Sunday, July 27, 2014

July Daring Bakers' Challenge - Surprise-Inside Cake

For the July Daring Baker’s Challenge, Ruth from The Crafts of Mommyhood challenged us to bake a cake. But not just any cake; she asked us to add in a special surprise for our eyes as well as our taste buds!

This month's challenge was both fun and extremely challenging. Most months, we are introduced to a new style of food or challenged to try a new and interesting recipe. This month, the challenge wasn't recipe based - it was a test of our creativity! And, as an extension, it encouraged us to try new techniques for creating tasty masterpieces.

A surprise-inside is just what it sounds like - a cake that, when cut into, has something unexpected or special that could not be seen until the cake was cut.  I have actually made some previously that qualify, including this zebra cake and this rainbow cake.  So for this challenge, I wanted to try something different.

Now, please keep in mind that we moved a week after this challenge was announced. So, my kitchen was in disarray and I had a new oven to test out. Which, as it turns out, is not calibrated correctly. It actually runs about 40 degrees (F) low. Which is a lot. Live and learn.

Anyway, for my surprise inside, I wanted to try my hand at this cool tie-dyed heart-inside cake

Now, remember, this was all about technique for me. It was also all about getting over my aversion to food coloring. Just for this cake.

I started with my go-to yellow cake recipe. And then came the tie-dye aspect.  I divided the batter into four portions and let the kids choose some colors.

Little miss started with blue.

Little man started with green.

And then we added pink and purple.

Each of these tinted portions of batter was then transferred to a zip-top bag. Simply snip the tip of each bag and... make a mess.

No, seriously, it was a mess. Squiggle the batter around a (sprayed) (and next time - parchment lined!!) rimmed cookie sheet, but try not to blend the colors. Make sure to reach the corners of the tray!

Then bake!

Pretty cool!

Hindsight being 20/20, I should have just frosted that and been done - called it a surprise tie-dye cake and called it a success.

But I wanted to make the heart-inside cake. And I was super optimistic.

The next step is to create the hearts. Using a cookie cutter.

My cake was really soft. Which... should have clued me in to the fact that maybe this wasn't the right recipe for this kind of treatment. But, again, I was optimistic.

I cut out as many hearts as I could from my tie-dyed cake and lined them up on a pan.

These went into the freezer, and I then prepared another batch of the aforementioned yellow cake batter.

Now, following the technique demonstrated in the youtube video linked above, I lined a loaf pan with foil, sprayed it well, and poured in a thin layer of cake batter. I then baked this for about ten minutes to let it begin setting up.  After those ten minutes, I removed the pan from the oven and removed the hearts from the freezer.

The next step is to stack up as many hearts as it takes to run the length of the pan and... embed them in the partially baked cake.

Upside down, no less. So that when you turn the cake out, it's right side up.

Then simply pour the rest of the cake batter over all of this and continue baking until done.

Which I'm sure works if your oven is actually the temperature that you tell it to be... and that it tells you it is... but I suppose that's another story.

This story had a frustrating next chapter. The cake took forever to bake (probably because the oven was 40 degrees too low), I tried to frost it while it was still too warm, and, because this cake is more delicate than it should be for this treatment, it completely fell apart. And my camera batter died. And the charger was resting comfortably at my old house. Yeah. None of that worked out very well.


I still had ten hearts resting in the freezer!

And I was still optimistic!

So I tried one more time. But with the same cake recipe. Because... I really, really wanted it to work.

This time, I tried a few things differently. First, I retrieved my oven thermometer from the old house and adjusted the oven temperature setting accordingly.  Secondly, I didn't pre-bake any portion of the cake batter before adding in the frozen hearts. I just lined the hearts in the empty, sprayed pan, then poured the batter around it.

The results?

Still extremely crumbly. Again, because I really think that this technique requires a slightly heftier cake batter.  But - you could see the heart!

Even though...

...the hearts did turn sideways during the cooking process.


I learned a lot. And had fun doing it. And everyone thought it was both fun and delicious, so, regardless of how frustrated I was that it didn't turn out as beautiful as the example, I was told that this was a success. So I will accept it as one.

Ruth, thanks for inspiring us to bake outside of our comfort zones this month!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

July Sourdough Surprises - Gozleme

This month's Sourdough Surprises theme was brought to us by one of the awesome cooks who bakes along with us each month. I love when that happens for two reasons. First, it's so awesome that we have such great, involved members! Second, it's usually something I never would have thought of before. Or, in this case, something I'd never even heard of before!

According to wikipedia, gozleme is a traditional dish in Turkey, consisting of a pastry dough, rolled out, filled with the toppings of your choice, folded over, and cooked on a griddle. From everything that I saw, the most traditional filling is spinach and feta cheese, but can really be anything.

If you do an online search for "sourdough gozleme," there really aren't many recipes that pop up. Sure people have done it before, and you'll find some great inspiration, but actual recipes for a traditional-style gozleme pastry? Couldn't find one.

Do we let that stop us?? No way!  Time to get creative.

For the pastry, I figured I'd need a flatbread style dough, and hopefully one strong enough to handle being rolled out, shaped and pan-fried.  I chose this sourdough pita bread recipe.

Very simple dough - flour, water, oil, salt, sugar (just a bit!) and starter.

And yes, I am using my soup pot as a mixing bowl. My real mixing bowls were already packed. I told you I had to get creative...

The dough comes together pretty easily, and is then set aside to rest until it's doubled in size.  Once it's ready, it's time to prepare the filling.

Inspired by the spinach and feta idea, but wanting to keep it a bit more... well... something little miss might enjoy, I went for the American version of that - broccoli and cheddar.

Yes, my graters were packed, too. So I had to chop my cheddar.

I rolled out circles of the dough, then piled on my toppings.

Then just fold them up and crimp the edges!

They kind of reminded me of calzones at the point, which I thought was pretty cool. But instead of baking these on my pizza stone, I cooked them in a pan right on the stove top.  About 10 minutes per side to make them nice and crispy.

And the results?

I definitely needed more filling, but other than that? These are awesome. Seriously. I don't know that the dough was as strong as it needed to be to hold up to the rolling, filling, crimping and movement to the pan, but it wound up flaky and delicious, with a slight sourdough tang, and the whole thing together, with the flaky crust and fun filling - it was great. I will definitely be making these again, and will try other fillings, too. I bet it would be tasty with all kinds of meats, veggies, cheeses... you name it!

I can't wait to see what everyone else chose!! So link up!

Sourdough Gozleme
(dough from, method inspired by The Witches Kitchen)

for the dough:
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sourdough starter, freshly fed
1 tablespoon olive oil
3/4-1 cup water

In a large bowl combine the flour, sugar and salt. Mix in oil and starter.  Slowly add in the water, about 2 to 3 tablespoons at a time, kneading until the dough is soft and elastic.
Grease a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat all sides. Cover dough with a dish towel and allow it to double in volume.

For the filling:
Get creative! I used broccoli (about 1/2 cup, total) and cheddar (about 1/4 cup, total) to fill mine (I filled only three, and made the rest unfilled), but I think they definitely needed more filling than that - so be creative and generous!

To make the gozleme:
Gently deflate the dough and divide it into approximately lemon-sized portions.
Roll each ball out into a circle about 8 inches around.
Put a generous scoop of filling onto one half of each round, then fold the un-filled half over the filling and crimp the edges to seal.
Heat a griddle or pan over medium heat and cook each pastry for about ten minutes per side, until they are golden brown.


Monday, July 14, 2014

July Daring Cooks' Challenge - Bibimbap

The July Daring Cooks' Challenge took us to Korea, where Renata of Testado, Provado & Aprovado taught us to make bibimbap. This colorful rice dish can be customized to meet any taste, and is as much fun to eat as it is to say!

Two posts in one day?? That's what happens every few months when the second Monday of the month (SRC posting day) happens to fall on the 14th of that month (Daring Cooks' posting day).

And, yes, that means that I had two challenges in flux while preparing to move. Whee!

But I couldn't not participate in this awesome challenge, hosted by the even more awesome Renata.  Renata is from Brazil, but spent the last few years in Korea, so has such amazing influences in her cooking. She is always an inspiration and I just had to cook along with her.

This month she challenged us to make bibimbap, a Korean rice dish that usually involves a variety of vegetables, some sort of protein and, in most cases, an egg - usually added to the dish raw!

The dish is usually a bit spicy, thanks in part to a red pepper sauce that is served alongside the main dish.

Preparing to move, I didn't want to add another jar to my pantry, so I decided to forgo the red pepper paste and create my own sauce, inspired by the given recipe.  Many Asian dishes use peanut sauces, so I went with a nut-allergy-friendly version, and made a Sunbutter sauce, made with Sunbutter, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar and minced garlic.

It was super thick, even though I added quite a bit of extra soy sauce, but I decided to just go with it.

Sauce resting in the fridge, it was time to consider the main dish. Bibimbap is a rice dish, but the rice is the hidden part of the dish, being placed in the bowl under a variety of sauteed  vegetables.  The possibilities are endless, so I just went with what I had on hand.

The longest part of the process is prepping all those veggies.  They all had to be sliced into relatively similar matchstick sized pieces.

Then each veggie is sauteed, separately, in sesame oil.

But the result is a really pretty plate of deliciousness.

The final aspect is the egg. Now, the traditional dish is served in a stone bow, which is heated prior to serving. What does this have to do with the egg? Well, when using that traditional, heated dish, the egg is added just prior to serving - and is cracked right into the bowl, over the finished dish.  When served, one simply starts stirring things together, which results in the egg cooking right in the bowl.  Pretty cool.

Except I don't have any stone bowls.

So I had to cook my egg prior to serving.  So I whipped up an egg and cooked it nice and flat...

...then sliced it up into matchstick sized pieces comparable to the veggie pieces.

Then it was time to construct the meal!

It starts with a layer of rice...

...then all of those veggies and the egg strips, arranged as artistically as you can manage. Not so much for me, but hey.

For the finishing touches, add a protein of your choice (I chose chicken tenderloins, sauteed in sesame oil and seasoned with salt, garlic powder and soy sauce), and serve with a side of the previously prepared sauce.

I know it seems like a lot of work and a lot of steps.  But it actually isn't so bad, and the results? Totally worth it!  This was interesting to prepare and actually really fun to eat.

Renata, thank you so much for this fun challenge - I can't wait to try other versions of this rice dish inspired by the recipe that you chose.

To see the challenge as Renata presented it to us, check it out here.

Sweet Potato Chocolate Brownie Cake

It is super, crazy busy here. We are in the process of moving houses. Which means my kitchen is... well... in two places at once.

But does that stop me from signing up for the Secret Recipe Club's monthly challenge? Heck no!

But knowing that things would be... well... a bit all over the place (literally), I had to get an early start.

This month I was lucky enough to be assigned to Fit Mama Real Food, run  by the impressive Heather who, as you might imagine, has a passion for both fitness and healthy eating - two things interests I happen to share with her!

She  has some really interesting and delicious looking recipes on her page, with all kinds of healthy substitutions and alternatives.  While everything looked great, I zeroed in on my choice right away. I mean, the post was titled irresistible chocolate brownie cake. Who was I to try to resist??

And the twist? It's made with these beauties.

Yup - sweet potatoes. In a chocolate cake.

I baked the sweet potatoes then gave them a whirl with my immersion blender.

I had to add a little bit of water, since they were super thick (and Heather indicated that she'd used baby food sweet potatoes, which are much thinner), but it was quick and easy to do.

Then the cake comes together much like normal.

Dry ingredients...

Wet ingredients...

And voila!

I added chocolate chips on top of mine. Because... why not?

And it baked up beautifully.

Little miss was a little wary to try it, because she knew about the sweet potatoes, but little man had no such qualms.

And after little man let it be known how much he liked it, little miss just had to try it for herself. And wouldn't you know, she loved it, too!  Me? I thought it was great. The sweet potato added a nice richness to both the texture and flavor of the cake, and also let me enjoy an extra piece guilt free!

Heather, thank you so much for this awesome recipe and for all the fun you share on your blog!

Sweet Potato Chocolate Brownie Cake
(slightly adapted from Fit Mama Real Food)

1/2 cup milk of choice (I used coconut milk beverage)
1/2 cup olive oil, or substitute more milk (I used canola oil - it was what I had. And it worked great!)
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
2 cups sweet potato puree (I pureed three large sweet potatoes and added a bit of water as I pureed to thin it out)
2 cups whole wheat flour (I used one cup whole wheat, one cup all purpose)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup cocoa powder
2/3 cup natural cane sugar (I used granulated sugar)
optional: chocolate chips to either mix in or sprinkle on top or both!

Preheat oven to 350 and grease a loaf pan and standard-sized 6 muffin pan. You can choose to only use a loaf pan and make no muffins, you will just need to bake it longer than listed below. I used a loaf pan and two mini-cake pans.
In a mixing bowl, whisk together milk, oil vanilla extract and sweet potato puree.
In a separate bowl, combine flour(s), baking soda, salt, baking powder, cocoa powder and sugar.
Stir wet ingredients into the dry and mix gently until just combined. Try not to over-mix.
Distribute batter evenly among the prepared pans, and, if desired, sprinkle chocolate chips on top.
Bake muffins for 12 minutes and the loaf for 25 minutes. My loaf took about 32 minutes (I used more than half of the batter) and my mini cakes took about 20. Make sure to keep an eye on yours, based on the pan sizes you chose.
Check with a toothpick for doneness before removing from the oven.
Allow to cool 5-10 minutes before removing from the pans.


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