America’s Test Kitchen

11 Aug

I have enjoyed watching America’s Test Kitchen on DVD, which I got from the Lakewood Library. As I try to bake the well tested recipes, I will report on what I expect will be straight forward and tasty.


Eight Ingredient Banana Snack Cake Recipe

26 Jun

Eight Ingredient Banana Snack Cake

I am presently packing my humble abode.  Several years ago my mother decided that she was going to go on a candlestick kick and that meant I was going to receive candlesticks I didn’t know I wanted for the next few gift giving holidays.  What does this have to do with a simple and delicious easy-peasy banana snack cake?  Nothing, but in my excitement in packing my kitchen for the home I am purchasing, I came across silver and glass candle holders, perched in their places on the fridge.  Soon I will move the gifts I now love into my new kitchen, and will have many stories to share in a space much more conducive to baking.

I digress.  This weekend my sous chef and I decided to bake a cake, as I am attempting to use up what I can so I do not have to move it.  In this epicurean story, the ingredient we are attempting to deplete is cake flour.  The banana snack cake recipe came to me from my friend Lori Pyle, who often makes it for potlucks we attend together.  The ingredients in this recipe are general staples one might have in the pantry.  I had most everything on hand, but interestingly, yes, we had no banana.  We trooped to the store and spent 60¢ on bananas.  Mr. Sous Chef mashed the banana without peeling it.  What a demonstration of Neanderthal behavior, but he did not dirty the masher, so a point for him.  He has proven he can provide for me in the wild.  However, he also jumped the gun and poured the water into the banana and sugar mixture before I could take another photo for our food audience, so a demerit for him.  We substituted cake flour equally for the all-purpose flour

Look down; peruse the ingredients .  Do you notice something about this recipe?  There is no animal fat!  That makes it vegan (aside from the chocolate chips I added, which you see in the picture).  If you have negative connotations, abandon them with this recipe.  Here, the vegan recipe is scrumptious and successful.  And if you have done the elementary math, you know that Mr. Sous Chef came out even. 

Our food audience will continue to get reports from my mediocre apartment galley kitchen until my candlesticks and I make our way into the much larger kitchen.  I wonder, will the oven there be 25 degrees off, too?

Banana Snack Cake

1 – 2/3 cups all purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup water

1/3 cup mashed ripe banana (about 1 small)

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Confectioners sugar

In a large bowl, combine flour and baking soda.  In another bowl, whisk the brown sugar, water, banana, oil and vanilla.  Stir into dry ingredients just until moistened.  Transfer to a greased 8-in. square baking dish.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted near the middle comes out clean.  Cool on a wire rack.  Dust with confectioners sugar, if desired.  Cut into squares and serve. (Quick Cooking magazine, May/June 2004)

Remiss, Busy Eating

8 Apr

Hello food audience.  I have been remiss in letting you in on all the delicious sweets I have been eating.  Moriah was on baking “sabbatical” but I was clearly not on eating sabbatical.  Travels for weddings have taken me out of the country on adventures to England, Europe and Panama.  The focus of this will be on Europe and England; the wedding I went to in Panama boasted tons of desserts that I was too distracted to try.  For shame. 

In France I enjoyed rich hot chocolate with *gasp* what I think was heavy cream.  The chocolate was not too forward and complimented the creaminess of the milk fat.  It was delightful to sip while watching Parisians scuttle by in the rare snow accumulation we encountered in December.  The pan au chocolates we ate on a regular basis in boulangaries that dotted the city were fresh and buttery.  Worthy of mention, however, I recently found that a local Olympia, Washington bakery called San Francisco Street Bakery delivers exactly what I adore: loads of chocolate evenly distributed from side to side and from front to tip.  It is a rare statement to say that the French do things in moderation, but in this situation I prefer the local chocolate croissant with the promise of chocolate in every bite.  A nod to another Puget Sound favorite: twice baked croissants at Bakery Nouveau. What the French did nail is the little macaroons, not to be confused with the coconut drop cookies.  I learned from the bakers at Bakery Nouveau that macaroons showcase the skills of the pastry chef or baker.  I am inclined to agree. My travel companion and I purchased these little sandwich-like cookies in mocha, chocolate and strawberry whenever we came across them.  In Belgium, how could I forget the Belgian waffles. They are prevalent at little walk up store fronts dedicated to purveying waffles, much like an Orange Julius or Mrs. Field’s Cookies in the mall. We were in Brussels and just outside the lovely train station there were a few options. Chocolate dipped was tempting, but I went with plain. The waffles were slightly crisp and sweet on the outside and soft on the inside. They hand them over warm and delicious in a piece of tissue and you walk and eat your toasty street food, which keeps your fingers nice and warm: Now that is comfort food.

Whilst in jolly COLD England, the two of us visited, twice in a stay of two days, a cupcake shop down the street from our hotel.  Peggy Porschen The pink shop awning automatically induced thoughts of delicious cupcakes.  The two I tried were banoffee and the sticky toffee pudding.  Both had lovely cream cheese icing with a light caramel flavor.  The banoffee was banana and toffee while the sticky toffee pudding was a rich, dense date cake with a creamy toffee filling.  Let us just say it is lucky we were on foot a great deal to balance the calorie intake on this holiday.

I have just purchased a KitchenAid stand mixer, so I intend to report progress on that relationship post-haste.


Buttercream Frosting: Try Again

6 Apr

It’s been a long time (long time)
I shouldn’a left you (left you)
Without a dope recipe to bake to (bake to)

How about a cheesecake recipe for that Old School Lunch-esque song reference? (R.I.P. Aaliyah)

Last weekend, after a two month baking “sabbatical”, I decided to dust off my stand mixer and set out copious amounts of butter and eggs  for a Vanilla Buttercream comeback cake.  The recipe was simple and with over a dozen eggs and nearly two packs of butter, this cake was a sure thing.

Only, it wasn’t.

I followed the cake recipe almost exactly, deviating slightly with an overdose of PAM Baking, which made the crumb less delicate than anticipated. Still, the cake was fine. Flavorful, a little dense, but yummy. The frosting was a completely different buttery beast.

As I removed my yellow cake from the oven, I thought I was golden. This is the point in the story where if you were reading a textbook, there would be an insert titled “Moriah’s Troubled History with Non-Cream Cheese Based Frostings”. It would share the tale of me fudging up Martha Stewart’s favorite Mrs. Milman’s Chocolate Frosting recipe, which calls for three ingredients. You can watch the video of sweet Mrs. Milman effortlessly whipping up the perfect chocolate frosting, with only two ingredients (Martha’s folks added the light corn syrup), then consider the fact that I messed it up so badly that I had to salvage the cake with a can of Betty Crocker Rich & Creamy.

Back to this weekend.  The frosting recipe instructs you to heat nine egg whites with three cups of sugar over simmering water for about ten minutes, then whip the egg and sugar on high until it holds medium-firm peaks. Next you add six sticks of butter, one tablespoon at a time into a mixer.Then it is pretty much whip until it’s fluffy.

In true rookie fashion, I started frosting the cakes before really tasting the frosting. Bad idea. It was greasy, ugly, and fatty without the redeeming delicious sweetness that is expected from a butter-based treat –  a total frosting failure. After my taste tester suggested we save the “frosting” to put on toast, the baker left the kitchen.  My taste tester then proceeded to scrape the icky frosting from the cake to salvage part of the dessert and suggested that we get some frosting from the store to save the cake.  Sweetie, and Betty, to the rescue.

I need to investigate where I went wrong. Since the cookbook I used has a collection of goodies, I will definitely give the recipe a second change. Perhaps with a half batch and confectioners sugar on hand just in case.

It is a good reminder that baking is an experiment and I am still a novice.  In the end there are much worse things to do-over. Hopefully next time, I will stumble across a tasty mistake rather than a colossal bowl of butter.


31 Jan

Happy (VERY belated) New Year! Just barely made it for a January post. After a long holiday break, we are back and bringin’ on the home baked goodness.

My first recipe of the 2011 is from a cookbook I received over the holidays, Clinton St. Baking Company Cookbook. It has a number of enticing recipes for homemade pancakes, lemon + lavender loaf cakes, and the most recent baking experiment – Brookies. This brownie-cookie hybrid is a melt in your mouth, chocolate delight.

Just a few simple ingredients produced the richest chocolate cookies I have ever enjoyed. One of my taste testers claimed these cookies were too chocolaty. Is this possible? You be the judge.



1 tablespoon canola oil
1 teaspoon unsalted butter
2 cups semisweet chocolate chunks (1 bag of Ghirardelli chips)
2 large eggs
3/4 cups light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

Baking Instructions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Melt the oil, butter, and 1 cup of the chocolate in a microwave safe bowl, in the microwave on high heat. Stir the mixture at 1-minute intervals. The total time to melt this mixture will be 2 1/2 to 3 minutes.

In another bowl, with a whisk, mix the eggs, brown sugar, and vanilla until combined.

Fold the melted chocolate mixture into the egg mixture.

In another bowl, whisk together the remaining dry ingredients. Add the flour mixture into the chocolate mixture, mix until combined, and then fold in the remaining chocolate chunks.

Freeze the batter in a pie pan for 6 to 8 minutes until the batter sets and hardens slightly.

Coat two cookie sheets with nonstick cooking spray, parchment paper, or Silpat mats (totally scored one of these for Christmas – see image). Scoop about 10 tablespoon-sized Brookies onto each sheet.

Bake for 11-12 minutes, until the tops look dry and cracked. Cool completely on a baking rack.


Chocolate Beet Cake

17 Dec

For Thanksgiving I made a chocolate beet cake with cream cheese frosting.  I put it in a bundt cake pan, which made it look fancy and festive.  Sure I could have baked it in a sheet pan, but this extra effort was not difficult.  The recipe, with my modifications, is from Boistfort Valley Farms, which is one of the many farms at the Olympia Farmer’s Market (700 Capitol Way N, Olympia).  I did not procure my beets from Boistfort because I was lucky enough to receive some from Farmer Don, my loving father, who stealthily drops of produce bags in the wee hours whilst I slumber.

The Farmer’s Market is open December 22nd – the 24th if you need to pick something up for your neighbor, your difficult to shop for dad or a colleague who unexpectedly left a gift on your chair.

Please enjoy:

Chocolate Beet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

1 T vanilla
1 3/4 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt (or less)
1 1/2 cups cooked, peeled, and puréed beets
3 oz. unsweetened chocolate
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup oil (I like safflower)

Boil quartered red beets in water.  Drain and cool.  Carefully use an immersion blender to puree them.  You might use a very high sided pot or fashion some kind of beet projectile skirt out of a paper plate for your immersion blender so you don’t have beet meat plastered on the walls or your favorite apron.  Set thoroughly mashed beets aside.Preheat oven to 350°F. Melt chocolate in a double boiler; remove from heat and cool slightly. Or, you can do this in one minute rounds in the microwave.  Be forewarned that the bowl and the chocolate will get really hot.  In a large bowl, lightly beat the eggs. Add sugar, oil, vanilla, melted chocolate, and beets, stirring well after each addition. In a separate bowl, sift together flour, baking soda and salt. Combine dry ingredients with chocolate mixture and beat until just blended. Pour into a greased and floured 9×13″ cake pan and bake for about 35 minutes. Cool and frost as desired.  I garnished mine with beet chips, but while they looked lovely, they wilted.  If you choose to decorate the cake as I did, I recommend adding the beet chips right before service.

Cream Cheese Frosting

4 ounces unsalted butter, softened
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a large bowl, beat together the butter and cream cheese with an electric mixer. With the mixer on low speed, add the powdered sugar a cup at a time until smooth and creamy. Beat in the vanilla extract


Wine and Chocolate in Walla Walla

9 Dec

This fall, Lucienne and I ventured across the state for a couple of days of wine tasting in the adorable town of Walla Walla, Washington. We met our lovely friend Gen, who recently moved to Idaho, for a relaxing and indulgent girls’ weekend.

None of us had ever visited Walla Walla, but as a college town surrounded by a seemingly countless number of wineries was a “Yes, please!” on the local travel list. We checked in to the hotel and promptly went in search of food. Downtown, we started out with a trip to the candy shop (not the 50 cent variety), enjoying mouth-watering chocolate covered pistachios from Bright’s Candies.  The sugar high was followed by a calorically redeeming beet and fennel salad at Brasserie Four, a French restaurant where the menus were printed on pieces of lined school paper. Très charming.

After a bit wandering, we made our way to dinner at Saffron Mediterranean Kitchen, where we tried Scallops “Mano de Leon” (yes friends, that’s scallops with beef tongue) and chatted with our server Boe, who provided generous pours of delicious wine and shared that he has so many stories from the restaurant that he should start a blog. Maybe someday.

After dinner, it was time for dessert, and we’re not talking leftover candy from Bright’s. A few blocks from Boe and beef tongue was an inviting pastry shop that also served coffee and wine. As soon as we entered Colville Street Patisserie, we knew we’d stumbled upon a Walla Walla sweet spot.  Not only were pastries beautiful, they were delicious. Chocolate caramel tart with a chocolate swirl and a chocolate, coconut, passion fruit bite of heaven has us all swooning.

The next morning it was off to wine country where we discovered a few gems:

Tertulia Cellars was the first winery we visited. We were asking the concierge for directions when a friendly Tertulia wine club member overheard us offered to let us follow her to the tasting room. So friendly! The tasting room was warm and inviting and the wine was yummy. Gen liked the dry reds and I enjoyed the Viognier. Lucienne loved the dessert wine. It was mighty tasty.

Rulo Winery owned by a former anesthesiologist, and his wife, who liked making wine more than being in a hospital. The tasting room is inviting and unpretentious, and the Syrah is fantastic. I discovered that they sell it at Trader Joe’s too!

Olive Marketplace was our second favorite dessert spot in downtown Walla Walla. The cozy atmosphere pairs nicely with the yummy seasonal baked goods.

Though our stay was in Walla Walla was fairly brief, the fruitful sampling of the town left a happy taste in our mouths, with only mildly wine stained teeth.