experiments in cooking

Archive for March, 2011

Late-Night Yellow Cake

On Tuesday of this week, with the boys safely in bed and Chris out for a church thing, I found myself standing in my kitchen at 8:30 p.m. feeling the urge to bake something.

My poor dogs wanted me to come sit down on the couch, and stood around my feet in various poses of reproach, but I couldn’t deny the baking itch. “You’ll have to wait, guys,” I said. “Sorry about this.”

Two of them wandered off to mope in the living room, and one stayed to watch, just in case I dropped something yummy.

As I stood looking around the kitchen, trying to decide what to make, I thought about banana bread—but I’d made some two days before and didn’t want anyone in the house to get sick of it. I thought of making a small cake, because I had a very small amount of bittersweet chocolate glaze left over from a cake some weeks ago. But my favorite small cake pan was dirty. What to do?

Then I noticed three mini loaf pans out on the counter, and I decided to experiment. I opened my Joy of Cooking to search for a small cake recipe with the same amount of batter as a single-loaf bread recipe, then bake the cake as three mini cakes. And it had to be uncomplicated, because I was tired and just about at the end of my day’s energy.

I settled on an orange rum cake that looked simple and was written for a small 8-inch round cake pan, which has the same surface area as three mini loaf pans. Because I had no rum and wasn’t in the mood for an orange-flavored cake, I decided to make it a plain yellow cake—and it would no doubt be transformed into magic by my favorite bittersweet chocolate glaze, which tastes so amazing that it is a darn good thing I hadn’t discovered it during the time when I was counting calories a year and a half ago. (Please note that I’ve kept the weight off even after discovering this homemade chocolate glaze. I just had to learn self-control before it was safe for me to make and eat it.)

“That’s what I’ll do—switch up the recipe!” I told Wilbur, who was hanging out with me at the time. I don’t think he knew what I was talking about. He thumped his tail. I’m sure he was hoping I’d said “Sure, you can have a Cheerio.”

“It’ll work,” I assured him.

Wilbur thumped his tail again, but then I went to work pulling ingredients out of cabinets and transforming myself into the human baking tornado. With no Cheerio forthcoming, Wilbur got disgusted and went to hang out with the other two for a while.

Cake baked in mini loaves bakes fast. I pulled the mini pans out of the oven in 25 minutes, and that was almost too much time. Any more time and they would have been dry. Anyway, I let them cool for 10 minutes, slid a knife around the edges, and slid the cakes out onto the counter to cool. While they were still just barely warm, I iced them with the glaze.

And then I went to sit with the dogs for a while. I also figured they’d earned a few Cheerios.

Wednesday morning, to his surprise, Chris got to have cake for breakfast.

 image

Quick Yellow Cake (adapted from Joy of Cooking’s Orange Rum Cake)

You’ll need:
Eggs
Sugar
Salt
Orange zest
Unsalted butter
Baking powder
Evaporated milk or heavy cream

Optional: splash of vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F, and grease an 8″ round cake plan, springform pan, or three mini loaf pans.

Melt 3 tablespoons of unsalted butter and allow it to cool. (I melted the butter in the microwave and let it cool in the refrigerator while I completed the next steps.)

Whisk together 1 cup sugar, 1/8 tsp of salt, and 3 large eggs until the mixture is pale yellow and frothy.

Add to this mixture 1 ¼ cup flour and 1 ½ tsp of baking powder and gently fold together. Finally add the melted butter from earlier along with 1/3 cup evaporated milk. Stir gently with a spoon. Be careful not to overwork the batter so the end result remains fluffy and doesn’t get doughy like bread.

Pour this mixture into the greased pan and bake for 25–35 (less time if you use mini loaf pans) minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. After the cake has cooled invert it onto your serving dish and top with a chocolate glaze.

Monster Chew Cookies

image

I made these cookies not long ago, with chocolate chips, but this time I decided to use M&Ms instead and make monster cookies.

It should have gone smoothly, but it didn’t. These cookies just would not firm up! They were so soft and so thin that after I took them from the oven I couldn’t get them off the cookie sheet with the spatula. My spatula was covered with cookie gunk, the M&Ms got smushed all over the cookie sheets, a bunch of the cookies got holes in them when I tried to move them. Also, every time I pulled a cookie sheet out of the oven, I had to put it back in for several more minutes to try to firm up the cookies a little. In the end, after baking the cookies for twice the recommended time in the recipe, I wound up with some very, very chewy cookies.

I didn’t know what to think. I’d made these before with no trouble. Did I let the oats sit too long? Did the addition of the M&Ms cause some odd chemical reaction? Was it all the fault of the corn syrup? 

I was pretty bummed about these cookies until Chris and Jonah each tried one and came back for more. Jonah never wants one of my cookies, but he ate two right away and begged for more.

So, I will  make them again, because it’s nice to see my kid with M&Ms smeared around a big smile.

Monster Chew Cookies
based on a Joy of Cooking reduced fat oatmeal chocolate chip cookie

Makes about 3 dozen cookies

Position a rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Coat cookie sheets with nonstick spray.

Whisk together thoroughly:

1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt

Beat on medium speed until well blended:

¼ cup corn or canola oil
1 cup packed dark brown sugar|
1 large egg
1 large egg white
1/3 cup light or dark corn syrup
1 tablespoon skim milk
2 ½ teaspoons vanilla

Stir into the batter:

2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
2/3 cup M&Ms

Let the mixture stand for 10 minutes so the oats can absorb some moisture. Stir in the flour mixture; the dough will be slightly soft. Drop the dough by heaping measuring tablespoonfuls onto the sheets, spacing about 2 ½ inches apart.

Bake 1 sheet at a time, until the cookies are tinged with brown all over and the centers are just barely firm when lightly pressed. This should take 7 to 10 minutes, but it took about 15 minutes per sheet. The original recipe says to be careful not to overbake. That didn’t seem to be a problem with this batch.

Remove the sheet to a rack and let stand until the cookies firm slightly, about 2 minutes. If they don’t firm up, return them to the oven for a few more minutes. Transfer the cookies to racks or wax paper to cool.

Tag Cloud