Stout Pound Cake with Roasted Pecans

"The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls." - Pablo Picasso

Guess who's back, back again?! Steph is back, tell a friend! Yes, you heard me right, this lady right here is back and is promising to never leave again! Let me give you a brief picture-filled summary of my life so far this past year and something.

First off, A and I bought our first home!!! It's a cute townhouse, 3 bedrooms, 2.5 bathrooms, nice little backyard, maybe about 10 minutes away from my parents, and most importantly, it's OURS. We have been slowly doing modifications to it (such as replacing the windows and doors) and we have many future changes already planned out (painting, new kitchen counters, shiplap statement walls). Also, I have been slowly changing out the appliances; we are almost completely a KitchenAid home, except for the washer/dryer stackables which are Maytag :)

Both Nucita and Pelusa turned 4! Nucita, as usual, couldn't stop smiling, especially knowing that those toys and treats were for her. Pelusa, as usual, needed to cautiously inspect everything that was put before her. By the way, of that giant bag of toys we gave Pelusa, her favorite is one of the pink balls, and that's it.

A and I got married!!! After 7 long years, we tied the knot this past February on my parents' farm. It was a very small ceremony, of just my parents, us, a priest, and two very close family friends. We laughed, we cried, we had the BEST carrot cake of my life, and we took more pictures than I could have imagined.

At the end of March/early April, A and I went on our honeymoon to Italy: two weeks of amazing views, delicious food, great wine, dancing, conversations, unforgettable memories with our Trafalgar tour family, which all led up to us meeting THE POPE!!! I was a sobbing mess when we met him, but it will always be one of the best experiences of my life.

And now, we're back in Miami, trying to pay off all of our bills, working like crazy, trying to get back to a normal life, or as normal as anyone's life can be. As I was starting to organize our Italy pictures, I realized I had about 50+ recipes that I have never posted! I know, it sounds horrible, and I feel pretty crappy about it because I'm sure many of you would enjoy them! So, let's get right to it.

Today's recipe from the un-posted archives was my first venture into dessert baking with beer. I had made a beer bread before, maybe about 10 years ago, but had never thought of using it in a cake. Since I had absolutely no clue about beer (I'm not a beer drinker; whiskey is more my thing), when I saw that this recipe called for a dark stout, I immediately went to Google, which suggested I use Guinness. The one I got from Publix was an extra stout. When baking this cake, the Guinness meshed really well with the dark and light brown sugars and brought out the earthy tones of the roasted pecans. However, I didn't really taste the cloves in this, so if I were to make this recipe again, I would definitely up the amount of cloves.

Stout Pound Cake with Roasted Pecans
adapted from: Cake Love: How to Bake Cakes from Scratch by Warren Brown

*makes: one 12-cup Bundt cake*

"The deep, dark color and flavor of stout pairs well with the molasses-like flavor of dark brown sugar and roasted pecans. When I offered samples of this at the bakery, people dived in and gushed about the nuts. The carbonation from the stout gives it a unique spongy texture that is heavenly soft and moist. Enjoy!"

14 oz unbleached all purpose flour
4 oz roasted chopped pecans
2 tsp corn starch
1 1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pure baking soda
1 cup reduced extra stout
1/4 cup ultra-pasteurized heavy whipping cream
1 1/2 tsp "Crush" pure vanilla bean extract
6 oz sweet unsalted butter
16 oz extra fine granulated sugar
1 oz dark brown sugar
1 oz light brown sugar
3 large eggs
2 large egg yolks

1) Preheat the oven to 350F. Set the rack in the middle of the oven.
2) Set out the ingredients and equipment.
- Sift the flour directly into a bowl on a scale for accurate measuring.
- Measure the other dry ingredients, including the pecans, into a separate mixing bowl, add the flour, and whisk for 10 seconds to blend. Set aside.
- Measure the liquid ingredients into a separate bowl, whisk to combine, and set aside.
- Measure the butter and sugars into separate bowls and set aside.
- Crack the eggs and yolks into two separate bowls and set aside.
3) In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugars on the lowest speed for 2 to 3 minutes.
4) With the mixer still on the lowest speed, add the eggs one at a time followed by the yolks, fully incorporating after each addition.
5) Add the dry ingredient mixture alternately with the liquid mixture in 3 to 5 additions each, beginning and ending with the dry mixture. Move swiftly through this step to avoid overworking the batter. Don't wait for the dry or liquid mixtures to be fully incorporated before adding the next. This step should take a total of about 60 seconds.
6) Stop the mixer and scrape the sides of the bowl all the way down. Don't miss the clumps of ingredients hiding on the bottom of the bowl. Mix on medium speed for 15 to 20 seconds to develop the batter's structure.
7) Prepare the pan. Spray the pan well with a nonstick spray.
8) Fill the pan about three-quarters full by depositing the batter with the rubber spatula in small clumps around the prepared pan instead of by pouring it into one spot. Level the batter with the rubber spatula.
9) Bake for approximately 50-55 minutes.
10) Once the top of the cake doesn't jiggle in the center and is light brown, test for doneness by inserting a bamboo skewer in the center of the cake. When the skewer shows just a touch of crumbs or comes out clean, the cake is done. The sheen on top may look liquid but this is normal and comes from the fat in the heavy cream. Remove the pan from the oven and place on a heat-resistant surface or wire rack.
11) Once the cake has cooled for 5 to 10 minutes, remove the cake by inverting the pan onto a flat surface. Allow it to cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes, before glazing.
12) Set the cake on a wire rack with wax or parchment paper underneath it to catch any dripping syrup. Combine 1/4 cup of Sugar Syrup (see below for the recipe) and 2 tablespoons of blended Scotch whisky in a small bowl. Apply the soaking syrup with a pastry brush until all of the syrup is absorbed.
13) Serve at room temperature either naked or with a dusting of confectioner's sugar.
14) Store under a cake dome at room temperature, or wrapped in plastic in the fridge for up to 1 week. To store longer, label, date, and store the plastic-wrapped cake in the freezer for up to 1 month.

Sugar Syrup

16 oz extra fine granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups water

1) Combine the sugar and water in a 2-quart, heavy-bottomed saucepan and stir thoroughly.
2) Bring the mixture to a light summer over medium-high heat to dissolve the sugar.
3) Do not bring to a rolling boil.
4) Immediately remove the mixture from the heat and set aside to cool completely.
5) Label, date, and refrigerate in an airtight container.


Tuna & Cucumber Bites

"The opportunity is often lost by deliberating." - Publilius Syrus

New week, new Monday, new goals for the week, new motivations, new aspirations. I'm refreshed and ready to take on this week's challenges. After last week's ups and downs at work, I learned how to manage my time and my projects a lot more and in a more efficient way. Last week, there were moments where I felt like I was drowning in my work, and all these requests and projects that were thrown at me were making me feel really overwhelmed. But, going through that made me think about it all over the weekend. I was able to breathe, mull things over, and plan on how to incorporate all of my new jobs and assignments into a cohesive hour-by-hour daytime schedule. And, it worked! Today could NOT have gone any smoother. I got to work, did all of my daily tasks, worked on some side projects, and I almost even completed one of my biggest monthly reports, right on time for tomorrow's meeting. By no means does that mean I can slack tomorrow. I have to go into work with the same focus I had today... and, I'll accomplish that by resting tonight, and... enjoying The Bachelor!

Oh c'mon, you know I wasn't going to let this opportunity pass me by. It's Monday! LOL Have any of you been watching it? I'm all the way to the Wisconsin group date. I really like all the events that have led to this point. The first one-one-one date was super cute; I loved how Nick showed the contestant all of his childhood haunts while sharing stories from his past. Then, when it came time to the group date, it brought flashbacks from my childhood, when we used to have cows over at the farm. I used to help my Dad feed the cows, and I sometimes would even help him milk the cows, or better yet, watch him milk the cows and run to take the milk to my Mom. It also made me think about how my Mom's go-to snack back in the day was tuna salad. She would go crazy inventing all different kinds of tuna salad, as well as chicken salad. She'd chop apple, celery, onion, anything crunchy with flavor, and mix it into the tuna. As soon as she'd see a new recipe whether in a magazine or on Food Network, she'd run to try it. So, she definitely fed my love for tuna. I guess, because of this, you can say that today's post is an ode to her. Today's tuna recipe packs a flavorful punch with ground cumin, while having a kicking bite with chopped jalapeños and cucumber. This quick tuna salad bite would be great as a snack or even as an appetizer. I definitely think my Mom would approve of this recipe!

Tuna & Cucumber Bites
adapted from: Comida y Familia Otoño 2009 by Kraft Foods

*makes: 4 servings*

"This bite has protein from the tuna and a crunchy cucumber base."

1 cucumber
5 oz canned chunk white albacore in water
1 small jalapeño, without any seeds, finely chopped
1/4 cup real mayonnaise
1/2 tsp ground cumin

1) Cut half the cucumber into 12 slices; set aside. Chop the remaining cucumber; mix with the remaining ingredients.
2) Put the tuna mix on the cucumber slices just before serving.


Creamy Fruit Dip

"We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools." - Martin Luther King Jr.

Oh how I look forward to my Guilty Pleasure Mondays, a.k.a. The Bachelor! It's funny to think that I used to hate these kinds of shows, and now, I'm hooked! Like for this season, Adrian and I both made our own teams of 3 each. Adrian's team consists of Corinne, Liz, and Vanessa. My team is made up of Danielle L., Danielle M., and Kristina. Sadly for Adrian, his team is actually down to two people after last week's episode, but my team is still going strong, and one of the ones on my team had a great starring moment during the Backstreet Boys part of tonight's episode :) :) I know, I know, no spoilers, and trust me, I'm trying super hard not to give too much away just in case some of you haven't seen tonight's episode yet. I mean, I'm still watching it as I'm writing this - speaking of, OMG, is Nick crying??!!

In preparing for tonight's episode, I decided I wanted a light dessert, something I could pair with all of the strawberries and blueberries I have in the fridge. I didn't want anything sticky or overly sweet, but I did know I wanted something fast, easy, and creamy, and something that Adrian would like as well, since this is his post-birthday week. Since he was at home today, I had him set out some cream cheese for it to get to room temperature, you know, something easy but enough for him to feel like he really took part in making this dip lol - it's one of my inside jokes with him. Once I got home, I mixed the cream cheese with the sour cream and the brown sugar in my stand mixer until everything was mixed well. I added a splash of vanilla and some milk, just enough for it to be creamy without being too liquidy, and oh my, it was delish! It reminded me of that cream cheese marshmallow fruit dip they sell at Publix, except sans the marshmallow. It was very lightly sweetened and really brought out the natural sweetness of the berries - a great way to end my Monday night. Now, let me sit back on the couch to enjoy the rest of this dip while watching the second half of The Bachelor. Good luck to all of the contestants!

Creamy Fruit Dip
adapted from: New Cook Book 14th Edition by Better Homes and Gardens

*makes: 2 cups*

8 oz cream cheese, softened
8 oz sour cream
1/8 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/8 cup packed light brown sugar
1 tsp "Crush" pure vanilla bean extract
2 tbsp whole Grade A milk

1) In a small mixing bowl beat cream cheese with an electric mixer on low speed until smooth.
2) Gradually add sour cream, beating until combined.
3) Add brown sugars and vanilla; beat just until combined.
4) Stir in enough milk to reach dipping consistency.
5) Cover and chill at least 1 hour before serving.
6) Serve with assorted fruit.

Spice Fruit Dip

8 oz cream cheese, softened
8 oz sour cream
1/8 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/8 cup packed light brown sugar
1 tsp "Crush" pure vanilla bean extract
2 tbsp whole Grade A milk
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Lower-Calorie Fruit Dip

8 oz reduced-fat cream cheese, softened
8 oz light sour cream
1/8 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/8 cup packed light brown sugar
1 tsp "Crush" pure vanilla bean extract
2 tbsp whole Grade A milk

Creamy Marshmallow Fruit Dip

8 oz cream cheese, softened
8 oz sour cream
7 oz marshmallow creme
1 tsp "Crush" pure vanilla bean extract
2 tbsp whole Grade A milk

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