Sunday, June 19, 2011

Cranberry Orange Oatmeal Cookies

I just wanted to bake.  I needed to bake.  It has been one of those weeks where I wanted to think about nothing for an hour.  I just wanted to take some time, whisk together ingredients, take my mind off of life and bake up something delicious.  Cookies are easy and they make me smile.  When they are freshly baked, they are warm, chewy and remind me of home.  These cookies have twist, they are sugar and dairy free, and I hope you enjoy!

Cranberry Orange Oatmeal Cookies: (makes a small batch, 12-15 cookies)
1/2 cup vegan butter, softened, such as Earth Balance
1/2 agave nectar (for sweetening)
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
The zest from one orange
1 1/2 cups old fashioned oats
3/4 cup orange flavored dried cranberries or regular dried cranberries (Trader Joe's sells orange flavored cranberries)

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

2.  In a large mixing bowl, cream together vegan butter and agave nectar.  Whisk in the egg and vanilla extract until well combined.

3.  In another mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt.

4.  Combine flour mixture into the butter-sugar mixture.  Whisk the zest of one orange into the dough.

5.  Using a spatula, fold in the oats and dried cranberries.  If the dough is runny, refrigerate for 30 minutes.

6.  Scoop dough onto lined cookie using a cookie scoop or a tablespoon and bake for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown.  Remove from oven and let cool on a cooling rack.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Cuatro Leches Cake

I like throwing parties, its as simple as that.  I like the planning: the small details,  timing everything out, deciding on the food and drinks, picking out and setting up any decorations, even the stress of getting everything done before the first guest arrives.  Parties, gatherings, celebrations, etcs. are my thing!  So, since I missed one of my BFF's actual birthday I wanted to throw her party. (Again, Happy Birthday Meghan!  Two birthday cakes in one year.) 

I just happen to have this huge mint plant randomly growing in my backyard, so that helped me decide the drink for the night...Mojitos.  This got me to thinking, what goes well with mojitos, what do I want to be indulging in while I am drinking my ice cold delicious cocktail?  Empanadas! And Cuban chicken, chips, salsa and guacamole, lets have a salad for some green and last but not least a birthday cake for the occasion, tres leches cake with fruit.  (Which became cuatro leches cake while I was making it.)

*Warning this cake is rich, creamy and pretty darn delicious.  You will only really need a small piece.  So, make the cake, invite some friends over to share it with, and maybe if you feel like it make a pitcher of mojitos.

Cuatro Leches Cake:

Batter in the pan waiting for the oven.

Cake cooling, waiting to be covered with the delicious creamy, milky glaze.

So, we dove in and I didn't get a picture of the cake before half of it was gone. 

The Cake Batter: (adapted from Alton Brown's tres leche cake)
1/4 cup or 1/2 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
3 large eggs, room temperature
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 1/3 cups all purpose flour, plus extra for pan
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup skim milk, room temperature

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Spray with nonstick cooking spray and flour a 8 x 8 inch nonstick pan.

2.  In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar.  Add in the eggs, one at a time until well incorporated.  Whisk in vanilla extract and set aside.

3.  In another mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt.

4.  Add the flour mixture and milk to the sugar-butter mixture, alternating between flour and milk, mixing between the addition of each.  Begin and end with flour.  Batter will seem thick.

5.  Pour batter into an 8 x 8" pan and smooth out to make even.  Bake for 40 - 45 minutes or until tester comes out clean, checking after 30 minutes.  The middle of the cake should be somewhat firm. 

6.  Remove from oven and let cool on a baking rack.  After 30 minutes, using a fork or skewer poke holes all over top of cake.  Prepare the glaze.

For the glaze:
1/2 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk
1/2 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup half-and-half

1.  Mix all three ingredients together in a large measuring cup, or any bowl with a spout.

2.  Once cake has completely cooled, pour glaze over the top of the cake.

3.  Let cake refrigerate for 8 hours or over night.

For the topping:
1 cup heavy cream, cold
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1.  In a large mixing bowl, using a hand mixer, mix together all three ingredients.  Start the mixer on a lower speed and gradually bring up to a high speed.  Mix until soft peaks form. 

2.  Right before serving, spread the whipped cream over the top of the cake.

3.  Serve with an assortment of mixed fruit on the side.  I used diced peaches, strawberries and blueberries.  Enjoy!

Friday, June 3, 2011

This is Cake, no wait its actually a Pie Cake, well to be exact it is a Key Lime Pie Cake

This was a challenge, no questions asked, by a birthday girl that I met in 7th grade and now work with, and beside, party with, gossip, etc.  She started by saying she would like a key lime cake, and then it some how morphed, grew legs and arms and became a cake with an entire key lime pie in the middle.

I might have even said at one point if I can pull this off I should just quit, give my two weeks notice and become a real time baker.  A friend said if I can pull this off, I should take the cake and other treats directly to the bank, let them try them and ask for a loan. 

Well the cake turned didn't fall apart.  It is two moist layers of rich graham cracker cake with an entire key lime pie with its own graham cracker crust in the middle topped with Cool Whip, because everything is better with Cool Whip and really what kind of icing goes on a key lime pie cake?

Happy 25th Birthday Meghan!  I hope you liked the pie-cake, cake-pie?

Key Lime Pie Cake:

 The bottom layer of graham cracker cake, awaiting its friend, the key lime pie.

Hello friend.

To prep for this graham crackery goodness, using a food processor, I took 4 packages of graham crackers, one package at a time, and pulsed them all until completely broken down.

Key Lime Pie: (recipe by Emeril Lagasse)
Graham Cracker Crust
1 1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup sugar
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick butter), melted

Pie Filling
2 cans (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk
1 cup lime juice
2 large eggs

1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

2.  First prepare a 9 inch cheese cake pan.  Measure out parchment so there is excess hanging out side of pan.  Then fold the paper in half and cut a circle in the middle of the paper so that when placed on top of the bottom of the cheesecake pan there is still an inch of paper left around the outside of the pan.  It will look like the parchment paper is framing the bottom of the pan.  Then close up the cheesecake pan with parchment paper in place.  Spray with non-stick cooking spray.

3.  In a mixing bowl, using your hands, combine butter, sugar and graham cracker crumbs.  Press into the bottom of the cheesecake pan, on top of the parchment paper, in an even layer.  Bake for 18 minutes.  Then remove from oven and allow to come to room temperature.

4.  Reduce oven temperature to 325 degree F.

5.  Prep key lime pie.  In another mixing bowl, combine sweetened condensed milk, lime juice and eggs.  Pour into cooled pie crust.  Bake for 15 minutes.

6.  Allow pie to come to room temperature.  Then allow it to chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or over night.

*I made the key lime pie the night before, so as to not have to make pie and cakes all at the same time.

Graham Cracker Cake: (adapted from Better Homes and Gardens
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 large eggs, at room temperature
3 1/3 cup graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup all purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1 tub Cool Whip
1 lime

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degree F.  Spray and flour two 9 inch cake pans.

2.  In a large mixing bowl, using a whisk, cream softened butter with sugar.

2. Whisk in the eggs, one at a time with the vanilla extract.

3.  In a seperate mixing bowl, whisk together the graham cracker crumbs, flour, baking powder and salt.

4.  Add the flour and milk to the sugar-butter mixture, alternating between flour and milk, mixing between the addition of each.  Begin and end with the flour mixture.

5.  Divide the batter between two 9 inch cake pans and bake for 22-25 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

6.  Remove cakes from the oven and let cool on a cooling rack for 30 minutes, then remove from pans and let them finishing cooling.

To Assemble:
1.  Place one layer of graham cracker cake on cake stand or carrier. 

2.  Then carefully remove the key lime pie from pan.  To pick the pie up, I slid two chef's knives, flat side down, under the pie and parchment paper, and carefully picked up and placed the pie on top of the bottom layer of cake.  You will be able to adjust the pie slightly if not directly in the center.  Tear the parchment paper on one side and remove from between layer.

3.  Next carefully place top layer of cake on top of the pie.  Warning, once it ha been placed you will not be able to re-adjust this cake layer.  Refrigerate cake until just before serving.  If you are transporting the cake, I recommend placing the ring of the cheesecake pan back around the layered cake and locking in place.

4.  Top pie with Cool Whip and lime zest just before serving.  Enjoy!