Sunday, May 22, 2011

Happy me.

Yesterday was my birthday and I figured I should bake what my mother always baked me....the worst cake ever.  During my tween/teen years my Ma would make me an angel food cake with whipped cream and strawberries. I know, it doesn't sound so awful, but when you're a kid you just want that frosting. I always wanted a big chocolate cake with thick, creamy frosting. Nope. That was the joy of having a May birthday I guess. I realize I sound like a giant, spoiled baby, but I remember clearly telling her MANY times that I hated this cake. "Oh, you like it. You never told me that you didn't", she'd say. Yes, Ma. I did tell you, more times than I can remember. The funny thing about it was that my sister LOVED this cake, but on her birthday she would get the yummy chocolate frosting one. My sister hated the yummy chocolate frosting one. I finally just came to the conclusion that my mother's cakes depended on the season, too bad I wasn't born in January. That chocolate cake would have been mine! All mine!!

So, since I had decided that I hated this cake at an early age, I've never actually tried it. I feel pretty foolish now because it is one delicious cake.  It's so light and airy and mixed with strawberries it makes you feel like summer is finally here. It pains me to say this, but my mom was right. She actually had made me several delicious cakes that I was much too stubborn to even try,  what an idiot I was.  Frosting isn't everything, homemade whipped cream is seriously amazing and it's incredibly easy to make. It's completely worth the extra effort. It's fluffy and sweet and I can't get enough of it!

A lot of people I know make this cake from the boxed cake mix. I'm not sure what the difference is in taste, but the homemade one is pretty simple to make.  You just to be patient, I found it to be a lot like making meringue. I had never sifted flour before either, so that was pretty neat. I have one tip though, make sure you fold the flour into the egg whites, don't stir!!! If you do, the cake will fall.  Here is the recipe and I hope you get a chance to try it out!

Angel Food Cake

3/4 cup cake flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
12 large egg whites, at room temperature
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

1. Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and hear the oven to 325 degrees.  Line the bottom of the 16-cup tube pan with parchment paper but do not grease.  Whisk the flour and 3/4 cup of the sugar together in a medium bowl and set aside.
2. Whip the egg whites in a large bowl with an electric mixer on low speed until foamy.  Whip in the cream of tartar and salt until the whites form very soft, billowy mounds.  Increase the speed to medium and beat in the remaining 3/4 cup sugar, one tablespoon at a time, until the whites are shiny and form soft peaks.  Beat in the lemon juice and extracts.  Transfer to a large bowl.
3. Sift 1/4 cup of the flour mixture over the egg whites, then gently fold in using a large rubber spatula.  Repeat with the remaining flour mixture, 1/4 cup at a time.
4. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smooth the top, then rap the pan on the counter several times to settle the batter.  Wipe any drops of batter of the sides of the pan.  Bake until the cake is golden brown and the top springs back when pressed firmly, 50-60 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking.
5.  Invert the tube pan over a standard kitchen funnel or the neck of a sturdy bottle.  Let the cake cool completely, upside down, 2 to 3 hours.
6. Run a serrated knife around the sides and center of the cake to loosen.  Gently tap the pan upside down on the counter to release the cake.  Peel off the parchment paper, then flip upright onto the serving platter.  Cup into slices, using serrated knife.

Whipped Cream

1 cup heavy cream, chilled
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Whip the cream, sugar, and vanilla in a chilled bowl with an electric mixer on low speed until frothy and the sugar has dissolved, about 1 minute.  Increase the speed to high and continue to whip until doubled in volume and soft peaks form, 1 to 3 minutes.

I've officially decided that my mind has been changed, this cake is damn good. Sorry I was so unappreciative, Ma. I had so much to learn. Better late than never! I hope you get a chance to enjoy this cake!! I surely did. Happy Baking...

Monday, May 16, 2011


This past week as been unusually cold and rainy in Minnesota.  It felt like November for a few days there. I decided, at the very least, to bring summer into my house.  For me, blueberries are towards the top of the list for summer fruits and I decided to use them in a sour cream tart this weekend. I've actually never made a tart before, so I even got to invest in a brand new tart pan.  I've been eye-balling it for weeks at Williams-Sanoma. I'm an odd 25 year-old, I sit and drool over baking pans and kitchen gadgets. I don't usually buy pans that only have one use for them, but I NEEDED this tart! See, I didn't necessarily want it, but needed it. This is how I justify things. 

I have this cookbook called, 'Chicken and Egg', which I've previously mentioned, and it's fantastic.  This cookbook is where I found the recipe for a Blueberry Sour Cream Tart. This tart looked so amazing in the photos and then I read the ingredients and I had to make it. The crust is buttery and tastes somewhat like a sugar cookie and the custard is slightly tangy and resembles a cheesecake. You just scatter fresh blueberries on top with some delicious warm jelly and you have an amazing dessert.

Since I had never made a tart before, there was one thing I was particularly worried about. I even texted a friend to obsess about it for a moment and ask her opinion. To grease or not to grease the pan, that is the question.  It doesn't say to do anything with the pan in this recipe, and I even checked with other recipes online. Nothing.  Normally that would mean to leave it alone, but at the store they sold a non-stick pan next to the regular one that I bought. Why would one need to spend $15 more on a non-stick pan if the crust doesn't stick to it in the first place. Yup, these are the things I worry about, welcome to my brain, it's insane. I took a risk and DID NOT grease the pan. I'm so dangerous! It came out perfect! No sticking! When I took the tart out of the pan a friend of mine was standing there and said it looked beautiful. When a man calls a baked item beautiful, you know you did something right.

I hope you get to bring some summer into your house too, or at least get to buy a new baking pan. Here is the recipe I've been drooling over!

Blueberry Sour Cream Tart

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg, seperated

6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon all-purpose flour
2 eggs
3/4 cup sour cream
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon grated orange zest

2 cups fresh blueberries
1/4 cup red currant jelly, warmed

To make the crust: Whisk together the flour, nutmeg, and salt in a small bowl.  Beat the butter and sugar in a large bowl and with an electric mixer at medium speed for 1 minute or until smooth.  Add the egg yolk and beat until blended.  Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture, beating just until a dough forms.  On a lightly floured work surface, press the dough into a flat disk.  Press into the bottom and up the sides of a 14-by-4 1/2 inch rectangular or 9-inch round tart pan with a removable bottom.

Refrigerate for 30 minutes, or freeze for 15 minutes or until firm.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Whisk the egg white until frothy.  Lightly brush the inside of the crust with the egg white.  Bake for 15 minutes or until pale brown and set.  Cool for 10 minutes on a wire rack.

To make the filling:  Beat the butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed for 2 minutes or until light and fluffy.  Beat in the flour. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each one.  Beat in the sour cream, vanilla, and orange zest.  Pour into the baked crust.

Bake the tart for 20 minutes or until slightly puffed around the edge.  Cool completely on a wire rack.

Pile the blueberries on top of the tart.  Brush the red currant jelly over the blueberries.  Serve immediately or store in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.

 This recipe calls for red currant jam, but I couldn't seem to find any. I used black currant jam and it was still delicious.  I'm assuming that there may not be much of a difference between them, but who knows. If you have a tart pan you need to make this! It will help with our slow start to summer. Happy Baking!


Monday, May 9, 2011


In honor of Mother's Day I made a Rhubarb Cream Pie with Meringue Topping.  I chose to make this pie  on Mother's Day because it was the most delicious pie my grandmother has ever made, and if it wasn't for grandmothers, we wouldn't be here.  It also makes me think of my mother at the same time because she can eat an entire pie herself, and I'm not joking. She may not be able to finish it in one sitting, but she can put quite the dent in that pie, or any pie for that matter, in just one day.  This is a great example of where I get my eating habits, except my mother doesn't gain weight. I do.

I honestly think that this pie is by far the best thing my grandma makes. Others may disagree with me, but I've always loved it and I would chose even the tiniest piece of this over any dessert offered to me.  It's not everyday I get to have a well made meringue, so it's a real treat when it's served to me.  It amazes me how 4 egg whites and some sugar can turn into a big, white mountain of fluffy deliciousness.  One of the reasons I think I'm so obsessed with this pie is because I've never recreated it for myself before. I don't just make it whenever I feel a craving for it. I have always been afraid of the meringue. Honestly, it's my most feared baking project. MERINGUE (enter dramatic music of your liking here). According to my grandma, who I had to call twice yesterday about this process, it takes time and practice to get the perfect meringue. She said I probably wouldn't get it right away, but if I keep practicing I'll get it just right. Easy for her to say! She's almost 92 and has every baking technique down but she apparently thinks I'm doing great, so I guess I better trust her.

Grandma says to never make meringue in humid weather or it will drop. ummm, ok? Drop?? What does that even mean?! Also, what do 'soft peaks' and 'hard peaks' look like?  When directions say to add a pinch of something or a dash of that, it makes me one irritated girl.  What if I had giant troll fingers and my pinch of something was a tablespoons worth?? I bet that wouldn't work out very well. I'll get over using exact measurements one day, but while I'm still learning it's easiest to be precise, in my case at least.

For this pie I finally found the most beautiful stalks of fresh rhubarb!! It's all thanks to a reader who commented on my last blog, I was able to easily find them at the Seward Co-op. Thanks for the tip!  When I told my grandmother how much a pound of rhubarb cost me, I bet she almost fell off her chair. However, she did hysterically laugh at me and was probably thinking I was the biggest sucker alive. Completely worth it. 

Rhubarb Cream Pie

Pie Crust:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling
1 cup (2 sticks or 8 ounces) unsalted butter, very-cold, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
6 to 8 Tbsp ice water

1. Combine flour, salt, and sugar in a food processor; pulse to mix. Add butter and pulse 6 to 8 times, until mixture resembles coarse meal, with pea size pieces of butter. Add ice water 1 Tbsp at a time, pulsing until mixture just begins to clump together. If you pinch some of the crumbly dough and it holds together, it's ready. If the dough doesn't hold together, add a little more water and pulse again.

2. Remove dough from machine and place in a mound on a clean surface. Gently shape into 2 discs. Knead the dough just enough to form the discs, do not over-knead. You should be able to see little bits of butter in the dough. These small chunks of butter are what will allow the resulting crust to be flaky. Sprinkle a little flour around the discs. Wrap each disc in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour, and up to 2 days.

3. Remove one crust disk from the refrigerator. Let sit at room temperature for 5-10 minutes in order to soften just enough to make rolling out a bit easier. Roll out with a rolling pin on a lightly floured surface to a 12-inch circle; about 1/8 of an inch thick. As you roll out the dough, check if the dough is sticking to the surface below. If necessary, add a few sprinkles of flour under the dough to keep the dough from sticking. Carefully place onto a 9-inch pie plate. Gently press the pie dough down so that it lines the bottom and sides of the pie plate. Use a pair of kitchen scissors to trim the dough to within 1/2 inch of the edge of the pie dish.

*This recipe makes two 9-inch crusts. With the Rhubarb Cream Pie you only need one of them so you can save the other crust for a different pie!!

Rhubarb Cream:
2 cups diced rhubarb
3 egg yolks
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbs flour
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup sweet cream or ice cream (yes, vanilla ice cream)

Beat egg yolks. Add cream. Mix salt, sugar and flour together.  Add to egg mixture and pour over rhubarb.  Pour into unbaked pie crust and bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes; 350 degrees for 40 minutes.  Top with meringue and bake for 30 minutes more at 300 degrees.

Beat: 4 egg whites
1/4 tsp salt
pinch of cream of tartar

Beat these until soft peaks form.
Gradually add 3/4 cup sugar mixed with 1 tsp cornstarch. Beat until stiff peaks.  Add 1 tsp vanilla.

Good luck with this step.  Seriously. I was way to impatient, mainly because I wasn't really sure what was happening.  Next time I need to calm down and realize that it's going to take a while for this process to work.

So, in the end it didn't really look and taste exactly the same as grandma's, but like she said, hopefully I'll only get better with time and practice. If you have any tips on meringue please leave a comment or email me. I need help! Happy Baking!!!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Spring has Sprung. Well, sort of.

I went to the opening day of the Minneapolis Farmer's Market this morning and it was interesting to say the least. For starters, it was bitter cold and the wind was insane. What a beautiful May Day in Minnesota, below normal temps and the occasional flurry of snow.  There wasn't much at the market today, but they managed to have bananas. I don't know where they grow bananas in Minnesota, but I'd like to see the farm! Uff. Oh, and there was also people doing some sort of jig to an accordion.  It was sort of an odd dance, but I couldn't take my eyes off them.  They had these strange costumes on with high socks and they were wearing their winter coats. After walking around the entire market, I was a little disappointed because I wanted fresh rhubarb and there wasn't any. To me spring is rhubarb, and other than baseball, that's my favorite part about this season.  All the church women back home have rhubarb up to their ears, and I'm very jealous of them for that. 

So, since I left without my rhubarb I felt like I had to buy something. Farm fresh eggs is what I chose, I'll take them any chance I can get. I was still determined to find rhubarb so I bought a bag of frozen rhubarb from Lund's. It's the only store that I've seen it in.  I've never baked with frozen, store-bought rhubarb, but it worked out great! Don't get me wrong, it's not nearly as tasty as fresh from the garden, but it was a fine substitute nonetheless. 

One of my top five favorite rhubarb treats is a rhubarb muffin. Man, they are so delicious. They have a sugar and cinnamon topping and are so moist and tart. You might be sick of hearing about grandma's cookbook, but this recipe came from there. She is master of all things rhubarb, of course. I think the reason it's used so much on the farm is because it grows like a weed out there. One plant can yield quite a bit, and it keeps growing for the first few months of summer. Also, you only have to plant it once and every year it just keeps coming back bigger and better.

This is my small attempt to bring Spring to my house even though its 40 degrees outside.  I hope you are able to get your hands on some rhubarb to try them.

Rhubarb Muffins:

Beat together:
1 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
1 cup buttermilk
2 tsp vanilla 
1 tsp cinnamon 
dash of nutmeg
1/2 cup walnuts (optional)
1 1/2 cups rhubarb
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
 Cinnamon Topping:
1 tablespoon melted butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon

Stir just until combined. Fill baking cups about 2/3 cup full.  Before baking scatter cinnamon topping and press lightly into batter. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Makes 24. 

This recipe is incredibly easy to make. The frozen rhubarb wasn't the same, so I suggest waiting until you can get fresh stalks. Also, chop the pieces of rhubarb into about 1-inch pieces. The muffins taste better with smaller chunk of rhubarb spread throughout.