Archive for December 2010




Christmas Sausage Cookies (for Dogs)

Once upon a time, not too long ago, I was on my way out the door of my apartment, when I saw two young kids with a puppy.  It turns out they’d found her abandoned in the park across the street.  She gave me one look with her German Shepard black lined eyes and I, of course immediately fell in love. We called animal care and control, filed a report, searched craiglist and the neighborhood for signs that she’d run away or gotten lost but as it turned out she was abandoned.  Its pretty sad when you think about the strays and abandoned animals who need good loving homes.  My cat is also a stray from the park who I found late one night crying outside my apartment.  I like to think I didn’t find them, Minnie my cat and Billie, my dog, but that they found me.

So this week as a nice favor to my lovely boyfriend, a constant supporter to all my cake endeavours and all eccentric endeavours not cake related of course, I’ve got Billie with me in the city where we found her last summer.  She visits often on weekends but typically lives upstate with my boyfriend who also couldn’t bare to bring her to a shelter after we found her.  Having a dog is hard, early walks, giving up lunch breaks to take her out– in the rain, the snow, the biting cold, but one look at her Maybelline eyes and you can’t resist, so I’m happy to have another roommate this week, though my cat is not sooo pleased.

So heres a little holiday treat for puppy girls like Billie.  Ever go into a store that carries a full variety of Bob’s Red Mill products and wonder Who in the World could possible use all that flour?

I’ve been perplexed by this question and this: what in the world is Spelt Flour anyway?  It turns out you’ll need a little variety in your ground grain reperatoire with these puppy treats. My dog makes me incredibly happy, even though she is still a puppy and has her moments of absolute zaney off the wall bonkers craziness, shes a sweetie. And thankfully she is not totally food obsessed. She does her fair share of begging, and she does love treats, especially these.  I think I have 2 buried in my couch currently– she likes to save her treats for later.

From Baking for Your Dog by Ingeborg Pils

9 oz whole grain Rye flour

3 1/2 oz rolled oats

1 oz lard

3 1/2 oz sausage meat

6 fluid oz water

Mix ingredients to form a dough.  I added some bacon left over from breakfast the day before, I also opted to use the bacon grease left from breakfast instead of throwing it away.  I should also mention that I didn’t use all the water, it just made he dough too gummy, so I suggest 1/3 cup to 1/2 cup. Wrap in plastic wrap and let rest in the refridgerate for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven for 320 degrees.  Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

On a floured surface roll our to 1/2 ” thickness cut out shapes with cookie cutters (dog bones came with the recipe book).  I cut mine a bit thinner, closer to 1/4 of an inch.  I used the rye flour to flour the surface, it adds a bit of texture.  Make  Place on cookie sheet and bake for 40 minutes.  Turn off oven and let dry within oven. Cookies will brown slightly on the bottom.  I flipped the cookies after cooking and then allowed them to dry.

These cookies are good because the aren’t super greasy, though they have a meaty flavor.  Billie loves bacon and sausage, however she likes to bury her treats when she gets them, making for some greasy pillows and cushions if I don’t watch her. These cookies are somewhat dry so if your dog is like Billie, you have little worry about. Store in cookie tin. Treat will keep for 2 weeks.

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1 comment December 14, 2010

Christmas Cake, Black Cake, Fruit Cake, Voodoo Cake Call it what you will!

I love how in just about any borough of New York City all you have to do is walk 3 blocks in any direction and you’ll find yourself in a completely different neighborhood.  For instance in my neighborhood you’ll find mostly hispanic, namely Dominican folks.  A few blocks north you’ll find a predominantly Irish neighborhood.  The differences in population from block to block may not be as stark in all parts of the city like Little Italy and China town, but all the same I absolutely love the fact that these small cramped islands we all share make us tolerate each other even accept each other and help us to build our little niches in each community.

Thus this cake recipe became very interesting to me as I’d gotten this same recipe from some very diverse students.  Some of my students come from the Caribbean.  And I’ve been fortunate to taste many versions of a cake they hold dearest in their Heritage.  Black Cake. Black cake is a rich, dense Fruit cake that take lots of preparation: soaking fruit in wine for weeks even months, and repeatedly dousing your baked confection with rum.  Traditionally Black cake is then covered with royal icing, and finally a layer of almond paste, or marzipan rolled out over the top.  This cake is a feat to make, and master and it is delicious, and that’s not just the rum talking.

To see other pics of this Black Cake click on "Specialty" in the Gallery.

 

Then I realized how cool it was that this gem of the islands was also held in great esteem on a very different island…England.  Of course this seems like no revelation considering how the West Hemisphere was discovered, explored, and conquered by an array Europeans. So no, Christmas Cake, (as the Brits call), being a shared tradition, wasn’t that big of a surprise after all.  But I still relish in the fact that food brings people together.  It’s the reason I write this blog really.  And when it comes down to cake, well you couldn’t think of a better food that is iconic of celebration.  So with one year coming to an end and another beginning I’d like to dedicate this recipe to anyone who aims to live, rather Celebrate life, and all the great things that make us unique and all the wonderful and tasty things we share.

I made this cake for the first time, as a grooms cake for friends of mine who were getting married, See the drum cake under “Weddings” in the gallery.  Murielle a native of Haiti wanted a grooms cake that would be special for her soon to be husband Paul.  I carved the cake into a drum, and modeled after one of Paul’s hand drums.  I think myself a good baker but was nonetheless intimidated at the thought that it would be eaten by a crowd of wedding guests who would be well versed in black cake.

Murielle later gave me the report that she and Paul not only loved the design and the delicious cake, but that it was devoured by their guests who loved it and refered to it as Voodoo Cake.  This recipe originally came to me by a former student Deborah Levine.  Its been somewhat modified.

Black Cake

2 cups butter

2 cup white sugar

9 eggs

1/4  Barbancourt Rum (Adding rum is optional and the original recipe called for white rum.  I HIGHLY recommend getting your hands on WONDERFUL Haitian rum called “Barbancourt” Pronounced: Bar bahn Coo in french. )

1 tb lime juice

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tb almond extract

1 grated zest of lime

2 pounds chopped dried mixed fruit

2 cups red wine + apprx 1 bottle red wine for soaking

1 cup dark molasses

2 1/2 c all purpose flour

3 tsp baking powder

1 tsp ground nutmeg

1 tsp ground all spice

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp ground cloves

pinch of salt


At least 3 weeks ahead of time soak dried fruit in wine.  Typically dark and golden raisins, prunes, cherries and currants are used.  I highly recommend that whatever dried fruit you choose– you choose fruits that don’t contain sulfites as a preservative.  It’s slightly more pricey, but I the preservatives added to dried fruit has a distinct flavor (YUCK) and in my opinion is TOTALLY UNNECESSARY!!!  The point of drying fruit is to preserve it!  In the health food aisle of most stores you will find organic dried fruits in many varieties.  I used Mangos, Pineapples, Papayas, cherries, cranberries, raisins, prunes, figs, blueberries– well just about anything I could find.  I think the sweet tropical fruits like papayas and pineapples add to the flavor of the cake.  Chop or just rip the pieces of fruit with your fingers and cover with red wine of your choice.  I think Layer Cake is a great wine, especially for cake making– I’m a fan of the Primitivo, or the Pinot Noir.  Seal in a large tupperwear container and let soak at room temp for 3 weeks or more.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and Flour 2 9″ round baking pans.

In a large bowl cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs and add rum, lime juice, lime zest, vanilla and almond extracts. Blend fruit in a food processor. Stir in soaked fruit, wine, and molasses.

Sift dry ingredients: flour, baking powder salt and spices. Fold batter and pour into pans.

This batter was sooo fluffy and light, mousse like.

Bake for 80-90 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center come out clean. Cool for 10 minutes and then remove from pan and place on cooling rack to cool complete.

Brush on additional wine or Barbancourt rum after baking.  I’m not a liquor drinking but if you are anything like me you might enjoy a small glass of Barbancourt on ice.  Its got a hint of vanilla about it and is an excellent i to a rum cake.  Continuously brush rum a few tablespoons at a time.  Soaking cakes with rum in colonial times allowed cakes to be preserved throughout long journeys– especially overseas.  I’ve had some students assure me that a black cake can last years…though I haven’t tried it myself.  Paul and Murielle tell me they brush rum what they have left of their voodoo cake and plan to have it on their first anniversary.

Traditionally black cake is covered with royal icing. Add a tsp of glycerin to a recipe of royal icing to keep it from hardening.  Roll out marzipan just as you would with Fondant– dusting work surface with powdered sugar, and cover cake.  This is all a bit too sweet for me so I just go with buttercream.

I made a black cake this week for a holiday party in the costume shop at work, hence the buttons, notions, and other sewing accoutrements.  It was a big hit!

4 comments December 10, 2010

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Its cookie season.  So I’m going to start off with my favorite recipe of all time.  Chocolate Chip cookies from Betty Crocker’s Cooky Book.

First reason I love this bookis because the first copy I owned was given to me by my beloved grandmother, an avid and exceptional baker– when she was eulogized years ago, her banana cream pie was mentioned– thats the kind of reputation she had.  My grandmother taught me to make all kinds of things: jam, cookies, pies.  We also used to cook way inadvance and she would totally let me indulge by sneaking a few cookies here and there out of the freezer.  I bought a used copy on Amazon.com for under $3.  Sure its stained and a little dog-earred, but it looks just like the one I lost and as the seller stated, its worn appearance is a testament to the recipes inside.

Second reason to love this book: all the fabulous cooky (spelled that way on purpose) recipes illustrated in super saturated 1970’s photography.  This book came about before food stylists really existed I assume, nonetheless fullbleed super saturdated color photos still keep you inspired.

Third reason to love this book: in the back they dedicate recipes for cookies based on the years they were most popular.  For example the Chocolate Chip was the Best Cooky of 1935-1940.  Some historical highlights mentioned in these years: 1936 Edward VIII abdicates the throne to marry the woman he loves. 1938 Gone with the Wind premiers to become one of the most popular movies of all time.  And truthfullly I don’t think we are all that different then we were all these years later.  Prince William and his lady Kate will be married this year, and the last of the Harry Potter books has made it to the theatres breaking records again. I doubt the Chocolate Chip Cooky will ever go out of style.

Chocolate Chip Cookies: I typically double this recipe as listed below.

2/3 c shortening*

(I generally despise shortening, but certain cooky recipes it helps to keep the cookies puffy instead of melting all over the pan.  You can change the ratio of shortening to butter if you feel inclined.)

2/3 c butter

1 c sugar

1 c brown sugar ( I used 1/3 light brown and 1/3 dark brown, either or both work.  The more the molasses–dark brown will add a more chewy the cooky’s texture)

2 eggs

2 tsp pure vanilla

3  c all purpose flour

1 tsp soda

1 tsp salt

1 c chopped walnuts

2 c (12 oz) chocolate chips

Cream butter, shortening, eggs and vanilla.  I suggest you cream the shortening, butter, and sugar first.  The butter should be soft but still cool. Take out of the fridge 30 minutes before you use.  After the fats and sugar are blended add the eggs and vanilla, and beat until smooth.

Combine dry ingredients. You can sift the flour, soda, and salt if you choose, honestly I’d rather not use the time.

Fold in the chips and walnuts.  Nuts are of course optional, but I absolutely believe that walnuts are as apart of chocolate chip cookies, as the chips are. To each their own. I should also note that you should go lightly on the chips.  2 cups are only 12oz, so you shouldn’t use the whole of the 16oz bag,unless of course you are a choco-holic and in that case go for it!

I scoop the dough with a small ice cream scooper so that the cookies are uniform.  Press the dough down in the center with your fingers.  Make sure there is at least 2 inches between each as the dough rises and spreads.

Bake on parchment lined baking sheet.  Do not use wax paper!  Unless you want your cookies to taste like chocolate chip crayons.  You can continue to reuse the same parchment sheet until its dark brown, then disguard and line with fresh sheet.

Cook for approximate 10 minutes at 350 degrees. Take out when the centers of the cookies are still pale, “lilly livered” as my grandmother used to say. The cookies continue to bake as they cool, so taking them out slightly underdone renders them perfect.

I’m hoping to do some other variations of the Chocolate Chip Cookie in the future, if you are looking for some GREAT insight I suggest you DVR Good Eats. Alton Brown does a number of recipes oc the cookie: Chewy, crispy, fluffy. Using bread flour, cake, flour, butter and/or shortening will give you a slightly different result.  Missed it on TV? DVD sets of the show are now available and would make a great Christmas gift for your favorite foodie!


Add a comment December 7, 2010

Martha’ Mascarpone Semifreddo

It is officially the Holiday Season.  First off, my copy of Betty Crocker’s Cooky Book has arrived.  My grandmother gave me her copy when I was 12. I cherished it and used it pretty regualrly as a kid especially when it came to bake sales.  After searching my parents house recently I realized that somewhere between college and now (and all the apartments in between) my copy is in someone else’s hands.  Let’s hope they realize what a treasure it is.  This book has some of the best cookies around and its absolutley clutch during Holiday Season, so starting this week its cooky time! 

But today I’m trying a recipe in Martha Stewart’s Magazine, Holiday Edition.  Its a version of ice cream called Semifreddo.  I played around with the idea of “SemiFreddo”, convincing myself having studied only Spanish and French in High school– that Freddo meant frozen, but Alfredo sauce indicates cheese, so I’m pretty sure this recipe’s title muses the use of Mascarpone Cheese.

Mascarpone is a word I love to say pretending I know how to actually pronounce anything in Italian other than Spaghetti.  If I was a ganster my nick name would include the word Mascarpone.  Which brings me to this lovely dessert which I will be eating tonight as I watch the last episode of Boardwalk Empire– chuck full of gansters.

Cherry Port Sauce:

1 c port wine

3/4 c sugar

3/4 dried cherries

Simmer Port and Sugar until it reduces by half.  Add cherries. They will plump.  Simmer another 5 minutes.  Remove from heat and let stand 10 minutes.  You can store in the fridge– it will continue to thicken, or I recommend leaving it out and allowing it to be slightly warm and a little more syrupy.

Combine:

1 c + 1 Tbsp of Mascarpone Cheese

1 c heavy cream

1Tbsp confectioner’s Sugar

Pinch of coarse Salt

Beat until stiff peaks form.  Careful not to over beat as texture can become crumbly.

Fold in 1 oz bittersweet (or semi sweet) chocolate chopped coarsely. Place in pyrex bread pan and cover with plastic wrap.  Place in freezer 30 minutes – 1 hour.  Edges will be frozen.  Scoop and serve with sauce.

You can usually make substitutions should you not be able to find mascarpone cheese.  Cream Cheese and Sour cream combined can stand in for the authentic.  If this is the case, I will venture to say your peak will not stiffen the same way as with authentic Marscarpone, considering cream cheese is slightly softer.

Add a comment December 6, 2010

Brunch: Crock Pot French Toast

HEY!!!! THIS POST IS 2+ Years old— I updated it recently to help answer the questions and comments and traffic this post has received  The updated version is HERE.

From December 2010:

I love big weekend brunches!  Breakfast is a pretty big tradition in my family on the weekends.  Both my mom and I worked in diners when we were in college and nothing beats my mother’s omelettes with a side of corn beef hash or sausage.

I can also say I hate all the dishes involved after a nap worthy brunch fest.   How many pots and pans can you dirty with bacon or eggs, french toast and pancakes— and lets not even deulve into waffles. By the time you muster the energy, and actually get through a sink full, I’m keen to make another total kitchen mess with cookies, pie, or whatever recipe (holiday cookies!?!) I’m experimenting with that week. Good thing my boyfriend doesn’t mind rolling up his sleeves and lending a hand.  I think that is worth a breakfast in bed on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

I have tons of brunch recipes that until now I haven’t posted.  I’m hoping to get into a routine of posting Sunday Brunch receipe here and there on Saturday evenings perfect for a late Sunday morning Brunch, and heres a great one, with limited dishes involved.

Crock Pot French Toast:

I got a crock pot for Christmas last year after having to borrow my mom’s for last years Thanksgiving dinner extravaganza.  Sad to say I packed up and stored it away after greatly over estimating the time it would take to cook chicken tikka marsala while I as at work.  Burning curry is nothing you want to arrive home to.  My aunt gave me this recipe after raving here and there about bring her crock pot full of fluffly ready to serve french toast at work.  She brings it in a couple times a year a round holiday season and serves it to her office.  Its soooo easy to make and its wonderful to wake up on a weekend morning to the smell of ready to dive into French toast– set your coffee maker the night before and you won’t have to lift a finger before breakfast.

I made half of what her recipe calls for as my crockpot is a bit more on the petite side.

Ingredients:

1/2 loaf of bread.

I don’t recommend wheat bread generally though honey wheat is pretty good as french toast.  Cinnamon Raisin Swirl is to die for, or a challah bread works too. A loaf of day old french or italian is also best as french toast.

Break up bread in half pieces.

Combine:

6 eggs, 2 c milk, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 tbsp light brown sugar, and 1 tsp vanilla.

Pour over bread if you’ve already placed in the crock pot.  I was worried I find out the next day that not all the bread had gotten saturated so I dunked my pieces individually and layered them. I’d recommend this if you are using a hardier or more stale bread.  Set crockpot to lowest setting.  Cooking takes at least 6 hours.

In the morning you will find a fluffly, bread pudding-souffle like breakfast.  Remove the lid about 15 minutes before its done and it will brown and toast.  Serve with warm syrup!!  Serves 4-6 depending on how hungry your guests are.

266 comments December 5, 2010

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