Sunday, May 27, 2007

Happy Birthday Dad

It's my Dad's birthday this week - and thus cake time.

Ever since I saw Martha's Birthday Cake in her Baking Handbook I have wanted to make a domed cake. But hers is almond with meringue, and my family is just not keen on almond and meringue.

So here's what I did instead:

1. Prepare a batter for a regular 9 inch layer cake. (I used a recipe from Cook's Illustrated, but honestly you could use a mix or whatever you like. Although the Cook's Illustrated "Old Fashoned Layer Cake" was seriously excellent.)

2. Bake the cake in a stainless steel bowl (greased and floured) that is 9 inches in diameter and about 4-5 inches deep. The recipe I followed had a baking time of 35-40 mins. In the bowl it took 1 hour and 30 mins - not quite 3 times the original cooking length. I started checking it after an hour though. Let it cool for about 10 mins in the bowl, then let cool on a rack.

3. Slice the cake into 3 or 4 layers - it really depends on how tall your cake is and how good you are at slicing. I used my bread knife to do this and I knew I couldn't make the slices quite level, so I drew a line with icing on the side of the cake. Then when I reassembled I used the line to reposition the layers correctly.

I filled the cake with kahlua butter cream icing. I reduced the kahlua first to intensify the coffee taste and cook out a little of the alcohol. I then covered the cake with chocolate ganache. Overall, while the entire process was time consuming, it was not very difficult. I think this domed shape would also work well for children's parties - you could decorate the dome to look like turtle or a hedgehog.

(Paul took this picture with his new camera.)

The cake was a huge hit - everyone liked it better than the one I made a couple weeks ago. The one thing I would do different next time is not used a poured icing. Once the cake was assembled it wasn't quite smooth so it wasn't quite as fantastic looking as one might like.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Roasted Mushooms

Below, you see a photo of my Saturday night dinner.

On my plate I have an assortment of roasted foods: sausage, onion, mini-potatoes and mushrooms. (On the side are some steamed asparagus). However, of all these roasted foods I wish to talk briefly on the roasted mushrooms. Seriously, they are the greatest thing ever. EVER! A couple weeks ago my mother threw some mushrooms in with whatever else she was roasted for Sunday night dinner and they were a huge hit. My family had never eaten mushrooms like this before - and we loved them. They were the most mushroomy mushrooms ever. I fully recommend doing this. The fact that it is dead easy doesn't hurt.

Roasted Mushrooms

some mushrooms, preferably the "brown" ones
a little olive oil
salt and pepper

1. Toss the mushrooms with a little olive oil and salt and pepper. Roast on a parchment lined baking sheet at 425 F for 15mins.

Thursday, May 24, 2007


Ice-cream is my favourite dessert. Invariably, come summer, I make assorted friends trek about the city to whatever ice-cream place is my current favourite. But my new favourite place is my own tiny kitchen. I followed this David Libowitz recipe from Orangette's blog. But I left out the mint - and the mint infusing step - and mixed in about a tbsp of this fabulous vanilla extract that Paul's mom lent me as the custard cools. This vanilla is anything but plain.

For reference here is the mix I used for the creme anglaise base.

5 egg yolks
1 1/3 cups 2% milk
1 2/3 cups whipping cream
2/3 cup sugar
pinch of salt

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Something simple

Last night's dinner:
Pesto chicken
Asparagus risotto
Sliced Tomatoes

The pesto chicken was just baked chicken thighs with pesto spread under the skin. I used about a tsp of pesto per thigh - and I think I could have even doubled it.

This was my second attempt at making risotto. I tried last year and produced something gray and inedible. But I watched Mario Batali make it three times in the Times Minimalist video and felt ready to try myself. I skipped the asparagus puree step - I thought it would make too many dirty dishes. The risotto was quite tasty - but I still think some more practice might be in order.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

it's all about the baking

It was my brother's birthday this weekend. I made one of Ina's cakes, with a chocolate cream cheese icing. I made one substitution in the cake - using a mix of plain yogurt and a little milk instead of buttermilk.

As you can see I'm not the tidiest baker.

Additionally, the cake was a little hard to work with: the top was a bit sticky. You can see it got stuck to my hand when I took it out of the pan. I found the texture and airy crumb of the cake very much like a Duncan Hines mix.

The icing turned out fairly well, but needs a little fine tuning.
I got some ghirardelli cocoa powder and I found it to be nicer than the cheap no name cocoa I usually use - but as always I found the cake not chocolaty enough. I prefer the chocolaty flavour and dense texture of this bundt cake. But for my little brother only a layer cake would do. I would use this recipe again for a chocolate layer cake.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Sloppy Joe's

I don't remember eating Sloppy Joes much as a kid. I have an impression of it being something uniquely American. I recall spending a large amount of time trying to identify the "Manwich" from "A sandwich is a sandwich, but a Manwich is a meal" and finally realizing that the terrifying gooey sandwich the boy was eating was full of sloppy joes.

Happily, this recipe is a little more high brow that opening a can of sloppy joe sauce - only a little though. Note the liberal use of ketchup. This recipe is from Nigel Slater's "real fast food". As soon as I read it I knew I had to make it. I knew combination of beef and mushroom and Worcester was going to have a delicious umami-ness. This was the most delicious and satisfying thing I have made in a long time.

Sloppy Joes
(adapted from Nigel Slater's "real fast food")

1 lb ground beef
1 onion, diced
4-5 white mushrooms, sliced
4-5 chrimini mushrooms, sliced
1-2 small tomatoes, chopped
1 tbsp Worcester sauce
3 tbsp ketchup (and honestly, you could use a little more)

1. Brown beef if a large pan or dutch oven. Drain excess fat and add the onions. Cook about 5 mins until onions are slightly softened.
2. Add everything else. Cover and cook 15-20mins stirring occasionally.

Serve on grilled baguette. I put some olive oil on on the baguettes, then rubbed it with some garlic and found it to be especially delicious.