Monday, February 23, 2009

Muffaletta Bread

In honor of Mardis Gras this week, we celebrated early with muffalettas for dinner last night. In the past, I just picked up some bread from the bakery, but decided to try and make my own this time. I ended up making this twice because I mistakenly did not use instant yeast, so the dough never rose! I did end up baking it anyway and it tasted ok, so I'm saving it for some other sandwiches. But, the second attempt was even better, obviously. It was very quick and easy to throw together. I liked that this is a somewhat flatter, thinner loaf (about 2 inches high), so the sandwich isn't too big to eat. My only complaint is that the sesame seeds did not stick to the bread at all after it was baked. Most of them came off.

The first loaf that did not rise:

The second loaf:

To assemble the muffaletta, slice the bread in half horizontally, so it looks like a big hamburger bun.

Layer the Olive Salad, the meats and provolone (Read this previous post with more description and ingredients of the sandwich). Top with the bread and then cut into slices. I like to put it under the broiler before adding the top piece of bread, just to let the cheese melt a bit. But, the muffaletta is traditionally served room temperature.

Source: What's Cooking America

1 cup lukewarm water
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 cups bread flour or all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons instant active dry yeast
Sesame seeds
Olive oil

Using your mixer with dough hook, place water, olive oil, sugar, salt, flour, and yeast in the bowl. Beat until smooth. If using your bread machine, select dough setting and press start. When dough cycle has finished, remove dough from pan and turn out onto a lightly oiled surface. Form dough into an oval, cover with plastic wrap, and let rest for 10 minutes.

After resting, turn dough bottom side up and press to flatten. Form dough into a one-inch high circle and place on a baking sheet dusted with cornmeal. Press sesame seeds into surface of dough and brush with olive oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place 30 to 50 minutes or until doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. After rising, bake for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 375 degrees F. and bake 15 minutes or until loaf sounds hollow when tapped. (A good check is to use an instant digital thermometer to test your bread. The temperature should be between 200 and 210 degrees.) Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack before slicing.

Makes 1 loaf.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Tropical Carrot Cake with Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting

If you love carrot cake, this post is for you. I saw this cake on Dinner & Dessert and knew it had to be my birthday cake! It has three sweet layers full of tropical flavors, mixed with the traditional cinnamon & nutmeg spice of a carrot cake. The pineapple makes it super moist and the macadamia nuts are a must.

Just to let you know, this cake is HUGE. The recipe says to use 3 9-inch pans, but I only have 8-inch pans, so mine may have been a litle taller than the original. I also had to adjust the baking time. It took about 45 minutes, but start checking it around 40 minutes if you're using the smaller pans.

I took Erin's advice and made extra frosting (measurements have been updated to reflect the bigger batch). Maybe I slather it on a little thick between the layers because I had just enough to do this cake with the extra. Don't be lazy like me, go ahead and toast some extra coconut and cover the top of the cake!

The cake falling to its side as I take the first shot:

I tried to stand it back up, but it just wasn't happening.

Source: The Pastry Queen by Rebecca Rather, found on Dinner & Dessert

1 cup macadamia nuts (chopped or crushed)
3 cups all purpose flour
3 cups sugar
1 tbsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1-1/2 cups sweetened flaked coconut
4 large eggs
2 tbsp vanilla
1-1/2 cups vegetable oil, such as canola or safflower
1-1/2 cups shredded peeled carrots
1-1/2 cups diced fresh pineapple or drained crush canned pineapple (this is one 20 oz. can)
1/2 cup sweetened cream of coconut (found near the mixed drinks in the grocery)

Coconut-Cream Cheese Frosting
4 (8 oz) packages cream cheese, at room temperate
2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup + 4 tsp heaving whipping cream
1/4 cup + 4 tsp sweetened cream of coconut
1/2 tsp + 1/8 tsp salt

To Make the Cake:
Preheat the oven to 350F. Arrange the nuts on a baking sheet in a single layer and toast them for 7 to 9 minutes, until golden and aromatic. Set aside to cool.

Place one oven rack one-third from the bottom of the oven and the second two-thirds from the bottom. Preheat the oven to 350F. Line three 9-inch cake pans with parchment paper rounds, grease with butter, and dust with flour (or spray with Baker’s Joy).

Stir together the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, coconut, and nuts in a large bowl. In another large bowl, whisk together the eggs, vanilla, oil, carrots, pineapple, and cream of coconut. Pour the egg mixture into the flour mixture and stir until combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared cake pans. Stagger the cake layers on the oven racks so that no layer is directly over another. Set 2 layers on one rack and the third on the other. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes. The cakes are done when they are golden brown on top and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool the cakes in their pans on racks for 5 minutes, then invert them onto the racks and cool completely, about 15 to 20 minutes.

To Make the Frosting:
Using a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and powdered sugar in a large bowl on medium-high speed about 1 minute. Add the whipping cream, cream of coconut, and salt; beat until combined.

Place 1 cake layer on a serving plate and spread a thick blanket of frosting on top. Add the second layer, spread thickly with frosting, and top with the third layer. Cover the top and sides of the cake with an even layer of frosting. If you’re feeling energetic and there is frosting left over, use a pastry bag fitted with a decorative tip to pipe a decoration around the top rim of the cake.

The cake can be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated up to 4 days. Let it cool in the refrigerator about 1 hour before covering, to ensure the frosting has hardened and will not stick to the plastic wrap.

Yield: 12-14 Servings.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Apple Cole Slaw

Last week I made a carrot cake and went a little crazy on the carrot shredding. The recipe only called for one and a half cups and I think I shredded about 1/2 big bag. I'm glad now because I got to try this recipe. It's not often we have cole slaw because it is on Aaron's list of foods he won't eat. He tried this one, but made a face like usual. I thought it was very good. The flavor was a combination of a sweet, creamy dressing (but not too much mayo), mixed with the tart crunchy apples. I didn't put the red bell pepper in, but will try this again next summer with peppers from the garden.

I still have plenty of shredded carrots to use, so look for more recipes here soon. I also have half of a cabbage left. So feel free to leave me a comment with your favorite cole slaw recipe. I'd love to try some more and compare.

Source: Allrecipes.com

3 cups chopped cabbage (I used 1/2 small cabbage)
1 unpeeled red apple, cored and chopped
1 unpeeled Granny Smith apple, cored and chopped
1 carrot, grated
1/2 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
2 green onions, finely chopped
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice, or to taste

In a large bowl, combine cabbage, red apple, green apple, carrot, red bell pepper, and green onions. In a small bowl, mix together mayonnaise, brown sugar, and lemon juice. Pour dressing over salad.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Potato Salad with Green Beans, Artichokes & Feta

By now you have probably noticed a lot of my recipes coming from a particular blog - For the Love of Cooking. It never fails that when a wonderful looking recipe pops up in my reader, chances are good, it's from Pam. I'm drawn to these recipes because I usually have most of the ingredients on hand and they are the ingredients that I love most (duh!).

When it comes to side dishes, I'm usually not very creative. Most of my effort is put into the main part of the meal and then I scramble to come up with something to serve with it on the side. Tonight was different. We had this delicious potato salad with gyro burgers, another new recipe that I'm not going to blog. It tasted alright, but it fell completely apart into a mess. No good pictures.

I may have mentioned it before, but there are just a few things Aaron won't eat: cole slaw, cottage cheese, and potato salad. I tried to slide this one by since it isn't what you normally think of when you think of potato salad. It's not creamy, no mayo, egg, etc. In the end, he ate all that was on his plate, but didn't want it again. That's ok with me because I loved it. The potatoes were soft and creamy, the green beans a little crunchy, the dressing was light and flavorful, and lately I'm loving feta cheese!

I did leave out the olives because we were out and they aren't really my favorite.

Source: For the Love of Cooking (originally from "Fine Cooking Annual 1" cookbook).


2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 clove of garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup of olive oil

5-6 baby red potatoes, cut into quarters
1/3 cup of fresh green beans, trimmed and halved
1/3 cup of frozen artichokes, thawed and halved (I used canned)
1/3 cup of kalamata olives, halved
2 green onions, chopped
1/3 cup of feta cheese

Combine the vinegar, garlic and oregano in a small bowl; season with salt and pepper to taste. Slowly whisk in the olive oil. Taste and re-season if necessary.

Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add the beans and boil until just tender, about 3-4 minutes. Scoop out the beans let rinse under cold running water.

Let the water in the saucepan return to a boil. Add the potatoes and cook until they are tender, 10-15 minutes. Drain and transfer the potatoes to a large bowl; add a few teaspoons of the dressing and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside to cool slightly.

Once cool, add the green onions, green beans, artichokes, olives and feta to the potatoes. Pour over the remaining dressing and toss to combine. Taste and re-season if necessary.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Princess Isabelle's Cake

Here is a Princess cake done for a friend & neighbor. Her daughter Isabelle is turning 1! It's a chocolate cake iced in buttercream. Details are a combination of fondant, royal and buttercream icing. The tiara cake is 6". The smash cake was made using tuna cans! I needed something slighty bigger than my muffin pan and the tuna cans worked really well. However, it was very hard to ice because it was so small and wanted to move around a lot (even with a glob of buttercream gluing it to the board).

Happy Birthday Isabelle!

Smash Cake:

Tiara Cake Details:

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Mack Semi-Truck Birthday Cake

Time for another round of cakes! February is a busy month, so I will have multiple cake updates. First is this birthday cake for a student at Aaron's school. Coincidentally, his name is Aaron, too. Birthday Aaron likes semi-trucks, so I went with this front view of a Mack truck (seen on cakecentral.com). I hope he likes it!

(Darn! I think the flash was on - I'm still getting used to this camera...)

Monday, February 2, 2009

Chewy Coconut Cookies

During our grocery trip this week, we were both craving junk food. We couldn't resist the Doritos, but we did pass up the cookies. But, I had to promise to make some at home instead. I haven't made cookies since Christmas and I normally make chocolate chip, but figured I'd try to use up some coconut this time. I really liked how these coconut cookies came out. They are crispy on the outside and chewy in the center. I've sampled again today and they haven't lost their chew. During baking, the cookies puffed up some and then flattened out a bit more as they cooled. These would be great with a little chocolate drizzled on top.

Source: Allrecipes.com

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups flaked coconut

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C.) Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside.
In a medium bowl, cream the butter, brown sugar, and white sugar until smooth. Beat in the egg and vanilla until light and fluffy. Gradually blend in the flour mixture, then mix in the coconut. Drop dough by teaspoonfuls onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Cookies should be about 3 inches apart.
Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven, or until lightly toasted. Cool on wire racks.
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