Wednesday, March 26, 2014

TWD: Mocha Brownie Cake

Tuesdays with Dorie baking through Baking with Julia
by Dorie Greenspan
Contributing Baker: Marcel Desaulniers

I have to say, I was so excited when this recipe was chosen. Not only for the fact that the recipe comes from Marcel Desaulniers (of which, at last count, I have five of his books), but also, I love chocolate. I love brownies. I love ganache. Sounded like a winner to me!

How does one expect to cut a cake, that is not even two inches high, into three layers? I have Liz of That Skinny Chick Can Bake, to thank, for her clever tip of using toothpicks inserted into the sides of the cake, to use as a knife guide. Thanks Liz!!

I did not quite have enough ganache to frost the cake completely. I ended up having to add an extra three and a half ounces of chocolate, and a splash of half-and-half to the remainder ganache in order to have a sufficient amount.

This is the first time for me, making a ganache where butter is added. I have always made it with just chocolate and cream. The butter does add a bit of richness to the ganache (as if ganache isn't rich enough already).

The photo makes this cake look moist and delicious. However, I felt the cake was too dry. Apparently so did the boys at the shop. Normally sweets like this disappear in a heartbeat. There was still about half the cake left over when I went in the next day. By the end of the day, it was still there... sad to say, into the trash it went.

I felt this was too much work for the outcome. I'm sure there are better recipes out there. And interestingly enough, this recipe is not in any of Mr. Desaulniers' books that I have.

This may not have been a hit, but his other recipes have been:

One of my favorite recipes of Mr. Desaulniers' is his Ebony & Ivory Truffles, from his book Death by Chocolate - those are to die for - I'll have to remember to share those with you one day; and his Sliced Beets with Curly Endive, Red Bliss Potato Salad, Honey Mustard Roasted Walnuts and Meaux Mustard Vinaigrette from his book Salad Days, is delicious too!

It just so happened, the day I baked this cake, it was my sister's birthday. She was on her way over to pick up her camera, and I had a slice of cake, complete with candle, to send home with her.

If you would like to attempt this recipe yourself, you will find the recipe on page 282 of Baking with Julia, or the recipe can be found on the Chicago Tribune website.

Do be sure to visit my fellow bloggers sites to see their rendition of this recipe, by visiting the Tuesdays with Dorie page for their links, listed under LYL: Mocha Brownie Cake.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

WW: Barbecued Pork Lo Mein

Wok Wednesdays wokking through Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge
by Grace Young

This recipe takes a little advanced planning, for the pork needs to marinate overnight. After that, it goes rather quickly; the pork itself only needs to cook for about 14 minutes - during this time, you can be getting the rest of your ingredients together, if you did not make the pork in advance.

The recipe calls for fresh Chinese egg noodles (these can be purchased at your Asian grocery store). I chose to make the noodles myself. Making your own noodles is really very easy (and fun!) - especially if you have a KitchenAid mixer with the pasta attachment.

This is the second time I have made these noodles. The first time was for the Chicken Lo Mein with Ginger and Mushrooms, we made last year. I have to say I haven't made them since! And why not? Fresh pasta is so much better than the dried boxed stuff.

If you are unable to find the correct noodles, and you don't want to make your own, Grace recommends fresh Italian tagliarini; and if all else fails - regular spaghetti (as a last resort). 

The barbecued pork is  d e l i c i o u s ! !  Sliced up, this would make for a great appetizer at your next backyard get-together. Served as is or with a dipping sauce - sweet-hot mustard comes to mind.

Pork shoulder or butt is called for in the recipe - I used a boneless pork rib (my butcher tells me it is the same thing..). The pork is marinated overnight in a mixture of sugar, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, dark soy sauce, rice wine (I used dry sherry), bean sauce, sesame oil, white pepper (I used black), and drizzled with honey just before broiling; yes, this is actually cooked in the oven under the broiler, not on the barbecue - though I'm sure it would turn out just as fabulously cooked on the grill, as it did in the oven. After all, the broiler is just an upside down grill, is it not?

Alternately, if you have access to a Chinatown in your area, you can purchase it already made - one drawback - it usually includes red dye - and fresh is always better anyway! This is so easy to make, there really is no reason not to make it yourself. 

Mise en place.

Bowl 1: Barbecued pork, ginger, garlic

Bowl 2: Bean sprouts

Bowl 3: Rice wine

Bowl 4: Soy sauce, oyster sauce, (I omitted the salt)

Bowl 5: Chinese egg noodles (homemade)

Bowl 6: Scallions

As I noted above, I omitted the 1/2 teaspoon salt called for in the recipe. When I tasted the mixture, it was extremely salty - I tossed it, and made it again sans salt - still, I felt it was a tad too salty. In the end however, the finished product could have used a bit of salt...  I should have known better, Grace knows her stuff; she would not steer us wrong.

As you can see from this photo, a few of my noodles stuck together - being they were fresh, they were still very soft and tender - not at all chewy like dried pasta feels, when they clump together.

This dish was well received. My husband asked if there was more. I had replied, yes there is plenty, also some broccoli. His response: I'm not interested in the broccoli, I'm interested in this - filling his plate with more noodles. :)

We are asked not to post the recipes here on our blog. If you would like the recipe, you will find it on page 273 & 285 of  Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge, which you can purchase at your local bookstore or find it at your local library. I highly recommend purchasing the book - you won't be disappointed. 

Wok Wednesdays is an online cooking group. If you would like information about joining us, click here, or visit us on Facebook. Would love for you to wok along with us!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Book 111: InterCourses: an aphrodisiac cookbook | Artichoke Pizza with Feta & Thyme

by Martha Hopkins & Randall Lockridge

When I first saw this book (back in 1997), it gave me a chuckle. I thought, really? I remember feeling a bit embarrassed to look at it in public, but the cover photo was intriguing, and lured me in.

I purchased this book more for the artwork, than the recipes (evidently); it's taken only 17 years to finally make something from this book!

You may be wondering, as I did, where the aphrodisiac comes into foreplay. Well, it's the artichoke, and this is what they have to say:

"Experience it for yourself: Together with your partner, insert your thumbs into the very center of a blanched artichoke, where the leaves meet. Slowly pull the petals apart and down. As the leaves fold down, they will reveal a variable painting of green, white, and purple. Don't stop there, but delve deeper toward the center. Continue spreading the petals until you spy a hint of yellow-white fur. Insert a finger into the opening. The fur, you will find, is protected by the prickly spears of the choke. But persevere, close your eyes, and stroke the voluptuous fur."

Yeah, getting pricked by the prickly spears would excite me - think not.

One more quote from the artichoke chapter:

"As the skewer penetrated the goodies , Laurel became more involved with cooking than ever before. She couldn't stand it as I slowly, ritually skewered the plump scallops next to the slippery-slick hearts of the artichoke. And then - when it was her turn to skewer - wowza!"

OK. Enough of that..

Why did I wait seventeen years?! This pizza was delicious! Reminiscent of the quick appetizer I used to make (thanks to my friend Christine), with the Boboli cheese pizza crust, that you slather with purchased artichoke jalapeno dip, baked in the oven till bubbly and browned, and went wonderfully with a glass of Champagne.

I really don't care for pizzas (or pasta, for that matter) that are slathered with an insane amount of tomato sauce. When we order pizza (which is not all that often), if I remember, I'll ask for them to go light on the sauce - or order one that uses a pesto, or garlic oil in place of the tomato sauce. 

For this pizza, the "sauce" is made up of garlic, mayo (I used non fat Fage Greek yogurt), crushed red pepper, and artichoke hearts (I used the marinated hearts). This is then topped with sautéed bell peppers & garlic; I had a handful of spinach in the fridge that I added as well. Then you top it with some Parmesan and feta cheese, and some dried thyme (I'm thinking, fresh thyme added to the bell pepper mixture would be good in place of the dried thyme). Then it goes into the oven for fifteen minutes.

Can you say, "super easy"! This makes for a quick weeknight meal; by itself, as we did, or with a side salad. The leftovers, if you have any, even tasted good the next day.

Ready for the oven! Isn't it beautiful?


Wednesday, March 5, 2014

WW: Stir-Fried Yau Choi with Oyster Sauce

Wok Wednesdays wokking through Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge
by Grace Young

Here is a delightfully quick, tasty side dish that would go great with just about anything. I chose to serve it alongside spinach and Gruyère stuffed tilapia.
I'm not sure just how to describe the flavor of yau choi. Raw - it has a slight sweetness, like spinach - and what comes to mind, is also a very slight flavor of arugula - without the peppery bitterness - make sense? Not to me either really. You'll just have to give it a try yourself.  Cooked - it was delicious!

Yau Choi (aka You-Choy Sum or Choi Sum)

 Mise en place.

Bowl 1: Garlic

Bowl 2: Yau Choi

Bowl 3: Ground pepper (the recipe calls for white pepper)

Bowl 4: Oyster sauce and fish sauce

I had a huge bag of yau choi, so I made it again a couple days later for a quick lunch. This time I chopped the stems, rather than leaving them whole (makes for easier eating) and added an extra teaspoon of minced garlic.

We are asked not to post the recipes here on our blog. If you would like the recipe, you will find it on page 196 of  Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge, which you can purchase at your local bookstore or find it at your local library. I highly recommend purchasing the book - you won't be disappointed. 

The recipe can also be found here at 

Wok Wednesdays is an online cooking group. If you would like information about joining us, click here, or visit us on Facebook. Would love for you to wok along with us!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

TWD: Buttermilk Scones

Tuesdays with Dorie baking through Baking with Julia
by Dorie Greenspan 
Contributing Baker: Marion Cunningham

This recipe is courtesy of Marion Cunningham, author of the famed (revised) Fanny Farmer Cookbook. This was my very first cookbook (over 30 years ago!), and I still refer to it today. I posted on this book back on 2011, when I made her Fluffy Egg Nest - so fun! I love her simple, no-nonsense approach to recipes.

Photo from my 2011 post.

These babies are something you can throw together on the spur of the moment; they are made up of mostly pantry staples: flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; the rest of the ingredients are butter, buttermilk (if don't have buttermilk, you can substitute this for the buttermilk), and citrus zest (I have lemon zest on hand in the freezer, thanks to generous friends whom bestow lovely lemons on me from their trees - and I added some dried cherries to the mix).

In an half-hour (if that), you can have these made from start to finish. They're that easy - there's no excuse not to have fresh scones with your morning coffee, or as the English do, with tea.

The dough appears to be extremely dry when mixing. I was tempted to add some milk, but refrained. As you can see it came together beautifully. I'm thinking, if I were to make these again, and there is a good chance (just so many recipes to make, and so little time!), I may cut the circles into eight pieces rather than six. 

The recipe calls to bake the scones for ten to twelve minutes, or until the tops and bottoms are golden in color. As all ovens vary, my scones baked for about fourteen minutes; they could have gone a couple minutes more, for they were not all that golden; but I did not want to over-bake them - knowing how dry scones can be.

I had my doubts as to whether these really were scone-like. I have never had a scone that was not dry, somewhat hard, and crumbly (I thought that is how scones were). These on the other-hand are the exact opposite - soft, moist, and tender, almost biscuit like, with a crunchy crust from the sugar topping (my favorite part). After a little research, I have found that they indeed are supposed to be soft and tender; not like the ones I am used to getting in coffee shops.

These are best the day they are baked. The next day they were still soft, and I thought, the flavor was a bit more enhanced, though the crust does lose its crunchy texture. These tasted fine at room temperature the following day, but heated in the microwave for a sheer five seconds or so, gives them that warm, fresh baked feeling. I think heating them in the oven (I was at work, so the microwave had to suffice) would bring back the crunchy outer layer it loses overnight.

I can't wait to make Starbucks knock-off pumpkin scones next! Our daughter told me about these back (again) 2011! I cannot believe it was that long ago... I was hoping to make them and add them to this post as well; however, I just did not get around to it. :(  And there really is no excuse!! Scones are so easy to make!! Good things come to those who wait... right? :)

This recipe is adaptable to many flavors and/or additions. I can't wait to see the results of my fellow bakers - there is always a wide variety of variations to the recipes we make, due to either dietary restrictions, ingredient availability, or just personal preference.

You can see their results as well, by visiting the TWD website and looking for the LYL Link: Buttermilk Scones, or better yet, just click here to be taken there directly.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

The Accidental Post: Twice-Baked Potato

Recipe courtesy of Fine Cooking Magazine

These twice-baked potatoes puts all others to shame.

As I have mentioned in previous posts, Fine Cooking is my all-time favorite magazine. Their recipes are no-nonsense, uncomplicated, and always delicious. This months (April/May 2014) issue is no exception.

There are days when I don't feel I have the energy or desire to make an overly involved recipe, or even go out to dinner. On these days, I'll make a baked potato and a salad, and call it a day. Normally, I will just give it a sprinkle of s&p, maybe add some Greek yogurt. Boy, have I been missing out.

Twice-baked potatoes are a bit more involved than your throw-in-the-oven baked potato, but so worth it. I took the main recipe of Potatoes with Cheddar and Chives, and added the sautéed mushrooms from a variation suggestion. A very good call on my part if I do say so myself; the flavor was out of this world - the mushrooms added an earthy, almost meaty flavor, the cheese lending a creamy tartness to the flaky flesh, with a hint of onion from the scallions sprinkled on top. Bliss. Pure bliss.

The potatoes were so beautiful coming out of the oven (my apologies for the poor lighting), I thought I should take a picture, you know, just in case they tasted as good as they looked - and they did, even more so.

These were quite filling to say the least. I mentioned to my husband, that we could easily share one - save half for our breakfast in the morning; I thought it would taste great, topped with a poached egg. He promptly said, uh no - I'm going to eat the whole thing - and he did - and so did I.

My husband also mentioned that I'll have to make these again, maybe for his lunch one day. He even joked about putting in a real oven down at the shop. Hmm.. not a bad idea, actually. 

As I inhaled this heavenly meal, my mind was running overtime on how else I could present this deliciousness. I'm thinking potato pancakes - served with a red pepper sauce, or add the same flavors to your holiday mashed potatoes, or.. leave well enough alone.

These were fabulous... you gotta make em.