Friday, May 20, 2011

Red Velvet Cake

Some people think that Red Velvet Cake is just chocolate cake with red food coloring, but that isn't quite true. It is a tangy buttermilk cake with just enough cocoa to give it a mildly chocolate flavor. This southern favorite seems mysterious, but really it is just as easy to make as any other scratch cake. The stunning red color and interesting flavor make this a very popular cake. It looks lovely on the Fourth of July when garnished with blueberries and strawberries.

2 cups sifted cake flour
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 tsp (or more) of professional concentrated red food coloring (or use 1 Tbsp of regular food color)
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
2 large eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Use the "reverse creaming" method: Mix flour, cocoa, salt, sugar, baking powder, and baking soda in a kitchenaid mixer on low for about 30 seconds. Add butter and mix for about 30 seconds on low, then turn on medium and mix for about a minute to aerate. Scrape the bowl down. In a separate bowl, mix the buttermilk, food color, vinegar, vanilla, and eggs until well blended. Add to the flour/butter mixture in 3 segments, mixing for about 20 seconds after each addition. Scrape the bowl down.
Pour batter into two 9" pans and bake about 30 minutes. When cool, frost with American Buttercream or Cream Cheese Frosting.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Margarita Pie

This pie is a fantastic choice for Cinco de Mayo. It is a chiffon pie, which means it is light and airy, kind of like a mousse. The flavor is lime with a dash of tequila, so it really does taste like a Margarita! A sweet graham cracker crust evens out the tartness. To make a lime chiffon pie with no alcohol, just omit the alcohol in this recipe - the filling will be slightly thicker without the added liquid, but that's fine.

1 homemade Graham Cracker Crust (add a little extra sugar since this filling is tart)
1 Packet of unflavored gelatin
1/2 Cup Lime juice
1/4 Cup Tequila
1/4 Cup Triple Sec
1 Pint Heavy Cream
1 Cup Confectioner's Sugar
a few drops of green food color

Sprinkle gelatin over lime juice and dissolve it over hot water. When gelatin is thoroughly dissolved, add tequila and Triple Sec. Refrigerate. Meanwhile, Whip the cream in a chilled mixer bowl until it thickens a bit. Add the sugar, and continue beating until soft peaks form. Refrigerate. When gelatin mixture begins to thicken and take on a syrupy quality, fold it into the cream while adding the food coloring. Spoon the mixture into the pie shell and garnish with lime slices. Chill the pie in the refrigerator for another hour before serving. The filling will "set up" more as it chills.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Perfect Pancakes

You will never make pancakes from a box again after you've tried this easy and delicious recipe - it is SO good! The recipe comes from one of my favorite cookbooks, The Breakfast Book by Marion Cunningham. They come out fluffy and soft, and are especially good when cooked on a cast iron griddle.

2 Eggs
5 Tablespoons butter
1 Cup Milk
1 1/4 Cups All-Purpose Flour
1 Tablespoon Sugar
4 teaspoon Baking Powder
3/4 teaspoon salt

Beat the eggs in a mixing bowl until blended. Put the butter and milk in a large microwave-safe measuring cup or a glass bowl, and microwave until butter is melted. Set aside the milk/butter mixture and allow it to cool a little. Gradually add the milk mixture into the eggs, adding just a tiny amount at first (this is to temper the eggs, so if the liquid is still too hot, it does not cook the eggs). 

In a separate bowl, stir the flour, sugar, salt and baking powder together until well mixed. Pour the egg mixture into the flour mixture and stir only until the dry ingredients are moistened. Don't overmix (If you've been using a KitchenAid mixer for the first part of this, STOP now and mix this last part by hand).

Heat Griddle until a few drops of water "dance" on it (I really prefer a cast iron griddle for pancakes). Lightly grease the surface with a touch of oil. Drop about 1/4 cup batter onto the griddle for each pancake. Cook until bubbles break the surface and the pancakes are just starting to turn dry at the edges. If bubbles form immediately, your griddle is probably too hot.  Turn pancakes and cook about 30 seconds more on the second side.

For Blueberry Pancakes (or other fruit): Have the fruit cleaned and ready next to the griddle. After putting batter on the griddle, add pieces of fruit onto each pancake before turning it. (Fruit that is mixed into the batter often gets smashed up).

Topping Ideas:
I love to mix it up by serving different toppings with my pancakes. Here are some ideas:
  • Real Maple Syrup
  • Flavored Fruit Syrups (use real fruit syrups for best taste)
  • Powdered Sugar dusted on top
  • Fresh Fruit (bananas and berries are great)
  • Caramelized apples or bananas (Slice fruit and place in a skillet with 1 Tablespoon of butter and 1 Tablespoon of brown sugar per 2 Cups of fruit. Cook until caramelized).
  • Flavored Butters (mix 1 Tablespoon honey, real maple syrup, or fruit preserves to 1/4 cup softened butter and stir well)