Sunday, May 4, 2008

Coconutty Goodness!

While thumbing through Tyler Florence's Real Kitchen cookbook (I am really liking this cookbook!) for ideas this past weekend, I stumbled upon a recipe that I knew I just had to try - coconut bread! I always keep a bag of shredded coconut in the freezer, and I also just happened to have a can of unsweetened coconut milk on hand, so I was set!

I did not, however, have any crushed pineapple on hand (fresh would have been another story), so I haven't gotten to make the accompanying pineapple butter yet. I'm sure it's fantastic, though, and I'm hoping to make some tomorrow.

Coconut Bread with Sweet Pineapple Butter

Coconut Bread:
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted, plus more for greasing the pan
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup brown sugar, packed
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Zest of 1 lemon, finely grated
1 1/2 cups unsweetened coconut milk
1 1/2 cups shredded coconut, toasted (see Note)
Confectioners' sugar, for dusting

Note: To toast the coconut, preheat the oven to 350. Spread the coconut on a cookie sheet and bake for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring periodically (10 minutes was more than enough time for my coconut). Toasting will fluff up the coconut and increase its volume (as well as make it taste better).

Preheat the oven to 375. Grease the bottom and sides of a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan with butter.

In a large bowl, mix the flour with the baking powder, salt, and cinnamon.

In another bowl, whisk together the melted butter with the brown sugar, eggs, vanilla, and lemon zest. Pour in the coconut milk and whisk together.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and fold everything together until you have a smooth batter (a rubber/silicon spatula works well for this). Gently fold in the shredded coconut until evenly distributed.

Pour into the prepared loaf pan and set it on a cookie sheet. Bake for 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes, or until a wooden toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the center of the bread. Rotate the pan periodically while baking to ensure even browning.

Cool the bread in the pan for 20 minutes. Then, when bread is cool enough to handle, turn out of pan and remove bread to wire rack or cutting board to cool completely before slicing.

Pineapple Butter:
8 oz. can crushed pineapple, drained
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

Press the liquid out of the crushed pineapple using the back of a spoon. (If there is too much juice, the fruit will separate from the butter.) In a small bowl, mash the pineapple with the softened butter until well blended. A food processor is a quick alternative to making the compound butter. Mound the butter in a small serving bowl.

To serve, toast the slice of coconut bread, dust with confectioners' sugar, and serve with the creamy pineapple butter.

Source: Adapted from Tyler Florence's Real Kitchen cookbook


For the last week of my Wilton cake decorating class, I decided to change things up and do a strawberry cake with mascarpone filling and cream cheese icing. The cake was delicious! I was not nearly as pleased with how my decorated cake ended up looking (the cream cheese icing was just too soft for a lot of the decorating techniques I was using), so there were no "beauty shots" of the completed cake - just this one of a slice on a plate.

If this recipe looks familiar, I've made (and shared) it before, modified into cupcake form

Strawberry Cake

3 cups cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/4 cups sour cream
1/2 cup fresh* strawberries, pureed
1 small package strawberry Jello
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into small pieces
2 cups sugar
5 large eggs, room temperature

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Sift flour, baking powder, soda, and salt into a medium bowl. Whisk to combine evenly. Stir the sour cream, strawberries, jello, and vanilla together in a large liquid measuring cup and set aside.

Beat the butter on high in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment until light and creamy, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Continue beating while gradually adding the sugar - it should take a couple of minutes to completely incorporate all the sugar. Continue to beat until very light and fully, about 3-4 minutes more. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

On low speed, add the flour mixture in 3 parts, alternating with the sour cream in 2 parts, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Scrape the sides of the bowl as you mix. Blend thoroughly.

Scoop the batter into 2 greased and floured 9-inch cake pans. Lightly tap the pans on the counter so that the batter settles evenly.

Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 20 to 25 minutes. Cool in the pan on a rack for 5-10 minutes, then place cakes onto the rack to cool completely.

*Substituting frozen strawberries for fresh works just fine.

Source: Modified from Raspberry Cake

Mascarpone Filling

6 - 8 oz. mascarpone cheese
Confectioner's sugar
Vanilla extract
Heavy cream

There's no real science to this filling. Let the mascarpone sit out on the counter for a bit to soften so that it will mix easily. Cream the mascarpone, then add sugar, vanilla, and cream until you reach the taste and consistency you desire.

Cream Cheese Icing

8 oz. cream cheese
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups sifted confectioner's sugar (approx. 1 pound)
2 Tablespoons milk

In large bowl, cream the cream cheese with an electric mixer. Add vanilla and combine. Gradually add sugar, one cup at a time, beating well on medium speed. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl often. When all the sugar has been mixed in, the icing will appear dry. Add milk and beat at medium speed until light and fluffy. Keep bowl covered with a damp cloth until ready to use. For best results, keep icing bowl in refrigerator when not in use. Icing can be stored up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator in an airtight container. Re-whip before using.

Makes 3 cups.

Note: Quantities of confectioner's sugar and/or milk may vary to reach the desired consistency, particularly depending on the weather. Humidity can have a great impact on icing.

Someone's in the Kitchen with Kelly... Bryon Makes Dinner!

aThe husband recently decided that he will take over cooking dinner on Saturdays and wants to use this as an opportunity to experiment and try new recipes. He started out last Saturday with three recipes from Tyler Florence's Real Kitchen cookbook. Pork chops with spiced apples and raisins, roasted carrots with orange brown butter and sage, and corn pudding. All three were big hits with us and are definitely "keepers". I could eat the orange brown butter with sage poured over ice cream!

Thick Pork Chops with Spiced Apples and Raisins

Note: Bryon cut the brine recipe in half, as we were only doing two pork chops, but made the full recipe of spiced apples and raisins. Before we even made it, we suspected that part of the recipe would be good enough to want leftovers. We were right! To prepare four pork chops, double the brine recipe

Pork Chops:
1/2 gallon water
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sea salt
1/2 cup frozen apple juice concentrate, thawed
1 1/2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns
1 fresh thyme sprig
2 double-cut bone-in loin pork chops, 1 pound each
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Extra-virgin olive oil

Combine the water, brown sugar, sea salt, apple juice, peppercorns, and thyme in an extra-large plastic bag or container. Give it a stir to dissolve the sugar and salt. Submerge the pork chops in the brine, seal up the bag, and put it in the refrigerator for 2 hours to tenderize the meat. Do not brine any longer than that or the meat will break down too much and get mushy.

Preheat the oven to 350. Remove the pork chops from the brine and pat them dry with paper towels. Sprinkle both sides of the meat with salt and pepper. Put a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add a 3-count drizzle of olive oil and get it hot. Lay the pork chops in the pan (if doing 4 chops, put 2 in the skillet at a time) and brown 4 minutes per side. Remove the pork chops to a large baking pan. Put the baking pan in the oven and roast the chips for 30 minutes. The pork is done when the center is still rosy and the internal temperature reaches 140 to 145 when tested with an instant-read thermometer.

Spiced Apples and Raisins:
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
3 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and sliced in 1/2-inch-thick wedges
Leaves from 2 fresh thyme sprigs
1/4 cup raisins
3/4 cup frozen apple juice concentrate, thawed
3 Tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
Pinch of cardamom
Pinch of dry mustard
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Juice of 1/2 lemon

While the chops cook, melt the butter in a clean skillet over medium-low heat. Add the apples and thyme and coat in the butter; cook and stir for 8 minutes to give them some color. Toss in the raisins and add the apple juice, stirring to scrape up the brown bits. Stir in the brown sugar, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, and dry mustard; season with salt and pepper. Squeeze in the lemon juice to wake up the flavor and simmer for 10 minutes or until the apples break down and soften. Spoon the spiced apples over the pork chops to serve.

Roasted Carrots with Orange Brown Butter and Sage

1 bunch young carrots, with tops
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 Tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1 orange, halved
1 Tablespoon brown sugar
4 sage leaves

Preheat the oven to 350. Cut off all but 1 inch of the carrot tops, leaving a little green. Put the carrots in a large shallow pan, add the oil, and season with salt and pepper. Turn to coat the carrots. Stick them in the oven and bake for 30 minutes, until the carrots are fork-tender.

While the carrots are roasting, melt the butter in a skillet over medium-low heat. Swirl the pan around and cook until the butter begins to become brown and nutty. (Note: Tyler Florence says "crazy nutty".) Squeeze in the juice from the orange halves, add the brown sugar and sage, and continue to cook for 2 minutes or until syrupy.

Remove the carrots from the oven and arrange them on a platter. Drizzle the orange brown butter over the carrots and serve.

Corn Pudding

2 ears fresh corn, in the husk
2 cups milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup yellow cornmeal
3 Tablespoons chopped fresh chives
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 eggs, separated

Preheat the oven to 350. Put the 2 ears of corn, in their husks, in the oven, directly on the center rack. Roast the corn for 30 minutes, until soft. Cool slightly so you don't burn your hands, then remove the husks. Cut the kernels off the cob with a sharp knife and set the loose corn aside. Leave the oven on.

In a large pot over low heat, combine the milk, cream, and butter. Once the butter has melted, turn up the heat slightly and bring the mixture to just under a boil. Pour in the cornmeal in a slow, steady stream, whisking at the same time. Cook and whisk constantly until the cornmeal is blended in and the mixture is smooth and thick, like a porridge. Take the pot off the stove and fold in the corn, chives, salt, and pepper. Mix in the egg yolks, one at a time, to make it more like a batter. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until they hold stiff peaks. Fold the whites into the corn pudding to lighten it. Coat the bottom and sides of an 8x8-inch baking dish with nonstick spray. Spoon the batter into the prepared baking dish and bake for 25 to 30 minutes. When it's done, the corn pudding will look puffed and golden brown, like a souffle.

Source: Adapted from Tyler Florence's Real Kitchen cookbook.


For Week 3 of my Wilton cake decorating class, we were instructed to bring cupcakes that we would decorate to demonstrate the different skills we learned that week, including using icing dots to make faces and fruit, star flowers, swirl flowers, and the Wilton rose. My instructor also gave me a few lessons in making daisies and hibiscus.

The Wilton Rose

For my cupcakes, I used the same cake and icing recipes I prepared for the sunflower cake I made for Week 2 - Yellow cake with butter cream icing. To make the roses and hibiscus flowers, however, the icing must be a stiff consistency, so less liquid should be added.


Double Roses

Mmmm, cake!

This past month, I took Wilton's Course 1 Cake Decorating class at my local Michael's. For our first week of actual decorating, we were instructed to bring in a shaped cake. I have a really pretty sunflower pan that I bought several years ago at William's Sonoma, so I decided to use that. I was wanting to make a yellow cake with lemon curd filling. A friend provided me with two cake recipes - one she had used and thought was quite good, and a second that she had recently found and was wanting to try. Initially, I used the first recipe she sent. Unfortunately, that cake didn't come out of my pan properly, so I had to bake a second cake. I decided to make lemonade from these lemons, and use this opportunity to make the second cake recipe. While the first recipe was good, the second one was the winner, hands-down! I now have a go-to yellow cake recipe.

Fluffy Yellow Cake

2 1/2 cups cake flour, plus extra for dusting pans
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups sugar, divided
10 Tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
3 Tablespoons vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
6 large egg yolks, room temperature
3 large egg whites, room temperature

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat to 350. Grease two 9-inch round cake pans (9 inches wide by 2 inches high) and line bottoms with parchment paper. Grease paper rounds, dust pans with flour, and knock out the excess.

Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and 1 1/2 cups of the sugar together in a large bowl (1/4 cup sugar will remain).

In a 4-cup liquid measuring cup or a medium bowl, whisk together melted butter, buttermilk, oil, vanilla, and egg yolks.

In clean bowl of a stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment, beat egg whites at medium-high speed until foamy, about 30 seconds. With mixer running, gradually add the remaining 1/4 cup sugar. Continue to beat until stiff peaks form, 30 to 60 seconds (whites should hold peak, but mixtures should appear moist). Transfer to another bowl and set aside.

Add flour mixture to now-empty mixing bowl fitted with whisk attachment. With mixer running at low speed, gradually pour in butter mixture and mix until almost incorporated (a few streaks of dry flour will remain), about 15 seconds. Stop mixer and scrape whisk and sides of bowl. Return mixer to medium-low speed and beat until smooth and fully incorporated, 10 to 15 seconds.

Using rubber spatula, stir 1/3 of the egg whites into the batter to lighten, then add remaining whites and gently fold into batter until no white streaks remain.

Divide batter evenly between the prepared cake pans. Lightly tap pans against the counter 2 to 3 times to dislodge any large air bubbles.

Bake until cake layers begin to pull away from sides of pans and toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. (Note: since I was using a single, larger pan, my baking time was obviously longer.) Cool cakes in pans on wire rack for 10 minutes. Loosen cakes from sides of pans with small knife, then invert onto greased wire rack and peel off parchment. Turn cakes over and cool completely on rack, about 1 1/2 hours.

Source: Adapted from the February 2008 issue of Cook's Illustrated

Lemon Curd

3 lemons
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 pound unsalted butter, room temperature
4 extra-large eggs
1/2 cup lemon juice (3 to 4 lemons)
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

Using microplane or carrot peeler, remove the zest of 3 lemons, being careful to avoid the white pith. Put the zest in a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Add the sugar and pulse until the zest is very finely minced into the sugar.

Cream the butter and beat in the sugar and lemon mixture. Add the eggs, one at a time, and then add the lemon juice and salt. Mix until combined.

Pour the mixture into a 2-quart saucepan and cook over low heat until thickened (about 10 minutes), stirring constantly. The lemon curd will thicken at about 170 degrees, or just below a simmer. Remove from the heat and cool or refrigerate.

Source: Adapted from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook

Buttercream Icing (Medium Consistency)

1 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups sifted confectioner's sugar (approx. 1 lb.)
2 Tablespoons milk

In large bowl, cream butter with electric mixer. Add vanilla. Gradually add sugar, one cup at a time, beating well on medium speed. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl often. When all the sugar has been mixed in, the icing will appear dry. Add milk and beat at medium speed until light and fluffy. Keep bowl covered with a damp cloth until ready to use. For best results, keep icing bowl in refrigerator when not in use. This icing can be stored 2 weeks if refrigerated in an airtight container. Just re-whip before using.

Makes 3 cups.

For thinner (spreading consistency) icing, add up to 2 Tablespoons light corn syrup, water, or milk until desired consistency is reached.

To assemble, I split the cake into two layers. I piped a thick "dam" of icing along the edge of the bottom layer, spooned the lemon curd inside, then placed the top layer.

From there, it was just a matter of decorating with a star tip (Wilton #21).