Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Tarts and Cakes and Bundts Oh My!

Whew, I can finally breath. and sit. It has been a particularly busy past few weeks, with not a single moment to write a post...or sleep for that matter. I can't complain too much though, I got to spend every waking minute (when I wasn't at one of my two jobs) in the kitchen.

After the success of the tarts I made for my good friend's bridal shower, she apparently had enough confidence in me and my newly acquired baking skills to ask me to provide the dessert table for her wedding reception. I quickly said yes, and then realized what a monumental task this was going to be. It all came together after about two and a half weeks baking and filling the fridge and the freezer full of tart shells, mini bundt cakes, pistachio brittle, and cake pops. It was an amazing learning experience, the bride and groom were extremely appreciative, and all the drunken wedding guests enjoyed the abundance of baked goods when 10:00 rolled around at the reception.

The day after the wedding was spent catching up on sleep, nursing a slight hangover, and actually eating food other than cake and sugar for the first time in about a week. When Monday hit, I was right back at it, baking a three-layer red velvet cake and a dozen cupcakes for my boss's baby shower. I guess almost 700 mini desserts wasn't enough, I just had to get back in the kitchen.

I am going to have to slowly chisel away at all these pictures and recipes that I have accumulated over the past few weeks. I have decided to start at the end of my baking extravaganza and work my way back. The photographer at the wedding was nice enough to stick around and take some pics of the dessert table, so I will wait until I get my hands on some copies to present the table in its entirety here.

But first, the red velvet cake. I was always under the impression that a red velvet cake wasn't really anything special, just a whole lot of red food coloring. Turns out, some buttermilk, cocoa powder, baking soda, and a teensy bit of vinegar can really take an ordinary cake to a new level. This was some of the fluffiest, moist, flavorful cake I have ever had. Topped off with some cream cheese frosting and a big bunch of hydrangeas for decoration (stolen with permission from the wedding), this cake was a big hit at the shower. I had some leftover batter so I threw in a dozen cupcakes for good measure.

Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Each batch makes 2 thick 9-inch layers, or 3-thinner 9-inch layers, or 1 thick 9-inch layer and 12 cupcakes. I made 2 batches, and ended up with a fairly tall 3 layer cake, with 12 cupcakes on the side.

For the cake:

2 1/2 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2 - 1 ounce bottles of red food coloring
1 cup unsalted butter (the recipe called for 1/2 cup, but in my sleep deprived delirium I used double that, but it was freaking delicious so I wouldn't change a thing if I make this again)
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon white vinegar

Butter and flour your cake pans and set aside. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large bowl sift the flour, baking powder, and salt. In a small bowl, mix the food coloring and cocoa powder until completely incorporated. Set aside.

In a stand mixer (or using a hand mixer) cream the butter and sugar on medium high speed until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, and beat until thoroughly combined, being sure to scrape down the sides. Add the vanilla and the red food coloring-cocoa mixture and beat well to combine. Add 1/3 of the flour mixture, beat on medium speed until combined, then add 1/2 of the buttermilk, and beat until incorporated. Add another 1/3 of the flour, beat well, then the other half of the buttermilk, scraping down the sides after each addition. Finish with the last 1/3 of the flour mixture and beat until just combined.

In a small bowl, mix the vinegar and baking soda, and immediately add to batter. Mix on high speed for just a few seconds until evenly dispersed, and pour right away into cake pans or lined cupcake pans.

Bake 2 9-inch cakes for about 40 minutes, (less time if you are going with thinner layers, and about 20-25 minutes for the cupcakes) or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Let cool completely before frosting.

For the Frosting:

I made a double batch of this frosting and had enough to generously frost a three layer cake and pipe a good amount onto 12 cupcakes, with some leftover.

16 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
pinch of salt

In a stand mixer, combine the cream cheese and butter, and beat on medium high speed until smooth. Add the vanilla and salt and mix until incorporated. Gradually add the sugar, and beat until light and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes.

Frost the cake however you fancy, or spread/pipe onto cupcakes. Someday when I get really good at frosting cakes, I will put a step by step tutorial on here. Someday...

I will say though, that I think the best part of making a multi-layer cake, is having to cut the domed tops off each layer so that they lay flat. You then have an excuse to eat cake scraps all afternoon. We wouldn't want them to go to waste now would we?

Monday, May 3, 2010

Grilled Chicken and Veggie Enchiladas

Procrastination has actually paid off. I have been attempting to write this post for about 4 days, but luckily I put it off enough, that it happens to be going up on Cinco de Mayo. Couldn't have planned it better if I had tried.

You HAVE to try these enchiladas. If you make any of the recipes I post here, make this one. Please. Just do it, you wont regret it.

I was lucky enough to win a beautiful LeCrueset baking dish over at the Hungry Dog Blog (check her out, its a great read, with wonderful recipes) and as soon as it came in the mail, I was scheming on how quickly I could put it to use, and with what. It took about all of 6 hours before I was piling grilled chicken and veggie enchiladas into the gorgeous blue ceramic dish.

I remembered watching one of my favorite 'celebrity chefs', Tyler Florence, making his ultimate enchiladas on the food network long ago, and decided to dig out the recipe. He calls for buying a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store and shredding it, but we decided to take things a little farther. For once I can't take credit for making a recipe much more tedious and intensive than it was originally intended (see my day long lasagna-making marathon). When I asked my boyfriend what kind of enchiladas he wanted, he replied with grilled chicken and vegetables. My first thought was YUM! My second thought was crap, its a Monday night and we wont be eating until 10.

Luckily, we were fairly efficient, even with the pack of tecate chilling in the fridge, and ate by about 9:00. It was so worth it though, portabello mushroom caps, sliced zucchini, red and yellow bell peppers, and split whole chickens, all grilled and stirred into the roasted tomatillo green sauce with sauteed onions. These may be the best enchiladas I have ever had, and I have eaten a fair amount of Mexican food in my lifetime. I'm talking a lot of Mexican food. Its kind of a problem actually.

Grilled Chicken Enchiladas with Roasted Tomatillo Salsa with Baked Yellow Rice
adapted from Tyler Florence on

For the Tomatillo Salsa:

1 1/2 pound fresh husked tomatillos, halved
1 large yellow onion, peeled and quartered
4 garlic cloves, peeled
2 jalapenos, stemmed and halved lengthwise
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped cilantro leaves
1 lime juiced

For the enchiladas:

1 whole chicken (about 3 pounds) cleaned and split into halves
2 small zuchini, sliced on a diagonal into 1/2 inch slices
2 portobello mushroom caps
2 red or yellow bell peppers, stemmed, seeded, and halved
1/2 medium onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 cup flour
2 cups chicken stock
Fresh ground pepper
1/2 pound Monterrey jack cheese, shredded
cilantro for garnish
12 small flour tortillas

For Rice:
1 1/2 cups brown rice
2 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoon turmeric
2-3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil

Prepare grill to cook over indirect heat. If using charcoal, fill a charcoal chimney with about 90 coals, and burn until covered with a light gray ash. Place a aluminum tray in the center of the bottom grate, and pile the hot coals on either side. If using gas, turn on the outer burners and leave the middle burner off. Cover, and let grill preheat for about 5 minutes.

While grill is heating, prepare chicken and vegetables for grill by drizzling them with olive oil and seasoning with salt and pepper. When grill is ready, brush your grill grates with an olive-oil soaked paper towel, and place the chicken skin side down in the middle of the grill over the aluminum tray or off burner. Place the veggies over the direct flame. Check on these every few minutes, as they will char fast over direct heat (but that's the good part right?) they should only take 5-7 minutes on each side. When they are cooked through, remove from grill and set aside.

Grill the chicken for 35-45 minutes until skin is well-browned and crispy. Turn chicken over and grill until breast meat reached 165 degrees, about another 15-20 minutes. Remove from grill, tent with tin foil and let rest for 10 minutes.

While the chicken is grilling feel free to start the roasted tomatillo salsa. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Place the tomatillos, onion, garlic, and jalapenos on a rimmed baking sheet and toss with olive oil to coat, then season liberally with salt and fresh ground pepper. Roast for 15-20 minutes, until everything is soft and starting to caramelize. Remove from oven, and place contents of baking sheet, including any juices into a food processor, along with the cilantro, cumin and lime juice, and pulse until chopped very finely and becomes a cohesive sauce.

Chop grilled veggies into bite sizes pieces, and remove and shred (or chop) meat from grilled chicken. Set aside.

Heat 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook until soft and caramelized. Add the cumin and garlic and saute for just a few minutes longer. Add the flour and stir constantly to make sure flour doesn't burn. Slowly add the chicken stock and cook over low heat, stirring until incorporated into flour/onion mixture and sauce thickens. Stir in half of the tomatillo salsa, the chicken, and chopped grilled vegetables. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Preheat oven to 375. Start the rice. In a small sauce pan, combine chicken stock, turmeric, garlic cloves, olive oil, salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Place rice in a 13X9 glass baking dish and pour the boiling liquid over the rice. Stir briefly with a fork, cover tightly with tin foil, and bake for one hour.

Pour a bit of the into a 13X9 baking dish to coat the bottom. Pour the remainder onto a large plate and get ready to assemble the enchiladas. Flash one of the tortillas briefly over flame on stove to heat and soften a bit. Place into reserved tomatillo salsa on plate to coat both sides of tortilla. Spoon 1/12th of the chicken/veggie mixture (just eyeball it) and sprinkle with some cheese. Roll up gently and place in baking dish. Repeat with 11 more tortillas, or however many you can squeeze into your dish. If you have any sauce left pour over the top, and sprinkle generously with cheese.

When your rice has 30 minutes left, put the enchiladas in the oven and bake for the remainder of the hour (30 more minutes) until cheese in gooey and delicious. Serve with rice and additional salsa, and if you want to get real naughty, sour cream and guacamole.

I am always an advocate for getting a little naughty with your food ;-)

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