Saturday, October 23, 2010

Sasha's Kitchen: Carrot Cake (Kosher Cookbook Review)

I have been meaning to make a carrot cake for some time. So when I received a copy of Paula Shoyer's The Kosher Baker from the publisher for review on A Kitchen In Brooklyn, and saw a delicious and healthy recipe for carrot cake, I new it was time. Although I am Jewish, I don't keep strictly Kosher. But I certainly do appreciate Kosher cooking and baking. Plus, one of the best aspects of this book is also how healthy the recipes are. Because they are all intended to be parve (non-dairy), none of them us any butter, which makes for some healthier baking. I confess that my carrot cake is not fully non-dairy because I used low-fat cream cheese in the frosting (as I was unable to locate the non-dairy cream cheese that the book recommended). The recipe was so good that maybe I will try that next time using Tofutti or something.

Carrot cake is great for the fall - fresh carrots and all that cinnamon make for a lovely, fall spiced dessert. The book recommends making two cakes, trimming them, slicing them in half and making a four layer carrot cake. I confess that even though I bake extensively, I am not skilled at cake trimming. I always mean to try it out, but in the end, every time, I just make two cakes and it tastes the same anyhow. So, my adaption of the recipe from the book is for two separate carrot cakes. But if you're in the mood, feel free to trim them into a layer cake!

Paula Shoyer's Kosher Carrot Cake
PAM spray
4 large egfs
1 cup sugar
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup canola oil
1/2 cup orange juice
2 tsps vanilla exract
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tsps baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 tsps ground cinnimon
3 cups peeled and thinly grated carrots

Cinnamon Honey Cream Cheese Frosting
12 oz parve cream cheese (I used regular low-fat cream cheese this time)
1 1/2 tsps vanilla extract
2 1/4 tsps ground cinnamon
3 T of hney
7 cups of confectioner's sugar (I always cut down this ingredient in frosting so I used 4 cups and it was still great!)
1 1/2 T soy milk

To make this recipe, first preheat the oven to 350. Grease 2 8 or 9 inch round pans with PAM spray. In your mixer (or in a bowl using an egg beater), beat the eggs and sugars for a few minutes until thickened. Add the oil, orange juice and vanilla and mix on low speed to combine.

In a separate bowl, combine the flours, salt, baking powder and cinnamon. Add half of the dry ingredients to the bowl with the eggs and sugar and mix on low speed gently to combine. Then, do the same with the rest of the dry ingredients. 

Grate and measure the carrots into  small threads and add to the batter, mixing well.  Divide the batter between the two prepared pans. Bake for about 40 minutes until a skewer or toothpick inserted into the cakes comes out clean. Personally, I think it is probably best to bake the cakes one at a time in the oven.

Allow the cakes to cool completely. If you are going to trim the cakes and slice in half to make a four layer cake, now would be the time! if you are not going to trim the cakes like this, you may need less frosting, so it would likely be okay to cut the frosting recipe in half (if you are making two separate cakes  like I did).

To make the frosting, beat the cream cheese, vanilla, cinnamon and honey well to combine. Add in about 4 cups of confectioner's sugar and beat until it forms a frosting (much the same was as cupcake icing). The book also makes a good point - wrap plastic wrap around the top of the mixer when you do this so you do not get sprayed in a white snowfall of confectioner's sugar! Add the soy milk and beat for 30 seconds until the frosting looks creamy. 

Last, frost the cakes accordingly - either in layers or separately. If you are trimming, you will want to trim the sides of the cake as well. I simply frosted two separate cakes using a spatula.

This cake tasted great - the cake was delicious with the cinnamon and carrots, and nice and moist! And the frosting was sweet, cinnamony and delicious! I will certainly be trying more healthy, Kosher recipes from this great cookbook soon, so stay tuned!


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Sasha's Kitchen: Parsnip Apple Fall Soup (and an upcoming product review)

CSN Stores has offered a product for review through their site, which offers a world of great products, from cookware like Le Creuset to barstools and I look forward to reviewing a product from their store. I have been using a very old ice cream maker for many years (truly old school) and I look forward to reviewing a new, updated and automatic ice cream maker from CSN Stores.  I can't wait to try it out to make some fall pumpkin spiced ice cream.

Pumpkin soup is one of my favorite fall soups. Last year, I made two delicious pumpkin soups - a pumpkin cashew soup and a pumpkin pear soup.  Nothing is better in the fall then a delicious root vegetable soup. Although I plan to get back into the pumpkin soup groove soon, this time I decided to try making a soup with one of my favorite root vegetables - parsnips. What better combination than with fresh New York fall apples? I was inspired to create my own parsnip-apple soup by the recipe for parsnip-apple soup in Tyler Florence's new cookbook. However, my recipe is totally different. Tyler adds oysters and bacon which are totally not needed in my vegetarian rendition. I found the paprika to be a great complement as well, and I much preferred the crisp tartness of honeycrisp apples - my all time favorite apple. The result is slightly, but not overwhelmingly sweet - it is a natural sweetness from the apples, as I did not add any sugar. It also has that wonderful fall crispness. This was a real treat and a soup I will surely make again. Be sure to use farmer's market fresh apples and parsnips. This soup is all about your starting material so it is imperative to use the best local produce!

Sasha's Parsnip-Apple Soup
2 1/2 lbs of parsnips
2 large honeycrisp apples (use three if the apples are small)
2 large granny smith apples
2 cups of heavy cream
2 quarts of low sodium chicken stock
salt and pepper to taste
paprika to taste
parsley to garnish
4 T olive oil
1 onion, diced

First, put 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a pot with the peeled and chopped parsnips and the diced onion. Cook over medium heat for about 20 minutes until the parsnips are softened.  Add the peeled and chopped apples and cook over medium heat for another ten minutes. You may need to add the rest of the  olive oil at this point.  Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Then add the heavy cream and cook over medium heat until the parsnips and apples are full cooked.  Allow to cool for about 10 minutes before pureeing in batches in the blender. Season with salt, pepper and paprika, and garnish with a bit of parsley.


Monday, October 18, 2010

Sasha's Kitchen: Pumpkin Whoopie Pies with Maple Buttercream

I've been waiting to make pumpkin whoopie pies ever since I picked up my copy of Sarah Billingsley and Amy Treadwell's Whoopie Pies. Like summer, fall is such a great time for cooking and baking but in totally different ways. My two favorite ingredients for fall are New York State apples and pumpkins. I make a mean oatmeal-pumpkin chocolate chip cookie that I can't wait to share with you, and tomorrow night I am trying out a new apple parsnip soup using some of those famous New York fall apples.  But tonight is all about the whoopie pies that I made yesterday which feature two ingredients that go so well - pumpkins and Vermont maple syrup that I bought over the summer when we were in Vermont.  The combination was spot-on, and just ad good as all of the other Whoopie Pie recipes that I tried from the book. I improvised a bit on the frosting, and it was still delicious, just a bit more maple-flavored than the original recipe called for.

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies With Maple Buttercream (from Whoopie Pies)
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 (1 stick) cup of unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla

Maple Buttercream
1 stick of unsalted butter
2 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar
3 tablespoons of heavy cream
2 tablespoons Vermont maple syrup
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

To prepare the whoopies, combine the fry ingredients in a bowl and set aside. Beat the butter and brown sugar for a few minutes on medium high using a stand mixer. Add the pumpkin, then the egg, beating well. Add the vanilla and beat until combined.   Add the flour mixture until combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl.

Preheat the oven to 350. Line several baking sheets with parchment paper. Using a tablespoon, drop one heaping tablespoon for each whoopie, a couple inches apart. Bake each sheet, one at a time, for about 15 minutes.  Allow to cool completely.

Beat the ingredients for the maple buttercream on high speed with the stand mixer.  Place a large dollop of the buttercream between two whoopie cookies to make the whoopie pie.

These whoopies were delicious and perfect for fall. They had just the right combination of pumpkin and spices, while the maple was a stellar combination. If you want an even stronger maple flavor, you can use some maple extract.
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