Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Cheese Straws

This morning I woke up early, peeked at the outdoor thermometer and immediately headed for the kitchen. It was cool enough to bake, so I was going to take advantage of it! Last week I finished moving into the new Melt kitchen and I have been itching to bake, but temps have been in the 90's and have deterred me from breaking in my new "old" oven. My husband and I have been busily painting and unpacking, pounding nails to hang pictures and rearranging furniture to fit into our new space. Finally we are starting to feel settled. Louisiana is our new home. For now.

Since we are currently "southerners" I pulled out a southern cookbook and flipped to a bookmarked recipe. This cheese straw recipe caught my eye over Christmas and I have had it bookmarked ever since. It was a great choice.




Dede's Cheese Straws
Source: Bon App├ętit, Y'all by Virginia Willis
Prep: 10 minutes   Rest: 15 minutes   Bake: 20 minutes   Oven: 375 degrees F
Yield: 6 dozen

1 1/2  cups all-purpose flour
1/2     teaspoon fine sea salt
Pinch of cayenne pepper, to taste
1/2     pound sharp Cheddar cheese, at room temperature, freshly grated
1/2     cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

Position the oven racks in the top and bottom thirds of the oven. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Butter 2 baking sheets.

To make the dough, in a small bowl, combine the flour, salt, and cayenne. Set aside. In a heavy-duty mixer fitted with the paddle, cream the cheese and butter on medium speed until smooth and well combined. Gradually add the flour mixture. Mix on low speed until smooth. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside to rest for about 15 minutes.

To shape the dough, work it in your hands; it should be soft and pliable (like Play-Doh). Shape the dough into a cylinder and pack it into a cookie press fitted with the serrated ribbon disk.

Holding the cookie press at an angle to one of the prepared baking sheets, press the trigger twice, dragging the press away to make a long straw the length of the baking sheet. Repeat until you've covered the sheet, spacing the ribbons of dough 1 inch apart. Using a butter knife, cut each ribbon into 1 to 2 inch pieces. Repeat with the remaining dough and the other baking sheet. (If your cookie press extrudes the dough in fits and spurts, simply pick up the dough and reuse.)

Bake the cheese straws, rotating the baking sheets once, until lightly browned on the edges, about 20 minutes. Remove the baking sheets to a rack to cool slightly. Using an offset spatula, remove the individual cheese straws to cool completely.

Store the cheese straws at room temperature in an airtight container between sheets of waxed paper. They will keep for 2 to 3 weeks.


Harmony's Thoughts
I used a hand mixture to mix this recipe together and it worked fine for me. Just make sure your ingredients are at room temperature.
When using the cookie press, I pressed the trigger a whole lot more than twice to fit the length of the cookie sheet. Start playing with it and you will get the hang of it!
One of the best things about this recipe is the storage time. You can make these way ahead of time and store them for more than one use. Great served as croutons with a salad!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Coconut Celebration Cake

Last week, for my mother's birthday, I made a coconut celebration cake, served with vanilla coconut tea. Searching for inspiration for the perfect coconut cake, I quickly realized that I was going to have to combine some of my favorite recipes from different sources. This cake became the perfect celebration of a lightly coconut-flavored white cake, filled with a coconut pastry cream and frosted with a fluffy seven-minute frosting, all finished with toasted coconut pressed onto it's sides. 

If you have never made a pastry cream or seven-minute frosting before, this is the ideal recipe to practice on! Although it is a good amount of work, don't get discouraged. You could easily make the cake and pastry cream a day ahead to spread out the amount of work involved. This is a great spring-time cake that could be featured at an Easter dinner, a baby or wedding shower, or any other celebration.



Coconut Celebration Cake
Sources: Adapted from:
              White Cake - http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/tender-white-cake-recipe
              Pastry Cream - Great Pies and Tarts - Carole Walter
              Seven Minute Frosting - Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook
Bake: 350 degrees F

Cake:
2 3/4 cups cake flour
1 2/3 cups sugar (superfine sugar is best)
1       tablespoon baking powder
3/4    teaspoon salt
3/4    cup unsalted butter, softened
4       large eggs whites plus 1 whole large egg, room temperature
1 1/2 cup coconut milk
1/4    cup cream of coconut

Pastry Cream:
1 1/4 cup whole milk
2        tablespoons sugar
3        large egg yolks
1        heaping tablespoon all purpose flour
1        tablespoon cornstarch
1/8     teaspoon salt
1        cup shredded sweetened coconut
1        cup cream of coconut

Seven Minute Frosting:
2        egg whites
1 1/2 cups sugar
1        teaspoon light corn syrup
          pinch of cream of tartar
1/3    cup cold water
          dash salt
1/2    teaspoon coconut extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease, line with parchment and flour two 8 or 9 inch cake pans. Set aside. Mix all of the dry ingredients on slow speed to blend. Add the soft butter and mix until crumbly, like fine damp sand. It may form a paste, depending on the temperature of the butter, how much it's mixed, and granulation of the sugar used.

Add the egg whites one at a time, then the whole egg, beating well after each addition to begin building the structure of the cake. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl after each addition. In a small bowl, whisk the coconut milk with the cream of coconut. Add this mixture, 1/3 at a time, to the batter. Beat 1 to 2 minutes after each addition, until fluffy. Be sure to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. 

Pour the batter into the prepared pans. Bake for 25 to 35 minutes for 8" or 9" rounds. A toothpick or cake tester inserted into the center will come out clean when done. Remove from the oven, remove from the pan, and cool on a wire rack. Refrigerate until ready to assemble.

While the cake is baking, begin pastry cream. Place milk and 1 tablespoon of  sugar in a small saucepan. Stir to combine. Cook over low heat, without stirring, until the milk forms a skin on the surface. Whisk egg yolks in a medium bowl. Add remaining 1 tablespoon sugar, flour, cornstarch and salt. Whisk until smooth and thick. Whisk 1/3 of the hot milk into the egg yolks to temper them. Then pour the yolk mixture into the remaining milk, stirring constantly. Over low heat, bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly with a whisk until thickened, about 3-4 minutes. (You want the pastry cream very thick) Remove from heat and empty into a medium bowl. Stir in the cream of coconut and shredded coconut. Cover with plastic wrap and cool in the refrigerator until ready to assemble.

To assemble the cake: place one of the cake rounds (or hearts, squares, etc.) on your platter. Brush with any remaining cream of coconut and spread the pastry cream over the top of the cake. Top with the other cake round. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour. 

To make the frosting, place all ingredients except coconut extract in the top of a double boiler or into a metal bowl over a saucepan of water (do not let the water touch the bowl). Beat for 30 seconds at a low speed to blend. Set at a medium high heat and begin to beat on high with a mixer. Cook, beating constantly, until frosting forms stiff peaks, about 7 minutes. Remove from heat and add coconut extract, beating about 1 more minute.

Frost the sides and top of cake. Toast 1 cup shredded sweetened coconut in a 425 degree F oven, for about 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Press onto sides of cake. Refrigerate until ready to serve.



Harmony's Thoughts
I used 2 tablespoons King Arthur cake enhancer in my white cake.
You can find cream of coconut in the drink mixer section of your grocery store. It is sold in a 12-15 oz. can.
Refrigerate leftovers.

Melt Update

There are seasons in our lives that are reflective and quiet, whether we are focused on a goal or trying to process a recent event. The past few months have been such a time in the Melt kitchen. I appreciate your patience with me in such a transitional time. My husband is just finishing his training, we are heading soon to Denver to begin out-processing  from our base and moving onto a new base and into a new adventure!


Currently, I am finishing the time well spent with my family and community of friends here in Pennsylvania and savoring last moments with them. I am incredibly blessed to have such dear parents and a best friend for a sister. The genuine friendships I share with those in this community have soothed my heart as I have missed my husband. These past few months are etched into the pages of my heart and I am grateful to have shared so much with so many.


More changes are coming in the next few months...my husband and I will be living in temporary housing (with no oven for baking) as we finish our time in Denver, we will be moving and looking for a new place to live, and then settling into a new community. Hopefully, I'll be able to share some recipes along the journey!