Monday, July 27, 2009

Strawberry Cake with Fresh Berries

For my daughter, Valerie's, birthday in June, I made her this strawberry cake. It was a combination of two recipes. Here's what I did, thanks to Cooks Illustrated and Country Living (the two recipes I combined).

For the cake:

2 1/2 cups cake flour
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup strawberry preserves
4 eggs
3/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cups buttermilk

  • Preheat oven to 350
  • Grease and flour two 9 inch cake pans
  • Sift cake flour, baking powder, salt and soda together
  • Cream the butter and 1 1/2 cups sugar until light and fluffy
  • Add 3/4 cup preserves and the eggs, one at a time, blending well after each addition
  • Beat in vanilla
  • Reduce mixer speed to low and add the flour in 3 parts, alternating with the buttermilk and ending with flour
  • Divide the batter equally between the two pans
  • Bake in the middle of the oven - 20 - 30 minutes.

Assemble the cake:

You'll need
2 pounds strawberries
4 - 6 T sugar
2 T Kirsch
pinch of salt.

From Cooks Illustrated:
  • Halve 24 of best-looking berries and reserve.
  • Quarter remaining berries; toss with 4 to 6 tablespoons sugar and let sit 1 hour
  • Strain juices from berries and reserve (you should have about 1/2 cup).
  • In workbowl of food processor fitted with metal blade, give macerated berries five 1-second pulses (you should have about 1 1/2 cups).
  • In small saucepan over medium-high heat, simmer reserved juices and Kirsch until syrupy and reduced to about 3 tablespoons, 3 to 5 minutes.
  • Pour reduced syrup over macerated berries, add pinch of salt, and toss to combine.
  • Set aside until cake is cooled.
Place the strawberries point in in a circle around the edge of the bottom layer of the cake. Put the cooled berry mixture you've just made in the center of the circle. (See picture above).

Whip 2 cups of heavy cream with sugar to taste.

Spread the whipped cream over the strawberries and the strawberry sauce.
Top with the second layer.

Spread more whipped cream over the top of the cake and decorate with strawberries.

Dylan, Valerie's nephew, actually blew out the candles before she had a chance to, so we lit them again and gave her her wish! The cake and strawberries were delicious and who would not like a cake frosted with whipped cream!

Posted by Picasa

Friday, July 17, 2009

Making Homemade Bagels

I've always wanted to make bagels and decided to try it today. I got the recipe from Martha Schulman's Great Breads.

Here it is:
  • 2 T active dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water
  • 1 T honey or malt extract
  • 2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 - 1 cup unbleached white flour
The boiling part of the bagel is done in 2 1/2 quarts water with 1 T malt extract stirred into it

Toppings can be anything. Use an egg wash (1 egg white mixed with 1 T water) and then sprinkle on the topping. I used
  • black sesame seeds,
  • caraway seeds, and
  • coarse salt to make four of each kind.
The dough is a typical yeast dough. Dissolve the yeast in warm water in mixing bowl. Stir in the honey or malt extract and let stand for about 10 minutes until creamy. Stir in 1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour. Add salt to the remaining 1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour and the 1/2 cup white flour. Using the dough hook, knead at low speed for 2 minutes and then at medium speed for 10 minutes. Place dough in oiled bowl, cover and allow to rise for 1 1/2 hours or until doubled.

Start the 2 1/2 quarts of water and the malt extract to heat up so that it will be at a low boil when you need it.

Divide the risen dough into 12 equal parts, shape into balls and allow to rest for 5 minutes

Take each ball and poke a hole in it with your thumb. Widen the hole with your fingers until it is wider than you want it to be in the finished bagel. Put the bagels on a floured surface, cover with plastic or a towel and allow to rise for about 10 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 425 with one rack in the middle and the other in the upper third. I used my oven's convection baking.

With the water at a gentle boil, put the bagels one at a time with a slotted spoon into the simmering water. Do two or three bagels at a time. When they have boiled for 30 seconds on one side, turn over for 30 seconds on the other side. Carefully remove from the water and allow to drain on a towel as in the picture below. Repeat until all bagels are done.

Oil two baking sheets, sprinkle with cornmeal. Brush the bagels with the egg wash and sprinkle with your desired topping. Gently transfer to prepared baking sheets

Bake for 25 - 30 minutes, switching the position of the sheets halfway through the baking and turning the bagels over after about 20 minutes. On convection, these were done at 23 minutes so they barely got to be turned over. Next time I'll turn them at the same time as I switch the sheets.

Cool on a rack when dark and shiny (done).

Posted by Picasa

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Gourmet's Fabulous Garlic Herb Bread Twists

This month's Gourmet includes a recipe for Garlic Herb Bread Twists - YUM.

We made these bread twists in the N Georgia mountains on July 8 and 9th. They are so good that we were embarrassed to note that three adults and one three year old ate all nine rolls at the two meals when we served them (that's 18 rolls between us all over two days and the three year old only ate about 1/2 of one at each meal)!

It's a two step deal. First you have to make the pizza dough. Here's the recipe for it:

2 packages active dry yeast
4 1/2 - 5 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour divided, plus additional for dusting
2 cups warm water, divided
2 tsp salt.

  • Whisk together the yeast, 2 T flour and 1/4 cup warm water in a cup and let it stand until it develops a creamy foam (about 10 minutes)
  • Stir together salt and 3 cups flour in a large bowl.
  • Add yeast mix and remaining 1 1/2 cups warm water and stir until smooth
  • Stir in 1 cup more flour. If the dough is sticky, stir in just enough flour to make the dough pull away from the side of the bowl.
  • Knead dough lightly reflouring work surface when dough becomes too sticky, until dough is soft and elastic (about 10 minutes)
  • Divide dough in half and form two balls.
  • Generously dust balls all over with flour and put each in a medium bowl to rise.
  • Cover bowls with plastic wrap and let it rise until doubled (about 1 - 1 1/4 hours).
Note: Dough can rise slowly in refrigerator for a day. Bring to room temp before using.

That last sentence is key. The first recipe of dough rose at room temperature and I used it that night. It was sticky and continued to absorb flour as I shaped it into sticks.

The bread sticks were fabulous and we ate all nine of them, but they didn't compare to the recipe the second night when I left the dough in the fridge overnight, rising. I didn't have time to get it completely to room temperature before using it the second night and those bread sticks were the best ever. My theory is that they didn't take in any extra flour.

OK, so my suggestion would be to let the dough rise overnight in the refrigerator.

Here's the recipe for turning them into the gorgeous (and delicious) bread sticks pictured above:

1 T finely chopped rosemary
1 T finely chopped thyme
1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (2 oz) divided
1/4 cup olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 lb pizza dough from above recipe
1/4 cup finely chopped flat leaf parsley

It probably helped the magnificence of the recipe that we cut all the herbs fresh from the garden just before chopping.

  • Preheat oven to 400 F with racks in upper and lower thirds.
  • Lightly oil 2 large baking sheets
  • Stir together rosemary, thyme, 1/4 cup cheese/ 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper in a separate bowl
  • Stir oil, garlic and 1/4 tsp salt and pepper in another bowl (I used all of this up on half the dough and remade it the next night)
  • Divide dough in half.
  • Keeping half the dough covered, roll the other half into a 15 X 10 inch rectangle on a lightly floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin(this is where the first recipe took in more flour)
  • Sprinkle one half of the dough crosswise with half the herb mixture, then fold the dough in half crosswise and roll lightly to form a 10X8 inch rectangle
  • Cut lengthwise into 9 strips (less than 1 inch wide) with a pizza wheel or sharp knife
  • Keeping strips covered with a towel, twist each strip from both ends and place on baking sheet 1 inch apart
  • Brush with 1 T garlic oil and let stand for about 5 minutes
  • Bake bread twists for 20 - 25 minutes until golden
  • Meanwhile stir together parsley and remaining 3/4 cup cheese in shallow pan
  • Immediately after baking, brush bread twists with remaining garlic oil and roll the twists in parsley and cheese until coated
  • Serve warm or at room temperature.
DELICIOUS - we only made half the recipe one night and the other half the next night.

Posted by Picasa