Sunday, September 27, 2009

Daring Bakers Vols-au-Vent

The September 2009 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Steph of A Whisk and a Spoon. She chose the French treat, Vols-au-Vent based on the Puff Pastry recipe by Michel Richard from the cookbook Baking With Julia by Dorie Greenspan.

My goodness this was a challenge. Roll, fold, chill, and repeat, about 900 times and somehow you end up with puff pastry. Form the pastry into pretty shapes and fill them and you get Vols-au-Vent (little puff pastry cases designed to hold filling).

The BF helped out big time with this challenge because for once he was as excited as I was about making it. No surprise since it was the first non-dessert challenge I've had with the Daring Bakers. So the BF and I each picked our signature filling and had a vols-au-vent throwdown.

Meanie: Goat cheese and roasted red pepper with basil pesto.
(Yes, it's lopsided, but just tilt your head to the right and I promise it'll be ok).

BF: Smoked pork with fig balsamic glaze.
Unfortunately, I didn't try his (don't eat meat), but he assures me that he's the winner ( I just nod and smile).

Puff Pastry/vols-au-vent : here on Steph's amazing drool-inducing blog.
Basil Pesto: From Ina Garten

Fig Balsamic Glaze
1/4 cup fig jelly
2 Tb water
1 tsp salt
2 Tb balsamic vinegar
1 tsp chilli powder

Stir the jelly and water in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir in salt and chilli powder. Cook for 5 min. Lower the heat. Stir in vinegar. Cook over low heat for 5 min.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Carrot Cake with Dulce de Leche Cream Cheese Frosting

I remember growing up in New York, winter was always my favorite season. Snow -- I LOVED snow. Couldn't get enough of it, actually. I would spend literally hours outside running around in it, without even noticing that it was uhm, cold. What is it about kids and snow? Do they not feel how cold it is?
As I got older, either snow got colder, or I got weaker, because winter is no longer my favorite season. Don't get me wrong, I still love the snow (and totally miss it), and LOVE winter, but my favorite season has shifted to Fall.
Something about the crispness in the air and the colors in the trees is so comforting yet exhilarating at the same time. Wow, for a second there I almost forgot that here in California, on the 2nd day of Fall it is - ready for this ? 94 degrees!!?? 94 degrees??!!? Any other Californians out there longing for Fall to actually start?

This carrot cake has Fall written all over it. It's spicy and sweet, and comforting and exhilarating. Ok, maybe not exhilarating, but it is all of those other things and super delicious. Plus, it is good for you. I took one of Dorie Greenspan's fantastic recipes (I love her but does every recipe REALLY need 2 cups of butter?) and added some healthy tweaks (surprise) and extra spice. I also ditched the usual cream cheese topping, and swapped it for a super rich and decadent dulce de leche cream cheese frosting. The dulce de leche adds an awesome butterscotchy flavor that I can't explain but try it and you'll see.

Spicy Carrot Cake with Dulce de Leche Cream Cheese Frosting (adapted from Dorie Greenspan)

  • 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups grated carrots (about 5 carrots),
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1/4 cup applesauce
  • 2 large eggs
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 cup confectioners sugar, sifted (more or less to taste)
  • 2 Tb dulce de leche (homemade or store-bought)
1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter a 8 in square pan.
2. Whisk the flours, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, and salt. In another bowl, stir together the carrots and chopped nut.
3. Beat the sugar, oil, applesauce, and vanilla extract together on a medium speed until smooth. Add the eggs one by one and continue to beat until the batter is even smoother. Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture, mixing only until the dry ingredients disappear. Gently mix in the nuts ingredients. Pour in pan.
4. Bake for 40-50 minutes, rotating the pan from top to bottom and front to back at the midway point, until a thin knife inserted into the centers comes out clean.
5. For frosting, beat the cream cheese until smooth and creamy. Gradually add the sugar and continue to beat until the frosting is velvety smooth. Beat in the vanilla and dulce de leche. Allow cake to cool completely before spreading frosting.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Guess Where I've Been

Sorry y'all. I know I've been away for a while. Things are busy here in CCT land. I've been traveling a bit lately. Where to? Here's a hint...
Not sure? Ok, here's another one...
Still no? Ok, one more, and hopefully this will do it:
Yes! This month I traveled to the magical, mystical, breathtakingly beautiful Peru. It was one of the most awe-inspiring places I've ever been, and the trip was fabulous.
Unfortunately, it pretty much drained me out of free time when I got back, so I've been slacking on the cooking and posting. But not for long. See you soon!