Cake from a Box!

 

I found a box mix at one of those big warehouse type stores that sell odd items, discontinued stuff, and leftovers. The ingredients are your basic recipe ingredients: sugar, flour, cocoa, corn starch, canola oil, baking powder, and salt. I had to buy this; actually I bought two boxes. I’m thinking that I could make my own cake mixes by mixing up the dry ingredients and listing what wet ones to add. For this box mix one adds 1 1/2 cups milk, 1 stick butter, and three eggs. I’m not sure how they got the canola oil in the mix.

I love German Chocolate Cake. Either myself or a family member makes or buys one for my birthday. It is not my birthday, no where close. I have previously made a German Chocolate Cake just for fun, also not for my birthday. That post is Cake Envy

This was super easy to make. I baked it in my 8-inch round cake pans. I then made the frosting from the side of the box for the classic Coconut Pecan Frosting.

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup canned evaporated milk
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 1/3 cups flaked coconut
  • 1 cup chopped pecans

Cook all this except the coconut and pecans in a sauce pan. Bring to boiling and then cook over medium heat 4 to 5 minutes, until slightly thickened. Stir in the coconut and pecans. Cool completely before frosting the cake.

What could be simpler? Well, it usually helps to read the recipe several times. I put in an entire can of evaporated milk so that was 1 1/2 cups. I cooked this longer than the 5 minutes because it was not getting thick. I admit I also had to pick out a few small pieces of scrambled egg! After cooking and stirring in the coconut and pecans it seemed more pudding like than frosting. I contemplated making it into a German chocolate trifle. But I persevered and stuck it in the fridge to firm up. And voila! It worked!

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popovers that did not pop

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I baked popovers to go with leftover soup. I used my favorite popover recipe which is in a cookbook entitled The Cookie and Biscuit Bible. I must be catching up on my Bible reading as I recently checked out some other food and cooking “Bible” books from my local library. Anyway this popover recipe is simple and has always turned out well. It is my favorite but it is also the only popover recipe I have ever used.

  • 2 Tab. butter, melted
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 1/2 cups four
  • pinch of salt
  • a few sprigs of fresh herbs

I confess that I did not have milk in the house, nor fresh herbs. Well, there is a thriving bunch of parsley but I wasn’t keen on using that in popovers. So how do you make popovers without milk? I used 3/4 cup half-and-half with 1/4 cup water. For the herbs I decided to use 1/2 tsp dried fine herbs and 1/2 tsp dried tarragon.

Heat oven to 425 degrees F and spray/grease a twelve cup muffin pan.

Beat the eggs in a stand mixer until blended and then beat in the milk, then the melted butter. Sift the flour and salt and gradually beat this into the egg mixture. Stir in the herbs. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 25-30 minutes. Do not open the oven until done. These should have popped over the tops of the muffin cups and then slowly deflate when removed from the pan.

So what happened? Not sure but the heavier milk may have been an issue. I also may have beaten it too long and hard. I had read somewhere that the batter should be beaten for three minutes to be sure there is plenty air incorporated. Well, I started the beating with the eggs and kept the mixer going to the very end. This may have been 6-8 minutes since I did not have mise en place and everything ready to add in the proper order.

But all was not lost. These came out like an egg-y muffin and sopped up the soup broth just fine. Now what to do with the four that we didn’t eat?

 

Apple Crisp

Fall is in the air! I know this because I have gotten out a bunch of cookbooks and have gone to the library and checked out a few as well. I think about baking; I bake; I think about baking some more.

Apples: we bought some nice locally sourced Gala apples as these are one of our favorites for eating. It is a portable fruit. Hubby goes off to work with an apple, a piece of cheese, and granola bars, none of which is homemade. We then bought five pounds of more apples, also locally sourced, with the express purpose of making apple pies, muffins, tarts, etc.

So this week’s apple recipe is an Apple Crisp. This is from King Arthur Flour’s 200th Anniversary Cookbook. They had posted one on line but I think that may be different. Not sure. Anyway this is a good one. I did add my own flair to it, though.

  • 4 cups chopped apples, peeled (KAF said this was about 8 apples, so I peeled, cored, and chopped exactly 8 apples.)
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup oatmeal
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 teaspoon gingerbread spice mix (my addition: original recipe called for 3/4 tsp cinnamon and 1/4 tsp allspice)
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened (I melted mine)
  • 2 Tab. chopped candied ginger (my addition)
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries (my addition)

Put chopped apples in lightly greased (or sprayed) 8-inch square baking dish. Sprinkle on the cranberries and the candied ginger. Blend the dry ingredient and add the butter. Melted butter (somewhat cooled) mixes in nicely. Stir until all ingredients are not dry. Put this on top of the apples. I patted it down like a crust. Bake 35 minutes at 375 degrees F.

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This came out well. Hubby said it had a “grown up taste”, not sure what that means. The topping was crispy and contrasted with the apples very well. In future I would reduce the brown sugar to 3/4 cup sugar as I think the topping doesn’t need that much sweetness. We did not have ice cream in the house and that would add a nice finish to this Crisp.

Apple “cup-pies”

 

I have made mini apple pies in a cup cake pan. The recipe is http://www.livewellbakeoften.com/mini-apple-pies/. I found this by googling apple pies looking for tarts.  The only adaptation I made is to brush the tops with water and sprinkle on some cinnamon sugar. I also used 3 cups of chopped apples instead of 2 1/2. I used Macoun apples. If I make these again, and it is likely I will, I would reduce the sugar by half and increase the amount of apples to 4 cups.

  • 2 9-inch pie crusts (I used store bought because I haven’t gotten around to making my own.)
  • 2 1/2 cups apples, chopped
  • 1/4 cup sugar (in the future I would use 1/8 cup)
  • 2 Tab flour
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg

Cut the pie crust into 12 circles about 3 1/2 inches. I used my Pyrex custard cups as the cutter. Press these circles of dough into your regular sized muffin pan. Use the leftover dough to make strips for the lattice tops. I found that four strips are needed for each mini pie.

Mix apples and other ingredients all together and spoon even amounts into the dough cups. Fashion the lattice to each. I then brushed the tops with water and sprinkled with a tiny bit of cinnamon sugar. Bake in 425 degree F oven for 20-25 minutes. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes or so and then carefully remove to a cooling rack.

 

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“good bake”

Cake Week: part two; Julia Child’s Biscuit au Beurre

Butter Spongecake from  Mastering the Art of French Cooking: this was chosen when I consulted this cook book about the size of pan to use. Julia uses a 10 inch pan for 4 eggs. In “Cake Week”: or my attempt at the sponge, part one I used 6 eggs in an 8-inch pan.  Julia tells the baker what equipment to use, balloon whisk and 10 inch pan. This recipe adds some butter. The other recipe choice I could have made was the Orange Sponge which uses 4 eggs in a 9 inch pan. Hopefully I will redeem myself with this Sponge.

  • 4 Tablespoons butter, melted and left to cool
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 egg whites
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 Tb sugar
  • 3/4 cup cake flour turned into a sifter
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    not quite as elegant a mise en place as in part one

Butter and flour a 10 inch round cake pan at least two inches deep. I use my 10-inch springform pan. I spray all around with baking spray. Perhaps I should have just sprayed the bottom and not the sides? This is a sponge recipe so the eggs are separated with the egg whites folded into the batter.

Gradually beat the 2/3 cup sugar into the egg yolks, add the vanilla and beat for several minutes until thick and pale and “forms the ribbon”.

Beat the egg whites and salt together in separate bowl until soft peaks form. Sprinkle on the sugar and beat until stiff peaks are formed.

The combining of these gets fussy. And I believe this affected the outcome.

Scoop 1/4th of the egg whites over the egg yolk mixture. Sift on 1/4th of the flour. “Delicately fold in until partially blended”. Repeat with 1/3 of the egg whites and flour. Repeat with 1/2 of each.  Then the last of each. When partially blended fold in the rest of the tepid butter but not the milky residue at the bottom. “Do not overmix; the egg whites must retain as much volume as possible.” Turn into the pan and bake at 350 degrees F (a proper temperature) for 30-35 minutes. Let rest in pan for 6-8 minutes and then turn out.

It was difficult not to add the milky residue. And I may have more fully blended than partially. The volume of the batter diminished slightly while adding the butter.

This cake did not rise. It did remain spongy though. I glazed it with a Lemon Marmalade as I had substituted one of the teaspoons of vanilla with one teaspoon lemon extract.

So did I redeem my place in “the tent”? I am not sure. I do not know what constitutes “a proper sponge”. But I do not think I will get a handshake from Paul!

Both cakes were spongy. The butter sponge was slightly more dense than the other but not quite as dense as an ordinary butter cake. The crumb looked good with even air bubbles. The first sponge was quite spongy. And its flavor was more enjoyable. The verdict is to remake the first cake using the 10 inch pan. Or maybe I’ll just stick to butter cakes.

 

“Cake Week”: or my attempt at the sponge, part one

I have finished binge watching the 5th season of GBBO and Hubby is concerned that I have not mastered the sponge. I think most American cakes are butter cakes. Sponges for me usually turn into hockey pucks. I did have one success here. But my favorite cakes to bake are still butter cakes. “Paul and Pru” would probably throw me out of the tent for this latest endeavor. They seem to always be saying “make a sponge” and do this, that, and the other thing to it. I looked up in my French and British cookery books what an “opera cake” and “Victoria sponge” are about. We mid-American home cooks just bake cakes and ice them with frosting or powdered sugar without naming them. Except for German Chocolate Cake and that isn’t even German. Okay, also Angel Food Cake…and others…it’s the thought that counts.

Fall is here with cooler temperatures. My new kitchen counters have been installed and I have reorganized my baking supplies and I have a kitchen sink again. We won’t mention the three holes in the ceiling waiting for the plumber to come fix a leak. And I have been drooling over cook books in these two weeks without a functioning kitchen, so it is finally time to bake something. And that something will be the gateau de Savoie from my French Feasts cookbook: Savoy Cake (blow-away sponge).

Warning: the results are not pretty! Not Star Baker material today.

  • 6 eggs, separated
  • 1 cup superfine sugar (make this by whisking regular sugar in the food processor)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup cornstarch (Hunh?)

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    Mise en place

Unfortunately this cookbook fails to state what size pan to use. Most of the gateau are made in loaf pans. Most of the British cakes are made in 7-8 inch pans. I choose my 8 inch spring form pan, thinking this will work out well.

Directions: Beat the yolks with the sugar until pale and tick. Add the vanilla, flour, and cornstarch. Beat the egg whites into stiff peaks and fold them gently into the rest of the mixture using a spatula. Pour into non-stick pan and bake at 300 degrees F for 40 minutes. It is at this point I am wondering if my pan is too small. I’m also thinking that the oven should be at 350 which is the temperature at which most cakes get baked. Hmmm?

Yep! Wrong size pan! And 40 minutes in the slow oven was not enough time. Silly me, I put it back in the oven for 10 more minutes.

A complete disaster and waste of 6 eggs! The crust is a tasty meringue; the top part of the cake is not done. I scrape that part off and the bottom half is spongy. What to do?

The cake is soft and spongy. And foldable. I get out the blackberry preserves and…

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Did I save my place in the tent? Stay tuned for Part Two.

Ready, set, bake! Puff Pastry Dough

All week long for some reason I felt like making puff pastry. Actually I wanted to make a Rough Puff pastry. Can you tell I’ve just finished watching Season 5 of the Great British Bake Off? I searched on-line for a recipe to make. I found Paul Hollywood’s but just reading his name was too intimidating. So I went with Epicurious: Rough Puff Pastry Dough.

This is mostly butter. Lots of butter. In looking at PH’s recipe there seems to be less butter to the same amount of flour. Interesting. This, of course, I note in hindsight. I have made “real” puff pastry before quite a long time ago so I do not recall the difference. That will mean another internet search sometime.

  • 1 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick, plus 5 tablespoons of butter frozen
  • 5-6 tablespoons of ice water
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Ready, set, bake!

The metal bowl is to be chilled but I did not want to wait. I somehow do not have a box grater so I started out with that small hand held one and ended with working the butter into the flour with my hands. I keep butter in the freezer so that was readily available.

First sift the flour and the salt. Then grate the frozen butter into the flour. With a box grater this would have been easy. Not so much with the itty-bitty one I have. I became concerned that the butter parcels would be too small so I chopped up the remaining stick of butter with a chef’s knife and rubbed it into the flour with my fingers. Then sprinkle the flour/butter mixture with 5 tablespoons of iced water and stir with a fork until it comes together. It should hold together without crumbling when squeezed with your hand. If not, add a little bit more water. At this point my hands are covered with butter and flour. Form this into a 5 inch square. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes.

So Hubby and I find an intriguing movie to watch on Netflix. We pause this every 30 minutes for me to go roll out the dough.

Roll out dough into a 15 x 8 inch rectangle. Epicurious says to fold in thirds. But I think I remember PH liking the four fold, fold a fourth on each small end to the middle and then fold over. So this is what I did. Cover in plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes. Do this two more times. Now chill the finished product for at least one hour. I leave the dough in the refrigerator overnight.

Now what to do with this? Nothing too original. Tarts made with a nice all-fruit jam. Roll out the dough into a rectangle 24 x 8 inches. Cut into 6 smaller rectangles. Place a helping of jam on one half. Brush edges with an egg wash made of one beaten egg and a few teaspoons of milk. fold into your turnovers. Use a fork to seal the edges and to poke through the top crust. Brush tops with egg wash and sprinkle with sugar. I chilled these for an hour or two or three as Hubby and I were busily cleaning and de-cluttering our kitchen for a bit of remodeling. I baked these at 375 degrees F for 30 minutes. We’re still working in the kitchen and Hubby asks “What’s burning?” I guess that means my oven may need cleaning or he did not expect to smell the baking heat.

So here is our tasty treat. No soggy bottom. Hubby declares it “a good bake”. Melt in the mouth buttery and flaky.

I would make this again. Maybe tackle PH’s recipe. Or I will buy the stuff from the grocery store freezer and keep it handy to use. I guess it depends on how much I want to get my hands into the action!