Pink Lady Cake

Pink Lady Cake

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Muffins, bean salad, guacamole!

Guess what, school is tomorrow!  Eeek!  I must say that I don't feel ready in the least.  I would much rather stay here and cook to make up for lost time in the last week.  On that same topic, I must explain why there have been no post for the last five days.  To begin, I went to visit my grandparents and from there went to a camp my friend's family was renting on Great Pond.   While there, we had half a day with power and the next two days I was there we had no power at all.  Two trees had fallen onto the power lines and my friend's family still expected when I left for there to be no power for a couple more days.  Thus, there was no way to blog at all!

Well anyways, yesterday I got back home and knew that I had to do something for dinner and specifically made bean salad and guacamole for fajitas we were having.  Bean salad is something I generally just throw together without a recipe and the gaucamole is made with a recipe I have just made up.  Here are both my recipes from last night:

Bean Salad:

3 cans beans (drained and rinsed)-I used cannellini, kidney, and black beans
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon lemon
1 tablespoon sugar
3 large cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1/4 cup walnuts, chopped fine
1/2 large green pepper, chopped
Slat and pepper to taste

Combine all in a large bowl


2 avacadoes
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
2 large cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste

Place all ingredients in a bowl, and using a paring knife, cut up the avacado in the bowl so that it looks like this:

Today though, I decided to make banana muffins for my brothers to keep in their lunch.  I recently recived minature muffin tins from my Aunt who was trying to get rid of some extra cooking things.  They worked very well for gluten-free banana muffins, which turned out wonderfully.  They have cinnamon and a little nutmeg, which make them quite good.  They are best made with really ripe bananas, which we had a plethora of.  The recipe is below.

Banana Nut Muffins
Joy of Cooking

12 Muffins (or 36 miniature muffins)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Grease a 12-muffin pan or line with paper liners. Whisk together thoroughly:

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour or wheat bran  (I replaced these two ingredients with 2 cups of a gluten free flour blend, being 1 cup white rice flour, 1/2 cup potato starch, 1/2 cup tapioca starch, 1/2 teaspoon xantham gum)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon grated or ground nutmeg

Stir in:

2/3 cup coarsely chopped walnuts (I omitted)

Whisk together in a large bowl:

1 large egg
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
11/3 cup mashed ripe bananas (2 or 3)(Really ripe bananas always seem to shrink so three is needed)
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla

Add the flour mixture and fold just until the dry ingredients are moistened.  Do not overmix; the batter should not be smooth.  Divide the batter among the muffin cups.  Bake until a toothpick inserted in 1 or 2 of the muffins comes out clean, 14 to 16 minutes(I found that 7-8 minutes is good for the mini muffins).  Let cool for 2-3 minutes before removing from the pan.  If not serving hot, let cool on rack.  Serve preferably the day they are baked.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Cream Scones

  So today I made scones this morning for my friend, who was just getting home from Minnesota.  My friend and I have an obsession with English literature, more specifically, the book Pride and Prejudice.  We also love tea and scones.  When this obsession began I first decided that it would be good to be able to make them myself.  First time failed.  Second time failed.  Third time may also have failed, I'm not quite sure at this point.

Then, last time, they were perfect and we ate all six of them mostly by ourselves.  Remembering this, I promised my friend that I would make her scones when she arrived back from Minnesota.  Of course, then I learned that she was to be getting her wisdom teeth out soon after her return AND that I wouldn't actually be there the day she got back.

So, it seemed, I would just have to be up very early and make scones to deliver to her house before she arrived.  I got up at 6 this morning and did just that.  They were quite wonderful.

Here is the recipe, from memory, because I don't have it with me:

Cream Scones
The Best Recipe cookbook (from the editors of Cook's Illustrated)


2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
5 tablespoons butter, chilled and cut into 1/4 inch pieces
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup currants (Used blueberry lemon scone variation in which currants are replaced by an equal amount of fresh or frozen blueberries and a teaspoon of lemon zest is added.)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Whisk together the dry ingredients.  Sprinkle butter over flour and cut into flour until mixture resembles coarse cormeal.  Mix in currants/blueberries and using rubber spatula or wooden spoon mix in cream until just combined.  Turn out onto floured work surface and knead 8-10 seconds to bind together.  Form into a round 3/4 inch thick and cut into 8 wedges.  Bake on middle rack on an ungreased baking sheet for 12-15 minutes.  If desired, one can glaze them by brushing cream on top and sprinkling them with a tablespoon granulated sugar.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Flourless Fudge Cookies

Hmmm...I have to say that I kind of began this blog at the wrong time.  I should have started it when I was making something like Beouf Bourguignon, croissants, or coconut cream meringue cake.  In other words, I should have begun with something that shows I like a challenge. Then again, I suppose that sometimes I  do prefer to eat something that isn't terribly difficult to prepare.  Take today for instance, when I could easily have made a blueberry galette and instead opted-because I couldn't wait to go get butter-to make a recipe in which the extend of preparation entails stirring the ingredients together and throwing it into the oven.

That recipe was flourless fudge cookies, and they are are a wonder.  The recipe, same as yesterday, came from the King Arthur Flour website.  They are light and only have eighty calories per cookie, yet taste hugely of chocolate and have a nice chew.  In short, they have all of the best possible characteristics for a cookie, so you shouldn't blame me for forgoing the galette for something that, even if its easy, is divine in it's own right.

These cookies are also naturally gluten-free, if you can believe it, and I think that because they are similar to meringue they might work well as part of an ice-box cake, or just layered with whipped cream. 

Oh, and the other pictures are just ones that I have taken of our beautiful produce, from our garden and farmer's market.  The first one is actually of garlic bulbils, which we grew in our garden this year, the second of some nice patty pan squash.

Here is the recipe for the cookies

Flourless Fudge Cookies


2 1/4 cups confectioners' sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon espresso powder, optional but good
1 cup cocoa powder, Dutch-process (European-style) preferred*
3 large egg whites
2 teaspoons gluten-free vanilla extract
*For darker, richer-looking cookies, substitute 1/4 cup black cocoa for 1/4 cup of the Dutch-process cocoa

1) Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease two baking sheets. Or line with parchment, and grease the parchment.
2) Stir together all of the ingredients till smooth. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl, and stir again till smooth.
3) Drop the dough onto the prepared baking sheets in balls about the size of ping pong balls, about 1 1/2"; a tablespoon cookie scoop works well here.
4) Bake the cookies for 8 minutes; they should spread, become somewhat shiny, and develop faintly crackly tops.
5) Remove the cookies from the oven, and allow them to cool right on the pan.
6) Yield: 16 large (3") cookies.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Granola Bars and Chicken Pot Pie

Chicken pot pie is something I adore, yet rarely have.  This mostly has to do with how making gluten-free pie crust is next to impossible.   I have in the past found myself making pie crust batter instead of dough, in order to smear it around a pie plate.  This works, but is a hassle.  Thus, I am not often inclined towards making chicken pot pie gluten free.  Just as well, my brothers never seemed like kids who would be enthusaistic about it.

Well, last night, I was leafing through some of my old issues of Cook's Illustrated and found a recipe for chicken pot pie with a crumble topping.  It looked simple and we had nearly all of the ingredients here all ready so I figured it would be good to make the next day. 

So, tonight I got to work and made it, and wow, is it good.  It is a streamlined recipe, so it doesn't call for roasting the chicken, but instead poaching boneless breasts or thighs in broth.  Owing to the loss of flavor from not roasting the chicken, two secret ingredients are added, tomato paste and soy sauce.  These two ingredients are very high in glutamates which are known to build savory flavor.  By browning the mushrooms with the soy sauce and tomato paste, depth of flavor is brought to the sauce.

Also today, I made granola bars.  This is, I don't know, the fifth time I have made them this summer, they're that good.  They're even good enough for my picky brother, who has already eaten three today.  I first found the recipe on Smitten Kitchen, and the recipe there had come from the King Arthur Flour website.  They are wonderfully chewy and buttery.  I like to make mine with instead of white sugar, dark brown sugar, no corn syrup but 2 more tablespoons maple syrup, and pecans, coconut, and dried cranberries.

Here are the recipes for both granola bars and chicken pot pie:

Chicken Pot Pie With Savory Crumble Topping
Cook's Illustrated   September/October 2010

Note:  This recipe relies on two unusual ingredients: soy sauce and tomato paste.  Do not omit them.  They don't convey their distinctive tastes but greatly deeped the savory flavor of the filling.  When making the topping, do not substitute milk or half-and- half for the heavy cream.


1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts and /or thighs
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped fine (about one cup)
3 medium carrots, peeled and cut, crosswise into 1/4 inch-thick slices (about 1 cup)
2 small celery ribs, chopped fine (about 1/2 cup)
10 ounces cremini mushrooms, stems trimmed, caps wiped clean and sliced thin
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon tomato paste
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup unbleached all purpose flour (or combination gluten-free flours totaling same amt.)
1 cup whole milk
2 teaspoons juice from one lemon
3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves
3/4 cup frozen baby peas

Crumble Topping

2 cups (10 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour (or 2 cups gluten-free flour combination)
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon table salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes and chilled
1 ounce parmesan cheese, finely grated (about 1/2 cup)
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream

1.  For the chicken:  Bring chicken and broth to simmer in covered Dutch oven or medium heat.  Cook until chicken is just done, 8-12 minutes.  Transfer cooked chicken to large bowl.  Pour broth through fine-mesh strainer into liquid measuring cup and reserve.  Do not wash dutch oven.  Meanwhile, adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 450 degrees.
2.  For the topping:  Combine flour, baking powder, cayenne pepper, black pepper, and salt in a large bowl.  Sprinkle butter pieces over top of flour.  Using fingers, rub butter into flour mixture until it resembles coarse cornmeal.  Stir in Parmesan.  Add cream and stir until just combined.  Crumble mixture into irregularly shaped pieces ranging from 1/2 to 3/4 inch each onto parchment lined rimmed baking sheet.  Bake until fragrent and starting to brown, 10 to 13 minutes.  Set aside.
3.  For the filling:  heat 1 tablespoon oil in now empty Dutch oven oven medium heat until shimmering.  Add onion. carrots, celery, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper; cover and cook, stirring occaisonally, until just tender, 5 to 7 minutes.  While vegetables are cooking, shread chicken into small bite-size pieces.  Transfer cooked vegetables to bowl with chicken; set aside.
4.  Heat remaining tablespoon oil in empty Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering.  Add mushrooms; cover and cook, stirring occaisionally, until mushrooms have released their juices, about 5 minutes.  Remove cover and stir in soy sauce and tomato paste.  Increase heat to medium-high and cook, stirring frequently, until liquid has evaporated, mushrooms are well browned, and dark fond begins to form on surface of pan, about 5 minutes.  Transfer mushrooms to bowl with chicken and vegetables.  Set aside.
5.  Heat butter in empty Dutch oven over medium heat.  When foaming subsides, stir in flour and cook 1 minute.  Slowly whisk in reserved chicken broth and milk.  Bring to simmer, scraping pan bottom witrh wooden spoon to loosen browned bits, then continue to simmer until sauce fully thickens, about 1 minute.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice and two tablespoons parsley. 
6.  Stir chicken-vegetable mixture and peas into sauce.  Pour mixture in 13 by 9-inch baking dish or casserole dish of similar size.  Scatter crumble topping evenly over filling.  Baked on rimmed baking sheet until filling is bubbling and topping is welll browned, 12 to 15 minutes.  Sprinkle with remaining tablespoon parsley and serve.

Thick, Chewy Granola Bars
Adapted from King Arthur Flour by Smitten Kitchen

1 2/3 cups quick rolled oats (if gluten-free, be sure to use gluten-free oats)
1/2 to 3/4 cup granulated sugar (use more for a sweetness akin to most purchased bars; use less for a mildly sweet bar)
1/3 cup oat flour (or 1/3 cup oats, processed till finely ground in a food processor or blender)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 to 3 cups dried fruits and nuts (total of 10 to 15 ounces)*
1/3 cup peanut butter or another nut butter (I used almond butter) (optional)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional, namely because I was not convinced that the flavor came through)
6 tablespoons melted butter
1/4 cup honey, maple syrup or corn syrup
2 tablespoons light corn syrup (see Note above)
1 tablespoon water

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line an 8″ x 8″ x 2″ pan in one direction with parchment paper, allowing it to go up the opposing sides. Lightly grease the parchment paper and the exposed pan, or coat with a non-stick spray.
Stir together all the dry ingredients, including the fruit and nuts. In a separate bowl, whisk together the vanilla, melted butter or oil, liquid sweeteners and water. Toss the wet ingredients with the dry (and peanut butter, if you’re using it) until the mixture is evenly crumbly. Spread in the prepared pan, pressing them in firmly to ensure they are molded to the shape of the pan. (A piece of plastic wrap can help with this, as you press down on the back of it.)
Bake the bars for 30 to 40 minutes, until they’re brown around the edges — don’t be afraid to get a little color on the tops too. They’ll still seem soft and almost underbaked when you press into the center of the pan but do not worry, they’ll set completely once completely cool.
Cool the bars in their pan completely on a cooling rack. (Alternately, after about 20 minutes you can use your parchment “sling” to lift and remove the bars, and place them in their paper on the rack to cool the rest of the way. This can speed the process up.)
Once cool, a serrated knife (or bench knife) to cut the bars into squares. [Updating to note, as many had crumbling issues:] If bars seem crumbly, chill the pan of them further in the fridge for 30 minutes which will fully set the “glue”, then cut them cold. To store, wrap the bars individually in plastic or stack them in an airtight container. In humid weather, it’s best to store bars in the refrigerator. They also freeze well.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Gluten-Free Whoopie Pies and a Lovely Lunch

Well, well.  Here it is, Sunday night and whoopie pies have been made.  Only half of one is still surviving. I didn't end up making the cookies today but last night, because I learned some wonderful news, spectacular news in fact.  This news caused me to occupy my day not with whoopie pies but by consuming a lunch that was out of this world! 

Last night I was informed that as long as my father couldn't find someone else to take to a luncheon to support cancer research I could be his date to go.  I had been angling to do so ever since he brought back the menu from last year's event.  This event, which has gone on successfully for the last three years, features a meal made by two great chefs, the first being Arturo Montes, who is the Executive Chef at The Looking Glass Restaurant in Bar Harbor, and the other Executive Chef being Johnathan Cartwright of the White Barn Inn in Kennebunk.  Now, Montes is good, but Cartwright is world renowned.  He has cooked at the James Beard house and the Versailles palace in France.  The White Barn Inn is one of only twelve restaurants in the United states to have recieved the 5-star rating from Forbes Travel Guide at the same time as the AAA's 5-diamond award.  In short, he's pretty amazing.  Probably the best part of the lunch though was getting to meet him.  He is extremely nice and told me that if I ever want to I could call him and ask to work in his kitchen!  When I seemed hesitant about going into the restaurant field, he told me that the pay may not be great, but you sure do get to eat a lot of good food.  That is a pretty big draw...
Below is the menu for the luncheon:
Now, onto the whoopie pies.  Yes, if I was making whoopie pies for myself I would have done something less traditional, like coconut or banana, and filled them with things like swiss buttercream, but this was for my nine year old cousin.  So, they were chocolate, with fluffy, sugary, vanilla filling, which is still pretty great.  
The cakes themselves were the best part, they held together fairly well even after 24 hours in the freezer.  I think the real kicker in the batter was the sweet rice flour, which is a good binder but something I hadn't used before.  It took us a while to find but here it is:
  Now, the filling on the other hand was not so great, or at least with my recipe that I used from the website epicurious.  (I didn't include it because it was such a dud.)  After having thrown everything into the mixer and blended and blended, it was syrupy and really sugary.  So, I threw in a bunch more confectioners sugar, and when that didn't work I just folded in the rest of the marshmallow creme I had made.  It wasn't that bad then. Truthfully, I would say that you should use some other recipe for this, or maybe the buttercream posted below to fill the whoopie pies.  The marshmallow creme recipe is also below for those who would prefer to make their own fluff or for those in other parts of the country for whom it isn't readily available.


Recipe for Gluten Free Whoopie Pies from Gluten-Free Baking 101 

Dry Ingredients

1 cup white rice flour
1/2 cup sweet rice flour
1/2 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder (regular cocoa powder works as well but the finished cakes won't be as dark.)
1/2 cup tapioca starch
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
Wet Ingredients
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together dry ingredients. Set aside.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and brown sugar until the butter-sugar paste lightens slightly. This takes about 1 minute. (Use medium high speed on a stand mixer or high speed on a handheld mixer.)
  4. Add egg and vanilla extract. Mix for 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  5. Add half the dry ingredients. Mix until combined.
  6. Add half the buttermilk. Mix until batter is smooth. Add remaining dry ingredients. Mix until combined. Add remaining buttermilk. Mix batter for 30 seconds.
  7. Scoop 1/4 cup mounds of batter onto a cookie sheet. Be sure to space batter several inches apart as the cookies will spread during baking. (I bake 6 cookies on an 18 x 13 cookie sheet.)
  8. Bake for 15-18 minutes or until cookies are set and spring back to the touch.
  9. Remove pan from the oven. Allow cookies to cool on the pan for a minute. Transfer warm cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat with remaining batter.
  10. As cookies cool, make the filling. (recipe below)
  11. Sandwich cooled cookies together with icing.

Makes 8 large whoopie pies (I made 15 half-size whoopie pies, thus reducing the baking time to 8 or 9 minutes)

Here is the recipe for marshmallow creme, from eHow


3 large egg whites
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
2 tablespoons sugar
1/3 cup water
3/4 cup light corn syrup
2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract(I used less, would say 1/2 teaspoon is probably better)

 1. Put the egg whites and cream of tartar into a large mixing bowl. Attach the whisk beater to your electric mixer. Beat until frothy. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of sugar over the mixture while continuing to beat until soft peaks form.

2. Combine water, corn syrup and 2/3 cup sugar in a small saucepan. Turn heat to medium and bring the mixture to a boil. Continue cooking, stirring constantly, until the sugar mixture reaches the firm-ball stage. Use your candy thermometer to test the temperature; at the firm-ball stage it will be between 245 and 250 degrees F. Remove the saucepan from the heat.

3. Turn on the mixer and start beating the egg white mixture at low speed while slowly drizzling in the hot sugar syrup. After all the syrup has been added, turn the mixer to high speed and beat for 5 minutes. Add the vanilla extract and continue beating for another minute or two, until the mixture reaches your preferred consistency.

This is a very good buttercream frosting, from The New Best Recipe cookbook:

Rich Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

Makes about 4 cups.

4 large eggs
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Pinch salt
1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened but still cool, each stick cut into quarters

1. Combine the eggs, sugar, vanilla, and salt in the bowl of a standing mixer; place the bowl over a pan of simmering water.  (Do not let the bottom of the bowl touch the water.)  Whisking gently but constantly, heat the mixture until it is thin and foamy and reisters 160 degrees on an instant-read thermometer.

2.  Beat the egg mixture at medium-high speed until light, airy, and cooled to room-temperature, about 5 minutes.  Reduce the speed to medium and add the butter, one piece at a time.  (After adding half the butter, the buttercream may look curdled; it will smooth out with additional butter.)  Once all the butter is added, increase the speed to high and beat one minute, until light, fluffy, and thoroughly combined.  (The buttercream can be covered and refrigerated up to five days.)

Saturday, August 20, 2011

First Day

Here begins the first day of my project.  It is but two weeks until school begins and a good time to get used to writing a blog.  Earlier today my mom returned home from the farmer's market with a whole bunch of vegetables, bread, and other wonderful ingredients.  I couldn't help but feel overwhelmed by the bounty-how would I ever find interesting ways to utilize all of this in a way that preserves all of the fresh flavor?  I would almost rather just sautee the cabbage and eat it all by itself, relishing the end of summer.  For this reason, you may see some seemingly meaningless posts in the future.  Please understand that all of this fresh produce can be a bit difficult to handle.
This morning I also found out that my cousin is having a birthday tomorrow and would like for me to make her a birthday cake.  Now, I positively adore making birthday cakes for people, and this is no exception, especially because she asked for a whoopie pie cake.  But, though it sounds wonderful, I now have to think about what I signed on for.  She, like my younger brothers, cannot eat gluten (wheat, rye, barley) and so making a whoopie pie cake may prove problematic.  Without gluten, baked goods often fall apart, which is what I'm afraid of with  a cake that has a rounded base piled on with heavy filling.  I'm actually starting to consider making a bunch of small cakes and stacking them together, though the giant cake still has an appeal...
You'll see how it goes tomorrow.