Tuesday, October 26, 2010

For you, my friend......

At work they call me the Food Network Prodigy.  When someone doesn’t know what an ingredient is they come to me.  When questions are asked on how to prepare or bake something, I am the first one people go to.  When people are hungry, I get asked when the next thing I am going to be baking is, and if they are scheduled to come in that day.  I enjoy answering questions and sharing my knowledge.  It is what I do.  I also love it when my dear friends ask me to bake something for them and I never turn them down. 

My dear friend, Kelly, recently found a recipe that was right up my alley.  She is a lover of sweet potatoes and I love to cook with them.  They are healthy, delicious and can be used in both sweet and savory recipes.  I like my sweet potatoes with a pat of butter and salt, but I won’t turn them down if they show up in a cake.  Kelly found this recipe in a newspaper she was reading and I was honored to be the one she thought of to bake it.

Sweet Potato and Chocolate Cake, just the name of the recipe alone, perks up the curiosity in people.  What an interesting combination.  So, I had to try it.  I told her that I would bake the cake for her, if it would be alright with one piece missing out of it.  I told her I had to take pictures of it for educational purposes.  (Let’s be honest, I devoured it).  The recipe calls for a can of pureed sweet potatoes.  I unfortunately could not find them in my local grocery store.  I could find sweet potato pie filling, but that has sugar and cinnamon already in it.  No problem, it was easy enough to bake sweet potatoes in the oven.  Plus it made the house smell fantastic!  I delivered the cake to Kelly as promised, by-passing work entirely, (if it had gone to work, she wouldn’t have gotten any of it) and it was met with rave revues.  Smiles are my greatest reward.   

Sweet Potato and Chocolate Cake

  • I baked 4 large sweet potatoes in a 350 degree oven for 2 hours.  I just put them in and sort of forgot about them.  Just break the skin open and scraped out the potato meat inside.  It made more than two cups, but I can eat the leftovers for lunch.
  • The only liquid in this recipe is a ¼ cup of vegetable oil.  The batter will be extremely thick.  Spread the batter in the cake pan with a spatula and make sure it is even.

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
2 cups canned sweet potatoes (if you can find them) or bake your own.
¼ cup vegetable oil
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon orange zest (I used lemon)
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees

2.  Grease and flour a Bundt baking pan.

3. Put sweet potatoes in a bowl and blend until mostly mashed and soft.

4.  Add all the ingredients except the chocolate chips.

5.  Mix on medium power for two minutes
6.  Add the chocolate chips and fold into the batter.

7.  Spoon the cake mixture into the prepared pan.

8.  Bake for 60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

* For extra chocolate flavor, melt the rest of the bag of chocolate chips and spread over cake.  Put the cake in the refrigerator and allow to set.  The cake forms a delicious chocolate shell.  It looks like a giant chocolate donut.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Sticky Date and Coconut Cake

So my oven didn’t like the letter I wrote him last week.  Two days after I posted the blog he decided to blow up.  Yes, I said blow up.  I pushed the preheat button and he started to get warm.  Things started to spark and sputter and long and short of it smoke started coming out of his back side.  My poor oven is now getting fixed and I have a loaner in his place.  I don’t know what happened or how it happened, but I know it should not have happened.   (That was my angry voice).

So…let’s break in this new bad boy.   Ok, so I have to admit something.  My cookbook collection had a few more additions added to it this weekend.  I can’t help it!  I love them.  I can sit in Barnes and Noble for hours and flip through cookbook after cookbook.  It’s an obsession.  My latest purchase is on stands right now.  It is Cooking Light’s “Quick Baking” issue.  There are so many good recipes to choose from, quick breads, muffins, pizzas, cupcakes; the list goes on and on.  Cooking Light also lists all the nutritional information with their recipes, so you know how much will go right to your thighs.

The recipe that I picked first is, Sticky Date and Coconut Cake.  The description of the cake made me drool as did the picture.  I made two cakes and brought one to work and I didn’t tell anyone what was in it.  I had them try it first.  Some people when they hear “date” or anything other than chocolate turn their noses up.  It was a hit!  The cake is so moist and delicious and it was gone in a matter of minutes.  The other cake was split between my mom’s and my grandma’s.  The cake received thumbs up from both of them.  This would be perfect at a holiday party or as a housewarming gift.  It is delicious warmed with a cup of chai tea.

Sticky Date and Coconut Cake


1 cup chopped pitted dates
1 cup water
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 tablespoons butter
Dash of salt
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Cooking spray

2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
½ cup flaked, sweetened coconut
2 ½ tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons skim milk

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Put first 5 ingredients in a small saucepan; bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. 
  3. Remove from heat, and let stand 10 minutes or until dates are tender.
  4. Combine flour, baking powder, and ½ teaspoon salt in a bowl, stirring with a whisk.
  5. Stir in date mixture, granulated sugar, vanilla, and egg until well combined. 
  6. Pour batter into a 9-inch spring form pan coated with cooking spray.
  7. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.
  8. To prepare the topping, combine brown sugar and remaining ingredients in a small saucepan; bring to a boil.
  9. Reduce heat, simmer for 1 minute.
  10. Pour over cake; bake at 350 for 13 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Cool in pan 5 minutes on a wire rack.  Remove from pan and cool completely

Friday, October 8, 2010

Apple Cake with a Crackly Meringue

Dear Oven,

            There comes a time in every relationship when the honeymoon period becomes the comfortable, sometimes I take you for granted period.  I know there has been a lack of communication between us.  Sometimes there are days that we don’t get to talk or hang out.  I miss those days.  I know I have been busy and I may be busier in the weeks to come.  Please understand…I think about you everyday.  I dream about our warmest memories and what the power of our relationship can become in the future. 

                                                I miss you.

                                                                        Love, me

My dream of my blog getting me into my kitchen more has been sidelined for a while.  I have been so busy that I only have been able to bake or cook dinner once a week.  I promise I will blog at least once a week and if my schedule allows, perhaps more.  I am looking forward to the harvest and the upcoming holiday season and sharing my recipes with you.  Thank-you all, for your continuing support.

 My oven and I did have a date with greatness this week.  My house is over flowing with an abundance of apples and my favorite way to eat them, besides with cheese, is in a cake.  I found this recipe, Apple Cake with a Crackly Meringue in a cookbook called, “The Italian Country Table”, by Lynne Rossetto Kasper.  The cookbook is filled with comfort dishes from all over Italy and stories about the home cooks that have produced them.  There are beautiful rustic dishes in the book that don’t seem that hard to make and if I had time, I definitely would. 

Apple Cake with a Crackly Meringue is a show stopper.  It has so many levels of deliciousness I don’t know where to begin.  The crust has a buttery cookie flavor, the cake itself is moist and dense and sweet and lemony.  The meringue tops the cake off with a crispy, chewy shell that holds the moisture in the cake.  YUM!


Apple Cake with a Crackly Meringue
     Torta di Mele

Make 1 9-inch cake, I doubled the recipe and made 2.

2 cups plus 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 ½ cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
Generous pinch of salt
1 ½ sticks cold butter, cut into small pieces
¾ cup milk
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Shredded zest on 1 large lemon
2 large apples (Granny Smith, Braeburn, or Gala), peeled, cored and cut into ½-inch pieces*
1 large egg white

  1. Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375.  Grease and flour a 9-inch springform pan.
  2. In a large bowl, with your fingertips, rub together the 2 cups flour, the 1 ½ cups sugar, the salt, and butter until crumbly.
  3. Remove 1 cup of the crumbs and press them over the bottom of the pan and about ½ inch up the sides, make a crust about 1/8 inch thick
  4. Make a well in the remaining crumb mixture.  Add the milk, eggs, vanilla, lemon zest, the remaining 3 tablespoons flour and the baking powder.
  5. With a whisk blend the mixture thoroughly without incorporating the crumbs.
  6. Then, with a wooden spoon stir in the crumbs until well blended but still a little lumpy.  Fold in the apples.
  7. Scrape the batter into the pan.
  8. In a small bowl, beat the egg white until foamy
  9. Beat in the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar and beat until the whites barely stand in peaks.
  10. Spread over the top of the batter.
  11. Bake 65 to 75 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. 
  12. Remove from the oven and cool 30 minutes on a wire rack.
  13. Slip off the sides of the pan and finish cooling the cake.  Serve at room temperature.

Covered in plastic wrap, the cake holds well at cool room temperature up to 2 days.  It keeps a week in refrigerator.  (If it last that long)
*I used a variety of apples for the cake.  I don’t know the names of them, but they are pictured above.