Saturday, March 31, 2012

Celebration Cannoli Cake

I've had a strong desire to make cakes lately. Perhaps it's because I finally found a gluten-free flour that works beautiful to make moist and delicious cakes (The Pure Pantry. More to come on this . . . ). I've been singing my praises about this one. Cakes are kind of my specialty and I've shied away from them in the past year in fear that they won't be nearly as delicious as they'd been in the past (when I could rely on flour of the wheat-y type). But, if you've tried this Andes Mint Cake or decide to make this Cannoli Cake, you'll see that I'm back in the business of creating delicious cakes. And I couldn't be happier!

Cakes are difficult to make though, when you don't have an occasion for which to do so. They're not like cookies or brownies, which you can package up individually and distribute between those lovely friends of yours. If you make a cake and don't have anywhere to bring it, you're stuck with it at your house to eat for the next couple of weeks (which is both a blessing and a curse). 

So, when I decided I wanted to make this cake, I got a number of suggestions as to what I could make a cake for. The first suggestion came from a friend of mine, Joy, who thought her husband would find March Madness as a wonderful reason to make cake. I could care less about basketball, but I will take any chance I can get to make a cake I've been dreaming up and spend the afternoon baking with a friend!

The Aunt Sassy Cake from my favorite cookbook, Baked: Explorations is a pistachio cake I've been eying for some time. I had this in mind as I dreamt up to perfect cannoli cake (yes, I am on a cannoli kick this week!). You see, traditional cannolis contain a bit of cinnamon, a luscious ricotta filling, and often chocolate and pistachios. So here we have, the perfect cannoli cake.

I encourage you to dream up any sort of celebration to make this cake. And, even though it's not cookies or brownies, you can cut this cake into slices and divvy it up to some friends, like I did. Even if it's the lamest celebration you could ever think of, spending time making it with someone and sharing cake with friends is plenty a reason to bake some cake!

*Note: this cake takes a bit of advanced preparation, as you need to drain the ricotta for the filling about 24 hours.

Cake being frosted by Joy. Yes, I gave up my control-freak kitchen tendencies and let her take this one!
Cannoli Cake
makes one two-layer 9" round cake
adapted from Baked: Explorations

2 1/2 cups gluten-free all-purpose flour (containing xanthan gum-I used "The Pure Pantry")
1 cup finely ground pistachio nuts
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 eggs whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup butter
1/2 cup honey
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 whole egg
cannoli filling (recipe follows)
mascarpone whipped cream frosting (recipe follows)
chocolate curls or melted chocolate ganache, optional

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease two 9" round cake pans and dust with a bit of rice flour.

In a large bowl, stir together, flour, pistachios, baking soda, baking powders, salt, and cinnamon. 

In a clean bowl, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar on medium speed until soft peaks form. Set aside.

In the clean bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter, sugar, and vanilla on medium speed for several minutes until light and fluffy. Scrape down the bowl. Add the honey and mix to combine. Add the egg and mix on low just until combined.

To the stand mixer, add the flour mixture and 1 cup of cold water, alternatively, in 3 batches. Carefully fold in the egg whites.

Divide batter evenly between the two prepared pans. Bake 35-40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Make the cannoli filling
1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese, well-drained (about 24 hours)
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1/4 teaspoon vanilla bean powder or 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

Stir together the first 3 ingredients until smooth. Stir in the chocolate chips. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Make the mascarpone whipped cream
8 oz mascarpone cheese
1 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup granulated sugar

In a small bowl (or in a stand mixer), beat the mascarpone on medium speed for 2 minutes, until smooth.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the heavy cream on high speed until soft peaks form. Add the mascarpone and the sugar and beat on low speed until everything is combined and smooth.

Assemble the cake:

Place the first layer on a board or plate. Spoon all of the cannoli filling on top and smooth. Replace with the second layer of cake. Frost the top and sides of cake with mascarpone whipped cream. Sprinkle with chocolate curls, or spread melted ganache. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Authentic Cannolis You Can Actually Eat!

Since moving to Utah, I've noticed the lack of presence of some beloved pastries that could be found just about everywhere in New York. The heavy population of Italian Americans in New York lends to the ubiquity of delicious treats like cannolis. Now, I'm not saying you can't get a good cannoli in Utah (I hear carlucci's has a pretty kick-butt one), I'm just saying it's less convenient. And I don't know of anywhere that has a gluten-free version. So, I've taken it upon myself to make my own delicious version. Mission: accomplished.

When making something for the first time, it's always best to try it with a friend. My friend, Becky (of The Vintage Mixer) was more than willing to join me. Our shared hunger for new adventures in baking is one the things I love about her! She's posted a gluten-filled version of this cannoli on her page with a lovely variation on the traditional filling. If gluten-free is not something you're interested in, or you just want to mix it up a bit, I urge you to go check it out!

Gluten Free Cannolis
Adapted from Martha Stewart
Makes about one dozen

1 cup gluten-free all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon dutch-process cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup sweet white wine
3 teaspoons vegetable oil
1-2 tablespoons egg white
1 recipe classic cannoli filling (recipe follows)
melted chocolate, if desired
miniature chocolate chips, chopped nuts, powdered sugar, if desired

In the bowl of an electric mixer, stir together flour, sugar, cocoa powder, cinnamon, and salt. With the mixer running on low, add wine and oil. Turn mixer to medium speed and beat until dough comes together.

Lightly flour a clean work surface with some brown rice flour (keep a bit by in case dough sticks). Remove dough from the bowl and knead the dough, by hand, on the work surface for about 5 minutes.

Re-flour the work surface and roll dough out with a rolling pin to the thickness of a dime. Using a 4" round cookie cutter, cut pieces of dough out, re-rolling as needed.

Wrap each piece of dough around a standard (about 1" diameter) cannoli form, overlapping the ends and sealing with a bit of egg white.

Heat about a quart of oil in a medium to large dutch oven over medium heat. Heat to 360-380* degrees F. Drop cannolis into the oil, making sure not to crowd them. Fry about 1 minute, until golden brown. Remove from hot oil and set on a paper towel to drain. Cool.

*Make sure to constantly be checking the temperature of the oil. The shells can easily burn if the oil gets too hot.

Cannoli dough wrapped around forms. Photo by Becky at The Vintage Mixer.

Make the cannoli filling
1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese, well-drained (about 24 hours)
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1/4 teaspoon vanilla bean powder or 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

Stir together the first 3 ingredients until smooth. Stir in the chocolate chips. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Dip the ends of cannolis in melted chocolate, if desired. Let chocolate set. Using a pastry bag fitted with desired tip, pipe filling into the cannolis. Dip ends in chocolate chips or nuts and dust with some powdered sugar, if desired.

Cannolis will keep no longer than 48 hours, well-wrapped, in the refrigerator. Filling will keep up to a week in a separate container.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Carrot Cake Granola

Let's just all take a moment to geek out on the fact that Easter is just over 2 weeks away, shall we? . . . or is it just me who is so so excited? Even if Easter isn't your favorite holiday (making me think you must be crazy), you'll enjoy this Easter-appropriate carrot cake granola.

The reason I love Easter has nothing to do with bunnies. But I'm pretty sure the reason carrot cake is popular at the bakery this time of year has everything to do with the "bunnies love carrots" cliche. So, as much as I hate Easter being made about peeps and bunnies and egg hunts, I love carrot cake. And this carrot cake granola has all of the wonderful carrot cake flavors in a healthful breakfast or snack.

Carrot Cake Granola

3 cups gluten-free rolled oats
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup unsweetened flake coconut
1/2 cup walnuts (or pecans, or . . .), coarsely chopped
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup coconut oil
1 cup shredded carrots, loosely packed
1 cup yogurt-covered raisins (or regular raisins)

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.

In a large bowl, stir together the first 7 ingredients. Set aside.

In a small saucepan over low heat, stir together coconut oil and honey until oil is melted. Remove from heat. Stir in shredded carrots. Stir this mixture into the oat mixture.

Spread granola onto a cookie sheet in an even layer. Bake 15 minutes. Give it a quick stir. Bake 15 minutes more. Remove from the oven and cool completely. Stir in yogurt-covered (or regular) raisins.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Browned Butter Blondies (with Macadamia Nuts, White Chocolate, and Ginger)

Believe it or not, before last week, I had never made blondies before. Being more of a chocolate-lover, I'm drawn to fudgy brownies, and dense chocolate cakes. But with my slight obsession to ginger and addiction to the smell of browned butter, these blondies seemed like the perfect creation.

If you've never made browned butter before, prepare yourself to be intoxicated by the warm, nutty aroma that develops as the little flecks speckle the pan of melted butter. The addition of ginger, macadamia nuts, and white chocolate to the wonderfully browned butter add a certain warmth and exotic flavor. If you're not into these flavors, feel free to omit any of these ingredients and just use chocolate chips for a dessert that is less exotic, but just as delicious, I'm sure.

These bars make for a lovely afternoon treat, especially given as a gift. I wrapped some of mine in wax paper and tied them with cute twine-y ribbon. Be creative!

Browned Butter Blondies
Makes one 8"x8" pan

1/2 cup butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1 1/2 cups gluten-free all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1 cup macadamia nuts, coarsely chopped
1 cup white chocolate, coarsely chopped (or you can use chocolate chips)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease an 8"x8" pan.

Melt butter in a medium-sized saucepan over medium-low heat. Continue cooking, swirling the pan every so often, until the mixture turns golden brown and has a nutty aroma. Remove from heat.

While the butter is browning, stir together in a separate bowl, flour, ginger, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

When the butter is browned, add the vanilla, beaten eggs, and brown sugar. Stir together. Stir in the flour mixture. Stir in the chopped macadamia nuts and white chocolate.

Pour batter into greased pan. Bake 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool and cut into 12 or 16 bars.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Andes Mint Cake

St. Patrick's Day is a day for celebrating Irish heritage by Irish food (hello, potatoes) and drinking. Both of which I enjoy. But everyday is a day for cake. So what better way to celebrate St. Patrick's day than with a cake filled with green minty frosting and topped with adorable Andes Mints.

This may be the best gluten-free cake I have ever made. Partially because of the flour (I used The Pure Pantry and I'll be writing a post soon on a gluten-free flour review), partly because of all of the practice I've had this past year, and partly because of the wonderful (wonderful) combination of chocolate and mint. Just make sure, when making the cake, that you make the chocolate frosting at least a few hours (up to 1 day is best, though) ahead of time and refrigerate the cake in between filling the cake and frosting it so that the cake is completely set and stable. If you opt not to do this, your cake might also be so loving named by a friend "the leaning tower of pisa." It's so nice to have friends . . .

I hope you have a St. Patrick's day spent with your lovingly supportive friends, drinking, eating Irish food, and making cake to enjoy. Ordinarily, I would be going out with friends. But with the madness that has been this year, I volunteered to babysit, preferring to spend a quiet night alone in a cozy house, snuggled up with a good book and a piece of this fantastic cake. And, this year, that sounds like a perfectly good way to celebrate my Irish heritage to me.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Feed the People: Honey Cornbread

Believe it or not, I sometimes make food besides desserts (please, hold your gasps). More specifically, I fairly often make dinner for friends. Because as much as I love showing up to the homes of others with pretty boxes filled with freshly made treats, it gives me just as much pleasure to open my door to people and share good conversation over an entire meal.

That being said, when I have people over, particularly a large amount of people, I find that cornbread is a good thing to make. Let me explain: cornbread is highly popular, it goes with just about anything (especially if "anything" happens to be soup), and it can be made in large quantities in a very short amount of time. This particular recipe, for instance, can be made in one bowl, and you pretty much just throw all of the ingredients together and stir.

When I was making this recipe a couple of times last week, I couldn't help but think of the book I just read for a book club I do with some ladies. We read "The I Hate to Cook Book," which was super funny. If you haven't read it, it is full of recipes and funny anecdotes from a housewife, named  Peg Bracken, in the 1960s who doesn't exactly enjoy putting together dinners for people, and thus tries to make things as simple as possible and doesn't get hung up on having all of the perfect ingredients.

So, with that in mind, I decided not to make you (or myself) mix together the wet and dry ingredients separately (because it's not really necessary in this particular recipe). Also, if you don't want to add cayenne pepper, don't; if you don't have honey, use sugar; if you don't like pieces of corn in your cornbread, go without it; if you want to use 1 cup of buttermilk instead of the sour cream and milk, do it. Well, you get the point. Do what you can, what you like. Just make sure you add all of the flour and leavening ingredients,  because that will make a difference.

Whether you enjoy making dinner for others or not, this is a good recipe to have on hand. Either way, you and your guests will be pleased with the results. And because it's so quick to make, you, like me or Peg Bracken, will have time to enjoy an extra glass of wine before your guests arrive ;)

Honey Cornbread
Makes one 8"x8" pan

1/2 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup sour cream
3 large eggs
1/3 cup honey
1 1/2 cups yellow cornmeal
1 cup gluten-free baking and pancake mix
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 cup frozen corn
Butter and honey for serving, if desired.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease an 8"x8" baking pan.

Put all ingredients except frozen corn together in a large mixing bowl and stir together just until combined. Stir in corn.

Pour mixture into prepared baking dish. Bake 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean (or until you push on it and it doesn't leave a finger indentation).

Serve with some butter or a drizzle of honey, if desired.

About Me

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Salt Lake City, Utah
As a pastry chef by trade and by hobby, being diagnosed with Celiac Disease has not been easy. But through some experimental baking and a whole lot of faith, I'm living a full(er) life.