06 August 2012

Summer Mango Cake

I love mangoes. Fresh, dried, pureed, ice cream, as salsa, frozen, on a stick, by the case, however I can get them. I realize that the mangoes we have here in the northern climes are not in the same league as say, from the islands, the pacific or India. But of the 3 variates I have been able to get my hands on, the common Red from Mexico, the large Haitian, or the so sweet Champagne (at least those are the names I see at the market), I will take any and all. Dried ones, without all the excess sugar and dyes, are my afternoon snack of choice. There are times that I have so much of them that I swear my skin is going to turn yellow.

When the fruit & veg market that I frequent had them on sale (5 for 5!) I couldn't resist as they are normally closer to 2$. They ran that sale for 2 weeks and there were mangoes everywhere in the kitchen. I wanted to try something new with them and decided on making a curd. There were some technical difficulties as I worked to get the right consistency, thickness and flavor, but the end result was well worth it. And what better way to show off a delectable mango curd than with a buttery cake, but beware the hot temperature of the day you make this as my frosting was slip sliding around and I had to keep chilling it down.

In honor of two wonderful, amazing women who had birthdays this last month and for all the ones coming up this month (and yes, I will include mine own in that group!!), here is a delicious summer cake with mango curd.

All-Purpose Butter Yellow Cake with Mango Curd and Butter Frosting

Cake adapted from America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook

2 3/4 cups cake flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
16 tbsp (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups coconut milk (the kind in the cold section of the market in 1/2 gal)

350* F

Make sure oven rack is in the middle of the oven and heat to 350*. Lightly spray two 8 or 9 inch round cake pans or one 9 x 13 cake pan, then line the bottoms with parchment paper.

Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a large bowl and set aside.

Beat the butter and sugar together in a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3 - 6 mins. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until incorporated, scraping down the bowl and beaters as needed. Beat in the vanilla.

Reduce the speed to low and beat in 1/3 of the flour mixture followed by half of the milk. Repeat with half of the remaining flour and then the remaining milk, and finally the remaining flour.

Give the batter a stir using a rubber spatula to make sure it is thoroughly combined. Pour the batter into the prepared pan(s) and smooth the top. Drop the pans on the counter a couple of times to remove any large air bubbles. Bake until a toothpick comes out with a few crumbs attached, 20 - 25 for rounds, or 25 - 30 for sheet cake. Make sure to gently rotate halfway through baking.

Remove and let cool in the pans for 10 mins on wire racks. Run a knife around the edges to loosen, then flip onto the racks. Remove the parchment paper and flip upright to let cool completely before frosting.

Mango Curd

2 Mangoes, skinned, seed removed
2 eggs
3 yolks
1/2 cup sugar
juice of 1/2 lemon

After removing the flesh of the mango from the seed, and skinning, puree until smooth.

Put the eggs, yolks & sugar into a double boiler or a bowl that fits over a pot of water. Whisk together, add in the puree and lemon juice, and then put over simmering water, stirring constantly with a rubber spatula.  When the curd starts to thicken, roughly 5 - 8 minutes, switch back to the whisk, and cook until thick, whisking gently.

Remove from heat, strain into a glass or plastic container and cover surface directly with plastic wrap so that a skin does not form.

Refrigerate for several hours until ready to use.

Quick Butter Vanilla Frosting from America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook

2 tbsp heavy cream (again I used the coconut milk)
1 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt
2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
2 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar

Stir the cream, vanilla and salt together in a small bowl until the salt dissolves. Beat the butter on med-high until smooth, 30 - 60 seconds. Reduce speed to med-low and slowly add the confectiners' sugar, beating until smooth, 2 - 5 minutes. Beat in the cream mixture, increase speed to med-high and beat until light and fluffy, 4 - 8 minutes. Chill to workable consistency, soft but not melting.

Putting it all together:

I made this as a 2 layer cake to keep it on the simpler side. Once all your parts are chilled and ready, decide what type of plate you are going to put this on.

Take a small amount of the frosting (about a tablespoon), and put it in the center of the cake plate. Take one of the cakes and turn it top side down and set it on the plate. If you have never done this trick, the frosting keeps the cake from moving around as you are putting everything together.

If you have an off-set spatula it will make the next steps easier. If not, use what you have with no worries.

Starting in the middle of the cake, put a healthy dollop of curd and smooth it out to within a 1/4 inch of the edge of the cake. Decide how much you want to have as your filling, keeping in mind that some will ooze out when the top layer is put on. Another trick that I just learned recently is to take and pipe a 1/4 inch circle of frosting around the edge of the cake and then put your filling in the center. The frosting keeps the filling from oozing out.

Top you filling with the other layer of cake, top side up. If your cakes came out too domed you can always remove that. The best way is with dental floss (UNFLAVORED!!!).

Once your cakes are together, do a crumb layer of frosting. This means to make a thin layer of frosting starting on the sides and then the top. After the crumb layer, build up your frosting on the sides and then the top, smoothing or making patters of your choice.

I had a lot of mangoes, so I took 2 and sliced the halves thinly and then layered the pieces off-set around the bottom to make a nice rim. The top of the cake has additional pieces twisted in half to form further decoration.

04 August 2012

quick ricotta stuffed squash blossoms

So the month of July kind of got away from me. I cooked and baked and made ice cream, but would forget to take photos. I have also had 4 blogs started but have not been able to finish them. I think between the heat/humidity (I mean who doesn't like sweating while they look at a catalog?), looking for a new job/school, and the general laziness that comes with the rare occasion of rest, working on the blog took a back seat.

In honor of general laziness, I offer you a quick appetizer/light beginning...this could even be a meal in itself if you get real lazy!

On one of our trips to the farmer's market, we discovered a new little stand. Everything this guy had was organic which was wonderful to see. Some of the stalls have quite a bit that is organic but not everything, or only a few things. Seems to depend on how large the farm is, and what they are offering. But back to our little organic guy. Everything he had was organic...it may not have been as big as some of the others but his produce was just as beautiful. He also had squash blossoms, which nobody else did.

As soon as I saw the blossoms, I knew I was going to get them, and as we were having my parents up to dinner that night, I thought this would make a perfect starter. Light, quick, easy, refreshing and oh so tasty! All of the herbs I used came from my garden, and I even contemplated making my own ricotta in a fit of craziness, but then rethought that. With all the amazing Italian deli's and small groceries around here, why would I add additional heat to my kitchen?

I did fairly loose, eyeball measurements, so feel free to add or subtract at your whim!

6 Fresh squash blossoms (make sure they are not wet, as that will tear the blossom)
6 - 8 tbsp ricotta
4 -5 tbsp fresh chopped herbs, your choice (I used mint, Thai basil, lemon thyme, oregano)
1 tbsp fresh chopped chives
Salt & Pepper to taste
Drizzle of olive oil

Lay your blossoms out so they are separated. The less you handle them the better, but you do want to make sure if any are damp that they dry so they don't rip when filling.

In a small bowl, mix ricotta with chopped herbs and chives. Add a light drizzle of olive oil and salt & pepper to taste.

Take either a quart size zip bag or pipping bag with a med. small round tip (mine says #802), fold the sides down, and fill with the ricotta mix. Bring the sides back up and twist to push the ricotta down into the tip. If using the quart baggie, snip the corner off to create a small opening in which to pipe the mix. Be careful when you snip the end. If it is too big it defeats the purpose of making a pipping bag and just oozes everywhere!

Carefully insert the tip of the pipping bag into the blossom while holding onto the stem area. Squeeze the pipping bag gently and fill the blossom.

Chill until ready to eat or grab a cocktail and enjoy immediately!