Saturday, October 20, 2012

Pumpkin Tres Leches Bundt Cake for #BundtaMonth

After 10 years near the equator, I am finally living in a place with seasons.  I am not sure exactly that there are four seasons in Cairo because, for me, one of the signs of autumn is leaves that turn lovely yellow, orangey, brown colors and then fall from the trees.  The nights and even days are getting cooler but the trees stay steadfastly green and the flowers are still blooming.  But since I have become part of the blogging community, I can’t ignore the most definitive sign of autumn:  All the pumpkin recipes that are flooding the internets.   This month, I am joining a group of bloggers dedicated to Bundt cake, large and mini.  Because I love a Bundt cake.  With a nod to My Big Fat Greek Wedding, I have to ask, Who can resist a cake with an hole in it?  And the theme for October is, you guessed it, pumpkin.  And since October sits nicely between Mexican Independence Day in September and American Thanksgiving in November, I decided to make a pumpkin tres leches Bundt cake.  If you are not a fan of saturated cake, by all means, just make the pumpkin Bundt and forget drenching it in the sweet milk mixture.  But I can tell you that I took this out to a dinner party for dessert and people were swooning over it in a most dramatic fashion.  It is that good.

For the Bundt cake:
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup milk
3 eggs
1 (15 oz) can pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups sugar
3 cups flour plus extra for preparing the Bundt pan
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1⁄2 teaspoon salt

For the milk mixture:
1/4 cup evaporated milk
1 cup sweetened condensed milk
1/4 cup milk

For serving:
Unsweetened whipped cream (optional but highly recommended)

Preheat your oven to 350°F or 180°C and butter or non-stick spray your Bundt pan extremely well.  Sprinkle in a generous amount of flour and make sure it covers all the way up the middle part of the pan.  Set aside.

Heap all of the ingredients for the Bundt cake in your mixing bowl.  I measured out the dry ingredients first and then topped them with the wet.

Mix until well combined.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula and make sure there isn’t any still dry flour at the bottom of the bowl.

Mix on medium for at least three minutes.

Pour the batter into your prepared Bundt pan and bake in your preheated oven for 50-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

While your Bundt is baking, whisk together the ingredients for your sweet milk mixture.  Set aside.

When your Bundt comes out of the oven, allow to cool for about five minutes and then run a knife gently around the inside of the top and middle of the cake to loosen it.  Place a plate over the top of the pan and invert to remove the cake.

Poke the cake all over with a wooden skewer or satay stick.  The little holes will allow the milk mixture to seep into the cake.

Pour about half of the sweet milk mixture into the Bundt pan and gently ease the cake back into the pan so it doesn’t splash out.

Poke holes in the bottom of the cake.

Slowly drizzle the balance of the milk mixture over it.  Cover with cling film and put the whole thing in the refrigerator until you are ready to serve.

To remove from the pan when you are ready to serve, invert a cake plate with a slope or sides on top of the Bundt pan and turn the cake over quickly.  Remove the pan.  Some sweet milk mixture will seep out of the cake.  Scrape out any sweet milk that is left behind in the pan and drizzle it over the cake.

Cut slices of cake and top with unsweetened whipped cream, if desired.  And drizzle on some of the sweet milk mixture.


To learn more about BundtaMonth or to join the fabulous group of bakers for next month's challenge, head on over to Baker Street and Cake Duchess, the hosts of this Bundt-loving group.

After you have drooled over their lovely creations, scroll down to see the rest of the participating bloggers' beautiful Bundts.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Cajun Courtbouillon or Shrimp and Fish Stew

Seafood stew or soup with a Louisiana pedigree, Cajun courtbouillon is what my grandmother always made with red fish. Delicious!

If you are an expat like I am, you vacillate between loving your time at home home (where you are from) and wishing it were longer, and appreciating some distance from family politics and dynamics when it’s time to go home (where you live.)  The happy medium here is when family comes to visit.  

First, they are on neutral turf, your turf specifically, so everyone is making nice like visitors should, and secondly, you are so busy doing touristy things and seeing sights and enjoying their company, that time passes quickly and you wish they could stay longer. And that is where I am this week. 

My mother and sister are here and we are riding camels at the pyramids at Giza and shopping at the Khan al Khalili and sipping coffee at Al Mokattam which is the highest point in Cairo and has a fabulous view of the city.  Yesterday we drove to the coast so they could dip their toes in the Red Sea. We have also been cooking deliciousness every night. (I am going to miss them when they are gone!)

One of our favorite meals is a traditional Cajun seafood soup called courtbouillon, pronounced coo-bee-yaw in southern Louisiana, made with a roux.

1/2 cup or 120ml canola or other light oil
1 cup flour
2 medium onions
1 large or 2 small bell peppers (Preferably green but yellow will do in a pinch.  Just don't tell my grandmother!)
4-5 stalks celery
1/4 cup or 60ml tomato paste
2 liters or 8 1/2 cups fish stock or water with stock cubes to create equivalent
Sea salt
Black pepper
Good handful of green onion tops
Good handful of flat-leaf parsley
3/4 lb or 350g shrimp, peeled and cleaned
1 1/3 lbs or 600g grouper or other white fish fillets
Cooked white rice or fresh baguette to serve.

Peel and finely chop your onions, bell peppers and celery.  A food processor can be used but be sure just to pulse the vegetables and don’t puree them.  Set aside.

Put your oil and flour into a heavy bottomed pot and mix thoroughly with a wooden spoon or other heat-resistant stirring implement, like a silicone spatula.

Once all the flour lumps have been dissolved, turn the fire on medium and cook, stirring frequently at first and then constantly as the roux begins to dark.

  Cook and stir until your roux is about the color of an old copper penny.

Add in the chopped vegetable all at once and stir well to mix.  The mixture will be quite stiff.

Cook the vegetables for about five minutes, stirring all the time, and then add in the tomato paste.

Stir to incorporate the tomato paste and then add in the fish stock or water and stock cubes.  Stir or whisk to combine.

Bring to the boil and then simmer, covered, for at least one hour or until you are about 20 minutes from serving your courtbouillon.  Check the level periodically, and add more water if it is getting too thick for your liking.  You do want it to reduce but some people prefer courtbouillon thinner like soup or very thick like stew.  In our family we make it like a thick soup.

Meanwhile cut your fish into good-sized pieces and season with salt, black pepper and cayenne.  If your shrimp are not peeled and cleaned yet, do that now and season them with the same.  Refrigerate until needed.

Chop your onion tops and parsley.   Set aside.

Plant the white onion bottoms in some soil in your garden.  They will sprout all over again.  

When you are about 20 minutes from serving, turn up the heat on your courtbouillon until it is gently boiling again and slip the fish pieces and the shrimp into the pot.  Turn the heat down right away and stir ever so gently to distribute the fish and shrimp around the pot.  You do not want to the fish to break all apart.

Stir in the chopped parsley and green onion tops, reserving just a little for garnishing each bowl.

Check the seasoning and add more salt and cayenne as needed.  Serve over white rice, with French bread on the side for dipping.  We also add extra hot sauce to each bowl at the table.


Monday, October 15, 2012

Honey Thyme Cornbread Muffins #MuffinMonday

These sweet honey thyme cornbread muffins are delicious as is, or slather them with butter and an extra drizzle of honey to serve. They make a great breakfast or snack.

Food Lust People Love: These sweet honey thyme cornbread muffins are delicious as is, or slather them with butter and an extra drizzle of honey to serve. They make a great breakfast or snack.

I have been quietly grinching to myself that all the muffins for Muffin Monday have been sweet lately and we all know I don’t eat sweets very much. Not for dietary reasons, goodness knows, but because I prefer savory. I’ll take a greasy link of sausage over a piece of chocolate cake any old day. But with this week's recipe came the perfect opportunity to bend the muffin my way. A cornbread muffin! Which can totally become savory!

But my sister is here in Cairo visiting and when I said, “Yay! It’s a honey cornbread muffin so I can take out the honey and add cheese or something,” she responded, “But a HONEY muffin! Why can’t you just make it?” Because sweet is her thing.  So I made these honey thyme muffins for her. And she cut them open and drizzled them with EVEN MORE honey. And declared them good.

Honey Thyme Cornbread Muffins

This recipe is adapted from one by Down Home with the Neelys. I shared it as part of the original Muffin Monday group created by Anuradha from the blog Baker Street. Back then, we share a muffin every single Monday!

1 cup or 180g cornmeal (white or yellow)
1 cup or 125ml all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 cup or 240ml whole yogurt (I used two small 110g pots of yogurt and topped up my cup with whole milk rather than opening a new container for a couple of tablespoons.)
2 medium eggs
1/2 cup or 115g butter, melted
1/4 cup or 60ml honey – plus more for drizzling, if you really have a sweet tooth

Preheat oven to 350°F or 180°C and grease your 12-cup muffin tin or line it with paper liners.

Mix your cornmeal, flour, baking powder, sugar and salt into a large bowl.   Add in your fresh thyme leaves and stir well.

In a small bowl, whisk together your yogurt, eggs, melted butter and honey.

As always, please allow your helper to clean out the yogurt pots.

Fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients.  Do not over mix.

Divide the batter evenly between your muffin cups.

Bake in your preheated oven for 20 minutes or until they are a nice golden brown.  Allow to cool briefly and then remove the muffins to a rack.

Food Lust People Love: These sweet honey thyme cornbread muffins are delicious as is, or slather them with butter and an extra drizzle of honey to serve. They make a great breakfast or snack.

Food Lust People Love: These sweet honey thyme cornbread muffins are delicious as is, or slather them with butter and an extra drizzle of honey to serve. They make a great breakfast or snack.

These are delicious warm, plain or slathered with extra butter and/or honey.

Food Lust People Love: These sweet honey thyme cornbread muffins are delicious as is, or slather them with butter and an extra drizzle of honey to serve. They make a great breakfast or snack.