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Friday, February 3, 2017

February ABC challenge: the browniest (salted) peanut butter chip cookies


I keep asking, "Why do we keep seeking a cookie that tastes like a brownie? Why not just make brownies?"  I still don't know.  Maybe it's a texture thing?  These chocolate chili cookies and chocolate crackle cookies were good, but no substitute for a brownie.  Anyway, here's another attempt.

I reduced the recipe to 1/4 and changed out the chocolate chips for peanut butter (EXTRA chips too), because yey peanut butter!  I sprinkled half of them with kosher salt to jump on the salted chocolate bandwagon (even though I'm sort of over the whole salted everything trend.  Enough already.)

Here's what I used (yield 6 cookies):

1/2 cup 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 1 ounce unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 1/4 cup dark or light brown granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon molasses
2 tablespoons 1½ teaspoons granulated sugar
2 1/2 large egg
1 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 1/8
teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 cup 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, lump-free (any kind)
2/3 cup 3½ tablespoons chocolate peanut butter chips (increased from 2½)
kosher salt, optional

Melt butter and unsweetened chocolate together over low heat or in the microwave until nearly melted. Off the heat, stir until it is.  Stir sugar and molasses into butter and chocolate mixture, then the egg and vanilla, stirring to combine.  Sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, and cocoa, and stir into the batter until completely incorporatedStir in the peanut butter chips, making sure they're evenly distributed. In order to maintain the shape while baking, refrigerate the batter until firm but not stiff (about 15 minutes for this small amount.)  

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Scoop batter into about 1½- to 2-tablespoon-sized mounds and space evenly on greased baking sheets, allowing room for them to spread a little. (For a salted chocolate cookie, sprinkle lightly with kosher salt.  These can also be done as a slice-and-bake.)  Bake for 11 to 12 minutes for a fudgy center; they will look underbaked.  Allow to cool a few minutes on the sheet, then transfer to a cooling rack.
Conclusion:   As promised, these are very brownie-like.  Very dense, with a rich, dark chocolate taste.  The sprinkling of salt was a nice touch.  They were better after being fully cooled, as I found them somewhat gummy when still warm.  The moistness, even after cooling, made them still a little gummy; I might even have preferred them baked to a drier state.  Very good, but due to the texture, true brownies are still the winner.

Recipe:  the browniest cookies via Smitten Kitchen

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Coffee and Banana Muffins with Coffee Cream Cheese Frosting

I discovered some time ago that coffee and banana is a great flavor combo, so I've been anxious to try this recipe for some time.  I finally got that chance when my mom had 3 overripe bananas sitting around while I was visiting.  I don't know why the recipe is so large---I cut it in half and it still would have made at least 12 (if not 18) regular-sized muffins.  I used a pan with 8 rectangular cups, which I think are bigger than regular muffin cups, and filled them nearly to the top.

I prefer ginger over cinnamon in banana bread, but used the cinnamon anyway because I wasn't sure how ginger would go with coffee.  (Probably fine, as I've been drinking gingerbread-spiced coffee all winter.)  Anyway, I don't think I could detect it (but maybe because it was old.)  I reduced the sugar from the original, but otherwise pretty much followed the halved recipe. 

Here's what I used:

1¾ cup flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 heaping teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
5/8 1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
3/8 cup vegetable oil
1½ cup mashed banana (3 bananas)
1/4 cup sour cream plain yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 heaping tablespoon instant coffee espresso, dissolved in 1 tablespoon of extremely hot water
scant cup walnuts, toasted and chopped, if desired

Coffee frosting
4 ounces cream cheese, very soft
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 heaping tablespoon instant coffee espresso, dissolved in 1 tablespoon of extremely hot water
1½ 1 cup powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350; grease cupcake pans.  Sift together flour, soda, cinnamon and salt and set aside. Beat together eggs and sugars on high speed for 3 minutes. Reduce speed and beat in oil, then bananas, yogurt, vanilla, and coffee, mixing well. Gently mix in dry ingredients until just mixed (then stir in nuts.)  Fill cups to 3/4 full and bake 17-19 minutes. Remove from oven and cool on cooling racks. 

Mix together frosting ingredients until smooth and creamy, 2 minutes. Frost cooled muffins or fill them with the cream cheese mixture.

I'm pretty sure I baked these longer than the recipe states, which would make sense since they were larger, but I can't remember the time.  I'm thinking 20-25 minutes.  I checked them with a cake tester.  My cream cheese wasn't quite warm enough and left little bits that I didn't get completely mixed in, but it wasn't noticeable while I was eating them.  Apparently "room temperature" isn't necessarily warm enough.  Curiously, I noticed the original recipe now calls for the reduced quantity of sugar in the frosting, same as I used.  Must have been a typo that I copied long ago into my recipe file.  (Note to self:  these might look nice with fork marks longitudinally down the frosting.)

Conclusion:  These were really good, moist and not overly sweet. In fact, if I made them without the frosting, I'd want the additional sugar that I left out of the batter.  The frosting was pretty strongly coffee flavored, and 3 bananas is a lot (although it might equal out to only 2 if the recipe were scaled to only 12 muffins, which is a normal quantity).  Yet when pressed, one taster didn't taste the coffee at all, and another thought they were pumpkin muffins with a maple frosting.  I have to admit, I could see it.  Part of that might have been because they had the texture of pumpkin muffins, moist and dense.  But even so, pumpkin and maple isn't bad at all.  I enjoyed these and would make them again.

Recipe:  Coffee-infused Banana Muffins via Just a Pinch.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

January ABC challenge: crustless spinach quiche

It's a new year, and a new source for the Avid Baker's Challenge recipes.  This year we've chosen The Smitten Kitchen.

This first challenge was easy, but really nice for a cold winter morning.  I find traditional quiche too rich with all the pie crust and eggs and cheese and fatty meats, so I usually make this one using tofu and vegetables.  I knew I'd need to modify this recipe to my tastes.  The first thing was to oust the crust, and then substitute milk for the half-and-half.  (I used whole milk, but I suspect I could have gotten away with 2%.)  I'm not a fan of cheesy food, so although I didn't specifically reduce the amount of cheese, I measured the cheddar very lightly in the cup and didn't weigh it, so it was probably less than the recipe intended.  I substituted out some of the black pepper for white, and though I didn't think to add the red pepper, with my first bite I immediately wished I had, so I've listed it in the recipe.  (As an alternative to the heat, I think some herbs would be a nice addition, so I've listed that as well.  It all depends on whether you want a robust flavor or a delicate one.)  The switch to pecorino Romano was simply because I prefer the taste over Parmesan and always have it on hand.

I cut the recipe in half, which fit nicely in 3, 4.5-inch ceramic tart pans.  (I used a large, 1/2-cup spoon to ladle the filling in.  Each tart took one healthy spoonful.)  I also changed up the directions slightly; it seems like it would be easier to emulsify the eggs into the cream cheese before adding the milk.  I added the salt and spices earlier to give the salt a chance to dissolve and fully incorporate (so one didn't get bursts of salt grains) and for the spices to give up their essence.  Although it's probably not necessary to use a bain-marie, since I wasn't using a crust and it happened to be a convenient thing to do at the moment, I figured it wouldn't hurt to have the quiches protected by a water bath.

Here's what I used:

3 ounces (3/8 cup) cream cheese, very soft
3 large eggs
1/3 cup half-and-half whole milk
1/2 1/4 teaspoon kosher sea salt
1/2 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 

1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper or chipotle pepper OR 1/4 teaspoon herbes de Provence (optional)
1 10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry (see note)
1/2 cup grated medium cheddar

1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan pecorino Romano
3-5 green onions (according to taste), thinly sliced

Preheat the oven to 425F.  Whisk cream cheese in a medium-sized bowl until smooth and fluffy.  Whisk in the eggs, one by one, blending well between each, then add the salt and peppers/herbe.  Continue whisking while adding the milk.  Fold in the remaining ingredients until they are evenly distributed.  Pour into greased tart pans and place them in a small, shallow baking pan.  Add boiling water to the pan to about half way up the sides.  Bake about 20 minutes, checking after 15.  The quiche should look firm but still moist.  Serve warm.

Note:  to fully dry out thawed spinach, I squeeze out as much as I can with my hands, then put it in a cotton kitchen towel and wring out the remaining water.

I had green onions that had been around a while and consequently I'd removed quite a lot of the outer sheaths.  They'd been thin ones to start with, so I relied on weight to get the right quantity.  I really like the freshness green onions bring, so I was going for 1.5 ounces---half the larger quantity in the original recipe.  But getting to that weight took a lot more than 4.  I used all but two of the fresh bunch I'd just bought, plus all the remnants from the old bunch, and still wasn't quite at 1.5 ounces.  As it turned out, I thought the quiche was too oniony; it even left an onion taste in my mouth for a long while.  I recommend being your own judge on the quantity for that.

I tested some nutmeg in one of the quiches (because I think nutmeg belongs in custards), but couldn't really detect what I'd added.  Just as well, as I don't think it would have mixed well with the cheddar.  I normally buy mild cheddar in 2-pound blocks, but last time I accidentally bought medium cheddar.  I found the cheddar flavor a little strong, but by no means excessive.  I think the strong cheese flavor is what demanded some chile heat, but if using mild cheddar either the red pepper or the herbes would be fine.  When I saw the recipe called for kosher salt, I wondered if it were measured for large-grain salt.  (Kosher comes small grain as well.)  Since I wanted the salt fully incorporated, I used small-grained sea salt, but worried the measurement might be off.  It was---the quiche was a little too salty. I've adjusted the recipe above to reduce the salt content.  Lastly, I messed up on the timing and overcooked the quiche slightly.  I initially set the timer for 13 minutes.  They weren't nearly done, so I set it again for 10 minutes... or so I thought.  When it didn't go off after what seemed like 10 minutes, I got up to check and the timer read 9:49.  <insert confused emoticon here>  I guess I accidentally set it for 10 hours.  Oops.  So in total it seems the quiche baked for 24 minutes.  They could have been moister, but otherwise were fine.  I've adjusted the timing in the recipe to what I think would be acceptable.

Conclusion:  Very good.  Very safe.  Nothing that's going to jar you out of your chair.  I just find quiche a little too fussy for what amounts to scrambled eggs with veggies and cheese, and since you can eat only a small amount, you have to find something else to round out the breakfast anyway.  It's nice to have to gussy up special occasions, though.

Recipe:  Spinach sheet-pan quiche via Smitten Kitchen

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Beef and kidney pies

I've been wanting to make these pies for some time, but it's hard to find enough grass-fed stew beef at once, and nearly impossible to get hold of kidneys.  So I've been stocking up on the beef (some of it even had freezer burn), and when I got hold of a kidney, it was time.

I wasn't sure what recipe to follow, and I was feeling lazy, so I sort of just threw things together from what I had (which included some fajita meat along with the chuck.  Probably a waste of good fajita meat.)  The onions had been in the freezer for some time, the result of a recipe for pumpkin soup that never got made (and which I now can't find). I can't remember how many onions it took, probably about 4, and they were caramelized for close to an hour.  They were VERY sweet.  I bought the Murphy's to make this, but found an open bottle of Guinness in the back of the refrigerator.  (Blasphemy!)

Watch the salt.  The broth will cook down and become concentrated, so you don't want to add too much salt to start.  I made a similar pie a few years ago (beef and ale), and I don't think they were quite salty enough. You also want to think about how salty your crust will be.  I prefer a salty filling and mild crust.

I thought a rich dough would go well, since the filling is fairly lean, so I looked for a cream cheese pastry.  The ratios vary widely -- I didn't want one that was TOO fatty, so I compared them and chose one that was sort of in the middle.  I used the quantities for a 2-crust, 9-inch pie.

Here's what I used:

2.5 lbs stew beef, grass fed, cubed
1 beef kidney, cut into large cubes
2 portobello mushrooms, cubed
8 ounces regular mushrooms, cubed
about 1 cup deeply caramelized onion
3-4 tablespoons flour
1 can Murphy's stout + less than half bottle Guinness
1/2 box beef stock
few dashes Worcestershire sauce
few sprigs marjoram
1 bay leaf
black pepper

2 cups (dip and sweep method) all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
4½ ounces cream cheese, cut into 4 pieces, cold
12 8 tablespoons salted butter, cut into 3/4-inch cubes and frozen
4 tablespoons lard, cut into 3/4-inch cubes and frozen
2 tablespoons ice water
1 tablespoon cider vinegar

Brown the beef in batches in olive oil over high heat; remove from pan, cut into bite-sized pieces, and set aside.  Cook kidney pieces until browned; set aside.  In the stew pan, cook mushrooms in olive oil until soft.  Add onions. then sprinkle with flour and stir to coat.  Add the reserved meat and remaining stew ingredients and bring to a boil.  (Use some stout or broth to deglaze kidney pan and add liquid to stew.)  Simmer over low heat, uncovered, until broth has reduced and stew is thick and barely runny, about 2 hours.  (This is really to your desired firmness.)  Cool.

Meanwhile, in a food processor mix flour and baking powder.  Add cream cheese and process until the cheese is the size of large peas.  Add butter and lard, and process until none of the butter is larger than a small pea.  Add water and cider and process to blend.  It will not stick together.  Pour into a plastic bag and knead until it comes together.  Form into two discs, one much larger than the other, wrap tightly and refrigerate at least one hour.

Roll out the smaller disc of dough 1/8 inch thick or thinner.  Cut out 6 pie lids, generously sized to fit the tops of your tins.  Set aside.  Add scraps to larger disc and divide into 6 pieces.  Roll each piece into a ball, then roll out to a circle at least 8 inches across.  (The diameter needs to be equal to the length of two heights of your tin, plus the width of the bottom, plus at least 1 inch [to create a 1/2-inch overlap with the lid].) Fit the rounds into large muffin tins, clipping out the excess and sealing seams by dampening the dough and pressing edges together.  Leave plenty of dough above tin.  Fill cases with meat stew just to the tops of the cases; do not over fill.  Place a lid on each, dampen edges, then fold the excess dough from the sides inwards to cover edges of lid.  Skewer a hole in the center of each pie to let steam escape.  Bake at 400F for 30-35 minutes, until golden brown on top.  Allow to cool for about 10 minutes in pan, then carefully remove each pie and serve, or cool fully on a wire rack.

Prior to filling the cases, I thought the stew might be too thick, so I loosened it with more broth. Then I added salt slowly, tasting it after each addition, until I was satisfied.  I felt it needed to be slightly saltier than a soup stew because it was being paired with the pastry. 

I had a lot of trouble finishing the pies so that they looked nice.  The key, I think, is to have plenty of overlap between the tops and the sides.  The more filling you want in your pies, the more overlap you'll need.  It's certainly easier to overlap the sides over the top, rather than the other way around (although the second way looks nicer.) 

Conclusion:  These turned out really well.  They were a bit too salty, but only slightly.  I also would have liked a little more gravy, which could have been accomplished by adding more broth (or cooking it down less.)  The pies were very rich, between the kidney and the pastry.  These are supposed to be an individual meal, but halfway through I felt I'd had enough and needed something lighter to balance the meal.  Next time I would try the pastry recipe with the least amount of fat.

A good steak and kidney pie via BBC Good Food
Proper beef, ale, & mushroom pie via BBC Good Food
Gary's beef, onion, and & Guinness pies via MasterChef Australia
Flaky Cream Cheese Pie Crust via Epicurious 

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Blue cheese and fig preserve biscuits

I made these for a holiday party at work. Pretty straight forward recipe, although I made two small changes. I thought walnuts would be a good addition and so added them as a topping, but because the biscuits are so small, the nuts had to be chopped smaller than desirable. (Unless you put one large piece on, which might look better.) I also sprinkled some kosher salt onto the jam after baking to elevate the sweet/salty thing going on. I added nutmeg, but I'm not sure it was detectable.

My changes are shown in italics. Here's what I used:

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature
4 ounces blue cheese, crumbled  (I used Trader Joe's crumbled blue cheese.)
ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
fig preserves (about 3 tablespoons)
chopped walnuts (optional)
kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place the flour, baking powder, butter, blue cheese, black pepper, and nutmeg in the bowl of a food processor. Process until the dough just comes together and starts to form a ball.  Dump the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead a few times to pull the dough together. Roll out to 1/8 inch thick with a floured rolling pin. Cut rounds out of the dough with a floured 1-inch cutter and transfer the rounds to an ungreased baking sheet.  Using the back of a round half-teaspoon measure or your knuckle, make an indention in the top of each dough round. Spoon about 1/4 teaspoon of fig preserves into each indention, using your finger to push the preserves as best as possible into the indentations.  Sprinkle walnuts on top of preserves, if using.  Bake the savories for 10 – 14 minutes (mine were perfect at 12), until the pastry is just turning light golden around the edges.  Sprinkle preserves with kosher salt.  Let cool on the baking sheet until firm enough to handle, then remove to a wire rack to cool.

These were very easy to make, but were a bit time consuming.  I hesitated in using the full 1/4 teaspoon of jam because I was afraid it would melt and run, but it didn't melt much at all.  (It also never got "bubbly" as the original recipe suggests.)  Furthermore, the cheese is a little bitter, so the sweetness is necessary.  Don't skim on the jam.  The added salt on top also helped cut the bitterness and was a good addition. 

Conclusion:  These were a hit, although I found them a bit dry (the kind that sucks the moisture out of your mouth) and I detected the cheese only as bitterness and not really as "cheese".  Perhaps a different brand or style would produce a different result. Apricot jam would also be a good choice.

Recipe:   Blue Cheese and Fig Savouries via The Runaway Spoon

Saturday, December 3, 2016

December ABC challenge: stollen

I spent several years in Germany as a kid. While there, my mom picked up the practice of making stollen at Christmas, so I am very familiar with it and regularly make it myself. I have my own preferred, well-tweaked recipe, but gave this one a try.  I have a lot of questions about it.

The preparation seemed overly fussy, which has been a common issue with this recipe source. I'm not sure all the steps are necessary. I normally bloom my yeast but don't bother with a sponge. One or the other seems sufficient. But after that, I don't understand why there are all the resting sessions. I also question the benefits of using the "sweetener". Zesting citrus peel releases the oil, which is where the flavor is. The longer all that surface area is exposed, the more the essence will dissipate. Mixing the zest with a little sugar before adding it to the recipe will prevent clumps of it in the dough, but I think the zest should be used immediately in order to get maximum flavor. As for shaping the dough, they lost me completely.  The instructions weren't clear, but anyway I don't know why they like such a thin layer of bread on the bottom.  I don't think it looks good, and doesn't seem like a very stable slice.

Here's what I used:

180 g mixture of raisins, currants, and cranberries, measured after plumping soaked and dried
1/2 cup rum 
250 g all-purpose flour
135 g lukewarm milk
7 g instant yeast 
2 heaping tablespoons high-gluten flour
5.5 7 g salt
1 egg yolk
40 g (salted) butter, softened
15 g sweetener (orange and lemon zest sugar)
4 teaspoons sugar
zest of 1/3 of a lemon
zest of 1/3 of an orange
150 g almond paste combined with 1/2 a small egg or one egg yolk (recipe below)
melted butter for brushing
icing sugar for dusting

Almond paste
75 g blanched almonds flour
75 g fine sugar
zest of 1/3 of an unwaxed lemon
about 17 g/ml water
1 egg yolk

A few days before making the bread, soak the dried fruits in the rum until they have plumped. Drain and dry on paper towels before using. Also make the almond paste by mixing the first three ingredients to a smooth paste, adding enough water to make it smooth and firm. Keep tightly sealed and refrigerated.

When you are ready to make the bread, bring the almond paste to room temperature, then mix with the egg yolk.  The paste should be smooth and supple.

In a bowl, combine half the AP flour, all the yeast, the egg yolk, and lukewarm milk. Mix well with a dough whisk, cover, and let stand for 30 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients (except for the dried fruit) and knead for 5 to 7 minutes with a standing mixer or about 10 to 14 minutes by hand. The dough should be smooth, supple and satiny, slightly sticky, and with good gluten development.  Add the prepared fruits and work them through the dough until evenly distributed. (If the fruit mixture is a bit wet, sprinkle on some flour before adding it to the dough.)  Form the dough into a ball, place in a greased bowl, cover, and let it rest for 20 minutes in a warm, draft-free environment.

Shape the dough into a loaf (similar to Italian bread), cover, and let it rest again for 20 minutes in a warm, draft-free environment. Flatten the loaf with a rolling pin into an oval shape, leaving the edges a little thicker. Make a flattened log out of the almond paste, almost the length of the bread, and place it in the middle. Fold the dough in half over the paste, leaving the top half to fall just short of evenly meeting the bottom half.  Place on a lightly greased baking sheet, cover, and allow to rise.  This should take at least 40 minutes to 1 hour. 

Preheat the oven to 375ºF.  Make sure the bread is fully risen before it goes into the oven. When you think it has risen enough, gently poke the dough. If the dent remains and you feel no resistance at all, the bread is ready to bake.   If the indentation disappears, the dough needs more time.  (For a light, fluffy loaf, let the dough rise as long as possible.)  Bake the stollen for 35 minutes until golden brown, covering lightly with foil if it's browning too quickly. While still warm but not hot, rub the loaf with butter, then sprinkle with powdered sugar.  If desired, rub on a second coat of butter, then sprinkle a second time with powdered sugar.  Allow loaf to cool completely before slicing.

While I've enjoyed the change up in recipes from American standards with this recipe source, I'm happy to see its backside.  It's been a frustrating journey.  On this challenge, I had a hard time getting this dough to come together as it should.  For example, why are they using AP flour if they want good gluten development?  I had no choice but to finally add some high gluten flour after kneading the dough in a mixer for about 20 minutes with no success.  I also think the author misrepresented the amount of fruit. There was far too much in the dough---it was essentially raisin bread---and I wasn't the only one in our challenge group who got this result. I measured 180 grams of fruit, and then soaked them, but I think you're supposed to soak the fruit, and THEN measure out 180 grams. The additional wet fruit made incorporating it very difficult: the dough tore, the fruit fell out, and I had to sprinkle flour over all the wet spots to try to get things to hold together. I also did not get a huge rise (to give "light and fluffy" bread). It's obvious from the photos on their web page that they had less fruit in their bread. I've adjusted the directions accordingly.

Conclusion:  In the end, the bread was good.  It wasn't light and fluffy, but that's fine with me; I don't think stollen should be.  I couldn't taste the citrus over all the fruit, and I would have liked to have had some spices in there.  I also think there was a little too much almond paste to bread, but I'd reduce that only a small amount.  (Perhaps with less fruit the balance would be okay.)  My own recipe has a lot more butter in it, and that creates a crust with an almost deep-fried crunchiness to it, which I missed on this one.  Nonetheless, it got rave reviews from the family.

Recipes:  Our Perfect Stollen and almond paste via Weekend Bakery.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Strawberry Basil Bundt cake

Let me say up front that this is a boxed cake.  I saw it in World Market and thought it sounded interesting, and it didn't have any weird ingredients.  (Well there's basil, but I digress...)

I was making it on a weekday evening to take to a work party the next day.  When I opened the box, there were 3 unmarked, foil-looking plastic bags.  I searched them all over looking for some identification --- there was supposed to be a batter mix, a swirl mix, and a glaze mix --- but I couldn't find anything.  I figured the largest bag must be the batter mix and the middle-sized bag, the swirl mix.  The instructions were to mix up the cake batter and reserve 1 cup.  To that reserved cup you were to add the swirl mix.  The swirl mix, from what I could tell, was just strawberry-flavored powdered sugar.  Didn't seem TOO odd --- the cake mix wasn't terribly sweet, so a swirl of a more potent flavor seemed reasonable, but was a little disappointing.

I made the cake per the directions, swirling the two batters together, and it baked up fine.  I left it to cool overnight, with the intention of glazing it during lunch the next day. 

So the next day, I start to prepare the glaze.  I pick up the packet and there I see, in fine type, "Swirl mix".  Well now, isn't that interesting.  No wonder the mix I'd used had looked like powdered sugar.  It WAS!  But a little (okay a lot) of extra sugar in the cake wouldn't hurt anything.  But how would the swirl mix be as glaze?  I was about to find out.

I opened up the packet and it was a dark pink powder, sort of like dry Jello.  It tasted mildly sweet, like strawberry, and a bit tangy.  I added about a cup of powdered sugar and a tablespoon or two of water until it was a glazing consistency, and forged ahead.

Conclusion:  In the end, it all worked out fine.  The cake was quite sweet, and the glaze came out tasting a bit like candy and had these strawberry "bits" in it.  A little went a long way --- it somewhat overwhelmed the rather delicate cake flavors --- but everyone thought it was great.  It's a decent cake mix, and those two flavors do actually compliment each other nicely.  But now I feel compelled to bake it again to see what it's like when done right!  Only this time, I would cut the oil (1/2 cup) in half, as it was a bit rich.  In the end, a fun experiment.

Recipe:  Strawberry and Basil Bundt Cake Mix by Sof'ella