Wednesday, August 31, 2011

coconut cake

We celebrated another anniversary this month - my in-laws.   We had a Mexican feast to celebrate their 36 years of marriage.

I had a cake in mind that I wanted to try and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to make it.  I had seen Ina's famous coconut cake many times on her show Barefoot Contessa.  It was also recently showcased on Next Food Network Star so I knew I just had to try it out.
 I gathered the ingredients together and when I went to preheat the oven, I found that my oven had completely stopped working!  I was not going to let that stop me from making this cake, so I loaded up my car and finished the cake off at my parents.

I made a few changes to up the coconut factor and of course I had to add some chocolate.  I made one layer rather than two and found that it was the perfect amount.  This cake was a hit!  I even saw my father-in-law have seconds - unusual for someone who doesn't eat sugar.  I will definitely be making this cake again and again (once I get my oven fixed).

Coconut Cake

1 1/2 sticks butter, softened
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
3/4 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 tsp coconut extract
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup coconut milk
2 ounces sweetened shredded coconut

cream cheese frosting (below)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease one 9-inch round cake pan.

Cream the butter and sugar on medium-high speed for 3 to 5 minutes, until light yellow and fluffy. Add eggs 1 at a time.  Add the extracts and mix well.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Alternately add the dry ingredients and the milk to the batter in 3 parts, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Mix until just combined and then fold in the coconut. 

Bake in the center of the oven for 45 to 55 minutes. Cool on a baking rack for 30 minutes before frosting.

Cover the top of the cake with nutella.  Wait 5 minutes before icing the entire cake with the cream cheese frosting and covering it with coconut.

Cream Cheese Frosting

1 package cream cheese
1 stick butter, softened
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp coconut extract
1/2 pound icing sugar
3 ounces sweetened shredded coconut

Combine the cream cheese, butter, and extracts on low speed. Add the icing sugar and mix. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

nylon bhajia (potato pakora)

It was nice to finally spend a day at home.  Things have been crazy lately and there's been a lot of running around to do.  We finally got to sit back and relax on Sunday.  It was a hot day and it was nice to spend some time on our neglected deck.  We were hungry and needed a snack so I fired up the side burner on the bbq to fry up some pakoras (bhajias).

There are so many different versions of bhajias.  These particular ones are referred to as nylon bhajias.  They are thinly sliced potatoes, covered in a pancake like batter and fried until golden.

Q sat on his lawn chair and happily ate these as they came out of the fryer.  He devoured them, and kept asking for more - always a good sign.  To use up the batter, I added an onion that was thickly sliced.  These are perfect served with tamarind chutney or ketchup.

Nylon Bhajia

2 large potatoes, thinly sliced
2 cups gram flour (chickpea flour)
1 cup water
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
handful cilantro

Add water to the flour slowly until it is the consistency of pancake batter.  Add the spices and cilantro and mix well.  When the oil is ready for frying, add the baking powder to the batter and mix well.  The batter should be a little foamy at this point.  Add the potatoes to the batter until they are all coated.  Fry until golden brown.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

butter and jam

I almost didn't make jam this year.  I  had made it the last two years and loved the process but I was feeling a bit lazy.  After seeing the plump cherries and the lovely blueberries in the store though, I knew that I would regret not making it once the fruit season was gone.

I did a lot of experimenting the last couple years, figuring out what I liked, what worked and what didn't.  I discovered that my favorite is cherry.  It is so delicious but the process of pitting all the cherries makes me only make one batch a keep it all for myself.  The resulting jam is totally worth the effort.

Another fave is blueberry, and really the easiest jam to make.  The color stays the same as the months go by and I can make this one faster than any other.  Sort through the berries, stick it in the food processor and you're ready to roll.

I always use a low-sugar pectin so I'm not adding loads of sugar.   To prep the jars, I sterilize them in the dishwasher and make sure the jars are still hot when I fill them with the hot jam mixture.  You will soon hear the delightful popping of the lids, telling you that the jars are properly sealed.

The day after making the jam, I was chatting with friends about how their family makes butter in the blender.  Whip cream until it separates and you've got an amazing sweet butter.  Of course, after talking about this, I just had to go home and try it.  I used the stand mixer and in 10 minutes, I had fresh butter to go with my homemade jam and some scones.  It was the easiest thing, but I felt like Martha Stewart.

The last few days have been filled with fresh jam, making me so happy that I didn't let my laziness get the better of me.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

celebrating 37 years with a turtle cheesecake

My parents just celebrated their 37th anniversary!  This definitely called for a celebration, and every celebration calls for cake.  Tired of making the usual though, I wanted to do something different.  I decided to do a cheesecake, a dessert that my dad loves.

I knew this cheesecake needed nuts, chocolate and caramel and after doing a search, this recipe was found on the Kraft website.  The layers of caramel and pecans are divine.  As good as it tastes when you first make it, it tastes even better the next day, if there's any left!

Happy Anniversary Mom and Dad!  Love you lots!

Ultimate Turtle Cheesecake

2 cups chocolate cookie crumbs
6 Tbsp.  butter or margarine, melted
1 pkg. caramels
1/2 cup  milk
1 cup chopped pecans
3 pkg. cream Cheese, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 Tbsp. vanilla
3 eggs
2 squares chocolate, melted

Heat oven to 325°F.

Mix crumbs and butter; press onto bottom and 2 inches up side of 9-inch springform pan.

Microwave caramels and milk in small microwaveable bowl on high 3 min. or until caramels are completely melted, stirring after each minute. Stir in nuts; pour half into crust. Refrigerate 10 min. Refrigerate remaining caramel mixture for later use.

Beat cream cheese, sugar and vanilla with mixer until well blended. Add eggs, 1 at a time, mixing on low speed after each just until blended. Pour over caramel layer in crust.

Bake 1 hour 5 min. to 1 hour 10 min. or until center is almost set. Run knife around rim of pan to loosen cake; cool before removing rim. Refrigerate 4 hours.

Microwave reserved caramel mixture 1 min.; stir. Pour over cheesecake. Melt chocolate and drizzle over cheesecake.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

mini pink cupcakes with chocolate icing

We are slowly recovering from my sister-in-law's week long wedding extravaganza.  It was a great week spent with close family and friends.  It was also a week surrounded by lots and lots of food!

Most of the cooking was done by family and they fed crowds of up to 500 people!  I tried to do my part and made items such as quinoa salad, couscous salad, kulfi and smores on a stick.  One favorite were these little pink cupcakes with chocolate buttercream icing.  They were really supposed to be red velvet cupcakes, like the ones I had made last month for my sister's birthday.  In my hurry though, I forgot to add the cocoa and out from the oven came these little pink morsels.  I figured since I missed out on the chocolate in the cake, we must add some on it.

Congratulations to R2.  Wishing you both a lifetime of happiness!

Mini Pink Cupcakes

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
2/3 cup sugar
1 large egg
1/2 cup homemade yogurt
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 tablespoons red food coloring
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven at 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In another bowl whisk together the buttermilk, vinegar, vanilla extract, and red food coloring.
Beat the butter and sugar in an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add the egg beating until a creamy texture. Add 1/4 of the flour and mix, then add 1/3 of the buttermilk mix .

Continue adding the flour and the buttermilk until all the ingredients are mixed.

Use two teaspoons and carefully scoop the batter into cupcake papers, about 1/2 to 3/4 of the way full. Bake for 12 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Transfer the baked cupcakes to a wire rack to cool.
Chocolate Buttercream Icing

6 tbsp. butter
1 cup powdered sugar
4 tbsp. cocoa
2 to 3 tbsp. milk

Cream butter.  Add sugar and cocoa mixture to butter and mix again. Add milk to the butter mixture until a proper consistency is reached.
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