Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Put the Lime in the Coconut

...and drink it all up.  Or so the song goes.  I didn't put the lime in the coconut, but I did put in on top.  I've had coconut and lime on the brain lately.  Originally, I was planning on baking coconut-lime cupcakes topped with vanilla buttercream and flaked coconut.  Then I thought maybe a drop cookie, but neither panned out.  I was still thinking about those flavours and started thinking about a cake.  I really like single layer cakes.  They're not overwhelming like a layer cake, for making or eating.  With a layer cake, you're obligated to make it a spectacle.  On the other hand, you bake a single layer and plate it.  Sure you can frost it, but there's no shame in simply dusting it with powdered sugar, or even a slip of a glaze.  This cake, though, got special treatment.

Before Christmas I bought a package of ladyfingers (savoiardi, if you speak Italian), that I had yet to open.   The cake was just the reason to open them.  Good thing I waited too, they are so good that they probably wouldn't have lasted this long if I had tried them over the holidays.  The cookies turned into a crumb topping for the cake, generously laced with lime zest.  The cake itself was a basic yellow cake recipe from King Arthur Flour, with a few additions and subtractions along the way.

You might think it would be a tropical cake, but it's not.  I used organic, unsweetened, finely shredded coconut in the cake batter.  With almost a cup of sugar in the recipe itself, the cake didn't need more sweetening (though I did glaze the top of the cake before adding the crumb topping).  The shredded coconut lends a subtle crunch to the cake, which was perfect with coffee, and would no doubt be great with tea.

Coconut Cake with Lime Crumb Topping
Makes one 9-inch round cake
(adapted from King Arthur Flour's Classic Yellow Cake recipe)


6 tablespoons butter, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs, plus 1 yolk
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup milk
1 cup unsweetened, finely shredded coconut


1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoons milk


8 ladyfingers
4 tablespoons butter, room temperature
2 tablespoons lime zest

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly grease 9-inch round cake pan and line bottom with greased parchment.  In a mixing bowl, cream butter, sugar, salt, baking powder, and vanilla until light and fluffy.  Add eggs one at a time until mixed in, then add extra yolk.  Fold in flour gradually, alternating with milk, until incorporated.  Add coconut and mix well.  Pour batter into pan and bake until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 25-30 minutes.  Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then remove.

While oven is still warm, put zest in to warm and slightly dry it.  Make glaze by whisking the powdered sugar and milk.  Crumble ladyfingers in bowl and cut in butter with pastry cutter.  Add zest and work ingredients together until you have a crumbly mix.  Brush glaze on top of cake and sprinkle crumb topping in a thin layer.  Drizzle more glaze on top of crumb, then add more topping.

You know you want to sing along...

Monday, February 20, 2012

Craving Barbecue

Sweet, tangy, mouth-watering barbecue that's been cooking for hours, so tender it pulls apart with no effort.  This is why having a crockpot works wonders for fulfilling that craving.  All it took was two thick center-cut pork chops, a slow cooker, and a little time.  I don't use my crockpot enough.  In fact, since I found my little Goodwill treasure about a year ago, this was only the second or third time I've used it.   I need to change that.

I also took a little inspiration from L.A.'s food trucks on how to serve my barbecue.  There would be no rolls, but that bag of masa in the Italian Pantry would come in handy.  What's better than homemade corn tortillas?  So easy...masa, water, and a touch of salt.  I'm still working on making them thinner, but they tasted great.  Tortillas were the way to go.

It doesn't get much easier than this.

Barbecue Pork
(serves 2)

2 thick center-cut pork chops
1 medium onion, sliced thin
3 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
1 1/2 cups ginger ale
1/3 cup barbecue sauce
3 tablespoons honey

Put the pork, onion, garlic, and ginger ale in the crockpot, turn on high for 2-3 hours.  I cut the meat into strips before cooking.  When the pork is cooked, gently pull apart, then add the barbecue sauce and honey.  Cook on high for another 30-40 minutes so all the flavours mingle.  

Serve on corn tortillas, topped with green onions and cilantro. 

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Reason Enough

Have I ever told you how I feel about eggs?  It's been a love-hate relationship since I was young.  I pretty much stuck with eggs, scrambled hard.  Eggs kind of creeped me out, but I was still curious about them.  Mom used to eat hers over-easy sometimes and I was fascinated, watching as she broke the yolk and dipped her buttered toast into it.  But my young mind saw something runny and immediately connected it with raw and  uncooked, and therefore, GROSS.  At Easter, the egg holiday of the year, I loved dyeing those hard-boiled eggs all sorts of pretty colours, and once or twice even ate them.  Let me correct myself...I only ate the egg white, and only if it was coated in about an inch of salt.  Then there was a time in my teen years where I had runny scrambled eggs, where I was totally turned off from eggs and didn't eat them for years after that.  The key word again was 'gross.'  In my mid-twenties, after spending way too  much time at the Perkins in Montgomeryville, PA, having breakfast at all times of the day and night, I discovered that scrambled eggs tasted pretty darn good with apricot syrup.  Then another couple of years where I didn't really eat them, and in my mid-thirties, it was back to the same old, same old.  Scrambled, usually hidden in the depths of a breakfast burrito where they served as a backdrop to potatoes, onions, and bacon.

Egg salad?  Don't even get me started.  I used to think it was one of the most unappealing foods known to man.  Slimy-looking, and a sickly pale yellow.  I wouldn't touch it with a ten foot pole.  Then, it happened.  The mind (and palate) opened.  I found myself strangely fascinated with the egg again.  I don't know where exactly the lightbulb went off, but it did.  I started with making egg salad.  Yes, you read that correctly.  A friend convinced me that I could put anything I wanted into it, so it wouldn't be a slimy, sickly yellow goo.  My favourite mix-ins are sweet relish and olives.  Then it was the Big One.  The Poached Egg.  Thanks to a breakfast date at Philippe downtown, I finally tasted that poached egg with its runny center, and after all those years...I liked it...a lot.  At Phil's Diner in North Hollywood, I had a bite of a burger topped with a fried egg.  It was getting better and better.  I made a fried egg at home for the first time a couple of weeks after the burger bite, so I could savour it on its own.

And now...this past week I saw a glorious post on TheKitchn, where an egg was baked in an avocado half.  I wasted no time in trying this one, the avocado on the counter ripe and waiting to be used.  How easy does it get?  Split the avocado in half, pry out the pit, make the hole a wee bit larger, crack your egg into the hole, top it with what you like, and bake it in the oven.  I sprinkled mine with shredded Parmesan, a shake of oregano, and black pepper.  Besides tasting good, it made me want to throw a Sunday brunch.  Of course, wanting to see your friends is reason enough to invite them over.  But think how snazzy the spread will look with the addition of these on the table.

Have I told you how I feel about eggs?  It's love.

Check out TheKitchn's link here and the original post on LifeHacker.