Thursday, June 24, 2010

Carrot Pecan Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting


As I stood in my kitchen pouring a cup and a half of vegetable oil into my cake batter, it just didn't seem right. But considering I was following a Paula Deen recipe, I guess I shouldn't have been surprised. Most other chefs warn against making things "too sweet" or "too dense," but not Paula. Paula is all about self-indulgence, and that is exactly why I decided to try her recipe for Grandma Hiers' Carrot Cake.

Unlike most cake recipes I've used, this recipe does not instruct to combine the wet and dry ingredients separately. I'm not sure if this is because Paula is lazy (or eager to eat the finished product!) or if it's because carrot cake is not meant to be light and fluffy. Regardless, this cake turned out very dense, which was just fine with me! I was pleasantly surprised that the pecans inside the cake tasted like they had been candied, which I assume was the result of them interacting with the sugar in the batter. Delicious!


Once again, my cake did not turn out to be very pretty. This time I did remember to butter and flour the pans, so the layers didn't fall apart. However, for some reason they weren't uniform in shape, so the cake didn't have smooth sides. Also, I probably should have put the frosting in the refrigerator to firm up a bit before using it. Since I used it when it was at room temperature (and very creamy, I might add), it didn't stay in place and the coverage was rather uneven.

My amateur decorating skills aside, this cake was amazing. It certainly lived up to the level of decadence I expect from Paula. One of these days I'll learn how to make cakes that are both delicious and beautiful. Until then--if my taste buds are happy, I'm happy.

Grandma Hiers' Carrot Cake
Prep: 20 min Cook: 40 min
8 servings

Cake:

Butter, for pans
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
2 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs
1 & 1/2 cups vegetable oil
3 cups carrots, grated
1 1/2 cups pecans, chopped

Frosting:

2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup salted butter, at room temperature
1 (16-ounce) box powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup pecans, chopped

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350˚F. Grease and flour 3 (9-inch) round pans. Line bottoms of the pans with parchment paper.

2. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Add eggs and vegetable oil. Using a hand mixer, blend until combined. Add carrots and pecans.

3. Pour batter into pans. Bake for approximately 40 minutes. Remove from oven and cool for 5 minutes. Remove from pans, place on waxed paper and allow to cool completely before frosting.

4. For the frosting: Add all ingredients, except nuts, into a medium bowl and beat until fluffy using a hand mixer. Stir in the nuts. Spread frosting on top of each cake layer. Stack the cakes on a serving plate.

Source:
Deen, Paula. "Grandma Hiers' Carrot Cake." Foodnetwork.com.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Overnight Cinnamon Rolls


I love cinnamon. It makes everything more delicious, whether it be applesauce, buttered toast, or a soy latté. But in my opinion, the best use of cinnamon is to combine it with brown sugar and melted butter, roll it up inside a fluffy pastry, and top it off with cream cheese frosting.

Today I made Alton Brown's Overnight Cinnamon Rolls. I was a little nervous about how these would turn out because it's the first recipe I've tried which involves dough that needs to rise and proof before baking. Although the process involved quite a few steps and took several hours, the end result was well worthwhile.

The only cinnamon rolls I had tried previously were of the store-bought and fast-food varieties, and needless to say, none of those compared with what I made today. Alton's cinnamon rolls are something else entirely. Fluffy. Creamy. Intensely cinnamon. Decadently sweet. Perfection.



I should note that I made a double batch of frosting because one batch didn't look like it would be enough. And it wouldn't have been, at least not for my taste. As I said in my last post, I have a fondness for frosting. Especially cream cheese frosting.

Overnight Cinnamon Rolls
Prep: 45 min Inactive Prep: 10 & 1/2 hours Cook: 30 min
12 rolls

Dough:

4 large egg yolks, at room temperature
1 large whole egg, at room temperature
2 ounces granulated sugar (approximately 1/4 cup)
3 ounces unsalted butter, melted (approximately 6 tablespoons)
6 ounces buttermilk, at room temperature
20 ounces all-purpose flour (approximately 4 cups)
1 package instant dry yeast (approximately 2 1/4 teaspoons)
1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
Vegetable oil or cooking spray

Filling:

8 ounces light brown sugar (approximately 1 cup, packed)
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
Pinch salt
3/4 ounce unsalted butter, melted (approximately 1 1/2 tablespoons)

Icing:

2 & 1/2 ounces cream cheese, softened (approximately 1/4 cup)
3 tablespoons milk
5 & 1/2 ounces powdered sugar (approximately 1 1/2 cups)

Directions:

1. In the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, whisk the egg yolks, whole egg, sugar, butter, and buttermilk.

2. Add approximately 2 cups of the flour along with the yeast and salt; whisk until moistened and combined.

3 Remove the whisk attachment and replace with a dough hook. Add all but 3/4 cup of the remaining flour and knead on low speed for 5 minutes.

4. Check the consistency of the dough, add more flour if necessary; the dough should feel soft and moist but nut sticky. Knead on low speed 5 minutes more or until the dough clears the sides of the bowl.

5. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface; knead by hand about 30 seconds.

6. Lightly oil a large bowl. Transfer the dough to the bowl, lightly oil the top of the dough, cover and let double in volume, 2 to 2 1/2 hours.

7. Combine the brown sugar, cinnamon and salt in a medium bowl. Mix until well incorporated. Set aside until ready to use.

8. Butter a 9 by 13-inch glass baking dish. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface.

9. Gently shape the dough into a rectangle with the long side nearest you. Roll into an 18 by 12-inch rectangle.

10. Brush the dough with the 3/4-ounce of melted butter, leaving 1/2 inch border along the top edge. Sprinkle the filling mixture over the dough, leaving a 3/4-inch border along the top edge. Gently press the filling into the dough.

11. Beginning with the long edge nearest you, roll the dough into a tight cylinder. Firmly pinch the seam to seal and roll the cylinder seam side down. Very gently squeeze the cylinder to create even thickness.

12. Using a serrated knife, slice the cylinder into 1 1/2-inch rolls; yielding 12 rolls. Arrange rolls cut side down in the baking dish; cover tightly with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator overnight or up to 16 hours.

13. Remove the rolls from the refrigerator and place in an oven that is turned off. Fill a shallow pan 2/3-full of boiling water and set on the rack below the rolls. Close the oven door and let the rolls rise until they look slightly puffy; approximately 30 minutes. Remove the rolls and the shallow pan of water from the oven.

14. Preheat the oven to 350˚F. When the oven is ready, place the rolls on the middle rack and bake until golden brown or until the internal temperature reaches 190˚ on an instant-read thermometer, approximately 30 minutes.

15. While the rolls are cooling slightly, make the icing by whisking the cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer until creamy. Add the milk and whisk until combined. Sift in the powdered sugar, and whisk until smooth. spread over the rolls and serve immediately.

Source:
Brown, Alton. "Overnight Cinnamon Rolls." Recipe. Foodnetwork.com. 2006.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

German Chocolate Cake



When it comes to cake, I am usually more concerned with the frosting than the cake itself. So, when a cake's signature frosting is a combination of brown sugar, coconut, pecans, and vanilla... I'm pretty much sold. This week I baked a German Chocolate Cake, using a recipe out of my Betty Crocker cookbook, which happens to be the Heart Health Edition. Needless to say, German Chocolate is not one of the heart healthy recipes. But it is delicious.

Whenever I bake a cake, I'm always a little worried about how it will turn out. More often than not, I have problems getting it out of the pan and/or frosting it without tearing it apart. I am a novice baker, after all. However, I had no problems at all with the last cake I made, which was a chocolate cake for my sister's birthday. I used a recipe from Martha Stewart, and it was the first cake I've ever made that turned out perfectly.

Today I learned that the success of that recipe can be attributed to the fact that it calls for greasing and flouring the pans, in addition to lining the bottoms with parchment paper, which apparently is not the same things as wax paper. How did I learn this? The cake I made today crumbled apart.

The recipe I used instructed me to grease the pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper. I thought to myself, "Why doesn't it say I should flour the pans?" But I figured that I had better just follow the instructions since I had never tried this recipe before. Well, I don't know why it doesn't say to flour the pans, but it certainly should. I ended up discarding one of the three layers, not only because it was falling apart, but also because I didn't have enough coconut-pecan filling for a three-layer cake. The filling recipe claims otherwise, but it obviously isn't accounting for how much I enjoy coconut, pecans, and brown sugar.

The good news? The cake was delicious! And, of course, that's what matters most. So even though my cake didn't turn out to be very aesthetically pleasing, I consider it a success. I enjoyed ever bite of it, and now I know what does and does not work when it comes to preparing cake pans.


German Chocolate Cake
Prep: 30 min Bake: 40 min Cool: 1 hr 10 min
12 servings

4 oz sweet baking chocolate
1/2 cup water
2 & 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup unsalted butter
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk

Directions:

1. Heat oven to 350˚F. Grease bottom and sides of three 8-inch or 9-inch round pans with shortening. Line bottoms of pans with waxed paper or cooking parchment paper.

2. In 1-quart saucepan, heat chocolate and water over low heat, stirring frequently, until chocolate is completely melted; cool.

3. In medium bowl, mix flour, baking soda and salt; set aside. In another medium bowl, beat sugar and butter with electric mixer on high speed until light and fluffy. Separate eggs; reserve egg whites. Beat egg yolks, one at a time, into sugar mixture. Beat in chocolate and vanilla on low speed. Beat flour mixture into sugar mixture alternately with buttermilk on low speed, beating just until smooth after each addition.

4. Wash and dry mixer beaters. In small bowl, beat egg whites on high speed until stiff; fold into batter. Pour into pans. Refrigerate batter in third pan if not all pans will fit in oven at one time; bake third pan separately.

5. Bake 8-inch pans 35-40 minutes, 9-inch pans 30-35 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire rack. Remove waxed paper. Cool completely, about 1 hour.

6. Fill and frost top of cake with Coconut-Pecan Filling and Topping, leaving side of cake unfrosted. Store covered in refrigerator.

Coconut-Pecan Filling and Topping
Prep: 10 min Cook: 12 min Cool: 30 min
12 servings, 2 & 3/4 cups filling

1 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup butter
1 cup evaporated milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 large egg yolks
1 & 1/3 cups flaked coconut
1 cup pecans, chopped

Directions:

1. In 2-quart saucepan, stir brown sugar, butter, milk, vanilla and egg yolks until well mixed. Cook over medium heat about 12 minutes, stirring frequently, until thick and bubbly.

2. Stir in coconut and pecans. Cool about 30 minutes, beating occasionally with spoon, until spreadable. Fills and frosts top of an 8- or 9-inch two- or three-layer cake.

Source:

"German Chocolate Cake." Recipe. Betty Crocker Cookbook: Heart Health Edition. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley Publishing, Inc., 2008. 102.

"Coconut-Pecan Topping and Filling." Recipe. Betty Crocker Cookbook: Heart Health Edition. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley Publishing, Inc., 2008. 119.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Here's to baking my cake and eating it too!

It's been a year since I graduated college, and here is what I've realized so far:

1. I don't want to be a teacher after all.
2. I entered the job market at the worst possible time.
3. I hate the only job I've managed to get.
4. What I would really like to do is become a pastry chef!

Why didn't I realize this before? I've always enjoyed baking, I have a fondness for anything sweet, and if I'm watching television, the Food Network is on more often than not. I am not an experienced baker by any means... but in the past month I've realized that I want to become one.

Of course it would have been much more convenient to have realized this four years ago. But even if I had, I doubt that the me of four years ago would have considered pastry chef a viable career choice. At that time, earning a four-year degree was the only pathway to success in my mind. But after discovering how it feels to spend forty hours a week doing something I couldn't care less about, I've learned that success simply means finding a way to spend every day doing something that makes me happy.

Going to pastry school won't be a viable option for me any time soon, and after six months of applying for job after job with no response whatsoever, it looks like I'm stuck in the one I have, at least for now.

And so, to distract myself in the meantime, I've created this blog.

I plan to try out a new recipe every week and post the results here. My hope is that I will gain experience, enjoy myself, and of course, indulge in delicious confections ad infinitum!