7UP Pound Cake

I hope you all had a wonderful Holiday filled with family, friends, and – of course – an endless supply of delicious food! Our Christmas was pretty unusual for us both this year. Our new budget being as tight as it is, we made the tough decision to stay in Nova Scotia for the Holidays and save up for a trip in the Spring instead. I can’t say that either our Ontario family or Vermont side was very happy with our plan, haha, but they understood where we were coming from.

Brad put his culinary skills to work and made us a wonderful dinner of lemon roast chicken with rosemary, garlic mashed-potatoes, and butter-dill carrots. It might not have been the jaw-dropping feast our families are known for having, but it filled our little table-top just fine and was still more than we could both eat in one sitting. We lounged on a pile of quilts and pillows, stuffing ourselves shamelessly, while breaking in the new Scrabble game Brad bought me. After the game (I won ;)) we managed a slice of cake each while watching My Big Fat Greek Wedding. It was a great Christmas.

While this recipe is a no-brainer I did manage to nearly fail at making it. Neglecting to set a timer, I got distracted while chatting with family during a call from home and only remembered the cake about fifteen minutes past the maximum recommended bake time. Luckily the cake hadn’t burned, but it was a close thing. Set your timers!

7UP Pound Cake (from The Best of America’s Test Kitchen 2010)

Ingredients:

For the Cake…

2½   C   granulated sugar

5   large eggs, at room temperature

½   C   fresh (not flat) 7UP, at room temp

1   T   grated lemon zest

2   T   fresh lemon juice

1   T   grated lime zest

2   T   fresh lime juice

½   t   salt

2½   sticks unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled (1 1/4 Cup)

3 1/4   C   cake flour*

* Note: You can use AP flour instead of cake flour (I have before) although your cake will not turn out as tender. The common conversion is to substitute 2 Tablespoons per Cup of flour called for with corn starch (or leave them out altogether). You can read more about flour conversions here.

For the Icing…

1   C   confectioner’s sugar (4 oz.)

1   T   fresh lemon juice

1   T   fresh lime juice

Procedure:

1) Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and preheat the oven to 300°F. Grease and flour a 12-Cup non-stick tube or Bundt pan. Process the granulated sugar, eggs, 7UP, lemon zest and juice, lime zest and juice, and salt in a food processor until smooth – about 10 seconds. Alternatively, you can use a blender although it may not mince the zest quite as fine (when my upright blender failed to do the job I used my immersion and it worked perfectly).

2) With the machine still running, slowly add the melted butter and process/blend until incorporated. Transfer to a large bowl and add the flour in three batches, whisking gently until combined.

3) Spread the batter into the prepared pan and gently tap the pan on the counter to release any trapped air bubbles. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean – 75 to 90 minutes. Let the cake cool in the pan for at least 10 minutes before turning it out onto a wire rack set inside a rimmed baking sheet. Allow the cake to cool completely before icing – about 2 hours (hint: those of us in cooler climates can take advantage of the winter air, just don’t drop your cake in the snow!).

4) When the cake has come to room temperature prepare the glaze: whisk the ingredients together in a bowl until smooth. Pour the icing over the cake and let it set for about 10 minutes before serving. The cake can be covered in plastic wrap and stored at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Beezer’s Notes:

The author of this recipe, Cali Rich, definitely accomplished what she’d set out to achieve: “a forceful lemon-lime flavor that warranted the 7UP name”. The cake alone had a nice citrus flavor that went well with the soft, buttery crumb. I especially liked the zesty, mouth-puckering icing and had a hard time leaving it for the cake, haha. Speaking of which, I think I might double the amount of icing next time. This recipe gave me enough to cover my cake, but just barely. If you’re like me and enjoy generous amounts of icing/frosting you may want to double the above recipe as well. I can see this glaze being perfect for shortbread and sugar cookies, too.

Overall Enjoyment:   ♥   ♥   ♥   ♥

Crab Cakes with Lemon-Dill Sauce

Things are looking up! I’ve been able to sleep through the last few nights in a row (gasp!) and my left eye has finally stopped twitching, haha. Getting up at the more reasonable time of 10 a.m. this morning I felt human for the first time in weeks. I cleaned my room, paid the bills, went grocery shopping, and spent two hours giving my poor goldfish the TLC they desperately needed. With a squeaky-clean tank and brand new plants I hope they’re feeling the love.

I suppose it’s a bit inappropriate to segue into a seafood post just now, but since I’m not talking about fish exactly I hope Howard and Pearl can forgive me. Today’s recipe is for some quick and light crab cakes that will help liven up your backyard BBQs – assuming you all are luckier than us VTers and still have a backyard above water. We rarely have crab cakes around here and those offered at our limited seafood restaurants always seemed like oily, heavy bricks to me. So, finding a crab cake recipe that was not only simple but also rather light immediately got me excited.

I have to be honest here, however, and admit that since I already had mayo and sour cream in my fridge I did not buy fat-free versions just for this recipe…the mayo was canola-based though so that counts for something, doesn’t it? Anyway, I’m posting the recipe as I made it because A. I’m sure it tastes better and B. you’re only eating one-sixteenth of a Cup of mayo per cake and even less sour cream so, honestly, I believe the taste is well worth the extra calories. By all means, though, use the low-fat versions of each if you’d prefer – it’s an easy enough swap.


I’ll take a moment now to mention Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program. If you haven’t noticed the link on the right-hand side of this blog, please take a minute to check it out. They have many handy guides to help you buy sustainable, healthy seafood without hassle. I have their iPod app and – let me tell ya – it’s fantastic. I use it whenever I want seafood, either at a restaurant, sushi bar, or for my own cooking. Because I couldn’t find shelled crabmeat at my Co-op I used the source recipe’s recommendation of Wild Planet brand canned crabmeat that’s sustainably caught and canned in BPA-free packaging. You didn’t know I was such a hippie, did you?

Crab Cakes with Dill Sauce (adapted from Light and Healthy‘s 2010 Edition)

Ingredients:

For Crab Cakes…

1   lb.   jumbo lump crabmeat, picked over to remove cartilage and shells

¼   C   mayonnaise

2 – 4   T   plain Panko

2   T   Dijon mustard

4   scallions (green parts only) minced*

2   t   minced fresh dill

2   t   minced fresh parsley

1   t   Old Bay Seasoning

salt and pepper to taste

1   large egg

2   T   canola oil

lemon wedges for serving

* Note: I did not include scallions in my cakes because my bunch went bad before I had a chance to make this recipe (see my rant in the last post) and I didn’t want to buy another when I had plenty of dill and parsley to make up for it.

For Dill Sauce…

¼   C   mayonnaise

2   T   sour cream

1   T   fresh lemon juice

2   t   minced fresh shallot

2   t   minced fresh dill

¼   t   salt

low-fat milk as needed

Procedure:

  1. Gently fold the crabmeat, mayonnaise, 2 Tablespoons of the Panko, mustard, scallions, herbs, and seasoning together in a medium bowl being careful not to break up the lumps of crab. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  2. Carefully fold in the egg white with a rubber spatula until the mixture just holds together, adding the remaining bread crumbs as needed.
  3. Divide the crab mixture into 4 portions and shape each into a round cake about 3″ across and 1½” high. Transfer the cakes to a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 24 hours.
  4. As the cakes are chilling, prepare the Lemon-Dill sauce by mixing the mayo, sour cream, lemon juice, dill, shallot, and salt together in a small bowl. Add milk as needed to thin to the desired consistency. Cover and chill along with the cakes for up to 24 hours to allow the flavors to develop.
  5. Heat oil in a 12″ nonstick skillet over Medium-high heat until shimmering. Gently add the chilled crab cakes to the pan and cook until well browned on either side, flipping halfway through – about 8 minutes. If you’re concerned with burning, dredge the cakes in a bit of flour before adding them to the skillet. I completely forgot this step and my cakes turned out fine, but if you might want to try this precautionary step.
  6. Transfer cakes to a paper towel-lined plate to drain briefly. Serve with a dollop of Lemon-Dill Sauce and lemon wedges.

Beezer’s Notes:

These cakes are winners all-around. You get full, sweet crabmeat taste with tangy herbs and just a hint of mustard. The source recipe calls for normal breadcrumbs, but I used Panko both because I already had it in the cupboard and also because I was curious as to how it would compliment (or ruin) the recipe. I’m very happy to say the Panko worked out perfectly: you get its support in structure without tasting a lot of filler. I suppose you could even skip the fresh herbs in favor of seasoned Panko if you really want to simplify things, but I wouldn’t recommend it. The fresh herbs really create a great flavor you wouldn’t find in dried seasoning.

Both my brother (who orders crab cakes whenever possible, oily bricks or no) and my father (who is a very conscientious eater) gave this recipe a thumbs-up. My brother’s only complaint was that he thought a butter sauce would be better for seafood and didn’t like the lemon-dill sauce, but my father and I both really enjoyed the creamy-cool alternative to a heavy butter dip. Give it a try and tell me what you think!

Overall Enjoyment:   ♥   ♥   ♥   ♥

Lemon Ginger Ice Cream & Chamomile Granita Parfait

As we begin to feel the first chilly breezes of autumn I am both excited and a little sad. Excited because the cool, dry fall weather is peak season for rock climbing (and while I haven’t had time to do much other than work and school, I will always consider myself to be a climber)! Plus, autumn in New England means apple picking, pumpkin carving, scarf-wearing (I have a thing, ok?), and my favorite holiday: Halloween.

I’m also a bit sad this time around for two reasons. First, cooler weather in VT almost always means less sunlight. We don’t get a terrific amount of sunshine in the Valley anyway, but we were lucky this year. Already I feel the lethargy creeping in as I wake up to slate-grey skies that do nothing but darken as the day goes on. I brought my textbooks to the park yesterday and slowly got my vitamin D fix as sunbeams escaped the clouds sporadically. Here’s hoping I can keep that up til the snow falls.

The second reason I’m lamenting the cool weather is a silly one, but true: ice cream. Yup. Fall weather makes one long for spicy hot cider, rich hot chocolate, or hearty soup – not ice cream. Don’t get me wrong, I’m looking forward to all those cold-weather treats, but it feels like I’ve just gotten started with my ice cream maker – and there are so many more recipes to try! Haha. Well if there’s any ice cream that is good enough to continue making year-round, this Lemon Ginger Ice Cream is it. Seriously. I made it on a whim after discovering the recipe on :pastry studio and couldn’t get enough. I can’t remember the last time I licked a bowl so thoroughly clean.

How I got from the initial ice cream recipe to the parfait involving granita is an entirely separate story. In a nut shell, I had three recipes swirling in my head that week from reading about Watermelon Basil-Lime Bars on 17 on Baking, Peaches With Honey Sabayon and Chamomile Granita on :pasty studio, and the ginger ice cream I had made earlier. I loved Elissa’s pairing of creamy semifreddo with light sorbet, I thought the chamomile granita sounded fascinating, and I was dying to freeze another batch of ginger ice cream – this time adding a bit of lemon for my own taste. In the end, I decided to try to pair up the granita and ice cream in a parfait.

Lemon Ginger Ice Cream & Chamomile Granita Parfait

(adapted from :pastry studio)

Ingredients:

For the Ice Cream…

4   oz.   fresh ginger root (source calls for 3, but I prefer a stronger taste)

1 – 2      lemon peels*

1 ½   C   whole milk

1 ½   C   heavy cream

½     C    sugar, divided

4   egg yolks

¼   t   vanilla

¼   t   lemon juice

generous pinch of salt

* Note: the source recipe does not include lemon peel, but adds only the ¼ t lemon juice. I found myself wanting a tad bit more lemon flavor, but almost overdid it by adding the peel. Be careful how much you add if you decide to do so. The lemon peel provides far more flavor per slice than the ginger root. I’d recommend one small peel to start.

For the Granita…

2   C   water

¼   C   sugar

6 bags (or 2 T) chamomile tea

1   t   honey*

* Note: I added honey in addition to the sugar because I wanted a bit of honey flavor. Because honey is such a strong sweetener, the source recipe recommends using sugar only so as not to overwhelm the chamomile flavor. My chamomile flavor was strong and delicious, but the sugar-honey combo made the granita quite sweet. I didn’t mind, but if you’d like less sugar you may want to nix either the sugar or honey (or perhaps both entirely).

Procedure:

  1. Begin by preparing the ice cream base: peel the ginger root and remove any blemishes before slicing thin. Peel one or two inch-long peels from lemon to seep with the ginger root (see note above). Put milk, cream, ¼ C + 1 T sugar in a saucepan with the ginger root and lemon peel. Bring mix to a simmer over medium-low heat, but be careful not to boil. Simmer for a few minutes until sugar has dissolved, then remove from heat, cover, and let steep for at least one hour.
  2. Strain the ginger slices and lemon peel out and reheat milk base if needed until warm. In a medium separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks and 2 T sugar until egg is pale yellow and the mixture has thickened. Very slowly add the warm milk to the egg mix, whisking constantly to keep the eggs from scrambling. Return combined mixtures to saucepan and cook over medium heat.
  3. Stir the ice cream base constantly, scraping the bottom while doing so, until the custard thickens. Be VERY CAREFUL not to let the mixture heat to quickly or boil. This took me about 30 minutes, but mine never got to be so thick that “a finger traced through it would leave a clean track”. I went instead with the coats-the-back-of-a-spoon test.
  4. Strain the custard through a sieve and into an air-tight container. Add vanilla and lemon juice and stir. Let it proof overnight in the fridge so the flavors will develop.
  5. While ice cream base is proofing, start on the granita: bring the water, sugar, and honey to boil, then remove from heat and immediately and add tea bags (or loose leaves). Steep tea for at least one hour.
  6. Remove tea bags (pressing to save all excess tea liquid) or strain tea leaves. Pour liquid into a shallow, freezer-safe container and freeze. Every two hours, scrape granita with a fork to break up the ice crystals until all the liquid has frozen (about 4 hours).
  7. Once the ice cream base has finished proofing, freeze in your ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions. Pour back into the air-tight container, push plastic wrap down along the surface (to prevent freezer burn), cover, and return to freezer to firm up (about an hour).
  8. To assemble the parfait: place a few scoops of Lemon Ginger Ice Cream on the bottom of a tall glass. Layer generous scoops of Chamomile Granita on top to fill the middle of the glass – fill a bit more than you think necessary since the top ice cream layer will press down on the less-dense granita. Finish with a few scoops of ice cream on top. If desired, serve with caramel sauce or honey.

Beezer’s Notes:

This has become one of my all-time favorite desserts. The slight heat of the ginger root is perfect in the rich, creamy ice cream and its light lemon undertone adds a bit of zip that blends so well with the sweet chamomile granita. The mix of textures also makes for a very interesting treat – Elissa was right. Soft ice cream with the crunch of icy granita is a pairing I wish I had tasted before.

I should mention that another fantastic way to enjoy this ice cream is how it was first described by :pastry studio, with plums in caramel sauce. Personally, I never would have thought caramel sauce would go well with ginger ice cream, but this is why I fully admit to being a novice in the kitchen, haha. My dish was yummy. To be completely honest, I’ll keep making the ice cream-granita combo over a sundae, but I highly recommend you try both.

I feel like a whole new world of icy treats has been opened up to me now. What other combos work? Blackberry black tea granita with cherry ice cream? How about pineapple granita with coconut ice cream? Basil ice cream with lemon granita? …see why I wish summer would last a bit longer now? 🙂


Overall Enjoyment: ♥   ♥   ♥   ♥   ♥

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