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White Cake with Chocolate and Strawberries

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While I would consider myself a pie person, I also really enjoy cakes, both baking and eating.  I think that my penchant for pie comes from my July birthday.  Because my birthday is usually in the summer, the ideal celebration dessert is a blueberry mountain pie, a recipe I’ll share for my birthday this year.  It’s a hot cobbler served with vanilla ice cream, and it epitomizes the feel of my birthday, for me.

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But, this weekend is Dan’s birthday, not mine.  So, I made a cake.  I prefer chocolate cake with thin chocolate icing , but Dan is a vanilla cake person, and since it’s not my birthday, that’s what I did.  I made a white cake with strawberry icing between the layers and chocolate icing on the top.  Strawberries were on sale at the market, so I bought two packs and garnished the cake with sliced strawberries.

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Now, for the embarrassing part.  So this cake was supposed to have three layers.  In fact, I MADE three layers.  But as I was pulling the pans out of the oven, I (typical) dropped the pan.  It slid out of my oven mitted hands and onto the bottom of the oven, cake side down.  I’m not beyond using food that I’ve dropped, but the cake completely feel out of the pan and crumbled at the bottom of my oven.  It was devastating.  And since I have to work today and didn’t have time to repeat the laborious process of making a white cake just for one layer, Dan’s birthday cake was stunted.

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I also forgot to add the extracts.  I was skimming the recipe a little too fast, I guess, and just never saw the part of the instructions where they mentioned extract.  The cake still tasted good, and with all that icing you couldn’t really tell the difference.  All in all, it turned out well.  The strawberries jazzed up what I would usually consider kind of a boring cake, and I love the strawberries and chocolate combination!

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Basic White Cake
Source: Southern Living, July 2008 

1/2 cup butter, softened

1/2 cup shortening

2 cups sugar

3 cups cake flour (or 2 1/2 cups all purpose)

4 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

2/3 cup milk

2 tsp vanilla extract

3/4 tsp almond extract

6 egg whites

Beat butter and shortening with an electric mixer, at low to medium speed.  Beat until creamy, then gradually add sugar.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.  Combine milk and water.  Alternate adding dry and wet ingredients to the butter, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.  Use a silicon spatula to fold together.  When you’ve combined all three mixtures, stir in extracts.

Beat egg whites at a high speed until stiff peaks form.  Fold the egg whites into the batter one third at a time.  Grease your baking pans, and split the batter between them (3 8″ baking pans)

Bake at 325 for 30-35 minutes.  Cool for fifteen minutes.

Spread out a sheet of plastic wrap on the counter.  Turn one of your pans upside down onto the wrap, so that the cake is touching plastic.  Use your hands to gently hit the bottom of the pan.  Don’t get violent, but you want to hit the pan hard enough to dislodge the cake.  Move your hand around the bottom of your pan until you hear the cake plop down.  Wrap in plastic wrap and put in the freezer.  Repeat with other two layers.

Freeze for 4 hours.  Unwrap frozen layers, spread on icing.  Allow to stand at room temperature for two hours.  Garnish and serve.

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Strawberry Buttercream Frosting
Source: Southern Living, July 2008

1 cup butter, softened

1 32-oz package powdered sugar

1 cup finely chopped fresh strawberries

Use an electric mixer to beat butter until fluffy.  Add sugar and strawberries, beating until creamy.  Refrigerate until you’re ready to put onto the cake. 

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Milk Chocolate Frosting
Source: Southern Living, July 2008

1/2 cup butter, softened

3 cups powdered sugar

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa

1/4 cup milk 

Use an electric mixer to beat butter until creamy.  Add the remaining ingredients, one at a time, beating until smooth.  Refrigerate until you’re ready to ice the cake.

 


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Oysters on the Grill

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Because I’m the biggest brat in the world, when I sent my parents a christmas card, I asked for oysters.  To be fair, my mom got a card asking for her specialty cookies, so at least I don’t discriminate between the people who raised me.  Anyway, so when I got home, my father had oysters on ice waiting for me.

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This post will be the first of a series, called “Captain James Cooks.”  My father, Captain James Rosemond, runs a dive charter out of Carteret County, NC.  His boat, the lovely vessel Tortuga, is docked on Piver’s Island.  You can see his website here.  It was my father’s mother, Barbara, who inspired this blog, and there are certain things that he cooks that are just mind-blowing.  So the segment will feature the Captain cooking his recipes for us.  The name of the segment was inspired by the legendary navigator and cartographer, Captain James Cook.  In a beautiful cross over of interests, one of my favorite authors, Tony Horowitz, wrote a book about one of my dad’s heroes, called Blue Latitudes.  My dad thought he was really clever when he came up with “Captain James Cooks.”

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So about oysters.  While you can usually get mussels year round from all over the world, like most things, oysters have a season.  Usually, oyster season spans all months that end in “-er.”  The season starts around September and lasts through December.  Which makes them a prime holiday food.  We’re not real fancy with our oysters, and most times you’ll see my dad or brothers eating them right out of the shell, but I prefer them with a little extra.  Tabasco sauce is a great topping, as is horseradish.  My favorite combination is a saltine with horseradish on it, topped with the oyster and a little hot sauce.  Guaranteed to clear your sinuses.

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Oysters on the Grill
Source: Captain James Rosemond

A few dozen in-season oysters

Saltines to match

Horseradish

Tabasco sauce

Ice

Keep your oysters on ice until you put them on the grill.  Heat your grill to 300-400 degrees.  Lay the oysters directly onto the grill and close your lid.  Check them every five to ten minutes.  As soon as the shells open, they’re ready to serve.  Use a shucking tool to remove the oyster from the shell, and either eat or slide that sucker onto a saltine.

 

 

 

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Chocolate Mousse

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This year, because of an impending wedding, my father’s new dive charter, and the fact that all of my siblings are either in school, employed by AmeriCorps, or in the Army, we are not exchanging Christmas gifts.  Which is great, I was only asked to bring home pie, which is why this week I made seventy odd holiday cup pies.

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So, as a result, Dan and I celebrated our Christmas a bit early, on the 22nd.  Which was a great idea.  I was going to make chicken marsala, spinach tossed in olive oil and garlic, and for dessert, a lovely mousse.  Now, I know you probably think I’m a crazy masochist for making a mousse after what I will probably refer to in the future as the Pie Blitz of 2008, but what is a romantic Christmas without dessert?  Well, it turns out, I am a masochist and a giant clutz.  After I melted the chocolate on the makeshift double boiler, I went to remove it from heat, and sloshed water all over my hand.  Which left me with serious burns and an inability to do anything but whine.  So, I finished off the mousse and watched Gilmore Girls until Dan got home, and HE made the chicken marsala.  I stayed on the couch and watched Gilmore Girls.  Romantic, right?

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This recipe, unlike some of the pies I’ve made, is a bit complicated.  It takes a little finesse, and it takes a little time.  Finesse that I mostly don’t have, as I’m a raving idiot who burns herself.  Mostly, it’s just a bunch of whipping.  Whip and whip and whip, then some folding, and then a little chilling, and then a lot of enjoying.

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Chocolate Mousse

6 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped

1 cup heavy cream

1 tbsp warm water

1 large egg

2 large egg yolks

Pinch of salt

1/3 cup sugar

Heat chocolate in a bowl over a saucepan of boiling water.  You don’t want the bottom of the bowl to be making direct contact with the water.  The water should also be slowly boiling, not rapidly.  Stir the chocolate occasionally until it’s melted and smooth.  Remove chocolate from heat, but keep the water simmering.

Whip cream until it holds soft peaks.  Cover and refrigerate.

Whisk egg yolks, egg, salt, and sugar together until foamy and light.  Place over saucepan and whip with electric beater.  Move the whisk in a circular motion until the eggs are fluffy and hot to the touch.  Don’t keep it over heat too long, or your eggs will scramble.  Remove from heat and continue beating on high for five minutes until thick ribbons fall from the beater when lifted.  Whisk in water.

Fold 1/4 of the egg into the chocolate.  Incorporate completely, then fold in the rest.  Finally, fold in the cream to make it smooth and light.  Pour into serving dishes, cover, and refrigerate at least one hour.

Serves 2.

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