Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Just in Time for 4th of July - Strawberry Shortcake!

I just got back from my Texas road-trip to my hometown of Corpus Christi, Texas, just in time for 4th of July! After seeing fields, and fields, and fields of strawberries growing along the gulf coast, I just had to make my absolute favorite, "Long-on-Strawberry Shortcake!" I'm not sure where I got this recipe, but I love it! Instead of a biscuit, it is a moist, light cake, made with cake flour, poppy seeds, crushed strawberries, and even some almond extract! Topped with sliced berries and whipped cream, it makes a nice presentation and tastes fantastic! In addition, it only takes 30 minutes, start to finish! It is a nice variation of a true American classic!


Long-on-Strawberry Shortcake

Serves 8-10

Ingredients:
For the Cake
2 cups cake flour (like Swan's Down)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
3 large eggs, separated
1/4 cup crushed (with a fork), ripe strawberries
1 teaspoon almond extract
2, 9" round cake pans and parchment paper

For the Topping
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/3 cup confectioners' sugar
2 pints fresh ripe strawberries, sliced
3 pretty, small, whole berries, for garnish

Directions:
For the Cake
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 9" round cake pans. Cut parchment circles to fit the pans, place in the pans, grease the parchment, and flour the entire inside of the pan. Tap out any excess flour.

Stir together the flour, baking powder, salt, and poppy seeds in a bowl.

With an electric mixer, cream together the sugar and butter. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Combine 3/4 cup water and the almond extract with the crushed strawberries. Add the fruit mixture in thirds, alternating with the dry ingredients. Continue beating until all the ingredients are well incorporated.

With the mixer, beat the egg whites until stiff. Fold them into the batter.

Pour the batter evenly into the prepared pans, and bake for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool the layers for 5 minutes in the pans. Remove the layers from the pan and continue to cool on cooling racks.

For the Topping
While the cakes are baking, whip the cream and 1 tablespoon of the confectioners' sugar. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Combine the sliced strawberries with the remaining confectioners' sugar, a tablespoon or two at a time, until desired sweetness.

Assembling the Cake
Remove the parchment rounds from the layers. Transfer one layer to a serving plate. Top with half the sliced berries and spread 1/2 of the whipped cream over the berries. Top with the remaining cake layer, the rest of the sliced berries, the remainder of the whipped cream, and garnish with the 3 remaining whole berries. Pretty and Yum!

Monday, July 3, 2017

Keep Austin Weird!


In honor of my recent Texas road-trip, I am going to share an excellent recipe for Texas sheet cake, specifically, "The Driskill's 1886 Room Chocolate Sheet Cake!" The Driskill Hotel was built in 1886 in downtown Austin, as the showplace of cattle baron Jesse Driskill. In addition to being a legendary landmark of Texas hospitality, it is listed as a member of The Historic Hotels of America and Associated Luxury Hotels International. If you ever find yourself in Austin, staying at the Driskill will put you in the center of everything, including the Texas State Capital, the Austin Convention Center, Lady Bird Lake, The Long Center, Austin City Limits at the Moody Theater, as well as excellent shopping, dining, and convenient access to the colorful 6th Street Music Scene

Like Austin, known as the "Live Music Capital of the World," and whose motto is "Keep Austin Weird," Texas sheet cake is unique all it's own! You bake an incredibly moist cake in a sheet pan, and while it is still warm, you pour the warm icing over the cake! This cake is so good, it is a cherished recipe of the Heritage Society of Austin! In addition, because this cake is so moist, you can even make it up to 2 days ahead, covered and refrigerated! It's perfect for any celebration!


The Driskill's 1886 Room Chocolate Sheet Cake

Makes one 9"x13" sheet cake

Ingredients:
For the Cake
1 cup unsalted butter
2/3 cup water
1/2 heaping cup cocoa (unsweetened)
2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, beaten lightly
1 cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 heaping teaspoon baking soda

For the Icing
1/2 cup unsalted butter
3 heaping tablespoons cocoa (unsweetened)
4 tablespoons half-and-half
2 cups powdered sugar
1 cup chopped pecans, toasted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:
For the Cake
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9"x13" cake pan.

Melt the butter in a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat. Remove the pan from the heat and add the water and cocoa, stirring well.


Sift together the flour, sugar, and salt, and stir them into the chocolate mixture.


In a large bowl, combine the eggs, buttermilk, vanilla, and baking soda, add the chocolate mixture, and mix well.


Spoon the cake batter (or gently pour) into the prepared pan, and bake 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

For the Icing
While the cake is baking, melt the butter with the cocoa in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add the half-and-half, and heat it through. Mix in the remaining ingredients, blend well, and remove the pan from the heat.


Finishing the Cake
While the cake and icing are still warm, gently pour the icing over the cake. Serve the cake warm or at room temperature.

Recipe adapted from Texas Home Cooking, by Cheryl and Bill Jamison.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Crab Cakes for a Homesick Texan


Concluding my series of recipes, paying homage to my recent Texas road-trip, I must mention Texas's extensive gulf coast of 372 miles! That is more coast than any other state, with the exception of Florida, Alaska, and California! This beautiful shoreline along the Gulf of Mexico is brimming with such shellfish as shrimp, blue crabs, and oysters, and fish, such as red snapper, black sea bass, grouper, mackerel, and marlin, just to name a few! Considering that not everyone has access to stellar fresh seafood (like me, unfortunately), I'm going to share my favorite recipe for "Mexican Crab Cakes with Jalapeno Aioli!"

These crab cakes are exceptional, loaded with jumbo lump crab meat (which can be purchased at almost any grocery), elevated with the fiery habanero chile, and adorned with a delicious jalapeno aioli! Remember that habanero chiles are HOT!!! So, be careful not to touch your eyes, nose, etc., or better yet, wear gloves! A simple green salad or Tri-Color Salad with Lime-Honey Vinaigrette makes a nice accompaniment. So, whenever I feel homesick for some excellent Texas seafood, I always make these, and I feel better!!!


Mexican Crab Cakes with Jalapeno Aioli

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:
For the Jalapeno Aioli
1 jalapeno chile, seeded (optional)
1 tablespoons fresh squeezed lime juice
1 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves, plus more for garnish
1/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt, more or less to taste
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


For the Crab Cakes
1 pound jumbo lump crab meat
1 habanero chile, seeded (optional), chopped
2 teaspoons fresh squeezed lime juice
2 teaspoons fresh cilantro, chopped
3 teaspoons bread crumbs
1 egg
2 teaspoons mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt, more or less to taste
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, more or less to taste
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil

Directions:
For the Aioli
Place all the ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth. Refrigerate until ready to use.

For the Crab Cakes
Combine the crab meat, habanero, cilantro, breadcrumbs, mayonnaise, egg, and lime juice in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Form 4-6 crab cakes, depending on how chubby and big you want them. You can prepare them in advance and keep them refrigerated for up to 2 days.

Heat a large skillet (non-stick is nice here) over medium-high heat, melt 1 tablespoon of butter into 1 tablespoon of oil. Once it starts to sizzle, add as many crab cakes as will fit without being crowded. Cook 3 minutes per side, or until golden.

To Serve
Top each crab cake with some of the jalapeno aioli and sprinkle with some freshly chopped cilantro. Nice!

This recipe, created by Chef Alfredo Solis of Ceiba Restaurant in Washington, DC, comes to me from Pati Jinich of Patis Mexican Table. Thanks Pati, I owe you one!