Sunday, December 18, 2011

Friday, December 16, 2011

Cake #42: Eggnog Cake Donuts and a Mug Rug

When I was a kid in British Columbia my favorite treat was a drink called PDQ which was powdered eggnog crystals. You stirred it into a glass of milk, like you would Nesquick chocolate milk, and you were good to go. It was from the makers of Ovaltine and like so many of their more interesting flavors, it has been discontinued... for a decade or two... but every Christmas I look for it in hope of a renaissance. That stuff rocked!

I love eggnog. Well, I love 3/4 cup of skim milk with 1/4 of eggnog - otherwise it's WAY too rich. But the flavor makes me swoon. Where oh where is my PDQ?

Anyhow... when I saw Eggnog Cake Donuts on Shugary Sweets (great blog, Aimee does an amazing job at everything she sets her hands to) I had to try them. I know the perfect eggnog flavored foods are out there, somewhere, but so many are nothing more then vanilla with a pinch of nutmeg. Which is *NOT* eggnog.


But these my dear blog friends are EGGNOGTASTIC!!! 
Now I feel like Veronica in Better Off Ted and her, "Wonderflous" compliments :-)

Yes, I'm making up words. But WOW.

I added a bit more applesauce (we're high altitude) and adjusted the glaze to be thicker but otherwise I kept to her recipe exactly and the results were incredible.


Eggnog Donut Recipe:



Doughnuts:

2 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 egg
3/4 cup eggnog
1/2 cup applesauce (this is one single serving cup, I keep them on hand for baking)

Glaze:

1 1/2 cup powdered sugar (I used closer to 2 1/2 cups)
3 Tbsp eggnog
1 tsp rum flavoring (mine was ultra-concentrated so I used 2 drops)
pinch of nutmeg (we stirred ours in instead of sprinkling it on, so I used about 1/2 tsp)

In large mixing bowl, blend flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt and nutmeg. Beat in egg, applesauce and eggnog.

Grease and flour donut pan. Pour batter in large ziploc. Snip the corner (big snip) and squeeze batter into the donut pan evenly. Bake in a 325 degree oven for 10-12 minutes ( for us it was 17 minutes, but again, we're high altitude) until donut springs back when lightly pressed.

Remove from pan immediately and allow to cool.

To make glaze, stir glaze ingredients together until smooth. Adjust sugar  and eggnog to desired thickness. I like it thick. Dip tops of each donut into glaze. Immediately sprinkle with a TINY pinch of nutmeg.

I also made a new mug rug that I'm extremely happy with. You can see it doing back up for the donut throughout this post.

Writing a tutorial for how I make mug rugs is darn near impossible because my method, and I use the term extremely loosely, is that when I get to the dregs of a charm pack I gather up all the little bits and pieces and sew them together until I have a nice 5x7(ish) rectangle. Then I make a top-batting-back sandwich, sew all over the place to hold it together and zig zag the edges.

Snip snip around the border with my pinking sheers and into the wash it goes to get all frayed and lovely. That's it. If a scrap is too small to attach, I appliqué it on top as a decoration. When I run out of coordinating scraps, I quit.


See... not exactly a tutorial. But it works great for me.

Linked Up With:

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Cake 41: Fruitcake, not what you think.


 At the  start of this project I made a pact with myself that come December (or earlier if I was really on the ball) I'd bake fruit cake. Canadian "white" fruitcake, also known as "Wedding Cake" where I'm from and "Groom's Cake" in other circles. William and Kate had at their wedding. Good enough for the future queen of England, good enough for me.


What's nice about this cake is that it's not gross... like most fruitcake. American fruitcake in particular is wretched. This is a neat blend of sweet, rich flavors and crunchy texture with a nice contrasting kick from the liquors.

When researching fruitcake I found out a lot of interesting things. For example, some folks butter each side of a slice and pop it in a pan or on the griddle and serve it warm at Christmas breakfast. Another popular modern application for fruitcake is making it into cake balls. I bet they would be AWESOME if you used the hard sauce to glue the crumbs together. And more classically, you can send home your holiday gifts with a nicely wrapped slice of fruitcake - keeping tradition alive.

I got this recipe from CHOW and I have to say, it's the most ingredient intense, expensive recipe ever. But is is dead-easy to throw together. It's certainly a special occasion cake, for the cost alone, but it's perfect for christmas and weddings.

White Groom's Fruit Cake


INGREDIENTS

For the fruit:
3 cups raw pecans, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 cups dried cherries, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 cups currants I used Dates
1 1/2 cups dried pineapple, finely chopped
3/4 cup bourbon I had to look up what this was and ended up mixing Southern Comfort and Jack Daniels
1/4 cup Cointreau or other high-quality orange-flavored liqueur I used Grand Mariner, it's what we had
For the cake:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking soda
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
4 sticks (1 pound) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
6 large eggs, at room temperature
Bourbon, for aging (optional)


INSTRUCTIONS

For the fruit:

Combine all ingredients in a large container and stir to mix. Cover tightly and let macerate at room temperature for 24 hours.

The fruit and nuts don't chop themselves, I used a food processor. 
If you now a trick for pulsing dried fruit and having it not become mush, please let me know.



I wish you could smell this - it's CRAZY intense in a you-know-this-is-going-to-be-good way.

For the cake:

Heat the oven to 300°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Coat two 9-by-5-inch loaf pans with butter; set aside.
Combine flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and ginger in a large bowl and whisk to aerate and break up any lumps; set aside.
pictures taken during snowstorm, sorry

Place butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix at medium-high speed until pale yellow, about 3 minutes. Add sugar and continue mixing until fluffy, about another 3 minutes.
Add eggs one at a time, letting each mix in fully before adding the next. Stop the mixer a few times to scrape down the sides of the bowl.
Remove the bowl from the mixer and transfer the batter to a large mixing bowl. 


Stir in the flour mixture until just incorporated. 


Fold in the macerated fruit until just incorporated. 


Divide the batter between the prepared pans.



Bake until the cakes are golden, set throughout, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 1 1/2 hours.

Let cool 30 minutes in the pans on a wire rack. Run a knife around the outside of each cake, turn them onto the rack, and let cool completely before slicing and eating, or aging.

To age the fruitcakes, store each at room temperature in an 11-by-7-by-3-inch plastic container with a tightfitting lid and brush with 1/4 cup bourbon every 10 days for up to 3 1/2 months. I brushed one with bourbon and wrapped it in plastic wrap. The other we're eating fresh with hard sauce.



Hard Sauce

You know, I always thought hard sauce was called that because it was 'hard' as in solid, not liquid. But I'm pretty sure it's hard due to all the liquor - like hard cider. 

 Ingredients
1 stick (1/2 cup) softened butter
1-1/2 cup icing sugar
2 TBL whiskey,  or to taste


Beat butter  powdered sugar until fluffy. Add whiskey and beat again, scrape the bowl to make sure everything gets mixed together. You can do this in a mixer but I'm a spoon and bowl kind of girl.

Spoon into a bowl and serve, or keep in the fridge (it will last for days covered in plastic wrap) until you need it. NOTE: The hard sauce will harden in the fridge, so be sure to remove it at least a couple of hours before you want to serve. Hard sauce should be smooth and easily spooned onto desserts.

I will report back on the fruitcake we are aging until Christmas. So far, it smells boozy and delicious.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Cardamon Cocoa with Orange Whipped Cream


What kind of girl promises you a cocoa recipe and then doesn't come through. 
Sorry! Life really got in the way. 


Orange Spice Cocoa

Sift 1 cup of confectioners sugar, 1/4 tsp of cardamon and 1/2 cup of cocoa powder together into a bowl.
Bring six cups of milk to a simmer over medium heat.
Whisk in cocoa mixture.

Fold 1/2 tsp of orange zest into 1 cup of whipped cream.

Divide hot cocoa into six mugs. Tp with generous dollops of whipped cream.

Note: I make my whipped cream in a blender. It's super fast and comes out perfect every time. All you need is heavy whipping cream, a small spoon full of confectioners sugar and flavoring - I prefer 1 tsp of vanilla. Mix on high speed until it stops moving. My blender usually makes a "clunk" sound. Don't mix anymore or you'll get butter.


It's especially yummy with these:


Brayden and I tried the whole 'flooding' royal icing thing. I think people fuss a little too easily - it's not near as scary as I've heard. This one is mine, minus the cinnamon nose that Brayden added



It was fun showing him the snowman cookie is a reindeer if you flip it upside down trick - blew his mind. I guess he thought I've baked "both" all these years. LOL.





Thursday, December 8, 2011

Things to Make with Cream: Panna Cotta


There's a marvelous cocoa recipe we've been indulging in way too often lately (I'll post about it tomorrow) and so when I saw little boxes of heavy cream on sale for five for a dollar - that's TWENTY CENTS EACH, people!!! I overbought. Because, you  know, you can never have too much heavy cream... (I think that's the slogan of cardiologists the world over)

It was on sale because the best before date was fast approaching and while I hear you can freeze heavy cream, cooking with it is so much better. But I needed to make something easy as the meds-pain-health woes are at an all time high and babying pots of cream in their water bath is WAY beyond my skill set right now.

Last time we were at a favorite tapas restaurant of ours we had Five Spice Panna Cotta and I thought it would be fun to recreate the dish at home. What was nice about the dessert we enjoyed was that it was subtly flavored and silky smooth. So many flavored panna cottas are over-flavored. They don't let the rich ingredients shine. When eating panna cotta the last thing I want is a mouth full of cinnamon. Ew.

So I borrowed a little from this recipe, a little from that, consulted my cookbooks, made educated guesses and worried myself sick that I'd end up with a rubbery horror. I mean let's face it, we're making cream jello. That isn't a pretty thought.

But nope, it was positively perfect. Most recipes serve this with a coulis, puree or sauce of some sort but we just ate them straight up and I think they were the better for it.

Panna cotta is a simple, fast to make, crowd pleasure. I'll be adding it to the rotation for entertaining or special celebrations.


Spice Panna cotta

4 cups heavy cream or half-and-half. I used 3 (shy) cups of heavy cream, 1/2 cup of fat free half and half and about a 1/2 cup non-fat milk to equal 4 cups - it was what we had on hand
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract, or 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise mine are so dried out and old I used 3 beans
1/4 tsp of Five Spice Powder - more to taste.  I use 1/4 tsp, most recipes I saw called for 1 1/2 tsps - which I think is an insanely large amount. And I like five spice powder. So taste it and see if you have enough, if not, add more. 
You could also replace the five spice powder with nutmeg or cardamon. Yum!
2 packets powdered gelatin (about 4 1/2 teaspoons)
6 tablespoons cold water

1. Heat the heavy cream and sugar in a saucepan or microwave. Once the sugar is dissolved, remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract.

(If using a vanilla bean, scrape the seeds from the bean into the cream and add the bean pod. Cover, and let infuse for 30 minutes. Remove the bean then rewarm the mixture before continuing.)

If you are adding spices, add them here. 

2. Sprinkle the gelatin over the cold water in a medium-sized bowl and let stand 5 to 10 minutes.

3. Lightly oil eight custard cups with a neutral-tasting oil. *


4. Pour the very warm Panna Cotta mixture over the gelatin and stir until the gelatin is completely dissolved. How does a person know if the gelatin is completely dissolved? Please leave me a comment as I have no idea. I just stirred, a lot.

5. Divide the Panna Cotta mixture into the prepared cups, chill until firm. At least 2 hours, 4 is better. Overnight is great too.

* Orif you want to serve your panna cotta without inverting them (and subsequently avoiding unfolding disasters) skip this step and pour the cream mixture directly into custard cups, dessert dishes, shot glasses or wine goblets.

6. Run a sharp knife around the edge of each Panna Cotta and unmold each onto a serving plate, and garnish as desired.

We didn't do advent last night *gasp* we're normal people, with busy schedules and every single one of us wanted to watch Work of Art more then we wanted to play a game. So we did. Slavish adherence to things make them not fun.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Christmas Card Set & Advent

This is another card set I made using my CupCards {to go) Holiday Kit. When you know you'll be hand delivering a christmas card it's fun  to make the envelope extra-special too.




And for advent last night we unwrapped our well-loved Yahtzee game and played a few rounds. I always feel like opening up our Yahtzee case is a lot like an archaeological dig. We never throw out the papers if there are unfilled columns left so you'll see notations like, 'Nana, Christmas '05' and such wonderful little reminders of people we love. It's neat to sift through them and find one of your own that has been used on and off for years. Brayden and I always decorate the borders or write notes on the backs. 

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Cake #40: Gingerbread Cake and St.Nicholas Day

Can you believe I've been too banged up to bake a cake since Halloween - shameful! It also means that 52 Cakes is going to likely extend into the new year a bit. I'm fine with that.

This cake was made entirely by my youngest son, Brayden. He knows this project is important to me and didn't want me to get behind. What a sweetheart.

He also knows I LOVE gingerbread. It's awesome in it's harsh, dominant, unapologetic flavor. All that molasses and spice just thrills me! I remember a lot of kids would pick the candy and frosting off their gingerbread cookies and toss the cookie - not me. I adore gingerbread and think it should be a year round flavor. Sadly, most of the year I have to make do with it's milder, more accommodating cousin, spice cake.

But today we bake good old fashioned gingerbread in all it's glory!



Gingerbread Cake

Ingredients:

2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup shortening
1/3 cup sugar
1 cup molasses
3/4 cup hot water
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg

Butterscotch Sauce, if desired

Directions:

Heat oven to 325ºF. Grease and flour bottom and sides of square pan, 9x9x2 inches.

Beat all ingredients with electric mixer on low speed 30 seconds, scraping bowl constantly. Beat on medium speed 3 minutes, scraping bowl occasionally. Pour into pan.

Bake 50 to 55 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Serve warm or cool.

Butterscotch Sauce (found at Kitchen Confidante, thank you!)

Makes about 3/4 cup.

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup packed dark or light brown sugar
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract, plus more to taste

Melt the butter in a heavy gauge small saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the brown sugar, evaporated milk and salt, whisking well. Bring the sauce to a boil, and let it bubble for about 5 minutes whisking periodically. Remove from heat and whisk in the vanilla extract. Taking care not to burn yourself, taste and adjust seasoning with salt and vanilla to your preference. This sauce thickens as it cools and can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. I like to reheat it in the microwave before use.

FWIW: We could have used twice as much sauce... but we like our sauces.


Sorry I don't have a pic of the kid with the cake but as I said, I've been feeling rather unwell and he took this on himself. He's such a good boy.
~~~

Did you know it's St. Nicholas Day today? We've always celebrated by the boys putting their shoes by the fire on the night of the 5th and they wake up to a shoe full of treasures (usually lego back in the day). I used to put out carrots and then scatter oatmeal mixed with glitter as St. Nicholas's horse, "made a terrible mess" but last night was a very rough night for me so we just filled their shoes with treats and coupons. The kids loved it. I'm posting my printable in case you can use it next year.

Here's the boys with their shoes... I took this at close to 11:00 PM trying out the whole shutter speed thing for the first time. Turns out you can actually see them and if I had a tripod it would have been a decent pic. This is exciting as I feel like my camera just got a lot more useful.


But if you're not steady you get this:

(which is pretty neat too)

And here's what they woke up to:


Yesterday's ADVENT GAME, Blokus,  is an absolute favorite of ours. We were all relieved to have it unwrapped so we can play as often as we like again. 


Trenton gleefully won all four games.


Monday, December 5, 2011

Mixed Media Christmas and Picture Post


This is a simple mixed-media piece I made a few weeks back and hadn't shared yet. 

And for advent we played Triversity on Saturday - it's no one's favorite game, but with some family modifications we really enjoy it.



And Boggle on Sunday. I love Boggle and play the computer version frequently so we played to 20 points and I was given a 20 point handicap... I still won :-)


I don't think I've posted many picks of our dog lately. If you're new here, this is Chocolate and he answers to his nickname 'Bubby'. 


He's my very best friend.


And he looks pretty fierce when need be. Which is nice too.



Have you seen a cuter face? I don't think so.

Well, maybe this one. Brayden was an adorable youngster. Hard to believe my giant boys were that little just a few years ago. 


And not to be one of those people, but when you are thinking about presents this year, consider this:


Hope you don't mind this potpourri post, I just had a little bit of a lot of things to share this morning.