Eating locally and seasonally has many joys, but one particularly comes to mind this week after the farmers’ market has opened and hibernation has officially ended. It is the joy of seeing new friends again. I’m not just talking about … Continue reading
This tasty yellow cake with spunky vanilla frosting has now become my favorite celebration cake. I’ve made it for several birthdays and events (and convinced friends to make it, too.) I recently adapted it to serve 40-50 and wanted to share my tips in case you too find yourself in need of a big cake for a crowd.
How to adapt a recipe for a half sheet cake pan:
- For a half sheet cake pan (12X18X2), you’l need to double a recipe that calls for a 9X13 cake.
- Bake the cake at 350F for 40-47 minutes. If, at 25 minutes, you find the edges are beginning to brown, tent them with foil. Before I placed the cake in the oven, I prepared the foil by measuring it out over the top of the pan and cutting a rectangle in the middle. This helped me to just open the oven quickly, place it on top, and close the door.
- Check the crumb with a toothpick in the center. It should, of course, come out clean. (The internal temperature of the cake should be 209-210F, but I found this less reliable of a test. Stick with the toothpick!)
- To have success with the frosting, really commit to letting all of the ingredients come to room temperature. Because it was such a big batch. I used the electric mixer and whisk attachment for all steps, instead of folding in the final yogurt cheese by hand. It will become smooth, shiny, and very easy to decorate with.
- Need more help? Do what I did and call King Arthur’s Baking Hotline. (Don’t have them in your contacts? You need to! These lovely, helpful people can be reached on a live chat, also.) While you’re at it, be sure to sign up for Baking Circle forums.
When I was growing up, there were only a few things that my dad would cook (and only when the absence of mom necessitated it.) He would scramble an egg and pour it into bubbling Lipton instant soup, under the … Continue reading
We were in NYC not too long ago and happily spent some time doing nothing in Sweet Melissa’s Patisserie. One of my favorite spots in the city, this laid back bakery and cafe has pastries, ice cream, light meals, and lots of interesting hot drinks (complete with homemade marshmallows.) Melissa’s baking book is one of the treasures of my collection and a book that I think any baker should have on her shelf. Every recipe is reliable, a little unique, and solidly delicious. The directions are always clear and uncomplicated, so you can have confidence that even a beginning baker will find success.
On the search for a new pumpkin dessert that would use up some of the pumpkin I’ve roasted for Thanksgiving pies, I decided to make Sweet Melissa’s Pumpkin Cookie Cakes. I was curious to see molasses in the ingredients list and was afraid that it might overpower my sweet, fresh pumpkin. Having faith in the book paid off, of course, and the cookie cakes turned out to be a lovely balance of flavors. My homespun variation on the recipe was to add some yogurt cheese to the filling.
Makes about 4 dozen cookies, 2 dozen sandwiches
(You’ll want to serve 2 per person.)
6 tbls. homemade yogurt cheese
6 tbls. unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 c. confectioners’ sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 c. light brown sugar
1/2 c. sugar
8 tbls. unsalted butter
3/8 c. molasses
1 cup pumpkin puree
2 c. AP
1 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. fresh nutmeg, ground
3/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 c. milk
- To make yogurt cheese:
Place a large piece of cheesecloth over a bowl and scoop the yogurt into it. Tie or rubber band the ends and hang for about 10-12 hours, letting the whey drip into the bowl. (You will know that it is done when it no longer looks wet.)
- Cream the butter and sugars until fluffy. Add the molasses, egg, and pumpkin. Mix until smooth.
- Whisk the dry ingredients together in a separate bowl. Add, alternating with milk, to the pumpkin mixture.
- Using a 1 1/2 inch cookie scoop, drop carefully onto a baking sheet covered with parchment.
- Bake at 350F for 15 minutes. Cool.
- To make the filling:
Be sure that your butter is at room temperature. Beat with confectioners’ sugar. Then, beat in yogurt cheese and vanilla. (If your filling appears lumpy, it is because your butter was not quite right. Fix this by blending it in the food processor just until smooth.)
- Sandwich a small dollop of frosting between two cookies and serve!
- These cookies could certainly be eaten as a breakfast treat.
- They are pretty sticky, once cooled. Be sure to place the bottom of the cookie on the cooling rack. Tops stick. When packaging, add a layer of parchment between cookies or they are likely to stick together.
How do you make kale, a perfectly green and friendly vegetable, into a horrific Halloween prop? Read on.
So I’m sure you’re an expert at making kale chips by now, right? This generation of healthy kiddos will probably one day commiserate about how the moms all banded together and forced their children to enjoy these as a backseat snack, passing them off as junk food just because they were crunchy and salty. Well, recently, I’ve been even sneakier. I’ve taken the kale chips, popped them into the food processor, and created kale dust. I’ve been ‘dusting’ the toddler’s meal with this for weeks – eggs, grilled cheese, pasta, anything! So, when we had to come up with a ‘spooky’ appetizer for a Halloween party and we inventoried the pantry, this is what we came up with:
Don’t be scared. Enjoy your kale dust any way you please.
2 cups dried white beans, soaked overnight
2 bay leaves
2 cloves of garlic
5 whole black peppercorns
1 white or yellow onion, peeled and halved
salt and pepper to taste
1 recipe focaccia bread (Do not top with herbs or salt.)
- Rinse and drain beans. Simmer for about an hour and a half covered on low with the bay leaves, garlic, onion halves, and peppercorns.
- Remove beans with skimmer and add salt and pepper.
- Puree in food processor until smooth.
- Spread on a rectangular plate.
- Coerce your loved one into carving tombstones out of focaccia bread.
- Stand tombstones in bean puree. Dust with kale.
This is a different kind of eggplant “parmigiana.” You’ll notice there isn’t any mozzarella and very little Parmesan. While this recipe calls for a lot of preparation ahead of time, there’s no fussy breading or layering steps. The presentation is fun – there’s an eggplant on my plate! The flavor is large and delicious. This is not a quick dish – don’t think that – but you can easily make most of it ahead of time and hold it until you want to serve it.
I paired this with polenta which cooperatively had to bake for the exact amount of time and at the same temperature as the eggplant. Topped with an arugula salad, it made a whole meal.
Eggplant and filling:
5 small eggplants, about 7 oz. each
1 1/2 c. tomato sauce
3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 tsp. salt
2 tbls. chopped herbs – basil, oregano, and/or parsley
1 1/2 tbls. butter
4 1/2 tbls. AP flour
1 1/2 c. milk
3/4 tsp. salt
a sprinkling of fresh nutmeg
1/8 c. freshly grated Parmesan
1/8 c. breadcrumbs
- Wash eggplants and place whole on a baking sheet. Bake at 450F for 15 minutes. (This will soften the eggplant enough to enable you to scoop out the flesh but won’t ruin the skin.)
- After the eggplants have cooled a bit. Rest them on your cutting board and see where they sit naturally. (Which side wants to be the top?) Cut a lid in the top side of your eggplant. (Use the same technique you’d use for a stuffed potato. Check the photo here.)
- Cut the flesh from the lid and discard that piece of skin. Use a spoon to scoop the rest of the flesh out of all the eggplants. Discard one of the eggplant shells. (You need the flesh from five eggplants to make four eggplants to serve.) Place the remaining four eggplant shells back on your baking sheet to await filling.
- Rough chop the eggplant flesh.
- Drizzle a little olive oil in a skillet over medium low heat. Add eggplant. Sprinkle with 1 tsp. salt and a few dashes of pepper. Cook covered, stirring often, for about 15 minutes. Toss in garlic and stir around once or twice.
- Add tomato sauce and herbs. Cook for three minutes. Remove from heat.
- Stuff the shells with this tomato eggplant mixture.
*Stop here, if you’re making this ahead of time. Hold the eggplants in the refrigerator until needed.
- Bake filled eggplants for 10 minutes at 450F.
- While your eggplants are baking, prepare the sauce. Melt butter in a small saucepan. Whisk in flour and cook over medium-low heat for 2 minutes. Gradually whisk in milk, salt, and nutmeg. Cook four more minutes. If you like, pass the sauce through a sieve once. Keep on low heat, if necessasry.
- To make the topping, mix breadcrumbs with about one tbls. of olive oil and then mix in cheese.
- Pull the eggplants out of the oven. Top with white sauce and sprinkle with topping.
- Bake for 20 more minutes.
- Alternatives to the tomato sauce recipe above include roasted vegetable sauce or a quick sauce using canned tomatoes.
- Polenta is a good match for this meal. To make, add 2 cups polenta to 6 cups boiling water and 1 tsp. of salt. Simmer over very low for 25 minutes. Spread into an oiled 9X13 pan. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours. Flip over on cutting board. Slice. Bake for 20 minutes at 450F. If browning is desired, broil for a few minutes at the end of the cooking time.
We returned home and were greeted with a CSA box that declared a much hotter climate. We had three melons, tomatoes, corn, hot peppers, and more. How do you make watermelon a little more interesting? Here’s another summer recipe for you that isn’t really a recipe. Just good summer produce and very little prep.
Watermelon Mint Salad
a splash of balsamic vinegar
a handful of mint leaves
Open, seed, and cube your watermelon. Place as much as you’d like to eat in a mixing bowl. Add a few splashes of balsamic vinegar. Chop mint leaves, sprinkle, and toss. Let sit for about an hour.