Wednesday, February 19, 2014

New York Style Crumb Cake

Food is incredibly nostalgic for me. Whether it be the taste, smell, or even just a picture or thought of a specific food, it can bring back a whole variety of memories.  Sometimes the memories will come in the form of a particular day or certain time of year but more often than not, food will make me think about the person I most associate with that food item.  Food is about so much more than just nourishment to me.  Of course, we all have to eat to survive but I believe that food and food traditions have an incredible emotional and cultural impact on life.  When I cook or bake something to share with others, especially for a special occasion, I put a lot of thought and love into what I am preparing and I hope that what I create brings happiness to the people enjoying it.   I think many people can relate to this feeling and no matter whether you are the one sharing or the one receiving, it can really make a lasting impression.

I made this crumb cake because when I was walking through the grocery store, I happened to notice a Entenmann's pastry display with a huge "buy 1, get 1 free" advertisement.  I briefly thought about buying some for memory sake because when I was a child and we visited my Nanny I remember she always seemed to have an Entenmann's crumb cake.  Usually it was the original version but occasionally she had the "Ultimate" crumb cake which was my favorite because it has more crumb topping than cake. The memory of the crumb cake brought back many other food memories that I have of her.  She made delicious meringues, jam thumbprints, and party mix just to name a few. She always had tins of cookies stashed in the pantry and a bags of party mix in the freezer to share with visitors.  

After my Nanny passed away, my aunt began making a lot of Nanny's traditional recipes for holiday parties and get-togethers, along with many of her own wonderful recipes.  Lately, I have spent a lot of time reflecting on these memories, along with many others, because unfortunately my aunt passed away last week.  Her specialty was chocolate covered peanut butter balls.  I can only imagine the amount of time she spent every year making gigantic batches of peanut butter balls; rolling out tiny balls of dough and hand dipping them all in melted chocolate.   She always made sure that no one left her holiday party without a tupperware full of peanut butter balls and a baggie of party mix too.  Her love of sharing her homemade treats with family and friends was just one of her so many amazing qualities.  The world has lost a truly generous, wonderful woman and she will always hold a special place in my heart and my memories.  May she rest in peace.    

Since I decided against buying the pre-made pastries, yet the memories of crumb cake stuck with me, I found this great homemade version to make instead.  This crumb cake has the perfect 50/50 crumb to cake ratio and tastes absolutely wonderful.  The vanilla cake layer is dense and moist and the topping is perfectly sweet and crumbly with a lovely hint of cinnamon.  The combination of textures work so well together and make this cake a delicious breakfast snack or a fantastic brunch item.   Give this recipe a try next time you want to make an easy sweet for your family or friends that will definitely leave them feeling happy. 

New York Style Crumb Cake

1/3 cup white sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
8 tbsp melted butter
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

In a medium bowl, whisk the white sugar, brown sugar, and cinnamon together and then stir in the melted butter. Add the flour and mix with a spatula (or your fingers) until combined.  Set this mixture aside while you make the cake batter.

1 1/4 cups cake flour
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
6 tbsp butter, cubed and slightly softened
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup buttermilk or milk
Powdered sugar, for dusting

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line an 8x8 inch square pan with aluminum foil, leaving an overhang on each side so that you can lift the cake out after baking. Spray the foil with nonstick cooking spray.

Using an electric mixer or stand mixer, briefly mix together the cake flour, sugar, baking soda and salt.  Turn the mixer onto low speed and gradually add the butter cubes, continuing to beat until the mixture is crumbly and the butter is well distributed through the dry ingredients.  Add the egg, egg yolk, vanilla and buttermilk and beat on medium speed for 1-2 minutes until the batter is well combined, light, and fluffy.     

Pour the batter into the baking pan and then sprinkle the crumb topping evenly over top of the cake batter.  Bake for 30-35 minutes until the topping is lightly golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean.  Allow the cake to cool in the pan and then remove using the foil overhang.  Dust the cake with powdered sugar, if desired and cut into squares to serve. For best results storing the cake, do not pre-cut squares and wrap the cake in a layer of plastic wrap and then aluminum foil. 


Inspired by Spoonful of Flour

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Teriyaki Beef Stir Fry

Stir fry is a big favorite in our house. It is a relatively easy, quick, and inexpensive meal, which makes it a great candidate for a busy weeknight dinner.  We have a few different varieties of stir fries that we rotate through; changing up the type of meat and veggies to whatever we have on hand or was on sale at the grocery store.  Sometimes we make the stir fry into more of a lo mien style dish and serve it with noodles but a lot of the time we have it over rice.  I got an awesome rice cooker for Christmas which has made stir fry nights even easier!

Up until we found this recipe, our top two favorite stir fry dishes were chicken lo mien and beef with broccoli or snow peas.  Both of these recipes take between 20 and 30 minutes to make and are absolutely delicious.  I always try to keep the basic ingredients, such as soy sauce, oyster sauce, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, ginger, and garlic on hand so that whenever we are craving stir fry it is just a matter of picking up the meat and veggies (or if you prefer, skip the meat all together) that we feel like having.

This recipe is just as amazing as our other two favorites, can be extremely customizable, and you might have all of the ingredients on hand already.  I have never really cared for the pre-made teriyaki sauces that you can buy at the grocery store, so I was very excited to find this homemade version and see how simple the ingredients are.  The sauce has a great balance of sweet and salty that compliments the marinated beef and crisp vegetables perfectly.  The quick cooking style of stir fry makes for very easy preparation and develops great layers of flavor as well.  So, even though it is a little bit of prep work to cut all of the ingredients up, the fast cooking time completely makes up for it.  Give this delicious teriyaki beef a try next time you are in the mood for an easy Asian style meal at home!  Don't forget to add those green onion on top to garnish; they add a great pop of flavor and freshness to the whole dish.  

Teriyaki Beef Stir Fry

2 cups cooked white or brown rice
3/4 lb top round steak, sliced very thin
1/2 cup carrots, sliced
1/2 cup snow peas, ends trimmed off
1/2 red bell pepper, sliced thin
2 scallions (green onion), chopped
2 tbsp water
2 tbsp canola oil
1 tbsp soy sauce
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/8 tsp fresh ground black pepper  
Pinch of ground ginger
1 cup teriyaki sauce (1 recipe below) or your favorite brand
1 tbsp cornstarch

Prepare the rice on your stove top according to package instructions or use a rice cooker.  You want to have about 2 cups of cooked rice to serve with the stir fry.  While the rice is cooking, slice the beef very thinly and toss with the soy sauce, onion powder, garlic powder, ground ginger and black pepper.  Let this marinade for a few minutes while you prepare the vegetables.  You can use whatever cut of beef that you like (we have also done flank and flat iron steak) or you could substitute chicken or all vegetables.  

Place the sliced carrots and snow peas in a microwave safe container and add about 2 tablespoons of water to the container.  Cover this with a paper towel and steam in the microwave on high for about 1 minute, 30 seconds.  This will help give these vegetables a head start with the cooking process. 

Heat a large non-stick skillet (or wok) over medium high heat and add a small amount of the canola or another flavorless oil.  Place a single layer of beef in the skillet and cook for about 1 minute before flipping to the second side. You want the beef to start to caramelize and brown but not be over cooked.  Turn your heat up slightly if this is not happening.  Cook for about 1 more minute, remove from the skillet onto a plate, and continue this process until all the beef is cooked.  You may need to add a small amount of oil in between batches.

Make sure your skillet is still nice and hot and, if necessary, again add a small amount of oil to the skillet.  Then add the white parts of the scallions (save the green tops that you cut for garnish) and the bell pepper. Cook this for about 1 minute and then add the par-cooked and drained carrots and snow peas.  Let this cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring regularly. Once the vegetables are cooked but still crisp, add the beef back into the skillet.  Stir the cornstarch into the teriyaki sauce and then add the sauce to the skillet.  Stir everything together and let it cook for 1-2 minutes until the sauce has thickened.  Serve the stir fry over rice and garnish with a sprinkle of the green onion tops.

Note: the quantities above can be easily modified for your taste preferences and are not an exact science.  For example, I do not generally measure out how many cups of each vegetable or how much of each spice that I used so I have provided you with an estimated amount for guidance.


Inspired by A Family Feast

Homemade Teriyaki Sauce

1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup honey
2 tbsp white sugar
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp mirin (optional)
1 clove garlic, peeled and sliced
1 tsp sliced fresh ginger

Measure the first 3 ingredients into a glass measuring cup and then stir in the sugars and mirin until well combined.  Transfer this mixture to a small saucepan and add the slices of garlic and ginger.  Bring the sauce to a simmer over medium heat and cook for about 3 minutes stirring occasionally.  Strain the sauce to remove the garlic and ginger pieces and reserve until needed.  The sauce will keep in the refrigerator for about two weeks or can be frozen for several months.