Monday, April 25, 2011

Not too Sweet...But Oh So Good!

Searching, searching…scanning cookbooks, flipping through cooking magazines, looking for that perfect desert…big desert?- cake with lots of frosting, or cheese cake - too much; sweet fruit, pie or tart - not what I’m looking for; custard - no; bread pudding - closer but not quite right…the meal I was preparing was going to be ‘big’ so I was feeling that desert needed to be ‘just a little something’ not big sweet. I remembered these Mexican pastries that my mom used to get, mostly cake-y bread with just the slightest bit of sweet, she would keep them in a special place in a kitchen cupboard - not to be touched by us - just for her - for her 10AM pick me up - that was what I was looking for, and then it came to me…Italian Olive Oil Cake. One layer, super moist and not too sweet. And another great thing about this cake is it just takes a couple bowls and a whisk…you know sometimes when you’ve got a lot going on in the kitchen it’s just nice not to have to get out the big mixer or some other big piece of equipment…quick, easy, yummy…works for me!
Torta di Mandoria (Moist Almond Cake)

1C All-Purpose Flour
½ C Blanched or Natural Almond Flour

1 ½ tsp Baking Powder

1 tsp Kosher Salt

3 lg. Eggs

¾ C Granulated Sugar

½ C plus 1TBS Extra Virgin Olive Oil

½ tsp Vanilla Extract

Grated zest of 1 med. Lemon or ¼ med. Orange (I used the lemon)

½ C Orange Juice

For the Glaze:

2 TBS Unsalted Butter

1 C Confectioner’s Sugar

3 TBS Whole Milk

A few drops of Lemon Juice

½ C Sliced, Blanched Almonds, toasted and cooled
Heat oven to 350D.

Grease and flour a 9” round cake pan or springform pan and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, almond flour, baking powder and salt to thoroughly combine…set aside.
Crack eggs into a large mixing bowl and whisk them lightly to break up the yolks. Add the sugar and whisk it in both directions for about 30 seconds. Add the olive oil and whisk until the mixture is a bit lighter in color and has thickened slightly, about 45 seconds. Whisk in the extracts and zest, followed by the orange juice.
Add the dry ingredients to the bowl and whisk until they are thoroughly combined, continue whisking until you have a smooth batter, about 30 more seconds.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake the cake for 30-45 minutes, rotating the cake pan halfway through the cooking time to ensure even browning. The cake is done when it has begun to pull away from the sides of the pan, and springs back lightly when touched. A cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean…

Allow cake to cool for ten minutes in the pan, then gently remove it from the pan and cool completely on a rack.

While the cake cools, make the glaze. Melt the butter over medium heat in a small saucepan. When the bubbles subside, lower the heat and watch the butter carefully, swirling it in the pan occasionally. When the butter begins to turn light tan, turn off the heat and let the butter sit, it will continue to darken a bit as it sits. Add the sugar, milk and lemon juice and whisk until smooth. Cover the top of the cake with the glaze and let it drizzle down the sides. Sprinkle the toasted almond slices on the top of the cake.

There you have it…a not too sweet cake, that looks great and is a great accompaniment to any meal…or just that 10 AM pick me up!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Spring...When a Young Girl's Fancy Turns to...Mozzarella?

Wow! There is so much going on! Spring is happening like it’s arriving late or something… procrastination never gets you anywhere…you’d think Mother Nature would know that! But the fact that she was late on the uptake and now has put the beginning of Spring into overdrive it is causing us humans to run around like little crazies! But I’m getting ahead of myself, you see I too am trying to make up for lost time…in my quest to keep up with Mother Nature’s folly I have not spent any time writing down what I’ve been up to! Now I’ve got all sorts of things to share…so I guess I will just pick a spot and start!

My goat cheese making has been moving along swimmingly and I am feeling quite confident about being able to turn out a nice little batch in a heartbeat. But not being one to leave well enough alone, I have been hankering to produce

 other types of cheese…the natural (and easiest) next step is to make mozzarella cheese. No special equipment needed, like say a cheese press, which is a must have for any harder cheese. No, just some pots, bowls and time are about all you need. So-o-o about a week ago, it was our last really cloudy Saturday, I got my supplies together and set about making a nice batch of mozzarella…this process takes about 3 hours, however most of that time is not hands on.

Mozzarella Cheese

2 Gallons of milk (I used whole, raw milk so I could skim off the cream and make a little butter!)

2 tsp. Citric Acid dissolved in ¼ cup water

1 C. Cultured Buttermilk

30 drops Rennet mixed with ¼ cup water (Rennet can be found online, or as we are fortunate to have a store that sells brewing and fermenting supplies)

1 gallon water

½ C. Sea Salt
Large stock pot

Long knife

Food thermometer


Tea towels
First, if using raw milk, skim the cream off the top of your milk. If the cream is not removed, it will separate itself out of the cheese while you’re making it.

Pour the milk into a large stock pot. Stir in the buttermilk and the citric acid mixed with water.

Heat to 91 degrees

Remove from heat, put a lid on the pot and let it sit for one hour

Add the rennet mixed with water to the milk. Allow it to sit for a least 15 minutes, or until the milk solidifies slightly and is able to be ‘sliced’

Using a long knife, ‘cut the curd’ into one inch squares. Let the curd sit for about five minutes.

Heat the curd to 91 degrees.

Remove from heat, put the lid back on the pot and let it sit for one hour.

After one hour the curds and whey should be separated.

Next, place a strainer into another large pot and cover with a tea towel.

Pour the curd into the strainer/ tea towel, straining out as much whey as you can…save the whey, it’s great for using as the liquid when making rice, oatmeal, or soup - big nutrition and give things a nice richness without adding flavor, and it lasts in the fridge for about six weeks!

Next, gather up the corners of the tea towel, and hang up the whey over a bowl and let the rest of the whey drain out…this will take a couple hours at least.

When you remove the tea towel, surprise, a big blob of cheese! Now on to the fun part…

In your large pot, heat one gallon of water mixed with ½ cup salt. Heat the salt water to 170 degrees.

Meanwhile, cut the cheese into one -two inch squares.

Once your water reaches 170 degrees, remove it from the heat and dump in your cheese. Sort of stir it around for a minute or two, until the cheese softens and begins to stick together.

Using a big wooden spoon, gather the cheese and lift it from the water. It should start sticking together - blob like - on your spoon.

Stretch the cheese, dip it down into the hot water every few stretches to keep the cheese heated. Continue to stretch until the cheese becomes shiny. The stretching part takes about eight minutes.

Now that you have stretched your cheese, and it looks like a long shiny wad, take it out and put it on a plate.

I divided my cheese into three - 8 ounce-ish blobs. Squeeze out any excess water and shape the cheese into balls.

Place the balls into a bowl of cold water. This will cool the cheese and get the balls to hold their shape.

And there you have it…mozzarella! It is absolutely yummy! And mozzarella freezes well too so you can make a batch and not have to worry about gobbling it down at lightening speed - although with the first batch gobbling seems to be part of the mix! Enjoy!