THE BEWITCHING KITCHEN TURNS 11!

Eleven years ago I hit “publish” on my very first post, got a huge thrill when I did it, and right after went through many bouts of anxiety as I waited and waited… how many people would read what I just wrote? Could I keep the blog going for 6 months? For a year? Well, eleven years have passed, I went from cake-o-phobe to tent-baker, met a ton of wonderful people through this site, and have absolutely no desire to stop writing. I never get tired of it, it is always exciting to share stuff I make. Like this Blog-Birthday cake. I wanted it to have tropical flavors. Passion fruit and coconut sounded good. And I also wanted it to be colorful and fun. Buttercream and sugar work to the rescue!

BEWITCHING PASSION FRUIT AND COCONUT CAKE
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

for the cake:
280 g  all-purpose flour
300 g granulated sugar
2 + 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup full-fat milk + squirt of lemon juice
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 tsp Amoretti passion fruit flavor
½ cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
¼ cup grapeseed oil

For the buttercream:
340 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
750 g confectioners’ sugar, sifted (you might not use the full amount)
3 tablespoons heavy cream
1 teaspoon clear vanilla extract
pinch of salt

for the coconut pastry cream:
(adapted from a recipe from Martha Stewart)
2 cups whole milk
1/4 cup cream of coconut
1/2 cup sweetened shredded coconut
1/2 tsp vanilla paste
4 large egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
pinch of salt

for drip icing:
2 tbsp white chocolate chips
100 g candy melts
43 g tbsp heavy cream (about 3 tablespoons)

for the sugar decorations:
(following Kim-Joy’s youtube tutorial)
glucose
food gel dye, any color you like

Butter and flour three 6-inch cake pans. Melt the butter gently and reserve. Mix the milk with lemon juice and let it sit for a few minutes (congrats, you just made full-fat buttermilk). Sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl. In another bowl whisk together the buttermilk, eggs, vanilla, and passion fruit flavor. Pour the liquid mixture into the flour. Whisk the ingredients together to combine. Pour in the melted butter and oil. Stir everything together until the batter is smooth.

Divide the batter into the three prepared pans. Bake for about 30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of each cake comes out clean. Let the cakes cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes before removing from the pans. If making the cakes in advance, you can freeze them or keep in the fridge, they are easier to work with if completely cold.

Make the coconut pastry cream (preferably the day before assembling the cake). Bring milk, cream of coconut, coconut, and vanilla to a simmer in a medium pan over medium-high heat. Remove from heat. Cover and let it sit for 30 minutes at room temperature.

Put egg yolks, sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a bowl. Whisk with a hand-held blender until thick, about 5 minutes. Heat the coconut infused milk mixture until very hot. With mixer on medium-low speed, slowly pour in milk mixture. Transfer to saucepan. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until boiling, and boil for a couple of minutes. Strain through a sieve. Let cool completely and store in fridge until assembling the cake (cover surface with plastic to prevent a skin from forming).

Make the buttercream. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until smooth and creamy. With the mixer running on low, slowly add all but 1 cup (125 g) of the confectioners’ sugar, the heavy cream, vanilla, and salt. Once incorporated, turn the mixer up to medium-high and mix for 3 to 5 minutes, until the buttercream is white, fluffy, and smooth. Add the remaining cup of confectioners’ sugar as needed, a small amount at a time (I used about half of it), until it reaches good spreadable consistency.  Keep half of it white, divide the other half in four small bowls and use food dye to make four colors of your choice. Reserve.

Assemble the cake. Place one cake layer on a cake board over a turntable. Spread half of the coconut pastry cream. Top with a second cake layer and repeat. Place the final cake layer on top. Crumb coat the cake with white buttercream and chill in the refrigerator for 15 minutes. Add splashes of the different colors of buttercream and work them with a bench or cake scraper as you rotate the cake. Refrigerate for 1 hour.

Made the drip icing. Chop the chocolate chips into small pieces. Add the chips and candy melts to microwave safe bowl and pour heavy cream on top. Microwave for 20 second intervals, stirring in between each interval, until all the chocolate is melted. Let sit for 15-30 minutes, until it reaches 90 F. Pour over chilled cake, spreading towards the outside of the cake with the back of a spoon or small spatula so that it drips. Put back in the fridge to chill until ready to finish decorating. Transfer to a serving stand before adding the final sugar decorations on top.

Make the sugar decorations (can be made a couple of weeks in advance). Pour small amounts of glucose over a half-sheet lined with Silpat. Add drops of food gel dye, keep in mind a little goes a long way.  Bake at 300F for about 1 hour. Let it cool, break into pieces and use to decorate the cake.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Social isolation makes baking pretty tricky. I can still bake for homeless meals on Fridays but everything must be individually wrapped for take-out, so that limits a lot what I can make. No frostings, no mousse cakes, no mirror glazes… I wasn’t even sure I should bake a cake for the Bewitching anniversary because we eat at most one slice each, sometimes we just share a single slice and call it a day. Our departmental colleagues enjoy most of it. But at the present time, no sharing food is permitted in our building. Problem solved: our two graduate students agreed to do the sacrifice and help us with this pressing matter. It was my first time doing this type of watercolor design, so I kept the buttercream recipe simple. It is a fun technique and I intend to do it again in the future, perhaps with more pastel tones and using Swiss meringue buttercream. The real fun part was making the sugar decorations. Interestingly enough, the cake baking started with them. I subscribe to Kim-Joy’s youtube channel and on May 15th she uploaded that tutorial. I was so smitten by the whole idea, I made them later that same day.

I made two batches, the first one definitely using more dye than needed, the second batch using a lot less. With less dye, you get the subtle effect shown on the right picture of the composite above.  You can play with colors and amounts, it is amazing to see the changes the whole thing goes through during baking. At first you will think it’s all going to be ruined. Just trust Kim-Joy, let the oven do its thing, it will all settle into a nice outcome. Make sure to watch her video to get a better idea of the whole method.

The sculpture was a gift from my sister Nyrma, during a trip to Brazil many years ago. I thought it matched the sugar decorations quite well…   And no, it was not intentional at all  😉

The sugar decorations change quite a bit depending on the light, which I find fascinating. And they hold so well! I made them without any precise goal about how or when to use them, but then realized that the blog would turn 11 soon, and a cake was needed. I hoped they would last long enough for that, and they did, just sitting at room temperature, in a single layer. Exposed to the air, not in a box or anything.  Keep that in mind if you want to include sugar decorations on cupcakes or other concoctions. You can make them way in advance.

I loved the cake, the flavor from Amoretti does a good job when you cannot have fresh passion fruit pulp to use. It paired well with the coconut pastry cream. I actually added back to the pastry cream some of the shredded coconut sieved out, just to add a bit of extra texture, but you don’t have to do that, as most of the flavor will have infused the milk anyway. Your call.

So here I am, at the beginning of the 12th  year of my blogging life. It does feel like yesterday, but it also feels it all started a lifetime ago. I don’t have any special plans for the future. This site is just a reflex of my daily life. I am sure year number 12 will continue with a lot of baking, but also regular cooking.  I’ve been exploring a bit more vegetarian and vegan options, not with intentions of changing my eating habits, but for the challenge they represent, particularly in baking.  I found out last year that one of the graduate students in our department is allergic to eggs. That means she could never enjoy any of the bakes I shared with our colleagues in the “Mondays with Sweetness.”  It made me so sad. At some point I will be able to bake again for the department, and intend to get some bakes especially for her. Who knows when it will be? But I am practicing and getting my baking mojo ready for it…

 


To my readers, thank you for being here, your support is truly what makes it all so special for me, it’s the fuel that keeps my blogging engine going…

 

ONE YEAR AGO: The Bewitching Kitchen Turns 10, and a Giveaway…

TWO YEAR AGO: The Bewitching Kitchen turns 9!

THREE YEAR AGO: The Bewitching Kitchen turns eight!

FOUR YEARS AGO: The Bewitching Kitchen Turns Seven!

FIVE YEARS AGO: Bewitching Kitchen Turns Six!

SIX YEARS AGO: The Bewitching Kitchen turns Five!

SEVEN YEARS AGO: The Bewitching Kitchen turns Four!

EIGHT YEARS AGO: The Bewitching Kitchen Turns Three! 

NINE YEARS AGO:  The Bewitching Kitchen turns Two!

TEN YEARS AGO:  Bewitching Birthday!

ELEVEN YEARS AGO: Welcome to my blog!

 

 

 

 

THE BEWITCHING KITCHEN TURNS NINE!!!!

I can hardly believe it. For nine years I’ve been sharing recipes, stories, dog tales, kitchen mishaps, happy and not so happy news in my virtual spot. The thrill of writing it is still with me, in many ways more intense now than ever. The overall atmosphere of my blog might be changing a little because my cooking interests have changed.  I used to be a certified cake-o-phobe, but now I get more excited about concocting a genoise than making an exotic risotto. Go figure. To celebrate my 9th year of food blogging, I wanted to bake a special cake that would push the boundaries of my comfort zone a little. Thanks to help and advice from my friend Jennifer, Patissiere Extraordinaire, I share with you a French classic: Gateau Royal. Chocolate lovers, this is your dream come true in cake form.

GATEAU ROYAL
(based on Il etait une fois la patisserie and Rock the Bretzel)

for the chocolate genoise:
(makes a 9 x 13 cake, you will use only part of it)
70 g butter, melted, warm
90 g cake flour
45 g cocoa powder
6 eggs
200 g sugar
1 tsp vanilla paste

for the pate praline:
125 g hazelnuts
125 g almonds
160 g sugar
5 mL water

for the filling:
40 g milk chocolate
160 g pate praline
80 g Gavottes cookies (or rice Krispies)

for the mousse:
115 g egg yolks (about 6)
100 g syrup (35 mL water + 70 g sugar)
200 g chocolate
400 g heavy cream

for the pouring ganache:
227g chocolate (at least 60% cocoa)
170g heavy cream
28g light corn syrup

Make the genoise. Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9 x 13 inch pan and line the bottom with parchment paper. Sift the flour with the salt and cocoa powder. In a heatproof bowl whisk together the eggs and sugar. Place the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Whisking constantly, heat the eggs and sugar until warm to the touch, and the sugar feels dissolved if you test it with your finger. Remove from heat and transfer the mixture to the bowl of your electric mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment.

Beat on high-speed until the egg mixture has cooled, and tripled in volume. It will fall like a ribbon from the beater, and form a distinct pattern on the surface when it drops. Beat in the vanilla extract. Add the flour-cocoa mixture in three increments, mixing gently by folding.  Remove about half a cup of batter and mix with the hot butter. Pour that back into the cake batter and mix gently. 

Pour on the prepared pan and smooth the surface with an offset spatula. Do not be aggressive, the batter is delicate and the air you beat into it is all that will lift the cake. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes. Cool completely before inverting and moving on with the recipe.

Make the pate noisette. Start by placing water and sugar in a skillet or a large saucepan. Heat up to 240 F.  Add the hazelnuts and almonds. Gradually, they will be covered with a white film, that looks like sand.  Cook until the sugar re-dissolves and caramelizes, stirring gently often.  Pour the mixture on a sheet of parchment paper and let cool completely. If you have a Vitamix, use it to process the praline, in about 5 minutes you should have a very nice, flowing paste.  Reserve. You will not use the full amount for the cake. 

Cut the sheet of cake to form an 8-inch circle. Freeze the trimmings for other uses. Center it inside a 9-inch cake pan with removable bottom and tall sides. To make removal easier, place a sheet of acetate film all around the inside of the pan.

Make the praline filling: melt the milk chocolate and allow it to cool slightly. Add to 160g of pate praline, mix well. Crush the required amount of Gavottes or rice crispies and add to the mixture. Immediately spread it over the cake, bringing it to the edges in a layer as uniform as possible. Work fast because the mixture will get harder to spread as it cools.  Reserve.

Make the chocolate mousse. Place the cream in the bowl of a Kitchen Aid and place it in a cool place for at least 30 minutes. Beat until firm. Transfer to a bowl and keep in the fridge. Wash the Kitchen Aid bowl, you will use it to whip the egg yolks. Melt the chocolate in a bain-marie. Reserve. Heat the sugar with the water in a saucepan. When the mixture reaches 230 F, start whipping the yolks in the mixer.   When the mixture reaches 240 ° C, pour it on the yolks while continuing to whip. Continue to beat until completely cool. The mixture should be clear and form a ribbon. Delicately stir in the melted chocolate. Your mousse is now ready.

Spread the mousse all over the cake, making sure it completely covers the space between the cake and the wall of the pan. Add all the mousse to the top of the cake, forming a thick smooth layer that will almost reach the top of the pan. Smooth the surface with an offset spatula, cover with plastic wrap and freeze for at least 6 hours, preferably overnight.

Prepare the icing. Cut the chocolate in small pieces, pour the almost boiling cream on top, wait a couple of minutes and gently mix. Add the corn syrup. Cool until it is around body temperature, and working very fast, in a single movement, pour it over the still frozen cake. Once the icing sets, decorate with white chocolate drizzle, or in any other way you envision.  Keep in the fridge until serving time. Slice using a knife moist with warm water, cleaning it after each cut.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments:  Traditionally, the Gateau Royal is made with a base of almond sponge, similar to the Joconde used in the Opera Cake. Jennifer likes it better with a genoise, because the cake needs to be fully frozen after assembling, and the genoise performs better upon freezing-defrosting. She speaks, I listen. Chocolate genoise it was. My other departure from tradition happened in the final step, the icing. A real Royale shines (literally) with the coating of a mirror glaze. I had a few issues and resorted to plan  B, a more humble pouring ganache. The mirror glaze adventure shall be re-visited in the future. And I promise you won’t have to wait for the Bewitching to turn ten.

I will not lie to you. Making this cake will be a labor of love. One of the components, the crunchy topping for the genoise, requires making pate noisette. The photo above shows the overall process. The nuts are coated with the syrup and you must cook them until it all caramelizes and forms a nice shiny coating on the nuts. It takes a little time, and constant attention. Once you get to that stage, a powerful mixer like a Vitamix is the method of choice to liquefy it, so that the result will be a luscious, thick and smooth cream. Once the pate noisette is ready, it will be combined with special French cookies called Gavottes, which will probably require a virtual trip to the Store That Sells It All, aka amazon.com. Adaptations in the US often call for rice krispies. Their job is only to provide texture. Since it’s not every day that a food blog turns nine years old, I went the extra mile and used the real deal. When folks at the department tasted the cake, the ALL wanted to know what was the crunchy filling. It is that good, my friends. Leftover pate noisette is the stuff Nirvana is made of. I put it to good use in some macarons, remember?

Assembling this cake is a ton of fun. It needs to freeze for several hours before the icing is poured on top, so in case you make it, keep that in mind. Definitely better to spread the process. You can bake the cake on day one, make the praline and the mousse on day two, and coat it on day three. Easy peasy. The resulting cake has everything a choco-holic loves: intense chocolate flavor in each layer, perfect contrast of texture thanks to the praline, and that Nutella-aura that turns us all into happy kids. Cannot imagine a better cake to celebrate a special occasion.

A little slice of chocolate heaven!

So here I am, inviting you to follow me as I start my 10th year of food blogging. Expect a lot more baking, by the way. I want to learn different skills, from tempering chocolate to working with choux pastry, from sugar work to entremets. Petit fours? Yeah, I want to tackle them too…

If you’ve been with Bewitching Kitchen for a while, or happened to stumble on my site today for the first time, thanks for being here! 

Special thanks to Jennifer, who virtually held my hand during the preparation of the cake,
calming me down in some particularly thrilling moments
(wink, wink).

Celebrate, grab a pin!

ONE YEAR AGO: The Bewitching Kitchen turns eight!

TWO YEARS AGO: The Bewitching Kitchen Turns Seven!

THREE YEARS AGO: Bewitching Kitchen Turns Six!

FOUR YEARS AGO: The Bewitching Kitchen turns Five!

FIVE YEARS AGO: The Bewitching Kitchen turns Four!

SIX YEARS AGO: The Bewitching Kitchen Turns Three! 

SEVEN YEARS AGO:  The Bewitching Kitchen turns Two!

EIGHT YEARS AGO:  Bewitching Birthday!

NINE YEARS AGO: Welcome to my blog!

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THE BEWITCHING KITCHEN TURNS EIGHT: TWO MILESTONES AND A TRIPLE GIVEAWAY!

*comments are now shutdown, winner to be announced July 3rd, 11pm*

Here I am, wrapping up my eighth year of food blogging. But, are you ready for something even more amazing than that? Today, on this exact day, with this very post, I reach ONE THOUSAND ARTICLES PUBLISHED. I can hardly believe it myself… Can you imagine the odds on that? Gives me a thrill, that’s for sure. I actually noticed that those events could coincide, so I increased up slightly the pace of posting this month, lending a little helping hand to fate. Still, it deserved a very enthusiastic version of Sally’s Personal Happy Dance.  You should be grateful that there are no videos. But, to what matters most. What is a Birthday without cake? It is an idiosyncrasy. I could not allow that to happen. So, I rolled my sleeves up, took a few yogic breaths in and out, sat down on a rug staring at a candle for a full 19 seconds, and look what I baked for this party:

A Ferrero Rocher Cake, with – obviously – eight bonbons decorating the top. One for each year, my friends!

The interesting thing is that I own a pathetically large number of cookbooks. Of those, many, I repeat, many are cake cookbooks. Is this recipe from one of them? Obviously not. Why would I take the sensible path? No, not a chance. I got this recipe from the youtube channel hosted by Chetna Makan, the wonderful contestant of  The Great British Bake Off. A couple of months ago she demonstrated this Ferrero Rocher cake, making it seem easy and doable. I could not take it out of my mind. Plus, the idea of topping it with eight bonbons… how could I not go for it on this occasion? You can see Chetna in action with a click here.  And without further ado, I share with you my transcript of her recipe.

FERRERO ROCHER CAKE
(slightly modified from Chetna Makan)

for the cake component:
250g softened butter
250g caster sugar
50g melted dark chocolate
5 eggs, roughly whisked
200g self-rising flour
50g cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
2 Tbs milk

for the ganache:
375g dark chocolate
450mL double cream (I used heavy cream)
30g unsalted butter

for the icing:
300g salted butter, softened
600g icing sugar, divided in two equal portions
2 Tbs milk
4 Tbs finely ground hazelnuts

for the pouring ganache and decoration:
50g dark chocolate
150mL double cream (I used heavy cream)
8 Ferrero Rocher bonbons

Make the sponge cake component: prepare three 9-inch round pans by greasing them with butter and placing parchment paper on the bottom. In the bowl of a KitchenAid type mixer, combine the softened butter with superfine (caster) sugar. Beat until creamy, a couple of minutes. Add the melted chocolate, mix a few seconds.  Slowly add the eggs, a little at a time with the beater running in low-speed.  Still in low-speed, add sifted self-rising flour, cocoa powder and the additional teaspoon of baking powder.  Mix until combined, add the milk, and mix well. Pour into prepared pans and bake at 350F for about 20 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean.

Make the ganache: place the chocolate cut into pieces in a large bowl, add very hot –  almost to the boiling point – cream, allow it to sit for a minute, then slowly mix with a spatula. When the chocolate is dissolved, add the butter. Reserve, covered with plastic wrap.

Make the buttercream icing: Add the softened salted butter to the mixer, beat with the paddle attachment until creamy. Add the sifted powdered sugar in two additions, 300g each. Mix well, then add the finely ground hazelnuts. Taste a little bit and dream. Reserve.

Assemble the cake: place the first layer to a cake stand, add the cooled ganache. Spread almost to the edges. Sprinkle diced hazelnuts all over the ganache. Place the second cake layer on top, repeat the ganache/hazelnut spreading. Place the third cake on top. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Ice the cake with the buttercream hazelnut component. Try to make it smooth on top and sides. Refrigerate the cake for 30 minutes.

Make the pouring ganache: mix the chocolate in pieces with almost boiling heavy cream. Wait a minute or so, then stir until the chocolate is fully melted and smooth. Pour on top of the cake, allowing it to flow down its sides. Sprinkle the top with more chopped hazelnuts, decorate with Ferrero Rocher bonbons….  Place in the fridge until serving time, removing it to room temperature about 30 minutes before slicing.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I decided to take my time to make this cake. Baking the cakes on a Saturday, making the ganache and frosting the following morning, assembling the cake in the afternoon. A well-laid plan indeed. To my delight, the cakes baked beautifully, flat and smooth. I removed them from the pans as if I was born doing it. Something we all know not to be the case. Next day the ganache and buttercream preparation went flawlessly. I was radiating self-confidence and pride. Then, I confronted the hazelnuts. A portion to be coarsely chopped, a smaller portion processed more finely. Hazelnuts are kind of expensive, so I bought them whole. That was a move to regret for as long as I live. Have you ever had to peel those pesky creatures? The skin seems to be covalently bonded to the nut. If you are not into chemistry, let me explain. Covalent bonds are strong. The atoms involved are sharing electrons, and the electrons don’t intend to stop dancing together in that complex, undetermined space. I sense an essay coming:  Implications of Sub-atomic Interactions for Cake Baking.  Anyway,  it took me 90 minutes to peel the hazelnuts. On my first innocent attempt I trusted instructions to simply roast them “and the peel will come off easily by rubbing them with a paper towel.” That is not only wrong, it is cruel. In desperation, and with two fingers burned, I googled for alternatives. Found out that if you boil them for “a couple of minutes” the peel should come off with “very little effort.” When I did that, I could hear the dancing electrons laughing at me. No intention of leaving their Covalent Gala. More google action. Found yet another set of instructions, more realistic as it included a clear warning – this method won’t be easy, but it’s by far the best way.  You do boil them, but with baking soda. A lot of it, actually (3 tablespoons for 2 cups of water). The pan will look like a witches brew, as you can see on the composite photo below. 

Get a bowl of cold water ready. After 4 minutes, grab a couple of hazelnuts with a slotted spoon and throw them in the water. Rub gently with your fingers, if the peel starts to come off, you are done. If not, keep boiling them, stirring constantly in low heat, otherwise you will have a very epic mess  on your stove (no need to ask me how I know). Once you reach the point of peels starting to come out,  drain the whole batch and shock them all in cold water. Peeling them will still be a labor like no other. Messy and long-lasting. An ordeal that I do not wish on anyone. In fact, I tell you what a great concept for hell could be. A place where you spend your full day peeling hazelnuts. In the background, the song “Don’t worry, be happy” plays non-stop. Once you are done, you can go to sleep, but not before watching Titanic, beginning to end. That is hell. Hazelnuts, Bobby McFerrin & Titanic, day in, day out.

But was it worth all the trouble? Oh, yeah! I tell you one thing, the icing with the finely ground hazelnuts is to die for, some serious deliciousness in taste and texture. If you like Ferrero Rocher, this cake is the ultimate celebration of it. The creaminess of the ganache, its intense chocolate taste echoed by the sponge cake. A real winner. Now, if you watch Chetna’s video, you’ll notice that her pouring ganache ended up thicker than mine. I think it’s a matter of the ingredients used. She used double cream, easily available in the UK, I had to go with our regular whipping cream. If I knew my way around baking, I would probably adapt it, perhaps using a higher proportion of chocolate. At any rate, I am happy with the way it turned out. Also, a warning: the ganache makes more than you’ll need. Chetna baked four cakes, I went with three, slightly larger. But trust me, you can use the leftover ganache in many tasty ways. Macaron filling? Yesssss!  Stirred into the morning cappuccino? Oh, yessssss…

So here I am, at the eight year mark! According to Foodista, 8% of the blogs make it to six years, no statistics available for food blogs older than that. What matters is that I am still having fun, and intend to keep going, so if you’d like, step with me into the 9th year of adventures in our kitchen.

source Foodista

To celebrate my special double milestone, I am offering a triple giveaway!  Three cookbooks that deal with some of my passions. The Book of Buns, a delightful publication that covers all sorts of breads, from simple to more complex. Second, Les Petits Macarons, because… how could I not include this colorful obsession of mine? And finally Flavor Flours, in my opinion the best cookbook for gluten-free baking. If you follow my blog, you know I don’t have any dietary restrictions. But recipes that try to adapt classics to gluten-free alternative versions fascinate me.  I’ve made quite a few of her recipes, and they were all top-notch. Alice Medrich does her homework before coming up with a recipe.

If you’d like to enter this giveaway, just leave a comment, and I’ll draw the winner on June 30th, announcing it the day after. I intend to give the books either as real hard copies (for those living in the USA), or as Kindle copies to those anywhere else in the world. Of course, if you live in the US but rather have the virtual versions, let me know.

 

Grab a pin to celebrate!

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ONE YEAR AGO: The Bewitching Kitchen Turns Seven!

TWO YEARS AGO: Bewitching Kitchen Turns Six!

THREE YEARS AGO: The Bewitching Kitchen turns Five!

FOUR YEARS AGO: The Bewitching Kitchen turns Four!

FIVE YEARS AGO: The Bewitching Kitchen Turns Three! 

SIX YEARS AGO:  The Bewitching Kitchen turns Two!

SEVEN YEARS AGO:  Bewitching Birthday!

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Welcome to my blog!

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THE BEWITCHING KITCHEN TURNS SIX!

IT’S GIVEAWAY TIME!
(comments are now shutdown for this post)

Six years ago I composed a post and hit “PUBLISH” for the first time, with trembling fingers and the excitement of starting a new path. For six years I’ve shared recipes, photos, stories, reviewed cookbooks, fitness videos, baked a lot of bread, quite a few desserts, and invited you over many virtual tours of our kitchen. It’s been absolutely great!  During this time I’ve made connections with a number of food bloggers and readers that now feel like real life friends. That side-benefit of blogging I could not foresee on day one, and I love it!

As I prepared this post, I noticed about 25 wordpress drafts waiting to go live, and probably nearly as many folders in my computer of recipes and photos “to be blogged soon”. Come to think of it, I could quit cooking anything new for about 6 months and still keep the site going. I have no intentions of slowing down my cooking, but such a backup of posts definitely makes life easier. Who needs a hobby that is a source of stress? No, not me, not into it. However, in such a special day we must have cake, which all of a sudden places the stress threat on RED ALERT. Plus. I’m not talking a simple cake, but one defined by Dorie Greenspan as a “show-stopper”.  I tried my hands at her “Carrèment Chocolat”.  Here is the result of my labor of love, which ended up as Phil’s labor of love too.

Carrement Chocolat Cake2

HAPPY 6th BIRTHDAY, BEWITCHING KITCHEN!

I will dedicate a special post for the making of this cake, let me just say that it was worth the stress and the many boo-boos made by yours truly, and fixed by her awesome husband.  Stay tuned.

A blog anniversary would not be complete without a giveaway to show appreciation for my readers.  You make blogging fun and rewarding. I am giving away a signed copy of David Leite’s The New Portuguese Table.  I take this opportunity to thank David for sending me a signed copy super fast… much appreciated!

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Portuguese cuisine doesn’t get the recognition it deserves. Being Brazilian, I grew up under the influence of many such dishes, not only because of Brazil’s colonization, but because my Mom’s parents were both born and raised in Portugal. I have memories of my childhood and teenage years back home, when grandma (Vovo’ Florinda, who lived with us), would make “bolinhos de bacalhau” (salt cod fritters) and the smell made me want to turn around and go back to school.  I was a silly young girl, who twisted her nose at many classic Portuguese dishes. I feel bad because I never even tried one of her fritters. Shame on me! Maybe now that I am older and so much wiser (or as I like to put it… much older and a little wiser), I can do justice to Vovo’ Florinda‘s cooking by offering this book to one of my readers.  To enter the giveaway, simply leave a comment in this post. Comments will be open until July 1st, and the winner will be announced the following day. If you’ve never commented before but have been following my blog, I would love to “meet” you, so don’t be shy anymore, and say hello! Contrary to my usual approach, I won’t reply to every comment in this post, so let me say upfront:  Thank you for taking part of my virtual celebration!

I invite you to follow me on the road to my seventh year of food blogging. I promise there will be cakes, breads, and dog tales. I’ve shown you this photo before, but I love it so much, I want to share it again… Plus, who knows how long Chief will be with us? Hard to tell… at almost 16 and a half years old, he still loves going for walks and staring at the road ahead. Like all of us do… The unknown, the possibilities. All there, waiting for us.

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A walk at sunset with the pups…


ONE YEAR AGO:
The Bewitching Kitchen turns Five!

TWO YEARS AGO: The Bewitching Kitchen turns Four!

THREE YEARS AGO: The Bewitching Kitchen Turns Three! 

FOUR YEARS AGO:  The Bewitching Kitchen turns Two!

FIVE YEARS AGO:  Bewitching Birthday!

SIX YEARS AGO: Welcome to my blog!

THE BEWITCHING KITCHEN TURNS FIVE!

IT’S GIVEAWAY TIME!
UPDATE: time’s up, comments shutdown for this post

It’s been five years and 688 posts. I enjoyed blogging from the beginning, and then it got better as the years passed. Now I’m more relaxed about it, I suppose. Looking back,  I went through a few phases that are maybe not obvious to you. For instance, in the second year I became slightly obsessed with getting special serving dishes, plates and small bowls “for the blog.”   I also flirted with the idea of a fancy camera and photography classes, until I realized that’s not what my blog should be about. I assembled all the extra stuff, donated it, and felt great.  Our life has little to do with perfectly set tables and carefully placed food props.  “…not that there’s anything wrong with that!”   😉

The Bewitching Kitchen revolves around our desire to eat well while working jobs that demand our full attention, even beyond the daily 9-to-5.  So, most stuff I post reflects the need for simple dishes that are reasonably quick to prepare, but flavorful and fun to eat.  I have neither goals nor expectations for the blog, except to keep it going as long as I enjoy it.  If this site can motivate busy people to cook, eat well, and  – I bet you knew this was coming – exercise often, so much the better!

Five years went by so quickly.  This blogging milestone demanded that I face my own cooking demons. I baked a cake!  What’s even more amazing  is that it involved creaming TWO types of sugar with butter.  Can you imagine that? It will take me a while to recover …

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APPLE SPICE BUNDT CAKE WITH RUM GLAZE
(slightly modified from Alton Brown, Best Thing I Ever Made)

for the cake:
12 ounces unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus extra for the pan
15 1/2 ounces all-purpose flour, plus extra for the pan
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground grains of paradise
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/8 teaspoon ground star anise
8 ounces granulated sugar
7 ounces light brown sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 Granny Smith apples, about 8 ounces each, 1/4-inch dice
3 ounces walnuts, chopped
1 1/2 ounces crystallized ginger, finely chopped

 for the glaze:
6 ounces powdered sugar
4 teaspoons dark rum
Turbinado sugar, for sprinkling

Heat the oven to 325 degrees F. Lightly butter a Bundt pan and dust with flour, tapping out the excess.

Whisk the flour, baking soda, salt and spices together in a large bowl.

Combine the butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer and, using the paddle attachment, beat on medium until the mixture is pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes.

Whisk together the eggs and vanilla and slowly add, with the mixer on low-speed, to the butter and sugar. Add the flour one-third at a time and beat on low just until combined after each addition. Stir in the apples, pecans and ginger.

Transfer the batter to the prepared bundt pan; the batter is thick and will almost fill the pan. Bake for 75 minutes, rotating the pan after 30 minutes. The cake is done when it pulls away from the sides of the pan, springs back when pressed and the internal temperature reaches 205 degrees F.

Cool the cake in the pan on a rack for 30 minutes. Invert and remove the cake from the pan. Cool completely on the rack before glazing.

Combine the powdered sugar, rum and 1 tablespoon water in a small mixing bowl and whisk until smooth. Pour the glaze onto the bundt cake and sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Let the glaze set for at least 30 minutes before serving.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

 

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Comments: This cake was part of the show “Best Thing I Ever Made” on FoodTV Network a few years ago. Ever since I watched that episode and listened to Alton Brown describe his rationale behind the recipe, I wanted to make it. First, I love a cake that goes in the direction of speculoos with all those delicious spices. And this cake had two things that appealed even more to me: the inclusion of grains of paradise, and the omission of cinnamon.  Grains of paradise (shown on the top left of the composite photo) have a very unique flavor, so I was quite intrigued by their use in this cake. And cinnamon is so common when apple cakes are concerned, that NOT having it immediately called my attention.  In fact, Alton made a specific point of not adding cinnamon to the batter, to avoid taking his masterpiece in the direction of apple pie.  Brilliant move!

The whole thing works beautifully together, just as he promised:  chunks of apple permeate the cake, a tender crunch of walnuts (he used pecans, by the way), and the assertive crunch of crystallized ginger.  The delicate shell of the icing with rum (barely noticeable) is perked up by the sprinkle of turbinado sugar, not to be omitted…   For my taste, this cake is close to perfection.  I did not have that many issues to bake it, which is a bit unusual. Ok, later I had to wash some dried up cake batter from my right eyebrow, but that’s nothing compared to what cake baking has done to me in the past. Still, below you see a photo of the state of our kitchen midway through this labor of love.  Trust me, I never make this mess, only when I’m working on a cake. It is absolutely pathetic.  Please notice the place I chose for resting the bowl with all the flour.  Why would I pick the most unstable place ever? Let’s not waste time trying to understand it. It is cake. And it is me. Capisci?

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And now…  GIVEAWAY TIME!   I am so thrilled to celebrate my 5th year in the blogosphere that I am offering two gifts. First, a wooden board beautifully crafted by Michael (link to his site), who has been featured on IMK in the recent past.  He was actually quite busy with some trips but managed to make time in his schedule to have this board ready for my giveaway. Thank you, Michael!

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The second gift, is a copy of the latest cookbook by David Lebovitz,  My Paris Kitchen…. If you are familiar with his style, you’ll know this book is a must-have.  Paris is obviously a place very dear to my heart, it’s where Phil and I met, and where we spent a sabbatical year together later. Visiting often is not possible, but cooking French food is one way to keep the memories alive.  This book is a virtual passport to the city we love.  To enter the giveaway, just leave a comment on this post.

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Everyone is welcome to enter, I will draw two names on July 1st, 2014 an announce the winners right then. Entries will close on June 30rd at midnight.  Good luck, and a big thank you for all who make the interactions in comments, private emails, and Facebook so much fun!  I invite you all to join me in the journey of my 6th Bewitching year! There will be bread, sous-vide, and pies. There will be macarons, dog tales, and when the mood strikes, pull-ups, push-ups, and sit-ups.   Maybe this will be the year I get to finally conquer the crane pose that I’ve been working on for as long as I’ve been blogging….

It’s the road that matters, not the destination. I firmly believe that.   😉

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ONE YEAR AGO: The Bewitching Kitchen turns Four!

TWO YEARS AGO: The Bewitching Kitchen Turns Three!

THREE YEARS AGO:  The Bewitching Kitchen turns Two!

FOUR YEARS AGO:  Bewitching Birthday!

FIVE YEARS AGO: Welcome to my blog!