Friday, April 28, 2017

Black & White Angel Food Cake

I grew up with a frugal family, both money-wise and food-wise.  The apple doesn't fall too far from the tree, so the saying goes, and it seems I've inherited many of those same traits.  My Grandma used to always caution me about not wasting food.  When she was teaching me to can fruit, she was always instructing me on how to peel the fruit so that only the peel was removed, not any of the valuable fruit.  If she had too-ripe fruit she would find a use for them, they wouldn't get thrown away.

Over the years I've developed my own set of food-saving habits, one of which is for egg whites.  Whenever I have a recipe where I need more egg yolks than whites, I don't throw the whites away.  They go into a container in my freezer.  Usually, they eventually go into angel food cakes.  The pink peppercorn ice cream I made recently calls for all egg yolks. This time the egg whites went into the fridge as I knew I would make an angel food cake in the next few days. I've been wanting to make this recipe, from Ina Garten, for a while now. It has shaved chocolate in the batter instead of the traditional plain batter. I had just the occasion for making the cake, our monthly book club meeting was coming up.  I contacted our hostess and asked if I could bring dessert.  This group has become my culinary "guinea pigs" and they are fun to experiment on.

We all enjoyed the cake.  Kim, our hostess, sliced some strawberries to serve alongside the cake.  Angel food cake, strawberries, chocolate ganache frosting...yum, yum! I never got a picture of the cake after cutting, but it's flecked with small bits of chocolate.

This angel food cake wasn't difficult but it does involve a lot of mixing bowls.  I love to bake and would probably bake more, if I had help with the clean-up!

Black & White Angel Food Cake

2 cups sifted superfine sugar **
1 1/3 cups sifted cake flour
1 1/2 cups egg whites at room temperature (10 to 12 eggs)
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup coarsely grated semisweet chocolate (2 ounces)

For the glaze:
1/2 pound semisweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Combine 1/2 cup of the sugar with the flour and sift them together 4 times. Set aside.

Place the egg whites, salt, and cream of tartar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment and beat on high speed until the eggs form medium-firm peaks, about 1 minute. With the mixer on medium speed, add the remaining 1 1/2 cups sugar by sprinkling it over the beaten egg whites.  Beat on high speed for a few minutes, until thick and shiny. Add the vanilla and continue to whisk until very thick, about 1 more minute.  Scrape the beaten egg whites into a large bowl.  Sift one-fourth of the flour mixture over the egg whites and fold it very carefully into the batter with a rubber spatula. Continue adding the flour by fourths, sifting and folding until it's all incorporated. Fold in the grated chocolate.

Pour the batter into an ungreased 10-inch tube pan, smooth the top, and bake it for 35 to 45 minutes, until it springs back to the touch. Remove the cake from the oven and invert the pan on a cooling rack (or invert onto a bottle). When cool, run a thin, flexible knife around the cake to remove it from the pan.

For the chocolate glaze, place the chocolate chips and the heavy cream in a heat-proof bowl set over a pan of simmering water and stir until the chocolate melts. Pour the chocolate over the top of the cooled cake to cover the top completely and allow it to drizzle down the sides.  If you have chocolate glaze left over, you can serve it on the side with the cake.

** If you can't find superfine sugar, put granulated sugar into the food processor fitted with a steel blade and process it for 30 seconds.

The flour/sugar mixture has to be sifted four times.  I just went from bowl to bowl!

If your angel food cake pan doesn't have legs on it, just invert it onto a glass bottle.  It's important that the cake be inverted while cooling so it doesn't deflate.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Strawberry Pie with Pink Peppercorn Ice Cream

When my neighborhood strawberry patch opens up for the season I know that spring has officially arrived. It is literally a 5-minute drive to get fresh-from-the-field, just-picked strawberries. Oh, how I love them!  I made strawberry shortcake for Easter dinner. This past weekend I made 3 batches of strawberry jam and had enough berries leftover to make a pie. I've never made a baked strawberry pie, I've always made some form of refrigerated pie. I wanted to try something new so got out the pastry supplies and baked a pie! After dealing with numbers and clients for 3 1/2 months it felt so good to get back in the kitchen! I was so happy not to be at my desk and computer that I may have gotten a little carried away with decorating the pie; making a braided edge and flower cut-outs.

A few years back my husband and I enjoyed a strawberry-rhubarb crisp at a restaurant somewhere (I don't remember where!)  It was served with a pink peppercorn ice cream. I had never heard of such an ice cream, much less tasted anything like it.  The combination of a little spice with the sweetness of the fruit was a great combination. I remember coming home and replicating it a few nights later. I thought this ice cream would be great with the strawberry pie, in lieu of traditional vanilla ice cream.  Fruit pies can be very sweet, the slight hotness of the pepper tones that down some.

Strawberry Pie

Pastry for 2-crust pie (either homemade or store bought)
6 cups hulled and halved strawberries
1/4 to 1/2 cup sugar, depending on the sweetness of the berries
3 tablespoons flour

Heat oven to 375 degrees.  On a lightly floured surface, roll one round of dough to fit inside a 9-inch pie dish.

Combine strawberries, sugar and flour in a large bowl.  Pour in pastry-lined pie dish.

Roll out second round of dough and slice into 10 strips.  Create a lattice pattern on top of pie.  Crimp edges.  If desired, brush top and edges with a beaten egg and then sprinkle with about 1 tablespoon sugar.

Bake for 60 minutes, until filling is bubbly.  If crust is browning too quickly, cover with aluminum foil.

Though the pink peppercorns resemble a peppercorn both in looks and taste, they are actually the dried berry of a flowering bush. This ice cream isn't something that you would eat a bowl of after dinner but its spiciness and slight floral flavor adds a lot as a side to a sweet treat. In addition to being good with fruit pies and crisps, it's also good with a warm brownie and hot fudge sauce or molten chocolate dish. I usually add a little food coloring to the custard, if not the ice cream is more beige than pink!

Pink Peppercorn Ice Cream

2 cups whole milk
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup pink peppercorns, crushed
7 large egg yolks

Bring milk, cream, sugar, and peppercorns to boil in a heavy large saucepan, stirring until the sugar dissolves.  Remove from heat; let stand at room temperature 1 hour for flavors to blend.

Bring milk mixture to a simmer. Whisk egg yolks in a large bowl to blend. Gradually whisk hot milk mixture into yolks.  Return mixture to pan and stir over medium heat until finger leaves a path on back of spoon when drawn across, about 3 minutes (do not boil). Strain custard into large bowl; cover. Refrigerate until cold, about 4 hours. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Keep refrigerated.)

Process custard in ice cream maker according to manufacturer's instructions.  Transfer to container; cover and freeze.  

Recipe source:  Bon Appetit September 2004

Friday, April 14, 2017

Happy (Hoppy!) Easter!

With the exception of a few extensions to finish up, I'm pretty much done with the upcoming tax filing deadline. I'm slowly starting to reclaim my life back.  The bedroom carpets were cleaned yesterday, the window cleaner comes next week, we have toilet paper in the house again.  Most importantly, I found the time to make my grandchildren's Easter bags. A few months back, a friend sent me a picture of some painted blocks, made to look like bunnies.  Immediately I thought the same idea would work for bags.  I glued bunny ears, twisted pipe cleaners, made a heart nose and a yarn pom pom tail.  I worked on them, off an on, for a few nights.  It was such a relief from dealing with numbers and stress! 

Easter dinner will be at our house so I will be reclaiming my kitchen again, too! I've not finalized the menu but my nearby strawberry patch has recently opened.  Strawberries will be on the dessert menu!

Happy Easter!

Monday, April 10, 2017

Berry-Ricotta Cake

I actually cooked dinner last night.  Except for a rotisserie chicken I bought the night the grandchildren came over, this was the first meal I prepared in over a week.  The hours of tax season 2017 have been long and I've not had a day off since Super Bowl Sunday.  My quilt project is gathering dust, I've barely got one row done on my newest cross stitch project.  We are down to two rolls of toilet paper in the house (Costco, here I come!)  The good news is there is only a week of tax season left and we are in pretty good shape at the office.  Soon I will be back to "putzing" at home again!

While cooking the lone dinner, I had the desire to bake something sweet.  I've been eyeing this recipe from Bon Appetit for a while now. The original recipe calls for raspberries. I didn't have any but I do have some frozen boysenberries left from last summer. The user reviews said any berry would work in this cake so I grabbed a cup of frozen berries and got to work.  It is such an easy cake to make, I mixed it while my pasta was cooking. The ricotta cheese makes this such a moist cake. My husband really enjoyed it, he ate two pieces! The rest got taken to the office and it was gone in a flash. As soon as raspberries are in season I will be making this cake again!

Berry-Ricotta Cake

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups ricotta
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 cup frozen boysenberries, blackberries, or raspberries, divided

Preheat oven to 350 degrees  Line a 9-inch diameter cake pan with parchment paper and lightly coat with nonstick spray. Whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.

Whisk eggs, ricotta, and vanilla in a medium bowl until smooth; fold into dry ingredients just until blended. Then fold in butter, followed by 3/4 cup berries, taking care not to crush the berries. Scrape batter into prepared pan and scatter remaining 1/4 cup berries over top.

Bake cake until golden brown and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 50-60 minutes. Let cool at least 20 minutes before unmolding.

Top with whipped cream, if desired.