Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Nelson (my maiden name) Birthday Cake

I am a girl who loves tradition. I like there to be consistancy and something that you can rely on. I think I am also this way because I came from a family where it is all about tradition, especially when it comes to food. For example on Christmas eve, we always have fresh crab, dipped in butter, Salad de Mason and fondue. Then for dessert we have the famous Yule Log which is a chocolate cake made to look like a log (I am pretty sure it is a swedish tradition). These food loving traditions are almost like a ritual and they hold so many treasured and happy memories for me.

Another Nelson tradition is the Nelson Birthday cake. The origin of this cake was that my grandma Bev (my dad's mom) made this cake for birthdays. Insert my mom into the picture, who is a fabulous cook whom whatever she touches turns into gold and took the Nelson cake which was already fabulous, to another level of fabulous. How did she soop up the Nelson cake? She started with a homemade chocolate cake and her fabulous chocolate frosting with fresh whipping cream. This cake is undeniably divine and wins the hearts of whoever tries it.

When Thad came to meet my parents, the Nelson cake was made, and since I had always had the Nelson cake in my life I had taken it for granted, I thought nothing of it so when Thad partook of this delicate dessert, he died over it. From then on this became something he talked about and begged for and has become his birthday cake.

So with the history out of the way, this cake it just plain great. Since I pretty much love to bake, my co-workers benefit from this and plus it is totally selfish since I don't want baked goods lingering around the house. For our birthday here at the bank we always get lunch from the restaurant of our choice and a store bought cake. Adella's birthday (one of my co-workers) was coming up and I was asked to maker her a birthday cake instead of buying one. I knew she loved chocolate and so I decided to make her the Nelson cake. It was an absolute hit and was so fun to make for her.

Chocolate Cake
Ok so start out by setting the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 9" rounds and set aside.

1 cup water
4 tablespoons cocoa
1 cube margarine
1/4 cup crisco

Combine above ingredients in a small sauce pan over medium heat. Stirring constantly so that the bottom does not burn, bringing to a rapid boil. Then set aside.

2 cups sugar
2 cups flour

Combine sugar and flour in a boil, blending them together with a fork. Next in a stand mixer or with a hand mixer, add the cocoa mixture. Mix well. Then add.....

1/2 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
1 teaspoon baking soda

Beat all these ingredients together until the batter is smooth. Then pour into the pans and place in the oven. For the two 9" inch rounds the cooking time will be 25-30minutes. When I was making this recipe I started checking to see if they were done around 20 minutes. Once a butter knife or toothpick is inserted and comes out clean it is done. Turn them out on a cooling rack covered with parchment paper, right side up. Let them cool completely.

While the cake is cooling, start on the frosting (See below)

Peggles Frosting
1/3 cup butter (at room temperature)
1/4 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
4 cups confectioner's sugar

Using a stand mixer combine all the ingredients on medium speed. When adding the milk, I sometimes have to add more milk to give it a smoother and fluffier texture (about 2-3 tablespoons more).

Next whip a pint of whipping cream. Adding about a 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla to the cream and powdered sugar to taste (remember that you don't want it too sweet); whip until firm peaks form in the cream.

Finally assembly time. Slice each round so that you have 4 9" rounds for the 4 layer cake. I shave each layer with a seraded knife so that they are each as flat as possible. Place the first layer of the cake on a cake stand or plate. Smear on a nice thick layer of chocolate frosting, then whipping cream. Repeat this process 3 more times; dividing the whip cream and frosting evenly between the four layers. On the top of the fourth layer, with a grater and some baking chocolate, shave some chocolate onto the top layer of whipping cream. Allow to set in refrigerator for 2 hours or more.

This is my co-worker Adella blowing out the candles on the cake. She loved it!

This cake is a Nelson tradition and will be until the end of time. Enjoy!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Soft and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

Last night we had a down pour and it was just one of those nights where you want to stay in and snuggle up with a blanket and good movie. Thad was taking a post work power nap and the house was silent except for the pitter patter on the roof from the rain. I decided to pull out my "Martha Stewart's Cookies" cookbook and just read the recipes, something I like to do. It is fun to see what ingredients and techniques each recipes calls for and uses (I know I am a nerd).

I found a chocolate cookie recipe that sounded yummy and buttery and decided I was going try it. Like chocolate cake recipes, there a million trillion billion chocolate chip cookie recipes, so why did I want to try this one? Two reasons 1) It came highly recommended by Martha who I trust entirely and 2)The recipe calls for lots of butter and extra brown sugar, two things I love.

Ok so lets get started....

Soft and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon coarse salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 cups semisweet or milk chocolate chips, or a combination (12 ounces worth)

Start off by preheating the oven to 350 degrees. Measure out the flour and baking soda in a separate bowl and mix; set aside. If using stand mixer, use the paddle attachment or if you have a hand held mixer that is fine too. Combine the butter at room temp. with the sugars and beat on medium speed until pretty and fluffy (about 2 minutes). Then change the speed to low and add in the salt, eggs and vanilla. Mix until all ingredients are blended well. Mix in flour mixture, making sure it is mixed well but not too much. Often times with cookies if you mix too long the dough will become tough, so mix long enough to incorporate the ingredients. Lastly add in the chocolate chips (I am a semi-sweet girl but milk chocolate will do also).

Get out your cookie sheet and place parchment paper over cookie sheet, covering it entirely. Then drop heaping tablespoons of dough onto the parchment paper. It said in the recipe to make sure that the cookies are two inches apart but I only do 6 cookies at a time so that that spacing is not an issue.

Place in oven and cook for about 10-12 minutes. When I am making a new recipe I always play with the time. The first batch I put in for 10 minutes but that was not enough time, so the second batch I put in for almost 11 minutes, rotating cookies half-way through the baking time and they came out just right. Look for slightly browned edges and soft in the center, that is when they will be done.

Once done, take out of oven and let sit for several minutes so that they have time to cool and solidify before being transferred to a cooling rack. Once slightly cooled, transfer to a cooling rack and let cool completely before eating.

I really liked this recipe (I wouldn't put it up here if I didn't). It is a very different type of cookie from the beloved Million Dollar Cookies which are Thad's favorite. With that said we both loved these and Thad said these are his second favorite chocolate chip cookies. They are a flatter, softer cookie with a great buttery taste. They remind me of a Mrs. Field's type cookie. They are very yum and the name holds true, they are soft and chewy, so easy to make and so delish. So pour yourself a small glass of milk and grab about 3 of these buttery cookies and enjoy (maybe even when nobody is looking dip them in the milk, just a suggestion).

Adapted from Martha Stewart's Cookies

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Ultimate Apple and Potato Peeler

My newest and favorite toy from the hubs. My mom has one and it makes peeling apples and potatoes so easy. The peeler peels and cores apples and even peels potatoes in a flash, every household should have one of these.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Martha's Basic Pancakes

Ok I know that the name of these Pancakes is so blah but these pancakes are quite the opposite in taste. Pancakes are an American favorite for breakfast with melted butter, warm maple syrup and maybe a few slices of bacon on the side. I mean we have dedicated whole restaurants to them like IHop, Denny's and International House of Pancakes. I have been on the search for a great pancake recipe forever. In the past I usually used a Bisquick mix and they always turn out too thick and too dry. After making these pancakes Thad confessed to me that my previous pancakes were not so good (which I already knew, hence my pancake recipe search). So I was browsing my food blogs and websites, as usual, and happen to stumble upon this recipe. I printed it off over three months ago and it sat in my ever growing stack of recipes I wanted to try.

Finally this past Saturday I made them for breakfast. I was surprised by how quick and easy they were to make and wondered why I had ever used or even bought pancake mix in the past, I am now converted and will never do so again. And not only were the pancakes easy to make they were also yummy. The texture of the pancakes were soft and moist and they even kept for Thad to have for breakfast the next morning. And most importantly, Thad loved them.

Martha's Basic Pancakes

1 cup all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 large egg
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
*Note: This recipe only makes about 10-12 pancakes, so if making them for a large party I would double or triple the recipe.

For starters turn the oven to 200 degrees. Then place a cookie sheet on the middle rack. This will be where you can keep your pancakes warm until they are served up.

Next get out a medium or large skillet or fry pan. Turn the stove to low. Place a nickel size drop of vegetable oil in the middle of the pan and smear with paper towel, letting the pan heat up (don't use butter because butter has a tendency to burn).

Next in a medium bowl combine the milk, butter, egg and vegetable oil; set aside. Then in a small bowl combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Then add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Mix until just moistened but be careful to not over mix, having a few lumps is ok in your batter (for mixing I just use a whisk).

Drop 2-3 tablespoons of batter into the middle of the pan, the batter is thin so it will naturally spread out in the pan. On low, cook for 30 seconds to one minute then using a thin spatula flip the pancake to the other side and do the same. A good indicator of readiness is when bubbles form in the batter and begin to pop. I like mine on the lighter side, so I only cooked my pancakes for about 30 seconds per side. Repeat the same process, spreading a little oil onto the pan surface, then pouring 2-3 tablespoons of batter onto the center of pan.

Once done cooking, place ready pancakes in the oven, on the cookie sheet and place aluminum foil over the top to prevent further cooking.

Next stack 3-4 pancakes on top of each other and smear with lots of butter and syrup and throw in a glass of milk and you're set for a delicious homemade breakfast. So give them a try!

Bon Appetit!

Adapted from Martha Stewart On-line

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Bake It Pretty

I had to share this website I found through Bakerella, it is called Bake it Pretty and I am just dying over their cupcake holders, frosting tips and eatible glitters and dusters, not to mention thier chocolate molds, cake molds and cookie cutters. Ummmmm.....I think I will take one of everything, thank you very much!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Not Just Any Chocolate Cake.......

There are so many different chocolate cake recipes out there and so many variations but at the end of the day any fresh chocolate cake with a glass of milk is pretty darn good. With that said I have a chocolate sheet cake recipe to share with you that will knock your socks off.

So where did I get this blessed recipe? Well......I usually save my cooking magazines until Sunday, almost as a treat or saving the best for last. I browse the magazines reading the yummy recipes and making plans in my head to make certain ones while Thad finishes his church business (since we have an assignment for our church which takes us 70 mile south of Tuscaloosa to a town called Demopolis, we love it there).

So last Sunday Thad had to go on a visit and I was left at the church for a little while. As I was looking through Paula Deen's magazine I found a chocolate sheet cake that looked delish. I also think what drew me to it was that it was an old family recipe and I felt like if it has been around this long then it must be good. So when we arrived home from Demopolis (and Thad took his Sunday afternoon nap) I made this recipe.

Chocolate Sheet Cake

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter (1 cube)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup water
1/2 cup whole buttermilk
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs

Begin by setting the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 13x9-inch baking pan with a non-stick cooking spray, then coat with flour. Set aside

In a kitchen aid bowl or regular bowl combine the flour, sugar and salt. Sift. Then set aside.

In a medium to large saucepan whisk together the butter, oil, cocoa and water. Bring to just a boil over medium-high heat. Make sure you stir constantly to prevent burning and stir until all ingredients are melted and smooth. Once completed add the chocolate mixture to the dry ingredients, mixing at medium speed. Then add the buttermilk, baking soda, vinegar, vanilla and eggs. Mix until pretty and smooth.

Pour the batter into the prepared 13x9-inch pan. Bake for 30 minutes or until when a butter knife is inserted it comes out clean. It took my cake about 35 minutes to bake (as always, ancient oven). While the cake is in the oven baking, start getting the ingredients together for the chocolate icing. When the timer has about 5-8 minutes left I start the icing recipe (see below).

Chocolate Icing
1/2 cup butter
4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
6 tablespoons whole milk
1 (16-ounce) confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Using a medium saucepan bring to a boil the butter, cocoa and milk; stirring constantly. Remove from the heat and add the confectioners' sugar and vanilla. Then transfer the icing mixture to a bowl or your Kitchen Aid and mix it add medium speed until it is smooth and creamy.

Once your sheet cake is done, take it out of the oven and using a fork poke holes in the cake (I did it all over). You then take the chocolate icing and while the cake is hot, pour the icing evenly over the cake. Let the cake cool completely before serving.

So on that Sunday when Thad went down for his Sunday nap, he awoke to a freshly baked chocolate sheet cake on the counter. After his first bite he literally acted like he wanted to punch something because it was so good. He loved loved loved this recipe and I must say it was divine. So thank you Miss Paula for yet another fabulous recipe.

This is a perfect post Sunday dinner dessert and serves 12-15 people and is even better with some ice cream or a cold glass of milk.

Bon Appetit!

Adapted from: "Cooking with Paula Deen"