Thursday, August 28, 2008

Savory Pockets

You can tell a lot about a person by what they keep in their pockets. As the lady who does the laundry in our house, I've become a connoisseur of pocket contents. A little boy is likely to have a string, rocks, and sticks that resemble guns. A little girl might have Polly Pocket accessories, lip gloss, pieces of paper with phone numbers on them, and a glitter pen. The husband's pockets might yield small quantities of change (the laundry room rules say finders keepers here), receipts, and ear plugs. And my pockets have wads of Kleenex in them. (I think I've mentioned my allergies before).

A pocket is a source of possibilities, a place of potential. It is an empty vessel waiting to be filled with whatever you choose. The same is true for bread pockets, also called pita bread. This month the lovely Ilva of Lucullien Delights chose pita pockets as the bread of the month for the Bread Baking Babes. Yeah!

I've always enjoyed pita bread. For some reason it opens me up to creative sandwich possibilities in a way that two plain slices of bread do not. So I was thrilled to take on the challenge of creating my first ever pita bread.

The dough is quite simple to make and went together easily, although my dough was quite wet and I wondered if I'd done something wrong. But when I put my rolled rounds into the oven on my preheated stone, they puffed up as if by magic. What fun!

We stuffed our pitas with spicy barbecued chicken, Persian cucumber slices, and a creamy gorgonzola dressing. A pocketful of deliciousness. The recipe and directions are on Lucullian Delights. Be sure and check out the other Bread Baking Babes for their pita success stories: Tanna at My Kitchen In Half Cups, Glenna at A Fridge Full of Food, Karen at Bake My Day, Mary at The Sourdough, Gorel at Grain Doe, Sara at I Like to Cook, Monique at Living on Bread and Water, Lien at Notitie Van Lien, and Katie at Thyme for Cooking.

If you'd like to bake along with us and be a Bread Baking Buddy, you have till the 10th to bake the pitas and send a link to Ilva. Then you'll receive a badge you can proudly display on your site and the satisfaction of knowing how to make your own delicious pita pockets!

Lastly, here's a cautionary video that explains that not all pockets are filled with good things. (Plus it's been making us laugh at the Cookie Baker house all week.)

Monday, August 25, 2008

Toddler Tastes

I've raised 4 children through toddlerhood and each time have thought about writing a letter to General Mills thanking them for making Cheerios, thus helping to keep my children alive. They all seem to go through eating phases where only bland, safe food will pass their lips. Anything outside of the basic 4 food groups (Cheerios, cheese sticks, ketchup, and white bread) is met with suspicion and loathing. I've often wondered what people in countries famous for their spicy foods feed their toddlers. Can they really get toddlers to eat curry, kimchee, and jalapenos? Or do their offspring whine piteously for the local equivalent of Wonder Bread, too?

I think ginger is one of those tastes you have to work into. When they were little my children could only tolerate it in gingerale, the sugared drink barely resembling the root. It wasn't until they got older and developed a slightly more adventurous palate that they began to appreciate ginger. It's got zip, zing, and kapow (sounds like a breakfast cereal) and adds a wake-up call to any food you put it into, savory or sweet. Now we eat it in stir fries, on pizza, and, of course, in cookies.

This version of ginger cookies makes up big, chewy rounds, speckled with chunks of crystallized ginger for bursts of ginger flavor as you chew. With all that gingery goodness, they're the perfect after dinner treat. A digestive aid in a cookie. And since it's in a cookie, you could probably even get a toddler to try it. But if that child is anything like mine, there will be a small pile of ginger beside the plate when he's through.

Giant Gingersnaps
adapted from Great Cookies by Carole Walters

2 cups all-purpose flour, spooned in and leveled
1 Tbsp ground ginger
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp salt
2/3 cup unsalted butter, slightly firm
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup lightly packed dark brown sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp cider vinegar
3 Tbsp finely chopped crystallized ginger

1- Preheat the oven to 375 deg. F, with racks dividing the oven into thirds. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

2- Strain together the flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, and salt. Set aside.

3- In the bowl of an electric mixer, blend together the butter and the sugars on medium-low speed until creamy and lightened in color, 2 to 3 minutes.

4- Add the egg and mix until well combined, about 1 minute. Scrape the sides of the bowl and add the vanilla and cider vinegar. Mix for 1 minute longer. Reduce the speed to low and add the dry ingredients in three additions, mixing just until combined. Use a rubber spatula to blend inn the crystallized ginger.

5- Roll walnut-sized pieces of dough into balls about 1-1/4 inch across. Place the dough balls 2 inches apart on the cookies sheets. Bake for 9 to 11 minutes, or until golden brown. Reducing the cooking time gives a chewier cookie, while a longer time gives a crispier cookie. Toward the end of the baking time, rotate the pans top to bottom and front to back.

6- Let the cookies rest on the sheets for 2 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack.

These cookies can be stored in an airtight container, between layers of wax paper, for up to 3 weeks. Or they can be eaten and shared right away.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Indecision Brownies

I am plagued by indecision. I admire those women with absolute certainty in all areas of life who can purchase an entire outfit, including shoes and handbag, in under a half an hour. I am a handwringer, always unsure. Is it the best choice? Might the other one be better?

I'm pitiful when it comes to ordering at a restaurant. I either order something I already know I like, as that eliminates the decision making process, or I'll make the waiter come back 4 more times to ask if I'm ready to order yet. When the "yet" starts sounding a little testy I"ll make a desperate stab at something on the menu, then think as he's walking away, "Oh no, maybe I should have ordered the salad."

Indecision can paralyze me in the kitchen, as well. The question of what to bake - cookies, or muffins? a cake or a pie? - can make me pace back and forth from cookbook to cupboard to cookbook to freezer. And then nothing gets baked. And my family isn't happy.

So, recently when faced with a dilemma of choice, brownies or blondies, I turned to my favorite source of wit and wisdom - movie quotes. In the wonderful movie, Groundhog Day, Bill Murray asks a fellow drunk if he'd like to throw up on the sidewalk or in the car. The drunk cogitates a few moments and says, "I think.....both."

So here I give you Indecision Brownies. The best of both worlds swirled together. It's an easy decision to make.

Indecision Brownies

I recommend that you read through the recipe and have everything measured out and ready to go on the counter. Putting it together is a bit of a juggling act.

3/4 c. unsalted butter, divided
3 oz unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
1 c. sugar
1 c. brown sugar
1/8 tsp salt, plus a pinch
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1-1/2 tsp vanilla extract, divided
1-3/4 cups cake flour (210 g), sifted and divided
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup bittersweet chocolate chips (optional)
1/2 cup white chocolate chips (optional)

1- Grease a 9 x 13 inch pan. Preheat oven to 350 deg. F.

2- In a medium mixing bowl stir together. 1 cup of the flour, 1 tsp baking powder, 1/8 tsp salt and white chocolate chips (if using). Set aside.

3- In a large saucepan (#1) over low heat, combine 1/2 cup of the butter and the chopped, unsweetened chocolate. Stir often until melted. Remove from heat.

4- In a medium saucepan (#2) over low heat, melt 1/4 cup of the butter. Remove from heat.

5 - Into saucepan #1 stir in 1 cup granulated sugar and a pinch of salt. Add 2 eggs and 1 tsp vanilla extract. Stir until well blended.

6 - Into saucepan #2 stir in the brown sugar. Add 1 egg and 1/2 tsp vanilla. Stir until well blended.

7 - Sprinkle 3/4 cup of the sifted cake flour over saucepan #1 and stir just till blended. Gently stir in the dark chocolate chips, if using.

8 - Add the contents of the mixing bowl to saucepan #2 and stir till well mixed.

9- Alternate blops of batter from saucepans #1 and #2 into the prepared pan until all the batter is in the pan. Drag a table knife through the batter to marble the batter, being careful to evenly distribute the two batters, but not make a homogenous mixture.

10- Bake for about 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost completely clean.

11- Transfer to a wire rack to cool. You'll have tidier squares if you wait till it's cool to cut, but if you can't resist, dig in while still warm.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Back Into Rehab

I've been clean and off the stuff for almost 9 months now. It's not that I haven't felt the urge, it's just that when I do, I appeal to a higher power. When I even think about making the Killer Crack Peanut Butter Fudge, I ask my husband and he says, "Don't do it. You know you'll just eat it." Well, yes, he has a point. I would.

But slip ups come when you least expect them. I can be merrily baking along and something as innocent as leftovers can trip me up. For example, I was making a recipe that called for a tiny amount of evaporated milk. Which left me with almost a whole can of evaporated milk and the only thing I know that uses less than a can of evaporated milk is... uh oh.

Yes, I was flirting with danger to even have that thought in my head. It's said that the only way to get rid of a though is to replace it with another thought. So I thought of chocolate. Which lead me to chocolate fudge. Which I rationalized by saying that I could try the chocolate version of the KCPB Fudge and see if it was just as dangerous. Was I fooling anyone? I don't think so, but the higher power gave a green light, so I went ahead and made it.

Verdict: It's not as evil as the Killer Crack Peanut Butter Fudge. Even though it was smooth and creamy, with the occasional hit of walnut crunch, I could take just one piece and walk away. OK, so I walked back and took another piece, but that's it. Just two. Really. For now. It's not like I have to hoover the whole pan right away. So I think this could fall under the classification of "gateway fudge." You think you're safe to try just one piece. Maybe, maybe not. Do you really want to risk it?

Killer Crack Fudge's Less Evil Chocolate Cousin

3 cups sugar
1 cup evaporated milk
1/2 cup butter
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1-7 oz jar marshmallow creme
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
1 tsp vanilla extract

1- Butter a 9 x 13 inch pan. In a heavy 3-quart saucepan combine the sugar, evaporated milk and butter. Bring it to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly.

2- Reduce heat to medium and boil 5 minutes, stirring constantly.

3- Remove from heat and stir in the chocolate chips, marshmallow creme, nuts, and vanilla, stirring till well combined. Pour the mixture into the buttered pan and let it cool to room temperature. Chill in the refrigerator till firm. Cut into 1-inch pieces.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Serendipity Sherbet

I started my food blog as a way to practice my writing and as an excuse to try new recipes. Since that time I've gotten multiple other, unexpected benefits. Food bloggers are an amazing bunch and I've been blessed to get to know some of you and call you friends. I've expanded my own baking skills and repertoire, but I've also learned a lot from reading other food bloggers and have picked up some outstanding recipes from other blogs. But the most unexpected, out of the blue benefit of having a food blog is getting free stuff.

One day I opened my email and there was a letter from Hola Fruta! asking me if I'd like to sample some free fruit sherbet products. Are you kidding me? Bring it on! Shortly thereafter on my doorstep arrived a styrofoam cooler packed with dry ice, 3 flavors of fruit sherbet, and 2 flavors of fruit sherbet bars. Well, this obviously called for a party.

I invited over two families to help us taste test. They were eager to help. My friends are really good that way, always willing to lend a hand.

We dished up scoops of the sherbets so everyone could try each flavor and then waited for the reactions.

Mango: "Wow, this tastes so good I don't want to put anything else in my mouth. I just want this flavor to last."

Pomegranate: "Oh my gosh, this is amazing! It's delicious, so smooth and creamy."

Margarita : "Really lime-like. Refreshing! It's great." But the comments got even better when my husband poured some tequila over the scoops for the adults. "Oh, wow, it's like the easiest, best-ever margarita! I need to keep a tub of this in my freezer!"

Equally delightful were the Pomegranate-Blueberry and the Pina Colada sherbet bars. My kids thought they were the best frozen bars they'd ever had. Plus they're only 100 calories each!

It was all delicious, creamy, and naturally low in fat with anti-oxidant fruit purees used. Mmmm.

So, you say, that's nice that you had a party. Where's my party? Well, the good news is that you can enter to win a party of your own (in the USA). Hola Fruta is giving away three Fiesta Friday party packs until the end of September. Check it out and you could be the next lucky one trying to decide whether you prefer the cool, sweet Pomegranate, the tingly Margarita, or the creamy, dreamy Mango!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Frozen Birthday Bliss

Another birthday come and gone. It was a good one as my birthday stretched into a birthday week. It started off with a surprise package from my almost-twin in England, who sent me a gorgeous necklace. Thank you, Melinda! I get so many compliments when I wear it, which is most of the time.

Then another friend took me out for lunch, French pastries, antique shopping, and visiting Fran's chocolates. Can a day get any better than that? Merci, Erin!

My actual birthday I got hugs and presents (cookbooks) from my family, plus a Happy Birthday balloon that my son enjoys using as a punching bag. Another bonus.

Then we wrapped up the week having friends over to help taste test some treats (stay tuned for that post) and to help me eat up my birthday cake.

Usually I'm all over a rich chocolate cake with mounds of chocolate frosting for my birthday. I'm not sure why, but this year it didn't appeal to me. Maybe it's the heat or all the cakes I've made in the past few months with mounds of buttercream frosting, but I couldn't muster up the enthusiasm to make a traditional cake loaded with frosting.

Also, there was the side issue of the the mini-bundt cake pan. It's stoneware. And I'd made dainty lemon cakes in it, and they would have graced the blog, except they refused to come out of the pan. My kids enjoyed eating the pile of cake morsels, but it made me cross. The pan needed more seasoning. What's my greasiest recipe that I could make in that pan to help season it? Peanut butter cookies. I made the dough and then carefully pressed it into all the tiny nooks and crannies of the pan. I baked it and it seemed to work beautifully. The pan was seasoned and I had a mound of peanut butter cookie crumbs to deal with.

They sat in a sealed container on the counter as I pondered what to do with them. Finally I hit upon the perfect solution to both what to do with the cookies and what to do for my birthday cake.

I lined a 9 x 13 inch baking dish with aluminum foil, leaving extra hanging over the edges, and pressed the cookie crumbs into the bottom of it. I made a quart of vanilla ice cream, Philadelphia-stye, from The Perfect Scoop and scooped it straight from the ice cream maker into the pan, spreading it over the crumbs and smoothing out the top. The pan went into the freezer for several hours. When the ice cream was firm I took the pan out and spread peanut butter over the ice cream. I didn't measure - it was about a cup - enough to cover the whole surface. Then the pan went back into the freezer.

I made a batch of chocolate ice cream, again from The Perfect Scoop. The custard base for this was so rich and voluptuous I had a hard time restraining myself from diving into it face first. After chilling it was thick and beautiful, like a dessert cart's dream pudding. It was so thick that it broke the handle on my Donvier. The plastic snapped off at the lid. Aaaahhhh! I grabbed a spatula and tried scooping and folding to get the right consistency. Because it didn't have as much air added into it as machine done ice cream, it ended up being dense, but I like that in a chocolate product.

The chocolate ice cream, when as close to being frozen as it was going to get, was smoothed over the peanut butter layer, then the dish was popped back into the freezer. While it chilled I made a recipe of The World's Best Hot Fudge Sauce and let it cool. When all the way cooled, I spread it over the top of the chocolate layer and (you guessed it) put it back in the freezer.

About 10 minutes before serving, I took the pan out and, using the foil as handles, lifted the whole brick out of the baking dish. After softening on the counter for about 10 minutes, I cut the "cake" into squares (small, as it's incredibly rich) and put each square on a cake, topped it with whipped cream and garnished it with butter brickle chips. Chopped peanuts would also be good.

It was tremendously good and got thumbs up of appreciation from the guests (their mouths were too full to politely give commentary). I send them home with pieces for later, but still have some in my freezer to take out and savor as the summer heat lingers.

Obviously you could make this entire recipe with store-bought ingredients. I just prefer to have it all homemade. I'm weird that way. If you want to make it, you can also change up the flavors to suit your tastes. If you don't care for peanut butter (strange sister of mine), you could do a layer of caramel sauce there and substitute butter brickle ice cream for the chocolate. Play with it and have fun, but remember to share because it makes enough for a party!

Peanut Butter Cookies
adapted from the Cookie book

1/2 cup (4 oz) butter at room temperature, diced
3/4 cup (4-1/2 oz) firmly packed light brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup (8 oz) smooth or crunchy peanut butter
1 cup (8 oz) all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt

1- With an electric mixer cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

2- In a separate bowl, stir together the egg and vanilla, then gradually beat into the butter mixture.

3- Add the peanut butter and blend thoroughly. Sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt, and stir into the mixture to form a soft dough. Chill the dough for at least 30 minutes, until firm.

4- Preheat the oven to 350 deg. F. Lightly grease two baking sheets.

5- Spoon out rounded teaspoonfuls of the dough and roll into balls.

6- Place the balls on the prepared baking sheet and press flat with a fork into round shapes about 2-1/2 inches in diameter, making a criss-cross pattern. Bake the cookies for about 12 minutes, or until lightly colored. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Or, to season a stoneware pan, press the dough into it, bake for about 12 to 15 minutes, then find a delicious use for the crumbs.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Lovin' the Yogurt

In the 90's the low-fat bandwagon came through town and I hopped on board. I bought into the myth that fat was the root of all evil and it was what I was eating, rather than how much, that was making me fat.

I had a subscription to Cooking Light, bought several cookbooks that focused on low fat cooking, and became adept at reading labels and figuring out in my head what the percentage of calories from fat is. For several years I tortured my family with flavorless food, rubbery cookies, and downright disgusting desserts before realizing that I wasn't magically slimmer by cutting the fat. Butter and I became friends again and my family heaved a huge sigh of relief.

What I gained from that experience, though, was the ability to play with a recipe and figure out how to cut the fat and calories by making substitutions. In some, not all, baked goods, up to 1/2 the fat can be replaced by yogurt. It gives moisture that low fat foods really need, plus the acidic nature of yogurt gives a tender crumb to quick breads and coffee cakes. I've continued to use yogurt in a variety of recipes because I think it improves the taste and texture.

A little while ago I received an email asking me if I'd like free coupons to try Stonyfield yogurt. Free yogurt? Sure! I waited patiently for an envelope with coupons but what came instead was a box with a hot pad, a spatula, my new favorite shopping bag, and coupons. Yeah! Prizes, treats!

Stonyfield yogurt is organic and it's certified as gluten-free. This last bit made me a little curious. Yogurt is a dairy product so why would you think there'd be gluten in it? A little investigation and my cybersleuth husband found out that the certification is a rigorous inspection of the manufacturing and processing plant to show that no gluten contamination is present. I know that even the tiniest bit of gluten can make a person with celiac disease sick for days, so I would imagine this certification would be a great blessing for them.

Check out their site for information about their products, what organic means, and for some great recipes. Plus there are coupons to print out!

To test out the yogurt I went on a baking spree and made muffins and lemon cakes, as well raspberry frozen yogurt and my husband's famous guacamole. It was all fabulous. Then I tried the whole milk French Vanilla yogurt with cut up nectarines and it was an amazing dessert. Smooth, creamy, and delicious. Mmm, just thinking about it makes me want to go get another bowl full.

Since I'd already blogged the other things, and to take advantage of my blueberry crop, for this post I made blueberry coffee cake. This cake is so moist, flavorful, and delicious that you'd never guess it's low fat or that it's made with whole wheat flour. It's got just enough batter to cover the blueberries so every bit is juicy with blueberries. Even if it's hot in your area, it's worth getting up early and turning on the oven to have this on the table for breakfast or for coffee with friends.

Whole Wheat Blueberry Kuchen
- adapted from Have Your Cake and Eat It, Too by Susan Purdy

1 large egg
1/2 cup skim or 1% milk
3 Tbsp canola or safflower oil
1/2 cup nonfat plain or vanilla yogurt
1 cup unsifted all-purpose flour
1 cup unsifted whole wheat pastry flour*
3 Tbsp toasted wheat germ
1 Tbsp + 1 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar (I used vanilla sugar)
1-3/4 to 2 cups fresh blueberries, rinsed, gently dried, with all the stems picked off, or frozen whole unsweetened berries

3 Tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon

1- Position rack in the center of the oven and preheat it to 400 deg. F. Coat a 9x9 inch baking pan with cooking spray.

2- In a large bowl combine the egg, milk, oil, and yogurt. Whisk to blend. Set a strainer over the bowl and add all the dry ingredients. Stir to combine them and sift onto the liquid mixture. Stir just to blend; do not overbeat! Gently fold in the berries and turn the batter into the prepared pan.

3- Combine the brown sugar and cinnamon for the topping and sprinkle it over the batter. Baker for 20 to 25 minutes or until the cake is golden brown and a ckae tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack. Cut into squares (9 squares for generous portions, 16 for dainty portions) and serve warm.

*Don't worry about buying something as specialized as whole wheat pastry flour. It can be substituted for all-purpose flour in cookies, and other baked goods, giving a little nutrition boost to your treats.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Lime = Husband

When my sister was in Home-Ec, her class had to go to the department store downtown and pick out their dishes, silverware, glasses, and housewares, as if they were registering for a wedding. I remember that she selected a dish pattern that had dainty sprigs of flowers all over it, saying that she'd never get tired of having breakfast on such cheerful dishes. She also adored violets and selected a bed set strewn with violets and ruffles.

Fast forward a few decades and my sister is now grown, married, and living in a house devoid of dainty floral touches. She's all Southwest and hot chilies. But I still think of her whenever I see violets on a comforter and have a fleeting, momentary thought of, "Oh, I should get that for her. She'd love it!"

Sometimes things get tied to people and the association is hard to break. Especially foods. Coconut always makes me think of my friend who's passionate about anything coconut flavored or scented. Divinity makes me think of my friend who could eat it until she gets sick. And lime always makes me think of my husband. He loves anything with lime and I keep a lookout for special lime recipes to make him happy.

This year for his birthday he asked me to surprise him with the choice of birthday cake, so I went to my recipe stash and pulled out one that I'd been wanting to make for a while. I'd cut it out of Cooking Light magazine years ago and finally had my chance. It looked perfect - light, fluffy, and totally limeish. I changed out the fat-free whipped topping for real whipped cream since I'd rather take my chances with the fat than the chemical cocktail that makes up that stuff. The result was lovely. An airy cake that was refreshingly full of lime flavor. The only thing my family didn't swoon over was the filling. It tasted a bit too much like sweetened condensed milk. I know that would be a plus for some people, though (Patricia, I'm thinking of you here).

Lime Chiffon Cake
adapted from Cooking Light

1 teaspoon finely grated lime rind
1/4 cup fresh lime juice (about 2 limes)
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk

Cooking spray
1 tablespoon cake flour
2 cups sifted cake flour (7 1/2 ounces)
1 1/4 cups sugar, divided
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
7 tablespoons canola oil
1/3 cup fresh lime juice (about 3 limes)
3 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon finely grated lime rind
1 teaspoon pure lemon extract
3 egg yolks
8 egg whites
1 teaspoon cream of tartar

3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons lime juice (about 1 lime)
About 2-1/2 cups whipped cream
Fresh fruit to garnish: strawberries, blueberries, mint leaves (optional)

In a small bowl, combine 1 teaspoon lime rind, 1/4 cup lime juice, and sweetened condensed milk, stirring until blended. Cover and chill 3 hours.

Preheat oven to 325°.

Coat bottoms of 3 (8-inch) round cake pans with cooking spray (do not coat sides of pans); line bottoms with wax paper. Coat wax paper with cooking spray; dust with 1 tablespoon flour.

Lightly spoon 2 cups cake flour into dry measuring cups, and level with a knife. Combine 2 cups cake flour, 1 cup sugar, baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk until well combined.

Combine oil, 1/3 cup juice, 3 tablespoons water, 1 teaspoon rind, lemon extract, and egg yolks in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add oil mixture to flour mixture; beat with a mixer at medium speed until smooth.

Place egg whites in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at high speed until foamy. Add cream of tartar; beat until soft peaks form. Gradually add remaining 1/4 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating until stiff peaks form. Gently stir one-fourth of egg white mixture into flour mixture; gently fold in remaining egg white mixture.

Divide cake batter equally among prepared pans, spreading evenly. Break air pockets by cutting through batter with a knife. Bake at 325° for 20 minutes or until cake springs back when lightly touched. Cool in pans for 10 minutes on a wire rack; remove from pans. Remove wax paper from cake layers. Cool completely on wire rack.

To prepare frosting, combine 3 tablespoons sugar and 2 tablespoons lime juice in a small glass bowl. Microwave at high for 30 seconds or until sugar dissolves. Cool completely. Fold into whipped cream.

To assemble cake, place 1 cake layer on a plate; spread half of filling over cake layer. Top with second layer, remaining half of filling, and third layer. Spread frosting over top and sides of cake. Garnish with fruit, if desired. Store cake loosely covered in refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Gimme S'more Raspberry Pillows

In nursing school one of my instructors talked to us about feeding patients who were immobilized or paralyzed. She stressed the importance of communicating with them, finding out which items they were enjoying, and whether they'd like another bite of peas or would they rather move on to the meatloaf. She pointed out that some people eat all the way through a food on their plate before moving onto a different food, while other prefer to take bites from each food, working through the foods in rotation.

This was a revelation for me as I'd never before then thought that people ate in different ways. In the way of all youth, I assumed everyone was like me. I'm a one at a time type of gal. I take a bite and if I like it, I'll work through the whole pile before moving on to something else. If it's nasty, I'll leave the whole pile (of lima beans).

My daughter, who has the attention span of a bumble bee, gets bored with the same thing, so she flits from food to food on her plate, sampling, and creating new flavor combinations. But me, I stick with a thing till I'm totally done with it.

It's been that way for me lately with marshmallows. About the time of the wedding I got a hankering to make marshmallows, but life was too chaotic, so I only thought longingly about making marshmallows. When we got all cleaned up after the wedding, I did make marshmallows, but I'd been thinking about them so long, that the one batch did not suffice.

I must pause here to explain that it's not that I horked a whole pan of marshmallows down and needed more. It really was about the process of making the marshmallows and about getting creative with the marshmallows.

I had a bowl of raspberries in my refrigerator, courtesy of my generous neighbor and her raspberry jungle, and that knowledge sidled up to the ongoing thoughts of marshmallows in my brain and whispered, "raspberry marshmallows." Mmm, good thought. But how? I knew that Baking had instructions for flavored marshmallows, but I preferred my tried and true Ina method for marshmallows.

But then the happy thought came to me that if I soaked the gelatin in fruit juice, then they'd come out all raspberryish! I sieved about 6 ounces of raspberries, enough to come up with 1/2 cup of raspberry juice and it worked like a charm. Delightfully pink, deliciously flavored, it combined the sweet pillowy softness of marshmallows with the bright, tart flavor of raspberries.

I served them at the pool birthday party, sending the guests into delighted raptures of insulin ecstasy.

Then I had the chef over for dinner and I wanted to get even more creative. I decided to do a deconstructed S'more, putting the component flavors together in a new way, using raspberry marshmallows. This was serious fun!

I made a graham cracker crumb crust and divided it between 8 Pyrex dishes. Then I cut the marshmallows out using a cookie cutter, so that the circles just fit inside the crumb crust. Then I topped it off with a drizzle of deep chocolate ganache.

We toyed with the idea of bringing out the torch and giving the marshmallow top a roasting, but decided it was prettier as it was. It tasted delicious, but I decided the chocolate needed to be just a light touch, enough to bring the flavor of chocolate in, but not so much that it overpowered the raspberry flavor.

Raspberry S'mores

1-1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup sugar
6 Tbsp butter, melted

Preheat oven to 375 deg. F.

In a bowl combine all the ingredients, mixing well either by hand or with a spoon. Divide the crumbs between 8 oven-safe dessert dishes, pressing into the bottom and a bit up the sides of the dishes. Place the dishes into the oven and bake for about 6 minutes, until the edges are lightly browned. Let cool before putting the marshmallows inside.


3 packages unflavored gelatin
1/2 cup sieved raspberry puree
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
Confectioner's sugar, for dusting

Combine the gelatin and 1/2 cup of raspberry puree in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and allow to sit while you make the syrup.

Meanwhile, combine the sugar, corn syrup, salt, and 1/2 cup water in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Raise the heat to high and cook until the syrup reaches 240 degrees on a candy thermometer. Remove from the heat.

With the mixer on low speed, slowly pour the sugar syrup into the dissolved gelatin. Put the mixer on high speed and whip until the mixture is very thick, about 15 minutes. Add the vanilla and mix thoroughly.

With a sieve, generously dust and 9 x 13 inch baking dish with confectioner's sugar. Pour the marshmallow mixture into the pan, smooth the top, and dust with more confectioners' sugar. Allow to stand uncovered overnight until it dries out. (I made mine the same day that I served them and they were a bit gummy.)


8 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
3/4 cup heavy cream

In a small saucepan heat the cream until it is very hot and steamy but not boiling. Remove from the heat, and pour it over the chocolate. Whisk until the mixture is smooth and the chocolate is thoroughly melted.

With a cookie or biscuit cutter cut out rounds of marshmallows to fit into the crumb crusts. Drizzle the marshmallows with the ganache.

Playing around ideas :

Layer the ganache between the crust and the marshmallow.
Torch the top of the marshmallow and sprinkle it with the chopped bittersweet chocolate instead of ganache.
Sprinkle additional graham cracker crumbs on top for extra crunch.