The Weigh to Cook – Raspberry Buttermilk Coconut Cake

July 29th, 2010 / comments 8

It’s birthday season in our neighborhood. Last week, we celebrated Michael’s New Decade Birthday. Michael is a foodie and one of the best cooks I know and I like to make over-the-top cakes. Michael asked for a cake with berries and cream. I decided to make a not-too-sweet, white cake that would show off bright pink raspberries.

pt cake c egbert 02  The Weigh to Cook   Raspberry Buttermilk Coconut Cake

The magic of science in the kitchen is why I like to bake. I have always been fascinated by chemical reactions–vinegar and baking soda volcanoes, milk curdled with lemon juice, sugar changed to an amber solid with enough heat. Cake recipes must be followed much more carefully than recipes for soups or salads because, when you bake a cake from scratch, you are a chemist in the kitchen. Substitutions are possible but they must be made with an understanding of the role each ingredient plays in the cake. Precise measurement and proportion are even more important to consider when baking cakes.

My kitchen is well equipped, I have a stand mixer, an oven with an accurate thermostat and timer, a dependable refrigerator, measuring cups and spoons, and, assorted pots and pans. Until last week, my kitchen was lacking a user-friendly kitchen scale. I found a measuring cup with a built-in scale at my favorite kitchen supply store and bought it. This was just the tool I needed to turn my American kitchen into an international one. Except in recipes written for the United States, measurements are given in weight rather than by volume. Not only is it a more precise way to measure, but with the right scale, it’s much easier. The scale I bought measures in ounces and grams as well as by volume. The Raspberry Buttermilk Coconut cake I made for Michael is the first recipe I have written using this scale. Here’s how I made it: … read more

Buttermilk is cool! – Pineapple Buttermilk Sherbet

July 14th, 2010 / comments 11

The only way I like to drink milk is when it is whirled into a smooth, rich, chocolate shake. On the other hand, I’ve always liked buttermilk. Icy cold, in a tall glass topped with a pinch of salt, it’s a cool refreshing drink on a hot day

dark flowers c egbert Buttermilk is cool!    Pineapple Buttermilk Sherbet

Flowers for my Bubba

It was the grandmothers, the Babas, the Babcias and the Bubbas, who came to Pittsburgh from Poland, Czechoslovakia and the Ukraine, who were responsible for the presence of this favorite East European dairy product in nearly every kitchen in my childhood.

When is the last time you bought a quart of buttermilk? Is it the sour taste, the curdled smear that covers the inside of the glass as you sip it or the fear of drinking spoiled milk that turns you away? Buttermilk is a source of potassium, vitamin B12, calcium and phosphorus, is easier to digest than regular milk and has a quarter of the amount of fat of whole milk. I use it in marinades because the lactic acid in it is a tenderizer. It is the glue that holds the seasoned flour on chicken when I make Southern fried chicken, and buttermilk pancakes and biscuits fly off our breakfast table. If none of this convinces you to pick up a quart of buttermilk at the market, would the promise of cool, low fat, fruit sherbets do the trick?

pineapple c egbert Buttermilk is cool!    Pineapple Buttermilk SherbetWhether making ice cream, sherbet or sorbet, the process is the same. I begin with a base, for ice cream it’s a custard of heavy cream and eggs, for sherbet it is milk or buttermilk and for sorbet it is fruit juice or fruit purée combined with water. I add a sweetener to the base and flavoring like vanilla, chocolate or spices. Sweetened pieces of fruit, chocolate bits or chopped nuts are not added until the mixture is semi frozen. Air is the crucial and final ingredient. Without it, I would end up with a rock hard, flavored block of ice. When I’m freezing sherbet in a shallow pan, I use a fork to break up the ice crystals every thirty minutes as the base freezes. If I have forgotten, I used a blender to break up the icy chunks. My ice cream maker freezes and aerates at the same time. The first time I made pineapple sherbet I had two reasons, I was curious about how it would taste and even more curious about whether I could trick my sister into eating buttermilk. Here’s how I made it: … read more

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