Mini Angel Food Cakes

July 31, 2010

For someone who claims that she doesn’t care for desserts very much, I  have been spending a lot of time baking. Angel food cake is definitely one that has been on my list for a long time, but I must admit that I had been a tad bit intimidated. Since I recently bought mini angel food cake pans, I thought this may be a good time to try them.

I decided to use the recipe for a regular size angel food cake, but only made 3/4 of the recipe to be used in (4) 2×4-inch size pans and the batter came up to about 3/4 of the mini pans. This recipe below actually had measurements that was flexible enough for me scale down. I skipped the lemon juice and opted to use vanilla extract instead.  I reduced the  baking time to approximately 27 min and they were cooked just perfect.  (I set my timer at 30 min, but I started checking around 20 min).

These mini pans don’t have the “legs” like the larger-size pans  do; so I was surprised at how well they came out from the pans. I just let the mini pans to sit on the cooling rack for about an hour before I tried to remove the cakes from the pans. The flavor itself was very good, maybe a tad bit too sweet for me, so I may just reduce the sugar in the future by a couple of tablespoons. But they were light, spongy, and were perfect with fresh sliced strawberries (and whipped cream!). I hope you’ll try this recipe for one of your summer entertaining!

Note: the ingredients and directions below have been modified from the original measurement to fit my cake pans.

Adapted from Martha Stewart Baking Handbook

Ingredients
3/4 cup of cake flour sifted
3/4 cups, plus 2 tbsp of sugar
8 egg whites (equivalent to 1 cups)
1 tsp of vanilla extract
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
A pinch of salt

Directions

Preheat oven to 325 degrees, with rack in lower third. Sift flour, 1/2 cup sugar, and salt into a medium bowl; set aside.

Beat egg whites on medium-low speed in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk until foamy, about 2 minutes. Mix in cream of tartar and vanilla. Raise speed to medium-high; beat until medium- stiff peaks form. Reduce speed to medium-low; add remaining 1 cup sugar in a steady stream. Beat until stiff (but not dry) peaks form; transfer to a large bowl.

Sift one-third flour mixture over egg-white mixture; gently fold in with a rubber spatula. Repeat to incorporate remaining flour mixture. Gently spoon batter into  angel food cake molds so each is 2/3 full.

Bake until cakes are pale golden and tops spring back when lightly pressed, approximately 25-30 minutes, start checking at 20 min. Let cool in molds on wire racks for a minimum of 30 minutes.

Invert molds, and sharply rap them on a towel-covered work surface; gently release cakes from molds.

Yield: 4 mini cakes

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Cherry Cream Scones

July 11, 2010

I have been enjoying my new cookbook, Baking from My Home to Yours, immensely that I was really excited when I had the opportunity to try a new breakfast scone recipe when we had a couple of friends staying over for the weekend. I didn’t do a very good planning in stocking up with ingredients, so I chose this recipe since it called for basic pantry-ingredients, which I already had in hand. The only thing that I substituted for in this recipe was currants. I didn’t have those, and used dried cherries instead–which I thought actually came out a lot better. The cherries had such a brightness to these scones that it complemented the subtle creaminess of the scones. They’re also not super sweet, so they can be enjoyed with fruit jam. Happy eating!

If you want to try other scone recipes, these are my two favorite:
Cranberry Orange Scones, Mini
Lemon-Glazed Blueberry Scones

Adapted from Baking from My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan

Ingredients
1 large egg
2/3 cup cold heavy cream
2 cups all purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and chilled
3/4 moist dried cherries

Directions
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degree F. Line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicone mat.

Stir the egg and cream together.

Whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt together in a large bowl. Drop in the butter, and using your fingers, toss to coat the pieces of butter with flour. Quickly, working with your fingertips or a pastry blender, cut and rub the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture is peebly. You’ll have pea-size pieces, pieces the size of oatmeal flakes and pieces the size of everything in between.

Pour the egg and cream over the dry ingredients and stir with a fork just until the dough, which will be wet and sticky, come together. Don’t overdo. Still in the bowl, gently knead the dough by hand, or turn it with a rubber spatula 8-10 times.

Lightly dust a work surface with flour and turn out the dough. Divide it in a half. Working with one piece at a time, pat the dough into a rough circle that’s about 5 inches in diameter, cut it into 6 wedges and place it on a baking sheet.

Bake the scones for 20-22 minutes, or until the tops are golden and firm. Transfer them to a rack and cool for 10 minutes before serving, or wait for them to cool to room temperature.

Yield: 12 scones


Mini Crustless Quiche

July 10, 2010

I have been wanting to try crust-less quiche for a while. I love how convenience & versatile this dish is. I can basically put in whatever leftover that I have, whether vegetables, ham, turkey, or bacon, and mix them with eggs, heavy cream or half-half. I started with using the same exact quiche recipe that I have been using for over a decade, and just adjust the amount of fillings called for (cheese, bacon, spinach and onion). I thought that they turned out great considering that this was my first time trying them. The flavor was there, and it had a slight crust on the outside and it had that perfectly cooked tender egg custard in the inside.

I sprayed the muffin tins with cooking spray to make sure that they don’t stick to the pan, and I really took my time in releasing each quiche from the muffin mold with a small spatula to make sure that they don’t break apart. In the future, I may try a different ratio of eggs and cream to see if it would make a difference in the way the crust forms in the outside of the quiche.  Let me know what you think! Happy eating!

Ingredients
1 (10-oz) package frozen spinach, thawed, drained.
3 pieces of cooked bacon, crumbled
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/3 cup finely shredded onion
4 large eggs
2 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/8 tsp ground pepper

Directions
Spray standard size 12-muffin tins pan with a cooking spray
Layer the dish with spinach, bacon bits, onion and cheese
Whisk eggs, cream, salt, and ground pepper together
Pour egg mixture onto each muffin opening
Bake in the oven at 425 deg for 15 min
Reduce temp to 350, and bake for another 15 min
Let stand for 10 min before removing from pan to make sure that the eggs have set

Yield: 12-muffin sizes quiches


Grown up Mac ‘n Cheese

July 7, 2010

Pasta can be considered a main staple at our house. Along with pizza, this is a dish that shows up on our menu every week almost all year long. We love the little blue box of macaroni and cheese that takes less than 10 minutes to whip up, but also appreciate the grown up version like this one. The bacon (who doesn’t love them!), blue cheese, gruyere and cheddar really add nice complex flavors to the everyday macaroni and cheese. I’d say that this is something that is worth turning on your oven for in the summer. Happy eating!

Adapted from Ina Garten, as seen on Food Network

Ingredients
4 ounces thick-sliced bacon
Vegetable oil
Kosher salt
2 cups elbow macaroni or cavatappi
1 1/2 cups milk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated
3 ounces extra-sharp Cheddar, grated
2 ounces blue cheese, such as Roquefort, crumbled
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Pinch nutmeg
2 tablespoons of fresh unseasoned bread crumbs
2 tablespoons freshly chopped basil leaves

Directions
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Place a baking rack on a sheet pan and arrange the bacon in 1 layer on the baking rack. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the bacon is crisp. Remove the pan carefully from the oven – there will be hot grease in the pan! Transfer the bacon to a plate lined with paper towels and crumble when it is cool enough to handle.

Drizzle oil into a large pot of boiling salted water. Add the macaroni and cook according to the directions on the package, 6 to 8 minutes. Drain well.

Meanwhile, heat the milk in a small saucepan, but don’t boil it. Melt the butter in a medium pot and add the flour. Cook over low heat for 2 minutes, stirring with a whisk. While whisking, add the hot milk and cook for a minute or 2 more, until thickened and smooth. Off the heat, add the Gruyere, Cheddar, blue cheese, 1 teaspoon salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Add the cooked macaroni and crumbled bacon and stir well. Pour into 2 individual size gratin dishes.

Mix the bread crumbs with chopped basil. Sprinkle the bread crumb mixture over the top of the pasta. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly and the macaroni is browned on the top.

Yield: 2-4 servings


Yeasted Doughnuts

July 5, 2010

Yes, I know… I am still on my carb-kick, and it looks like it has not slowed down yet. But yeasted doughnuts… hmm.. I have been craving them this entire pregnancy! I made Red drive me 30 min to get a doughnut from a local bakery at 6:15AM since I had to have my doughnut one Saturday morning. When I got there, I bought my donut, a cream-filled long john, and Red suggested that I picked up some extra for the next day. I said, no, I just want one. So there you go. I devoured the donut on the way home.

I finally decided that I would try on making them at home myself, so I could enjoy them. I went with Alton Brown’s recipe, since he has yet failed me with his recipes and this one definitely came through again! I don’t have a biscuit cutter in the size that he was calling for on this recipe (2.5-inch) so I used a slightly smaller one (a 2-inch one). I also didn’t save the holes, thus, ended up with almost four dozen of doughnuts at the end. But they were small, I was eating… ehm, way too many of them! We had to unload some with our friends, but we still ended up with a ton. Let me just say that this has satisfied my doughnut craving for a very long time!

The dough was very sticky & elastic as a lot of reviewers have claimed, which made it rather challenging to have perfectly shaped round doughnuts. But I resisted the temptation of adding more flour unless I really had to to keep the texture light.  Next time though, I may be a little bit more generous so that I have more perfectly and consistently shaped doughnuts. I also think that I rolled the dough a little bit too thin, which made them cook a lot quicker than what it was calling for on the recipe (mine browned in 30 sec).

Finally, one thing that I would change with this recipe is to either half or omit the nutmeg together. When the dough was still wet, the nutmeg smell was very strong, and I could barely smell it in the finished products. But next time, I think it would do fine without it.  Happy Eating!

Adapted from Alton Brown’s as seen on Food Network

Ingredients
1 -1/2 cups milk
2 -1/2 ounces vegetable shortening, approximately 1/3 cup
2 packages instant yeast
1/3 cup warm water (95 to 105 degrees F)
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup sugar
1 -1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
23 ounces all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting surface
Peanut or vegetable oil, for frying (1 to 1/2 gallons, depending on fryer)

Directions
Place the milk in a medium saucepan and heat over medium heat just until warm enough to melt the shortening. Place the shortening in a bowl and pour warmed milk over. Set aside.

In a small bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the warm water and let dissolve for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, pour the yeast mixture into the large bowl of a stand mixer and add the milk and shortening mixture, first making sure the milk and shortening mixture has cooled to lukewarm. Add the eggs, sugar, salt, nutmeg, and half of the flour. Using the paddle attachment, combine the ingredients on low speed until flour is incorporated and then turn the speed up to medium and beat until well combined. Add the remaining flour, combining on low speed at first, and then increase the speed to medium and beat well. Change to the dough hook attachment of the mixer and beat on medium speed until the dough pulls away from the bowl and becomes smooth, approximately 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a well-oiled bowl, cover, and let rise for 1 hour or until doubled in size.

On a well-floured surface, roll out dough to 3/8-inch thick. Cut out dough using a 2 1/2-inch doughnut cutter or pastry ring and using a 7/8-inch ring for the center whole. Set on floured baking sheet, cover lightly with a tea towel, and let rise for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oil in a deep fryer or Dutch oven to 365 degrees F. Gently place the doughnuts into the oil, 3 to 4 at a time. Cook for 1 minute per side. Transfer to a cooling rack placed in baking pan.

Yield: approximately 4 dozens of 2-inch round doughnuts


Fresh Sour Cherry Cobbler

July 3, 2010

One of the best things about local farmer market in the summer is that I never know what fruits or vegetables that I will find. Last week, I ran into two gorgeous pints of sour cherries sitting on a back of a pick up truck. Now, I have to admit that I have never worked with sour cherries before, but I know that they are hard to find and are usually only available for like two or three weeks period in June. I decided to get one pint and try if I can make a cobbler out of it.

Cobbler recipes are usually a hit and miss. As a matter of fact, I haven’t really had a cobbler that I would categorize as perfect… the biscuit toppings are usually either too crumbly, dry, or too soggy after sitting on a bed of sliced fruits. But I can say that this one actually exceeded my expectation… this is THE cobbler recipe that I would consider a perfection. I could taste the bright and slightly tart flavor of the cherries, with just a slight or sweetness from the sugar, and loved the consistency of the fruit compote. The biscuit topping… wow, now those are incredible! Since they are baked somehow seperately at first, they did not turn soggy even after sitting on top of the fruit compote.

Now I really wish that I could rewind the time and pick up both pints of those sour cherries. I only made half of the recipe since that’s all the fruits that I had available, and we ate them every night for three day with vanilla gelato, and each time… savoring the flavor that really seemed to develop even better each day!  This is definitely my new perfect summer dessert, and has turned me into sour cherry addict. I’d definitely be in the lookout for more sour cherries in my future trips to the farmer market.

Adapted from The America’s Test Kitchen Cookbook

Ingredients
Biscuit topping
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour plus 6 tbsp for sprinkling
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking salt
6 tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 cup buttermilk

Cherry filling
1-1/4 cups sugar
3 tbsp plus 1 tsp cornstarch
A pinch salt
4 lbs of fresh sour cherries, pitted, approx. 8 cups –juices reserved
1 cup dry red wine
Cranberry juice (if needed)
1 (3-inch) cinnamon stick
1/4 tsp almond extract

Directions
Stir together sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a large bowl; add cherries and toss well to combine. Pour wine over cherries; let stand 30 minutes. Drain cherries in colander set over medium bowl. Combine drained and reserved juices (from pitting cherries), there should be approximately 3 cups. If not add enough cranberry juice to equal to 3 cups.

While cherries macerate, prepare and make the biscuit topping.

In a work bowl of food processor fitted with steel blade, pulse flour, 6 tbsp of sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt to combine. Scatter butter pieces over and process until mixture resembles coarse meal, about fifteen 1-second pulses. Transfer to medium bowl; add buttermilk and toss with rubber spatula to combine. Using 1-1/2 to 1-3/4 inch spring-loaded ice-cream scoop, scoop 12-biscuits onto baking sheet, spacing them 1-1/2 to 2 inches apart. Sprinkle biscuits evenly with 2 tbsp sugar and bake until lightly browned on tops and bottom, about 15 minutes.

Spread drained cherries in even layer in 9×13-inch glass baking dish. Bring liquid and cinnamon sticks to simmer in medium non-reactive saucepan over medium-high heat, whisking frequently, until mixture thickens, about 5 minutes. Discard cinnamon stick, stir in almond extract, and pour hot liquid over cherries in a baking dish.

Arrange hot biscuits in 3 rows of 4 over warm filling. Bake cobbler until filling is bubbling and biscuits are deep golden brown, about 10 minutes. Cool on wire rack 10 minutes, serve.

Yield: 12 servings