Friday, May 4, 2012

Chocolate Coconut Cake

There are a lot of chocolate cake recipes I use. I alternate depending on what I want and what ingredients I have on hand. One great chocolate cake recipe that I like is the Super Easy, Super Moist Chocolate Cupcake recipe from Simply Recipes. I think it is also known as depression cake due to the lack of egg and dairy in the recipe. While it is not the richest chocolate cake out there, it is certainly one of the easiest. No mixer. No butter to cream. No alternating additions of flour and milk. As long as the cake is still tasty, ease is a major plus. The change I usually use when making the chocolate cupcakes is to substitute the one cup of brewed coffee with one cup of skim milk with 1 tbsp of espresso powder. The milk adds a bit of richness, while the espresso powder maintains the extra oomph that coffee gives to chocolate (you don’t really taste any coffee in the cake).

However, today I had a cup of coconut milk sitting around that needed to used (leftover from coconut ice cream). I usually make coconut rice pudding or coconut cupcakes. But, I wanted to try something new and chocolatey. And instead of scouring the web for some tasty new coconut chocolate treat, I decided to see how my easy go-to chocolate cake recipe would fare with a coconut milk substitution. This time I substituted one cup brewed coffee with one cup coconut milk. I did not add any espresso powder, as I was afraid that boosting the chocolate flavor would overpower the more subtle coconut flavor from the milk. I also baked it in a 9” x 9” pan since I felt more like sheet cake than cupcakes today.

This is the best version of this chocolate cake I have made yet. It is really moist, even after several days, without being too dense. However, the coconut flavor is very, very weak. I can only taste it because I know it’s there. I’m pretty sure no one would notice if they were not told. But, I will definitely continue using coconut milk in this recipe, when I have it on hand. And if I want more coconut flavor next time, I’ll probably add a little bit of coconut extract (probably one-eighth to one-quarter teaspoon).  Also, if I want to dress it up a bit, I might top it with a simple chocolate frosting (such as that in the original Simply Recipes recipe above) and some sweetened flaked coconut.

I just enjoyed this tasty three day old slice with a cold glass of milk.

Chocolate Coconut Cake Recipe
Cake ingredients:
    1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
    1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (natural, not Dutched)
    1 cup granulated sugar
    1 tsp baking soda
    1/2 tsp salt
    1 cup coconut milk
    1 tbsp white vinegar
    2 tsp vanilla extract
    6 tbsp (3/8 cup) canola oil (any vegetable oil will do)

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Prepare 9” x9” cake pan (I use AltonBrown’s Kustom Kitchen Lube, alternatively, you can butter and dust with flour or cocoa powder).
2. Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl.
3. Combine wet ingredients in a separate bowl. Add coconut extract here if you decide to use.
4. Add wet ingredients to dry and stir until combined (mix will be lumpy, but should have no visible dry ingredients).
5. Pour into cake pan and spread evenly.
6. Bake for 35-40 minutes, until springy in the middle. A toothpick inserted in the middle should come out clean.
7. Let cool in pan. If you are going to frost, make sure to let the cake cool completely before frosting.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Layer Skirts

I made a couple of cute skirts recently. They are easy, ruffled, and allow for different fabric combinations. The most complicated thing about them is they require gathering.

I used this tutorial over at Prudent Baby (a wonderful blog for crafty people) and whipped up this skirt during nap time. Instead of three prints, I used two for a sandwich look. The fabrics are from the Good Fortune collection by Kate Spain for Moda. The whole line is super cute. I had to restrain myself when I was at the quilt shop. The only thing I did differently from the tutorial was to sew the bottom hem after I sewed the sides together. I also added a little bow at the waist. I plan on giving it to a four year for her birthday.

And during a different nap time, I made this little version. The top layer is 3” x 23”. The middle layer is 2.5” x 32”. The bottom layer is 3” x 42”. I used 0.375” elastic to make a final waist of 16”. And the overall length was 5.75”. I was aiming for it to be 3-6 month size. I do hope little Miss L is able to use this summer.

They are so cute and easy, I've been thinking of making one for myself.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Best. Brownies. Ever.

I have made a lot of different brownie recipes over the years. However, in the last three or four years I have only really made one recipe. Sure, I try a new one every now and again. But, I always come back to this one recipe. It's King Arthur Flour's Deep-Dark Fudgy Brownie recipe. I originally got the recipe off the back of a double-dutch dark cocoa package I purchased from King Arthur Flour.

It's super easy. I use one bowl and mix by hand. I do think that the double-dutch dark cocoa is the one of the keys to this recipe, but if you can't get that, a regular dutch cocoa should be good. I personally always add walnuts and omit the chocolate chips. I also prefer to bake it in a 9"x 13" pan. I find it a touch too gooey in the center if I use a square pan (but then again, I'm one of those people that prefer the edge).

Anyway, I highly recommend the Deep-Dark Fudge Brownie recipe. And I highly recommend it topped with vanilla ice cream, though it is perfect with a glass of cold milk or a hot latte.


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Quilts for Little Babies

This is our daughter, little Miss E, a happy, healthy 21 month old.

However, she was born just over five weeks early, weighing in at 4 lbs. 5 oz. She spent about 12 hours in the NICU and 8 days in the special care nursery. Here she is, a few hours old, all wired up in her incubator.

During her time in the special care nursery, seeing the other babies, I realized how fortunate we were. Miss E was essentially only kept in the hospital because she was small. She was out of an incubator within a couple of days. She was released when she was eating reliably, even though she was still under her birth weight. There were two other babies that were the same gestational age as Miss E, but were born two months earlier, and they probably didn't go home until at least a month after our girl came home. I can't imagine what that's like. I was released only a few days before Miss E, so there were just a few days of traveling back and forth to the hospital. I don't know what I would do if I had to do that for months. You just do it, I guess, and wait for that day you can have your baby (or babies) at home with you.

While hospital nurseries are not the sterile, harshly lit environments they used to be, it is always nice when there are things to make it more homey. The babies that were there for awhile had decorations and pictures brought in from home. Outfits were brought (of course, they were huge) to replace the the little white hospital shirts. And some handmade items were donated to the hospital for the babies. Miss E was given a cute little pink knit hat.

I decided I wanted to do something to help make the environment more cozy. Since I don't knit or crochet, I figured it would have to be sewn. While I was pregnant, I started quilting, so I decided on little quilts. I came to this decision about a year and a half ago. About a year ago I contacted the hospital Miss E was born at to find out about appropriate sizing for the quilts. And last week I finally finished the last of nine quilts to donate. Six are small enough to fit inside the incubators and three are larger to drape over the incubators.

One of the styles I used for several of the quilts is called a stacked coin (Here is a tutorial). Super cute and quite easy.

I even made some Bonfire Bakery labels for the quilts (Here is that tutorial).

Here are all the quilts, all stacked up and ready to go.

It's taken awhile to get them made, but I am so happy I did it. And I look forward to dropping them off at MGH's NICU tomorrow morning.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

I love ice cream. I mean I really LOVE ice cream. Someone once asked me what three things I would bring with me if I were stuck on a desert island. My answer was my husband, my daughter, and an endless supply of ice cream (luckily they didn’t make me prioritize).

We used to keep two store bought cartons in my freezer at all times. But since we received an ice cream maker as a wedding present, store bought ice cream has no place in our freezer. It was rough in the beginning. Our ice creams often would not have the rich creamy texture I wanted and they would get icy after a couple days. But, once we figured out that custard-based ice creams behave well, that's all we make. However, I hate making custard. It requires patience, and lots of stirring over a stove. This is where Mr. F comes in. He slaves away over the stove and makes the custard that ends up being the delicious ice cream. Actually, in our house, ice cream is joint venture. I usually figure out the recipe, prepare the egg yolks, split the vanilla bean, and churn the ice cream with appropriate mix-ins. And Mr. F does everything involving the stove top: heating the milk, making caramel if necessary, stirring custard, etc. Ice cream is the one thing we always make together.

A good vanilla is a staple in our freezer. And vanilla beans are what make it awesome. You can use an extract, and it will be good, but vanilla beans make it extra special. Lately, I have been loving Mexican vanilla, which provides a lovely creamy taste. Tahitian vanilla is also great, with a stronger more floral taste. These two are my favorites, but to be honest, we always get a great vanilla ice cream when we use a whole vanilla bean.

This recipe is somewhat labor intensive, but it is yummy. It’s a perfect match for a slice of apple pie, some fresh berries, or jimmies.

Vanilla Bean Ice Cream


1 ½ cups heavy cream

1 ½ cups whole milk

1 vanilla bean

¾ cup sugar

6 egg yolks


Split vanilla bean pod lengthwise and scrape beans out. Place beans and pod in a saucepan with cream and milk. Heat over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until steaming (165° F). Cover and remove from heat. Let steep for 30 minutes.

While steeping, prepare fine mesh strainer over medium bowl. Place this in a bowl in a large bowl about 1/3 filled with cold water. This will be used to strain (removes any cooked eggs or vanilla scrapings) and cool the custard.

In a small/medium bowl, combine egg yolks with about half of the sugar. Whisk until sugar is mostly dissolved, the color is a soft yellow and your arm is dead (about 4 minutes).

After the vanilla milk is done steeping, remove the vanilla pods. Add remaining sugar to milk mixture. Heat mixture over medium-low heat until steaming again. Temper the eggs by very slowly adding hot milk mixture to the egg mixture while constantly whisking. Add about 2 cups of the milk mixture to the eggs in ¼ cup increments. (Whole tempering process takes about 5 minutes.)

Dump the egg/milk mixture back into the saucepan and heat slowly over low heat, stirring constantly, until thickened (175° F). Remove from heat and pour through sieve into bowl over water bath.

Refresh water a couple of times to speed cooling. When custard is at room temperature, cover and refrigerate. It is best to chill overnight, but if in a pinch, a few hours will do.

Churn in ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer to a quart size container* and freeze.

* I really like one-quart yogurt tubs. They hold up better at low temperatures than the Ziploc and Gladware containers.

Welcome to Bonfire Bakery!

A blog to archive and share tasty treats made by Mr. and Mrs. F. We love food, and we love to cook and bake. So Bonfire Bakery is a place for us to share our recipes, as well as remember those we find and love. Mrs. F loves to bake cakes, cookies, and the like, while Mr. F typically sticks to less sweet yeasty goodies. However, our baking paths often cross, and we often venture onto the stove top. So, you will find all sorts of food ideas at Bonfire Bakery.

Mrs. F also likes sewing and paper crafts, so many of those crafty creations may be featured at Bonfire Bakery.