Saturday, February 28, 2009

Daring Bakers Chocolate Overload

This month's challenge for the Daring Bakers was a mixed bag for me. There were some major benefits-- minimal ingredients, simple one day project, multiple tasty elements. But it wasn't my favorite challenge, because the main recipe was just not something I would ever really crave. I mean, I like chocolate, don't get me wrong. But a super rich flourless chocolate cake is just a little more chocolate than I can handle. It's not a type of dessert I would ever order at a restaurant or pick out of a cookbook, so while it was fun to try out, it was not a recipe I would likely make again. See the bottom of this post for my favorite part, which I WILL repeat... making my own carmel sauce!
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.
Weighing the chocolate was a good excuse to use the kitchen scale I got for a Christmas gift.

Chocolate Valentino

16 ounces (1 pound) (454 grams) of semisweet chocolate, roughly chopped
½ cup (1 stick) plus 2 tablespoons (146 grams total) of unsalted butter

5 large eggs separated

1. Put chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl and set over a pan of simmering water (the bottom of the bowl should not touch the water) and melt, stirring often.

2. While your chocolate butter mixture is cooling. Butter your pan and line with a parchment circle then butter the parchment.

3. Separate the egg yolks from the egg whites and put into two medium/large bowls.

4. Whip the egg whites in a medium/large grease free bowl until stiff peaks are formed (do not over-whip or the cake will be dry).

5. With the same beater beat the egg yolks together.

6. Add the egg yolks to the cooled chocolate.

7. Fold in 1/3 of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture and follow with remaining 2/3rds. Fold until no white remains without deflating the batter. {link of folding demonstration}

8. Pour batter into prepared pan, the batter should fill the pan 3/4 of the way full, and bake at 375F/190C
9. Bake for 25 minutes until an instant read thermometer reads 140F/60C. Note – If you do not have an instant read thermometer, the top of the cake will look similar to a brownie and a cake tester will appear wet.

10. Cool cake on a rack for 10 minutes then unmold.

I was excited to see ice cream as part of this challenge, because we got an Ice Cream Ball for a housewarming gift last year and have yet to use it. We brought the whole dessert to our friends house for Valentine's Day, and had fun tossing the ball around to make the dessert! Thanks Stephen and Haley for such an awesome gift! Joe and I agreed that once the weather warms up again we'll have to make some ice cream at the park, just because that's what you do with an ice cream ball :)

Vanilla Philadelphia Style Ice Cream
by Wendy

2 cups (473 ml) of half and half (1 cup of heavy cream and 1 cup of whole, full fat milk)
1 cup (237 ml) heavy cream
2/3 (128 grams) cup sugar
Dash of salt1 (12 grams)
tablespoon of vanilla

Mix all ingredients together (we do this in a plastic pitcher and mix with an emulsifier hand blender-whisking works too). Refrigerate for 30 minutes or longer. Mix in your ice cream maker as directed.

And now for my favorite part... homemade carmel sauce! I was so intimidated by the thought of making carmel sauce, but once I got the idea I couldn't stop thinking about it. I searched my cookbooks and online, and picked out the carmel sauce recipe from the blog Simply Recipes. The recipe worked perfectly, and I was so proud of the final product! It tasted fantastic, too!

Caramel Sauce Recipe

1 cup of sugar
6 Tbsp butter
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

1. First, before you begin, make sure you have everything ready to go - the cream and the butter next to the pan, ready to put in. Making caramel is a fast process that cannot wait for hunting around for ingredients. If you don't work fast, the sugar will burn. Safety first - make sure there are no children under foot and you may want to wear oven mitts; the caramelized sugar will be much hotter than boiling water.

2. Heat sugar on moderately high heat in a heavy-bottomed 2-quart or 3-quart saucepan. As the sugar begins to melt, stir vigorously with a whisk or wooden spoon. As soon as the sugar comes to a boil, stop stirring. You can swirl the pan a bit if you want, from this point on. Note that this recipe works best if you are using a thick-bottomed pan. If you find that you end up burning some of the sugar before the rest of it is melted, the next time you attempt it, add a half cup of water to the sugar at the beginning of the process, this will help the sugar to cook more evenly, though it will take longer as the water will need to evaporate before the sugar will caramelize.

3. As soon as all of the sugar crystals have melted (the liquid sugar should be dark amber in color), immediately add the butter to the pan. Whisk until the butter has melted.

4. Once the butter has melted, take the pan off the heat. Count to three, then slowly add the cream to the pan and continue to whisk to incorporate. Note than when you add the butter and the cream, the mixture will foam up considerably. This is why you must use a pan that is at least 2-quarts (preferably 3-quarts) big.

5. Whisk until caramel sauce is smooth. Let cool in the pan for a couple minutes, then pour into a glass mason jar and let sit to cool to room temperature. (Remember to use pot holders when handling the jar filled with hot caramel sauce.) Store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Warm before serving.

Makes a little over one cup of sauce.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Sunday Night Remix

I'm going to warn you, this blog is probably going to continue to be pretty slow for another couple months. I'm finally starting to adjust to to my new job (is it still new 4 months later?), so I have replaced some of my late nights at work with visits to the gym. I've always loved working out, but for the last four months the last place you would find me was the gym. We were trying to save money, and also I needed to invent the 26 hour day in order to find the extra time. Things are falling back into their usual place, though, and I'm thankful to be able to add gym visits back into my schedule. Obviously, though, this leaves less time for cooking.

In addition, I am finally stopping the "holiday eating"... 2 months after the holidays! It has been rough at home, with my job and Joe's lack of job (until about 2 weeks ago!), so I started eating crap around Thanksgiving and never stopped. There has been an abundance of heavy food, sweet treats, and extra booze around my house lately, which combined with the lack of gym visits to make me feel like a lazy pig! So healthy food in reasonable portions is the new expectation around here, and for the last two weeks I feel like I've already made some progress. My goal isn't necessarily to lose weight, but to make myself feel good about my body again.

I still love having a nice satisfying dinner on Sunday nights, and this week's Sunday dinner was a great middle ground. Turkey Meatloaf and Mashed Root Vegetables was a great combination, and Joe and I were really happy with the meal. The root vegetables were mixed with thyme infused cream, which had fantastic flavor! I thought the meatloaf was satisfying without being too heavy. I'm not going to tell you this was the most low-fat, low cal, skinny food ever... but it was a perfect compromise when you're craving winter comfort food.

Turkey Meatloaf
from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook, by Ina Garten

** This recipe makes a TON. I did two pounds of ground turkey, and half of everything else**


3 cups chopped yellow onions (2 large onions)
2 tablespoons good olive oil
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (1/2 teaspoon dried)
1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
3/4 cup chicken stock
1 1/2 teaspoons tomato paste
5 pounds ground turkey breast
1 1/2 cups plain dry bread crumbs
3 extra-large eggs, beaten
3/4 cup ketchup


Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

In a medium saute pan, over medium-low heat, cook the onions, olive oil, salt, pepper, and thyme until translucent, but not browned, approximately 15 minutes. Add the Worcestershire sauce, chicken stock, and tomato paste and mix well. Allow to cool to room temperature.

Combine the ground turkey, bread crumbs, eggs, and onion mixture in a large bowl. Mix well and shape into a rectangular loaf on an ungreased sheet pan. Spread the ketchup evenly on top. Bake for 1 1/2 hours until the internal temperature is 160 degrees F. and the meatloaf is cooked through. (A pan of hot water in the oven under the meatloaf will keep the top from cracking.) Serve hot, at room temperature, or cold in a sandwich.

Savory Mashed Root Vegetables
by Tyler Florence on

3 pounds assorted root vegetables, such as carrots, parsnips, turnips, and rutabaga, coarsely
4 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups heavy cream (or fat free 1/2 and 1/2)
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter (I used about 1/2 the recommended amount)
1 handful fresh thyme sprigs
1 handful fresh rosemary sprigs
2 bay leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 bunch fresh chives, chopped
Extra-virgin olive oil

Place all the vegetables and garlic in a large pot and fill with cool water to cover; season with a teaspoon of salt. Bring to boil over medium heat and simmer for about 30 minutes, until the vegetables are very tender.

While the vegetables are cooking, combine the heavy cream, butter, and herbs in a pot and heat over low flame to melt the butter and infuse the herb flavor into the cream – do not allow to boil. Shut off the heat, cover, and let steep until needed. When ready to use, remove the herb stems and the bay leaves.

Drain vegetables and put them into a large mixing bowl. Mash with a potato masher. Stir in the warm cream mixture and mix until the liquid is absorbed and the vegetables are smooth; season with salt and pepper. Put the mashed root vegetables in a serving bowl, garnish with chopped chives and drizzle with a healthy dose of olive oil... or skip the olive oil if you're trying to eat healthy :)
** I did think the root vegetables ended up being a little to soupy, so I think next time I'll try a tip I saw on another recipe. After the vegetables are cooked, drain them and return to the pot. Mash the veggies, then stir on the heat for a few minutes to dry them out. I think this would have helped eliminate some of the watery taste I experienced.