December 2009: Fifth Slice
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A Word from Anne
The other night I awakened suddenly, dreaming I had overslept for morning television, of all things! At first I couldn’t grasp where I was – Hilton, Sheraton, Hotel Monaco, no, just at home – which I realized once my dear hubby shared one of his familiar snores.
For once, I felt relieved to hear the snore for I was at home in my own bed and wasn’t late for any break of dawn appearance. I’ve overslept on book tour before and don’t ever want to do it again.
Thanks to the alarm on my cell phone I can wake up without worrying about the front desk not calling or my inability to set the alarm clock in the hotel room. It’s funny how travel simplifies your life. I can roam the country for four days at a time with a couple of blouses, slacks, boots, and my cell phone. OK, maybe an apron and some mascara, but really I don’t need much these days! It’s been great fun to travel the past two months with the Cake Mix Doctor Returns!
I’ve been back to favorite cities like Dallas and Houston, Lexington and St. Louis, Denver and Cincinnati, to name just a few. And I’ve visited Salt Lake City for the first time since I was a child. Thankfully my cakes in Salt Lake and Denver rose beautifully this trip.
I’ll be sharing tastes and tidbits from my tour in the next newsletter, including high altitude suggestions and great recipes and restaurants
I’ve found along the way. I love this adventure we share, of being busy and still finding time to bake.
As we roll into prime-time baking season and usher in a new year I want you to know that you make what I do a real joy. From my family to yours, I wish you the best holiday season and a bright, hopeful, peaceful, and happy 2010!
Follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/annebyrn
A Word from Workman
Here at Workman, we’re fortunate to have a library-full of cookbooks at our fingertips year-round, but it’s Anne’s dishes from What Can I Bring? that always show up at office parties and in our homes during the holidays. Read about some of our favorites, and get the recipe for Anne’s amazing, easy-to-tote Cranberry Tart, on our blog!
We’ve also got a Hot Spiced Apple and Cranberry Cider recipe perfect for warming up on chilly December evenings.
For even more posts about Anne’s books, visit http://www.workman.com/blog/tag/anne-byrn/
Bits & Bytes
- Thanks to Maria in Houston who has baked apple pies all her life and shared her favorite apple for the job – canned White House York Imperial sliced apples. Maria was at Sam’s Club while I was there signing. She was stocking up on big cans of these apples to make her famous pies.
- And thanks to Jackie Davis for mentioning that Trader Joe’s sells mint cocoa, perfect for adding to chocolate frostings this season.
- Kathy Fitzgerald of Riceville, TN, was at my Athens, TN, signing and shared a high-protein substitute for sour cream. She bakes for a friend who is undergoing chemotherapy for cancer and needs protein. So Kathy pulses 1 cup low-fat cottage cheese with 2 tablespoons milk in a food processor and substitutes this for 1 cup sour cream in her cake recipes. The cottage cheese contains 40 grams of protein.
Gifts for the Cake Baker
About to buy a gift for a friend who loves to bake? Here are a few gifts all bakers would love to open.
-A new cake saver. Pick out a durable one with a handle and a locking lid. Tie a bow
on the handle and place a freshly baked cake inside (try the Pumpkin Cranberry Christmas Cake, recipe below).
-A cake stand. Like shoes, you can’t have too many. Your first cake stand needs to be stainless steel or glass. These are the most durable and any cake looks great on them. Then move into ceramics in basic colors or brights—one of my favorites is a pink scalloped stand, on which I place cupcakes or a chocolate layer cake. Search flea markets for antique glass stands. Also fun are stackable stands for a multitiered look when the baker entertains.
-Bowls. Bakers always love a new bowl—a large stainless steel or a retro glass one. Maybe it’s a set of nesting bowls, which are perfect for small kitchens. Maybe it’s a bright orange ceramic bowl to be used for mixing and also holding goodies on
-Metal icing knives. Again, the more the merrier. I love the short chubby ones for icing cupcakes. And the long professional ones frost an attractive cake.
-Baking supplies. No one can pass up pretty cupcake liners, fun sugar sprinkles, sanding sugars in glorious colors, or a fine bottle of vanilla extract. Chocolate, espresso powder, good cinnamon—the list could go on and on. Package these in a reusable plastic storage bin or an antique basket.
That’s what accomplished cake baker Jessica Lea of Chattanooga calls her combination of flour, oil, and Crisco that she uses to spread into baking pans before adding the cake batter. She told the crowd at Barnes & Noble in Chattanooga about it while I was there for a signing. And she followed up, sharing the recipe with me. “I have baked well over 100 cakes with this and every cake has slid perfectly out of the pan…I don’t even have to run a knife around the edges of the pan.”
1 cup flour
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup solid vegetable shortening (Crisco)
Blend the flour, oil, and shortening in a mixing bowl. Store in the Crisco container. Use a paper towel (or pastry brush) to apply it to the bottom and sides of the cake pans.
One of my favorite recipes from the new book is not only a great one to bake for your family during the holidays but also one to give to friends as a gift.
Pumpkin Cranberry Christmas Cake
Serves: 12 to 16
Prep: 30 minutes
Bake: 50 to 55 minutes
Cool: 40 to 45 minutes
For the cake
Vegetable oil spray, for misting the pan
Flour, for dusting the pan
3/4 cup finely chopped pecans
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup dried sweetened cranberries
1 package (18.25 ounces) plain yellow or
vanilla cake mix (see Note)
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin, about 2 cups
2⁄3 cup vegetable oil
1⁄3 cup bourbon or water
4 large eggs
For the glaze
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup bourbon or apple juice
1. Make the cake: Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F. Place the pecans in a baking pan and toast them in the oven while it preheats until they are fragrant and deep brown, 4 to 5 minutes.
2. Lightly mist a 12-cup Bundt pan with vegetable oil spray, then dust it with flour. Shake out the excess flour and set the pan aside.
3. Remove the toasted pecans from the oven and let them cool, then set aside 1/2 cup of pecans for the cake batter and 1/4 cup for the topping. Leave the oven on.
4. Place the raisins and cranberries on a cutting board and chop them in thirds.
5. Place the cake mix, 1/4 cup of brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, pumpkin, oil, 1⁄3 cup of bourbon or water, and the eggs in a large mixing bowl. Beat with an electric mixer on low speed until the ingredients are combined, 30 seconds. Stop the machine and scrape down the side of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat for 11/2 minutes longer, scraping down the side of the bowl again if needed. The batter should look smooth and thick. Fold in the reserved 1/2 cup of toasted pecans. Then, fold the raisins and cranberries into the batter and pour the batter into the prepared Bundt pan, smoothing the top with the rubber spatula. Place the pan in the oven.
6. Bake the cake until the top springs back when lightly pressed with a finger, 50 to 55 minutes. Transfer the Bundt pan to a wire rack and let the cake cool for 15 minutes. Run a long, sharp knife around the edges of the cake, shake the pan gently, and invert the cake onto a wire rack. Let the cake cool completely, 25 to 30 minutes longer.
7. Meanwhile, make the glaze: Place the butter, 1/2 cup of brown sugar, and 1/4 cup of bourbon or apple juice in a small pan over medium-high heat. Bring just to a boil, stirring constantly, then reduce the heat and let the mixture simmer until slightly thickened, 2 minutes, stirring. Set the glaze aside.
8. Slide the cake onto a serving plate. Using a long wooden skewer, poke 12 to 16 holes in the top of the cake. Spoon the glaze over the top of the cake and garnish it with the reserved 1/4 cup of toasted pecans. Slice and serve the cake or wrap it and serve the next day.
Keep It Fresh! Store this cake, in a cake saver or in a tin lined with cheesecloth, at room temperature for up to five days or for up to ten days in the refrigerator.
Note: In a hurry? Substitute a spice cake mix for the yellow and omit the spices. And, forgo the glaze. Dust confectioners’ sugar on the top before slicing.
And from my cookbook, What Can I Bring?, is this elegant salad you can prep ahead and take with you to a holiday get-together. I love the fresh, bright flavors and colors of this salad pairing romaine lettuce, roasted beets, blue cheese, and toasted walnuts.
Roasted Beet Salad with Walnuts and Blue Cheese Dressing
What Can I Bring? p. 96
Serves: 6 to 8
Prep: 60 to 70 minutes
6 medium-size beets
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup walnut halves
2 large heads romaine lettuce
1/2 cup reduced-fat sour cream
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 tablespoon milk, or more as needed
1 cup (4 ounces) crumbled blue cheese, such as Gorgonzola or Stilton
1 medium-size red onion, cut into thin slivers
1 large navel orange, peeled, separated into segments, and chopped
1. Preheat the oven to 400 F
2. Rinse the beets and trim off the root ends and the beet greens, leaving an inch of the stems intact. Set aside the beet greens for another use. Slice the beets in half lengthwise and place them cut side up in a shallow baking dish. Drizzle the olive oil over the beets. Tent the baking dish with aluminum foil. Bake the beets until they are tender, 40 to 45 minutes.
3. Remove the baking dish from the oven; reduce the oven temperature to 350 F. Let the beets cool, then peel and cut them into bite-size pieces. Cover the beets with plastic wrap and place them in a cool spot or refrigerate them.
4. Place the walnuts on a rimmed baking sheet and bake them until they are lightly browned and the skins come off easily, 7 to 8 minutes. Set the walnuts aside to cool.
5. Meanwhile, rinse and dry the romaine, discarding any ragged, limp outside leaves. Place the romaine in clean linen or cotton kitchen towels or a loosely tied bag.
6. Place the sour cream, mayonnaise, cider vinegar, and milk in a blender or food processor fitted with a steel blade and process until smooth, about 5 seconds. Add more milk as needed to achieve a pourable consistency a little thicker than heavy cream. Transfer the sour cream mixture to a glass bowl and stir in the blue cheese.
7. To serve, tear the romaine into bite-size pieces and place in a salad bowl or on a large platter. Arrange the beets on top along with the onion and orange. Spoon the dressing over the salad, scatter the toasted walnuts on top, and serve.
Tote Notes: Tote the blue cheese dressing, walnuts, beets, onion, and orange in separate containers. Bring the romaine lettuce in the salad bowl or on the platter covered with plastic wrap, then assemble the salad at the gathering.
Plan Ahead: Roast the beets, chop up the orange, and make the salad dressing the day before, then refrigerate them. You can toast the walnuts then, too.
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