Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Honey Almond Cake for Honeycomb Pull-Apart Cake Pan

Someone delivered this pan to my front door tonight. Game on. Cake just came out of the oven. Pretty, yes?

4 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. almond extract
2 1/2 cups cake flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp kosher salt
2 sticks unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2/3 cup milk
1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted and finely ground in food processor

Honey Glaze:

1/2 stick unsalted butter
1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup honey
1 tsp vanilla extract
pinch salt
2 TBSP water

Bring all ingredients to room temperature. Preheat oven to 350°. Grease and flour the wells of the cake pan; tap out excess flour.

To make the cake, in a small bowl whisk together the eggs, vanilla extract and almond extract until blended. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the flat beater, beat the butter on medium high speed until light and creamy, about 3 minutes. Gradually add the granulated sugar and beat until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes, stopping the mixer occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Reduce speed to medium, add the egg mixture and beat until well combined, about 1 minute.

Reduce speed to low and add the flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with the milk and beating each addition until just incorporated. Stop the mixture occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Do not over mix. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in the ground almonds. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and smooth the top with the spatula. Gently tap the pan on the countertop to release any air bubbles.

Bake until the top of the cake is golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 35-40 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the honey glaze: In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter with the brown sugar, honey, vanilla and salt, stirring occasionally until the sugar is dissolved, 2-3 minutes, Add the water, bring mixture to a simmer and simmer for 1-2 minutes. Remove from the heat and keep warm.

Gently tap the cake pan on a countertop, invert the cake onto the rack and turn cake right side up. Place the rack over a parchment-lined baking sheet. Using a pastry brush, brush the top and sides of the cake with the warm glaze, including the areas between the pull-apart sections. Let cool before serving.

I lightly dusted the cake with powdered sugar tonight. Next time I shall try the honey glaze. I've never been disappointed with a cake pan from Williams Sonoma. Never. Thank you, friend.

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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Butterscotch Nests/Haystacks

These are fun for Easter. Place three candy coated Easter eggs in the middle to make your nests...

1 cup peanut butter
1/2 package or 6 oz butterscotch morsels
1 large can chow mein noodles

Melt peanut butter and butterscotch together. Can be done on the stove top or in a microwave. Pour over noodles; mix well. Drop by tablespoon on wax paper. After they set, place Hershey pastel eggs in the middle of each nest.

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Saturday, April 16, 2011

well kept secrets and how to poach an egg in your microwave

The May edition of Bon Appetit spilled a big secret, if you ask me. Ever see those experts on Top Chef go home because their poached egg isn't right? Mary-Frances Heck said she learned the microwave trick working the line at Jasper White's Summer Shack in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She made poached eggs to order in the microwave. Want to know how?

Fill a 1 cup microwaveable bowl or teacup with 1/2 cup water. Gently crack an egg into the water,making sure it's completely submerged. Cover with a saucer and microwave on high for about 1 minute or until the white is set but the yolk is still runny. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the egg to the plate.

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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

weddings on the brain...

Today is my anniversary . . . can we just canonize the guy right now? Not really because he'd have to be dead - but you know what I mean. Twenty-eight years he's lived with a damaged, neurotic and overanxious ME - and he's done it with a smile on his face. He manages my excessive anxiety effortlessly and everything that goes along with it. And it isn't easy. He is my biggest fan, my biggest advocate. He never withholds a kind remark, a compliment or a chance to be supportive. He is my rock, my love and the very best thing to ever happen to me.

We drove 500 miles south that day to Washington, DC in a very old Volkswagen bus. My husband's parents joined us from Texas, my sister in law Debbie, too, all the way from Calgary. We ate sugar babies. See how I remember the candy? We had nothing, not two nickels to rub together. We drove home to Boston the next morning. We had no party, no honeymoon . . . we just started our life together. Turns out my grandmother was right. There really is a "lid for every pot."

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Saturday, April 9, 2011

Mark Bittman, Pound Cake, Ina Garten and Nora Ephron...

The December issue of Town & Country Magazine had two of my favorite people on the cover - Ina Garten and Nora Ephron. "Ina & Nora Talk Turkey" was the name of the interview. I should have figured they were friends, but they are such good friends that Nora said, "By the way, that pound-cake recipe you gave me? I have bad news for you. I hope it isn't in your book." Can you imagine? Ina let her know, "It isn't. I'm still testing it for the next book." Nora continued, "I found a better recipe from Mark Bittman. I feel bad telling you this, but it is divine. The greatest pound-cake recipe ever, and the easiest." I love Mark Bittman - I read his blog and I've read one of his books . . . but gutsy, Nora. Gutsy.

I give you Mark's recipe. The one Nora told Ina about. In print.

Citrus-Almond Poundcake
(Adapted from Grandaisy Bakery)

Time: About 1 1/2 hours, plus 30 minutes’ resting

1 1/2 sticks cold unsalted butter
Flour for pan
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
3 cups plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
7-ounce tube almond paste
7 large eggs
2 teaspoons lemon zest
2 teaspoons orange zest
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups cake flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour an 8-cup Bundt pan. Put lemon juice, orange juice and 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar in a small saucepan over low heat; cook until the sugar dissolves and remove from heat.

2. Put almond paste and remaining 2 cups sugar in food processor and process until well combined; add butter and continue processing until light and fluffy. With the machine running, add eggs one at a time along with zest and vanilla, and continue to process until smooth.

3. Stop the machine, add the flour, baking powder and salt, and pulse a few times — just until the dry ingredients are integrated (be careful not to over process, or the cake will become tough). Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake until golden, about 1 hour and 10 minutes. When a skewer or thin-bladed knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, remove the cake from the oven and let cool slightly.

4. Pour the citrus soak over the cake and let it sit for about 30 minutes, or until all the liquid is absorbed and the cake releases from the pan easily. Cut into slices.

Yield: 10 to 12 servings.

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Thursday, April 7, 2011

the voices in my head...

A few weeks ago I went to visit my tailor, a fancy way of saying 'the lady who shortens my pants.' This time I showed up with a gray pinstripe dress. Please make this fit. I changed into the dress and she patted me down from the waist up. "Ah, small up here, big hips." Then she said, "That will be $35.00." Seriously?
. . . .
Last night the doorbell rang. Patrick said (very sincerely), "Mom, Renee is here. Don't embarrass me, okay?" Whaaaa? I expected that from teenagers. He's 22. Don't I sit at the cool table? Cause I think I do. Maybe.
. . . .
Later, while carefully conversing(because I don't want to embarrass)with my spouse, my son and Renee, the subject of pizza came up. Patrick said, "Well, that North End Pizza Dad and I had last Thursday - hard to beat that, Mom." um, what North End Pizza? My spouse nonchalantly glanced at his son and said, "I told you not to tell Mom." Full disclosure is a principle that is not embraced in my home. Apparently.
. . . .
The staff at the dentist's office - they pretend to like me. They pretend they're happy to see me. They are in serious need of acting lessons.
. . . .

Yesterday I ordered 125 beautiful French macarons to go inside some personalized glassine bags for some adult wedding favors. Remember when I blogged about Patisserie Manon? It's blogworthy, a lovely little French patisserie tucked away in a strip mall on the west side of the city. They know how to make a real French macaron. They also understand why the color of the macaron might be important. I am hoping there are leftovers...
. . . .
Esty continues to dominate my mailbox.
. . . .
Last night I talked with my 3-year-old grandson on the phone. He knows he's getting on an airplane to come to Las Vegas. I asked him, "Ethan, do you want Grandma to buy you some candy?" "YA, YA, YA." "Ethan, want me to take you for a Happy Meal?" Same response. "Ethan, do you want to sleep in a tent in Grandma's room?" Affirmative. Last thing he said? "What about my chocolate milk?"
. . . .

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Tuesday, April 5, 2011

a few random notes with some Butterscotch Cashew Bars

Last night I was reading Every Day I Write the Book. She is clever and funny and witty . . . and she reads quite a bit. I like her monthly "Books I Read . . . " series. Yesterday she talked about meeting Markus Zusak - his two books happen to be on my nightstand right now. I started reading I Am The Messenger first. It's terrific to know the next book on my nightstand is supposed to be the better book, because I'm really enjoying I Am The Messenger.

Sometimes I forget where I read a book review that moved me to add the title to my library queue. Remember? I'm old. Typically I wait many weeks for the books to arrive and often don't remember the story associated with the title. Usually when I open the novel I realize why I was interested. Usually. But that's the beauty of the public library . . . it's so much easier to put a book down if you haven't bought it.

Will you look at this recipe?

1/2 pound (2 sticks, or 1 cup) butter
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 & 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
2 & 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
11 ounces butterscotch chips
3/4 cup light corn syrup
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon water
2 cups roasted salted whole cashews

Preheat oven to 350°. Spray a 9″x 13″ pan with cooking spray. Using two sheets of parchment paper, line the pan’s width and length, creating a parchment “sling.” Spray parchment paper with cooking spray.

Using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat butter, brown sugar, and salt for 1 to 1 & 1/2 minutes. Decrease mixer speed to low and add the flour. Mix just until combined. Lightly press dough evenly into the prepared pan. Poke holes in the dough with a fork. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until the crust is a golden color. Remove to wire rack to cool.

In a heavy saucepan over low heat, stir together butterscotch chips, corn syrup, and water. Stir until mixture comes to a simmer and butterscotch chips are melted. Pour over crust.

Sprinkle cashews over the butterscotch caramel. Bake for 5 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack. After cooling, remove from pan and use a very sharp knife to cut into bars.

Makes 2 dozen 2-inch bars.

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Monday, April 4, 2011

insomnia, fear and blackberry disdain...

I woke up this morning at 3:30 a.m. Sleep disturbance was part of my 5 year sojourn whilst teaching Seminary, but it's been a while. I opened my laptop. After 45 minutes of surfing I gave in and went to the first floor. I looked that Cuisinart in the eye and thought, 'I am not afraid of you.' It wasn't true, but I swallowed hard and made a cake. What? You've never made a cake at 4:15 in the morning? I recommend it. The house smells awesome for the entire day. Afterwards I hand washed all the parts to my new (and improved) food processor, hand dried them . . . and I realized that machine brought me happiness. I have a new way to create. And this kind of creating brings close-to-instantaneous results and satisfaction, not to mention pleasure.

I'm a fan of Dorie Greenspan. I'm not sure, but I think Ina might have introduced me to her. She's written (many times) about a Swedish Visiting Cake. I considered it. In the end I opted to make the Scandinavian Almond Cake again. I've stopped counting how many of these little gems I've made, but I can promise you in the nine weeks since I've had the pan . . . I've made at least twenty-five. At least.

no segue...

There are no words to describe the disdain I have for the Blackberry. It is the bane of my existence, a constant irritant, a true source of misery. I take a lot of solace in the fact that there are times it mystifies my technologically blessed son. I am profoundly annoyed by it and can't wait to celebrate the finality of that contract expiration. I'm putting that thing in a bucket and lighting it on fire.


Once my son went to Scouts and told his Scoutmaster his mother thought it would be fun to put the family Christmas tree in the driveway and light it on fire. Unfortunately his Scoutmaster was a fire fighter. It did not go over well. I thought this was the worst tattling that could happen to me until a few years later . . . that's a Mothers' Day I shall never forget. Thanks a lot, Patrick.

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Friday, April 1, 2011

the united states post office...

The mail is a treat right now. Most days there's a package waiting for me when I arrive home. Know what makes it even more fun? I'm old and I forget what I ordered. It's like Christmas! Yesterday it was CELEBRATE stamps. And labels. And 80 Yankee Candle votives. And then this morning I was backing my car out of the garage and saw a box at the front door. No clue. Not even after I saw the return address. I opened it to find 200 beverage napkins with Bridie and Phil's names on them. Christmas. It makes me wonder what will be waiting for me when I arrive home today.

I am a fool for Russell Brand. Despite the fact that I've seen the trailer for Arthur one hundred times (a little exaggeration for emphasis isn't a bad thing), I laugh out loud. For the record, I loved Dudley Moore in the original. The new Arthur looks like the same premise but perhaps a different movie? I'm there. I might even go so far as to DVR the talk show circuit this week for all things Russell Brand. More to follow...

Conference weekend means feasting in more ways than one, probably with some yummy cinnamon rolls made with my new Cuisinart. I blogged about broken things - my Cuisinart happened to be one of them. I could have simply replaced the work bowl (why is that work bowl $100??)and all would have been well. Not what I did. Someone I love surprised me. Now he wants homemade bread. Fair trade, I say, because this Cuisinart is spiffy. I still have no idea how to use it - it's a little intimidating - but I have an entire weekend to devote to that learning curve.

My cousin Cathy sent me some recipes, one I'd wanted for a long time. If only she had a blog to link to - she' a great cook. I digress. I need her permission to post her recipe for Raspberry Squares. Brace yourselves. They are that good.

One last thing. No so much, Grey's Anatomy. Not so much.

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