Friday, December 31, 2010

More Adventures in Baking: Applesauce Spice Cake

I'm not much of a baker. I don't have the world's biggest sweet tooth, but I think it has more to do with the precision required for baking and the inability to adjust seasonings during the baking process. You don't know if you won't like the recipe until it's done and out of the oven!

Thankfully there are a bunch of web sites and blogs out there for people to comment on what's good and bad about certain recipes, often offering ideas on how to tweak to your taste. That was the case for this applesauce cake.

I started looking for apple cake recipes back when our CSA was giving us 20 apples a week, and we were struggling to keep up. However, I was surprised to find that most apple cake recipes didn't have many or sometimes any cut apples in them! I'm guessing that cooks prefer the consistent consistency of applesauce rather than wrestling with the water and sugar contents of different varieties of apples. Anyway, now that I don't have piles of apples to consume or give away, I was tempted to try one of the recipes I came across during my apple cake recipe hunt.

Based on the comments from other cooks, I decided to do away with the icing since it sounded unnecessary and a bit of a pain. I had to do a good bit of googling before figuring out some substitutions. First, I forgot to take the butter out to soften an hour before I started, but I picked up a great tip from Simply Recipes to put the butter between two sheets of wax paper and roll/beat it soft with a rolling pin. It was warm and soft in no time! The original recipe called for turbinado sugar and rum., but I didn't have either of them. Thankfully the internet quickly found light brown sugar and rum flavoring to be appropriate substitutes.

The cake isn't very sweet, but I love the spice flavors in it. I'm going to attribute that to my efforts with the nutmeg! I went out and bought whole nutmeg for the first time rather than substituting ground nutmeg from the jar. It was kind of fun to grate the nutmeg seed, but it'll probably take me a lifetime to go through the whole jar of nutmeg seeds I bought. I better start looking for more recipes that call for nutmeg!

Happy New Year to everyone!

Applesauce Spice Cake
adapted from Fernando's Hideway in Grenadines via Gourmet Magazine via epicurious

1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup light brown sugar
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon rum flavor
1 large egg
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
Confectioners sugar

Place oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Butter pan and set aside.

Whisk together flour, baking soda, spices, and salt in a bowl.

Beat together sugar, butter, and rum flavoring with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until combined well, then add egg and beat until pale and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes with a stand mixer or 5 to 6 minutes with a handheld.

Reduce speed to low and add dry ingredients, mixing until combined well. Add applesauce and mix until combined well. Spread batter evenly in 10-inch springform pan and bake until a wooden pick or skewer comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes.

Cool cake in pan on a rack for 10 minutes, then remove side of pan and cool completely. Sift confectioners sugar over cake before serving.

Yield: 8 to 10 servings
Active Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 60 minutes

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Roasted Kohlrabi and Butternut Squash

Happy holidays! I had a blast cooking with my sister for Christmas. We made lots of delicious food, and when I asked for the recipes, she said, "You're not going to blog about them, are you?" Well, if she doesn't want me to start using her recipes for this blog, she better start her own blog soon!

Anyway, yesterday I made this recipe because I was trying to figure out what to do with this one poor kohlrabi stem I had left over from our fall CSA. Yes, the kohlrabi sat in my refrigerator for two months, but it looked exactly the same as the day we got it. I adapted the following recipe for my one lone kohlrabi, but the proportion of kohlrabi to butternut squash is probably pretty flexible. Anyway, it was a nice change from the usual roasted butternut squash. Kohlrabi is in the cabbage family according to wikipedia, but the stem part tasted like a sweet turnip!

Roasted Kohlrabi and Butternut Squash
adapted from Gourmet via epicurious

1 medium kohlrabi stem without leaves
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 lb butternut squash

Put oven rack just below middle position, then preheat oven to 450°F.

Trim and peel kohlrabi, then cut into 3/4-inch pieces. Toss kohlrabi with 1 tablespoon oil, 1 teaspoon thyme, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a Pyrex lasagna pan. Roast for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, peel butternut squash, then quarter lengthwise, seed, and cut into 3/4-inch pieces. Toss squash with remaining 1 tablespoon oil, 1 teaspoon thyme, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in same bowl.

Turn kohlrabi over and push to one side of pan. Add squash to other side of pan, stirring and turning squash over halfway through roasting, until vegetables are tender and lightly browned, about 30 minutes total (after squash is added).

Yield: 4 servings
Active time: 15 minutes
Total time: 1 hour

Monday, December 6, 2010

All-Clad Skillet: Love at First Sight?

My first All-Clad pan! It's a historic day!

For a long time, I wondered what the big fuss was all about expensive stainless steel pans. I even resisted registering for them when I got married, but after years and years of watching America's Test Kitchen, I started wanting one. That's right, Chris Kimball made me covet a pan. Now I have one thanks to an early birthday present from my mom! Thanks, Mom!

According to the Cook's Illustrated review of my All-Clad 12-inch Stainless Steel Fry Pan:
Testers praised this pan for having “everything you need in a skillet and nothing you don’t,” with enough cooking surface for sautéing eight chicken pieces without crowding; steady, controlled heat for excellent browning; and a good shape with low sides. The weight balance was outstanding; it was easy to manipulate and lift. In the durability test, it sustained the least damage, with barely visible dents.
I didn't have anything big planned for my pan's debut. Thanks to the Patriots playing Monday Night Football today there was an insane amount of traffic on the way home, so I picked up some takeout. However, I had to open up the cardboard box waiting for me. I have to say that I was dazzled when I first opened the box. Some people might use words like "dazzling" and "stunning" to describe clothes; I use them to describe new pans. Look at how the light reflects off of it!

Anyway, I stirfried some sugar snap peas in garlic and oil for my pan's first run, but I can't wait to test it out for real. I'm already impressed with how much lighter they are than my anondized aluminum pans. Maybe I'll re-run some of the tests the Cook's Illustrated crew did including sauteing onions, searing steaks, and browning chicken. Hopefully my pan will continue to dazzle me with its even heat distribution!