Sunday, July 8, 2007

Chessboard Cake

This is the cake I made for Books & Snacks. It looks even cooler when in individual slices. This cut-away picture shows that the center creates kind of a mirror effect on each side of the cake. That's just the way it comes out, but when sliced, you don't notice that. Yes, you do have to have special equipment for this one, namely a Chessboard (or Checkerboard) Cake Pan Set. Mine was given to me which meant I absolutely took the first excuse to make one that I could. This is the recipe that came with the set. I think you could do a lot of interesting things with this set, like perhaps a white and red velvet cake or chocolate and orange cake.

Chessboard Cake with Fudgy Chocolate Frosting

For the cake:

4 cups cake flour
3 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
18 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
2 1/2 cups sugar
6 eggs
1 Tbsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups whole milk
4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled slightly

1- Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease and flour the three round cake pans. Place a round of parchment paper inside each.
2- Sift together flour, baking powder and salt.
3- In a large bowl, beat the butter on medium speed till smooth and creamy. Add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time beating well after each. Continue beating until fluffy, white and increased in volume. Beat in the vanilla. Reduce speed to low and add the flour mixture in four additions, alternating with the milk (beginning and ending with the flour).
4- Pour about 1/3 of the batter (4 1/2 cups) into a medium bowl. Add the chocolate and stir until blended.
5- To form the checkerboard pattern, place the divider ring in one of the prepared pans and spoon the plain batter into the outer and center rings, filling them 1/2 to 2/3 full. Spoon about 1 cup of the chocolate batter into the middle ring. Gently lift the ring out of the pan. Wipe off any remaining batter and place the ring in the second pan and repeat the procedure with the plain and chocolate batters.
6- For the third cake pan, reverse the procedure. Place the ring in the pan and spoon the chocolate batter into the outer and center rings. Spoon about 1 cup of the plain batter into the middle ring. Gently life the ring out of the pan. It's important that each layer have approximately the same amount of batter so that they will be the same thickness when baked.
7- Set the pans on the same rack in the oven, if possible, and bake until the tops of the cakes spring back, 25-30 minutes. Transfer the pans to wire racks and cool for 10 minutes. Remove cakes from pans and cool completely on racks.

For the frosting:

4 3/4 cups confectioners sugar
1/4 tsp salt
12 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup whole milk
1 Tbsp vanilla
6 oz. unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled

1- Combine the sugar, salt and butter (you can use either a food processor or a mixer) until well mixed. Note that the ingredients will be dry and crumbly.
2- Add milk and vanilla and process/mix until smooth.
3- Add the chocolate and process/mix until well blended, smooth and creamy.

Assemble the cake:

1- Take a 10" round cardboard (or whatever plate you intend to use for the cake) and stack one of the cake layers on the bottom. Be sure to use one of the repeated patterns (white/chocolate/white).
2- Spread about 2/3 cup of frosting all the way to the edges of the layer.
3- Place the second layer (chocolate/white/chocolate).
4- Spread about 2/3 cup of frosting all the way to the edges of the layer.
5- Top with remaining cake layer (white/chocolate/white).
6- Spread thin coat of frosting over the top and sides of the cake.
7- Let the cake sit in the fridge until the frosting is set. This is important as the layers have a tendency to slide.
8- Frost with remaining frosting and let sit until set.

Cornbread Crostini

Tasty munchies made for Books & Snacks. I had an idea like this a while ago and then saw a sort of recipe for them. You can either make your favorite cornbread from scratch or go with one made from a mix (8 1/2 oz. box). Just make sure you bake it in an 8x8 pan otherwise the crostini will be too small. Also be sure to store these in an airtight container otherwise they'll just soak up the moisture that you bake out of them.

Cornbread Crostini

1 8x8 cornbread, baked, removed from pan and cooled completely

1- Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
2- Cut cooled cornbread into 1/2" slices then cut each slice in half.
3- Place pieces in a single layer on a large baking sheet.
4- Bake for about 10 minutes or until crisp, turning over once. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

Lemon Apricot Chicken

The meat dish made for Books & Snacks. I used the thin-sliced boneless, skinless chicken breast you can usually find pre-packaged in the grocery store. Sometimes subbing that out when a recipe suggests pounding out the chicken works and sometimes it doesn't. This is one where it does. If you are making a variety of other foods and want to save some time and mess, I wholeheartedly stand behind taking the short-cut here.

Lemon Apricot Chicken

For the chicken:

1/4 cup butter, melted
1 egg
2 Tbsp water
1 cup Bisquick or similar baking mix
1 Tbsp grated lemon peel (I used dried, though I would be interested in how it tastes with fresh.)
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp pepper
6 small boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, about 1 lb. (I had more chicken, probably about 2 lbs. total in the thin-sliced version as discussed above.)

For the sauce:

2/3 cup apricot preserves
3 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp soy sauce
1/4 tsp ground ginger

1- Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spread 1 Tbsp of melted butter in a jelly roll pan, 15 1/2x10 1/2 (I used two pizza pans as I had already used my jelly roll pan for something else).
2- Beat egg and water slightly in a shallow dish. In another shallow dish, combine baking mix, lemon peel, garlic powder and pepper.
3- Flatten chicken to 1/2" thickness between plastic wrap or waxed paper (skip if using the thin-sliced chicken).
4- Dip chicken into egg mixture then coat with baking mix mixture. Place in the pan. Repeat with all pieces of chicken. Drizzle with remaining melted butter.
5- Bake for 20 minutes. Turn and bake about 10 minutes longer or until cooked through. Remove from oven and set aside to rest.
6- Prepare sauce by combining all ingredients in a saucepan until hot then spread small amount over the top of each piece of chicken. Serve any remaining sauce for people to add to taste.

Corn Pudding

I made this for Books & Snacks and amazingly enough, it isn't horrible for you. Be careful about overbaking this. It's going to look a little underdone when you pull it from the oven, but if you leave it in too long it'll get dried out. I used more corn than the recipe originally called for with good results. I bet it would be even better with fresh corn. I just didn't have the wherewithal to deal with fresh for today's event.

Corn Pudding

3 Tbsp sugar
1/4 cup flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper (You could use white pepper if you have it on hand to keep the colors clean, though there is so little pepper in it that you probably won't notice even if you use black pepper.)
2 cups fat-free evaporated milk
1 1/2 cups egg substitute
2 Tbsp butter, melted
6 cups corn kernels

1- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 13x9 baking dish with cooking spray.
2- Combine the dry ingredients in a small bowl.
3- Combine milk, egg substitute and butter in a large bowl. Whisk in the dry ingredients until smooth. Stir in the corn.
4- Pour mixture into prepared dish and bake for 40-45 minutes until deep golden brown and set.
5- Remove from oven and let sit for 5 minutes before serving.

Spinach Pie

I made this for my Books & Snacks party. It made way too much filling, so I'm probably going to make a quiche-type item with the left over. It might make for an interesting warm dip if you used the extra in a glass dish with breadcrumbs on top. Anyway, if you used a deep-dish pie pan, you'd probably use it all. I just don't have one that deep. Ah well. It gives me stuff to experiment with. You can either make your own pie crust or buy some at the store. It's totally up to you.

Spinach Pie

Pie crust for a double crust pie
2 Tbsp butter
3 cups shredded zucchini (I just cut mine up into small pieces.)
8 oz. fresh mushrooms, sliced (I used baby bellas aka porcini.)
1 tsp seasoned salt
1 10 oz. pkg. frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
15 oz. ricotta cheese
8 oz. French cream cheese, softened (You can use Boursin or a similar "garlic and herb spreadable cheese.)
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 Tbsp Tabasco
1 egg, beaten with 1 tsp. water

4- Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
1- Melt butter in skillet over medium-high heat and add zucchini and mushrooms. Sprinkle with seasoned salt and saute until tender. Remove from heat and set aside.
2- Combine spinach, ricotta, cream cheese, mozzarella, eggs and Tabasco in a large bowl. Stir in zucchini and mushrooms.
3- Line a pie plate with the bottom pie crust. Spoon in filling. Top with second pie crust. Cut vents and flute edges.
4- Brush with egg/water glaze.
5- Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes, then at 375 degrees for 35-45 minutes until golden.
6- Remove from oven and let cool on wire rack for 30 minutes before serving.