Friday, March 30, 2012

Fresh Orange Cake with Orange Cream Cheese Frosting

I'm not so sure that this cake photo is "A Feast for the Eyes".  In fact, I was so disappointed with my lackluster photos of this delicious cake, that I pondered one of two things-- don't post these photos at all, or make the cake again.

The perfectionist in me, almost chose the latter option.  However, as much I love to bake, I reserve cake baking for when I have dinner guests.  (I know that my will power becomes weakened if I have a cake in my kitchen.) 

I love citrus desserts, and when I bought some seasonal Cara Cara oranges, at a good price, I knew that the oranges would be destined to become the cake recipe that I spotted on "The Red Spoon".  I hate to waste any change to use citrus zest and, because I wanted my cake to have a lot of orange flavor, I set it aside.

Meg's recipe uses store-bought orange juice.  I decided to freshly squeeze mine, after zesting them.

I used about six oranges to get one cup of fresh squeezed juice.

Anytime I see vegetable oil and sour cream in a cake recipe, I'm pretty much guaranteed to have a moist cake. 

Plus, I don't have to worry about softening butter, since it's not to be found in this recipe. I like to add a couple teaspoons of Butter Sweet Dough Emulsion.  I think it adds a special "bakery flavor" to my cakes.

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Sunday, March 25, 2012

Meyer Lemon Poppy Seed Scones

With the arrival of Spring, I'm on a citrus kick.  I have three recipes to share with you, and two of them uses Meyer Lemons.  My husband planted a Meyer Lemon tree for me, a few years ago.  I love the beautiful orange color of Meyer lemons and am always looking for ways to enjoy the flavor of these lovely citrus fruits.

Meyer lemons are thought to be a cross between a lemon and a mandarin or a common orange; they are a bit sweeter than the more traditional Eureka lemons.They're also pricey to buy! Yikes! Still, they're worth it.

If you've never made scones before, I can assure you that they are very easy to do.  They are virtually fool-proof-- but there are a few important tips that I will share with you.  I was inspired to make these scones when I saw them posted on "Our Best Bites".  My son loves Lemon Poppy Seed Scones, and he used to buy some "pre-fab" scones that are sold in a plastic bucket.  I knew I could make a better version.  I printed the recipe and made a batch in no time at all.

The recipe begins with flour, baking soda, baking powder, lemon zest...and (I would find out too late), some sugar.   I rarely do this, but I forgot the sugar!  More on that later....

Tip #1:  Grate frozen butter.  This is much easier than cutting cold butter, and using a pastry blender. You can use a box grater, a micro-plane (for cutting coarser products...yes, I have an assortment of micro-planes) or your food processor with the grating disc.

Why frozen butter?  Tip #2: Scones puff up better, and have a very tender texture when there are cold chunks of butter (just like making pie crusts).  The butter creates more steam, they bake.  Add the grated butter to the dry ingredients, and use your fingers to toss and combine-- until it resembles coarse crumbs.  Tip #3: Don't overwork the dough!  Don't squeeze the dough... just toss gently.

For the wet ingredients, whisk one egg with the buttermilk.   I wanted to make sure that the lemon flavor would be the star of the show.  I keep pure lemon oil in my refrigerator, for times like this. I suppose lemon extract could work, but I'm a purist.  A little goes a long way, I added 1/4 teaspoon.

Pour the wet ingredients over the crumbly mixture and gently combine with two forks, or I like to use a flat whisk.  You don't want the dough to be "wet", but more "shaggy".  That means, mix until it's wet enough that any loose flour has been incorporated.  Then, stop!

Lightly flour a surface and dump the dough.  Patiently pat the dough... pat, pat, pat.   NOTE: This is the first batch that I made, and I had to add a bit more buttermilk to it.  It did come together better.

Tip #4:  We are not making bread!  Don't be tempted to knead the dough!  Pat, pat, pat.  Trust me, we don't want to work the gluten in the flour, or we'll have hockey pucks for scones.

When I posted recipes for  my Strawberry Scones or Harvest Pumpkin Scones, I show how I shaped the dough into a circle, and then cut them into wedges. 

This time, I wanted to make mini scones, so I shaped the dough so that I cut squares and then cut each one into a triangle.

A bench scraper makes this easier to do.

Spread each scone, evenly, on either parchment paper or a Silpat Mat.
Tip #5:  Freeze the scones. Yes, freeze them for at least 10 minutes.  Tips #1 & 2 explains why this is a good thing.

I set two timers-- one for 15 minutes, and another for 12 minutes. I wanted to be sure that I didn't burn the scones.  At 12 minutes, they weren't golden brown, yet. So 15 minutes did the trick. Look!  Puffy!

While the scones were baking, I made a glaze of powdered sugar, the juice of the zested lemon and 2 Tablespoons of half & half cream.  NOTE: In my first batch, I made a glaze with melted butter, instead of half & half, but found that the butter muted the lemon flavor.  I prefer a glaze that I can easily drizzle over a scone, so add the half & half (or you can use heavy cream or whole milk) a little at a time.    Here's the COOLEST TIP YET:  Balance a cooking rack over your kitchen sink (carefully, obviously)...

That way, when you spoon a glaze, the mess drips right into your sink-- no tray to wash, no parchment paper to waste.

Easy cleanup!

This is the first batch of glaze, made with melted butter instead of half & half.  It's thick, but as I've said, I felt it muted the lemon flavor. It was good, but...

I made a thinner glaze and spooned it over warm scones.  NOTE: I forgot to sift the powdered sugar, for this batch, hence there are clumps of sugar.  Simply esthetic flaws, but the flavor was great.

Once the scones had cooled, I added one more layer of glaze. Perfect!

TASTING NOTES FOR BATCH #1:  As I first mentioned, I forgot to add sugar to my first batch.  However, the thicker glaze saved the day.  I was disappointed, and my son reluctantly said that these were "okay".  Craig, on the other hand, ate them all and said he liked that they weren't sweet.

I couldn't stand it-- I had to make another batch, and tweak the recipe a bit.  I decided to switch sour cream for buttermilk, because I felt that my first batch of scones had a texture that I wasn't crazy about.  This time, I added the sugar, and made the glaze without butter.

TASTING NOTES FOR BATCH #2:   Bingo!  Redemption tastes sweet.  In this case, the sugar made these scones just sweet enough. I loved that the lemon flavor really took center stage.  The scones were tender and I am happy with this version.  That is not to say that Our Best Bites recipes isn't good. It is-- sometimes, a tweak or two is a good thing. In this case, I can say that this recipe is adapted from "Our Best Bites".  Thanks for the inspiration!

By the way, I froze half of my second batch of scones.  The following Saturday, I took them from the freezer into a 400F oven, and they turned out perfectly!  This is a great tip for planning ahead-- or, in my case, not being tempted to eat all of them at once.

A recipe card is at the end of this post.  If you can't "view" the card on this page, please click here.




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Sunday, March 18, 2012

Guinness Irish Lamb Stew & Irish Brown Soda Bread

I seriously doubt that there's any Irish D.N.A. on my German-Mexican family tree.  However, my trip to Ireland (much too long ago) remains one of my most memorable trips.  I fell in-love with the beauty of the Emerald Isle, the friendliness of the people-- and, of course, the food. For that reason, I'm happy to celebrate St. Patrick's Day by making some of my favorite recipes of either Shepherd's Pie or Corned Beef and Cabbage. 

My son and I love lamb, and I am slowing converting my husband's lackluster opinion of it over to our side.  This St. Patrick's Day, on the Monterey Peninsula, brought us a long overdue rainstorm with intermittent hail showers.  We were having friends over for dinner, and a hearty stew seemed the perfect dish.  One of our family recipes is my Beef Stew recipe, but I wanted to keep with the Irish theme.   The Whole Foods meat counter was busy packaging corned beef, but I asked for a boneless lamb shoulder roast.

$24.00 might seem a little pricey, but this is New Zealand lamb and my friends are worth it. I didn't have a recipe to work from, so I decided to adapt a little from my beef stew and pot roast recipe.  Instead of using red wine, I opted to use Guinness beer-- of course!

While listening to an audio book, I patted the lamb dry and then patiently cut the roast into bite-sized pieces--then seasoned it with salt & pepper.  

I added about 1/4 cup of flour and dredged the meat well until evenly coated with the flour.  Using a very light coating of olive oil, I heated my trusty Dutch Oven to very high heat and added just enough lamb pieces so as not to crowed them.

Seared meat is a beautiful sight, don't you think? That beautiful golden crust is going to give my sauce  a lot of flavor.

It took three batches of about 8-10 minutes, each, to create this lovely pile of lamb.  

A stew needs vegeables, of course.  I love potatoes, so I peeled four Russett potatoes, washed four carrots and peeled four yellow onions, and cut them in half.  I'm not a fan of cooked celery, but I set aside (and didn't photograph) 4 stalks of celery with their leafy greens still attached. I prefer to add the celery, whole, to flavor the broth and then I toss it aside.

For years, I used to toss my vegetables into my stews "raw".  I've had a change of heart, by taking a little extra time to caramelize the vegetables in a little of the fat or olive oil.  I think it adds more flavor.

It takes about 3-5 minutes to caramelize the vegetables on medium-high heat, then remove them.  Now that the pan is empty, and full of that dark crust, it's time to deglaze the pan with liquid-- in this case, I used a 14 oz. can of Guinness Stout beer on very high heat. Scrape all the flavor off!

I find that tomato paste and Worcestershire sauce adds so much flavor to stews.  This prep time has taken about an hour, but the rest of the cooking will happen on it's own.  Now, for the final steps:

Add the cooked vegetables and seared lamb back into the pot.  I made my own beef stock, a few days ago (will post that recipe soon) so that's why it's light in color and looks like chicken stock.  Boxed beef stock will do, too.  Add 6 cups of beef stock (or enough to just cover the meat and vegetables). Bring the stew to a boil, covered. Then reduce to a low simmer, and let is cook for about 3 hours.  Yes, you can finish this off in a slow cooker or even pressure cook it for about 45 minutes.  On a rainy day, though, I love the smell of dinner wafting throughout the kitchen.

I read, somewhere, that authentic Irish Stew has barley in it.  While the stew was simmering, I cooked 1 cup of pearl barley to a half and half blend of 3 cups water and chicken stock.  

My company arrived, and so I didn't take photos of the stew just as it finished it's 3 hours on the stove.  I did, however, taste the stew and then added salt until it had just the right seasoning. NOTE: When I make chicken or beef stock, I don't add salt.   

Finishing the stew:  I like a thick gravy-like consistency to my stews.  To accomplish this, I take about 4 tablespoons cornstarch and whisk in 4 Tablespoons of water until smooth and lump-free.  On medium-high heat, I carefully add about half of that mixture and wait for a minute or two.  I add more cornstarch mixture until the thickness I want is achieved.

For the optional barley:  I debated if potatoes and barley made sense-- two starches together?  So, I poured half the stew into a smaller pot and added the barley.  I loved it, and the barley thickens the stew-- so I'm glad that I didn't too much cornstarch mixture. NOTE: I only used about 2 cups of cook barley, so the rest will become a barley salad.

Guinness Irish Lamb Stew and...

Slightly sweet, delicious and warm, Irish Soda Bread...

(not pictured) A glass of cold Irish Harp Beer.  Happy St. Patrick's Day!

TASTING NOTES:  For those of you who aren't fond of lamb, because it tastes very strong-- believe me, the lamb was not only buttery tender, but mild.  I only wish I had invested in a couple more pounds of meat, because I loved it.  My husband has been won over by this dish.  Everyone had second helpings.  I'm a convert to using Guinness in recipes, as it doesn't leave a "beer" taste.  Instead, it adds a depth of flavor that is subtle, yet flavorful.  This recipe makes a lot, and I'm so glad. This morning, it's raining and hailing and I plan to have it for lunch...again.   You don't have to wait for the luck o' the Irish to make this.  Keeper recipe, if I do say so myself-- and one of my own creation. Yay!





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Thursday, March 15, 2012

Guinness Glazed Pork Chops with Irish Colcannon

So many food bloggers have already jumped on the bandwagon with St. Patrick's Day recipes-- and I have to say that I've been busy pinning them on Pinterest.  One of my most trusted source of tried-and-true recipes is from Cathy of Wives With Knives.  Cathy shared her recipe for Colcannon, which is  different version of what I've made in the past.  If you've never had Colcannon, it's simply mashed potatoes with either cooked cabbage or green kale mixed in.  My version has always used kale, but Cathy's recipe uses cabbage, green onion and bacon.

It's a very simple recipe to make, and I didn't need to follow her recipe with measurements. I just sliced bacon and cooked it until golden, added green onion, then thinly sliced green cabbage-- while I made my version of mashed potatoes.

Then, I simply added the cooked cabbage mixture to the potatoes and...

delicious Colcannon.  You can view Cathy's recipe on her blog here.

I wasn't exactly sure what I would make to go with the Colcannon.  Yesterday morning, as I turned on my computer at work, my Google Browser displayed the Epicurious Recipe of the Day (which also inspired me to make the Peach Glazed Brisket).  Today's recipe was for Guinness Glazed Lamb Chops.  I'm not a fan of dark beer, but since Guinness is made in Dublin, and St. Patrick's Day is just around the corner-- it seemed a perfect choice for me to experiment with.   I was intrigued about using Guinness to make a glaze.  I had whole coriander and black pepper at home, so I thought I'd give it a go. 

As soon as I arrived home, from work, I popped a can of Guinness, crushed some coriander and pepper and added that to 1/2 cup of brown sugar.

Per the recipe, I let this simmer for about 20 minutes, which gave me time to prepare the Colcannon.

I like to mark a wooden spoon, with a rubberband, so show where the liquid started. As you can see, the beer did reduce to about half, in 20 minutes.

The liquid did reduce to almost a syrup, and was strained.

I felt that the glaze wasn't quite thick enough, to my liking, so I return it to a boil-- for about five minutes.

There we are!  A thick syrup, which I divided into two separate bowls.

No, these aren't lamb chops.  My husband doesn't love lamb as much as I do.  So, I settled for bone-in pork chops, seasoned with salt & pepper.  The syrup really thickened as it cooled, so be forewarned to keep it slightly warm-- if you can.  I broiled these about 6" below the broiler for about 5 minutes each- to about 140F, which is perfect for us.

Ah, yes, an Irish-Themed Dinner, if I do say so myself. Unfortunately, I didn't have time to "food-style" with Green or decorations. After all, this is  a work  night for me!  I did, however, drizzle the extra glaze over the chops. 

TASTING NOTES:  The flavor of the glaze was surprisingly good.  The brown sugar gave a slight sweetness to the glaze-- but not over-the--top, and the Guinness imparted a bit of a molasses flavor.  Craig and I really liked the glaze-- a lot.  I would definitely make this again, and I'd love to try this on some rib lamb chops.  

I still have one more recipe I hope to make for St. Patrick's Day. Only, this one does have lamb in it and I am sure my husband will love it.  The lamb stew with potatoes and barley was outstanding, and you can view the recipe here.

A printable recipe card is at the end of this post, or you can view it on Key Ingredient here.


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