Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Making Whoopie....

Do you remember those Little Debbie "Oatmeal Cream Pies" you'd get in school? The two cookies on the outside and frosting in the middle?
I remember them vividly, probably for different reasons than you, but I can honestly say I ate my far share of them. That and Zebra cakes.
So, when I heard about the "Anything but Pie contest" that the local market was doing here in Elizabeth City, I thought whoopie pies. This was because contest rules said you had to use either pumpkin or sweet potatoes in the food you made. When I was told this, I vaguely remembered a recipe I had seen for pumpkin whoopie pies. So I knew then I had to make them.
I spent one afternoon roasting the pumpkin, making puree and then making the little "cookies."
Some might say it would be easier to have gotten canned pumpkin, but I had a small one and I like using fresh pumpkin when I can. Yes, the kitchen is a mess but you have pumpkin for a couple more recipes than just a pie.
The whoopie pies came out spectacular, my friend said he would give me first place if he was a judge. Then come Saturday-market day and it was cancelled. No contest, no market, me with a lot more whoopie pies, then I had planned. So, I took them to work and they got gobbled up by coworkers, who took more than one.
Now what to do if the market is on this weekend and the contest rescheduled for this Saturday?

Pumpkin whoopie pies
(adapted from Rachael Ray mag)

1.5 sticks butter, 1 stick melted, the 1/2 stick softened
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 cup pumpkin puree
cinnamon, allspice, clove
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 2/3 cups of flour
3/4 tsp salt
1 2/3 cup sugar
4 oz cream cheese
1 cup powder sugar

Preheat the oven to 350°.

In a large bowl, whisk together the melted butter and brown sugar until smooth. Whisk in the eggs, pumpkin puree, pumpkin pie spice, 1 teaspoon vanilla, the baking powder, the baking soda and 3/4 teaspoon salt. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the flour.

Using an ice cream scoop or tablespoon, drop 12 generous mounds of batter, spaced evenly, onto each baking sheet. Bake until springy to the touch, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool completely.

Meanwhile, using an electric mixer, cream the softened butter with the cream cheese. Add the confectioners' sugar and the remaining 2 pinches salt and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla; mix on low speed until blended, then beat on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 2 minutes.

Spread the flat side of 12 cakes with the cream cheese frosting. Top each with another cake.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

My obsession with biscuits

Tonight was suppose to be chili. I had every intention to make chili, however I got home from the pumpkin patch and the last thing I wanted was chili.
But what I really wanted was a biscuit. So I googled and then went to Food Network, finding Alton Brown's biscuit recipe. You know the shortcut episode- instead of buttermilk use milk and lemon. So I had found my recipe, but could I make fluffy biscuits?
I've been trying to get that final product, Brown's would be my third. Every other time, the biscuits were never fluffy rather rolly. Crusty outside, white inside, but it would never be a biscuit. So awhile ago, I asked my dad about biscuits, he said that I should never knead them, which is what I had been doing. So, this time I used the best tools- my hands.
What did I get? Well, they weren't exactly huge, tall biscuits, but they were fluffy and crusty and oh so good.
The perfect biscuit to go with my southern dinner/breakfast- eggs over easy, bacon, biscuits and OJ. A great way to end my day.

Southern Biscuits
(adapted from Alton Brown's Southern Biscuits)
1 cup skim milk
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
9 1/4 ounces all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup butter, chilled

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Combine the milk and lemon juice in a glass measuring cup and place in the refrigerator.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Using your fingertips and working quickly, rub the butter and shortening into the dry ingredients until the mixture looks like crumbs. Make a well in the center and pour in the chilled milk mixture. Stir just until the dough comes together. The dough will be very sticky. Turn the dough onto a floured surface, dust top with flour and gently fold the dough over on itself 5 or 6 times. Press into a 1-inch thick round. Cut out biscuits with a 2-inch cutter, being sure to push straight down through the dough. Place the biscuits on a baking sheet so that they just touch. Reform the scrap dough, working it as little as possible and continue cutting.

Bake until biscuits are tall and light gold on top, approximately 15 to 20 minutes.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

A quiet cake

I am a maker of cakes. I don't need a reason. I'll make cakes just for the hell of it, but if its your birthday, I always make one. Whatever you want. No questions asked. I'll make it even if I hate it.
So, when I learned a friend's birthday was this week, I automatically said I'd make a cake. He said I didn't have to. He didn't need one. My mouth dropped. No cake?
I protested. He said if it would make me happy, then I could make him a cake. I was a little hurt. Cake is a big deal. Birthdays are defined by cakes.
Maybe it's because I view birthdays as the one day of the year, I can say screw you and do what I want because I have an excuse. Or maybe its because I get my favorite cake. I don't know.
Plus, people always surprise you on your birthday. You learn about your turn friends on that day. So that's why I took offense.
Of course, I made a cake anyways- Chocolate Espresso from Nigella Lawson. It didn't rise as it should have. I think that's due to my lack of self-rising flour and that I tried to make it myself. However, it has a good chocolate with a hint of coffee taste that I like.
And maybe this year, I'll celebrate my birthday twice. Cause the first time I didn't get the cake I wanted and it's always better when I make it.

Monday, October 6, 2008

A little bit of West, Texas

Oh the market is down, gas is down and jobs are becoming scare. Amid all of this, I can be found in my kitchen.
The market is bad, I could soon lose my job, but I do not fret or worry. Maybe I should, hell my newspaper is for sell, but I'm calm about it all. It's my laid back lifestyle.
So instead of fretting I make kolaches. What are kolaches you ask?
One of the many breakfasts that I know and love in Texas. All it is really, is a sweet roll with jam/jelly/preserves in the middle.
Nothing is better than stopping in West, Texas at the Czeck gas station to pick up a kolache on your way to or from Austin. Sure there are other places to get them. They are all along the I-35 corridor, but I find them to be the best in West.
After moving to NC, I've craved them, but no one knows what they are. I've had to explain them to almost everyone I know. I guess it's a Texas thing.
So this morning, I got up and made kolaches. It's just like making any sort of bread. It takes time to rise and the whole process takes about 4 hours. To some it may seem like to much work but to me. The work is worth the reward.
Especially with a hot peach kolache and a cup of coffee. Nothing is better. Well... that's a bold statement isn't it? O.K. so it's up there. At least in my top ten.
But don't take my word for it. Hop on over to Homesick Texan's website and try her kolache recipe. It's divine.