Guru Rabbit

Turn a new leaf (and EAT it)

On the First Try! February 25, 2013

Filed under: Recipes — rabbit @ 7:30 am
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So, I’ve realized that I haven’t provided you all with very many sweets lately.

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My sincere apologies, people.  Really.

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You have to understand that when you bake and make sweets for a living, you tend to want to get away from them at home.

You develop a desire to put salt, vinegar, or hot sauce on everything.

You eat packets of mustard.

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What?

Am I the only one who will eat a packet of mustard?

…I just love mustard…

=(

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Whatever, I hate you all.  So anywho, I got back into a little gluten-free experimental baking.  In the past I’ve had some successes, but also many failures.  It’s one thing when you’re doing strictly vegan or strictly gluten-free, but when you want to do BOTH in one recipe…  Woof.  Without eggs or gluten, you gotta work on your method of structure.  It’s like being an architect or construction worker.  And a chemist.  Well, damn, I didn’t know I was so versatile…

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I got lucky with this one.  I pondered for a bit on how to make a successful gluten-free, vegan banana bread that tastes awesome and is not flat and dopey-looking.  I’m familiar with amaranth and tapioca flours, and find them to work very well in various recipes.  Amaranth for its protein content and sweet, nutty taste, and tapioca for its elasticity and blank flavor (like a ninja…).  Then I researched a bit on baking powder and baking soda, since there would be no eggs to help the bread rise.  I took my usual banana bread recipe, made some adjustments, and voila.  Well kids, I guess this is (one reason) why I”m the Guru Rabbit…

Delicious Vegan, Gluten-Free Banana Bread

Ingredients:

2 cups amaranth flour

1 cup tapioca flour

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp guar gum

1/4 tsp xanthan gum

1 tsp cinnamon

3 ripe bananas

1 cup sugar (brown, white, or a combination of both)

1/4 cup flax seed meal

1/2 cup vegan, gluten-free butter substitute*

1/4 cup non-dairy milk

1 tsp vinegar (white or apple cider variety)

2 tsp vanilla

Optional: a big handful (or two) of chocolate chunks, nuts, dried fruit, candied ginger, dried coconut, whatever you want.  I added chocolate chunks and chopped pecans

*I used non-hydrogenated palm oil shortening, which is stored at room temperature, and is always soft.  If you use something like Earth Balance, which is refrigerated, make sure you let it soften, or melt it slightly.

1) Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Grease an 8×4 inch loaf pan.  (If baked in a 9×5 inch pan, it may bake faster, but will look flatter.  It will still taste awesome though.)  In a small bowl, whisk together the first seven ingredients (all the dry stuff, amaranth flour through cinnamon).  In a medium bowl, combine the bananas, sugar, flax seed meal, and faux butter.  And in a small cup, combine the milk with the vinegar and vanilla.

2) With an electric mixer, beat the banana and sugar mixture until it’s as smooth as possible.  It may look like vomit… Just sayin’…  Add the vinegared milk and mix well.  Then fold in the dry ingredients and your optional additions until well incorporated.

3) Spread into the prepared pan and smooth the top, allowing it a bit of a dome.  Bake for about 1 hour and 20 minutes.  I know, it’s a while, but it’s worth it.  Go watch a movie or something.  Test with a wooden skewer or toothpick to make sure it’s fairly dry inside (there may be a trace of moisture on the tester, but there shouldn’t be any batter).  Allow to cool until at least lukewarm before you cut into it.  This will keep just like regular banana bread– at room temperature, in the fridge, in the freezer– it all depends on how fast it’ll go.

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So here’s to tooting my own horn.

Toot. Tooot!

 

Determination December 8, 2012

Filed under: Recipes — rabbit @ 7:03 pm
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You know what’s crazy?

This is the first year I’ve had a Christmas tree since 2004.

And this is the first time in my life I’ve had a REAL Christmas tree.

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Growing up, we always had a fake tree.  I didn’t really mind.  I enjoyed the challenge of climbing onto the washer and dryer in the garage while no one was home, and nearly killing myself as I hoisted down the boxes of “tree” and decorations.  There was fun in putting it all together; assembling the metal trunk, attaching the branches like some home improvement project.  Snow globes, the nativity scene, stockings, the wreath…  I would listen to Dad’s Andy Williams and Johnny Mathis Christmas records (on a real record player, by the way!).

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BUT.

This year my tree, with the exception of the lights, is all natural.

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For decoration, I used dried flowers, and leaves from up north, courtesy of Henry’s aunt :)

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I was hellbent on a blue blanket.  A la Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree.

You know what else I’ve been hellbent on?

Pumpkin Blondies.

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Okay, it’s more specific than pumpkin blondies.  CHEWY pumpkin blondies.  See, when it comes to pumpkin cookies and bars, the water content of the beloved squash tends to keep these treats from being dense, chewy, fudgey, that kind of thing…  Rather, it makes them fluffy.  Moist, sure.  Soft, yep.  But does it produce that same sinfully satisfying bite of a rich brownie or brown-sugary snickerdoodle cookie?  NO!

And I like my blondies to be dense!

(No pun intended)

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And I figured it out!

(I’m such a genius.)

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1) STRAINING the pumpkin!

You’d be surprised how much liquid you can get from pumpkin puree.

2) Bread flour.  It.  Just.  Makes.  Sense.

I recalled an episode of Good Eats with Alton Brown, in which he demonstrated various types of chocolate chip cookies.  My favorite– the chewy– included bread flour.  Why?  Because bread flour is higher in protein and has more gluten.  Gluten and protein give elasticity and chew.  Like when you tear off a piece of French baguette, or rip into a bagel.  Mmmmm.  So  adding it to certain sweets will give them that wonderfully intense texture, a bite that says, “Oh. YEAH.”

Chewy Pumpkin Blondies

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree

1 1/2 cups (12 oz) butter, non-hydrogenated margarine, shortening, etc.

3 cups sugar (white, brown, a combination, whatever.  But brown will yield more fudginess)

3 Tbsp flaxseed meal

a few pinches of salt

vanilla or almond extract, up to 1 tsp

1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1 1/2 cup bread flour

optional: nuts, chocolate chunks, baby teeth, etc.

also optional: cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves… y’know, holiday spices.

1) Preheat oven to 350ºF.  Prepare a 9×13 inch pan.  Strain the pumpkin puree by using a cheesecloth, muslin fabric, or a large coffee filter set over a colander.  You want  to get as much liquid out as possible.  I went to a fabric store, bought muslin cloth for just a couple dollars, and squeezed out a ton of pumpkin juice. ( Use it for soup stock.)

2) Melt your butter/ “butter”.  In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, flaxmeal, and salt.  Add butter and whisk whisk whisk.  Add the strained pumpkin and whisk whisk whisk.

3) In a small bowl, combine the flours, and spices if using.  Fold into the wet mixture, along with any add-ins you desire.  Spread batter into your pan.  Fingers may be necessary.  Bake around 30-40 minutes, or until the edges are golden brown.  Allow to cool to room temperature before cutting.

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Now THAT is a blondie.

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And as an honorary Jew, Happy Chanukah!

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P.S.  To my faaavorite people (whoever you are)…  Hopefully you’re reading this…

Umm…  Beetwood Fleetwood Mac is touring next summer…

Tickets go on sale soon…  Just sayin’… ::coughcoughChristmaspresentcoughcough::

 

Pies… November 18, 2012

Filed under: Recipes — rabbit @ 10:29 pm
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PEOPLE.

It’s OKAY.

Stay CALM.

I made PIES.

Pies for you and everyone to enjoy.  You can make these pies tonight while you drink Scotch and worry about your Thanksgiving plans.  And those weird relatives.  Then while the pies are cooling you can drink more Scotch and think about how you’re going to get back at those relatives…


More Scotch.

Hemingway-style.

Eat pecans and chocolate.

Because you’re not Hemingway and need to eat something

Okay, here it is.  1) I don’t really drink Scotch.  But I’m not against it…  2) Coconut Rum Pecan Pie.  3) Chocolate Swirled Pumpkin Pie.  4) OMG GO MAKE THESE NOW.

Seriously, these pies…  One is vegan, one is not, both are scrumptious and will earn you brownie points.  Errr, pie points.  The crusts are really up to you, if you have a favorite recipe or want to use pre-made ones.  These are just my suggestions.

Coconut Rum Pecan Pie

Crust:

1 1/4 cup flour

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp sugar

8 Tbsp cold butter, cut into small chunks

ice-cold water

Filling:

1 1/2 cup brown sugar

4 tbsp butter, melted

1/2 cup coconut rum

2 eggs

1/4 tsp salt

optional: a splash of vanilla

1 cup pecan pieces

1/2 cup dried coconut

pecan halves to decorate the top

1) Preheat your oven to 350 °F.  For the crust, mix together the flour, salt and sugar in a food processor.  Then add the butter chunks and pulse until you get a mixture that looks like fine bread crumbs.  Process while adding a bit of cold water until the dough starts to come together.  Turn the dough onto a floured surface and use your hands to bring it together and make sure it’s uniform.  Lightly grease a 9-inch pie plate or pan.  Roll the dough to around 11 inches so that it fits well into the pie pan.  Roll the dough around your rolling pin, and release it onto the pan.  You can do the edges however you like.

2) Make the filling– whisk together the brown sugar, rum, melted butter, eggs, salt, and vanilla, if using.  Spread the pecan pieces and coconut into your pie crust and pour the filling over.  Top with pecan halves however you like.  Bake on a tray 45 minutes to an hour, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Chocolate Swirled Pumpkin Pie

Crust:

8 oz Oreo-type cookies (I used the Whole Foods brand, I dunno if you’re a Hydrox person or whatevs…)

a couple Tbsp melted butter, Earth Balance, non-hydrogenated shortening, etc.

Filling:

(I’m not going to lie, this is based on last year’s pumpkin pie… Shut up.)

1/4 cup arrowroot or cornstarch

1/2 cup sugar

3/4 cup non-dairy milk

1/2 tsp salt

1 of 15-oz can pumpkin

1 tsp vanilla

optional (but recommended…): a schtickle of whiskey, rum, dessert wine, etc.

3 oz bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled

1) Preheat oven to 375°F.  For the crust, grind the cookies finely in a food processor.  Transfer to your pie plate.  Mix gradually with the melted butter just until the crumbs can stick to each other, and use your hands to form the crust.  Bake 10-15 minutes, until firm.  Hint: you can smell the chocolatey goodness when it’s about ready.

2) Make the filling.  Whisk together the arrowroot starch, sugar, and milk.  Add the remaining ingredients and mix well.  In a separate bowl, mix about 1/4 to 1/3 of the pumpkin filling with the melted chocolate.

3) Pour the plain pumpkin filling into your pie crust and smooth it out.  (You probably won’t need all the filling, so save it for minis!)  Dollop the chocolate-pumpkin filling on top and swirl around with a knife.  Bake around 40-45 minutes, or until the edges have puffed up a bit and are set.  The center will still be pudding-like.

Allow these pies to cool completely.  Preferably overnight.  In the refrigerator.

(You can even freeze them until T-Day!)

I know, it’s painful.

Go cry about it.  And punch your relatives.

 

As Time Goes On… November 11, 2012

Filed under: Recipes — rabbit @ 4:17 pm
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… we will all start to freak out about how close Thanksgiving is.  Then we will freak out about Black Friday.  (Well, I won’t.)  Then Cyber Monday.  (Well, I won’t.)  Then Hanukkah.  (I kinda will, due to my status as an honorary Jew.)  Then Christmas.  Not Kwanzaa.  ::shrug::

Point is, the year is coming to an end faster than a banana ripens.

(Nice segue, eh?)

But I don’t freak out about bananas.  When they get ignored and too mushy to eat, I store them in the freezer.  Then they are at my immediate disposal for goodies like this.   And this.   And this, of course.

Unfortunately, they’re not pretty.

Save your jokes.

Or what the hell, go ahead in the comments.

I’m getting ready for the holiday insanity.  I’m making doughs and storing them in the freezer.  I’ve ordered my bulk chocolate and cocoa.  I’m making mini test pies (and self-inducing sugar comas).

I’m making Cranberry Orange Banana Bread.

For you?

For youuuuu! <3

Cranberry Orange Banana Bread

6 very ripe bananas (if frozen, allow to thaw)

2 cups sugar

1 cup non-hydrogenated shortening, vegan butter substitute, or butter, softened

zest of two large oranges

1 tsp orange extract

1/2 cup milk or non-dairy milk, mixed with 2 tsp cider vinegar

4 cups flour

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

1 12-oz bag fresh cranberries

1) Preheat oven to 350°F.  Grease two 8×4 loaf pans.  (You can use 9×5 but the loaves won’t be as high.)  In a large bowl, combine the bananas, sugar, shortening, orange zest and extract.  Beat everything together for a few minutes, until bananas are pureed and the mixture is uniform.  Mix in the soured milk.

2) In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt.  Fold into the wet mix along with the cranberries.

3) Divide the batter among the loaf pans.  Bake for about an hour, or until a wooden skewer tests clean.


A subtle marriage of banana and orange, studded with tangy cranberries.

You can store these babies in the freezer until you want to serve or give them away as holiday gifts.  The recipe is easily halved if you only want to make one loaf.  A great finishing touch would be an orange glaze.  Just take some juice from the zested oranges and mix with powdered sugar until you having a nice drizzling consistency.

Lets hear it for easy, painless holiday goodies.

  ::tiny bunny applause::

P.S. Happy Veterans Day!

 

Brothers, Part II October 9, 2012

Filed under: Recipes — rabbit @ 7:48 pm
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Then there’s Steven.  He’s the one who got married earlier this year.  Steven’s the younger older brother.  (Yep, I’m the baby girl.)

Steven knows better than to eat a raw plantain… (lolz).  But he has his… quirks…  Tina, his wife/my sister(-in-law), can attest.  Using a fork to scrape peanut butter out of the jar, for example.  No one knows why.  Pretty sure Steven doesn’t know either.  It’s just always been like that.  Grab a banana.  Peel it.  Break it in half.  Scrape pb out of the jar with a fork and onto the banana.  Chomp, chew, repeat process.

Wherever Steven lives, there are fork tracks in the peanut butter.

So for his birthday this year, I thought to make him a cake comprising of a few of his mindless addictions…

A banana cake, made with vanilla bean paste to give it that wonderful, ethereal vanilla flavor.

Marshmallow frosting… because Steven loves sweets that are light and fluffy.

(Tina’s light, but not fluffy.  I would know, she’s sat on me before…  Hi Tina!)

And between each layer, peanut butter honey icing, sliced bananas,

and some of that marshmallow frosting.

I put a little jar of peanut butter on top.  And made sure it had fork tracks in it ;)

Oh.  And a marzipan fork.

Then there was a little party at Tina’s brother’s house.

The family puppies were there…

Steven swears Oliver likes being smothered like this.

Then there’s Goldie, the lighter, more sprightly counterpart to Oliver.

Okay, so they’re not puppies, chronologically.  But y’know.

Steven got spoiled.  All his favorite desserts.

And a My Little Pony card from me :D

Banana Fluffernutter Cake

Ingredients:

for cake (adapted from The Post Punk Kitchen)-

3 overly ripe bananas

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup non-hydrogenated shortening, margarine, or butter (at room temperature)

1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste, or 1-2 tsp vanilla extract (depending on how much vanilla flavor you want)

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 cup milk (almond, soy, dairy, whatever), mixed with 1 teaspoon white or apple cider vinegar, or lemon juice

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp baking soda

for the marshmallow frosting-

the recipe for this can be found here, since I’m lazy, and she presents it in such a special manner :)

for the peanut butter icing-

this is so easy, I’ll tell you after the cake.

1)  Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Grease 2 6-inch round pans.  You can also use a single 8 or 9 inch round pan, a 8×8 square pan or 8×4 inch loaf pan.  Depends on how you’re serving this, since it doesn’t have to be assembled exactly as I did.

2)In a large bowl, with your mixer, beat up the bananas, getting them as smooth as you can.  Add in the sugar and shortening, and beat, again, until as smooth as you can get it.

3) Mix in your salt, vanilla, and the soured milk.  In a separate bowl, combine the flour and baking soda, and fold into the banana mixture with a rubber spatula.

4) Scrape the batter into your pan(s). Bake for about 1 hour, or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Using two smaller pans may result in faster baking time, so just keep an eye on your baby.

The peanut butter icing is kind of an ad-lib.  I just threw together some peanut butter, honey, powdered sugar, and non-hydrogenated shortening.  If you have a favorite peanut butter icing or frosting recipe, go for it.  For me, the point was to be able to pipe the decoration around the cake.  If you’re not worried about that, just some plain peanut butter and honey or maple syrup will do for the filling.

Once the cake is cooled, slice the tops and edges to flatten and smooth out the layers.  I sliced each cake into two, so as to have four layers.  That’s up to you.  You can just have two layers.  Between layers, spread some peanut butter icing/filling.  Top with thinly sliced banana, and make a thick ring around the edges with marshmallow frosting.  Frost the entire cake in marshmallow frosting.  Decorate as desired.  I don’t recommend the miniature jar of forked up peanut butter on top unless you also have a friend or family member who eats their peanut butter with a fork…

Right, Goldie?

Aaaw.  Pooped.

 

Lately… September 24, 2012

Filed under: Recipes — rabbit @ 4:24 pm
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Life has been full of adjustments.  Like, for surrious.  Henry and I finally moved into our own place last month.  I’m really loving it.  Especially the kitchen.  It’s small, but I know how to work with it.  I’ve made it my own.  And I spend A LOT of time in there.  I’m in there at my worst moments (like falling apart at 3:30 in the morning while the most amazing people in my life are catching me), and at my best moments (creating delicious treasure for family and friends.  And singing along to Elton John.)

And watching as the cat figures out how to reach the counter.

It’s all over now.  He officially controls my life via his addiction to wet food.

“You.  Mine.  Forever.”

Besides the kitty becoming my master, there’s been a lot of moving, lugging, hauling, and lifting.  A lot of evenings spent organizing, reorganizing, throwing things away, moving things around, finding new things I need to salvage.

A lot of reflecting.

I found out that cooking is therapeutic for me.  I’ve been spending my evenings slicing, dicing, boiling, baking, simmering, stirring, and caramelizing, all with a glass of wine in hand.

I’m making things I’ve been itching to try, like Tortas de Aceite.

A Spanish yeast-raised sweet “biscuit”, though I would call it a flatbread.

I’ve been making Henry tons of special meals.

Like veggie egg scramble with lime curd and raspberries on English muffins.

And I’ve been catching up with the necessities.  Like my left foot.  (Get it?  The Daniel Day-Lewis movie?  Whatever, I haven’t see it either.)

I had a cyst/alien growing on top of my foot.  The podiatrist drained it while flirting with me.  Very impressive.  I have determined my feet are angelically gorgeous and will capture many hearts.

I also acquired some free brie.  Free brie!


I really don’t know why or how that happened.  The cashier could not get the price on it, so she just told me it was free.  Is that allowed?

And why didn’t that happen with the more expensive of the cheeses I bought?

Like the blue cheese in this soon-to-be quiche with dino kale and sweet potato?

I have no decent end-result photos, but I, as well as others, can attest that this was one crazy-fantastic quiche.  And I think Dad would’ve gone nuts over it, so that’s why I am posting the recipe for all yous.

The whole shebang is adapted from a book called Homestyle Vegetarian, given to me by my Tia Magdalena.  This recipe is also dedicated to her because during the hardest of times, she’s fulfilled the roles of mommy and daddy.  And she freakin’ LOVES blue cheese.

Blue, Green, and Sweet Potato Quiche

Ingredients:

for crust-

2 cups ( 9 oz, 250 g) all-purpose four

7 Tbsp (3.5 oz, 100 g) cold butter, cut into cute little cubes

for filling-

half a large onion, thinly sliced (a sweet onion is preferred, like Vidalia)

a small bunch of dark leafy greens ( I used several stalks of Dino kale with stems removed.  You can used other types of kale, Swiss chard, collards, spinach, etc.)

1 large (about 1 lb) sweet potato

for quiche “batter”-

1 tsp brown spicy mustard

4 eggs

1 cup (8 fl oz) half & half

a few pinches of salt and pepper

dashings of any othe herbs or spices you’d like– nutmeg, thyme, marjoram, coriander, sage, etc.

1) In a food processor, throw in the flour, a couple pinches of salt, and the butter.  Process for 15-20 seconds.  Then add 1-2 Tbsp of ice-cold water, and process in little bursts until the dough starts to come together.  (You can also use an egg yolk instead of water for a richer crust.)  Once the mixture just starts to become a dough, turn it out onto a counter, board, or into a large bowl.  Use your man hand to bring together the elements into a ball, then plastic-wrap it and chill in the fridge for ten minutes.

2) If it’s morning when you’re doing this, have another cup of coffee or tea.  If it’s afternoon or evening, have a glass of wine or beer.

3) Preheat your oven to 350 °F.  Now you need a 9 inch pie or tart plate/pan.  Butter that shit up, just to make sure.  On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out.  If you have a large enough cutting board (i.e. larger than 9 or 10 inches), roll the dough out on there.  Then you can just flip the board over onto the plate or tin.  If not, once the dough is rolled out, roll it onto the rolling pin (let it curl around the pin), then release it onto the plate/tin.  By the way, remember to roll your dough from the center and outward.  This ensures a more even crust.

4) Press your crust into the assigned vessel and make it pretty.  Place a piece of parchment paper or foil in the center, and top it with some kind of weight– dry beans, pie weights, an oven-proof plate, etc., and bake for 10 minutes.  Remove the weight (haha, get it, like the song??  Whatever, I hate you), and bake for another 10 minutes, or until the crust is lightly golden and dry.  After 10 minutes I turned the oven off and left the crust in there for an extra 5-10, just to make sure there was no raw dough.

5) While your crust is cooling, prepare the fillings.  Rub the  sweet potato with some olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Even though we’ll be peeling the sweet potato later, I find the salt and pepper kinda seep through and add a little more flavor.  Bake at 400°F until it’s soft (I think around an hour?  Sorry).  Saute your onions until they start to soften, then add the kale (or whatever), and cook until the greens are easy to eat.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

6) Now make the quiche batter.  Whisk together the eggs, mustard, and half & half.  You can add whatever other seasonings you want.  I can’t remember for the life of me, but I’m sure I used paprika, thyme, and marjoram, in addition to salt and pepper.  “Pedro, just listen to your heart.  That’s what I do.”  Then bring the oven back down to 350°F.

7) Fill the crust!  First place the crust on a baking sheet.  Peel and slice the sweet potato and arrange it on the bottom (Save the peel.  Eat it.).  Top with your greens and onions, then plenty of blue cheese (Stilton, Roquefort, Gorgonzola, whatevs).  Then pour your quiche batter on over the whole thang.  You will now find you are glad the pie/tart plate is on top of a baking sheet.  I brushed some of the batter over the crust to ensure some golden-ing.  Bake for around 40 minutes.  If you stick a toothpick in it should come out clean.

See?  Horrible camera phone picture.

I would’ve stolen Henry’s fancy camera but I couldn’t find it and he was at work and I hate his stupid face.

A few notes… One, yes, you can use a different crust recipe, or even a store-bought one.  But you know how I am about doing things from scratch.  Two, you can totally prep all the elements ahead of time– crust, fillings, batter.  That’s what I did.  Then you just fill the crust and bake it off.  Three, I want to note the brands of eggs and dairy I use.  Organic Valley for dairy products, and Vital Farms for eggs.  Why?  Because according to the Cornucopia Institute, these brands are true to their word in how they treat their cows and chickens.  Although Organic Valley sells eggs as well, their scorecard for eggs is sub-par compared to their dairy scores.  Ah dunno.  And the cheese I used contains vegetable rennet.  I know you probably don’t care, I’m just saying.  For any vegetarians who think about all these little details the way I do.

 

A Bit of Food Porn for You… July 23, 2012

Filed under: Recipes — rabbit @ 3:57 pm
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And a cake for my mom.  (Because it’s her birthday.)

Simple, gooey, juicy, crunchy.

An easy, go-to white cake, enhanced with orange zest and almond extract.  Homemade dulce de leche.  Fresh orange, and a generous sprinkling of pecans.  Why, yes, you should be jealous of my mom.

Funny thing is, for four days I thought about what kind of cake to make.  Then it just happened this morning.  I dunno, kinda like when you go looking for a birthday card, and you spend like half an hour searching through all the crappy ones, trying to decide between a couple that are “Okay”, and finally you pick up one you didn’t see before and it’s like, “Bingo”.

Orange Nut Cake with Dulce de Leche

This cake… it is not vegan.  Could I make a vegan version?  Yes.  Maybe one day…

Ingredients for the cake:

1 cup sugar

zest of 1 large orange

1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp baking soda

couple pinches of salt

4 Tbsp butter

1/2 cup plus 3 Tbsp buttermilk, or soured milk (make soured milk by just adding a couple teaspoons of vinegar or lemon juice, and let sit for five minutes)

2 egg whites

1 tsp almond extract

1) Preheat oven to 350°F.  Grease a 9″ round baking pan, and line the bottom with parchment paper.  In  a large bowl, combine the sugar and orange zest.  Whisk well to “infuse” the zest into the sugar.  Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Whisk well again.

2) Throw in  the butter and buttermilk, and with an electric mixer, combine on low speed until it’s all incorporated, then amp up the power to medium, and beat for 2 minutes.  Scrape the bowl down, add the egg whites and almond extract, and beat on medium for another 2 minutes.  Pour batter into the pan, and bake for about half an hour, or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Allow to cool completely.

For the dulce the leche, you can buy it at the store, or if you have some patience and wanna be cool like me…

Combine 1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp sugar, 1/8 tsp baking soda, and 2 cups of whole milk in a medium saucepan.  Why the baking soda?  It helps to achieve that luscious caramelly shade.  Anyway, whisk it all together, and over medium heat, bring to a simmer (avoid boiling).  Once the sugar is dissolved I switch to a wooden spoon.  Keep stirring, almost constantly, as the water evaporates from the milk and the mixture thickens and turns light brown.  Eventually, you should see the bottom of the pan as you’re stirring.  This will take around an hour.

What to do during this hour?  Call or text one of your buddies in a far away place (like New Orleans?)…

Me: “…I’m making dulce de leche right now…”

Chris: “Be there in five.”

Oh, and once your dulce de leche has thickened, add half a teaspoon of vanilla, and if desired, a drizzle of spiced rum, dessert wine, etc.  Let it cool.  If once it’s cooled you find it too thick/sticky, add a couple tablespoons of hot water until it’s easier to work with.  This makes enough dulce de leche to dress a single layer cake, plus extra for you to enjoy with a spoon ;)

To assemble the cake… drizzle some dulce de leche over the cake.  Segment an orange, and arrange it however you like.  MORE DULCE DE LECHE.  And some chopped pecans.

Happy Birthday to the woman who had me ripped from her uterus and taught me the importance of dulce de leche. 

And oranges.  Gotta have your vitamin C…