Sunday, March 28, 2010

Roasted Tomatilla Salsa

Chip with roasted tomatilla salsa:
Seconds later:

There is something extremely appealing about green salsa: Its light, pretty color. Its delicious flavor. Its all around divine goodness.
These are the things that make tomatilla salsa great. Especially if it has been roasted.
Guero's Taco Bar here in Austin, has a killer tomatilla salsa. Their salsa was my inspiration. When I asked the waiter at Guero's what went into the sauce he said, "Tomatillas, limes and chiles." Except he said it in a very chill, cool Austin-hipster-waiter way.
I don't really know anything about salsa, or non-baking-related-cooking in general, so I went with a Gourmet recipe.
This recipe is a little involved, there's lots of onion and garlic and serranos and other lovely edibe things.
Also, the recipe didn't call for limes, but I added lime juice anyway, because I'm very adventurous.

Roasted Tomatilla Salsa
Adapted (barely) from Gourmet Today

2-3 serrano chiles
4 garlic cloves, left unpeeled
2 pounds fresh tomatillos, husked and rinsed under warm water OR 3 cups canned tomatillos, drained
3/4 fresh cilanto springs
2 medium onions*
2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
Several generouse squeezes of lime juice

Preheat oven to 500 F.** Put chiles, garlic, and fresh tomatillos, if using, on large pan/cookie sheet/ tray, cook for about 10 minutes.
Peel garlic. Discard stem of chiles. Puree tomatillos, garlic, and chiles with remaining ingredients, in 2 batches if necessary, in a blender until almost smooth.

*2 onions simply seemed like too much, especially since they were uncooked. Use 2 onions if you aren't onion averse.
** The original recipe suggested using a broiler. By all means use one if you have one. According to Gourmet Today, "Broil two inches from heat, turning once or twice, until softened and charred, about 8 minutes.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Lemon Poppy-Seed Muffins

Reasons why I'm really lucky:
1. I have really amazing friends.
2. All my friends really like to eat.

Here is Roz:

Here she is madly zesting a lemon:
She's zesting to make this beauty:

We had a rather exciting time, because our baking fest required an emergency to the grocery store for lemons, apples, poppy seeds and chocolate. We had a little too much fun at the grocery store. We sampled all the chocolate covered nuts and in the bulk candy section. And then we went home and made these.
Like I said, I'm lucky.

Lemon Poppy-Seed Muffins

For the Muffins:
2/3 cup sugar
grated zest and juice of lemon
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sour cream
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 stick butter, unsalted, melted and cooled
2 tablespoons poppy seeds

For icing:
1 cup confectioners' sugar
2-3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Preheat oven to 400 F.
Butter, or line with paper cups a twelve regular-size muffin pan. In a large bowl, rub the sugar and lemon zest togheter with your fingertips until sugar is moist and fragrance of lemon is strong. Whisk in flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a large glass measuring cup or another bowl, whisk the sour cream, eggs, vanilla, lemon juice and melted butter together until well blended. Pour the liquid ingredients over dry ingredient, with whisk or rubber spatula, gently but quicklystir to blend. Don't worry about being through, lumps are better than overmixing. Devide batter evenly among muffin cups.
Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, or until tops are golden and a thin knife inserted into the center of the muffins comes out clean. Transfer pan to rack to cools for 5 minutes, carefully remove muffins from tin and cool completely before icing.

To make the icing: Put confectioners sugar in a small bowl and add abotu 1 1/2 tablespoons of the lemon juice. Stir with a spoon to moisten sugar then add additional lemon juice, a dribble at a time, to get icing that is thin enough to drizzle from the tip of the spoon. Drizzle tops in zig-zags over tops of muffins, or coat tops entirely, the better to get that extra zap of lemon.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Perfect Chocolate Sheet Cake

Two words: Chocolate Sheet Cake. Actually, that's three words, but whatever.

For the uninitiated, this cake is long and flat and thin. And delicious. It's like a very spongy, cakey, frosted brownie. Except better.

My mom used to make this cake alot. Not too long ago she made it again, and while I was able to choke it down, I was little dissapointed. The cake wasn't chocolately enough, and was way too sweet.

Perhaps it's my developing taste buds. I have adolecent tastebuds. (A random sidenote: I HATE the word puberty.)

I've been pretty excited about PioneerWoman's chocolate sheet cake. Just because it's SO PERFECT. It's everything a chocolate sheet cake should be and more. So much more.

Perfect Chocolate Sheet Cake
from The Pioneer Woman Cooks
  • 2 cups Flour
  • 2 cups Sugar
  • ¼ teaspoons Salt
  • 4 Tablespoons (heaping) Cocoa
  • 2 sticks Butter
  • 1 cup Boiling Water
  • ½ cups Buttermilk
  • 2 whole Beaten Eggs
  • 1 teaspoon Baking Soda
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla
  • _____
  • ½ cups Finely Chopped Pecans
  • 1-¾ stick Butter
  • 4 Tablespoons (heaping) Cocoa
  • 6 Tablespoons Milk
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla
  • 1 pound (minus 1/2 Cup) Powdered Sugar
Preparation Instructions

In a mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, and salt.

In a saucepan, melt butter. Add cocoa. Stir together.
Add boiling water, allow mixture to boil for 30 seconds, then turn off heat. Pour over flour mixture, and stir lightly to cool.

In a measuring cup, pour the buttermilk and add beaten eggs, baking soda, and vanilla. Stir buttermilk mixture into butter/chocolate mixture. Pour into sheet cake pan and bake at 350-degrees for 20 minutes.

While cake is baking, make the icing. Chop pecans finely. Melt butter in a saucepan. Add cocoa, stir to combine, then turn off heat. Add the milk, vanilla, and powdered sugar. Stir together. Add the pecans, stir together, and pour over warm cake.

Let cool a little. Eat with a tall glass of ice cold milk. Oh yeah.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Pink Lady Cake

This is the final cake in my birthday cake marathon:

I wanted to make one final cake and I was undecided about what I was going to do until I noticed this picture, on our fridge. This is me at age seven:
Even then I loved cake.

I saw the picture and decided I had to make a cake that looked exactly like it. Of course, nobody could remember what kind of cake it was, so I went with SmittenKitchen's Pink Lady Cake. Which was unbelievably caloric and delicious.
I also thought it was a bit on the dry side, but then again, that's just my perfectionist tendencies.
It was really good.
It was even better the next morning when the strawberry flavors had gotten time to develope and ripen.
That's right. You heard me. It's a strawberry cake: there are actual strawberries pureed into the batter. The batter turned light pink. It was so pretty. It was a very girly cake, one that my 7-year-old self would have loved. And my newly minted 17 year old self? I loved it even more.

Pink Lady Cake [Strawberry Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting and Filling]

From Smitten Kitchen, who adapted it from Sky Hight

For the cake
4 1/2 cups cake flour
3 cups sugar
5 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups pureed frozen strawberries
8 egg whites
2/3 cup milk
1 to 2 drops red food dye, if using (to make the pink color pop more)

For the cream cheese frosting
3 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks; 6 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
3 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Make the cake
1. Preheat the oven to 350»F. Butter three 9-inch round or 8-inch square cake pans. Line with parchment or waxed paper and butter the paper.

2. Put the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large mixer bowl. With the electric mixer on low speed, blend for 30 seconds. Add the butter and strawberry puree and mix to blend the ingredients. Raise the speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes; the batter will resemble strawberry ice cream at this point. (Deb note: I must warn you not to try the batter at this point. Not even a smear of it. How unbearably good it is will shock you, and lead to more dipping. Only you can stop this from coming to pass.)

3. In another large bowl, whisk together the egg whites, milk and red food dye, if using, to blend. Add the whites to the atter in two or three additions, scraping down the sides of the bowl well and mixing only to incorperate after each addition. Divide the batter among the three prepared pans.

4. Bake the cakes for 30 to 34 minutes, or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow the layers to cool in the pans for 10 to 15 minutes. Invert and turn out onto wire racks and peel off the paper liners. Let stand until completely cooled before assembling the cake, at least an hour.

Make the cream cheese frosting
5. In a medium bowl, cream together the cream cheese and butter until creamy. Mix in the vanilla, then gradually stir in the confectioners’ sugar. Store in the refrigerator after use.

Frost and assemble the cake
6. Place one cake layer on a cake board or platter. Tucking scraps of waxed paper under the edges of the cake will protect the board or plate from any mess created while frosting the cake. (I forgot, as can be clearly seen above.) Spread about 2/3 cup frosting over the layer, spreading it to the edge. Repeat with the second layer. Add the top layer and frost the top and sides of cake with remaining frosting, reserving a small amount if you wish to tint it and pipe a decoration on the cake. If not, you can decorate the cake top with thinly-sliced strawberries. Remove the waxed strips to reveal and neat, clean cake board.

Decorate with lots of stawberries, tall crazy candles and other exciting things. Consume. Enjoy.