Monday, September 29, 2008

Supporting the troops times two

It's been a very busy baking week for me and a fattening week for soldiers everywhere. Sunday afternoon in the Sweet Dumpling kitchen there was a full scale battle being waged.

In corner number one, we have Bake Sale.

My mission: bake up as many treats as I can to send to work with Ben for a bake sale for his unit.

In corner number two, Operation Baking Gals.

This week is Round 3 for bakers all over to send treats off to deployed service members to brighten their day and say thank you (because what better way to make someone feel good than with boxes upon boxes of baked goods?).

I couldn't say no to either cause. So, it was time to get down and dirty (and chocolately, buttery, and sticky) in the kitchen. After much flipping through cookbooks and browsing my favorite food blogs, muttering to myself, smacking my lips and saying "Ooooh, that looks so good" more than a few times, I narrowed it down to three recipes that I would bake and then split between the two causes.

First, we had Brrrrr-ownies from Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours

and Coconut Caramel Pecan Shortbread that made me want to lick the screen over at Vanilla Sugar

But they weren't the stars of the show. Oh no. That honor goes to my very special Gooey Butter Cake. Oh yes, you heard me right. Gooey. Butter. Cake.

This is the one recipe I have that guarantees to make everyone in its path stop and melt into a puddle of "ohmygahhhitssogoodwhatisitsogoodsogoodahhhh". It will also probably be the cause of many cases of heart disease among my friends and family, so if you're watching what you eat, just plug your ears, close your eyes, and ignore how insanely bad for you these little slices of deliciousness are. And have another piece. At least you'll die fat and happy.

So here's the recipe. I tend to think of it as my secret weapon, but I've shared it so much already, and it's so easy to google, that I might as well put it out there. Hopefully my biggest fans won't read this and discover how insanely easy it is to make.

Gooey Butter Cake
1/2 cup butter
1 box yellow cake mix
3 eggs
1 - 8 oz. package of cream cheese
1/2 t almond extract
4 cups of confectioners' sugar

Preheat oven to 350. Lightly grease one 9x13 cake pan.

Melt butter. Empty cake mix into a large bowl. Stir melted butter, along with one egg, into the cake mix. Press mixture into pan.

In a large bowl, mix cream cheese, almond extract, confectioners sugar and the remaining two eggs. Beat for three minutes with an electric mixer set on medium high speed. Spread over top of the cake mixture in the pan.

Bake for 35-45 minutes until golden brown on top. Allow cake to cool. Eat. Eat some more. Mmmm. So good.

I know already that all three treats were quickly devoured at the bake sale, and I hope the troops on the receiving end of Operation Baking Gals enjoy them as much as the troops here did!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Last tastes of summer

I'm getting greedy.

As summer slips away and the weather gets colder (not "gets cold", since it didn't really get warm here this summer), I know that my days are limited. I don't have much more time for wonderful tomatoes, zucchini, sweet corn, strawberries, and blueberries at the market. Even my fresh basil will be harder to find soon. So I spend my time sighing and weeping and going to the market each week to buy as much summer produce as I can before it's all potatoes and apples and hearty cold weather food.

And then I come home and greedily eat blueberries by the handful and plot which dishes to use my prized, delicious sweet corn in. This one usually wins:

Sweet Corn and Salmon Risotto

I'm sucker for risotto.It's delicious. It's not all that hard, despite it's reputation. And it's open to so many variations. Sometimes I'll make it once a week, putting in whatever is in our kitchen. I've had a lot of good flavor combinations over time, but this one is one of my favorites that I just keep coming back to.

Sweet Corn and Salmon Risotto
* 6 cups chicken stock (I always want to use vegetable, but I never have it. You'd think I'd learn, but no)
* 1 tablespoon olive oil
* 1/2 cups finely chopped onion
* 4 cloves garlic, minced
* 1 cup Arborio rice
* 1 cup white wine
* 8 ounce salmon filet, cut into small cubes
* Kernels from 1 ear of sweet corn (or more if you love corn the way I love corn)
* 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
* 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
* Salt and freshly ground black pepper


1. Heat stock in pan over high heat. Keep at simmer over medium heat.
2. Heat oil in heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Add onions and garlic; cook, stirring, until translucent. Add rice; cook, stirring, until rice begins to sound like glass beads, 3 to 4 minutes.
3. Add wine to rice. Cook, stirring, until wine is absorbed. Using a ladle, add 3/4 cup of hot stock to rice. Using a wooden spoon, stir rice constantly, at medium speed. When rice has absorbed most but not all of the liquid and mixture is just thick enough to leave a clear wake behind the spoon when stirring, add another 3/4 cup stock.
4. Continue adding stock in this manner, stirring constantly, until rice is mostly translucent but still opaque and slightly crunchy in center. Add salmon and corn; continue stirring and adding stock until rice is still al dente but not crunchy and shrimp is cooked through, about 3 minutes. As rice nears doneness, watch carefully, and add smaller amounts of liquid. The mixture should be thick enough that grains of rice are suspended in liquid about the consistency of heavy cream. It will thicken slightly when removed from heat.
5. Remove from heat. Stir in basil and parmesan cheese; season with salt and pepper. Spoon into bowls, and grate or shave Parmesan over risotto, if desired. Serve immediately.