Bake Along: Cranberry Streusel Upside-Down Cake

Cranberry Streusel Upside-Down Cake - LiveDineParty

This week I’m doing my very first bake along with Liz at Books-n-Cooks.  Liz is my sister-in-law and we live too far away from each other to actually bake together, so this is the next best thing!  She has been blogging for a few years now, sharing her recipes and reviews of the books she is reading.  And, yes, she inspired me to start my own blog.

We have decided to take on the upside-down cake.  She baked the Orange Almond Upside-Down Cake from the February/March issue of the Fine Cooking magazine, while I baked a variation of that from the same issue, the Cranberry Streusel Upside-Down Cake.

When I started baking this recipe, I thought it was going to turn out to be a disaster.  I was starting to get a really bad cold and my baking skills were definitely impaired by all of the cold medicine I was taking.  And, I was a little short on cranberries so it looked like things were going downhill fast.

Well somehow, it turned out delicious and it was big hit when I served it to my family.  The tartness from the cranberries paired perfectly with the sweetness of the streusel.  I will say, the streusel seemed a little light to me, so next time I make it, I think I will try 1.5x the amounts listed in the below recipe.  It didn’t look quite as pretty as the pictures in the magazine (if I had enough cranberries this probably would have helped), but based on what I thought I was going to end up with, I was definitely happy with the final product!

I can’t wait to see how Liz’s Orange Almond version came out.

Adapted from finecooking.com

Makes one 9-inch round cake

Ingredients

For the streusel

  • 1/2 cup chopped toasted pecans
  • 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 2 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted

For the topping

  • 3 Tbs. unsalted butter; more for the pan
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 cups fresh or thawed frozen cranberries

For the cake

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 9 Tbs. unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk, at room temperature (you can substitute whole milk if you don’t have buttermilk)

Directions

Make the streusel

Combine the pecans, brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, and salt in a small bowl. Stir in the melted butter until well combined.

Cranberry Streusel Upside-Down Cake - LiveDineParty

Make the topping

Butter a 9-inch round cake pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper and butter the parchment.

Combine the butter and sugar in a saucepan and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is dissolved and it turns to a slightly darker caramel color.  Be careful not to burn it.  Slowly add 3 Tbs. water (be careful, as it will bubble and steam). Cook, stirring, until combined, about 30 seconds.

Immediately pour the caramel into the parchment paper lined cake pan. This is where I made another mistake. The cold medicine made me read “immediately pour the cranberries into the caramel”.  You want to let the caramel sit until it is cool enough to touch.  It still tasted fine, but the caramel just didn’t set right.

Then, pour the cranberries over the caramel, pressing them tightly together.

Cranberry Streusel Upside-Down Cake - LiveDineParty

Make the cake

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.  In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy.  Add the vanilla, mix to combine.  Then add the eggs, one at a time, beating until just combined after each addition.

With the mixer on low speed, alternately add the flour and the buttermilk or whole milk, beginning and ending with the flour, and beating until just combined after each addition.  With a spatula, carefully spread half of the batter over the cranberries.  Scatter the streusel over the batter.  Dollop the rest of the batter over the streusel, and then carefully spread to cover.  The batter is quite thick and difficult to spread so work carefully in order to keep the layers in place.  Tap the pan firmly against the counter to remove any air bubbles.

Bake until a tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, 35-45 minutes.  You may want to place the cake pan on a cookie sheet in order to catch any overflow and keep your oven clean.  Cool on a rack for 35 minutes.  Run a knife around the edge of the cake to release it from the pan.  Invert the cake onto a serving plate.  Serve warm or at room temperature and enjoy!

Cranberry Streusel Upside-Down Cake - LiveDineParty Cranberry Streusel Upside-Down Cake - LiveDineParty

I used frozen cranberries this time, but I think I will be making this again in the Fall, when I can get some fresh cranberries from the cranberry bog down the street…yes I do live in the country 🙂

Now you should head on over to Books-n-Cooks to check out Liz’s blog and see how the Orange Almond Upside-Down Cake variation came out!  I can’t wait to give it a try.

Thanks for baking with me Liz 🙂

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Valentine’s Dinner for Two

I’m officially sick of all of the snow we have been getting in the Boston area.  We got about a foot of snow on Wednesday and now it is snowing again.  I’m getting to the point where I would like to hibernate for the rest of winter and wait until it all melts to leave the house again.  Needless to say a snow blower has been added to next year’s budget.

However, with nowhere to be or go today, I am kind of enjoying the winter wonderland outside 🙂 .

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So, it is the perfect day to be snowed in and cook a romantic Valentine’s dinner.  We are celebrating a day late because, to be honest, the thought of cooking an involved dinner on Friday night after work just didn’t sound exciting to me.

The tablescape…well without an actual kitchen or dining room table this will be a breakfast bar scape.   Since it is not a full table, I am also limited in space so I kept it simple with the red roses my husband got me and some candles.

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I decided to do a nice French themed dinner.  I didn’t plan on it being French, but it just kind of turned out that way.  I’m making two of my husband’s favorites…French Onion Soup for the appetizer and Filet Mignon au Poivre with Cognac Sauce and baked potatoes for the main course.

Classic French Onion Soup

Adapted from finecooking.com

Serves about 2-4

French Onion Soup - LiveDineParty

As I mentioned, French Onion Soup is one of my husband’s favorites.  And anytime we go out to eat and he sees it on the menu he orders it.  So I decided to attempt to make it.  This was first attempt and I have heard it is not that easy so I was not expecting much, but it actually turned out great!  It takes a long time to caramelize the onions properly so I decided to make the soup earlier in the day so that I was not going crazy trying to time everything.  You can definitely make this ahead of time because you end up putting it in the oven prior to serving it anyways.

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 2 medium-large yellow onions, thinly sliced
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. granulated sugar
  • 1 small baguette, cut into 1/2-inch slices
  • 4 cups lower-salt canned beef broth
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cups grated Gruyère

Melt the butter in a pot over medium heat.  Stir in the onions and season with 1 tsp. salt and a few grinds of pepper.  Reduce the heat to low.  Press a piece of foil onto the onions to cover them completely, cover the pot with a lid, and cook, stirring occasionally (you will have to lift the foil), until the onions are very soft but not falling apart, 35 to 45 minutes. I think I may have cooked my onions a few minutes too long because they did start to fall apart, so as they begin to get soft check them more frequently.  Remove the lid and foil, raise the heat to medium high, and stir in the sugar.  Cook, stirring often, until very deeply browned (another 10 to 15 minutes).

Add the broth and bay leaf to the caramelized onions and bring the soup to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes to blend the flavors. Discard the bay leaf and season to taste with salt and pepper.

To make the croûtes (baguette toasts), pre-heat the oven to 350°F.  Make 1 to 2 croûtes per bowl of soup.  Arrange the baguette slices on the sheet in a single layer.  Bake until the bread is crisp and lightly browned, turning once, 15 to 20 minutes.  Set aside.  These can also be made ahead of time.

When you are ready to serve the soup, heat the broiler to high.  Put ovenproof soup bowls or crocks on a baking sheet.  Put 1 or 2 croûtes in each bowl and ladle the soup on top.  Sprinkle with the cheese and broil until the top is browned and bubbly.  This will only take a few minutes.  Serve immediately.

Filet Mignon au Poivre

Adapted from finecooking.com

Serves 2

Steak au Poivre is a traditional French dish that consists of steak with a peppercorn crust.  It can be made with Filet Mignon, NY Strip Steaks, etc.  This dish looks fancy, but it was actually pretty easy and quick to cook so don’t be intimidated by it.  The key to making a great steak is first buying quality meat (it is expensive, but it is worth it) and letting it rest before and after cooking.  I decided to pair the steak with a simple baked potato…meat and potatoes our favorite!  My husband paired his with a Sam Adams beer and I would have paired mine with a nice glass of red wine if I wasn’t fighting a cold right now.

Filet Mignon au Poivre - LiveDineParty

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbs. whole black peppercorns
  • Kosher salt
  • Two Filet Mignon steaks (about 2 lb. total)
  • 1 Tbs. canola oil
  • 2 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup finely diced shallot (about 1 large)
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 tsp. Cognac or brandy
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream

Directions

Crack the peppercorns with a mortar and pestle.  If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, crack the peppercorns on a cutting board, using a meat pounder or rolling pin.

Filet Mignon au Poivre - LiveDinePartyFilet Mignon au Poivre - LiveDineParty

Sprinkle 1 tsp. salt evenly on both sides of the steaks and then pat the cracked peppercorns on both sides to create a thin crust.  Let the steaks sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes.

Pre-heat the oven to 425°F.

Heat the oil in a heavy-duty 10- or 11-inch ovenproof skillet (I used a cast iron skillet) over medium-high heat.  You may want to turn on the stove’s exhaust fan, things could get smoky.  Once it is hot, add the steaks and cook on each side until they are nicely browned, about 2 to 3 minutes for each side.

Filet Mignon au Poivre - LiveDineParty

Transfer the skillet to the oven and cook the steaks until a thermometer inserted in the center reads 125°F for rare, 130°F for medium rare, and 135°F for medium.  Transfer the steaks to a plate, tent with foil and let them rest while you prepare the sauce.

To prepare the Cognac sauce, melt the butter in the skillet over medium heat.  Add the shallot and cook, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan, until softened.  Add 1/3 cup of the Cognac or brandy and cook until the Cognac reduces to a glazy consistency, 1 to 2 minutes.  Add the cream and bring to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer, and cook, stirring frequently, until slightly reduced.  Stir in the remaining 1 tsp. Cognac and season to taste with salt.  Spoon the sauce over the steaks and serve.

I hope you enjoyed your Valentine’s Day as much as we did!

Superbowl Sunday (continued)

Well that game could not have gone any better!  Sorry, but I cannot get enough of this picture…priceless.  Way to go Peyton!

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Source

Ok now back to the food at our Superbowl gathering…

Everything came out great and we had almost no leftovers :).  As promised, here are the recipes!

Homemade Salsa and Guacamole

Guacamole & Salsa - LiveDinePartyFor my husband and I, it is not football Sunday without some salsa and guac.  It is a staple pairing for us.  I have to give Matt most of the credit for making it this weekend…it came out amazing.

Although we don’t really follow a recipe when making either one, the below recipes should help you get started 🙂  You can really add or subtract the amount of these ingredients based on what you like and how much you want to make.  For example, I am not a spicy person so we make some salsa with the hot peppers and some without for me.  Also, the key to the guacamole is using ripe avocados.  A ready-to-eat avocado should yield to firm gentle pressure.  If it feels soft, it is too ripe.

Salsa Ingredients

  • 5 medium tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/2 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 2 jalapeno peppers, chopped
  • 1/2 habanero peppers, chopped
  • fresh cilantro chopped
  • salt to taste
  • lime juice

Directions

Mix and dip your chips in!

Guacamole Ingredients

  • 3 avocados, mashed
  • 1/4 cup salsa (see above)
  • Juice from 1 lime

Directions

Mix and dip your chips in!

Pulled Pork Sandwiches

Adapted from finecooking.com

Pulled Pork Sandwiches - LiveDineParty

This is my go to pulled pork recipe.  I have used it for several parties because (1) everyone loves pulled pork and (2) it is super easy.  And, I always get compliments on it.

Ingredients

  • 1 large yellow onion, sliced
  • 3/4 cup jarred tomato salsa (medium heat)
  • 1/3 cup plus 2 Tbs. cider vinegar
  • 1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 Tbs. ground cumin
  • 1 Tbs. chili powder
  • Kosher salt
  • One 3 1/2 lb – to 4 lb. pork shoulder, trimmed
  • 3 Tbs. tomato paste
  • Toasted hamburger buns, normal or slider size

Directions

In a slow cooker, combine the onion, salsa, 1/3 cup of the cider vinegar, brown sugar, cumin, chili powder, and 1 tsp. salt.

Pulled Pork Sandwiches - LiveDineParty

Add the pork shoulder and turn to coat. Cover the slow cooker and cook until the pork is fork-tender, 5 to 6 hours on high or 7 to 8 hours on low.  You may need to turn it over a few times throughout the cooking process to keep it in the juices.

Transfer the pork to a cutting board and shred the pork using two forks.  Discard any fat. In a large bowl, whisk together 1 cup of the juices and onions, tomato paste, remaining 2 Tbs. cider vinegar, and 1 tsp. salt.  Add the pulled pork and mix to combine.  If the pork seems dry, add more juices as needed. Finally, toast the hamburger buns and load it up with pulled pork…and don’t forget the napkins!