Saturday, April 24, 2010

Lemon Cake

"Lemon Cake" is the creation this week. I have never made a lemon cake, or any cake that involves citrus before so this was definitely something new. In addition, I have never tasted lemon cake in my life either. However, I do love the flavor that lemon gives to dishes, especially in certain baked goods. When watching the Food Network, this recipe came on and I figured it would be something new that I can add to my recipe repertoire. While making this "Lemon Cake", the end result was definitely a mystery. In my mind, I was hoping that this cake would somewhat taste like freshly squeezed lemonade. Once I made the batter, I had two choices. I can either make it in two loaf pans as the recipe states or I can make cupcakes. What to do? What to do? Well, when I hear "Lemon Cake", I expect a cake. Not a cake in the shape of a loaf so I decided to make cupcakes. Not only because they are the perfect portion size but doesn't everyone like cupcakes? Who needs a slice of cake when you can have a cupcake all to yourself? The cupcakes came out of the oven, I doused them with the syrup and iced them. I took the first bite and what did it taste like? It was definitely lemony, moist, tangy and sweet. Not quite like lemonade but close enough. Since this was my first time eating a lemon cake, I can't say that it's the best but it is pretty darn good. The recipe that I used for this "Lemon Cake" was from Ina Garten. Ina Garten's recipes are pretty consistent in their end quality. I highly recommend trying any of her recipes. *This is a test recipe.

Lemon Cake
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar, divided
4 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1/3 cup grated lemon zest (6 to 8 large lemons)
3 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, divided
3/4 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
For the glaze:
2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
3 1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour 2 (8 1/2 by 4 1/4 by 2 1/2-inch) loaf pans. You may also line the bottom with parchment paper, if desired.

Cream the butter and 2 cups granulated sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. With the mixer on medium speed, add the eggs, 1 at a time, and the lemon zest.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. In another bowl, combine 1/4 cup lemon juice, the buttermilk, and vanilla. Add the flour and buttermilk mixtures alternately to the batter, beginning and ending with the flour. Divide the batter evenly between the pans, smooth the tops, and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until a cake tester comes out clean.

Combine 1/2 cup granulated sugar with 1/2 cup lemon juice in a small saucepan and cook over low heat until the sugar dissolves. When the cakes are done, allow to cool for 10 minutes. Remove the cakes from the pans and set them on a rack set over a tray or sheet pan; spoon the lemon syrup over them. Allow the cakes to cool completely.

For the glaze, combine the confectioners' sugar and the lemon juice in a bowl, mixing with a wire whisk until smooth. Pour over the tops of the cakes and allow the glaze to drizzle down the sides.

Lemon Cake on Foodista
-Aaron John
My Food Outings: AJ's Food Adventure
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Saturday, April 17, 2010


Finally! Let's get something savory on this blog. So, this week is "Focaccia" week. Now do you know what "Focaccia" is? Well, it's a delicious oily crusted bread. YUM!! I have to say I love my bread. I can't understand why anyone would go on a "low-carb diet". Anyway, this was my first time making "Focaccia". From what I heard of it before, it's essentially pizza dough that is simply made into a bread that has dimples in it. However, there is nothing simple about the flavors of "Focaccia" you can have. You can top it with different herbs such as rosemary and basil, you can top it with parmesan cheese and even top it with thinly sliced tomatoes. Really, the possibilities are endless and it all starts with the basic recipe for the dough. To make this Focaccia, I used Chef Anne Burrell's recipe that she used on the Food Network. Making the "Focaccia" went pretty well. The bread was moist, fluffy and flavorful. Most of the flavor came from the olive oil so don't be afraid of the amount. However, I have to say, I think the amount can be reduced by a bit because once I took the "Focaccia" out of the pan, there was oil that was left behind. Overall, this is definitely a MUST to try. Plus, it's pretty simple to make. You just have to be patient.

1 3/4 cups warm water
1 package active dry yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
5 cups all-purpose flour, plus additional for kneading
1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus coarse sea salt, for sprinkling
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
Combine the warm water, yeast and sugar in a small bowl. Put the bowl in a warm, not hot or cool, place until the yeast is bubbling and aromatic, at least 15 minutes.

In the bowl of a mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the flour, 1 tablespoon of kosher salt, 1/2 cup olive oil and the yeast mixture on low speed. Once the dough has come together, continue to knead for 5 to 6 minutes on a medium speed until it becomes smooth and soft. Give it a sprinkle of flour if the dough is really sticky and tacky.

Transfer the dough to a clean, lightly floured surface, then knead it by hand 1 or 2 times. Again, give it another sprinkle of flour if the dough is really sticky and tacky.

Coat the inside of the mixer bowl lightly with olive oil and return the dough to the bowl. Cover it with plastic wrap and put it in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size, at least 1 hour.

Coat a jelly roll pan with the remaining 1/2 cup olive oil. (Chef's Note: This may seem excessive, but focaccia is an oily crusted bread. This is why it is soooooooooo delicious!).

Put the dough onto the jelly roll pan and begin pressing it out to fit the size of the pan. Turn the dough over to coat the other side with the olive oil. Continue to stretch the dough to fit the pan. As you are doing so, spread your fingers out and make finger holes all the way through the dough. (Chef's Note: Yes, this is strange. But when the dough rises again it will create the characteristic craggy looking focaccia. If you do not make the actual holes in the dough, the finished product will be very smooth.)

Put the dough in the warm place until it has doubled in size, about 1 hour. While the dough is rising a second time, preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Liberally sprinkle the top of the focaccia with some coarse sea salt and lightly drizzle a little oil on top. Bake the dough until the top of the loaf is golden brown, about 25 to 30 minutes. Remove the focaccia from the oven and let it cool before cutting and serving.

Oh baby!

Focaccia on Foodista
-Aaron John
My Food Outings: AJ's Food Adventure
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Saturday, April 10, 2010

Chocolate And Almond Biscotti

I have a new found love for biscotti. No, I'm not talking about the biscotti that are individually wrapped in plastic and are sold in those fancy looking boxes at supermarkets. I'm talking about the real, home-made biscotti. There is definitely a difference in, not only the taste, but in the texture. Sometimes I find that a store bought biscotti are as hard as a rock and you're basically breaking your teeth with every bite you make. Home-made biscotti are hard enough to give you that crunch but still not too hard that you'll have to go to the dentist afterward. In addition, I personally do not like the anise/licorice flavor that store-bought biscotti have. It definitely turns me off. That's why I decided to make a biscotti without that licorice flavor and make it simple with almonds and chocolate. The recipe I used and adapted comes from Giada De Laurentiis. I completely changed her recipe all together and came up with my own. The recipe creates a lemony biscotti with almonds running through, giving it a nutty aspect. Plus, with a layer of chocolate how can you go wrong?

*Keep in mind that this is NOT my tweaked recipe.

Chocolate And Almond Biscotti
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cornmeal
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
3 tablespoons grated lemon zest (from about 3 to 4 lemons)
3/4 cup coarsely chopped whole almonds
18 ounces white chocolate chips
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt.

In another large bowl, beat the sugar and eggs with an electric mixture until pale yellow, about 3 minutes. Mix in the lemon zest and then the flour, and beat until just blended. (The dough will be sticky). Stir in the almonds. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes.

Divide the dough evenly into 2 equal mounds and place on the prepared baking sheet. With moist hands, space the dough evenly apart and form into 2 (9 by-3-inch) logs. Bake for 35 minutes until lightly browned. Cool for 5 minutes. Using a serrated knife, cut the logs crosswise into 3/4-inch-thick diagonal slices. Arrange the biscotti cut side down on the same baking sheet. Bake until the cookies are pale golden, about 25 minutes. Let cool completely.

Place the chocolate chips in a medium bowl. Place the bowl over a pan of simmering water, making sure the bottom of the pan does not touch the water. Stir until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Dip the end of each biscotti in the chocolate. Transfer the dipped biscotti to a wire rack, set over a baking sheet, until the chocolate has hardened. Store in an airtight container.

These would actually make great little give-aways. Just buy some cellophane bags, twist ties and you're all set. Quick, easy and inexpensive.

Hazelnut Almond Biscotti on Foodista
-Aaron John
My Food Outings: AJ's Food Adventure
Facebook Fan Page

Friday, April 2, 2010

Whoopie Pies

** I apologize for the bad photos. It was late at night and I took them. Photo Tip: NEVER take photos at night by using kitchen lights!

The Whoopie Pie. Now what the heck is a Whoopie Pie? Well, think about it this way, it's simply a chocolate cake turned into a cookie sandwich. It's soft like a cake and yet portable like a cookie. Whoever came up with this idea must be a genius. This was definitely my first time making a whoopie pie, let alone, eating one for the first time. Recently, I searched the internet for a recipe for a whoopie pie and a plethora of recipes came up. In determining which I wanted to try, I looked at the pictures that were displayed for the recipe. I saw some that were the size of the tops of the muffins bought at costco, some had weird cracks in them and finally, the recipe I used, which looked normal. They weren't huge, yet weren't small and gave me the feeling that I wanted to grab one and eat it. Well, I made the whoopie pie so that was done. Now the filling. This recipe called for a buttercream. I personally HATE homemade buttercream. Maybe it's just that I find the buttercream to have a strange cornstarch taste due to the powdered sugar or it's the thought of essentially eating a stick of butter on these whoopie pies. Both are GROSS! So, I went to another recipe to see what filling they used and they had a 7-minute frosting. It didn't involved powdered sugar, which was a plus, but it was super complicated so I decided not to go forward with it. Then, after reading the recipe for the 7-minute frosting, I realized that it was practically the same ingredients and same method that you use to make marshmallows. Being the smart person I am, I looked in my cupboard and voila, there was marshmallow fluff. So, I filled my whoopie pies with marshmallow fluff. The result was ehhh. There was something definitely lacking. The cake part didn't have that strong chocolately taste that I want and the marshmallow fluff didn't really add anything but sweetness. Overall, this recipe needs some serious tweaking. If you would like to try this recipe yourself, here it is.

Whoopie Pies
makes approx. 30 cookies
1 3/4 cups flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk (or milk)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter , room temperature
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1 egg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, add the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. whisk together until well combined and set aside.
In a small bowl, stir together the buttermilk and vanilla and set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and the brown sugar until creamy and fluffy. about 3 mins. Add the egg and beat until well combined. add the flour mixture and buttermilk in batches, starting and ending with the flour. Scrape down the bowl several times, ensuring that everything is well combined. Mix just until all the ingredients are combined, do not over mix.
Using a pastry bag fitted with a large circle tip, pipe out the batter in 1 1/2 inch circles on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, leaving at least 1 inch between each.
Dip your finger in water and shake off excess. With your wet finger, gentley press down the top of each cookie.
Bake in 350 degree oven for 8-10 mins, until they are puffed. Using a metal spatula, transfer to a wire rack and cool completely.

Vanilla Buttercream
1/4 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons cream

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and sugar. Start on low speed until combined and then increase speed to medium and beat for approx. 3 mins. Add vanilla and cream and beat again. About 1 min more.

Match up cookies in like sized pairs. Pipe out or spoon buttercream on one side and sandwich with the other.

Whoopie Pies on Foodista
-Aaron John
My Food Outings: AJ's Food Adventure
Facebook Fan Page


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