Playing Catch-up: Rose Cake, Smoothies, & Quinoa Salads

Okay, I know it’s been a while since I’ve been here, because that’s what I do…start blogging, then get involved in something else and forget the blog exists. It’s my MO. But I haven’t quite abandoned this blog just yet. To catch up, here are some of the things I’ve been doing in the interim:

Mindy and I are still doing our Chicago Bakers Anonymous meetup and I’ve made some yummy things and not so yummy things. For You Put What in There?!?! I made a Rose Cake:

Rose Cake

It’s made the same way as the Lavender Cupcakes, but I used rosewater, an ingredient that is common in Middle Eastern desserts, but not so much in American ones. I was a little light-handed with the rosewater, as I didn’t want the cake to taste like you had face-planted into a rose bush, and comments were that the taste was very subtle. I could certainly taste the rose flavor, but I also knew it was there. Perhaps I’ll put 50% more rosewater in the batter and frosting if I make it again and see what happens.

I can’t take total credit for the decoration. I first saw the technique at I Am Baker and have wanted to try it ever since. (Sadly, this is the only item I have a picture of, courtesy of Mindy.)

Rose Cake
2 ½ large egg whites, at room temperature
½ cup whole milk, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon rosewater
1 ½  cups cake flour, sifted
¾ cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
½ tablespoon plus ½ teaspoon baking powder
3/8 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into cubes

Preheat oven to 350°. Grease and flour two 6-inch round cake pans.

In a medium bowl or measuring cup, combine and stir the egg whites, 2 tablespoons milk, the vanilla, and the rosewater. Set aside.

Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl on low speed for 30 seconds. Add the butter and remaining milk and mix on low speed until just moistened. Increase to medium speed and mix for 1 ½ minutes. Scrape the sides of the bowl and begin to add the egg mixture in 3 separate batches; beat on medium speed for 20 seconds after each addition.

Pour evenly into the cake pans and smooth the tops.

Bake 18-20 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean when inserted into the center. Let cool in pan for 5 minutes before putting on wire rack to cool completely.

Makes 12 standard cupcakes or one two-layer 6-inch round cake.

Rosewater Buttercream
4 large egg whites, at room temperature
¾ cup sugar
2 tablespoons water
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon rosewater
1 ½ cup (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

Whisk together the egg whites, sugar, water, and cream of tartar in a large stainless steel bowl. Set the bowl in a wide deep skillet filled with about 1 inch of simmering water. Make sure the water level is at least as high as the depth of the egg whites in the bowl. Beat the whites on low speed until the mixture reaches 140°. Do not stop beating while the bowl is in the skillet, or the egg whites will overcook. If you cannot hold the thermometer stem in the egg whites while continuing to beat, remove the bowl from the skillet just to read the thermometer, then immediately return the bowl to the skillet. Beat on high speed just until the mixture reaches 160°, 2-4 minutes.

Remove the bowl from the skillet and add the vanilla and the rosewater. Beat on high speed for 3-5 more minutes, to cool. The meringue should hold glossy peaks.

Beat butter in another large bowl until creamy, about 30 seconds. Beat a large dollop of the meringue into the butter until well combined. Continue to beat in about half of the meringue in large dollops. Scrape the remaining meringue into the mixture and beat until smooth and fluffy. At this point, add in any food colorings and beat until color is fully combined.

With some of the frosting, fill the center of the cake, then spread a thin layer around the outside. Put the remainder in a pastry bag fitted with an open star tip, such as Wilton 1M. Starting at the center, pipe in an outward spiral to resemble an open rose.

Lavender Earl Grey Ice Cream
This was the accompanying ice cream I made. It was unexpected and fantastic.

3 tablespoons Rishi Earl Grey Lavender tea
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
1 cup sugar
5 egg yolks,
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
pinch of salt

Heat the cream and milk until just below boiling. Add the tea leaves and steep for 5 minutes. Strain the cream, pressing on the tea leaves to extract as much flavor as possible. Add the salt and half of the sugar and stir to dissolve.

Combine the yolks and remaining sugar. Using a hand mixer on low speed or a whisk, beat until the mixture is pale and thick. Temper the eggs by mixing about 1/3 of the hot milk and cream into the yolks and sugar. Add another 1/3 and whisk well, then pour the yolk/sugar mixture into the pot with the remaining cream and cook slowly on low heat, using a wooden spoon to stir constantly. When the mixture has thickened slightly and coats the back of the spoon, remove from the heat immediately (this should only take a few minutes).

Pour the mixture into a strainer to remove any lumps and bring to room temperature. Stir in the vanilla and refrigerate several hours or overnight. Follow the instructions for your ice cream maker to churn the mixture.

Last year I hosted a somewhat failed Pi Day party (on 3/14, of course). I say somewhat failed because only two people actually came, but the loss is on everyone who didn’t because that day I made one of the most delicious things I’ve ever made: a chocolate pie. The recipe came from Joy of Cooking, but I altered it slightly by adding some espresso powder, which made for the deepest, chocolatiest, most wonderful concoction ever. When our Dark Chocolate Lovers Unite meetup came around, I knew I was going to recreate that in mini form. The problem was, I didn’t write down exactly what I did the first time around and I had some trouble remembering. The result is that after two attempts with the crust and two attempts with the filling, it was most definitely NOT the most delicious thing I’d ever made. Major fail. I put in way too much espresso powder, which made the filling taste somewhat burnt, and the extra amount of crust owing to the mini-pie form set off the crust:filling ratio in an unpleasant way. I was quite disappointed. The Bourbon Dark Chocolate ice cream I made didn’t fare any better. The bourbon wasn’t detectable in any way and I put in too much chocolate, which gave it a chalky texture. For all of you who insist that I never make anything bad, there’s your proof.

In other, non-baking news, I signed up to run the Color Me Rad 5K with Mindy in July. This will be a first 5K for someone who, until now, was definitely not a runner. I say “before now,” because since I’ve been training I’ve managed to overcome [what I believe was] a strained hip flexor that left me hobbling after each run, run for over 20 minutes straight at a less than 10 mile/minute pace, buy my first pair of real running shoes (and sports bra!), and experience my first runner’s high (that’s what everyone’s always talking about!). Yesterday, for the first time, I ran the full 3.1 miles non-stop, in a perfectly reasonable 30 minutes and 10 seconds. I felt awesome. I felt like a runner.

Owing to this, I’ve been going through my old Fitness magazines and have been inspired to try some of their super simple recipes. I sometimes find their recipes lacking, but these have been surprisingly good:

Chocolate Cherry Smoothie
1 cup milk (I use unsweetened almond milk)
½ cup frozen cherries
1 tablespoon of cocoa powder

Put in a blender and go.

Which led me to concoct this deliciously simple Strawberry Orange Smoothie:
½ cup milk
½ cup orange juice (with calcium and vitamin D please!)
½ cup frozen strawberries

You know what to do.

Smoothies – nothing earth-shattering for most people, I know, but given that I don’t like milkshakes or slurpees or anything of that nature, it’s newsworthy that I do like these. Owing to my general dislike of such things, my smoothies are probably thinner than most people would like. Just blend in some ice cubes if you want a thicker, more frozen texture. I love that they’re only three ingredients and don’t involve anything I have to make a special trip to GNC to get.

This past week I decided to experiment with quinoa and made a bunch to go with some baked chicken. If you’ve been trepidatious with the pseudo-grain, know that it’s incredibly easy to make and tastes pretty much like nothing. It absorbs the flavors of whatever you put in it, so it’s the perfect thing to toss with anything else. With the leftovers I made this salad from Fitness (adding fresh corn because I love it and it’s summer, so why not?):

Crab and Quinoa Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette*
½ tablespoon lemon juice
Zest of ¼ lemon
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
½ cup cooled cooked quinoa
2 ounces canned crab meat
¼ avocado, chopped
¼ cup fresh corn
2 tablespoons red onion, chopped
2 cups mixed salad greens
Salt and pepper

Whisk together the lemon juice, lemon zest, olive oil, and mustard in the bottom of a large bowl. Add the remaining ingredients, minus the salad greens and toss to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve over the salad greens.

Makes 1 serving.

*This is the lemon vinaigrette I always use. I love it. Feel free to change up the citruses or leave out the mustard if you’d like.

Then I made this salad from The Kitchn, but with a few of my own changes (like using my lemon vinaigrette). I love the flavor the dill imparts and the sweetness from the little bits of date are a welcome contrast to the saltiness of the dressing and Parm.

Quinoa Salad with Lemon, Dill, & Avocado
½ tablespoon lemon juice
Zest of ¼ lemon
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
½ cup cooled cooked quinoa
4 cherry tomatoes, sliced
2 tablespoons cucumber, chopped
1 tablespoon shallot or onion, chopped
2 tablespoons dill fronds, chopped
1 tablespoon sliced almonds
1 tablespoon dates, chopped
1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese
¼ avocado, chopped
Salt and pepper

Whisk together the lemon juice, lemon zest, olive oil, and mustard in the bottom of a large bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and toss to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Makes 1 serving.

In hot weather, I love easy-peasy recipes like these.

Summer is here and in my apartment sans-air conditioning, that means trying to avoid turning on the oven at all costs (most of the time…I still can’t resist baking on occasion). I look forward to finding more salads and quick-fix recipes and sharing them with all of you here. (I promise! More posting!)

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