Sunday, June 24, 2012

summer savory pound cake

despite the heat and lack of rain, some of the herbs in the demonstration garden are going strong.  one of them that is putting on a show is the summer savory.  last week, i decided to cut the plant back since it had spilled out of the bed and across the walkway.  not wanting to waste the bounty, i brought it home.  it seems only fitting that it found it's way into the cake i took to share with my fellow gardeners in the demonstration garden this morning.

to tell the difference between summer savory and winter savory, look at the color of the flowers.  winter savory has white flowers, summer savory has lavender.  while it doesn't show well in the photo, the blooms most definitely were lavender.

summer savory pound cake
1 (4-6) cup bundt cake serving about 6-8

1 cup sugar
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1-2 tablespoons freshly picked summer savory leaves
zest from 1 orange
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1 tablespoon wildflower honey

preheat the oven to 350.  grease and flour a 4-6 cup bundt or tube pan and set it aside.  cream the butter and sugar with the savory, zest and salt until it is light and fluffy.  add the eggs slowly, one at a time, and scrape the bowl between additions.  sift the flour and leaveners over the batter and fold it in a few times by hand.  sprinkle the buttermilk over the top of the batter and fold the mixture until it is completely blended.  scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake in the center of the oven.  while the cake bakes, prepare the syrup by heating the juice and honey until they almost come to the simmer.  set aside and keep slightly warm.  bake the cake until a pick inserted comes out clean, approximately 50 minutes.  allow the cake to cool in the pan for 10-15 minutes and then turn it out onto a rack set over a pan to completely cool.  once the warm cake (yes, warm because a cold cake does not accept syrup as well as a warm one) is on the rack, gently brush the syrup over the top of the cake.  allow the cake to cool completely before serving.

and back out to the garden i go!  

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

twd: french strawberry cake

what's not to love about a cake loaded with strawberries and whipped cream?  i can't think of anything.  if you are smart and save the juices strained off of the macerated berries and make strawberry-basil martinis, there is even more to love.  so why the frown on my face?  one word-genoise.  they are so finicky and temperamental to make and i did not have a good time with this one.

this weeks tuesdays with dorie-baking with julia challenge, french strawberry cake-page 273, and it is hosted by sophia of sophias sweets and allison of think, love, sleep, dine.  visit their pages to read the full recipe.
 first things first, genoise.  it is a classic sponge cake and that should set off warning bells.  now don't go jumping out a window or running away.  it is just a cake, albeit a difficult one but still a cake none the less.  follow the rules and you shall have cake.

i followed the rules.  my cake turned out like a rubber disk.

 trudging along, i poured it into the pan hoping for success. after carefully folding in the flour and melted butter, the batter seemed so thin to me and you can see that it isn't much.  it came out of the oven like a rubber disk-i set about mixing up batch #2.

 round 2; i over whipped the eggs and stiff peaks stood stock still rather than dissolving.  i forged ahead anyway.  batch #3 worked out better.  since i have made genoise before, i knew i could omit the butter and still get a proper sponge cake.

my first attempt-a thin rubber disk that was very dense at the bottom-there was no way to get 3 layers out of this thing!

 my second attempt was over beaten and it sunk in the middle and again, i wasn't going to get 3 layers from this cake.

third time was the charm!!!

 josie couldn't believe it either

 first cake-very dense with a fine crumb-it went into the bird feeder.

 second cake-a little better, still a little finer crumb than i would like to have but it was a lot lighter than the first cake.

the third cake had what i think was a perfect light and open crumb that you need for a proper genoise.
the key, not over or under whipping the eggs.  that is a challenge and just because the recipe said to whip for 4-5 minutes, it's not set in stone.  the only way to know if you have the right consistency-check the ribbon and see how long it takes to dissolve.  to get the 10 seconds, i had to whip for about 6-7 minutes.

next came the berries.  i macerated them as the recipe instructed only i added a little vanilla bean and rose water to really punch up the flavor.  the maceration process takes about 3 hours and is well worth it.  the juices that remain after assembling the cake make awesome martinis!  we made them with basil from the garden and i could have had 2 or 3 myself-luckily we ran out of the juices!!!
 the whipped cream frosting is a little different;  it has sour cream added to it to give it a little something, kinda like creme fraiche in a way.  when i whip cream, i wrap plastic around the machine to prevent splashing.

 perfect soft peaks

strain the juices off by lifting the berries out with a slotted spoon.  spread them over the top of the layer.

 a thin coat of whipped cream frosting covers the berries

 then you do it again.  finally, the third layer is placed on top and the cake is frosted all over.

i think the recipe should call for the full 2 cups of cream in the carton rather than 1 1/4 cup.  i didn't have anything left to pipe rosettes with.  i brought the cake to a dinner-i was lucky to get a sliver of a taste-they did give me back my dirty cake plate though...

many thanks to sophia and allison for hosting, well done ladies!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

cinnamon swirl coffee cake; a comedy of errors

just about every sunday morning, i head out to the demonstration and research garden to work with my fellow master gardeners.  it may sound like a bad way to spend a sunday morning but it is actually a lot of fun when a group of us get together for the purpose of tending the many beds.  yes it is social, but we also have the opportunity to learn about all things "garden."

did i mention the cake?  it is hard to get volunteers to crawl out of bed early on a sunday morning so i have taken to bribing them with homemade cake.  every saturday evening, i bake a cake to take out there on sunday morning.  on the rare occasion that my husband can join me due to his insane work schedule, i let him choose the flavor; he chose chocolate chips this time.

one of my favorite types of coffee cake is a classic crumb cake.  tons of cinnamon scented streusel on top of a dense vanilla cake dusted with a barrel of powdered sugar.  mmmmmmm...add some chocolate chips and a cinnamon nut swirl and you just hit that one over the fence!  when i want a coffee cake like that, i reach for my worn out copy of the cake bible by rose levy beranbaum and i turn to her sour cream coffee cake recipe.

so, here i was in my kitchen on a saturday evening preparing to bake the coffee cake for my trip to the garden sunday morning.  how hard could that be?  oven set to 350 for preheating.  the food processor came out to make the crumb topping.  then i began to measure the ingredients for the topping and the ribbon since they are prepared first.  light brown sugar(bag of dark is open, i grab that instead), sugar, pecans, cinnamon, cake flour,  CAKE FLOUR!!!  uh oh, no cake flour; out came the all purpose and the corn starch to make a quick substitute.

next up, the butter for the topping and the cake, egg yolks, wait; let's make that 2 whole eggs rather than 4 yolks-i don't want left over whites.  back to it; sour cream-hmmm, it shouldn't be neon pink now should it?  no problem, i've got buttermilk.  moving right along, vanilla, cake flour(or should i say pretend cake flour), sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and let's not forget those chocolate chips!!!

needless to say, it pays to stock the larder and to check it for the ingredients before you get started.  but despite the missing ingredients, the cake came out fantastic and for a change, the squirrels did not get a single crumb!!!

sour cream comedy cake with chocolate chips
1 (8) cup tube pan, serves 8-10
adapted from rose levy beranbaum's sour cream coffee cake recipe in the cake bible, 1988, william morrow and company.  

1/3 cup dark brown sugar, packed
2 tablespoons sugar
1 cup pecan pieces
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 cup cake flour (or 1/3 cup all purpose flour and 1 tablespoon cornstarch)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
place the sugars, pecans and cinnamon into the bowl of the food processor and pulse to coarsely chop the pecans.  measure out 3/4 cup and set it aside.  add the flour and butter and pulse it to form small pea sized lumps of topping.  set this aside and prepare the cake batter.

cake batter
2 whole eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups cake flour (or 1 1/2 cup all purpose flour and 1/4 cup cornstarch)
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces and slightly softened
1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
preheat the oven to 350.  grease and flour an 8 cup tube pan and set aside.  whisk the eggs with 2 tablespoons of the buttermilk and the vanilla.  in the mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and soda and the salt and mix to combine.  add the butter and the remaining 6 tablespoons of buttermilk.  on low speed, mix until the ingredients come together.  turn the speed to medium and allow it to cream for several minutes until it is light and almost fluffy.  add the egg mixture in several additions, scrape the bowl after each addition and mix until combined.  add half of the chocolate chips and stir them in by hand.  pour about 2/3 of the batter into the prepared pan and spread it out evenly.   sprinkle the chocolate chips and the cinnamon/nut mixture evenly over the batter.  carefully drop the remaining batter over the topping in small dollops and then spread them out to form a thin layer.  sprinkle the crumb mixture over the top of the cake and bake until a pick inserted comes out clean, about an hour.  allow the cake to cool in the pan for at least 20 minutes.  carefully turn the cake out and then invert it onto a rack to cool.  serve as is or with a dusting of powdered sugar.  

and if you are interested in that garden i mentioned, see it here

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

a day late and at least a dollar short; twd-oasis naan

it's called tuesdays with dorie for a reason, you are supposed to bake a recipe from dories' baking with julia book and post it on the selected tuesday.  tell that to my computer.  tell that to the folks at the genius bar in the apple store.  just tell it to anyone that will listen.  it won't make any difference, i promise.  so, here i am, whining on wednesday that i missed tuesdays with dorie.  since i went through the trouble of making the bread and taking photos, i'm posting it a day late.  such is the story of my life...

this week's recipe challenge was the oasis naan and it was hosted by mary of always add more butter and phyl from the blogpage of cabbages and king cakes.   what many people do not realize is that i live in nashville but more specifically, i live in the middle of the largest kurdish community in the united states.  we frequently visit a middle eastern market in our neighborhood to buy freshly baked naan.  three kurdish ladies make it every morning in the store using authentic tandoor ovens.  they even let me come in and watch once.  that said, i had to try this for myself.

fresh from the oven

 i love recipes that do not call for special equipment.  all you need is a few measuring cups/spoons, a bowl and a spoon.

 the dough mixes up easily

 after kneading it for the 10 minutes suggested in the recipe

 i did not have scallions but i do have a patch of chinese leeks in my herb garden, they worked out rather nicely.

 i found it was easier to shape the dough with my hands.  i pressed it out into a circle and stretched it over the backs of my hands.  then i laid it out on the peel and pricked it with a fork.

 a generous sprinkle of leeks, freshly grated sea salt and cumin seeds

 who can resist bread fresh from the oven?  definitely not me!

 i will make this again but next time, i will knead it less.  10 minutes made a tough bread, i think 5 minutes will do nicely.

for the complete recipe, buy the book or visit the blog pages of mary and phyla.  nicely done ladies!