S'more Cake

S’More Cake

So Chase this year wanted a cake shaped like a giant s’more. This is what I came up with.

 

Graham Crackers

Ingredients

  • 2 sticks of butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup dark corn syrup
  • Cream these together and then add
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 4 cups flour
  • 4 tablespoons water

Directions

  1. chill for 30 minutes before rolling out.
  2. Roll out dough on parchment paper about 1/4 inch thick and cut at 12″ square.
  3. Transfer each cracker to a cookie sheet and poke with a wooden skewer to give it that “graham cracker” look.
  4. Bake each cracker for 30 minutes each at 350 degrees. You might need to play with this a bit. You just need to make sure it is firm enough that it doesn’t start to bend when you set it on top of the cake. If it does, just throw it back in the over @350 for another 20 minutes or so.

I got the graham cracker recipe from here.

Chocolate

I decided for the piece of chocolate to not go with an actual giant piece of chocolate. I figured using cake would be much easier for the kids to eat so I made the Hershey’s Perfect Chocolate Cake (the same one I used in the Lightning McQueen cake) and cover it with chocolate ganache so it looked like an actual piece of chocolate that was melting. I think that worked out pretty good!

 

 

Marshmallow

So for the marshmallow part, I made a 3-layer cake (recipe from here) and covered it in white fondant. Underneath the fondant though is Martha Stewart’s 7-minute frosting. I used this frosting because it’s essentially a cross between frosting and marshmallow anyway, so I thought it might make it taste more marshmallowy. The problem though is that the frosting is very airy and with the weight of the fondant, it got pretty compressed. I think if I were to do this again, I’d just use buttercream.

Ingredients (cake)

  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 cup milk

Directions (cake)

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour a 9×9 inch pan or line a muffin pan with paper liners.
  2. In a medium bowl, cream together the sugar and butter. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then stir in the vanilla. Combine flour and baking powder, add to the creamed mixture and mix well. Finally stir in the milk until batter is smooth. Pour or spoon batter into the prepared pan.
  3. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes in the preheated oven. For cupcakes, bake 20 to 25 minutes. Cake is done when it springs back to the touch.

Ingredients (frosting)

  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 6 large egg whites
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Directions (frosting)

  1. In the heatproof bowl of an electric mixer set over a saucepan of simmering water, combine sugar, corn syrup, 1/4 cup water, and egg whites. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until mixture registers 160 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, about 2 minutes.
  2. Attach bowl to a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat mixture on high speed until glossy and voluminous, about 5 minutes. Beat in vanilla. Use immediately.

  

 

So after I frosted the cake, I covered the whole thing in white fondant. It’s a little tricky to get around the corners and stuff – the best advice I can give is to work very slow. It’s pliable enough to do it without creases, you just need to take your time.

 

And of course, Chase wanted transformers fighting on top.

Shortbread Cookies

My mom has made these every year at Christmas for as long as I can remember. So now we make them at Christmastime. Doesn’t get much simpler – or tastier!

McSkimming recipe from Scotland:

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 lb. of room temp butter
  • 1/2 C packed brown sugar
  • 1&1/2 to 2 cups sifted flour

 

Procedure:

  1. Mix sugar and butter by hand until sugar seems pretty much desolved….it never desolves completely.
  2. Gradually add all purpose flour by handful until nice rolling consistency. Use 1&1/2 and then put some on rolling board to make up the rest. It will be VERY sticky and you need the extra flour to keep it from sticking to everything-including you. Dough will be soft.
  3. Put on rolling board and kneed with heel of hand 15-20 times.
     
  4. Shape into circle about 3/4″ thick.
  5. Cut into diagonal diamonds.
  6. Gather up the rest of the dough and keep repeating until used up.
  7. Place on ungreased cookie sheet 1″ apart.
  8. Prick with fork clear to the bottom of cookies three times so they’ll cook evenly.
  9. Cook somewhere between 250 to 300 degrees, 20 to 40 minutes, depending on your oven.

They’ll still be soft when you take them out of the oven but will crisp up after and hour or so.
Don’t let them get brown and it’s even better if you can cool on pan.

Cheesecake

NEW YORK (WABC) — “Junior’s” cheesecake is considered to be the best cheesecake in New York. And now they are offering you and your family the exclusive recipe just in time for the holidays. This makes 1 9-inch cheesecake.

 

Crust (cake, really)

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup sifted cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 3 extra-large eggs separated
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3 drops pure lemon extract
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

 

Directions: 

Preheat the oven to 350 F and generously butter a 9-inch springform pan. Sift the cake flour, baking powder, and salt together in a medium-sized bowl and set aside. Beat the egg yolks together in a large bowl with an electric mixer on high for 3 minutes. Then, with the mixer still running, gradually add the 1/3 cup of sugar and continue beating until thick light-yellow ribbons form in the bowl, about 5 minutes more. Beat in the vanilla and lemon extracts.

 

Sift the flour mixture over the batter and stir it in by hand until no more white flecks appear. Then blend in the butter.

In a clean bowl, using clean dry beaters, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar together on high until frothy. Gradually add the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar and continue beating until stiff peaks form (the whites should stand up in stiff peaks, but not be dry).

Stir about 1/3 cup of the whites into the batter, then gently fold in the remaining whites (don’t worry if a few white specks remain).

Gently spoon the batter into the pan. Bake the cake just until the center of the cake springs back when lightly touched, only about 10 minutes (watch carefully!). Let the cake cool in the pan on a wire rack while you continue making the cheesecake filling. Do not remove the cake from the pan.

Makes Enough for One Cheesecake

 

IMG_4160

Filling

Ingredients:

  • (4) 8 ounce packages cream cheese (the regular variety, not light Neufchatel cream cheese) at room temperature
  • 1 2/3 cups sugar (or 1 1/6 cups xylitol for a sugar-free version)
  • 1/4 cup corn starch
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 extra large eggs
  • 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream

 

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350degrees Fahrenheit and generously butter a 9-inch springfoam pan. Wrap the outside of the pan with foil, covering the bottom and extending up the sides. Make the batter for the sponge cake as the recipe directs. Evenly spread the batter on the bottom of the pan, and bake just until set and golden, about 10 minutes. Place the cake on a wire rack to cool (do not remove it from the pan). Leave the oven on.

While the cake cools, make the cream cheese filling: Place an 8 ounce package of the cream cheese, 1/3 cup of the sugar, and the cornstarch in a large bowl. Beat with an electric mixer on low until creamy, about 3 minutes, scraping the bowl occasionally. Beat in the remaining 3 packages of cream cheese.

Increase the mixer speed to high and beat in the remaining 1 1/3 cups of sugar, then beat in the vanilla. Blend in the eggs, one at a time, beating the batter well after adding each one. Blend in the heavy cream. At this point, mix the filling only until completely blended (just like they do at Junior’s). Be careful not to overmix the batter.

Gently spoon the cheese filling on top of the baked sponge cake layer. Place the springfoam pan in a large shallow pan containing hot water that comes about 1 inch up the sides of the pan. Bake the cheescake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit until the center barely jiggles when you shake the pan, about 1 hour and 10 minutes.

Cool the cake on a wire rack for 1 hour. Then cover the cake with plastic wrap and refrigerate until it’s completely cold, at least 4 hours or overnight. Remove the sides of the springfoam pan. Slide the cake off of the bottom of the pan onto a serving plate. Or if you wish, simply leave the cake on the removable bottom of the pan and place it on a serving plate. If any cake is left over, cover it with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator.

 

 

Ingredients for the Macaroon Crunch

  • 1/2 cup chopped mixed nuts (almonds, peacans, and/or walnuts)
  • 1/2 cup angel flake coconut

 

Ingredients for the Strawberry Topping

  • 1 quart large ripe strawberries
  • 1 cup strawberry jelly
  • 1/2 cup apricot preserves

 

Directions for the Fresh Strawberry Cheesecake

Preheat the oven to 350 F and butter a 9-inch springform pan. Make and bake the sponge cake layer. Make the cheesecake filling and bake the cake as for Junior’s Famous No. 1 Pure Cream Cheesecake. Transfer the baked cake to a wire rack to cool, about 1 hour.

While the cake is baking and cooling, make the macaroon crunch: Spread the nuts and coconut on a baking sheet and toast in a 350 F oven until golden and crunchy, about 10 to 15 minutes. Set the crunch aside to cool.

To prepare the strawberries: Wash, hull, and sort through the strawberries, then pat them dry with paper towels. Starting at the outside edge of the cheesecake, arrange the berries on their sides, in rows, with ends pointing toward the edge of the cake. Continue until the top of the cake is completely covered by strawberries.

Now make the strawberry topping: Melt the strawberry jelly and apricot preserves together in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Strain and drizzle the warm jelly over the berries. Sprinkle the macaroon crunch ina 1 1/2-inch border around the edge of the cheesecake, covering the berries around the outside edge. Loosely cover the entire cake with plastic wrap, being careful not to let the glaze stick to the wrap.

Refrigerate the cake until it’s completely cold, at least 4 hours or overnight. Remove the cake from the pan and serve it chilled. Wrap any leftover cake in plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator.

ENJOY!!

Honey Lavender Ice Cream

Honey Lavender Ice Cream

 

Kristin had this one time at the Walk For Aidan and went gaga over it so I had to try and make it for her. This is basically a slightly modified version of a Martha Stewart recipe that I found.

 

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons dried lavender
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup sugar (or Xylitol)
  • 1 cup heavy cream

 

Directions:

  1. In a medium saucepan, combine milk, lavender, and honey. Bring to a gentle boil, cover, and remove from heat. Let steep for 5 minutes. Strain mixture, reserving milk and discarding lavender.
  2. Combine egg yolks and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat on medium-high speed until very thick and pale yellow, 3 to 5 minutes. Meanwhile, return milk to a medium saucepan, and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat.
  3. Turn the mixer to low and slowly add half of the simmering milk to the eggs. Stir mixture into remaining milk, and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon.
  4. Remove from heat, and immediately stir in cream. Strain mixture into a medium mixing bowl set in an ice-water bath (or put it in the refrigerator overnight), and let stand until chilled, stirring from time to time. Freeze in an ice-cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions. Store in an airtight plastic container up to 2 weeks.

Crab Cakes with Spicy Shrimp Sauce

Curt and I usually make these over 4th of July after we load up on dungeness crab at Mom and Dad’s house. Everyone loves these things – what’s not to like, really?

Crab Cakes

Ingredients:

1# crab meat chopped
1/2 finely chopped green pepper
1/2 finely chopped red pepper
1 stalks celerey finely chopped
1/2 cup fresh basil finely chopped
1 yellow onion finely chopped
1 3.5 oz box panko breading
3 cloves garlic finely chopped
1 tsp cayenne pepper
2 eggs
coat in corn meal (optional)

 

Directions:

Sweat the onions until soft and clear.
Mix all other ingredients  in a large bowl.
Once the onions have cooled off, mix them in.
Form crab patties and pan fry them in about 1/2 in vegetable oil until golden brown on both sides

 

 

Shrimp Sauce

Ingredients:

2 cups whipping cream
3 Tbl. Chopped basil
1 tso cayenne
2 tsp lemon juice
3 cloves chopped garlic
2 Tbl. Butter
1 Tbl cornstarch dissolved in 1 Tbl water
1 # shrimp

 

Directions:

Saute butter, garlic & basil. Add shrimp & cook. Add rest of ingredients except for starch & simmer. Add starch to thicken..

Coconut Macaroons

Not even a question. THE best coconut macaroon recipe ever. Straight from “The Joy Of Cooking“.

Ingredients:

2/3 cup sweetened condensed milk
1 large egg white
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 1/2 cups flaked or shredded sweetened coconut

 

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325°F.

Grease or line 2 cookie sheets.
Stir together in a large bowl until combined all ingredients except for coconut. When well combined, stir in until blended the coconut.
Drop the dough by tablespoonfuls about 2 inches apart onto the cookie sheets. Bake, 1 sheet at a time, until golden brown, 20 to 24 minutes. Let stand briefly, then remove to a rack to cool.
Yield: About thirty-six 1 1/2 inch cookies.

 

Buttermilk Pie

I first saw this on the food network – it’s from a cafe in Texas called Royers Round Top Cafe. It’s super rich and unbelievably good. This is from the Royers website: “When we took over the Café in 1987, the late, dear Garda Siptak, a local lady, would make one or two buttermilk pies a week for us.  As time went by, we wanted to make our own buttermilk and so we had to find a buttermilk pie recipe.  We finally stumbled upon this recipe that has a bit more sugar than a regular buttermilk pie, but we think that makes it all the better.  We hope you agree.”

Buttermilk pie is like a chess pie or a dense custard pie and is best served chilled. Yields eight servings.

Ingredients

  • a stick of butter (1/4 lb)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • a cup buttermilk
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • Tblsp vanilla extract
  • 10-inch pie shell
  • For extra goodness add a cup of each: chocolate chips, shredded coconut, and crushed pecans.

 

Directions

  1. Cream butter and sugar together.
  2. Add the eggs and the flour to the sugar mixture.
  3. Then add and mix the buttermilk, vanilla, and nutmeg.
  4. If you’re going to add the chocolate chips, coconut and pecans, add them now and just mix enough to distribute throughout.
  5. Pour mixture into the unbaked pie shell.
  6. Bake at 300 degrees for an hour or until it is set.  Enjoy!

Pulled Pork

So far, this is the best pulled pork recipe I’ve found. Like a lot of my other favorite recipes, this one comes from Alton Brown

 

Brine:

  • 8 ounces or 3/4 cup molasses
  • 12 ounces pickling salt
  • 2 quarts bottled water
  • 6 to 8 pound Boston butt

Rub:

  • 1 teaspoon whole cumin seed
  • 1 teaspoon whole fennel seed
  • 1 teaspoon whole coriander
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon paprika

Directions

Combine molasses, pickling salt, and water in 6 quart Lexan. Add Boston butt making sure it is completely submerged in brine, cover, and let sit in refrigerator for a minimum of 8 hours. 12 hours is ideal.

Place cumin seed, fennel seed, and coriander in food grinder and grind fine. Transfer to a small mixing bowl and stir in chili powder, onion powder, and paprika.

Remove Boston butt from brine and pat dry. Sift the rub evenly over the shoulder and then pat onto the meat making sure as much of the rub as possible adheres. More rub will adhere to the meat if you are wearing latex gloves during the application.

Preheat smoker to 210 degrees F. Place butt in smoker and cook for 10 to12 hours, maintaining a temperature of 210 degrees F. Begin checking meat for doneness after 10 hours of cooking time. Use fork to check for doneness. Meat is done when it falls apart easily when pulling with a fork. Once done, remove from pot and set aside to rest for at least 1 hour. Pull meat apart with 2 forks and serve as sandwich with coleslaw and dressing as desired.

Oven Braised Asian Short Ribs

These things are so good – and cheap! I found this recipe here and pretty much didn’t change a thing except I’ve done this with the ginormous package of boneless country ribs from Costco and they come out great! Another note – you can make these in the pressure cooker in a fraction of the time. Set it on high and cook for 55 minutes.

Oven-braised Asian Short Ribs
Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 3-1/2 to 4 pounds bone-in short ribs (or boneless, whatever)
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons canola or olive oil
  • 6 scallions, cut into 2-inch sections [reserve the green tops of one]
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh minced ginger
  • 1/2 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1/4 cup reduced sodium soy sauce
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 1/4 cup hoisin sauce
  • 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 5 whole star anise

cooked white rice
zest of 1 orange
reserved green onion tops, sliced

Special equipment: Parchment paper, cut to fit just inside the pot

Procedure:

  1. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Trim any excess fat from short ribs, but don’t go crazy—fat equals flavor. Season generously with black pepper, but do not salt. Heat a heavy dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add oil and brown short ribs on all three meaty sides [but not on bone side] for about 8 minutes total. Work in batches if necessary, to avoid overcrowding the pot. Transfer ribs to plate with tongs.
  2. Reduce heat to medium and add scallions, carrots, garlic and ginger to pot. Cook, stirring frequently [you want to sweat the vegetables, not brown them], for about 5 minutes.
  3. Add orange juice, soy sauce, water, rice vinegar, hoisin sauce, brown sugar and crushed red pepper flakes to dutch oven, stirring to combine. Scrape up any browned bits. Return short ribs to dutch oven, arranging in a single layer—it’s okay to crowd them together now. The liquids won’t completely cover the ribs—that’s perfectly fine. Tuck star anise in among ribs, submerging them in the braising liquids.
  4. Place parchment paper over ribs and braising mixture. Cover pot with lid and place in oven on middle rack. Braise until ribs are tender, about 2-1/4 to 2-1/2 hours, turning ribs once about halfway through cooking.
  5. Remove from oven and transfer ribs to platter and tent with foil. [The slablike bones will likely have separated from the meat; you can discard them if you wish, but I prefer the look of the short ribs with the bone, so I reunited them when I plated the ribs.]
  6. Strain braising liquids, pressing with a spoon to get as much of the liquids as possible. Spoon off some of the fat or use a gravy strainer—again, don’t go crazy here. Return braising liquids to dutch oven and boil over medium-high heat to reduce a bit to create a sauce, 5 or so minutes. To serve, mound cooked rice on each plate and spoon sauce over it. Top with a short rib and garnish with orange zest and scallion tops. This last step is key—the zest and scallion tops add a fresh brightness that balances the richness of the meat.

Lightning McQueen Chocolate Mint Birthday Cake

So for Chase’s 5th birthday I decided to make him a cool cake. Last year I did the Lego cake and was marginally happy with it, so I wanted to top it this year. I decided to go for broke and do a Lightning cake. I did some research on the ‘net and tried to find something I could copy but while I found some really cool Lightning McQueen cakes, I really couldn’t find anything out there with instructions. So I decided to just go for it and resign myself to making another plain ol’ cake if I really screwed it up.

The Cake

I started out with the Hershy’s “Perfectly Chocolate” chocolate cake (same one I used last year). It’s really the best chocolate cake recipe I’ve found – really chocolatey and really moist. One thing to note with this batter is that it comes out REALLY thin – watery, in fact. Just be aware, that’s the way its’s supposed to be.

 

Ingredients

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup HERSHEY’S Cocoa
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup boiling water

 

Directions

  • Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round baking pans.
  • Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed of mixer 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin).
  • Grease and flour 13x9x2-inch baking pan. Heat oven to 350° F. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 35 to 40 minutes. Cool completely.
So, I made two of these 13×9 inch cakes. Next, I made a buttercream frosting. Except since Chocolate Chip Mint is Chase’s favorite flavor anything, I substituted mint extract for the vanilla.

The Frosting

Ingredients

  • 3 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons whipping cream

 

Directions

In a standing mixer fitted with a whisk, mix together sugar and butter. Mix on low speed until well blended and then increase speed to medium and beat for another 3 minutes.

Add vanilla and cream and continue to beat on medium speed for 1 minute more, adding more cream if needed for spreading consistency.