Friday, March 23, 2012

Lemon Yogurt Cake with Blueberry Sauce

I would like you to know that as I sit here typing this my salivary glands have gone in to overdrive, and it's all I can do to maintain composure and avoid drooling on my keyboard in anticipation of when I might be able to make this cake again.  By nature I'm a very calculated and prepared person, but when it comes to cooking sometimes an idea pops in to my head and I just run with it even if it means making something for the first time for company.  Such was the case with this Lemon Yogurt Cake and Blueberry Sauce.  The source of my inspiration this time was Foodbuzz's flavor of the month:  yogurt.  Somehow I read that and thought "I wonder if there's a cake I can make where I can substitute fat free or low-fat yogurt for some or all of the milk and butter".  Next stop, Google. I typed "yogurt cake" and clicked enter.  Google returned a wide variety of results.  After reading numerous recipes I noticed a lime yogurt cake with blackberry sauce recipe by Smitten Kitchen.  I didn't have limes or blackberries, but I had a bunch of fresh lemons and frozen blueberries from last season's harvest. Sounded like a good combination to me.  I printed out the recipe and quickly began scribbling down my adaptations.  About an hour later the cake was ready for serving, and, conveniently, Ryan's parents had arrived for brunch.  It made for a delightful dessert with a glass of Prosecco, shown below.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Pistachio Cupcakes for St. Patrick's Day

I love holidays! They give me an excuse to come up with or try a festive recipe that I normally wouldn't attempt.  This usually translates in to a baked good of some sort because we don't eat a lot of sweets otherwise.  This year I zeroed in on some pistachio cupcakes and dressed the icing up with a little bit of green food coloring for St. Patrick's Day.  I really wanted to make an amaretto buttercream icing to top them, but since I knew most of them would end up at work for immediate consumption, I refrained.  If you're headed to a friend's this weekend for some St. Patty's fun I would definitely recommend the amaretto version of the icing (see notes below for how to make it).  Also, in the interest of full disclosure, I'd lke to say that I have even more respect and admiration for bakers and those in the cupcake biz after this experiment.  I tried to be fancy and ice my cupcakes using the whole frosting bag with a fancy tip set up...major fail.  Oh well, at least I tried. They might not look as pretty as they could, but they're absolutely delicious, and that's what really counts ;-)  Slainte!

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Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Quick Coffee Cake with a twist

Have you ever heard of mead?  I hadn't either until I was on a winery tour several years ago in the Finger Lakes (New York).  By definition mead is a fermented beverage made of water, honey, malt, and yeast.  At the winery I took a sip and immediately regretted it.  It was WAY too sweet and not in a good way.  That tasting experience had all but become a distant memory until Ryan brought home a bottle of mead one day.  He presented the pretty dark blue glass bottle to me with an excited look on his face "B Nektar's cider mead! They [the store] finally got it in!", he exclaimed as he went foraging in the cabinet for an appropriate tasting glass.  Excited, he quickly poured two glasses as a pre-dinner appertif.  With the once faint memory of my previous mead experience now looming vividly, I briefly hesitated before taking a sip. This time I was pleasantly surprised, it was delicious!  

A few weeks later he brought home another bottle, this time a vanilla mead, and we both were looking forward to trying it.  Alas, we were disappointed by the vanilla mead.  Even my honey loving fiance couldn't finish his glass.  Back in the bottle it went.  "Can you cook something with this?", he asked.  I'm not usually one to say no to a question like that especially when it involves figuring out a new way to use something so I said "Sure, put it in the fridge."  And the wheels in my brain began turning.  Of the two sips I managed to drink I immediately thought it could be incorporated in to a sweet bread of sorts...perhaps a coffee cake?  So I started digging through cookbooks and Googling like mad to find a recipe suitable for modification.  Finally, I found a "Quick Coffee Cake" recipe on AllRecipes.  The 30 minute total prep and cook time reeled me right in.

The recipe below is a product of making the mead coffee cake 4 times, twice with the vanilla mead and twice with a coffee mead.  In reality the mead is optional.  You can probably use any type of sweet wine or maybe rum or other liquer or substitute milk instead for a booze-free treat.  If you do use something in place of the mead, I'd love to hear about it!

For the cake:
1 1/2 c. flour
3 Tbsp. white sugar
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 egg
1/3 c. heavy cream
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 c. honey mead
1/4 c. unsalted butter, melted

For the crumbs:
1/4 c. brown sugar
1 Tbsp. flour
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1 tbsp. unsalted butter

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Grease a 9 x 9 inch square pan.
  2. Using an electric mixer combine the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt.
  3. In a separate small bowl, beat the egg well, then stir in the heavy cream, mead and vanilla. Add the liquid mixture to the flour mixture all at once. Mix carefully until just blended. 
  4. Add the melted butter to the mixture in #3 and mix thoroughly.
  5. Pour batter into prepared pan and spread evenly.
  6. In a small bowl mix together brown sugar, 1 tablespoon of flour and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon. Cut the tablespoon of butter in to this mixture.  Combine with your hands until a coarse, crumb-like appearance is achieved.  Sprinkle on top of the batter and press the crumbs lightly in to the batter.  
  7. Bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. 
  8. Cut in to 9 square pieces, and serve warm.  To store leftovers, cover with foil or plastic wrap. Leftovers are best if consumed within three days.

Yields 9 servings