Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Ultimate Lemon Layer Cake

First off, I want to apologize for the delay in post.  I have been trying to squeeze in as much stuff as possible prior to starting residency.  My baking hasn't seized, but my blogging was put on the back burner so I could take the time to see as much of the sun as humanly possible.  Anyways, I picked this recipe Ultimate Lemon Layer Cake recipe out weeks ago specifically for my roommate from college's bachelorette party.  We went camping at Bastrop State Park for her party.  I know you are thinking that the idea of having a bachelorette party in the woods in Texas in the summer may be a little crazy, but the event went wonderfully actually.  It was a little hot...okay a lot hot...but really fun.  Now, I know you probably have a second burning question as you read this.  You took a cake camping?!  My parents thought the idea of taking a fancy cake camping was absurd, but I thought, why not?  So this is a tale of the cake I took camping...I hope you enjoy the recipe.

From March/April 2007 Cooking Illustrated Magazine

                                              Above:  Here I am with the cake finally completed!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Blog 1 Year Anniversary

So it has been just over a year since I started this blog.  I can't believe how quickly time has flown and how much I have learned in the kitchen this past year.  I thought in the spirit of the blog's one year anniversary that a recap is necessary.  My 5 favorite recipes of the year are going to be listed below.  I hope that if you have tried to make any of the recipes this year off this blog too that you can comment on what your favorite recipe was.

My favorite 5 (in order of what I liked best first)

1. Perfect Chocolate Cake (From January 2010)
-- Chocolate cake is near and dear to my heart.  I made this particular chocolate cake for two close friend's birthdays.  I probably could fill my favorite five recipes of the year with chocolate cakes.  So I am only listing one chocolate cake in this post.  This is my favorite chocolate cake that I made this past year.  A close second is the Triple Chocolate Cake from last July.  Thinking back on this cake I remember how moist and chocolately it was.  In addition, the icing was to die for.  If you make anything off this blog, this is the first thing I want you to make.

2. Perfect Party Cake (From March 2010)
-- I picked out this recipe from one of Dorie Greenspan's books and I made it for a wedding shower.  It was one of the more difficult recipes that I tackled this past year.  Ms. Greenspan's icings are hard to master!  This was probably the prettiest cake that I made this year with the raspberry preserve filling and raspberries to decorate it on the top.  In addition, the slight hint of lemon in the cake was my favorite part.  This cake really lives up to its name.

3. Cinnamon-Raisin Bread (From September 2009)
-- I couldn't leave this bread recipe out of my top 5.  It tastes better than the store bought cinnamon raisin bread by far.  What I remember most about this bread was how the cinnamon sugar dripped out of the bread as you cut it.  Mmmm... I need to make this bread again ASAP!

4. Pecan Crusted Chicken (From June 2009)
-- I thought it would be good to include one non dessert in the top 5.  It was hard for me not to list all desserts.  I kind of like desserts if you couldn't tell.  This pecan crusted chicken was awesome.  I loved the mustard sauce that paired with it too.  Make this recipe when you get an opportunity.  It makes you look like you are a better cook than you actually may be.

5. Chocolate Crackles (From February 2010)
-- I have made this recipe twice and each time loved it.  Thank you Martha Stewart for this recipe.  I could eat these chocolate treats all day.  You eat one and the next thing you know is the five next to them have disappeared.  I swear, I didn't eat them!

Rocky Ledge Bars

Man, it is good to be back in the kitchen baking again.  This is one of the first recipes I read after I returned to China and I made it shortly after I got back.  I picked out this Rocky Ledge Bar recipe from Martha Stewart's cookie book.  I love that book and you should buy it.  Seriously... Almost all of the recipes I have tried in the book thus far have been pretty good.  It is an excellent place to start in the world of baking if nothing else.  So enough with me selling the book, let's move on to baking! 

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon course salt
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups packed dark brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup miniature marshmallows
1 cup semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 cup white chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 cup butterscotch chips
18 soft caramel-candy cubes, coarsely chopped

1. Preheat oven to 350 F,  Lightly butter a 8 by 13-inch baking pan.  Line with parchment, allowing a 2-inch overhang on the longer sides.  Brush parchment with butter (not the overhang).
2. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl.  Using a wooden spoon, mix butter and brown sugar in a medium bowl until fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Add eggs and vanilla; mix until well combined.  Fold in half of each of the marshmallows, chocolates, butterscotch chips, and caramel.
3. Spread batter in prepared pan.  Scatter remaining marshmallows, chocolates, butterscotch chips, and caramels on top.  Bake until top is golden brown and a cake tester inserted into center comes out clean,  about 35 minutes (I baked it about 30 minutes**) Let cool on a wire rack.  Lift out of pan, and transfer to a baking sheet.  Refrigerate until set, at least 30 minutes.
4. Remove parchment, and cut into about 16 triangles.  Bars can be stored in a airtight container at room temperature up to 1 week.

The learning issue for this post is slightly random as usual.  However, I haven't used marshmallows in a while and all of sudden they are everywhere in my recipes.  I was wondering what makes a marshmallow and why is it so marshmallowy.

Marshmallows were originally named from the inclusion of marshmallow root in the recipe. Below is a picture of marshmallow root from 

The root itself is said to be medicinal and it is said to sooth the throat.  So the original marshmallows made were actually throat lozenges.  What an awesome throat lozenge right?  Candy and no more sore throat= wow!  The use of the marshmallow dates all the way back to Egypt.  In modern times, the marshmallow root has been replaced by unflavored gelatin.  Other ingredients in marshmallows are: corn syrup, sugar, water, and vanilla.

So to evaluate this recipe now. These Rocky Ledge Bars get 4.0 stars out of 5 stars in my book.  The combo of marshmallows, chocolate, butterscotch and caramel are to die for.  Think ooey goey cookie that pull apart with caramel and marshmallow dripping at the sides.  The best part about these brownie type cookie is that it is incredibly easy to make.  It is one of those mix and go recipes.  I will definitely make these again.  I didn't rate these brownies higher though because the cookie itself could be more moist and the brownie itself leaves something to be desired.  If I were to make these again, I would possibly layer the caramel in a different place and possibly change the dough itself.  I would not change the mix in contents of these brownies.  Happy Baking!