Saturday, August 30, 2014

Triple Layer German Chocolate Cake with Ganache from Vicky

Triple Layer German Chocolate Cake with Ganache

German chocolate cake is not only my brother's and my cousin's favorite cake for their birthdays (see Colleen's German Chocolate Cake), it is my sister, Christine's.  

Her good friend, Vicky, made this decadent delight by using a Food Network recipe (see below) and enhancing it with ganache*  for Christine's birthday earlier this month.  

Vicky says that it makes three layers of cake, not two, as the recipe states.

Ganache is made with chocolate and heavy cream.  For example, 16 ounces of bittersweet chocolate and 16 ounces of heavy cream.  Heat the cream and pour it over the chocolate and food process until smooth.

Christine says "my favorite thing to do is eat the leftovers for breakfast."

Thanks for sharing the recipe and photo, Vicky!


Thursday, August 28, 2014

Grandma's German Chocolate Cake

Last week I was visiting relatives in the Pittsburgh area when I received Colleen's text with the photos for her blog entry on German Chocolate Cake for Steve's birthday.

My cousin, Susan, said that German Chocolate Cake was her favorite birthday cake, too.  We said simultaneously "I guess it is a Hall thing."

German Chocolate Cake was a specialty of our Grandma Hall's.

When I got home, I looked through the big box of family recipes which is now in my care  -- it is a combination of Grandma's and Aunt Shirley's----and found this well-worn recipe --- a clipping from either a box or magazine.

How does it compare to Colleen's?  It's pretty much the same except Grandma's uses a little more flour (and it is cake flour), a little more salt and a teaspoon of soda.

German's Chocolate Cake

1 package Baker's German's Sweet Chocolate
1/2 cup boiling water
1 cup butter*
2 cups sugar
4 egg yolks, unbeaten
1 t. vanilla
1/2 t. salt
1 t. soda
2.5 cups sifted Swans Down Cake Flour
1 cup buttermilk
4 egg whites

*or use margarine or other shortening

Melt chocolate in 1/2 cup of boiling water.  Cool.  Cream Butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add egg yolks, one at a time, and beat well after each.  Add the melted chocolate and vanilla.  Mix well.

Sift together the salt, soda, and flour.  Then add alternately with buttermilk to chocolate mixture, beating well.  Beat until batter is smooth.

Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form.  Fold into batter.  Pour into three 8 or 9 inch cake layer pans, line on bottoms with paper.  Bake in moderate oven (350 degrees) 35 to 40 minutes.  Cool.  Frost tops only with Coconut Pecan Frosting (below) or use any favorite frosting or whipped cream.

Coconut-Pecan Frosting

Combine 1 cup of evaporated milk, 1 cup of sugar, 3 egg yolks, 1/4 pound margarine, and 1 teaspoon vanilla in saucepan.  cook and stir over medium heat until mixture thickens -- take about 12 minutes.

Add about 1 1/3 cups Baker's Coconut and 1 cup of chopped pecans.  Beat until frosting is cool and thick enough to spread.  Make 2 2/3 cups.


Monday, August 25, 2014

German Chocolate Cake by Colleen (with recipe)

German Chocolate Cake

Note from B:  I am re-posting Colleen's cake so we can include the actual recipe at the end of this entry because we learned today that not all of the Baker's German chocolate boxes include the cake recipe.  Some have a cupcakes recipe and it is different than the cake recipe.  Just so you know...

Hi Barb --

I finally made the cake this week for Steve's birthday.  I am quite behind as it is actually William's birthday week.  I need to make him chocolate cheesecake before he leaves for school.  I still have three weeks.

The recipe is just the one that comes inside the Baker's Sweet German Chocolate box.  I usually do the cake
over two days.  Day one:  chop pecans for the frosting, separate eight eggs in batches of four (you need four egg yolks for the cake, and four eggs whites beaten separately, and four more egg yolks for the frosting).  

I also cut out pieces of parchment for the bottoms of the three cake pans.  And leave out the cup of butter to soften overnight.  The  next day I make the cake - if you are using a hand mixer, beat the egg whites first and then use the same beaters to mix up the butter, sugar, melted chocolate, etc.  This saves time and clean up.

The hardest part of making this cake is making sure you have all the ingredients before starting.  Not every pantry will have buttermilk, eight plus eggs, pecans, coconut, evaporated milk, and a Baker's German Sweet Chocolate Bar (four ounces) and nearly one pound of butter.

I say "eight plus eggs," as no matter how careful I am, I usually end up breaking a yolk into the whites during the separating process at least once. It is good to have a few extra eggs on hand.  (Saved egg whites can be used
to make meringues).  

The recipe for the cake is on a little cardboard card inside the chocolate box.   Save the card and take it with you when you shop.  I have also gotten a bar of chocolate off the shelf and opened it up while shopping to remind me of all the ingredients.  I generally make this cake once a year which is just infrequently enough to forget the ingredient list.

I make the frosting while the cake is baking.  Although the recipe doesn't call for it, I generally add a pinch of salt to the frosting.  When the cake layers come out of the oven, you should run a knife around the edge of the pans immediately.  Then let them sit for 15 minutes before inverting onto wire racks to cool completely.  Be sure to peel off the parchment paper when you take the layers out of the pans.   It takes a while for the frosting to cool and thicken, so be sure to allow enough time for this step.  Again, I find that allowing myself two days, one for prep, one for baking/assembly makes the process less daunting.
I use toasted pecans to decorate the top of the cake.  Save some pecan halves from your bag of pecans and toast at 375 degrees for about 6-10 minutes to bring out the flavor of the pecans.  Let them cool and then decorate the top of the cake.

Due to the coconuts and pecans, this cake is very polarizing.  The girls will not touch it - which is not a problem for Steve - more for the birthday boy.

On a separate note, I loved your write up of the macarons.

And if you want to see a good, sweet movie that will remind you of our trip, check out the Hundred Foot Journey with Helen Mirren.  I liked it better than Chef, although both are celebrations of food.


German Chocolate Cake

1 4 ounce package Baker’s German Chocolate
½ cup water
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
2 cups sugar
4 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup buttermilk
4 egg whites

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Line bottom of 3 9-inch cake pans with parchment paper.
Boil water and pour over chocolate in small bowl.  Water until chocolate melts and cools.
Mix four, baking soda and salt and set aside.  Beat butter and sugar in large bowl until light and fluffy.  Add egg yolks, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.  Stir in cooled chocolate and vanilla.  Add flour mixture alternating with buttermilk, beating after each addition until smooth.

Beat egg whites in another large bowl until stiff peaks form.  Gently fold into batter and pour evenly into 3 pans.  Bake 30 minutes or until cake springs back when touched in center.  Remove from oven and run knife around edge of pan.  Let cool for 15 minutes and then turn out onto wire racks.  Remove parchment paper and let cook completely.

Pecan Filling:1 can evaporated milk (12 ounces)
1 ½ cups sugar
¾ cups butter
4 eggs yolks
1½ teaspoon vanilla
1 package Angel Flake Coconut (7 ounces)
1 ½ cups chopped pecans
pecan halves for garnish

Stir milk, sugar, egg yolks and vanilla in large saucepan until blended.  Add in butter and on low heat, stir until butter melts.  Cook on medium heat about 12 minutes until thickened and golden brown.  Remove from heat.  Stir in chopped pecans and coconut.  Cool to room temperature.  Spread filling between each layer and on top of cake (filling divided into thirds).  Decorate on top with pecan halves.  Refrigerate.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

French Macarons

French Macarons

French macarons should not be confused with American macaroons.  Their pronunciation is different:  the French macaron sounds like you left the lights "on" at the end of the word, and the American macaroon sounds like you slept 'til "noon" at the end of the word.  mah/kah/roh~ vs. ma-ke-rune.

American Macaroon
The American macaroons are little mounds of coconut fluff, while the French macarons are a sandwich of two almond meringue cookies stuffed with a flavored filling in the middle.

Laduree in St. Germaine Des Pres, Paris
We investigated French macarons at the popular pastisserie, Laduree. They claim to have created the modern colored macaron.  The store in the photo was just around the corner from our hotel.  There is a larger one on the Champs de L'Eysee.  Laduree is pronounced lah/dew/ray.

They are beautifully made, beautifully presented in the store, and beautifully packed in a color-coordinated box and bag.  The hardest part was figuring which of the numerous flavors to try.
We took ours home to our hotel room to have with coffee when we needed a pick me up from sight seeing. But you could have yours in the charming Salon de The (tea room)  inside Laduree.

Tom chose our flavors:  chocolate, vanilla, lemon and pistachio.  But there were many exotic combinations to keep you coming back for more:  seasonal ones like chestnut and pear, cherry blossom --- green tea, rose, passion fruit, coffee, green apple, ginger chantilly, praline, etc.  There were probably 20-25 different flavors.

The hottest flavor was fleur de sel:  caramel with salted butter.

They were expensive (about $2 each) so we were wondering if they could live up to their expectations.

When you bite into one, the top is a little crunchy but it quickly gives way to a delicious cookie and the filling you have chosen -- in this case, a pistachio one on the left and a lemon one on the right.

Macarons may not be a trendy as they once were but we are glad we sampled the real deal.

They are delicate and difficult to make properly, so you won't see me trying to make them any time soon!  I will just savor the memories of the ones we had from Laduree.


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Teriyaki Grilled Pork Tenderloin by Tom

 Teriyaki Pork Tenderloin with Grilled Peppers, Onions and Corn by Tom

Needing a quick Saturday evening meal, we decided that a pork tenderloin would taste good paired with a melange of different vegetables.  Our niece, Chelsea, had mentioned a particular teriyaki marinade and sauce that she had discovered at Wegman's.  Off to Wegman's I went to buy the pork tenderloin and the Soy Vay teriyaki marinade along with a couple of ears of corn.

This is a grilled meal start to finish.  I marinaded the pork tenderloin in a ZipLoc bag for about an hour.  For my melange of vegetables, I used three bell peppers - one red, one yellow, and one orange.  I also used a Vidalia sweet onion.  I also used the corn on the cob I had purchased.

Preparation of the vegetables is easy.  After shucking the corn, I put it on a sheet of aluminum foil.  Added a couple pats of butter, salt and pepper, and then wrap tightly.  The peppers I cut off both ends, cored and seeded the peppers, and then sliced in half.  I poured a little olive oil over them and coated each halved pepper with the oil using my hands.  The Vidalia sweet onion I peeled, halved and coated in olive oil as well.  I used a skewer to hold them together.  Toothpicks would work just as well.

Time to grill!

I preheated the grill and got it good and hot.  But as I put the pork on the grill, I immediately lowered the heat to minimize excessive burning of the meat.  Because teriyaki sauce has sugar in it, you can expect to get some char.  What you don't want is a burned crust.  Grill the pork tenderloin for 30 minutes.  I grilled each of the four sides for 7.5 minutes.

After the first five minutes of grilling the pork, put the corn on the grill.  This will grill for approximately 25 minutes.  Rotate the corn every five minutes.

At the 10 minute mark of the pork grilling, put on the onion halves.  These will grill for 20 minutes.  After 10 minutes, turn over and grill until soft.

Finally at the 15 minute mark, put on the pepper halves skin side down.  Turn these over after about 10 minutes.

Doing this in this order will have your entire meal coming off the grill at the same time.  Let the pork rest for a few minutes before you slice it.  I slice the pork tenderloin into 3/4" pieces.  Serve with the peppers and onion.

The Soy Vay teriyaki sauce has a little write up on the label that says it is the brainchild of a Jewish boy and a Chinese girl.  They combined the best of their families recipes to make this sauce. I really enjoyed this marinade as it was both easy and very flavorful.  You can find it in Aisle 14A in any Wegman's in the country. (That's an inside joke.)


Friday, August 15, 2014

Tuna Fish Salad with Avocado instead of Mayo

Tuna Fish Salad with Avocado

Our niece, Chelsea, doesn't like mayonnaise, but loves avocados, so we made this delicious salad for lunch while she was here to visit.  

Tuna Fish Salad with Avocado (instead of Mayo)

Serves 2

1 can Yellowfin Tuna light (packed in water), drained
1 ripe avocado, mashed
squeeze of lemon and salt for the avocado
dried minced onions, about 1 T. 
chopped sweet gherkins or other sweet relish, about 2 T.
salt and pepper, to taste

In a small bowl, mash fresh ripe avocado in to the texture of mayonnaise, leaving a few chunks if you like. Squeeze lemon over it and generously salt the smashed avocado mixture.  

Add the minced onions and stir together. While the onions hydrate, chop up the sweet pickles.  Drain the tuna fish well.  Add the pickles and the tuna fish and mix together.  Add salt and pepper to taste.


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Blueberry Muffins with Granola Topping from Bridget

Blueberry Muffins with Granola Topping from Bridget

This is a simple muffin recipe I found online, then I added cardamon powder and sprinkled granola on top---a simple trick I came up with to make the tops look fancy.

Here's the recipe I used from Sarah's Cucina Bella:


Monday, August 11, 2014

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Chocolate Pasta

Chocolate Pasta 

We bought chocolate pasta on impulse --- but we would now say skip it, if someone suggests it or you see it on a menu.

There are so many other great dessert choices.  This dessert felt gimmicky.

Here's what cooked chocolate pasta looks like.
Tom bought Italian mascarpone cheese and added a little confectioner's sugar.

The best part was Jeanne's Hot fudge sauce (click link for recipe), which we reheated and drizzled on top.
I am sure there are some big fans of chocolate pasta out there, but to us, it just wasn't that special.

Thought we'd pass on what we learned.


Thursday, August 7, 2014

Quinoa Salad with Red and Yellow Peppers, Spinach, and Cilantro

Quinoa Vegetable Salad

Ever since I had the Belly Buster at Sparky Town in Syracuse with my niece last winter, I have been looking for a recipe which I could make at home.  It was a quinoa vegetable sandwich wrap.  Surprisingly good ---and healthy, too!

I found a recipe in Best Ever Cooking for Two which I thought might work.  I beefed it up with extra peppers, onion, and spinach.

We loved it  -- we had seconds --- but it didn't have the texture I was looking for.  Too mushy.

Nonetheless, the flavors are excellent, so I am posting it.

I served it as a hot salad along with grilled lamb chops. Then I made a molded cold salad by storing it in the smallest of the Glad containers, and turning it upside down on the plate to serve.

I might try orzo next.  Or maybe I am using the wrong version of quinoa?

Quinoa Salad with Peppers, Spinach and Cilantro
(adapted Best-Ever Cooking for Two)

2/3 quinoa, rinsed and dried
1 cup water
salt and pepper
1/2 large onion,  chopped
1 -2 cloves of garlic, chopped finely
2  peppers (1 red and 1 yellow), chopped
1 tub (3-4 cups) of fresh spinach, washed and dried
fresh cilantro, rinsed, dried and chopped
2-3 ounces of paneer Indian cheese (optional)
1.5 t. minced jalapeno or dried red pepper flakes
2 T. extra virgin olive oil
juice of one lemon or lime
1 t. Dijon mustard -- I used creole
1/4 t. cumin

Here's what I did:

Washed the quinoa in a finely gauged sieve, then spread it out on a clean towel to let it dry.

In a pot or skillet with a cover, I sauteed the onions, added the peppers, and then for the last few minutes, added the finely chopped garlic, so it would be softened but not browned.

I turned the pepper and onion mixture into the serving bowl.  And then, to the same skillet, added the dried quinoa and toasted it --- it will begin to turn brown and become aromatic, smelling a little like popcorn, or breakfast cereal.

Then I added the cup of water, covered it with a lid,  and cooked it for 10 minutes, then checked on it, and cooked it for two more minutes until all of the liquid was absorbed.

Meanwhile, I made the delicious dressing of oil, lemon or lime juice, mustard, and cumin, and red pepper flakes.  Separately, I chopped lots of fresh cilantro.  And made small cubes of the paneer cheese.

When the quinoa was done, I added the fresh spinach to the pot, kept the heat on low, and covered it to let the spinach sweat and willt.  I added the pepper and onion mixture to the top of the spinach, and stirred it all together, until the spinach had wilted but was still bright green.

Then, removed it from the heat and stirred in the cilantro and cubed cheese. Then added about half the dressing, and mixed it together, and decided to add the rest.

The dressing is the best part!


Monday, August 4, 2014

Cinnamon Scones by Tom

 Cinnamon Scones by Tom

Barbara was cleaning out our pantry, and found a previously opened bag of cinnamon chips that we had purchased when we attended the King Arthur Flour Bread-Making class a while back.  I had used them previously in a triple cinnamon scone recipe that tasted great, but looked quite messy.  I needed to redeem myself and try a different cinnamon scone recipe.  I needed to make a scone that actually looked like a scone after baking!

This is my result.  I found this recipe online in a article.  I had all of the ingredients on hand and it looked fairly easy to do.  Barbara was off in her studio, so I thought I would surprise her when she got home.  The result did not disappoint.  With coffee and a vanilla icing, these tasted terrific. 


Cinnamon Scones

Makes 12, depending on how you cut the dough

The Scones
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup butter (1 stick), quarter the stick and cut into 1/4" squares
1 cup cinnamon baking chips
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Tom's Icing
1/2 cup confectioners sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1-2 tablespoon half-and-half

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

In a mixer with a bread hook, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and sugar.  Add the butter while the mixer is on the lowest speed.  You may need to scrape the edges with a spatula to insure the butter is incorporated into the dry ingredients.

In a separate bowl, combine the egg yolk, vanilla, and buttermilk. Add this mixture to the mixing bowl and fully incorporate.  Stir in the cinnamon chips.  Be careful to not over mix the flour mixture as the finished scone will be tough.

On a floured surface, roll out the dough with your hands only into a circle about 1/2" thick.  Using a pastry blade or knife, cut the dough into the triangular shape of a scone.  If you have spread out your dough sufficiently, you should be able to make 12 scones.

Place the scones on an ungreased baking sheet.  I used parchment paper on the cookie sheet, which I think helps reduce any sticking.

Bake for 18 minutes.

Remove from the oven and cool on the baking sheet for at least 5 minutes.  Remove from the baking sheet and put on a platter to fully cool.

Meanwhile, make the icing.  In a small bowl combine all of the icing ingredients: confectioners sugar, vanilla, almond extract, and half-and half.  Stir to a drizzling consistency.

With a spoon, drizzle the icing over the cooling scones.

I was very pleased with how these scones turned out.  They held together after baking, and were very good with coffee in the morning.



Saturday, August 2, 2014

Mexican Tamale Pie by Tom

Mexican Tamale Pie by Tom

Barbara recently bought a magazine that featured recipes for two.  I paged through it and found this tamale pie recipe which sounded interesting.  Because David was going to come over for dinner, doubling the recipe was very easy. 

And unlike many recipes, I actually followed this one.  Well almost.  I did make three additions.  The recipe as written is meatless, but we decided that ground pork would add a nice touch and some protein.  I also added ground cumin and ancho chili powder as well.  All three additions added flavor to the dish.  Barbara added sour cream to her dish at the table, and David and I added a chunky salsa.  It all worked and we enjoyed this filling, rich in vegetables, dish.


Mexican Tamale Pie
(adapted from America's Test Kitchen Best Ever Cooking for Two, 2014)

Serves 4 - cut ingredients in half for 2

The Filling
1 pound ground pork
3 pablano chili peppers, stemmed, seeded and cut into 1/2" pieces
2 shallots, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil, for browning and sautéing
1 can sweet corn kernels (or 2 ears of corn)
2 small zucchini, quartered and cut into 1/2" pieces
1 28-ounce can of diced tomatoes, drained and the juice reserved
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ancho chili powder
4 ounces shredded jack cheese
4 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
salt and pepper to taste

The Topping
2/3 cup all purpose flour
2/3 cup cornmeal
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup buttermilk
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees and make sure your rack is in the center of the oven.
In a 12" oven proof skillet, brown the ground pork over medium-high heat.
Once browned, add the peppers and the zucchini.  Cook these for about 5 minutes.
Next add the shallots, corn and tomatoes.  Cook these for another 6-8 minutes covered.  But do stir frequently to avoid sticking and to get the vegetables soft.
Now make the topping.  Whisk all of the dry ingredients in a medium size bowl.
Add the buttermilk and eggs first, and stir that up.  Next add the cooled melted butter and incorporate it well into the cornbread mixture.
Once fully cooked, your filling should look like this.  Stir in the chili powder, ground cumin and ancho chili powder and cook for another minute or two stirring constantly to get the spices thoroughly mixed.
Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the fresh cilantro, reserved tomato juice, and jack cheese.  The entire filling mixture will start to take on a creamy texture as the cheese melts.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Dollop the topping mixture on top of the filling and spread as evenly as possible over the top.  Pop the whole thing into the 450 degree oven and bake for 13-15 minutes.  With a toothpick, check to insure the cornbread topping is done.  The toothpick should come out clean. 
The cornbread should be a golden brown when you remove the skillet from the oven.  CAUTION: remember that the handle will be hot...and stay hot for a long time.  So use an oven mitt while removing from the oven and while serving.

Because the contents of the skillet had a fair amount of liquid in it when it went into the oven, I was not sure how much would remain after baking.  As a result I served the final product in a bowl.  I probably did not need to as most of the liquid was absorbed while baking.  Never the less. spooning into the bowl worked and kept everything together.

Serve with sour cream or chunky salsa, or neither.  This was a really tasty dish that is a keeper!