Monday, March 26, 2012

Wiped Clean (Recipe: Cookies & Cream Layer Cake)

In celebration of Oreo's 100th birthday my local grocer has had specials on the little cream filled cookies for weeks.  Of course I felt obligated to buy a pack, ate a row of the tray and then was compelled to make Oreo a birthday cake (as if Oreo were human or cared to even celebrate).  I remember reading a recipe for a double chocolate muffin years ago when sitting in the small library of my culinary school.  I loved the article so much I ran out and immediately ordered a subscription to Chocolatier Magazine.  I've held on to the Summer '07 issue for almost five years because I adore the cake batter feature-so I'm more than thrilled to share just a small morsel of that delectable issue.

Since I had devoured one row of the cookie flat I saved the rest for my special Oreo Birthday Cake.  It is a simple yellow cake flecked with bits of chopped Oreo.  The frosting, oh the frosting, is delicious.  It is smooth, rich and decadent.  It happens to be one of my favorite frostings (and very similar to my family's Red Velvet Icing.)

This is how good this frosting is.  I shared a very large portion of cake with my co-workers, setting it carefully in a clean cake pan and covered it with plastic wrap.  The next day I arrived at work, opened my locker and there sat an empty cake pan wiped clean.  Not washed...wiped clean with a finger!  Yes, a little gross-but I know what happened.  It was the frosting.  I have been known to lick a beater clean or scrape every morsel off of the plate using my finger fork (not in the company of others, of course), so I understood.  I just now have to sanitize and scald the cake pan.

Cookies and Cream Layer Cake
Chocolatier Summer 2007

2 2/3 cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 cups whole milk
2 large eggs, slightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 coarsely chopped Oreo cookies (about a dozen cookies)
  1. Position rack in center of oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Lightly butter bottom and side of two 9" round cake pans.  Line bottoms with parchment and butter paper.  Dust each pan with flour, tapping out excess.
  2. In bowl of electric mixer, sift together flour, baking powder, salt.  Add sugar and, using paddle attachment, mix on low speed until blended.  Add butter and mix on medium speed until completely incorporated, about 2 minutes
  3. In a medium-sized bowl, combine milk, eggs, and vanilla extract.  Gradually add milk mixture to dry ingredients in  additions, mixing on medium speed until incorporated and stopping to scrape bottom and sides of bowl after each addition.  Mix batter on medium speed for 1 additional minute.  Add chopped cookies and mix just until blended.
  4. Divide batter evenly between pans and bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown and cake tester inserted in center of cakes comes out clean.
  5. Allow cakes to cool in pans on a wire rack for 15 minutes.  Remove cakes from pans and continue to cool on wire rack.
Fluffy White Icing
2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
  1. In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, whisk together milk and flour until mixture comes to a boil and thickens to a paste.  Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.
  2. In a bowl of electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter, granulated sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy.  Add cooled flour mixture and beat at medium high speed until fluffy.  Gradually add confectioners sugar 1 tablespoon at a time and beat until fully incorporated.
Assemble Cake
1/4 cup ground Oreo crumbs
  1. Place one layer top-side up on a serving platter and spread about half of icing over layer, completely covering top and sides.  Sprinkle top of layer with ground cookie crumbs.  Top with second layer of cake, topside up, and spread top and sides with remaining icing.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Warm Fuzzies (Recipe: Shrimp & Andouille Over Jalapeno Grit Cakes)

I've been away from blogging for a few weeks and I am using these two little guys (below) to aid in your forgiveness.  The puppy picture is one of the first pics I took with my new camera.  The evening light hit my parent's dog's face perfectly so I grabbed my camera and took a shot.  I love it.  See his terrible under bite?  We have no idea how he actually eats his food but obviously he manages.
T-Dawg in the evening light
Now the sleeping little guy below is my cat.  He will be fifteen, yes 1-5, next month.  He sleeps his days away only to crawl out of his hiding place once the Baking Tot has been put to bed.  Baking Tot is too hyper for this poor old cat.  He loves to snuggle, eats salad greens and loves summer cantaloupe.
Sleeping Kidders dreaming away on my favorite quilt (a wedding gift rumored to be made by Mitt Romney's cousin)
Alright, on to the food.  We love Cajun food in this house and I cook it often.  I've eyed this Central Market recipe for years....years!  My local grocer had wild caught gulf shrimp on sale and I took full advantage of the opportunity.  I'm glad I did, they were sweet and delicious.  The andouille sausage was the flavor maker in this recipe lending its spice and smoke to the sauce and shrimp.

I followed the recipe exact but know now what I'll tweak next time.  The sauce.  Rather than a cornstarch base sauce (which I never had been a fan of) I'll use my standard bechamel.  The grit cakes were crunchy on the outside and creamy on the inside with a freshness and heat from the jalapenos; good enough to sneak the leftovers from the fridge and eat them cold (so guilty).

Shrimp & Andouille with Jalapeno Grit Cakes
Central Market Cooks
serves 8

Jalapeno Grit Cakes
4 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup uncooked quick-cooking grits
3 tablespoons minced jalapeno chiles
1/4 teaspoon white pepper

Shrimp and Andouille
2 tablespoons butter
2 pounds uncooked medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 pound andouille sausage, chopped
1 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup cornstarch
3 cups heavy cream
4 ounces freshly grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste
chopped scallions
  1. Grit Cakes:  bring water and salt to a boil in a medium saucepan.  Stir in grits gradually.  Reduce the heat to low and simmer covered, for 8 minutes or until grits are tender and most of the liquid is absorbed, stir occasionally.  Simmer, uncovered, until the liquid is absorbed.  Remove fro heat and stir in the chiles & pepper.  Let stand for 30 minutes or until cool but not yet set, stirring occasionally.
  2. Spoon grits in 16 generous 1/4 cupfuls onto a nonstick baking sheet and pat into 3-inch rounds.  Let stand at room temperature for 1 hour or until firm.  Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes or until heated through.  Remove to a heated plate and keep warm.
  3. Shrimp & Andouille:  heat the butter in a skillet.  Add the shrimp and sausage and saute until the shrimp are opaque.  Remove to a bowl and add the chicken broth to the skillet, stirring to scrape up any browned bits.
  4. Blend the cornstarch and cream in a bowl.  Stir into the broth mixture and cook until slightly thickened, stirring constantly.  Add cheese and cook until the cheese melts and the sauce thickens, stirring constantly.  Return the shrimp and sausage to the skillet.  Cook until heated through, stirring constantly.  Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Arrange 2 grit cakes on each of 8 serving plates.  Spoon the shrimp mixture over the cakes and sprinkle with chopped scallions.

Monday, March 5, 2012

A Great Start (Mini Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting)

March is off to a great start.  Aside from the beautiful weather, I have enjoyed a lot of family time.  Saturday I spent the day strolling through a local flea market searching to be inspired, looking for something to decorate my home.  But nothing called my name and that was ok, I was in the great company of my sisters-in-law.  I did however, walk away with old comic books for a Superhero craft, an old "SEE HEAR READ-Peter Pan" book (remember those, they had the red cassettes included in the set), a jar of cinnamon apple jelly made with red hot candies, and my absolute favorite-candied jalapenos.

Yesterday, we enjoyed a beautiful day at the Austin Kite Festival.  The weather was on our side giving us the clearest of skies and a slight wind.  We sat in the grass watching hundreds of kites soar through the sky, listening to the wind rip through the nylon and plastic, and treating ourselves to rather large sno-cones.
One of the many reasons people love Austin!
Afterwards we headed to a birthday party to eat fajitas & sopapillas and enjoyed a tiny snack of crawfish (one of my faves!).  It is birthday month in this family-a niece, a sister in law, a nephew, another nephew and another niece all celebrate within the next few weeks, and thus I will share some cupcakes with you.
We are going "Plain Jane" this time around, vanilla cake with vanilla buttercream.  It is simple, classic, not too fussy and generally loved by all.  Enjoy!
My favorite kite! 

Magnolia's Vanilla Cupcakes
source:  More From Magnolia

approx. 2 dozen regular size cupcakes

1 1/2 cups self-rising flour
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
  1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line two 12-cup muffin tins with cupcake liners.
  2. In a small bowl sift both flours, set aside.  In a larger bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until fluffy.  Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  3. Add the dry ingredients in three parts, alternating with the milk and vanilla.  With each addition, beat until the ingredients are incorporated but do not overbeat.
  4.  Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the batter in the bowl to make sure the ingredients are well blended.  Carefully spoon the batter into the cupcake liners, filling them about 3/4 full.
  5. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center of the cupcake comes out clean.
  6. Cool the cupcakes in the tins for 15 minutes.  Remove from the tins and cool completely on a wire rack before icing.
***I made mini cupcakes, therefore cooking time would be around 10-15 minutes.

Vanilla Buttercream
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
6-8 cups confectioners sugar
1/2 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
food coloring, desired amount
  1. Place the butter in a large mixing bowl.  Add 4 cups of the sugar and then the milk and vanilla.
  2. On medium speed in an electric mixer, beat until smooth and creamy, about 3-5 minutes.
  3. Gradually add the remaining sugar (you may or may not use it all), 1 cup at a time, beating well after each addition (about 2 minutes), until the icing is thick enough to be of good spreading consistency. 
  4. Add food coloring and mix thoroughly.  (Use and store the icing at room temperature because icing will set if chilled.)  Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.