Monday, September 19, 2011

Ginger Peach Spice Cake with Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting


 It's that time of year where you add the extra blanket to the bed. You wake up to a chill in the air, but by noon, it can still feel like summer. The warm weather is fading away into a New England fall. I cherish these few weeks. I'm sad to say good-bye to all that the summer has to offer, but there's nothing like fall in this part of the country. There's a magic there that words simply do not do justice. 


I'm years out of school at this point. Ten years to be exact, since I left the campus of Syracuse University. I often reminisce about those days. They truly were my formative years. I made the friends that still shape my life today. I learned about life, love, and the heartache both can bring. For some people, the real living happens after they leave the safe confines of a campus. I began the process while in the folds of my education. In my first fall, outside those folds, the world stopped with the 9/11 attacks, and I learned, while living alone in my first apartment, how cruel and scary this world can be.
 

 That aside, fall, still, to me, means a re-birth. Like those first days of classes, of a new school, it's a slate wiped clean. Each autumn represents a new chance to make changes, to savor every second, to tie up loose ends before the new year comes knocking. This year is no different for me. I'm in the middle of a possible transition in my career, a new schedule, filled with new challenges. 

I'm a person constantly filled with nostalgia. I mourn good times that have passed by, but in the past years, have tried constantly to focus on the present. Autumn brings back a wave of memories every single year. This year, I'm struggling to look towards the future, finding issues holding on to the present. I will get there, however, I have to.


This cake represents the fleeting transition from summer to fall. Peaches are still everywhere in New England, sharing tables at farmers' markets with early season apples. The peach represents the last gasp of summer, while the spice cake reminds me of fall. So when you're in this early September, bake this cake, and slowly ease yourself into the next season, and the next part of life.


Ginger Peach Spice Cake with Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting
(printable recipe)
Yield: 1 9x9 square cake

Ingredients:

Cake:
Source: One Perfect Bite
  • 5.5 ounces all-purpose flour (plus extra for dusting the pan)
  • 1/2 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 1 large egg at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 egg yolks at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 6 ounces granulated sugar (a little under 1 cup of sugar)
  • 1 tablespoon light molasses
  • 1/2 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 2 large peaches, pits removed, peeled (if you'd like) and chopped roughly
Frosting:
Source: Smitten Kitchen
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoons cornstarch (you use this because brown sugar is far more moist than powdered, and powdered sugar already has some in it)
  • 1/8 cup powdered sugar
  • 4-ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
Instructions:
  1. Start with the cake. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9x9 baking pan.
  2. Melt 2 tablespoons of your butter in a sauce pan over medium heat. Melt and cook 1-2 minutes until butter is light brown.
  3. Add your spices (cinnamon, cardamom, allspice, cloves and nutmeg) to the butter and cook for 15 seconds, stirring constantly.
  4. Remove the butter/spice mixture from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature.
  5. While that's cooling, whisk together your flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.
  6. In another small ball, whisk together egg, yolks, and vanilla until well mixed.
  7. In the bowl of a standing mixer, cream the leftover 6 tablespoons of butter, sugar, and molasses together until the mixture is light and fluffy.
  8. Add your cooled butter-spice mixture to the sugar mixture and half of egg mixture. Beat on medium speed until the egg is incorporated, about 15 seconds. 
  9. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, and then pour in other half of egg mixture and beat until well-combined.
  10. Now, reduce speed of mixer to low, add 1/3 of the flour mix, followed by half the buttermilk.
  11. Add another third of the flour mix, followed by the rest of the buttermilk, and finally the rest of the flour mix.
  12. Mix at medium speed until flour is completely incorporated into the batter.
  13. Take the bowl off the mixer, and using a rubber spatula, fold the chopped peaches into the batter.
  14. Pour into your prepared 9x9 baking pan, and bake for 32 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out cleanly.
  15. Allow cake to cool completely on a wire rack, before frosting.
  16. To prepare the frosting: First off, whisk together your brown sugar, cornstarch and powdered sugar and set aside. 
  17. In the bowl of a standing mixer (or in a regular bowl with a hand mixer), beat together cream cheese and butter until fluffy. 
  18. Add your vanilla extract to the cream cheese/butter mixture. 
  19. Add your brown sugar mixture to the cream cheese mixture, and beat until well combined. 
  20. Frost the cooled cake, slice, and enjoy!
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Thursday, September 15, 2011

Charcutepalooza September: Packing, English Pork Pie


Well, I'm back. I fell off the Charcutepalooza wagon last month, having zero interest in terrines and zero time to complete the task. You see, I'll be honest here. I have very little love for random parts of pig, or any other creature. I know, I know, you're all going to tell me how fabulous pig heads, feet, or organs are. You going to tell me that I *need* to fall in love with cow tongue. The list goes on and on.

I've tried it. I've tried it all. There's nothing I won't try at least once in several different ways of preparation. I have an issue with gelatinous dishes. They repulse me. Weirdly, I eat sushi. Go figure.

Granted, I don't hate all of it. I love fois gras. I love a pate in the right setting with the right pieces with it. There are just bits and pieces to things like terrines and headcheese, that turn me the wrong way.

If you love it, go on with your bad self. I'm sure there's things I love that repulse you, that's OK. Each to their own.

Why am I telling you this? I feel like this is my confessional. I don't have the love for all things charcuterie that most of the members of this challenge do. I love sausages, fresh or cured. I love bacon, and smoked just about anything. I hope you all still love me.


On that note, I was thrilled to see English Pork Pie. Pastry doesn't scare me, I love making it, although I'm not talented in shaping it or rolling it out. This meat pie reminds me of a blended Tourtiere, which is one of my favorite things in this world. Alas, my recipe for that Quebec meat pie is one of my husband's family and I'm not allowed to share.


I followed the recipe in Michael Ruhlman's Charcuterie pretty much to the letter. I subbed more butter for lard, because frankly, I didn't want to go and get lard. This pie crust is no light matter. I think about four sticks of butter goes into it. I used some pork shoulder I had frozen from Kellie Brook Farm in Greenland, NH and grinded that on up.


Now my pork pie failed to have that nice high dome that others got. The filling spread out a bit before I got it all into the oven. No fear though, this is a fabulous treat. Perfect for a winter or fall Sunday meal, or a holiday. It's not hard to make, just a touch difficult to assemble and make pretty.

So this is it. I'm back. I'm not in the running any more, but that's OK. It's the community, the camaraderie, the challenge of Charcutepalooza that I love. And I hope I'm still allowed in the "Cool Kids Meat Club", even though headcheese makes me cry. I jest. Really. This pork pie, however, find a recipe and make it. It was lovely slathered in a good mustard, and served warm.

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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Lindsay Olives Giveaway Winner and Marx Foods Chile Challenge!


Remember those lovely Lindsay Olives? I put together Jalapeno Stuffed Chicken Breasts with Olive & Corn Salsa with those babies, and I'm whipping up that Olive & Corn Salsa yet again for this weekend. Well, I owe you a giveaway winner announcement, so here it goes:

The winner of the Lindsay Olives Prize Pack is....

Sarah of TheChubbette!

Sarah - shoot me an email so I can pass your information onto the lovely folks at Lindsay Olives!


Now, remember this awesome Chile & Cheddar Pull Apart Bread? It's part of a really cool blogger challenge being sponsored by Marx Foods . They're a fabulous source for various gourmet ingredients. In this case, they challenged a group of food bloggers to see what they could come up with when given their dried chilies. Well, check out the Blogger Chile Recipe Contest for a look at some of the amazing things bloggers came up with. You can feel free to cast a vote for the bread, or any of the other amazing recipes out there. You won't look at a dried chile the same way again. Can you say, Mexican Hot Chocolate Covered Strawberries? Just awesome!

Housekeeping is now out of the way... stay tuned for this month's Charcutepalooza post, it's perfect for the fall! Pin It

Friday, September 9, 2011

Chile Cheddar Pull Apart Bread


In the past year, I've crossed two things off my cooking "to-do" list. I've finally tackled baking with yeast, and I've finally figured out what the heck to do with dried chiles. Yeast always scared me. For some reason, I couldn't figure it out. I was afraid my bread wouldn't rise, it would taste "too yeasty". I never realized how easy it could be. This little trend of "pull-apart" bread, proves it.


Dried chilies, they're a whole other ballgame. I love "heat" in pretty much anything I eat. In general, the spicier the better. I knew dried chilies were a great way to bring this to any dish. These puya chilies bring so much more than a little spice, however. They bring a wonderful depth to this bread. They're not crazy spicy. You can pick your chili, according to your own tastes. I finally tackled them when I made my own chorizo not too long back.


I stumbled upon Marx Foods because of my interest in dried chilies. I heard they were putting together a little blogger contest where they'd send along some samples of their best dried chilies and see what we could do with them. Marx Foods is one of those spots where if you're looking for a specific gourmet ingredient, amazing artisan foods, and great cooking ideas, well, they have it. I honestly never realized there were so many types were available. I received several varieties, from the hot Habenero, to the more chocolatey Mulato chilies. I ended up going with the Puyas, because they carry just enough heat, without being overwhelming. They also have a touch of a fruity taste, perfect to pair with cheddar for this bread.


Ah, this bread. I've seen pull-apart breads all across the blogosphere as of late. They're filled with fruit, cinnamon, but it was a savory variety from one of my favorite Boston-area blogs, A Cambridge Story. That version is filled with sun dried tomatoes and basil, but I knew this was the perfect base for my pepper adventures. This bread falls apart, is amazing right out of the oven, and has just enough of a spark of heat, without it overwhelming this bread.


Chile Cheddar Pull Apart Bread
Yield: One loaf
Inspired and adapted from: A Cambridge Story

Ingredients:
  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour (343.75 grams)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup lowfat milk
  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 4-5 large dried Puya (or really any other) chilies
  • olive oil for drizzling
  • 3/4 cup shredded extra-sharp cheddar (I used Cabot's Extra-Sharp)
Instructions:
  1. In the bowl of a standing mixer, combine 2 cups of the flour, sugar, yeast, and salt. Set that aside.
  2. In a small saucepan, combine milk and butter over low heat until the butter is just melted. Remove it from the heat, add your water, and cool the mixture until it's about 120 degrees. 
  3. Pour the milk and butter mixture over the dry ingredients.
  4. Add your eggs one at a time, until they're well mixed.
  5. Add in your half a cup of remaining flour, mix until smooth and then add the rest two tablespoons at a time.
  6. Mix using the paddle attachment on your mixer until everything is just combined.
  7. Switch to the dough hook to knead for a couple of minutes until the dough is smooth, but sticky. 
  8. Put your dough into a large bowl, greased with a little bit of oil, cover with plastic wrap, and a kitchen towel.
  9. Place your dough in a warm, draft-free, spot to rise for an hour.
  10. While the dough is rising, prepare your filling by first re hydrating your chiles.
  11. Place the re hydrated chiles in a small food processor, add a little bit of water and process into a slightly liquid form (you should still have pieces of the chili intact). Set aside.
  12. After your dough has risen for an hour (or doubled in size), punch it down to deflate it, and then place in the fridge for an hour or over night.
  13. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, and grease a 9x5 loaf pan and set aside.
  14. Now, lightly flour a flat service, shape the dough into a roughly 1x2 foot rectangle.
  15. Drizzle the dough with a bit of olive oil
  16. Brush on the chili pepper mixture with a kitchen brush.
  17. Sprinkle cheese over the top of the chile mixture. 
  18. Cut vertically to make 6 even strips of dough.
  19. Now stack those strips on top of each other and slice a second time, into 6, even stacks.
  20. Place those stacks side-by-side in the greased pan, and allow to rise for another 45 minutes. 
  21. Finally, put that dough into the oven and bake on the center rack for 30 minutes.
  22. Take out of the oven, allow to rest for 5 minutes, and then pull apart for bread goodness!
The chiles used in this recipe were provided to me, for free, by Marx Foods in order to create a recipe and enter their blogging contest. 


Speaking of contests, if you entered the Lindsay Olive giveaway, I'll be announcing that winner on Monday!! Stay tuned! Pin It

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Salted Caramel Brownies


Salted caramel brownies - They're not lighter and they're not local. That's kind of a lie. It's a recipe from Cooking Light, so some of the fat has been stripped of these decadent bars. They're local because they were made from scratch, in my kitchen.

But let's be honest, shall we?

Even though they don't fit the title of this blog, would you blame me for sharing them? Would you stop reading this blog, angry that they don't quite fit the mold?

I doubt it. If so, I am sorry to offend you with these very lovely brownies.


I started this blog years ago. It had a different name, with a different purpose. I simply wanted to share my recipes and my writing with friends and family. I then used it to log a weight loss battle. Finally, in the end, I fell in love with sourcing local and regional food and this little slice of web heaven was born.

Times, they do change, right?

It's very easy to get caught up in the "food blog hamster wheel". You churn out posts, you tweet, you Facebook, you suddenly worry about how many people are coming to your site. You ponder if the food blogging community at-large likes you, are you part of the club? You start thinking about quantity, and not quality.

You forget it's about having a voice, starting a conversation, sharing something you love. You forget it's about community.

It's the community that surrounded fellow blogger, Jennie Perillo, after her husband suddenly passed away. It's a community that came together to help someone, that many have never met, but someone whose story and experience touched at our very hearts. More about the work to help out Jennie's family in just a moment.

If you've gotten this far, great job, I appreciate it. The point of this little speech from my soapbox is that I've been fairly silent the last couple of weeks. I've had a schedule change at work, an increase of responsibilities, and I've been trying to balance that with my family life. In short, I haven't had a lot of time to blog. In the beginning, I felt guilty I wasn't feeding the beast. What would people think?

Then, it changed. I cared less about the guilt, and realize how much I miss the community, how much I miss sharing with those who read this blog (and I thank every single one of you). I missed it being my outlet from my stressful day job.

The break from the blog reminded me why I love it so much. I think it's an excellent lesson for bloggers to learn. Sometimes you have to let go, let the guilt subside, remind yourself why you do this. I can say this because this isn't my full time job, I understand it's much different for those who use this as a way to make a living.

For the rest of us, however, sometimes I truly believe we could all use the permission to cut ourselves a little slack. Even if you don't blog, cut yourself some slack. So what if you missed a playgroup/email/sewing class. So if you need someone to say it, I will. Give yourself a break. You might find yourself much better when you return.


Salted Caramel Brownies
Source: Cooking Light
Yield: 16 small brownies, 12 larger ones (CL says the yield is 20, but frankly, that's too small of a brownie for me.)

I actually doubled this recipe for a 9x13 baking pan and it worked out perfectly. They were a little thicker, but honestly, I like it better that way. Be careful, these things are addicting.

Ingredients:

Brownies:
  • 3.38 ounces all-purpose flour (about 3/4 cup)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon backing powder
  • 6 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • cooking spray
Topping:
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons evaporated fat-free milk, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 ounce bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 1/8 teaspoon coarse sea salt
Instructions:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Start preparing your brownies. Combine flour, sugar, cocoa, brown sugar, and baking powder in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk until well mixed.
  3. Combine your 6 tablespoons of melted butter, eggs, and the vanilla extract.
  4. Add the butter mixture to the flour mixture and stir until well combined.
  5. Pour batter into a 9x9 square metal baking pan lightly coated in cooking spray.
  6. Bake brownies for 19 minutes or until a toothpick comes out from the center cleanly.
  7. Cool in the pan on a wire rack.
  8. Once brownies are cooled, begin making your topping. Melt 1/4 cup butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add 1/4 cup brown sugar, and 1 1/2 tablespoons of the evaporated milk. Cook the mixture for at least two minutes.
  9. Take the mixture off the heat, add you vanilla, powdered sugar, and stir with a whisk until everything comes together and becomes smooth. 
  10. You're now going to pour the mixture over the brownies, and then use an offset spatula or just a regular one to make sure the brownies are well covered.
  11. Allow to set for 20 minutes to set. (I found putting it in the fridge really helped with this step.
  12. Finally, take a microwave-safe bowl, combine your chocolate and 2 tablespoons of the evaporated milk. Microwave for 45 seconds or until melted... make sure you stir it halfway through the cooking time. 
  13. Drizzle over the caramel topping on the brownies, sprinkle with your 1/8th of a teaspoon of sea salt.
  14. Allow the chocolate to set, then cut into squares.
How to help Jennie Perillo's Family:

If you read a good amount of food blogs, you've seen the community reaching out to support Jennie, who lost her husband suddenly several weeks ago. Some people are doing auctions with proceeds going towards the family to help with things like health insurance and day-to-day expenses. There is a very simple way you can help out, by just making a donation. Click on the image below, and it will take you to Bloggers Without Borders. It's an amazing organization that brings food bloggers together to help those who need it. Jennie needs it right now, and I'm only too happy to pass along the link. So please, if you can spare just a few dollars, every single one counts. Thank you!

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