Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Chocolate Boozy Cake Love: Holiday Throwdown Part 2

Aren't you special...
If anyone can come up with a more official title for these, I would greatly appreciate it. I'm looking for something a little more original than the obvious. (HINT: The three special ingredients are Guinness, Jameson, and Baileys).
I am SO thrilled that so many people were able to try these. I have been planning on making them for quite a long while. I thought they would be pretty labor intensive, but with strategic planning it really wasn't too bad. I waited so long to make them that they became kind of grandiose in my mind. Fortunately, they lived up to the occasion and vice/verse.

Because I was so busy when I made these, I made the cupcakes and the ganache the night before I intended to fill/frost them. I have heard that the cupcakes will keep for up to two weeks in the freezer before you want to use them!
These are definitely grown up cupcakes. Sure, there's straight Jameson in the chocolate ganache and Baileys mixed into the cream cheese icing, but they have a subtle, dark chocolatey sweetness that makes you feel downright fancy. No one element of the cupcake stands alone and overpowers. Every flavor leads into the next fluidly, and beautifully. The original recipe called for buttercream icing, but I said no thank you. Why would I make an icing that is almost completely butter and only good in very small quantities when I could use cream cheese? (AND THEN ADD BOOZE TO IT!)

Guinness Chocolate Cupcakes
1 cup Guinness (or some equally flavorful dark stout)
1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks)
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder*
2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
2/3 cup sour cream

*I used regular unsweetened cocoa and it came out wonderfully. I would have bought the good stuff if MurderKroger had it.

Jameson Chocolate Ganache
(Can only be described as sexy.)
8 oz. bittersweet chocolate
2/3 cup heavy cream
2 Tbl butter, room temperature
2 tsp Jameson (...seriously.)

Bailey's Cream Cheese Frosting
1 8 oz. bar of cream cheese, at room temperature
4 oz. butter, at room temperature
2 cups confectioners sugar
6 Tbl Bailey's Irish Cream*

*Regarding the alcohol: I really could not get any of the flavor I was looking for in the icing and the ganache until I added the full recommended amount. That said, feel free to add as little as you want or more to your taste. Just be careful that the frosting doesn't become runny.

Method: Cake
Preheat the oven to 350. I forgot to get an exact count, but I would recommend preparing for about 24 cupcakes. I used silver liners because really, what else is there?

Bring the stout and 1 cup butter to a simmer in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Enjoy the smell. Add cocoa powder to the mixture and whisk together. Let the mixture cool slightly.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, and 3/4 tsp. salt. In an electric mixer (or a stand mixer if you're lucky enough to have one), beat the eggs and sour cream until blended. Add the beery chocolate mixture to the eggs and beat until just blended. At a slow speed, gradually add the flour mixture. Once the all of the flour is in the bowl, turn off the mixer and use a rubber spatula to fold the mixture until it is completely combined. Divide the batter into the cupcake liners, filling them about 2/3 of the way.

Bake for about 17 minutes, check that a toothpick comes out clean since this batter is very moist. I forgot to do this, and my cupcakes were a *tiny* bit underdone, but I like moist cake so I will chalk it up to good luck.

Method: Ganache Filling
I always prefer to use a double boiler when melting chocolate, but I was short on time so I went with the quick and dirty method. I roughly broke up the chocolate, put it in a microwave safe bowl, and heated it at thirty second intervals. Stir the chocolate at every 30 second mark, and keep an eye on it. Once it starts to get melty I usually switch to shorter intervals.

While you are microwaving or using your own preferred method to melt the chocolate, heat the cream until it simmers. Add the simmering cream and room temperature butter to the melted chocolate and whisk gently to combine. Stir in the whiskey to taste.

Method: Fill the Cupcakes
You can buy cupcake corers, you can buy 1 inch round cookie cutters, or you can take inventory of your kitchen tools, spend NO money, and find something that works.

I am in the Alton Brown school of thought when it comes to "unitaskers". I used the end of a large wooden spoon to simply press a round hole in the cupcakes. This was the easiest way I could think of, and it worked beautifully.

I used a large star tip on a pastry bag to fill the cupcakes with ganache, and I had enough ganache to let it spill over the top into a pretty little peak. The appearance of the cupcake is up to you!

Method: Frosting (last one, promise)
Put the cream cheese, butter, and confectioners sugar in your bright green stand mixer (or large bowl), and beat on medium high until light and fluffy. Slowly add the baileys, I would recommend drizzling it while on low speed so that you don't overload the frosting and make it runny.

I used a smaller star tip to create the tiny peaks. It was my first time! I thought they came out pretty well.

Please enjoy these as much as I (we, everybody, all those randos at the 5 Spot) did.

love and... money. Yeah, money.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Spiced Dark Chocolate Bark with Toasted Pepitas and Sea Salt: Holiday Throwdown Part 1

Speaking of time management...
I haven't been taking full advantage of my lunch breaks, mostly because I would like to go home and have a short amount of time with Chocolate Lover and not completely lose my mind in the evenings. Finding time to cook is a different challenge all together, but with the slew of holidays and birthdays and Wednesdays coming I'm sure I will find an excuse.

Anyway, my point was that I'm going to try to be responsible and start updating and photo editing when I'm not completely slammed on my lunch breaks. See? I'm not completely terrible at being an adult.

I am trying to really get a handle on my finances, so step one was obviously finding something to do with the rest of those pepitas from the butternut squash soup. Step two is putting lighting equipment on my Christmas list since one may have difficulty coming across decent natural light in Nashville this time of year.

This turned out really nicely as a birthday present; down to business.

Spiced Dark Chocolate Bark with Toasted Pepitas and Sea Salt
from this site that does really nice photography. Jealous.

3 (3.5 oz) bars good quality dark chocolate*
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/8-1/4 tsp ground red chipotle**
1/2 cup + 2 Tbl roasted salted pepitas
1/2 tsp coarse sea salt

*The original recipe called for 70% cacao or higher, but for the average consumer I wouldn't go any higher than that. Above 70% can be a little rough for the unprepared palate.

**Next time, I'm going to add closer to 1/4 tsp. I could barely taste any spice, and being a Texan I wanted it to be more like Abuelita with a kick.

To roast the pepitas, I scattered them on a parchment lined baking sheet and stuck them in the oven at 350 for about ten minutes. WATCH YOUR NUTS, PEOPLE! I always feel like I almost burn them :)


Line a baking sheet with parchment and set aside.

Break the chocolate into small pieces, and place 3/4 of it into a double boiler over medium heat- stir occasionaly. Remember with chocolate, always low and slow on the stove top. Once melted, add the rest of the chocolate and stir until everything is melted.

Stir in the spices and the roasted pepitas. Pour the mixture onto the lined baking sheet and sprinkle the extra 2Tbl pepitas over the top. Let it set for a few minutes... set in the southern sense and the culinary sense.

Sprinkle the sea salt over the top and stick 'er in the fridge for 45 minutes. Or, if you're short on time and you're brave enough to clean out your freezer in a mad dash, it should only take about 10 or 15 minutes.

Once the bark is solid, break it up with your hands and try not to lick your fingers clean afterward if you are in polite company. Give it away if you must, but I would recommend hoarding.

Witty Remark,

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Butternut Squash Soup with Toasted Pepitas

Me 'n my fancy toast points...

Another one photo post today. To say I am trying to "perfect" my time management skills would be a gross overstatement. It's something more along the lines of holding on for dear life and screaming your head off on a rolly-coaster you're not properly strapped into. Who knew life could get so silly and busy. At least I got a crocodile in spelling.

Down to the business of SOUP! I haven't made this soup since I was in college, and the last time I did I enjoyed eating it so much that I became completely ensconced and didn't do dishes for a week. I found out how difficult it is to get rid of fruit flies. I recommend a vacuum attachment... or getting off one's ass and doing the dishes.

I really like this soup. It has lots of squashy fall flavor, and the pepitas and sour cream really add a lot of complex spice. The chocolate lover stated that the combination of flavors was "confusing", I think he meant that I'm a genius.

Pureed Butternut Squash Soup
2 Tbl Butter
1 small onion, chopped
1 two inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and chopped (ADVICE ON FRESH GINGER APPRECIATED)
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2.75 Lb butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and chopped into 3/4 inch cubes*
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
Coarse salt & pepper
sour cream if you so desire

*Save your seeds! Most squash seeds can be tossed with a little olive oil, salt (seasoned if you like), and pepper, and toasted in the oven for just a few minutes for a tasty snack. You could also top your soup with them.

Spiced Pepitas
1 cup raw pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
1 tsp chili powder
1/8-1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp coarse salt
2 tsp lime juice


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Toss the pepitas with the chili powder, cayenne pepper, salt, and lime juice. Spread the seeds out over a lined baking sheet and toast for about 10 minutes. Keep an eye on them, seeds and nuts burn fast!

Melt the butter in a large pot or saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, cook for about 2 minutes until fragrant. Add ginger, garlic, and squash. Cook this mixture for 6-8 minutes. Stir in four cups of water, bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. You're looking for a tender squash that mashes pretty easily up against the side of the pan.

If you are lucky enough to have an immersion blender, I would recommend using it to puree the soup. Use caution while pureeing ridiculously hot liquids, keep the hand blender submerged and work slowly. You can use a blender if you cover the top with a dish towel so the heat can escape. Once the soup is at the desired consistency, stir in 1/4 cup orange juice, and 1 1/2 tsp salt.

Serve HOT!... In a mug!... Light a candle, and get a blanket, and watch Fear Fest on AMC!

Or, put it in whatever you like, top with a little pepper, a dollop of sour cream, and the toasted pepitas. You can thank me later.


Monday, September 5, 2011

Cinnamon Streusel Pancakes (...not ground beef)

If you woke up in Nashville this morning, you tugged at your sheets and wrestled with the idea that you could be cold. Then, you turned off the a/c for the first time in three months and enjoyed the hush sound of tires on wet pavement, maybe you were even lucky enough to notice the trains.

If you were me, you would have. You also would have moseyed into the kitchen, started the coffee, thought about how good cinnamon sounded, how lucky you are, and turned on Sea Change.

Ok, as much as these may look like pancakes with ground beef on top of them, I swear, it's cinnamon streusel, and it was killer. Sorry for the one ultra crappy picture post, but there were more important things going on today than stressing out over photos.

Cinnamon Streusel
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup packed brown sugar*
6 Tbl cold unsalted butter, cut into small chunks
1 tsp cinnamon

*I used dark brown sugar, but light would be fine too, I'm sure. Just make sure it's not too hard. If brown sugar is giving you trouble, put it in the microwave for ten seconds and it should soften considerably.

Mash all of these ingredients together with a fork or by hand. My brown sugar was pretty hard and I didn't use my own microwave trick, so I had to eventually just mash it by hand. This is fine, but I did have to put it in the freezer for a few minutes halfway through so that it would crumble instead of clump. (The heat from my hands started softening the butter too much, if you weren't following.)

I just used store bought "heart healthy" pancake mix and added a tsp. of vanilla (the good kind, from Mexico) to add a nice light flavor to the cakes. All you should need in this case is one egg and 1 1/4 cup milk (soy is fine).

Please enjoy, wear your wellies.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Forcing it with Tomato Pie

HEY, I figured something out.

I swear, it wouldn't stop underlining until I linked it. :)

I'll start by saying that if you have a farmers market or produce stand anywhere near you that you've been thinking about checking out- DO IT. There is no reason not to support local farms. You're going to get the best of what's in season at a reasonable price, and if you're lucky enough to be buying produce from Amish farmers like I am, you can count on a lack of harsh chemicals. That said, end of summer vegetables are really wonderful, take advantage of them while you can- especially tomatoes.

Look at the beautiful babies, so money... and they don't even know it.

I found this recipe online. Unfortunately, the instructions were confusing, so I thought I would simplify them and give them to you. I brought this to a party last night- it killed. I am not feeling terribly eloquent at the moment, but I promise you- this is awesome.

Tomato Pie
(my recipe and my massive tomatoes yielded two pies, and they were awesome.)

- 8 or 9 inch Pie Crust*
- 1/4 tsp Kosher salt
- 1/4 tsp black Pepper
- 2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
- 2 Tbl shredded fresh basil
- 4 ripe tomatoes (I used local Bradleys)
- 1 cup yellow cherry tomatoes** cut in half
- 1 cup red cherry tomatoes cut in half
- 1 cup fine bread crumbs, I used an Italian variety to add flavor- PER PIE
- 1/2 cup coarsely grated fresh Mozzarella cheese- PER PIE
- 1/2 cup coarsley grated Asiago cheese- PER PIE

*You can go to the trouble of making homemade crust if you have that kind of time. I bought a two pack of Kroger brand deep dish 9" pie crusts and they worked just fine.

**I could not find yellow cherry tomatoes, so I used non-acidic cherry sized tomatoes. Fantastic.


IF YOU ARE MAKING YOUR OWN CRUST(S): preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit, prick the crust all over with a fork and brown it for 8-12 minutes depending on your oven.

IF YOU ARE BUYING THE CRUST(S): Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit, thaw the crusts, prick all over with a fork, and proceed with the following instructions.

Place all of the appropriately chopped tomatoes in a large bowl. Add the salt, pepper, garlic, and basil to the bowl and gently incorporate. You want the tomatoes to stay in tact, I gently mixed the ingredients by hand. Allow the tomato mixture to rest and soak in the goodness for ten minutes.

Fill the pie: layer the tomatoes with the breadcrumbs and cheese, beginning on the bottom and ending on top with a layer of breadcrumbs and cheese.

Place in the oven and bake until warmed throughout, about 30 minutes and until the crust is golden brown. Serve immediately. Drink wine.


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Pot Roast is, well... ya know.

...It's pot roast. That's about all.

I wanted it to be better, I really did. I thought we could make it work, pot roast. I thought it would be different all these years later. There was so much growing up and new appreciations and experiences in all those years we spent apart. But, no. You're just a cheap piece of meat all tarted up. You suck all the joy and flavor out of everything around you, and you can't even appreciate it when I try to spice things up. I even tried to woo you with red wine, but you just sat there. I never thought we had enough thyme, but even when I gave you all the extra thyme I had you didn't even really pay attention. I waited around for you to be ready, and by the time you were I just didn't give a shit anymore.

At least my attempt looked pretty. It wasn't really all that bad, either. I think what it comes down to is that I'm just not that big of a pot roast fan, and no one will ever be able to make it quite the way their grandmother did when they were three and forced to finish their carrots.

I bring you fragrant bouquets and you don't even care. Also, there's my big chef's knife just in case I decide to take it to my wrist during this futility.

I couldn't even get a particularly good shot of it, and although I meant to in the morning light, who has time in the morning? Also, we were so unenthusiastic about leftovers after about two days that taking a picture sort of lost it's appeal. I think it's officially time for me to get a soft box... and a bike.

Anyway, I have been trying to get the hang of red meat lately and it's slow going. I've pan seared steaks here and there, attempted supervised grilling etc, but I have definitively come to the conclusion that this "stew" bullshit is possibly the worst way to prepare an already subpar cut of cow. I DO NOT, however, condemn all things in stew form. Coq Au Vin is one of the most beautiful dishes I have ever encountered in my life, it's like French soul food and probably made Julia Child say "DAAAYUM" the first time she made it. I will definitely have to do a post about it soon since that dish has been my traditional French food training wheels. It's such a wintry dish but I love it in late summer when the herbs are ripe and moist and just begging for it. Yeah...

I got this recipe from How To Boil Water, which definitely has some great recipes and technique. Many of the dishes are Americanized or made so non-threatening that creativity does help. That probably has something to do with why I found the pot roast so disenchanting, but still, I added booze to a dish and nothing. Red flag.

I'm not going to bother posting the recipe since pot roast recipes seem to be a dime a dozen, but if anyone has any suggestions and I'm being blindly judgmental of this classic, feel free to let me know.

Guaranteed to blow your mind, anytime.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Not sure how to say this....

But this is the best damn thing I have ever baked. These babies are so sweet, and chocolatey, and pretty much the closest you can get to Bailey's without getting your eyes wet. The cookie part alone is great, but then you put Bailey's buttercream in between two of them and you may as well get a new pair of pants because YOU WILL pee yourself from sheer happiness. Ok, think of it this way: cookies make you feel like a kid, Bailey's makes you feel like a naughty adult, the combination makes you feel like you can never grow old and never die- I mean you may as well be Keifer Sutherland in Lost Boys when you eat these.

Doesn't hurt to have a glass of Bailey's either.
That was also the best opening paragraph. Ever.

Now that I'm actually able to be myself and I'm not being monitored by a certain ludicrously conservative company all the time, I will try to have more of a sense of humor about this whole thing. I write and cook because I enjoy it, and because I make myself laugh. What's the point if I can't enjoy showing it to others. Plus, who wants to read boring instructions when you know I am ITCHING to toss in an f-bomb or two (I will try not to but... ya know).

Also, I would like to plug a blog created by one of my favorite people, you may know him from his work with Emotional Fat Crying Records: TACO SUMMER! I might be contributing to this once in awhile, but I will definitely be attending often.
Down to business. These are surprisingly easy and quick to make, just make sure you are sifting all dry ingredients so that you get a smooth cookie. Also, using high quality ingredients really makes a difference. I made two batches of these. The first ones were larger, and in my opinion much tastier, although the chocolate loving individual who consumed most of the second batch had no complaints between bites. As with all recipes, if you can get the best quality ingredients- do it.

For The Cookie Part:
Ingredients yield about 20 smaller pies or 10 larger ones (pictured)
1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened high quality cocoa powder (I used Ghirardelli)
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
5 Tbl unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 large egg
1 cup Baileys
1 tsp vanilla extract

For the Baileys Buttercream Icing:
12 Tbl unsalted butter, softened
1 3/4 cups confectioners sugar
2 Tbl Baileys

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees fahrenheit, line a baking sheet with parchment. I ended up filling a half sheet and a regular sized cookie sheet.

In a medium bowl whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Go to the extra effort to sift, it will really improve the texture of your cookies.

In a stand mixer combine butter and sugars using the paddle attachment on medium/high for about 3 minutes. Add the egg, mix until pale and fluffy for about 2 minutes. On low speed, mix in 1/2 the flour mixture gradually. Add the Baileys and vanilla until just blended, then add the remaining flour mixture.

Place dollops of the batter 2 inches apart on the baking sheet(s). It's quite sticky so you might want to shape it a little bit, notice the swirl I made on the top of the pie. Bake 10-12 minutes until the tops of the pies are "springy". I haven't mastered the consistency yet, but I think it's supposed to be rich and slightly cakey. Cool the pan on a rack for 5-10 minutes, then cool the cookies on the rack until they reach room temperature.

Meanwhile, make the filling- and don't even think about spreading it between the pies until they are completely cooled. Buttercream melts! Combine the butter and sugars in the stand mixer (I continued to use the paddle attachment with no problems). Mix at high speed for about 3-5 minutes until light and fluffy. Add the Baileys and beat to combine.

If you're luckier than I am and you can actually find your pastry bag after you've moved, make some designs using a large star nozzle. Enjoy these, and good luck trying to share.

I have no rivals, I have inside me blood of kings.