Learning As I Chop

A Thank You Gift for Me!

Posted in Baking/Cooking by R @ Learning As I Chop on January 28, 2011

I bet you didn’t know this but H and I were recently in Mexico. Fooled ya, didn’t we? Mexico is famous for lots of things – Frida, tequila, Corona and vanilla. So when I saw this in the shop, I decided to bring home two bottles. One for me, and one for my friend C.

You might remember C. She’s the one who suggested rolling your dough between silpats. Because she’s constantly giving me food advice, I knew she’d appreciate this little token of my appreciation. So what did she do in response? Brought me some cake! An olive oil cake, to be exact.

This cake was delicious. Simple, comforting and would go perfectly with a nice cup of tea. Mint perhaps? I especially like the little kick of spice. Just enough that you taste the flavors but not overpowering. Knowing I’d share it with LAIC readers, I asked C for the recipe and a few words.

• Pinch of saffron threads, crumbled
• 1/2 cup whole milk
• 1½ cups all-purpose flour
• 1 teaspoon baking powder
• 1 cup granulated sugar
• 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
• 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
• 3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom (see Note)
• 1/8 teaspoon salt
• 2 large eggs
• 2 large egg yolks
• Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter and flour an 8-inch round cake pan. In a small bowl, sprinkle the saffron over the milk and let stand for 15 minutes. Sift the flour and baking powder onto a large piece of parchment paper.

2. In a standing mixer fitted with a whip, beat the sugar with the olive oil, vanilla, cardamom and salt at medium-high speed until well blended. Add the eggs and egg yolks 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Continue to beat at medium-high speed until the mixture is pale and thick, about 4 minutes. At low speed, alternately beat in the flour mixture and milk in 3 additions, scraping down the side of the bowl as necessary.

3. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 50 minutes, until the top is golden and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then invert the cake onto a rack. Turn the cake right side up and let cool completely. Dust the top of the cake with confectioners’ sugar, slice into wedges and serve.

Note: Buy the freshest ground cardamom for the best flavor. Alternatively, you can crush 12 cardamom pods and grind the seeds in a spice grinder or in a mortar.

Make Ahead: The cake can be wrapped in plastic and kept at room temperature for up to 2 days. Dust with confectioners’ sugar before serving.

Editor’s Note: For the best flavor, use good- quality saffron sparingly: not more than a scant 1/8 teaspoon crumbled. Its flavor will intensify as the cake sits—in fact, the cake tastes best the day after it’s made. If you’re not a saffron fan, leave it out.

From C:  To compliment the Mexican vanilla extract, and play up the specialness of the cake in general, I decided to use the best of everything, where possible. So, pastured eggs, organic Evan’s Farm Milk, salt from the Meadow http://www.atthemeadow.com/shop/ , cold pressed Organic Olive Oil from California, organic ground cardamom and King Arthur organic flour.

Thanks C for the lovely cake. I definitely see this recipe in my future. Perhaps I’ll make it for a Sunday brunch or party offering? I’d say most people will this like dessert, especially when paired with homemade whipped cream or a side of fruit. Enjoy!


Experimenting, Muffin Style

Posted in Baking/Cooking by R @ Learning As I Chop on January 24, 2011

The other day, I saw a lovely muffin recipe on Eat Live Run. I had never made muffins before (this is LAIC, after all) and figured there was no time like the present. However lately I’ve been wanting to be a little “healthier.” Not necessarily diet, but watch my butter/sugar/white flour intake a little. Don’t worry, I’m not abandoning my food philosophy, but sometimes 1 rather than 2 cups of sugar can make a difference. For comparison’s or  purist’s, sake, you can find the original muffin recipe here. And here’s how I changed it a little

1 cup all-purpose flour and 1 cup whole wheat flour (a first for me)

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp cinnamon

2 tsp grated orange zest

2 cups fresh blackberries (or berry of your choice..use frozen if you can’t find fresh!)

1 stick butter, softened

1/2 cup sugar

2 eggs

1/2 cup milk

Preheat your oven to 375.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, orange zest, baking powder, salt and cinnamon together. Gently add the blackberries and stir so that the berries are covered with flour. Set aside.

Cream the butter and sugar together. Add the eggs, one by one, until thoroughly combined. Add the milk and blend.

Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and toss gently, being careful not to crush the berries. Scoop batter into 12 greased muffin tins – omitted the sprinkle vanilla sugar (or regular granulated sugar) over the tops.

Bake for 25-30 minutes until the tops are golden. Let cool for five minutes in the tins then pop out and cool completely.

Like Jenna, I happily found some blackberries on sale. Perhaps there’s some kind of abundance/fruitful harvest in the world? Regardless, was happy to find affordable berries in the middle of Winter. It’s the little things…

As mentioned, I’d never made muffins before so I just shoveled a little batter into each cup. Not the prettiest picture but it seems to have worked well. H helped too.

After 27 minutes (I’m always afraid of over-drying baked goods), I opened the oven to the little darlings on top. Considering it was my first try, I’d call these muffins a success. Sure, they taste healthier than “the real thing,” but that’s ok. I envision these goods as a quick breakfast on-the-go. If you’re looking for that kind of brekkie, definitely try this recipe. Might also be good for kids. Enjoy!

Birthday Cookies

Posted in Baking/Cooking by R @ Learning As I Chop on January 21, 2011

I’ve mentioned my friend J before.  She’s a vegan and has made some delicious soup for me in the past. So when she recently celebrated a birthday, I remembered my new love of giving home-baked gifts and decided to make cookies for her- vegan ones, of course. A novice non-dairy baker, I decided to stay simple and focus on something that’s naturally vegan and delicious – peanut butter. So I googled a recipe and here’s what I found from 101 Cookbooks:

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour, spelt flour, or unbleached all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1 cup organic, chunky natural peanut butter
1 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Place racks in the top third.

In a medium mixing bowl combine the flour, baking soda, and salt. in a separate larger bowl combine the peanut butter, maple syrup, olive oil, and vanilla. Stir until combined. Pour the flour mixture over the peanut butter mixture and stir until barely combined – still a bit dusty looking. Let sit for five minutes, give one more quick stir, just a stroke or two. Now drop by heaping tablespoonfuls onto parchment-lined baking sheets. Press down on each one gently with the back of a fork. It’s a loose batter, so if you’re set on doing criss-crosses, go ahead and chill the batter for an hour or so before this step. Bake for 10, maybe 11 minutes – but don’t over bake or they will be dry. Let cool five minutes and transfer to a cooling rack.

I had all of these plans to throw some walnuts into the cookies. Peanut butter + walnuts = truly delicious cookie. But the batter was feeling really dry and I was scared to add anything else into the mix.  I therefore molded the ingredients into little balls and used one of my new favorite baking tools – parchment paper.

I was pretty happy with the way the coookies turned out. Truthfully, I think I’m more of a butter-eggs-milk kind of girl but these are definitely a good substitute for your non-dairy friends.  J liked them too, “Thank you! LOVE the cookies! 🙂 They will not last long..”

I’d say that’s a job well done. Enjoy!