Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Pumpkin Pie Balls

I decided to make cake balls again to take to our annual family hayride a couple weeks ago. Call me crazy because apparently I forgot how time consuming they can become. Call me awesome because I stumbled upon an even better recipe than my last attempt. I was looking for something thoroughly fall/hayride appropriate and Bridget at Bake at 350 totally came through for me. She calls these delicious autumn wonders "Pumpkin Spice Cake Balls" but I found that when adapted a tad, they can come out with the consistency of pumpkin pie. Okay, okay, "adapted" means I accidentally used a whole can of pumpkin instead of 1 cup and my cake fell because it was super thick and dense. Guess what? It turned out great. Since it was so moist, I added a 1/2 a can of cream cheese versus the standard full can and the sweetness and texture was spot on.

Here's my adapted recipe for Pumpkin Pie Balls
(Makes about 4-5 dozen balls)

1 box French Vanilla cake mix
1 full can of pumpkin ( not pumpkin pie blend- just straight up canned pumpkin)
2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp allspice
1/8 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
3/4 cup water
1/3 cup canola oil
4 large eggs
1/2 can cream cheese frosting
chocolate candy melts or almond bark
Nuts, sprinkles, grated coconut, or reserved almond bark for decorating ( optional)
1. Beat all top section ingredients until blended and bake according to package instructions in a 13x9 pan. Cake should rise and toothpick should come out clean from center. However, since the cake is extra dense, it will fall when removed from the oven.
2. Allow cake to cool enough to handle. Crumble and smoosh the cake together- it will be pretty mushy. Add 1/2 can of cream cheese frosting and blend well. NOTE: I don't know why but I really prefer Duncan Hines cream cheese to Pilsbury. The Pilsbury one tastes like plastic cotton candy. Is that just me?
3. Shape into bite size balls and place on a parchment lined baking sheet ( you'll probably need a few.) Chill in the fridge for at least an hour. You want these to be pretty cold.
4. Melt almond bark or chocolate melts however you like but not over a direct flame. 10-15 second intervals in the microwave works well. Or, you can put a mixing bowl in a a stock pot to steam water in order to melt them. I'm pretty sure there's an actual piece of equipment for this but why buy one more thing?
I bought lousy bark from the convenience store because I thought I had some but I didn't and I didn't want to drive all the way to the Wal-Mart and get suckered into buying forty more things. Lousy bark or overheated bark may require the addition of shortening to loosen things up a bit. Add in small spoonfuls if needed until it is a smooth consistency that will easily coat your pie balls.
5. Remove balls from the fridge and individually dunk into the almond bark using a fork to remove from the bowl and a spoon to toss chocolate over the top. The use of a toothpick is very handy for replacing the ball back on the parchment paper. You can see a great example of this technique in action courtesy of P-dub here.
6. If decorating with loose bits like nuts or sprinkles, top while the chocolate is still tacky. If decorating with piped almond bark, wait until the chocolate coating is fully set.
I prefer these chilled but I also hate warm pie so, there ya go. I'd use your pie preferences as a guide here because, they aren't cake-like in texture at all. One last piece of advice...if you want any of these for yourself, hide them. I only got one.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

How to Grate Fresh Coconut

It's been a month since my last post and really even longer since I've been inspired to get creative in the kitchen. I tried so very hard to push myself to make something new but I just kept falling back to the comforts ( we had a lot of chicken potato burritos...)

So, it took our latest themed dinner party to break me out of my shell.

Ahhh, Indian Food night. I'd been looking forward to this theme for forever. I selected an amazing recipe for Southern Spiced Lahori Chicken Curry from Indian Home Cooking by Suvir Saran and Stephanie Lyness and I'd already sent Aubrey to the city to get all the unique ingredients. I was all ready to go except I forgot to get unsweeted grated coconut. No prob, they always have that junk at the Wal-Mart, so off I went.

I was wrong. There was no grated coconut to be found other than the severely sweetened version of which I despise. Oh, but wait... could they? Do they? YES, they do have real, actual, whole coconuts. Leave it to my Wal-Mart to finally come through with an off the wall item. I had no other choice.

I bought the little dude.

Now, I realize this isn't exactly a seasonal post. People are usually thinking about coconuts when it's a little bit warmer outside. As for me, it's the middle of fall and I need me some coconut. I put on some N'Sync to psych myself up and set out trying to figure out how to conquer the coconut. Fortunately, Indian Home Cooking has some suggestions as to how to crack into these babies.

Step one: They say to get a screwdriver or a sharpening steel to poke into the "eyes" in order to drain the coconut juice. HA! I say...

Step two: Pour out the juice or save to make a "lovely, sweet and very refreshing drink."

Psssh. I only had six hours until showtime.

Step three: "Bake the coconut in a 350 degree F oven to make the white flesh pull away from the brown husk." Sure, how long? Wait...it doesn't say!!! I went with 25 minutes.
Step four: Wrap the coconut in a towl and bang on it with a hammer to split it open...can do.

Look at that! It smelled deliciously toasty and I felt like such a success. Except, now's probably a good time to tell you that there was actually a second coconut partaking in this process. Just incase I screwed up on the time I left the second one in for about 35 minutes. This is what happened:

Oh, and that delicious toasty smell? Replace that with roasted windex and you've got an idea of how foul this was. I'm not quite sure if it was rotten to begin with or if the ten extra minutes did it in. Either way, 25 minutes worked great so I'd rather not try 35 again. Into the trash this went. Now, onward!

Step five: Use a flathead screw driver to separate the white flesh from the hard shell. (Not as easy as it sounds but doable... have no fear if it breaks away in small pieces. Oh, and it takes some force.)

Step six: Use a vegetable peeler to peel off the thin layer of brown skin.

Step seven: Grate on a grater or in a food processor--- ( use the processor- you've earned a break by now.)

And, that's pretty much it. It was actually much easier than I expected...not that I want to do this everyday or anything. One coconut yeilds a sandwich baggy full of freshly grated coconut. I only needed 1/2 cup so I froze the rest. In the end, the N'Sync tunage seemed much more appropriate for the task at hand...it just tried to seem tough.