My Guest Post for Choc Chip Uru on Go Bake Yourself

Twinkle, Twinkle...

Seasons Greetings!  (And surprise, surprise!)

One of the perks of blogging is the ability to be instantly transported around the globe at the click of a button — not just to a place, but into someone’s home.  More specifically… their kitchen!

During the past year or so, we’ve all had the pleasure of getting to know Choc Chip Uru at Go Bake Yourself.  Uru has thrilled us with her baking creativity, restaurant reviews (love your CCU Undercover Series!), wit, and humor, but she’s also invited us into her life — and an interesting and delightful one, at that.

This busy young lady was due for a much needed break and asked if I’d be willing to write a guest post.  Needless to say, I was on it like a rolling pin on cookie dough!  Glad to help while you’re away, Uru! xo

Today, I invite you to travel with me far, far south of my usual neck of the woods to my guest post in the land “down under.”

Happy, Shiny, Shimmery Holidays everyone!

Enjoying global friendships,

~Kim

Put De Lime In De Coconut Cake

Have you ever seen a recipe and known in your heart of hearts that you must make it now?  That’s how I felt when I saw Pina Colada Cake by Chef Dennis earlier this year.

Normally, I follow a recipe to a “tee” the first time — out of respect for the Chef who created it, and because I hope you do the same with mine. :)  I can’t begin to count the number of fabulous meals that have graced our table as a result.  (I love food blog world… sigh.)

But, when I checked my pantry for pineapple, I was out.  (Drat!)

Sometimes ya gotta punt…

Racking my brain for a suitable substitute, I decided to compensate for the missing “pineapple moisture” with a smidge of lime juice.

(Bear in mind, it was strictly conjecture at that point… precise measurements to follow.)  Lime pairs well with coconut, yes?

Speaking of “pairs,” I spied some fresh pears on the counter… hmm.

A chopped pear would contribute “body” without adversely affecting the flavor.  Don’t ya just love food “science?”

Allow me to interject — I Googled straightaway to see if there were other lime & coconut cakes out and about — there were.  But, none of them included a pear or spelled it ala Harry Nilsson’s song. :)

After a few trials and tweaks (made it with a D’Anjou pear first, then tried a Bosc — all in the name of research, of course…), it was a keeper!  The cake was moist and dense, with a hint of lime and a tease of coconut.

After all was said and done, I frosted my “adaptation,” sprinkled toasted coconut over the top, and it was indeed over the top!

Prepare yourself for a taste of the tropics…

Put De Lime In De Coconut Cake

(adapted from Pina Colada Cake by Chef Dennis)

Cake:

2 c. all purpose flour

1 tsp. baking powder

3/4 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. salt

1 1/2 cups coconut, divided

1/2 c. butter, plus additional for the pan

1/4 c. brown sugar (that’s all!)

2 eggs, at room temperature

1 ripe pear (D’anjou or Bosc), peeled, seeded, & diced

Zest of 1 medium lime

1/4 c. freshly squeezed lime juice

15 oz. can Cream of Coconut, divided (I used Coco Lopez)

Coconut Lime Frosting (recipe follows)

Toasted Coconut, for garnish

Coconut Lime Frosting:

3/4 c. Mascarpone cheese (homemade or store-bought)

3/4 c. cream cheese, softened

1 Tbsp. butter, softened

2 c. confectioners’ sugar

1 1/2 tsp. freshly squeezed lime juice

1 tsp. vanilla

1/4 tsp. salt

1 to 2 Tbsp. Cream of Coconut, reserved from above

For the Cake:

Preheat oven to 350° F.  Butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch round cake pan; set aside.

Spread 1 cup of coconut on an ungreased baking sheet.  Toast in the oven for 7 to 10 minutes, stirring several times until golden brown; immediately remove from baking sheet to cool; set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and remaining 1/2 cup coconut (untoasted); set aside.

In a large bowl, beat butter and brown sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.

Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition; set aside.

Peel, core, and dice the pear.  Place the diced pear into a 2-cup measuring cup.  (It should yield 1 cup, loosely packed.)  Add lime zest and juice; toss to coat.

In the same measuring cup, pour 1 cup Cream of Coconut (approximately) over the diced pear mixture, until the total quantity measures 1-3/4 cups.  Reserve remaining Cream of Coconut for the frosting.

Add pear mixture to creamed mixture; beat well.  (Batter will look soupy and some of the pears will still be “chunky,” but that’s okay.)

Gradually add flour mixture in thirds — no need to create a dust storm! — and beat on low speed until just combined.

Spread batter into prepared pan.  Bake 35 to 45 minutes, until a wooden pick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

Cool for 10 minutes on a wire rack.  Run a sharp knife around inside edge of the pan, invert and remove the pan, then flip the cake back onto the cooling rack to cool completely.

(Note:  Cake may rise significantly above the pan — not to worry — just another reason to label it “over the top!”)

Trim edges of cake before frosting, if desired.

For the Frosting:

Prepare homemade Mascarpone cheese several hours in advance (I made it with lime juice instead of lemon juice); refrigerate until set.

Alternatively, use store-bought Mascarpone & get on with it. :)

Whip the cream cheese, Mascarpone, and butter until fluffy.

Add confectioners’ sugar, vanilla, salt, and lime juice; mix well.

Add enough of the reserved Cream of Coconut until frosting reaches “spreadable” consistency.

Frost top & sides of cooled cake.  Sprinkle with toasted coconut.

Enjoying cake by de lake,

~ Kim

Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice Scones

Hi, everyone!  I’m overjoyed to be writing this from home (arrived late Sunday night), but instead of an update just yet, this is a warm welcome to a delightful event…

It’s been a long time since I’ve been to a baby shower — even longer since I had one.  (My “baby boy” is 30 and my “baby girl” is 27.)  How time flies… and how quickly babies grow up!

That’s why I’m tickled to be part of this virtual event honoring Jenna of Jenna’s Everything Blog.  (For an honest, humorous, heartfelt chronicle of her pregnancy, please click on this link.It’s a joy reading the musings of this first-time-Mom-to-be and I’m still trying to figure out how she does that disappearing belly trick! :)

Today’s hostess is Veronica of Veronica’s Cornucopia and she put a lot of effort into coordinating things.  Thank you!  It was fun to be in on the “secret” from the start; later in this post, there are links to everyone who joined in to surprise Jenna.  (Be sure to stop in and say “hi!”)

Awhile back, Jenna announced that their bundle of joy is a sweet lil’ girl and it made me think of a nursery rhyme I used to read to my own daughter.

Sugar and spice and everything nice,

That’s what little girls are made of.

Which reminded me of a terrific scone recipe… 

Sugar & Spice & Everything Nice Scones

2 c. all purpose flour

4 to 6 Tbsp. sugar

1 Tbsp baking powder

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp. ground cardamom

1/3 c. dried fruit (I used raisins — regular and golden)

1 c. heavy cream, plus more for brushing

Coarse sugar for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 425° F.

In a large bowl, mix together dry ingredients with a fork.  Add dried fruit; mix to coat.

Add heavy cream; mix just until dough gathers around the fork.

Turn dough onto a floured surface.  Knead briefly (about 5 seconds); pat into a circle.

Cut dough into wedges; transfer to an ungreased baking sheet.

Brush tops with heavy cream and sprinkle with coarse sugar.

Bake 10 to 12 minutes until tops are golden; cool on a wire rack.

If you’re in the mood for something “sweeter,” drizzle with powdered sugar icing, if desired.

(P.S.  No recipe credit that I know of — it’s been in my recipe box for ages — source unknown.)

In closing, I’d be remiss if I didn’t give something to our “sweetest” guest of honor — baby Alice!

A is for angelic — a gift from heaven above.

L is for the little things Mom will come to know and love.

I is for the intricate way God wove you in her womb.

C is for your countenance that will light up every room.

E is for eternal — you’re in Mom’s heart to stay.

Hello there, dear sweet Alice — Happy Baby Shower Day!

Thanks again for joining us and congratulations, Jenna!  Here are the links…

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City Songbird (Greensboro, NC): Merry Christmas, Alice!
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Eats Well With Others (New York, NY): Peanut Butter and Honey Ice Cream
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Hunting for Bliss (Bozeman, MT): Garam Masala Deviled Eggs
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Pinking Shears & Broccoli Spears (Newark, DE): Making Food Good For Your Baby
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Sydney Shares (Eugene, OR): Baby BLTs 
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That’s Some Good Cookin’ (Salt Lake City, UT): Cheesecake Cookie Bars
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The Pajama Chef (Bloomington, IN): Iced Tea with Ginger-Mint Simple Syrup
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Two Dogs In The Kitchen (Sterling, MI): Spicy Asian Meatballs
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Veronica’s Cornucopia (Wichita, KS): Raspberry Almond Fudge Cookies
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Very Culinary (Sacramento, CA): Toasted Orzo and Chickpea Salad
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Words on Wendhurst: A Gift For Jenna and Alice
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Enjoying the sweetest things in life,

~ Kim

Crumb Cake

Recipes are like old friends.

You smile at the thought of them,

Anticipate the pleasure of their company,

Enjoy spending time with them.

And… favorite recipes become family.

~   ~    ~    ~    ~

Crumb Cake has been in my repertoire longer than I can remember.  The notation on it (written by my Mom) says:  “This was Mom’s recipe and my favorite cake.”  (In reference to my Grandma!)

I make it for my Mom’s birthday every year , or every time we go to Minnesota — whichever comes first.

The only embellishments required are a plate, a fork, a napkin, and a cup of coffee.  (And birthday candles now and then!)

Crumb Cake

1-1/2 cups flour

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup butter

1 egg

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 cup sour milk (or scant 3/4 cup milk mixed with 1/2 Tbsp. lemon juice)

Preheat oven to 350°.  Lightly grease a 9″ square baking dish.

In a large bowl, mix together flour, sugar, cinnamon and salt.

Cut in butter with a knife or pastry blender until crumbly.  Reserve a 1/2 cup of this mixture for the cake topping; set aside.

To remaining mixture, add the egg, baking soda and sour milk.  Mix well.  Spread batter in prepared pan.  Sprinkle reserved crumbs over top of cake.

Bake 30 to 35 minutes, or until a pick inserted in center comes out clean.

Cool slightly on a wire rack.  Serve warm.

Enjoying good ol’ family recipes,

~ Kim

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Loafing Around

The title of this post and the halcyon appearance of my last post might lead you to believe that I do nothing but enjoy a life of leisure since I made the transition to home.  Not so.  I’ve been working my butt off!  (Figuratively speaking, of course… although climbing up and down hills does have its merits.)

Part of my “back to the basics” kick has been to create a space conducive to writing — inside and out — household and self included.

This has meant perspiring in the 90°+ mid-day heat as needed, pushing my proverbial boundaries, and hacking away at a four-page “to do” list until it’s no longer dangling over my head.  (My brain is funny that way.)  Some folks call it all-or-nothing syndrome; I prefer to call it “no more excuses.”

Between this influx of activity, I worked up a powerful hunger.  (A girl’s gotta eat, ya know…)

Food-wise (in my opinion), there’s nothing more basic than bread.  With a history spanning thousands of years and variations ranging from flat to fluffy, bread has graced many a table and sustained multitudes of generations.  Who can resist its universal appeal?  (Even Maria von Trapp extolled its virtues: do re mi fa so la TI….. with jam and bread.) ;)

Soft, warm, crunchy… homemade bread presents pillowy pockets of opportunity, waiting to soak up a smear of butter, a spoonful of jam, a drizzle of honey, a dab of peanut butter, or — my perennial favorite — gravy.  (You haven’t lived until you’ve “sopped gravy,” as many a Southerner can attest.)

But, it was too hot too think about gravy, so here we are again… “back at the very beginning.”

The best “basic” bread I’ve eaten in recent history was inspired by Alice D’Antoni Phillips of Ally’s Kitchen.  Profuse thanks, Ally!  It truly fulfilled my basic requirements.  (And made wonderful croutons!)

Basic Baguette

(adapted from Rustic Boho Buttermilk Bread, linked above)

3 to 3-1/2 c. all-purpose flour, divided

1 tsp. sea salt

1 (1/4 oz.) pkg. active dry yeast

2 1/2 Tbsp. warm water (110° F)

1/2 tsp. sugar (I added some to speed things along)

1 c. buttermilk, at room temperature (or a scant cup of milk “soured” with 1 T. lemon juice)

1 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil, plus extra for the “rising” bowl and baking sheet

First, whisk together 2-1/2 cups of flour and the salt; set aside.

Next, lightly oil a large bowl; set aside.

In another large bowl, combine yeast and water (and sugar, if using); stir to break up any lumps.

When mixture is foamy (about 5 – 10 minutes), stir in buttermilk (or sour milk) and olive oil until combined.

Add 1 cup of the flour/salt mixture; mix well.  (I used a sturdy wooden spoon.)

Add the next cup of flour/salt mixture; mix well.  (Ditto.)

Add enough of the remaining flour/salt mixture to form a soft, slightly sticky dough.  (I used my hands at this point.)

Sprinkle remaining “plain” flour on a flat surface.  (Note to self:  sprinkle first, then get hands sticky.)

Turn dough onto floured surface; knead 5 to 10 minutes.  (Note to you: only knead in enough flour to keep it from sticking!)

Place dough in previously oiled bowl; turn “bottom side up” so the oiled surface is topside.

Cover with a clean kitchen towel; let rise in a warm place until double.  (Approximate rising time is 1-1/2 to 2 hours, depending on how “active” your yeast is.)

Punch down dough; let rest 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 450° F and lightly oil the middle of a large baking sheet.  (No need to oil the whole sheet.)

Turn dough onto floured surface again; knead 3 to 5 minutes, then shape into one long baguette.  (I rolled it like a Playdough “rope” — FUN!)  (By the way, the original recipe makes two loaves… much as I love bread, I can only eat so much.)

Place baguette on oiled baking sheet.

With a sharp knife, make diagonal slashes in the top, 3″ apart.

Bake 15 minutes at 450° F.  Reduce heat to 350° F; bake 10 to 15 minutes longer, or until loaf is golden brown and sounds hollow when you “thump” on it.  (The original recipe called for 20 to 25 minutes of additional baking time, but a single loaf only required 10 to 15 minutes.)

Cool slightly.

Break out the butter and jam.

Enjoying the basic-ness of bread — and writing,

~ Kim

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Let Them Eat Cake…

I promised you cake.

Not just any cake.

Fudge-y, chocolate-y, mousse-y cake sooooo decadent you must beware the power of The Dark Side………

You get the picture.

As is my custom when the calendar rolls around to that fateful day marking my arrival in this world, I spend weeks — even months — in search of “The” Cake that will grace my table, and ultimately my tongue.  Where, oh where does one turn to fulfill such a primal request?

Food blogs, of course.  (Thank y’all so much for doing what you do!)

After drooling over many a fine recipe, I clicked on Gourmantine’s Blog and spied what she simply called:

Ultimate Chocolate Cake.

Need I say more?

Okay, you know me by now…

Not being one to leave chocolate well enough alone, I decided to top it with even more chocolate… the darker, the better.  Enter The Harried Cook‘s Chocolate Ganache Frosting.

Words cannot describe the wonder…

It was so dark… yet so light…  after one taste, I felt like I could quite possibly levitate the serving tray. ;)

Enjoying the chocolate side of The Force,

~ Kim

Grandma’s Cardamom Bread (Bohemian Braided Bread)

Grandma's Cardamom Bread (Bohemian Braided Bread)

Sometimes you revisit the past to move forward in the present, only to discover the past has changed. (!)

This post was originally entitled “My First Guest Post” and it was linked to a blog that apparently no longer exists.  (No worries.  I totally understand… “stuff happens.”)  Following are excerpts from the original post, along with Grandma’s Cardamom Bread recipe.

One of the things I love about blogging is that it’s like having the world’s cookbook at your fingertips.  You can find a recipe for anything, anytime, anywhere!

Coincidentally (or not), cardamom isn’t so easy to find, especially in the middle of Oklahoma.  After I finally located some, I promptly made a batch of Kheer that I’d been wanting to try…

As well as my Grandma’s Cardamom Bread (Bohemian Braided Bread) — a recipe from my past, in more ways than one!

Grandma’s Cardamom Bread (Bohemian Braided Bread)

1/4 c. warm water

1 pkg. yeast

1/2 c. milk, scalded & cooled

6 Tbsp. sugar

1/2 tsp. salt

1 egg, beaten

1/4 c. butter, softened

2-1/2 to 3 c. flour (more or less), divided

1 tsp. cardamom

1/4 tsp. nutmeg

1/4 tsp. mace

1/2 c. raisins (I use regular & golden raisins)

Powdered sugar icing

Maraschino cherries & whole blanched almonds, for garnish

Dissolve yeast in warm water; let stand until foamy.

Combine milk, sugar, and salt.  Stir in yeast mixture.

Add egg and butter; mix well with a wooden spoon.

Add enough flour (in two additions) to form a soft dough.  Use only enough flour as needed and “don’t be afraid of a sticky dough,” per Grandma.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface; knead until it springs back and forms a smooth ball.

Place dough in a buttered bowl, then turn “buttered side up.”  Cover with a damp towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled; punch down.

Allow to rise until doubled a second time; punch down again.

Sprinkle dough with mace, cardamom and raisins; knead in until combined.

Divide dough into 4 equal parts.  Shape 3 parts into 14″ long ropes and place them on a lightly greased baking sheet.  Braid loosely to form one large braid; pinch ends to seal.

Divide remaining dough into 3 parts; shape into 12″ long ropes.  Braid them and place smaller braid on top of larger one; pinch ends together.  Cover; let rise in a warm place until double.

Preheat oven to 350° F.  Bake 40 to 60 minutes until golden and “hollow sounding” when thumped.  Transfer from baking sheet to a wire rack.

Drizzle powdered sugar icing over the loaf while it’s warm; garnish with maraschino cherries and whole blanched almonds.

Cool completely before slicing.

Grandma's Cardamom Bread

Enjoying the flavor of friendship — past and present,

~ Kim