January 1, 2016

Ginger Beer Pound Cake

Happy New Year!

2016 started with lots of laughs. I had a few people over last night. We ate a side of smoked salmon, cheeses and crackers, tomato bruschetta, prosciutto & parmesan gougères, and stuffed shells (thanks Christy & Allen!). For dessert, I made this delicious cake.

Lovely Ladies

There are currently several hard ginger ales on the market. I've tried Not Your Father's Ginger Ale, Lewis Osterweis & Sons Hard Ginger Beer (made by local Schlafly), Coney Island Brewing Co. Hard Ginger Ale, and Crabbie's Spiced Orange Ginger Beer. Not Your Father's is my favorite of the four (I also really dig their hard root beer).

My least favorite to drink was the Spiced Orange Ginger Beer. It was way too sweet for me. So, I looked for some way to cook with it. This cake is sooooo good. The gingery orange flavor really comes through. Of course, you could use any ginger beer or ale you wanted to. I bet it would even be good with some of that root beer.

I have lots of bottles of ginger beer at the moment, and I plan to make some pulled pork with it soon.

Ginger Beer Pound Cake
slightly adapted from Culinary Concoctions by Peabody

1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 cups granulated sugar
5 eggs, at room temperature
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup ginger beer or ginger ale, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla paste or extract
1/2 teaspoon salt

  • Preheat oven to 300F. Spray a 10” Bundt pan with baking spray.
  • Using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment cream together butter and sugar on medium high speed until mixture is light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. 
  • Add extract and salt and beat for another minute.
  • Add eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl after each addition.
  • Alternating add flour, then beer, then flour, then beer, and end with flour.
  • Spoon the batter into the prepared pan.
  • Bake for 1 hour and 20 minutes or until a knife or wooden skewer when inserted comes out clean.
  • Cool for 10 minutes on a wire rack.
  • Remove from pan, let cool completely, then glaze. For the glaze, mix 1 cup powdered sugar mixed with ginger beer, 1 tablespoon at a time, until desired consistency.

December 28, 2015

Best of 2015

It's the final days of the year and time to look back on the past twelve months. 2015 was a great year, the happiest I've had in a long time. I fell hard and fast for a wonderful man who loves me (and all my quirks), who makes me smile until my face hurts, who spoils me rotten, and who has become my favorite person of all time in the history of ever. I'm as smitten with him today as I was on our very first date.

After many years of heartbreak and drama, I finally feel like myself again. I'm no longer suffering from overwhelming anxiety and depression, I have more self-esteem, I enjoy the time I spend alone (instead of feeling lonely), and I am excited about teaching.

I'm looking forward to the future instead of being worried about it. We are planning a spring break trip to Montreal (a surprise Christmas gift from Nick). We are talking about taking other trips as well...to Chicago, Memphis, New Orleans, Orlando, San Diego, Washington DC. Paris, someday. Planning a future is so much fun!

All in all, I'm just damn happy. FINALLY.

While I spent more time knitting than cooking this year, I still enjoyed feeding my family and friends. Here are my top ten posts and some of the best food I made in 2015.

Wishing everyone a wonderful 2016!

December 26, 2015

Butternut Squash & Apple Bisque

Remember the Downton Abbey-inspired birthday lunch I made for a friend and her mother last month? Here are those lovely ladies I had the pleasure of cooking for:

Here is another of my favorite recipes from that day. 

Normally, I don't care for smooth, creamy soups...too much like eating baby food. But this recipe is flavorful and velvety. The addition of tart apples, ginger, and cardamom makes for a much more interesting version as well.

And it's quite perfect for a nice, light supper on this stormy, wet, gray day after Christmas.

Butternut Squash & Apple Bisque

December 21, 2015

Salted Chocolate Shortbread Cookies

This year, I am actually looking forward to Christmas....the first time in many years. I've decorated my house; I even have a little tree! I've bought many gifts. I'm excited to spend the holiday with Nick and his daughters. It's nice to be part of a family again. 

We are planning a few get-togethers this week...crafting on Tuesday, cookie baking on Wednesday, and (hopefully) dinner at my place on Christmas day. I'm thinking I'll make homemade pasta with bolognese sauce and creme brûlée

I am baking classic spritz cookies (like my Grandma Green used to make), red velvet crinkle cookies,  and cranberry-pistachio biscotti. I may also make another batch of these delicious, decadent, sophisticated shortbreads that I made in my demo class on Saturday. 

Salted Chocolate Shortbread Cookies

November 10, 2015

Apple Charlotte with Earl Grey Crème Anglaise

On Sunday, I cooked a Downton Abbey-inspired supper to celebrate a friend's mom's birthday. Here was our menu:

Smoked salmon mousse with cucumber canapes
Butternut squash soup with sour cream & pumpkin seeds 
Salad with Roquefort, figs, walnuts & creamy pomegranate dressing
Prosciutto, rosemary, & thyme gougeres 
Apple Charlotte with Earl Grey crème anglaise

In the 5th episode of Downton Abbey, the cook Mrs. Patmore refuses to make an Apple Charlotte for dessert, as request by the lady of the house, because she was having problems with her eyesight and couldn't read the recipe.

Apple Charlotte is essentially a caramelized apple filling baked in a French-toasty crust. In my research, I saw many different versions and methods. I chose a recipe posted on the Downton Abbey Cooks blog that uses raisin bread for the crust and condensed milk for the caramel filling. The bread is dipped in an egg & milk batter, which results in a bread pudding-like consistency. (Confession: I don't think I followed the "lightly dip" directions well. I probably should have just brushed the bread.)

In hindsight, I think it would have been better to brush the bread with butter and toast it in the oven, then brush only the tops of each Charlotte with the egg mixture. This would make for a crispier crust that held up better.

Another suggestion: Don't forget to grease the ramekins. It was difficult to get the desserts neatly out of their dishes. Whoops.

Still, these individual desserts make for an impressive presentation, and everyone seemed to like them.

Apple Charlotte with Earl Grey Créme Anglaise