Monday, November 28, 2011

Pound Cake French Toast Stacks with Sweet Goat Cheese Mousse and Warm Balsamic Roasted Strawberries

How was your Thanksgiving, friends?  Mine was wonderful.  I'm still picking the meat off of a smoked turkey carcass and fighting the urge to dig into the remaining coconut pie. (Mom, please stick it in the freezer before I come over and tackle it.) We had one of our three (!) dinners at my brother-in-law's house in the woods.  It is absolutely gorgeous this time of year and some of us even found some treasures buried beneath the crisp fall leaves.

One man's giant acorn is another man's treasure.

I have one more decadent dessert to post before I make myself fast on broth and lettuce leaves until Christmas.  I just felt the urge to get this out of my hard drive and into the blogosphere where it can truly be appreciated.

It probably seems odd to be posting a strawberry dessert at the end of November, but I actually have some very nice looking strawberries in my grocery store right now.  But I bet if you don't have fresh strawberries, you have the frozen ones, and I'm sure they would work just as nicely.  Think of this dish as a cold weather version of Strawberry Shortcake.  I made French toast out of store-bought pound cake slices (oh yes I did), then whipped up a sweet and tangy goat cheese mousse, then layered that with warm strawberries that I roasted in aged balsamic vinegar and sugar.  It was heaven.  And I would be perfectly within my right to eat this for breakfast because everybody knows that French toast is a breakfast food. 

BUT WAIT!!!  There's more!!!

Let's just say that you didn't want to go through the trouble of making French toast out of pound cake slices.  You could easily layer some small cubes of pound cake with the goat cheese mousse and strawberries and put it all in cute little 8-ounce mason jars.  And the great thing about this is that it's instant portion control!

Unless you eat four of them in one sitting, then it's a train wreck.

Could you just die from all the cuteness? 

Here are my notes:

-I've said it before and I'll say it again.  I prefer aged balsamic vinegar, but you can use the regular.

-And if you think you don't like balsamic vinegar on strawberries, you are wrong.

-And if you think you don't like goat cheese, you are wrong.

-And if you think you don't like pound cake made into French toast, well, come one, DON'T BE RIDICULOUS!!!

-The balsamic vinegar and sugar will become thick in the oven and make a syrup.  This is a very good thing. :)

Pound Cake French Toast Stacks with Sweet Goat Cheese Mousse and Warm Balsamic Roasted Strawberries

Roasted Balsamic Strawberries:
3 cups sliced strawberries
4 tablespoons aged balsamic vinegar
4 tablespoons sugar
Goat Cheese Mousse:
3/4 cup chilled heavy cream
1 (6-ounce) roll goat cheese, softened to room temperature
1/3 cup powdered sugar
Pound cake French Toast:
2 large eggs
3/4 cup milk
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon vanilla 
8 (1/2 to 3/4 inch thick) pound cake slices

1.      Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Combine the strawberries, the balsamic vinegar and 4 tablespoons sugar in a large bowl.  Transfer to a baking sheet and spread in a single layer, making sure to pour all the liquid over the berries.  Roast in oven, stirring several times, for 40 minutes or until strawberries are roasted and syrup is very thick. 
2.      Beat the heavy cream in a medium bowl on high speed until medium peaks form.  In another bowl, beat the goat cheese and powdered sugar together until smooth.  Fold the whipped cream into the goat cheese until combined. 
3.      Whisk together eggs, milk, cinnamon and vanilla in a shallow dish.   Dip pound cake slices in egg mixture, evenly coating both sides. Cook pound cake slices in batches, in a large nonstick skillet sprayed with cooking spray over medium heat 2-3 minutes on each side or until golden brown.  Keep warm.
4.      To serve, place one slice of French toast on each of 4 plates, then place a dollop of goat cheese mousse on top.  Spoon some of the warm strawberries over the top, then place another slice of French toast on the strawberries.  Place another dollop of mousse and top with more strawberries and syrup.  4 servings.

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Monday, November 21, 2011

Cranberry-Orange Butter

 Do you want your Thanksgiving table to be all it can be?

Well do you, punk?

One of the easiest ways to add some pizazz to your Turkey day dinner is with a compound butter, and this one is a cinch.  My mom always makes this for Thanksgiving, but I never actually tried it until just a few years ago because way back in my youth I had labeled it "yucky", and that stamp of disapproval carried over into my adulthood. One Thanksgiving not too long ago, I got the courage up to slather some on a hot roll.  I was hooked from then on.   

Just three ingredients for this simple, sweet and slightly tart butter.  And I'll tell you what,  I used the off brand for all of them to save a buck.

 Cranberry-Orange Butter

2 sticks butter, softened to room temperature
1/3 cup whole cranberry sauce
2 tablespoons orange marmalade

Beat butter until fluffy.  Beat in cranberry sauce and orange marmalade.  Will keep several weeks in the fridge.

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Thursday, November 17, 2011

Caramel Pumpkin Italian Cream Cake

I have made a countless Italian cream cakes in my life.  For this Thanksgiving though, I want to break out of my rut, so I had an idea running through my mind that I just had to try.  I made a few changes to my tried and true Italian cream cake recipe and voila!  ( I had originally typed "wallah", but something deep down told me that's just not right, Lorie, that's just not right.) (And FYI--I do not know how to put an accent mark over the A.)  A pumpkiny fall version, perfect for any Thanksgiving table.  This cake is very moist and has the addition of a slightly salted caramel filling, because I'm not a huge fan of an excessive amount of cream cheese icing.  I love the way it turned out.

And can someone tell me why these cakes are called Italian cream, because I'm not getting the whole Italian connection. 

Here are my notes:

-This cake should be stored in the fridge, but let it come to room temperature before serving.  I think this can definitely be made a couple of days ahead of time.  Just store in an airtight container.

-Work fast when spreading the caramel icing on the first two layers.  If it gets too thick by the time you reach the second layer, just heat it over low heat while stirring to loosen it again.

-There is just enough cream cheese frosting to frost the outside.  I really didn't have enough to do any piping, so if you like to pipe fancy dollops and scrolls, you may want to increase.

-You could stir in the toasted coconut and pecans into the cream cheese icing, I just never do that.  I prefer to pack it on the sides.

-You could certainly increase the cinnamon and nutmeg in the batter if you wanted.

-Traditional Italian cream cakes are not my favorite.  I like them, I just don't love them.  However, everyone around me seems to love them and I get lots of requests for mine, but I'd take this one over a regular one any day.

-Did I mention that it's really moist?

-When making the caramel icing, it needs to be brought to a rolling boil.  Here's what that process looks like:

See the bubbles around the edge?  We are not there yet, monkey.

 Wait for it....

 ....wait for it....

 ....WAIT FOR IT...

...okay, monkey!  We're there!  When I stirred, the bubbles did not go away.  It is rapidly boiling all over the surface, not just around the edges.  

I'm curious.  How do you feel about me calling you monkey?

You may now proceed with beating in the powdered sugar and vanilla.  But work fast when your spreading, because it hardens quickly.

Caramel Pumpkin Italian Cream Cake

2 cups pecan halves
2 cups sweetened flaked coconut, divided
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons shortening
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
6 eggs, separated
1 1/4 cup pure canned pumpkin
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk

Caramel frosting:
1/2 cup butter
1 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/8 teaspoon fleur de sel or other coarse sea salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cup sifted powdered sugar

Cream Cheese Frosting:
1/2 cup butter, softened to room temperature
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened to room temperature
4 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Place pecans in a single layer on a baking sheet and toast for 10 to 15 minutes or until golden brown and fragrant.  Reserve 8-10 halves for decorating the top, then finely chop the remainder.  Set aside 1 cup chopped for the cake batter, then place the remaining chopped pecans in a small bowl.  Toast 1 cup coconut in a nonstick skillet over high heat until golden brown, about 3-4 minutes, stirring often.  Reserve remaining coconut for cake batter.  Place the toasted coconut in the bowl with the pecans and mix.  Set aside.

Cream the shortening, butter, sugar, and 1 cup light brown sugar together until fluffy on medium speed.  Add egg yolks, one at a time, until incorporated.  Beat in the pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg, and 2 teaspoons vanilla until well mixed.

Sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.  Add to the butter mixture alternately with the buttermilk.  Stir 1 cup reserved (untoasted) coconut and the reserved 1 cup chopped pecans.

Beat the egg whites until stiff in a medium bowl.  Gently fold into batter.  Divide the batter equally among 3 (9-inch round) cake pans that have been sprayed with nonstick cooking spray and lined with parchment paper or wax paper.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool completely on wire rack.

When cakes are completely cool, make the caramel frosting.  Place 1/2 cup butter, 1 cup light brown sugar, 1/4 cup heavy cream and the fleur de sel in a medium heavy saucepan over medium-high heat.  Bring to rapid boil and boil for 1 minute while stirring constantly.  Remove from heat and beat in 1 teaspoon vanilla and 2 cups powdered sugar with a handmixer on medium speed until mixture is thick and spreadable.  Immediately spread half of the frosting on the first cake layer that has been placed on cake plate or cardboard cake round, bottom side up (flat side up).  Place the second layer on top, bottom up, and spread the remaining frosting to the edges.  Place the third layer on top, bottom side up.

Make the cream cheese frosting.  Beat the butter and cream cheese until creamy and fluffy with the whisk attachment on high speed.  Gradually beat in the powdered sugar until fluffy and smooth.  Beat in vanilla.  Frost the outside and top of cake with frosting.  Carefully press the reserved coconut-pecan mixture into the sides of cake, then place pecan halves on top for decoration.

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Friday, November 11, 2011

Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal with Brown Sugar and Cinnamon Whipped Cream


I've had a container of leftover pumpkin puree in my fridge for about a week, and it stares at me every time I open the door. I know it needs to be used, but I haven't stuck it in the freezer yet because I have a short list of pumpkiny things I'd like to make.  But life.  Life is busy.  Life makes me do chores and projects.  Life sometimes won't let me bake or browse Pinterest until my eyes glaze over or lie on the couch like a vegetable and watch back to back Lifetime movies.  And the pumpkin puree screams at me when I open the door.  It screams, "I will grow mold soon and my blood will be on your hands, lady, on your hands, you food waster!" 

So a couple of days ago, I had a light bulb moment that would once and for all silence that antagonistic pumpkin puree. 

I would stir some in my oatmeal!  Brilliant!

And I was really proud of the healthy little bowl of oatmeal that sat before me, but as I looked at it, I saw that it needed a little something else, so I did a very naughty thing.

I whipped up some heavy cream with some brown sugar and cinnamon and put it on my oatmeal.  And it was delicious.

The end.

Just a few notes:

-Yes, I could have cooked the oatmeal in some milk to make it creamier, but I was trying to save calories.  But then I topped it with whipped cream.  I know.  It doesn't make sense to me either.

 -I used 3 tablespoons light brown sugar, but a normal person could get by on 2 tablespoons.

-Really, the oatmeal is pretty healthy.  I am thinking about doing this with mashed sweet potatoes.  I think this is an excellent way to sneak in some nutrition in the form of those orangey colored veggies and fruit that we are all supposed to eat.

-I did not measure the whipped cream, but I promise it was just a small dollop.  And it melts over the hot oatmeal, in a really dreamy way.

-All sugar and spices are totally adjustable to taste.

-I sprinkled mine with toasted walnuts.

-This makes like two servings.

-It was some darn tasty oatmeal.

Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal with Brown Sugar and Cinnamon Whipped Cream

1 cup water
1/2 cup quick cooking oatmeal
2 tablespoons butter
2-3 tablespoons light brown sugar
1/2 cup pure canned pumpkin or pumpkin puree
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoons nutmeg

Whipped Cream:
1/4 cup heavy cream
Light brown sugar to taste
Ground cinnamon to taste

Toasted walnuts or pecans

Bring water to a boil over medium heat and stir in oats.  Cook for 1 minute, stirring often, then remove from heat.  Stir in butter and next four ingredients.

Beat the heavy cream on high speed until foamy.  Add light brown sugar (approx. 1-2 teaspoons) and a pinch of cinnamon to taste.  Keep beating until soft peaks form.

Place a dollop of whipped cream on the warm oatmeal, and sprinkle with toasted walnuts or pecans.

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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Roasted Banana-Ricotta Scones with Peanut Butter Glaze

I have been sitting here, trying to think of some opening bloggy chit-chat before I go straight into "this is what I made today."

And my mind is almost completely blank.  Almost.

I just have this nagging feeling that someone needs to hear a little more than "this is what I made today."

So I'd like to invite that someone into my virtual kitchen, pour them a cup of coffee and serve them a scone, and tell them that they matter.  They are special.  They are important.  And there is hope.

And if that is too serious for a food blog, then I'm sorry.  But I have nothing else, except to say that I made some scones today.  They were really good.

Here are my notes:

-Chopped peanuts would be great in these, either in the dough or sprinkled on top, or both.

-I love roasting bananas with a little butter and brown sugar.  It deepens their flavor.

-I used ricotta cheese, but I'm sure an 8 ounce package of cream cheese like I used in my pumpkin scones would work well too.

-These are not flaky scones.  They are more fluffy and sweet, like drop biscuits.

-It takes about 10 minutes for the peanut butter glaze to set up. 

Roasted Banana-Ricotta Scones with Peanut Butter Glaze

3 bananas, sliced
2 tablespoons melted butter
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold butter, cut into small pieces
2 large eggs
1 cup ricotta cheese
1 egg, beaten

1/4 cup peanut butter
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla

Chopped peanuts, if desired

1.     Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Place bananas in medium baking dish. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons melted butter and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons brown sugar and bake for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until bubbly and caramelized.  Let cool.

2.      Increase oven temperature to 375 degrees. Spray 2 large baking sheets with nonstick cooking spray.  In a large mixing bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, salt, and 1/3 cup light brown sugar.  Cut in butter, using fingertips or pastry cutter, until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  

3.      In a medium bowl, beat together 2 eggs, the ricotta cheese, and the roasted bananas with a handmixer until mixed.  Mixture will be lumpy.  Add banana mixture to the flour mixture and stir by hand until just combined

4.      Drop dough into 12 equal mounds on baking sheets, spacing about 2 inches apart.  Brush tops with the beaten egg.   Bake 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. 

5.      About 5 minutes before scones come out of the oven, make the glaze.  Place the peanut butter and 2 tablespoons butter in a small heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring often until melted and smooth.  Remove from heat and whisk in the powdered sugar and vanilla until smooth.  

6.      When scones come out of oven, place them on a wire rack over a baking sheet.  Drizzle with the glaze.  Sprinkle the tops with chopped peanuts if desired.  12 scones.

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