Monday, December 24, 2012

German Chocolate Cake and Merry Christmas!

I wish everyone a merry Christmas and happy new year. For some reason, the spirit has just not hit me this year and I can't believe Christmas is tomorrow. I do have all of my shopping done but the excitement isn't there.

I wanted to share photos of the German Chocolate Cake I made for Christmas dinner. This is Michael's favorite cake and this is the best recipe I have found for it. It is rich, moist and has a wonderful flavor. Dutch process cocoa makes a big difference so I highly recommend that you use it. It is hard to find (I order mine from Penzey's) and I've yet to find it in a grocery store. Our new Publix doesn't even carry it. :(

This recipe comes from the "Baked" boys - Matt Lewis & Renato Poliafito, who own the Baked bakery in Brooklyn. The recipe is included in their first book Baked: New Frontiers in Baking. Their new book is on my Christmas list - I wonder if I will be getting it? :)

Here is the recipe:

For the German chocolate cake layers:

  • 2¼ cups cake flour
  • ¾ cup dark, unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup hot coffee
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1¼ cups (2½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2¼ cups sugar
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 4 ounces dark chocolate, melted and cooled

For the coconut pecan filling:

  • 1 1/3 cups shredded sweetened coconut
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup evaporated milk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1 1/3 cup toasted pecans, chopped coarsely

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter three 8-inch cake pans, line the bottoms with parchment paper, and butter the parchment. Dust with flour, and knock out the excess flour.

Sift the cake flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a medium mixing bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together the coffee and buttermilk.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar until fluffy. Scrape down the bowl and add the eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated. Add the vanilla and beat to incorporate. The mixture will look light and fluffy.

Add the flour mixture, alternating with the coffee/buttermilk mixture, in three additions, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Remove the bowl from the mixer and fold in the melted chocolate.

Divide the batter among the prepared pans and smooth the tops. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through the baking time, until a toothpick inserted in the center of each cake comes out clean. Transfer the cakes to a wire rack and let cool for 20 minutes. Invert the cakes onto the rack and remove the pans and let cool completely. Remove the parchment.

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Spread half of the coconut evenly across the pan and place in the oven for 5 minutes or until the coconut begins to brown. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.

In a large saucepan, stir together the sugar, butter, evaporated milk, vanilla, and egg yolks. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly. After the mixture begins to boil and thicken, remove from the heat and stir in the toasted coconut, regular coconut, and pecans.

Place the pan over an ice bath (a large bowl filled with ice) and stir the mixture until cool.

Place one cake layer on a serving platter. Trim the top to create a flat surface and evenly spread one third of the filling on top. Add the next layer, trim and frost with one third of the filling, then add the third layer. Trim the top, and frost with the remaining filling.

The cake will keep in an airtight container, at room temperature, for up to 2 days.

© 2008 Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Foolproof Microwave Peanut Brittle

My mother isn't able to cook anymore but she used to bake all the time. Peanut brittle was one of her specialties and she made it often.  I have never made it the way she did, which involved lots of stirring, using a candy thermometer (although I don't think she used one, she just knew when it was ready by the way it looked), and more stirring. Here is a simple recipe for making peanut brittle in the microwave and it is easy as 1-2-3.

1 cup sugar
1 cup raw peanuts
1/2 cup white corn syrup
1/2 tsp. salt
1 TBS. butter
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. baking soda

You will need a microwave-proof container that will hold 2 quarts. 

Stir together the peanuts, sugar, syrup and salt. Microwave on high for 8 minutes, stirring after 4 minutes.
Add the butter and vanilla and stir. Microwave for an additional 2 minutes. Add the baking soda and stir gently until the mixture is light and foamy.
Pour the mixture out onto a warm, buttered pan or a pan lined with aluminum foil. Let it cool before breaking it into pieces.

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

Sunday, December 9, 2012

December bouquet

Another extremely mild weekend with temperatures in the 70s. A change is on the way though with rain coming tomorrow and much colder winter-like temperatures. We need the rain. It has been very dry lately.

I noticed there were lots of roses and camellias blooming right now and picked some yesterday.

In the bouquet are roses "Mrs. B.R. Cant", "Knockout" and "Mrs. Dudley Cross". The camellias are "Pink Icicle" and "Debutante".

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

Monday, December 3, 2012

A warm December weekend

It is December, right? Gorgeous weekend with temperatures in the lower 70s. I took some photos yesterday, did a few chores and changed into a T-shirt before heading to my mother's house in Franklin County. Here are some shots from the garden on December 2.

Armandii clematis over the front gate
Alabama Snow Wreath (Neviusia alabamensis), one of my favorite shrubs for fall color

Camellia "Snow Flurry"

Globe Amaranth (Gomphrena), already bitten by frost, against a backdrop of ornamental grass
Camellia "Pink Icicle" with Kerria in the background
Oakleaf Hydrangea
Oakleaf Hydrangea
Rose "Mutabalis"

Rose "Mrs. B.R. Cant"
Mohawk Viburnum with Holly "O'Spring" in the back
Kerria japonica
Camellia "Debutante"
Witch Hazel "Diane"

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy