Carrot Cake (and cupcakes)

Last month I had a super crazy schedule: 24 hours on, 24 hours off, alternating for 5 weeks in the busy emergency room.  At some point during the night (and sometimes during the day)  you become slightly (or completely) delirious with exhaustion, dehydration, knowledge overload and hunger (also known as being hangry!).  When this happens, it is doctor recommended that you seek out a caffeinated beverage and something sweet STAT.  One night, this something sweet happened to be carrot cake cupcakes, in honor of my co-resident’s birthday- she was extremely lucky to spend part of it with me in the emergency room (note sarcasm)!

This recipe is one of my most requested desserts and can be made as one large cake or as a dozen cupcakes.  From the original Flour cookbook, this carrot cake is a mixture of rich moist cake, studded with raisins and toasted walnuts, and topped with a fluffy, but not too sweet, cream cheese frosting.  It’s the perfect balance of flavors- especially at 4AM!  I usually despise raisins in all baked goods but I strongly encourage you to use them in this recipe even if you are a fellow raisin hater.  It only uses 1/2 cup of raisins, just enough to add a tart flavor contrast but not overwhelmingly so.

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Mother’s Day Brunch

Nothing says Mother’s Day like brunch (and flowers….and mothers I suppose) and I was lucky enough to have the day off so I invited my mom (and dad) down to Boston for a Mother’s Day brunch. l first started cooking with my mom when I was younger; I remember homemade pizza parties, warm chocolate chip cookies from the oven, and the made-from-scratch tomato sauce that I wrote my college essay about. We’ve had many culinary adventures together: wine tasting in Napa, cooking classes in New Orleans and then at the CIA (the real CIA….the Culinary Institute of America) for my birthday one year.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to be able to cook for my mom and this Mother’s Day was no exception. She loves smoked salmon so I decided to make a smoked salmon, dill and cream cheese frittata with a salad on the side. My show stopper was Flour Bakery’s sticky buns- these are rich, indulgent and a little labor intensive but worth it for the best mother in the world! Finally, this was all washed down with a celebratory pomegranate sparkling cocktail.

Happy Mother’s Day Mom. Thank you for all of your support and encouragement. I couldn’t ask for a better mom. I love you!

Flour’s Sticky Buns ( copied from Food Network, can also be found in the Flour cookbook) 20130512-234225.jpg

Goo:

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup water
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Basic Brioche Dough, recipe follows
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup pecan halves, toasted and chopped

First, make the goo. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in the brown sugar and cook, stirring, to combine (it may look separated, that’s ok). Remove from the heat and whisk in the honey, cream, water, and salt. Strain to remove any undissolved lumps of brown sugar. Let cool for about 30 minutes, or until cooled to room temperature. You should have about 3 cups. (The mixture can be made up to 2 weeks in advance and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.)Divide the dough in half. Use half for this recipe and reserve the other half for another use. On a floured work surface, roll out the brioche into rectangle about 12 by 16 inches and 1/4-inch thick. It will have the consistency of cold, damp Play-Doh and should be fairly easy to roll. Position the rectangle so a short side is facing you.

In a small bowl, stir together the brown sugar, granulated sugar, cinnamon, and half of the pecans. Sprinkle this mixture evenly over the entire surface of the dough. Starting from the short side farthest from you and working your way down, roll up the rectangle like a jelly roll. Try to roll tightly, so you have a nice round spiral. Trim off about 1/4- inch from each end of the roll to make them even.

Use a bench scraper or a chef’s knife to cut the roll into 8 equal pieces, each about 1 1/2-inches wide. (At this point, the unbaked buns can be tightly wrapped in plastic wrap and frozen for up to 1 week. When ready to bake, thaw them, still wrapped, in the refrigerator overnight or at room temperature for 2 to 3 hours, then proceed as directed.)

Pour the goo into a 9 by 13-inch baking dish, covering the bottom evenly. Sprinkle the remaining pecans evenly over the surface. Arrange the buns, evenly spaced, in the baking dish. Cover with plastic wrap and put in a warm spot to proof until the dough is puffy, pillowy, and soft and the buns are touching-almost tripled in size, about 2 hours.

Position a rack in the center of the oven, and heat to 350 degrees F. Bake until golden brown, about 35 to 45 minutes. Let cool in the dish on a wire rack for 20 to 30 minutes. One at a time, invert the buns onto a serving platter, and spoon any extra goo and pecans from the bottom of the dish over the top. The buns are best served warm or within 4 hours of baking. They can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 day, and then warmed in a 325 degree F oven for 10 to 12 minutes before serving.

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