We have moved....

>> February 5, 2010

I have found a better home!

You can now find me over here... http://www.sweetbitesblog.com/

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HCB: Individual Pineapple Upside Down Cakes

>> January 31, 2010

Can I say this right off the bat (so we can all gasp and get it over with) I don’t like any cake, or pies or tartlets’ or anything that is made with fruit, or has fruit in it, never have and for the record; I have not acquired the taste over the years. In fact, let me put this out there: 

I.HATE.PIE. There I said it, it’s out there. You all have five second to give me the speech about this… Ready... Set...GO!

1,2,3,4,5…Ok, Done? Good, lets move on.

So after all that information I just gave, you can image my mind frame when I saw this cake came up to bat. I was like: “mmm, maybe I will skip it” Until the boyfriend and the little man (the Boyfriend son) asked me what cake was next. And the reaction was as follow:

Boyfriend:  “Babe, just because you are “scared’ of cooked fruit it does not mean we need to miss out on this, some of us like fruit”

And I had a come back, I did, until the little man jumped up and shouted “Ohhh!! Pineapple cake, please make it for my birthday cake!”

That 8-year old is sneaky, just like his father.

I was done for, plus we were invited to a dinner party and I figure I could get rid of all of it by offering to take it as the dessert.

The first thing I decided to do was use ramekins instead of the cute cake pan, because the cute cake pan was very expensive and I could not justify owning it just to bake pineapple cake in the future.  So I prepped 8 ramekins.

I stared with the caramel and I have done caramel before, in fact melting sugar had nothing on me!

Wrong!

Apparently, Turbinado sugar DOES have something on me because I must have looked away a mili-second too long, and before I knew it, the mixture had turn into a black color and not the deep amber that the book hinted at. Into the trash it went and a second round was started, with better results, except that I ended with not enough to cover all of the 8 ramekins... so 3 of those were very poorly coated.

I started on the cake and this went in much smoother. Everything came together as the book explained, except, once more I was a bit unsure of the batter distribution among the ramekins. This was even after I filled them up using the weight measurements cited in the book and not eyeballing it. But, I let it go into the hot oven they went.

Baking…baking…baking until the house smelled delicious and out they came. Tested them and right away I started to unmold them. Some came out pretty fast, others I had to sweet talked them out of the ceramic mold. Some of the caramel was melted, and others had some un-melted portions, very weird

And upon closer inspection, I realized that my instincts were right and the ration of cake was quite low. I mentally noted that I needed to go with 6-rameskins the next time and not 8, so I could have a pretty substantial cake distribution.

I finished them up with the suggestion of coating them with warm apricot glaze and I did skip the caramel sauce all together, figure it would be way to sweet (I knew the pineapples were supper sweet to begin with) and was to tired to try my luck again with the sugar and heat.

But it did not matter, the results were in:

Boyfriend: “YUM! In need of a repeat”
The little man: “Approved for my birthday cake next week!”
My mother: “They were delicious, needed more cake thought”
Host 1 from the dinner party: “I wish there was a bit more caramel on them, but they are great"
Host 2 from the dinner party: “No, they are perfect this way”

My take: I did taste them and thought they were good, love the cake texture and the fact that it was not sweet at all, which balance the sweetness of the pineapple and apricot glaze.

Would I make it again? Probably, I mean who can say no to an 8-year? 

Oh, wait I been corrected as I write this.. a NINE-YEAR-OLD!

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Pan de Jamon (Ham Bread)

>> January 25, 2010


I know that Christmas is long gone. And so are the Christmas foods. Except that this year due to numerous other stuff,we had to deal around my house, we left a lot of Christmas food making for "after" the holidays.

Case in point: "Pan de Jamon" which basically translates to: Ham Bread.

"Pan de jamon" is a huge, golden, egg-washed bread filled with swirls of ham, olives, bacon, and raisins. This is a traditional staple in Venezuela Holiday cuisine. Most family will not even think of having the holiday go by without this on their table

I have been craving one since December, this past weekend the craving hit a high point and I had to make this one way or another. 

This recipe makes 3 loaves.
Ingredients

For the bread dough:
¾ cup water, about 110-115 degrees
2 ½ teaspoons dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
4 ½ ounces unsalted butter
4 ¼ cups warm milk
2-3 pounds all purpose flour (about 12 cups)
½ teaspoon sea salt

For the filling

1 ½ pounds sliced ham
½ pound smoked bacon cut in cubes (save the bacon fact)
4 ounces olives stuffed with red pepper and roughly chopped
4 ounces raisins (soaked in red wine)
1 egg, beaten lighly to glaze the top
 
To do the dough for the bread, we start with the "starter" in a bowl, mix the warm water and sugar and then add the yeast. Let stand for 15 minutes until it foamy.

Add the butter to the warm milk, the sugar and salt.  In a mixer with a doug hook, start mixing the flour in a low setting and then add the milk mixture to it, and then the yeast "sponge".  Let the mixer mix for about 15 minutes. When cycle is complete, remove dough from machine to a lightly floured surface. Knead in until soft and smooth, using enough flour to make dough easy to handle. Roll it like a ball and place in an oiled bowl and cover with a damp clothes and let rise in warm draft-free place until doubled in size, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.

In the meantime, start preparing the filling.

Turn oven to 375 degrees

Place a sauted pan on the stove to medium high heat. Cut your bacon into cubes and place in the hot pan.  Cook the bacon until translusent, (not crispy)... take out and place in a bowl, save the bacon fat.  Set out the raisins and pour some red wine over them and let them soak.  Take the olives and if not chopped, do so, roughly, set in a bowl and put aside. Beat the egg and set aside.

Now back to the bread.

Roll out the dough with a rolling pin, until about square.  Take the bacon grease and with a brush, coat the dough with the bacon fat (try to coat the whole dough).  Arrange the ham, bacon, olives and raisins on top, leaving a small strip bare at the top. Brush the strip with egg and roll up gently.  Roll it up like a swiss roll making sure the seam is under the bread, tuck the sides in as well, and place in a sheet pan that has been coated with non-stick spray or lined with a Silpat mat.  Coat the bread with the egg mixture to seal it. and let stand for about 15 minutes before you place in the oven.

Bake for 45 minutes until golden brown all around.  Take out of oven, move it to a cooling rack until warm, about 15-20 minutes.  Cut and served.

A quick tip: If you are press for time, I have used the Pillsbury pizza dough tube in order to replace the step of making my own bread.  Works like a charm.  Follow the package baking instructions.

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HCB: Tortas de las Tres Leche

>> January 18, 2010



A couple of weeks ago, I purchase Rose Levy Beranbaum book “Rose’s Heavenly Cakes”. I have her other book  “The Cake Bible” and in the past would use it as a huge reference point when I wanted to dig in deep and go all out on cake making.

This new book is beautiful. I think I love it more than the old book and as soon as I sat down to view it; I started to mark all the wonderful cakes I wanted to make.

I was in trouble.

Then I found this group and I knew I was lost.  Actually, everyone in my house was in trouble - Cake-baking-galore coming up, hold on to your waistline folks!

The baking group works simply by posting a weekly cake from the book to make and everyone bakes it and blogs about their overall experience.  Having said this, I will note right now that due to copyright laws this will be the only time I WILL NOT POST the actual recipe of what I'm making.  You will need to go and get the book, but trust me, it's totally worth the money, specially if you like baking.

Let's start the show!

A side story to this cake.  I have been making a different version of this cake for over 20 years. When I lived in Miami all the Nicaraguan restaurants around town have this cake on their dessert menu, and once I tasted it, I knew I had to learn to make it. Lucky for me, one of my junior high school friends’ mom used to make this cake for a very popular restaurant in South Florida called Los Ranchos. So I made sure I paid attention and perfected the recipe throught the years. The cake according to my family (and friends) became my signature cake and it’s the first one that is requested during those important dates.

When I read Rose’s version I was intrigue because it was totally different take on how I made mine, so I was exited to try it and see if I could perfect my own some more.

My family not to much.  They believe in the "if it ain't broken, don't fix it" theory.

The actually sponge cake was easy enough to make, and I learned a whole different way of making it from the book. The warming up of the sugar, eggs, vanilla and salt over simmering water was a bit intimidating, mainly because it was a new technique for me. I was a bit unsure as to when it would be “warm enough” since the book was very unclear on this step, so I took a chance, placed the “warm” mixture in my kitchen aid to beat on high and double in volume. I'm happy to report that I hit it right on point… the creamy, double mixture was a perfect velvety pale yellow as noted in the instructions.


The next step was to fold the flour and pour the batter into a round 8x3 cake pan - I do not own a 9x3 cake pan, so I decided to best sacrifice a bit of the batter, since I did not want it to spill all over the oven. (Methinks I’m going to have to buy a 9x3 round pan in the near future, since that is what is used the most as a baking pan in the book.) That decision worked as well.

The cake did what the book said, it rose, cracked a bit on top and when tested came out dry – DONE and DONE!

Took it out of the oven and unmolded it right away, as per instructions (Another first for me).

I then set out to prepare the milk mixture and this is where this cake is totally different from my own recipe. Rose’s uses skim milk, whole milk, heavy cream and sweeten condensed milk and she cooks it. (My version uses whole milk, evaporated milk, sour cream, sweeten condense milk and rum - and no cooking it anywhere). Verdict? End results were a bit sweet on my part but I keep on, I was determined to follow this to a “T”.

Then the soaking began and into the refrigerator it went for an overnight rest.



Since I had the family coming over to taste this and I knew that most would be taking a piece with them I decided not to follow the books instructions in toping it with heavy whipped cream since it was going to flatten rigth away after sitting on it for a couple of hours. So instead I used my own topping which is basically an Italian Meringue (which I learned to do from Rose’s first book). I also covered the whole cake instead of just the top.

And then the comments came in.

My mother who is a true Tres Leche fan: told me that while this version was “ok” she preferred my own version. She mention that this was much sweeter and felt it was not moist or creamy enough (my version does not get unmolded, but stays in the pan maintaining the cake super moist at all times).

Tom (the boyfriend): Liked my version as well, commented on being too sweet as well. But, did say that if did not know better, he would probably like it and would ask for a repeat performance.

My neighbors who tasted it for the first time ever: Really loved it. And actually took almost ½ of the cake home with them.

My take: Like my mother and the boyfriend I thought it was on the sweet end as well. I did like the texture of the sponge cake and I may adapt my own recipe to use this version. But I will stick with my own rendering of the soaking milk and my topping.

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