Sunday, February 19, 2012

Double Take: Item of the Month: Meyer Lemon Cake!

Hurry, HuRrY, HURRY!

Get 'em while they last!

MEYER LEMONS are this month's Double Take Item of the Month.

What's a meyer lemon? A cross between a mandarin orange and a lemon.

Season :  January to mid March.

What else happens every month? Birthday cake for work.

I love lemons and since my first taste of Meyer lemons last year, I was transfixed! The juicy, sweet tart flavor goes POW in your mouth if eaten alone. Its delicious as a marmalade too. I started thinking of tons of ways to use them. One idea was today's cake. 

The taste: Moist, sweet, lemony orange cake with creamy lemony orange cream cheese-whipped cream frosting. 

Meyer Lemon Cake 


2/3 c. butter, softened
1 3/4 c. sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
zest of one meyer lemon (if out of season, sub zest of 1/2 lemon and 1/2 tangerine)
juice of one meyer lemon (if out of season, sub fresh juice of 1/2 lemon and 1/2 tangerine)
1 1/2 Tbsp baking powder
2 1/2 c. all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 milk

How To:

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in vanilla, zest, and meyer lemon juice.

Combine remaining dry ingredients (baking powder, salt, flour) together in a bowl and stir to evenly distribute powder and salt with flour.

Add the butter/sugar mixture to the flour mixture, alternately with milk. Beat well after each addition.

Pour into 2 greased and floured 9 in round baking pans. (I use Baker's Joy.) Bake at 350 F for 25-35 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. 

Cool 10 minutes in the pans and then invert onto wire racks to cool completely. 

Frost after completely cooled.

Meyer Lemon - Cream Cheese Frosting


3 c.+  3/4 c. powdered sugar, separated
4 oz cream cheese (half a normal package)
3/4 c. whipped cream, cold
1/2 stick butter, softened
1/2 Tbsp vanilla
juice of 1/2 meyer lemon (if out of season, sub fresh juice of 1/2 lemon and 1/2 tangerine
zest of one meyer lemon (if out of season, sub zest of 1/2 lemon and 1/2 tangerine)

How To:

Cream together butter and cream cream cheese. 

Slowly and beat in 3 c. powdered sugar. (Otherwise the sugar will cover you.)

In a separate bowl, beat the whipped cream to thickened. Add 3/4 c. powdered sugar and beat further until it forms stiff peaks. 

Fold whipped cream into cream cheese mixture.

Add Meyer lemon juice and zest. Fold together and let refridgerate at least two hours before frosting the cake.

Reaction: Lemon lovers loved it. Non lemon lovers were shocked that they loved it too. Some tasted more orange flavor while others picked up on more lemony goodness. The sparkles in their eyes and insistence that this cake be made again assured me that this cake was a WINNER! Deb (one of our chocolate lovers) said this was my best cake. Stunned, I asked if it was better than her favorite (my brownie fudge cake, sorry not yet posted). She said chocolate was a separate category for her but this was her favorite non-chocolatey cake that she'd ever had. That was a quite a compliment! Thanks Deb!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Double Take: Snickerdoodles from Featured Blog Smitten Kitchen

It's all Mary's fault. No really, I mean it. If she hadn't bought a tub of cookies from April's son's band cookie drive, we wouldn't be walking down this cookie road today. She just HAD to buy the snickerdoodle dough and bake some in the break room toaster oven. She just HAD to practically force me to try one since they smelled soooo delicious. Obviously, I wouldn't have been compelled to think about cookies ALL WEEK after trying them if it hadn't been for her...Right?!

That's my story and I'm sticking to it. ...(Um incidentally, if anyone else wants to force me to try some other cookies, I'm probably mostly a cookie pushover. Unless they're store bought..or sugar cookies...A girl has to draw the line somewhere.)

I'll admit it. I'm like the story if you give a mouse a cookie. If you give a Tabs a cookie, she's going to want some milk, maybe a spoonful of peppermint chocolate chunk ice cream, maybe a cone while you're at know it goes. I do have pretty good willpower. However, after trying one cookie, it was in my head ALL WEEK. When Mel asked me what I wanted to make off our list, my response was um, nothing interests me. She was like, c'mon something must  be in your head. Isn't there ANYTHING you have had a taste for this week? After a bit of poking and prodding, I admitted I really only wanted cookies. I know.... VERY health conscious of me. Its ok to have cookies sometimes though. While I had more than one kind of cookie in my head (and plenty of ways to change them) I wound up landing on this snickerdoodle recipe. I promised Mel I would really try to kind of stick with the recipe. I know she won't be surprised to read that I mostly stuck with it but was unable to resist at least a little bit of change. I also tried some variations but did stick with the general recipe (for the most part). 

I found I wanted a good excuse to bring them somewhere to share. I wasn't planning to super bowl party and honestly my weekend was planned as being pretty unplanned (a rarity). I decided to bake some before Hapkido (a super fun martial art, try it) class Saturday morning. Its tough for people to resist hot cookies, especially after you've gotten some good exercise. I also returned the favor to Mary by baking a few in the break room toaster oven. I'll go ahead and share the recipe and then let you know what people thought.

(Cinnamon sugar (front), cocoa/cinnamon (right), cocoa/hazelnut/cinnamon (left))

Friday, February 3, 2012

Chinese New Year Cooking Night: Char Siu (Barbeque Pork or Chicken) Dumplings

Happy Year of the Dragon!

The Chinese year of the Dragon began Jan. 23, 2012. While that's the first day, its not the only day of celebration for the New Year. In fact, the festival lasts 15 days! At my house, we started a little early with a cooking night on the 21st. As a southern girl from Tennessee, I grew up around a few Chinese people but was unfamiliar with customs. Over time, I've learned more and since I enjoy learning about other cultures and especially how their culture ties to food, it seemed critical not to pass up celebrating the New Year this year. I've been learning a few Mandarin phrases from a co-worker in our lab. Mostly basic things like Hi, My name is Tabitha. What's your name?  My favorite "phrase" is the Chinese word for awesome/excellent. I have no idea how to spell it but I can sound it out for you Tie (stretch this out ) Bong (emphasize and say quickly) La (don't use strong emphasis and say quickly). Confused yet?

Short version: The celebration started January 23rd and ends with the Lantern Festival on February 26th. Throughout the festival, many favorite dishes are enjoyed. The most important dish to the New Year celebration in northern China is the dumpling. Why? The dumpling's folded semi circle shape is a symbol of wealth because it is similar in appearance to the tael (its about halfway down the web page). The tael was the standard Chinese weight of high value currency. The tael were used in a similar fashion as gold bricks were used in the United States until the U.S. left the gold standard.

There are probably as many ways to fill dumplings as there are Chinese families. A common filling is a shrimp, ground pork, ginger, scallion and soy sauce mixture. There are variances on this. Some are tasty and some are less palatable for me. When working on my master's degree, my advisor was from a special region in China that made the yeasted dumplings (Bao). He stuck with vegetarian filling but I've made some tasty ones since then that you can check out here. Today's dumpling filling is a spin off of my previous bao recipe. Note: These take a little time to prepare and are best prepared with two people working together. (It's faster and more fun to work on these with at least one other person.) You may feel that you're looking at a ton of filling but you'll be glad. For the effort involved, its worth it to make several at a time. You can freeze them for a short time or freeze the filling......if you don't eat them all first!

Char Siu Dumplings

Double Take: Bread and Cheese, Black "Steakhouse" Bread

Deliberation, n.: The act of examining one's bread to determine which side it is buttered on.
Ambrose Bierce

It's week one of February. That means this week double take is bread or cheese or something made with bread or cheese. Around here, we know which side our bread is buttered on....

the one the cat didn't lick...

Just kidding.

The bread is a mixture of rye, bread, and whole wheat flour resulting in a dense, flavorful bread somewhat reminescent of what you'd find at certain steakhouses. You know what I'm talking about. The bread that begs to be generously covered on at least one side with sweet butter and smells so awesome its hard to wait for it to leave the oven. Anyway, talking about it makes me want another piece. You go ahead and read the recipe, I need to go get some butter out of the fridge.

Black "Steakhouse" Bread (aka Russian Black Bread)