Sunday, February 21, 2016

February's Baking Challenge: Molten Chocolate Cake

This year I decided to take on Cake Baking Bucket List challenge. Each month I am baking a different cake, learning some new tricks, and honing my skills.

February's cake is a molten chocolate cake. One of the things I love about the recipe is that it make 4 individual cakes, perfect for having a couple friends over for dinner. It's also extremely simple and fast. The cakes bake in 12 minutes, and since you want to serve them warm, there is hardly any wait time. I made them after dinner on Friday night, and the whole process took about 30 minutes from initial prep to first bite.

Once I had the cakes placed on dessert plates, I sprinkled them with powdered sugar and topped them with a small scoop of vanilla bean ice cream. Delicious!

Edit: we just ate the remaining two cakes last night (they'll keep 5 days in a airtight Tupperware in the fridge), and I drizzled some caramel sauce over the top once I added the scoop of ice cream. Amazing! Caramel sauce and vanilla bean ice cream: that is definitely my recommended way to serve these.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Dissertation is available online

Hi Guys,
  A couple weeks ago ProQuest published my dissertation online.  Most institutional libraries will have access to it through a subscription to ProQuest's Thesis and Dissertations Database. 

  I also want to make it available to those that don't have access to a university library, so I am hosting it on Google Drive.

  If you would like to view/download a copy of "The relationship between oceanic transform fault segmentation, seismicity, and thermal structure," you can find a link to it here.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

The Ultimate Cake Baking Bucket List: A Monthly Cake Challenge

As one of my goals for 2016, I decided I want to expand my skills in the kitchen. I love baking, so why not find a way to challenge myself and make some tasty treats at the same time?

Enter the
Ultimate Cake Baking Bucket List. The list, which assigns a cake to bake for each month of the year, is designed to introduce the baker to multiple techniques while also, making them more confident and comfortable behind the stove. 

January's cake was a citrus angel food cake. I postponed making it until this weekend, as I thought it would be a fun activity to do while hiding out from the Super Bowl madness occurring just down the road from us (we're only 10 minutes from the stadium, and live right along the public rail line). 

One thing I noticed about some of the recipes on Food & Wine is that they don't list out all the steps, which can be a bit confusing. For example, the recipe for the angel food cake lists heavy cream and powdered sugar in the ingredients list. The directions never mention these ingredients though. From the picture and the ingredients themselves, it's obvious they want to make a simple icing to drizzle on the cake, but it would be nice if they mentioned that.

I followed the recipe almost exactly as it appears on the webpage, with a couple exceptions:
  1. My egg whites would not whip up into stiff peaks no matter how much I beat them in the KitchenAid until I added more cream of tartar. I believe this possibly due to the grated lemon zest preventing the egg whites from forming good structure.

    To over come this, I gradually added additional cream of tartar, approximately 1/4 teaspoon at a time. The recipe calls for 1 teaspoon, and it total I think I used about 2.5. One nice thing I learned, adding additional cream of tartar does not seem to affect the recipe at all. Yeah!
  2. The icing: the recipe mentions 2 tablespoons heavy cream and 1 cup confectioner's sugar. I used 1.5 tablespoons whole milk (I didn't have heavy cream), and 1/2 tablespoons homemade vanilla extract (I'll make a post later on how to make the extract). Once the cake was cooled and out of the pan, I just mixed up the icing with a metal whisk and drizzled it over the cake.

This cake is light, airy, and very delicious. The zest and fresh lemon juice really give the cake a nice pop of citrus flavor without making it tart. I was honestly surprised just how flavorful this cake was, as plain angel cake is so mild and generally a bit boring on it's own.

I did have some trouble getting the cake off the bottom of the pan, until I started cutting it. I used a non-stick angel food pan, but since angel food batter climbs the walls of your pan as it bakes, I am not sure how much the non-stick coating actually helps. I need to get a nice rubber or silicon icing spreader that I can also use to separate the cake from the pan for easy removal. You'll notice in my pics that the cake was still on the bottom part of the pan when I iced it. 

(sorry for the dirty pan in the pic, my husband had just sauteed some veggies)