Monday, March 26, 2012

Chamomile Tea Cake with Honey Icing + Joy the Baker Cookbook Giveaway

If you don't already read Joy's blog, Joy the Baker, well, you should. Her blog is one part confessional, one part food blog, and a whole heaping measure of girly fun. (Sorry for the terrible ratio pun- I couldn't help myself. Somehow I think Joy would approve. She seems a little nerdy that way, too.)

Joy recently released the Joy the Baker Cookbook that includes 100 recipes with accompanying photos that she shot herself. She calls the book a "celebration of butter and sugar." That's a woman after my own heart. Hyperion, the publisher, was kind enough to send me a review copy of the book and a copy to give away. If you'd like to win the book, be sure to leave a comment below. I'll pick a winner via random drawing on Sunday, April 1st.

The recipes Joy chose for the book are sure to please- not too difficult and most can be whipped up quickly. There's a great selection to choose from, including a full chapter on breakfast with myriad pan cake recipes to a chapter on party desserts that travel well. I've marked a couple of ice cream recipes that I can't wait to dig in to. She does include a recipe or two that calls for whole wheat flour but largely, this is a book for those of us with a sweet tooth who don't mind indulging once in a while. (Or maybe more often- if so, check out the chapter on chocolate for dinner.)

I don't know how you could read Joy's book and blog and not come away liking her. She writes like your best girlfriend would write to you- Renee and I are convinced that if she just met us, she'd like us too and we'd all be fast friends. I suspect most of Joy's readers feel that way. While it's a fun read, you can tell she put a lot of heart and hard work into this book.  I hope she makes it to Austin on the book tour so I can give her a big hug and let her know she did good. Just like I would for a girlfriend...

You can find the recipe for this tea cake on Joy's site- she posted about it on the date her book was published.

I actually adapted her marshmallow recipe for my first attempt at baking from the book. The marshmallows were scrumptious on their own but I made them for the express purpose of using them to top the s'mores brownies recipe that caught my eye. In the brownie recipe, Joy calls for using store bought marshmallows- direction, in hindsight, that I should have heeded. My homemade marshmallows melted into pools of stickiness that prevented the brownie batter from baking properly. I'm guessing the preservatives (or some such) in commercially made marshmallows allow them to hold up better when baked in the brownies. My attempt was a total flop and were I Joy, I'm sure I could spin it into a hilarious story. But I'm not and I don't want to misrepresent her book by posting about a flop that was due to my not following directions.

This tea cake looked tasty so I decided to give it a whirl. I made a loaf cake instead of individual mini cakes by doubling the cake ingredient quantities. I used a loose leaf grade chamomile tea instead of a finely ground, bagged tea. I liked the contrast the texture added to the cake but you could easily use a coffee grinder or mortar and pestle to grind up loose tea if you prefer a finer texture. Or you could buy bagged tea and snip open the bags to free up the amount of tea called for. Also, while I didn't double all of the icing ingredient quantities, to thin it out a bit to better coat the cake, I did double the amount of cream and honey called for in the recipe.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Vanilla Doughnuts with Sprinkles

We're still pretty blue and are missing Harry terribly so I decided to make happy food. Happy food is associated with good times and fond memories. I didn't coin the phrase "happy food" but I sure wish I had. It's so apropos. I first heard it from Bellwether Vance and I'm sure she won't mind my adopting it here. We needed some happy food around this house.

And really, what fits the happy food bill better than doughnuts with sprinkles? Not much, in my estimation. Doughnuts have never failed to put a smile on my face. That doughnut with chocolate icing and pretty, little red heart-shaped sprinkles? I nearly died from the cuteness. (But then I recovered and ate it.)

To make these doughnuts, I dug up a recipe I had clipped from a Food & Wine feature on Top Pot Doughnuts and the release of the cookbook Top Pot Hand-Forged Doughnuts. I thought about subbing butter for the vegetable shortening but decided I'd try out one of the natural brands of shortening. Whatever "natural" shortening means- the stuff looks just like Crisco to me - but I didn't do a comparison either so maybe it is a better alternative. Next time, I'll just stick with butter. Also, I'd like to try baking these doughnuts- they probably wouldn't be as light but my house also wouldn't spell like fried food for two days. For the white glazed doughnuts, I adapted this recipe by skipping the chinese five-spice powder and the hot water. I found that the heavy cream and vanilla added more than enough liquid and wound up adding extra confectioner's sugar to thicken the glaze. I used a simple 1:1 ratio of cream and chocolate to make a ganache for the chocolate icing.