This is the only way I make my carrot cake. To me carrot cake should be fully-loaded with raisins, pineapple, coconut, nuts, and carrots.
Coconut Pineapple Carrot Cake
1 cup raisins, plumped by soaking in hot water (I usually use golden raisins but I didn't have enough golden raisins so a mix of golden and dark raisins went into the cake.)
2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon allspice
4 large eggs
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 ¼ canola oil
2 ½ cups coarsely grated carrots
1 8 ounce can pineapple, drained and chopped
1 cup sweetened coconut flakes
1 cup walnuts, chopped
½ cup toasted coconut flakes for decorating (optional)
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two 9” round cake pans.
2. Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice in a medium bowl. Set aside.
3. Beat eggs until foamy, continue to beat while adding vanilla and sugar. When mixture is thick, add oil. Mix well.
4. Add flour mixture and mix just until moistened.
5. Fold in raisins, carrots, pineapple, coconut and walnuts.
6. Divide batter between pans and bake about 50 minutes or until wooden skewer inserted in center comes out clean.
7. Cool completely and level cake before frosting.
Red velvet are the most problematic cakes for me. I can't get them just right at this altitude. I think it's a combination of leavening issues, flour structure issues, and weird chemical reactions of the acidic ingredients (vinegar, buttermilk and even natural cocoa powder) with the baking soda. I've been experimenting with a high altitude red velvet cupcake recipe and although I am not completely satisfied, it works (sort of) and tastes delicious. The cupcakes need additional experimenting but the cream cheese frosting is perfect.
I made a batch using my adjusted recipe from last year and then I made a batch subbing all purpose flour for cake flour. I had to remind myself why I wanted to make cake flour work at high altitude. The crumb is much better. The recipe below will still result in subtly sunken middles, but the trade off in texture is worth it. I'll experiment with mixing cake and all purpose flours next time. I cannot look at another red (or aqua) velvet cupcake at the moment.
How many batches of brownies can I bake over the course of a week? A lot. I've been testing different brands of cocoa powders.
Cocoa powder is something I have in my pantry but rarely give it a second thought. I buy the Ghirardelli because it’s the fanciest-looking cocoa powder on the grocery store shelf. Cocoa is (was) not something I would drive out of my way for.
When I was working on my icing for black and white cookies, the recipe specified Dutch processed cocoa. Interesting. That’s the Hershey’s stuff that I used to buy, right? I haven’t bought Hershey’s cocoa in ages but I remember it being Dutch processed. I found it strange when I saw a post on a cooking discussion board asking about where to buy Dutch processed cocoa. I thought Dutch processed was the common stuff.
After stopping by my local spice shop, to pick up some black onyx cocoa, I walked over to the grocery store to read the Hershey’s label. It was not Dutch processed! When did Hershey’s switch from Dutched to natural? I did find a Special Dark version next to the regular version. The Special Dark is a blend of natural and Dutched cocoas. I haven’t tried it but I hear it’s terrible.
So is natural better than Dutched? Some people seem to think so but in a blind taste test conducted by Cooks Illustrated, Dutched won in every single category. I found this pretty interesting. Apparently, by Dutch processing the cocoa, the cocoa tastes more “chocolatey.” The process neutralizes some acidic flavor notes and also produces a darker cocoa.
So in the taste test, Dutching was good but over-Dutching was bad. I read this after using the super-Dutched cocoa for my icing. I was very disappointed. I don’t know how to describe the flavor. It was flat, stale and burnt. I loved the color so my plan was to mix the black onyx with some Dutched cocoa. I bought a few different brands to test out.
I tested the cocoas using a cocoa brownie recipe by Alice Medrich.
I’ve been meaning to make and blog about French macarons for quite a while now but as with most of my cooking, I really have to be in the mood in order to do it well. How do I feel about making them after spending two days in the kitchen? They are not hard but can be a little finicky. I actually feel that macarons, like croissants and other laminated dough products, are one of those things that are worth buying. You make it once or twice to say that you can make your own. (And there’s a satisfaction about not letting the macaron get the best of you. Macaron, I’ll show you who’s the boss.)
Macarons can be made using endless “biscuit” and filling combinations. I think the most famous is probably the ispahan flavor by Pierre Hermé. It is a masterful and ingenious combination of three complementary flavors: rose, raspberry and lychee. (I’ll do a separate post dissecting and Americanizing the ispahan macaron recipe.)
I did a lot of reading and went with Not So Humble Pie’s very detailed instructions. She spent over 80 hours in the kitchen mastering the macaron and used a scatter plot to compare the various recipes before posting her technique. I really like the way she works. The macaron is about technique so her recipe may not work for you. I repeated the recipe several times and I got something a little different each time. I'm not perfect after all =(