Tuesday, September 29, 2009

TWD: Chocolate Crunched Caramel Tart

Allow me to introduce you to few new things going on in my life these days.

For one, I've become incredibly busy at work. Busier than I ever have been. Which is great! But, also a little wearing. I'm not the type that stresses out easily and I can definitely leave my work at work when I go home in the afternoons, but for the 8 hours that I'm there: I'm swamped.

Two, I've started taking some classes. Yes, I have my bachelors degree, but it's time to start working toward the classes I need to sit for the CPA exam. That means, this semester, I'm taking 3 classes. 2 economics classes online and a pre-calculus class every Tuesday night for 3 hours (yes, I said pre-calculus for 3 hours. and yes, it's just as awful as you're imagining).

Three, I'm the captain for a relay team for the Bourbon Chase. Initially, you think... oh, how much trouble can being a captain be? And then you get into the thick of it and you realize: holy shit. I'm crafting an average of 3-4 emails a week on this. There is a lot of organizing and logisitics to figure out. And then you've got roster changes from injuries and people dropping out. It's just been a lot to deal with. It's fun and I'm happy to do it, but it gets a little frustrating when other people want things done on their time schedule.

It's good though. In general, I enjoy being busy. It makes me feel more alive. I am still trying to squeeze some baking in here and there, though. Which brings us to this recipe. This week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe was chosen by Carla of Chocolate Moosey . It came together fairly easily and uses Dorie's Tart dough recipe (which I adore). My caramel turned into toffee, which isn't a bad thing, but I actually think it made it richer than just the caramel would have been. The combination of the flaky, shortbread-y crust with the crunchy, buttery toffee and the sharp, thick, gooey chocolate layer on top is almost too much. Almost.

This isn't the type of recipe that I'd make for myself again, but I can see myself making it for a group. Plus, I'd like to give the caramel another try. I guess I just cooked it too long.

Chocolate Crunched Caramel Tart -- Click the title for the recipe.

The recipe is fairly easily. I subbed pecans for the peanuts, just because that's what I had on hand. It is a super rich, decadent recipe though, and I think my layer of chocolate ganache was a little too thick. Next time I'd just smear a thin layer on top.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Root Beer Float Cake

The football game might just be the perfect American activity.

Thankfully, I was introduced to tailgating at a young age. My family had season tickets to Vanderbilt Football games when I was a kid. We would pack up our van with lots of food, head down to Nashville on Saturday afternoons and spend the day in the park across the street from the Stadium (oh yes, back in the 80's you could park in Centennial Park on gameday. Ahhh... the good ole days). I only have a vague recollection of those years, but what I do remember, is enjoying my family and enjoying the outdoors. I didn't know anything about football and could care less at the time, but there is something about that time of my childhood that I always wistfully reminisce about in the fall.

As I grew up... and went off to college (go cocks!), tailgating and football became more and more socially oriented. It was the one time on the weekends that you actually got up early, iced down a case of shitty beer, bought a ton of chips, cookies, etc and hung out with your surrogate family. Sometimes you'd toss around a football. You'd meet new people on the way to the porta-potty. And it grew into a love of the sport as well. Not just a love of the tailgate.

No where else in the world, have I ever felt the sense of community as I do in football tailgates. There's an electricity in the air. People are gathered together for common goals: To enjoy the company others, to eat delicious food and drink alcoholic beverages, and to come together in the support of a team that bonds you together (even with the opposing team. Oops. Except at LSU. Those bastards are not interested in being nice to the opposition until AFTER the game and they've kicked your ass).

So you can imagine my excitement when I was invited to a friends Vandy Tailgate a few weeks ago. It was the kickoff tailgate for the season. And if my mom taught me anything about tailgating... it's that you never show up empty-handed. (Plus bringing a baked good,greatly increases your chances at getting a shot at breaking into the cornhole inner sanctum and getting to play a game).

And if bringing a baked good isn't enough, go ahead and decorate it in your team's colors. Black and gold, baby. All the way. And dont worry about how it tastes. Even if it's not very good... and... even if, after schlepping it in a cake carrier for 2 miles it shows up at the tailgate a smeared mess, everyone will be too impressed and too drunk to notice. Bonus!

Here's to the start of a new football season! Hope to see you out there.
Root Beer Float Cake
From the guys who wrote Baked: New Frontiers in Baking
However, I stole the recipe from Joy the Baker

Okay, so, here's the deal. You can't taste the root beer. Like, at all. Now, that could be because I used Mug Root Beer from a 2 liter bottle. But, if you're expecting a huge BANG from the root beer, look elsewhere.

Also, I thought the consistency of the cake was a little... off. It seemed kind of grainy, to me. Now, it's entirely possible that this is a baker's issue and not a recipe issue (as I'm not known for my awesome cake baking skills, sadly).

Overall, it's a good cake. But I wouldn't make it again. Maybe I overbaked mine. Maybe I have funky cake mojo. Either way, you should give the recipe a try for yourself... yours might just be a touchdown! (couldn't resist, sorry).

2 cups root beer (don’t use diet)
1 cup dark unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs

Preheat even to 325 degrees F. Spray the inside of a 10-inch Bundt pan with nonstick cooking spray, or butter generously and dust with flour, knocking out the excess.

In a small saucepan, heat the root beer, cocoa powder and butter over medium heat until butter is melted. Add sugars and whisk until dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt.

In a small bowl whisk the eggs until just beaten. Then whisk into the cocoa mixture until combined. Gently fold the flour mixture into the cocoa mixture. The batter will be slightly lumpy. You can give it a quick whisk if you like, but don’t over beat the batter or it could cause the cake to be tough. Don’t worry, the batter is very loose.

Pour the batter into prepared pan and cook for 35-45 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking until a sharp knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely then loosen edges with a butter knife and turn out onto a cake plate.

Chocolate Root Beer Frosting

2 ounces 60% cocoa, melted
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon salt (you may want to use less… maybe just 1/2 teaspoon)
1/4 cup root beer
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar

In the bowl of a stand mixer, or using an electric hand mixer, beat softened butter and cocoa powder. Once combined add the melted chocolate, salt, powdered sugar and root beer. Beat together until smooth. Spread on top of cooled cake. Slice and serve with vanilla ice cream.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

TWD: Chocolate Souffle

See that? The title up there... "Chocolate Souffle." Yeah. That's why I love Tuesdays with Dorie. Because there is no way in hell I would have EVER attempted to make a souffle otherwise. I mean, I didn't even really know what a freaking souffle was, but I was excited to try it at home.

So, let's go over the basics. It's true. I'd never had a souffle, never seen one in real life. I wasn't even entirely sure exactly what it was. Turns out, it's a custard-y, puffy cake that can either be sweet or savory. You make it by whipping egg whites until they're fluffy and then you fold in whatever flavor souffle you are going to make. Pop it in the oven, let it rise and then devour immediately.

Now, in theory, this is the perfect dessert for me. It's got a crispy outer edge (I love crispy) and then deep inside, it's ooey and gooey and hot (I always love underbaked goodies). I mean, it's a match made in heaven as far as I'm concerned. How could I have gone 29 years without having a souffle? I have lived a sheltered life, indeed.

Unfortunately, I overcooked mine a bit, I think. Because mine wasn't quite as gooey as I would have liked, but the idea excited me and I'm definitely going to be trying this dessert again soon and hopefully I can master the technique. I mean it was SUPER easy to put together. Well, except for the temporary carpal tunnel syndrome that you get from all that folding. Oh my god, is there anything more tedious in the baking world than folding? Seriously. Can't we come up with some kind of folding attachment for the handheld mixer? Is someone working on this? Please? But aside from that, it was easy. And... my favorite part... I had all the ingredients on hand! No running out to the store to buy a can of instant espresso or a mini bottle of cognac or any of that bullshit. Just eggs, chocolate, sugar, and milk. I can see myself whipping myself up a little souffle instead of a batch of brownies when I get that oooey gooey chocolate craving. And, how incredibly awesome is that? Whipping up souffles on a whim and whatnot? Awesome indeed.

Thank you, Tuesdays with Dorie and specifically Susan of She's Becoming Doughmesstic (who, by the way, has a great blog that you should be checking out regularly anyway) who chose this week's recipe and introduced me to something that might just become one of my favorite desserts.

Chocolate Souffle -- Click title for recipe

So, I was really unsure of how this recipe was going to turn out for me. I quartered the recipe (always scary when there are eggs in the recipe) and completely omitted the milk (since the amount would have been negligible anyway) and it still rose perfectly and tasted wonderful. The only warning? Don't overbake and apparently you can't make these ahead cause they'll fall. But, I doubt I'll ever know that from experience because I think I'll have a spoon in it as soon as I pull it out of the oven anyway (and the burnt tongue for days after).

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

TWD: Cheesecake Brownies

It occurred to me while I stood in my kitchen tasting these brownies... that i am a simple, boring girl. Well, at least culinarily speaking. (If you had been out with me on Saturday afternoon/night I think boring probably would have been the last word on your mind. But that's a whole other story for another blog... the drunken amy shenanigans blog*). I mean. Don't get me wrong. I LOVE cheesecake. But, my favorite cheesecake? Regular. Plain. Unadorned. I also love brownies. But, the only time I get wild and crazy with them is when I throw some nuts in the batter. Yum. So, if I love both parts of something... it only makes sense that I'd love them put together. Right?

Well, I didn't. At all. And here's the thing, folks... In my opinion, a really good cheesecake doesn't need a brownie base to make it better. And a really good brownie doesn't need a cheesecake topper to make it better. And the two together sure as hell don't need some weird sour cream icing on top.

This recipe was not my favorite. The brownie? Blech. Dry. Overcooked. Boring. The cheesecake? Flavorless (I skipped the Espresso and used Bailey's Liquor) and overshadowed by the huge amount of sour cream icing. And for me, the sour cream icing just threw the whole thing off. Mine was goopy and so sour cream-y. Like... almost buttermilk flavored. The flavors and textures just didn't do it for me.

Next time I'm craving cheesecake and brownies... I'll eat a slice of really good cheesecake, like this one... and a really good brownie... like this.

Dorie and I don't seem to have similar palates when it comes to chocolate goods. Her fruit recipes, however? I die for. Like...

Russian Grandmother's Apple Pie Cake
Summer Fruit Galette
French Pear Tart
Fresh Mango Bread
Florida Pie

Sorry... I got off on a little tangent there, didn't I? Oh well. Live and learn. If you like decadence and like to have cheesecake with your brownie, then give this recipe a try. Plenty of people were raving about them over at Tuesdays with Dorie. They just weren't my cup of tea. But, I'm boring. Remember?

Espresso Cheesecake Brownies
-- click the title for recipe from Melissa of Life in a Peanut Shell.
by Dorie Greenspan

I found these brownies really easy to make. I did skip the espresso and added an equal amount of baileys to the cheesecake batter, but I couldn't taste it (probably because all I could taste was sour cream from the topping).

* I don't have a drunken amy shenanigans blog. yet.