Monday, February 27, 2012

Moist Carrot Cake w/ Coconut Milk Magic Frosting & A Giveaway!

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The Harried Cook turned ONE yesterday!
As you may know, I started this blog as a way to chronicle my recipes for my little girl as well. She was only sixteen months old when I started and now she recognizes my blog when she sees it, knows which pictures are of "mommy's num-num". She has even started 'helping' around the kitchen - which usually means sticking her hands into the flour or dropping an egg on the floor - and through it all she chants, "I can cook, mommy. I can cook!" She's her mommy's daughter for sure! And who knows - she may even guest post for me on The Harried Cook's next birthday! :)

When I look back over the year, I am truly amazed - at how much I have learned, how many wonderful people I have met, how much I have drooled over all your fabulous food and most of all at how many friends I have made. This year has been a year of highs and lows for me, and I even took a blog break when I had to move house. You have no idea how touched and happy I was to have people emailing me just to check how I was doing and to see if we had found a home yet!

I am grateful for each and every one of you that has visited, commented, emailed, written on my Facebook wall or more recently, pinned one of my pictures. You have brightened so many of my days!

And thank you to my husband for the gorgeous blog anniversary roses! I love them!

For my blog anniversary, I baked the most amazing, moistest carrot cake and paired it with a coconut milk frosting that I came up with for a baking workshop I conducted around Christmas time. This was the exact recipe I taught at the workshop. I promised in my Christmas cookies post that I would share it with you, and here it is!
This cake is so delicious! I have been using this recipe for years and years and it has NEVER failed me. It is a very popular recipe and I know many people who use it and are very happy with it. The seemingly out-of-place pineapple and coconut contribute to make it an amazingly moist cake.

For the frosting recipe, I took inspiration from the Pioneer Woman's best frosting recipe. It is an easy and very fool-proof recipe. One of my friends (who also gave me this beautiful cake platter for my birthday - THANK YOU, Mousie :) :) I love it!!!)), dubbed this frosting 'Magic Frosting' and the name has stuck. I adapted the recipe to include coconut milk and coconut extract and it was just brilliant with the carrot cake. And if a sworn coconut hater can say so, you can take my word for it!

Moist Carrot Cake
Adapted from Food.com
Ingredients
2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon powder
1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 tsp salt
1 3/4 cup sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp coconut extract (optional)
2 1/2 cups grated carrot
1 cup freshly grated coconut
1 can (8oz) crushed pineapple, drained

Method
1. Preheat oven to 180C or 350F. Grease and flour cake tin. I used an 8" round pan for this recipe. 
UPDATE: the pan I used was a high sided pan and a reader has brought to my notice that using a regular sized 8" pan causes overflow. So if your pan is regular sized, please divide your batter between two pans. 
2. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon powder & grated nutmeg. Set aside.
3. In a small bowl, whisk together the sugar, vegetable oil, eggs, coconut extract and vanilla until light.
4. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour in the oil mixture. Stir well until combined and smooth.
5. Add the grated carrot, coconut and crushed pineapple and mix well to incorporate.
6. Pour into prepared tin and bake for 45-60 minutes until the center is set and the cake is golden brown. I would check on the cake after 40 minutes of baking.
7. Allow to cool completely before frosting.

Coconut Milk Magic Frosting
Adapted from Pioneer Woman's recipe
Ingredients
1 1/2 cups coconut milk
7 1/2 tsp all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups butter, softened
1 1/2 cups castor sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp coconut extract (optional)

Method
1. In a heavy bottomed saucepan, combine the coconut milk and flour and whisk until smooth and not lumpy.
2. On low-medium heat, cook while stirring continuously until the mixture is thick and glossy. This will take about 5 minutes.
3. Set aside until completely cooled. It should not be even slightly warm.
4. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and castor sugar with an electric mixer (or in your stand mixer) until light.
5. Add the completely cooled coconut-flour mixture and the extracts.
6. Beat on medium-high speed. Don't panic if the mixture starts to look curdled or 'separated'. Just keep beating on high speed until it comes together. And it will.
7. Keep beating until the mixture has the texture of whipped cream and the sugar has completely dissolved.
8. Use on the same day or store in the fridge for up to three days. (I haven't tried keeping it longer or freezing it, but I don't see why that wouldn't work)

I have never been very good at the artistic stuff. These are supposed to be buttercream roses. I hope they don't look like random swirls.

This a magical combination.


Really. Truly. Take my word for it.

Now for the giveaway!

As a way to say "Thank you!", I would like to share one of my favorite cookbooks with you. If you've been around me long enough, you must know how much I love Alton Brown. So, I would like to giveaway one copy of his book 'I'm just here for the food' as a token of my love and appreciation to the readers of The Harried Cook.
It is only a small gesture, I know, but it is from my heart!

To enter this giveaway, just leave me a comment telling me which is your favorite recipe on my blog. Do you like these Rocky Road Cupcakes or do these Walnut Muffins make you drool? Is your sweet tooth craving some Red Velvet Ice Cream or would you rather have these savory Coconut Sesame Prawns? Just leave a comment and let me know - and that's all you need to do!

For additional entries, you can
- Like my Facebook page
Pin one of the images of the cake in this post
- Subscribe to The Harried Cook by email or by RSS feed

Don't forget to leave separate comments to let me know you've done each of these things! That's a total of four entries per person. You have till 10 PM (GMT) on March 5th to enter.

This giveaway is open to anyone, anywhere. A random winner will be chosen using Random.org and announced on March 6th in an announcement post.

Please note: As you may have already heard, Google Friend Connect is being withdrawn from March 1st. So if you are following me on GFC and would like to continue receiving updates from The Harried Cook, I would recommend subscribing via email or subscribing to my RSS feed

Thanks again for all your support! I love you all!

Now go bake this cake, you hear?

Disclaimer: This giveaway is sponsored by me and me alone. Alton Brown does not even know I exist. Sigh!


***GIVEAWAY CLOSED***
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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Dried Blueberry Scones

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Every time I go through my favorite blogs on my Google Reader, the thing that I feel most jealous about is all the gorgeous fresh berries I see! Except for strawberries and gooseberries, we don't get any other fresh berries where we live and that makes me SO sad! I am starting to hear rumors that we might be getting a few other varieties imported in a few months. I am really looking forward to that!

The only time I got to taste fresh blueberries, I totally loved them! But of course we very rarely get them fresh here. Dried berries are the only option for me. A good friend brought me a nice big bag of dried blueberries recently, and I've been wondering what to make with them. And then I found this recipe.
I LOVE scones. Plain scones, spiced scones, fruity scones - any kind! Remember my Cranberry-Orange scones?
I saw this recipe on Epicurious.com and immediately knew that I would be making this soon. I thought it would be a great way to use these dried bluberries. It was easy to make, and pretty quick too!
The scones turned out really good (better than these pictures did!). Everybody enjoyed them - the husband included. He is usually the hardest to please - especially with non-chocolate dishes. He had a few with a cuppa and seemed to enjoy them.

Dried Blueberry-Lime Scones
Adapted from this recipe on Epicurious.com 
Ingredients
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup sugar (plus 1 tablespoon for sprinkling)
85 grams unsalted butter (chilled and cubed)
1/2 cup buttermilk (plus 1 tablespoon for brushing the top)
3/4 cup dried blueberries 
1 tbsp lime zest

Method
1. Soak the blueberries in a bowl of water for about 15-30 minutes.
2. Preheat the oven to 200. Line a tray with Silpat or parchment paper.
3. In a large bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar until well combined.
4. Add the cubes of butter and using only your fingertips, rub in the butter into the flour until you have a mixture that resembles chunky bread crumbs. Some pieces of butter will be as large as baby peas.
5. Drain the blueberries and add into the bowl. Toss gently to coat the blueberries.
6. In a small bowl, combine the buttermilk and lime zest.
7. Pour this mixture into the large bowl and slowly mix with your hands until most of the flour is incorporated.
8. Transfer onto a work surface and bring all the dough together, kneading very gently. Don't knead for more than 30-40 seconds.
9. Gently flatten the dough into a 1" circle.
10. Transfer to the baking sheet, and cut into wedges.
11. Brush with the remaining buttermilk and sprinkle the top with the reserved sugar.
12. Bake for about 22-25 minutes or until golden brown on top, and cooked all the way through. You can test it with a toothpick.
Of course like all scones, these are best eaten fresh. I found that these scones were on the sweeter side, and so it did not need a sweet accompaniment like jam, or even a glaze, but you could add a simple one if you like! (I think the lime-cream cheese glaze in this recipe would be lovely with the blueberries!) I love scones with butter and so I ate one with a generous amount of butter. I also ate one the next day with some lime curd, and it was delicious! This recipe is definitely worth making again!

And hey - the 26th of February is The Harried Cook's first birthday! I look forward to sharing this special day with all of you who have made my first year so special! See you all on the 26th! :)

Look forward to a special giveaway sponsored by moi! :)
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Friday, February 17, 2012

Spinach & Bacon Quiche

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After that marathon blogging session with my Red Velvet Series, I thought it would be a good idea to take a small break from the sweet stuff. Not a long break, mind you! And I thought it would be good idea to show that we don't just live on desserts and sweet treats around here. We eat other stuff too. Like this.
I found some beautiful fresh spinach at the supermarket the other day, and for some reason, my daughter was intent on loading up our cart with nothing but spinach! We left the store with more spinach than we usually buy, and so I decided I would try something new.
This quiche was adapted from Paula Deen's recipe on the Food Network, and it turned out really great. Of course, how bad can it be when it has bacon, right? I adapted the quantities a little because a 9" tart sounded like too much for our family. I made a 6"  tart and we still had some left over.

Spinach-Bacon Quiche
Adapted from Paula Deen
Ingredients
Crust
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tbsp ground pepper
1 egg yolk, cold

Filling
1 1/2 cup spinach leaves, chopped
200g cooked bacon, chopped
4 eggs
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup cheese, shredded (I used a mix of cheddar, parmesan and mozzarella)
Salt and Pepper, to taste

Method
1. To make the crust, in a large bowl, stir together the flour, salt and pepper.
2. Add the butter cubes, and with the tips of your fingers, rub the butter into the flour until you have a mixture that resembles coarse bread crumbs.
3. In a small bowl, lightly beat the egg yolk and add into the bowl. Bring the dough together lightly with your finger tips taking care not to knead. If needed, add a few drops of cold water.
4. Wrap the dough in cling film and refrigerate for 20 minutes.
5. Roll out and line your pastry tin with the dough and prick all over with a fork.
6. To make the filling, combine the eggs, cream, salt and pepper and whisk until combined, or whiz for about 30 seconds in a blender.
7. Into the pie crust, layer the spinach, bacon and cheese.
8. Pour the egg-cream mixture over the layers in the crust.
9. Bake at 200 for about 45 minutes or until the center is set and the top is golden brown.
10. Allow to cool for about 10 minutes before slicing into wedges.
For this tart, I made the crust, but a store-bought crust (refrigerated all-butter, NOT pre-baked), would work just as fine, and would be a lot quicker.

This is a really rich and filling quiche and everyone was happy with it. It was just cheesy enough for my daughter and she loved it. I made a simple salad to serve on the side, but my husband and daughter (who are not salad people), enjoyed eating just the quiche for lunch.
I hope everyone is having a lovely week! :)
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Sunday, February 12, 2012

Red Velvet Ice Cream

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I'm seeing RED!

In a good way, of course! :)

As I mentioned in one of my earlier posts, I don't really care much for Valentine's Day. But I do love the food surrounding it. Who wouldn't? I've been seeing so many gorgeous treats on all the blogs I visit and have bookmarked quite a few of them!

Back to our Red Velvet Adventures. Someone asked me this - and so, I must answer - I honestly cannot decide which of the Red Velvet treats is my favorite. They all taste SO good. I guess if I was FORCED to pick a favorite, I would have to say it is a two way tie between this soft-serve ice cream and the whoopie pies! :) But, I hate to discrimate! So I guess I would prefer to stop at 'I love Red Velvet anything'.
Anyhoo, I made this recipe for Red Velvet Ice Cream by modifying my Rocky Road Ice cream base, and it turned out just great. Creamy, velvety smooth ice cream with slightly more than a hint of chocolate. It's just yummy!
The cheesecake sauce was added on a whim. I didn't have a recipe. I just winged it, and it worked out great! The tang from the cream cheese worked perfectly with the sweet ice cream. Hey! What am I doing? Do I really have to convince you that 'Red Velvet + Cream Cheese = Best thing in the world'?! (Look at this guy's face! It says it all, doesn't it?)
Red Velvet Ice Cream
Ingredients
1 can condensed milk
1/8 cup cocoa powder
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup full-fat milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
Red food coloring (desired amount)

Method
1. In a large saucepan, combine the condensed milk and cocoa powder and stir well to combine.
2. Cook on a low heat for 5 minutes until slightly thickened.
3. Take it off the heat, and stir in the cream, milk, vanilla, food coloring and vinegar, and mix well.
4. When the mixture has cooled, refrigerate for at least 4 hours until chilled.
5. Freeze in your ice cream maker, following the manufacturer's direction.
6. When the ice cream has reached the soft-serve stage, stop the machine, and stir in any add-ins you might want to use.
7. Transfer to an airtight container and freeze for at least 2 hours before serving.

To make the cheesecake sauce, whisk 8oz of cream cheese till smooth and creamy. Slowly add enough half-and-half until you get the consistency you want. Add a splash of vanilla and enough powdered sugar to sweeten. I wish I had measured out the ingredients, but it's pretty  hard to mess up. Just go slow while adding the half-and-half so you don't end up adding too much.
We made sundaes using Red Velvet Madeleine crumbs, Red Velvet ice cream and the cream cheese sauce, and it was bliss in a bowl... Really, really delicious! I hope you try this recipe!

In case you've missed the other posts, here is a round up of all the Red Velvet recipes on The Harried Cook. Click on the pictures to go to the recipe post.


                               Red Velvet Whoopie Pies                     Red Velvet Madeleines


I hope you have enjoyed this Red Velvet adventure as much as I have! 

Have a wonderful week! Take an extra effort this week (and through the year!!!) to let your loved ones know how much they mean to you! 
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Saturday, February 11, 2012

Red Velvet Madeleines

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Welcome to yet another installment in the Red Velvet Series we're enjoying! I am a total Red Velvet fiend and I am thoroughly enjoying baking and sharing these treats with you.
This is the fourth recipe I am sharing in this series, and I will share the fifth and last recipe tomorrow night, hopefully giving you enough time to plan and make one of these treats for your family in the coming week! 

As I type this, I realize how much respect I have for the bloggers who manage to get out one post a day! How do you do it? Where do you find the time, energy and inspiration? I am totally in awe of each and every one of you! Today is the 5th day in a row I am posting, and it has been so crazy. I barely got today's post out, and I am amazed at those of you who post every day! Thank you for your dedication & hard work! :)

Today's recipe is a simple treat to share with your family and friends over a nice cup of tea (or coffee, if that's your thing). It is the classic Madeleine. Well, not so classic. It IS Red Velvet madness! Can't forget that, can we?
Red Velvet Madeleines
Adapted from Joyofbaking
Makes 12 regular sized Madeleines
Ingredients
1/4 cup butter 
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tbsp cocoa powder
1/4 tsp baking powder
Baking Soda, a pinch
Salt, a pinch
2 medium eggs
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
3/4 tsp vanilla extract
Red food coloring, as desired

Method
1. Melt the butter and set aside to cool.
2. In a small bowl, mix together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir well to combine and set aside.
3. In a medium bowl, using an electric mixer with the whisk attachment, whisk the eggs and sugar together until tripled in volume and very thick. When the beaters are lifted, the mixture will drop in a thick ribbon.
4. Add the food coloring and whisk till completely incorporated.
5. Sift in the flour mixture in three portions, folding gently between additions, taking care not to overmix or stir.
6. Stir the vanilla and vinegar into the melted butter.
7. Add the butter to the batter in three installments, folding gently after each addition. Do not overmix the batter.
8. Refrigerate the batter for at least half an hour. I left it in the fridge for about an hour.
9. Preheat the oven to 200.
10. Grease and flour a madeleine tine. Fill each mould with a heaped tablespoon of the batter, allowing the batter to drop with a mound in the center. Do not flatten the batter.
11. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until the centers spring back when touched.
12. Remove the pan from the oven and tap it hard against the counter-top to release the madeleines.
13. Turn over onto a cooling rack and allow to cool completely. 
To be honest, I don't drink tea or coffee regularly. I occasionally enjoy a cup of herbal tea, and I made myself a nice cup of fennel tea (not the tea in the pictures!) and these madeleines were delicious with it! 

They are light, cake-like, cookie-like and ever so slightly chocolaty. Red Velvet is such a cool thing, isn't it. Works in so many forms! As I sat down to plan my Red Velvet Fest, I came up with 12 different things to do with Red Velvet! Of course, I decided to attempt only 5 because I know that any more than that, and I would lose my mind trying to churn the posts out. 
If you haven't already checked them out, don't forget to visit the first three recipes in this series

Also, check out one of my very old posts, and the recipe that made me fall in love with Red Velvet 

Also, a BIG thank you to Elisabeth of Food and Thrift Finds for sharing some wonderful awards with me. I am honored to receive them! :) Thank you! 

That's a whole lot of RED and it has been SO much fun! I hope you enjoy these Madeleines and I can't wait to share my last Red Velvet recipe with you tomorrow! 
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Friday, February 10, 2012

Red Velvet Whoopie Pies

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Day three of our Red Velvet Journey is here!

I am thoroughly enjoying myself making and sharing with you these Red Velvet Treats. I hope you haven't missed the first two posts of this series - Red Velvet White Chocolate Chip Pancakes and Red Velvet Brownie Bites! They were both yummy!
The third Red Velvet treat I want share with you today is my favorite so far. These Red Velvet Whoopie Pies are SO good! For the cookies, I used Paula Deen's Red Velvet Sandwich Cookie recipe, but didn't use her cream cheese filling. I decided to use a creamy vanilla I've used before for sandwich cookies, and it worked great! The combination was dreamy!

Since we have been overdosing on the sweet treats this week, I baked a half batch of these cookies. Drat! Why did I go and do that?! Anyways, this makes 6 whoopie pies and I would recommend not telling anyone that you made them, because you will want to eat all six. Even before I had a chance to take the pictures, my husband ate two. Now that doesn't happen often. So they must be good! 
Red Velvet Whoopie Pies (or Red Velvet Sandwich Cookies)
Adapted from Paula Deen's Recipe on the Food Network
Ingredients
105g all-purpose flour
1 tbsp cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tbsp buttermilk
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Desired amount of Red Food Coloring

Method
1. Mix together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a small bowl. Set aside. 
2. Cream together the butter and sugar. Add the egg and continue beating until light and fluffy.
3. Add the buttermilk, vinegar, vanilla and food coloring, one at a time. Beat well to combine.
4. Add the dry ingredients into this mixture and mix well until well combined.
5. Drop large spoonfuls of the batter onto a silpat/parchment lined baking tray. Each mound of the batter should be around 2 inches wide.
6. Bake for about 10 minutes or until completely cooked.
7. Leave for a few minutes to cool on the baking tray, and then remove the cookies onto a baking rack to cool.
8. When completely cool, pair up the cookie halves and sandwich using the creamy vanilla filling.

Creamy Vanilla Filling
Ingredients
1/2 cup whole milk
1/8 cup sugar
Salt, a pinch
1 egg yolk
1 tbsp corn starch
1/4 cup softened butter
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Method
1. In a small bowl, combine the sugar, salt, egg yolk and cornstarch. Whisk together and set aside.
2. In a medium saucepan, bring the milk  to a simmer. Take if off the heat and slowly stream half of the milk into the bowl containing the sugar mixture, stirring constantly.
3. Add the mixture back into the saucepan with the remaining milk. Cook on low heat, whisking continuously until the mixture thickens and becomes glossy.
4. Take it off the heat and whisk in the vanilla. Set aside to cool.
5. When the mixture has cooled, whisk it once again to make it smooth. 
6. In a small bowl, cream the butter until light and fluffy.  
7. Add the butter to the cooled milk mixture and whisk vigorously until light and fluffy.

This is a really delicious treat. I loved the filling, and maybe next time - just out of curiosity - I will try Paula Deen's recipe for the filling.

I hope you like this recipe! Here is how my 28 month old felt about it.  
I feel the same way!

:)

Make sure you come back tomorrow when I will share a delicious tea-time Red Velvet Treat! 
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Thursday, February 9, 2012

Red Velvet Brownie Bites

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I cannot tell a lie.

These were not intended to be Red Velvet Brownie Bites.

They were supposed to be regular brownies. Well, not really regular. They were supposed to be Red Velvet Swirl Brownies. Except, as I often do, I went and ruined it with my silliness. For some reason, I looked at the amount of brownie batter in my bowl and decided that 8oz of cream cheese would be too much for that much brownie batter and so I halved the cheesecake layer. Talk about silly!

And then I went and mis-read the pan size (I was reading too many recipes at the same time!) and ended up with really thin, flat brownies. So, I went with the flow, cut them into bite-size squares (well, they were 2 bites sized), and we enjoyed them! Easy to make, super-moist, and really delicious, this crowd-pleaser is a hit!
While the red velvet layer tasted nice, it was the cream cheese layer that was really yummy! Overall, it was like a brownie+cheesecake combination and it really worked! The recipe below has the correct proportions, and not the ones I used. If you want to intentionally make my mistake, or if you don't have enough cream cheese lying around, go ahead and halve the ingredients for the cream cheese layer. But I'd rather you didn't.

Red Velvet Swirl Brownies
Adapted from Food Network
Ingredients
Brownie Batter
1/2 cup salted butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup cocoa powder
2 tsp red food coloring
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
2 eggs
3/4 cup flour

Cream Cheese Batter
8oz cream cheese
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1/8 tsp vanilla

Method
1. Preheat your oven to 200.
2. In a large saucepan, melt the butter on low heat, being careful not to burn the butter. (Unless you want burnt butter brownies. Hmmmm... something to think about...)
3. Stir in the sugar, vanilla, cocoa powder and vinegar, stirring well after each addition.
4. Whisk the eggs in a small bowl and add to the butter mixture.
5. Add the flour, and stir lightly till combined.
6. Pour the batter into a greased and floured 8x8 baking tin.
7. In a medium bowl, whisk cream cheese, sugar, egg and vanilla until smooth and light.
8. Drop teaspoons full of the cream cheese mixture over the top of the brownie batter.
9. Using the tip of knife or a skewer, swirl the cream cheese mixture over the top of the brownie batter until you are satisfied with the swirl pattern.
10. Bake for 25-30 minutes.
Allow it to cool completely before slicing. The taste of the red velvet brownie layer and the cream cheese layer together is absolutely divine. The original recipe can be found here.
I am so happy that we're on our Red Velvet adventure! Did you see yesterday's post? A Valentine's Day breakfast idea! Red Velvet White Chocolate Chip Pancakes! I look forward to sharing all the other recipes with you. 2 down, 3 to go! :) See you tomorrow!

Oh, and if you haven't already, you must see what Jill Colonna made for my birthday! Go check out my birthday post!
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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Red Velvet White Chocolate Chip Pancakes

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How great was that Tart Tatin from Jill? If you missed the post, you must go check out what Jill Colonna made for my birthday!!!

Over the next five days, I wanted to share some Red Velvet recipes. Why? Where do I start!? Because I love Red Velvet. Because Valentine's day is around the corner. Because red is the color of love. Because red is my favorite color. Because red velvet rocks. Because.... well, you get the idea. Honestly, I am not completely sold on the whole Valentine's day thing, but hey - any excuse to overload on Red Velvet treats! So, to start things off this fiery red journey, a breakfast treat. Something that can be fixed in a jiffy, and tastes great! Red Velvet pancakes studded with sweet, melty, white chocolate chips.
The concept of Red Velvet pancakes is not something I can take credit for. It's all been done before. But I didn't want to try a new recipe. I love my usual pancake recipe, and I decided to just play with that basic recipe and throw in the white chocolate chips, and boy am I glad I did! They were really delicious, and my little girl especially loved these pancakes... She was so excited to see red pancakes, and kept saying "look mama, red camcakes!" "look dada, red camcakes!". She was so thrilled to discover the white chocolate chips inside. She said "Mmmmm... Dee-licious!" That's what comes from watching too many cooking shows with mama!

I considered making some sort of cream cheese based sauce for these pancakes, but decided the white chocolate chips were creamy enough, and went with plain ol' syrup. No one complained. :)
Red Velvet White Chocolate Chip Pancakes
Makes about 12 small pancakes
Ingredients
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup oatmeal flour
1.5 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda (heaped)
1 tbsp sugar
a pinch of salt
1 cup milk
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp melted butter
1 egg
1/4 cup white chocolate chips

Method
1. In a small bowl, combine the milk and vinegar and set aside for 10 minutes.
2. Stir in the melted butter and egg, and whisk well to combine.
3. Into a medium bowl, sift together the flours, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, sugar and salt.
4. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, and pour in the milk mixture.
5. Stir gently until just combined. It is okay if the batter is a little lumpy. Don't over mix.
6. Stir in the white chocolate chips.
7. Pour small ladle-fulls of the batter onto a hot griddle and flip when the top is covered in bubbles. Cook on the other side for a further 90 seconds and transfer to plate .
8. Serve warm with butter, syrup and if desired, more chocolate chips.
A really great Valentine's day breakfast for all of your family - young and old! I loved watching my little girl's face as she discovered the hidden white chocolate chips in there. So delicious!
Red Velvet Fest continues :) I'll see you all tomorrow with another sweet, red treat!
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Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Guest Post: Mango, Orange and Ginger Tarte Tatin from Jill Colonna

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Today is my birthday! I have never been big on celebrating my birthdays. I love planning surprises for others, but hate being surprised myself. So year after year, I am extra cautious and even a little sneaky, and try to detect surprise plans so I can ruin them. Yes, I know! I am horrible. But this year, my very clever friends, along with my sneaky husband managed to surprise me by throwing me a party two days before my birthday! Devious, I say! I didn't have a clue what was happening and walked right into it! I ended up having a nice time with everyone, and even had a lovely homemade birthday cake baked my friend who knows exactly what I like. A yummy butter cake with fresh strawberry glaze and more fresh strawberries on top. She was so embarrassed that the cake had a small 'accident' and cracked down the middle, but I didn't care! It was so yummy! She is such a good cook and baker, that I think she should consider blogging too - just to share her gorgeous recipes with the world!
Homemade cake is the best kind, isn't it? :)

Congrats to my husband, and all my friends for managing to pull this one off! :) Oh - and thanks, too! Then, last night at midnight, I was woken up to find another bunch of friends from church hiding in the dark waiting to surprise me with a cake. I was very touched that they took the time and effort to come at that part of the night in the cold. Very sweet! I am truly blessed to have so many wonderful people in my life. I pray to God that I never forget that. And that I never stop being thankful.

This year, I resolved that I would celebrate my birthday on my blog with all my new friends. God has been exceedingly good to me, and I thank God for adding another year to my life.

As I mentioned in my earlier post, this month is also my blog's birthday, and I cannot believe that a year has flown by already. The best part of starting this blog has been the wonderful friends I've made since I've started, and one of the best friends I have made in the blogosphere is the wonderful Jill Colonna. She is one of the nicest, funniest, most genuine people I have had the honor of meeting. She has been so supportive through some tough and challenging times I faced this year. I am so grateful for Jill! She's awesome. And I don't have to tell any of you what a fabulous writer, musician, cook, baker, blogger, wife, mom and all-round champ she is! Undoubtedly the Queen of Macarons, her blog on the Mad about Macarons website also features many more amazing, mouth watering recipes from Jill's kitchen. I still can't believe I'm friends with a celebrity and best-selling author! :)

It is totally an honor for me to have Jill guest-posting on my blog for my birthday! I am so honored! She has made something totally amazing, and I think I will stop rambling and let Jill take over. Ladies and gentlemen, Jill Colonna! :)

Mango, Orange and Ginger Tarte Tatin: Guest Post by Jill Colonna of Mad about Macarons
Tatin! Joyeux Anniversaire from Paris, Marsha! 


I just couldn't make this tarte big enough for my lovely friend, Marsha. You see, it's her birthday. It's also her first blogoversary approaching this month, and shehas given me the total honour of being a guest on The Harried Cook, to join her birthday celebrations.


Marsha is the sweetest blogger I've virtually met. She's adorable (I'm saying that with a French accent, so imagine it as adorrrraaaaable, with a rolled 'R'- it sounds so much better) and fun. Can you imagine her lucky husband and daughter, sampling her latest creations such as honey and sesame bread, and lemon-lime meringue pie (another great egg yolk recipe!) Speaking of which, do you remember her Mad About Macarons guest post to use up these egg yolks with that incredible Strawberries and Cream Mousse Pie, using a Pâte à Bombe method? Marsha  says she's harried, but I admire how she juggles her job and home life, plus manages to fit in moving house like a warm Indian breeze.
What is this for a birthday cake, you ask? Well, in our house we don't really eat cake.We eat macarons... and right now we're eating so many tarte tatins. It's the season, as the humble apple is the basis of the classic French Tarte Tatin. It's our winter version of eating the recommended daily portions of fruit. I guess it's healthy, even if there is a touch of butter and sugar - just to carmelise it, you understand.


When I was newly married, my French Mother-in-Law would produce the most sumptuous Tarte Tatin for dessert. I was in awe. It sounded grand and looked complicated. How could I possibly return home and make this for Antoine without goofing up? She had given me the recipe and told me it was dead easy. Hey, am I supposed to believe everything she tells me? So, I went home and made anything but Tarte Tatin since I had no courage. Then one day I saw it in a French magazine and saw how quick it was to make. A no-brainer. That's me. That's my Tarte Tatin. It's the same syndrome as macaron-making, don't you think? Picture Julie Andrews singing, "I have confidence in me"!


The Tatin sisters, who ran a restaurant at the start of last century in the Sologne region, gave the dessert its name. The story goes that as the apples were cooking they realised they'd forgotten the pastry, so they simply stuffed the pastry on top then flipped the tart upside down and Mon Dieu, look what turned up?
For Marsha's Tarte Tatin, I picked mangoes, as they're now appearing on our market stalls, although Marsha quite rightly told me the best ones are from India (these ones are from Peru.) And as the oranges are at their best just now, I couldn't resist adding a touch plus a glow of fresh ginger to spice up our present sub-zero temperatures around Paris.


Mango, Orange & Ginger Tarte Tatin Recipe
Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: approx.45 minutes
Ingredients
2 mangoes, firm but sweet
1 tsp orange juice
125g light brown sugar
70g unsalted butter
1 tbsp zest from an untreated orange
1 tsp fresh ginger, grated
1 ready-prepared round of puff pastry
Utensil 
A good non-stick cake pan that can transfer to the oven (I just used a non-stick frying pan with removable handle)
Method
1. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
2. Heat the sugar and butter in a cake pan, adding the teaspoon of orange juice. Peel and cut the mangoes into slices and pack them closely together in the pan. Add the orange zest and the ginger. Cook over a medium heat for about 20 minutes - or until you see a deep golden caramel forming underneath the fruit.
3. Place the round of puff pastry on top of the fruit and tuck it in around the edges of the pan. Prick the pastry and bake in the oven for 25 minutes.
4. Remove from the oven and leave to cool slightly for about 10 minutes. Place a large plate (preferably one that dips slightly in the middle to catch the juices) upside down on the tart and flip it over. Tatin!
Happy Sweet Birthday, Marsha, and congratulations on your first blog anniversary!

There! Didn't I tell you Jill is funny? She is such a sweetheart and that tarte tatin is so amazing looking. I only wish she could send me slice! I can't wait for mango season to get here so I can try this recipe myself!

I love Jill and I highly recommend becoming a regular visitor on her blog, and buying her awesome book if you haven't already done that! Merci, Jill, for being such an awesome friend, and fantastic guest poster!

Tomorrow, we start Red Velvet Fest for Valentine's Day. I've had some hits and some misses with my Red Velvet creations, and I can't wait to share them all with you!
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Friday, February 3, 2012

Easy Honey Sesame Bread

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It is no secret that I am a bread fiend. And I try to make bread at home as often as I can. Homemade bread just can't be beat. I'm sure all of you agree... But it is work! There's all the mixing, kneading (especially hard if you don't have a stand mixer - I don't!), waiting, knocking back, waiting and waiting some more, shaping, and waiting... you get the idea! So when I heard about No-Knead Bread, I knew it was the thing for me.

Now I am not partial to a particular kind of bread. I like chewy bread, crusty bread, salty bread, sweet bread... well, I like bread. Period. And there are some times I crave warm soft, billowy, slightly sweet white bread with generous lashings of butter.
I read the NY Times recipe (Mark Bittman and Jim Lahey) on the NY Times website, and realized that it seemed to be the best no-knead bread recipe out there. And from reading the reviews I discovered that it was a light, chewy bread. Correct me if I'm wrong. But today I wanted soft bread. So using this recipe for inspiration, I decided to wing it. I've done a lot of 'winging it' with bread recipes before, and sometimes it has paid off, and sometimes - not so much! With this recipe, for one thing, I don't have instant yeast or a 'heavy ceramic pot'. So the substitutions began there. I was surprised at how little yeast this recipe uses, so I just added the normal amount of yeast I would add for the amount of flour used.

The whole thing was a risk, but this risk totally paid off!
And the best part - from the point of "I feel like baking bread" to you sitting on the couch going "Oh my word! This bread is SO good" - this bread is done in under 2 hours. That's often the time taken for just one rise for regular bread.

Easy Honey Sesame Loaf
Inspired by No-Knead Bread, NY Times
Ingredients
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp active dry yeast
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup skim milk
1/4 cup water 
1 tbsp sugar
1/8 cup honey 
1/8 cup melted butter
small handful of sesame seeds (black, white or mixed)
1 small egg (or half a large one)
1 tbsp melted butter, for brushing the top of the baked loaf (I used salted butter for this)

Method
1. In a large bowl, stir together 1 cup of the flour, the sugar, yeast and salt.
2. In a saucepan, combine the milk, water, honey and melted butter until just lukewarm.
3. Pour this mixture into the bowl containing the flour. Whisk 1 egg lightly and add it to the bowl. Set aside the remaining egg for brushing the top of the loaf.
4. Using a regular whisk or an electric handheld mixer, whisk or mix on low speed for 3-4 minutes.
5. Add the remaining flour and stir well to combine. You will have a sticky, icky dough.
6. Cover the bowl with greased clingfilm and set aside to rise for about 45 minutes in a warm place. It will double in volume during this time.
7. When the rising time is over, set the oven to preheat. Grease and flour the bread tin.
8. Using floured hands just ease the dough out of the bowl into the baking tin. No punching down or shaping at this point. Just press down slightly to spread the dough into the corners of the tin.
9. Brush the top of the loaf with the leftover egg, and sprinkle the top of the loaf generously with the sesame seeds.
10. Bake for about 20-25 minutes or until golden brown on top and feels springy to the touch. Remove from oven, and immediately brush with the melted butter. Use ALL of it!
11. Let cool for about 5 minutes and ease the sides out of the pan using a palette knife, and transfer to a rack to cool.
Eat warm with generous amounts of butter.

And more honey if that's your thing.
Bliss!


I added egg in this recipe because I find I have better results with bread recipes that contain egg. Also, the browning is usually gorgeous on eggy breads. If you want to omit the egg, substitute it with 1/8 cup of water.

I was very particular to write down this recipe as I was making it, because the last time I made up my own recipe for burger buns, I forgot to write it down, and the recipe turned out great! :( Now I'll never know what I did right! Thankfully, I didn't miss writing this one down.

On a completely different note, I am so glad February is here. February is going to be a fun month here at The Harried Cook. Here's what's happening -

1. First, my birthday is next week. Apart from spending the day growing another year older, I have a special friend guest posting for me on my birthday! Cannot wait to share that with you all! I'm SO excited! :)
2. Then comes Valentine's Day, and I am planning a 5-day Red Velvet Fest from the 8th - 12th of February. Red is perfect for valentine's day! And I love Red Velvet. Red Velvet ANYTHING. This is going to be so much fun for me!!!
3. Finally, later this February, The Harried Cook turns one! I have a few ideas on how to celebrate, and here's hoping they work out!

Have a wonderful weekend... and to all my American readers, Happy Superbowl Sunday!!! See you all next week! :)
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