Sunday, June 15, 2008

Weekend Baking

Once more, with pictures: the blueberry-lime pound cake from Fine Cooking. It is perfect the day after it's baked. After a few days, especially in hot, humid weather, the glaze starts to disintegrate and be absorbed into the cake. Also, after making this cake a couple of times, I can say that I think the glaze recipe as published is a little too thin. I've taken to adding a little more powdered sugar to get a glaze that pours nicely onto the cake.

Not really seasonally appropriate but tasty nonetheless, Apple Crumble Bars, from Elinor Klivans's Fearless Baking. They were quite good, although again, not totally compatible with hot, humid weather. I'll definitely try them again in the fall during apple season.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Junior's Cake, Part 2

This cake was a variation on this cake, which I made a couple of weeks ago. While I liked the idea of the cake, I thought it would be better with a butter-type cake layer instead of a sponge-type cake layer. So I went back to a reliable yellow cake from More From Magnolia by Allysa Torey.

I made the cake as three layers, then decorated it with the chocolate frosting and toasted coconut/pecan combo. I guess it's a matter of personal preference, but I liked this version better. The butter cake just seems like a more-sturdy base for the frosting and nuts.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Lemon Cream Pie

It's only mid-June, and we are already in the midst of our first summer heat wave. Since Saturday, temperatures have been in the 90s, and the humidity is, as ever, unbearable. In conditions such as this, when even standing still is a perspiration-inducing activity, baking isn't necessarily something that even I want to do. Still, I needed to make something to take to a meeting tonight, so I thought about refrigerator pies.

Lauren Chattman's Icebox Pies is a great collection of recipes for desserts ideal for foul summer weather. In it, the recipe for Lemon Cream Pie caught my eye. To avoid turning on the oven, I relied on a purchased graham-cracker crust. The filling is a pretty simple lemon curd lightened with whipped cream. After I folded the whipped cream into the lemon curd, I was a little worried that the filling would be too soupy. However, after spending a night in the fridge, the pie set up nicely.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

An Early Birthday

My running buddy Brendan is getting married in a couple of weeks, and his birthday falls roughly the week after the wedding. In other words, he'll be away when we would otherwise celebrate his birthday after a Sunday-morning run and then breakfast. I decided that it would be OK for us to celebrate a few weeks early.

Knowing that we would be in for some too-early-in-the-season-for-it-to-be-this-disgusting weather, I looked around for a cake I thought would be sturdy enough to be in the car for a couple of early-morning hours while we ran. With a couple of extralarge eggs to be used up from a dozen I'd bought for the Lost lunch season finale cake, I centered my focus on a book whose recipes are formulated with extralarge eggs: Chocolate American Style by Lora Brody.

Perusing the cake listing in the index, I saw a chocolate pound cake. That would fit the definition of sturdy, so I went with it. Blessedly, the cake is formulated for a 9.5-in. Bundt pan, which meant I didn't have to use the big same-old Bundt pan; I used my star-shaped Bundt for this cake. I zested a couple of oranges into the batter for an extra bit of flavor, and I glazed it with a tried-and-true glaze from Elinor Klivans's Fearless Baking.

Because it was so hideous even today even at 8 in the morning, I brought the cake into our usual Sunday-breakfast site, and we ate it there after breakfast. There's nothing like chocolate cake before noon, much less a good celebratory reason for having it.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Going-Away Blondies

One of my wife's colleagues is moving on to some post-graduate studies, so she put in a request for something to commemorate his last day in the office. Because it was a sort-of last-minute request, I fell back to a tried-and-true favorite, The Great Blondie from The Greyston Bakery Cookbook.

This time, I made them without any butterscotch chips. Instead, I used some dark-chocolate M&Ms in the batter, along with some leftover toasted pecan-and-coconut mixture from a cake I'd baked last week. On top, I used chopped walnuts, chocolate chunks, and chocolate chips. This edition of The Great Blondie is definitely one-of-a-kind.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Lost Cake

Knowing that we had the Lost season finale coming up, I was scouting around for a lavish dessert befitting our annual cliffhanger dissection. When I saw Alex Witchel's article in The New York Times the Wednesday before the Lost finale, I knew had my dessert: a four-layer yellow cake slathered with chocolate frosting, encrusted with a blend of toasted coconut and pecans. The recipe is based on a cake I know all too well, available at Junior's.

The cake is very much of the sponge variety: 10 extra-large eggs in this cake, but only 3/4 cups butter and 1-2/3 cups of cake flour. I've made a version of the frosting before; it's featured in the first Junior's cookbook. I'd actually never forget this frosting recipe because it specifically calls for a stick of margarine (which I believe Julia Child referred to as "that other spread"). The margarine -- and the quarter-cup of dark corn syrup -- really keep the frosting soft and creamy.

Clearly, the cake photographed well. Every once in a while, I take my time with a cake and gussy it up, and this one was surely ready for its closeup. In the end, though, I have a feeling of disappointment with the cake. Somehow, I ended up feeling as if the sponge-type cake was far too delicate for the rich frosting and the nutty coating on the sides. Of course, that didn't stop me from eating the cake. Twice. The next time I'm passing through Grand Central Terminal, I'm going to buy a slice of their version of this cake. I can't help but think that their cake is a sturdier, traditional butter cake.

I have to give props to the toasted coconut-pecan combination for the side of the cake. I had some leftover of that, and a bit of frosting. They were great together, even without benefit of the cake.

The Cake

No photo, but I once again made The Cake. This time, it was the basic version, with apples and chocolate chips. Now that cherries are starting to show up in stores, I think it might be time for a cherry version of The Cake again.

An Early Start to Blueberry Season

The new issue of Fine Cooking contains a great Nicole Rees article about blueberries. The issue showed up a little before blueberry season, but it was enough to get me psyched. Then, by some divine intervention, early-season blueberries showed up. I tried a couple of the recipes from the article: the Blueberry Streusel Bars with Lemon-Cream Filling (photo above) and the Blueberry-Lime Pound Cake (no photo because it was devoured before it could be photographed).

No complaints at all with either recipe. I am not sure what it is, but blueberry works really well with citrus. Both of these things will be baked again, preferably with fresh, locally grown blueberries. (Here in Connecticut, the locally grown citrus, well, it isn't so great.)