Sunday, April 29, 2012

Express Pasta

We are finally at a time in the year when there is still enough daylight to photograph my dinner, and thus, share it with you. I have been making this fast and delicious pasta for several days now. The sauce is done in the time the pasta is cooked. Typically, I cook a batch of the roasted plum vodka marinara sauce and use it for several dishes over the next days; when I am out of the sauce  (and lazy) I have been in love with the Prego Smart Light sauce. I used it as a base and add essentials: some butter, capers, fresh garlic, a third of a hot cherry pepper and creme fraiche. A stripped down puttanesca sauce. Mushroom, even leeks, add a nice texture. The taste is perfection to me. Here is the recipe.

pasta_party

Express Pasta (1 serving)

  • 1/2 ts butter
  • 2-3 large baby portabella mushrooms, cleaned and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 TB small capers (and a bit of the brine)
  • 1/3 of a cherry hot pepper (finely chopped)
  • 1/3 cup salt-free canned tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup home-made or store-bought marinara sauce
  • 1 garlic clove, microplaned
  • 1/2 ts creme fraiche
  • fresh ground pepper
  • 2 oz of Penne

Cook pasta according to instructions.

In a saute pan, heat the butter and add the mushroom, capers and hot pepper, and saute until the mushroom are browned. Add the canned tomatoes  and the tomato sauce, and mix all the ingredients and saute for ca. 2 more minutes. Add the garlic, pepper and the creme fraiche, mix well, and turn down the heat. Once the pasta is al dente, drain and add to the saute pan. Mix all ingredients and serve with goat cheese crumbles.

Shadow Days

I've always like John Mayer's music, his fame-reaction antics less. A new music video is out. A new Mayer.



.

Fiddlehead time

Spring time in Maine means one local specialty is seasonably available: fiddleheads. I never heard of fiddleheads before I moved to Maine, but in the spring people get as excited about them as they are excited about blueberries. Fiddleheads can be found in grocery stores, at the farmers market, at  Whole Foods but also in the ‘wild’. 

I have been looking for fiddleheads myself in previous years, and found different types of fern but was not sure if they are indeed fiddleheads. So, here are the distinctive features. It’s an ostrich fern if:
  • • The coils are about an inch in diameter.
  • • A brown papery sheath is peeling off the coils.
  • • A deep “U”-shaped groove is on the inside of the fern stem.
  • • The fern stem is smooth (without fuzz).
So, the fern to the left is something else and fiddleheads are to the right (below). There are many varieties of ferns, but the ostrich and cinnamon fern are the only two that are edible and safe to eat. Other varieties look similar but may be poisonous.
 
fiddle_heads
In Maine, fiddleheads usually emerge in clusters of three to 12 on the banks of rivers, streams and brooks in April and May. They should be harvested when the coils are an inch or two above the ground.

Fiddleheads contain about 22 calories per half cup serving. Fiddleheads also provide a good amount of vitamin C, niacin and potassium. The taste of fiddleheads is unique. “It has been described as grassy and spring-like with a hint of nuttiness, or as a cross between asparagus and young spinach. Some say it has a flavor similar to an artichoke, maybe with a whiff of mushroom. “

They have to be thoroughly cleaned under running water, and steamed in boiling water for at least 10min. After that, they can be sauted in a bit of butter or later served cold within salads, such as mixed salads with greens, cranberries and blue cheese. 

fiddleheads_preparedLR

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Spring time shopping

It was a good day all-around. Mommy (me) got new capris (the already sold out 1969 sexy boyfriend jeans from GAP and satin crops in white from Banana Republic) and a linen shirt from J.Jill. Cats got the silky wrapping paper for playtime, noisily diving into and eventual shredding.

shopping-1LR

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Nike Fuelband. One week later.

For a week now, I have been using both the Nike Fuelband and the BodyMedia armband (on the same arm). Since the initial hurdles to set up the Nike Fuelband, it has work flawlessly with synching and everything else. 

What threw me in the beginning (and almost turned me off) was the concept of “Nike Fuel”. It is a Nike-specific measure of “activity”. It is calculated in the same way for everyone wearing a Nike device and thus, ‘fuel’ is comparable (if you are looking for some competition with your SO, here you go). I started to see it as “so, how active was I today?” It is great to tap through the small button on the fuelband and select “fuel” or “steps” or “time” or “calories” without the need to upload or sync the device. I realized it really reminded me to ‘be more active’ when the fuel value was low. 

What I did not like was the “calories burnt” measure. With the BodyMedia you get an account of how many calories you burn per 24 hours, and Nike reported a minute amount. This did not really help with accounting food intake vs. calories burnt. However, when I subtracted the amount of “cals burnt” the fuelband reported from the overall calories burnt the BodyMedia device reported I got almost the same value every day (so if you know your baseline for weight/height/age you can almost calculate it). Basically I could now just wear the Nike Fuelband and add the ‘baseline’ amount to the calories reported by Nike Fuelband and I would come up with the overall amount of calories burnt.

The 2 pluses of the Fuelband are: 1) no monthly fees (Bodymedia charges $6.96/month for upload), and 2) the much smaller size around the wrist instead of a ‘big bandage” around the arm. 

The pluses of BodyMedia: 1) more accurate calorie reporting (see pict below, the colored lines are Nike, the light blue bars are BodyMedia), 2) accounting for sleep quality and 3) just more/better data. As for 3) the Bodymedia device reports much better (now) when I ride a bike (and does report activity peaks although my arm is relatively immobile) but the fuelband does not capture it quite as well well.

So, I am torn. Should I return the Nike Fuelband or should I keep it? It has grown on me. Being vain I think about summer tan lines, and also people NOT asking me anymore “what is it that you are wearing???? (looks like an ipod but no headphones?!??)” 

We shall see.
NFBM_April25_2012

Grilled leeks

I am finally done with most of my work. Wheeee! I guess the relief will come when I catch my breath again. The outlook is good, less work plus summer. Today’s lunch was on the indoor grill --- a frozen organic free-range local chicken thigh from the FM from last year which I found  in the freezer and “new” corn from Mexico (I could not resist although it is not local). The rest was zucchini and mushroom and a salad with strawberries. As a good vegan I shared the chicken thigh with my cats. One loved it, the other passed it up after some more sniffing it out. Cats.

grilling_veggiesLR

BTW, leeks are great when grilled. Instead of any sharp onion taste, they get soft and literally sweet, really good.

grilled_leeks

Frolicking in the sun

Tiger came by this morning for her second breakfast, frolicking on the driveway afterwards, saying

What a wonderful, sunny day, my favorite Neighbor!”

tiger-1LR

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Forsythiavaganza

The first Northeastern'er of the year subsided and sunshine is back, the warm temperatures not yet. However, the world turn halfway green --- the trees are mostly still barren but the lawns have turned green. The forsythia is in full bloom. I love it. Combine that with the fact that Maine is currently ranked the “most peaceful state” of the USA (based on crime rate statistics, sorry, Florida and Louisiana). It is kind of true, but also remember half of the year we are frozen solid.

forsythia3

forsythia2

forsythia

Monday, April 23, 2012

Chocolate glazed Hazelnut Cake (the recipe)

The verdict is in: “Silvia, your best one yet!” Word of mouth travelled fast today at work, and by 2:30pm there was not much left of the hazelnut cake. I had even cut myself 2 slices to save for later, which I rarely do because as usual I bake a mini-cake for myself (but it was without the glaze!). 

I agree, this is wonderful cake which I have loved since childhood, but I must give credit solely to my late aunt’s recipe. She is really my mom’s aunt, so more like a grand-aunt to me. She would be 100 years old this year if she would be still alive, but I am sure she still watches closely when I make this cake. I am also sure she was delighted today to see that her recipe has still so many (new) fans and happy bellies. She was a proud, accomplished baker, and her cakes are legendary.  

I must note that the ‘it’ factor of this cake is also due to a uniquely spiced Austrian rum, the Strohrum, which my aunt always used and I use, too. The cake is just not the same without it. Typically, I buy the rum over the internet (e.g. wineglobe.com). It is not cheap, it is also 180 proof (but there are lower proof versions, which work just as well, it is really the spiced taste of the rum that makes the difference --- anyone who ever skied in the Austrian Alps will have had this rum in the “Grog” that is served in the ski huts). The rum lasts a long time and it is my secret weapon for many baked goods, chocolate mousses, and mulled wine in the winter. 

So here it is, my Aunt Jenny’s hazelnut cake recipe.

hazenut_cake

Aunt Jenny’s Hazelnut Cake
  • 200 g unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 250 g organic cane sugar
  • 4 very large or 5 large free-range organic eggs, at room temperature
  • a pinch of salt
  • 200 g hazelnut meal (finely ground hazelnuts)
  • 100 g bittersweet dark chocolate, grated or chopped into tiny cubes
  • 2 TB Strohrum (or 3 TB warm milk)
  • 2 TB warm milk
  • 1 ts vanilla extract
  • 250g all-purpose flour
  • 1 ts baking powder
Preheat the oven to 360F. Spray a baking form (bundt cake pan or a large enough rectangular bread loaf pan) with baking spray. Set aside. 

In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment whisk the butter and the sugar until well-combined and slightly foamy. Add one egg at a time and combine well. Add the pinch of salt, the rum, the vanilla and the milk, and let it be whisked together. Now, add the hazelnut meal, large spoonfuls at a time, and let it combine with the standmixer continuously running. Once all the hazelnut meal is integrated, add the grated chocolate. 

Mix the flour with the baking powder, and turn off the standmixer. Then add in a 1/4 of the flour. Turn on the mixer on very slow until the flour is integrated in and turn in the speed to the 2-3 setting. Add in all the flour this way, but avoid over mixing.

Fill the batter into the cake pan, and bake at 360F for ca 55min. Let the cake cool in the cake pan for 15min, then gently flip on a cooling rack, and let cool completely. 

hazelnut_cake_collage_4-1

Home-made chocolate glaze:
  • 200 gr bittersweet chocolate chips
  • 4 TB unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup confectioners sugar
  • 2 tablespoons warm milk
  • 1 TB Strohrum
  • 1 ts vanilla
Pour the chocolate chips in a glass bowl or a ceramic bowl, and set it over a pot with boiling water on the stove (the bowl should not touch the water!). Stir continuously until the chocolate chips start to melt. Add in the butter, and melt it with the chocolate chips. Once it is all a creamy, lump-free consistency, add in the milk, the rum and the vanilla extract. Once incorporated, take the bowl off the pot, and continue to stir while adding in the confectioners sugar. Keep stirring. Place the cooled cake on a baking rack on top of a baking sheet lined with paper, and using a brush generously “paint” the cake with the chocolate glaze. The glaze will thicken when cooled, and it is great to have a 1/4 of an inch thick glaze on the cake.
Let cool and dry for about 4-5h before serving. The cake actually tastes better with time; at the beginning it is dry and light and slightly crumbly, and after a week it becomes moist with an intense nutty flavor. It should be stored cool and airtight.  

hazelnut_cake_cut

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Chocolate glazed Hazelnut Cake

It is a dreary, cold, rainy Sunday, and what better to do on a day like that than baking a comforting cake (aren’t all cakes comforting?) . I used my late aunt’s recipe for one my childhood favorites: a hazelnut-chocolate cake. Today, I glazed it  and it looks luxurious (I will post the recipe later).

Now, I am watching “The Help” for the second time. Although it is beautifully filmed and true to book the racism of the time just makes me sad. I listened to the audiobook version last summer, and I remember the sweetness of Abileene talking to Mo-mogli, and the funny parts that made me laugh out loud, and the scary parts of writing a socially critical book, the role confinement of women at the time and, yes, the racism.  It is hard to believe that all this happened only 40 years ago.

hazelnut_chocolate_cake

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Unwinding

Yesterday afternoon concluded a very busy and sunny week with a rainy weekend ahead (ugh, but good for scheduling doing the rest of my work). So I decided to wind down the week with something really relaxing: shopping! There is not really a lot of shopping going on around here, so TG-Maxx and Marshalls to the rescue. Jessica Simpson shoes are my weakness, it seems. However, I ended up only “camera-shopping”: instead of bringing home the merchandise, I just “bought” some picts. And yes, ok, an expensive Michael Kors handbag. 

shopping-2LR

Friday, April 20, 2012

Nike Fueled. The Nike Fuelband

Oh dear. This morning I was close to rip my hair out. Why? I managed to secure a Nike Fuelband this time around since it has been out of stock for a while on the Nike website. Two days ago, it arrived. 

fuel_band

Setting it up was already quite a hassle. You download the software from the Nike site, and then it guides you to “plug in your fuelband” to “type in height and weight” and then you have to connect it to a Nike+ account on the Nike+ community.  I already have a login because I have used this pod sensor for the shoes, but I could not remember my password. So, I created a new account with a different email. The annoying thing was that basically the account creation never seemed to go through. The application kicked me out, before it completed. When I started again, the account was ‘already taken’ with the email I had just used. So, I tried to log in with the new email. “Password and email don’t match”. I reset the password. “Password and email don’t match”. 

I tried my old account, reset the password, no avail. Same problem: can’t login.
When I tried the third email I have it finally went through, and the set-up finished. Doh!

On to the next hassle: synching my fuelband with an app on an IPod Touch. Downloading the apps was easy; login was (finally) easy, but finding the right mode on the fuelband to pair the Bluetooth devices was a bit more of hassle.

So, 2 evenings ago I was finally ‘connected’ and ready to test run the fuel band. I have used the Bodymedia armband for over 3 years, and love it. I was curious how ‘similar’ the ‘calories burnt’ readings on the 2 different sensory devices would be. I synched a few times during the day, both the armband as well as the fuelband with the IPod touch, and I could see the following:
  • The fuelband does not track sleep (it basically says “you burnt no calories in the last 8h of sleep”, now that a cool energy efficient machine, my body, I should patent it).  The bodymedia device give you a reading about length of sleep, quality of it, and energy expended.
  • However, the fuelband made up for it during the day, and caught up with giving me readings on calories burnt that were even ahead of the body media device.
  • By the afternoon, the fuelband was ahead of the bodymedia device by about 150kcal.
I typically synch and recharge my devices in the morning. So, this morning I first uploaded and charged the bodymedia armband, and then went ahead to upload the Nike fuelband. This is where the trouble started.

I plugged in the fuelband in the USB port and the Nike Connect+ software started but got stuck (see pict). It just would not upload to Nike+. 

stuck

I reinstalled the software, and tried it. Nope. I did a soft reset on the fuelband (thanks for loosing yesterday’s data). Nope. I tried a Mac and downloaded the software. Nope. I tried yet another computer. Nope. They ALL got stuck at exactly the same step: connect to Nikeplus.com. I realized the App on the IPod touch did also not synch with the website.
I poked around the Nike website, and there is basically NO troubleshooting information whatsoever. Googling the problems just turned up reports on all kinds of other nasty problems I did not have. By this time I was ready to call a representative at customer support and but I was afraid that I would yell at this poor person.

I suspected that the setup process had associated the fuelband with the first email address that I tried (but that did not get through as account setup), and now it tried to upload to the wrong account. So, factory reset and starting over would solve this problem, but you can only do a factory setup via  the Nike Connect+ software. And that was immediately stuck in trying to connect to the Nike website once started up. Argh. “There must be another way!”

Back to my friend, Dr Google. I typed in ‘nike fuelband hard reset” and ‘nike fuelband factory settings” and I found a great resource of help: the Nikefuel twitter account. It is 80% tech support and redirecting people to customer support for returning the fuelband and a little bit of applauding high fuel numbers. 

nikefuel_Twitter
But I did find a tip that helped me to solve the problem. “Disable internet access. Plug-in fuelband. Start Nike+ Connect. Reset to factory settings'”.

So, I did. 

And then I went through the set-up process again, from the start with the Nike account that actually worked. Somehow, that glued a little tag to the fuelband know where it has to upload. Now, when I try uploading it goes through to Nike. Halleluja. 

On all computers. 

That was painful set-up process. And frustrating. And not a lot of help on the Nike website. Nike, please
  • add troubleshooting to your website or redirect to the twitter tech guru
  • make sure that the account creation works!!
nikeplus_connect1
nikeplus_connect

Now, the question is: what is fuel? Since it is different from calories, I wonder. 

To be continued...

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Feeding the busy

Despite still being terribly busy I had time yesterday to bake an apple olive oil cake with leftover apples, and brought it to work. Within 24 hours, I found an empty cake plate and a new note on top.

 

Cake_note

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Younger than springtime

Remember that Rodgers and Hammerstein song from “South Pacific”? (Especially, if it is sung by Matthew Morrison from Glee…) Today I finally had a few hours off work and went for a walk to take in the signs of springtime. Tiger, the neighborhood kitty, took a sunbath in the evening sun, and rolled around when she saw me, showing how much she enjoys the warmth, crocuses in full bloom and some trees just with a whiff of green, like the beard of a 17 year old. A week of warm weather ahead. Can’t wait. 

spring_1
spring_3 spring_2
spring_4

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Sandwich Symphony

It is a working weekend once again, although the weather is wonderful, warm, sunny, spring-like. Alas, life. I rather be on the coast. The sandwich was good, though: portabella, spinach, onion, roasted red pepper and hummus. I think every sandwich is better with hummus. My new favorite ingredient. 

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Rocky Road

I am a bit overworked these days; combined this with seasonal allergies and I am looking for my energy under a rock. Good salads help, right? If not, I got Frye ballet carson flats in the mail. Now that does make me feel better.

radicchio_salad

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Turning back the times

I almost had a fight with my dental hygienist today. “X-rays AGAIN?’ Taking x-rays every two years, alternating x-rays for everything and then just for cavities….. well, all this radiation can’t be good. She said, it’s up to you,  but I decided to get full x-rays now at most 4-5 years, and no checking on cavities via x-rays. It seems a simple way to look for problems but it is me who ends up with all the radiation. 

Later I found this article via Twitter, and could not have said it better. No plastic/chemicals, please. 

Article in Shape Magazine:

“In a previous post I talked about the notion of ‘calories in, calories out’ being outdated. The truth is, there are numerous factors that impact weight and body composition beyond what and how much you eat, including your exposure to chemicals. 

One scientist at UC Irvine studied obese mice that plumped up without overeating. The rodents ate a normal diet but were exposed to a common chemical, tributyltin before birth. Tributyltin, which is found in vinyl products and treated wood, is one of several ‘obesogens’ being tested. […] In 2009, the US non-profit group Consumers Union, tested packaged foods including soups, juice, tuna, and green beans, and found that almost all contained measurable levels of Bisphenol A or BPA, a building block of plastics that’s been linked to thyroid problems and obesity. In animal research, exposure to BPA accelerates the formation of fat cells and one recent study detected BPA in over 90 percent of the urine samples collected from US residents.  

[…]  But the good news is that there are several ways you can take charge now in order to reduce your exposure to chemicals that may impact your weight. Here are my top six:
  • Eat more fresh fruits and vegetables and bring your own reusable mesh produce bags to the store rather than wrapping them in plastic bags.
  • Look for packaged foods that are BPA free, such as Eden Organic.
  • Cut back on packaging wherever you can. Buy in bulk, and store foods like oats, quinoa, beans and nuts in glass contains.
  • At work or on the go, use a stainless steel water bottle that’s not lined with plastic (or glass).
  • When heating foods in the microwave or storing in the refrigerator use glass containers.
  • Seek out natural products in your kitchen and throughout your home. “
Back to milk bottles, please. At least, at my farmer market I can still get them.
milk_bottle

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The vegetable patch

I wonder if I got all the baking out of my system for a while. But it is back to vegetables, grilled vegetables, that is. Still grilled indoors on the stove, Brrrh. 

grilled_veggies_g

Sunday, April 8, 2012

My first cupcake

Hard to believe, but I never baked cupcakes before. What is the difference between muffins and cupcakes? Cupcakes have a sweet creamy frosting, but muffins not? So, maybe it is still not even a real cupcake ;-)

Nevertheless, today I took Giada’s di Laurentiis strawberry jam filled cupcake recipe she linked to on twitter (Jade’s favorite Easter treat) and got started. Loved that it has quinoa flour as ingredient, and Giada is pretty reliable with the quality of her recipe (or also Ina Garten). However, half of the batter I used to make tiny tea cakes. This was another adventure; I had bought this beautiful pan years ago but so far I had no succeeded to actually get tea cakes out of the pan (they always got stuck). This time it finally worked! However, the impressions on the tea cakes are still not pronounced. But, at lest they came out and they taste very good. Progress. The other half of the batter became the original cupcakes. Not sure if I add frosting. Eating a cupcake is already going like into sugar overdrive. Nevertheless, I proudly present my first cupcake!

my_first_cupcake

Tea cakes / cupcakes (make 24 tea cakes and 6 cup cakes): (adapted from link)

  • 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup quinoa flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 cup organic cane sugar
  • 1 stick butter, at room temperature
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • ½ cup whole milk, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ⅓ + 6 ts cup strawberry fruit spread or jam

Frosting (optional)

  • 1/2 stick butter, at room temperature
  • 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 TB whole milk, at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoons strawberry fruit spread or jam

Mini Teacakes and Cupcakes

Place an oven rack in the center of the oven and reheat the oven to 360 degrees F. Spray a teacake pan liberally with baking spray (combination of oil and flour) and set aside. Line a 6-cup muffin pan with paper liners and set aside.
Whisk together the flours, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. In a stand mixer, add the butter and sugar and beat on medium speed until well combined and fluffy. Add the eggs, milk, vanilla and strawberry jam and combine well. Spoon-wise add the dry ingredients on low speed of the stand mixer, and mix until just blended. Spoon half of the batter into the prepared tea cake pan, and fill each tea cake about 3/4. Bake at 360F for 15 min. Remove from oven, and cool for 2 min. Remove from the pan. Let cool and dust with confectioners sugar.

Use the prepared muffin pan and fill each cup with ca. 2 tablespoons of batter. Spoon 1 teaspoon of the strawberry fruit spread into the center of the batter of each cupcake. Spoon the remaining batter on top to cover the fruit spread completely. Bake until puffed and the cake springs back when touched, 15 to 17 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely, about 30 minutes.

Frosting

Beat the butter in a medium bowl until light and smooth, using stand mixer. Beat in 2 cups of the powdered sugar, milk and vanilla until smooth and creamy. Stir the strawberry fruit spread and the remaining 3/4 cup powdered sugar into the other bowl of frosting and stir until smooth. Frost the tops of the cupcakes with strawberry frosting using a small spatula. Allow the frosting to set for 20 minutes before serving.

mini_teacakes

In the dead zone

It is cold today, overcast, and rain is predicted. Actually a whole week of rain. This time in the year around Maine I call the ‘dead zone’. The snow is long gone, but there are few signs of any green or blossoms, and it might stay like this for another few weeks. In May, the world suddenly literally explodes into a luscious green, green lawns, trees, and blooming trees. It is a gray, rainy Easter today, and all I want to do is wrap myself in a blanket and bake cupcakes. I hope the Easter bunny is wearing his down coat.

blog6-56

Friday, April 6, 2012

Good Friday Salad

Not sure why it is called “Good Friday”. Good? More like “bad Friday”. Well, J. had a bad day (some millenia ago) and me, too, because in some martyr stance this morning I decided this would be the day to do my taxes. Gah. At least the lunch salad was inspired by the Easter weekend ahead, with a big fried organic free-range happy sunny side up egg. And some green onions that are already growing in my kitchen, in the onion basket.

If you want to see even happier eggs (aka live peeps) check out Jaden’s post.

good_friday_Salad

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Stout chocolate cake 2.0

After my success with the first version of the stout chocolate cake, I made another one last weekend. Unfortunately, contrary to the first one the second cake came out bland and soggy. I scratched my head --- what had gone wrong? Did I underbake it? For the second cake I had completely followed Heidi’s recipe but for the first one I had improvised and added my own tweaks. So, how to recreate my original version? After some thorough analysis and inspecting the photos for additional clues I was able to recreate the cake.

Changes: I had added a few ingredients to bring out the chocolate flour, such as espresso powder. It is also important to simmer the beer, butter, cacao powder and espresso powder together on very low for about 15min. I do not reduce the mixture to half of the original 2 cups of stout, but with all ingredients, including butter and chocolate, I still have 2 cups of liquid. To make up for the extra liquid, I add an extra 1/2 cup of flour. Also, I only use all-purpose flour since it just rises better than whole wheat in my experience. Instead of 340ml yogurt, I only use 170ml (1 container). I also add molasses and vanilla extract. This time I followed my original recipe, and the cakes were rising well in the oven, and the texture is light, yet moist, again and only lightly sweet but chocolate-ly taste is back. I am always amazed that slight changes can make such huge differences in flavor and texture, when baking. It is an art and a science.

So, here it is, stout chocolate cake, 2.0. Enjoy!

stout_2.0

Stout chocolate cake, 2.0

Cake:

  • 2 cups St. Pete’s cream stout beer, reduced only to 1 1/2 cups of stout
  • 8 tablespoons/1 stick of unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup Dagoba authentic cocoa powder
  • 1 TB instant Megdalia d’oro espresso powder
  • 2 1/2 cup King Arthur Flour all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup organic cane sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 140 ml Brown Cow Maple cream top yogurt (1 container)
  • 3/4 cup Maine maple syrup (I use the whole foods brand and Stonewall kitchen)
  • 1/2 TB vanilla extract
  • 1/2 TB organic black strap molasses

Chocolate Buttermilk Icing:

  • 3/4 cup / 2.75 oz / 75 g powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup / 25g natural cocoa powder (non-dutched)
  • 2 tablespoons buttermilk
  • flaky sea salt, to serve

Preheat oven to 360F, with a rack in the center. Spray a regular sized and a small bundt cake pan with baking spray. If you use another cake pans, just make sure to avoid filling the pan(s) more than 2/3 - 3/4 full. Adjust the baking time as well - baking until the cake begins to pull away from the sides of the pan, and the center tests clean when you insert a knife.

In a saucepan simmer the 2 cups of beer down to 1 1/2 cup. Add in the stick of butter cut into pieces, and whisk in the chocolate powder and the espresso powder. Continue simmering on very low for another 15 min. The mixture develops a strong, rich chocolate aroma (make sure to not to scorch it by simmering on too high). Remove from heat, measure that it makes 2 cups, and let cool.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a standmixer with the paddle attachment, combine the eggs, yogurt, and maple syrup. Mix until nicely blended and uniform in appearance. Gradually add the (cooled) stout mixture, while still mixing. Add the flour mixture, tablespoon by tablespoon/

Transfer the batter to the prepared pans and bake for 45 minutes if using the bundt pan. You really don't want to over bake this cake - err on the slightly moist side if anything. Remove from the oven, and turn out onto a cooling rack after seven minutes.
Once the cake is completely cooled, whisk the icing by combining the powdered sugar, cocoa, and buttermilk. The icing should end up smooth and creamy looking. Run the icing around the top with an offset spatula and let it set.

stout_2.0_2

Monday, April 2, 2012

Week to go

Woke up this morning and sighed: another week ahead. Plans in my head, things to accomplish and get done, Mondays always feel like the whole week’s tasks are on the scale. Mondays feel heavy. But then I remind myself ‘a day at a time’, let’s get the stuff for today done today, deliver a stout cake, ignore the concept of “Monday = a new week”, and let the rest take care of itself. It is just another sunny day. I wish, for you and me, a week ahead like the cake below, doable on the obligations parts, and lots of …. fun. Lots.

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Sunday, April 1, 2012

Bundt cake hunt

Yesterday I had planned to do my taxes and some work; then the weather turned out nice and I changed plans: antique hunting for a bundt cake pan along the coast; it was a nice day for a drive. Coastal Maine is full of antique stores and road-side flea markets and with my new search focus I was eager to visit them again. After I filled my car with gas, I waivered on the plans. ”That’s gonna be an expensive bundt cake pan….”. In the end I decided to start with the local antique stores and get some work done, basically stay local for the day. Much to my delight I found almost exactly what I was looking in the second store: a beautiful bundt cake pan in good shape and…..  it was only $7. I was almost giddy with excitement. I also found a pretty old muffin pan in another store. It rounded out the beautiful day. 

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This morning, I woke up to warm sunshine and the day started out with my first outdoor run for the year. Although, it felt chilly when I started, a sleeveless jog felt perfect on the way back. Naturally, I was curious how a bundt cake would look like made in the new (0ld) pan, and due to the great feedback at work of the ‘manly’ chocolate stout cake I had  brought 2 weeks again, I decided to make another one. 

I soaped and scrubbed the pan, and started thinking who might have baked cakes with it before? A happy grandmother for her family? Was it passed down through generations? What had it seen? Which families? Which kitchens? Which cakes were baked? The bundt cake pan could easily be from 1910 and so it could have seen a lot. 

It made me smile. 

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As usual I made a big cake and 2 small ones (for taste test  before I hand it to the crowds, or not), and the cake turned out great. This time I used a chocolate stout that I picked up at Trader Joes last week and made the original glaze with confectioner’s sugar, cacao and yogurt. 

There is not much left of the little cake. 

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