Saturday, April 19, 2008


I love Ina Garten and her show, Barefoot Contessa. I find her incredibly intelligent and very engaging, even if she seems to overly dote on her husband. Her emphasis on fresh, high-quality ingredients is what makes her simple recipe so good. With that said, I tried my hands at her, or rather, Beatty's Chocolate Cake. Her recipe makes a 2-layered 8-inch cake, but I went with cupcakes instead, with a yummy almond buttercream toffee frosting adapted from Gale Gand.
The cupcakes were moist but didn't taste very chocolatey when they were warm. However, the flavor intensified as they cooled. The texture was light and fluffy, not greasy at all. They were excellent paired with the buttercream frosting.

Beatty's Chocolate Cake from Ina Garten
makes about 24 cupcakes

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cups cocoa powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup hot coffee

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Sift flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into a bowl, and stir to combine. In another bowl, combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs, and and vanilla. Add dry ingredients to wet and stir until just combine. Add in coffee and mix, be sure to not overbeat. The batter will be thin. Divide the batter into a prepared (buttered) cupcake tin, filling to about 3/4 full. Bake at 350 degrees for 17-20 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool in pans for 10 minutes, then turn them out onto a cooling rack and cool completely. Frost with favorite frosting.

Almond Buttercream Toffee Frosting from Gale Gand

3 cups confectioners' sugar
1 cup butter, softened
1 tsp almond extract
2 tbsp whipping cream
1/2 cup toffee bits

Using a hand-or standing-mixer fitted with a whisk, mix together sugar and butter, starting at low speed until well blended and then increase speed to medium and beat for about 3 minutes. Add almond extract and cream and continue to beat for 1 minute more. Frosting should be thick and fluffy. Fold in toffee bits.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Orange and Cranberries

I'm out of brown sugar and I'm still cutting weight, the combination of which rules out baking a lot of my favorite things. So no more gooey chocolate chip cookies, chewy oatmeal raisin, moist banana bread...But I did come across this recipe on Nicole's blog Baking Bites for Orange Cranberry Bread. With no butter and only 1 egg and 2 tbsp of oil, I thought it was a fairly good compromise.

Despite the lack of (a lot of) fats, the bread came out moist and delicious. The crumb was brilliantly golden, dotted with pops of red from the cranberries. The orange flavor was surprisingly pronounced, pairing well with the tartness of cranberry. The crunch from the walnuts and pecans added an extra layer of texture. I ate almost the entire loaf myself (what did I expect when I leave it out on the counter with a knife next to it) so I'm planning on baking another one next week to take to Stanford for post-weigh-in snacking.

I highly recommend using fresh orange juice and orange zest for this recipe, since it is such a major flavor. I also reduced the sugar by 1/4 cup and found the bread to be just sweet enough. The batter was quite thick when I followed Nicole's recipe, so I added a tablespoon of milk to it to loosen it slightly. It will still be stiff going into the pan, but just spread it out in an even layer, and it'll bake up beautifully.

Orange Cranberry Nut Bread - adapted from Baking Bites
Makes 1 9x5 inch loaf

2 cups flour
3/4 cup white sugar
3/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
pinch salt
3/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1 1/2 tbsp orange zest
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 egg, beaten
1 tbsp milk
1 cup frozen or fresh cranberries, coarsely chopped if large
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup chopped nuts (I used walnuts and pecans)

Rub sugar and orange zest together until orange zest is distributed well. Add to flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir well to combine. Add in orange juice, oil, milk, and egg. Stir until just mixed. Fold in the fresh (or frozen) cranberries, dried cranberries, and nuts. Pour into greased loaf pan. The batter will be slightly stiff.

Bake in a 375 degrees preheated oven for 45-55 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.

Let cool, slice, and enjoy