Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Hit The Trail Mix Clusters

Crunchy, chewy and chocolaty goodness
    While packing for the weekend I decided to make a batch of trail mix.  It's a great recipe for junior cooks to join in.  You don't need exact measurements so they can pick whatever they want and "dump" it in.  I was thinking of a simple combination of Cheerios and raisins.  Then I saw a bit of carob powder and the mini-Marshmallows leftover from the Lego cake.   I couldn't see how I could roast those tiny marshmallows over the campfire.  I thought of combining the ingredients to make a s'more cookie.

    I decided my fudge recipe would make a good base.  As my helpers were washing up and donning their aprons,  I searched for the needed ingredients.  The bad news was we were low on honey.  I used one half cup honey and one half cup agave nectar. The good news was, we had a whole shelf of trail mix ingredients.  I found unsweetened coconut, walnuts, and a 15 ounce box of raisins. I was planning to give my assistants measuring cups to add a cup of each item.   While I was whipping up the fudge in the food processor they had a ball pouring all of the items together.  I moved everything to my biggest bowl and added the fudge to it.  We decided to add 3/4 cup of peanut butter to the batch. They stirred and got their spoons in there like they were tossing a salad.

    Then we took out the cookie scoop and dropped the batter onto a parchment paper lined cookie sheet.  I took the second sheet and spread the mixture out to cut into squares.  The trays went into the freezer to chill the fudge.  We had enough to share with friends and enjoy over the long holiday weekend!

Micky's Hit the Trail Mix Clusters

Trail Mix: empty out the pantry of Cheerios, nuts, chips, dried fruit, mini-marshmallows
One batch of fudge
3/4 cup Teddie Bear natural peanut butter

Mix the dry ingredients.  Make the fudge.  Pour the fudge and peanut butter over the dry mixture.  Drop by spoonfuls or smooth onto parchment paper.  Chill for 30 minutes.  Use a pizza cutters to make squares.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Lucky Seven

Lego cake for a lucky 7-year-old
    I had a request for a Lego cake.  I pulled out my favorite cake recipe.  It is made with carob, but comes out moist and rich and nobody guesses it isn't chocolate!  I have tested the recipe out, unlike my interesting results in Dinosaur Delights.

   Two things, I need to share with you.  First of all, the cake serves 12 so I figured I needed to double the recipe.  The original recipe was for a double layer round cake.  The doubled recipe produced so much batter that I made two sheet cakes.  That was on Wednesday. I froze both cakes.   I learned the hard way that it is easier to shape cakes when they are frozen. The first cake became the party cake.  The day before the party, I mixed up my favorite frosting and added giant mega blocks in the shape of a seven.  I had found interesting Lego cake ideas, but this one came to me and I stuck with my idea.
   The second detail  worth noting is that I usually use oat flour to create a gluten-free cake.  I have tried brown rice flour, but it doesn't seem to raise well.  This time I used regular flour and the cake was drier than I expected.  I may have to go back to oat flour only or try a mixture of flours.
   The second cake stayed in the freezer for school visit day.  I mixed up a fresh batch of frosting and iced the cake, adding mini-marshmallows to each piece to create Lego blocks.  Note to self: cupcakes are easier to serve at school, since you don't need to slice and serve.  It would also eliminate the need to bring forks and plates.

   This recipe is time consuming compared with a box mix or calling the grocery bakery.  I really like knowing that my kids are eating a caffeine and sugar free cake that is a wonderful treat for their special day.  By baking the cake on Wednesday, I was able to make my mess ahead of time and that freed me up to get the activities (and cleaning) prepped for the party.

   The last time I made this recipe it got smudged with carob powder.  This time I learned my lesson and cut and pasted it to fit on one page.  Then I add I plastic sheet protector.  This time I got to keep my copy, although I did have to sponge it down!

Vegan Carob Cake with Fudgy Carob Frosting
Serves 12

Cake Ingredients:

2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 cup carob powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup oil (I used grapeseed.)
2 cups agave nectar (I know this sounds like a lot, but the original called for 3 cups of maple syrup -- an expensive recipe, for sure. Still, it's a LOT of cake.)
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar (Don't omit this ingredient, whatever you do!)
2 tablespoons vanilla
2 cups filtered water

Cake Directions:

1. In a large bowl, sift together all the dry ingredients. Give them a stir for about 2 minutes, until all the ingredients are evenly distributed.
2. In a medium bowl, using an electric mixer, mix the wet ingredients for 3 to 5 minutes, until they are well combined.
3. Stir the wet mixture into the dry mixture. Here's where things are very weird. It's going to be extremely lumpy. Don't overmix this no matter what your head tells you. Mix until the dry ingredients have been moistened -- about 3 minutes.
4. Let the cake batter rest a few minutes while you preheat your oven to 325 degrees F and oil and flour your two 9-in. cake pans. You definitely want to line the bottoms of your pans with a circle of parchment paper as well. Trust me on this. The cakes WILL stick if you don't.
5. When the pans are prepared, pour the batter into the pans. Don't be concerned that there is a lot of batter, it won't over flow. However, feel free to put the pans on top of a cookie sheet with a lip.
6. Bake the cakes for 35 minutes or until a tester comes out with just the barest of crumbs. Do NOT open the oven for the first half hour. This important for the lump-killing abilities of the cider vinegar. You will regret it if you don't leave the layers alone.
7. Cool the layers completely before frosting.
For my favorite buttercream frosting, I use salted butter, rather than adding salt at the end.

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

1/2 cup unsalted butter
6 tbl Agave Nectar
1 cup nonfat dry milk
1 1/2 tsp Vanilla extract
4 tbl whole milk
pinch of sea salt

Cream the butter with an electric mixer until light in color. Slowly add the agave nectar and beat until fluffy, about one to two minutes. Gradually add the dry milk and beat again.  Add the salt, turn the mixer to high speed, and beat about two minutes, or until very fluffy.  Makes 2 cups. Store in refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.