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Hey Kids!  Yea, I know it’s been awhile.  I haven’t had a lot to say, perhaps. Have no fears though, I still cook and bake like a fiend, trust me, every glance in my mirror attests to this fact.

This month, however, when I made my pilgrimage to the Daring Baker Forum I was immediately reminded of this guy….

...time to make the donuts!

I figured if he could drag his begrudging butt out of bed daily and make thousands of donuts so could I…well, a small batch at least!

A HUGE Thank You to Lori of “Butter Me Up” for a fantastic challenge, which has brought me out of my hiatus with the DB.

Being that I have been lax with the whole bloggy thing, I feel the need to go slow with getting back in the saddle.  So expect no tome this go ’round nor any outrageous wit just a few pretty pictures and a kick ass recipe!

First Pretty Picture….Glazed Chocolate Cake Doughnuts with Candied Bacon.

The recipe I used was one Lori suggested and can be found here.  I made a couple changes, first I halved the recipe, fifteen doughnuts and fifteen holes would not make my mirror any happier!  I also added 4 TBS. cocoa , 1 TBS. melted butter and omitted the nutmeg.  Being I have never made the recipe before I can’t say my substitutions had any ill effect but I know that I was very pleased with how things worked out.  I did have a little concern the “dough” was too moist but a little time in the fridge to chill and firm it helped in making it very workable.

Before a trip to the fridge...

...out of the fridge, rolled, cut and ready for a hot oil bath...

I managed to get 6 doughnuts and 6 holes out of the halved recipe, which I fried 3 holes at a time and 2 donuts at a time.    After the second batch of holes came out and cooled a bit, I just could not resist a little taste.  Hmmm, I was a little concerned, it seemed as if the dough had soaked up way too much oil.  Fortunately, it was just a case of not letting the oil temp up after the first fry.  I really didn’t think a few degrees off would be a bad thing…it was… 375° all the way kiddos!!

...fry , Baby, fry...

...off to the racks, just call me Torquemada!

glazed, topped and ready to go!

And that my friends was my time in the kitchen for this months Daring Baker Challenge.  Short and oh so sweet!!  Again, big Thank Yous go out to Lori, you brought me back!

The October 2010 Daring Bakers challenge was hosted by Lori of Butter Me Up. Lori chose to challenge DBers to make doughnuts. She used several sources for her recipes including Alton Brown, Nancy Silverton, Kate Neumann and Epicurious.

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May’s Daring Baker Challenge is here at last.  For me, this one was an instant “no brainer”….upon reading what we were to do, I was all but done.

This year will be 8 years since I lost both my Mother and my Mother-in-Law and it is in their memory that this Challenge was made.

For “Ma” and “LuLu”, we miss you, we love you and we look forward to the day we see you again!

The May 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Cat of Little Miss Cupcake. Cat challenged everyone to make a piece montée, or croquembouche, based on recipes from Peter Kump’s Baking School in Manhattan and Nick Malgieri.

Quick notes on the challenge:

Impressive presentation which is easily accomplished.

The recipe can be found here and also on Cat’s site, Little Miss Cupcake.

I followed the recipe down to the letter, other than the addition of rose water to the pastry creme.

This Pate Choux had some major puff!!

Some random pictures along the way…

Rosewater Pastry Cream in the works.

1st egg in the mix, I actually had to use 5 eggs instead of 4.

...Choux baked and ready to fill.

Toffee Brownies

At this moment in time I have about 6.5 lbs of chocolate covered toffee squares just hanging around the house….basically enough to last for the next 10 years, as Ray or myself aren’t prone to partake of toffee on its own.  Don’t get me wrong it is not that we don’t like it but, well, it is kind of like the old “tootsie pop” question of how many licks does it take to get to the center of one…no one really knows because sooner or later you have to bite into it.  Same with toffee and there is no way either of us are risking a trip to the dentist for that!  So in an effort to put a slight dent into this stockpile I whipped up a batch of my favorite from scratch brownies and added a healthy dose of crushed toffee…..no big write up on the hows, whys and whats, just a recipe, a picture or two and a big old brownie smile for you all.

This is the recipe my grandmother used and in truth I have searched for something different but never with the same result.  Also, I have seen this recipe everywhere on the internet so I call it…..

Granny’s
&
The World’s
Simple and Basic Scratch Brownies
  • 1 cup butter (melted)
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2  cup cocoa
  • 2 cups  flour
  • pinch of salt
  • nuts,  chocolate chunks, caramel pieces or anything you would like

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cream melted butter and sugar.
  3. Once the butter and sugar are light and fluffy  switch to a spoon for mixing.  Brownies can get tough if worked too much.
  4. Add the vanilla and eggs and mix just until smooth.
  5. Sift cocoa,  flour and salt together and add to creamed mixture.    Mix lightly until smooth and lumps are broken up.
  6. If you want to add extras, lightly fold in whatever you choose.
  7. Spread the batter into a 9×13 pan (Granny didn’t say to prep the pan but I always give it a coating of butter and cocoa powder) and bake 25 to 30 minutes at 350 degrees F.

Obviously, to the above recipe I added the toffee, I had about 1 1/4 cups of crushed toffee, which I divided and added 3/4 cup to the mix and then when they came out of the oven, I sprinkled the remainder over the top.   When I make these plain I use Scharffen Berger Cocoa but since I was adding the chocolate coated toffee I went with Hershey’s instead.

There are some very good store bought brownie mixes out there but with a recipe this simple and results this great all I can ask is, “Why?”.

Oh, there is still about 6 lbs of toffee left!!!  More brownies,  I guess.

10:10pm Mon Oct 26:  A little Farmville play, harvest, plow, plant!

10:17pm Mon Oct 26:  Check Facebook! Ah how nice a Post on the Daring Baker’s Oct Challenge: Macarons  written by Sunita’s World

10:19pm Mon Oct 26:  Sunita’s Macs look yummy and the post was a great read.

10:20pm Mon Oct 26:  I think to myself, “Yo, John, you are a Daring Baker and tomorrow is the 27th, where in hell are your macs?!?!?”  Here I go again!!!!

10:23pm yadda-yadda-yadda!!!  Run downstairs and seperate five eggs and pray that the 16 hours the whites will age will be enough!!!!!

Comic relief kids, since time seems to be my weakest link……..

Fast Forward to

6:15pm Tues Oct 27:  I got magma!!!

DSC_0505

Piped Magma

6:54pm Tues Oct 27: I DON’T gots feet!!  Feets done failed me now!!!

7:02pm…: Last bit of magma piped, going to let it air dry this time and see what happens.

8:0 (freakin’) 9…: Still no feet!!!!  Time to admit defeat?; or is that defeet?????

Ok, so I have finally come to a challenge that I feel I shall not return to.  This is not my 1st attempt at Macs, the first was last month, you can read about it here, that was a semi-success.  The 2nd attempt was earlier this month, I was going to make chai spice shells with a pumpkin cream cheese buttercream, I ended up with , once again, ‘feet”less hockey pucks.  Tonight’s attempt had no feet but had the classic crisp outer shell with a soft chewy core, so another semi-success.  After last night’s trip into the Time Warp, I was getting ready for bed and my flavor combo hit me…

Rocky Horror (Road) Macs

So tonight’s  batch was a milk chocolate shell, with a marshmellow cream filling and chopped almonds to round it out.  Even though they were more a failure than otherwise, I felt you needed to see the end result.

DSC_0507

"Feet"less Rocky Horror (Road) Macs

And now I will leave you with two things to ponder.

First the obligatory….

The 2009 October Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to us by Ami S. She chose macarons from Claudia Fleming’s The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern as the challenge recipe.

And lastly…

I think it is time to kiss my Macs….

Goodbye!!!!

Yea, so I have been playing a bit of the tease with some of you on Facebook….well I guess now is the time to put up or shut up, so here goes.

It has been a year and a half since I first joined the, then, Daring Bakers who have now become The Daring Kitchen; it has been that same amount of time that I became aware of something called a “Macaron”, only one “O” there kids, so not the chewy coconutty cookieish thing you are thinking (although macarons are chewy and cookie-like there is a world of difference between 1 “o” and 2).  It has been slightly under a year that I had my first taste of one of these divine pastry/cookie delectables!!!! It was at Lisa and W’s wedding that I got to put one of Veronica’s macarons to my lips…..OMG!!!!!  No wonder that damn near every food blog this side of the recently downgraded Pluto had something to say about these bad boys!!!!!!!

Almost a year gone by and you are wondering why it has taken me so long to attempt these, well when you read about them, you find that they are a bit intimidating.  The basic 3 ingredients are but egg whites, almonds and sugar combined in such a way as to form something so wonderful one won’t forget it!

At the wedding I also met Helen(e), of Tartelette fame, invariably when macarons are mentioned so is she.  The fact that her creations, edible art, blow me away combined with all the semi horror stories I have read about making macarons  conspired to make me (if you are prudish turn away or switch your browser to another blog) one scared shitless mother fucker!!!!!!

Really, I thought these babies were so outta my league that I would never again have one.  Sure they can be ordered online or you can fly to France or Tokyo for the King of Macarons but since I don’t often patronize bakeries/patisseries, I prefer to make my own,  it was learn or go without.  For almost 1 year…I bought the ingredients more than once and more than once they became something else…the elusive treat was not to be.

Jesu, Giuseppe, Maria as my aunt Lena often said…enough is enough…..(look away time again) shit or get off the pot!!!!!

I committed, I read, I shopped and finally I dove in head first.   Again, 3 basic ingredients but about as many recipes as there are stars in the sky!  These things are all about technique…french method, italian method, whip all the whites, whip only half the whites and on and on.  I finally decided on a  recipe by David Lebovitz, which combines the french method with my favorite flavor, after meat, chocolate.

The egg whites were aged, the almonds ground to a point just short of becoming almond butter and hell I even printed out some nifty macaron templates…aside from doubling the ingredients I followed David’s recipe to the letter, so I won’t bore you with those details.

Nifty printed templates under parchment!

Nifty printed templates under parchment!

I whipped, I folded and I was pleased.  I filled, I piped and again I was pleased.  Well, almost, something was slightly amiss, naw!!!! just stage fright.  5 trays of chocolate macaron discs, 90 shells, 45 finished macarons (for those who have no clue these are constructed like an oreo, 2 shells and a filling).  Now some people suggest to let the piped shells sit out for about an hour to dry and form a “skin” of sorts, David mentions this but it appears he doesn’t always use this.  I did.

Ready for Macaronage!

Ready for Macaronage!

Piped and drying.

Piped and drying.

First tray in the oven, I could have fit another but I wasn’t risking multiple trays just yet!!!!  Oven temp…check, time…check, ok in they go.  A short time later the unmistakable scent of…scorch… I look at the timer and dismiss it, I am only halfway there…..DUMBASS!!!!  FYI, if you smell scorch do NOT dismiss!!!!!  Hockey pucks, I had mini hockey pucks!!!!!!!

Regroup and rethink.  I lowered the oven temp by 50 degrees and used another of those not mentioned in recipes hints…I put a wooden spoon in the oven door to keep it slightly ajar.   No smell of scorch this time but when all was said and done, some of the shells cracked, hmmm oven temp adjustment time.  But there was good news with this batch…..I HAD feet!!!!  Those who know, know and for those that don’t…well the macaron shell consists of 3 “areas”, the dome (top), the base (bottom) and the feet ( a small area between the dome and base that…well, resemble little feet).

Because of the cracked shells, I lowered the oven temp another 25 degrees, in went the 3rd tray and then the fourth, as the 3rd looked great.  You got it “Houston, we have a problem!”  At about the time the 4th tray was ready to come out of the oven, the 3rd tray was cooled quite a bit, so I had to get a taste.  Into one I gingerly bit, yes there is that slight crisp exterior but wait where is the softer chewy brownie/cake-like interior????  The interior was slightly chewy but way more “dense” than it should be.

4 trays down and it was not looking good.  I had lowered the temp to the lowest temp I had read in any recipe, so it must be my batter or more specifically the “macaronage”, again if you know…then you know and really I apologize for this but if you don’t know, well I am not sure I can explain, as I am not sure I know it as fully as I could.  Did you see the light at the end of the tunnel in those last 5 words written??

1 tray left and something told me I didn’t screw it up badly enough to just pitch the rest into the can!!  What to do?  I wasn’t going lower with the temp, so I decided on less oven time.  The original recipe calls for 15-18 mins at 375,  I had shaved off 75 degrees and was now about to shave off time, but in they went.  I was not going to walk away from the oven, no way!!  So on went the light and in I stared.  I swear to you, at a little over 6 minutes in, the oven light blew!!!!!  It frickin went out on me!!!  Can this be for real.  Now a 300 degree oven isn’t the hottest but you try sticking your face as close to a slightly ajar, totally dark oven and try and see what is going on in there at that temp!!!!!  No easy task, I tell you!  So at 8 minutes in, I just had to open the door and see what was up….nice rise and FEET, I don’t know what but something told me they were done.  Out they came to cool.

Now, if you have been paying attention you may think, there is something wrong with this picture.  Me too!!  Original recipe the oven temp was 375 and cooking time 15-18 mins, this last try was done in a 300 oven for a little over 8 mins, that’s one helluva difference….and I think I know the reason but that I am saving for the end!  Just a few more observations and ramblings and you are all free to go and bake.

Once tray 5 was cool, I had to taste test….crispy dome, soft chewy interior and chocolate from hell!!  Could I have done it???  Yes, Watson, I think I just may have!!!  Keep in mind, I started with 90 shells, the first 70 were…well we won’t go there.  So I had 20 shells that worked and I had just eaten one, remember, macarons are 2 shells and a filling….what to do???  Yep, I had to eat another shell…and it tasted as grand as I remembered, perhaps no competition for Veronica and Helen but damn tasty!!!!

18 little shells in need of filling…decisions, decisions!!!  Well, I had a little leftover American buttercream from a sidetrip on this months DB challenge (hush hush till the 27th), so 8 got to wrap themselves around that.  If you have been paying attention you know my favorite flavor is meat with chocolate being a close 2nd.  3rd comes….and what better to pair with chocolate….peanut butter!  So I made a mini batch of chocolate peanut butter ganache, literally 2 oz of chocolate, 1/2 tsp PB and a splash of cream, to finish off the last 10 shells.

9 filled macarons… Now I would be a liar to say that I followed what every recipe suggests…to wait a day to let the flavors meld…hell no, I was tasting one of each.  7 filled macarons and 24 hours to wait…in the interest of science and baking I waited and then tasted.  5 filled macarons….hours of reading and thinking, a few singed eyebrows, all this and more for 5 filled macarons!!!!  Am I doing it again?  Yes!!!!!  I am not anywhere in the city of Macaron but I am certainly in the suburbs and soon to be at the city limits!!!  Would I have waited this long to dive in again, NO, Never….go for it, don’t wait!!

For those who “know” I ask that you not hurt yourselves too terribly from falling out of your chairs in hysterical laughter at my not so pretty macs (although, I hope you read on once you get back up to see if what, I think the issues were, seems to be feasible).  For those of you closer to me, who may not “know”, I promise to continue to use you all as guinea pigs till I get pretty macs!!!!

Mac Attack!!!!

Mac Attack!!!!

Issue/Issues.

One hint that I did not follow, nor even think about till after the fact was to get the batter to a consistency where it flows like lava.  Hell I am not a volcanologist so I am not really sure what lava flows like but I am certain my batter had no flow whatsoever.  This though, I think was caused by what I believe to be my biggest mistake…..

“Beat the whites till they are firm and stiff”.  I thought it at the time and know it almost 100% now but I beat my whites till they were rigid and dry.  Could this have been my biggest downfall????

I now want to mention someone who I don’t know, of whose blog I have read little (but I plan on that changing) that I just kind of happened on after all was said and done.  Audax Artifex, his post on his DB anniversary macarons has great information that I found to be helpful.  I just wish I had read it before my first attempt, but then, perhaps it was meant to be this way….I saw my wrongs and then was given a resource to help fix them.

For a Pal

For a Pal

Merriam-Webster.com defines Pal as a close friend.  So, I guess the title of this post should  change but then again, it is there and I am not rethinking it!!!

This whole Twitter/Facebook/MySpace/Wordpress world brings us together with others we would never have had the opportunity to meet in the not so distant past.  It seems we are all a friend of a friend of a friend these days.  Luckily, I have met many a folk from across the globe….and some very “Wonderful” folk I might add!!!  The “pal” I am referring to today is not in some far off land or even a different US time zone…she is literally over the hill and across the river from me and yet we have never met!

What’s this about you ask….well this “pal” asked a mutual friend (sorry PP….”oh! but I don’t!”) if I would make her a Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake and since I love me some cheesecake, I did!!!!

It's all about the ganache!

It's all about the ganache!

A bit of a sidenote now that I am about to give you the lowdown on this cheesecake and its making… It seems my new Pal has just recently learned she passed her CCRN’s so my dear I hope you enjoy a celebratory slice!!

Now comes either the disappointment or the intrigue, it depends on how comfortable you are with flying solo.

I make many a cheesecake and I have no real recipe just a couple rules.

  • 1 X LG egg for each 8 0z. cream cheese  (use best available CC, no “store brands”
  • Bake in a water bath
  • Bake @ 400 degrees for 15mins, reduce to 300 degrees till center jiggles ever so slightly (please don’t mar the beautiful top of a cheesecake by inserting a skewer or knife to check for doneness!!)

The rest my friends is something I wing!!!!  Sweet, savory, crusts, flavors etc., etc.  There of course are some other rules but these come with time.

  • Don’t overbeat the batter.  Too much air causes the cheesecake to crack, even when using a water bath, which cuts down on this a bit.
  • Do mix 1 egg at a time into the cream cheese till it is fully incorporated
  • Do practice often till you get to know the “it’s done jiggle”!!!

Now for those who need a bit more instruction, as best as I can recall, here is what I did for this particular cheesecake.

Crust:

  • 3/4 cup crushed oreos
  • 1/2 cup dry roasted peanuts
  • 4 TBS melted butter

Pulse oreos and peanuts in processor till fine, slowly drizzle in butter till it comes together.  Pat into bottom of 10″ springform pan.

Batter:

  • 40 oz cream cheese
  • 5 eggs
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • pinch of salt

Divide the batter and add 1 cup creamy peanut butter to 1 half and 1 cup chocolate ganache to the other.  Pour PB batter over the crust and level, next pour chocolate batter over PB batter.  Place foil prepared* pan into a water bath that comes 3/4 way to top of pan then into oven, bake 15 mins at 400 and then finish off at 300 till you get the “it’s done jiggle.  Let it come to room temp and then refridgerate at least 10 hrs.

Once it was chilled, I then topped it with a white chocolate peanut butter ganache, back to the fridge to let that firm up.  Run a knife around the rim of the pan to loosen the cheesecake, release the lock and serve it up!!!!!

* I should have stated this sooner but when using a water bath to bake in a springform pan you must cover the outside of the pan with a couple of layers of foil so no water seeps in while it is baking!

Congrats Edy!

Congrats Edy!

And as a final tease….some of my favorites.

  • The Classic- a bit of lemon juice and grated rind in the batter and top with fresh fruit.
  • German Chocolate-Chocolate batter with coconut and mini chocolate chips folded in.
  • White Chocolate Raspberry- Fold white chocolate ganache into batter then swirl with a sweet raspberry compote.
  • Chicken Jalapeno with cumin minis- a freakin’ awesome appetizer!!
  • Lobster with Garlic clarified butter drizzle- Only 16 oz cream cheese packed with diced tail meat and a bit of lemon zest, drizzle with garlic clarified butter and brunch is served!!!

Denise’s Birthday…must bake cake…what to do?

She’s Irish (update, I was mislead a bit…she isn’t Irish afterall), born the day after St Pat’s and likes Boston Cream Pie, Viola!, Irish twist on a Classic.

No sordid details on this one other than I have always wanted to bake a “Stout” cake and this seemed the time to do it!!!

Ok, 2 sordid details…

  • The batter is so damn good there is almost no need to bake the cake.
  • The scent of simmering stout, butter and cocoa is heaven and the scent of the cake baking is a must experience for yourself!!!!
Stout, Butter and Cocoa Heaven!

Stout, Butter and Cocoa Heaven!

Your typical Boston Cream Pie consists of three components

  • A Butter or Sponge Cake
  • A Dark Rum scented Custard Filling
  • A Chocolate Glaze or Ganache

My version differs only in 2 ways, The Stout Cake replaces the sponge/butter cake and instead of rum, well of course, I used Irish Whiskey.

Pastry Cream

adapted from Boston Cream Pie recipe from Yankee Magazine

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons butter
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup light cream
  • 1/4cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon Irish whiskey

In a saucepan, heat butter, milk, and light cream to just below a boil. While this mixture is cooking, combine sugar, cornstarch, and eggs in a bowl. Whip until ribbons form. When the butter-cream mixture reaches the boiling point, slowly whisk in the sugar-egg mixture and cook to boiling, stirring constantly. Boil for 1 minute. Pour into a bowl and cover the surface with plastic wrap (to prevent it from forming a skin). Chill overnight if possible. When thoroughly chilled, whisk to smooth out and flavor with Irish whiskey.

Ganache

  • 8 oz chopped chocolate bittersweet or semi-sweet
  • 3/4 whipping cream
  • 2 TBS Butter ( I use salted)

Place the chopped chocolate in a medium sized stainless steel bowl. Set aside. Heat the cream and butter in a medium sized saucepan over medium heat ( I often use the microwave for this step, of course using a microwave safe bowl). Bring just to a boil.  Immediately pour the boiling cream over the chocolate and allow to stand for 5 minutes. Stir with a whisk until smooth.

And now…………

Chocolate Stout Cake

Direct from the KA site using ingredients by weight option.

  • 16 ounces stout or dark beer, such as Guinness
  • 1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 4 1/2 ounces Dutch-process cocoa
  • 17 ounces KA unbleached AP flour  (I used Robin Hood)
  • 1 pound, 12 ounces sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 4 large eggs
  • 6 ounces sour cream

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour three 8″ or two 9″ cake pans, and line them with parchment paper circles. Be sure your 9″ pans are at least 2″ deep.  Place the stout and butter in a large, heavy saucepan, and heat until the butter melts. Remove the pan from the heat, and add the cocoa powder.  Whisk until the mixture is smooth. Set aside to cool to room temperature.  Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl; set aside.  In a large mixing bowl, beat together the eggs and sour cream.  Add the stout-cocoa mixture, mixing to combine.  Add the flour mixture and mix together at slow speed. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl, and mix again for 1 minute.  Divide the batter equally among the prepared pans.  Bake the layers for 35 minutes for 8″ pans, or 45 to 50 minutes for 9″ pans, until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove the cakes from the oven and cool on a rack for 10 minutes before turning the cakes out of their pans and returning to the rack to finish cooling completely before assembly.  Being that I was doing 2 layers and my 9″ pans are only 1 3/4″ deep I was lucky enough to get a very nice 6″ round as well from the batter.

The verdicts are in and all seem to be very positive on this one.  I ended up getting a few orders for this one as it sat, but my personal opinion was it would have been multitudes better without the custard filling.  Not that it was a bad addition but this is such a uniquely flavored cake the custard kind of competed a little more than it should have with that uniqueness.  I had one minor issue and that involved my 9″ pans, which aren’t 2″ deep, as suggested…I should have started testing for doneness a little sooner than I did, I think I could have gotten away with only 40 minutes oven time.

From beginning to batter to baked!

From beginning to batter to baked!

This one is most definitely a keeper!   Although a very special occasion kind of cake as if you take a look at the nutrition information on the KA site, you will see this isn’t a cake for the faint of heart!!!!  It’s slightly malty taste and it’s just shy of sweet chocolatey richness is something everyone should try!!!

Cascades of Chocolate...what better finish?

Cascades of Chocolate...what better finish?

And finally here is why I spoke with such authority against the custard version that everyone raved over… my little 6″ gem with a simple powdered sugar glaze.   Hands off this one is all mine!!!!!!!

6stout1

Hands off!

We are currently experiencing technical difficulties.

Another challenge and well it didn’t go so well!!  As for taste and overall ease it was a good one.  As for what I envisioned and what I executed that is another story, which I choose not to bore you with at this time.

The February 2009 challenge is hosted by Wendy of WMPE’s blog and Dharm of Dad ~ Baker & Chef.
We have chosen a Chocolate Valentino cake by Chef Wan; a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Dharm and a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Wendy as the challenge.

As is typical of DB challenges we were given a bit of leeway with what we could do with a particular element and the ice cream in this challenge was where I chose to play.  Aside from steak my all time favorite flavor on earth is dark chocolate and orange, so I decided to use a recipe I ran across awhile back but had yet to have reason to make.

Chocolate-Studded Grand Marnier Ice Cream Recipe

from Fern Glen Inn B&B

I followed the recipe to the letter with only an addition of 1tsp. of orange extract.   Fan-freakin’-tastic!!  This stuff had the power to hide a multitude of sins and considering what I did to the Valentino, I guess I made the ice cream work overtime!!!

Now for the sad sad details of a simple 3 ingredient cake!!! I had on hand some Ghirardelli semi sweet chocolate,  so I didn’t run out for the bitter chocolate that I wanted.  I figured I would add just a smidge of the hersheys special dark cocao I had as well, that would give me more the flavor I wanted.

RED FLAG #1

(don’t change that which you have never done before)

I melted the chocolates together and well I ended up not with that lovely molten chocolate texture I know and love but something a bit more paste like.  It hadn’t seized but it wasn’t right, it just was too dense for those delicate egg whites to stand up to.

RED FLAG #2

(listen to yourself, you know damn well better than that)

So on to the folding of the egg whites I went, yea I deflated them more than I knew was good but they still had enough lift that I figured it wouldn’t be a total loss.  Which to tell the truth it wasn’t.

The end product was a little “shorter” than expected and hoped, as I was going to split the cake and create a lovely layered look.  And since that didn’t happen, please see the above photo of a snowy screen.

What I planned for and what I ended up with are polar opposites but the overall taste factor was very good.

Here now are a few photos of the progress before I realized my vision was for naught.

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The not so smooth chocolate!!

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The egg whites awaiting deflation!

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The not as short as expected end result!

Folding the chopped chocolate into the ice cream.

Folding the chopped chocolate into the ice cream.

As for a final photo of the finished product….  truthfully I wasn’t about to waste the pixels!!!!!   It tasted great but it “weren’t” so pretty.  Please though look here for other great and talented bakers who managed to bring their vision to the plate.

Luckily for me there is next month!!!!


Happy Birthday to you...

Happy Birthday to you...

You all may recall Carol, well she managed to turn “36”  on Jan 28th and of course I did whip up a little something something for her.  Carol and Scott, of course, both LOVE chocolate…truthfully I don’t think they “do” anything but chocolate, save the occasional peanut butter; so I went to my favorite go-to chocolate cake and thought I would top it with some sort of peanut butter icing.  After perusing multitudes of PB icing recipes I settled on this one, from Blondie and Brownie, and boy am I glad I did.  This stuff was peanut butter silk!!!  It came together like a breeze and OMG was it good…imagine the center of a Reese’s cup but light fluffy and… well all I can say is MAKE IT!!!  Now some of you may laugh at this one as you already may know this but I discovered something while making this, kind of a John Eureka moment.  I have always made Swiss Buttercreams the old fashioned way…pot of simmering water, bowl with egg whites and sugar and a hand whisk, well not no mo’!!!!!  It was late, I was tired and I didn’t have the energy to whip that merengue by hand, so enter stage right my handy dandy hand mixer with whisk  attachment in tow.  Yes, the most obvious often eludes us at times.  Now I am not saying I will never make Swiss Buttercream by hand again but now I know there is really no need to do so.

Just before the Peanut Butter addition

Just before the Peanut Butter addition

Ok, this is a quicky post and I am off.  Once again Happy Birthday Carol and you guys enjoy Florida we will see you soon!

Almost Done!

Almost Done!

Done and Dressed

Done and Dressed

First Cut

First Cut

and lastly the innards!!!

and lastly the innards!!!

So here it is, August’s DB reveal and I have but one word……AMEN!!!  Let me add a Hallelujia and a Yay to that as well!!!  Thanks go to the Hosts for this month, MeetaK and Tony.   They chose Eclairs from Pierre Herme in a book written by Dorie Greenspan.  I love eclairs, puffs and all things Choux, so I was not overwhelmed in the least.

This time around I am not so sure where I am gonna go with my post on this particular task, so PLEASE bear with me!!!!

First change I see coming is my habit of posting the recipe as was written.  The challenge consisted of 3 components encompassing 4 recipes…

  1. Pate a Choux- 1 Recipe
  2. Glaze- Consisting of 2 recipes combined into the final coating.
  3. Pastry Cream- 1 Recipe (this is the only I will use again)

In my humble, non Pastry Chef opinion the Choux was entirely too wet, even after cooking and cooking and cooking to dry it.  It did not give me the “crispness” I am used to in the final product nor did it give me the “puff” I know so well.  The recipe I always use and love calls for a 1/4 cup less liquid (and only water, not a mix of milk and H2O) and an ounce less butter.  Now these were not what I am used to and it very well may have been that I made a Boo Boo (although I highly doubt it) but I will give them their due as far as they were very light and delicate.  As for the 2 recipes to make the glaze, combined they were mighty tasty but I tend to like a simpler “let’s get it done in as few steps as possible” approach, so it was nice to taste and give it a go but in future, not so much.  Now the saving grace on this, at least for me, was the pastry cream…HOT DAMN it was good!!!!  Usually, I fill my puffs and eclairs with a very stable whipped cream filling, as I am not a fan of creams and custards but this stuff really was good.  I mean REALLY!!!!!

Well that folks could be the end but hey its me here and that “ain’t” gonna happen just yet….

Where the hell is he gonna take us now?

Well…and there is a huge sheepish inflection in that “well”… I kinda am trying not to pitch a bitch but I don’t see that happening.  Well maybe I won’t pitch one but if you read further and were around the DBers last month you might get a clue.

For me, August 2008, SUCKED!!!!  It was fraught with everything that I wasn’t in the mood to deal with…sickness, excessive workload, not enough sleep, me being pulled in a million different directions and so on and so on.

  • Quick side note: The above being said, I OWE a HUGE apology to Michelle, I will finish my end of the bargain very soon!

Basically, I didn’t have time to think this month, I didn’t have time to breath this month and I sure as hell didn’t have time to bake and then write about it this month!!  When I had a moment to myself I used it in the manner most beneficial to my sanity…I zoned out!!!!!  I thought about the DBers and baking a few times but just couldn’t bring myself to the task.  I was down to “now or never” time.  Still I procrastinated.  I finally sent out a note to my “Peaches” and said, “I am thinking about opting out for this month.  You have got to tell me I am not allowed to do so.”  Did I get that response?  No, I got,” well you are allowed to skip a month”.  Hmm, don’t make it easy for me now, make me make my own choice….I see how you are!!!!!

I thought about it all and it came down to a very simple question… why did I join the DBers?  Did I join to

  • Bake only what I like?
  • Bake only what fits into my time constraints?
  • Moan and groan about others choices?

No, I joined to rise to a challenge, a challenge set by myself (and for me that challenge is writing kids, not baking).  I do this for me, not the “greater good”.  Ivonne and Lis ask very little…perhaps a few hours of our time each month and a bit of respect for this wonderful group and all its members.

I bring this up now only because I was rather troubled by alot of what I read last month.  This month the dust seems to have settled nicely, which leads me to hope it was all just a bump in the road.  But I ask just that we all take a moment to examine our intent.

If what we are to bake is absolutely horrific sounding to you… bake it anyhow! Drop it off at a local homeless shelter or Elder Care facility, it will be a most welcome treat and you will feel quite happy in your choice to do so.

If you have little time and are overwhelmed…bake anyhow!! That little bit of kitchen time might end up being just what the Dr. ordered for alleviating the stress of day to day living.

If money is tight…find a cheat!!!  I love Filet more than anything but I sure as hell don’t eat it daily, I have learned to make eye of round taste just as luscious!!!!!

That all being said, let’s remember this is “fun time” folks, there is more than enough “real life” in all our lives let’s leave it at the door!!!!

Oh, what was the title of this post?

Short and Sweet?  Well, that just isn’t me but it was the Eclairs!!

And now for the pictures.  I got me a new toy, a brand spanking new Nikon DSLR and I still haven’t taken it off the auto setting yet, so no you will not see Food Mag quality photos this month.  I have never done the whole aperture, F-Stop thing, so I am still trying to figure all of that out.  But “auto” works great!!!!

Oh and here is a gratuitous shot of my little boy…um well not so little he goes 160#

My Buddy!

My Buddy!

One final note, I PROMISE to resize photos from this point forward!  Promise!!!