Hye Thyme Cafe: February 2011

Welcome to the Hy
e Thyme Cafe. Although not all of my recipes are Armenian, the name is a little nod to my Armenian grandmother who is no longer with us. The Hye refers to all things related to her homeland, and she represents all things food-related to me, so the two just seemed to go together. I can't even claim that my Armenian recipes are truly Armenian, since Greece, Turkey, Armenia, Lebanon, Syria, and even Egypt share so many foods that they've all sort of morphed into one over thousands of years.

Whether you like to cook, bake, have never done either, or just like to play with your food...come on in and join me! :)


Sunday, February 27, 2011

Almond, Chocolate, and Cherry Bread

Almond, Chocolate, and Cherry Bread : Hye Thyme Cafe


When I was living in New Orleans (well, Metairie, just outside of New Orleans), there was a place down the street called Foodies, where I would pop in for breads, cheeses, take-out, etc. One of my favorite items there was the Pecan Crusted Chicken. I went to stop in on my way home from work one night and found pylons at one entrance. I drove around to another entrance, but when I pulled in, I realized they were closed. I thought maybe there was a construction problem, but they never re-opened! :( After the chicken and their stuffed artichokes, my next favorite was their bread! You name it, they had it - olive bread, sweet potato bread, etc. My favorite had chocolate in it and a few other things, but for the life of me, I can't remember what anymore! I'm way too young to be going senile.You would think I would remember something I liked so much!  

That bread has been on my mind for a while now, so I have been wanting to try a version, but when doing a Google search to see if I could find something to remind me of what else was in it, I came across another blog, The Seasonal Gourmet, with a post for Cherry Almond Bread. Hmmm, that looks good! Of course this is a quick bread rather than a yeast bread, but still...yumm.

The other thing I have been wanting to do is find other uses for mahleb. We use it to flavor Choreg and in Baraze, but that's about it. I think mahleb has a completely unique flavor, but it is said to have a hint of almond to it and is actually the ground filling of a St. Lucie Cherry pit! Who comes up with these things?!?! That's how I came to the combination of ingredients for this bread - the chocolate from the Foodies bread, almonds and cherries because of the Mahleb. It is loosely based on the Cherry Almond Bread I mentioned above.

I rummaged through the pantry and found a bag of sliced almonds and some dried cherries, along with an open can of almond paste in the fridge. Because there was only about a half cup of cherries, I decided to stick with that ratio for the chocolate and almonds as well, but will definitely increase it next time.

INGREDIENTS :
8 T (1 stick) butter
3/4 c sugar
2 eggs
3/4 c plain yogurt
1 t vanilla
1 T mahleb (OK to omit)
1 T almond paste
1/2 t baking soda
1 1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1/2 c dried cherries - chopped
1/2 c sliced almonds - lightly toasted and crushed
1/2 c milk chocolate - chopped

Preheat your oven to 375 and spray a loaf pan with PAM Baking. Rough chop your cherries and chocolate, and in a dry pan, lightly toast your almond slices. You're just trying to enhance their flavor, so as soon as you smell them cooking and see a little brown, turn off the heat and just shake them around so the residual heat will brown them a touch. I didn't want them whole in the middle of the cake, so I just sort of crushed them in my hand.

Cream together your butter and sugar. Add the eggs, yogurt, vanilla, mahleb, and almond paste and mix until relatively smooth - the paste may leave little lumps, but that's fine. Then mix in your dry ingredients, with the cherries, almonds, and chocolate being lightly mixed in at the end. Pour into prepared pan and top with additional almonds. 

NOTE:  I used homemade yogurt, which is on the thick side, so you may want to strain your yogurt first. To do that, set a strainer over a bowl, line it with a paper towel, a piece of cheesecloth, or even a coffee filter, and add the yogurt. The longer it sits, the more liquid will drain out of it.



 








Bake for about an hour until a toothpick (or spaghetti strand) comes out clean. Because the top was so dark, but the center was not cooked yet, about half way through, I put a piece of foil over the top to prevent it from burning.

Let cool on a rack for about 30" before inverting out of the pan to cool completely.



Almond, Chocolate, and Cherry Bread : Hye Thyme Cafe

As much as I like this bread, as I mentioned, I will definitely increase the cherries  and almond paste next time. Also, as it turned out, the mahleb didn't really come through. That surprises me because I used a whole tablespoon. I think it must have been in the freezer for too long. I'm not sure if this will be good or bad, but if I use fresh mahleb next time, it might have a whole different flavor profile.  We'll see ...  


Saturday, February 26, 2011

Ham and Swiss Ring (...sort of)


The last time I made a batch of Cheese Bread Knots, because they are so good, and there is already Swiss Cheese in them, my brain wandered over to Ham and Swiss. Ever since then, I've been getting random impulses to make a batch of the dough, roll it out and wrap it with Swiss, Ham and Dijon. That's just what I did Thursday night!

The problem was my rolling skills - more specifically, my lack thereof! I can't roll a rectangle to save my life, so I was starting with more of a free form slab of dough. That doesn't really help when you always read that when you make a ring, it should go seam-side down. All my sides had seams! LOL  The only other time I tried to make a "ring," it was an herb bread that tasted awesome but deflated and looked more like a focaccia by the time it was done. 

Anyhow, I threw together the Cheese Bread Knot dough but did NOT put the Swiss in the dough. I divided the dough in half to make two rings.

I picked up a pound of thin-sliced boiled ham and a bag of finely shredded Swiss. That's another weird thing ... I always remember my mother buying boiled ham from the deli when I was a kid, but who boils ham? I've always had them baked, unless maybe it was a ham steak, then they're grilled, baked, or pan fried - never boiled. Do any of you boil your ham?

OK, so roll out one of your balls of dough on a lightly-floured surface, spread with half of the ham, leaving about an inch at one long edge bare. Slather the ham with Dijon mustard, then sprinkle with Swiss and roll lengthwise toward that bare edge. Bring the ends together and pinch to seal, then brush with melted butter, snip steam vents in the top, and bake at 350 for about 45". If it starts to brown too much, just cover it with a small piece of foil.  







As you can see, my dough grew into the center and the ends opened up. It may not be pretty, but it was definitely tasty! I was thinking about my screw up and wondering if I should try sticking an empty can in the middle next time to keep the ring shape - then I was thinking that making them as crescents would be good.

I served one of these big boys up with bowls of Lentil Soup on Thursday night. I carved off a slice last night and was going to zap it in the microwave for a few seconds, but it was already in use, so I took a bite straight out of the fridge. Damn, just like when I make the rolls, it was even better the next day! I really need to start baking the rolls ahead of time and then just warming them in a foil pouch on the day I really intended them for.



So, I thought I had royally screwed up, but now I'm just thinking I need practice. I'll definitely try the ring again. The other thing I remembered was that when I make the rolls, although the recipe calls for brushing them with melted butter, I don't actually do that until they come out. Because this browned so quickly and I needed to cover it with foil, I'll probably do that next time around as well.

It's nice when a goof turns into a good thing after all!  :)


Friday, February 25, 2011

Spaghetti Sauce

Spaghetti Sauce : Hye Thyme Cafe

I get a chuckle out of how people seem to think about my Spaghetti Sauce for a while. Whenever there is a dinner or event where I'm using Spaghetti Sauce, it goes something like this.
"I really like that sauce.  Did you make that?"
"Yes I did, thank you."  :)

An hour or two later ...
"I noticed there was something spicy in your sauce. What was that?"
"Just a little cayenne."
"Reallllllly? That was so good."
"Great, thanks."  :)

As they're leaving ...
"Do you think I could get a copy of your recipe?"
"Of course!"

I think it's because most people who make their own red sauce make a lighter sauce starting from whole tomatoes rather than this rich, thick sauce. When it comes to "spaghetti sauce," I get the impression that most people reach for a jar or a can and call it a day. I usually make it in big batches and freeze most of it. If you've got room in  your freezer and a few hours to spare, this is definitely worth the (minimal) effort! Sometimes I'll throw in some browned ground beef, but I usually don't because I don't know what I'll be using it with down the road.   

It couldn't be any easier, and there's not actually a whole lotta stuff in it, but this is one of those recipes where the nice fresh loaf of Italian bread you picked up to go with dinner keeps staring at you from across the room, beckoning you to tear off a little piece just to dunk it in the sauce to "test" if it's ready yet. Uh huh... better pick up two loaves!  ;-)

INGREDIENTS :
4 (29 oz) cans of Hunt's Tomato Sauce
2 (28 oz) cans Pastene Ground Peeled Tomatoes 
2-3 T olive oil
4 cloves minced garlic (fresh or jarred with red peppers)
2 lg onions, small dice
2 t sugar
1-2 T tomato paste
salt and pepper
2 T Italian seasoning
1 t dried sweet basil
1/4 t cayenne pepper 
   (might want to reduce if using the garlic with red peppers)
1/3 c freshly grated Parmesan 
   (the good stuff this time, not the shaker kind)


Saute the garlic and onion until the onions are translucent. Add everything but the Parmesan and bring to a boil. Lower heat and let simmer for 1 1/2 - 2 hours. Stir in the Parmesan toward the end. See, there's nothing to it. You just need a few hours to wait for it to cook down. I suppose you could just make it in the Crock Pot.






TIP:  If you don't have recycling in your area and don't want all of those cans filling up your trash, give them a quick rinse, then remove the bottoms and squish them on your counter. Then just slip the lids inside one of the empties so nobody cuts themselves if they push down on the trash.





If I'm making it a Meat Sauce, I'll brown the meat separately until there is just a little pink left, then transfer it to the pot with a slotted spoon to leave any grease behind. I want it to be cooked enough to be crumbled when it goes into the sauce, but because it will continue to cook, it doesn't need to be completely browned. I just don't want to end up with meatballs ... those I make separately.  ;)

Spaghetti Sauce : Hye Thyme Cafe


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Lentil Soup with Pancetta

Lentil Soup with Pancetta : Hye Thyme Cafe

I have always added smoked ham to my Lentil Soup, my absolute favorite being a John Morrell E-Z Cut (Black Label if you can get your hands on it). The problem is the prices! They've gone through the roof the past few years, at least where I live. When I was living in New Orleans, I could wait until the day after a holiday and pick up a ham for $15, but here it would cost me $45-$65!! Needless to say, I've cut back on my ham consumption. That's too bad, because it is an awesome ham!  :(  

Of course you can use any ham, but it's just not the same without that sweet, juicy, smoky Morrell (sniffle, sniffle, sob). Having made Kale and Panchetta Stuffed Shells recently, I had some pancetta (yup, just realized I have been spelling pancetta wrong - there's no "h") left in the fridge, so I decided to pick up some more and try that for a change. I definitely like this version, but the pancetta was the star of the show this time around; usually the ham and dill share the spotlight.  

INGREDIENTS :
2-3 T olive oil
2-3 cloves minced garlic
2 lg onions, diced
3-4 stalks celery, small dice
14-16 oz bag of lentils
Two 32 oz cartons of beef broth
1 can Delmonte Zesty Jalapeno Diced Tomatoes 
  (or Rotel Diced Tomatoes and Green Chiles)
Salt and Pepper
Dry and/or fresh dill
4-6 oz diced pancetta  (or a nice chunk of ham, diced)

Normally, I would start off by sauteing the onions and garlic, then add the celery and move on from there - with the ham going in at the end. Because I was using pancetta this time, I decided to start off with the garlic and pancetta. I really should had started with just the pancetta, because the garlic started to brown too fast and I didn't want it to burn, so I ended up adding the celery and onion more quickly than I planned. I was hoping to get a little crisp on the pancetta. So, if you're using ham, set that aside for now, saute your garlic and onion until the onions are translucent, then add in the celery until it's well coated with the olive oil and starts to sweat.










Add the lentils and enough water just to cover everything, then stir in your beef broth. When it comes to a boil, season with salt and pepper, a good 3T or so of dill, and reduce to a simmer. For some reason,  as much as I love fresh dill, I prefer the taste of dry dill in my soup. If I happen to have fresh dill in the fridge or growing on the deck, I'll garnish with it when serving. Totally up to you.  










Let that cook for about 45 minutes, then add the tomatoes and ham (if you didn't already use pancetta) and continue to simmer until the lentils are to your desired doneness.  Garnish with more dill.

Lentil Soup with Pancetta : Hye Thyme Cafe



Monday, February 21, 2011

Izmir Kufte

Izmir Kufte : Hye Thyme Cafe

We grew up calling these Grammy's Meatballs, and they were always one of my favorites. I love to spoon some of the sauce over my Pilaf. I mentioned yesterday that I had learned something new about this dish. Growing up eating Porov Kufte, which are a filled kufte, and Izmir Kufte, I just assumed that Porov meant filled and Izmir related to the sauce. Wrong again! (I know, "Never assume. It makes an ass out of you and me." I guess in this case it just makes a Big Ass out of me since half of you never heard of this anyhow). Turns out Izmir is a place. Specifically, it is now apparently the third largest city in Turkey.

Knowing that makes this recipe even more confusing, since one of the ingredients is Chamen, which seems to mean different things depending on where you're from. Living near Boston as a kid, I had ample access to all of the Armenian Bakeries in the Belmont/Watertown area, so Chamen was easy to come by. After moving to New Orleans and now being in New York, that is no longer the case, so when I can't get it, I use the recommended replacement of Chili Powder. Having now Googled Chamen (and it's various spellings of Chaman, Chamen, Chaimen), I'm confused!

It seems as though it was at one time a translation problem between Turks and Armenians and that to some, it is ground Fenugreek Seeds, where to others, it is a blend of spices, much like curry, used in various dishes, most notably Basturma (Pasterma), which loosely would be described as a kind of Beef Jerky. The spice blend in question is a combination of Fenugreek, Paprika, Salt, Pepper, Cumin, Red Pepper, Allspice, Garlic, and sometimes a pinch of cinnamon. According to the Handbook of Spices, Seasonings and Flavorings, Chaman is the Armenian word for Caraway, a/k/a Wild Cumin. Caraway is not mentioned in the other descriptions, and as for Cumin, in this particular application, that makes no sense, as the next ingredient is ... you go it, Cumin.

My response to all of that would be OOF!! (The Armenian exclamation of exasperation - with the OO being like in foot rather than in food). The bottom line is if you don't live near an Armenian Bakery where you can get their version of Chamen, stick with the Chili Powder. Maybe some day I'll do a side-by-side with all three versions for comparison.

My grandmother would always fry the meatballs in Crisco shortening, then bake them in the tomato sauce. That's how I have always made it until now. I was thinking about just browning them in a little olive oil and cooking them longer in the sauce. I figured that would cut down on the spattered/smoky kitchen, not to mention the fat content. Then my sister reminded me that she browns her regular meatballs in the oven anyhow, so I decided to work backwards - browned the meatballs in the oven, then finished them off on the stove in the sauce. I actually liked it better this way.


INGREDIENTS :
2 lb ground beef (I usually use 85% lean)
2 eggs
1/4 c seasoned dry bread crumbs
1 t cumin
2 t chamen (chili powder)
3-4 cloves minced garlic

Crisco (if frying them)
15 oz can Hunt's tomato sauce
1 can of water 
1 T tomato paste
4 T (1/2 stick) butter


Mix together the ground beef, eggs, bread crumbs, cumin, chamen (or chili powder), garlic, and a little salt and pepper until very soft. I know - anyone who has ever made a meatloaf is thinking WHAT?! We've been told forever not to over-mix the meatloaf or it will turn to lead. Fear not.  ;)


Spray a tray with PAM, roll the meat mixture into ovals (about the size of an egg - not too small since they'll shrink), and line them on the tray.  Give them all a shot of PAM and bake at 350 for about a half hour until browned.











While those are in the oven, you can get started on your sauce. In a pan large enough to accommodate all of the meatballs, bring your tomato sauce, tomato paste, water, and butter to a boil. Let it boil for about 5" to reduce, stirring every now and again, especially if you're not using a non-stick pan. When the meatballs are browned, transfer them to the pan with the sauce, along with any crispy bits left on the tray, and reduce to a simmer until cooked through.

Izmir Kufte : Hye Thyme Cafe


Serve with Pilaf and your veg of choice. Don't forget to spoon some of the sauce over your Pilaf.  ;)



Pilaf

Pilaf : Hye Thyme Cafe

Pilaf is a wonderful accompaniment to just about any entree, and it can be changed up a bazillion different ways. I must say though that the only thing I ever change is the flavor of broth I cook it in ... and maybe sometimes to add onion. Lots of other traditional versions include almonds, chick peas, apricot pieces, currants, pistachios, etc.

This whole blogging thing is definitely turning into a learning experience for me. This post was another example. We have always referred to the pasta in Pilaf as Shehrieh ("shy rah"). I just assumed that was the Armenian word for noodles or something along those lines, but it turns out to be a Syrian word.

To cook Pilaf the old way, you would brown the Shehrieh in butter, add the rice, then your broth, put the cover on (most people put a paper towel over it first to absorb the steam), turn it to low and leave it alone until it's done. Supposedly, it's taboo to stir your rice or it will turn out mushy.  

Because we ate Pilaf so often growing up - with roasted chicken, steaks, shish kebab, you name it - my Mom started browning a small batch of Shehrieh ahead of time and keeping it in the fridge. My sister went one better! First of all, if you can find it, buy the bird nest version of vermicelli. If you can't find that, any vermicelli or angel hair will work just fine. Break up the whole package on a baking sheet, toss it in the oven at 350 and bake until dark brown. I stress the "dark" because when you cook it with the rice, the liquid will suck out a lot of the color. The big plus for doing it this way is that you can just store it in your pantry in a covered container and don't have to worry about how long it stays there. Nothing will happen to it since there was no grease involved. It won't go rancid, and you don't have to refrigerate it! A big thumbs up to that!










 

A friend of my sister gave me another shortcut that I love. Rather than covering it right away and leaving it alone, left to wonder how close to done it is and afraid to stir it, she cooks her rice until the water level is below the rice and the bubbles start to form little holes in the surface. THEN lower the heat, cover it and let it finish. That definitely shaves off some cooking time.


INGREDIENTS :
1 c rice (I only use Uncle Ben's)
2 c chicken broth
4T butter
good handful of Shehrieh
salt and pepper

Start with your butter and broth in the pan, then add the rice and sherieh. The order may not matter, but in my mind, the butter and broth going in first increase the odds of the rice not sticking to the pan. I have had that problem with some rice, but never with the Uncle Ben's. Bring the whole thing to a boil and add a little salt and pepper. If you want an extra boost of flavor, you can add half of a bouillon cube (another trick of my sister's). If you do decide to use the bouillion, just make sure you don't add as much salt. 

If you're serving beef, feel free to use beef broth. Same goes for turkey. I was at a friend's house once and heard her Dad cussing in the kitchen. When we went in to make sure everything was OK, he said he had goofed and used half chicken broth and half beef. That worked just fine too!


 








Give it a stir with a fork every few minutes until the holes form like I mentioned above. Cover the pan (I never bother with the paper towel),  turn heat to lowest setting and leave it alone for 10-15" until done. Fluff with a fork before serving.




If you want to find out what I served the Pilaf with tonight,and what I learned about that ... you know you do ... you'll have to check back in tomorrow.  ;-)

Pilaf : Hye Thyme Cafe


Sunday, February 20, 2011

Lemon-Garlic Chicken and Asparagus Pasta Toss


It was like something out of the Wizard of Oz here today! I guess that's kind of appropriate since L. Frank Baum was from this area, but there were no balloons floating around today, just a whole lotta the white stuff. I'm sooooooo over it already!  I was very excited to see the driveway yesterday, now it's gone again!  :(

Bummed about the weather and not wanting to go out if at all possible, we were tossing around dinner ideas. There was some chicken in the fridge, all kinds of pasta in the pantry, and some naked lemons in the fruit bowl (they donated their zest to my Lemon Thyme Cake the other day). OK, so chicken, pasta, and lemons. What else have we got? Not a whole lot at the moment. At least by way of veggies. Per usual, the Dunkin Junkie couldn't make it through a day without my java, so I did end up running out. I was going to get some multi-colored bell peppers or maybe some snap peas, but then it hit me - asparagus! We all love asparagus, and it certainly pairs well with chicken, pasta, AND lemon. What didn't occur to me was that white wine would also go well with those things. Maybe next time.


INGREDIENTS :
Chicken
Dijon mustard
Kraft grated Parmesan (not the "good stuff"/not store brand - use Kraft!!)

Olive oil
1 Box Spaghetti, Linguine, or Fettuccine
2 lb Asparagus
3-4 Cloves Garlic
1 Small Red Onion
Juice From 1.5 Lemons (INCREASE)
Salt
Lemon Pepper
Fresh Grated Parmesan for Garnish (the Kraft is fine too)


Trim the ends off the asparagus, then cut the rest into about 1" pieces.  Mince, grate, crush, or slice your garlic - I used my impulse purchase garlic slicer from a Pampered Chef Party for the first time. I keep forgetting about it. Ignore the second pile of garlic in the corner on the right. That's for my next project - a ginormous batch of meat sauce.










Now that your veggies are ready, you can put on a pot of water for your pasta if you want.

Dredge the chicken in Dijon Mustard, then in the Kraft Parmesan. I don't know if it's a difference in moisture content or what, but this chicken always works best with the Kraft. Fresh grated Parmesan and store brand Parmesan don't seem to come out as well. We happened to have a store brand on hand today. You can see how a lot of the cheese came off and didn't color evenly. Cook the chicken in a little olive oil, then set aside on a plate, but do not clean out the pan.


Your pot should be boiling by now, so go ahead and toss in some salt and your pasta. Bear the Parm in mind when you're salting your pasta, as the cheese is salty as well, and you will be using some of the pasta water.

Add a little more olive oil to the pan with the "crispies" from the chicken, bring the heat back up and toss in the garlic and onions. When they are nicely coated with the oil and start to cook down, add the asparagus and a healthy dose of Lemon Pepper.
















While that's cooking, go ahead and cut your chicken into bite-sized pieces. Don't forget to check on your pasta.  ;)

When the asparagus is cooked to your liking, add the chicken and lemon juice, then pour over a little of the pasta liquid. Here is where I would have added some white wine if I had any. Gently toss in the pasta, then transfer to a serving platter and top with fresh grated Parmesan.


Funny - this looks like a plate of pasta, but it's really a huge platter.



The verdict - very good, but needs MORE LEMON! I figured between the lemon pepper and a lemon and a half, that would be plenty, but it was still pretty mild. Had my lemons not already been naked, I would have used the zest as well. I'll definitely make it again, but with more lemon and maybe some crushed red pepper.  Yummmm!


Friday, February 18, 2011

Lemon Thyme Cake (and my first time making or playing with fondant)

Hye Thyme Cafe: Lemon Thyme Cake

I have been thinking about trying fondant for a while now, and was just reading up on it the other day. When my sister mentioned that she was thinking about trying it, I had to laugh because that was the day I was reading about it. I was thinking that if she tried it starting from marshmallows, I would make a batch from scratch so we could compare, but when I walked in the kitchen this afternoon, there were a bazillion marshmallows, so I did it that way.

As far as the cake goes, never having used fondant, I wanted to make sure I had a "sturdy" structure, so I opted to bake a cake rather than trying it with a mix. When it comes to baking, I usually make Paklava, Kadayif, Cookies, Pies, etc. I've probably only ever made six cakes in my life, and four of those were out of a box, so my cake baking experience is slightly above nil. I hit the jackpot with this one! It's so good, I've already been asked to bake it again for Easter. 😄

I flipped through my recipe cards and saw a Lemon Cake. It must have been in there for a good 20 years or so without having been tried, because there was no reference to where it came from. I saw Thyme in the fridge and figured since the title of my blog is the Hye Thyme Cafe, it was High Time I actually did something that called for Thyme! So, I added the thyme and changed up a bunch of other stuff to come up with an awesome cake! The original recipe called for three 6x3x2 loaf pans, but because my object was to make fondant, I went for two rounds and doubled the recipe (this IS doubled, so don't think you need to do that). I baked a scoop of the batter in a small ramekin as a sample, so now that I know how good it is, the finished covered cake is calling out to me from across the room! Can't wait to get to work tomorrow so I can cut into it!

For the fondant, you'll have to refer to my friend DeeDee's blog, DDPie's Slice, since that's the one I used. Check out her stuff. She's crazy good at cakes!! The only thing I did different was the flavoring. I opted for 1t vanilla and 2t lemon since the cake is lemon.

INGREDIENTS :
2 c sugar
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temp
4 eggs
1/2 c plain yogurt
4 T water
1 T lemon extract
2 T lemon juice
4 T lemon zest
2 T fresh thyme
3 c flour
2 t baking powder
1 t salt
1 box (4 serving) white chocolate instant pudding mix
1/4 c milk (if needed)

SYRUP :
1/2 c sugar
1/4 c lemon juice


Preheat oven to 350 and spray two 8" round cake pans with Baking Pam.  

Cream the butter and sugar until smooth, then beat in the eggs, one at a time.  

Stir in the yogurt, water, extracts, zest, and thyme. **NOTE: When it came to the thyme, I didn't have enough fresh, so I added a little dried thyme. I rubbed it between my fingers to activate the oils and then rubbed it into the lemon zest.

Add the flour, baking powder, salt, and pudding mix and blend until smooth. 

The batter will be pretty thick when you're done, but because it was sooooo thick at that point, it made me nervous. The pudding mix was one of the things I had added to the recipe. Some recipes require an extra egg when you do that, but others don't, so I just added a 1/4 c milk - mostly because I was out of yogurt.

The funny thing is that when I posted my yogurt recipe, someone asked what the shelf life is, so I set aside a tiny portion from my first batch to test that. I have already gone through that batch and made more, so I used the end of my last batch and realized there wasn't enough left, so I had to resort to my lab experiment from my first batch. Guess I'll have to start over again with a test from my next batch - making it again tomorrow already. That's good stuff!

Anywho ... distribute the batter between your two prepared pans and bake for about 45". When the top is an even golden brown and it just starts to hint at pulling away from the sides of the pan, give it the old toothpick test. The original recipe in the three 6x3x2 loaf pans called for 30-35", but mine definitely wasn't done then!

When you take it out of the oven, pour 1/2c sugar and 1/4 c lemon juice in a small saucepan and heat just until it starts to boil. Remove it from the heat and poke a bunch of holes in the top of your cakes with a toothpick, then spoon the syrup over it. They can cool right in the pans. I covered them with plastic wrap and refrigerated them overnight to make and apply the fondant today. Just remember that if you plan to use fondant, you still need a thin layer of icing over your cake first.  

Whatever you do, just have fun with it, and MAKE SURE YOUR HANDS ARE WELL GREASED!! I apparently wasn't lubed up enough when I first started kneading my fondant and had to call for help. I was stuck to the counter like superglue and had to laugh loud enough for my sister to hear me down the hall and come release me! 😲

It all worked out in the end, but when I did my first "frame" for one of my little tea set figures, I thought "What kind of idiot am I?!" This is my first time using fondant and I do cutouts that stretch when I try to pick them up and others that have points and tiny pieces. A normal person would have started with some geometric shapes or something. I didn't have any fluted square cutters, so I used a pastry wheel for the frames. The little cookie cutters were a set I picked up years ago but hadn't gotten around to using yet. Took me a while to figure out what the coffee mug was. I kept turning it the other way trying to imagine it as some sort of container. 

Well dang, Dee Dee ... I was just bragging about your cakes, wandered over to your blog and see a bunch of your pics are missing. What's up with that?!? 😢  Definitely go check out her Witch's Kitchen, St. Patty's Day (hysterical!), Hair Salon, and Fire Helmet cakes!!! She has even more stuff posted over on Bakespace. If you like what you see (and you will), check out her album there.

By the way, the sample of the cake we tried last night was soooo good, we were very excited to have to slice the tops off the rounds to level them today so we could sneak another taste!  Shhhh! 😉

(Don't mind the messy ramekin. I had a brain fart and forgot to spray it first, so I just scooped out the batter and sprayed over whatever was still there. It popped out just fine. Love the little flecks of thyme.)























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