Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Date, Banana, Coconut Cake

After my last post where I lamented about all the sugar in the cake I made, I decided to make a cake without refined sugar. This cake is plenty sweet, as the sweetness comes from the natural sugar found in the dates, banana, and coconut.  I think sugar is sugar, regardless of the source, but I feel a little more righteous about its not being the refined stuff.

Sniff, I admit to missing the refined sugar, which gives baked goods tenderness and volume (which is why folks should be careful about tinkering with the amount of sugar called for in baking).  This cake, though tasty, was a bit toothy (read: rubbery).  I don't mind it, but for those who are acutely aware and particular of texture and tenderness, you might feel less forgiving and put off by it. 

I found this recipe in The Herb Companion, a magazine I greatly enjoy for its wholesome and healthy advice and articles on living better. 

Date, Banana, Coconut Cake

1/3 cup mashed bananas
1/2 cup butter, softened
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups water
3 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 cups chopped dates

1/3 cup chopped dates
1/3 cup chopped walnuts
1/3 cup flaked coconut

Preheat oven to 350*F.  Grease and flour a 9x12x2 inch baking pan.

Mash bananas and butter together until creamy.  Add eggs, vanilla and water; beat.  Add flour, baking soda and baking powder. Mix well. Stir in dates.  Spoon batter into prepared pan. 

Combine topping ingredients and sprinkle over batter.  Bake 20-25 minutes  or until wooden toothpick inserted in center of cake tests clean.

Cool cake in pan on wire rack.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Sour Cream Streusel Cake with Cherries

I've been looking for something a little different for breakfast, a take-along for an early family Thanksgiving celebration, and I happened upon this recipe in one of our local grocery store sale flyers. What caught my eye was that this coffee cake not only had streusel, but it also had cherries, a fruit I tend to eat out of hand but rarely use in cooking.  The contrast of bright red cherries nestled in yellow cake, topped with a lovely white glaze looked enticing and delicious.  . 

My cake did not look anything the way it did in the flyer so I checked the store's website, and surprise, surprise the directions were slightly different in preparation.  If I were to make this again, I'd follow the directions in the link provided below in My Notes because I prefer the presentation.  However,  I'm not sure the cherries would really stay atop the cake; I think they may still have a tendency to sink in the batter.

Just two caveats about this cake.  It is very sweet.  A smallish slice of this was almost too much for me, and I love sweet. It was perfect with a cup of black tea, and when I reduced the sugar I normally add to my coffee, the sweetness balanced out the coffee.

 The other thing is this recipe calls for half a cup of cherry pie filling, but a can holds more than a cupful.  What to do with the rest?  If you happen to have some pie crust, you could make quick and easy handheld pies, topped with a little of the glaze from this coffee cake.  Or just eat the leftover cherries, which is what I did, smiles.

Sour Cream Streusel Cake with Cherries

Streusel Ingredients
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt**
1/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into pieces**
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans
1/2 cup cherry pie filling

Batter Ingredients
2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt**
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup light brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla**

Glaze Ingredients
1 cup confectioner's sugar, sifted
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 tablespoon milk (or enough to achieve desired spreading consistency)

Preheat your oven to 350*F.  Grease a 9-inch springform pan.  Line the bottom of the pan with waxed paper; grease and flour the waxed paper. 

To make the streusel, combine the brown sugar, flour, cinnamon and salt.  Cut in the butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Stir in nuts and cherry filling. ** Set aside. 

To make the batter, sift flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in small bowl.  In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the butter  until smooth, about one minute.  Gradually add brown sugar and beat until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes.  Beat in the eggs one at a time.  Blend the sour cream and vanilla.  Stir in the flour mixture until just blended.

Spread half the batter into the prepared springform pan.  Sprinkle with half the streusel.  Carefully cover with remaining batter (as the batter is thick, I drop by spoonfuls and then  spread/"stretch" the batter over the streusel using a couple of forks or spoons, pulling the batter in opposite directions).  Sprinkle the remaining streusel over the top.

Bake about 50 minutes** or until cake is golden brown and pulls away from the side of the pan.  Set on a rack to cool.  Drizzle glaze on top.

To make the glaze, combine the glaze ingredients and stir until smooth. If glaze is too thick, add additional milk by drops stirring in between, until a desired consistency is achieved.  Drizzle over cake. 

Serves 12

I didn't use unsalted butter.  For the streusel I used salted butter and omitted the added salt entirely; for the batter I only used a pinch of salt.

The recipe calls for 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla.  I used one teaspoon vanilla and 1/2 teaspoon almond extract.

The store's flyer says to mix the cherry pie filling with the streusel. The store's website recipe says to keep the two separated and to divide the streusel between the two halves of the cake batter and to sprinkle the remainder on the top of the batter and then add the cherries on top of that.
Please take the time to line the bottom of your springform pan with the waxed paper.  It makes a huge difference in getting it out of the pan and onto a cake plate.

No way did my cake cook in 50 minutes.  At the end of 50 minutes my cake's center was most definitely unbaked and I ended up covering with tin foil and baking another 20 minutes. 

Would I make this again?  I think the idea is good. I would definitely reduce the amount of glaze; in my opinion it's there for looks as the cake is plenty sweet enough.  This is a pretty coffee cake and a  different than what I normally make.  It's definitely good for a larger gathering.  I can say "definitely maybe."

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Salisbury Steak

I have maybe a half dozen or so recipes that I fall back on with regularity when I want something tasty but relatively inexpensive, and one of those dishes for me is Salisbury steak.  This is not true steak, but dressed up ground beef, purportedly developed during leaner times when home cooks needed  one more delicious way to serve the less costlier hamburg.  Another source says this dish was created by a Dr. Salisbury as part of a low carbohydrate diet.  Whatever the history, we enjoy this flavorful, filling dish.  For us, it's kind of a special family meal, but I certainly wouldn't hesitate to serve this to friends who are like family. A pound and a half of hamburg easily serves and satisfies six people.

Salisbury Steak

1 10.5-ounce can of condensed French onion soup, divided
1 1/2 pounds ground beef
1/2 cup dry bread crumbs
1 egg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/4 cup ketchup
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon mustard powder

In a large bowl, combine the ground beef with 1/3 cup of condensed onion soup (reserving the remainder for the gravy), bread crumbs, egg, salt and pepper.  Shape into 6 oval patties.

Brown both sides of  the patties in a  skillet large enough that the patties are not crowded.  Remove from pan and drain off the excess fat.  Put browned patties back into the skillet.

In medium bowl, combine the remaining onion soup and flour and mix until smooth.  Mix in the remaining gravy ingredients and pour the mixture over the patties.  Cover and cook for 20 minutes, occasionally stirring the gravy, being careful not to break the patties.

My Notes:  For us, the recipe as written does not provide nearly enough gravy.  I didn't do it for the photograph, but waited until after the picture taking was done to add lots of gravy to my mashed potatoes, smiles. I buy two cans of condensed French onion soup, using the 1/3 cup required for the hamburg, and using the remainder, plus one entire can for the gravy, and doubling the rest of the ingredients.  You may or may not want to reduce the mustard (I use yellow prepared mustard, like the kind you'd use on hot dogs), ketchup, and Worcestershire, because, as I mentioned, the sauce is quite flavorful and could be deemed too piquant for those who like subtler tastes.