Friday, October 29, 2010

Focaccia Frenzy

I tested a few focaccia recipes several weeks ago...I'm trying to find my favorite. I use some cooked potato in the dough to keep it moist and light. These versions are in varying degrees of puffy softness, so I'll keep trying for the perfect combo. Here are some of the fruits of my labor!

cherry tomato and basil focaccia before
cherry tomato and basil focaccia after

fresh rosemary focaccia before

fresh rosemary focaccia after
olive and sage focaccia

onion and asiago focaccia

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Cuckoo for Coconut

I remember when we lived in Italy during the summertime in Milan vendors would sell slices of fresh coconut. Their stall would have raw crescents of coconut sitting on a multi-tiered platform with water slowly dripping down to keep the fruit from drying out. Yes, coconut is not a botanical  nut, but the fruit of the coconut palm.

Coconut Palm from our Honeymoon in Hawaii
I love fresh coconut--it's tropical but not an overpowering flavor in the natural form. I recently made a Towering Coconut Layer Cake and it only used 1 1/2 Tablespoons of pure coconut extract! The rest of the flavor came from the unsweetened, toasted chips that coated the outside.

The recipe was contributed by Tyler Florence to the October 2010 issue of Food & Wine. It was a time consuming endeavor, even for my husband who I sent to the liquor store a third time because I kept forgetting the rum for the rum soak. I used some baking methods that were new--like using a total of 16 eggs! The result was delicious.

Prepared Pans

Towering Coconut Layer Cake

Cake Layers
10 large eggs, room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup plus 1 Tbsp canola oil
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 tsp kosher salt

10 eggs plus vanilla

Rum Soak
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
2 Tbsp spiced rum

Buttercream Frosting
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
6 large egg whites
4 sticks (1 pound) unsalted, room temp butter
1 1/2 Tbsp pure coconut extract
2 cups unsweetened coconut chips, toasted

  1. Make the cake layers: Preheat the oven to 350. Butter four 9" cake pans. Line the pans with parchment paper and butter and flour the paper. In a standing electric mixer fitted with the whisk, combine the eggs, sugar and vanilla and beat at high speed until the mixture is light, fluffy and tripled in volume. With the mixer on, gradually beat in the oil until incorporated. In a medium bowl, sift the flour with the cornstarch and salt. Gently fold the dry ingredients into the beaten egg mixture until thoroughly incorporated.
    Airy egg-y cake batter
  3. Pour the batter into the prepared pans and  bake the cakes for 20-22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. transfer the cakes to a rack and let cool. Unmold the  cakes and peel off the parchment paper.
  4. Make the rum soak: In a small saucepan combine the sugar with the water and cook over high heat, stirring constantly, just until the sugar is completely dissolved. Let cool, then stir in the rum.
    Baked layer
  6. Make the Buttercream Frosting: In a small saucepan combine the sugar with the water and cook over high heat, stirring constantly, just until the sugar is completely dissolved. Stop stirring, then boil the syrup until it reaches 238 degrees (soft ball stage) on a candy thermometer.
  7. Meanwhile, in a standing electric mixer fitted with the whisk, beat the egg whites until firm peaks form. with the mixer at medium high speed, gradually beat in the hot sugar syrup. Reduce the speed to medium and beat until the meringue is cooled to room temperature. Beat in the butter, 2 or 3 Tbsp at a time, until all of the butter has been incorporated. Beat in the coconut extract.
    Final Cake
  9. Brush the rum soak over the cakes. Set one layer on a large plate and spread 1 1/4 cups of the frosting on top; repeat with the next 2 cake layers. Cover with the final cake layer. Spread the remaining frosting evenly around the side and over the top of the cake, swirling it decoratively on top. Gently press the toasted coconut onto the sides of the cake. Refrigerate the cake for at least 1 hour before serving.

Want a slice?

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Crispy Kale

My husband and I hosted a small party to celebrate my mother-in-law's birthday. It was a vegetarian themed menu and one of the appetizers was quite a hit, even with the carnivores. Crispy Kale!

Crispy Kale with lemon garlic creme fraiche

Crispy Kale with Creme Fraiche Dip
adapted from Food & Wine Magazine

1 pound Tuscan or curly kale, stems and large inner ribs removed
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil*
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup creme fraiche
1 tsp finely grated lemon zest
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice

salt and fresh ground black pepper

  1. Preheat oven to 375. In a bowl toss kale with all but 1 tbsp of the olive oil and half the garlic. Spread the kale on 2 baking sheets and roast in the upper and lower thirds of the oven for about 15 minutes until crisp; shift the pans from top to bottom halfway through. Season the kale with salt and pepper and transfer to a large platter
  2. In a small bowl, whisk the creme fraiche with the lemon zest, juice and remaining garlic and oil. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with the roasted kale.
* Instead of tossing the kale with oil, next time I'll spritz them with an oil mister. Well, once I get an oil mister. Because the leaves don't absorb the oil it just sits on top and makes them feel slightly greasy to the touch.