Maotai #4

Maotai found a feather in the pasture and Annie investigates.

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Irish Car Bomb Cake

I’ve been wanting to make this cake for quite a while, but I needed an occasion and more people to help me eat it. My Grandpa’s birthday was last weekend, so I volunteered to bring the dessert and made this. The cake is dense and moist, the filling is very, very rich, and the icing is a little lighter and very sweet. I spread the filling pretty thick, but I think next time I’ll make it thinner. I also might make an extra half of the batter and make three layers of cake with thin layers of filling in between. 1/2 cup of butter for the icing barely covered the cake for me in a thin layer, so if you like it thick, or just want to be on the safe side, you can use 3/4 or 1 cup of butter and adjust sugar accordingly.

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Cake

1 cup Guinness (or other stout)

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

2 cups all purpose flour

1 1/2 cups white sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

3/4 teaspoon salt

2 large eggs

2/3 cup sour cream

Filling

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate

2 ounces semi-sweet chocolate

1 cup heavy cream

3 tablespoons butter, room temperature

2 to 3 teaspoons Jameson (or other Irish whiskey)

Frosting

2 to 4 cups confections sugar

1/2 to 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperatue

3 to 4 tablespoons Bailey’s (or milk or heavy cream)

Topping

1 ounce semi-sweet chocolate, shaved or grated

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350F. In a small saucepan, heat Guinness and butter to a simmer, then add cocoa powder and whisk until combined. Cool slightly (until it’s not too hot to touch). In a separate bowl, combine flour, sugars, baking soda and salt. In another large bowl, beat eggs and sour cream together with a hand mixer until blended. Add Guinness mixture and beat again until just blended. Add flour mixture and beat on low briefly, then fold with a spatula until fully combined. Divide evenly into two 9×9 square or 9″ round pans and bake for 20-24 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Let cool for a few minutes, then turn out onto cooling racks.

Chop chocolate into small squares and place in medium heatproof bowl. Heat cream until simmering, then pour on top of chocolate. Let sit for one minute and then stir until smooth. If the chocolate is not quite melted, microwave in increments of 20 seconds and stir until smooth. Mix in butter and Jameson’s. Let set until spreadable. Too speed the cooling process, you can place it in the refrigerator, but be sure to check and stir it frequenly so it doesn’t stiffen too much before spreading it.

Place bottom layer of cake upright on whatever dish you’ll be serving it on. With a spatula, spread filling onto cake to whatever thickness you prefer (it’s very rich), then place second layer upright on top. If you have noticeable low or high spots in your layers, try to turn the cake layers so a thick spot is on top of a thin one or vice versa. You can also use the filling to try to even it out so you end up having a uniform top to the cake. Once you place the second layer on, you can fill in any gaps on the edges with more filling. After getting the second layer on, allow the filling to set completely before trying to frost, so it doesn’t blend into the icing.

Whip the butter with a hand mixer until very fluffy. Add the powdered sugar a few tablespoons at a time. When the frosting appears thick enough to spread, add the Bailey’s. For a topping, I used a vegetable peeler to shave little curls of chocolate off a chocolate bar and then sprinkled them over the top.

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Stuffed Acorn Squash

When I was younger I didn’t like squash. My mom would usually just roast butternut squash with brown sugar and butter, and while that sounds like a great idea in theory, it just never tripped my trigger. This blog has been a motivation to challenge myself to try new things – or retry old ones with a new twist. Since I’ve never made acorn squash, I picked up a couple from the store and then gathered inspiration from the web keeping in mind other ingredients I already had on hand. I ended up making two versions of stuffing with wild rice, one of which used mushrooms, spinach, sage, and rosemary; it was a start, but it needs some more tweaking. However, I think I hit the spot with the cranberry-walnut version below:

Ingredients

2 acorn squash, halved with the seeds scooped out

1 cup wild rice

1 ¾ cups vegetable broth

1 cup lightly toasted chopped walnuts

½ cup dried cranberries

½ – ¾ tsp cumin

¼ – ½ tsp cinnamon

Butter or margarine

Salt

Preparation

In a small pot, bring the vegetable broth to a boil. Add the rice, reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 30-40 minutes until the liquid is absorbed.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 325F. Place squash cut side down on a lightly oiled shallow baking pan and bake for 20-30 minutes or until easily pierced with a fork. Remove from the oven, turn cut side up, and add a thin pat of butter to each half and spread it around a bit til it melts.

Combine the rice, walnuts, cranberries, and spices and salt to taste; then divide the mixture among the squash.

This could make a great side dish for a Thanksgiving dinner, but it is hearty enough to be a main course on its own. I am still brainstorming different stuffings for this versatile squash, so I may be posting updates to this recipe in the near future!

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Maotai #3

Maotai is currently an indoor/outdoor cat, and he is also an instigator. While I was gone, he got bit by some other cat on the top of his head. I spent a day putting hot compresses on it to draw out the infection and thankfully it has healed up just fine.

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Pumpkin Bread

I’ve been away for a couple of weeks, but no worries; on my recent stop in Champaign, a friend asked me about this pumpkin bread recipe. I made some last fall for her and her family, and she told me she has tried making other pumpkin breads since then that don’t compare. She asked if I would share the recipe, and since I don’t believe in secret recipes, I obliged, and then made some for myself. I have found I like it better the second day because the top crust gets softened from being wrapped up, and spread with butter it makes a tasty breakfast!

Ingredients
3/4 cup margarine or butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 can (15 oz) pumpkin
or 1 3/4 cups cooked and mashed pumpkin, if fresh is more your style
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg

Preparation
Preheat oven to 325F. Grease and flour the sides of 2 standard loaf pans and cut pieces of wax or parchment paper to fit in the bottom of each. My mom often makes this using 4 mini loaf pans, which are the perfect size for gift giving.

Beat the sugar and butter together, and then add eggs one at a time, beating well after each. Beat until light and fluffy, then mix in the pumpkin. Add the dry ingredients and stir well. Pour batter into the pans and bake for an hour (less for smaller pans) or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let cool for a few minutes in the pan and then use a thin knife around the sides to separate them from the pan.

You can invert the bread directly on a cooling rack, but since it leaves marks on the top, I usually take a clean towel in my hand and invert the bread onto it, peel off the wax paper from the bottom, and then place right side up on the cooling rack. Once it’s cooled you can wrap it in cling wrap or put it in a baggie to store. It will stay fresh for about a week sitting out, but you can also throw it in the freezer if you want it to keep longer. It thaws really quickly, so you can pull it out the same morning you want to eat it.

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Maotai #2

Maotai sez: Don’t forget to brush your teeth!

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Apple Crisp

This is my family’s recipe for apple crisp, and it’s always gotten rave reviews. This recipe is great with baking apples like Granny Smith and Macintosh, but even works well with whatever apples you may have. I tend to make apple crisp when I buy a large bag of apples and don’t eat them fast enough; it uses them up before they go bad, plus it is one of the easiest and most delicious desserts in my arsenal.

Ingredients
6 cups apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1/4 cup water
1-2 tsp cinnamon

Topping
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup flour
1/4 cup butter or margarine

Preparation
Grease an 8×8 square dish and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Arrange the apples in the pan and sprinkle the lemon juice and water and then the cinnamon over the top. In a separate bowl, mix together the brown sugar and flour. Cut in the butter until it’s in small chunks, then sprinkle the topping over the apples. Bake for 50 minutes to an hour until the top is browned and the apples are tender and bubbly.

Enjoy warm with ice cream!

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