Thursday, January 29, 2009

Mmmmmm. Dark chocolate. Good dark chocolate.

I am a dark chocolate kind of girl. Milk chocolate has a tiny little place in my world, but dark chocolate is king.

So imagine my delight when I received a
free bar of dark chocolate from Amano Artisan Chocolate. (Thanks Blake!) It's a bar called Jembrana.

Holy smokes. And holy smokes I say again.

It's a single origin chocolate. It's made in small batches, and the passion clearly shows. It was dark and creamy and luscious, and I haven't shared any yet. Too bad I didn't eat it all before I posted this. This is the kind of bar to be savored.

Thanks Amano for giving me a chance to try it. Go check out their website to see the Jembrana bar and some of their other bars.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

TWD: Fresh Ginger and Chocolate Gingerbread

I was really excited when I saw this recipe. Chocolate? YUM! Ginger? YUM! Chocolate and ginger? YUMYUMYUM. This recipe did not disappoint.

My favorite ginger recipe of all time is for Double Gingersnaps. I've been making this cookie recipe for forever. I haven't ventured much into other ginger baked goods. There are three types of ginger in this recipe: fresh, powdered, and candied. The chocolate is in chunks in the cake, melted and added to the batter, and in the frosting on top.

This was a slightly fussy recipe. Only slightly, though. The fresh ginger needed to be chopped fine and mixed with some sugar (1). The dry ingredients needed to be mixed together (2). The chocolate had to be melted (3). The chocolate that wasn't melted had to be chopped (4). Then all of the components eventually had to be mixed together (5). Plus there was the baking pan. That's SIX cooking vessels for one recipe. Thank goodness the husband does the dishes! (Thanks, Honey! Love you!)

Anyway, I followed the recipe as written, except I didn't put the cake on a baking sheet. That usually messes with my baking. The house smelled wonderful as it was baking and for quite a while after.

This was baked in a 9-inch square pan. Dorie advises turning the cake out on to a rack to cool and then flipping it over to ice. I didn't even bother. I had a lovely square cake bottom looking up at me. After it was cooled, I made the icing. It was much more glaze-like. (tangent -- what's the difference between frosting/icing/glaze?) This was EASY icing to make. As a matter of fact, I think this is my new go-to glaze for things like tube or Bundt cakes.

I decided to put my cake right on the serving plate. Dorie noted that we might want to trim off any brown edges, and she cuts the cake into squares before serving. I did not. The icing had a lovely glossy sheen. I poured it on top and let it drip down the sides a little.

Here is a cross section of the newly sliced cake.

Here's my slice. Don't even think about trying to take it from me!

A slightly different view where you can see the icing.

We all really liked this cake. This is definitely a recipe that will be made again at our house. We were divided on the frosting, however. The boy and I liked the cake with the icing. The husband and the girl didn't mind it, but thought it might be better without. Or maybe with some sweetened whipped cream instead. Regardless, it didn't last long in my house. I'm glad we didn't cut off the brown edges. They were really good. Maybe I should have, and then I wouldn't have had to share.... Anyway, this cake gave us about 16 slices and not the nine that Dorie called for. Those would have been pretty big slices.

Thanks, Heather, of Sherry Trifle for picking such a great recipe. I'm glad to add another ginger recipe to my arsenal. Next week -- the world famous World Peace cookies. Looking forward to it!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Not a TWD. Instead, I show you another cake

I did not make Dorie's Berry Surprise Cake this week. I'll start with the excuses. First off, I'm lazy. There I said it. This was a cake that had four separate components. That sounded fussy to me, and I rarely do fussy. The second reason had to do with many of the other bakers. This was a recipe that just did not do what they wanted it to do. Too many problems with sunken cake and bland cream. Thirdly, have I mentioned that I'm lazy?

Instead of the berry cake, I will show you the cake that I made for my friend Dave's birthday. It just looks fussy.

Here is the unassuming backside. Ah, just look at all those toffee bits smooshed into the coffee whipped cream.

And then, when you turn it around and look at the cut edge.....

Mmmmmm. Six layers of chocolate deliciousness separated by more whipped cream and toffee.

And the beauty of this cake? It just looks fussy. It's an amazingly easy three layer buttermilk chocolate cake, filled with flavored whipped cream and pre-crushed Heath bars.

The trickiest part is cutting the cake layers into more cake layers. And that's not so tricky when you use a long serrated knife and a round metal tart pan bottom.

The cake received raves from the dinner group. I really liked it as well. The cake is moist and wonderful. The whipped cream with flavored just enough to add a little something. And the taste and the crunch of the toffee candy pull the whole thing together.

I didn't post the recipe for various and sundry reasons most having to do with having a husband who is an Intellectual Property Lawyer. It's from a Better Homes and Gardens cookbook that is OLD. If you'd like the specific recipe, e-mail me, and I'll send it to you. If you'd like to fake it, use your favorite three layer chocolate cake recipe. Whip up some cream with a little instant coffee or espresso. Sprinkle with chopped up Heath bars.

I will definitely be participating next week when the main ingredients are ginger and chocolate. YUM!

Monday, January 19, 2009


For some reason, I've been thinking about cooking magazines today. And for some reason, I've assigned all of my magazines a relationship status. Let me explain.

Cook's Illustrated and Cook's Country are my BFFs. I have, literally, every copy of each of these magazines. I love them. I actually use them. I have gotten some of my favorite recipes from these magazines. They are well written, have good recipes and tips, and help me to be a better cook.

Another steady is Cooking Pleasures. It, too, has good recipes. It's a nice standby. Oh, and it has lovely glossy photos. On a side note, they do one thing that just mystifies me. When you subscribe to this magazine, you join their "club". Occasionally, I receive offers to make me a life member. It's around $300. I'll get certain benefits and a subscription for life. One of the benefits is a "gourmet cookware set valued at $370". Here's the thing, if you are a cook, and I am, don't you already have a set of cookware? (All-Clad here) How about if they keep the cookware, and just let me be a life member for free? Anyway....

Bon Appetit and I are friends with benefits. We stray, and then every so often, when they offer me a really cheap subscription, I sign up again. I can't take all the ads, though, which is why I'm not a consistent reader.

I have flirted with Everyday Food, Gourmet, Cooking Light, Eating Well, Saveur, and probably a few others. (At you can find most of these magazines)

So, internet, is there a cooking magazine that is your BFF? The one you look forward to every month? Is there one that you had to break up with because of just too many disappointments? Curious readers want to know!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

TWD: Savory Corn and Pepper Muffins

This was some good timing. Right now in Chicago it's very snowy and cold. Mind you, I'm not complaining. I need to have a change of seasons. Check back with me in two months when I just DO NOT WANT TO SHOVEL ANY MORE. But for now, I'm enjoying it. I was so glad to have the chance to make something savory. We enjoy cornbread a lot at our house. The girl and boy like anything bread-like. But the girl really likes mini corn muffins.

Good thing I have a mini muffin pan!

These were not standard corn muffins. They called for sweet red pepper, cilantro, chili powder, and jalapeno (Which I skipped. Too spicy for the kids. My kids, anyway.) It added a really nice touch of color. I also used a more coarsely ground cornmeal. It gave the muffins and extra bit of crunch to the texture. I did use the full three tablespoons of sugar. I like the crust on the muffin when sugar is added. They were incredibly easy to make. Two bowls, one muffin tin, and one rubber spatula brought it all together.

The red of the pepper and the green of the cilantro added to the appearance of the muffins. You can even see the specks of chili powder.

These ended up being nicely corn flavored but pretty mild in terms of the other flavors. Maybe I should have added the hot peppers.

We enjoyed this recipe. I would certainly make it again. I will admit to having a favorite recipe that goes into my cast iron skillet. But, if I wanted to make a muffin version, I would certainly try this again.

Thanks Rebecca from Ezra Pound Cake for choosing this recipe. You can find how to make these on her web site. I'm pretty sure I'm skipping next week's recipe. It's fairly labor intensive. Mostly, I need to have fewer sweets in my house so I'll eat less. That's the theory, anyway. We'll see what I end up doing.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

TWD: French Pear Tart

This is so cool! Because it was the first anniversary of Tuesdays with Dorie, Dorie herself chose the recipe! So cool!

As I've said before, I'm not much into the fuss factor. This recipe was chock full of components, but none of them were very difficult. There are essentially three parts to this recipe: the crust, the almond cream, and the pears.

The crust was very easy. It's a cookie crust that gets pressed into the pan. No rolling involved! I love that. It sat in the freezer while I made the almond cream. Oh, and I used the same (read - not cleaned in between) food processor for the crust and cream. The almond cream came together in seconds. It went into the fridge while I worked on the next step. The pears could have been much easier, but I did chose the most difficult of the three options.

Apparently, very often canned pears are used for this recipe. I happened to have a big bag of pears that the boy wanted me to buy and then never wanted to eat. Option two was to use the fresh pears as is. I went with option three, which was to poach the pears. This was also much easier than I was expecting.

While the pears were poaching, I partially baked the crust. That way they could be cooling at the same time. I will note that my crust could have stood a little more baking. When the crust was cool, I spread in my almond cream. The cutting of the pears worried me a little. There wasn't a picture in the book of the finished tart. I guessed. Apparently from other pictures I've seen, I guessed wrong. However, I like the way mine came out. It bakes for an hour. And then you get this:

The almond cream puffed up just the way it was supposed to.

Here's a close-up of my pear fan.

I needed to dry my pears a little more so that the almond cream wouldn't be as soupy. All in all, though, it's a great recipe. I would absolutely make this again. It was easy enough to do, and almost all the parts can be made ahead.

Thanks for thinking up and choosing such a great recipe, Dorie! You can see her tart and the recipe here.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Google Reader is overwhelming me

I have a terrible guilt complex.  Google Reader is not helping.  All of the TWD blogs are right there for me to read on Google Reader.

Every Tuesday I have such high hopes.  I start early in the day reading TWD blogs and commenting on as many as I can.  I love to see the comments that people leave for me, so I assume that it's the same for others.

Then maybe I'll come back on Tuesday night.  And the 46 or so active posts have become 120 or so.  So I try to get through some more.

Then on Wednesday there are even more posts.  Some of them aren't even TWD!  (Where do these people find the time and topics?)  So I fall further and further behind.  By Friday I just try to comment on any post from blogs that I missed on Tuesday or Wednesday.  This is murder on the control freak in me.

And now it's Sunday.  I just cleared my Google Reader in preparation for the next TWD.  I erased over 400 active posts.  

I need to get over the idea that I can comment on all the TWD posts.  I will make my peace with Google Reader one day.  In the meantime, sorry for the posts I haven't read, the comments I haven't left, and the recipes that I've missed.

And next week I'll try again.

•••• Edited to add:  The control freak in me had a field-day this afternoon.  I (literally, possibly sadly) looked at every blog on the TWD blogroll.  Originally, I had 478 blogs listed.  If the blogger hadn't posted a TWD post for the month of December, I deleted it from my list.  Now the only people on my list are TWD bloggers.  I still won't comment on everyone, but my narrowed list makes me feel better.  Control freak.