Anniversary Champagne Cake

My parents celebrated 41 years of marriage on Monday, and on that bright day in 1976, they served champagne cake to their guests in Portland, OR, my mother’s favorite. Mom recently came to New Orleans for a visit, and in addition to entertaining the chickens, restructuring my patio and filling raised beds made chicken-proof by wire, cunning, and hinge, she and I made this delicious cake from the Italian Baker by Melissa Forti (still one of the most beautiful cookbooks I’ve ever seen). Wonderful to see you, Mom.

Champagne Cake

Adapted from the Italian Baker

100ml (1/3 cup plus 1 ½ TB) avocado oil, plus extra for greasing

4 egg whites, at room temperature

225g (1 ½ cups) caster sugar

280g (2 cups) plain flour, sifted

3 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

245ml (1 cup) champagne, at room temperature

2 tablespoons double cream

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla paste or extract

FOR THE FILLING AND FROSTING

500ml (2 cups plus 2 TB) double cream

2 tablespoons icing (confectioners) sugar

80 g (3 oz)  good-quality strawberry jam

METHOD

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Lightly oil two 8 inch cake tins and line the bases and sides with baking parchment.

In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or in a mixing bowl and using a hand-held electric whisk) whisk the egg whites until frothy, then whisk in 100g (1/2 cup) of the sugar in small additions, whisking until stiff peaks form and the meringue looks glossy.

Put the flour, baking powder, remaining sugar and salt in a separate bowl. Add the vegetable oil, Champagne, cream and vanilla. Beat until incorporated, then gently fold in the whisked egg whites. Divide the batter between the prepared tins and bake for 30 minutes until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tins for 10 minutes before inverting on to a wire rack to cool completely.

In the meantime, place a stand mixer or a mixing bowl in the freezer for 15–20 minutes to chill. Using the whisk attachment or a hand-held electric whisk, whisk the double cream and icing sugar together in the chilled bowl, until it reaches a spreadable consistency.

To assemble, spread a thin layer of jam over one cake and top with whipped cream. Place the other cake over the first and, using a spatula, spread the whipped cream evenly over the top and sides.

I highly recommend the Italian Baker to Bake This Day readers; please purchase her book, I think she is my new baking hero– you can get it here: http://amzn.to/2fCWmJe. It should top your shelf.

Sesame-Matcha Bark- Green Chocolate

I meant to get this one online before St. Patrick’s Day this year — Green Chocolate — but my mother came to town and I went on vacation and things fell into a new prioritization scheme as they should.

Extremely strong green tea flavor, and, many friends who sampled this remarked, “very interesting.” Not sure it a “gotta have it” snack food-dessert, but it is more a fancy addition to a table of chichipoopoo eats.

Sesame-Matcha Bark

Adapted from Food and Wine

1 1/2 teaspoon vegetable oil, plus more for greasing

One 12-ounce bag bittersweet chocolate chips (2 cups)

1 tablespoon matcha powder

Two 12-ounce bags white chocolate chips (4 cups)

1 teaspoon black sesame seeds

Lightly grease a 9-by-13-inch baking pan and line with parchment paper, leaving a 1-inch overhang. In a medium bowl, microwave 1 1/2 cups of the bittersweet chocolate chips in 30-second bursts until just melted; stir until smooth. Stir in the remaining 1/2 cup of bittersweet chocolate until melted. Spread in an even layer in the prepared baking pan.

In a small bowl, whisk the matcha powder with the 1 1/2 teaspoons of oil. In a large bowl, microwave 3 1/2 cups of the white chocolate chips in 30-second bursts until just melted; stir until smooth. Stir in the remaining ½ cup of white chocolate until melted.

Mix 1/2 cup of the melted white chocolate with the matcha until no streaks remain. Scatter large spoonfuls of the matcha chocolate and the white chocolate over the dark chocolate layer and, working quickly, use a small spatula to decoratively swirl the matcha chocolate with the white chocolate. Sprinkle with the sesame seeds. Let stand at room temperature until firm, 2 hours. Remove the bark from the pan, cut into pieces and serve

Guinness anti-Gravity Cake for St. Patrick’s Day

Let’s have a moment to consider fondant. This was my first time experimenting with the substance, prompted by the fabulous and inspiring cookbook Gravity Cakes by Jakki Friedman and Francesca Librae (who, consequently, I imagine would be just the sort of kindred spirits I like to befriend, based purely on their silly taste and body of work).

Fondant is bread dough made of powdered sugar and gelatin. It’s a strange mix between pie dough and gum. Mine tasted pretty good, but mostly served the purpose of structure and tidying up the cake. Ooh, and the stream of Guinness cascading into the chocolate cake from above.

Brought this anti-gravity Guinness Cake to the first of the Midcity Supper Club gatherings, in honor of St. Patrick’s Day, and I can honestly say it was the proudest I have ever felt in a food offering. I felt like I was ten again bringing my diorama of the Alaskan mountain ranges to school—walking ginger-steps over each crack in the sidewalk, tottering my precious on the cake plate.

The cake cookbook was super helpful in navigating the first-time physics lessons of a fondant cake. Level four layers of chocolate cake (I used their recipe for chocolate cake, which was sturdy and yummy). “Crumb-coat” with buttercream frosting before adding the fondant.

For the fondant, roll it, drape it, trim, stamp and paint, arrange the handle and insert a straw/chopstick around which to mold your beer stream. Then top with foam frosting and voila!

Basic Rolled Fondant

1 (.25 ounce) package unflavored gelatin or agar

¼ cup cold water

½ cup glucose syrup or corn syrup

1 tablespoon glycerin

2 tablespoons (1oz/30g) shortening or butter

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

8 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar

Instructions

Combine gelatin and cold water; let stand until thick. Place gelatin mixture in top of double boiler and heat until dissolved.

Add glucose and glycerin, mix well. Stir in shortening and just before completely melted, remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Mixture should cool until lukewarm.

Place 4 cups confectioners’ sugar in a large bowl. Make a well in the center and using a wooden spoon, stir in the lukewarm gelatin mixture. Mix in sugar and add more a little at a time, until stickiness disappears. Knead in remaining sugar. Knead until the fondant is smooth, pliable and does not stick to your hands. If fondant is too soft, add more sugar; if too stiff, add water (a drop at a time).

Use fondant immediately or store in airtight container in fridge. When ready to use, bring to room temperature and knead again until soft.

I used the Swiss Buttercream recipe from another fine Robert Rose publication, Buttercream Basics by Carey Madden, and it was easy to shape into Guinness foam. Many eggs dedicated themselves to this project. Please, please, try this at home. So much fun and fondant was not as difficult as I thought it would be to make.

Green Pasta

St Patrick’s Day is coming, so go find several pounds of spinach and dye your pasta green for the holidays! I received a pasta cutter Kitchen-aid attachment for Christmas this year, and the Pasta Bible inspire greatness.

I had always wanted to make my own pasta but have been thwarted by the usual laziness. The effort was richly rewarded—easily the best pasta I’ve ever had—no comparison to dry packaged products, no comparison.

I’ll be experimenting with a variety of different doughs over the coming months, but this first dough recipe appears to be a standard dough for most all kinds of pasta (cut, stuffed, shaped, etc).


Pasta Dough a la Pasta Bible
2 1/3 cups all purpose flour
3 eggs
1 TB olive oil
½ tsp salt
1 TB water

Sift the flour onto the work surface in a mound and make a hollow in the middle. Break the eggs into the hollow. Add the olive oil and salt to the eggs. With a fork, first mix the ingredients in the hollow together and then start to mix in the flour from the edge.

Gradually incorporate more of the flour until a viscous paste begins to form. Put the fork to one side and using both hands, heap the remaining flour from the outside over the paste in the middle. Work the flour into the paste. If the paste does not absorb all the flour, and if the ingredients cannot be easily worked, add the water.

Work in water with both thumbs, then press the dough into a ball and work in the rest of the flour. Knead the dough until it is firm but has a slightly elastic consistency, until it no longer changes shape when you remove your hands. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for one hour.

Then roll it out super flat and cut it into strips and feed it into your cutter! Or make shapes however you desire.

To add green dye, follow these instructions from the Pasta Bible.

Then make your favorite pasta dish! Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Hoping to catch some cabbage from the parade floats tomorrow…

Pumpkin Cupcakes for my Pumpkin

We celebrate Izzy’s 8th birthday this year with cupcakes, a kibble cupcake for the bully, and pumpkin marshmallow cupcakes for us. She has settled into our lives like an heirloom, a treasure, a thing that we have been lucky to get, ancient and precious, decorating the living room with various stations of repose. She loves her birthday. We love her. And these blow-torched cupcakes are the fanciest thing I have done post-call in a long time.

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Burnt Marshmallow Frosting

Adapted from the Food Network Mag

Makes 24! (so spread among neighbors)

For the cupcakes:

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

2 cups packed light brown sugar

4 large eggs

2 sticks unsalted butter, melted

1 15-ounce can pure pumpkin puree

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

For the frosting:

2/3 cup granulated sugar

1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

4 large egg whites

Pinch of salt

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Make the cupcakes: Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven; preheat to 350 degrees F. Line two 12-cup muffin pans with liners. Whisk the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg and cloves in a medium bowl. Combine the brown sugar, eggs, melted butter, pumpkin puree and vanilla in a large bowl and whisk until smooth. Add the flour mixture and whisk until just combined.

Divide the batter among the prepared muffin cups, filling each about two-thirds of the way. Bake, switching the pans halfway through, until the tops of the cupcakes spring back when gently pressed, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes in the pan, then transfer to a rack to cool completely.

Meanwhile, make the frosting: Combine the granulated sugar, cream of tartar, egg whites and salt in a large heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water (do not let the bowl touch the water). Whisk until the mixture is warm and the sugar dissolves, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the bowl from the pan, add the vanilla and beat with a mixer on medium-high speed until the frosting is cool and stiff glossy peaks form, 4 to 6 minutes.

Transfer the frosting to a piping bag fitted with a large round tip; pipe onto the cupcakes. Brown the frosting with a kitchen torch.

Mardi Gras with Bob Ross, Mondo Kayo and Pimiento Cheese Dip

Another Mardi Gras has gone off like a confetti cannon in New Orleans. There are beads in the trees. There are beads on the floor of every room of the house. Beads under my moped tires on the scoot into work each morning. What a wonderful season it was—we had a Bob Ross themed Endymion party at which I served this super addictive cheese dip with a side of roast pig to a bunch of happy trees. And like the live oak branches, we swayed and swayed.

Then for Mondo Kayo, we celebrated the bright and holy truth that there is No Place Like Home. New Orleans seems to be the one place that can simultaneously be a place that is nostalgic for while also a foreshadowing of home.

Baked Pimiento Cheese Dip

Adapted from a Dromedary ad

16 oz. cream cheese, softened

8 oz. Cheddar cheese, shredded

8 oz. Colby-jack cheese, shredded

(2) 4 oz. jars or (1) 7-oz jar diced or sliced Dromedary® pimientos, drained & rinsed

1/4 c. sour cream

3 T. canned jalapenos, chopped

1 T. hot sauce

Directions

Mix all ingredients into large bowl. Spoon into greased two quart baking dish. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.  Serve warm with tortilla chips.

Or just plain Pimiento Cheese Dip

Adapted from Food and Wine

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1 jarred roasted red bell pepper, chopped

8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (2 cups)

8 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, shredded (2 cups)

4 ounces cream cheese at room temperature

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1 teaspoon cayenne

1 teaspoon kosher salt

In a food processor, pulse the garlic until finely chopped. Add the remaining ingredients and pulse until well blended. Scrape the pimento cheese into a large bowl and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving with crackers.

Hot or cold, this stuff is TASTY. We had so much fun, but now need to rest and rehydrate and get reinspired for new costumes next year.

Spicy Smoothies and Vegetable Pun Contest with Vegan Cookbook Giveaway

Just in time for Mardi Gras, I had the chance to review a nudie vegan cookbook Squeeze Life by Karliin Brooks, “Your guide to the best bare body at any age.” This book is full of colorful, gorgeous foodie photos, pun after pun after pun, and has a casual, often profane narrator. The prose reads like a snarky email from your best girlfriend. While I don’t whole-heartedly support all of her advice (like drinking your own urine), I do concur with two of Karliin’s guiding principles: 1) “Green juices are the ultimate babe fuel,” and 2) “What you put inside your body affects your overall well-being. So why eat shitty foods?”

All the recipes are based on raw, organic fruits, veggies and legumes. Because of this book I made milk out of cashews for the first time and enjoyed a delicious smoothie with curry spices.

Mardi gras this year is supposed to be 80 degrees, so KP and I have been working on getting a good primer coat on our tender, pale bodies.

Curry in a Flurry

I used MegaFood Turmeric powder as a substitute for the fresh turmeric in the smoothie recipe below… pretty spicy.

Some pages are rated R, fair warning. Not probably a book you want your kiddos to get their hands on. But the pun lover will have endless pleasures. I’m giving away one free copy of this book to my readers, just post a comment with your favorite vegetable pun… and then you too can “grab life by the sprouts and squeeze.” Ha!

And then, since we’re on a smoothie kick right now and I’m still loving the Just Spices shipment that came last week, try this very tasty smoothie with a Smoothie Booster shot! Photo taken amid the chaos of the current state of affairs in my “kitchen” which admittedly becomes more like my office every day.

Just Spice Smoothie

One cup plain Greek Yogurt

½ cup nonfat milk

2 cups frozen fruit (mangos and peaches are my fave)

1 scoop of protein powder

1 tsp of Smoothie Booster from Just Spices