Rum-scented Marble Cake {ModBak}

I was all set to make this recipe the other day when my friends Kayte and Margaret tweeted that they were making it, too. So we decided to have a Twitterbake and make it “together” in our separate kitchens (and separate States). It’s always more fun baking with others, even if you are baking and tweeting from far away.

This is the third recipe in the Cakes section of the Modern Baker Challenge. After starting with a delicious, if fussy, pound cake, I was looking forward to trying this recipe.

As impressive as it looks, this cake was really easy to put together, although it did dirty quite a few bowls. The base batter consisted of flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, butter (three sticks!), seven eggs, and dark rum. After making a heavy paste of the dry ingredients and butter, I whisked the eggs and rum, then added them to the butter mixture.

The chocolate swirl layer consisted of dark rum, milk, baking soda, bittersweet chocolate, and two cups of the base batter, all mixed together until blended.

To assemble the cake, I put half the base batter in the pan, smoothed the top, then topped it with the chocolate layer.

I covered this with the rest of the base batter, smoothed the top, then marbled it by dragging a knife through the batter from the center to the edge all the way around the pan.

I baked the cake for 75 minutes, until it was done through but still moist.

Pardon the pun, but the cake smelled intoxicating while it baked. The chocolate and rum combined to give it a rich, heady aroma, and I couldn’t wait to cut into it. I let the cake cool, then sprinkled the top with powdered sugar (although it really didn’t need any adornment).

My daughter and I decided to sample it for a bedtime snack.

I was planning to take the rest of it to work today, but after tasting it, my daughter announced that I would be doing no such thing. The cake was rich, but not overly sweet, and had a great balance of flavors. Calling it “rum-scented” is quite apt, as the rum adds more to the aroma than the flavor.

This was another great recipe from The Modern Baker and has me looking forward to the next seven months(!) of cakes.

Check out Kayte’s and Margaret’s posts to see what they thought and to get a look at their beautiful marbling.

Garlicky Crumb-coated Broccoli {FFwD} {AMFT}

I’m not sure what I was doing back on April 8, 2011. Around that time I was finishing up the last of the savory tarts and pies for the Modern Baker Challenge and getting started on the sweet tarts and pies. And I was Twitterbaking recipes from Bake! with some friends.

What I wasn’t doing was making this recipe with the rest of the French Fridays with Dorie members.

So the other evening while I was making Dorie’s chicken breasts diable and looking for a side to serve with it, I thought I’d play a little catch up and make garlicky crumb-coated broccoli.

This was a very simple recipe. I put the broccoli in the rice steamer to cook while I prepared the crumb coating. I melted butter, and sautéed garlic in it. Then I added bread crumbs and toasted them for a few minutes. Finally, I stirred in lemon oil and parsley, then added the broccoli and tossed it all together.

This was a great side dish, as delicious as it was simple. As for how it went with the chicken breasts diable, well, you’ll have to check back next week.

Meeting Nancy

One of the things I like about being a member of several bake-and-blog-along groups (Modern Baker Challenge, French Fridays with Dorie, Bake!) is that I get to meet so many cool and interesting people. Of course, we “meet” by following each other’s blogs, Tweeting, e-mailing, etc. We keep up on each other’s baking and cooking adventures, for sure, but we also talk about our spouses, kids, jobs, other hobbies, you name it.  It’s amazing how well you can get to know someone 140 characters at a time.

It’s fun to have friends (and, yes, they are my friends) all over the world. But it’s also fun to meet them in person from time to time.

One of those opportunities came up the other day when my friend Nancy Tweeted to say she was passing through my area the next evening and would love to get together if I had the time. J had been out the day before, so she wasn’t up to hosting, but she didn’t mind if I went out. So the next evening, Nancy and I met at TGI Fridays.

I ask you, which one of us appears to have been on the road for 11 hours?

We spent an hour or two drinking Guinness milkshakes, chatting, laughing,  and getting to know one another better. We talked about our families, cooking, baking, and our other online friends. Even though this was our first in-person meeting, it was more like catching up with an old friend than meeting someone new.

 
Thanks for taking the time to stop by for a bit, Nancy. I enjoyed passing the evening with you. We’ll have to do it again soon.

Strawberry Chantilly Cake {Bake!}

My friend Kayte had a birthday recently. And in a budding Twitterbake tradition, she chose her own birthday cake from Bake! by Nick Malgieri. Kayte always has a cake with strawberries for her birthday, so this was a natural choice.

This was really more of a set of assembly instructions than a recipe. The directions referred to two other recipes — one for the cake layers and the other for sweetened whipped cream — which were combined with fresh strawberries to make this cake.

Assembling the cake was a breeze. The first layer was spread with whipped cream, layered with strawberries, and finished with more whipped cream. Then the top layer was placed on the cake, and the whole thing was spread with whipped cream. I decorated the top of the cake with sliced strawberries.

I served this cake on Easter, along with blueberry crumble pie and carrot cake. All three were bit hits, and I personally liked the blueberry pie the best. But this cake disappeared first. In fact, my 10-year-old nephew had about four pieces!

The cake layers were moist and light, and the whipped cream was so good I just wanted to eat it by the spoonful. It’s important to use really good strawberries for this recipe, as they add a lot to the overall flavor. There was a small piece of cake that escaped the Easter carnage, and I found that it was even better the next day. In fact, the next time I make this cake, I will assemble it a day ahead of time so the flavors have time to meld.

By the way, if you’re wondering why there are no pictures in the post, with all the excitement around here on Easter, I didn’t get any. You’ll just have to trust me that this cake was as beautiful as it was delicious. Or better yet, don’t take my word for it. Get a copy of Bake! and try it for yourself.

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.

Empanadas {Bake!}

We owe last night’s dinner — or at least the inspiration for it — to my friend, Marthe Teunis. No, she didn’t fly to Ohio from The Netherlands to cook for us (but how cool would that have been?). But she did choose empanadas from Bake! for our next group baking recipe.

For some reason this recipe took me forever to get around to making. I bought the ingredients, put them away, got them back out, and on and on. I made the puff pastry with Nick’s amazingly simple and delicious recipe (also in Bake! — you really should get this book) two weeks ago and put it in the freezer when I realized I wasn’t going to get around to making the empanadas that weekend. Then last week I made the chicken picadillo filling and again ended up putting it in the freezer as the timing didn’t work out.

I got both the pastry and filling out of the freezer this past weekend, thinking I would make the empanadas on Sunday. I finally got around to baking them for dinner last night (Monday). Fortunately, with the filling and puff pastry done, it was really just a matter of assembling everything. Of course, I couldn’t make things too easy, so I decided to make a few different empanadas. I had some Portobello mushrooms and canned chicken, so I made a sherry-mushroom-chicken filling. And I had a can of apple pie filling for caramel apple empanadas.

The dough rolled out beautifully, and the empanadas came together quickly. I made the two savory varieties first and then threw together the apple empanadas while the first batch was in the oven.

The savory empanadas were both delicious. I started with the mushroom and chicken version and was pretty sure it would be my favorite. Then I tasted Nick’s version, and it was amazing! The filling was mildly spicy and blended perfectly with the buttery, flaky crust.

The caramel apple empanadas were good, too, but not as good as the savory versions. I probably should have baked them a bit longer or at a slightly higher temperature. The taste was fine, but they weren’t as crispy as I would have liked.

Nonetheless, I am sold on Nick’s version of empanadas. The puff pastry is perfect, and the filling possibilities are almost endless. I definitely want to try the ground beef version in the book. And I could see keeping extra filling in the freezer for an easy weeknight dinner.

Some of my Twitter friends made these, too. Check out these posts by Abby, Andrea, and Kayte.

Jacques Pepin Chicken Liver Pâté — Twitter Avatar Fun

This month Di picked Jacques Pepin for our Twitter avatar chef. There are about a dozen of us participating in this endeavor. Each month someone chooses a chef, and we each pick a recipe by that chef, cook or bake it, and use a picture of the results as our Twitter avatar for that month.

I wasn’t very familiar with this month’s chef, so I started looking up recipes online. As I expected his recipes looked really delicious and a bit on a the gourmet side. But what surprised me was that most of them also seemed to be quick and simple to prepare. 

I have been wanting to make a “Welly” (beef — or venison — Wellington) lately, so I thought homemade chicken liver pâté would be a good start. My only fear was what kind of photo I would be able to get. Kayte didn’t help any by pointing this out, either.

Nonetheless, I made the pâté recipe, as reproduced here. It was so easy. Fresh chicken livers poached with onion, garlic, bay leaf, thyme, and salt, then whirred in the food processor with pepper, brandy, and lots of butter.

 

The results were fabulous — rich, fatty, a little smoky. And the picture wasn’t half bad, either.

It’s a good thing this pâté is so easy to make, since once we started sampling it, it wasn’t long before there wasn’t enough left to make Welly.

The Original Chocolate Chip Cookie {Bake!}

This week’s Bake! recipe was chosen by Andrea. Leave it to a German to pick that most American of recipes, chocolate chip cookies!

According to legend these cookies were invented by dietician Ruth Wakefield who, along with her husband, owned and operated a Massachusetts inn known as the Toll House. Ruth tried to convert her brown sugar cookie recipe into chocolate cookies by adding chocolate chunks to the batter. She thought the chunks would melt into the dough, resulting in a chocolate cookie. And the rest is history.

The recipe in Nick’s book is derived from Ruth Wakefield’s original recipe. The only differences are that the baking soda isn’t dissolved in water, which is unneccessary, and Nick’s recipe uses chocolate chips rather than chocolate chunks. This is also the same as the back of the bag Toll House cookie recipe, with two exceptions: the original recipe called for two cups of nuts rather than one; and the cookies are baked for 12- 14 minutes, a bit longer than today’s recipe. This results in slightly crisper cookies but ones that taste just like what you’re used to.

I baked this recipe with the girls, who are always up for cookies. Here they are scooping out dough.

And here are the cookies ready for the oven.

I didn’t end up getting a picture of the finished product. But they look like any other chocolate chip cookie you’ve seen, just a bit on the crispy side.

These were really good, and I would reach for this recipe if I needed a quick reminder of the Toll House recipe. I left out the nuts, as the kids don’t like them in cookies. And I would remember to bake them for less time so they stay soft.

Golden Almond Bars {Bake!}

Our latest Twitterbake from Nick Malgieri’s Bake! was chosen by Abby, although I think she may have been channeling Kayte, who has been talking about this recipe since she got the book. Once I tasted them, I knew why. These bars were so good!

To make these bars, I began by mixing up a recipe of sweet pastry dough, which is simply flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, butter, and eggs pulsed together in the food processor. I made the dough the day before I planned to bake the bars, wrapped it well in plastic wrap, and put it in the fridge.

The next day, I took the pastry dough out of the refrigerator, whacked it a few times with a  rolling pin to soften it, then rolled it out to fit the pan. I transferred the dough to the pan, which I had prepared by lining with buttered parchment paper. After pressing the dough into the pan and trimming the top, I put the pan in the refrigerator to chill while I made the filling.

The filling was easy to make. I melted butter in a pan, added sugar, brown sugar, corn syrup, and salt, then stirred in cream. I cooked the mixture for a minute, then added the almonds. After stirring everything together, I dumped it into the prepared crust and spread it around.

I baked the bars for about 30 minutes, until the crust was done through, the syrup bubbling, and the almonds well toasted. I cooled the bars on a rack for an hour, then unmolded them from the pan, peeled away the parchment, and cut the bars into 2-inch squares.

The bars were wonderful — tender, moist, slightly chewy, with a nice, toasty crunch from the slivered almonds. The whole family enjoyed them, which was a good thing. Otherwise, I might have eaten them all myself.

Danish Cheese Pockets {Bake!}

For a recent Twitterbake, my friend Margaret chose Danish Cheese Pockets from Bake!, Nick Malgieri’s recent book. The recipe calls for a half recipe of Quick Danish Pastry Dough. Rather than making a half recipe or freezing some of the dough, I decided to make two recipes — one of cheese pockets and another with cherry filling made from homemade cherry jam a friend of mine gave me.

After making the pastry dough, I  mixed up the cream cheese filling.

Isn't the sugar-coated egg yolk cool?

 

I rolled out the dough, cut it into squares, topped it with filling, and shaped the Danish.

I did the same with the cherry Danish, making some just cherry and some cheese and cherry.

After shaping the Danish, I preheated the oven. While the oven was heating, I brushed the tops of the Danish with egg wash and sprinkled them with sliced almonds.

I baked the pastries at 400°F for about 20 minutes, until they were puffed and golden.

Even though most of the Danish came apart on top, they were still delicious. The cream cheese ones were as good as any cheese Danish I’ve ever tasted.

And the cherry and cherry-cheese ones were even better.

I had planned to take most of the Danish to work, but by the time Monday rolled around, there weren’t very many left. The Danish I did take to the office disappeared with lightning speed. One person asked me for the recipe. The rest asked me to make more Danish and bring them in.

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