27 September 2010

A Maple Take on a Great Carrot Cake

It's about this time of year that I start to think about carrot cake. "Why now?" you ask? Well, this is harvest time. The garden is beginning to look empty and the pantry, cold storage and fridge are becoming very, very full. In a vain attempt to stay ahead of things I begin to search out recipes that use large quantities of fresh veggies. Generally, the more interesting and unusual the ingredient list the better. And, well, vegetables in cakes - how can you go wrong? Inevitably, I remember this wonderful recipe. 

This recipe is one of my favorites. I discovered it a number of years ago in Fine Cooking. Over the years I've tweaked it a little, but the parts that I most love remain the same - lots of carrots and olive oil. It's a hearty cake that always seems to turn out, and is, well, a wonderful way to welcome in Fall.

P.S. - I recently came across a new carrot cake recipe, and, though I love this one dearly, I'm curious to see how this one compares. I'll let you know how it turns out.

Maple Carrot Cake with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting
adapted from Fine Cooking, February 2001

1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup maple sugar
3/4 cup olive oil
2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp allspice
2 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
8-10 medium carrots shredded (~3.5 cups)
4 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
3 tbsp dark rum

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease (with olive oil) and flour two 9" round cake pans and set aside.

Combine oil and sugar in a bowl. In a separate bowl combine all remaining dry ingredients. In a third bowl beat eggs, then add vanilla. Measure out  3 1/2 cups of carrots and set aside.

Mix sugar mixture until it resembles a coarse wet sand. Generally, I like to mix ingredients by hand. It lets me indulge in the goodies I make without feeling too much guilt. I worked for it right?

Add half the dry ingredients to the sugar olive oil mixture. Stir until thoroughly combined. Continue to add dry ingredients alternating with the egg mixture.

Add carrots and rum. Stir until combined. If you like nuts or raisins in your carrot cake this would be the time to add them. Distribute the batter evenly between greased and floured cake pans. Let the batter rest for at least 15 minutes.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes. Cake is done when a toothpick or knife inserted into the cake comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool completely before frosting.

Maple Cream Cheese Frosting
1 1/2 packages cream cheese
1 package of chevre
1/2 cup of grade B pure maple syrup
1/2 cup heavy cream

Combine ingredients in a mixing bowl. Mix by hand or using an electric mixer until frosting holds shape. Frost cake once cake is completely cooled.


20 September 2010

Peach Apple Crisp with Maple Whipped Cream

I love crisps and cobblers. Unpretentious, simple dishes that showcase the flavors of the fruits they top. With a bounty of apples this fall and a few peaches imported from warmer climates I couldn't resit making this peach apple crisp for a recent dinner. The topping is drier, a little less sweet and more crumbly than most, but it works perfectly when topped with maple whipped cream. 

Peach and Apple Crisp
4 large firm apples peeled, cored and sliced
2 large peaches peeled, pitted and sliced
1 cup granulated maple sugar
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup whole rolled oats
1/2 cup butter

Pre-heat oven to 350 degree F. Place the sliced peaches and apples into the baking dish. In a mixing bowl combine the flour, sugar, oats and butter. Mix until the butter is evenly distributed and the ingredients resemble a coarse meal. Spread evenly over the sliced fruit. Place in oven and cook for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes. Serve with maple whipped cream. 

Maple Whipped Cream
1 cup heavy cream 
2 tablespoons maple sugar

Whisk maple sugar into the heavy cream. Continue whisking the mixture until it forms peaks. 

15 September 2010

Penne with Maple Vodka Sauce

made with Vermont Spirits Vodka distilled from, yes, maple syrup

I've always been intimidated by vodka sauce. I'm not sure why. It's ingredients are simple enough - tomato, vodka and cream. The steps are straight forward - simmer, add, simmer, add, simmer server. What's to be worried about, right? Well, yesterday timidity took a back seat to good old Vermont ingenuity and the results were delicious.

I had hated to see so much of the wonderful tomatoes I was canning go to waste. So, I simmered all the leftover bits down into a thick, fragrant tomato broth. I would never have guessed that leftover skins, seeds and cores of tomatoes could yield such inspiration. 

The recipe is essentially equal parts of each ingredient, except the sugar you only need a teaspoon or two. The instructions are basic - simmer, add, simmer, add, simmer, serve. So, I'm really not sure why I was hesitant. Simply simmer the tomato reduction, add the vodka (in my case I used Vermont Spirits Vodka distilled from, yes, maple syrup), simmer the tomato and vodka, add the cream simmer the tomato, vodka and cream, add a little maple sugar simmer a little more. Then right before serving add desired amount of Parmesan cheese allow to melt. Season and voila - Penne with Maple Vodka Sauce.