Thursday, May 15, 2008

sloppy joe's

sloppy joes- yet again another food i had never had till i came down to north carolina. i'm pretty sure i had heard of it at one time or another, possibly on an old episode of roseanne; i can't say for sure though. i know that i'd never seen them on any menu nor had i even seen anybody eat one so it was completely foreign to me. my first time having a sloppy joe wasn't really anything to rave about either, granted i remember it being good and satisfying at the time but i mean it's ground meat mixed with something out of a can. not terribly difficult to fix or botch i would think, right? some people or quite possibly a lot of people have fond memories of this classic sandwich and that's all cool and great but it just wasn't something i grew up with so ultimately i was indifferent to it. it didn't stir up any old memories or bring me back to my childhood. for me, it was just a quick dinner when you're in a time crunch. throw in some oven roasted fries, a salad and you're set. last monday, that's what we did except for one, minor change - no canned sauce. it was time to put a homemade spin on this staple of americana and spin i did. i spun from work, to the gym and finally to the grocery store to grab the few items that i was missing to re-create my own rendition of this saucy sandwich. what did all this spinning produce? the following....

Sloppy Joe's Sans "the canned stuff"

  • 1 lb ground chicken
  • 1 tsp oil
  • 1 medium sweet onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tbs brown sugar
  • 2 tbs Worchestershire sauce
  • 1 tbs chili powder
  • 2 tbs tomato paste
  • 1 16 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • Fresh Cracked Pepper
  • Sandwich Bread of choice

Pour 1 tsp oil in a medium skillet and heat over a medium flame till the oil starts to shimmer. Add the onion and brown sugar and cook till the sugar has dissolved and the onion has softened. Add the ground chicken and season with chili powder,salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper. Once the meat has browned go ahead and add the Worchestershire sauce, tomato paste and diced tomatoes. Allow to simmer till your sauce reaches a medium-thick consistency- about 15 minutes. Heat your bread or buns during the last 5 minutes of cooking.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

strawberry day @ the farmer's market + flo baker = strawberry genoise

yup, another cake recipe. no, we're not getting fatter. well, maybe a little bit but not bring out the crane fat. not yet anyways, ask us once we've gotten back from our trip to nyc next month. bring on the junior's cheesecake, grimaldi's( or john's?) pizza, jacques torres chocolate and h&h bagels...maybe not in that order,though... anywho, back to the above pictured cake.
the cake you see above was made this past sunday for a combo mother's day slash birthday celebration. seems like there's been a lot to celebrate here lately, not a bad thing especially since celebrations are an excuse to eat cake. for this cake though, i don't really think you need an excuse.
it's very light and shortcake-y even though that is not what it's called but that is what it reminded
me of. it's made up of eggs, heavy cream, and strawberries - sounds like 3 balanced groups to me. i mean come on you got your protein with the eggs, fat with the cream and fiber and folic acid and all the other good stuff strawberries have. fully balanced meal. i say go ahead and feel free to load up your plate with it.
delana was the one responsible for this wonderfully balanced meal. she got up early sunday morning to make it and it was a good thing too because she did run into a few issues. the cake itself is made of up of beaten eggs and sugar and folded in flour. sounds simple enough but it's tricky because the batter can deflate rather easily once you reach the folding in stage, which results in a very thin layer of cake. how do i know? it happened on the first attempt. no big deal tho
ugh. she didn't let it phase her, and just gave it another go and this time the second time was the charm. fortunate because there was no time for a third try. once cooled, she cut the cake in half rather than in thirds as the original recipe called for and sandwiched some whipped cream and mashed strawberries in between each half. no aluminum foil here, the cake was instead wrapped with the rest of the airy, goodness of the whipped cream and garnished with sliced strawberries. cake sandwich wrapped in whipped cream. go ahead and try some....

French Strawberry Cake
Adapted by Flo Baker for Baking with Julia

Perfect Genoise
-makes enough for one 8 in round cake

2 tbs unsalted butter, melted

1 c sifted cake flour
1/2 c sugar
1/8 tsp salt
4 large eggs, at room temp
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

position a rack in the lower third of the over and preheat to 350 degrees.
grease and flour the bottom and sides of an 8 in round cake pan, fitting it with a round of parchment once the excess flour is tapped out.

pour melted butter into 1 qt bowl, reserve.
return sifted cake flour to the sifter or sieve, and add 1 tbs of the sugar and the salt; sift onto a piece of waxed paper and set aside.

put the eggs and remaining sugar into the bowl of a heavy duty mixer (or work with a hand-held mixer). holding the whisk attachment in your hand, beat the mixture to blend the ingredients. with the bowl and whisk attachment in place, whip the mixture on medium speed until it is airy, pale and tripled in volume like softly whipped cream, 4 to 5 minutes ( for us, it took about 12 minutes) you'll know that the eggs are properly whipped when the whisk is lifted and the mixture falls back into the bowl in a ribbon that rests on the surface for about 10 seconds. if the ribbon doesn't hold up for this long, continue to whip for a few more minutes. pour in the vanilla extracts towards the last moments of whipping.
detach the bowl from the mixer. sprinkle about one third of the sifted cake flour over the batter. fold in the flour with a rubber spatula, stopping once it is incorporated. fold in the rest of the flour in 2 more additions.
gently spoon about 1 cup of the batter into the bowl with the melted butter and fold in the butter with the rubber spatula. at this point, the batter is at its most fragile so fold gingerly. fold the mixture into the batter in the mixer bowl.

Pour into prepared pan, smoothing the top with a rubber spatula working from the center outward and creating a slightly raised ridge around the sides. bake for 25-27 mins, or until top springs back. transfer to a cooling rack and allow to rest for 5-10 mins.

Preparing the berries:

2 pints ripe, fresh strawberries hulled and sliced
1/4 to 1/3 c sugar ( depending on the sweetness of the fruit - we only had to use a 1/4 cup)

toss sliced berries with sugar in a large bowl and leave them uncovered, at room temp for at least 2 hrs.coarsely mash the berries using a fork and toss once more; let them stand for another hr. this can be done a day ahead just be sure to refrigerate once your frustrations have been released and the berries are mashed.

The Cream

1.25 c cold heavy cream
2 tbs sour cream
2 tbs sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

Using the whisk attachment on your mixer, whip all the above ingredients until the mixture forms soft peaks. You've reached proper consistency once the tracks made my the whisk close slowly and almost disappear.( Keep an eye on this because faster than you can say curdled,, you'll end up with curdled cream. Not good.)Cover and refrigerate until it's time to frost the cake. Before using, whisk by hand to bring the mixture together again.

Finishing the cake
(props to you if you're still with me...)

Using a serrated knife, cut the cake horizontally into 3 layers ( we went with 2). Place the bottom layer cut side up onto a cardboard round or the removable bottom of a tart pan ( or whatever surface you choose). Using a slotted spoon, lift about 1/2 of the berries (if you're just doing 2 layers go ahead and add all your berries) from the bowl so that most of the liquid drains off and spread over the cake. Top off with a thin layer of the whipped cream.
Place the next cake layer and spread another layer of berries and whipped cream. Center the top layer over the filling. Proceed to frost the tops and sides of the cake with the remaining whipped cream using a flexible metal icing spatula. Garnish with berries that have been sliced in half from blossom to stem, cut side down. Refrigerate for at least an hour before serving

Monday, May 5, 2008

belated birthday cake

wow, i didn't realize how long it has been since i last posted on here. i knew i'd been somewhat neglectful of keeping things current but i didn't realize i'd gone a whole two weeks without posting anything. that's pretty bad, this week i pledge to get back on track though.
the week that i last posted also happened to be the week of delana's birthday, it was actually the day after my last post- the 22nd. since it fell right smack at the beginning of the wee
k, we each took the day off from work and just spent the time together. real low key, and relaxed. however, we were going to be celebrating it full on with her family on saturday, which brings me to the recipe i'm about to share with you. if you've ever been to, you've seen this recipe before. it seems immensely popular and i think it was either part of the daring baker's challenge or tuesdays with dorie, quite possibly both. i can't remember now. what am i talking about? i am talking about ms. greenspan's recipe for the perfect party cake and i believe the recipe originated with nick malgieri. pretty sure, not totally sure but it doesn't matter. this cake is gooodd. really good. finish it off in one sitting if your pants can stretch that far good. don't believe me? go find one of the million other bloggers who have made this cake and ask them because you'll find we pretty much all concur. you need to make this cake. it doesn't have to be made just for a party, cut the recipe down and just make it into some type of loaf/ muffin/ cupcake thing if you want and omit the buttercream. whatever excuse you can find to make it, just go with it. you won't be sorry.
will say this though: i have 2 complaints about this cake. nothing major, just minor details that were probably my fault but if you're a crappy baker like me you might have the same issues. first thing is they didn't really rise high enough to make four
layers, i got 3 by the skin of my teeth and a really steady hand with the serrated knife. second- i had a hell of a time trying to get the sides iced. it would just come off whenever i would try to like turn it and make it all pretty and smooth. again, this is probably just me because i don't ever make cakes, and i'm far from a cake decorator but it's just a potential heads up i guess.
i did also make my own tweaks:
  • i substituted the raspberry preserves with blueberry preserves that i made using frozen blueberries and a quarter cup of turbinado sugar cooked together till the mixture reaches a thick, syrupy consistency.
  • i garnished the cake using sliced lemons instead of the berries.

Perfect Party Cake
Baking From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan

Ingredients for the cake:
  • 2.25 c Cake flour
  • 1 tbs Baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 1.25 c Whole milk or buttermilk
  • 4 Large Egg whites
  • 1 1/2 Cups Castor sugar
  • 2 Tsps Grated lemon zest
  • 1 Stick (8 tablespoons or 4 ounces) Unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 Tsp Pure lemon extract

Ingredients for the buttercream:

  • 1 Cup sugar
  • 4 Large Egg whites
  • 3 Sticks (12 ounces) Unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/4 Cup Fresh lemon juice (from 2 large lemons)
  • 1 Tsp Pure vanilla extract
Ingredients for the finishing:
  • 2/3 Cup Seedless raspberry preserves stirred vigorously or warmed gently until spreadable in consistency
  • About 1 1/2 Cups Sweetened shredded coconut (or roasted, sliced/slivered almonds)

Getting ready:
  • Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350° F
  • Butter two 9 x 2 inch round cake pans and line the bottom of each pan with a round of buttered parchment or wax paper.
  • Put the pans on a baking sheet.

Method for the cake:
  1. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.
  2. Whisk together the milk and egg whites in a medium bowl.
  3. Put the sugar and lemon zest in a mixer bowl or another large bowl and rub them together with your fingers until the sugar is moist and fragrant.
  4. Add the butter and working with the paddle or whisk attachment, or with a hand mixer, beat at medium speed for a full 3 minutes, until the butter and sugar are very light.
  5. Beat in the extract, then add one third of the flour mixture, still beating on medium speed.
  6. Beat in half of the milk-egg mixture, then beat in half of the remaining dry ingredients until incorporated.
  7. Add the rest of the milk and eggs beating until the batter is homogeneous, then add the last of the dry ingredients.
  8. Finally, give the batter a good 2- minute beating to ensure that it is thoroughly mixed and well aerated.
  9. Divide the batter between the two pans and smooth the tops with a rubber spatula.
  10. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the cakes are well risen and springy to the touch – a thin knife inserted into the centers should come out clean.
  11. Transfer the cakes to cooling racks and cool for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes, unfold them and peel off the paper liners.
  12. Invert and cool to room temperature, right side up.

  1. Put the sugar and egg whites in a mixer bowl or another large heatproof bowl, fit the bowl over a plan of simmering water and whisk constantly, keeping the mixture over the heat, until it feels hot to the touch, about 3 minutes.
  2. The sugar should be dissolved, and the mixture will look like shiny marshmallow cream.
  3. Remove the bowl from the heat.
  4. Working with the whisk attachment or with a hand mixer, beat the meringue on medium speed until it is cool, about 5 minutes.
  5. Switch to the paddle attachment if you have one, and add the butter a stick at a time, beating until smooth.
  6. Once all the butter is in, beat in the buttercream on medium-high speed until it is thick and very smooth, 6-10 minutes (during this time the buttercream may curdle or separate – just keep beating and it will come together again).
  7. On medium speed, gradually beat in the lemon juice, waiting until each addition is absorbed before adding more, and then the vanilla.
  8. You should have a shiny smooth, velvety, pristine white buttercream. Press a piece of plastic against the surface of the buttercream and set aside briefly.


  1. Using a sharp serrated knife and a gentle sawing motion, slice each layer horizontally in half.
  2. Put one layer cut side up on a cardboard cake round or a cake plate protected by strips of wax or parchment paper.
  3. Spread it with one third of the preserves.
  4. Cover the jam evenly with about one quarter of the buttercream.
  5. Top with another layer, spread with preserves and buttercream and then do the same with a third layer (you’ll have used all the jam and have buttercream leftover).
  6. Place the last layer cut side down on top of the cake and use the remaining buttercream to frost the sides and top.
  7. Press the coconut (or sliced almonds) into the frosting, patting it gently all over the sides and top.

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