Granola Pomegranate Cakes AND Macaroon Cakes

11 Mar

I was going to start by saying, “I’m back, and your long national nightmare is over!” But we saw Game Change last night, and it’s clear that we actually avoided our real national nightmare almost four years ago now. Lack of cakes is nothing in comparison.

And we have been griddling around here, just not updating. Blame it on a busy schedule these last few weeks. Instead of two separate posts, I’m just using this one to clear the cakes backlog. Rest assured, quieter weekends are on the horizon, and normalcy may yet return. I know you have been incredibly worried about it.

We start with the most, er, interesting cakes I’ve done to date. I love coconut, and always wanted to work it into a cakes day. I didn’t want to just settle with sprinkling it as a topping, though—I had to go big, which is sometimes a problem for me. (As if committing to a year of cakes because of one day realizing how much I love them wasn’t proof enough of my problem with going big.) It helped that I was flying solo with these suckers. Neither the boy nor my wife like coconut, so the shackles were off—I had only myself to disappoint, which made it ripe for experimentation. What I really wanted to do was approximate a macaroon as best I could, with all its gooey, coconutty madness.

It worked…ish. I can’t say I loved these guys like I had hoped I might. I liked them a good great deal, but nothing more. Really, they kind of just made me want a real macaroon. It was like needing a coffee and then satisfying the urge with the best Folgers available—not quite truck stop coffee, but not exactly good. Similarly, you could say the cakes weren’t exactly Peeps, but not exactly a good macaroon. You get the idea.

If there is anything instructive about this months-long cakes adventure so far, it has been that trying to make a pancake version of some other favorite food seems to always end with a certain measure of disappointment (Exhibit A: Red Velvet Cakes).

The second recipe, however (which actually appears first below) was derivative of nothing, and was amazing—a granola/pomegranate concoction that made our day. These SOBs were stupid good. Like, get your workout in early and have a second (and maybe third) helping good. Nothing fancy, just damn fine, and pretty healthy to boot. One thing I would say is not to expect any crunch from the granola used. If you want that, you’d probably better just sprinkle it on each cake individually once they’re on the griddle, thus lessening their time soaking in the batter. And even then it’ll be difficult to avoid the sog completely. I didn’t mind, though—the big granola clusters remained intact, so it brought something to the table that simple oatmeal would have lacked.

And I would also say don’t be shy with the pomegranate seeds. I loaded ours up, but even then I wanted more. The use of wheat can lend itself to some dryness, and the little bursts of awesomeness from the seeds is a welcome counterbalance. Get reckless.

Cakes ahoy!

Pants: Yes for both. Still working on the whole role model thing.

Planning: For the macaroon cakes, it was mostly a matter of adapting a cookie recipe for the cakes. Not as easy as it might be with other cookie recipes, as macaroons themselves are already a bit odd. I can’t say for sure if more diligent planning would have yielded better results. I don’t feel too compelled to try, really.

Gathering: Nothing extraordinary, though finding coconut that is not just glorified candy can be a bit challenging.

Execution: For both, it was only a matter of consistency. The macaroons cakes had to be stirred frequently, including between batches on the griddle, as the ingredients separated quickly. For the others, some extra splashes of milk were needed to thin the batter. Neither task was onerous.

Results: Good-ish, and excellent, as noted above.

Crossover Potential: For once, there really is none I can think of beyond different kinds of granola, and different toppings for both, the latter being a universal variable for any pancake experience, reall

The too-small stack

The too-small stack

The Granola Pomegranate Cakes recipe:

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour (organic)
  • 1 Tbsp. dark brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. honey (organic)
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 large egg, beaten (cage-free)
  • 1 single-serving container of vanilla yogurt (Kalona Super Natural)
  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • Additional whole milk (organic) in splashes until batter reaches desired consistency
  • 3/4 cup granola (or to taste)
  • 3/4 cup pomegranate seeds (or to taste)
  • Organic nonstick spray (no butter again!)
  1. Preheat oven to 170 degrees, or engage warmer drawer
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together all the dries
  3. In a separate bowl, beat the egg, then add the rest of the wet ingredients and combine
  4. Add wets to dries, very gently folding just until combined–lumps are okay
  5. Preheat your griddle to about 350 degrees and coat surface with nonstick spray
  6. Ladle batter onto griddle using a 1/3 measuring cup, thinning as best you can while you do, flipping after about 2-3 minutes
  7. Keep completed cakes warm in the oven while you prepare the rest
Note: I topped with real Vermont maple syrup, courtesy of my mom–score!

The Macaroon Cakes recipe:

  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup sugar (organic, pure-cane)
  • 1/4 cup pastry flour
  • 1 cup shredded coconut
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten (cage-free)
  1. Preheat oven to 170 degrees, or engage warmer drawer
  2. Nothing fancy–put all in a bowl and whisk together
  3. Preheat your griddle to about 325 degrees and coat surface with nonstick spray
  4. Ladle batter onto griddle using a 1/3 measuring cup, thinning as best you can; these cook quickly, so be vigilant (1-2 minutes per side, probably)
  5. Keep completed cakes warm in the oven while you prepare the rest

Note: I topped these with maple syrup, and the combo worked well 

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Vanilla Yogurt Cakes

25 Feb
"You are a beautiful pancake. You will be with me tonight."

"You are a beautiful pancake. You will be with me tonight."

The griddle was cold last weekend. Busy travel schedule meant skipping cakes and going for two this weekend instead. There are worse things.

Once more, the cakes this week were largely born of something I hate–yogurt. I like the idea of yogurt, and believe wholeheartedly in its place in one’s diet. Just not mine. That has everything to do with smell and taste, at least when talking about yogurt by its lonesome. Yogurt in things, however, is a totally different story. A woman I work with brought in an awesome homemade lemon blueberry bread that included yogurt this week, and I was reminded once more of how delightful it is in baked goods.

These may be the easiest cakes I’ve made to date, and they may also be our favorites at this point in the endeavor. Light, yet filling, fluffy, yet chewy, we all wished I had made a larger batch (I halved what you see below). But alas. One thing I’ll call out is the milk’s role in the batter. It’s noted below, but just gently fold healthy splashes until you reach your desired consistency. The stickier your batter, the lighter and fluffier your cakes, essentially, so be mindful of your endgame. That’s how I did mine, and they were damn good.

The flipside of that, though, is that the batter is a little tricky getting from ladle to griddle. You’ll need to spread the batter a bit so the young cakes don’t just dollop and quickly become unruly–spatula skills be damned–with the heat. And yes, as always, I understand we’re talking pancakes here, and I’ve already thought/imparted too much on this topic. But you’re the one still reading. Don’t look at me.

Also, please stay far away from crappy yogurt for this recipe. It’s your base, and makes the whole thing click. I can’t speak to the merits of a soy yogurt cake for folks who may be unable to do dairy (sorry), but I think we can all agree that low-fat anything, while it may have its place, is a ridiculous notion for a pancake. It’s like really wanting a beer and then ordering a Miller Lite. Do it or don’t do it, but definitely don’t do it half-ass.

Score!

Score!

As for the boy? Pics at right say it all.

Onward.

Pants: Yes. Apparently I’m supposed to be some kind of example all of the sudden. That was not part of the deal.

Planning: Absolutely none.

Gathering: Just picking out the yogurt, which, for a guy who doesn’t do yogurt, is confusing as hell. I may have cried a little under the weight of all those choices. A nice employee at my local food co-op taught what “cream top” was, though, and all was good after that. Still don’t like the sound of “cream top” one bit, but I’ll look the other way on it.

Execution: Nothing really of note other than what I already mentioned up top–consistency issues and subsequent need for deftness in your griddling.

Results: There may have been a scrum for the last cake. (And by “scrum” I mean I stole it when no one was looking.)

Crossover Potential: Just endless possibilities for toppings, fruits and/or nuts for the batter, different yogurts as your base, and on and on.

The cakes recipe:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (organic)
  • 2 Tbsp. sugar (organic, pure-cane)
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 large egg (cage-free)
  • 2 cups vanilla yogurt (Kalona Super Natural)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • Whole milk (organic) in splashes until batter reaches desired consistency
  • Organic nonstick spray (no butter this week!)
  1. Preheat oven to 170 degrees, or engage warmer drawer
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together all the dries
  3. In a separate bowl, lightly beat the egg, then add the rest of the wet ingredients and combine
  4. Add wets to dries, gently folding to combine
  5. Preheat your griddle to about 325 degrees and coat surface with nonstick spray
  6. Ladle batter onto griddle using a 1/3 measuring cup, thinning as best you can, flipping after about 2-3 minutes
  7. Keep completed cakes warm in the oven while you prepare the rest

Red Velvet Cakes with Sweet Neufchâtel Spread

13 Feb
Velvetine's Day?

Velvetine's Day?

For the record, I don’t hate Valentine’s Day. Personally, I think the ire against it is every bit as cliche as the day itself anymore. Sure, if you drill down on it even a little, you quickly reveal the ridiculousness of the whole thing. But for a few years now I have chosen to apply to it my Twilight Zone Rule.

Since you asked, the Twilight Zone Rule refers to the total lack of scrutiny with which something is enjoyed. The Twilight Zone itself–perhaps my all-time favorite television series–has never been confused with hard sci-fi. Subjected to even the slightest weight of scientific scrutiny, it collapses like a poorly folded pancake batter (zingo…a cakes reference!). The person who approaches the show with any level of pure scientific scrutiny, however, was never commited to liking it in the first place. Suspension of scrutiny is an obvious prerequisite to liking such fare. If I can suspend scrutiny long enough to believe that the bus passengers in Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up seriously cannot collevctively decide who among them was not on the shared bus trip to the diner, then I can believe there’s something good about Valentine’s Day beyond the two aisles of crappy ephemera at Walgreen’s.

So, it has been with a suspension of scrutiny that I have approached the last few Valentine’s Days, and I’ve even found I kind of like it a little. Not more than a little, mind you, but a little. And because of that, I acquiesed pretty easily to my wife’s request for some Valentine’s cakes, specifically the Red Velvet buggers described in greater detail below. I would not agree to any heart-shaped nonsense, but given time, this iceberg may yet melt some more. Probably not, but you never know. I do manage to get past the flight staff’s ignorance enough to enjoy Nightmare at 20,000 Feet each time it’s on (just switch William Shatner to a son-of-a-bitchin’ seat that doesn’t look out onto the wing if he’s so crazy!), after all. Anything’s possible.

The Red Velvet Cakes are a bit labor intensive, which I understand is typical of the Red Velvet thing in general. You’re also going to want to griddle them low and slow, though you won’t want to wait for bubbles to flip. As soon as you can sucessfully get the spatula under them, flip and monitor. And keep them thin on the griddle, lest your insides be a bit raw. And as to why one shouldn’t just go ahead and make a red velvet cake after getting this far into the preparation? It’s a pancake blog is all I can say. Go elsewhere on the interwebs for logic or reason.

Oh, and as for the scary amount of butter–just do it. Don’t do it every day (I’m looking at you, Paula Deen), but do it here. And if you are having stuff like this every day (ahem, Paula), you need a different blog entirely.

Onward.

Pants: No and no.

Planning: Not much; just finding the recipe I wanted to try.

Gathering: Nothing crazy.

Execution: Pretty easy, though as mentioned, making sure they cook through but don’t burn is a bit of a dance. Just be vigilant.

Results: Some of the best yet, and my sample size ain’t small anymore. Damn fine cakes, and an even better spread.

Crossover Potential: Hmmm…other fruits for batter and topping?

Sweet Neufchâtel Spread:
  • 8 oz. Neufchâtel
  • Juice from one wedge of lemon
  • .5 cup powdered sugar
  • 3/4 cup sugar (organic, pure-cane)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons prepared strong coffee
Combine spread ingredients in small bowl and beat until smooth. Refrigerate until using.

The cakes recipe:

  • 1.5 cups all-purpose flour (organic)
  • 2 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder (organic)
  • 2 Tbsp. sugar (organic, pure-cane)
  • 1/3 cup powdered sugar (organic)
  • 1.5 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon (organic)
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1.5 cups buttermilk (organic)
  • 2 large eggs (cage-free)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract (organic)
  • 2 Tbsp. white vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. red food coloring
  • 4 Tbsp. melted, unsalted butter (organic)
  1. Preheat oven to 170 degrees, or engage warmer drawer
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together all the dries
  3. In a separate bowl, beat together the wet ingredients, including the food coloring
  4. Add wets to dries, gently stirring to combine, folding to combine
  5. Preheat your griddle to about 325 degrees and melt butter to coat the surface
  6. Ladle batter onto griddle using a 1/4 measuring cup, flipping after about 2-3 minutes, keeping completed cakes warm in the oven while you prepare the rest
  7. Top cakes with spread and fresh raspberries

not-Ryan Gosling’s Buckwheat not-Super Bowl Cakes

5 Feb
Buckwheatness

Buckwheatness

So, what does not-Ryan Gosling make for his not-Super Bowl party? Why, buckwheat pancakes, of course.

I became not-Ryan Gosling last night as my wife and I watched Drive. If you haven’t seen the movie, let me tell you it’s bloody as hell–violent, kind of dark, a little brooding–which meant I enjoyed it a great deal. My wife can roll with that at times, though usually not with a smile on her face, or at least not the devilish grin she wore for the whole 90+ minutes of the film (including the part where actual-Ryan Gosling stomps someone’s head in an elevator). Apparently, he can do no wrong. Apparently, he is that darling. As I joked on Facebook whilst watching the movie, I am pretty sure my wife would actually leave me for actual-Ryan Gosling if presented the opportunity. Not that I could begrudge her such a move. Guy’s got moves.

And as for not-Super Bowl, that is really the realization of promise that’s been percolating for several years now. I’m not an NFL fan, though every year I find myself returning to the game like Romero’s zombies to the mall, not really sure why I’m watching, scared to death by the horror of such things like Roger Daltrey’s exposed midriff as he butchers my favorite Who songs at halftime. Not that I besmirch anyone for partaking in what has become something of a holiday. I enjoyed it enough as a kid, and have been to a few fun gatherings in the name of the day throughout the years. But it was time to unplug, so unplug I did.

As for the cakes, I figured I would go whole hog on the not-Super Bowl thing, introducing a spot of health as opposed to the salty snacks of actual-Super Bowls hitherto. I didn’t go all in on the health part, however–there are versions of these cakes that are far more responsible, to be sure. But we didn’t need an angioplasty when we were done. That ain’t nothing on this day.

As for the cakes themselves, I enjoyed them a great deal. My wife carries with her some bad buckwheat associations, so the deck was stacked against her enjoyment from the moment I planned these. She was a trooper in trying them, though, and got through them famously. The boy liked them just fine. Hold the paternity tests–I guess he truly is my son after all.

If I’m ever to shake the “not” part of my new alias, I must scoot away now to work on looking cool with a toothpick. Oh, and I’ll need to learn how to kill someone with a shower curtain rod in fewer than five seconds. And put on pants, too–that actual-Ryan Gosling wears a mean pair of pants.

Onward.

Pants: What am I, actual-Ryan Gosling or something? And the boy stood with me in solidarity.

Planning: Just deciding what would satisfy my healthy-ish wont.

Gathering: Just had to get some buckwheat flour.

Execution: Very simple.

Results: I loved them, and no one else hated them. Score.

Crossover Potential: Hmmm…other fruits for batter and topping?

The cakes recipe:

  • 3/4 cup buckwheat flour (organic)
  • 3/4 cup pastry flour (organic)
  • 1.5 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 Tbsp. brown sugar (organic)
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 3/4 cup whole milk (organic)
  • 1 Tbsp. honey (organic)
  • 2 large eggs (cage-free)
  • 2 Tbsp. canola oil
  • 2.5 cups blueberries, divided (organic, frozen)
  1. Preheat oven to 170 degrees, or engage warmer drawer
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, baking power, baking soda, and salt
  3. In a separate bowl, beat together the buttermilk, whole milk, honey, eggs, and oil
  4. Add wets to dries, gently stirring to combine, lest your resultant cakes be dry and tough
  5. Fold in 1.25 cup of your blueberries
  6. Preheat your griddle to about 350 degrees and melt butter to coat the surface
  7. Ladle batter onto griddle using a 1/4 measuring cup, flipping after about 3 minutes, keeping completed cakes warm in the oven while you prepare the rest
  8. Serve with remaining blueberries and maple syrup

German Pancake, or It’s Alive! It’s ALIVE!

4 Feb
German Pancake

German Pancake

Perhaps the most exciting thing I did with my week off from work last week was buy a new set of cast iron skillets. One man’s pathetic is another’s bliss, so save your barbs. I effectively got them seasoned, and then annoyed anyone who would listen to me talk about the beauty of cast iron cooking.

Really, the main reason I wanted the skillet set was to try the old German Pancake I’d wanted to do for some time now. It’s certainly possible in an oven-safe nonstick pan, but it isn’t nearly as authentic.  Also referred to as the Dutch Baby, the German Pancake fascinated me for the pictures it begets alone, taste be damned. From what I had read, this cake did things when heated that rival the old “marshmallow in the microwave” (ever try that?). It’s every bit as cool to watch in person as it looks in pictures.

And I wasn’t the only one fascinated by the unusual impact of the heat on the batter, as the picture of the boy indicates.

Spectator

Spectator

There is absolutely nothing difficult about preparing these. Your hardest decision might be around what to do with them for topping, be it berries or syrup or whipped cream or whatever else. For my money, I’m looking forward to trying this again in savory form. This was so embarrassingly simple that I have little else to say. I’ll let the embedded pics do the talking.

Onward.

Pants: I was on the verge of rejoining civilization again with the start of my new job, so some practice in decorum was in order. So, yes.

Planning: Just making sure the skillet was properly seasoned.

Gathering: Nothing except for fresh berries.

Execution: Easiest yet.

Toppings in wait

Toppings in wait

Results: Pretty great, and really a bit lighter than they may seem on paper. Maybe not light in calories, but rather in flavor, meaning the topping becomes vitally important. That’s not a bad problem to have if you’re wise with your choice of toppings.

Crossover Potential: Sweet or savory, any topping will do.

The cakes recipe:

  • 2 large eggs (cage-free)
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour (organic)
  • 1/2 cup whole milk (organic)
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
  • ~3 Tbsp. unsalted butter (organic)
  • Powdered sugar (organic)
  • Fresh berries
  • Lemon wedges
  • Fresh whipped cream (half-pint heavy whipping cream with a tablespoon or two of sugar beaten on high until, well, whipped)
  1. Radness

    Radness

    Preheat oven to 450 degrees

  2. Place empty skillet in preheat oven for 10 minutes
  3. While skillet is preheating, mix all ingredients (except butter, powdered sugar, lemon wedges, whipped cream, and berries) and beat on medium for about 5 minutes–it will get very thin
  4. Remove skillet from oven and melt 2-3 Tbsp. butter, swirling the skillet to coat the bottom and sides as completely as possible
  5. Pour batter into skillet and return to oven for 10 minutes, or until the top has ballooned and starts browning (make sure to take in the spectacle, too)
  6. Remove from oven and immediately squeeze a lemon wedges or two over the top; sprinkle with powdered sugar as well
  7. Cut into wedges, top with berries and whipped cream, serve alongside an additional lemon wedge in preferred, and enjoy

Note: I had some seconds (and thirds) with maple syrup, and liked that every bit as much, if not better

Savory Corn Cakes and Guacamole

27 Jan
Absent only the margarita

Absent only the margarita

Late, I know. I’ve been beset by a crippling case of torpor this week, though, on account of being between jobs at the moment (ended one last week, start one next week). This resulted in the first stretch of days in oh-so-long that I’ve had completely to myself. Thus, I’ve been rendered in a state of relaxation so severe that it made something like returning a Redbox movie seem suddenly onerous. (Returned the movie, unwatached, 4 days late–$4, no entertainment value.) Excuses, excuses. Anyway, here we are.

Regarding the cakes, I have to start by saying the savory was calling to me last weekend. I scrapped plans I had for sweeter decadence and instead made haste for some corn cakes about which I had been noodling for a spell. Really, I had wanted to wait on these until summer when I could get some real Iowa sweet corn and do them up right. But I wants what I wants, and these were it.

I knew going into these that my wife and I would likely be flying solo with them. The recipe is one to be stocked away for the boy, ready for him to call upon in his own adulthood when a little taste of Mexico is all that will scratch those taste buds’ itch. He may enjoy a future modified version of these–which I fully plan to do–but these had more spice than he likes at this time. Baby.

My absolute favorite part of preparing these was how freely the creative juices flowed. I punted completely on the crossover potential, as you’ll see below. That’s because there’s really no end to it. Different kinds of veggies, various preparation methods, toppings and accoutrements galore—this isn’t the last you’ll see of the corn cake in this space, to be sure. And hell, it’s just now that I’m realizing the opportunity lost in not trying out my own margarita recipe and including that in the spread. That was irresponsible and will not happen again. My son deserves better.

Since it is winter, my ingredients were not as fresh as I’d like them, and the cakes would have been exponentially better had they been. I already mentioned the corn, but really most of the other ingredients, too, can be gathered from the farmer’s market when the weather warms once more. Consider this the mere beta stage of the corn cake, with more freshness, variety (and tequila) to populate future incarnations.

Onward.

Pants: Pants are for the gainfully employed.

Planning: Just had to think ahead to the ingredients I wanted so as not to be totally aimless in the store.

Gathering: Did I say I was going to think ahead? I didn’t, so the gathering was a clinic in grocery store free-floatery. I flitted hither and thither until I found the ingredients that grabbed me, moving on to a few local markets to check for fresh options before settling on frozen. My endeavors were mostly fruitless regarding that specific effort, though I found everything I needed.

Execution: Easy, though a bit lengthy. There was a fair amount of dicing, chopping, and mashing going on, all of which I enjoy heartily (with a cold cocktail and the right music behind me, that is). And that was with using packaged corn. I don’t know that I’d call this slow food, per se, but it certainly isn’t fast.

Results: Great. I may not be totally objective here, as I liked them by far the most. But still. Damn good.

Crossover Potential: Sweet, savory, toppings and sides ad infinitum–go wild.

The cakes recipe:

  • 1 heaping cup whole kernel corn (frozen, organic)
  • ~1/8 cup chopped cilantro (or more to taste, up to 1/4 cup)
  • 1 jalapeño, seeded and diced (organic)
  • 1/4 cup total of diced red and green bell pepper (organic)
  • 1/4 cup chopped green onion (organic)
  • 1 tsp. sea salt
  • 2 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • Cracked black pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup cornmeal (organic)
  • ~1/4 cup all-purpose flour, added slowly, just enough to hold mixture together (organic)
  • 2 large eggs, beaten (cage-free)
  1. Mix corn cilantro, peppers, and onion in large bowl
  2. Add in the rest of your ingredients, except the flour, and combine
  3. Begin adding flour by the spoonful, mixing as you go, adding only as much as you need so the mixture just holds together (not runny, though not dry like a dough)
  4. Preheat oven to 175 degrees, or engage warmer drawer
  5. Heat some olive oil in a pan; when hot, ladle cakes onto it as small as you would like them–using anything larger than a 1/4 measuring cup results in large cakes that are hard to make crispy
  6. Keep completed cakes in the warmed oven while you prepare the rest–make sure to keep the warming cakes in a single layer; that moistness that is retained by stacking sweeter cakes is not something you want with these
And the guacamole recipe:
  • 2 avocados (organic)
  • 1/4 cup tomato, diced (organic)
  • 1/4 cup total of diced red and green bell pepper (organic)
  • 2 tsp. sea salt
  • Juice of two squeezed lime wedges (organic)
  1. Mash avocado with a large fork to your desired lumpiness (I like chunks of avocado in the resulting mixture)
  2. Add in rest of your ingredients and mix all together with a rubber spatula

Note: We squeezed lime onto our cakes, and then topped them with salsa, sour cream, and what remained of the diced veggies (in addition to the guacamole.) 

Chocolate Pudding Pie Cakes

16 Jan
Childhood, in cakes form

Childhood, in cakes form

I went the pudding route last week, yes, but not like this. Last week was about conquering fears (arrr…the sog!), whereas this week was about reaching back into little personhood, namely my own. You see, this week’s pudding inspired no fear, only glee, and a might bit of nostalgia.

Chocolate pudding may very well be the definitive food of my childhood. We had one of the old school Hungry Hobo restaurants near my house growing up, and my dad dragged us there at least weekly. I didn’t much care for lunch meat, but I bravely choked down my Baby Ham & Swiss on each trip in the name of the reward that awaited me on the other side. That reward was the cup of chocolate pudding I could have if I finished. They kept the pudding in a little chest of ice in the ordering line. The very sight of it was all the motivation I needed to power through the sandwich.

At home, chocolate pudding seemed always near, meted out as single servings in individual, Saran-wrapped coffee mugs in the refrigerator. A little whipped cream, a little Alf, a plea for one mug more–many a weeknight was anchored with those staples. And desserts? There were many, to be certain (Mom’s a hell of a cook), but none more popular for me than the pudding pie. The graham cracker crust, the ice cold pudding, the dollop of whipped cream–elysium.

So with pudding on the mind, I set out this week to recapture that childhood bliss. There was nothing–nothing–challenging about this recipe. Sure, I danced with the dries and the milk to get the balance just right, but that’s nothing. That the end result was so damn good makes the ease with which these were prepared my siren song moving forward. (“Well, I could just whip up some chocolate pudding cakes,” says the man in the suddenly too-small Levi’s.)

Anyway, the only nuggets I feel compelled to pass along involve the order with which you prepare things, and the timeline you use to approach it all, should you choose to try these. I made the pudding the day before and let it chill in the refrigerator overnight. This probably isn’t necessary–even the liquid form it’s in when just finished would be fine for the batter, I’m sure. I just chilled mine in the name of authenticity, so I could say I used actual pudding and not just the promise of it. Regarding the whipped cream, I also made that the night before. That I may make fresh the next time, as it had lost some of its firmness by the next day. It was still excellent, if a little runny. I could have whipped anew, but was too damn hungry by the time the cakes had finished.

The results were great all around. The boy can’t muster real words yet, and gives most of his commands through sign language. The hand to the chest means “please,” and he thumped his pectoral like that chimp in the movie Congo (though he didn’t want to kill scientists, just the cakes).

Oh, and one other thing–as you’ll notice below, I used almond milk for everything. I didn’t do so for any particular reason other than to just throw a curveball at the norm. The hint of nuttiness was excellent. I’m sure dairy milk would be just as fine. Just stay away from the skim.

Onward.

Pants: Negative.

Planning: Just finding a pudding that met with my extraordinarily high standards. (In other words, not instant.)

Gathering: Just the pudding.

Execution: Easy, though expect a dance with dries and additional milk to achieve your desired consistency.

Results: Awesome. Pure awesome.

Crossover Potential: Hmmm….not so much crossover, I guess, but a selection of berries and berry sauces would not suck to have around with these bad boys.

The cakes recipe:

  • 1 cup prepared chocolate pudding (I went with half a package of Dr. Oetker Organics, prepared with almond milk and chilled overnight)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour (organic)
  • 2tsp. baking powder
  • Healthy pinch of salt
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • ~1 cup almond milk
  • 3-5 graham crackers, crumbled
  • 6 oz. whipping cream (Kalona Super Natural, 1 Tbsp. of sugar, or more to taste, added and whipped with whisk attachment of electric mixer until, well, whipped)
  1. Mix the dries with wooden spoon
  2. Add lightly beaten egg and chilled pudding to the dries, mixing all together until completely combined
  3. Begin adding more milk in splashes until the desired consistency is achieved (roughly 1 cup total extra milk)
  4. Preheat griddle to 350 degrees
  5. Preheat oven to 160 degrees, or engage warmer drawer
  6. Butter griddle, and ladle batter onto it using 1/3 measuring cup
  7. Sprinkle graham crackers to taste onto each cake
  8. Wait for bubbles to begin appearing and then flip–these will take a little longer to cook given the density of the pudding
  9. Keep finished cakes warm in oven while preparing the rest
  10. Top with whipped cream and extra graham cracker crumbles

Bread Pudding Cakes

8 Jan
Voila

Voila

This whole “incorporating crap I always hated into cakes” thing seems to be a recurring thing here. And on that note, bread pudding has always seemed like nothing really more than soggy bread to me. Maybe I saw too many school elementary kids engaging in school lunch as a teacher–where the milk always freaking seemed to soak something it shouldn’t have, resulting in some godawful soggy crap almost every kid still ate–and suffer flashbacks at the thought of milk-soaked anything.

But still, like the other previously hated items I’ve tried here (sweet potatoes and hot bananas among them), something about this idea called to me. Always one to follow the inner voice, I breaded up and went for it today. That the kid and I shared a can of green beans–from the can, with a plastic fork that may or may not have already been used a few times today–for afternoon snack set the tone for some throwback ingredients that might make Frank McCourt proud.

The first oddity for me was buying straight-up white bread for the first time in eons. I’m a whole grain kind of guy, and aside from the occasional sourdough or baguette dalliance, white bread hasn’t graced the grocery basket for quite some time. I found an inexpensive enough loaf from the bakery of my local food co-op and quickly remembered why I had liked it so much for so long. While prepping, I think I may have eaten as much as I sliced–as did my wife and kid–and now may have some dynamite french toast in my future. But that’s another post for another yearlong endeavor.

The link referenced at post’s end here is what I used as my jumping off point, and it works wonderfully for that purpose. From it, I changed serving size, added some sweets ‘n spices, and jacked around a bit with the methodology. Notable within that methodology is the choice I made to let the bread stale a bit before gettin’ my mix on. I thought maybe hardening the bread a bit might mitigate the sog a smidge. The results? Soggy ass bread still, with sugar and spices. But no matter. I fought through that part and bravely ascended toward that shining griddle atop the hill. As you’ll read below, I’m glad I did.

One thing I will note is that I bought my loaf of bread whole. I wanted to slice it myself, thickly, so as to achieve as bizarre a topography as I could with the finished cakes. It worked. They are gloriously lumpy.

Bread Monster!

Bread Monster!

Oh, and I would also like to shout an apology to Grandpa, wherever in the ether he currently resides. He drove a bread truck for years (that’s his kitchen’s bread drawer I’m emerging from in the picture at right, apparently my favorite little hangout as a little guy), and he would be ashamed of my fancy-pantsing (or fancy-un-pantsing, as it were) the bread choices lo these many years. Big ups, Grandpa–I came home today.

Onward.

Pants: The boy has some new, super comfortable, fleece-lined blue jeans that clearly warm his cockles. I may have lost him to the fully pantsed for good (teardrop). Luckily, I’m an isolationist at heart (get off my damn lawn!), and need not an army to fight the good fight.

Planning: Just expanding my white bread knowledge base beyond Wonder Bread and Iron Kids. (Sorry again, Grandpa.)

Gathering: Just the bread.

Execution: Making sure I sliced up the bread early enough to let it stale a bit was important. Beyond that, I found it important to handle the resulting batter delicately so as not to totally dissolve the bread (unless you’re into that). Once the bread is soaking, I also sprinkled a light layer of cinnamon and sugar over top as it rested.

Results: Excellent all around.

Crossover Potential: Just endless variations on the bread pudding aspect.

The cakes recipe:

  • 5, thickly sliced slices of white bread, crust removed and cut into 1″ squares
  • 1 cup whole milk (organic)
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 Tbsp. brown sugar (organic)
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten (cage-free)
  • 1/3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour (organic)
  • 2 Tbsp. sugar (organic, pure cane)
  • 1/3 Tbsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  1. About five hours before griddling, cut your bread and leave out and open on counter to stale appropriately
  2. Mix flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in small bowl
  3. In small bowl, mix milk with cinnamon and brown sugar
  4. Place bread in large bowl and add milk mixture, making sure all squares get soaked; let sit for 10 minutes (longer if you want soggier, 10 only if the sog gives you the creeps, too)
  5. After that 10 minutes, add flour mixture to bread mixture and gently fold, not worrying about total incorporation of ingredients at this point
  6. In another small bowl, beat egg and oil together, then add to the rest of the ingredients, mixing everything completely (but be gentle if you want to retain those large bread chunks)
  7. Preheat griddle to 350 degrees
  8. Preheat oven to 160 degrees, or engage warming drawer
  9. Butter griddle and ladle batter onto it using a 1/3 measuring cup, keeping completed cakes warm in oven while making the rest
*We had a bowl of stupid awesome frosting leftover from some stupid awesome sugar cookies my wife made last weekend, and spread that on the cakes and enjoyed them as dessert. I tried one hot off the griddle with maple syrup, too, which was awesome. The link below will reference some other toppings I do not doubt would be amazing. Go wild.

Buttermilk Cornmeal Cakes with Drunken Berry Syrup

1 Jan
Gloriously Boozy Syrup

Gloriously Boozy Syrup

Ahhh…2012. Feels like a good year already. We skipped champagne last night, so I used the bottle we had around for the cakes this morning. It’s a boozy holiday, after all. It seemed right.

And let me tell you, there’s something so Rat Pack about cracking a bottle of champagne at 7:30 in the morning. Or perhaps it’s more Lindsay Lohan. Either way, it was kind of fun, and I may have had a nip or three as I cooked. Those bubbles don’t stay bubbly for long, after all, and I only needed a cup for my syrup. There are starving college kids just blocks from where I live who would give (nay, have given) anything for a half-drunk bottle of champagne. It would be untoward to waste it.

The cakes are a bit of an odd recipe. I had read somewhere once about putting whipped cream in a corn cake, but can’t remember where that was. I stocked it away mentally and tried it here. It turned out really well, too. The creamy texture comes across in the final product, and that hint of extra sweetness is a nice complement to the syrup. And really, the syrup was the star of the show.

Thinking...

Thinking...

There was a much more extravagant recipe I had read about once that included champagne instead of water for syrup. I went with a more bare bones version of that, keeping my ingredients few and going with my gut on proportions. In the end, I probably would have gone with less sugar and perhaps more berries, but that would just be rounding the edges. This was damn good. But be warned, you do get more than a hint of the boozy flavor of the champagne, so you have to be okay with that to really enjoy it. My wife did not. She appreciated it, but didn’t have more than a taste. So it goes.

One thing that might be interesting would be marinating the berries in the champagne instead of cooking with it. Or perhaps you could try both. I know that every time I bit into an intact blueberry, I realized quickly how delicious champagne-infused fruit can be.

Pants: It has been a reclusive couple of days, so let’s just say the legs have gotten an extended dose of fresh air for both the boy and me.

Planning: Not too much, except just thinking through how I wanted to mix these different items.

Gathering: Everything was already in the house, which was great.

Execution: A bit laborious, but it was all worth it. The batter consistency wasn’t to my liking at first pass (a bit runny), so I added in a little more flour, cornmeal, and sugar in quantities proportionate to their original ratios until it thickened. It worked well.

...score!

...score!

Results: Terrific. My wife wasn’t wild about the syrup, but again, I kind of expected that. They were a bit boozy with the drunken berries, but that was exactly what I was after. It turned out better than I had imagined. The cakes were a hit all around, and the leftovers we kept will no doubt come in handy.

Crossover Potential: Obviously,  going the savory route with corn cakes is always tempting. You could skip the whipped cream, and sub out syrup for salsa, guac, and/or sour cream. You might also add some honey to the batter and go the cornbread route with the whole thing.

The cakes recipe:

  • 3/4 cup cornmeal (organic)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour (organic)
  • 1/4 cup sugar (organic, pure cane)
  • 1.5 Tbsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 Tbsp. melted butter (organic, unsalted)
  • 3 large eggs, beaten (cage-free)
  • *1.5 cups buttermilk
  • 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup whipped cream
  1. Preheat oven to 160 degrees, or engage warmer drawer
  2. Combine dry ingredients and mix with large wooden spoon
  3. Combine wet ingredients in separate bowl and mix well
  4. Add wets to dries and combine until just mixed
  5. Preheat griddle to 350 degrees
  6. Butter griddle, and ladle batter onto it using 1/3 measuring cup; keep completed cakes warm in oven while preparing the rest
And the syrup recipe:
  • 2 cups blueberries (frozen, organic)
  • Less than 1/4 cup cranberries (frozen, organic)
  • 1.25 cups champagne (whatever your poison)
  • 1/2 cup sugar (organic, pure cane)
  • 1 tsp. orange extract
  1. Combine all ingredients except orange extract in medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium/high heat
  2. Reduce heat to a simmer and let reduce by half, or to desired thickness (at least until the mixture coats the back of a spoon
  3. Kill the heat and add the tsp. of orange extract, mixing in
  4. Refrigerate and reheat later, or serve straight from the pan
*I was out of buttermilk, and nothing was open on New Year’s morning. I had read sometime back about mixing your own buttermilk in a pinch, and I gave it a whirl. I dropped 1.5 Tbsp. of lemon juice in the bottom of a large measuring cup, and then added whole milk until it reach the 1.5 cup line. Then, I let it sit for 5-10 minutes, and zingo–buttermilk substitute. It worked well.

Gingerbread Cakes

31 Dec
Spicy batter

Spicy batter

Our long national nightmare is over. The holidays have passed, the calendar has steadied, and The Griddler has raised the spatula once more. Worried, weren’t you? Don’t be. As Nice & Smooth assured us all in the 90s, there ain’t a damn thing changed. Welcome back.

And since last weekend was nonexistent given the travels and the making merry and all, this is but one of two posts you’ll find here this weekend, one for our regularly scheduled Sunday, and the other a make-up. (This is where wacky FM DJ pops in with the “two, two, two for the weekend!”)

Today’s offering is what I had wanted to squeeze into the Christmas weekend, a gingerbread pancake recipe that has been in the hopper for quite some time. I am not a real big gingerbread fan, and neither is my wife. But part of the spirit of the endeavor here is to spread our wings a bit, to strike out into new pancake frontiers and throw caution to the wind once in a while. So we did.

Really, the recipe you see below is barely changed from its source (referenced in the link at post’s end). I included mine anyway, as there were a couple of variations, and mine was halved from the original. I’ll say this–these things are damn spicy. If you are at all averse to cloves or ginger, tread lightly with those ingredients, perhaps even halving your spices in lieu of extra brown sugar or something. I’m not one for cloves myself. I, uh, heard from a, er, friend one time that they had some past experience with clove cigarettes. Apparently, according to that friend, the sensation it leaves in the mouth is interesting. I’m totally guessing here, but the feeling left after a bite of these cakes may be similar to that. It’s kind of like the taste buds are dancing, which isn’t a bad thing. Just odd if you aren’t used to it.

Anyway, all in all, I really liked them. My wife, not so much. And the kid? He’s wired enough without kicking him some coffee (which is an ingredient with these), in whatever amount. And the cloves? Well, he can wait until his own “friend” tries a clove smoke some day to tell him how it feels in the mouth.

Onward.

Pants: I had just finished a run, so wore only those skin tight doohickeys that look ridiculous but are oh-so-warm. So, pants-ish, I guess. The boy was napping, and had conked out in pants so in pants he slept–poor sucker.

Planning: Not much–just the math involved with the halving.

Gathering: Just a replenishment of the buttermilk.

Execution: The flour amount is a bit weird, and frankly, I don’t know how much I ended up using (though it wasn’t nearly as much as the recipe had called for). I thought their amount looked high, so I started with about half that (or half of the half, in my case), added the liquids, and then slowly folded in more flour until it thickened to the right consistency. How much that ended up being, I can’t quite say. Just dance with it.

Results: Thumbs up, or at least my thumbs. My wife came in with a serious bias against the whole recipe, so I’m ignoring her negative feedback.

Crossover Potential: Gingerbread pancake house? I don’t know; I’m reaching here.

The cakes recipe:

  • *1.5 eggs (cage-free)
  • 1/8 cup brown sugar (organic)
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk (Kalona Supernatural Buttermilk)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/8 cup brewed coffee (I used St. Louis Blues from Iowa City’s Java House)
  • 1.25 cups all-purpose flour (organic)
  • 1/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/2 Tbsp. nutmeg (fresh ground)
  • 1/2 Tbsp. cinnamon (organic)
  • 1/2 Tbsp. ginger
  • 2 Tbsp. melted butter
  1. Preheat griddle to 350 degrees
  2. Mix egg and brown sugar until completely combined; add in buttermilk, water, and brewed coffee and mix anew
  3. In separate bowl, combine all the rest of the ingredients, save for the melted butter
  4. Add the liquid ingredients (minus the butter) to the dries and mix until combined
  5. Pour melted butter over top of batter and just fold it in
  6. Ladle batter onto griddle using 1/3 measuring cup
  7. Wait for bubbles to appear (about 3 minutes), then flip and cook other side for roughly 2 minutes more
  8. Lacquer and use for the framework of your tragically uneaten gingerbread pancake house (or add pure maple syrup and enjoy)
*To get 1.5 eggs, I lightly scrambled three and just poured half into my mixing bowl–perhaps there’s a better way, but that was my method