May 26, 2011

m + M Wedding Biscotti

Our friends Mindy and Mark (m + M) are getting married next weekend! Congrats, you two!

Matt and I can't make their wedding because we'll be on our honeymoon (our wedding is just three days away!), but we could at least be there in spirit by baking some celebratory biscotti for m + M to serve to their wedding guests.

The great thing about biscotti is that it keeps for weeks. This helped us avoid the freshness issue that might have been caused by baking this tasty treat in advance. This recipe is my Nonna's, which was passed on by her childhood friend from Italy, Lucy. With a festive twist on tradition, I brushed each end of the biscotti in melted dark chocolate and dipped them in chocolate and colored sprinkles.

This recipe is wonderfully simple. With only six ingredients, it begs experimentation with your favorite add-ins or toppings (nuts, dried fruits, various chocolates, etc.). Crunchy, mildly sweet, and fabulous dipped in coffee, Matt and I have been transported straight to our Italian honeymoon every morning as we've indulged in the extra ends of the cookie loaves that didn't make it into the batch for m + M.

We love m + M for many reasons, one of which is a shared love for food and cooking. Thanks, m + M, for the chance to be a culinary part of your special day!

Lucy's Biscotti (Nonna's recipe)
4 eggs
1/2 cup oil
2.5 cups flour, plus 1 extra cup for adding in
2 1/3 t. baking powder
1 t. lemon or vanilla extract
3/4 cups sugar

Directions: Preheat the oven to 365 degrees. In a large bowl, sift the flour and baking powder. In another, mix the sugar, eggs, oil and flour. Combine all the ingredients together, then add enough flour until the batter is just no longer sticky and pulls away from the sides. Form a relatively flat, long loaf and place on a floured baking sheet. Bake about 25 minutes, or until the loaf is just baked but still soft. Cut into 1/2 inch wide cookies, turn each cookie on its side, and bake for another 5-10 minutes per side or until crunchy and golden brown. Cool on wire racks.

To chocolate dip, melt chocolate in a double boiler. Brush one side of each end of the biscotti in chocolate and pour 1 T sprinkles over it. Place on a wax paper then refrigerate until the chocolate is firm.

May 17, 2011

Memorial Day Weekend Pre-Recipe: Greek Orzo Salad

I've been on a wedding-planning-induced blogging hiatus. I miss PumpkinProse, and will be glad to get back to it with a hungry tummy and the time to do so. It will be June 13th by the time we're married, back from our honeymoon, and done with this haze of nuptial craziness.

On Memorial Day weekend, when everyone else is breaking out their grills and filling the air with the mesmerizing aroma of charred burgers, M and I will be walking down the aisle!

By the time we join normal humanity again, we're going to be long overdue for a BBQ. I can't wait! So I want to share with you one of my favorite sides for an outdoor barbecue or picnic. It's a cool, crisp, and brightly colored Greek orzo salad. Full of fresh vegetables, tangy hunks of feta cheese, and oh-so salty kalamata olives, it's a side that everyone is going to gravitate to.

It's so loved that I have to make huge quantities of it, like this. It's gone in a flash.

I hope you have the chance to make this before I do, and especially on Memorial Day weekend. On May 29th, while I'm wearing a wedding dress, everyone else will be prepping for barbecues! Even though Memorial Day weekend will look a bit different for me this year, I plan to make up for it quickly when I return. Thanks for hanging in 'till I do. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this salad as much as I do!

1 lb orzo
2 pints cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced in half-moons
1 jar sliced kalamata olives, drained, juice reserved
2 cucumbers, peeled, seeded, and diced
1 lb fresh feta cheese, cubed

Dressing: Whisk 1 T. Dijon mustard, juice and zest of 1 lemon, 1/3 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup red wine vinegar, salt, and pepper.

Directions: Cook the orzo according to the package directions. Drain well and rinse until cool. Toss with the remaining ingredients, then toss with the dressing. If necessary, add more olive oil and red wine vinegar to taste, as well as 1 T. at a time of the kalamata olive juice. Season with salt and pepper. Serve cold or at room temperature. Tastes great the next day, too!

May 1, 2011

"Secret Ingredient" Double Carrot Cake

I just went to a party where we had to guess the "secret ingredient" in the cupcakes. I felt something long and squishy go down my throat and thought, "oh! Chopped up Gummy Worms!" I proceeded to wolf down the rest of my cute little chocolate cupcake with hot pink frosting.

Later I found out that the secret ingredient was Sauerkraut.

Good thing the baker of these cupcakes is so talented and lovely, because I felt seriously violated. I despise Sauerkraut. I can't lie -- the idea of it hidden in chocolate made me nauseous.

I can assure you that the secret ingredient in this carrot cake isn't even remotely creepy or totally wrong.

It's carrot baby food. I first got the idea from my future sister-in-law, who mentioned a great recipe for carrot cake that uses baby food. A couple of years later (this Easter) I used the idea to create my own carrot cake recipe. I call this Double Carrot Cake because it's got twice the carrots, both pureed and shredded.

The recipe ended up being healthier than your typical carrot cake, since the baby food replaces almost the entire cup of oil normally called for. I also swapped out a low-fat cream cheese for a full-fat in the frosting. It's a small difference that helps lighten the cake while remaining completely undetectable.

When M tasted a bite he said, "this is the best carrot cake you've ever made!" We were on our way home from Massachusetts, and he'd been behind the wheel for 5 hours. We had driven there to apply for our Marriage License. The occasion (and our fatigue) called for cake. I dug out the tupperware and spoon fed him a big hunk as he drove. It was safe, I promise.

I know M isn't marrying me for my carrot cake, but if you bake this layered-beauty it might just lead to success in the love department. Cake definitely helps move a relationship along.... It's one of those innocent little helpers.

Regardless, the use of carrot baby food makes this cake extremely moist and lends a bright, beautiful orange color to the layers.

It also creates a depth of sweet carrot flavor, with a generous hint of nutty spice, that is far more present than in most other carrot cakes. Together with little hunks of juicy pineapple and raisins, and loaded with thick cream cheese frosting, it's perfection.

I can't believe I wouldn't try carrot cake until I got to college. I thought that vegetables had no place in dessert. Now I know that sauerkraut has no place in dessert, but carrots? Yes, please.

Double Carrot Cake
2 1/3 cups sifted all purpose flour (sifted, then measured)
1 cup sweetened flaked coconut
1 cup raisins
¼ t. fresh ground ginger
3 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups sugar
1 T. coconut oil
2 4-oz. jars carrot baby food, poured into a measuring cup and enough vegetable oil added to equal 1 cup
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups finely grated peeled carrots
2 8-ounce cans crushed pineapple in its own juice, well drained

1 8-ounce package ceam cheese, room temperature
1 8-oz. package light or low-fat cream cheese, room temperature
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, room temperature
2 cups powdered sugar
1 T coconut oil
1 t. vanilla extract
1 cup toasted coconut

For cake:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 9-inch-diameter cake pans with 1 1/2-inch-high sides. In a small bowl, combine 1/3 cup flour with the coconut and raisins and toss. Sift together 2 cups flour, cinnamon, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in medium bowl.
Using electric mixer, beat sugar and oil in large bowl. Beat in the carrot baby food. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Beat in flour mixture. Stir in the coconut and raisin, then carrots and crushed pineapple.
Divide batter among pans. Bake until tester inserted into center of cakes comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Cool in pans on racks 1 hour, then loosen the edges by running a knife around the pan. Turn out onto racks and cool completely. Meanwhile, make the frosting.

For frosting:
Beat cream cheese and butter together in large bowl until smooth. Then beat in powdered sugar, then the coconut oil and vanilla extract. 

Place 1 cake layer, flat side up, on platter. Spread 3/4 cup frosting over top of cake. Top with second cake layer, flat side up. Spread 3/4 cup frosting over. Spread thin layer of frosting over top and sides of cake. Chill cake and remaining frosting 30 minutes to set the frosting crumb layer. Spread remaining frosting over top and sides of cake, then decorate by pressing the toasted coconut into the sides. Keep the cake chilled, but let stand at room temperature 1 hour before serving.


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