Sunday, January 11, 2015

Yogurt Cake

Yogurt Cake with Almond Glaze
Cake is great. Right? Whenever you bake and take one, it's usually a hit. The thing is, if I bake a cake at home, just because, it rarely gets touched after the initial offering. I have been known to freeze them, but frankly I don't care for the texture after they're thawed. Not good. Consequently, I hardly ever bake a cake. But I'm here to report, I have found an exception. It's not fancy, no fluffy piled-a-mile-high frosting, not much of a looker really, mainly due to its rather nude appearance. Just plain, that's it.

1-1/2 cups full-fat yogurt
2/3 cup light olive oil
1-1/2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

This cake has a perfect crumb

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly spray a baking pan with baking spray. I used a 9” high sided cake pan, but you could use a loaf pan just as well. You may also use a spring-form pan.

Mix the first 6 (wet) ingredients together until well blended. Sift the remaining (dry) ingredients together and add to the yogurt mixture. Using a wire whisk, stir until mixed well and no lumps remain.

Pour into a cake pan and bake for approximately 50-60 minutes. It will probably become necessary to gently lay a piece of aluminum foil over the cake about half way through the baking to prevent excessive browning on top. Test for doneness by inserting a toothpick into the center, then place on a rack to cool for 10 minutes. Turn out onto a cake plate and adorn with a light glaze. Serve with coffee or tea or icy milk. All three are perfect with this delightfully delicious cake.


1 cup confectioner's sugar
Half & Half
Almond liqueur (or almond extract)

Add Half & Half a bit at the time until the mixture is the consistency of almost pourable icing. Add enough almond liqueur to complete the texture. Stir until smooth and drizzle over the cake. 

Note: This cake would be excellent for so many things. Strawberry Shortcake, English Trifle or just plain with whipped crème and fresh berries. You may also choose a citrus glaze, which I've tried and found equally delicious.

With Community Dark Roast

Crawfish Season & Sunday

Well it's Winter here in CenLA and on this dreary Sunday, it's cold and rainy. Not a slamming rain, but one of those Winter rains that drips and falls slowly from the heavens and the Oak branches as if each droplet is in slow-mo. A good day for comfort, period. So after church it's time to begin a bit of pampering. First of all, Sunday dinner should always be special. Afterward add a soft pillow and a cozy blanket to a recliner for an afternoon of football playoffs. I'll take it. But first, let's cook.

How about some Crawfish Etouffee? How comforting is that? And maybe served over creamy grits. Grits?! Yes indeed! Shrimp and Grits is a favorite around here, why not go for a savory, saucy ladle of Crawfish Etouffee adorning a puddle of grits. Delicious, let me tell you.

Crawfish Etouffee

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 stalks celery, diced
1/2 green bell pepper, diced
3 or 4 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 pound Crawfish tails
Chicken stock (amount varies)
2 - 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 lemon, juiced
Louisiana hot sauce (to taste)
Parsley (dried or fresh, to taste)
3 or 4 green onions, chopped
Black pepper
Prepared grits

Add butter and olive oil to a cast iron pot and when the butter is melted, add onion, celery and bell pepper. Cook on medium high heat until the veggies are softened. Add the garlic and stir into the the trinity; cook for a minute or so. Add the flour and mix to incorporate. Cook until the rawness of the flour is gone and the bottom of the pot begins to brown slightly. Add the crawfish and stir. Pour in about 1-1/2 cups chicken stock and stir well. Add more stock to make a rather thin sauce. Drizzle in Worcestershire, lemon juice, Louisiana hot sauce and stir to blend. Add parsley, green onions, and adjust seasoning with salt and black pepper. Stir well and simmer for about 15 to 20 minutes until the sauce thickens to desired consistency.
Serve over grits.

Butter and EVOO in my favorite Staub cast iron pot

Steamy Louisiana trinity in the pot

Trinity has softened ~ Adding flour

Fond ready for de-glazing ~ I ♥ fond

Buy Louisiana when you buy seafood

Crawdaddy's in the pot

Cooking low and slow

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Crème Brûlée, FTW

I'm going to apologize to anyone who checks out this blog on a regular basis (Donna, for example) and quite honestly, to myself for not attending it as I should. I have reasons though, not excuses. Lots of things going on in my world with no sign of slowing in the near future. The Horn Player and I love to be busy. But today I found a smidgen of time and that's reason enough to play in the kitchen.

I recently purchased one of those adorable little kitchen torches, however, it's still in the upper appliance cabinet. Today, I must test drive it on Crème Brûlée. What's not to like about a luxurious, creamy, decadent dessert using egg yolks, cream and sugar to their best advantage. Oh my goodness! What a happy dessert day. Besides, it's holiday time and my guys will love this fanciful dessert. Now where are my eggs...

Crème Brûlée

1 cup whole milk
1-1/2 cups heavy cream
Vanilla bean
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup sugar
2 large whole eggs
3 large egg yolks
Hot water for bain-marie
Sugar for garnish
Kitchen torch (oh boy)

Add the milk and cream to a pot, split the vanilla bean, scrape out the inside with the back of a knife and add it in. Drop in the pod to steep in the liquid for extra flavor. Add the salt and sugar and mix well. Bring to a simmer, dissolving the sugar. Beat the eggs and egg yolks well and when the milk/creme comes to the appropriate heat (do not boil, just a gentle simmer) retrieve about 1/2 cup of the liquid and slowly add to the eggs to temper. Remove the pot from the heat and add the egg mixture to the milk/cream in a small stream, stirring all the while. Strain through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl with a lip and pour into custard cups or Crème Brûlée dishes. Place the cups into a large baking pan and put into a preheated 325 degree oven. 

Note: It's safer to pour in the hot water after the baking pan has been placed on an oven rack. 

Add the hot water to the pan until it reaches half-way up the cups. Slide the little beauties into the oven and bake for approximately 40 minutes. The custard should be slightly wobbly, but set. Remove each cup very carefully to a rack to cool. After they have cooled, cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for at least 4 to 6 hours. 

Just before serving, sprinkle about a heaping teaspoon of sugar over the surface of each custard and dissolve with a kitchen torch or under the broiler. The sugar should be a golden caramel color with slightly burned spots. Allow the sugar to cool for a couple of minutes, serve and crack open one of the best desserts known to man. Yum!

Custard cups in a baking pan

Heating the milk and creme perfumed with vanilla seeds and pod

Beat the eggs well

Be very sure to include the straining step, this is why
Strained custard ready to pour

And into the little cups

Those little specks, vanilla

All filled and ready for the hot water ~ My little holiday candle was making me feel festive

Out of the oven...hanging out on the old butcher block
A thing of beauty...

...that won't last very long.

Oh, yes I did!

This is such an easy dessert and tastes like a million bucks. Its velvety custard set against the crackly sugar topping is just...well, perfect! Try it for an evening Christmas dinner and serve with rich, dark coffee. 

Monday, October 27, 2014

Mama's Pound Cake ~ Circa 1965

My oldest grand is growing up fast, too fast. We celebrated his 15th birthday this month, which is just too unbelievable for me to grasp. He's 15 years old, y'all. He's also such a treasure, but I'll refrain from going all grandmother on you. 

It has been a family tradition going back as far as I can recall to mark birthdays with a feast of favorite foods. Say that three times fast. And of course, birthday cake. Their favorite cake to be precise. That's saying, "I love're special".

Well, it seems during the growing process, my 15 year old grand has segued from the cloyingly sweet Key Lime Pie as his favorite dessert, to something not so sweet. We had a discussion on this and his request was a cake with no frosting. So I honored his wishes and chose Mama's very old pound cake recipe of which I have personally had a copy since the mid 1960's. This wonderful cake has a frosting recipe that pairs perfectly with it, but I didn't use it, obviously. The frosting is fabulous, however. It's different from the usual buttercream, very lemony and ever so light. Every time Mama made this cake for a church dinner or as a surprise for someone, she received rave reviews. Now, I must confess I did tweak this recipe somewhat, but only a tiny bit. Instead of using all shortening, I used half butter and half shortening. Butter is, well butter, therefore tasty and the shortening makes for a tender crumb. That combination works much better in my opinion. My other adjustment was the juice of a lemon, not lemon flavoring. Try this old cake recipe, it's worth it.

Deluxe Pound Cake

1/2 cup shortening
1/2 butter
3 cups sugar
6 eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
Zest of one lemon
Juice of one lemon

Cream together the shortening, butter and sugar until very well combined and the sugar is somewhat dissolved, not grainy. Add the eggs one at a time and beat after each one. Sift the dry ingredients together and add alternately with the buttermilk. Add the zest and juice of the lemon. Pour into a 10" tube pan that has been well greased and floured. Place into a cold oven and adjust the heat to 300 degrees. Bake for approximately 1-1/2 hours. This may vary with different ovens. Check it when the house smells amazing to see its progress. Use a tooth pick to test for doneness. Remove and cool on a wire rack. Place on a cake plate and serve with berries, whipped cream, ice cream or whatever your birthday boy desires. In our case it was ice cream.

Note: If using a two piece tube pan, be sure to cover the bottom of the pan with foil to avoid oven clean-up if any batter happens to escape. Trust me, you'll want to do this.

To begin, assemble the first step
Softened butter and shortening in the bowl
~ I really ♥ my KitchenAid ~
Next...sugar in
Round and round go the sugar, butter and shortening
The pic in the background is a favorite ~ My son ~ I love it with me in the kitchen

Getting the dry ingredients ready to sift together

Time to sift

Six eggs into the bowl one at the time

As you can see I had local eggs from a friend with pampered hens
The color and richness of the eggs, beautiful

Buttermilk (a magic ingredient) and the sifted dry ingredients
Begin and end with flour
I usually have three additions of flour alternating with two of buttermilk

I love this smell
Zest and juice ready to perfume the cake
Mixing is done
Never mix batter too long for a tender cake
Another photo 'cause it's just so pretty
Lemon juice containers
I saved the butter wrappers to grease my tube pan
Smart idea ~ Always thinking
Into the oven with a cloak of aluminum foil on the bottom
This is the recipe I spoke of earlier
It's been in this binder since...well, a very long time
The Lemon frosting I rate so highly
What's with my handwriting so long ago ~ Glad I got over backhand writing
This kind of keepsake is nevertheless, priceless
How gorgeous is this?
This is the foil removed from the tube pan and this is the reason it's a good idea

~ * ~

My grandson loved this cake and he took most of it back home with him after enjoying his dinner with the family and getting his birthday gift. His Nana would have been so happy to know her old recipe brought a smile to that sweet face.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Simply Special

Buttermilk Biscuits
It was the custom in the everyday routine of my grandmothers and my mother to "make bread". That, for them, was biscuits and/or cornbread (yes, every day) and occasionally dinner rolls for the Sunday table. Rather rare in the modern kitchens of today. And I really don't understand why because it takes so little time to make it right and really good compared to some instant cornbread mix or a biscuit can that's opened by abusing the edge of the countertop. 

I can remember all too well my first attempt at cornbread. I literally stood on a step-stool while mixing up the batter, because I was too short to reach the top of the counter. Being allowed to help Mama at such a young age with such an important chore, sparked my desire to learn more and to perfect each thing as I moved along. That time in the kitchen with these three women was valuable to me. First of all, I was totally enamored with the whole process of cooking and secondly, Mama was determined to make me a better cook than she was when she and Daddy married. She knew exactly zip, nada, nothing. Opening a can was stretching it for her as she recalled her first feeble attempts at cooking. Daddy was evidently patient. Actually, Mama and I learned several things together as my curiosity grew. She allowed me to experiment and grow in what I found interesting, while giving me a hand and some sound advice. A pinch of this or a pinch of that, as I recall. We worked very well together around the kitchen island.

And Mama made great biscuits by-the-way. I devised my own style and method, different from hers. But no matter what path one takes, the simple task of biscuit baking is special to anyone sitting at your table, usually with a butter knife in one hand and a jam spoon in the other. This is one of my recipes in the little cookbook I wrote for my family. As simple as biscuits are, they're equally delicious.

Buttermilk Biscuits

 2 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/2 tablespoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1/3 cup canola oil
1 cup buttermilk

I love this old bowl
A proper biscuit pan ~ Cast iron
Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar to a mixing bowl. Stir to mix well and remove any lumps, should there be any. Pour the measured oil and buttermilk into a small bowl and mix well, being sure to incorporate both ingredients completely. Add to the flour mixture and stir gently while bringing the flour into the middle of the oil/buttermilk until all the flour is incorporated.

Stir together until it becomes a dough
Soft dough makes tender biscuits
Loosely scatter flour onto waxed paper
Bring the dough together and sprinkle flour on all sides
Pat out with floured fingers to create a rectangle ~ Cut into twelve biscuits
I used a floured dough scraper to cut into equal sized biscuits, or you may use a round biscuit cutter.
Note: I also employ the pinch method by flouring my hands and rolling the dough into a ball then placing it onto the pan. After all the dough is used, I flatten each one with my hand.

Place into a greased and preheated cast iron pan. I put the pan into the oven while it is preheating and add a smidgen of canola oil just before placing the biscuits into it. Bake at 375 until golden brown and delicious!
G, B and D!
 Serve to a grateful family!