Friday, December 24, 2010

Dad's Favorite Carrot Cake with Whiskey Praline Cream Filling

Layered Carrot CakeI've cooked my way to the last section of The Newlywed Kitchen Cookbook. The section is titled "Happily Ever After Desserts and Sweets". I think this is the secion Mark has been waiting for. He doesn't eat chocolate but loves desserts. The first several recipes contained chocolate but there are a few non-chocolate items too. One of our favorite cakes is carrot cake so that recipe was at the top of my list. Since I have some time off work for the holidays, I decided to not wait until the weekend to make this one.

The recipe called for making the cake in 2 9" pie pans but I only had 8" ones. It turned out well because I was able to use some of the leftover batter to make 5 cupcakes. Luckily I have convection on my new oven which came in pretty handy to bake the two cakes and cupcakes all at once and they cooked nice and evenly. The cupcakes were done a little quicker so I was sure to keep an eye on them and take them out earlier.

I thought the recipe had an over abundance of walnuts, calling for walnuts in the cake, in the filling and also covering the frosting. I opted to not use so much and only put walnuts in the praline cream filling. Other than that, I pretty much stuck to the recipe. There is a lot of butter in this recipe in all 3 parts: cake, filling, and frosting. Luckily I had a box of butter in the freezer. Since it was frozen, I was able to use a new found feature of my microwave that is for softening butter. It worked like a charm. It softened it up nicely and it didn't even melt.

The filling for the cake was a whiskey praline cream which requires making a caramel which I have never done before. I tried to follow the instructions but was very unsuccessful, the carmale turned into what looked like snow and didn't darken at all. I guess this is what happens when it crystallizes. I decided to look on the internet for instructions on making caramel and came across a seemingly easy way to do it via a video of Gordon Ramsay. I followed his instructions and viola! I had caramel. It was very easy to do. I think where I went wrong the first time is over stirring the sugar.

The cake had a few ingredients you don't normally find in carrot cake that make it a bit more than just your regular carrot cake. It turned out great and the caramel and cream cheese frosting went with it beautifully. It seemed to be a big hit with Mark too as I've seen him sneak some bites of it several times throughout the day.

Grated Carrots
Naked Carrot Cake
Praline Filling
Frosted Carrot Cake
Double Layer Carrot Cake

Monday, December 20, 2010

Paprika Spiced Hungarian Beef Goulash

Beef GoulashThis is the fourth dish I've made from the extremely large section of The Newlywed Kitchen's meat, poultry and Seafood recipes. This will be my last recipe from this section before proceeding to the final section of desserts next weekend.

I've never made goulash before but it is basically a stew. It was very flavorful, the sweet paprika gave it a nice kick. I was surprised at how difficult it was to find canned crushed tomatoes at Fred Meyer. They had the large 28 ounce cans of it but not the smaller size. I ended up getting the large size and used a little more than half of it. Still need to figure out what I'm going to do with the rest. I got the beef at the small grocery store in my home town. They didn't have any packaged stew meat so I ended up getting a chuck steak and chopped it myself. We noticed the package date no the meat was a day later. I'm not sure how they could get away with putting future dates on their meats. It wasn't a sell by date either is said specifically it was the packaged date. I almost said something to the checkout lady but I didn't. I did take a picture of it and post it on twitter though.

The only disappointment with this recipe was the meat. Even after stewing for about 3 hours there was still quite a bit of fat on the meat. I'm sure it had a lot to do with the poor quality of meat. I did do one thing different from the recipe and that was deglaze the frying pan with the beef broth after frying the beef to pick up all the extra beef bits and flavor from the pan. It would be a shame to let all that beefy goodness go to waste.

Floured Beef Paprika Spiced Hungarian Beef Goulash

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Ultra Crispy Secret Fried Chicken

Rubbed ChickenI used another recipe from the big meat, poultry & seafood dishes section of The Newlywed Kitchen cookbook. I won't spoil the secret to this crispy fried chicken, you'll just have to buy the cookbook to see what it is. There was an unexpected ingredient used in the batter for this one. If it was really the key to the crispiness, I don't know, but it sure turned out spicy and crispy, the best kind of fried chicken.

I meant to buy a combination of drum sticks and thighs but I somehow accidentally bought the package of all thighs. I admit I did miss the drumsticks, they're my fav, but it was all good. The first couple pieces I thought came out the most crispy. Next time I will do the batter and flour coating as I fry them rather than all at once. I did each piece one at a time and as suggested kept them in the oven to keep them warm which was a good idea. I think they crisped up even more by putting them in the oven at a low temp

Fried Chicken Prep Crispy Fried Chicken

Monday, December 06, 2010

Ultimate Roast Chicken

Ultimate Roast ChickenI've had a whole chicken in my freezer for quite some time so when I saw this recipe in The Newlywed Kitchen I knew I had to try it. This is the first cookbook recipe I've made in a long time where I didn't have to go to the store to buy specific ingredients to make it. It was nice to be able to make it using ingredients I already had.

Giving the herbs a couple of days to soak into the bird is what makes the chicken so moist. It really was some of the most tender and juice roast chicken I've ever had. Even the breast was fork tender and full of flavor. The recipe gave a few options for herbs to use and I went with rosemary since I already had some on hand. Mark and I are both not fans of eating the skin off of chicken but the skin on this bird was hard to resist since it was nice and crispy and tasted like garlic and rosemary.

To go with the chicken, I made a green salad with oil and vinegar dressing. I also made my favorite rice dish that I normally use as a stuffing in my cornish hens. It's made with onions and almonds sauteed in butter and cooked in chicken broth and a bit of lemon juice.

The only minor problem I had with the recipe is the garlic burning on the outside of the bird. I ended up scraping most of it off before serving and it was fine and didn't taste of burnt garlic but it might be better to have put the garlic in the cavity before putting it in the oven.

Ultimate Roast Chicken
Ultimate Roast Chicken with Sides

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Chicken Potpies with Cheddar Thyme Crust

Chicken Potpie with Cheddar Thyme CrustI am now on the largest section of The Newlywed Kitchen Cookbook, with 23 recipes. The section is called Something Bold, Something New: Meat, Poultry & Seafood Dishes. I've decided since this section has so many great looking recipes I will be doing more than 2. I might do as many as 4.

the first recipe I wanted to try is the potpie recipe. I've never made potpies before and is something that has been on my todo list for a long time so was looking forward to giving this one a try. The serving size of the recipe is 2, but I wanted to make extra so I doubled the recipe. I'm glad I did because I don't think there would have been enough to fill us up if I hadn't. There was barely one serving left over. I was expecting it to make a bit more than it did. The recipe calls for using two large ramekins or a small casserole dish but doesn't specify how large. I misjudged the size and used too large of a ramekin (32 ounces). As you can tell from the photo below, there wasn't enough to fill it so the crust drooped quite a bit. I also wanted to make some potpies using my smaller 10 oz ramekins but only made one due to the limited amount of filling.

The filling was nice and flavorful and I liked the slight crunch of the bacon bits. I probably could have added a bit more stock to increase the amount. It was plenty thick, maybe slightly too thick. I did use a bit less flour when I doubled the recipe but could have used even less. The only thing I wasn't too happy with is the crust. I was looking forward to a crispy flaky crust but the puff pastry just didn't work out for me. The middle just wouldn't crisp up and turned into a gooey mess. It was impossible to break apart. Sticking your spoon into it just pushed the crust to the bottom of the dish. I'm not sure if it was from the melted cheese or too much egg wash or if it was because there wasn't enough filling in the pie. Usually the potpie crust is my favorite part of the potpie but not this time unfortunately. I may try this recipe again later using a different type of crust.

If there's one thing I've noticed from these recipes, it's that Lorna Yee likes bacon. I think I've bought more bacon in the last two months than I have ever bought in my lifetime. Bacon just isn't one of those things I normally eat. I prefer sausage to bacon when it comes to breakfast and I just never used it for anything else.
Diced Carrots
Chopped Bacon
Pot Pie Filling
Chicken Pot Pie