Tag: Cooking

German chocolate cake you’ll love

German chocolate cake you’ll love

This fairly easy recipe is a simplification of the one on the Bakers German Chocolate bar. We show you a few shortcuts. Some people make this light cake and just decorate it with the coconut-pecan topping. We do that but ice the sides with chocolate buttercream icing to hold it all together.

  • 4 egg whites
  • 4 oz German Sweet Chocolate
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 cup (2 sticks, 8 oz) softened unsalted butter
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 280 g cake flour (2 ½ cups sifted)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 3 lined 8” cake pans
  1. Preheat the oven to 350˚ F
  2. Beat the egg whites in your mixer until stiff. Remove to another bowl until needed.

3. Cream the butter and sugar in an electric mixer

4. Add the egg yolks one at a time, beating after each addition.

5. Put the chocolate in a bowl with the water and heat in a microwave for about 90 seconds until melted. Stir until uniform.

6. Add the vanilla to the sugar-butter mixture and beat in the chocolate.

7. You don’t really need to sift and measure the flour, as we described in this article. One cup of sifted cake flour weights 112g, so just weigh 280 grams (which is 2 1/2  cups sifted) into a bowl and add the soda and salt. Stir briefly to mix.

8. Add the flour mixture alternately with the buttermilk.

9. Fold in the egg whites by mixing in ¼ of them and then folding the rest in using a rubber spatula, dipping a turning the blade to mix in the whites without deflating them.

10. Line the 3 cake pans with parchment using the technique we described here. Butter the pans and the parchment.

11. You now need to separate the batter into 3 equal parts. We do this by weight. The stand mixer bowl and contents weighed 3606g, and we know the empty bowl weights 1014g, so the contents weighed 1578g. Thus, we need to put 526g of batter in each of the 3 cake pans. We put each cake pan on the scale, press the tare button to zero it, and add 526g of batter. The third pan is always a little short because some batter sticks to the sides and to the spatula. So we steal a little from each of the other two pans to make them about even. It is still easier than eyeballing it!

12. Bake the cake in the pans for 30-35 minutes, until the cake starts to pull away from the edge, and a toothpick comes out clean.

3 baked

13. Let the cakes cool on a cooling rack, and then take the cakes out of the pans and let them cool completely.

Cake Filling

  • 8 oz evaporated milk (This is 1 1/3 6 oz cans)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 beaten egg yolks
  • ½ cup butter (1 stick) cut up
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 1/3 cup sweetened, shredded coconut
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  1. Combine the evaporated milk, sugar, egg yolks, butter and vanilla in a saucepan. Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened. Stir constantly to avoid burning.
  2. Allow the liquid to come to a slow boil but keep stirring to avoid sticking.
  3. Remove from heat and add the coconut and pecans.
  4. Chill in the refrigerator until cool enough to spread.

Buttercream frosting

  • 2 lb confectioners sugar
  • 2 sticks (8 oz) butter, cut up
  • ¼ cup milk (approximately)
  • 3 oz baking chocolate
  1. Combine the sugar and butter in a food processor and pulse until mixed.
  2. Add the milk until spreadable
  3. Melt the chocolate in the microwave for about 1.5 minutes at 50% power. Stir until uniform and then add to the buttercream mixture and pulse until uniform. This will make more frosting than you need, but you will use about ¾ of it.

Assembling the cake

It is easiest to ice the cake on a little rotating cake platform, but if you do, be sure to start with a cake cardboard under cake, as the layers are delicate and won’t pick up easily to move to a cake cover later.

  1. Place one solid layer on the bottom and carefully ice it with the filling. If the filling is too cold to spread, warm it for 15 sec on the microwave.
  2. Place a second layer on top and ice it either with the chocolate buttercream frosting or with the filling. You will have plenty of both. Place the third layer on top and ice the top with the filling.
  3. If any of the sides protrude, trim them off so the sides are relatively uniform. Ice the sides with the chocolate buttercream, using a spatula dipped in milk to smooth the outside of the cake. Let it dry for half an hour before serving.

sliced

 

 

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A quick way to line cake pans

A quick way to line cake pans

Most cake recipes suggest you line the bottom of your cake pans with waxed paper (old school) or baking parchment (new school). Well tracing and cutting out those circles for 2 or 3 cake pans is a lot of trouble. Here’s an easier way.

pan and parchment

Cut a square of baking parchment, a bit bigger than you cake pan. For 8” cakes, cut a 9” or 10”  square. It doesn’t have to be very accurate or even square: a rectangle will do just fine. We’ll cut off the excess as we go along.

Fold the square diagonally so that the left edge meets the top edge.  This establishes that square. Any left on the bottom will be cut off.

Fold that triangle in half down the middle.

Then, keep folding down the middle until you have a little pointed triangle.

Lay that triangle on the bottom of the cake pan with the point at the center, and cut off the triangle at the edge of the pan.

Then, unfold it. It should be a circle that will just fit in your cake pan. If it is a little big, just refold it and cut off a little more.

lined pan

Then, butter the pan, lay the liner inside, and butter it, too.  That’s really easy. I did all 3 cake pans in about a minute! See the top picture for all three!

Sifting and measuring flour

Sifting and measuring flour

If you look at nearly any baking recipe, you will see something like “sift together the dry ingredients,” usually flour, baking powder and maybe sure and salt. Why do they do that? Well, because someone clear back to Fanny Merritt Farmer, in her Boston Cooking School Cookbook (you can read a digital copy here) said to. Flour in 1896 was probably much lumpier than today, and she said to sift all ingredients before measuring them.

Nowadays, flour isn’t usually very lumpy and we usually use it right out of the bag.

But we thought we’d try sifting some paprika into flour to see how well it mixes. This is about 1.5 Tb of paprika in 2 cups of flour.

 

 
 

As can see, it doesn’t really mix all that well. In fact, you could do better just using a wire whisk. But, if you are making a batter for baking, the mixing of the dry ingredients with the liquid will distribute them just as well.

Now about that cup

A measuring cup measures 8 fluid ounces: it is really for measuring liquids like milk or water. Flour, not being a liquid can be a little variable about how much fits in a cup. Fanny Farmer said you should scoop out the flour and level off the cup with a knife, and that works for 1 cup of flour. But for 2 ½ cups of flour, it gets messier and it soon becomes easier to weigh out the flour. We have an inexpensive kitchen scale, Ozeri kitchen scale (it cost $15.95), we keep right with our bowls and dishes, and can easily weigh anything we want.  If you don’t have one, ask someone to give it to you for Christmas.

So how do you weigh out flour? We found that 1 cup of King Arthur All Purpose Flour weighs 142 g (see above). We use grams because then there aren’t any pesky decimal pl aces to confuse you.

weighing



But what about sifted flour? The only thing sifting commercial flours does is to aerate them a bit so a cup of sifted flour weighs less. Sifted King Arthur flour weighs 126 grams, or about 8% less.

Cake Flour

Cake flour is made from a mixture of lower protein wheats that will give a light and tender crumb in cakes. According to Harold McGee in On Food and Cooking, all purpose flour has about 11-12% protein (mostly gluten) and cake flour about 7-8% protein. And U.S. cake flour is bleached as well, which causes “the starch granules to absorb water and swell more readily in high sugar batters.” Need less to say, cake flours weigh less per cup:

 All purposeCake flour
Scooped142 g120 g
Sifted126 g112 g

These weights are useful when you need some off amount of flour. For example, my waffle recipe requires 2 ¼ cups of sifted cake flour. It’s easiest to just quickly weigh about (2.25 x 112g) or 252g in a dish and mix it into the waffle batter. I keep this table posted inside my cupboard door, and write the weights into any recipes I use frequently.

So, get your scale out and you can do your baking quickly without getting a lot of measuring cups dirty. Happy holiday baking!

We try Nueske’s Premium Bacon

We try Nueske’s Premium Bacon

We recently received a catalog offering s number of Nueske’s premium pork products, starting with their 5 types of bacon, and going on to offer sausages, ham, smoke pork chops and other products.  The photos and descriptions were so beguiling, we had to try the bacon. We ordered their Gourmet Bacon Assortment, of Applewood Smoked Bacon, Applewood Smoked Peppered Bacon and Cherrywood Smoked Bacon, which is uncured.

AssortmentThe assortment cost $34.99 plus shipping, which made this bacon pretty expensive, probably twice what you pay for supermarket bacon, but this bacon itself was of superior quality and quite delicious. They also have a thick sliced version that you can cook on a grill. We’ll have to try that, too.

Nueske’s is located in Wittenberg, Wisconsin, west of Green Bay, where they have been making their smoked meats since 1933. However, the family has there since 1882, making smoked meats for themselves. Today, they use imported spices and still use the original Nueske recipes. They smoke their bacon for 24 hours over applewood embers, which gives is quite a distinctive, delicious taste. It also is much less fatty than mass-market bacons, although, of course, it does render some fat when you cook it.

Their Applewood Smoked Bacon is cured with water, salt, sugar, sodium phosphate, sodium erythorbate and sodium nitrite, while their Wild Cherrywood smoked bacon is uncured, but treated with sea salt, raw sugar and cultured celery juice (which provides the nitrite preservatives).

We tried all three types, and loved all of them.

The Applewood Smoked bacon has the strongest flavor, but it is in no way objectionable, and the bacon goes very well with traditional bacon and eggs breakfasts. While there is some fat rendered as you cook it, the bacon shrinks much less than commercial bacons, but there is enough fat to fry eggs in.

The Peppered Bacon, is the same type of bacon as the Applewood Smokes, but with coarse pepper along the edges. You might think this would overwhelm the bacon, but it really doesn’t. After cooking, the Peppered Bacon has a mild, peppery taste not unlike what you’d get if you added salt and pepper to your eggs.

Finally, the Wild Cherrywood Smoked Bacon is uncured, and you have to keep it refrigerated (or frozen). The smoky flavor is milder than in the applewood smoked bacon, but it has just as little shrinkage, and we cooked eggs in the fat from 5 slices and had plenty to work with. We really like this one the best.

Yes, it costs more, but this is really excellent bacon, and we’ll probably order some more and try out their smoked pork chops and hams, too.

 

 

How to scramble 2 dozen eggs

How to scramble 2 dozen eggs

You don’t have to scramble eggs a little batch at a time if you have  a large pan. We used a 13-inch All Clad pan to cook ours. The accompanying video shows it in detail.

Start at very low heat, and slowly the stir the eggs. You can go up to low heat if you want, but to make nice, creamy eggs, you want to cook them slowly.

Start with just the eggs, no salt and no milk. You’ll add the butter right away. We used a stick, or 4 oz of unsalted butter in this recipe. Slowly stir the butter into the eggs so it melts. Keep stirring until the eggs begin to thicken. At the end add a hefty pinch of kosher salt, and 3-4 Tb of crème fraiche or sour cream.

Decorate the plates or serving platter with some chopped parsley or chives.

 

Enjoy your breakfast!

 

Thai rice soup with pork balls

Thai rice soup with pork balls

This relatively simple recipe can be done in less than an hour, and makes a rich, filling meal. There are several steps that you can do ahead and none are all that complicated. The original inspirational recipe came from Milk Street, (and is the first one we wanted to actually make). That recipe suggests garnishing the soup with fried shallots. Don’t even try this: it will small up your house for days, and are very hard to keep from burning. You can buy them packaged at Asian markets or online.

The components of this soup are:

  • Jasmine rice
  • Pork balls
  • Soup broth
  • Soft boiled eggs

Jasmine Rice

riceJasmine rice is a delicately scented short grain rice, that you should make first and allow to cool on a plate or baking sheet. You will add it to the soup when the rice is cold, so it doesn’t break up to much when you stir it in. Cook about 1 cup of rice with the package’s amount of water. In our Instant Pot rice cooker, we added 1.25 cups of water and cooked it for only 10 minutes. Open the pot and spread it out to cool.

Soft boiled eggs

eggs coolingSet out 3 eggs. Place a vegetable steamer in a 2 quart sauce pan and fill with water until just below the steamer bottom. Bring the water to a boil, and quickly lower the eggs into the steamer using a slotted spoon. Cover and cook 6.5 minutes. Run cold water into the pan to stop the cooking, empty and add more cold water. Pick up each egg and run cold water on it until no longer warm to the touch. Crack each egg and peel under running water. Set aside the peeled eggs.

Pork balls

  • 8 oz ground pork
  • 1 Tb fish sauce
  • 1 Tb chili-garlic sauce
  • White pepper to taste

pork ballsMix the pork and sauces in a small bowl and make around 10 balls using a small cookie scoop. Put them on a plate and refrigerate for 15 minutes or so.

Soup broth

  • 3 Tb lard (or olive oil, or grapeseed oil)
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • 5 large shallots halved and thinly sliced.
  • 8 medium garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 3 lemongrass stalks, bruised to release the flavor, or use lemon zest instead.
  • 2 Tb grated ginger root
  • 5 quarts chicken broth (we used some homemade mixed with canned)
  • 1 cup chopped cilantro (or parsley of you are not a cilantro fan)
  • 3 Tb lime juice plus lime wedges
  • 2 Tb fish sauce
  • 1 Tb chili garlic sauce

saute

  1. In a large pot (3 quarts or more) heat the lard and add the shallots and salt. Cook for about 5 minutes
  2. Add the garlic and cook 30 seconds, until fragrant.
  3. Stir in the lemon grass and ginger and cook until fragrant.
  4. Add the broth and cook at medium heat for about 15 minutes
  5. Remove and discard the lemon grass.
  6. Add the pork meatballs, and cook through, about 4 minutes
  7. Stir in the rice, and cook until heated through.
  8. Off heat, stir in the fish sauce and chili garlic sauce, the cilantro or parsley and the lime juice.

Ladle in bowls and decorate with the halved soft boiled eggs (cut them right in the bowls), lime wedges, and the optional fried shallots. Packaged onion rings are a good substitute, too!

Serve at once to your admiring guests.

Baked sea scallops in less than 30 minutes

Baked sea scallops in less than 30 minutes

The delicate flavor of scallops is a marvelous treat whenever they are in season. Sea scallops are the bigger scallops; the little ones are called bay scallops and are best used in dishes like Coquille St Jacques.

This recipe is so easy, you should start the rice you serve it with first, in a pan, an Instant Pot or a rice cooker. Then preheat the oven. We got our idea from one by Christine Laliberte.

  • About 1 lb sea scallops (around 16)
  • 5 Tb melted butter
  • 5 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 scallions, chopped in short lengths, green part included
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • 4 Tb olive oil
  • ¼ cup chopped parsley
  • Lemon wedges or sliced for garnish

  1. Preheat the oven to 450° F.
  2. Place the scallops, melted butter and chopped scallions in a bowl
  3. Add the garlic, using a garlic press or just mince it.
  4. Add salt and pepper.
  5. In another bowl, add the breadcrumbs and mix in the olive oil.
  6. Place scallop mixture in a casserole and cover with the breadcrumbs.
  7. Bake in a preheated oven for 11 minutes or more, until brown.
  8. Sprinkle parsley over the browned breadcrumbs and serve with rice.
Lime Posset: a cool refreshing dessert

Lime Posset: a cool refreshing dessert

This easy recipe makes a cool lime custard in ten minutes work plus 4 hours chilling time, and is just made from limes, sugar and cream. No eggs, no flour. So why does it thicken? It’s the lime juice that coagulates the milk proteins. This recipe was suggested by one in Bon Appetit. Possets go way back to the 16th century and are mentioned in Shakespeare as well as by other writers of the time. In British Food History, Neil Cooks Grigson writes that most mentions of possets in the 18th and 19th century were to a warm drink made with curdled milk, sugar and alcohol, but there is one 1769 article that pretty much describes what 20th and 21st century cooks are making. You can make possets using any acidic fruit juice: orange and lemon possets are also common. In each case, the acid of the fruit coagulates the cream, but because of its high fat content, it makes a smooth custardy texture.

  • 2 limes, peeled into strips
  • Juice of the same 2 limes
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • ½ cup sugar
  • Pinch of Kosher salt
  • 4 ramekins
  • 1 peach
  • ½ cup cream
  • 1 Tb sugar
  • 4 mint leaves

  1. Put the cream, sugar and salt in saucepan and add the strips of lime peel. Boil gently for 5 minutes to reduce and thicken the cream.

  1. Strain the cream and return it to the saucepan. Add the lime juice and stir.
  2. Allow the cream to cool a bit and begin to thicken and pour into four ramekins.
  3. Chill for 4 or more hours.

  1. Peel the peach by submerging it in boiling water for a minute and cooling it in cold water. Pull off the peel, using a vegetable peeler if it is stubborn.
  2. Cut the peach into slices, place into a bowl and sugar them with about 1 Tb sugar.
  3. When ready to serve, add the sugar to the ½ cup of cream and whip it. Place a peach slice on each ramekin, add a dollop of cream, and decorate with a mint leaf.
Peepcorn: another use for Peeps

Peepcorn: another use for Peeps

Every year, people buy boxes of those sugary marshmallow candies and probably eat some of them, discarding the rest: but why not use them in delicious recipes? We decided to look into how you can cook with Peeps.

Each Peep weights about 0.25 oz (7 g) and has about 6.5 g of sugar in it, but the Peeps company thinks that a serving size is 4 Peeps. Wishful thinking perhaps? Peeps are made from marshmallow, corn syrup, sugar and carnauba wax, and in addition to the original yellow color, now are available in a number of other bright colors including pink, green and blue.

If you’ve had Peeps in your Easter basket for many years (even if you never ate them) you may remember that they used to be made by the Rodda Candy Company. It turns out that Rodda was acquired in 1953 by Just Born, a candy company in Bethlehem, PA owned, not surprisingly, by Sam Born. It was under Born’s management that the mass production of Peeps grew

Since they are so pervasive in the US and Canada we decided to see what else we could do with them.

One of our first experiments was to put some Peeps in our popcorn. You may not know this, but you can buy a jar of ordinary popcorn and put some in a paper bag and pop it in the microwave without any special packaging or seasonings. We found that about 1/3 cup of kernels is pretty much equivalent to what you pop in a large bag of microwave popcorn.

DSC_0003

So to use up a few Peeps, we cut one up and put it a bag with the 1/3 cup of popcorn and popped it using the usual microwave popcorn settings. The result was sweetish popcorn, rather like kettle corn.

In our second try, we cut up two Peeps and popped them with the 1/3 cup of popcorn. The result was sweetish popcorn with a caramel coating and was really pretty good.

When you pop corn with 3 Peeps, Peep-fatigue sets in and the marshmallow actually inhibits the popping. Stick with two and you’ll have a nice sweet snack.

 

 

 

Delicious bagels you can make yourself

Delicious bagels you can make yourself

Really good bagels are hard to find outside of major East Coast cities. So we decided to tackle making our own, starting with Alex Baldinger and Becky Krystal’s recipe published about a year ago in the Washington Post.

There are only a couple of ingredients you need:  King Arthur Bread Flour (available at most supermarkets) and barley malt syrup (which you may have to order). It is this malt syrup that gives bagels their characteristic flavor, so don’t leave it out. Both Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods carry it, however.

The third major ingredient is rapid rise yeast, not the conventional yeast you may have in your cupboard. And it is important that you proof the yeast before using, as age and mishandling may have more or less killed it. Our first package (Bob’s), purchased at Stop and Shop did not foam up at all, nor did the packet we had in our cupboard, dated May, 2017. We bought some new Fleischman’s Rapid Rise to make these bagels.

The overall procedure is pretty simple: mix up the dough, let it rest and roll it into bagels and let them rest in the refrigerator overnight.  Boil them and add toppings. Then bake them on a piece of baking parchment on a baking stone in a 450° F oven.

  • 1 packet rapid rise yeast
  • 1 pinch of sugar
  • 337 g warm water at 80° F (this is just under 1 ½ cups)
  • 623 g bread flour (a little under 4 cups)
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 Tb plus 1 tsp barley malt syrup
  • 3 Tb cornmeal for dusting the chilling platter

  1. Mix the yeast, water and sugar and let it stand until it begins to foam. If it doesn’t foam in 5-10 minutes, get new yeast.
  2. Add the flour, salt and malt syrup to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook.
  3. Add the yeast mixture and mix slowly for about 4 minutes, and then at medium speed for about 7 more minutes, until the dough has gathered into a smooth ball.
  4. Sprinkle a small baking sheet with corn meal.
  5. Divide the dough into 8 balls. The WP recipe suggested 4-oz balls, and that made 8 4 -oz balls and one 3-oz ball. So, by simple math, if you make each ball 4.38 oz, you should get 8 dough balls.
  6. Place the balls on the cookie sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Let rest for 5 minutes.

  1. Roll each ball between your hands into an 11-inch tube, avoiding letting the ends taper.
  2. Fasten the ends together using a bit of water to press them together.
  3. Cover the incipient bagels with plastic wrap and place them in the refrigerator overnight, for 12-18 hours.

  1. In the morning, put the baking stone (pizza stone) in the oven and preheat it to 450°F. Let it heat up for 30-60 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, put a large pan of water on the stove, and boil the bagels, 2-3 at a time for about 30 seconds. Drain them on a rack, and roll them in any toppings you like: sesame seeds, poppy seeds, Kosher salt, minced garlic or minced onion. An “everything” bagel has all these ingredients, plus caraway seeds. Put each topping on a plate and roll the bagel in it.

on peel

  1. Place 3 or 4 bagels on a sheet of baking parchment, on a baking peel or the bottom of a baking sheet, and slide them onto the baking stone.
  2. Bake 12-18 minutes. We baked ours for 14, and while they were delicious we might try adding 2 more minutes next time, as the interiors were a bit softer than we prefer. However, toasting them solved that.

ToppingsThe end result of this project is some of the best bagels we’ve ever made. Our only complaint is how expensive the toppings are at the supermarket, about $5 each. We’d order them in bulk next time. We tried a salt bagel using Diamond Kosher salt, and finding the crystals rather small, we also tried a jar of sea salt, where the crystals were probably too big. We’ll look for salt with a somewhat smaller crystal size next time.

Not only was making these bagels fun for us, it would make a great project for kids as well, and we know kids love sweet, among other things as virtual games they play on their pcs or macs, with the help of a gaming mouse mac and other hardware.They also utilize the best app for bet 365 players to use during free time.