Tuesday, June 29, 2010

TWD: Rum-Drenched Vanilla Cakes

Rum.  Vanilla.  Cake.  What's not to like?  This week's Tuesdays with Dorie selection was made by Wendy of Pink Stripes.  And what a good selection it was!

I was able to mix these babies up yesterday while my baby was napping.  Trust me, this is monumental around here.  And while I have a love-affair with my Kitchen Aid mixer, I do like that these cakes are easily mixed up by hand. 

I thought about halving the recipe, but really, this is a cake that is just screaming to be shared with friends.  Or maybe eaten in one sitting...no, no, no, definitely shared!  I did follow the recipe as written, using vanilla extract instead of the vanilla beans.  And I used half & half instead of the cream.  No particular reason, that's just what I had on hand! 

If you like rum, then this is the cake for you!  If you don't like rum, well...there are actually variations listed with the recipe where you can leave the rum out.  Myself?  I like the rum flavor!  The texture of the cake is more dense, like a pound cake.  The flavor really is better the next day.  If you can wait! I sent one of the loaves to work with D.  The verdict?  "They love it" was the response I got. 

I think the next time I make this, I may play around with it a bit more.  I'd like to try baking it in a bundt pan, but first I'll throw in some chopped toasted pecans in the bottom before adding the batter.  I also really liked the syrup that you soak the cake with.  Other rum cake recipes I've tried in the past have called for butter in the glaze, and it never quite soaked in right in my opinion.  However, this simple syrup soaks right in with ease!

Rum and rum cake always remind me of the cruise that included a stop in Jamaica that D and I took for our honeymoon.  It was a blast and I fell in love with the island and the attitude there.  No problem! 

Try this cake -- I think you'll be happy you did!  For the recipe, see Wendy's post and be sure to stop by and see what the other TWD Bakers did with this week's selection!


Monday, June 21, 2010

Scones - Chocolate Chip and Vanilla Bean

Scones.  I love them.  I don't think I ever actually tried one until I was in college.  I've mentioned before that they are fun and easy to make.  Really, they are!  And when I saw a recipe for chocolate chip mini scones in my King Arthur Flour catalog, I knew I had to try them. 

The original recipe is actually called "Scone Nibbles" because you are supposed to cut the baked scones in half once again, making tiny bite-sized pieces.  I skipped that last step, because they are just the right size in my opinion.  Otherwise, I actually follwed the recipe as written.  The recipe also calls for coating them in a glaze after they cool.  This not only adds an extra sweetness (but not too much!) but it also helps keeps the scones fresh for a longer time.  However, you probably won't have to worry about that, because they are so good they seem to disappear!  My family devoured the ones I made. 

I also got inspired by Ree, the Pioneer Woman, to make some mini vanilla bean scones, modifying the recipe I used for the chocolate chip mini scones.  They turned out nicely, and were well-received, but I was hoping for a bit of a punch from the vanilla, and it was a much more subtle flavor instead. 

Up next on my scone making list -- cinnamon chip!

Mini Vanilla Bean Scones
adapted from KAF, and inspired by PW

1/2 - 2/3 cup half & half
1 whole vanilla bean
2-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
3/4 tsp salt
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 cup unsalted butter, very cold, cut into small pieces
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract

7 Tbsp half & half
1 whole vanilla bean
3-1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Split one vanilla bean down the middle and scrape out the seeds.  Stir into 1/2 cup half & half and set aside for 15-20 minutes.

Whisk together the dry ingredients for the scones.  Cut in the butter until the mixture is crumbly and about the size of peas.  Add the eggs and vanilla extract to the half & half and vanilla bean mixture, stirring to combine well.  Stir the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients just until well-combined, adding a bit more half & half if the dough seems overly dry. 

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and press together, forming an 8-inch square, approximately 3/4-inch thick.  Cut the dough into 16 equal squares, then cut each square in half diagonally, making 32 triangles. 

Place the scones on a parchment-lined baking sheet, then place in the freezer for 30 minutes (uncovered).

While the scones are chilling, preheat the oven to 425'F.  Remove the scones from the freezer and bake for 20 minutes, or until golden brown.  Place on a rack to cool completely. 

For the glaze, split the remaining vanilla bean down the middle and again scrape out the seeds.  Add them to the 7 Tbsp of half & half and set aside for 15-20 minutes.  Stir the half & half mixture into the powdered sugar and vanilla extract and whisk until completely smooth.

Coat the cooled scones with the glaze.  I prefer to do this by dunking them in the bowl of glaze one at a time and turning to coat completely.  Place them on a rack set over a baking sheet or parchment paper (to catch the dripping glaze) to set.

Yield: 32 mini scones


Sunday, June 13, 2010

Well, hello there

It may be hard to notice, but I've been playing around with my blog again.  I'm trying to learn how to use the features of Blogger a little better, and in the process hoping to make visiting my blog a better experience for everyone!  I've even created a new Welcome Page for the blog.  Go...check it out...let me know what you think!

If you have any tips, tricks, or suggestions please let me know, either in the comments or by emailing me at alphabet.soup at live dot com.  Also, if you notice that anything on my blog has gotten all out of whack, let me know that too!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

What was I thinking?

Tuesday night, it took me two hours to prepare supper. And I've been complaining about it ever since! "Why did it take me two hours? It shouldn't have taken two hours! It's crazy..." My apologies to Christi and D for going on and on about it, lol.

At first glance, it shouldn't have taken that long. Yes, D was getting home late that night. Yes, I had a two-year-old sous chef helping me.

But I was just making chicken strips and oven fries. Both of those are rather easy to fix. Oh wait...that's right...I did decide to fix a new recipe -- cheesy garlic swirly rolls. Oh yeah...and then there was the new cookie recipe I just had to try...maybe that's why it took two hours.

The chicken strips and oven fries were done at about the same time. Which just happened to be the time that the bread was going in the oven, due to poor planning on my part, apparently. By the time the bread was done, I had to stick the chicken back in the oven to heat it back up (hey, at least it stayed crispy!). And it was about this time that I decided to go ahead and whip up the cookies, because surely that wouldn't take long.

But...by the time the food was ready to eat, and the last pan of cookies was going in the oven (the recipe only made 20 cookies) the baby was d-o-n-e done. He was hungry, mad, and definitely telling me about it. So, I scarfed down bites of food here and there while I could, and slipped back into my role of milkmaid.

It was a hectic night, and I pretty much brought it on myself. There are still a few dishes hanging around that need to be cleaned.

Again...what was I thinking?? Oh well, at least all the food was good!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

TWD - Tender Shortcakes

Well, after a longer-than-planned hiatus, I am hopefully back in the swing of things. Luckily, this week's TWD pick was rather easy! Cathy of The Tortefeasor chose Tender Shortcakes. Perfect for summertime, if you ask me!

These were quick and easy to put together, being essentially a sweet biscuit, and biscuits are something I make frequently. I halved the recipe, and still came out with 8 shortcakes. Dorie must make hers quite large, because the full recipe was supposed to make 10! Hmmm...then again, maybe I should have made mine larger...this way, I could say I only ate one, instead of two. I may have to rethink my strategy next time!

Anyway, I probably could have added another spoonful of cream to my dough as it seemed a tad on the crumbly side. However, the end result was just fine - light, tender, sweet, and oh so delicious! Sadly, I did not have any extra cream to whip up to serve with them, so I just had plain strawberries with mine. D stood over the sink and ate his plain (which might also be how I ate my second one...).

This was sort of a last minute addition to supper last night. I had actually planned on making it for dessert, and then halfway through our meal my brain actually turned on and I realized I had managed to forget them! I decided to make them anyway, and am glad that I did! This recipe will definitely be bookmarked for future use. One of the great things about this recipe is that you can make the shortcakes, freeze them before baking, and have them at the ready for when you need them. Gotta love that!

For the recipe, check out Cathy's blog, and also be sure to see what the other TWD Bakers did with this week's recipe!

Enjoy! :)

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Country-Style Ribs

Back in December of 2008, right after I started blogging, I posted about my recipe & cookbook collection. Well, needless to say I've only added to it since then. I've decided that I really need to start pulling more recipes from all those cookbooks and cooking magazines because they are just sitting on shelves and in boxes taking up space. My goal is to *eek* pare them down over the summer. Well, at least the magazines!

I've started with a recipe from the most recent issue of Taste of Home's Simple & Delicious. It is a recipe for BBQ ribs in the crockpot. Oddly enough, the post from Dec '08 that I mentioned above also had a recipe for BBQ ribs in the crockpot...and this was not planned!

This recipe went over fairly well with my guys. It's just a simple, easy recipe with a rather mild (but good) flavor. You could easily mix up the sauce ingredients the night before to make preparation in the morning even easier. Although the recipe calls for a sliced onion, I used dried minced onion instead, because that was what I had on hand! I also used bone-in ribs instead of boneless.

Country-Style Ribs
Adapted from Simple & Delicious

1-1/2 lbs boneless country-style pork ribs
1 medium onion, sliced
2 cups tomato juice
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup ketchup
2 Tbsp cider vinegar
2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp ground mustard
1/4 tsp chili powder

Place ribs and onions in a 3 qt slow cooker. In a small bowl, combine the remaining ingredients. Pour over ribs. Cook on low heat for 5-1/2 to 6 hours, or until meat is cooked through and tender. Strain sauce and serve on the side if desired.

Yield: 4 servings

Enjoy! :)

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Seven Pans of Cinnamon Rolls

Back in March, I was blessed with a wonderful "Girls' Weekend" by my absolute best friend. She thought I needed a break before the baby made his arrival...and she was right!! Christi also wanted to tackle the Pioneer Woman's Cinnamon Rolls. See, we had given each other the Pioneer Woman cookbook for Christmas, and these cinnamon rolls were tempting both of us. However, the recipe makes a very large batch, and well...Christi wanted some backup before tackling them by herself.

The morning started out with Starbucks. Actually, that's not true. The morning started out with a crazy trip to IHOP, which was conveniently located right by our hotel. Did I mention that I even got to stay in a hotel for my "mama needs a break" weekend? Good stuff, I'm tellin' ya! Anyway, I got the insane idea that we should run to IHOP for a quick breakfast before starting our baking day. Um, quick? Not so much. Oh well, we were having a great time no matter what!! Then we made a Starbucks run. :)

We got to our house and plugged in Christi's ipod for some good baking music (think Death Cab for Cutie, etc). And then we set off to bake! When a recipe starts off with a quart of milk, cup of oil, and cup of sugar, you know it's going to make a lot of whatever it is you are baking!! For the Pioneer Woman's full recipe, along with an intense picture tutorial, click here.

We pretty much followed the recipe, except I did have to add extra flour to get the dough to the right consistency, about one cup more. Also, we changed up the icing a bit, leaving out the coffee, and substituting vanilla extract for the maple flavoring. Use a little extra milk to get it to the right consistency if needed. The results of the experiment? Seven pans of yummy, buttery (very, very buttery!) ooey, gooey cinnamon roll goodness!!

We ate one pan right then and there. Okay, not just the two of us! My husband and kids did help out with that part! Christi took one pan with her, some we shared with friends, and I popped a couple of pans in the freezer for later. I can attest that they are just as good after a couple of months in the freezer as they are right out of the oven! D decided that he actually prefers them partially frozen (I froze the iced, cooled rolls right in the baking pan, covered tightly with foil). I like them cold. Or warmed up. Either way. Just let me eat them.

I have been told that we are going to have to make these on at least an annual basis. Maybe around Christmas. However, I've also been told that Christi's husband is still upset over the fact that he didn't get to try any of these. So maybe we'll make some sooner, rather than later...