Best & Easiest Carrot Cake {Bake!}

Just before Easter, it was my turn to choose our next Twitterbake recipe from Bake!, and I quickly decided on carrot cake with cream cheese frosting. We were having family over for Easter dinner, and this seemed like a perfect, Springy dessert to have along with blueberry crumble pie and strawberry Chantilly cake.

The cake was very easy to mix up. After whisking the dry ingredients in a bowl, I mixed brown sugar, eggs, and oil in another bowl, then stirred in the dry ingredients, shredded carrots, and chopped pecans. I scraped the batter into two 9-inch cake pans and baked the cakes for 45 minutes at 375°F.

After cooling the cake layers in the pans for about 5 minutes, I removed them from the pans and let them cool completely. When the cake was cool, I mixed up the cream cheese frosting, which consisted of cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar, and vanilla. The frosting seemed a bit too liquidy to me, and when I frosted the cake, it was clear that it should have been a bit thicker.

OK, so it wasn’t a picture-perfect cake, but it was perfectly delicious. A number of my baking friends swear by Dorie Greenspan’s carrot cake recipe from Baking: From My Kitchen to Yours. I’ve never made Dorie’s recipe, but I do have that book.

Having had Nick’s wonderful carrot cake, I need to try Dorie’s recipe. For scientific comparison purposes, of course.

Leek and Potato Soup {FFwD}

This week for French Fridays with Dorie, I made Leek and Potato Soup. This soup is simple, delicious, versatile, and comforting. It’s easy to throw together — once you chop some onions, garlic, leeks, and a potato, all you have to do is put it all together. There are quite a few variations suggested in the recipe, and you could easily come up with many more, making this a great recipe to have in your repertoire, as the possibilities are endless.

This soup is perfect for wintry weather days, but it can also be served cold in the spring or summer. And it can be served chunky, smooth, or somewhere in between. If you can’t find a variation of this soup that you like, you don’t like soup.

To assemble the soup, I began by cooking onion, shallots (my addition), and garlic in butter over low heat. I added leeks, potato, thyme, sage, chicken broth, and milk, and seasoned with salt and white pepper.

I brought the soup to a boil, lowered the heat, covered the pan partway, and simmered the soup for 40 minutes, until the vegetables were soft. I decided to purée the soup in the pot with my immersion blender. I left a few chunks in it, but for the most part, it was smooth.

After ladling the soup into a bowl, I topped it with freshly ground black pepper and white truffle oil and served it with Irish brown bread made with Irish wholemeal flour from King Arthur Flour.

This soup is easy enough to make on a busy weeknight, versatile enough that you can probably make it with ingredients you have on hand, and so delicious that you will want to make it again and again.

Eggplant Caviar — Around My French Table {AMFT}

Like most serious home cooks, I know the name Dorie Greenspan. But until recently, I didn’t own any of her books. That changed a week or two ago, when I ordered a copy of Baking: From My Home to Yours. A number of my online baking friends are members of Tuesdays With Dorie, a group that bakes a different recipe from Baking every week. It was too late to join the group, as membership is closed, but I’ve heard so many great things about the book, I wanted to get it.

About the time the book arrived, I learned that Dorie had a new book coming out, Around My French Table. I also found out that there was a new group forming, French Fridays With Dorie. I thought it might be fun to join this new group, but I wanted to try a few recipes from the book before I committed myself.

Although the release date is October 8, Amazon already had it in stock; so I ordered it and two days later, it was at my door. I opened the book, and the first recipe I saw was Eggplant Caviar (p. 23). Since I had just picked up some beautiful eggplant at the farmer’s market, this recipe seemed like as good a place as any to start.

I picked up another (less beautiful) eggplant and the herbs at the store, and set to work. This is really a simple recipe (which, in case you’re wondering, has no caviar in it). The first step is to roast the eggplant.

In a sidebar, Dorie suggests slitting the eggplant and stuffing it with slivered garlic. I followed her suggestion, and the roasted garlic gave the eggplant great depth of flavor. I baked the eggplant for 45 minutes, until they were soft and wrinkly.

Once the eggplant had cooled, I halved each one and scooped out the meat. I think I should have baked the eggplant another 15 minutes or so, as some of it didn’t scoop out cleanly. I was able to get most of the meat into the bowl, where I mixed it with garlic and olive oil. (As a side note, if you stuff the eggplant with garlic, you might want to cut back a bit on the raw garlic.)  The recipe says to mash everything together with a fork, but I found it easier to squish it up with my hand.

After the eggplant was sufficiently broken down, I added the remaining ingredients — lemon zest and juice, onion, basil, thyme, cilantro, cayenne, salt, and pepper.

The recipe doesn’t specify how much salt to add; I found that it needed quite a bit, about 2-3 teaspoons. I used black truffle salt, which gave the dish amazing flavor. I also added healthy amounts of black pepper and cayenne.

So, how did my first Dorie Greenspan recipe come out? Well, let’s just say I’m glad I bought two of her books. I’m going to bake the brioche recipe from French Table next, then maybe I’ll have a go at something from Baking.

Oh, and I already signed up for French Fridays.