Sunday, September 30, 2007

Beauty's Only Skin Deep

Today I made my one of my favorite fall desserts, apple cider gingerbread bundt cake. It is moist, sweet, spicy, apple-y and very hard to stop eating. Luckily, it's not even that bad for you! The recipe is from Cooking Light, so all this fall goodness is yours without the guilt. The only trouble I've ever run into is that certain brands of molasses result in the cake cooking up with a slight bitter aftertaste, but most people don't even notice this. Usually, the cake comes out beautifully, but today I was left trying to resmoosh the top part back on after it refused to part ways with the bundt pan. Ah well, at least it still tastes delicious.

Hey - want to see what it looks like when it's all pretty? Click here!

Source: Cooking Light November 1998
Yield: 16 servings

2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup apple cider
1/2 cup apple butter
1-1/3 cups shredded peeled Granny Smith apple (about 1 apple)
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup egg substitute or 1 egg white

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Sift together the flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, cloves and salt. In your stand mixer, combine granulated sugar, molasses, cider, apple butter, vegetable oil and egg or egg substitute in a large bowl. Mix on medium speed until everything is incorporated. Slowly add the flour mixture, mixing well to incorporate. Add apple; beat well. Pour batter into a 12-cup Bundt pan coated with cooking spray. They are seriously not kidding about this cooking spray. I've made this many, many times and it's only stuck once, but boy did it stick that time. I think I totally forgot to spray it that time. Bake cake at 350°F for 55 minutes or until a knife inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes; invert cake onto a wire rack and remove from pan, and cool completely.

My Pot Runneth Over

I love Sara Moulton. When I first started watching cooking shows, hers didn't interest me, because honestly, she hasn't really got a fabulous stoveside manner. But after awhile I realized that none of that mattered, because she was good at what she did. Really good. And moreover, her recipes actually turn out. And so I was totally excited to make Sweet
Potato Soup With Buttered Pecans

Now, I can fit suitcases in the trunk of my car like none other (ask me about the time I drove from New Jersey to Connecticut with 4 passengers, a cat, and all their assorted luggage in a Honda Civic), but sadly, my spatial prowess does not extend to liquid measures.
And so I ended up with about a quarter inch between the top edge of my soup and the top edge of the soup pot. But did I transfer the soup to another pot? Hells no. I just smacked a cover on it, and watched it closely. What can I say, it was a long week at work. Turns out, there was only a minimal loss of liquid due to boil over. Also turns out, this is a bad thing. I poured some off to a second bowl in order to let my immersion blender work its magic, but at this point, I was feeling mighty skeptical. You see, the recipe called for a ratio of liquid to potato that was far higher than any I've ever seen in a soup recipe before. And I didn't question it, because it's Sara Moulton, and she does not screw this kind of thing up. And after blending? Too soupy. I ended up adding back in only the solids of the part I'd poured off, and that helped thicken a little, but in the future I will definitely not be using all 7 1/4 C of liquid.

The upside is, that even though it was a little brothier than I would like, the soup was delicious and I will make it again. And hey, with less liquid, it might even fit in the pot.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

A Watched Pot...

Most of the time, what I cook is edible. If I chose to flatter myself, I'd say some of what I cook is damn tasty. But I never have mastered rice. Maybe it's genetic. My mother is an excellent cook, and yet, I can recall smoke detectors blaring, swear words emanating from the kitchen, blackened pots soaking in the sink, all for the sake of that starchy side dish. And so generally speaking, I don't make rice.

But last night I was craving rice pudding; so armed with my father's recipe I faced my fears. Stage one went okay. I got the rice to absorb the water, nothing stuck to the bottom of the pan, all was going according to plan. But with the addition of the milk, things got messy. After the first boil over I made sure to keep a closer eye on things. Which is hard in the dark. Living in a pre-war building has its benefits, but top-notch electrical circuitry is not one of them. So leaving my husband in the kitchen I went out to flip the circuit breaker. While out in the hall, my exuberant terrier pounced at the door, locking me out. So there I am, in the hall, with a pot full of boiling milk and rice on the stove. Right. Or a pot with some rice-y goop on the bottom and stovetop full of milk. So after wiping up the stove, relighting the pilot lights and pouring out rice pudding 1.0, I went back to work.

The second try was much more successful. Again the water/rice absorption went smoothly, and nudged along by my constant supervision and stirring, I eventually even got the milk absorbed into the rice, creating a creamy mixture. After spending nearly an hour and half standing over the stove, I was relieved, firmly believing my troubles behind me. I added the vanilla, eggs, sugar and cinnamon, poured the whole thing in a baking dish, and stuck it in the oven.

45 minutes later, I opened the oven, ready for the sweet taste of success. And pulled out a very nicely browned rice bread.

Ah well. Some things never change.


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