Friday, February 17, 2012

February family bdays...Chocolate Cake

I don't think I'm very good at cakes...yet. I haven't been happy with the last two I've made (see previous post for Naco's bday funfetti cake - disaster!). But at least this one tasted really good! Cookies are just so much more forgiving!

Ash & I decided to take a little jaunt over to our aunt Tami's house for part of last weekend. Our Grandad is living there for the winter and I just love spending time with their family. I realized that Lyle, Landon, Grandad, and Roger all have February bdays so decided I'd make a cake to take over. I've always known Grandad's favorite cake is german chocolate but I wanted to try something else so emailed my mom with a couple of options. She told me he'd like the chocolate cake I told her about and/or that his favorite cookies are oatmeal nut. Well I'm terribly indecisive and love baking so I decided to make chocolate cake and cowboy cookies (oatmeal nut doesn't sound great to me but cowboy cookies have oatmeal and nuts and everyone loves those). Of course, I decided this on Thursday, was attending a ballet Thursday night, and needed to leave right after work on Friday. Sleep was sacrificed to make things work. NBD. Because I learned my lesson the hard way last time I made a cake, I borrowed one of Naco's round cake pans beforehand (did I mention in the last cake post that Ash later discovered two round cakes pans in one of our cupboards?!?). One trip to the grocery store before the ballet and one trip after and I was in business!

I read about this cake on Marta's blog, one of my favorites. She raved about it more than once so I decided to give it a try. She calls it a manly piece of chocolate cake and I was making it for 4 bday males so thought it should hit the spot. (Side note: Am I right or wrong in my thinking that men don't love chocolate like women do? It's so hard to believe but I've heard it more than once.) I made three layers again (love the look of more than 2 layers!). As I was preparing, I asked Wend & Ash if they thought it was fine to just spray the pans instead of using Crisco and flour. They both agreed that spray was sufficient. Well I knew better than that but wanted them to be right so that's what I did. BAD IDEA. The cakes stuck to each pan. I didn't over-bake them, though, which was satisfying. And I wasn't crazy about the taste of the frosting when I sampled it.

What I'd do differently next time:
1. I'd grease and flour the pans. That's really the best way.
2. I'd double the recipe and do it in four pans (how exquisite would that be?!?).

I would not change the frosting. Although I didn't love it by itself, it was perfect for the cake.

I said I wasn't happy with it because I knew it was kind of a mess underneath the frosting because the cake stuck to the pans. But the chocolate frosting covered it up nicely and nobody knew any better. Serve it with ice cream because it's super rich!

Chocolate Sour Cream Cake

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 3/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup Hershey's cocoa
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 container (16 oz.) dairy sour cream
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour 13x9x2-inch baking pan. (I used 3 round pans and had to adjust the baking time but don't remember how long.)

2. Stir together flour, sugar, cocoa, baking, and salt in large bowl. Add butter, sour cream, eggs, and vanilla; beat on medium speed of mixer 3 minutes. Pour batter into prepared pan.

3. Bake 40 to 45 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Frost with fudge frosting.

Fudge Frosting

3 tablespoons butter or margarine
1/3 cup Hershey's cocoa
1 1/3 cups powdered sugar
2-3 tablespoon milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Melt butter in small saucepan over low heat. Add cocoa; cook, stirring constantly, just until mixture begins to boil. Pour mixture into medium bowl; cool completely. Add powdered sugar alternately with milk to cocoa mixture, beating to spreading consistency. Stir in vanilla. About 1 cup frosting.

Note: I doubled the recipe for the frosting.

Both recipes from Marta Writes

Landon (sorry for the blur!)

Roger (who has lost over 30 pounds and didn't even eat the cake!)

Precious cargo - yes, that's a Christmas tree stand. It worked like a charm!
The cake. So yummy.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

2011 New Recipe #25 Tortillas

Ok, almost two months later, I'm finally posting my final new recipe of 2011. My sister, Stephanie, made tortillas for all of us and taught me how to, as well. It was messy and fun. Her mother-in-law taught her to make them several years ago and I keep thinking she should make them for us so she did it one day for lunch when we were all at my parents' house for Christmas. We ate them with this delicious hot meat that she made. Loved them!

Steph working her magic

Homemade Tortillas

3 cups flour
1 T baking powder
1 T salt
1 cup hot water
Slather Crisco all over

When I make these again, I'll definitely have to call Steph for a refresher. You have to "eye" the hot water to see how much you need...I've never been good at estimating and would rather follow a recipe exactly than try to improvise. But with her help, I did it! So you make the dough and then you slather Crisco all over it. Then you form the dough into little balls (see picture). I feel like at some point you have to set the dough aside or something but I forgot (consequence of posting this 2 months later!). Then you roll out each little ball with flour and a rolling pin and cook them on a cast iron skillet. We made a ton of them and it was lots of fun. I like to be in the kitchen with my mom and sisters. And I love Mexican food. And eating in general.

When I got back home after Christmas, I excitedly told my roommates that we could have our own Taco Tuesday and I could make the tortillas. That hasn't happened. Part of the reason is that my friend, Dixie, introduced me to these awesome tortillas at Costco that are uncooked and ready to go. They are so easy and delicious! I'm sure it's cheaper to make your own. I'll do it again sometime...that sometime may or may not be before I have my own family.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Brown Butter and Sea Salt Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ok, so I'm not going to post all of the new recipes I try this year but I couldn't deny my readers (all 3 of you...) this amazing recipe! Plus I figured if I wanted to remember how much I loved it, I better record it somewhere. On Saturday, we had a Valentines craft night at our house with the roomies and Naco. Linds made an awesome wreath that is now hanging on our front door and Wend made a fantastic bunting that is hanging over the mirror in the living room (with Linds' pink/white Valentines lights). Ashley was gone for a large part of the evening so didn't do any crafting but contributed delicious candy to our night. :) Naco painted several cards (she's very artistic) and Sarah-Dawn stopped by for a little bit and made a card or two as well. Although I planned to at least make a card, my craft ended up being baking. I made red velvet sandwich cookies (didn't love those but took most of them to a Super Bowl party the next day) and brown butter and sea salt chocolate chip cookies in a heart shaped mold. They were darling and absolutely scrumptious.

Cookie with one of Naco's cards in the background
This isn't the one Wendy made (obviously) but it's close (hers is better)

Centerpiece I got to take home from our RS Love Auction

Linds' wreath (have I mentioned that I LOVE wreaths?)

Brown Butter and Sea Salt Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 sticks (1 cup) butter
1 1/4 cups packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
One 10-ounce bag chocolate chips
1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. and line a large baking sheet with a silpat liner or parchment paper
2.  Place butter into a medium saucepan over medium heat, swirling pan to melt.  Once melted watch carefully.  Butter will foam, boil then little brown bits will start to form around sides and bottom of pan.  Once butter turns a golden brown and has a very nutty aroma, remove from heat.  I transfer mine to a bowl so cooking stops.  Let cool for 5 minutes.
3.  Place both sugars into stand or electric mixer.  Add brown butter and mix until well combined.  Add eggs and vanilla, mixing until well combined.  Place flour, baking soda and sea salt into a large bowl.  Slowly add to wet ingredients then add in chocolate chips, mixing until just combined.  Scoop dough onto prepared baking sheet with a medium sized cookie scoop and sprinkle tops with additional sea salt.  Bake for 9 to 11 minutes, until cooked through.  Let cool for 5 minutes then transfer to cooling rack.
Makes 3 dozen cookies

Recipe from Picky Palate

Friday, February 3, 2012

Naco's bday

Naco turned a year older on January 15. To celebrate, we went camping at San Mateo campground. We stopped for dinner at Pedro's Tacos on the way because she loves that place, cockroaches and all. It was MLK weekend so quite a few people were camping but we found a nice spot and got set up. Red checkered tablecloth, camping chairs, bonfire, tent, friends, fun. Add some s'mores, bday cake, and presents and that makes for a splendid time. Next time we'll take a little more firewood as it was a rather chilly night and that wood burned fast!

One small glitch: the cake. Oh, the cake. I love baking so volunteered to make Naco's bday cake. She loves funfetti so I decided to make a homemade funfetti cake. Wendy and I babysat the night before camping so I hit up the grocery store and started baking late that night. While making the batter, I realized that we don't have round cake pans at our house. Oops. Luckily Ryan was there and thought he had one at his house. I wanted to make a four layer cake so I texted a few friends to see if they had any I could borrow, too. I picked up the one from Ryan and went to Naco's to borrow her two. She had fallen asleep but I found a way to get in and got the pans myself. I was content to reduce the layers to three. I baked the cake and put the frosting off until the next day. The cake was slightly more done than I wanted but it was ok. (Side Note: Ovens are so frustrating to me. You spend so much time on something and then mess it up because of 1-2 measly minutes in the dang oven! I should have learned my lesson by now. Baking times are estimates. Ovens are unreliable. Ugh...)

I got home from work on Friday to make the frosting. I ended up having to go to the store for candles and food coloring (losing precious time, of course). I wanted tall candles and the store didn't have them (I thought I had some but apparently I'm losing my mind). So I asked Naco to bring her own candles for her bday. She's great so she didn't mind. As I stood there choosing food coloring, I realized that I wanted the frosting to be white. If my mind worked the way minds should work, I would save myself a lot of headache.

Anyway, I made the frosting, frosted the cake, decorated it with sprinkles, all on a beautiful white cake stand. I gingerly held it while I drove to Naco's house, cutting off the circulation in my arm, but made it safely. It was so pretty and Naco loved it!

We put candles in it, sang happy bday, Naco blew out the candles, and we served everyone. I took one bite and knew something was wrong. I voiced my concern but nobody seemed to notice so I tried another bite. It was bad. This nightmare of a cake was bad! Naco agreed with me, Wendy ate almost her whole piece before she had a bite that didn't taste good. I sent it home with Wendy and Ryan happily ate his whole piece and would've eaten a second!

I'm not sure what was wrong with that recipe but we're thinking it had something to do with baking soda or powder (don't remember which now). I don't know if the recipe called for the wrong thing or if what I had was old or what. Luckily I don't have big flops like that often. And luckily we all have a good sense of humor. And luckily I'll have plenty of chances to redeem myself before Naco's next bday!

A very happy bday to Naco! Despite the cake, we had a great time! And went on to get pedicures and see a movie the next day.