Sally’s Baking Addiction, June Challenge: The Classic Icebox Cake

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I have to confess, I have never made an icebox cake. I know that they are the quintessential summer dessert, and I understand why. They are extremely easy to make and the basic steps are: assemble, freeze and eat. So why have I been so resistant? It’s the whipped cream component that is off-putting for my family. Please don’t hate me! We just don’t like whipped cream, all four of us! I think it is a textural problem. We do, however, all love ice cream. So when I saw that Sally’s challenge for June was a blueberry lemon icebox cake, I decided it was time to confront this issue once and for all. After all, is that not the point of challenging oneself?

My first thought was that I needed to figure out how to make lemon ice cream. I did a lot of searching for ideas and decided I would create a limoncello- honey ice cream recipe.

 

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I really love the depth of flavor created by adding limoncello, lemon juice and lemon zest, and I wanted to sweeten the ice cream with a combination of honey and sugar.

This ice cream recipe is like many others in that it begins with the cooking of a custard, which must be cooled before adding to the ice cream machine. I combined heavy cream, milk and honey in a large sauce pan and brought it slowly to a simmer. While the dairy components were heating, I combined egg yolks, sugar, lemon juice and lemon zest in a medium bowl.

Once the honey had dissolved in the simmering milk, I tempered the egg mixture by slowly adding a portion of the warm liquid to the eggs and whisked continuously. The trick here is to add the hot liquid SLOWLY and to keep whisking so the eggs do not scramble. If you do this correctly you then can add the  tempered eggs back into the milk mixture without getting clumps (which are effectively scrambled eggs). Don’t worry, if you do have some cooked egg you can simply strain it out at the end of the cooking process. Continue to cook the custard until it coats the back of a wooden spoon. Then strain if necessary and put into a container to cool. I always put my ice cream base in a measuring cup so it is easier to pour directly into the ice cream machine. This base needs at least an hour to cool completly.

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You may be thinking, “wait you forgot the limoncello”! I like to add liqueurs at the end of the cooling process. Flavors change when a mixture is hot or cold. If I add the limoncello now, the flavor will be less intense after cooling. So, I will add 1 Tablespoon/cup and check the flavor before it goes into the machine.

While the base cools, you can make the blueberry sauce, which also needs to spend some time in the refrigerator before assembling the final dessert.

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Begin by combining cornstarch, lemon juice and warm water. Mix thoroughly and set aside this will be your thickening agent.

 

 

Next combine the blueberries, sugar and lemon zest. Put over medium heat and cook until the juices begin to release. Add the cornstarch slurry and continue to cook until thick. Place the sauce in a container and chill.

It’s seriously that easy! I went rock climbing for a couple hours while everything cooled off. When I returned it was time to fire up the ice cream machine.

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I let this churn for 30 minutes because I wanted a soft consistency for spreading into the pan. While the machine did all the hard work, I prepared the 9 X 5 loaf pan which would be the mold. The key for getting the cake out of the pan is to line it with plastic wrap. Make sure the plastic hangs over the sides as they will be the handles for lifting the frozen cake out the next day.

As I was working on this it occurred to me that the bottom would be the top, after the cake was inverted onto a serving dish. I thought it might be fun to attempt to have some sort of decoration on the top of the cake. But how to pull that off? I settled on placing a piece of parchment on the bottom of the pan.

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Then I took some thinly sliced lemon rounds and halved blueberries and “glued” them to the parchment with honey. I wanted the design to stay put when I spread the ice cream over them.

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After fixing the garnish to the paper, I put the pan into the freezer for 10-15 minutes

This was a huge gamble! I was not convinced it would work at all.

Now it is time to assemble the dessert! I gathered all the components: limoncello-honey ice cream, blueberry sauce, graham crackers and the prepared pan.

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Working with efficiency, so the ice cream doesn’t melt, begin the layering.

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Start by adding a thin layer of ice cream to the bottom of the pan. This will help the graham crackers adhere. Then a thicker layer of ice cream (or whip cream if using).

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Next add  half the blueberry sauce mixture and spread without mixing the two layers too much. You want layers, not a marbling affect in the end. Next is another layer of cream, then a layer of graham crackers. Then repeat: cream, the other half of the blueberry sauce, more cream.

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My final layer was composed of graham crackers, but you could add another layer of cream if you so desired.

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This was covered with foil and put into the freezer overnight.

 

 

The next day, it was time for the big reveal. Would this work with ice cream? Would the design I “glued” to the parchment paper be there? Would the limoncello ice cream be tasty?

Well, the design is (sort of) there. Perhaps if I had made the slices a little thicker? And, one of the blueberries moved, but overall I am happy with this first try! I will try this idea again! But how does is it taste? I am going in!

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Yes! delicious – love the lemon flavor in the ice cream and the blueberry sauce.

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This is also a really pretty dessert! It is quick, even faster if you just make it with the lemon whipped cream!

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Each of these individual components are quite tasty on their own. The ice cream would be great on a hot summer evening. And, the blueberry sauce would be wonderful over some vanilla ice cream, or as part of a dessert that requires a thick fruit compote. Since they are great as stand alone dishes, I have included the individual recipes as well as the formula for the icebox cake layering technique. I would encourage you to try any one of these, if you are not interested in the icebox cake itself.

Another great idea from Sally’s Baking Addiction! Give this one a try!

 

Limoncello-Honey Ice Cream

  • Servings: about 4 cups
  • Time: 30 minutes prep, 1 hour cooling + 30 minutes in the machine
  • Difficulty: easy
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Limoncello liqueur adds a depth of flavor to this lemony-citrus ice cream

Credit: Invisible-no-more

Ingredients

-1 1/2 cups milk

-1 cup heavy cream

-1/4 cup honey

-1/4 cup granulated sugar

-2 Tablespoons lemon zest

-1 Tablespoon lemon juice

-5 egg yolks

-3 Tablespoons limoncello liqueur, or to taste

Directions

  1. Add milk, cream and honey to a medium sauce pan and heat on low-medium until simmering. Small  bubbles will appear around the edge of the pan. Heat until the honey is completely dissolved.
  2. In a medium bowl combine the sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest and egg yolks. Whisk to incorporate. Slowly add some of the hot milk mixture to the egg yolks while whisking constantly. This is tempering the egg mixture. Combine the tempered egg mixture with the warm milk by adding the egg yolks back into pot of warm milk and continue to cook an additional 8-10 minutes. Using a wooden spoon, stir the mixture continuously until it coats the back of the spoon.
  3. Remove from the heat, cover and chill in the refrigerator until cool (about 1 hour).
  4. Once the custard base is cool, add the limoncello liqueur. Transfer to an ice cream maker and follow the manufactures instructions. Process for 30 minutes for soft serve or freeze for an additional 2 hours for a firmer consistency.

 

Blueberry Sauce

  • Servings: about 2 cups
  • Time: 20 minutes
  • Difficulty: easy
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This lemony blueberry sauce is great for serving over ice cream or as a component to any baked item that requires a thickened fruit filling

Credit: Sally’s Baking Addiction

Ingredients

-2 teaspoons cornstarch

-2 teaspoon lemon juice

-1 Tablespoon warm water

-2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries

-2 Tablespoons granulated sugar

-1 teaspoon lemon zest

Directions

  1. Whisk the cornstarch, lemon juice, and warm water together in a small bowl until the cornstarch has dissolved. Set aside.
  2. Warm the blueberries and sugar together in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir continuously for 3 minutes until the blueberry juices begin to release. Add the cornstarch mixture and continue to stir for another 2-3 minutes, smashing some blueberries as you go. The mixture will start to thicken.
  3. Remove from heat and stir in the lemon zest. Place in the refrigerator until completely cooled ~ 1 hour.

Limoncello Ice(cream)box Cake

  • Servings: 10 slices
  • Time: 50 minutes prep time, 1 hour + overnight cooling and freezing time
  • Difficulty: easy
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A twist on the icebox cake that uses limoncello-honey ice cream in place of the traditional whipped cream

Credit: Invisible-no-more

Ingredients

-Limoncello-Honey ice cream, recipe above

-Blueberry sauce, recipe above

-8-10 graham cracker, about 1 sleeve

Directions

  1. Prepare a 9 inch X 5 inch loaf pan by lining the entire inside with plastic wrap. Make sure there is enough plastic that will hang over the sides of the pan. This will be the “handles” that you will use to lift the frozen cake from the form.
  2. If desired, add a cut piece of parchment paper to fit the bottom of the pan. Secure a garnish of your choosing, with honey as the “glue”. Place in the freezer for 10-15 minutes to secure the garnish.
  3. Spread a thin layer of ice cream over the bottom of the pan (and garnish, if using) to help the graham cracker layer to adhere. Place the first layer of graham crackers in the bottom, add a layer of ice cream, then half the blueberry sauce, another layer of ice cream and then repeat: Crackers, ice cream, the other half of the blueberry sauce, ice cream. The final layer maybe the graham cracker layer or another layer of ice cream, if you have enough at that point.
  4. Cover with foil and place in the freezer for, at least 4 hours, or overnight.
  5. Allow the cake to sit at room temperature for 5-10 minutes then unwrap and invert onto a serving dish. Slice with a sharp knife that has been run under hot water, and quickly dried, to make clean slices. Garnish with lemon slices, lemon zest and/or blueberries.

 

Pulled Pork with Lemon and Garlic on a Potato Herb Roll

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I have been making this pulled pork for quite some time. It is one of our favorite preparations and, if there is a healthier way to make a pork sandwich, then this is it. But, the real star of this dish is the potato herb rolls that I can customize with with any herbs that will complement whatever fillings will be in the sandwich. In this case the pork is made with garlic and lemon so I used thyme, rosemary, dried parsley and onion powder to flavor the rolls.

The pulled pork could not be easier, in fact I hesitate to call this a recipe. I take a 4-5 pound pork shoulder and trim off any excess fat. It goes into a slower cooker and I add several garlic cloves, 1 large lemon cut into quarters or two smaller lemons halved. To ensure the pork is not dry I add about a 1/4 to 1/2 inch of low sodium chicken stock. Thats it! It cooks on low for 8 hours or until it falls apart.

Near the end of the cooking process, I remove the lemons and garlic and reserve the latter for the sandwich. The garlic is perfectly roasted and spreads easily on the roll if you are interested in doing so-and I always do!

Of course, rolls form scratch do take a little more time and effort but are so worth it.

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I use a 6 quart stand mixer with a dough hook attachment for these rolls. You can use a small mixer but note that the final dough will be about 4 1/2 pounds in weight. Most 4 quart mixers will be fine with that, but you could half the recipe if needed. I made 24, 3 oz sandwich rolls from that amount of dough, which would yield about 35, 2 oz dinner rolls. These rolls freeze very well and you could store the extra for several weeks and then refresh as needed.

You will begin by combining all the ingredients, minus the herbs into the mixing bowl and adding temperature controlled water (not shown). In my kitchen I use water at 100°F but anywhere from 80-100°F will work. Mix on low to incorporate then turn to medium to knead for 7-9 minutes. What you are looking for is what is called a “window pane”. This lets you know when the dough has reached its correct gluten development. There is no real mystery about this step. After ~about 7 minutes, turn off the mixer and pull out a small amount of the dough, it will be slightly sticky. Stretch the dough between your thumbs and forefingers into the shape of a rectangle. If the dough breaks it is not ready, the gluten strands are too short. Continue kneading. The dough temperature should be rising as well, and it will be near 77°F to 80°F when the dough is fully developed. Keep checking these two parameters. Eventually, your window pane will be strong, and transparent. Light should be able to show through the dough, without ripping or tearing, as it will be so thin it appears to be a “window”.IMG_1851

Add whatever freshly chopped or dried herbs you want and mix just until the additions are incorporated and evenly distributed.

Cover the dough and allow it to ferment until doubled (about an hour).

Now you can punch it down to degas and divide into the portion size you desire. Shape and place on a parchment lined sheet to proof until 70-80% larger in size.

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Once proofed they need an egg wash and a sprinkle of sea salt. Since I was not adding salt to the pork, I was generous with this!

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Bake, without steam, at 375°F for ~20 minutes or until golden brown.

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These are wonderful on their own or with any type of sandwich you wish to build. The smaller dinner roll version is great with soups and stews as well.

Of course, we had pulled pork in the slow cooker! I shredded the pork and we built our sandwiches. We went with arugula and a grilled pineapple relish with candied peppers! An outstanding combination!

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Let me know if you try either of these recipes!

Pulled Pork with Lemon and Garlic

  • Servings: 24, 3oz rolls
  • Time: 20 min prep, 8 hours cooking time
  • Difficulty: Easy
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This Pulled Pork has no added salt or sugar. The lemon and garlic add wonderful flavor

Credit: Invisible-no-more.com

Ingredients

-4 to 5 pound pork shoulder or pork butt, trimmed of excess fat

-5 to 6 whole garlic cloves, peeled

-2 small lemons, halved

-low sodium chicken broth or water

-grilled pineapple salsa

-arugula

-potato herb rolls (recipe below)

Directions

  1. Place the pork shoulder, garlic and lemon halves into a slow cooker. Add broth or water to about 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch on the bottom. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours.
  2. Near the end of the cooking time, remove the lemons and reserve the garlic for the sandwich build. Continue cooking the pork until if falls apart easily. Shred the meat with two forks and keep the meat warm in the slow cooker.
  3. Build the sandwich with a potato herb roll spread with the reserved garlic (if using), add the grilled pineapple relish, pulled pork and arugula.

Potato Herb Rolls

  • Servings: 24, 3oz. rolls
  • Time: 1 1/2 to 2 hours
  • Difficulty: moderate
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These Potato herb rolls can be customized with any herbs you would like to use to complement your meal.

Credit: On Baking, Text book, 3rd edition

Ingredients

-2 lb 2 oz. Bread flour

-3 oz. Potato flour

-1 oz. Instant yeast

-21 fl. oz. Water, temperature controlled 80°F to 100°F

-2 Eggs

-1.5 oz. Dry milk powder

-2.5 oz. Granulated sugar

-3/4 oz. Salt

-3 fl. oz. Olive oil

Suggested Herbs:

-1 oz. Fresh Parsley, finely chopped or 1/2 oz. dried

-2 teaspoons Fresh Rosemary, finely chopped or 1 teaspoon dried

-2 teaspoons of Fresh Thyme, or 1 teaspoon dried

-1 teaspoon onion powder

-1 teaspoon garlic powder

-1 teaspoon Black pepper

-Egg wash, as needed

-Kosher salt or fleur de sel, as needed

Directions

  1. Place flours, yeast, water, eggs, milk powder, sugar, salt, and oil in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Mix on low speed to combine then knead on medium speed until a window pane is achieved and the dough is 77°F (about 7-9 min.). Add in the herbs and mix until the herbs are well distributed throughout the dough.
  2. Cover the dough and ferment until doubled in size (~1 hour).
  3. Punch down the dough and portion into 3 oz pieces. Shape and place on a parchment lined sheet pan.
  4. Proof until the rolls are 70-80% in volume.
  5. Carefully brush the proofed rolls with the egg wash and sprinkle with the salt.
  6. Bake without steam at 375°F for ~20 minutes until golden brown.

 

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Maple Oatmeal Scones

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This is my family’s all time scone request. They never seem to get tired of this wonderful combination of oats, maple syrup and frosting, so much frosting! This recipe is adapted from Ina Garten, I really change very little and if you follow her recipe to the letter, you will not be disappointed! I decided to write up the recipe anyway for a couple reasons. For one, a few people asked my to and for another, I wanted to work on my short coding skills. I am new to using html code to embed recipes and would like to practice this skill.

This recipe comes together so easily that I did not take many production photos. The dough is sticky but it does have a major advantage in that you can mix and cut the scones out ahead of time and keep them in the fridge (or longer in the freezer) and bake off what you need in the morning.

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I wrap the scones loosely with plastic wrap the night before

The next morning I select the amount I want and transfer to a new pan with a parchment paper.

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You have a couple options here. You can brush the tops with an egg wash to facilitate browning. I recommend that if you plan to leave them plain or add a light glaze. Since I am using a frosting consistency, the tops are not visible, I omit the egg wash.

After the scones have cooled completely, add the frosting. Bonus: these are fantastic with coffee!

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Enjoy!

 

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Maple Oatmeal Scones

  • Servings: About 24, 21/2 inch scones
  • Time: 1 hour
  • Difficulty: easy
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Pure maple syrup, buttermilk and oats combine to give these scones a sweet flavor and nutty texture

 credit:Ina Garten

Ingredients

-3 1/2 cups all purpose flour

-1 cup whole wheat flour

-1 cup old fashioned oats, plus extra for garnish

-2 Tablespoons baking powder

-2 Tablespoons vanilla sugar

-2 teaspoons kosher salt

-1 pound, cold unsalted butter, diced

-1/2 cup cold buttermilk

-1/2 cup pure maple syrup

-4 extra large eggs

frosting:

-1 1/4 cups powdered sugar

-1/2 cup maple syrup

-1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flours, oats, baking power, sugar and salt. Blend the cold butter into the dry ingredients, starting on low speed, until the butter is the size of peas.
  3. Separately combine the buttermilk, maple syrup and eggs. Add to the butter flour mixture and combine just until incorporated, this dough will be sticky.
  4. Dump the dough onto a well floured counter top and pull the dough together. Working with floured hands, pat the dough into a 3/4 inch round and cut out scones using a 2 1/2 inch biscuit cutter. Place the scones onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake the scones for 20-25 minutes until browned.
  5. Make the icing: use the proportions listed to make a thin glaze which can be drizzled over the scones once they have cooled. Or adjust the proportions to create a thick frosting consistency by adding more powdered sugar than listed. Sprinkle with oats for garnish.

 

I prefer to use old fashioned oats instead of instant as they add more texture. Also, if I were making a thin glaze where the top of the scone would show, then I would use an egg wash before baking to give the tops a nice brown color.

Another time saving tip that I often use is to make the scones ahead of time by cutting our the scones and placing them all on one pan, wrapping with plastic wrap and storing in the refrigerator. The next day I can bake off all or some of the scones. They will store in the refrigerator for a week or longer in the freezer, if needed.

 

 

 

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Sally’s Baking Addiction, May Challenge: The Roll Cake!

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I have not made a roll cake since culinary school, and I really need more practice with them! Every roll cake I have ever made had some sort of crack in it, and this one was no exception. I am not sure why it cracks, I roll it warm right out of the oven, just like every recipe states but, inevitably it happens! So, when Sally’s monthly baking challenge came out this month I decided I would use it as an opportunity to work on two culinary issues that I struggle with constantly. One, fixing the cracking problem and two, practicing making buttercream roses to hide the crack!

I decided to divide this project into different phases and spread out the work over a couple days. I wanted the cake to be ready early on Mother’s Day, so working backwards meant that Friday was buttercream rose day. I used Sally’s Vanilla buttercream recipe from last months challenge because I knew it would pipe easily and tastes amazing!

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This was the consistency I was going for, thick enough to hold shape but still able to flow through the #104 tip

I used clear vanilla to keep some frosting white and colored other portions red, pink and green for some leaves. I did try to stripe some white icing for two toned roses but had technical difficulties with that piping bag (meaning it blew up all over me!)

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I stored the green icing in the fridge for later and set about piping roses. I watched a few youtube videos to refresh my memory but ultimately I had to dive in and just start trying. My goal was to pipe as many as I had icing for knowing full well that only a few would be useable! It might take 100 bad ones to get 3 or 4, such is my skill in this area!

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I tried to get a variety of sizes and I really had no idea how many I would need to cover the cake. So they all went into the fridge to firm up and I would have to see what I would have to work with after the cake was baked.

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Saturday was sponge cake time! My goal was to mix, bake and roll the cake which would then sit in the fridge until the following morning. I set about mixing the batter as per Sally’s instructions.

I sifted the dry ingredients together and set the them aside. The important part in making a sponge cake is to separate the eggs and beat the egg whites into stiff peaks, this will provide much of the leavening agent to the cake.

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The rest of the ingredients make up the base of the batter. The egg yolks, butter, additional sugar, vanilla and buttermilk are combined, then the beaten egg whites are folded in carefully. The dry ingredients are then folded into the final mixture. The batter is put into a 10 X 15 jelly roll pan that has been greased and lined with parchment paper. Bake the cake at 350°F for about 15 minutes. The critical part is next! Use a cup or so of powdered sugar and dust a clean, thin tea towel.

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When the cake is done it is immediately inverted onto the sugared towel.

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Peel off the parchment and roll the towel and cake into a tight spiral.

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The cake needs to cool in this form so that you can fill it later and re roll it. If you allow the cake to cool first, then attempt to roll it, you will have beautiful cake crumbs- I guess you could make cake pops!

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The cake went into the fridge to sit overnight

Since we had a long drive planned on Sunday morning, I also wanted to prepare the filling on Saturday.  Sally’s recipe calls for a strawberry cream cheese filling but my mother-in-law and daughter do not eat any cheese! So I opted for Sally’s Strawberry Buttercream instead. I am so glad I did! This was the star flavor of the cake. If you like strawberry this is your new go to recipe! Unlike most strawberry flavored icings it does not have jello or pudding mixes for flavor. Sally uses freeze dried strawberries and grinds them into a powder to flavor her buttercream-yum! I found some at Trader Joes but I am told there are other outlets that carry dried strawberries.

With the strawberry filling made and sitting next to the cake and roses in the fridge, all I had to do Sunday morning was fill and decorate the cake.

The cake and icing need a couple hours to come to room temperature. I unrolled the cake, and spread on the filling.

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Rolled it back up and put it seem side down on my serving tray. Everything was looking pretty good, until…

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The big crack! Every time, at least my record remains intact!

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So I pulled out my roses and started covering the cake. I had to use some warm water on the bottom of the flowers to get them to stick to the powdered sugar cake and then I used the green icing and a leaf tip to fill in the holes.

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IMG_1613It wasn’t perfect, but it was delicious! My husband who dislikes frosting in general loved the strawberry filling. I was not sure the roses would make it the hour and half drive in the car to my in laws home, but to my delight not one fell off!

This was a tough challenge for me but I am glad I gave it a go and look forward to Sally’s next task in June.

What does an Irishman take to a Cinco de Mayo party?

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A pear, apple and cranberry crisp of course!  Well, maybe that is not so obvious to everyone, but my good friend did recognize my limitations with respect to the Cinco de Mayo party she organized last week. When I asked her what I could contribute to the dinner menu she immediately gave my an assignment that she knew I could handle. Since she was already making a tres leches cake, I was tasked with making a fruit based dessert. Thankfully she did not ask me to make enchiladas!

Originally I wanted to make a strawberry rhubarb crisp but the fruit was not quite ready here as spring has made had a painfully slow start in our area. The grocery store looked more prepared for autumn than any other season. So, I went with a no fail recipe from Ina Garten, her pear, apple and cranberry crisp is one I have made many times and it always comes out delicious, and it is fast and easy!

The “hardest” part is peeling, coring and dicing the bosc pears and honey crisp apples (2 lb. each). The diced fruit is then mixed with the juice and zest of both a lemon and an orange. I used a blood orange as that was what I had on hand.

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I added a full cup of cranberries, more than the recipe calls for but we like them, 1/2 cup of vanilla sugar and 1/4 flour.

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Next came the cinnamon and freshly ground nutmeg. This is all mixed well in a large bowl and then put into a lightly greased 9 X 12 baking pan.

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Up to this point you could argue that this is not too unhealthy of a dessert, however that is about to change. This fruit mixture is good, but it’s the crumble topping that is the real star of the show!

For the crumble combine the 1 1/2 cups flour, 3/4 cup vanilla sugar, 3/4 cup brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and 1 cup old fashioned oats. Then add the diced, cold butter (2 sticks, 1/2 lb)

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Cut the cold butter into the dry components. Much like making a scone dough or pie crust, the goal is to have small pieces of butter throughout the mixture.

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Cover the fruit, entirely, with the crumble topping.

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Bake at 350ºF for 50 minutes to an hour. Make sure the crust is nice and brown and the fruit is bubbling.

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I transported the crisp in the pan and we served it at my friends house for a nice ending to a great meal.

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This is best served warm, but I will confess to eating it cold and having no problem! I have substituted different fruit combinations such as peaches and blueberries, plums and cherries and, of course, strawberries and rhubarb. They are all delicious using this same formula. Thanks to Ina for another awesome recipe and to my friend for opening her home to us!

 

Cinnamon Apple Babka

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As you well know by now, I do love to bake bread! I have been wanting to try a babka for some time and finally got around to developing this one. This is a bread that is slightly sweet and you can amp it up with more filling but we like a little less fruit and more of that bread flavor! I had a lot of apples after a recent Costco trip so I have been working them into every dish possible! This recipe can easily make two loaves, and I have included those options in the recipe located at the bottom of this post. Today, however, I decided to make a large, braided loaf and have also included that option, should you feel the need to have an enormous sweet bread centerpiece for your table!

This enriched dough begins with the making of a sponge, which is just water, yeast and sugar that has time to allow for the yeast to activate. Start by combining the yeast, brown sugar and temperature controlled water and let is sit for 30 minutes.

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After blooming the surface will have small bubbles and there will be a yeasty aroma

Next add the flour, oil, salt, egg yolks and eggs to the sponge.

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Knead the dough until a smooth, but slightly sticky ball forms and place in a lightly greased, large bowl. Cover and allow to rise in a warm place for 2 hours.

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While the dough is rising, prepare the cinnamon and apple filling. Whisk together the cinnamon, sugar and flour in a small bowl and set aside. The most important part of preparing the apples is to extract as much moisture as possible so that your dough will not be soggy. I did this by peeling, coring and grating the apples then placing them in a double lined paper towel and squeezing the water from the apples. There is a surprising amount of water that will drain out. I did this in small batches and cheesecloth would work well, but I didn’t have any on hand, so paper towels it had to be! Place the dried apple pieces into a bowl and immediately add the lemon zest and lemon juice, tossing to coat. Then add in the cinnamon sugar mixture. Set aside until the dough is ready.

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Now comes the tricky part of shaping and filling the bread. I will refer you to this excellent tutorial from King Arthur Flour on how to shape babkas. This site has all the options that I mention in the recipe with step by step instructions and pictures. At this point you need to decide if you want two loaves or one braided loaf. In either case you begin the same way, divide the risen dough into two equal portions.

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Roll one portion out to about 9″ X 18″ and spread half the cinnamon apple filling over the rectangle, leaving a 1/2 inch border around the perimeter. Start with the long side and roll into a log shape, much like you would if you were making cinnamon rolls. Pinch the bottom seam and the ends shut to contain the fillings. Repeat with the second portion of dough.

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At this point you may opt to make two loaves using the classic twist, or the sliced braid methods discussed on the King Arthur site and my recipe write up, I will discuss the process for making the single, braided loaf.

Begin by slicing the log lengthwise to form 4 “ropes”.

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Working with the filling side up, make a plus sign with the intersection at the middle of each rope. Then repeat with the other two strips to form a second plus sign that interlocks with the first one.

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Working clockwise, fold every other strip over the neighboring end, then repeat with the ends that extend but go in the opposite direction (counterclockwise) this time. Here is the  King Arthur photos for reference (they use their chocolate babka).

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You will have some ends left over, just tuck them under the loaf. Place the loaf onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Cover and allow to proof for another 45 minutes.

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Preheat the oven to 350°F and bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown and baked thorough the center.

While the bread cools mix the glaze by combining the powdered sugar, cinnamon extract, vanilla seeds and slowly adding enough milk or water to create a drizzling consistency. When the bead has cooled completely, drizzle with the glaze.

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I know that there are a lot of steps for this but it is so worth it! If you are not up for the braid, then try the simple loaf shapes highlighted on the King Arthur site and let me know what you think! Happy baking!

cinnamon apple babka recipe

 

I miss food: Dreaming about my last meal!

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I am having a colonoscopy today, in about four hours. It is not my first and won’t be my last, as I have rotten personal genetics in this respect.  If you have had the pleasure then you are fully aware that fasting the day prior to the procedure is required. One thing I learned yesterday, while feasting on popsicles and jello, is that my Instagram and Facebook are all full of images about food! I always knew my feeds were culinarily loaded, maybe more so than others in my non-blog world, but I really thought there would be other photos. Sure, there was the occasional sponsored messages and pics of people skiing-still snow in our mountains. But, 97% (yes, I did an actual calculation) was food related! Where were the runners, climbers and gardeners in my life when I really needed them! As I sit here this morning, drinking the last assignment from my doctor and watching Good Morning Football to prepare for the NFL draft, I find myself dreaming of all the food I can have after 2pm today. My thoughts keep drifting back to the Ham and Lentil soup I made for my “last supper” on Monday night.

This is a pretty straight forward soup that gets better each day as it sits in the fridge. I followed the recipe close to the original, except I rarely measure anything when making soup.

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I also rarely use celery in my soups as I just don’t love it! I will substitute with leeks or fennel, depending upon the overall flavor profile. For this soup I chose leeks. I also added more potatoes, carrots and peas than the ratios stated in the original recipe. I routinely use plain greek yogurt for thickening my soups as I prefer that to high fat sour cream, which this recipe already specified, so that worked well too. I did add some white wine to deglaze and subtracted that amount out of the total recommended liquid volume, but that is just me and not necessary-the recipe would be delicious just as written!

In my opinion, all soups and stews need a good salty roll or bread for dipping. And, by now you have probably guessed that I love to make my own bread. But this was a bit of a last minute decision the other day and I did not have any bread proofing on the counter for this meal. So, I  went to a handy and tasty short cut I use all the time. I use frozen dinner rolls from throllse store, my preference is Rhodes dinner rolls. I take the amount I want, place them into a baking dish, cover and pop them into the oven on proof (this is 100°F). They are fully proofed in about 3 hours, then go into a 350°F for 20 minutes. I brush them with melted butter, while they are still warm and sprinkle with fleur-de-sel and thyme. I just use any herb that complements the soup, sometimes rosemary or sage are a better choice. My family loves them, and will specifically requests these rolls, there are never any leftovers and I get to have that fresh bread taste in less time.

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So this is where I am at now-dreaming about rolls and soup. The reality is I will get a banana right after the procedure and slowly be able to work my digestive tract up to normal over the course of the day. I will run and climb later this week (can’t wait to get my life back!)

Next up for culinary: I am thinking about cinnamon apple babka!