Sunday, August 30, 2009

Frosting Makes The Cake

Cooking, for me, is a challenge and a necessity. Don't get me wrong---I love to cook, but I'm simply not as passionate about it as I am about baking. For me, there is something almost zen-like about putting together a pie, a cake or a batch of cookies for someone to ooh and ahh over. Most weekends find me baking something to take to work (if my husband will let it go out the door), or something to satisfy my mother-in-law's sweet tooth. This weekend was no exception. I had made a cake for someone's birthday at work last Wednesday and I had been hearing about how good it looked ever since. Someone was hinting around about wanting some chocolate cake.....

Now, I am not a fancy baker. I do believe that you eat with your eyes first, so I do try to make my baking (and my cooking) look as appealing as possible. But, I just don't have the talent or the patience to do the whole fondant thing. Someday I may step out of my comfort zone and give it a try, but for now I will concentrate on taste and simple presentation. I have just a few recipes for chocolate cake that I use and I mix and match the frosting to make several different kinds of dessert. With a basic cake recipe you could say the the frosting makes the cake (or the cupcake). Today, the family requested a white frosting, so I will concentrate on showing you how I make an old fashioned buttercream.

First, the cake recipe that I used. This produces a really nice 9 X 13"  moist, flavorful, chocolate cake and/or cupcakes. Originally, it came from a turtle cake recipe---I swap things around all of the time.


1 egg
2/3 c. vegetable oil
1 c. buttermilk
2 c. flour
1 3/4 c. sugar
1/2 c. cocoa (I like to use the Hershey's Dark Chocolate for this)
1 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. baking soda
1 c. hot coffee


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9 by 13-inch pan.

Combine egg, oil and buttermilk. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, cocoa, salt and baking soda. Combine the egg mixture and the flour mixture, mixing well. Slowly mix in hot coffee. Turn into prepared pan and bake 40 to 45 minutes. Frost when cooled.

Since I'm not used to blogging about every step yet, I forgot to take a picture of the process. Suffice to say, the batter is very thin---as evidenced by the remnants left in the bowl.

The buttercream is a bit of a process. I wouldn't say that it is hard to make, but it can be tricky. I thought it was the weirdest recipe when I first saw it, but this has turned out to be the creamiest, tastiest white frosting I have ever had. And it is versatile. I pipe it on cupcakes, frost cakes with it and use it as a filling for my cream filled cupcakes. Need something for St. Patrick's Day? Use a little green food coloring. Want to make lemon cupcakes? Use some lemon extract. I think I've painted enough of a picture. Here is the recipe:

Old Fashioned Buttercream Frosting

4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or any flavor extract--lemon is very good)

In small saucepan, whisk the flour and the milk until smooth.

Place over medium heat and cook until thick and bubbly, whisking the entire time. Place thickened mixture in a small bowl and cover with plastic wrap.

Allow it to cool to room temperature.

In the bowl of a stand mixer (I swear by my KitchenAid!), combine the butter and the sugar.

 Beat with the paddle attachment (those new ones that scrape the sides of the bowl are perfect)on high speed for 3-5 minutes. Add the cooled flour mixture and beat for an additional 5 minutes, or until the frosting is smooth with no gritty sugar.

Looks kind of gross at this point, doesn't it. Don't taste that flour/milk mixture yet---yuck!

 At this point, stir in whatever flavor extract you prefer and maybe a bit of food coloring if you want to be festive. ;)

If the buttercream turns out a little thin, refrigerate it for a few minutes before frosting. This particular cake looks a little boring by itself, so I drizzled a little chocolate and caramel syrup over the top of each piece.

Tint it green for St. Pat's Day...

...or just whip up some yummy vanilla cupcakes!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Chicken and Sliders

Wow--my debut post! I am totally excited about this blogging business!

 I thought my first post should be something that I do best (baking), but my mother-in-law has been craving a batch of Chicken and Sliders and I was only too happy to oblige. This is the ultimate in comfort food and, since it barely reached 70 degrees here today, we could use a little comfort!

Chicken and Sliders is a French Canadian dish that was born during the Great Depression (how fitting that we still love it now). The "sliders" are actually homemade noodles, or dumplings. My mother-in-law's(Alice), grandmother taught her how to make Chicken and Sliders all those years ago and she has been making it for her family ever since. Unfortunately, as Alice has gotten older (she'll be 87 next month!), she has been unable to do any of the cooking that her family has come to expect. So it is up to me to learn how to make her fabulous meals and share them with my husband's siblings. Ha--they better be nice to me!

First I started by coarsly chopping up some celery, carrots and onion. I'm not much for measurements for some of these things. I probably used 3 stalks of celery, 6 or 8 baby carrots and a half of a large Vidalia onion. I put those in a stock pot with a couple of chicken boullion cubes, 3 bay leaves and 2 cloves of crushed garlic.

To this I added my chicken. I used 4 chicken thighs, with the skin, and two skinless, boneless chicken breasts. Ideally, I would have used a whole cut-up chicken, but this is what I had (remember, this is a depression meal....use what you have, sweetie).
Then I filled the pot with enough water to cover the chicken and then some. I added salt (very little, since the boullion cubes are loaded with it), pepper, and Italian seasoning and brought the whole thing to a boil. Next, I turned the heat down to "simmer", covered the pot and let it cook until the chicken was very tender, about 2 hours.
Once the chicken was tender, I removed it from the broth, took the skin and bones off, and broke it into large chunks. Well, some of it broke into small chunks, but you know what I mean. I put this in the refrigerator for later.
Here comes the most important part of making this dish----the sliders. First, I strained the broth into a large bowl through a colander in order to remove the vegetables and the bay leaves. Then, I saved one cup of the broth, putting it aside to cool. The broth went back into the pot to be used when the sliders were ready.
I put 3 cups of flour into a large bowl and made a well in the middle. To this I added the reserved, cooled broth and 2 beaten eggs. With a wooden spoon, I mixed this into a sticky dough.
Then, I turned the dough onto a floured surface, added a bit more flour and lightly kneaded it until it was no longer sticky. Next, I rolled it out fairly thin and sprinkled a little more flour over the top.
Using a pizza cutter, I cut the dough into long strips. These can be uneven, it matters not.
I brought the broth back to a rolling boil and added all of the sliders, then reduced the heat to "simmer", covered the pot and let the sliders cook for about 25 to 30 minutes. Quite honestly, I made them a little too thick, but they turned out OK anyway.
After the sliders are cooked, you can add the chicken back in. You can also make a roux, with a little flour and broth, and add that back into the broth if you want a thicker "gravy" for the sliders to swim in.
And there you have it. Chicken and Sliders. Want to add even more comfort to your meal? Simply serve your Chicken and Sliders over mashed potatoes. And have something chocolaty for dessert. :)