1/13/16

Carrot Cake with Maple Buttercream

 
This cake is a product of excess. Due to a surplus of carrots I had bought at the grocery store. I love carrots, I snack on them like chips, but a giant five-pound bag of organic, full-sized carrots was too much for me to eat in single week. So what's a baker to do with left over carrots?
 
Bake them in a cake. Duh.
 
The rest of the cake was actually due to larder. I had just enough cranberries, just enough sugar, just enough almonds to suffice. It's full-on wintertime now, and I wanted to make a cake using whatever my kitchen could provide.
 

 
Turns out I have never baked classic carrot cake before. I'd just eaten enough of the stuff  to feel like an expert. So I took this as an opportunity to change that. I modified the cake recipe from Joy the Baker's Carrot Cake Cupcakes.
 
I thought about making traditional cream cheese frosting, but then through laziness I decided that I wanted to try something different. The frosting was a concoction of butter, sugar, maple syrup, and hope. It ended up very creamy, with a not-too-sweet, caramely (?) flavor. Yum.
 

Ingredients For the Cake:

3 cups All Purpose Flour
1 1/2  tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
4 cups carrots, peeled and shredded
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup cranberries
1/2 cup almonds
 

Preparation:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Peel and finely grate the carrots. This takes time. I recommend watching an episode of Parks & Rec while your triceps get a work out.
 
2. Mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg in a large bowl. Set aside.
 
3. In a separate bowl, beat the oil, sugar, and brown sugar until completely combined. Then beat in the eggs and vanilla. Fold in the shredded carrots, raisins, cranberries, and almonds.
 
4. Fold the wet ingredients into the dry, and mix until completely incorporated.
 
5. Scoop into a lined muffin tin, or pour into two 8-inch spring-form pans. (I did both, and only used one cake pan).
 
6. Bake until golden brown:
For Cupcakes: 20-25 minutes
For Cake: 25-30 minutes
 

For the Frosting:

2 sticks butter, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup maple syrup, plus extra for decoration
1 teaspoon vanilla

To Make:

1. In a stand mixer, beat the butter until pale. Slowly add the sugar and continue to beat until fluffy.

2. Add the maple syrup and vanilla, and mix until completely incorporated.

3. Spread or pipe onto cakes once they are completely cool. Drizzle remaining maple syrup, pancake-style.

 



Happy Baking!

1/10/16

Dark 'N Stormy


Since the holidays are now officially over, I finally took down my tree. And while I was sweeping up the sad, prickly remains of Christmas, I thought I could use a drink.

When it comes to cocktails, I'm a keep-it-simple kinda gal. I'm also a sucker for a good name. And so I figured I would dig a Dark 'N Stormy. It sounds like the beginning of folk tale or a local legend. It evokes rolling clouds over a dark sea. Or maybe that's just the rum?

Ingredients

Ice
2 oz dark rum
3 oz ginger beer
lime wedge, for garnish (opt.)


Method

1. Place ice in a tall glass, and add the rum.
2. Top with beer and lime wede, and stir.



The holidays might be over, but that means we're just one month closer to summer! Happy sipping!

1/5/16

Sandwich Loaf, An Attempt

No, it's not focaccia. 
After traveling home for the holidays, I finally arrived back to my apartment. I thought a nice, easy white sandwhich loaf would be something perfect to warm up the house. My first apartment bake of 2016!

Bread is a tricky thing.

I wanted to make a simple bloomer loaf from Sorted Foods, which they made for their amazing grilled cheese recipe. Looked easy enough, and I didn't have to worry about kneading incorrectly because I just popped it into the stand mixer.

Look at it, so ready to grow.

But after the first proofing hour, the dough had barely doubled. It was pretty chilly in the apartment, so I figured I'd wait. After another hour; nothing. Alright, well we'll see. I formed it and stuck it in a pan and waited another hour.

Nothing.

Alright maybe the oven will puff it up?

What it should look like:

What mine looked like:

Yeah something was defintiely wrong.

The crumb structure was soft and spongey, but it lacked a lot of height. Plus the smell and texture was all off; it just felt over-proved.

Apparently yeast has an expiration date, kids. Even in the fridge. I'm going to blame it on that. I'll try this recipe again, cause I super duper love the idea of home-baked grilled cheese, and the Sorted team seems to know their stuff. With baking, there's a million things that could go wrong.

Ah well, can't win 'em all.

Happy baking!


1/2/16

Honeycomb Toffee : Winnie-the-Pooh


"Well," said Pooh, "what I like best," and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn't know what it was called. - A.A. Milne, Winne-the-Pooh.


Honey is one of those magical super foods, that's good on just about anything. I spread it on bread, stir it into tea, drizzle it over ice cream, and use it to sweeten tons of recipes. Winnie-the-Pooh understood this, going to all kinds of lengths to hunt it down.

But eating it straight takes a particularly adapted palate. So Pooh was always kind of impressive, I mean the bear is eating it by the pawful. If I can think of any quadraped who would love honeycomb toffee, it would be Pooh. This candy is crunchy, and super duper sweet. I had never heard of it before I saw Nigella Lawson make it one time on her program. I guess it's not as common in the States (it's also called hokey pokey?). The aerated structure makes it easy to bite into, so you're not worried about breaking a tooth like with other caramel candy.

I made this for a Christmas cookie collection and have since made it a total of three times over the holidays. It's just so good! I ran into a bit of trouble making this over Christmas, because the weather was muggy and 75 degrees! Humidity is death to this stuff, reducing the flaky layers to a sticky, spongy mess. But when just made, this stuff is like crack. Honeycomb crack.

Ingredients

1 cup granulated sugar
4 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 tablespoon honey
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda, sifted

Preparation

1. Spread a sheet of parchment or wax paper over a cookie sheet, and set aside. In a medium saucepan melt the sugar, corn syrup, and honey until a hard ball boil (260 F) and the mixture begins to turn amber. Don't stir, but swirl the mixture occasionally.

2. Take off the heat and add the baking soda at once. Stir quickly, as the mixture will begin to foam as the soda reacts with the syrup. Once the soda is completely dissolved, pour over the prepared baking sheet.



3. Allow the mixture to cool completely, then crack with a knife or break it into bite size pieces.


 4. Store in an airtight container. Dip or drizzle the honeycomb in melted chocolate, then freeze for 20 minutes to set.


Happy baking!

1/1/16

2015 Year in Review

 
I can't believe it's already 2016! This year was full of so much change and growth. Looking back makes me beyond grateful.
 
Since the ball dropped last year, I moved into two different apartments, walked in my college graduation, swam a synchro solo, spent the summer in a grad program, started a new job, and finally saw the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. And through all that, I traveled from Lake Milton, to Beverly Hills, to Nagshead, to Poughkeepsie.
 
I watched Neil Gaiman chat about storytelling and childhood dreams. I got lost in One World Trade Center while visiting the Bon Appetit Test Kitchen. I got to see some of my favorite bands live (some twice) and discovered a musical community that makes a huge city more welcoming.
 
And through it all, there's always been something new to bake, and new books to read. With each new kitchen and oven came different systems and challenges, and I've tried to share everything I've baked. Thank you, kind viewer, for the love, encouragement, inspiration, and patience. 
 
Thank you to everyone who've been there this year. You've made it so special. I can't remember a year where I met so many amazing, wonderful people who welcomed me into their lives and hearts. I'm so glad to know ya'.
 
 
Happy Baking!
 

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