Monday, February 15, 2016

Oscar Blog Party and My Salute to "Room" With a Victoria Sandwich Cake

Photos from this year's participants. To see their posts, please scroll down to the bottom of the page for links to their sites.

Last year Haley with Cheap Recipe Blog asked if I'd like to join her and a group of other bloggers for a fun little event centering around the best picture nominees for the Academy Awards. We were assigned a nominated picture and asked to see the movie, write about it and cook a recipe that was associated with it. Even though I thought it was a lackluster year for movies I was happy to join in because I love movies.

I was assigned the movie Whiplash, a movie I probably never would have seen had it not been for Haley's event. I did enjoy the super intense movie, albeit not a much as my preferred genre of period romance, but sadly, there wasn't one available that year. To flashback to last year's post and my recipe for golden potato, bacon and rosemary pizza, please click here.

When she asked if I'd like to join in again this year, I was happy to say yes. Since I thought that the movies this year were a bit better than last, I knew I had a good chance of writing about a movie that I really enjoyed. This year I was assigned the movie "Room".

First of all, I was very surprised at how moving I found this movie. I hadn't read the book, so I had no ideas or preconceived notions about how I thought the movie ought to play out. This happened to me years ago when I went to see The Shining and again recently with A Walk in the Woods, both experiences left permanent marks on me. I was so disappointed with how different the movies were from the books, that I now try not to read the book first, opting to wait until after I have seen the film.

The first part of Room takes place entirely in a single room. More specifically a rundown, fortified garden shed, that is occupied by a young woman known as "Ma" and her young son "Jack". We learn that seven years earlier, when she was seventeen  Ma was tricked and "stolen" by their captor who they call Old Nick, who is also Jack's biological father.

As the movie opens, it is Jack's fifth birthday. The celebration is a meager one, with just a small cake and the regular day to day routine of vitamins, exercises and endless hours of television. Never having been outside of "room", Jack's only impressions of life are what he sees on the television.

If you haven't read the book or seen the movie, I won't give too much away. I will just say that after seven years in this room, events unfold that lead to their liberation from Ma's prison and the only world that Jack has ever known, opening them both up to feelings that they did not anticipate.

Even though it sounds like it, this story is not depressing or sad. It has a heartwarming end that celebrates the resiliency and triumph of the human spirit. As you can tell, I really liked this movie and highly endorse it.

Since there wasn't a whole lot of food featured in this movie, a birthday cake was my obvious choice, and an opportunistic one at that since it is also a special someone's birthday at my house. I'm not exactly sure what type of cake Ma made for Jack's birthday, so I was free to go out on my own and give a Victoria sandwich cake one more try.

Since moving from England I have tried to make this cake several times with disappointing results. I love a good Victoria sandwich slice with a cup of coffee and a circle of friends to share it with. I have such fond memories of this simple, yet elegant cake which was named after the greatest sweet lover of all, England's Queen Victoria.

Originally, the Victoria sandwich, would have been a plain sponge baked in loaves or long bar shapes with jam or fruit placed in between the layers. It would then be sliced and have the appearance of a sandwich, hence the name. Whipped cream was added to the jam layer in the 20th century, resulting in the delicious modern version which I love so much.

I hope you will go see Room and any and all of the nominated movies to see if you agree with my opinion and those of my other blogger friends involved in this fun event. I know I have enjoyed seeing a great movie and having a big slice of cake. . . or four. Oh yeah, great news for high altitude bakers, this recipe works great just as it it written.

King Arthur Flour's Victoria Sandwich Cake

This English favorite may look like an American cake but the differences are clear once you take your first bite. Unlike the fluffy, soft, super moist cakes that we Americans are familiar with, this cake is tender yet a bit crumbly and not quite as moist as its American counterpart. It can best be described as being similar to a pound cake. It is normally filled with jam or fruit and a slightly sweet whipped cream. It is then topped off with a healthy dusting of powdered sugar and voila! You have a cake that is pretty close to what you might find in an English tea room.

3/4 cup (1 - 1/2 sticks) butter, softened (I use unsalted, so I added just a pinch of salt to the batter)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs (room temperature)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
1/4 teaspoon almond extract (optional)
1-1/2 cups self-raising flour
A couple of heaping tablespoons of powdered sugar to sprinkle on top (my recommendation)

For method, please click here to go to King Arthur's Site, but come back for my own cream filling recipe below.

Cream Filling

3 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
4 ounces mascarpone cheese, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup heavy whipping cream
3 tablespoons granulated sugar

Combine cream cheese, mascarpone and vanilla extract in a medium size bowl; set aside.

In a separate medium size bowl whip cream until soft peaks form. Gradually sprinkle sugar over cream while continuing to whip until stiff peaks form.

Add a heaping spoon of the whipped cream to the cheese mixture. Gently fold in to lighten it. Fold in the remaining cream and gently blend until it is smooth. Spread over jam or fruit on bottom cake layer.

Dust the top of the cake with lots of powdered sugar.

Tempted by these beautiful photos submitted by the other participants? Please just click on the links below to see their best picture themed posts:

Monday, February 1, 2016

My New Favorite Sweet Snack and Party Food: Toffee Puff Corn

Our lives are so busy lately that when I have an opportunity to slow down and spend some time with my family I jump on it, so I was happy to get to spend last Saturday with my daughter. Like lots of mothers and daughters, we usually head to the mall for lots of window shopping and a nice long lunch.

On this particular day we headed over to a nearby mall that has undergone a total renovation. Once on the downhill slide, this place has now been transformed into a whole new world with marble floors, new stores and as they go, a great selection of chain restaurants.

Our favorite little surprise at this mall was the marketplace that is tucked away in a dark little corner on the ground floor. The walls are clad in rough, dark wood planks with market lights strung across the ceiling giving it an intimate, almost outdoors at night feel. Each stall here is filled with handcrafted goods and vintage bric-a-brac. Just our kind of place.

After meandering around for awhile, we ran across a vendor selling snacks. You know the kind, spiced nuts, flavored popcorn, and a crispy, crunchy, sweet and salty little snack that I had never had before, and as you all know, I've been around awhile and I eat a lot of stuff. So I grabbed a handful (in the interest of science) making a promise to my daughter that I would Google this stuff until I figured it out.

Well it didn't take long to figure out that this new (to me) taste sensation is called toffee puff corn. From what I understand, this is has been a favorite snack in the midwest for years, and all I can say is shame on them for not telling me about it sooner. I absolutely love this stuff and think you will too.

If you need a great snack to take to a. . . for instance. . . football watching party, this is the ticket. It is not too hard to make and you can prepare it days in advance if you keep it in a air tight container.

Toffee Puff Corn

This recipe is very similar to my caramel corn, but the end result is quite different. I have added sriracha to mine to give it a sweet and spicy flavor, but you can leave it out if your taste buds prefer something tamer. If you omit the sriracha, you can substitute it with vanilla extract, just stir it in before the baking soda.

3 - 5 ounce bags butter flavored corn puffs (also called hulless popcorn, find this in the potato chip aisle of the grocery store)
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
1-1/2 cups light brown sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
2 - 4 tablespoons sriracha (optional)
1 teaspoon baking soda

Preheat oven to 275 degrees.

Cover a large sheet pan with parchment or waxed paper. Set aside.

Pour puff corn into a large roasting pan. Set aside.

Place butter, brown sugar, corn syrup and sriracha (if using) in a large size, heavy bottom sauce pan and set over medium high heat. Stir ingredients in pan until butter melts and mixture begins to boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook for 2 - 3 minutes, stirring frequently.

Stir in baking soda. Be aware that the hot toffee sauce in the pan will foam and increase in volume after you add the baking soda.

Quickly drizzle the toffee over the puff corn in the roasting pan, stirring with a large wooden spoon as you go. Stir gently to coat. Place in preheated oven and cook for 15 minutes. Remove pan from the oven, stir well and return to cook for an additional 15 minutes. Do this 3 times for a total baking time of 45 minutes.

Pour puff corn onto the prepared sheet pan. Separate pieces as they will want to stick together. Cool and enjoy. Store in an airtight container.

Makes a bunch.