Emily M. DeArdo

writer

food stories

Friendship and Guinness Cake

food stories, recipesEmily DeArdo1 Comment

I've always loved to bake, even when I was a little kid and I didn't quite grasp that if you bake, you must clean up. And I've made a lot of cakes in my life, including a three layer Peanut Butter monstrosity for a friend's Christmas party one year. 

But this cake....this is really the only cake I make anymore. 

This is a Guinness Cake. Do you see the resemblance to a pint of Guinness with the foamy head? (No?) And this cake is really the only cake recipe you ever need. 

I have made this cake for parties, birthdays, dessert after a dinner party--you name it, this cake has been there. It's a cake that men adore, probably because it's not too sweet. This is a damp, rich cake that is also good for breakfast. (No judgment, right?) 

I almost never make it unless it's for a friend get-together, so when I make it, it brings back a lot of good memories. Try it, and make some memories of your own. 

But once you start making it, you'll never be able to stop making it. People will ask for it forever. It's a hard-knock life. But this cake is worth it.

Guinness Cake

from Nigella Lawson's Feast 

Notes: Before you start, make sure the butter, eggs, and cream cheese (for the frosting) are room temperature. You will have a much better cake! * I set the pot over medium heat--the recipe doesn't specify a temperature, but medium's always worked for me. * I usually bake the cake the day before the party, and then frost it the day of. The cake is so damp that it will hold very well. 

Ingredients

1 c. Guinness (I use extra stout) 

1 stick + 2 tbsp. unsalted butter

3/4 c. unsweetened cocoa powder

2 c. sugar

3/4 c. sour cream 

2 eggs

1 tbsp. pure vanilla extract

2 c. all-purpose flour

2 1/2 tsp. baking soda

For the icing: (optional)

8 oz. cream cheese

1 1/4 c. confectioner's sugar (powdered sugar)

1/2 c. heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 350. Butter and line a 9" springform pan with parchment paper. 

Pour the Guinness into a large wide saucepan (I use my Dutch oven, actually), add the butter in slices, and heat until butter's melted. Whisk in cocoa and sugar. In a separate bowl, beat the sour cream, eggs, and vanilla together and then add them to the beer mixture. Finally, whisk in flour and baking soda. Whisk until well-combined.

Pour the cake batter into the pan and bake for 45 minutes to an hour. Leave to cool completely in the pan on a cooling rack. It's a very damp cake. 

When it's completely cool, make the frosting. Lightly whip the cream cheese until smooth, sift over the confectioner's sugar, and then beat together. Add the cream and beat again until it makes a spreadable consistency. Ice the cake. (This makes a lot of frosting. You want to frost this cake thickly, so try to use all of it, if possible.) 

 

 

Food Stories: Chocolate Gingerbread

food storiesEmily DeArdo2 Comments

When I have friends visit during the holidays, I like to make a dessert for us to eat while we're visiting (even if I'm not making an entire meal). The Guinness Cake is usually called into service here, but when I want to mix it up (and be seasonal), I make Nigella Lawson's Chocolate Gingerbread. 

This seems like a no-brainer, putting chocolate and gingerbread together, right? But this was the first recipe I'd ever seen for it, and it was definitely love at first bite. It's very simple to make (it's baked like a cake, in a 9X13" pan), keeps forever if properly stored (I just finished the batch I made Thanksgiving weekend), and isn't ridiculously sweet. The chocolate chips are a lovely surprise, because people aren't expecting them, but they add an extra little burst of chocolate flavor. People always ask me for this recipe once they've had a taste. 

What's your favorite Holiday Treat to Bake? (Or eat!)

Chocolate Gingerbread

from Nigella Lawson's Feast

 

For the cake: 

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter

1 c. + 2 tbsp. dark brown sugar

2 tbsp. sugar

3/4 c. golden syrup (Lyle's is a brand you can find at most stores now), or light corn syrup

3/4 c. molasses

1/4 tsp. ground cloves

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

2 tsp. ground ginger

1 1/4 tsp. baking soda

2 tbsp. warm water

2 eggs

1 c. milk

2 c. all-purpose flour

1/2 c. unsweetened cocoa

1 c. semisweet chocolate chips

For the frosting:

2 c. confectioner's (powdered) sugar

2 tbsp. unsalted butter

1 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa

1/4 c. ginger ale (NOT DIET)

 

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and tear off a big piece of parchment paper to line the bottom and sides of a 9x13" pan. (This is why that one piece in the photo has sort of a wonky edge--it's the way the batter set up with the parchment paper.) 

In a decent-sized saucepan (I always use my big dutch oven because I know it can hold everything), melt the butter along wit the sugars, golden syrup, molasses, cloves, cinnamon, and ginger. In a cup, dissolve the baking soda in the water. Take the saucepan off the heat and beat in the eggs, milk, and soda in its water. Stir in the flour and cocoa and beat with a wooden spoon to mix. Fold in the chocolate chips, pour into the lined pan and bake for about 45 minutes until risen and firm. It will be slightly damp underneath the set top. That's how you want it. (An inserted tooth pick will also come out clean.)

Remove to a wire rack and let cool in the pan. Once cool, make frosting.  

Sift the powdered sugar. In a heavy-based saucepan, heat the butter, cocoa, and ginger ale. Once the butter's melted, whisk in powdered sugar. Pour frosting over the top of the gingerbread. Once set, lift from the pan and discard the paper. (If you do this first--before frosting--the frosting. gets. everywhere. Trust me on this.) Cut into pieces. 

 

 

Food Stories: Birds and Biscotti

food stories, holidaysEmily DeArdo2 Comments

Since it's Thanksgiving week, I thought I'd share one of my contributions to the Family Feast--Biscotti.

I know, it seems weird, right? But there's reasoning behind it. 

We were going to Pittsburgh for Thanksgiving about six or so years ago, and I thought, I want to bring something to the feast, that's not going to risk damage in the car, that's easy to make, and that can be in the car for three hours without going bad. 

This limited my options. But then I thought: biscotti.

As you know, my relatives love coffee after a meal. Coffee and dessert is a big thing. Biscotti are great with coffee--obviously--and they're almost indestructible! Christopher Columbus had them on the Santa Maria, for pete's sake!

So I brought a container of lemon biscotti with me to dinner at my Aunt Mary's. My uncle, who is a great cook and who was making the feast, seemed intrigued. Everyone ate them with relish after dinner, and my uncle even asked for the recipe, which I provided, because I'm nice like that. 

I've made the biscotti a few more times at Thanksgiving, because my dad likes a good coffee dunker, too. And who knows? Maybe they'll reappear this year. 

Citrus Biscotti

from Giada de Laurentiis' Everyday Italian

 

2 c. all-purpose flour 

3/4 c. fine yellow cornmeal

1 1/2 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt (table salt)

1 c. sugar

3 paige eggs

1 tbsp. grated orange zest (from about one orange)

1 tbsp. grated lemon zest (from about two lemons)

1/2 c. coarsely chopped shelled pistachios (I leave this out, but if you like them, go for it.)

 

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat baking mat. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt. In another large bowl, beat the sugar and eggs with an electric mixer until pale yellow and fluffy, about three minutes. Mix in the citrus zests, then the flour mixture, and beat until just blended; the dough will be soft and sticky. Stir in the pistachios, if using. Let stand for five minutes. 

Using a rubber spatula, transfer the dough to the prepared baking sheet, forming two equal mounds spaced evenly apart. Moisten your hands with water and shape the dough into two 11X4 inch logs (it doesn't have to be exact). Bake until the logs are lightly browned, about 35 minutes. Cool for five minutes. Using a serrated knife, cut the logs crosswise into 1/2 inch thick diagonal slices. Arrange the biscotti, cut side down, on the same baking sheet, and bake until the cookies are pale golden, about 25 minutes. Let cool before serving.

 

Notes: 

* Sometimes I just use lemon zest, because I always have lemons around. But use both, if the spirit strikes you, and you remember to get an orange! 

* Nutritionally, here's the info: each cookie has 53 calories, 0.5 g of fat, 11.1 g of carbs, and 1.2 grams of protein (for some reason I ran the nutritional info on this recipe, and scribbled it in my book. So I'm sharing it!) 

 

What's your favorite Thanksgiving menu item? 

 

Food Stories--South of the Border

food stories, recipesEmily DeArdo2 Comments

Living in Ohio, the closest foreign country is Canada--where I've never been. But my parents both like Mexican food (and no, I've never been to Mexico, either), even though in the beginning of our lives here in Ohio, Taco Bell was the only "Mexican" food around.

As my cousin, Diane, says, "There's Mexican food, and then there's Taco Bell." (She lives in Houston, so she should know about legit Mexican food. You'll spend more time with Diane in a future Food Stories installment.) 

For most of my childhood, Dad and I would share tacos and burritos from Taco Bell. When I was in college, I was introduced to the wonder that is Chipotle. I was one of the news editor for the student paper, The Chimes, and Wednesday night was Chimes night, when we edited and laid out the paper for printing that night, so it could be distributed on Thursday morning. Chimes nights were long, and required more sustenance than we'd get out of the Lohman Complex vending machines. So usually a few people would make a run to the Chipotle on Main Street, and bring back bags overflowing with burritos, bols, and chips and guac. Chipotle was editing fuel. 

My brother loves Mexican food. Many times when we get together for dinner, it's at a Mexican place by his apartment. WE solve problems and talk about sports over never-ending bowls of chips and salsa and our chosen entrees, which, for me, is usually a fajita or a cheese enchilada. 

Mexican food brings memories of family, long nights at the ancient Mac consoles, and my one trip to Texas. It's much more than the chain restaurants we know. 

 I've tried my hand at a few actual Mexican recipes, and they turn out really well--and they're simple. Here's one of my favorites, from Marcella Valladolid's book Mexican Made Easy

Garlicky Buttered Baja Shrimp

From Marcella Valladolid

Serves four

I lb. medium shrimp (15-20 count) in the shell, deveined (You can also make this with peeled shrimp--just omit the step regarding cooking with the shells)

2 tbsp. unsalted butter

1 tbsp. olive oil

salt and black pepper

1/4 c. minced white onion

8 garlic cloves, minced

3 tbsp. dry white wine

1 tbsp. fresh lime juice

2 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley, or 1 tbsp. dried. (You can also substitute cilantro, if you don't have parsley on hand.) 

 Peel the shrimp and reserve shells. 

 Heat the butter and olive oil in a heavy medium skillet over medium heat. Sprinkle the shrimp with salt and paper. Saute the shrimp until almost fully cooked, about 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the shrimp to a plate and tent with foil to keep warm. 

Add the shrimp shells to the skillet and sauté until they turn pink, about 3 minutes. Discard the shells. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until the onion is translucent and the garlic is golden brown, about 6 minutes. Add the wine and bring to a boil, scrapping up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Boil for one minute. 

Stir in the lime juice and parsley, return the shrimp to the pan, and toss to coat with the sauce. Season with salt and pepper, if necessary. 

 

You can serve these in a tortilla, or just on their own, but they are delicious in a tortilla. Marcella says you can also make a burrito out of them by adding refried beans to a warm flour tortilla and filling with shrimp. You can also use them in a pasta dish--cook some thin pasta and add the shrimp once the pasta is cooked and drained. Top with fresh cilantro and some olive oil. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Food Stories: Grandma's Coffee and Irish Tea Brack

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One thing both my grandmothers liked was a cup of coffee. I have a memory of the two of them sitting at a post-Thanksgiving table, coffee mugs in front of them, talking alone in the dining room, while the rest of the party had moved on to Football Watching. Grandma D. was talking, and Grandma H. was stirring sugar into her coffee. 

I think they both had coffee in the morning, too, but it was the post-dinner coffee that stuck with me as a kid. "Who wants coffee?" was a familiar question to the adults after just about any Big Meal or Family Gathering. (With the Italians, there was often wine. Of course.) 

As a child, I didn't really want the coffee--I wanted the mugs my grandmas had. They always had wonderful mug collections that I loved. Today, I have my own mug collection. I guess my love of pretty cups started early! 

My mom doesn't drink coffee, but my dad does, and both he and I take it pretty sweet. I have a few friends who drink it black, and my friend Mary had hers with just cream (or milk, depending on what was around). How you drink your coffee may be indicative of your personality, but I haven't really thought that through too hard. It's probably more indicative of your taste buds' preferences!

My grandmothers were of different ethnicities, but I think they both would've liked this Irish Tea Brack recipe (yes, Brack--that's the word. Not "bread").  Irish Breakfast tea and dried fruit, along with some allspice, make this a wonderful bread for having with tea or your coffee--whether it's drunk in the morning or after dinner. 

Irish Tea Brack

From Clodagh McKenna's Irish Kitchen

makes 1 loaf

2 1/3 c. mixed dried fruits, such as cherries, cranberries, raisins, golden raisins, currants, etc. 

1 c. cold Irish Breakfast Tea

1/2 cup + 1 tbsp. packed light brown sugar

1 large egg, beaten

2 c. all-purpose flour

2 tsp. baking powder

2 tsp. allpsice, cinnamon, or nutmeg (I use allspice)

Place the dried fruit in a bowl and cover with the cold tea. Let soak for at least 3-4 hours. 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9x5" loaf pan. In a mixing bowl, beat the sugar and egg until light and foamy. Add the flour, baking powder, and spices, and mix together. Add the soaked fruit and any remaining tea to the bowl and mix together well. Transfer the batter to the greased loaf pan and bake for one hour. Unmold the loaf and let cool on a wire rack. 

Will keep for one week in an airtight container

Note: 

The batter will look sort of scary before you add the fruit and tea--very dry and sort of sand-like. Don't worry. The tea will fix it!