Saturday, January 21, 2012

Chocolate Cake with Cocoa Whipped Cream Frosting

Chocolate Cake with Cocoa Whipped Cream Frosting

Believe it or not, I don't get invited to very many friends' houses to have dinner.  Really.  It's true.  I don't know if it's Iowa culture not to have people over for dinner, or if my kids are more offensive that I perceive them to be, but in the last year, I can count on one hand how many times we've been asked over for dinner.  That might be obnoxious to put in writing on my blog, and I know if any of my friends read this, I'm either going to get grief, or some invitations to dinner, but it's the truth.  Yeah, go ahead and tell me that I "intimidate you" with my cooking.  Whatever.  If you had invited me over, I would have brought this.  As a matter of fact, Elaine has invited us over, and I made this fantabulous chocolate cake for the occasion.  So there.  I also made some outstanding banana cream puffs for Karen because she had us over for dinner too.  Come to think of it, Karen is from New York, and I need to have the Kennedys over because they've had us over twice...and we went.  And Karen's food was delicious.


At any rate, this is just chocolate cake with a simple cocoa whipped cream.  It's a deceptively light chocolatey creamy way to enjoy some yummy chocolate cake.   

I'm still working on my food photography here, so I expect this pic to change.  Maybe even several times today.  I just can't seem to get it right.  Actually, the day I made this cake, I also got a message from a Facebook friend who inadvertently got me started food blogging.  Anyway, she needed me to make some cupcakes for her photographer friend to shoot.  I ended up meeting this guy who gave me some great tips on food photography.  Sorry, though, Richard, I'm a slow learner.  At least this pic is an improvement upon the pic I took of the piece that fell in the snow last night when I was trying to make use of what little light was left at 5:00.  I will be going out to get a tripod and sheer fabric later this week.  My "part-time" job and family duties are constantly getting in the way of my food blogging.  
*Update on the photo: the top photo here actually made it onto foodgawker.com.  Go figure.

Chocolate Cake with Cocoa Whipped Cream Frosting
  • 1 cup Ghirardelli Sweet Ground Chocolate and Cocoa (or use 1/2 cup ground unsweetened cocoa powder and increase the total amount of sugar below to 1 1/4 cups)
  • 1 1/2 cups sifted cake flour
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons King Arthur Flour Cake Enhancer (optional)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup butter, softened (that's 10 2/3 tablespoons)
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Cocoa Whipped Cream (recipe below)
Cake Instructions
: 
Preheat oven to 350ºF.  
Prepare two 8" x 1 1/2" round cake pans by spraying with non-stick cooking spray and then lining with parchment or wax paper circles.  
Into a mixer bowl fitted with a whisk attachment (or in a large mixing bowl if you're using a hand mixer), sift flour with ground chocolate, cake enhancer, sugar, baking soda, cream of tartar, and salt. 
Add butter and 3/4 cup buttermilk. Beat on low speed to combine ingredients. Scrape sides of bowl and then beat on low-medium speed for 2 minutes. 
Add 1/4 cup buttermilk, eggs, and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Beat additional 2 minutes.  
Spread batter into prepared pans. Bake at 350ºF for 30 to 35 minutes. 
Cool on racks for 10 to 15 minutes; remove from pans.

When cakes are cool, cut each one in half so you have four cake layers.  Place one layer on a serving plate and spread with about 3/4 cup cocoa whipped cream.  Repeat with other layers, and then frost the top and sides.  Sprinkle with chocolate sprinkles or shaved chocolate, if desired.
Cocoa Whipped Cream Ingredients:
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons hot tap water
  • 3 cups cold heavy whipping cream
Cocoa Whipped Cream Instructions: In mixer bowl with a wire whisk attachment (or in a tall mixing bowl, if you're using a hand mixer), mix cocoa, sugar & hot water, mixing to form a paste.  Allow to cool before adding cream.  Add cream and start mixing on low to incorporate cream into cocoa paste.  Stop the mixer and scrape the bowl.  Mix on high until stiff peaks form.

Whole Chocolate Cake with Cocoa Whipped Cream Frosting

Monday, January 16, 2012

Oatmeal Cookies with Blueberry Craisins


Oatmeal Cookies with Blueberry Craisins
In an attempt to make my ideal oatmeal raisin cookie, I've gotten sidetracked because in my cupboard next to the raisins is the bag of Blueberry Craisins that I bought with the intention of using in some orange blueberry scones.  Well, that  hasn't happened yet, so I thought these nifty little blueberry infused Craisins would really be great in an oatmeal cookie.  So I did it.  And they ARE delicious.  
I based this cookie on the Shakespeare Oatmeal Cookies that I've blogged about, which are pretty sweet.  They have a nice chewy texture, though, with nice crisp edges.  The blueberry burst you get when you bite into them is nice and unique.  I think I'll be making these again.

Oatmeal Cookies with Blueberry Craisins

Ingredients:
  • 1 ½ cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 cup quick cooking oats
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp  ground cinnamon
  • 1 pinch ground nutmeg
  • ½ cup butter
  • ½ cup vegetable shortening
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup Blueberry Craisins
Instructions:
Sift flour, salt, soda, & spices together.  Stir in oats.
Cream butter, shortening, & sugars.  Beat in eggs and vanilla.  Stir in dry ingredients and blend well. Stir in Blueberry Craisins (Note: I took a few moments to separate the Craisins that were stuck together before adding them to the dough.)  Refrigerate dough for at least two hours or overnight. 
Preheat oven to 350°.  Form dough into walnut-sized balls and place on a parchment-lined cookie sheet.  Bake at 350° for 12-15 minutes.  Allow cookies to cool on wire rack.
Makes about 4 1/2 to 5 dozen cookies.



Sunday, January 15, 2012

Baked Potato Soup

Baked Potato Soup
I can't believe I haven't posted this recipe yet.  It's a staple in my house, so I guess I just assumed I'd posted the recipe.  Here it is now.
I first tasted baked potato soup at a restaurant in Portland, Oregon.  It was the best soup I'd ever tasted, but at that point in my life, I wasn't much of a soup maker, so I didn't even consider that I could make something that delicious at home.
When I found Allrecipes.com, I decided to look for a baked potato soup, and I happened upon a recipe titled "Restaurant Quality Baked Potato Soup."  I made it, and that was that.  Surprisingly, it was the exact soup I remembered from Portland.  It was almost too easy, but I'll take easy.  I don't normally find exactly what I'm looking for.  I mean, who really ever does?
This soup is thick and creamy, very well seasoned, and sticks to your ribs.  The original recipe called for discarding the potato skins, but I like to put some chopped up skins in the bottom of my bowl.  Then when I stir in all the toppings, the skins get mixed in and give the already hearty soup even more heartiness and texture, not to mention more nutrition.  
So, the next time you're faced with a cold winter day and a hankering for some potato soup, try this recipe.  It will not disappoint you.


Baked Potato Soup
   Adapted from Allrecipes.com

Ingredients
  • 3 medium baking potatoes
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup chopped white onion
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 cups instant mashed potato flakes
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/8 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 cup half-and-half
  • 1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
  • 8 ounces bacon - cooked and crumbled (or a jar of bacon bits)
  • 2 green onions, chopped 

Instructions
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Bake potatoes for 1 hour, or until done. Set aside to cool.
2. Melt butter in a 3 quart saucepan over medium heat. Saute onions until tender and golden brown. Sprinkle onions with pepper, basil and thyme, and stir. Stir in flour, and cook 5 minutes to make a roux. Pour in chicken stock and water, stirring constantly at first so as not to get lumps. Add salt,cornstarch and mashed potato flakes.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 5 minutes.
3. Remove the skin from the cooled potatoes, and set aside.  Dice the potatoes into 1/2 inch cubes, and stir into soup, along with the half-and-half. Simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, or until thick. Spoon into bowls, and garnish with shredded cheese, bacon, chopped potato skins, and chopped green onion.
Makes about 5 servings.


Saturday, January 14, 2012

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies--Fluffy Type

Fluffy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
I saw a picture of these cookies on Pinterest, I think, and thought they look just like the delicious oatmeal raisin cookies at KFC.  The think I love about the oatmeal raisin cookies at KFC is that they are really sweet, chewy, and the raisin flavor is confined to the raisins.  It's not like the whole cookies is raisin flavored, which is fine in some cookies, but I like this one.
Unfortunately, this recipe is not exactly what I was looking for, but I think I kind of knew it wouldn't be when I started out.  The recipe doesn't call for as much sugar as a typical cookie recipe, so I thought it might need more sugar.  Next time I make these I will probably be adding another quarter cup, and I'll also cut back on the flour, because even the cookies that were underbaked when I pulled them out of the oven turned out fluffy in the middle.  And now that I think of it, I didn't follow the instructions as far as the order of mixing the ingredients.  I suppose that could be part of my problem here.
These cookies taste good.  Don't get me wrong; they just aren't quite what I was going for.  You know, the elusive cookie recipe that is probably distorted in my memory.  I have so many of those.
So, these cookies are what I would describe as fluffy, soft, and moderately sweet.

Fluffy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
   adapted from Get Off Your Butt and Bake


Ingredients:
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 2 cups oatmeal
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup Crisco
  • 1 cups white sugar
  • 1 1/2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla 
Instructions:
Place raisins and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil.  Turn heat down to low and simmer for 15 minutes.  Remove from heat and allow to cool completely.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
In a medium bowl, mix together oatmeal, flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  Set aside.
Cream together butter, Crisco, and sugar.  Beat in eggs and vanilla.  Add dry ingredients and mix until just blended.  Mix in raisins and their liquid until raisins are evenly distributed in the dough.
Scoop dough into tablespoon sized blobs and place on parchment-lined baking sheets.  Bake at 375 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes or until done.  Allow cookies to cool on sheet for a couple of minutes and then move them to a wire cookie rack to cool completely.


Inside the fluffy oatmeal raisin cookie.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Gluten-Free Snickerdoodles


Gluten-Free Snickerdoodles
I've been meaning to try out some more recipes with gluten-free flour, and the other night when I decided to make some gluten-free waffles for brenner (breakfast/dinner), I went ahead and made a batch of gluten-free snickerdoodles too.  What the heck, right?
Although I was disappointed that these did not turn out fluffy and thick, the way I enjoy snickerdoodles, I was pleasantly surprised at how delicious these were.  They are thin, crisp, chewy snickerdoodles.  There is no flavor difference from snickerdoodles made with regular wheat flour, although there is a slight grainy crunch to them, though, but it's barely detectable. 
If you're new to the whole gluten-free baking thing, I think you might like to start with the Bob's Red Mill Gluten-Free All Purpose Baking Flour because it's worked great in two of my favorite recipes, AND the package is only 22 ounces, as opposed to the 4 pound bag of another brand I have aging in my cupboard. I'm a relatively non-committal person, so the 22 ounces is a perfect size (and price) for me.  Most grocery stores in the Des Moines 
area carry the Bob's Red Mill line of products, so for me they're easily accessible too.

P.S. These cookies are so good that my cookie snob husband gobbled up all of the ones I didn't give to my gluten-intolerant friends.  That's saying something.  Go ahead.  Give them a try.


Gluten-Free Snickerdoodles

Ingredients
  • 1/4 cup vegetable shortening

  • 3/4 cup softened butter
  • 1 ½ cups white sugar

  • 2 large eggs

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla 
extract
  • 2 teaspoons cream of tartar

  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½  teaspoon salt

  • 2 ¾ cups Bob's Red Mill Gluten-Free All Purpose Baking Flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum powder
  • ½ cup sugar mixed with 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Instructions
Beat together the shortening and sugar till smooth, then add the eggs, again beating till smooth. Beat in the vanilla, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt, then add the gluten-free flour & xanthan gum, mixing slowly till combined. (Don’t overbeat.  And for the record, be sure to NEVER overbeat cookie dough.) Cover and refrigerate at least two hours.*
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Once dough is chilled, roll tablespoon-sized balls in the cinnamon-sugar mixture in a shallow pan or bowl. You can coat 3-5 balls at a time.  Gently shake the pan/bowl to coat the dough balls with sugar. Place them on a parchment-lined cookie sheet, leaving about 1 ½" between them.
Bake the cookies at 400°F for 10 to 11 minutes, or until puffed and browned around the edges. Remove the cookies from the oven, cool on the pan for about 3-5 minutes, and then cool them on a rack.
*At this point I also like to form the balls and place on a wax paper lined cookie sheet.  I freeze them on the pan, and once frozen, I transfer the frozen dough balls to a zip-top bag.  I roll the frozen dough balls in sugar before baking the same way I bake them after being chilled.
Makes about 5 dozen cookies (I think)
Not the most attractive, but the taste is worth the effort.

These were baked after the dough had been refrigerated for a week.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Simple Cupcakes in 3 Sizes

Cupcakes with sprinkles--inside and out.
Vanilla cupcakes in 3 sizes.
I decided to go super simple for my son's 11th birthday this year.  He really doesn't have strong opinions beyond "plain vanilla" cake, so I decided to mix things up by making three sizes of cupcakes from one Betty Crocker box of white cake mix.  Because I like sprinkles, I decided to make some with sprinkles and some without. (Max prefers withOUT.  He has texture issues...)
This manner of baking cupcakes made 6 jumbo, 6 regular, and 12 mini sized cupcakes.  I think I'm only posting this for the pictures because the "recipe" is nothing spectacular.

Simple Cupcakes in 3 Sizes

Ingredients

  • 1 box white cake mix
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 1 1/4 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons rainbow nonpareils
  • 1 container vanilla frosting
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • more nonpareils

Instructions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Prepare cupcake pans (one jumbo 6 cup pan; one regular 6 cup pan; and one mini 12 cup pan) by lining with white cupcake liners.
Mix cake mix, eggs, oil, and water on low for 30 seconds to combine.  Scrape the bowl and mix on medium for 2 minutes.  Pour half the batter into a large zip top bag.  Gently stir nonpareils into the remaining batter and then scrape into another large zip top bag.
With scissors, clip 1/2-inch of one corner of the sprinkle batter bag and fill half of each pan.  Then do the same with the plain batter. (The sprinkle batter should be done first because the colors start bleeding immediately.)
Bake the jumbo and regular pan for about 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Then bake the mini pan for 8-10 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
Cool cupcakes on a wire rack.
In order to make this more complicated, I'm telling you that I whipped the canned frosting with 1/4 cup powdered sugar to make it more stiff and airy.  Then I frosted the cupcakes, sprinkling the frosted sprinkle cupcakes with more nonpareils immediately after frosting them.
Makes 24 cupcakes of varying sizes.

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