE:  I didn’t make the plums as Clark describes in her original recipe. Instead I took about 2 cups of Damson plums, a few tablespoons of sugar (amount depends on the ripeness of the plums), a teaspoon of cinnamon, and a little pinch of cloves, and cooked it all over medium heat until the plums broke down and juices thickened a little. Serve the plum compote alongside the cake.

  • Grease or nonstick spray, for the pan
  • 300 grams all-purpose flour (2 1/2 cups), more for the pan
  • 10 grams baking powder (2 teaspoons)
  • 3 grams baking soda (1/2 teaspoon) 3 grams salt (1/2 teaspoon)
  • 2 grams cinnamon (1 1/2 teaspoons) 2 grams cardamom (1 teaspoon)
  • 2 grams ground ginger (1 teaspoon) 3 large eggs
  • 200 grams granulated sugar (1 cup) 1 1⁄4 cups olive oil
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons good quality honey, more to taste
  • 3⁄4 cup dry red wine
  • Plum compote to serve along with the cake (see NOTE above)

Place a rack in the middle of the oven; heat to 350 degrees. Generously grease and flour a 10-inch Bundt pan, including center tube.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices. In another large bowl, whisk eggs well. Whisk in sugar, oil, 1 cup honey, the wine and the fresh ginger until well combined. Whisk in dry ingredients until smooth. (Ok, at this point you will likely get a little alarmed at the color of the batter. Yes, it’s sort of, well, armadillo grey. Don’t worry. I promise it will be gorgeous golden brown when it comes out of the oven. Trust me.)

Pour batter into pan and bake until springy to the touch and a cake tester comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack to cool for about 20 minutes, then unmold the cake and let cool completely.

Recipe note: Measurements for dry ingredients are given by weight for greater accuracy. The equivalent measurements by volume are approximate.

If you like what you read here, please help me spread the word. Meantime, I’d love you to join me on Facebook (please click the ‘like’ button), and check out what else is going on in my kitchen at cookinginmyheels.com. Thanks!  🙂

Food Porn

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©cookinginmyheels.com

When I posted the picture of my birthday cake a few weeks ago, you may have noticed the little morsel bore a striking resemblance to a circa 70’s snack cake. The person I shared the diminutive pastry with certainly did. “You brought me a Ding Dong!” he exclaimed. Those with even a mildly furtive imagination can guess how the shtick surrounding my Ding Dong doppleganger went from there…

As we swapped cheeky comebacks, I began to realize something that never occurred to me when my fondness for the snack cake began in childhood. If you take a look at the collective group, mass marketed snack cakes are really quite suggestive in name. We may have just discovered the origins of FOOD PORN! Sure you can forgive a nine-year-old kid for being clueless about these things, but not a middle-aged CEO. Come on, you mean to tell me there wasn’t a mess of snickering and wink-winks as the marketing execs brainstormed tiny cake names?

What do you think we should call this chocolate hockey puck Don? How about the Ding Dong?” A smattering of snickering from around the conference table begins. “And you know what would go with my Ding Dong? A HO-HO!” I don’t want to even think about the Twinkie and Funny Bone process. They probably piped in cheesy 70’s guitar riffs as conveyor belts of mini cakes slinked down assembly lines. And I don’t think I’ll ever be able to walk down the supermarket snack cake aisle again and not think, bow chicka bow wow.

How do you follow all this with a recipe? With a reworking of a favorite snack cake of course (and get your mind out of the gutter…)  The Hostess cupcake is arguably one of the most well recognized treat of childhood. Chocolate cupcake, cream filling, ganache icing, and that white squiggle right down the middle. I’m a big fan of chocolate anything, but not overly fond of the hyper sweet cream filling of these babies, so I decided to swap it out and replace it with raspberry. In my book, chocolate & raspberry is a match made in confectionary heaven.

Raspberry Filled Chocolate Cupcakes

Makes 12 cupcakes

  • 1/2 cup boiling water
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 TBSP unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch-process)
  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 TSP vanilla
  • 1 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 TSP baking soda
  • 1/2 TSP salt
  • 1 sticks (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 TBSP cups packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 TBSP granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup raspberry jam
  • 1/4 cup fresh raspberries, or thawed frozen raspberries
  • 1 recipe chocolate ganache icing (see recipe below)
  • 1 pint of fresh raspberries for garnish

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line muffin tins with paper holders, or spray pan with baking spray. Whisk together boiling water and cocoa powder in a bowl until smooth, then whisk in milk and vanilla. Sift together flour, baking soda, and salt in another bowl.

Beat together butter and sugars in a large bowl with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy, then add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in flour and cocoa mixtures alternately in batches, beginning and ending with flour mixture (batter may look curdled).

Divide batter among muffin tins, filling 2/3 of the way full. Bake until a tester comes out clean about 20 to 25 minutes total. Cool cupcakes in pans on racks 10 minutes, remove and cool completely.

Mash the raspberries into the jam until it is smooth and well incorporated. Put mixture into a pastry bag (or small ziploc baggy) fitted with a tip large enough for the jam to go through. When the cupcakes are completely cooled, push the pastry tip into the top of each cake, going about halfway down, and gently squeeze the pastry bag, filling each until the jam begins to come out the hole. Chill the filled cupcakes 20 minutes before icing.

Chocolate ganache icing

  • 1/3 cup plus 1 TBSP heavy cream
  • 1/2 TSP instant espresso powder or instant coffee granules
  • small pinch of salt
  • 1/2 TSP of unsalted butter
  • 6 oz (about 1 cup) semi-sweet chocolate chips

Heat all ingredients except the butter together in a double boiler or heat-proof bowl over simmering water until the chocolate is melted. Stir the mixture together until smooth. Add in the butter and stir vigorously until completely incorporated (this will give the ganache a nice shine).

To Assemble: Dip the tops of the cooled cupcakes into warm ganache and set on a rack or plate. Top each cupcake with a few raspberries, and chill until the ganache has set.

If you like what you read here, please help me spread the word. Meantime, I’d love you to join me on Facebook (please click the ‘like’ button), and check out what else is going on in my kitchen at cookinginmyheels.com. Thanks! 🙂

Happy Officially Sanctioned Cake Day!

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© cooking in my heels

Think about it. There are really only two days in a person’s life where it’s practically mandated that you eat cake. But only one of those is applicable to everyone. It’s really quite a democratic cake consuming situation. I mean, not everyone has had a wedding, but there isn’t one of you reading this who hasn’t had a birthday. Therefore, ipso facto, your birthday is an officially sanctioned (by the governing board of these types of things), CAKE DAY!

There are certain rules and regulations when it comes to your cake day. When the calendar rolls around to your turn, the laws of physics, thermodynamics, and sensible nutrition simply do not exist. In other words, your consumption of sanctioned confection has no calories. Seriously, not a single one. It’s like a miracle. Go ahead, look it up. And since there are no calories, feel free to consume slabs of the stuff for whatever meal you happen to be bellied up for. Cake for breakfast? SURE! Lunch? Well, yes. Dinner? Indeed. It’s the one day of year you are in the zone, so go for it.

You’re thinking “sure, that’s all just dandy Karin, but what if I wasn’t in a cake-accessible zone on my natal day?” No problem. A little-known loophole of the cake statute allows one postponement if for any reason you were unable to consume your officially sanctioned slab of butter/sugar/flour goodness on your birthday. Of course, significant paperwork must be filed, so you may as well eat while the eating is good. After all, it IS your birthday…

As it happens, today is MY cake day. And to that end…

 Dark Chocolate Mini Cakes with Chocolate Port Wine Glaze

Makes four 3″ Mini Cakes. These are very rich, so I often serve half per guest. (But if it happens to be MY birthday…oh yeah, I’m in for the whole thing)DSC07765

For the cake:

  • 1/2 cup water (room temp)
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 ounce bittersweet chocolate, melted
  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 TSP vanilla
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 TSP baking soda
  • 1/2 TSP salt
  • 1 tsp instant espresso powder
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup or 4 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 TBSP cups packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 TBSP granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs

For the filling:
(Here I used an almond based filling, but apricot, raspberry or cherry jam work well too)

  • 5 TBSP Frangipane
  • 1 TBSP warm cream
  • 1 ounce melted bittersweet chocolate

For the Chocolate Port Glaze

  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1 ½ TBSP butter, cut into small pieces
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp instant espresso powder
  • ¼ cup powdered sugar
  • ¼ cup your Port wine (you could substitute a fruity red wine if you have no port)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray four 1-cup ramekins with cooking spray and line the bottom with a 3″ circle of parchment. Spray parchment.

In a mixer, cream the butter with the two sugars until fluffy. Add in the melted chocolate and mix until combined. Add the eggs, one at a time until mixed. Don’t worry if it looks a little curdled. Mix together the warm water, milk and vanilla in a measuring cup and set aside.

In a small bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, salt, espresso powder and baking soda together. To the butter/sugar mixture, beat in flour/cocoa and water/milk mixtures alternately in batches, beginning and ending with flour mixture.

Fill each prepared ramekin with 1/2 cup of the batter (you will have about 1 cup of extra batter once you are done. It freezes well so save for cupcakes or another two mini-cakes at another time). Place the ramekins on a baking sheet and bake until a tester comes out clean about 20 to 24 minutes total, rotating pan halfway through the baking time. Cool cakes in dishes 10 minutes, then run a knife around the edge, invert onto the rack and cool completely.

While the cakes are cooking, make the filling and glaze:

To 5 TBSP frangipane, mix in 1 ounce melted chocolate and 1 TBSP warmed heavy cream. Set aside until the cakes are completely cool.

For the glaze: Melt the chocolate, butter, salt and espresso powder together in a bowl over a double boiler and whisk together until smooth. In a separate pan, bring the port to a boil. Once the chocolate mixture is completely melted, add in the powdered sugar and mix until completely combined. (It will get thicker but don’t worry ). Add in the hot wine and mix until fully combined and spreadable.

To assemble:

With a serrated knife, trim any domed top off the cakes so it is flat and even. Flip the cakes over so the bottom is now the top. Slice the cakes in half along the equator making two layers. Spread 1/4 of the frangipane mixture over the bottom layer and replace the top. Pour 1/4 of the glaze on the top of the cake, and with a spatula or butter knife, spread over the top so it begins to drip down the sides. Use spatula to spread the glaze over the sides, covering the cakes completely. Chill in the fridge for 30-45 minutes until the glaze is set.

To serve:  These are much better at room temperature than right out of the fridge (although, they are pretty freakin’ good then too.) Stick a candle in it, light ‘er up, sing “Happy Birthday to ME” and fully enjoy your officially sanctioned cake day!

If you like what you read here, please help me spread the word. Meantime, I’d love you to join me on Facebook (please click the ‘like’ button), and check out what else is going on in my kitchen at cookinginmyheels.com Thanks! 🙂

Where the day takes you…

DSC07748I’ve had a bit more time on my hands lately, so after I take care of the daily necessities, I’ve been trying to practice going where the day takes me. Sounds swell, right? It can be, if you are able to do it. That’s where my problem lay. While the whole om-shanty-shanty-crunchy-granola-live-in-the-moment groove is all around me out here, actually doing it takes a true effort. It’s not because I’m still in Gotham gal mode, that go Go GO switch constantly on. I’ve been fairly successful turning that thing off since moving westward. And it’s not because I’ve a ton of other things to do. Oh I have things, in fact I’m staring at a list of them right now. And now I’m ignoring it.

So that just leaves, well, the control thing. The assertion many of us have that without oneself controlling the universe it would spin chaotically out of kilter, and then all hell would certainly shake loose. Oh yeah…that. You’d think I’d have learned by now that, barring the sudden manifestation of some fate-changing super power, I really don’t control much and things just happen. And in light of yet another recent reminder, to not leap at the chance for random fun is just stupid.

As it happens, I was presented with two leap-worthy experiences lately, so instead of over thinking them, I decided to leap. Of course you know what happened. A distinct lack of awkward exchanges, Florida retirement condo pitches, or chloroform, duct tape and hefty bags (hey, I’ve seen those Lifetime movies… it could happen.)  Nope, none of that, nor regrets that I didn’t get to that list. Just fun. Fun, new friends, and if I’m lucky, more opportunities to see where the day takes me.

2014-08-04 13.52.24

Originally, this recipe was going to include huckleberries, but that day went in a different, and far more interesting direction. So instead, it features the damson plums that I collected on my morning hike, and could easily be adapted to other stone fruit or berries.

Inspired by a day of random acts of fun – Plum Cake with Lime.

Serves 8-10

For the cake:

  • 3/4 cup almond meal (or finely ground almonds)
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 1/4 cup corn meal (medium to fine ground, not stone ground)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 stick (4 oz.) butter, melted
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 TBSP sugar
  • Zest and Juice of a large lime (a little less than 1/4 cup juice)

For the fruit:

  • A heaping cup of chopped damson plums, other stone fruit, or berries
  • 2-3 TBSP sugar (depending upon the sweetness of the fruit)
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350F. Cut a circle of parchment the size of the bottom of a 9″ cake pan or springform pan. Line the pan with the parchment, then spray paper and sides of pan with cooking spray. Set aside.

2014-08-04 14.23.12In a small bowl, toss the chopped plums (quarters is fine, doesn’t have to be finely chopped) with 2-3 TBSP of sugar and the cinnamon. Set aside for at least 20 minutes.

Whisk together the flours, baking soda and powder, salt and lime zest into a medium bowl. In another bowl, beat the eggs, then whisk in the sugar and lime juice. Add to the bowl with the dry ingredients. Pour over the melted butter and mix together until incorporated.

Pour batter into prepared pan. top with the plums and their accumulated juices. You don’t have to create a pattern, random is kind of the point of all of this, right?  Bake 30-40 minutes until a tester in center comes out clean. Let cool completely before removing from pan.

If you like what you read here, please help me spread the word. Meantime, I’d love you to join me on Facebook (please click the ‘like’ button), and check out what else is going on in my kitchen at cookinginmyheels.com Thanks! 🙂

Awesome

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©cookinginmyheels.com

I love to people-watch, but perhaps even more, I love to people-listen. I’m absolutely mad about accents. There’s nothing better to identify place, and nothing so comforting as the lilting sound of a nasal A, a western twang or southern drawl when you feel lost or a teensy bit homesick. Same goes for regional words. Even those who have gone to great pains to erase their vocal geography and mimic TV anchor speech give themselves away when it comes to the words of their land. So let’s play a game of guess the geographical vernacular! All-righty then, if you’re wicked smaaht you’ll probably know where to order jimmies. And if not, well, not fuh nuthin but, maybe you’re just a bag of hammers, bless your heart. Did you guess them all? That’s freakin’ AWESOME!

I’ve always found it valuable when traveling to learn a bit of the language of the location. It’s a sign of respect and always makes me feel a little less the tourist, even though I may be butchering the native tongue. I know a soupcon of français, un po italiano and enough deutsch to get by and feel like I made the attempt. When I first visited Oregon I didn’t notice much of a native accent, but what I did notice was awesome. It seems ‘awesome’ is the adjective of choice in this land. It doesn’t seem to be exclusively Oregonian, but since I’ve landed in the world of marionberries, microbrews and windsurfing, my ears have averaged about 3 awesomes a day. Which is actually pretty low considering how many things here really are awesome. There’s the land itself, stunning in it’s beauty, especially when there’s some mist rising from the river in the early morning. The river, well that’s pretty darn awesome too, when it’s capped by a rainbow or reflecting the frequent awesome sunsets. We have awesome coffee here, lots of awesome coffee. Beer too. And the wine? Yup, awesome.

But probably most awesome in the ranking of awesomeness are the people. They are a friendly lot, warm, incredibly generous, and welcoming, even to a Gotham gal with ill-hidden accent. That’s not always the reaction to city slickers, especially ones from the biggest apple. This accent carries baggage and assumptions, as I suppose most do. Yet when my story unfolds, the vast majorities respond with a friendly ‘awesome’, and then introduce me to my next new friend. Not fuh nuthin but, picking this place is looking like a wicked awesome decision. Ja, you betcha….

Starting a business anywhere is tough, so picking a good location is key. It’s feeling more and more like starting my business here was the perfect spot. Part of what I’d like Cooking in My Heels (the business) to be is a place for the culinarily curious to learn the love of cooking and baking. Sure there’s the occasionally pithy commentary and instruction contained in this blog, but to really learn, you have to get your hands dirty. Last week I had the opportunity to participate as an invited teacher in a cooking class held in the lovely Lucia’s kitchen. And it was absolutely awesome! Small bites made with Lucia’s Calabrian love, shrimp cooked on a salt block (seriously awesome technique), a finale of sweet and silky tiramisu prepared by the beautiful Claudia, and a little something from yours truly. That little something was orange olive oil cake – one of my favorites and something I’ve made a few dozen times since first having it in Rome 15 years ago.

orange olive oil cakeThis time around I decided to play a little with the recipe before sharing it with the class. The result was Awesome Orange Olive Oil Cake. A substitution of some of the flour with almond meal, and using half fresh orange juice and half thawed OJ concentrate created a new depth of flavor that was, well, awesome. This is one of those cakes that actually gets better over time, so it’s the perfect thing to make ahead and lasts several days on the counter loosely covered.

Hopefully this will be the first of many classes with my new cooking friends, and the first of many shared recipes from class. As Mama Lucia would say… Buon Appetito e Mille giornate deliziosi!

Awesome Orange Olive Oil Cake

(Adapted from The New York Times Dessert Cookbook)

Serves 12-14

  • 2 eggs
  • 2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for the pan
  • 1 ¾ cups superfine sugar (if you don’t have superfine, you can make it by processing regular sugar for a minute in food processor)
  • 1 cup flour
  • ½ cup almond flour (almond meal)
  • 1/3 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1/3 cup orange juice concentrate, thawed
  • Zest from two oranges
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp baking soda
  • Pinch of salt (about 1/8th tsp)
  • Powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 375°F. Oil and flour a 10” spring form pan. I always have olive oil spray on hand and use it for this.

Wisk the flour, almond meal, baking soda and powder and salt together in a medium bowl and set aside. In another bowl, beat the egg until will mixed, then stream in the superfine sugar. Beat on medium speed until pale and thick and the sugar is almost all dissolved, about 2-3 minutes.

In a measuring cup with a spout mix the orange juice and concentrate with the zest and olive oil until incorporated. With the mixer running on medium low, alternate adding dry and wet ingredients into the sugar mixture in thirds, ending with the dry ingredients.

Pour batter into pan, spreading evenly. This is a relatively thin, but very rich cake. Bake at 375 for 15 minutes, turn, and bake another 15 minutes. Because of the oil, the top of the cake will get brown before the cake is completely done, so after about a half hour I put a piece of foil over the pan loosely. After 30 minutes, drop the temperature to 350 and bake another 10-15 minutes or until a tester inserted in the middle comes out clean. Total baking time is about 45 minutes.

Let cool 15 minutes in pan, then remove the sides and let cool completely. Sprinkle powdered sugar on top. The top of this cake may crack or sink. Don’t worry about that – the powdered sugar covers it up nicely, and the cracks add to the cake’s character. Calories: about 350 per slice.

If you like what you read here, please help me spread the word. Meantime, I’d love you to join me on Facebook (please click the ‘like’ button), and check out what else is going on in my kitchen at cookinginmyheels.com Thanks! 🙂