Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Russell's Strawberry Shortcake

I'm a hostess at a restaurant, and somehow last week I ended up promising to make a birthday cake for one of the servers. He literally couldn't believe I was going to do it--he kept saying "I'm holding you to this"--so clearly I had to make something good. He wanted a strawberry shortcake, and I remembered seeing this recipe on the website of my personal hero, The Pioneer Woman.

In the spirit of Ree, I give you the cast of characters.

I dumped the dry cake ingredients into a bowl

and "sifted"--whisked--them together. I don't own a sifter. I don't have room for a sifter. I think this works just fine.

In the bowl of my beautiful Martha blue Kitchenaid I creamed together 9 tablespoons of butter

with 1 1/2 cups of sugar

until it looked like this. Someone please let me know: is this creamed? It seems creamy to me, but I never know exactly what it's supposed to look like.

Then you add in three eggs, mixing after each one. This is much more runny than PW's looked at this step. Oh well.

Add the sour cream and vanilla

and then the dry ingredients.

Then you mix it until it's just combined, which to me always equates to lumpy.

For the icing, which was a huge hit (and which I'll probably double next time) you need 8 oz of cream cheese, 2 sticks of butter, 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, and a teaspoon of vanilla.

It ends up looking like this and tasting as good as you imagine.

This was after I had halved the strawberries, let them sit in sugar for 30 minutes, and then diced them in 2 batches. PW says to mash them, but when I mashed the strawberries it just flattened them.

You turn out the cake onto a cooling rack as soon as it comes out of the oven, and attempt to ignore the big chunk that stuck to the pan.

After you slice it in half you have two big mistakes staring at you.

This is easily fixed.

The strawberries are spread onto the cut side of each layer, and then they are frozen for 5 minutes to make icing easier.

The icing wasn't much easier. It might have just been my decision to dice that did this, but the strawberries didn't want to stay put. I know, I know, this isn't a pretty cake. I don't really care, though--it was good. GOOD. Damn good. It made servers smile during a lunch rush, it was that good. If it hadn't taken so long to make I would be making myself another one right now.

A Housewarming Gift for a Blogwarming Post

I want to get rid of all pretenses and give you fair warning: this is not going to be one of those informative blogs created by a baking expert in her spare time. I follow those blogs, and while I love them I'm not going to pretend to be any match for them. I don't have any secret tips, I don't make up many of my own recipes, and my counter often looks like this:

If you can accept (and even sympathize with) this, then enjoy.

Today, I woke up at 3 pm. I had driven back to my apartment from my parents' house late last night after finding out that my mom had filed for divorce. I can't say that this news came completely out of the blue, but it was something I had never expected to go through. I was dreading get up and sitting around thinking about this news all day, but thankfully my friend Sylvia called and invited me over to her apartment for a housewarming party. I offered to bring dessert since a) I always bring dessert anyway and b) it would give me a way to take my mind off of the news.

She was making an Italian dinner, so I immediately thought about making tiramisu. The problem with that, though, was that all of the recipes I found took about 4 hours. Since dinner was at 7:30 and I still had to go to the grocery, the laws of space and time were not on my side. I came across a recipe for tiramisu cheesecake and decided that was a pretty good substitute.

The recipe called for the crust to be made from crushed ladyfingers, but my grocery, amazingly, had none. At least none that I could find in any logical area. I made this with a sleeve of crushed graham crackers, 4 tablespoons of melted butter, and 2 tablespoons of strong instant coffee (since I'm about 6 months away from being able to buy coffee liquor).

My grocery also didn't have mascarpone, so I had to fake it with 8 oz cream cheese, 3 tablespoons sour cream, and 2 tablespoons heavy cream.

To that I added the 2 packages cream cheese (did I mention that I forgot that I needed an extra package because I was using one for my faux mascarpone? You'll see the result of this later...), a cup of vanilla sugar, 2 more tablespoons of strong instant coffee (I know it's horrible, but I don't drink coffee and therefore don't own a coffee maker), 2 eggs, and 4 tablespoons of flour.

It was a little lumpy. Is that bad? The recipe said to mix until just combined, so I let it go and poured it into a 9-inch springform pan.

I knew that I would have a short cheesecake, so I needed to make up 1/4 of the original height. I decided to use the rest of the heavy cream to make mocha whipped cream. This is all you need: 2 cups heavy cream, 3 tablespoons sugar (I actually used vanilla sugar, but you wouldn't be able to tell that from my nondescript canister), 1 tablespoon instant coffee, and 1 tablespoon hot water. Dissolve the instant coffee in the hot water and let it cool while you whip together the cream and sugar. Once the whipped cream is stiff, add the coffee and combine until you have a bowl full of heaven.

Seriously. I don't even like coffee and I couldn't stop eating spoonfuls of this stuff.

Oh my, doesn't that cheesecake look great? I can't imagine what could possibly be wrong with it...

Oh. Right. You may not be able to tell, but if this cheesecake was a professional athlete it would be a jockey. Now, I'm from Kentucky. I love jockeys. I've won a lot of money betting on good jockeys. I do not, however, like short cheesecakes.

To help compensate for its shortcomings, I piped the mocha whipped cream on top before I sprinkled on the semisweet chocolate shavings.

Did I mention that I was under a bit of a time crunch? This came out of the oven at just about 7:00, and I had to be at Sylvia's at 7:30. Cheesecake needs more than 10 minutes in the freezer to cool properly. By the time I got to Sylvia's, the whipped cream had melted into a sad, sloppy pool. It was able to solidify in the fridge while we ate, but all of it's height-obscuring illusions were lost.

Thankfully, though, it still tasted amazing. There were five of us at dinner and this was all that was left.

Note the poor chocolate shavings trying to escape the mocha flood.