Monday, October 14, 2013

Small disasters

Friday was a day of small disasters, a comedy of errors if you will. First, three minutes after I put it in the oven, I realized that I forgot the cider vinegar in my Everything You Need Cake. I quickly poured the teaspoons of vinegar into the still wet batter, gave it a quick mix and stuck back in the oven, hoping for the best. Then, tasting the frosting I was making for said cake, I realized I forgot to add the sugar. That was when I realized that it was going to be one of those days in the kitchen where I probably should just remove myself from said kitchen. Those days happen. Alas, I had a few more culinary responsibilities. And so it went on. I had a jar of not-pesto pesto on the counter that tipped and went splattering all over the floor, while at the same time knocking over my open water bottle, sending water cascading into my pantry. That was a fun one to clean up and a waste of good herbs to boot. And then, to cap it all off, under the guise of "helping" I managed to break a glass while a guest at a friends house. I had serious thoughts about Australia, but some days are like that, even in Australia- or so I've been led to believe.

The frosting that I almost ruined is a new addition to my repertoire. Usually, when I'm keeping things non-dairy, I don't bother with frosting, I just make a simple glaze. But sometimes, you want something thicker, with more heft and less sweet, especially where chocolate is concerned (and we all agree chocolate frosting is the best kind of frosting). And since I refuse to go anywhere near margarine, frostings such as these are few and far between. Then I discovered vegan  chocolate boiled frosting, and everything changed, utterly changed. This stuff is thick and smooth and ganache-like and, with a few adjustments to the original recipe, utterly intense. I am frosting-less no more.

Chocolate Frosting
Adapted from VegWeb

As mentioned above, I made a bunch of changes to the recipe. The original recipe is really just a combination of sugar, cornstarch, cocoa and water, with a little vanilla thrown it. I felt that it didn't have enough oomph, so I upped the amount of cocoa, replaced the water with coffee and added in some chopped dark chocolate at the end (and a glug of whisky, because I like putting alcohol in things and chocolate and whisky is an under-appreciated combination)

1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
3 tablespoons cocoa
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup strong coffee
about 1 oz dark chocolate, chopped
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
a glug of whisky (optional)

1. In a small sauce whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, cocoa and salt. Add the coffee and place over medium heat, stirring constantly (and I mean constantly. No, really, for the love of everything holy, do not stop stirring! If you do, your cornstarch and cocoa will lump and stick to the bottom of the pot and burn and it will be terrible, horrible.) until it thickens and begin to boil. Remove from heat. Stir in the chocolate, oil, vanilla and whisky, if using.  Let cool, frost to your heart's content.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

This is just to say

This summer, like every summer, has been plums. All summer, from late June and into even the first days of October, it's been plums, plums plums. I wait with great anticipation every summer for plums, because plums mean Plumble 1 and Plumble 2 and Jess's Most Perfect Plum Cake. And every year, I make those desserts again and again and again until the end of the summer when I have overdosed on plums and the very idea of a plum-based dessert makes me want to scream. That was the situation I found myself in a few weeks ago- facing dessert with nothing but plums in the house- and I couldn't. I couldn't do Plumble 1 or Plumble 2 or even Jess's Most Perfect Plum Cake. Instead, I turned to  Deb of Smitten Kitchen, which is where I often turn when I am out of inspiration. As usual, she didn't fail me.
Deb's Dimply Plum Cake, with its cute little dimples, is kinda-sort like Jess's cake, except it's not. It's flavor profile is different, the texture of i,t too, is not quite the same. It's a different sort of almost perfect plum cake, flavored with vanilla and orange and cardamom. It got rave reviews from the guests and from myself. I think I'm done with plums for the year. But next year, my friends, next year, there will be a new player in the summer rotation. Be well forewarned, summer is coming. (Eventually. Next year.)

Dimply Plum Cake

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Notes: Deb uses butter. To keep the cake non-dairy, I used coconut oil, which gave the cake a light, coconuty tinge. I liked it. But if you are averse to coconut oil, by all means use butter. In addition, Deb used cinammon, claiming that she doesn't like the cardamom that appears in the original recipe. I find that hard to believe. There is no such thing as not liking cardamom. I used cardamom. 

1 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
5 tablespoons butter or coconut oil, at room temperature
3/4  cup light brown sugar
2 eggs
1/3 cup vegetable oil
zest of 1 orange
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
8 plums halved and pitted

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. In a small bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and cardamom. Set aside. 

2. With a mixer, beat the butter/coconut oil until it is soft and creamy. Add the sugar and beat another 3 minutes or so. Add the eggs, one at a time, then beat in the oil, zest and vanilla. The batter will look creamy and smooth. Fold in the dry ingredients. 

3. Pour the batter into a greased 8-inch pan and smooth with a spatula. Press the plum halves into the batter in a nice pattern. Bake for 30-40 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool on a rack and serve. (The cake will keep well-wrapped, at room temperature, for up to 2 days.)