Saturday, February 13, 2010

Red Velvet Cake and Red Velvet Cake and . . . well you get the point

So, my family is obsessed with red velvet cake. They can't get enough of it. Consequently, when I go home for the holidays, they request that I make it again, and again, and again. I was literally baking one every week. Thank goodness it starts with a cake mix, although the frosting must always be made from scratch. We wouldn't have it any other way. All in all, it's very simple to make.

Unfortunately, being the perfectionist that I am, I am compelled to complicate things. It is not enough to simply bake the cake, slap on some frosting, and eat it. Noooooo, not in my world. In the first place, the cake layers, when baked, need to be as level as possible - NO bump, I repeat no huge mountain rising in the middle of my cakes, no siree. That of course is difficult in and of itself. But, after three tries, I finally succeeded. Third time's the charm, right? The trick is baking the cake at a lower temperature to give the sides time to catch up to the middle - I set my oven at 325F.

Secondly, the cakes have to be decorated. Each one has to be different, and the frosting has to be absolutely smooth, with no red crumbs showing. Yes, I know. You're probably thinking, why go through so much extra effort. Let's just say that the creative side of me takes over my logical, reasonable side (like a baking Jekyll/Hide).

Frosting the cake was enough to try my patience, but a crumb coat with chilling time afterwards took care of that problem. I didn't have my offset spatula with me, so instead, I was using a large serrated bread knife. It's not perfect, but it'll do. Lastly, I lack pretty much all the proper tools created for facilitating true cake artistry. If I was a rich man (*ahem* woman) . . . oh just imagine - I'd have the right size icing tips and a cake turntable and icing colors. Oh well, one can dream. But, regardless, I think I managed to do a pretty good job. You can judge for yourself.

Here's Cake #1:

All the little brown checks were made with grated chocolate chips.

Cake #2:

And Cake #3:

Cream Cheese Frosting:

16 oz. cream cheese
10 Tbsp. butter
2 c. powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla (optional)

Beat the cream cheese with the butter until well blended. Add the powdered sugar and whip on high speed. Fold in the vanilla.

(And yes, I learned the hard way that you need to use butter NOT margarine for the frosting. It just won't set up right if you use anything else. Oh well, what's a few extra calories on an already decadent and delicious cake? Just live in the moment and enjoy it.)

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Tyler Florence's Parker House Rolls

Welcome to my blog! Can you believe this is my first time posting ever? I'll try to make it interesting. Anyway, I actually made this recipe a month ago, but just got around to posting about it now.

It's a natural thing for me to bake whenever I go home to visit my family for the holidays. For one thing, they love it and for another, I'm not faced with the mammoth task of trying to eat up a whole pan of goodies by myself.

This time around was no different. In addition to several red velvet cakes, more about those later, I got that domestic urge (c'mon it all hits us sometime) to bake some fresh, homemade, honest-to-goodness from scratch bread. Now, I've always had a bit of fear when it comes to yeast and kneading dough. After all, no one wants to end up with a bunch of doughy rocks. So, up to this time, I've been using a bread machine. But, that added up to its own set of problems, namely extremely dense bread that nobody would touch (still can't figure out what went wrong). Thus, I decided it was time to bite the bullet and just do it by hand once and for all. And boy, am I glad I did!

I decided to go with Tyler Florence's Parker House Rolls recipe. I found the recipe on the Nummy Kitchen blog. It was extremely easy, and with Tyler Florence, how can you go wrong? Like any bread recipe, it does take time, but guess what, you barely need to knead the dough at all. If anything, overkneading the dough will lead to tough rolls. So, for all of you out there who have a fear of making bread, I highly recommend that you try this recipe. It's a guaranteed success!

Tyler Florence's Parker House Rolls
(as found on Nummy Kitchen and Tyler Florence's website)

1 pkg. active dry yeast
3 Tbsp. warm water
3 Tbsp. sugar
6 Tbsp. butter (not unsalted)
1 c. milk
2 c. bread flour
2 c. all-purpose flour

Combine the yeast with the warm water and sugar. Set aside until foamy, about 5 min. Heat the butter and milk and stir till the butter melts. Let cool until it is lukewarm (i.e. until it feels slightly warm to the touch). Add the milk mixture to the yeast. Fold in the bread flour. Gradually add the all-purpose flour to make a dough, or in other words, until the ball of dough no longer sticks to the bowl. (I added about 1 1/2 c. and it was enough). Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead 5-6 times until the dough is smooth and elastic (very important - resist the urge to overwork the dough). Form the dough into a ball, place in a greased bowl, and turn to coat. Cover with a towel and let rise 1 hour or until dough doubles in size.

Butter a 9x13 pan. Form the dough into 12-14 balls and arrange them so they are just touching one another. Cover with plastic wrap, then the towel. Let rise again for 40 min. Use a pair of kitchen shears to snip the tops of each bun twice, forming an "x". Set aside for 15 min. to rest. Brush with melted butter or milk, or melted butter + honey/sugar for a sweeter taste and bake at 375F for about 15 min. or at 350F for 20 min. or until golden brown.

These rolls have a wonderful chewy texture on the outside with a soft and pillowy inside. The taste is absolutely delicious! My family couldn't get enough of them. In fact, they loved them so much that I had to make this recipe twice in one week.

Woo-hoo. My first post. Here's to many more.

This recipe is linked to:

Moms Crazy Cooking "This Week's Cravings - Thanksgiving Dinner & Side Dish Recipes"