Friday, March 28, 2014

Lemon Coconut Cake

This is the end result of a whim and a brain storm.  Getting together with my cousins tonight for wine and cheese and  Paul suggested something lemon, lemon cake. First thought was hmmm...lemon pound cake, but then I remembered he and my wife adore the lemon cake at Cafe Opera here in town.  I knew I had a germ of an idea.

Of course I use Meyer lemons.  They have a sweeter, less harsh juice and zest than the ponderosa's that are available pretty much all year round in stores.  Seek out the Meyer Lemons as they are in season now and really make the difference in the final product.  Honestly, I won't use the regular groc lemon and get mine off the tree in my yard.  Its my California trip....fresh home grown citrus, indulge me.

To execute you must have a good micro plane grater.  It does a superb job of removing zest and leaving the bitter pith behind.  It also has it in small enough flecks that its not obnoxious in the final dish.

There are 4 simple steps in making this cake.  Lemon cake, Lemon curd, candied lemon slices and Lemon frosting, in that order.

Lemon Coconut Cake
1 stick butter room temperature
1 c sugar
2 T sugar
1/4 t cream of tartar
2 t Baking Powder
1/2 salt
4 room temperature eggs - separated
1 lemon zested then juiced
2 C flour
1/3 c buttermilk

Preheat oven to 325F  Grease and flour 2 9inch cake pans with parchment paper on the bottom.
Cream together 1 c sugar with butter.  Add eggs one at time.  Beat until well blended.  Add lemon juice and zest.  Beat in well.  Add flour and buttermilk and beat well.

Beat egg whites with cream of tartar on low until frothy.  Increase speed and beat on high slowly sprinkling on 2 T of sugar until stiff peaks form.

Take one quarter of the egg whites and stir into the yolk mixture to lighten in it.  Pour lightened yolks into the bowl with remaining whites and fold in until well incorporated.  Don't  over fold as you will deflate eggs.

Bake 23-27 minutes in center of oven until baked through and tester comes out clean.  Cool on wire racks 10 minutes.  Then remove from pan, pealing off parchment paper and cool completely on the racks.

Lemon Curd
8 egg yolks
1 1/2 c sugar
1/4 c butter 
3 lemons, zested and juiced

Place the ingredients in the double boiler over boiling water. Don't let top pan touch the water. Cook and stir until mixture begins to gel or thicken. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.  Float a piece of plastic wrap over the top of the curd so it doesn't form a skin while cooling.

Lemon slice garnish
1/2 c water
1/2 c sugar
1 lemon sliced, seeds and ends discarded.
Slice lemons into 1/4 inch thick slices.  In a non-reactive sauce pan mix sugar and water and bring to boil over medium heat.  Add lemon slices and reduce heat to low.  Cover and simmer 1 hour.  Sprinkle some sugar on a plate.  Gently remove lemon slices with a slotted spoon and set onto sugar.  Cool to room temp.

Lemon Frosting
3 c powdered sugar
3 T softened butter
1 lemon juiced and zested
1/2 t vanilla
1 heaping cup sweetened shredded coconut
yellow food coloring - optional

Cream together sugar, butter and lemon juice.  Add vanilla and zest.  Thin with water if needed to get to spreading consistency.  Beat in a couple of drops of food coloring if using.  

To assemble.  On a cake plate put a dab of frosting in center to hold cake in place.  Split first layer in half horizontally.  Place bottom of cake onto the cake plate.  Spread with 1/3 of the lemon curd.  Place top of the layer onto the cake. Spread on 1/3 of the lemon curd. 
Split the last layer in half horizontally.  Place bottom on top of the cake on the cake plate.  Spread on remaining 1/3 of lemon curd.  Place top of layer onto the cake.

Frost with Lemon Frosting.  Sprinkle and lightly press the coconut into the frosted cake.  Garnish top of cake with the candied lemon slices.
Simmer Lemon slices over low heat to candy them, take care to not turn it to caramel.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Smoked Gruyere Souffle

I outdid myself with this one.  The perfect souffle - touch of smokey flavor, hint of onion and thyme.  A sprinkling of crunchy Maldon sea salt flakes to finish it.  Yum.

Smoked Gruyere Souffle

  • 2/3 c grated smoked Gruyere cheese
  • 3 egg yolks - room temperature
  • 4 egg whites - room temperature
  • 1 c milk
  • 1 T water
  • 3 T flour
  • 1 T Dijon mustard
  • 3 scrapes nutmeg
  • 1 t fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1/4 t fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/8 t cream of tartar
  • maldon sea salt flakes

Preheat oven to 475F
butter and flour souffle dish
Warm milk and thyme leaves over low heat until bubbles start to form at the edge of the pot.

Whisk together salt, egg yolks, flour and water until smooth.  Dribble in 1/4 c warm milk mixture into eggs whisking constantly to combine.  Heat milk over medium low flame.  While whisking constantly slowly pour in the yolk mixture. Whisk constantly until mixture thickens and a few large bubble erupt.  Remove from heat.  Whisk in cheese, mustard, nutmeg and pepper until smooth.

Whip egg whites and cream of tartar on low until foamy.  Increase speed to high and whip until stiff peaks form.

Whisk in one quarter of the whipped egg whites into the souffle yolk base until smooth.  Pour based over remaining egg whites and fold gently until uniform and smooth.  Pour into prepared souffle dish.

Put in hot oven and bake 5 minutes.  Reduce heat to 425F and bake another 10-12 minutes until risen and dark golden brown. Serve immediately. Sprinkle with Maldon sea salt flakes.
Vigorously whisk the egg milk mixture to prevent scrambling and ensure a smooth even souffle base.
A copper bowl ensures egg whites whip to maximum height.
Resist temptation to open door and peak at baking souffle, opening the door releases heat and your souffle will likely fall.  (Pic through window on oven door).

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Crispy Mustard Roasted Chicken - not my recipe but tasty still

OK, Ina Garten better known as the Barefoot Contessa is one of my favorite cooks on TV.  This recipe took a few tweaks to make it really move from good to incredible.  The recipe is Crispy Mustard Roasted Chicken and it really is quite tasty.

There are two hints to make it better.  First is take it easy with the salt, the breading calls for 2 T salt.  I was leary of that much, but followed the recipe as directed.  Way too salty. Second iteration I cut it back to 1/2 teaspoon and the results were perfect.

The other hint is that as this is't fried but is baked using the convection bake cycle on your oven yields a much crispier crunchy topping that is well browned.

Overall I give this recipe 4 out of 5 possible starts.  Why only 4?  Well the adults in the house loved it and raved about it.  The kids, not so much.  I'll reserve this for dinner parties with adults as it really is quite tasty.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Pork Potstickers - with a Thai bent

This is such an easy recipe.  Rather than try to mince so much of it by it all through a meat grinder with the fine grind disk and you are done pronto.  Either the grinder that attaches to your stand mixer or a hand operated works fine.  It yields the perfect texture.

Not quite sure where this Thai bent has come from...but I do like the Thai flavors as they have a pretty awesome blend of sweet-savory-hot-acid going that just dances in your mouth.  A happy dance if you will.

This recipe is also an example of how to repurpose a left over rather than just reheat as is the next day.  For this I used the Thai Pork Roast from the other day, but you can use any other chunk of left over cooked pork roast just as easily.

Of course I a better flavor maker than a dough maker.  I pick up a package of potsticker wrappers already made at the local Asian market.  Voila for a buck forty nine I'm in business and no aggravated swearing as I can't get the dough right.
The last tip I offer up is that I use a non-stick skillet.  Makes it easier to release the dumplings when they are seared on one side without tearing them up in the process of flipping to brown the other side.  A good, heavy non-stick skillet with a lid can be had for under $50 and worth the investment.

Pork Potstickers

  • 1 lb left over cooked pork roast
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1" finger of ginger
  • 1/2 c loose packed cilantro leaves and stems
  • 2 green onions thinly sliced
  • 1 T lemongrass puree
  • 1 T fish sauce
  • 2 T soy sauce
  • 1 T sesame oil

Assemble meat grinder according to your manufacturers instructions.  Cut pork into chunks that will fit into the feed tube.  Place ginger, garlic and cilantro into feed tube and top with some of the pork.  Grind through fine disc.  Repeat with remainging pork until it is all ground.

Mix together lemongrass puree, fish and soy sauce with the sesame oil.  Pour over the ground meat mixture.  Add thinkly sliced green onions.  Toss with fork until all ingredients well blended.

In palm of hand place 1 potsticker wrapper.  Weet edges with water.  Place scant tablepoon of filling into center of wrapper.  Fold edges over and  press to seal the edges.  Place on tray and cover with plastic wrap so they don't dry out while assembling the rest of them.  (This makes about 4 dozen pot stickers).

In non-stick skillet over medium heat spray with cooking oil.  Arrange potstickers in pan so edges don't touch.  Add 1/3 c water and cover.  Steam 5-7 minutes until water just about evaporated.  Remove cover, drizzle with 1-2 teaspoons sesame oil and turn the potstickers over and brown on other side.  Repeat until all pot stickers are cooked.
Potsticker wrapper with edges wet ready for filling
filling placed in wrapper ready to fold and seal edges
Assembled potstickers waiting cooking
Potstickers steamed and one side seared ready to turn over

Add bonus...pays to scroll to the end.  Half the fun of potstickers is dipping them in a flavorful dipping sauce.  Here's my go to recipe for potstickers...doesn't matter what kind, its still uber delicious.

Dipping Sauce
  • 1/2 C orange marmalade
  • 1/2 c reduced sodium soy sauce
  • 1  clove garlic
  • 1/2" finger of ginger
  • 1 t red pepper flakes

Place marmalade and soy sauce in small sauce pan over low heat.  Using a microplane grate in the ginger and garlic.  Add pepper flakes.  Stir until marmalade melts and its all combined. Cool to room temp.  Store leftovers in fridge for up to a week.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Thai Pork Roast...take 2 the spicy version

I've done a similar version of this roast, and posted it here.  I amped up the flavor this time by marinading it then roasting with more Thai Red Chili's.  Right tasty stuff that the whole family ate and requested I do again.  Soon.

What makes it Thai? Well inclusion of Thai red chili's for one.  Lemon grass, cilantro and fish sauce also add to the Thai flavor profile.  The clincher however is the can of coconut milk.  All combined its that salty sweet spicy profile that the Thais are known for.

As you are using coconut milk line your baking dish with foil.  It cooks down to a thick paste that is nearly impossible to chip off when done.  Seriously. line it with foil and forget about it.  Easier to dispose of a wad of foil than cleaning off baked on coconut milk.

Thai Pork Roast

  • 3 lb pork loin roast
  • 1/3 c soy sauce
  • 1 T fish Sauce
  • 1 T Lemon grass puree
  • 2 cloves garlic - minced
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • 10 Thai red chili
  • 1 can coconut milk

Night before you want to roast off the meat take your pork roast and put it into a ziplock gallon sized food bag. Combine 1/4 c minced cilantro, soy sauce, fish sauce and garlic.  Pour over the pork roast, massage into the meat.  Seal bag and refrigerate, turning occasionally to ensure good even contact of marinade with the meat.

1/2 hour prior to baking preheat oven to 350F and pull meat out of fridge and set on counter to room up to room temp for more even roasting.  Line baking dish with foil.  

Chop 7 Thai red chilies. Mince 1/2 c cilantro.  Sprinkle evenly over the bottom of the foil lined baking dish.  Remove pork roast from ziplock bag and toss out excess marinade.  Place pork on top of the bed of chopped chili and cilantro.  Shake can of coconut milk well.  Pour over the pork roast.

Sprinkle 1/4 c chopped cilantro over the top of the pork roast.  Take remaining 3 chilies and remove stem, slice lengthwise.  Place slice chili half, cut side down on top of pork roast.  Arrange so they are evenly spaced.

Roast until meat thermometer or oven probe reaches 150F (about 1 hour).  Pull from oven and let rest 15 minutes before carving and serving.
Pork Roast all set for the oven

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Cinnamon Caramel Rolls

My grandmother was an incredible baker.  These cinnamon caramel rolls were one of her staples.  Rarely did she not make bread and do a batch of these too at the same time. They were a staple at Vertin's cafe in Ely, Minnesota where she worked as well.  What's not to love...cinnamon, rich yeasty bread and caramel!

I use the larger Pyrex pan, a 10X15 instead of the more standard 9X3 as this is a big batch, 2 dozen rolls.

My Mom makes them with chopped walnuts in the caramel.  That's really tasty too, but the clowns  kids in my house can't stand nuts in their rolls so I omit.  By all means feel free to add in a 1/2 chopped walnuts into the caramel if you want an extra treat to your rolls.

I make these doing the second rise overnight in the refrigerator covered with plastic wrap.  I remove from fridge to warm up while preheating the oven and remove the plastic wrap and bake so I have fresh from the oven cinnamon caramel rolls for breakfast.  You can of course do the second rise, about 1-2 hours 

Cinnamon Caramel Rolls
  • 1 c whole milk
  • 2 T sugar
  • 1 T dry active yeast
  • 1 stick (1/2 c) melted butter
  • 4 1/2 - 5 1/2 C flour
  • 1 t salt
  • 2 eggs
  • Filling
  • 1/4 c melted butter
  • 1/2 c brown sugar
  • cinnamon
  • Caramel
  • 1 1/2 sticks (3/4 C) butter
  • 1 1/2 c brown sugar
  • 2 T dark brown corn syrup
  • 1/2 c chopped walnuts - optional

Scald milk and cool to 105f.  Stir in yeast and 2T sugar.  Set aside until foamy - about 5 minutes.

In stand mixer add 2C flour, melted butter, eggs, salt and yeast mixture.  Beat 1-2 minutes until flour incorporated with the paddle attachment.  Scrape dough off of paddle and switch to dough hook.  On low speed add flour 1/2c at a time until you get a shiny dough that is no longer sticky.  (I usually use about 5 cups flour but that change with humidity of the air).  Knead on low for 5 minutes.  Turn into a greased bowl, cover with tea towel and set aside in warm place for 2-3 hours until doubled in size.

When doubled in size get out a large bread board.  four board liberally and roll dough to about a 18" by 24" rectangle about 1/8-1/4" thick.  Brush dough evenly with 1/4 c melted butter.  Sprinkle on brown sugar.  Liberally or scantily sprinkle on cinnamon to taste.  Roll up jelly roll style starting with the long edge. Cut into 1 inch slices across the rolled dough which will give you 24 rolls.

Melt butter in a sauce pan over low heat.  Add brown sugar and corn syrup until dissolved and small bubbles start to appear on the side of the pan.  Pour the caramel into the baking dish.  Sprinkle on chopped walnuts if using.  Let cool 5 minutes.

Add the cinnamon rolls cut side down onto the caramel sauce.  For here you can cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate over night or cover with a tea towel and let rise until doubled, about 1-2 hours if you opt to bake immediately.  If doing overnight method remove from fridge and take off the plastic wrap and let it warm up 30 minutes before baking.

Bake in preheated 350F oven 30-40 minutes until the rolls are golden brown.  Remove from oven and cool 5  minutes on a wire rack.  Take a sheet of foil and put over the hot pan.  Place a serving tray over the foil.  Carefully, but quickly with oven mitts grab the serving tray and baking dish and invert.  Be careful not to spill hot caramel onto you.  Remove baking dish when inverted. Spoon up any residual caramel and spread on the rolls.  Allow 10 minutes additional cooling before eating.

Dough rolled out with butter and brown sugar spread on it...waiting for the coating of cinnamon.

Cinnamon rolls risen and doubled in size ready for baking.
Cinnamon rolls baked to golden brown and ready for inverting.

Thin Mint Chocolate Cheesecake - decadence defined

There are a few different versions of this cheesecake floating around.  This one is decadence defined.  Super rich and chocolaty, its not for the feint of heart and will power.

A couple of things I've learned over the years...addition of a starch, even a couple of tablespoons of corn starch will stabilize the egg cheese mixture so it won't crack on baking.  In this case the starch comes from the cocoa powder.  It works, don't knock success.

On the topic cocoa powder, I've talked about it before here, but the Black Onyx cocoa powder is my favorite...its a much more intense chocolate flavor.  Sorta the difference between milk chocolate and bittersweet.  It is a dryer product and this recipe takes that into consideration.  Really, either get this cocoa powder online or run to Surfas in Culver City.  It makes all the difference in the intensity of the chocolate flavor.  And quite frankly subbing out regular cocoa powder you are doing yourself a disservice.

I set my cream cheese out overnight to soften to room temperature.  You have to do this as you'll never cream the cheese and sugar to the right consistency if you don't and you pretty much guarantee a flop in the kitchen.

Thin Mint Chocolate Cheesecake

  • 1 box Thin Mint Girl Scout cookies
  • 7 T butter, melted
  • 12 ounces bittersweet (60%+) chocolate
  • 3 boxes cream cheese
  • 1 C Sour cream (full fat, not light)
  • 1 3/4 C sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/4 C heavy cream
  • 1/2 C Black Onyx cocoa powder
  • 1 T vanilla
  • 1 t peppermint extract
  • 1 t coffee extract ( I use Kona from Surfas)
  • 1/4 t sea salt

Preheat oven to 325F

Hand crush thin mint cookies into a food processor.  Pulse until crumbly.  Add butter and pulse until wet and it looks like coarse sand.  Press into 10" cheesecake pan bottom and about 1" up the sides.  Set aside.

Melt chocolate over double boiler, stir until smooth.  Remove from heat and let cool.

In a stand mixer cream together cream cheese, sugar, sour cream, sea salt and extracts.  Beat until creamy and fluffy.  Beat in eggs 1 at a time until well incorporated.  
Reduce speed and stir in cocoa powder and heavy cream until uniform in color.  Slowly pour in melted chocolate and stir until smooth.

Pour batter into prepared pan.  Place pan on a baking sheet.  Bake in center of oven for about 1 hour.

Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack for 20-30 minutes.  Remove side of pan and wrap in plastic wrap.  Chill in refrigerator 4 hours or overnight.