Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Brown Sugar Cake with Butterscotch Icing

I really wanted to bake a cake the other day, and didn't have any carrots for carrot cake, nor was I in the mood to bake that same chocolate cake again (though I do love it enough to only ever make it, my friends will tire of it, and that would be a shame). I took a yellow cake recipe from a cookbook I trust and adjusted some things and am quite satisfied with the result. Yves, my darling roommate, was hanging around this morning while I was taking photos of the cake and couldn't resist taking a bite, which turned into a slice. All she said was "Oh WOW." Good enough for me!

Butterscotch is a really gross color, if you ask me. I'm glad it doesn't look that way in the photo, because let me tell you how scary the icing looked when it was about halfway made. Pinky peachy brown, yucko. Fortunately the powdered sugar eased the eyesore a bit. Besides, butterscotch tastes so good, who cares what color it is? Probably only me. But I do look at colors analytically as part of my job, so I'm allowed. There are worse eccentricities.

Brown Sugar Cake with Butterscotch Icing

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup milk
1 large egg + 2 egg yolks
2 tsp vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350º. Line two 9" cake pans with parchment paper and spray with nonstick spray. Set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, and salt. In a medium bowl, cream the butter, sour cream, eggs, and vanilla with a hand mixer. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and beat in until smooth and shiny, then scrape down the bowl and stir by hand for a few seconds to get rid of any remaining bubbles or flour.
Pour the batter into the two cake pans and bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool completely before icing and assembling the layers.

Butterscotch Icing
1 bag butterscotch chips
1 cup butter (2 sticks) at room temperature
4 tbsp sour cream
3 to 4 cups confectioners' sugar
1 tbsp whole milk
pinch of salt

In a sauce pot over low heat, melt the butterscotch chips. Remove from heat and mix in the butter, milk, sour cream, salt, and confectioners' sugar with a hand mixer. Add more milk or sugar as needed to get the texture you prefer.

Assemble and decorate the cake as desired. Top with chopped walnuts if you know what's good for you.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Strawberry Waffles

You can't see it, but there are about a dozen chopped strawberries in this plate of waffles. If you don't believe me, well, look really closely and you'll see some dark red bits. The recipe I based this on was the "Oh Boy" Waffles from my grandma's copy of the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook from 1951. I strongly recommend spraying your waffle iron with nonstick spray before each waffle is poured. The oil in the spray helps a lot with crispy edges. The ones in the photo, for example, were made with no cooking spray, and you can tell they're not very stiff if you really look close. But don't do that, kthx.

Strawberry Waffles

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 tbsp sugar
2 eggs, beaten
2 1/4 cup whole milk
3/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 to 1 cup chopped strawberries

Heat your waffle iron.
In a medium bowl, sift the flour, salt, and baking powder and set aside. In a small bowl with a wooden spoon or whisk, combine eggs, milk, vegetable oil and sugar. When the waffle iron is hot, add the wet ingredients to the dry and beat until smooth. Pour about 1/3 cup (up to 1/2 cup, depending on the size of your waffle iron) at a time onto the center of the waffle iron. Bake until lightly browned. Serve warm.

Vanilla Pudding with Orange

When you get sick of cookies, there's a whole other world of desserts to choose from. Sometimes I forget that, but I have the good fortune of having friends around to remind me that I should make all sorts of other things for them to eat. This vanilla pudding was suggested by my friend Jen while in town for the weekend, and I had just bought a ton of particularly delicious oranges, so I figured, what the heck?

You can skip the orange juice & zest and leave the pudding at its more simple but equally delightful vanilla state, or replace the orange with lemon or lime or raspberries or [insert name of 20 more fruits here]. It's a nice base to work with. The citrus changes its texture a little, on the custardy side.

Vanilla Pudding with Orange

2 cups milk
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 tsp orange zest

Make room in the fridge.
Heat the milk in a sauce pan over medium heat until bubbles form at the edges.
In a medium bowl, combine the sugar, cornstarch and salt. Pour the dry mixture into the hot milk, a little at a time, stirring to dissolve. Add the zest and continue to cook and stir until mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a metal spoon. Do not boil. Remove from heat, stir in vanilla, butter, and orange juice. Pour into serving dishes. Chill before serving.
Sprinkle with ground clove for garnish if desired.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Thyme Tuna Melt

If I had to pick one thing as my favorite lunch food, it would have to be a tuna melt. I make more variations of them than I've ever bothered to count, but perhaps now that I am blogging many of my meals we'll see just how creative I can get with a can of fish and some bread. It doesn't sound very appetizing when I put it that way, does it? Well, try this next time you find yourself hungry for something diner-y and you might be in for a surprise.

It's worth mentioning that garlic and onion (as opposed to sour cream and onion) chips are extra super delicious with this. The oranges go well, too, especially if you add a pint of Blue Moon. I do love having a beer with fish lunches.

Thyme Tuna Melt

1 8-oz can tuna, drained
1 1/2 to 2 tbsp mayonnaise
a pinch of kosher salt
2 pinches of freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves (about 5 branches worth)
2 slices whole wheat bread
2 to 4 tbsp butter
2 slices monterey jack

Heat 1 or 2 tbsp of butter in a skillet on medium-high heat.
Combine the tuna, mayo, salt, pepper, and 1/3 of the thyme in a bowl.
Once the butter is melted and a little bubbly, sprinkle 1/3 of the thyme into it and set the slices of bread on top. Give them a minute or two to get toasty, and flip them over, adding butter and the last of the thyme to the pan before the bread goes back down. Immediately lay down the monterey jack and pile the tuna on in an even layer. Cover the skillet and turn down the heat to medium, until the cheese has made considerable progress toward melting. Uncover and put the faces of the sandwich together. Sprinkle with more thyme if desired.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Coconut Cookies, With or Without Dark Chocolate

Both of these cookies are from the same dough. After I baked the first dozen, I added a cup of dark chocolate chips and spooned lumpy globs onto the cookie sheet. They look and taste very different, but they're rich and sweet and the kind of chewy only coconut can produce.

For extra glam, dip the cookies in shredded coconut before placing on the cookie sheet.

Coconut Cookies
1 cup butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 tbsp vanilla
1 tsp coconut extract
1 egg + 1 egg yolk
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup shredded coconut
3/4 to 1 cup dark chocolate chips (optional)

Preheat the oven to 375º.
In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, and shredded coconut. Set aside.
In a large bowl, mix the butter and sugar with a wooden spoon. Stir in the vanilla, coconut extract, egg and egg yolk. Add the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Add the chocolate chips if desired.

Drop in heaping teaspoonfuls two inches apart on a greased cookie sheet. Bake 8 to 12 minutes or until lightly golden around the edges. They will be chewier if you under-bake them a little, which I personally prefer.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Butterscotch Macadamia & Cashew Cookies

I confess! I didn't bake the cookies in the photo, nor did I take the photo. My friend Matt baked
this batch, with my recipe, and I'm pretty sure his lovely wife Brooke took the photo. They are big big fans of these cookies - Matt claims to have made variations of them 4 times recently. I believe him, and you will too once you've tried them. Yeah, I'm smug about it. They've gotten really good reviews.

These are really soft, really buttery and if you get nuts with salt on them there's a nice sweet-vs-salty kick. Walgreens has lightly salted mixed cashews & macadamias pretty cheap. I stock up when they're on sale. You can use just macadamias, or pecans, or walnuts, or no nuts at all, switch the chips to chocolate or white chocolate or peanut butter chips. Really, do anything you want as far as the add-ins go. The base of these cookies is really flavorful and I doubt there's anything you could throw in that wouldn't be good.

Butterscotch Macadamia & Cashew Cookies

1 cup butter at room temperature
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 egg + 1 egg yolk
1/2 tablespoon vanilla
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup butterscotch chips
1 cup lightly chopped macadamias and cashews

Preheat the oven to 325º.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
In a large bowl, beat the butter with a hand mixer until creamy. Beat in the brown sugar, scrape down the bowl with a spatula, then beat in the granulated sugar until fluffy. Add the egg, beat it in, then beat in the yolk. Scrape down the bowl, add the vanilla, and beat again.
Add the flour and stir it in with a wooden spoon. Add the butterscotch and nuts, and stir just until evenly distributed.

Roll teaspoonfulls of dough into rough balls and place them 2" apart on a cookie sheet. Bake in the upper middle of the oven for 10-12 minutes or until browned around the edges. They will continue to bake after they are removed from the oven, so don't overbake them. Somewhat chewy centers are the key.

Back in Action, and want to hear from you!

Hi everybody! Miss me? I know you did. Several of you told me so.

While I've been on hiatus, I've received an overwhelming number of messages from friends who have been trying my recipes with great success, and I am absolutely delighted about it! If any of you would like to send me photos or anecdotes about your experiences making anything from this blog, please feel free to email them to me:
And just inc ase, please use 'Made It All From Scratch' in the subject line, that will alert me that your email isn't spam so I will actually open it. :)

I am officially settled into my new apartment, complete with a well-stocked fridge (as of yesterday), and I am working on getting my hands on a tripod since I lost access to the one I was using before. It still lives in Chicago. Hopefully you don't mind if my photos are slightly blurry in the meantime.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

sans frigidaire

I have successfully moved, unpacked the kitchen, found the grocery store nearest to my new apartment. I have a functioning gas stove and a full spice rack. There's one thing missing, though. A refrigerator.

My landlord assures me that within 24 hours there will be a fridge in my kitchen, seeing as he promised on Saturday that it'd be there by Monday. Ahem. It's Thursday. And now I'm busy tonight and will be out of town this weekend, so I guess I don't mind if it's another few days, as long as it's there by this Monday. Sheesh!

Thank you all for your patience, I will be back in full swing very soon!