Monday, September 30, 2013

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bundt Cake

Wow! This is only my 3rd pumpkin dessert post on my blog. That's less than one a year! It's not that I'm anti-pumpkin. That would be silly! It's just one of those seasonal foods that I forget to use! Like blackberries! (Mental note to self: use blackberries!)
Do you ever find yourself at the end of a fruit or veggie season and think, "Oh, whoops! I'll remember to use that ingredient NEXT year...yeah..."? If not then you are a super multi-user of produce (or you have a garden.)
Well, I was glad to make a pumpkin dessert just in time for fall. Unfortunately, I couldn't find any pumpkin pie spice at Whole Foods and was about to go home and mix my own spices when I found their winter spice blend. One whiff of this blend and I was in love. I quickly added it to my items to buy and then brought it triumphantly home and made my room mate smell it. He smells like the holidays! It was the perfect blend of spices to add to this pumpkin chocolate chip bundt cake.
I must admit that I found this recipe to be quite dense. The amount of ingredients it calls for kept surprising me. THREE cups of flour and TWO cups of sugar?! But seeing I haven't baked with pumpkin in a while, I figured this was the norm.
The bundt cake was nice and soft. It doesn't pack a mighty pumpkin flavor so the chocolate chips and spice were a nice pairing to make it more enjoyable. My addition to this recipe is the drizzling of icing on top. It looked rather bare without it.
And WITH the icing it makes the bundt cake look irresistible, don't you think?
So, besides baking with pumpkin last week, I also got this cute new boot.
I guess I was running too quickly because I tore my plantar fascia sprinting down 5th Ave at a 5:50 per mile pace. So for now, instead of "the messy chef" you can call me the "hop-a-long chef."
Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bundt Cake (adapted from Barbara Bakes)
Ingredients for cake:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (or use a winter spice blend or make up your own spice blend)
2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup butter, soften
2 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 can (16 ounce) pumpkin (Erika's Extras: It's worth it to buy the better brand so as to get a better pumpkin flavor)
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips (Erika's Extras: I used semi-sweet. I suggest that or dark chocolate.)

Ingredients for glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
1-3 tablespoons of heavy whipping cream

Preheat oven to 350°. Grease a full size bundt pan.
In a medium bowl, stir the flour, spices, salt, baking soda, and baking powder and set aside.
In a large bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and the sugar until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time mixing well after each addition. Add the pumpkin and mix until combine. Add the dry ingredients mixing just until combined. Stir in chocolate chips.
Pour the mixture into the prepared pan. Bake 50-60 minutes or until a long thin toothpick or thin knife comes out clean.
Cool in pans 5 minutes on a wire rack. After 5 minutes invert onto wire rack. Let cool completely before adding the icing.
To make the glaze, sift the powdered sugar into a medium to small bowl. Stir in a tablespoon of heavy whipping cream. Add more cream to get the thickness of glaze that you desire. 
Bake well and prosper!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Gluten-Free Almond Butter Cookies

Wow...I've been on an almond kick, haven't I? If you've noticed, this is my 3rd post in a row involving almonds. ("Almazing" Almond Bars and Raw & Gluten-Free Honey Bunches of Oats Bars are the other two.)
Well, what can I say? I love almonds and I love making almond butter in my new food processor. My shiny, magical, incredibly awesome 12 cup food processor. 
I'm still in awe. (And I still need to watch the instructional video that came with it...)
Want to see something else I recently got for my kitchen (since I haven't posted about my kitchen in awhile?) Sure you do!
Aren't these the cutest?! (Don't worry, I still have my giraffe measuring spoons!) I bought these a couple of weekends ago when I was hanging out with my best friend from college. She's leaving to do a year abroad in England and when I use these spoons I'll think of her. Especially when I use the 1/4 tsp one because we have an inside joke about squirrels...
Thinking of my best friend being abroad for a year is exciting and a little sad at the same time. Thankfully, I made these cookies and got to eat them for comfort. (Don't worry...they are rather healthy cookies!)
These cookies are gluten-free AND chewy. Yes, I know. You don't see those two words describing cookies usually, but it's true. And guess what! They're very easy to adapt with your favorite chocolate or nuts or toppings!
Gluten-Free Almond Butter Cookies
1 C of raw almond butter (I made mine with 2 Tablespoons of dark brown sugar. I highly suggest making yours with brown sugar, too!)
1 egg
1/4 C honey
1 teaspoon baking soda
dark chocolate chips or chunks of a dark chocolate bar
raw pecans pieces (only need around 10)
1/4 C shredded coconut (I used unsweetened dessicated coconut)
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
2. Add almond butter, egg, salt and baking soda into a stand mixer. Mix until well combined.
3. Add honey and mix until well combined. (Dough will be really sticky.)
4. Stir in chocolate.
5. Measure approx 1 tablespoon of dough and drop onto prepared cookie sheet. Space approx 1″ apart.
6. Sprinkle coconut and salt on top of each drop of dough to your liking and then press pieces of pecans on top of the dough.
7. Bake for approx 8-10 minutes and remove from oven when slightly golden. Cool on baking sheet for 4 more minutes and then transfer cookies to a cooling rack and allow to cool before enjoying.
Bake well and prosper!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

"Almazing" Almond Bars and Dîner en Blanc NYC 2013

Have you heard of Dîner en Blanc? Well, if you haven't, prepared to be amazed. Dîner en Blanc is an all white picnic party started 25 years ago in Paris which now has parties all over the world. The event is very popular and has a long waiting list just to get an invite. For NYC, lucky people who get on the invitation list deck themselves out in white, bring white chairs, white tables, a basket of food, and then meet at different locations around the city at a certain time.  
No one knows where the event's location will be until a couple of minutes before the event. So it's like a surprise flash mob, even for the mob! 
And guess what. I was lucky enough to get and invite and PERFORM at the event!
I received the invite to perform because the creator of this event was at the wedding I sang at in France two and a half weeks ago. He loved my Ave Maria so much that he let his son, the current head of the dîners, know that I lived in NYC. And, well, the rest is magical history.

(Click here for a short, iPhone video of part of Ave Maria so you can get an idea of the fantastical setting I was fortunate enough to sing amidst.)

I also sang an aria from Carmen and threw some white roses at the end of the aria. :)
Now, let's talk about my table. My guest was the bride from the wedding in France. Without her, I wouldn't have been at this dîner. We had to lug our table and chairs just like everyone else and then we set out our salads and sushi (and wine...of course!)
I told my friend that I would supply dessert. I wanted something somewhat white and had the good idea to modify this recipe into an almond bar. I switched the milk with almond milk and switched the peanuts with sliced almonds. I loved these so much that I, being the goober I am, called them "almazing!"
They were the perfect dessert to pair with this amazing evening! All I needed to do after singing was sit back, relax, enjoy the pary, and eat dessert.
"Almazing" Almond Bars (adapted from my Mom's Best Recipes Book)
Ingredients for Sponge Cake:
2 eggs
1 C sugar
1/2 C almond milk
1 T butter
1 t vanilla
1 C flour
1 t baking powder
1/4 t salt
Ingredients for Frosting:
half and half (or almond milk)
powdered sugar (at least 2 cups)
1/2 cup of almond milk
In a small saucepan, scald almond milk, turn off heat and add butter. In a mixer, beat eggs until light, add sugar and beat well. Sift in flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir in vanilla and milk mixture. Bake in greased pan (about 7 1/2 by 10 inches) for about 20 minutes at 325 degrees. Cool well. Cut in narrow bars.
Frost sides and bottom with frosting made by mixing a little bit of powdered sugar and a little bit of thin cream at a time. (Use half & half or almond milk. Half and half won't be as sticky as the almond milk. Both work well). Roll in slivered almonds and enjoy. 
Bake well and prosper!
(And here are a couple of more photos from the event.)

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Raw & Gluten Free Honey Bunches of Oats Bars

You know when it's just too hot out to turn on the oven? You know, so hot that you're sweating when you're just standing in your kitchen, let alone moving in your kitchen?  Yeah, well, NYC is going through an end of summer heat wave right now and I just couldn't bear to turn on the oven. (Sometimes I do, mind you...but I just couldn't do it this time seeing the weather's been so nice recently.) (Oh, and no, I don't have an AC unit in my kitchen.)
So, I decided to use my new 12 cup food processor and make almond butter for the first time. After I made that, I decided to see what kind of bar I could make with some of the almond butter. 
Sometimes making up your own recipe creates an incredibly scrumptious, "hit-the spot" dessert. This one contains a strong honey flavor while also packing in protein awesomeness with the almonds. I highly suggest that you, too, go have some fun in your kitchen by making up your own recipes (if you haven't already...) Just make sure to stay cool when you do!
Raw & Gluten Free Honey Bunches of Oats Bars
           (an Erika Beth, the Messy Chef recipe)
3/4 C Almond Butter
4 Medjool dates, finely chopped with a knife or ground down in a food processor
1/2 C+ gluten free rolled oats (I used Bob's Red Mill Brand)
1 Tablespoon+ honey
Mix almond butter and chopped dates in a bowl. Once well combined, add oats. Mix until well combined. Feel free to add more oats until texture is to your liking. Once well combined, stir in the honey. Add more honey to liking. When completely combined, mixture should stick together and be close to a ball shape. Grab some of the dough and make it into a bar shape. Place in container or on a plate and refrigerate for at least an hour or overnight. Serve slightly chilled.
Bake well and prosper!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Toulouse Revisited

Dear readers, do you remember my blog post from 2 years ago about Toulouse?  I quote, "Unfortunately this meant that I wouldn't have my nice camera for the second part of my European trip which was in France. :( This just means that I'll have to go back sometime soon with my nice camera to take better pictures, obviously. :)"

Well, guess what. I did just that! I took tons of photos to make up for not having my camera last time.

I took photos of the inside of my favorite church in Toulouse.
I took photos of my favorite street.
I took photos of my favorite boulangerie.
I also took photos while biking on the Canal du Midi. 
On the Canal du Midi, my Toulousienne friend and I ate a picnic we packed. Afterwards, we went to the nearby restaurant on the bike path for a glass of wine.  
When I was perusing the menu I just happened to inquire about dessert. Imagine that! And the most magical thing happened! I just happened to order the dessert sampler. 
And I just HAD to take photos of it for my blog. 
There was a nice blackberry cobbler, vanilla ice cream with the thinnest slivered candied almonds, custard, super chocolaty cake, an apple tart, and whip cream to put on whichever dessert I wanted to put it on. Oh, and a glass of muscat.
I was in heaven. 
The other heavenly thing about this dessert sampling? It was very reasonably priced!
After my nice, quick jaunt over to France, I'm ready to get back into my kitchen and bake. Fall's right around the corner which means heavier desserts will be made soon. Yay!
Oh, by the way, I was back in Toulouse for a coworker's wedding in the countryside nearby. I got to sing at her wedding. Isn't this one of the loveliest settings for a wedding?!
Bake well and prosper!