Monday, August 30, 2010

Fall leaves

Another great picture by Sherry Heck for Mesa.

Turning apples into apple cake

My in-laws have an amazing garden bursting with abundant tomatoes, squash, beans, pears and much more. Everything delicious with the exception of the apple tree - the fruit looks great, but year after year produces the most mouth puckering sour apples. I brought a big bag home this year hoping to coax them into a palatable apple sauce, but with a friend coming over for coffee and not much else in the house, I decided to try to whip up a quick cake. I found this recipe on Martha Stewart and decided to give it a go. I made a couple changes (butter rather than oil) and hoped that the sweetness of a brown sugar glaze would offset the sour apples. It worked! The cake was moist and delicious and allowed the not so perfect apples to shine. With cooler temperatures upon us, this lovely cake will be my new fall favorite.

Brown sugar apple spice cake

• 1 1/3 cups unsalted butter, softened
• 3 cups all-purpose flour
• 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
• ¼ teaspoon cardamom
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 2 cups sugar
• 3 large eggs
• 3 to 4 Granny Smith apples, cored and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (3 cups)
• 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
• Brown sugar glaze
• Nonstick cooking spray with flour

Preheat oven to 350. Prepare a 12-cup Bundt pan with cooking spray; set aside.
Sift together flour, cinnamon, cardamom, baking soda, and salt
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine butter, sugar, and eggs; mix on high speed until lemon yellow.
With mixer on medium speed, gradually shake in dry ingredients until just incorporated.
Add apples to batter; mix to combine. Add vanilla, mixing until incorporated.
Pour batter into prepared pan, and bake until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 75 to 90 minutes.
Remove from oven, and cool slightly on a wire rack.
Invert cake onto rack; turn cake right-side up to cool completely on rack, and serve drizzled with brown sugar glaze

Brown Sugar Glaze
¼ cup unsalted butter
½ cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons cream

Whisk together butter, brown sugar, and cream in a small sauce pan and bring to a boil. Cook for 5 minutes
Drizzle over warm cake

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Zut alors - I have a job!

(bittersweet chocolate torte with fresh berries and whipped creme fraiche)

Is it possible that my little baby will be turning 5 in two short months? Is it possible that I haven't had a "real" job that entire time? Choosing to be a stay at home mom has been hugely rewarding and by far the most difficult job I've ever had. Now that Graham's happily in preschool, I am very excited to be embarking on a new venture.

When I met my husband ten years ago, he had just graduated from culinary school and was working his way up the ranks at some of San Francisco's most respected restaurants - Boulevard, Rubicon, Zuni, Redwood Park, Kokkari. He reached the level of executive chef a few years ago, but hadn't found the perfect job until now. A brand new restaurant, his own menu, a talented staff of his choosing, closer to home and an opening for a pastry chef! The restaurant, called Zut!, will focus on regional Mediterranean cuisine using seasonal, local ingredients. It's located on the fabulous 4th Street in Berkeley (with a very tempting Anthropologie around the corner).

After focusing on fondant, cupcakes & kids parties for the past few years, it was a little daunting to go back into a restaurant and come up with desserts for the out of preschool palette. After a few weeks of experimentation and the encouragement of a very nice boss (thanks, honey!), we have settled on five desserts for the opening menu - chocolate torte (pictured above), muscovado pot de creme, plum jam crostata, Greek yogurt with walnuts, honey & dried fruit, and fresh strawberry granita with pistachio macarons. Phew!

With less than a week until our grand opening (August 31st), I'm loving my new job and hoping we will have throngs of customers to try out my creations.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Drum roll, please...

The winner is lucky number 12 - Dani!!! What will she use her gift certificate for? Dani says "there are a million things...I am thinking baking sheets and pans. Very practical, but much needed when it comes to feeding three hungry little boys! Thanks for the great giveaway!"

Congratulations, Dani! I will contact you via email.

Thanks everyone for entering!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Aidan's cake

Aidan is the sweetest boy with amazing, bouncy blond curls and I loved making this cake to help him celebrate his third birthday.

Monday, August 9, 2010

$40 CSN giveaway!

I was so excited when Caitlin from CSN stores emailed me to ask if I would be interested in hosting a giveaway. Of course! I love free stuff and I'm sure that you do to - especially really nice stuff like they carry at CSN's 200 + stores. I'm partial to baking (duh!), so their site is right up my alley. From a fabulous dutch oven

gorgeous cake stands

and adorable cookie cutters is one of the most cohesive cooking sites I've come across. One lucky reader will receive a $40 gift certificate good at or any CSN store.

Two ways to enter (leave a comment for each entry):
1. Visit CSN and let me know how you would use your gift certificate.
2. Become a fan of Cakewalk on Facebook and share with your friends and let me know.

Enter now through Friday, August 13th at noon. I will announce the winner Friday evening via email.

Open to US and Canadian residents (there may be international shipping charges to Canada)

Good luck!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

S'more please!

I spent last week in lovely San Diego (Encinitas to be exact) playing at the beach, visiting favorite high school haunts and hanging out with extended family. On Saturday afternoon, we had a big family gathering with tons of fabulous food (why didn't I know my husband makes the best carnitas?), fabulous mai tais and lots of great company. Though most people had petered out by sundown, a few hardy souls remained to create delicious treats at the s'mores bar (an idea completely ripped off inspired by Michelle of So Wonderful, So Marvelous posted on Birthday Girl).

I included four different chocolates, traditional honey graham crackers, homemade marshmallows, strawberries and bananas, nutella and spices. A menu was provided to get provide some possible "recipes", but I think everyone just dug in and picked their favorite ingredients. I had never toasted homemade marshmallows before and was quite pleased that they acted just like the store bought kind - getting nice and toasty outside and gooey inside.

Barring one drippy marshmallow burn (which might have had something to do with the consumption of above mentioned mai tais), I think that the bar was a success!

(If you would like a copy of my s'mores menu, leave me a comment and I will email you the .pdf. I'm not clever enough to figure out how to link to it!)

Here's my favorite marshmallow recipe from Alton Brown:
3 packages unflavored gelatin
1 cup ice cold water, divided
12 ounces granulated sugar, approximately 1 1/2 cups
1 cup light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
Nonstick spray
Place the gelatin into the bowl of a stand mixer along with 1/2 cup of the
water. Have the whisk attachment standing by.

In a small saucepan combine the remaining 1/2 cup water, granulated sugar, corn syrup and salt together
Place over medium high heat, cover and allow to cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Uncover, clip a candy thermometer onto the side of the pan and continue to cook until the mixture reaches 240 degrees F, approximately 7 to 8 minutes. Once the mixture reaches this temperature, immediately remove from the heat.

Turn the mixer on low speed and, while running, slowly pour the sugar syrup down the side of the bowl into the gelatin mixture. Once you have added all of the syrup, increase the speed to high. Continue to whip until the mixture becomes very thick and is lukewarm, approximately 12 to 15 minutes. Add the vanilla during the last minute of whipping. While the mixture is whipping prepare the pans as follows.
Combine the confectioners' sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl. Lightly spray a
13 by 9-inch metal baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Add the sugar and cornstarch mixture and move around to completely coat the bottom and sides of the pan. Return the remaining mixture to the bowl for later use.

When ready, pour the mixture into the prepared pan, using a lightly oiled spatula for spreading evenly into
the pan. Dust the top with enough of the remaining sugar and cornstarch mixture to lightly cover. Reserve the rest for later. Allow the marshmallows to sit uncovered for at least 4 hours and up to overnight.
Using a sharp knife dipped in hot water, cut the marshmallows into 1 ½” squares. Toss in the remaining cornstarch mixture. Store in an air tight container.
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