Wednesday, November 30, 2016

My Thanksgiving Cake

I just want to show off my Thanksgiving cake. I do not celebrate Thanksgiving the traditional way, I mostly just celebrate the life of Michael Hutchence. Well, this was the cake I made to celebrate his life with.

I know I am not the best cake decorator, but I just wanted to add this message to him. It's a simple devil's food cake and I admit I did cheat this time. The cake is from a box mix. Duncan Hines makes the best cake mixes. But I always make my own frosting. In this case, it's a dark chocolate frosting. I saved a bit out of the mixture to create the white frosting I used to write the words. I also decorated it with some vertical stripes along the side of the cake.

Anyone can make a cake as good as homemade using a box mix, with a little tweaking, it can even be as good as it would be from a professional bakery. This is the trick I learned:

1 box cake mix (any flavor or variety)
4 eggs (5 eggs for a really rich cake)
1 cup of milk

More eggs make for more volume in your cake, and note the water called for in the mix's directions is replaced with milk. This makes a softer, more flavorful cake. After you mix those ingredients, take the amount of oil from the directions on the box, and instead of oil, use melted butter, and double the volume. For example...

  • The cake mix calls for 1/3 cup of oil, you would melt 2/3 cup of butter and add that to the mix instead.
  • The cake mix calls for 1/2 cup of oil, you would melt 1 full cup of butter and put that in the mixture instead.

I like to combine the eggs and milk with the mix first, and beat in my mixer on medium-high speed until it's thoroughly combined. Then while the mixer is going, add the melted butter. This is important, because the mix will be cold. Adding the butter with the mixer off can cause the eggs to curdle and the butter to solidify on contact. You don't want that. So, make sure your mixer is turned on high when adding the melted butter. I keep the mixer going for about 10 minutes, which adds the little bubbles needed to make the cake light and fluffy. This will give the cake that "as good as a bakery" taste and texture. It always works for me! My cakes always come out as good as those made in big bakeries.

The icing I made is my simple buttercream icing, and I added about 1/4 cup of Hershey's Dark Unsweetened Cocoa.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Thanksgiving Day Dinner

Well, most people in America are celebrating Thanksgiving this week. I celebrated on the 22nd. That is my own personal Thanksgiving Day, as I am thankful for getting to know Michael Hutchence. He died that day back in 1997, and so I celebrate his life every year on that day. Anyways, I thought I would share here how to make a beautiful Thanksgiving dinner all in one post. These are some of the tips I used to make my own Thanksgiving dinner. First, we will begin with the turkey.

The turkey is the centerpiece for Thanksgiving dinner. It is the main course. I do not get whole turkeys, because I tend to like only the breast meat. I do not eat drumsticks nor none of the dark meat pieces. The best way to cook the turkey is to preheat the oven to 325° and get out a big roasting pan. I always use disposable aluminum pans that can be found in any grocery store. Even the Dollar Store. Place the turkey into the pan and coat with canola oil spray or melt butter and spread evenly over the top of the turkey. The best seasonings to use to season the turkey is salt and pepper, it also helps to use a little fresh rosemary and thyme. Spread the seasonings evenly by hand. Then, place the turkey in the oven and bake depending on the size of the turkey. It is best to bake it for 10-12 minutes per pound if it is not stuffed, and 12-15 minutes per pound if it is stuffed. It is best not to cover the turkey with tinfoil, because that will prevent the turkey from browning. If you've got a 20-pound turkey, you will have to cook it for 4 hours.

If you do like me, and only cook a breast, the internal temperature of a finished breast should be 163° and no greater than 165° in order for it to be tender and juicy. If you are cooking a whole turkey, the legs should be at least 175° and no more than 180°, otherwise they will be rubbery and pink inside. If the turkey has stuffing inside it, the stuffing must be at least 160° on the inside. When the turkey is done, it is best to place it on a platter and let it stand for about 20 minutes. I like to take the drippings, since I do not use stuffing, and make a nice homemade gravy from it.

To make the gravy, you will need a saucepan, or a skillet, and you will need to melt 4 tablespoons of butter, add in about 1/4 cup of flour and combine together. Cook over medium heat. Not for too long, you don't want it to get brown or form a ball. Put in salt and pepper to taste and add turkey drippings from the pan until you get it to the desired consistency you like. I like thick gravy, so I do not add much. Stir constantly until it reaches your desired consistency.

If you like stuffing, the best method I have seen to make homemade stuffing is to combine approximately 4 cups of dried-up bread crumbs (I can tell you how to make dried bread crumbs in another post), season with salt, pepper, thyme, sage, nutmeg and rosemary. Dice one onion and one celery stalk and add to the mixture. Add 1 cup of chicken stock, 6 tablespoons of butter and combine. You can place this into the turkey before cooking, but I always preferred it be made separately.

For the mashed potatoes, I like to use baby reds. They hold their shape better and have kind of a nice, nearly sweet-ish taste. Cook in water over the stove top until softened, then drain the water out. I also like to add fresh roasted garlic and parmesan cheese to the potatoes. Add in whole milk, or light whipping cream, salt, pepper, and butter to taste. I use my hand mixer to mash, but you can also use a ricer, or a plain potato masher. This makes for nice, creamy potatoes.

For dessert this year, since I am celebrating Michael's life, I made a cake, a chocolate cake with chocolate frosting. I put Michael's name on it as the decoration. But another dessert I love to have is apple crisp. To make the apple crisp, preheat the oven to 375°. You must peel and dice about 8 Granny Smith apples, and place in a 9x13" square pan to cook. Line the sliced apples evenly into the pan. For the topping, combine

1/2 cup cold butter, cut into squares
3/4 cup of flour
3/4 cup of sugar (I use brown sugar)
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon of ground nutmeg

Mix together using a pastry blender until it is thoroughly combined and forms clumps. Place over the apples and put in the oven and bake for about 55 minutes. It is always best to serve apple crisp hot, topped off with whipped cream, or ice cream.

Or you could make an apple cobbler, which is another good dessert, which I will discuss in another post. But I have had both for Thanksgiving dinner and they were wonderful! Of course if you happen to not have an oven, you could use a simple microwave method demonstrated in this video:

Happy Thanksgiving to you all! However you celebrate!

Tuesday, November 15, 2016