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Sour Cream Pound Cake

Reviewed: Aug. 7, 2011
This only just misses the coveted 5 star rating by a whisker. It's a solid starting point. However, it loses a half star because 1) it benefits greatly from the addition of flavoring and 2) the instructions are incorrect. No way around it. The temperature is too high, and the timing too long. Had I baked it at the indicated 375 degrees and left it in for 50 minutes (subtract 10 minutes to compensate for the larger pan I used - read on) the result would have been a dark brown outside, and and a dry inside. It should be baked at 350 degrees. Because I don't have the loaf pan size specified, I used a 9"X5" pan, and 45 minutes resulted in a perfectly baked cake. The texture is spot-on for a pound cake, dense, with a moist, velvety crumb. Excellent keeper, presumably because of the sour cream, which imparts a lovely flavor. I used 1 tsp vanilla, and 1/2 tsp each of orange and lemon extracts. This can be tailored to your tastes. 1-2 tsp vanilla will give you a flavorful plain cake, but you can use any combination you'd like, such as almond, coconut, anise, lemon, rum, maple, orange, or a little of all of them. If you like citrus, fold in 1-2 tsp finely grated zest. Infinitely variable. It's fast and easy to throw together in no time at all. Freezes well, but do not store for more than 4 months tops, double-wrapped in plastic for optimum quality. Looks like a Sarah Lee or Entenmann's cake, with a far superior flavor to either. With these minor modifications, stellar!
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29 users found this review helpful
Photo by Baricat

Chocolate Frosting III

Reviewed: Jul. 29, 2011
Good flavor, but definitely needed work. I wanted it to look shiny, so I added about 3 Tb corn syrup. Thin, as has been pointed out before, so I placed it in a bigger bowl with ice and water, and stirred gently until it firmed up. Do not use a mixer over the ice and water, unless you want the color to lighten up considerably. I was going for a dark, fudgy look, so I just stirred it with a rubber scraper. It will thicken up on the bottom, where the bowl makes contact with the icy water. Not to worry. Just take it out of the ice water and stir until the thicker part has blended in. Then return to the icy water and continue stirring until it reaches your desired consistency. I was using it for my 9-layer vertical torte, so I increased it by 50%. Held its shape very well, and with the addition of the corn syrup, it sported a lovely, appealing sheen.
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4 users found this review helpful

Aunt Johnnie's Pound Cake

Reviewed: Jun. 29, 2011
Hard to imagine how anyone could take exception to this excellent recipe. Super moist, flavorful, with a fine, tender, velvety crumb. It's nice and dense, exactly as a proper pound cake should be. What's not to like?? It's a recipe that can tolerate all manner of changes in flavoring, and turn out consistently like champ. I've made it plain, subbing vanilla for the almond (we don't like in-your-face almond flavor in this house,) and have dressed it up, as well. To do this, I use 1/2 tsp each of coconut, rum, maple, almond, lemon, orange extracts and 1 tsp vanilla. I know this is about double the extract called for in the recipe, but it still works perfectly. I have also used buttermilk in place of the milk in order to use it up, but when I do that, I add 1/4 tsp soda to neutralize the acidity you get from buttermilk. It's perfect to layer with strawberries and cream, or just to enjoy with a cup of tea. I have used it to make a trifle - just wonderful. Any way you choose to make it or serve it, this recipe will do you proud each and every time. Watch the timing scrupulously, and check with a toothpick or skewer in the center to determine doneness. Overbaking will make this dry. A little watchfulness will be rewarded.
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9 users found this review helpful

Cowboy Cookies III

Reviewed: Jun. 24, 2011
Made as written, with only two minor changes. I subbed margarine for half the butter, as I knew this would help with the flattening of which many have complained. Also, part margarine will contribute a chewier texture, and this is exactly what I got. The second change was to double the chocolate chips, ensuring abundant distribution throughout. Superb recipe for a hearty, satisfying cookie. Rolled oats, as opposed to quick oats, ensure a nice, chewy texture, as well. With a couple of these in one hand, an ice cold glass of milk in the other, life is absolutely wonderful!
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5 users found this review helpful

Ham and Potatoes Au Gratin

Reviewed: Jun. 2, 2011
Homey and hearty. Four and a half stars would be more accurate. I felt more onion should be used, about 1/4 cup (4 Tb) to enhance the cheese flavor. It should be sauteed until lightly browned in the butter, as raw, crunchy onion lends, to our taste, an unwelcome distraction in flavor as well as texture. Parboiling the potatoes (about 6 minutes for 1.5" cubes) before folding them into the sauce will ensure that everything is adequately cooked within the stated time. In order to amp up the flavor, I used half chicken stock in place of 3/4 cup milk. The sauce tightened up considerably while waiting for the oven to preheat, so another 3 Tb of milk was needed, stirring to incorporate evenly. Thinning it this way allowed for the perfect texture in the finished casserole. All in all, a very good, solid recipe that with a few minor tweaks can become a memorable meal. It's comfort food that will bring 'em running to the table.
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36 users found this review helpful

Crusty French Bread

Reviewed: Apr. 22, 2011
Fabulous recipe. Fine, moist crumb, with a shiny, thin crust. I spritzed the loaf periodically during baking with water to ensure crispiness. It was crisp for a short time, but then became chewy, which was OK. It's delicious both ways. Perfect baguette, none better.
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4 users found this review helpful
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Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies from Heaven

Reviewed: Apr. 15, 2011
Tender, sable texture, aided along with the addition of cornstarch. As a result, these are more delicate than classic peanut butter cookies, so know ahead of time that they break and crumble easily. This accounts for the 4 star rating. Since I firmly believe that you can't have too much of a good thing, I added Reese's Pieces and chopped up Snickers to the chocolate chips. There was just enough cookie to tie everything together. The caramel in the Snickers partially melted, then added a lot of chewiness when cool. No way can you stop at one. Don't forget to flatten significantly before they go into the oven, because with this dough, what you see is what you get, i.e. no spreading whatsoever. These freeze very successfully, and, unfortunately, they were even wonderful directly from the freezer. Not good for weight management...
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8 users found this review helpful
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Lemon Zucchini Bread

Reviewed: Mar. 31, 2011
A different take on your usual zucchini bread has several things going for it. First, the flavor is superb. The lemon is subtle, but you know it's there. Secondly, it's delightfully moist. I used 1/2 cup sugar and 1/4 cup Splenda, as I'm always trying to cut down on sugar content. Used only 1/2 tsp cinnamon and 1/2 tsp vanilla. I found that mine needed about 55 minutes to be completely baked through. It's true that this doesn't rise a whole lot during the baking process. The picture is an accurate portrayal of what you can expect. Not a huge loaf, but as the saying goes, "Good things come in small packages." Unusual and fabulous!
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7 users found this review helpful

Bourbon Street New York Strip Steak

Reviewed: Mar. 18, 2011
I did not care for this recipe. The bourbon flavor was overpowering, and it was far too sweet. I ended up reducing the leftover marinade somewhat to burn off the alcohol, then adding a cup of beef broth into which I mixed 1-1/2 Tb cornstarch. Added the juice of half a lemon to try to cut the sweetness. It was a marginally better, but was still too sweet.
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8 users found this review helpful

Award Winning Soft Chocolate Chip Cookies

Reviewed: Feb. 16, 2011
Reading through the reviews, I noticed two distinct schools of thought on this recipe. Some praise the cookies as wonderfully moist and soft. Others didn't care for the texture and ersatz flavor of the pudding mix. I'm with the second camp. I'd surmise that it depends on what kind of chocolate chip cookies you came to know as a kid. Some people's idea of a great soft chocolate chip cookie was Soft Batch. Others, like me, grew up on Mom's fresh, home-baked treats. For my palate, I found the taste of vanillin (artificial vanilla) just overwhelming. And yes, they were soft. Just like Soft Batch is soft. You could put them in a time capsule and some shmoe is going to dig it up 5000 years from now, and those suckers are STILL going to be soft!! I'd rather have a chewy, gooey, full-of-melty-chocolate-chips, home-baked bit of goodness. These aren't horrible by any means, but no one here found them to be worth the calories. Whereas these are not my particular idea of a good time, if that taste/texture happens to float your boat, go for it. You just might love them.
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7 users found this review helpful

Soft Chocolate Chip Cookies II

Reviewed: Feb. 6, 2011
Let me start this off by saying that I'm aware that the perfect chocolate chip cookie is highly subjective. It's like asking what the best book ever written is. You'd ask 100 people and chances are, you'd get dozens of different answers. That said, this is as close to perfection as it comes, IMHO. Definitely soft, not crispy. Not overly chewy, either, so know that in advance if that's your preference. This recipe bakes up tender and moist, with just the right ratio of fat/sugar/flour/chips to make for a very satisfying experience. Even 3 days later, they were still soft and tasty. Not a whole lot more you could ask of a recipe than that. Plenty of chips, too, for our taste, but you might want even more if you're a chocolate fiend. It's also good to mix milk chocolate and semisweet. Use whatever you have on hand, or whatever you like. But whatever you do, make them. Your friends will be in awe of your undeniable baking prowess (but beware, you'll be expected to bring them to every gathering thereafter!) Edited 1/16/11 to add: Replaced all the white sugar with Splenda, and you could not tell any difference, either in taste or in texture. Appearance was slightly altered, in that they did not spread as much as when all sugar was used. I did use the full amount of brown sugar, so they weren't sugar-free. For a reduced sugar goodie, however, they were awesome!
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6 users found this review helpful

Spaghetti Pie II

Reviewed: Jan. 28, 2011
Excellent flavor! As a second-generation Italian, I believe fervently in the virtues of ricotta in Italian dishes. After all, cottage cheese doesn't exist in Italy. Now, having made this with ricotta, as well as cottage cheese, I can assert that the cottage cheese makes for a better dish! We like the slight tang that's absent in ricotta, which is quite bland. After all, spaghetti pie isn't a genuine Italian dish - it's an American invention, so it's best not to apply preconceived notions to it. The one objection I had to overcome is that the cottage cheese isn't aesthetically pleasing. In the short baking time given, it can't melt enough to get rid of the curds. You know right away that cottage cheese was used when you cut it. For some, that might be off-putting. But that little problem can be overcome with one additional, simple step. Process the cottage cheese in the food processor for a minute before adding it to the recipe. This way, you'll get that intriguing, tasty result, and your plate won't be covered in unsightly curds. Additionally, I've made this as a meatless meal, as well, using only a chunky, homemade tomato sauce, and layered it with mushrooms and spinach. I used homemade spinach pasta for that one. Great presentation! Be sure to cook your spaghetti in salted water (or add some salt when you mix it with the eggs/butter/Parmesan) to avoid blandness. Fantastic any way you choose to serve it up. But give the pureed cottage cheese a try - you won't regret it!
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35 users found this review helpful
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Uncle White's Bread Machine Rolls

Reviewed: Jan. 21, 2011
Fabulous, silken dough, a dream to work with. The rolls are good. However, there's an elusive something missing from the flavor. After a bit of analysis, I believe that they're lacking that ever-so-slight sweetness the palate expects to taste in a dinner roll. Presumably, this is because the acidic contribution of the buttermilk serves to counteract and cancel out the sweetness of the sugar addition. It's quite possible that this could be improved by doubling the sugar - don't know. It falls short of the 5 star rating because Colleen's Potato Crescent Rolls on this site produces the quintessential dinner roll, the touchstone against which all others are judged for me. If you make the two recipes side-by-side, you will understand there is absolutely no comparison. That said, this is a respectable alternative. Note: I also baked as a loaf, and the consensus is that it's more successful when baked in this manner. The lack of sweetness, which makes the flavor border on blandness in a roll, translates better into bread. The ideal backdrop for whatever meat and fixings you choose to place between the slices, its lovely, moist texture contributes to a memorable sammie. Sturdy enough to stand up to slicing, without crumbling. In fact, when I ate my sandwich, this bread was so moist that not a single crumb fell on the plate! Great for morning toast, as well. Baked in a 9"X5" loaf, I get 14 full slices and 2 heels. I always keep slices in the freezer. As bread 5 star, as rolls 4.
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19 users found this review helpful
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Holiday Biscotti

Reviewed: Jan. 18, 2011
Absolutely perfect in every way possible. Flavor is fantastic. I zested two large oranges for maximum fresh flavor (2 Tb is a LOT of zest!) I didn't have any dried cranberries, so I subbed chopped raisins, which I soaked in 2 Tb of rum for 20 minutes - spectacular!! I upped the oven temperature to 375 for the final, drying bake of the cut biscotti. Baked for 7 minutes per side, and they came out with a lovely, golden color and the perfect crunch - not hard, but completely crisped through-and-through. Finished with some melted white chocolate, and they could not have been prettier. In the future, I intend to try them with toasted, chopped pecans instead of pistachios, which I don't normally keep around. I had about 2/3 cup coincidentally, left over from another recipe, that I found this week when I was cleaning out my cupboard, and looked for a recipe to use them - this one popped up, and I'm ecstatic it did. They're way too good to make only during the holidays! A+
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3 users found this review helpful

Chicken and Red Wine Sauce

Reviewed: Jan. 18, 2011
This did not go over well at all. The combination of overpowering sweetness and garlic were less than appealing. The wine needed reduction, having only been cooked covered for 20 minutes. Once reduced, the sweetness was cloying. I tried adding some reduced chicken stock, but sadly, that didn't salvage the dish. Ended up rescuing the chicken breasts, scraping all the sauce off and applying some tomato sauce and cheese. They were barely edible, as the sweet, winey flavor had permeated them completely.
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6 users found this review helpful
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Sophie's Zucchini Bread

Reviewed: Jan. 16, 2011
Full of flavor, super moist. Be sure to use 8"X4" pans. The recipe doesn't specify size of loaf pans, and after scraping the batter into 9X5s, it just looked too shallow, so I scraped it into a smaller one. Had I not done this and gone ahead with the 9"X5", it would have resulted in a loaf that was 1" at its thickest part. It doesn't rise a whole lot, so be prepared for that. But the texture is excellent. No need to squeeze any liquid out of the zucchini if you are using young, small items, no more than 6" in length. If using very mature stuff (like baseball-bat size!) then peel (because the peel on those can be tough) and squeeze a little of the excess moisture out of the grated product before incorporating it. I made it exactly as written, using young zucchini, and there's not a thing I would change. Absolutely perfect, as is.
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20 users found this review helpful
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Banana-Zucchini Bread

Reviewed: Jan. 13, 2011
Five stars for taste, but 4 for directions. I baked mine 65 minutes, and there was still a raw spot in the upper middle. I maintain accurately calibrated temperature, so the oven's not at fault here. No way is the baking time 50 minutes. The banana flavor is quite subtle, which I believe is the point. If you're looking for something with a more assertive banana taste, you'd be better served choosing an actual banana bread recipe. This is more of a spicy zucchini bread with just a hint of banana. It's this taste complexity that makes this recipe successful. I'd make this again, but I'll make a note to add at least 20 minutes more to the time specified in the recipe the next time. Most of it was baked through, and where that's the case, it tastes phenomenal and is delightfully moist.
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14 users found this review helpful
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Fresh Tomato Basil Sauce

Reviewed: Jan. 13, 2011
A lovely celebration of the flavor of ripe, fresh tomatoes, provided you make a couple of small changes. One word was most likely omitted in the ingredients: Tomatoes should also be PEELED. If not, the peels separate and just become tough little indigestible bits. Before starting, simply blanch the tomatoes in boiling water for 30 seconds, then shock in ice water. They'll slip out of their skins in a heartbeat this way. Then, seed and dice. This step represents a big sensory improvement. Alternatively, you can just quarter the unpeeled, unseeded tomatoes, cook as normal, then pass the whole thing through a food mill. This results in a completely smooth sauce. The food mill removes all the skins and seeds. If you want it chunky, however, you'll have to use the first procedure. Another exception I took to the recipe was that in order to retain as much of that burstingly, achingly fresh flavor that exclaims "summer,", only cook for 20-30 minutes at the barest simmer. Cooking for 2 hours will result in a major loss of the fresh taste and the bright red color. See accompanying picture for a the color and texture of what this looks like when quick-cooked. A feast for the eyes, as well as the palate. As basil loses much of its fresh flavor, color, and texture when cooked, be sure to sprinkle each serving with more right before serving. Those minor changes will result in a superior product.
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131 users found this review helpful
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Jewish Apple Cake from Bubba's Recipe Box

Reviewed: Jan. 9, 2011
Absolutely phenomenal recipe! I just got a new fridge yesterday, and in unloading and reloading, I came upon a bag of cranberries that really needed to be used - NOW. So I first made cranberry sauce out of them, cooled it, and used it in this cake, in place of half the apples. I scraped 1/3 of the batter in the pan, topped with the cranberry sauce, put in another 1/3 of the batter, topped with the halved apple mixture, scraped in the remaining batter. The flavor is sensational, the texture super moist. Aside from the cranberries standing in for half the apples, I cut the flour back to 2-3/4 cup. I baked it for only 85 minutes. I checked on it at about 45 minutes, and it appeared to be browning early. So I placed a piece of foil on top for the remainder of the baking time. It came out with a nice, crunchy crust on top. I glazed it with a lovely caramel rum glaze: 3 Tb butter, 2 Tb brown sugar, 2 Tb white sugar, 1/4 tsp vanilla, 1 tsp dark rum, 2 Tb whipping cream, combined in a small sauce pan over medium-low heat, until it comes to a simmer. Continue to simmer for 3 minutes. Brush over the warm cake, right after you remove it from the pan. It's not a lot of glaze, but it's quite flavorful, just enough to point up the cake's ingredients to perfection and to impart a lovely sheen. BTW, I will try making it with only apples the next time. Yes, the cranberries and glaze were a little difference, but the cake flavor and texture remained unchanged, and gotta say, they're stellar.
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21 users found this review helpful

Cranberry Sauce

Reviewed: Jan. 9, 2011
Spectacular celebration of the clean, tart flavor of cranberries. As noted, making it at least 24 hours in advance gives the orange flavor proper time to mellow and meld into the cranberries. The thickness is easily tailored to your tastes. Allow it to cook 3-5 minutes more for a thicker preparation. We did not find it to be overly sweet. A+ for the simple preparation, and gloriously fresh, uncomplicated flavor.
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23 users found this review helpful

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