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Lemon Layer Cake with Fresh Strawberries

23 May

BeFunky_IMG_3495.jpgI’ve been super slow on posts again and the biggest reason for that is… I am so lazy! Yes I said it. Takes a lot of motivation to write everything down and most of the time I’m procrastinating just like how I did for my essays in college. Some things never change. Here I am with a new post though! So you better get excited. This one is also DELICIOUS and it was so much fun assembling everything. It takes time so be prepared, it ain’t easy coming up with a 6 layer cake I tell ya! It was worth all the trouble though.

Even though I normally try not to eat sugar, full fat dairy, and much gluten; for special occasions I put it all aside and enjoy a cheat treat. I tried using earth balance and almond milk but those were the only changes I could make. So be aware that this is not a clean recipe at all.

This lemon-strawberry layer cake was Andy’s birthday cake that was eaten for quite some time 🙂  Honestly, it tasted best the day of so I would recommend making it for a big party when a lot of people can enjoy it fresh.

Here is the recipe:

For the cake

2 + 1/3 cups cake flour

2 + 3/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 + 3/4 cups sugar

2 tablespoons grated lemon zest

3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened at room temperature (I used earth balance)

1 cup milk (I used almond milk)

5 large egg whites, at room temperature (equals to about 1/2 cup)

1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

For the filling 

Egg-less Lemon Curd

2 teaspoons lemon zest

3/4 cup sugar

3/4 cup fresh lemon juice

8 tablespoons unsalted butter (earth balance)

2 tablespoons corn starch

1/2 cup evaporated milk

For the frosting:

1 cup unsalted butter, softened at room temperature (earth balance)

2 tablespoons lemon zest

5 cups confectioners sugar

3 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

* This recipe gives 2 pans of cake which then turns into 4 layers of cake. I baked a batch first and then baked half a batch in order to have 6 layers. You can totally bake only one batch and have a 4 layer cake.

The cake:

Heat the oven to 350 °F. Butter and flour two 8×2 inch round cake pans. Sift the cake flour, baking powder, and salt together into a medium bowl. Pulse 1/4 cup of the sugar with the lemon zest in a food processor until well combined.

BeFunky_IMG_3488.jpgIn a large bowl, beat the butter and lemon sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the remaining sugar and beat until smooth. Beat in a quarter of the milk just until blended. On low speed, add the flour mixture alternately with the milk in three batches, scraping the bowl with a rubber spatula; beat just until blended.

In another bowl beat the egg whites on medium speed just until foamy. Add the cream of tartar, increase the speed to medium high, and beat just until the whites form stiff peaks when the beaters are lifted. Add a quarter of the whites to the batter and gently fold them in with a rubber spatula; continue to gently fold in the whites, a quarter at a time, being careful not to deflate the mixture.

Divide the batter evenly between the two prepared pans. Bake for 40 minutes or until a pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let it cool in the pans for 10 minutes. Take them out of the pans and let cool completely.

With the palm of one hand pressed on top of a cake layer, cut each in half horizontally, using a long serrated knife.

The curd:

Place the lemon zest on a cutting board with 2 tablespoons of the sugar on top of it. Cut the zest and sugar together with a knife; chopping and rubbing the mixture with the flat side of the knife.

In a small saucepan, combine the zest and sugar paste, remaining sugar, lemon juice, butter, and corn starch. Bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking continuously. After 4-5 minutes, reduce the heat to medium low and simmer for 2-3 minutes making sure the corn starch is dissolved. Pour the mixture into a heat proof bowl, whisk in the evaporated milk and let it cool at room temperature. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours but preferably overnight.

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Assemble your cake!!! This is when you bring out the fresh strawberries! Put a layer of cake on a serving plate, with an offset spatula spread some of the lemon curd, and add slices of fresh strawberries on top.

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Lay another cake layer on top and repeat until you use all the cake layers.

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Crumb coat your cake. Spread a thin layer of the frosting on the cake, filling in any gaps as you go. Chill until the frosting is firm. Then spread the remaining frosting decoratively over the top and the sides of the cake. Garnish it with lemon zest.

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I will also put the recipe up for the sangria on another post. It was a blend of fresh fruit and molasses with merlot and orange juice.

I wish I took a prettier picture of the cake when it was cut but this is the only one I have.

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Rudolph the Reindeer Cookies

23 Dec

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You don’t know what to make for the little ones on Christmas? Eggnog with bourbon might be a little too strong for them? You cant to have some fun as you’re baking batches and batches of cookies for the holidays? Make red nosed reindeer cookies! They’re the cutest little cookies I’ve ever made and the amazing peanut butter taste in every bite makes them even better! I found the recipe online and followed it exactly. They’re easy, and fun, and gorgeous.

Ingredients

1/2 cup unsalted butter (softened)

3/4 cup peanut butter

1/3 cup sugar

1/3 cup brown sugar

1 large egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 plus 1/2 cup flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

45 red M&M candies

90 mini semisweet chocolate morsels

Pretzels, broken into 90 1-inch pieces

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Heat your oven to 375 °F and cover your baking sheet with parchment paper.

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In a large bowl beat together butter, peanut butter, and sugars about medium speed about 2 minutes until they’re creamy.

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Add the egg and vanilla extract; beat until combined.

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Stir in flour, baking soda, salt and form a dough.

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Roll into 1-inch balls and place them on the baking tray. I suggest baking 12 at a time since it is easier to handle when you have to add all the nose, eyes, and antlers to the cookies as soon as you can while they’re still hot.

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Bake for 8 minutes. For each cookie immediately place a red M&M as the nose, two mini chocolate morsels as eyes and two pretzel as antlers. Let them cool a little bit if not all the way before serving/storing them.

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Almond Kringle

23 Dec

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Let me start with the confession; I confused the actual kringle recipe. And here is the truth; it turned out great. I got a can of Solo Almond Filling months ago, with the hopes that one day I will be making some sort of pastry with this filling. As Christmas approached I got more and more excited about making a kringle filled with almonds and scanned through a lot of recipes online. Finally I found the one I liked the most and saved the link and read that recipe at least once a week for the past month. Yes, that’s how familiar I was with it. I knew exactly how to make it. Until I made it and realized I did not follow it at all. Well I did but with minor (rather major) changes. The recipe asks for an egg glaze which is an egg yolk and 1/4 cup of milk. I, being a kid who was too excited to bake for her friends for their first traditional Christmas Dinner, added the egg yolk and the milk inside the pastry dough instead of saving it for a glaze on top of it. I was worried but it turned out absolutely great. It may not be a traditional kringle when you eat it but it has an amazing buttery but light flavor to the pastry and a sweetness to its filling.

Ingredients

2 + 1/8 cups flour

1 + 1/2 tablespoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup cold butter

1/2 cup milk

1 egg yolk

1 package active dry yeast

1/4 cup warm water

1 can of Solo Almond Filling

Add the yeast to the warm water in small cup and let it stand for 5-6 minutes until it gets bubbly and rises.

Measure flour, sugar, salt, and cut cold butter into the mixture. Using a fork, mix the whole thing.

Beat the egg yolk and milk with your hand in a small bowl.

Add them egg mixture and the yeast mixture into the flour, salt and butter. Turn it into a dough.

Cover it and let it stay in the fridge overnight (If you don’t have the time you can keep it for at least 2 hours)

When you take it out of the fridge, roll it out on a floured surface into a rectangle. Fold the two sides on top of each other like a letter and roll out to a big rectangle again. Repeat 4 times. Cover it and put it in a warm place for 20 minutes. I turn my oven on to 260 ºF and then turn if off once it hits that temperature and put the dough in there. It will double in size. Take it out and repeat the rolling out and folding 3 more times.

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Have a big rectangle in front of you and add the Solo Almond Filling in the middle. Fold it like a letter, pinch the dough to make sure its closed all the way. I gave it an oval shape.

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Place it in the warm (only 260 ºF) oven once again and let it rise for 20 minutes. Again it will double in size. That’s when you take the doubled dough out of the oven and heat up your oven to 350 ºF. Place it on the middle rack and bake for 15-20 minutes.

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I served it with a little bit of powdered sugar and candied oranges. You can also add almonds.

Skinny Pumpkin Pie Cheesecake

17 Oct

I used the recipe on this link: http://www.damyhealth.com/2011/09/the-best-cheesecake-recipe/ but I changed the amount a little bit.

Ingredients

1/2 + 1/4 cups cashew butter

1/2 + 1/4 cups non-fat plain greek yogurt

1/2 + 1/4 cups pumpkin puree

3 tablespoon molasses

1 + 1/2 tablespoon maple syrup

1 + 1/2 tablespoon agave

1/4 + 1/8 teaspoon salt

3 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

15 dates

For the Crust

1 + 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs

1/3 cup melted butter

Preheat oven to 350 ° F. Mix the graham cracker crumbs with the melted butter and press it across the bottom of a 9 inch spring-form pan. Bake for 8 minutes.

Place all the ingredients for the cheesecake into your food processor. Process until smooth and creamy stopping once to scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Pour it in the spring-form pan.

Place in the freezer covered with cling wrap.

Serve the next day after removing from the freezer. I recommend giving it about 15 minutes after taking out of the freezer.

Little Fig Baskets

4 Oct

One of the fruits I miss the most is figs. Nothing I found in the States ever matched what we have in Turkey. You can find bigger and tastier figs any market you go, and its way cheaper. Last week I gave in and bought a box of organic green figs (I can never decide whether I like the green ones or the black ones better). Some of them were very firm so I waited a few days for them to get softer because once they’re soft you can be sure that they’re going to taste sweeter.

I was trying to find a way to turn them into an easy and quick desert, so I came up with this one. I call them baskets because I don’t cut the figs all the way through, instead I leave the bottom attached and open them up like flowers in a tiny bowl. They’re incredibly easy to make, and absolutely delicious.

Ingredients

2 small to medium sized figs (you can use green or black)

1/4 cup cubed oranges

1 tablespoon tahini

1/2 tablespoon molasses

2 tablespoons non-fat plain yogurt

Pistachios

To make the sauce, simply combine the tahini, molasses, and yogurt. Mix it well.

I make two cuts on the figs with the bottoms still holding each quarter, put a few cubes of orange and then divide the sauce on top of them before sprinkling with pistachios.

Now the night has gone away…

29 Sep

I didn’t want to write anything about it. Because every word I type has the potential to make it all so real… Once it’s in written form where you can read it over and over again it becomes more real, doesn’t it? This week has been the hardest week I’ve had since I came to the States. The most challenging one. The one that pushed me to question my life and why I’m here instead of Turkey. The one that reminded me to work harder than I ever did so I can achieve my dreams and make myself and my family proud. Because then I can justify it in my head. Then I can justify why I’m so far away from people I hold dear to my heart.

I lost a piece of my heart earlier this week. A piece of my heart that belonged to a woman who  spent her life raising every single person in my family. Everyone from her own siblings to her siblings’ children to her siblings’ children’s children. She was the mother. She was the mother to all of us. A mother who had fake tea parties under the table with you, who very secretly listened to every single detail of your boyfriends, who never let you do any work around the house even though she was sixty-two years older than you. One time we were caught playing with the cigarettes in the house so she and her partner in crime sacrificed themselves and smoked those cigarettes in front of us; coughing like hell the whole time, hating every minute of it; just to prove us that cigarettes were not something we wanted to use. Her partner in crime was my grandmother. She was my great aunt. But I never really imagined them as being two different people. In my head they were the same person. I was born into it, I never knew life without those two together; having their Turkish coffee every afternoon… I lost my great aunt this week whom I always thought as a grandmother. She always said God put her mother’s soul in me who died a year before I was born. I was her mother. I always tried to tell her that it was silly because she was my mother, but every time she stopped me and said “YOU are my mother. Her soul is in you.” I wish I could’ve been there this week. I wish I wasn’t six thousand miles away. I wish her “mother” was holding her hand when she needed it the most. My only consolation is that her real mother is going to take much better care of her now.

Mebrure. It was hard for little kids to pronounce her real name so they gave her a nickname, my mom and her cousins. They called her Meco. So we all called her Meco. It got to a point where even strangers were calling her that name. It stuck. That’s how she was known for years. The second you stepped into her apartment the endless feast would begin. You think only Harry Potter had crazy amount of food appearing from nowhere non-stop? Clearly you’ve never been to Meco’s house. My theory is that J.K. Rowling stole the idea from her place but magicians had to be involved because no one would believe it was possible for one woman to prepare and serve that much food. That’s how the book came about. You can google it if you don’t believe me.

So the first thing I had to do was go and get food to make meals that reminded me of her. For some reason I imagined her stuffed peppers. The smell of it in the kitchen. The noises coming from the loose lid bouncing on top of the pan. I had to make stuffed peppers. I had to make semolina halva. But most importantly I had to ask my family here in New York City to come over. That way I could feed them till they exploded. That was Meco’s profession. There was no way in hell she would listen to you when you said you were full. If you closed your mouth with a protest, she would stuff the food through your nose, and then your ears. There was no notion of full. You were not allowed to get full. Ever. Anything you couldn’t finish or really refused to eat would go in a doggy bag to come home with you. I find myself turning more and more into her every day. I find myself feeding everyone. Not listening to “I’m full” protests but just filling plates or doggy bags. I’m proud to be turning into her.

I had to use recipes online because I don’t have her recipe notebook yet, but I’m working on it. I called dibs on any notebook they might find that has her recipes in it. Although I’ve never seen her using any recipe, I’m hopeful there will be something there. Something with her hand writing. Something I can make for my children one day. Some flavor that will bring tears to my eyes because I miss her so much but joy to my children because they’ve never tasted anything better.

So I am putting the recipes for the stuffed peppers and the semolina halva I shared with Callie, Andy, and Rosario this week. They gave me a night filled with tears and laughter and love. We ate food, drank wine, made toasts for the woman watching over me now, and talked about our memories with our families. I don’t know what I did to deserve such a great family back home in Turkey and another great one here in the States. I don’t know how or when I will ever be able to pay both of those families but I’d like to think one day I will make them feel as lucky as I feel so they will all know what they mean to me.

As for my new guardian angel… I’m sure she can see my efforts to make food taste like hers and I’m sure she believes that one day I will actually achieve it. I hope she will watch me in a play one night, be there during my wedding to be my witness as I promised her to be, gently help me take care of my children; never letting me know it was her who gave the final push, always making me think I was completely on my own when I did all of those things and get cocky. I hope she will never ever leave my side, my mind, and my soul so I will sleep tight knowing she’s right there…

If you would like to take a look at the recipes, here they are:

Stuffed Peppers

Ingredients

8 green bell peppers (small)

2 slices of tomato

1 pound lean ground meat (beef)

1/2 cup rice (I used brown rice)

1 medium onion chopped

1 cup chopped parsley

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup tomato paste

1/2 tablespoon oregano

1/2 tablespoon dry mint

1/2 tablespoon cumin

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

Cook in: 3 tablespoons of tomato paste that is dissolved in 2 cups of boiling water and 1 tablespoon of olive oil

Cut the tops of the peppers and take out the seeds. Make sure you keep the tops so you can use them to cover the peppers later. Mixed everything but the tomatoes and stuff the peppers with them, leaving 1/4 inch space at the top. Cut the tomato slices into quarters and put a quarter on top of the stuffing before placing the top of the pepper. Place all the peppers in a big pot, pour the tomato paste, olive oil, and boiling water mixture to the pot and cook on medium heat for 35-40 minutes.

You can test it by tasting the rice, when the rice is cooked you’re good to go. In Turkey we always serve it with plain yogurt.

Semolina Halva

Follow the recipe on this link: http://www.giverecipe.com/semolina-halvah.html

Chocolate Orange Layer Cake Recipe

24 Sep

I decided to type the recipe as well. Of course you can click on the link but I will put it here just in case. All the credit goes to Abbey Cat Chat, awesome recipe! It’s not too hard at all and I was way too excited to finally use my vintage mixer, and by vintage I mean I bought it from Good Will for $7.99 about two months ago. I never got the chance to use it till this weekend and I loved it.

Ingredients: 

For the Cake:
1 cup boiling water
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
⅓ cup bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
cooking spray
3 tsp flour
1¾ cup sugar
6 tbsp butter, softened
2½ tsp vanilla extract
3 large egg whites
½ cup sour cream
1 cup cake flour
1½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
For Filling: 
⅓ cup orange juice
3 tbsp sugar
2 tsp cornstarch
3 tsp unsweetened cocoa
1 tsp flour
dash of salt
1/8 cup bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup frozen whipped topping (like Cool-Whip), thawed
 
For Glaze: (I multiplied everything with 2, and it was the perfect amount for the size of the cake)
2 tbsp evaporated low-fat milk
2 tbsp butter
½ cup bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
powdered sugar (for top)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat 2 9-inch cake pans with cooking spray and line bottoms with wax paper.  Coat paper with cooking spray and dust each pan with flour. 
  2. For Cake: Combine boiling water and cocoa in a bowl, stir until smooth. Add  ⅓ cup bittersweet chocolate and stir until smooth. Set aside. In separate bowl combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt, set aside. 
  3. Beat sugar, butter and vanilla in bowl of electric mixer on medium high for 2 minutes.  Add egg whites, one at a time and beat well after each addition, then add sour cream and beat for 2 additional minutes. Add flour mixture to cocoa mixture alternately to sugar, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat until just combined. 
  4. Divide batter between two pans and bake for 30 minutes, or until wooden pick comes out clean.  Cool in pans 10 minutes then invert onto racks and cool completely. Discard wax paper. 
  5. For Filling: combine all ingredients but whipped topping in small saucepan over low heat and bring to a boil for one minute, stirring frequently.  Pour into a bowl and chill until cold, usually about an hour. Fold in whipped topping.  Spread filling over top of 1 cake layer, leaving small, half-inch border.  Top with remaining layer and press down gently until filling reaches edges of cake.
  6. For Glaze: combine milk, butter and chocolate in microwave safe bowl and microwave 1 minute or until smooth. Spread evenly over top of cake and allow to drip over the edges.  Allow to dry and sprinkle top with powdered sugar, if desired. Enjoy!