ADVENTURES IN DOMESTICITY: Chocolate-Caramel Layer Cake Insanity

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When it comes to eating healthy, I’m not always known for my self-discipline. Sure, I had a month this summer where I stayed away from all carbs, breads, and otherwise joy-inducing foods, but generally, I’m in a constant state of declaring healthy intentions while simultaneously shoving Kit-Kats into my face. This past week was no exception. Things started off in a dark (read: wonderful place) when a visit to the Orange County Fair resulted in sublime consumption of funnel cake, chocolate dipped ice cream cones, and various other diet-adverse items. I swore I would do better for myself, but of course, things rapidly spiraled out of control.

You see, the latest issue of Cook’s Illustrated appeared in my mailbox, and in its monochromatic pages was a recipe for Chocolate-Caramel Layer Cake. Suddenly, hearts appeared in my eyes and Tchaikovsky’s love theme from Romeo & Juliet blared all around me. I had to make this. I had to! But I couldn’t, especially not during this week of county fair gut reparations. Besides, why would I just make a CAKE for no reason?

And then fate came calling. Turns out I had plans to attend a game night at the end of the week, and as luck would have it, that game night was now being upgraded to a birthday celebration for my friend Lodric. I was told I was on cake duty, and far be it for me to deny that responsibility. The planets had aligned: I had the perfect excuse to make the chocolate-caramel layer cake.

It was on.

But was it worth it? Keep reading to find out…

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ADVENTURES IN DOMESTICITY: Holiday Cakes Edition

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Thanksgiving is just around the corner, which means it’s the perfect time to celebrate Christmas. I mean, technically, we should probably wait to throw a holiday party until December, but we all know that the Holiday season officially kicked off on November 1st. At least, that’s when it seems socially acceptable to admit that it began. The truth is that most people were probably humming “Deck the Halls” halfway through Columbus Day.

Well, the not-so-surprise twist is that I’m Jewish and don’t celebrate Christmas, but it doesn’t mean I can’t get into the Holiday spirit, especially since it’s a great excuse to bake up cakes and cookies. Conveniently, Baker’s Secret recently sent me some complimentary colored metal bakeware and encouraged me to whip up some holiday recipes. Challenge ACCEPTED.

After the jump, check out pics of my holiday cake party, starring Ina Garten’s mocha icebox cake and a banana cake with cream cheese frosting….

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ADVENTURES IN DOMESTICITY: Of Cakes, Carrot and Red Velvet Edition

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For some reason, I found myself baking a lot of birthday cakes this summer. Specifically, I made two carrot cakes and two red velvet cakes. Based on this staggeringly high output, I now consider myself an expert on the subject, which means nothing really, but any chance I get to call myself an expert on something is celebration enough (for me). This all is my way of saying that in my EXPERT opinion, you all should make these cakes.

First, we have a carrot cake. Technically, it’s Ina Garten’s carrot and pineapple cake. Here’s what you need to know: this will be the very best carrot cake you will ever make. I’ve made it twice now (and once another time), and it has been stupendous. Seasoned carrot cake fans such as my dear friend Sly will attest that it is the best carrot they’ve ever eaten. This is no joke, people While Ina Garten may be known for her Beatty’s Chocolate Cake recipe, it’s this wonderful carrot masterpiece that should be the crown jewel in her dessert empire (I’ve made both, and I say it with authority — although, the chocolate cake is delicious too).

And then we have the red velvet cake. This beloved cake is a bit of a tricky beast to master — I think we’ve all taken bites of our fare share of dry, crumbly versions. But I’m happy to report that the recipe I’ve found online delivers a moist, flavorful cake that will please even the snobbiest of red velvet fans.

Pics of the cakes after the jump…

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The Only Cream Cheese Frosting Recipe You’ll Ever Need

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This past weekend, my friend Sly celebrated a birthday, and in her honor, I baked Ina Garten’s impeccable Carrot and Pineapple Cake. It was actually the second time in three weeks that I’ve made the recipe for a birthday, which is significant only because the first time around, I couldn’t help but feel like Ina’s cream cheese frosting was a little… off.

Avid readers of this blog know that I think Ina Garten is basically flawless, but here’s the hardcore truth: the Barefoot Contessa cream cheese frosting veers way too closely into buttercream territory. In fact, it’s barely tangy at all. There, I SAID IT.

Nevertheless, as I prepared to bake Sly’s very own carrot cake, I wanted to learn from Ina’s missteps. I was determined to create a batch of cream cheese frosting that was tangy and amazing and decadent enough to be worthy of Sly.

I’m happy to report that I not only achieved this, but I actually knocked it out of the park. This was the best cream cheese frosting I’ve ever made, and Sly herself even proclaimed it was the best she’d tasted. There’s no great science to it, but with a variety of cream cheese frosting recipes online, I think it’s important that someone drive a flag into the ground and declare that the Internet search is over: THIS is the only cream cheese frosting recipe you’ll ever need.

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ADVENTURES IN DOMESTICITY: Cocoa Brownies with Brown Butter Edition

A month ago, my friend Nicci brought over a humble batch of brownies for the Golden Globes, and within one bite, I knew they were some of the best brownies I’d ever had. I don’t say that with exaggeration. These brownies were darn near perfect – chewy on the outside, fudgie on the inside, and bursting with rich, chocolatey goodness. Everything from the texture to the flavor was spot on. What in the world had Nicci done to achieve this brownie nirvana?

The secret, she told me, was in the butter. Brown butter. Behold Bon Appetit’s Cocoa Brownies with Brown Butter — a simple yet fantastic brownie recipe that should become a staple in your repetoire.

These brownies have a wonderfully nutty flavor, thanks to the brown butter, and as an added bonus, they’re super easy to make. No crazy bowls of melting chocolate here. Just a saucepan, a brownie tin, and a few scant ingredients. I’m telling you, I’ve had many, many brownies (including Ina Garten’s famous “Outrageous” brownies), and this recipe might just trump them all.

Something to keep in mind: the brownies cook in an 8×8 pan, which means the yield is only 16 small brownies (they go QUICKLY; so be prepared).

Anyway, I decided to change things up with this post. After polling readers on the B-Side Blog Facebook page, it appeared that there was sufficient interest in seeing an Adventure in Domesticity in motion; so please enjoy the first ever Adventure in Domesticity video! All feedback is very welcome.

And to make these brownies, here is the recipe.

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ADVENTURES IN DOMESTICITY: Entenmann’s Cake Challenge Results!

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Last month, I challenged readers to submit their favorite cake recipes in the hopes of winning a brand new copy of Entenmann’s Big Book of Baking, courtesy of — you guessed it — Entenmann’s. Well, I’m happy to announce that I’ve since decided upon two finalists, baked up the recipes, and shared the end products with an esteemed panel of judges. The winner — and pictures of the baking process — after the jump…

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Cookie Battle 2012: The Results!

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Last month, I implored readers to submit their favorite cookie recipes in the hopes of winning a Good Cookie spatula from OXO. Well, I since narrowed the field down to two contenders, baked them off, and shared them with friends. The winner was unanimous.

So who are our finalists? In one corner we have Alyssa and her Salted Oatmeal White Chocolate Cookies. In the other corner Tanya with her Brandied Cranberry White Chocolate Chip Cookies. Yes, two cookies with white chocolate chips — kind of shocking. There were some other fascinating entries, but they had to be DQ’d for being bars, not cookies. Read the directions, people! (There was also an intriguing cookie sweetened with banana that I wanted to try, but the ingredients — almond meal, coconut oil — would have cost $17, which is entirely way too much for cookies, especially because I don’t know what else I’d do with almond meal and coconut oil).

Anyway, after the jump, check out pics of the cookies and learn who the winner will be!

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ADVENTURES IN DOMESTICITY: Entenmann’s Baking Challenge; Also, A Cookbook Giveaway!

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For years I’ve loved the Entenmann’s family of products, particularly the chocolate-frosted doughnuts (best when dunked in milk), the devil’s food cake doughnuts, the cupcakes, the chocolate chip cookies, and of course the chocolate fudge cake. I therefore was thrilled when Entenmann’s offered to send me a box of bakeware as well the company’s new cookbook, Entenmann’s Big Book of Baking, for free on the condition that I hold a baking party and document it on my blog. Done and DONE.

The timing could not have been more perfect. As it turned out, I was headed to the Hamptons this past weekend to celebrate a friend’s birthday (NEIL, to be specific — his name has been bandied about from time to time here). What better way to help ring in a new year in Neil’s life than by baking up a storm? With the help of my new friend Lynsley of Popcorn and M&Ms, I set up shop in Neil’s kitchen and churned out no less than five recipes from Entenmann’s Big Book of Baking.

Ah, but how did they turn out? Results after the jump…

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CONTEST: Win A ‘Good Cookie’ Spatula from OXO!

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The good people at OXO have provided me with a complimentary spatula — specifically, their limited-edition “Good Cookie” spatula, which has a wonderful story behind it. The humble (and stylish) kitchen utensil is tied to OXO’s Cookies for Kids’ Cancer, a public charity founded by two OXO employees, Gretchen and Larry Witt, whose son Liam faced a battle with pediatric cancer. The company rallied around the Witts, and through baking cookies and holding bake sales, OXO has raised over $150,000 for the charity.

Now with the “Good Cookie” Spatula comes another fundraising drive. 50% of profits from the spatula will benefit pediatric cancer awareness, up to $100,000. At $6.99, it’s a great way to help out. The “Good Cookie” spatula is available at Bed, Bath & Beyond, amazon.com, and various other local retailers (check out http://www.oxogoodcookies.com/cookie_spatula/index for more info).

BUT WAIT. This is a contest after all, and OXO has not only provided me with a “Good Cookie” spatula, but they’ve provided one for YOU too — assuming you win the contest. The rules are simple: submit the best cookie recipe ever in the comments. The winner, as chosen by me, receives a free “Good Cookie” spatula, courtesy of OXO.

PROTIP: know your judge. I hate berries (except for cranberries) and peaches. If you include those in your cookie, I can guarantee I won’t even consider it. Also, I love chocolate. I’m open to non-chocolate cookies, but… the presence of chocolate will certainly give you an advantage. You have until noon on Friday, December 16th.

Good luck!

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ADVENTURES IN DOMESTICITY: Black Friday Chocolate Soufflé Edition

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This past Friday, while the rest of America was fighting over $2 waffle irons at Wal-Mart, my friend Esi (of Dishing Up Delights), Esi’s sister, and I went hiking instead. The three of us trekked up to the world famous Hollywood sign at sunset, which was kind of like the most spectacular thing ever, but of course it took three hours, and by the time it was done, we were cold and hungry. All we wanted was something warm and comforting, and as a result, we eventually found ourselves huddled around a big, steaming pizza at Vito’s Pizza, which continues to rank as one of my favorite It’s-Cold-Outside-And-I-Need-Happiness joints. This was all well and good, but what of dessert? Esi and I had been aching to cook together for a few months, and this was the perfect opportunity: we decided to make something warm and tasty but also totally new to both of us. We ultimately decided on that most esteemed of culinary challenges: the soufflé!

Being that we’re both Ina Garten fiends, Esi and I immediately scoured the internet for a Barefoot Contessa soufflé recipe, but all we could find were savory offerings. Luckily, it was Martha Stewart to the rescue with her chocolate soufflé recipe. It seemed easy enough, but soufflé’s are notoriously tricky. Would we succeed at the task, or would we find ourselves deflated like a sad soufflé?

Results after the jump… Continue reading

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