Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Look. Pretty Leaves. And Cake!


I'm not very good at being a college student. I'm not productive late at night, though I am awake with the idea that maybe I'll actually get some work done, I don't sleep until noon on the weekends, and if I had a fake ID, I'd use it to buy some brandy to make the icing suggested for this cake. But the cake does not need a brandied brown butter icing, it holds its own just fine. It also has miraculously lasted three days, in part because I haven't been doing the best job of publicizing it.

This cake was the cake I mentioned before, with the turkey sandwiches. Only I wasn't expecting it to be a cake, I was expecting it to be more like a bar cookie, so I was a bit surprised when I got a nice tender cake with a muffin-like crumb. But it was a good surprise, because the flavors shine much more, and it is a lot less cloying, with its cakey lightness. It's just a little less picnic friendly than bar cookies would be.

This cake was easy to make, makes a lot of cake, and while I haven't yet done the math to figure out how much it cost to make, I don't think it was TOO expensive either. And did I mention tasty? My RA doesn't understand how I can just combine things and they taste good, but I don't just combine things and they taste good, I follow recipes, sort of.

So if you're in need of a tasty snack cake that has the tastiness of banana bread without the wholesome sounding name, and the yummy sweetness of toffee and milk chocolate, I'd highly recommend making this. Or asking someone to make it for you.

Banana Toffee Snack Cake
adapted from Better Homes & Gardens Biggest Book of Cookies
Makes a half-sheet of cake

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg
3/4 cup mashed ripe banana (2-3 medium bananas)
3/4 cup (6 oz) plain yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/3 cups chopped toffee bits (such as 1 bag Heath Toffee Pieces)

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Grease a half-sheet pan. set aside.

Beat butter in mixing bowl with electric mixer on high for about 30 seconds, or until fluffy.
Beat in sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt until combined, scraping down sides of bowl occasionally.
Beat in egg, mashed banana, yogurt, and vanilla extract until combined.
Stir in flour until just incorporated. Stir in 1 cup toffee bits.

Pour batter into prepared pan and spread evenly. Sprinkle remaining toffee bits over top. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out free of batter. Or when you press lightly, the indentation does not remain. Remove from oven and cool in pan on wire rack.

Cut into desired number of squares. (I think it makes about 48 2x2" squares, but I didn't cut them in a systematic manner.)

Monday, November 09, 2009

Perfect Picnic in the Park


I am not following in my parents' footsteps. Really. I'm not.

Even if they want to think differently. There's a difference between catering and "catering." And when I was asked on Friday if I would cater a picnic, it was not really "catering." If it was, I'm a pitiful caterer. And I didn't add a fee either.

Grocery shopping for ten people is difficult to do alone, especially when I had no clue what I was doing. How much turkey do I need to buy? Fruit gets heavy really quickly. And there are too many kinds of turkey to choose from. They sell sliced cheese in two places OTHER than the deli case. And Jarlsberg was difficult to find. But I found it. Next to more turkey. I circled the grocery store enough that I'm finally learning my way around it, and also probably looked crazy. But that's okay, because nothing bad happened.

So Sunday morning, I woke up five hours after I went to bed, hopped up, ate breakfast, gathered up my stuff for banana toffee snack cake (though I didn't realize that was what it was at the time), headed to the kitchen, and started on my baking.

Two hours later, I was making sandwiches, with help from a floormate. I'm scared of tomatoes, so I was glad she came and helped. She also came armed with a plastic knife. Those things work way better than metal butter knives on both ciabatta and tomatoes. I don't understand why they swapped those in for metal knives after 9/11 on airplanes; they might be more dangerous.


But the picnic. I've yet to mention the picnic. The one that I was utterly unprepared for, and was tasty, but could have been better. I forgot the napkins. But I remembered hand sanitizer, not that I took it out of my bag. No blanket or anything, but then I saw some picnic tables near where they'd set up the high line. And there was probably just barely enough sandwich. It was a good thing that someone also grabbed chips. And the snack cake went over well.

But I was amazed. I didn't know I could get so much praise for a turkey sandwich. It wasn't even my idea! I just listen to people's suggestions, sort of.

Turkey Sandwich on Ciabatta

1 loaf ciabatta (about 12 ounces)
1/2 lb sliced cajun spiced turkey
8 slices colby jack cheese
1 avocado, thinly sliced
4 leaves green leaf lettuce

Slice ciabatta lengthwise, so that there's a top and a bottom. Layer cheese along bottom. Top with turkey, then lettuce, and then avocado. Place other half of bread on top. Slice into desired number of sandwiches. Six is a good size.

Variation: Jarlsberg + tomato, with normal smoked deli turkey.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Fabulous Fall Weather and Pumpkin Pie


The weather today was gorgeous. Perfect for spending time outside... which I did, for about twenty minutes in the park today, tagging along with people looking for good trees for slacklining, wishing I had a camera with me. But I didn't, and when I looked at my watch, realized I was running late for an appointment. It's amazing how warm 65 degrees and breezy can feel when you're rushing up a slight incline.

However, the weather is not at all related to pumpkin pie. I just felt like making a pumpkin pie, and that's exactly what I did. While it may not feel quite crisp enough yet to be December, I'll take this over last week's rain that made me consider building an ark. Pumpkin pie might just be the easiest thing I've baked since I got here. The only thing I've made that's been easier is probably super simple fudge with peanut butter on top. And technically, my roommate made it. So enjoy fall and be all seasonal. Bake a pumpkin pie!

Oh, and did you know that there's a pumpkin shortage?

Easy Pumpkin Pie
Note: Since starting college, I've come to like making things that are easy, simple, and require few dishes. Had I been ambitious, and had more pans, I probably would have made the dough from tassies and made miniature pumpkin pies. Much easier to share, but instead, this will have to do. Also, I had some leftover filling. Either follow the original recipe, use a larger graham cracker crust, or just bake off the extra in a mini-muffin pan.

Makes 1 pie.

3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 can (15 oz.) Pure Pumpkin
1 can (12 fl. oz.) Evaporated Milk
prepared graham cracker crust (if using unbaked homemade or frozen crust, follow instructions on Nestle's site)

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Whisk the eggs. Whisk in sugar, pumpkin pie spice, and salt. Stir in pure pumpkin. Gradually stir in evaporated milk. Pour into prepared crust.

Bake in oven 50-65 minutes or until center is set and a toothpick comes out clean. (I just do the jiggling test, once it no longer resembles Jello, it's good!)

Hide from hungry eyes and noses for an hour to cool, and then cut and serve.