March 23, 2009

Spiced Apple and Sour Cream Cake

Have you ever baked a cake that was so good you had to make it again the next day? This was one of them. I made this a few weeks ago for a Sunday family dinner, and with the exception of this pitiful slice, my grandparents, aunts, and cousins had completely demolished it within five minutes.

The cake was very moist and tender, and I think the freshly ground spices made a big difference. I drastically reduced the amount of sugar since my family isn't fond of overly sweet desserts, so feel free to add more if you desire.

Spiced Apple and Sour Cream Cake
slightly modified from Kate Zuckerman's The Sweet Life

Sauteed Apples
2 tart apples (about 1 pound)
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon sugar

12 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
4 egg yolks, at room temperature
1-3/4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon clove
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon sour cream
1 tablespoon raw sugar or granulated sugar

Peel, core, and dice the apples into small cubes. Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat, add apples, and stir for 1 minute. Add the sugar and cook for 2 more minutes. Turn the heat down and continue to cook the apples until soft, 4-5 minutes. Cool and drain if any liquid remains.

Preheat the oven to 350ºF and grease an 8-inch springform pan.

Cream the butter on medium speed for 1 minute and then add the sugar, beating at medium-high speed until the mixture becomes fluffy and almost beige in color, 6-8 minutes. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, and continue to beat until the batter looks smooth and glossy, 1-2 minutes.

Mix together all the remaining dry ingredients except for the raw sugar. Add half of the dry ingredients to the butter mixture on low speed and mix until fully incorporated. Mix in the sour cream. Fold in the remaining dry ingredients with a rubber spatula. Mix the batter for 1 minute on low speed until thoroughly combined. Fold in the sauteed apples.

Pour the batter into the cake pan and spread it evenly. Run a knife through the batter in a singular circular motion 1 inch from the edge of the pan to help the cake rise evenly. Sprinkle the raw sugar over the top and bake until the center of the cake is set, 60-70 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from the pan.

March 20, 2009

Paprika Roast Chicken, Leek and Pea Risotto, and Sauteed Broccoli Rabe

I love roasting chickens even if it does destroy the interior of my poor toaster oven, now liberally coated with grease from sizzling chicken fat.

Paprika Roast Chicken
from Gourmet, February 2009
serves 4-6

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 -1/2 tablespoons paprika
1-1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1 whole chicken (about 3-1/2 lbs), cut into serving pieces
1 onion, if you'd like, cut into wedges

Preheat oven to 500ºF, or 425ºF if using a toaster oven, and place rack in upper third.

Mix oil and spices in a large bowl, then toss in the chicken and onion to coat. Place chicken and onions onto a pan and bake for 30-45 minutes until the chicken is thoroughly cooked.

Leek and Pea Risotto
modified from Gourmet, March 2009
serves 4

6-1/4 cups chicken stock
3 tablespoons olive oil, olive oil
2 medium leeks (white and pale green parts only), thinly sliced
1-1/4 cups Arborio rice
1/2 cup frozen peas
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup grated Piave (or Parmigiano-Reggiano)

Bring stock to a bare simmer and keep it that way while you prepare the rice.

Cook leeks in 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat, stirring occasionally until softened but not browned. Transfer to a plate.

Add remaining olive oil and rice to a pot and cook, stirring constantly until rice is coated, about 1 minute. Add about 1/4 cup of the chicken stock and stir until most of the liquid has been absorbed.

Add 1 cup of the stock and let the mixture simmer, stirring constantly, until the stock has been absorbed. Continue with the rest of the stock in this manner, 1 cup at a time, until the last cup. Add peas, leeks, and remaining stock and cook, stirring, until the rice is tender. Stir in the butter and cheese, and remove from heat. (I highly recommend soaking the pot immediately after serving the rice to make cleaning up easier.)

Sauteed Broccoli Rabe
I really don't have much of recipe for this, more like guidelines.

Broccoli rabe, hollow stems removed
Olive oil

Fill a pot with enough water to cover the broccoli rabe and bring to a boil. Throw in the greens and cook until tender, about 3 minutes. Drain the water and fill the pot with cold water to stop the cooking process. Drain again and gently squeeze the greens to draw out excess water.

Heat oil in a pan over medium heat and saute the broccoli rabe, about 1 minute. Add the stock and season with salt to taste and saute until liquid has mostly cooked off.

March 13, 2009

Triple Cream Brie!

Whole Foods is dangerous not only because they take my whole paycheck but for introducing me to delicious foods I'd never try otherwise. Hence my new favorite snack: a slice of silky triple cream brie on a cracker with some cloudberry jam.

March 11, 2009

Pâte à Choux: Cream Puff Pastry

Oh, if only these tasted as good as they looked! I felt like I was chewing on paper, but I think the addition of sugar to the mixture would've definitely improved the taste. It was magical watching them puff up in the oven though.

Pâte à Choux
from Paula Peck's The Art of Fine Baking
makes approximately 90 small puffs or 25 medium sized puffs

1/2 cup butter
1 cup water
1 cup sifted flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 eggs

Preheat the oven to 425ºF.

Bring water to a boil in a medium sized saucepan. Drop in the butter, and once it is melted, turn heat down to very low. Add flour and salt all at once and stir vigorously until a ball forms in the center of the pan, about 3-5 minutes.

Remove from heat. Add 3 eggs one by one, beating hard after each addition until completely mixed in. The last egg should be lightly beaten and added gradually. The paste must be just stiff enough to stand in a peak when a spoon is withdrawn; therefore, you need to add slightly more or less than 4 eggs depending on the dryness of the flour and the size of the eggs.

Pipe or drop the pâte à choux by spoonfuls onto a lightly greased pan. Bake at 425ºF until golden brown all over, about 15 minutes. Then lower the temperature to 325ºF until done, about 30-40 minutes. Turn off the oven, remove the pan, and using the tip of a knife, poke each of the puffs in the side to release steam. Return the pan to the oven for about 10 minutes, then remove and let puffs cool on wire rack.

Fill with pastry cream if you like.

Pastry Cream
slightly modified from Paula Peck's The Art of Fine Baking

2 tablespoons flour
1 cup light cream or milk
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sugar
4 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla

Combine flour and 1/4 cup cream/milk in a small saucepan. Stir until smooth and no lumps remain. Gradually add the remaining cream/milk, whisking continually. Stir in salt and sugar. Cook over low heat, stirring until mixture thickens considerably.

Stir a spoonful of the cream mixture into the egg yolks, and gradually add about 1/2 cup more, whisking the entire time. This tempers the egg yolks and ensures no scrambled egg bits. Pour the egg yolks into the saucepan, mix, and heat on low for a few minutes to thicken. Be careful not to let it boil. Remove from heat. Add vanilla. Cool as quickly as possible.