My Hero!

Thursday was a friend’s birthday and she had a very simple request: would I please make her a birthday cake. No problem! Surely we can bake a birthday cake with no wheat, no dairy, no egg, no almond. We’ve done wacky cake/crazy cake/depression cake/war cake ad nauseum so I tried some new recipes.

First was a chocolate cake that used maple syrup for the sweetening. I’m going to give that it’s own post later. Second came an orange cake that is essentially the wacky cake made w/o cocoa but with orange juice in place of water. Meh. It was moist and tasty but not quite the texture for a layered cake, especially when made with barley and whole grain spelt flour (coarse and grainy).

Finally I found a recipe for a ‘white cake’ and the birthday girl asked for a lightly spiced cake so I decided to play with that and added a little cinnamon and nutmeg. It stuck to the pan. It has great texture and taste, but it wouldn’t release from the pan.

In order to salvage the third cake, I resorted to an old standby: trifle. The birthday girl asked for cherry or orange flavors so I went looking at the store. I was thinking of possibly layering some cherry pie filling with Cool Whip but that seemed so pedestrian. Then I found Hero Black Cherry Preserves, which particularly caught my eye because they don’t list high fructose corn syrup as an ingredient. It says, “black cherries, sugar, glucose syrup, citric acid, fruit pectin. All natural ingredients. No preservatives. No artificial flavors or colors.” Doesn’t that sound like something you could eat? Into the basket it went.

Once at home, I stirred the contents of jar into the largest container of Cool Whip Light I could find and alternated the cherry preserves/Cool Whip mixture with crumbled cake.

hero.jpg

It’s not a proper birthday cake, but I think it will convert a failed baking effort into a tasty dessert. Stay tuned for more birthday cake drama! ;-)

You Picked A Fine Time To Leave Me, Gas Oven

Eight hungry people and a baby shower to bake for. Kenny Rogers’ version no doubt had broader appeal, but I was quite frustrated when my gas oven decided it was time to go on holiday when I had *plans* for it. I was making a trial run of a new recipe for a baby shower when it decided it was not going to light. We could smell gas strongly when I turned it on, but even lying on the floor holding the flame thrower (propane torch) inside the oven, the Husband couldn’t get it to light so we turned it off before we were all gassed. I already had my cake mixed and fortunately the In-Laws were here with the motorhome and we were able to bake it in the motorhome oven, even if we ended up overbaking it.

flourless-cake.jpg

This was a recipe I lifted off the internet and then modified slightly to completely remove the sugar for gestational diabetes. It was good enough that Crystal picked up supplies from me and baked one in her oven and hers turned out 100 times better. Hers was puffier, moister, and just overall better — Food Science people can be trusted to do that sort of thing. So if you make this, make it like she did! ;-)

Flourless Cake

8 oz. good dark chocolate (we used 60% Ghirardelli the second time)
1/2 c. (1 stick) butter

6 egg yolks
2/3 c. Splenda

6 egg whites, beaten to firm peaks

Preheat oven to 375 F. Prepare a 9-inch springform pan with non-stick spray and set aside.

Melt together chocolate and butter in a double boiler.

Stir together the egg yolks with the Splenda. Add the egg mixture to the chocolate, stirring until well mixed.

Stir in 1/3 of the well beaten egg whites. Fold in the remaining 2/3 until there are no streaks.

Spoon into springform pan and smooth the top. Bake for 20 minutes.

Garnish with whipping cream and raspberries, if desired.

*************

With the oven not working, I decided that I ought to come up with a no-bake option in case it wasn’t possible to make the cake. So I made some ‘fake fudge’. It’s not as dark as the fudge I usually make and I think Splenda has an awful aftertaste so I’m not thrilled with it. But if I had gestational diabetes and I wanted a treat, this would be great b/c there’s supposed to be less than 1 g of carb in each square.

fudge.jpg

Sugar Free “Fudge”
16 oz cream cheese
4 oz dark chocolate, melted
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 c. Splenda
1/2 – 1 c. chopped nuts, if desired

Whip cream cheese. Add the chocolate, vanilla, and Splenda and beat until well mixed. Stir in nuts, if desired. Spread into a foil lined 8-inch pan. Chill several hours or overnight. Cut into squares. Keep refrigerated.

Another version with peanut butter:
8 oz cream cheese
1/2 c. butter
1/4 c. cocoa
2-4 Tbsp peanut butter
1/4 c. whipping cream
1 t. vanilla

Soften cream cheese and butter and beat together. Add cocoa, peanut butter, whipping cream and vanilla and beat until smooth. Spread into a foil lined 8-inch pan. Chill several hours or overnight. Cut into squares. Keep refrigerated.

Not Quite Peachy Keen

Our small group has quite a few food allergy issues which makes cooking/baking a little more of a challenge . . . but there’s little I love more than conquering a baking challenge. (I’d *love* to be a member of the ‘Daring Bakers’ and participate in their monthly challenges — if you don’t know who they are, go now to one of their sites and you can find all of them from their blogrolls. There are many more talented people in the group and I love to see the monthly postings.)

But this Saturday was not the day of the kitchen victory whoop. It was a bit more of the baking pbbbbtttt!!! I was avoiding several flours: wheat, rye, corn, and spelt, cane sugar, berries, chocolate, dairy, soy, and a few other things. Somehow I got in my head that I *really* wanted to make a cherry-peach cobbler. I made two pans, one plain peach and the other cherry-peach. I used my own canned peaches, draining off the sugar syrup and adding some agave syrup and honey, sprinkling the fruit with a little nutmeg and cinnamon and a little rice flour to thicken. That part was all great.

peach-cherry.jpg

For the top I tried a cobbler topping made of white rice flour, canola oil, honey, cream of tarter, baking soda, salt, and rice milk. It was *really* white. It looked okay from the top when I pulled it from the oven:

cobbler.jpg

but the bottom of the biscuit wasn’t quite done and the rice flour was so gritty, my mouth thought I had mistakenly used sand we brought home from the beach.

beach.jpg

I was disappointed with it. Others must not have thought it was TOO awful, there were only a couple of servings left. Tonight I made the leftovers into smoothies by adding some yogurt, orange juice concentrate, and ice and zipped it in the blender. It was a little better but the grit was still there.

Lesson learned: don’t use only white rice flour. I think this would have been awesome if I had made my typical cobbler topping with flour, butter & milk and next time I’m going to try barley flour for my allergic friends!

I wish I had taken a picture of the success of the night, however. I made some peach sorbet by zipping a couple quarts of peaches in the blender with agave syrup and a little honey with some water and then froze it. It was tasty too. But I forgot the camera and then we let the remaining part sit out and thaw and then it wasn’t very pretty anymore. :-(

Meanwhile, I’m hoping tomorrow’s project redeems the week’s baking efforts. Stay tuned!

Lemon (and Lime) Curd Cake with Fresh Fruit

lemon-cake.jpg

I generally try to offer one dessert that doesn’t have any chocolate in it and I like to pair it with fresh fruit and often use a lemon flavor in the base. This year I made a whipping cream cake and put lemon curd between the layers and started playing with frosting options. I made a mess.

For a few minutes it looked absolutely lovely. I baked the cakes in flower shaped pans and when I spread the frosting on the top I made petal shaped swirls in the frosting. Then I started adding my fresh fruit. That’s when the trouble began.

I sliced strawberries in half and let them sit on a paper towel for a few minutes to absorb the juices and then I put them at the ends of my ‘petals’. Almost immediately the strawberries began ‘weeping’ with the sugar from the frosting and my not-very-firm frosting went all limp and the strawberries began sliding off the edge of the cake. ACK!!!

So the strawberry halves sat around the base of the cake like I planned it that way from the beginning. ;-) The frosting stood better after refrigerating but the fruit made a lot of juice and I drained off the platter before serving. Several people really liked it and, again, the guests are too polite their curl up their noses and say, “Fruittart, what did you *do* to this thing?”. :-D The key lime in the ‘lemon curd’ adds a little bite and does taste fantastic. I love the texture of this cake — the whipping cream for the fat with the cake flour makes a nice texture. The picture of the top was taken before I added blackberries to it.

lemon-cake-slice.jpg

Whipping Cream Cake (from Betty Crocker, 1969)

1 1/2 c. chilled whipping cream

3 eggs (1/2 to 2/3 c.)

1 1/2 t. vanilla

2 1/4 c. cake flour

1 1/2 c. sugar

2 t. baking powder

1/2 t. salt

Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease and flour baking pans.

In chilled bowl, beat cream until stiff.

Beat eggs until thick and lemon colored. Fold eggs and vanilla into whipped cream.

Stir together remaining ingredients; fold gently into cream-egg mixture until blended. Pour into pans.

Bake 30-35 min or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool.

**********

Lemon curd

4 large lemons

3/4 c. sugar
1/2 c. unsalted butter
8 egg yolks

Grate the zest finely from the lemons, then squeeze and strain 3/4 c. of juice. After juicing 4 lemons I only had 1/3 c. and I didn’t have any bottled juice on hand so I added key lime juice until I got to 3/4 c.

Combine the juice, zest, sugar, and butter in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat.

Whisk the yolks in a bowl until liquid. Beat 1/4 of the boiling liquid into the yolks and return the remaining liquid to a boil over low heat. Whisk the yolk mixture into the boiling liquid and continue whisking until it thickens slightly, about 2 minutes. Do not allow the lemon curd to boil or it will scramble, although it may come to a slight simmer at the edge of the pan.

Pour the lemon curd into a clean container, press plastic wrap against the surface and chill.

************

For my frosting I used 4 oz. cream cheese, 1/4 c. butter, 1/3 – 1/2 c. lemon curd, a couple Tbsp. of whipping cream and several (5-6) c. powdered sugar. Because of the moisture from the lemon curd, it turned out rather soft and I really could have added more powdered sugar to get a firmer frosting that may have held up better with the fruit, although it was doing just fine until I added the cut strawberries. I think the whipping cream could be left out entirely. It made more frosting than I needed for the cake.

Trifling with Leftovers

I’ve been a busy girl in the kitchen this week but not so busy with blogging. I hope to catch up in the next couple of days. Thing 1 has begun to sigh at the end of cooking, announcing — well, we’ll get to eat soon . . . as soon as Mom is done taking pictures of dinner, anyway. :-P

trifle.jpg

A couple of months ago I wanted to bake a birthday cake for a couple of people in our small group . . . but I was flitting around and constantly distracted by the kids and I managed to miss nearly all of Glenna’s wonderful Secrets for A Successful Cake. I greased my pan and set it aside to cut out the waxed paper lining and I don’t know where I went next but came back and started mixing my cake and then poured it into the pan and after the batter hit the pan I cringed — oh, man, I forgot the waxed paper and I only greased, not greased and floured . . . I really don’t want to scrape this out and wash the pan and start over . . . I’ll just hope for the best. I baked it . . . too long . . . my white cake wasn’t very white :-P Then I set it aside to cool and remembered it about *2 hours* later. Ah, crud. It wouldn’t come out. No amount of coaxing was going to get that out. I ended up tearing it to bits trying to get it out of the pan. I stuck it in freezer bags for use on a later date and ended up whipping up another dessert and abandoning the idea of a birthday cake altogether . . . no one knows what they missed out on unless you tell them . . . they didn’t know I was going to surprise them with a birthday cake so they were happy with the chocolate desserts we ended up with. ;-) We were happy to eat this trifle with leftover fruit salad, using strawberry juice rather than sherry or brandy:

trifle-side.jpg

I cut up some fresh strawberries and sprinkled a little sugar on top and let them stand for a few minutes to get the strawberries juicy.

I grated the rind of a lime and stirred it into a container of Cool Whip (since we girls are lactose intolerant I use it more often than real whipping cream).

In my bowl I layered:

cake, crumbled in smaller bits

lime Cool Whip

strawberries

cake

lime Cool Whip

leftover fruit salad with plums, pears, apples, oranges, and kiwi

cake

lime Cool Whip

strawberries

Everyone loved it and it’s a nice light dessert.

Not the Recipe of the Day

This story is for all those who are convinced that I am a ‘perfect’ cook who never has any failures. So today I was being ‘all put together’ and this morning I put dinner in the crockpot and made lunch on the stove (veggie ABC soup) while Thing 1 was doing her Language Arts lessons and talking to me about her work and I was breaking my arm to pat myself on the back.

At the right time, I stirred the milk and flour into the crockpot to thicken my chicken and dumplings base and then I mixed together the dumplings . . . couldn’t remember exactly how much I use, it’s probably less than when I make biscuits for us, but ah, well, we’ll eat it. Oh, it’s not getting done on time b/c the biscuit top is too thick — pull the crock out and put it in the oven to finish before we go to the meeting and the family can eat leftovers for dinner tonight and tomorrow’s lunch or dinner will already be done — it will still work out. Eat dinner, leave for meeting (notice I didn’t have a ‘remove crock from oven’ step), at meeting for 1.5 hrs — Oh crud — honey, we can’t stay to socialize — we have to see if we can beat the fireman to the house!

Amazingly, the smoke alarms had not even gone off and it looked far better than anticipated — but Thing 2 did ask if the now-plasticized chicken gravy part was ‘chocolate’! LOL!! :-D So when I talked to Klo tonight and she asked if I had made any exciting food creations lately I had to admit I had . . . charcoal! What a waste of time and good food/money :-P

BUT, when I cook it *right*, the recipe is very good. I got it from allrecipes.com a few years ago.

******

Bacon Chicken and Dumplings

3 slices bacon

3 large potatoes, peeled and diced

1 onion, diced

4 skinless boneless chicken breasts, diced

3 c. chicken broth

1 t. poultry seasoning

salt and pepper to taste

1 – 15 oz can whole kernel corn, drained and rinsed

3 c. half and half

Dumpling:

1 ½ c. biscuit mix

1 c. milk

Place bacon in a large, deep skillet. Cook over medium high heat until evenly brown. Drain, crumble and set aside; reserve bacon drippings in skillet. Add potatoes, onion and chicken to bacon drippings and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Pour in chicken broth; season with poultry seasoning, salt and pepper. Stir in corn and simmer together for 15 minutes. Pour in half and half and bring to a boil; add crumbled bacon.

In a medium bowl, combine biscuit mix with milk and mix well (dough should be thick). Drop tablespoon-size bits of dough into the boiling mixture; reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes uncovered, then another 10 minutes covered. Do not stir while simmering or dumplings will break apart. Serve hot.

My notes: I usually use half a package of bacon instead of three slices ;-) and I usually add carrots and sometimes peas to this for more veggies & color. I also make this using regular milk instead of half and half and just add some flour for thickening. Since I rarely buy biscuit mix, I also use my regular biscuit recipe to drop on top. It’s a favorite recipe with the kids at our house! It can also be done in the crockpot if you cook the bacon and chicken and then let the rest cook for several hours and then add thickening agent and top with dumplings and let it cook for another 30-45 min.

*********

I’m going to have to make this again soon b/c the kids were disappointed that they didn’t get to eat this.