Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Pumpkin Maple Ricotta Cake

Ok, so my latest infatuation is Ricotta. It is such a flexible cheese, used for main dishes, appetizers, desserts and more. Almost everybody knows what a Ricotta Cake is, even if you haven't ever tried it. It is a very dense cake, very similar to a pound cake and is usually served with seasonal fruit on the side or on top. The main difference, is the level of moisture. The Ricotta gives the the cake almost a "spongy" texture. In fact its so moist, that I always get this mental image ringing it out, just like sponge. The most common twist on the Ricotta Cake would be the Lemon Ricotta Cake, which brings me to my point. I was researching Ricotta recipes the last week, and decided to search for Pumpkin Ricotta Cake recipes. Surprisingly I found nothing. I found lots of pumpkin recipes and lots of ricotta recipes, but nothing that combined the two. This being the Fall season and with Thanksgiving right around the corner, I decided to make up my own Pumpkin Ricotta Cake. I compared several ideas and recipes and then proceeded......with caution. As usual, in my enthusiasm I made a few changes as I went along. The result was nothing less than fabulous. It baked evenly, came out of the pan smoothly and tasted like everything that you imagine Fall tasting like. So, what did I do to make this cake. First, let me explain I am not going to give out my recipe. Because as everyone knows, once that happens it is no longer unique and anybody can make it. However, I am going to tell you the key to making your own. Find a recipe for a good Ricotta Cake and make the following changes: 1. Whatever amount of Ricotta the recipe calls for, use half the amount and replace the other half with pureed pumpkin; 2. Replace whatever flavoring they use in cake (either a mix of vanilla and lemon or almond) with half vanilla and half maple; 3. Replace a third of the amount of white sugar with brown sugar; 4. Add 1/4 tsp of pumpkin pie spice and 1/8 tsp of nutmeg; 5. Add 1/4 tsp of pumpkin pie spice and 1/2 tsp maple flavoring to your powdered sugar glaze.
Ok, As you will notice in the picture, the icing is thicker than the usual powdered sugar glaze. I had three tablespoons of butter left and didn't want to wrap it up or waste it, so I blended it in to my glaze. I also used half and half instead of regular milk, so it made a thicker/fluffier glaze. I would prefer in the future to use a regular powdered sugar glaze. This cake is very rich and would do just fine without the glaze, period. But, if you must have a glaze, I would recommend a plain powdered sugar glaze without the butter.
Not many people are going to have this on their table for Thanksgiving Day, but it would put a fun twist in the usual variety of desserts.
For any of you that try this idea, feel free to post the results on here.

Pumpkin Maple Ricotta Cake

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Getting Back on Schedule

Hello Readers,
  I apologize for not having any new posts. I have been sick since last week. Hopefully by Thursday I will have something new for ya'll to read. I did get a chance to make my Tomato Soup and Fried Cheese Balls idea. It turned out quite yummy. I have plenty of pictures to share, but am without my camera card at the moment. I hope to have the updated story and recipe on here soon.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Eggs Easy Over........Pizza, Please.

Ok, let me start by explaining that I am a fanatic about leftover pizza for breakfast. In fact I get excited about having pizza for dinner, simply because I know there will be leftovers for breakfast. Normally I want it cold, straight from the "ice box" (as my Nana Rosie always called it), but there is the rare occasion that it sounds good reheated. This, morning I was in an odd mood. I wanted something different for breakfast, but also wanted something traditional, not to mention last night was pizza night, so I knew that there were tasty leftovers..............what to do? I KNOW! Combine all three!
1. Leftovers: I placed a slice of the cold pizza straight on the rack of the oven (preheated to 350 degrees)...............oh and while it is heating, I will go ahead and tell you what kind of pizza it is. Instead of the red sauce, I used basil pesto, with a layer fresh spinach leaves, followed by thick fresh slices of mushrooms, crumbled feta cheese, and a thin layer of mozzarella. Ok, now that the pizza is done heating, I will tell you the rest.
2. Traditional: One egg, easy over and seasoned with a little pepper.
3. Something Different: I placed the egg on top of the now devinely crusty pizza. I heated about 2 tablespoons of the red sauce (also leftover) and poured it straight over the egg, and for the final touch sprinkled the top with 1 tablespoon of freshly grated parmesan cheese. The result: Quite possibly a new favorite breakfast oddity. When the yoke of the egg burst and spread with the sauce over the pizza, my taste buds began to dance!
Now, I realize that this is going to sound completely unappealing to some people, my own mother looked at me like I was crazy (and I had my doubts as well), but you will never know until you try something. This breakfast dish fit quite well in between, crazy thrown together Italian breakfast and unique modernized Food Network material.
I would love it, if some of you would try this sometime and post some feedback about your experience. In the meantime here is a picture of the experiment.

Egg Easy Over......Pizza.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Pumpkin Whip and Gingersnaps

I had this craving for Pumpkin Whip. Most people know what it is, but it's not commonly served. I had noticed that almost all recipes for it, use a package of butterscotch pudding mix as the base of the recipe. Personally, I think that it has a strong aftertaste. So, I decided to create my own version of Pumpkin Whip, using cream cheese as the base.

Pumpkin Whip
1 (8oz) package of cream cheese, softened
1 cup of fresh pumpkin, pureed
1 cup powdered sugar
3/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 cup heavy whipping cream, whipped
3 - 4 tsp of brandy

In a mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese until creamy, about 4 minutes. Beat in the pumpkin and beat until the mixture develops a custard like texture with a golden yellow coloring, for about 3-4 minutes. Gradually add the powdered sugar and pumpkin pie spice. Set aside.
In a separate mixing bowl, beat the whipping cream until stiff enough to fold into pumpkin mixture. Beat the brandy in last.
Fold the whipped cream into the pumpkin mixture, until fully incorporated. There should be no streaks of white left.
For best taste and texture, I would recommend making this a day ahead of time.

Serve with gingersnaps. :)

Cream Cheese and Pumpkin Mixture,
(this is the desired look)

Whipping the cream, just before adding the brandy

Pumpkin Whip!

Gingersnaps :)

The Grand Finale!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

A Twist on Tomato Soup

Ok, so last Wednesday (10-27-10) the office ordered lunch, I had brought leftover tomato soup for lunch, but didn’t have anything to go with it. So, I ordered some cheese sticks. I never intended to dip them in my soup, and I certainly never planned on cutting them up and dropping them in my soup. Nevertheless, it happened…….and it was AMAZING! I cannot express how well the flavors mixed together. Tomato soup, the mild flavors of roasted peppers, ooey gooey mozzarella cheese in a parmesan bread crumb coating…WOW!
So, I had a thought about making this into an actual meal. Instead of buying cheese sticks however, what about mozzarella balls? Then you would have perfectly shaped cheesiness! Not to mention the cheese would stay contained in its “bread crumb cocoon” without disturbing the flavors of the actual soup itself. Sometimes an outrageous idea can sound really good, but at times it’s just too outrageous and it ends up making the meal less rather than more.
Obviously I am still pondering this idea, a week later and hopefully before this time next week, I will have tried it and posted pictures with and updated recipe. Hope is the keyword.
I said I was going to try and post something everyday, and I have already missed four days of posting and have only had the blog for a week. I am trying to do better!
In the meantime, if anyone has any helpful ideas or thoughts about this, feel free to post them here on the blog.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

No Rise Pizza Crust for Pizza Night

Ok, so at least once a week, me and my friend, Christi have "pizza night." Typically when I make pizza, I make a traditional pizza crust that rises for any hour or two. Well, most nights that Christi and I do pizza we don't get off work or home till 5:00 or 6:00 in the evening. So, we found this No Rise Pizza Crust recipe and it has proven to be very handy! I didn't get home from work till 7:30 this evening and we were supposed to have pizza. Well, if I were making a traditional crust we probably wouldn't be eating until close to 11 p.m. We were eating by 9 p.m., thanks to this crust recipe.
I do prefer the texture of the traditional pizza crust recipe, but this does in a pinch. Especially, when you want to avoid frozen pizzas, premade crusts or worse yet.............pillsbury canned pizza crusts UGH!
So, tonight with Christi's help we managed to get pictures of the "pizza night" experience. We always make two pizzas. One her way and one my way. Christi's is usually referred to as "spaghetti bread" simply because she uses more sauce than she does anything else. My pizza's signature feature is mushrooms, doesn't matter how many or what kind, they have to be on my pizza! Seriously? How can you have pizza without mushrooms?
The texture of the crust is more of a crusty bread texture, rather than the chewy and crusty texture you normally get with a pizza crust. This recipe also makes some mean breadsticks! You can roll the dough out and cut into strips and then brush olive oil and whatever seasonings you want.
Ok, so enough about this crust recipe. I know you are all wanting to see a recipe and surprise! I am going to give you one! I don't normally give out recipes, but this I have to share.

No Rise Pizza Crust
3 cups flour
1 1/3 cup water
2 T olive oil
2 T yeast,
1 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Dissolve yeast with a 1/3 cup of warm water. Add 1 cup of the flour and mix.
Add oil, salt and 1 cup of water. Mix well.
Add 2 cups flour and mix. Make sure dough is not sticky, then dump onto floured surface.
Knead for 2 - 3 minutes. Add flour if dough is too sticky.
Grease a 16-inch pizza pan with oil and spread the dough.
Prepare pizza as desire.
Bake for 15 to 20 minutes.

Adding the yeast to the flour.

Mixing the ingredients together.

Kneading the dough.

The dough after the kneading process.

Rolling out the crust.

Applying the sauce.

Adding the toppings.....obviously mushrooms. :)

Adding the final touches.

The grand finale!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Almost Famous Cake

This peticular cake has become quite popular among those that I bake for. The basic concept was used for my friend's wedding cake on 5-1-10 and has since been made for birthday parties and family reunions. It has something for everyone, a dark chocolate cake, a creamy ganache filling, white chocolate buttercream and ganache topping. Its just hard to go wrong with this cake, well so far.
There are those who like a less "rich" icing and there are those that don't care for the taste of buttercream. Well, no worries there is a solution. I quite often use a Stabilized Whipped Cream icing as a replacement.
The actual term for this cake is "Tuxedo Cake." The colors of the white icing, dark chocolate ganache and red from the strawberries created the classic coloring of a tuxedo, complete with the red "Boutineer."
I am still searching for the perfect name for this cake.............It's out there somewhere.

                                          4 layer tuxedo cake, waiting to be iced.
                                          So that the moisture can be locked in.
                                          Crumb coat and 2 coats of buttercream.
                                            The final presentation.
                                         Same idea, different cake.
                                         This one is 3 layers and has a thicker ganache.

The First Blog

So, its late at night, or actually early in the morning and I have decided to start a cooking blog. My intention is to post pictures, recipes, ideas and just general experiences on this blog. I am going to attempt to post at least once a day. Whether that will happen or not..........who knows. In the meantime, welcome to Cooking with the "Almost Famous."