German Chocolate Cake…just when you thought you were safe


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So, around these parts, we love cake…well not so much me or my husband, but for him, if it has anything coconut, consider it his. Which makes my life easier because if i want him to eat it…coconut on it LOL…so I tried this recipe and decided I love it. I hate boxed cakes because you can actually taste the difference, like…the actual cardboard. Maybe I am weird but my step-dad told me that once and I did not believe him until I did the test. I made 2 cakes, 1 box and 1 home made…bigggg big big difference. So, here is the recipe I used for this cake. Hope you enjoy it as much if not more then we did.

 

4 ounces (115 grams) semi sweet chocolate, chopped

2 1/4 cups (270 grams) cakeflour

3/4 cup (70 grams) unsweetenedcocoa powder(preferably Dutch processed)

1 1/2 teaspoonsbaking powder

1/2 teaspoonbaking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup (240 ml) lukewarm coffee (or water)

1 cup (240 ml) buttermilk

1 1/4 cups (280 grams) unsaltedbutter, room temperature

2 1/4 cups (450 grams) granulated whitesugar

5 largeeggs, room temperature

1 1/2 teaspoons purevanillaextract

Coconut Pecan Frosting:

1 cup (240 ml) pecans

1 cup (200 grams) granulated white sugar

1 cup (240 ml) evaporated milk(can also use light or heavy cream)

3 large (60 grams) egg yolks, lightly beaten

1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, cut into pieces

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups (150 grams) sweetened or unsweetened shredded or flaked coconut

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C) and place oven racks in the upper and lower third of the oven. Lightly butter and flour (or spray with a nonstick vegetable/flour spray), and line the bottoms of three – 8 x 2 inch deep (20 x 5 cm) round baking pans with parchment or wax paper.

In a heatproof bowl, placed over a saucepan of simmering water, melt the chocolate. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.

In a separate bowl, sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. 

In a small bowl, combine the coffee (or water) and buttermilk.

In the bowl of your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, beat the butter until smooth and creamy. Add the sugar and continue beating until the mixture is fluffy (this will take about three to five minutes). Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add the vanilla extract and beat to combine. Then add the melted chocolate and beat until incorporated.

Add the coffee/buttermilk mixture and flour mixtures in three additions, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Beat only until the ingredients are mixed together.

Divide the batter evenly among the three prepared pans and smooth the tops. Bake for about 30 -35 minutesor until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and the tops spring back when lightly pressed. (I like to rotate the pans about halfway through baking to ensure even baking.) Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool for about 15 minutes. Butter or lightly spray with a non stick vegetable spray a wire rack before inverting the cakes onto the rack to prevent the cakes from sticking. Cool the cakes completely before frosting.

Coconut Pecan Frosting:  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Place the pecans on a baking sheet and bake for about 8-10 minutes or until lightly browned and fragrant. Remove from oven, cool, and then chop fairly fine.

In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, milk, egg yolks, butter, and salt. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, and when the mixture begins to boil and thicken, remove from heat (about 5 minutes). Stir in the chopped pecans, coconut, and vanilla extract. Let cool until spreadable (about 30-60 minutes).

To Assemble: Place one layer of cake (top facing down), on your serving plate, and cover with one third of the frosting. Place the second layer of cake, onto the first cake layer and frost with another one-third of the frosting. Then add the third cake layer and frost the top of the cake with the remaining frosting (sides of cake are left bare). The finished cake can be stored at room temperature for a 2-3 days or it can be refrigerated.

Serves 14-16 people.

Read more:http://www.joyofbaking.com/GermanChocolateCake.html#ixzz1quF7PpZi

Some history to read while you are sipping your tea


 

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I think one of the absolute coolest parts of Iraq is of course, the marshes. I love how the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers “marry” as my husband says…yet the do not combine. One is salt water and the other is fresh. Truly an amazing miracle from Allah/God. It also amazes me how Iraq Marsh Arabs build those houses that literally float around the marshes the way they do and they love like that!!! I mean yes, there are house boats and yachts….but not there. They are so natural and “earthy” it keeps me in awe when I look at the pictures. Can you imagine that? What if the house floated super far away?? It would terrify me….ahahahaaha! Random thoughts yes, but this is my blog so I am allowed for sure. 

So my in-laws are from the marshes as well, however not “in” the marshes. They have farms, which is very interesting to me because if I or we could live totally off the land, I so would. I really admire his family and everything that they do even with all the technology and “new” ways of life, they are still pretty much old school, so to say. Which is awesome.  So, I wanted to give some of the history of Al-Qurnah, Basrah…….which is exactly where my husband is from. It will not be boring…come and take a journey with me. 

Al-Qurnah, Iraq litterally means “the corner” so it says on wikipedia, and  is a pleasant little place 74 km north west of Basra at the very tip of the point named Shatt El-Arab where the two great rivers Tigris and Euphrates meet; a strategic position that has been the scene of conflicts for centuries. As legends have it, Qurna is the reputed site of the Gardens of Eden. It has been said, it was once a city built by Seleucus Nicator I in honor of his wife Apamea, the general who succeeded Alexander the Great on the latter’s death on the Tigris. From the pictures I have seen, the tree of Adam is still there, and they have built a park around it as well. I can not wait to go and see it. 

The contrast of the lush south of Iraq with the rest of a country which is often too bare can be seen very well, and even better on side-trips up the rivers. Each river has a strongly defined character: the banks of the Euphrates are the more wooded and picturesque, and the Tigris is the busier.

The backwaters, creeks and side channels of both are exceedingly beautiful, and here one can get a glimpse of the fertility that must have belonged to Mesopotamia when it was a network of streams and when the forests abounded.

The region of Basra, the city of Sinbad the Sailorand the starting point of his famous adventurous voyages to the World, is, some would say, the most beautiful part of Iraq, outshining both the Persian miniature scenery of the central Euphrates and the cool, majestic north.

But Basra retains a romantic aura. So does the whole area of the south from Shatt El-Arab (the meeting point of Tigris and Euphrates rivers) up to Amara on the Tigris and Suq Eshiukh on the Euphrates: it is lush, watered, full of trees and gardens and canoes gliding on the mirror-surfaces of calm lagoons. It is an area of countless birds and a variety of animals. You feel that lions, possibly dragons or the Great Roc of A Thousand and One Nights may appear.

Basra is Iraq’s 3rd largest city and main seaport, situated 67 km to the north of the Arabian Gulf and 549 km south east of Baghdad. When you see it today, you will be reminded of the commercial importance it has enjoyed for centuries; endless ships shuttle back and forth on Shatt El-Arab.

Ashar is the heart of the city and the old commercial center; its covered bazaar and mosque mark the end of the creek that links it and the river to Old Basra. Upstream is Margil, the garden suburb fanning out from the forest of cranes at the wharves of the Old Basra port and the railway station; and a little further you cross to the island that faces the Shatt El-Arab Hotel, where Basra’s airport was sited until the 1960s when it was moved to Shuaiba. Here are flowers and palms and that blessed water that is the glory of all Iraq, but particularly of the south

Basra was founded in 637 AD by Utba bin Ghazwan on order from Caliph Omar ibn Al-Khattab (634-644 AD), as soon as the Sassanian capital at Ctesiphon fell to the Muslim armies. It was made into a military base, and a mosque was built there of mud and reeds. Of that and of the original palace nothing can be seen today. 

Basra looms into history once again with the raising there by Zubeir ibn Al-Awwam and Talha bin Ubaidullah of a force to resist the claim of Ali, the Prophet Mohammad’s cousin, to the Caliphate after the murders of Caliphs Omar and Othman. A battle took place outside Basra to the west and it resulted in the deaths of both Zubeir and Talha. Zubeir was buried on the battle-site and that is why the small town that has grown up there is called Azzubeir to this day.

Today the older parts of Ashar are still attractive. The covered bazaars is full of beautiful old-style houses with balconies leaning over into the narrow streets and beautiful wooden facades in the style of old Arab architecture (called Shanasheel). They have character and are worth wandering through. They are quite extensive; the shops are well-stocked; they smell of spice and herbs and coffee; there is an old-world atmosphere there.

Now, to me, I love the old buildings and the history. I like to search in them, and if they allow me to, when we get to Iraq, Insha Allah, I will!!! History by reading can get boring to me, honestly. But actually walking and touching things that are ancient……that is amazing. I can not wait.


For the Love of Spices!!!


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Spices and presentation are what give each and every single dish in any cooking, it’s personality. This is my opinion. There are indeed many dishes around the world that are similar to one another, from each country, and this is for sure. One of the biggest differences, to me, are the spices. I love them. I hoard them ahahahaha….some women have a love of shoes and clothes, not this one…Mine is spices. I have the messiest spice cabinet ever but I think I have every single spice from here to Iraq and back. I just can not get enough. If a spice becomes missing from over use, I can tell it is not there and it does not feel right. So, these are some of the spices used in Iraqi cooking.

Sesame Tea Biscuits


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Sesame Tea Biscuits:

1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1  1/2 cup sugar
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla
3 cups flour
1/4 tsp salt
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 cup milk
flour for kneading dough
oil for cookie sheets

Mix the flour, salt, and baking powder in a bowl, Cream the butter and sugar together in a large bowl. Add the eggs and vanilla to the sugar-butter and mix well until fluffy. Add the flour 1/2 cup at a time to the egg-butter mixture. Mix well after each addition.

Place the dough on a floured surface and knead until smooth. Take small amounts of dough (about 1 Tbs) and shape into little loaves. Dip each cookie loaf into the milk and then roll in sesame seeds until well coated. Place on oiled cookie sheet and bake at 350F for 15 minutes or until browned. Remove from the tray and allow to cool.

Chocolate chip walnut banana bread…to die for


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2 cups flour

1 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

1 egg

1  1/8 cup sugar

1/2 cup vegetable oil

2 Tbsp buttermilk (I used regular milk)

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

3 large ripe bananas~mashed

3/4 cup chopped walnuts for inside the bread

1/2 cup chopped walnuts for on top-i always use more

3 big handfuls semi-sweet chocolate chips

Pre heat over to 325*  Grease and flour loaf pan.

Blend flour, baking soda and salt …set aside

Mix egg, sugar and oil until combined…add the flour mixture. When blended add the milk, vanilla and mashed bananas and mix until combined.

Fold in walnuts and chocolate chips.

Pour into loaf pan.

Top batter with remaining walnuts.

Bake 45 – 60 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out pretty clean.

Cool for 10 minutes

Mini cake/cheesecake bites


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This is a recipe that I was searching for but could not find so I put them together to make these delicious little bites…..

cheesecake part

4 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese
1 1/2 cups white sugar
3/4 cup milk
4 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C)

In a large bowl, mix cream cheese with sugar until smooth. Blend in milk, and then mix in the eggs one at a time, mixing just enough to incorporate. Mix in sour cream, vanilla and flour until smooth.

set it aside

Cake:
1 cup boiling water
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa, divided
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped $
Cooking spray $
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar $
6 tablespoons butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract $
3 large egg whites $
1/2 cup fat-free sour cream
8 ounces cake flour (about 2 cups)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda $
1/2 teaspoon salt

To prepare cake, combine 1 cup boiling water and 1/2 cup cocoa. Add 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate; stir until smooth. Cool to room temperature.
Place 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar, 6 tablespoons butter, and 1 teaspoon vanilla in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed 1 minute. Add egg whites, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add sour cream; beat at medium speed for 2 minutes. Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add flour mixture and cocoa mixture alternately to sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture; beat just until combined.

set aside

i used the small cupcake wrappers and did about a tsp of cheesecake mix then a teaspoon of cake mix on top for each one.

when you bake them, have a cookie sheet filled with water under them so the steam helps them cook.
after they are done…cherry on top of each one held on by a small amount of chocolate frosting.

Banana Pistachio Cake-Kekat al-Mouz wal Fistiq


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This is a new recipe I tried out from a wonderful cookbook given to me by an amazing friend.
This cake has 3 layers with a cream filling, bananas and pistachios in each layer.

For the cake:

1/2 c oil

1 1/2 c granulated sugar

3 eggs 1 c mashed bananas or about 3 medium bananas

2 tsp rosewater

1 tsp vanilla

2 1/2 c all purpose white flour

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

2/3 c milk or buttermilk

1/2 c chopped toasted nuts

for filling:

1 c chilled whipping cream

2 tbsp powdered sugar

1 tsp rosewater

thin slices of bananas

Icing:

1/2 c packed brown sugar

1/4 c whipping cream

3 tbsp butter

1/2 c powdered sugar

1 tsp rosewater

Garnish with banana slices and ground pistachios

to make the cake itself, mix oil, sugar, and eggs for 2 mins. Add the mashed bananas, rose water, and vanilla. Mix well.  Then Mix in flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Do not over beat the mixture just make sure it is mixed well enough to be combined. Fold in nuts if used.

Grease and flour two 9-inch round cake pans, make sure to evenly divide the batter between the two. Put into a preheated 375F oven for about 30 mins or until toothpick comes out clean. Completely cool.

The filling is made by having a bowl already chilled and whipping the cream in it until it holds soft peaks, or can somewhat stand on it’s own.  Add sugar and rosewater and whip it together until stiff peaks form. You may want to use cool whip instead and if so just add the rosewater to it.

Cakes should be totally cooled and you want to slice them in 1/2 horizontally so you have 4 layers….spreading the filling on each layer with banana slices placed neatly. stack your layers.

The Icing is made by using a small sauce pan and combining sugar, cream and butter and bring mixture to a boil while stirring and making sure the sugar dissolves, then boil for about 2 more minutes. Let it cool to room temp and add powdered sugar and rosewater stirring until it is smooth. Immediately spread on the surface of the cake allowing it to drip down the sides of the cake. Sprinkle pistachios on top and decorate as you’d like. Enjoy!!!!!