Category Archives: Dessert

Orange Bundt Cake (aka taking the training wheels off for a bit…)

This semester’s schedule has been considerably more demanding on my time than I had expected.  As a result, the allotment of time that I set aside for cooking experiments has been drastically reduced.  Can you tell?  Yes… I’m sure you can.

I’ve fallen into a rut with regards to my sense of culinary adventure and my methodology for generating a menu has been based solely on the simplicity of the dish.  As a result, the dishes have been modest (not in a good way) and unappetizing.  My taste buds are bored and I feel like I’ve plateaued at this stage in the game.  I really need to shake myself out of this!

Over the weekend, I took a step towards trying to climb out of this rut.  I decided to crack open Lewis & Poliafito’s Baked Explorations.  Now let me start out by saying that most of the desserts in this cookbook scare the shit out of me.  Almost every single recipe seemed so far beyond my level of experience that it is downright daunting.  Between the perceived level of difficulty, the lack of the necessary tools to compose the recipe, and the shortage of many of the ingredients, I was able to flip past 98% of the recipes.  I ultimately decided upon the olive oil orange bundt cake.

This recipe is one of the first on this site to get a medium level designation (as opposed to my many, many, many easy ones).  What about this recipe earned its pump in the rankings?  Funny you should ask!  Let me explain 😉

Throughout several points in the making of this cake, I had to scream urgently for the pelirojo.  I needed an extra pair of hands, and luckily he was around to oblige.  The other thing that bumps this up to a medium level is the (and please, I beg you, don’t laugh!) beating of the egg whites.  This was my first time beating egg whites to a peak and I wasn’t sure how long this usually takes.   The longer I let the mixer run, the more it felt like too long.  I finally gave up and decided it was close enough.

Thankfully, the fact that I didn’t know what I was doing did not ruin the cake!  It turned out light and delightfully flavored.  The recipe suggests dusting the cake with powdered sugar, but I wanted to taste the cake before I added more sugar.  In my opinion, the cake was sweet enough without it.

This olive oil orange cake is perfect as a breakfast treat or as an accompaniment to your afternoon tea.  Without a doubt, it’s a keeper kind of recipe despite its medium status.  Or maybe I just need to get over it and upgrade from T-ball to coach pitch.  What do you think? 😉

Bake Sale for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society

Before I get to the who, what, where, and when, I want to start with the why.  When I was first contacted to participate, I had a moment of hesitation.  I thought: “surely she doesn’t want me to help out.  I’m just a rookie who would be playing with with pros!”  But then I thought about him.

This is Matt.  I met Matt the first day of fourth grade in Mrs. Nason’s class.  He sat in the row next to me all year.  Over the next few years, Matt and I hung out during various school activities like orchestra and safety patrols.  He was always nice to me despite my  general bratiness that accompanied being a pre-teen.  I could tell you so many wonderful stories about him…

The summer after our eighth grade year, my family moved back to Brazil.  Matt was one of the only people who kept in contact with me during our time abroad.  (Keep in mind we were getting ready to enter high school and email wasn’t as widely used back then, so this took some effort.)  We kept in touch over the years and as technology (i.e. AIM) became popular, we were able to check in on each other.

When I moved back to the States for college, I visited him every time I could when I found myself back in Virginia.  Matt was one of those rare guys that actually picked up the phone to catch up.  He didn’t rely solely on technology to keep up with friends.  One day, though, I got a call I didn’t want.  Matt told me that he had been diagnosed with lymphoma.  I couldn’t believe it.  Here was a healthy, athletic, young guy who was in the ROTC program… how could it be?  Over the next few years, I saw one of the most exemplary displays of human resilience.  He even beat it into remission for a short time…

Matt was 24 when he passed away.  The picture above was taken the last time I saw him.  It was taken several months before things got bad.  Although it has been almost three years since he passed, I still can’t bring myself to delete his cel phone number from my phone.  So it’s him.  Matt’s the reason I agreed to join.

Now let us cover the other w‘s of this event.

The who is the organizer of this event.  Steph and I started this blogging adventure around the same time and we’ve kept up with each other’s sites over the past few months.  In addition to being a great cook, Steph is a runner.  She recently joined a ‘team in training’ in order to prepare for the San Diego Rock n’ Roll Marathon.  As part of their preparation, they are hoping to raise $1,900 to benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.  (This is where she got creative!)  Steph had the idea of organizing an online bake sale (what) and asked a bunch of us foodie bloggers to donate a baked good to the sale.

The event will be hosted on Steph’s site (where) and will take place on Monday, January 31 (when).  For all of the rules and information you will need, and to see a list of the participating bloggers, please click here.

There are some heavy-weights contributing to this bake sale, so in an attempt to compete, I have been testing different recipes to find something that is both tempting and will ship well!  Out of the three baking experiments I have attempted over the last two weeks, this Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookie was by far the best.  I found the recipe while flipping around Martha Stewart’s site.

The idea behind this cookie is that it has a chocolate cookie base (which is exquisite on its own!) and then you drop it into a bowl of sugar, cinnamon, and CHILI POWDER!  Seriously though, how good does that sound?

Because this was an experiment, I had to have a control.  There  were three batches that were made.  The first was simply the cookie dough without the interesting step.  The second was the cookie rolled in a sugar, cinnamon, and just a teeny bit of chili powder (i.e. the amount asked for in the recipe).  The third batch was rolled in bowl that had a good amount chili powder (it wasn’t an exaggerated amount, just a little over what the recipe calls for).

The first batch was scrumptious.  The dough could definitely stand on its own.  The second batch was enjoyable because you had the complementing flavors of the cocoa with barely a hint of the chili powder.  The third batch… oh the third batch… it was by far was the best.  There was no mistaking the brilliance of the recipe and why the flavors are infused into one mouthwatering treat.

See?  Don’t you want some?  You know you do.  It’s a great way to ease the guilt of indulging in this scrumptious treat.  It’s okay to eat it because it’s for a good cause…

There you have it.  This Mexican Hot Chocolate cookie is my contribution to Steph’s bake sale and it is baked with all of my love in memory of my friend Matt.  I hope you will consider bidding for it on Monday, January 31st!

Maybe I just don’t like shortbread…

Months ago, I came across this recipe on Smitten Kitchen’s recipe list.  The description of the cookie was an “espresso-chocolate shortbread cookie” so instantly, my interest was peaked.  Having never attempted a shortbread recipe before, I was cautiously hopeful about how this would turn out.  I followed each step carefully according to the instructions.

After combining all of the ingredients, I spooned the batter into the plastic bag and rolled it according to the recipe.  I went through all of the prep work and placed the bag in the fridge to cool over night.  This afternoon, I pulled the batter out and cut it into the squares, pricked the squares with a fork, and put them into the oven.  Once they finished cooling, I bit into a square ready to be amazed.

But I wasn’t.  In fact, I was put off…

Both the texture of the cookie and the flavor were completely unappealing.  Sure, these little guys were cute, but ew!  I couldn’t stomach to finish even one of these.  In reviewing the footage of the game, three things came to mind that I could blame for yet another baking fail. First, maybe I messed something up.  Second, maybe the recipe was off.  And third, maybe I just don’t like shortbread.

I’m going to bet on it either being the first or last option… but who knows.  Needless to say, I won’t be trying another shortbread recipe for a while!

Hello 2011!

Well, 2011 is officially under way!  Epiphany has passed which means the holiday season is officially over and classes reconvened yesterday.  I suppose this also means that any resolutions should be implemented immediately, no?  And so begins the guilt ridden process of remembering what you promised yourself you would accomplish.  I actually made my resolution achievable this year: learn to cook more grains and eat more fiber.  Simple and inclusive of many other goals.  We’ll see how I do…

We brought in the new year with some great friends, wine, board games, and a pizza party.  Everybody brought fun toppings and we prepared different kinds of pizzas that were quickly inhaled.  After super, we played Apples to Apples (which I am horrible at playing!) and I believe Rebecca won.

I debuted my first attempt at a cheesecake for dessert.  I had found this recipe on allrecipes.com that had great reviews with numerous recommendations for altering the ingredients for jazzy results.  Given that those same reviews were also anxiety causing (everybody had suggestions for how to keep the cheesecake from cracking), I decided to stick to the exact recipe.

I crushed the graham crackers, formed the crust, and began the process of combining the cake part of the dessert.  I was very careful not to overmix the cream cheese and gently poured the mixture into the spring-form pan.

There were two suggestions from the reviews that I employed during this step.  First, I put some water into the tea kettle and set it to boil.  Once it began to whistle, I poured the steaming water into a pyrex that I placed directly into the preheat oven.  I positioned it on the rack below where the pan would sit.  Many reviewers had suggested cooking the cheesecake by using a water bath, but I was worried that the water would leak into the cake.  Instead, I placed the steaming water below and hoped that it would create enough humidity in the oven.  The second suggestion I took was to be very thorough in buttering the sides of the pan.  Apparently (I didn’t know this) during the cooling process, the cake will pull away from the edges in a fashion that often leads to cracking.  I carefully greased the pan, poured the batter, and into the oven it went for SIX HOURS.  One hour for the cooking, and five for cooling.  I still think this might have been excessive, but it worked!  My cake came out beautiful and it did not crack!

I served it with cherry pie filling (sweetened with splenda) and the end result was wonderful.  It was smooth and not too creamy (I don’t like cheesecake too creamy) and exactly how I wanted it to taste.  For next time, I did read that one reviewer substituted the milk in the recipe for Bailey’s Irish Cream.  Doesn’t that sound delicious?  I will need to try that.

Here’s to starting out a great year with a strong recipe!  Have a wonderful beginning to 2011 friends 🙂

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