Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Cake Slice Bakers October 2010: Pumpkin-Chocolate Chip Pound Cake

I love just about all things pumpkin. I love pumpkin muffins (especially the Starbucks ones with the cream cheese in the center), pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin cheesecake, and pumpkin bread. Oddly enough, I dislike pumpkin pie.

This is my first month baking with The Cake Slice Bakers. This is an online baking group that bakes their way through a selected cake book each year. The book for this year is Cake Keeper Cakes by Laura Chattman. What's nice about this book is that the recipes are innovative yet simple. Some may require glazes, but all are single layer cakes that don't require frosting. These are perfect "weeknight cakes" - they're easy enough to make that you can come home from work and make one to have for dessert that very night.

So back to the pumpkin. This month's pick is Pumpkin-Chocolate Chip Pound Cake. Yum! I remember eating pound cake at my grandma's house as a kid, although hers was always store-bought. She would often put a store-bought cake on a fancy plate and insist that she baked it. I asked her once why it's called pound cake, and she replied, "Because you can eat as much of it as you want and you won't gain a pound." While that's not true, it won't keep me from gobbling up some of this cake.

A couple of notes:
The chocolate chips are a nice addition, and I suspect that cinnamon chips would also be good. I omitted the walnuts for two reasons: 1) I'm not a fan of nuts in baked goods, and 2) I was planning to take the cake into work and am always hesitant to bring in food with nuts in case of allergies. I used whole milk. I also had skim in the fridge but figured the whole milk would be richer. I checked the cake at 55 minutes, but it needed some more time. It was perfect at one hour.
Baking the cake made the house smell like fall. I wish I could bottle the smell! It was beautiful when it came out - a perfect brown. I let it cool a bit before cutting it, but I had my first piece while it was still warm. It was delicious! The cake itself is very moist with a great pumpkin flavor - not too spicy or sweet - and the chocolate chips add a really nice touch. I think this will become a go-to fall recipe!

Pumpkin-Chocolate Chip Pound Cake

1 3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
Pinch nutmeg
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 cups sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup milk
1 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped walnuts

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Coat the inside of a 9-inch by 5-inch loafe pan with nonstick cooking spray and dust it with flour.
2. Combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, cloves, and nutmeg in a medium mixing bowl.
3. Combing the butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl and cream with an elective mixer on medium-high speed until fluffy, about three minutes, scraping down the sides of th bowl once or twice as necessary.
4. With the mixer on medium-low speed, add the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the sidea of the bowl after each addition. Stir in the pumpkin puree and vanilla. Stir in the milk.
5. Turn the mixer to low speed and add the flour mixture, 1/2 cup at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition. Stir in the chocolate chips and walnuts.
6. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with a rubber spatula. Bake the cake until it is firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 55 minutes to 1 hour. Let the cake cool in the pan for 5 minutes, invert it onto a wire rack, and then turn it right side up on a rack to cool completely.
7. Store uneaten cake in a cake keeper at room temperature for up to 3 days or in the refrigerator, wrapped in plastic, for up to 1 week.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Hey, Paula! Your Sons Are Hot, But...

Let's face it...Paula Deen has hot sons. And they are so sweet. And they can cook. What more could you want from a man? With all that being said, I have to say that I didn't love a recipe for a chicken and rice casserole from The Lady and Sons Savannah Country Cookbook.

This recipe was the October pick for my cookbook club. I thought that a Paula Deen casserole couldn't be too bad. I was surprised that there was no butter in this recipe, but there was some cheese.

It's really a simple meal to make. There is very little prep - just cutting the onions and sauteeing them in some olive oil and making the Uncle Ben's rice. Then all of the canned ingredients (green beans, water chestnuts, and pimentos) need to be drained and rinsed and the water chestnuts chopped. Very simple prep.

The recipe calls for three cups of chopped cooked chicken. I decided to use the white meat from a rotisserie chicken, which definitely saved me the time of roasting several breasts of chicken and waiting for them to cool enough to handle to chop. I used cream of chicken soup instead of cream of celery because my husband grabbed the wrong can at the store. (He swears that he pulled the can from the cream of celery dispenser.) The cream soup was the Campbell's 98% fat free variety. All of the ingredients get mixed together and then go into a casserole dish.
The casserole bakes for 25 minutes. What I loved best about this is that it gave me enough time to clean up the kitchen and wash the dishes so there was no clean-up left to do after we ate dinner.
When it came out of the oven, I have to say that I thought it looked pretty good. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't my favorite. I tend to cook with fresh ingredients, and I think that's why I didn't love this recipe. I detest canned green beans, but they weren't as bad in the casserole. I thought the water chestnuts just didn't go with the dish. I enjoy their texture in spinach dip but didn't like them here.
My 20-month-old loved it and asked for a second bowl. She usually won't eat chicken, so I've learned that casseroles are the way to sneak in some extra protein. My husband said, "It tastes like something my mom would have cooked in 1986." My mother-in-law isn't a bad cook, but she tends to cook dishes like this because it's all my father-in-law will eat. When my husband told him what we were having for dinner he said, "Oh, that sounds good."
So while I'd still be happy to have a dinner date with either of the Deen boys, I would hope that they pick a different meal to make for me.
Chicken and Rice Casserole
Serves 6 to 8
3 cups diced, cooked chicken
1 medium onion, diced and sauteed
One 8-ouce can water chestnuts, drained and chopped
Two 14-ounce cans water chestnuts, drained and chopped
One 4-ounce can pimentos, rinsed and drained
One 10.5 ounce can condensed cream of celery soup
1 cup mayonnaise
One 6-ounce box of Uncle Ben's long-grain and wild rice, cooked according to package directions
1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Mix all ingredients together and pour into a 3-quart casserole dish. Bake for 25 minutes.

Heaven in My Mouth

Fall is my favorite time of year. Not only do I love how the weather gets cooler, allowing one to wear sweaters and jeans, but I love fall cooking - soups, stews, casseroles. And I also enjoy fall baking. After months of "I want to bake something, but I don't want the oven to heat up the house," the urge to bake can easily be handled without the worry of turning the house into a sauna.

I have made two different types of apple cakes this fall. For my husband's birthday, I made an apple spice cake (from Martha Stewart's website) with a cinnamon buttercream frosting. Pretty yummy! I took some of it into work, and the Dean gave it an A+. The other cake I've made is an apple cake with a brown sugar glaze. The apples make the cake so moist, and the glaze, made with brown sugar, butter, and cream really tastes just like caramel. The cake and glaze together provides a caramel apple sensation, but without the caramel getting stuck to your teeth. As a side note, I actually had a bruised tooth from eating a caramel apple. Who knew you could bruise a tooth? I didn't until I went to the dentist for pain that started after eating a caramel apple, and he said that it had bruised my tooth. So, I offer a 99.4% guarantee that this cake will not cause teeth bruising.

And by the way, this cake is delicious served still warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Here's the recipe!

Apple Cake with Brown Sugar Glaze (from Southern Cakes)

Apple Cake
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 eggs
1/2 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups finely chopped apples (I used Granny Smith)
1/2 cup pecans or walnuts, chopped (optional - I omitted)

Brown Sugar Glaze
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon heavy cream

For the cake: Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8-ince pan (round or square) and set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Stir with a whishk to combine.

In large bowl, mix the eggs with a hand mixer until light in color and foamy. Add the oil and vanilla and beat well. Stir in the flour mixture with a spoon and continue stirring the batter until the flour disappears. Add the apples and nuts and stir to mix them into the batter.

Scrape batter into prepapred pan and bake for 40-45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Place the hot cake on a wire rack. Whie it's still hot, prepare the glaze.

For the glaze: Combine all the ingredients into a saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, until the mixture comes to a gentle boil. Cook for 3-5 minutes. Spoon the hot glaze over the still hot-from-the-oven cake. Let the glazed cake cool completely before serving straight from the pan.