Thursday, January 31, 2013

Cookie Olympics

Ho-ho-ho. I really feel like if I got this post out before February, it's a win. It's not THAT late; it's only January!

Anyhoo, since I started making cookies last March, I've developed a lot of techniques and slowly (hopefully) have gotten better with each batch. Christmas is like the Cookies Olympics. I kept thinking, 'I've been training all year for this!'  And they came out okay! I'll keep training and see where I get next year. :) 

I was given the partridge in a pear tree cutter just before the holiday and got the design from Sweet Sugar Belle who is amazing, as always. The red/blue frosty themed cooks were probably my favorite because I loves me some red and blue.


Now that Christmas is over, I can start on Valumtimes!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Double Musky Carrot - er, Everything Cake

Every year I make my dad's birthday cake and it gives me an excuse to try recipes I've been itching to attempt.  This year I non-too-subtly persuaded him to a carrot cake that's famous around these parts. It's from the Double Musky, a local restaurant here in Alaska, and it's loaded with stuff. I mean, it should be called the kitchen sink cake: carrots, walnuts, pineapple, coconut, pecans; you name it.

And guess what? It's AWESOME. Seriously; like the best carrot cake I've ever had. And don't be scared of the stuff: you don't even really taste the pineapple. It just adds a ton of moisture so it's goooood.

Now, usually it's in a ho-hum 9x13 pan but this was a birthday so I  went for two rounds to fancy it up. I'm also not a huge cream cheese frosting fan so I weakened the tanginess by adding a little more powdered sugar to the recipe and whipping the stuff within an inch of its life - it came out nice and light which was a perfect compliment to the dense, richness of the cake! (The frosting even drew it's own compliments!)

Seriously, this one was hard to stop eating. If you have any inclination for carrot cake, TRY THIS RECIPE RIGHT NOW. Mmm, just looking at the pictures is giving me mouth-watering flashbacks...

Double Musky Carrot Cake
Adapted from source: Cheryl Canter

2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
3 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 cups finely shredded carrots
2 cups flaked coconut (I used sweetened)
1 20 ounce can crushed pineapple, drained
1 cup walnuts, chopped

8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 lb. butter, room temperature
2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
4 cups powdered sugar
3/4 cups pecans, chopped
May add 1/4 cup milk to thin

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease or butter two 9-inch round cake pans, add cut parchment round to bottom and grease; set aside.

Mix sugar, oil, eggs, and vanilla. Stir in flour, cinnamon, soda, and salt. Fold in carrot, coconut, pineapple, and nuts. Pour into greased pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 35-50 minutes, or until a tester inserted into center comes out clean. Cool completely.

Frosting: Beat cream cheese and butter until lumps are gone. Combine with vanilla, salt, and powdered sugar, mixing with electric mixer until it’s light and airy. (The longer you mix, the lighter it will be!) Spread on cooled cake. Garnish immediately with chopped pecans to wet frosting.

New Pumpkin Pie

Boy, have I got a lot to catch up on. The holidays are always crazy for me and then I was out of town just after for another two weeks! But all is well and I'm back, ready to share what went down over the last two months.

First, I made a new pumpkin pie recipe from a highly repinned Pintrest note... You know, I can't decide about Pintrest. There's pretty pictures, yes, but then I see people that try a recipe or craft and bemoan how misleading or awful it turned out! You go in thinking these are reliable, tested ideas! Alas it's just people promoting their own stuff a lot of the time so I guess I have to train my eye to recognize what's legit and what's not.

This one turned out to be a Cook's Illustrated adaptation and while it was okay, I dunno.  The cream and milk diluted the pumpkin a bit and I like a looooot of pumpkin in my pie. My family liked it but, meh.  For Christmas I went back to good ol' Libby's and it was way better, IMHO.

This recipe actually made too much for my pretty deep dish pie plate so I made a mini one extra - which I enjoyed by myself days later. mwha. Mini pie!

Pumpkin Pie
Cook's Illustrated, 2008

1 recipe for single pie crust (I used Williams-Sonoma's Basic Pie Dough)

1 cup heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
3 eggs plus 2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin
1 cup drained candied yams (from 15-ounce can)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt

1. Prepare the crust and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

2. Adjust the oven rack to the lowest position, place a rimmed baking sheet on the rack, and heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and roll it out on a lightly floured work surface to a 12-inch circle about 1/8 inch thick. Roll dough loosely around rolling pin and unroll into pie plate, leaving at least 1-inch overhang on each side. Working around circumference, ease dough into plate by gently lifting edge of dough with one hand while pressing into plate bottom with other hand. Refrigerate 15 minutes.

3. Trim overhang to ½ inch beyond lip of pie plate. Fold overhang under itself; folded edge should be flush with edge of pie plate. using thumb and forefinger, flute edge of dough. Use a fork to prick the dough all over the bottom and sides of the pie plate. Refrigerate dough-lined plate until firm, about 15 minutes.

4. Remove pie pan from refrigerator, line crust with aluminum foil or parchment paper, and fill with pie weights or dried beans, filling the whole way up to the rim of the pie plate. Bake on rimmed baking sheet 15 minutes. Remove foil/parchment and weights, rotate plate, and bake 5 to 15 additional minutes until crust is golden brown and crisp. Remove pie plate and baking sheet from oven.

5. While the pie shell is baking, whisk cream, milk, eggs, yolks and vanilla together in a medium bowl. Combine the pumpkin, yams, sugar, maple syrup, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan; bring to a sputtering simmer over medium heat, 5 to 7 minutes. Continue to simmer pumpkin mixture, stirring constantly and mashing yams against sides of pot, until thick and shiny, 10 to 15 minutes.

6. Remove the pan from heat and whisk in the cream mixture until fully incorporated. Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer set over a medium bowl, using the back of a ladle or spatula to press solids through strainer. Rewhisk mixture and transfer to warm prebaked pie shell. Return pie plate with baking sheet to oven and bake pie for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 300 degrees and continue baking until edges of pie are set and the center looks firm but jiggles slightly (instant-read thermometer inserted in center registers 175 degrees), 20 to 35 minutes longer. Transfer pie to wire rack and cool to room temperature, 2 to 3 hours. Serve with whipped cream.