November 29, 2010

Caramel Italian Cream Cake

This Italian cream cake is good, but with its frosting, oh its creamy caramel frosting, the coconut-pecan cake is divine. At one sitting my grandmother told me no less than four times that it was "so good;" she does love butter more than anyone I know. And the whole family thought it was the best of our treats on our Thanksgiving retreat to the lake.
Caramelizing brown sugar and butter transforms their union into a class of its own. Mix that the caramel mixture with powdered sugar (yes, more sugar) and vanilla, and you'd better make sure someone else is around to help you lick the frosting bowl. If left to lick it on your own, you will not be able stop and hence will create dangerous potential sugar coma conditions. It was necessary to pronounce aloud, "This is so good!" each time I sampled the frosting, if you can call the number of bites I took a "sample."

I had been anxiously awaiting baking this beauty since I had the privilege of tasting it while Southern Living test kitchen was perfecting it. They did get the recipe quite perfect, but the magazine fancified it with cream cheese icing and shaved coconut on the sides. I tweaked the recipe to put more spotlight on the caramel frosting that I can't stop talking about; plus, "basic" homemade layer cakes require enough labor as is.

November 23, 2010

Spiced Oatmeal-Chocolate Chip Cookies

Idea: A New Cookie Recipe
Requirement: Chocolate
Recipe: Adding the warm spices and bit of orange zest from Smitten Kitchen's Oatmeal, Chocolate Chip and Pecan Cookies to a slightly more chewy, chocolate-filled version of the Quaker Oatmeal box cookie recipe.
Result: A chewy oatmeal-chocolate combination that tastes like fall, perfect for taking to friends the weekend before Thanksgiving.
 The VIP ingredients of this recipe were whole oats and Ghiradelli chocolate. I prefer the texture of whole oats and feel like they are more natural in their slightly less processed state. I felt like splurging on fancy chocolate, but when I taste tested one chip against on Nestle's chip, I found the Ghiradelli slightly richer. It was not as noticeable in cookie dough though.
Note: Many people love these cookies, but they are not the all-around crowd-pleaser that basic oatmeal-raisin or chocolate chip cookies are.

November 19, 2010

Pumpkin Pancakes

These fluffy cakes taste like fall. How could they not with a combination of pumpkin and warm spices? 

To complete your pumpkin pancake experience, I recommend a crisp and cool yet sunny morning where you can sit outside amongst orange, red, and yellow-hued trees and linger over quality conversation. Bonus for Me: My particularly wonderful pancake co-conspirator found the pancake recipe and set all the ingredients out for me before I got out of bed; such a treat!
Like most pancakes, maple (preferably real maple) syrup is necessary, unless you are just snacking on the cakes after breakfast. I put the walnuts on to look pretty, but I liked the addition of nutty texture and taste and ended up adding more.

November 15, 2010

Apple Cake

These sweet-tart Granny Smith apples make the base of the favorite cake of the men in my family. My dad talks of it with enthusiasm that comes close to how I talk about chocolate lava cakes.

The batter looks kind of healthy when you add fresh, crisp apples and nutrient-filled pecans, but don't be fooled.

The final cake is super sweet and moist thanks to our friends sugar and oil. Plus, a warm caramelized glaze seeps into the top of the cake, making half of it that much more moist and sugary-delicious.

Word of Caution: Be sure to cook the cake all the way. Otherwise, it will be apple mush. Even Madoline the baker undercooks things sometimes and has to be careful to perform a toothpick test. Fortunately, I have a brother who is quite fond of apple mush and kept my baking whoops a few years ago from being a total waste.

November 8, 2010

Cake Pops: A Birthday Treat

Cake Pops: n. 1. cake in lollipop form 2. cake crumbs and icing mixed together, rolled into a ball, covered in chocolate, and eaten on a stick 3. deliciousness
I discovered the definition of this delectable delight of a dessert on the Kitchn, immediately decided I had to make them ASAP, and then remembered my mother's 50th birthday (aka excuse for special desserts) was four days later. So I gifted her with 50 chocolate-dipped balls of chocolate cake crumbs and buttercream icing.

Between the pops, slightly obnoxious 50-themed decorations, and a collaborative book of "50 Nifty Things About Nancy" that made her laugh and cry, I declared a creative birthday gift victory.

November 4, 2010

Easy Breakfast: Fried Egg Nest

I finally got around to multitasking quick yet tasty and filling fried-egg-on-toast breakfast last weekend. Call it what you like*, it takes the whole putting-the-bread-in-the-toaster step out of the equation and adds an element of fun. Now if I could just master cooking my egg the perfect amount of time, with just enough runniness.

*Wikipedia says this recipe idea is known as bird's nest, bull's eye eggs, cowboy eggs, egg-in-the-hole, eggs in a blanket, elephant egg bagel, frog in a hole, gas house eggs, moon eggs, and Rocky Mountain toast.

November 1, 2010

Three Things: Chocolate Chip Cookie Add-Ins

There's nothing better than a homemade chocolate chip cookie, particularly those of the Toll House variety. However, if I made them all the time, I'd have nothing to talk about on my blog.

Solution: Play with my cookie dough. You can mix in virtually anything—nuts, dried fruit, white chocolate, peanut butter chips—but I wanted something that would still allow chocolate taste to shine brightly. In all of the variations, I used half new ingredient and half semi-sweet chocolate chips.

1. Snickers
I'm pretty convinced that any chocolate bar chopped up will make a cookie taste that much more splendid. These combined the nutty-nougat taste of Snickers with classic chocolate-chip taste.

2. Pretzel Pieces
Pretzels added a salty crunch, kind of like that of a nut except that it doesn't steal as much of the stardom of the chocolate.

3. Toffee Dark Chocolate Bar
I used one of those fancy dark chocolate bars with toffee. They were good in the cookies but not different enough from good ole semi-sweet chips to warrant chopping & paying more. I'll save the bar for snacking next time.

How, if at all, do you switch up your cookie recipes?