There’s just something about Fine Cooking. It draws me into its pages and makes me want to cook whatever they’re cooking, even simple things like poundcake. There was a full article dedicated to the hows and whys of poundcake this month. Yes, poundcake. How often do you think about poundcake? Or do you have a strong urge to make poundcake? Even if you have a strong urge to eat poundcake, there’s a good chance you might just buy a Sara Lee poundcake, or one from your local grocery store’s bakery. Maybe you just want a surface for a spoonful of strawberry love. Or maybe you are just going to cube it up and put it in a trifle. Or, maybe, just maybe, you want to pour pink fondant over it and turn it into an edible bar of soap. (It happens.)
But no. I had none of those specific plans. I just wanted that poundcake.
I read the article, and the companion article about loaf pans and the relative pros & cons of each type. I used my one loafpan that had the specific dimensions called for – my Pyrex loaf pan. The article said it may cook a little unevenly, so I decided to start checking it early.
I got out my toothpicks. I stabbed that sucker like a pincushion, everywhere but the crack, as instructed. It came out clean. I set it on my rack to cool. It smelled awesome. I waited.
It cooled a bit, I ran a knife around the edge, and turned it out of the pan and onto my rack, intending to flip it right back over to continuing cooling right on the rack. But, wait!!!
What is that yellow goo on my counter??
That would be cake batter. Oozing from the crack in the top of the cake. Stinkin’ lying toothpick!!!! At least the whole cake didn’t fall apart. I had that going for me.
So, I did the same thing I attempted long ago with the apple bread. I put the cake back in the pan and put it back in the oven for 20 minutes. Before I removed it, I stuck the lying liar toothpick right into the crack. It came out with just a few moist crumbs.
It cooled. I waited. I could wait no more. I sliced a thin slice off the end.
HOLY WOW! Poundcake!! Who knew?? It was crazy delicious. Buttery, rich and not too sweet. The texture was not heavy or dense, but not insubstantial either. And yes, I still had some of those summer strawberries in the freezer so I served some up with strawberries too, although it really didn’t need it.
Although, if you look really close at the top center of this cake…
…you can see where it is a little bit gummy and just not quite right. Ooops. A little strawberry spooned over a slice and nobody will ever notice right?
And the moral of the story? Don’t be so dang sure about that toothpick. But do be sure about poundcake.
In the grand tradition of Wayback Wednesday, I give you Seen It All Before Sunday. Don’t worry – I’m not going to start recycling posts twice a week. However, I couldn’t help but think of this old post the other day. You’ll see why in my next post. The following originally appeared over at Valley Victuals on October 30, 2007.
Truth, Lies & Apple Bread
Renae & I got an email recently from Karen. She said she made this great apple bread, we should try it. A few days later, Karen & I got an email from Renae saying she made the apple bread, and it was great, and I should make it too. I finally got around to it last night.
The recipe got rave reviews on the site Karen found it on. Karen said she followed some of the suggestions in the reviews, such as using half brown sugar and half white, and added more cinnamon, so I did it that way too.
It starts out simply enough with 3 cups of peeled, chopped apples. I used four small Macouns.
Then, you take all this…
… and whisk it till it looks like this:
In a separate bowl, take all this…
…and whisk it till it looks like this:
Then, slowly mix it all together.
The mixture became very thick, and it took a little extra effort to mix the apple chunks in.
I scooped the batter into two loaf pans and placed them in my preheated 325 degree oven.
After an hour, I checked the loaves. I poked each one with a toothpick and it came out clean, so I took them out to cool.
They looked and smelled great. I left them in the pan to cool for 10 minutes.
They collapsed a little in the pans. I ran a knife around the edge and attempted to turn one out of the pan. And?
Disaster! Not only did it stick to the pan, but the center was still gooey. Lying toothpick!! I cranked the oven back up, this time to 350. I reassembled my fallen loaf, and put them both back in the oven for another 20 minutes. I used another toothpick and stabbed the little suckers all over, and as deep as possible. It came out clean and dry. What happened next might not have helped the situation. I forgot about them and let them cool for an hour in the pan. I tried to remove them then.
Messy, but at least not gooey. So, instead of loaves, I ended up with a heap of bready lumps.
And, it did taste good. It just didn’t look particularly good. I am guessing that the initial premature cooling period was the point of no return. Stinkin’ lying toothpick.
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not Italian. As such, I have no store of old family recipes for sauce or lasagna or meatballs. So I just keep trying other people’s recipes until I find ones that I like. Or that my husband likes. He’s never been really wowed by any meatballs I’ve made in the past and has been so harsh as to suggest that those frozen ones from Costco were better than my usual. Dude, that hurts. So you know I have to take that as a challenge.
I figured my old pal Rocco is actually Italian and he and his mama wouldn’t steer me wrong. Mama’s recipe calls for 1/2 pound each of beef, veal and pork but veal isn’t something I buy so I went with 1 pound beef and 1/2 pound of pork.
And, I got to use Colossus! I used it to make my bread crumbs and to combine the stock mixture.
The cheese was the only other way I veered from the recipe. And that’s only because I accidentally picked up this Italian sharp cheese one day at the store when I meant to get Parmigianno-Regianno. It’s a little softer but it still grates nicely tastes pretty good to me! I hope Rocco & his mama would approve.
The last random meatball recipe I tried failed me at the browning stage. They all just fell apart into little bits. I was a little concerned these might do the same because they felt a little loose but in the end they stayed mostly together. I stirred any loose bits that did fall off right into the sauce.
And in the end? He liked it! He really liked it! I served the meatballs over spaghetti with homemade bread and it was such a satisfying meal. We both just sort of groaned as we chowed down, smiled, and said, “Mmmmmmmm.” And really, what more do you need in a meatball? I knew Rocco would show me the way. Thanks, Mama!
Ever since Colossus came into my life, I’m all about revving up the power in the kitchen. It still blows my mind when I stuff a bunch of veggies or a hunk of meat down the chute and in seconds – shreds! Slices! Bits! Cool!! But Colossus is capable of more than just destruction.
In fact, Colossus can give my old pal KitchenAid Stand Mixer a run for its money. In fact, as much as I adore my stand mixer, I have to give Colossus the edge for whipping up cream cheese for a cheesecake. A few pulses and shazaam!!! Smooth, no lumps!! Gotta love that.
But that’s okay Mr. KitchenAid. There’s room for you in this cheesecake too. I whipped up the egg whites in my nice clean mixer bowl which was a delight. Two power tools means no tranferring stuff to different bowls and washing out the mixer bowl in between. Woot! More power!
Colossus also of course made quick work of the graham cracker crumbs for the crust and those nesting bowls were rather handy for that. (My springform pan leaks so I lined the inside with foil. I don’t recommend this necessarily – I think it made the cake take a lot longer than it should have to bake. I’ve read that a little foil on the outside of the pan instead though would do. Next time!)
The cracks here are not a bad thing. In fact, that’s the indicator that it is time to spread the sour cream mixture on top for the last few minutes of baking.
Waiting for the cooling and the chilling of cheesecake is torture. Here’s my technique for getting through it. Make the cake in the afternoon. Go out to dinner someplace really good. Eat dessert. Come home full. Feel better about waiting till the next day to dig in.
Feel free to skip the part where you take a really crappy picture of the final product in your haste.
This recipe was adapted from the booklet that came with Colossus and a recipe in the Bon Appetit Desserts cookbook.
Strawberry Cheesecake with Power Tools
For the crust:
1 sleeve graham crackers
2 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
For the cake:
3 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
1-1/4 cups sugar, divided
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract, divided
4 large egg whites
2 cups sour cream
For the topping:
1 quart strawberries, fresh or frozen
½ cup sugar
1 tablespoon rum
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Break up the crackers and process them in a food processor until chopped fine. Add the sugar and butter and process again until thoroughly combined. Press the mixture into the bottom of a springform pan and part way up the sides.
Put the cream cheese in the food processor and whiz it up till smooth. Add 1 cup of sugar and a teaspoon of the vanilla and process again to combine.
Using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites until nearly stiff. Add the egg whites to the cream cheese mixture in the food processor and pulse just enough to combine. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake for 35 minutes or more – until the center is nearly set.
Combine sour cream, remaining sugar & vanilla in a small bowl & mix until blended. Remove cake from oven and carefully spread with sour cream mixture. Return to oven and bake another 5 – 10 minutes.
Cool completely. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
Place strawberries and ½ cup water in a sauce pan. Bring to a boil. Add sugar and stir. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until thickened. Remove from heat, add rum and stir. Allow to cool and then chill.
To serve, run a knife around the edge of the cake and remove the pan sides. Slice and top with a generous helping of the strawberry mixture.
Before I get started I’d like to apologize to any subscribers who got a post from me that just said ””’. That was from the cat. She managed to step on my keyboard just as I walked away from it and not only type that in the title box, but she also managed to hit “publish.” I don’t get it. Maybe she has blogging aspirations.
And now to the challenge! I’m actually a couple days early for a change instead of sliding in at the very last second. So, there’s still time if you’d like to get in on the fun. This time Scott’s challenge at Views Infinitum is Close Up Photography. Last weekend my sister and I were lucky enough to get to the Smith College Spring Bulb Show and we both had the challenge in mind. You can see the her results here, which are pretty awesome with her cool DSLR and extension tubes. I thought my little point-and-shoot really wasn’t too shabby though. Oh, and Scott wanted us to say how we photographed our close ups so here’s my fancy formula – I pressed the macro button.
Okay, okay – I also set it to Aperture Priority at 2.8, and the exposure mode to either Sunny or Cloudy. Ta-da!
I love these little grape hyacinth, but I can get closer!
But maybe not too close to that one. It looks like it might bite.
Speaking of biting, doesn’t that one look like a cat head in the middle there? And yes, biting and cat heads are a valid word association. My little blogging feline friend is also a little biter. I think she means it affectionately. Or maybe she’s just trying to get some time in on the computer.
Hey, these little guys are fuzzy like a cat!
I like this one. Dramatic colors!
But I think this last one is my favorite. I love the colors and the soft ruffly edges.
So, last week happened. It didn’t have a lot to recommend it. Especially with devastating earthquakes and tsunamis. Not good. The minor street flooding, road closures, detours, phlegmtastic chest cold and UTI that I experienced really weren’t so bad when you put it all in perspective. The cold lingers on and I still feel all stuffy and gross, like I’ve got a head full of chowder. Chowder doesn’t belong in your head – it belongs in your bowl.
And with that unappetizing thought, let’s back up a bit. I was trying to decide what was for dinner on Saturday night and here’s where my train of thought went, “Okay, I have some 5-minutes-a-day bread dough leftover, what would be nice with bread? Something saucy or stew-like… stew… what do I have for vegetables…let’s take a peak in the crisper… no carrots…dang, there’s A LOT of lettuce and cucumbers in here. Forget stew, we’re having salad. What goes with bread and salad… a nice hearty soup. Like a chowder!”
I really didn’t feel like going to the grocery store with my big chowder head so I wanted to make-do with what I had on hand. I didn’t have clam juice or canned clams or frozen fish, but I did have the ever-present canned salmon and my own homemade frozen fish stock. Salmon chowder coming up!
The other good thing I happened to have handy was bacon. Bacon makes a good start for so very many things.
And when onions cook in bacon fat, how could that be anything but good? The chowder just came together from there and it gave us some comfort in a bowl in a week that needed all the comfort it could get.
4 slices bacon, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
4 small to medium potatoes (I used Yukon Gold), small dice
¼ cup all purpose flour
4 cups fish stock (or clam juice or chicken or vegetable stock or broth)
1 cup or more 2% milk (or cream, half & half, whole milk or whatever combination of
milk/cream provides the consistency you like)
2 6-ounce cans pink salmon, drained & meat broken up (or use a fresh filet poached in
the fish stock)
½ cup or more chopped scallions
1 tablespoon butter
Heat a large sauce pan over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook until crisp.
Using a slotted spoon, remove the bacon from the pan leaving the grease behind. Add the
onions to the pot and cook in the bacon grease for 5 minutes or until softened, stirring
Add the potatoes, stir, and sprinkle with the flour. You can add the bacon back to the pot
and cook it along with the potatoes at this point if you prefer it softened, or reserve it to
top the chowder when serving. Add the stock or broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to
low and simmer for 10 minutes or until potatoes are soft.
Add the milk or cream and return to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and add the salmon and
scallions. Stir to combine & taste for seasoning. Add salt & pepper as needed. Float butter
on top – when it has melted, the chowder is ready to serve. Stir once again before