Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Toasted Coconut Cake

I have never made a coconut cake before last week, and since then I have made three. I've never made one before this because, while I love the flavor and smell of coconut, the texture of shredded coconut makes my skin crawl and my teeth itch.

this cake was made with the Bon Appetit recipe x 1.5

My new friend Laura likes coconut cake, though, and it was her birthday so I gave it a shot. I used this recipe from Bon Appetit magazine, and it was very good. I loved using cream of coconut in the cake- it kept it very moist for days while the leftovers sat on the table slowly being nibbled away. It featured cream cheese frosting flavored with a bit of cream of coconut. (not to be confused with coconut milk).

I used farm fresh eggs from Eric's friend at work for Laura's cake.

But then, inspired by the whole coconut bit and an article in my new Food and Wine magazine, I tried out another coconut cake for the restaurant. This cake was more angelfood-like, but was brushed with rum syrup (slurp!), and had light and airy italian meringue buttercream frosting.

I'll leave to you coconut fanatics to decide which cake is better, because both got rave reviews. It probably depends if you go for light and airy or dense and moist.

Towering Coconut Layer Cake adapted from Tyler Florence for Food and Wine magazine

10 eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tbs vanilla extract
1/2 cup plus 1 T vegetable oil
1 1/2 cup AP flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 t kosher salt or 1/2 t regular salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter or spray 4 9-in cake pans and line with parchment rounds.

Using an electric mixer, mix the butter, sugar and eggs on high until the mixture is fluffy and tripled in volume. Gradually beat in the oil until fully incorporated.

In another bowl, sift the flour, salt and cornstarch. Fold these dry ingredients into the egg mixture until smooth.

Spread the batter evenly between the 4 cake pans, smoothing the top, and bake for about 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Let cool on racks.

Make the Rum Syrup:

1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
2 tbs spiced rum (i used white rum, it still tasted good)

Stir the sugar and water together in a small saucepan over high heat until the sugar is fully dissolved. Let cool then stir in the rum.

Make the Coconut frosting:

1 1/2 sugar
1/2 cup water
6 large egg whites
4 sticks (1 pound) butter, room temperature
1 1/2 tbs coconut extract
2 cups coconut flakes (I used sweetened), toasted.

In a saucepan, stir the water and sugar together over high heat until the sugar is dissolved. Then stop stirring and let boil until the syrup reaches 228 degrees on a candy thermometer. If you don't have such a thermometer, just boil until you can see the faintest tinges of gold starting in the syrup. This as always worked for me.

A few minutes into the boiling, start whipping the egg whites in a perfectly clean stand mixer bowl with the whisk attachment. Beat until stiff peaks form. When the syrup is ready, while running the mixer on medium high, gradually beat in the hot syrup. When it's all in, reduce the speed of the mixer to medium and beat until the egg whites have cooled to room temperature.

At this point, beat in the butter, a couple tablespoons at a time until it's all encorporated. If the mixture looks like its curdling, power through, it should come together in the end with enough beating. Mix in the coconut extract.

To assemble to cake:

Brush each layer with the Rum Syrup, spread each with about 1 1/4 cup frosting and stack. Frost the outside of the cake and then press the toasted coconut to the sides of the cake. If desired, you can also sprinkle toasted coconut between the layers, too. If you like coconut, that is.
If you don't like coconut flakes, you can just eat the interior like I did.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Buttermilk Ice Cream

It is my fantasy to someday soon make ice cream with fresh, local eggs with fresh, local, non homogenized cream. Eric has been getting fresh eggs from a man at his work, so that part's covered. Sometimes we get cartons full of little bitty eggs, half the size of normal ones, and it's so fun to eat tiny fried eggs with tiny toasts. I'll keep you updated on my mission for fresh cream.

This ice cream is another recipe that I made while spending the week with Eric's Family at the Lake in New York. It went great with all our desserts for the end of the week- like Micah's mixed berry pie and my mother in law's fantastic thin-but-tender-heart-shaped-waffles and currant sorbet/syrup

It has a custard base, so it stays smooth and creamy in the freezer. It tastes sort of like frozen yogurt, but with the buttery richness of buttermilk giving it that je ne sais se quoi- that indescribable quality that makes something irresistible.

Don't be fooled by the looks- this is not vanilla ice cream by anyone's standards.

Buttermilk Ice Cream, from The Last Course via Smitten Kitchen

2 cups heavy cream
1 1/4 cups sugar
8-12 egg yolks (I used 10)
2 cups buttermilk
2 t vanilla
pinch of salt

Heat the cream and one cup of sugar to simmering in a large pot on the stove. Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks with the remaining 1/4 cup sugar.

Temper the egg yolks by whisking little amounts of hot cream into the yolks at a time, and so gradually raising the temperature of the yolks so they don't curdle. Once most of the cream has been added slowly and the eggs mixture is hot, you can whisk the rest in all at once.

Cook the egg yolk mixture over the stove until it can coat the back of a spoon (and thus becomes custard). Don't, DON'T, DON'T boil, or the eggs will curdle. However, if they should curdle, carefully blend the custard in a blender until smooth again.

Strain the custard into the buttermilk and stir in the salt and the vanilla.

Cool the mixture for several hours until completely cool, then freeze according to your ice cream maker's instructions.

It will be very soft at first (which isn't bad at all, just melty), but a few hours in the freezer makes it just the right consistency.

One of the best meals of my life- those waffles with currants and gooseberries and buttermilk ice cream and currant sorbet. Oh, and fresh whipped cream. Enjoyed on a cliff by a impossibly blue lake.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Apple Butter

Even though it is still 96 degrees here, it is officially fall and I am going to behave as such.

My mother and father planted an orchard when we first moved to the farm in Virginia when I was in middle school. They planted it up on the great tall hill behind our house. It was a beautiful location, but the deer ravished the young trees every year, stripping them of leaves and tender branches. Finally, it was necessary to up root the entire orchard and plant it closer to the house (and our dogs) to prevent the deer from eating it all up! This set the trees back a few years on their path to maturity.

So it is now, about 11 years later, that the trees are bearing fruit. Two weekends ago, I picked buckets full of apples with my mother- finally enjoying the (literal) fruits of her labor. I made it home with two large bags full of Rome, Fuji and Golden Delicious apples. It is strange and quite nice to use fruit that is smaller and more blemished than you ever see in Kroger.

Apple Butter runs through my family's veins; every fall the relatives on my mother's side all join together and take turns stirring a massive pot over a bonfire in the Missouri countryside and come away with gallons and gallons of the smoothest, spiciest apple butter.

I wasn't quit up to an epic outdoor fire apple butter session with my two grocery bags of apples, but my friends Sara and Andrew (who are getting married in less than three weeks!!) told me about a fantastic Apple Butter recipe that they found on Simply Recipes, so I gave it a shot. Andrew added a secret ingredient that maybe I'll be able to share here eventually...

Yesterday I saw a pumpkin stand in town, and this morning I had apple butter on toast. Maybe fall will come to Augusta after all.

Apple Butter, adapted from Simply Recipes

4 pounds of apples, chunked, damaged parts removed (but not cored or peeled, because those parts add pectin and flavor.)
1 cup apple cider vinegar
2.5-4 cups sugar (1/2 cup for every cup of puree the apples produce)
2 t cinnamon
1/2 t cloves
1/2 t allspice
zest and juice from 1 lemon

large pot for boiling apples and then jars
large deep pan for boiling down apple puree
canning jars and lids
blender (optional)
canning funnel (optional)
clean towels
cup measure

Put the apples in the large pot, add the apple cider vinegar and enough water to cover them. Cover the pot and bring to a boil. Boil until the apples are soft, about 20 minutes.

Mashed the apples and press through the sieve, or puree in a blender or food processor and then sieve. Measure the cups of puree into the large deep pan and add 1/2 cup sugar for every cup of puree. Add a dash of salt, the spices and the lemon juice. Adjust spices to taste.

(Other spice idea: I have recently read about cardamom apple butter, which I am definitely going to try next time I make it, because cardamom is pretty much the best spice ever.)

Cook uncovered on low heat for 1-3 hours until desired consistency is reached. Stir very often. I probably cooked mine down more than I had to (after only an hour); mine is very thick and I only got 2 and a half half-pint jars. You might even get double that if you stop sooner. The more you stir, the faster the apple butter will thicken because it will help the moisture evaporate.

Make sure to prepare your canning set up well before the apple butter is done cooking down.

I would read though proper canning techniques as improperly canned foods can make you sick or dead.

this is a good link:

Because Apple Butter and jams have such a high sugar I use a method that involves sterilizing my jars in boiling water that completely covers them for at least ten minutes and quickly pouring hot jam into hot jars and quickly lidding them with hot lids (making sure to wipe the top of the jar with a clean towel before lidding it.) As the jars cool, they will seal themselves.

I would research canning thoroughly before deciding what method to use, but I've never had any problems canning jam in this way.

Somehow, apple butter tastes both deep and spicy, but also super fresh. Kind of like apple cider. I think this is best way to use apples, maybe even better than pies and tarts (but you be the judge, I'm posting an apple pie recipe soon.)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

My excuse for a post today.

Is the world's longest watermelon sitting on my kitchen counter?

A google search for "longest watermelon" proved fruitless (ha. ha.), but here is the world's LARGEST watermelon:


Hope, Arkansas: Home of the Bill Clinton, Mike Huckabee and the world's largest watermelons.

grown right here in North Augusta, SC

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Lemon Raspberry Cake

This cake is a real hit at the restaurant; I make it once a week. I love how the red raspberry filling pops with color next to the white frosting and cake. Eating this cake feels like summer, so make it soon as a farewell tribute to this hottest of seasons.

And really, though those of you up north may be mourning the end of summer, I am still dying from heat here. Last weekend we stole up to North Carolina and Virginia for a few days, and the crisp air there hinted at fall in a way that is torturing me still. I am so ready for the trees to change color, for the necessity of cardigans, for halloween, for my birthday, for woodsmoke, for pumpkins...

Excuse me, what was I talking about? Oh yes, back to the summery Lemon Raspberry Cake. It's very good. The frosting is fluffy and and not too sweet, the same one that's on the Golden Summer Cake, with the addition of lemon juice.

Lemony Layers (from the Baked cookbook)

2 1/2 cups cake flour
3/4 cup AP flour
1 T bakng powder
1 t baking soda
3/4 t salt
1 stick butter, softened
1/2 cup vegetable shortening, room temp
1 3/4 cup sugar
1 T vanilla extract
grated zest of one lemon
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups ice water
3 large egg whites, room temp
1/4 t cream of tartar (or lemon juice or vinegar)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and line three 8 in cake pans with parchment rounds.

Sift together the flours, baking powder and soda, and salt.

Cream the butter and shortening together in an electric mixer using the paddle attachment on medium speed, about 3 minutes. Add the sugar, vanilla and lemon zest and beat another 3 minutes. Scrape the bowl and add the egg, beating until just combined.

Using low speed, alternate adding the flour mixture and the ice water. Scrape the bowl and mix for a few more seconds.

Using a spotless bowl, whisk the egg whites and cream of tartar until soft peaks (not stiff peaks) form. Fold the egg whites into the batter.

Divide the batter among the three pans and bake for 30-40 minutes (keep an eye on it, if your pans are 9 in instead of 8 then they'll bake faster). Test with a toothpick or thin knife. Let cool for 20 min and turn out onto racks to cool completely.

Lemony Frosting:

1 pound butter, softened
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 to 1 pound confectioner's sugar, to taste
juice from three lemons

Combine the first three ingredients in the bowl of an electric mixer and whip the the whisk attachement for at least ten minutes, until the frosting is smooth and creamy and light. Add the lemon juice and whip until combined.

To assemble cake, spread the lemon frosting on each layer, topping each one with raspberry jam or filling. Finish with swirly peaks of lemon frosting on the top.

It's the perfect birthday cake for those who don't care for chocolate. (Whoever those people are).