Free Range Nurse

Cooking therapy from a former travel nurse

Bringing Britain Back October 17, 2010

Filed under: cake,dessert — freerangenurse @ 12:28 pm

Coffee Walnut Cake

I have a dear friend, Emma, who just celebrated a milestone birthday this past week. I won’t say which milestone, because I’d still like for us to still be friends, but I’ll just say that it ended in a zero. Emma is from jolly old England and darn proud of it. I would dare say she’s almost as proud as Texans are about being from Texas! I offered to bake her the cake flavour (Queen’s English spelling, just for Emma) of her choosing and she chose coffee walnut cake. I scoured the internet and found a recipe courtesy of BBC. The only modifications I made was making the cake four layers and using all-purpose flour instead of self-rising and using granulated sugar in place of castor sugar.  I am happy to say the cake made her homesick, which means I did something right.  It was even a hit with her mum and other family members who still live in England.

When I first heard Emma mention a coffee flavored cake, I have to say, I wasn’t excited.  I like coffee, but I thought the cake would be overwhelmingly coffee flavored.  I’m glad to say, it is the perfect amount of coffee flavor.  The icing, a buttercream (which ordinarily I don’t like due to the overly sugary taste) was well balanced with the bitter espresso.  Adding that little bit of brewed espresso also seemed to make the buttercream lighter and creamier, but still stable enough for piping.  I highly recommend this cake, it just might be one of my new favorites!

note:  you will need a scale for this one.  I haven’t measured out the ingredient yet, but I promise to bake it again and take note of standard measurements.

Coffee Walnut Cake
(adapted from BBC)

yields a four layer 8-inch round cake

  • 450 grams/1 pound unsalted butter, softened (plus extra for greasing the pans)
  • 450 grams/1 pound of granulated sugar
  • 8 large eggs
  • 100 ml/3 1/2 ounces strong espresso coffee, cooled to room temperature
  • 450 grams/ 1 pound all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 150 grams/ 5 ounces chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Butter and flour four 8-inch cake rounds.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter and sugar together until very light and pale, about 5 minutes.

Add the eggs, one at a time to the butter and sugar mixture, beating until each egg is fully incorporated before adding the next.  Be sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl between each addition.

Add the espresso to the mixture and stir well.  Add the flour, baking powder and walnuts and stir well to completely combine.

Spoon the cake mixture into the four prepared cake pans, making sure to evenly distribute the batter between the four pans.  The batter will be very thick.

Bake in a single layer in a preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, or until skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean and the cake is golden brown.  You may need to bake in batches of two at a time.

Remove the cakes from the oven and leave to cool on a wire rack.

Prepare coffee frosting, recipe follows.

Coffee Butter Cream Frosting

  • 250 grams/9 ounces unsalted butter, softened
  • 400 grams/14 ounces powdered (confectioners) sugar, sifted
  • 100ml/3 1/2 ounces espresso coffee, cooled to room temperature

Using the paddle attachment on a stand mixer, beat the butter until light and fluffy, add the sugar in gradually (one cup at a time), beating until fully incorporated and fluffy, before adding more.  Once all of the sugar is incorporated, add the coffee and beat until fully incorporated.  Icing may separate a little, but will become smooth again with continued beating.

To assemble the cake, place one cake layer on a cake board/cake stand and cover with an even layer of frosting, coming just to the edges of the cake, not covering the sides of the cake.  Place another layer of cake, then icing until all of the cake and icing is used.  Top with 1 1/2 cups toasted, chopped walnuts.  For added decoration, and to make the cake shown here, prepare an extra half batch of frosting to use for piping a border around the cake.  Enjoy!


Versatile Chocolate Cookie Dough May 29, 2010

Filed under: chocolate,cookies,dessert — freerangenurse @ 7:19 am

How much do you love chocolate?  If you are like most, chocolate ranks high on the dessert wish list.  Of course there’s the common chocolate chip cookie to nibble on, but really think about it.  How much of the chocolate flavor comes through?  The sweetness of most chocolate chip cookies easily over-powers the flavor of even the most intense chocolate chip.  Don’t get me wrong, I love a good chocolate chunk cookie, but if you want to really taste chocolate, then this is the cookie for you….or rather, these are the cookies for you.

I found this/these recipes in Fine Cooking Magazine.  Yes, the same magazine that gave me this, and this.  This particular edition was dedicated to chocolate, every recipe – oh yes, and there are many recipes in the magazine.  It was a little difficult to know where to start, but I decided to start here and honestly, I haven’t moved on yet.  I have made this recipe four or five times already, wowing my coworkers with these intensely chocolate-y cookies.  What is more impressive is how different they are from one another, even though the base recipe is identical.

The chocolate wafers are thin and crisp and are an excellent coffee companion, have great dunkability in milk and would love a delicious coating of chocolate ganache or perhaps even a smear of Bailey’s infused cream.  They are a snap to make, store beautifully in the fridge until ready to cut and bake (just like those less than desirable store bought slice and bake cookie doughs).

The second version (my favorite) are thick and chewy, have a totally different texture, and while possessing the same intense chocolate taste, have a little added complexity with the addition of cherries, chocolate chunks and nuts.  Like their simpler counterparts, they also hold up well to a dip in the milk pool.  They could easily be made with different fruit/nut combos, or even have the fruit omitted.  They are your cookies, it is your dough, change the supporting cast and still end up with a winner.

Let me know what you changed and how you made this your own cookie.

Basic Cocoa Cookie Dough

recipe from Fine Cooking,

  • 2 1/4 cups (10 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup, plus 2 tablespoons (3 3/8 oz) unsweetened natural cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
  • 1 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/8 tsp baking soda
  • 3/8 tsp salt
  • 1 cup plus 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, slightly softened
  • 4 1/2 tablespoons whole milk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Using a food processor, combine flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda and salt.  Pulse several times to thoroughly combine.  Add softened butter and pulse to combine.  Combine the milk and vanilla in a bowl.  With the food processor running, add milk mixture and continue to process until the dough clumps around the blade.  Note, this can also be made in a mixer.  Once mixed, transfer the dough to a clean work surface and knead to make sure all ingredients are combined.

From here you can take this dough in any direction you want to go.  You can form the dough into a log, wrap it in wax paper and chill it in the refrigerator for about an hour, then slice into 1/4 inch slices and bake it at 350 for 12-15 minutes.  This will make the intensely chocolate, crisp wafer cookies….or, you can take it further.

For Cherry Chocolate Cookies:

  • 1 batch of cocoa cookie dough
  • 2 cups toasted chopped nuts (pecans, walnuts or hazelnuts)
  • 1 1/2 cup chocolate chunks (about 9 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped)
  • 9 ounces (about 1 1/2 cup dried cherries, coarsely chopped

Mix all ingredients using a stand mixer until well combined.  Drop tablespoons of dough about 2 inches apart on a cookie sheet.  Bake at 350 degrees F for 12-14 minutes until the cookies are dry to the touch and slightly soft when pushed with your finger.  Cool cookies on a rack.  Store at room temperature in an airtight container….if you have any left.


Delight-ful Egg Tart May 23, 2010

Filed under: dessert — freerangenurse @ 2:34 pm

I’m in a book club.  An over-the-top book club.  Each month we take turns selecting the book, then the hostess also brings snacks which coordinate with the book.  One month later when we meet to discuss the book and chose a new one, she also comes up with a little take away and a clever way to discuss the book.  This month was my month to host and my book pick was Kitchen Chinese.  I selected this book mostly because of the food descriptions, so it was only fitting that I came up with a Chinese snack menu.

I emailed my friend, Delight.  It’s true, I have a Chinese American friend who’s real name is Delight and it’s fitting, because she is, in fact, a delight.  I’ve known her since elementary school and, since her parents owned a Chinese restaurant, I figured she could help me select some snack recipes for the group.  She emailed me several ideas and I chose to make these egg tarts and almond cookies (recipe coming soon).  Delight warned me that the tarts are very egg-y and not for everyone, so I decided to make mini-mini tarts, so if my book club folks didn’t like them, they wouldn’t feel bad about not finishing them.  After I tasted them, I discovered they weren’t what I thought they’d be at all.  At hearing the name, egg tart, I imagined a scrambled egg in a pastry shell.  After eating one, I decided they should be renamed custard tarts.  The filling tasted more like a flan custard minus the coffee flavor.  They are mildly sweet, very smooth and surprisingly delicious.  I also think the pastry shells would be even better filled with lemon curd (I will test this hypothesis in the near future). (more…)


Urban Legend Cookies April 12, 2010

Filed under: chocolate,cookies,dessert — freerangenurse @ 10:43 am

Did you ever hear the story of the Nieman Marcus cookie?  Supposedly a woman dined at the Nieman Marcus Cafe and had their chocolate chip cookies for dessert.  She enjoyed the cookies so much, she asked the waiter for a recipe and was told they could sell it to her for two-fifty.  She agreed and then upon receiving her credit  card statement, was horrified to find out that she was billed $250.00 for the recipe.  She called the store to dispute the charge, but was told, essentially, too bad, no refunds.  Disgruntled and bent on revenge, she distributed the recipe to everyone she knew to prevent anyone else from being duped into purchasing the recipe. (more…)


Absolutely In Love With Lebovitz! April 10, 2010

Filed under: chocolate,dessert — freerangenurse @ 10:00 am

Many of my friends know that there are a few food bloggers that I love.  There are many that I read, but only two or three that I could say that no matter what recipe of theirs I try, it always yields delectable results.  David Lebovitz is one of those three.  I have all of his cookbooks, I read his blog with great enthusiasm, I follow him on Twitter and I am FaceBook “friends” with him.  I’m a little obsessed. (more…)


Snickerdoodle Cupcakes March 13, 2010

Filed under: dessert — freerangenurse @ 9:20 am

What’s not to love about a snickerdoodle cookie?  Especially one warm and just out of the oven.  I might be biased because I love cinnamon, but when I saw this recipe in Martha Stewart Cupcakes book, I just couldn’t wait to try it!  It is everything a good snickerdoodle should be – soft, sweet without being overly so, with a warm cinnamon taste.  Delicious!  I had two the first night and could have kept going, but decided I better exercise a little self control. Then I decided I should exercise, so I did two sit ups.  I’m sure that cancelled it out. (more…)


What A Girl Wants… March 3, 2010

I have said before, I don’t have much of a sweet tooth and there was a time I thought I didn’t like chocolate.  I know, shocker!  What woman in her right mind doesn’t like chocolate?  First off, I never claimed to be in my right mind and secondly, it turns out I do like chocolate, just not milk chocolate.  I discovered this at work.  I was taking care of a patient whose mother was from Paris.  She was raving about the chocolates her parents had brought with them from France in celebration of the new arrival and I mentioned that I didn’t like chocolate.  I swear, she let out an audible gasp.  She told me she was sure I did like chocolate, just not the overly sweet “American” chocolate.  She insisted that I try one of her chocolates.  I did and whoa boy!  It was everything women are supposed to feel when they eat chocolate, better than mediocre sex, for sure!  She told me to try dark chocolate and don’t be afraid to buy the good stuff.  I have loved chocolate ever since.  I just don’t feel like it needs all the sugar and milk to make it divine.  The divinity is in the slightly bitter, lightly sweet richness. (more…)


Sunshine Tart March 2, 2010

One of the blogs I read, White on Rice Couple, recently featured both Meyer Lemon Margaritas and Meyer Lemon Bars.  Apparently those lemons are pretty easy to come by, for them, because they grow in their backyard.  I am not so lucky and after three trips to Central Market and Whole Foods, I finally found some.  I bought a dozen!  Then began the week and a half of 12 hour shifts up at work and the lemons sat patiently in the fridge.  I had every intention of making something with them on Monday, but spent much of the day sleeping.  I did get a couple of those lemon margaritas made and consumed.  Tuesday and Wednesday weren’t much better.  Still not sleeping on a normal schedule, I didn’t really cook much.  On Thursday, it was a new day!  I was awake at 7:00 a.m. and ready to go! (more…)


Cross-Cultural Treats and the Bastardization Thereof January 21, 2010

Filed under: dessert — freerangenurse @ 5:06 pm

The first time I had turon was about two years ago, in Denver, during the Dragon Boat Festival.  I fell in love.  Okay, I know, I do that a lot.  The crispy wrapper, the soft banana, the caramelized sugar…<sigh> what’s not to love?  Pair it with cinnamon ice cream and whoa boy!

I asked my friend, Susan (who is Filipino) if she knew how to make them and could she possibly give me the recipe.  Can I take a moment to tell you I love Susan, too?  Not only did she give me the recipe, she went to the Asian grocery and picked up everything I would need and delivered it to me!

Weeks passed and Susan kept asking me if I’d made the turon.  I told her I hadn’t and had already thrown out the plantains, which were beyond ripe and rotting in a landfill somewhere, but that I would buy more and make them next chance I got.  More weeks past, more plantains joined the landfill.  It just seems I could never coordinate my time off with the plantain’s ripeness, or I’d forget (okay, it was always the latter).  Sometimes I would have every intention, but because plantains look horrible when ripe, my husband would throw them out. (more…)


I Scream, You Scream…

Filed under: dessert — freerangenurse @ 3:37 pm

About a year ago, I was desperately trying to find cinnamon ice cream to go with a recipe I was making.  I don’t remember which recipe, but I never did find that cinnamon ice cream.  I never thought it would be so difficult to find.  I ended up with brown sugar ice cream, but it just wasn’t the same.  David Lebovitz has come along and solved my problem with his recipe for cinnamon ice cream and now I can make it whenever I want along with many other delicious flavors from his Perfect Scoop cookbook.  What I like most about his recipes is that he doesn’t seem to use as much sugar as some.  I don’t like my ice cream overly sweet and so far, I have come out with a perfect scoop every time.  I am making turon, a delicious treat from the Philippines made with plantain bananas, brown sugar and jack fruit fried up in a crispy spring roll wrapper.  Cinnamon ice cream just seems like a perfect accompaniment. (more…)