Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Daring Bakers Fail.

The 2009 October Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to us by Ami S. She chose macarons from Claudia Fleming’s The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern as the challenge recipe.

So. This month was macarons. I've never had macarons. I've only seen pictures. I understood that it was difficult, etc.

I apparently didn't realise how difficult.

I had no idea what exactly I was supposed to have with my meringue. When I made it, my meringue was very runny. And I barely folded it. I tried it a second time, and the meringue was still not really stiff. But it was still runny. Both times I got cookies that looked like the milanos from July. So I give up.

I can't make macarons.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Daring Bakers: Dobos Torte.

The August 2009 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Angela of A Spoonful
of Sugar and Lorraine of Not Quite Nigella. They chose the spectacular Dobos
Torte based on a recipe from Rick Rodgers' cookbook Kaffeehaus: Exquisite
Desserts from the Classic Caffés of Vienna, Budapest, and Prague.

Not much to say. I'm tired and there are other matters pressing on my mind...

The torte was okay. The cake was really chewy which wasn't my problem. But the frosting was actually too much for me. The caramel top didn't have a flavour that appealed to me and it was way too chewy for my braces.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Daring Bakers: Cookiessss.

The July Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Nicole at Sweet Tooth. She chose Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies and Milan Cookies from pastry chef Gale Gand of the Food Network.

So. I went on vacation. In all the rushing, I never managed to get this up. I apologise.

I made both recipes. I fancied the mallows more than the milan cookies. I didn't like the lemony bit of the milan cookies. I also left out the orange zest.

Oh. And the mallows. I used coconut oil instead of vegetable oil or cocoa butter. My chocolate never set. Unless I refrigerated it. It could be, though, that coconut oil melts at a very low temperature (seventy-six I think?) and we keep our house at seventy-four.

But anyway. I'm tired. And I just got back today. And I have work tomorrow.

Oh. And as for all my lack of pictures? My camera has had the same batteries (rechargeable) for two years. So I think I need new ones. Because they never hold a charge long enough for me to take pictures and upload.

Mallows(Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies)
Recipe courtesy Gale Gand, from Food Network website
Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies
Prep Time: 10 min
Inactive Prep Time: 5 min
Cook Time: 10 min
Serves: about 2 dozen cookies

• 3 cups (375grams/13.23oz) all purpose flour
• 1/2 cup (112.5grams/3.97oz) white sugar
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
• 3/8 teaspoon baking soda
• 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 12 tablespoons (170grams/ 6 oz) unsalted butter
• 3 eggs, whisked together
• Homemade marshmallows, recipe follows
• Chocolate glaze, recipe follows

1. In a mixer with the paddle attachment, blend the dry ingredients.
2. On low speed, add the butter and mix until sandy.
3. Add the eggs and mix until combine.
4. Form the dough into a disk, wrap with clingfilm or parchment and refrigerate at least 1 hour and up to 3 days.
5. When ready to bake, grease a cookie sheet or line it with parchment paper or a silicon mat.
6. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
7. Roll out the dough to 1/8-inch thickness, on a lightly floured surface. Use a 1 to 1 1/2 inches cookie cutter to cut out small rounds of dough.
8. Transfer to the prepared pan and bake for 10 minutes or until light golden brown. Let cool to room temperature.
9. Pipe a “kiss” of marshmallow onto each cookie. Let set at room temperature for 2 hours.
10. Line a cookie sheet with parchment or silicon mat.
11. One at a time, gently drop the marshmallow-topped cookies into the hot chocolate glaze.
12. Lift out with a fork and let excess chocolate drip back into the bowl.
13. Place on the prepared pan and let set at room temperature until the coating is firm, about 1 to 2 hours.

Note: if you don’t want to make your own marshmallows, you can cut a large marshmallow in half and place on the cookie base. Heat in a preheated 350-degree oven to slump the marshmallow slightly, it will expand and brown a little. Let cool, then proceed with the chocolate dipping.

Homemade marshmallows:
• 1/4 cup water
• 1/4 cup light corn syrup
• 3/4 cup (168.76 grams/5.95oz) sugar
• 1 tablespoon powdered gelatin
• 2 tablespoons cold water
• 2 egg whites , room temperature
• 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. In a saucepan, combine the water, corn syrup, and sugar, bring to a boil until “soft-ball” stage, or 235 degrees on a candy thermometer.
2. Sprinkle the gelatin over the cold water and let dissolve.
3. Remove the syrup from the heat, add the gelatin, and mix.
4. Whip the whites until soft peaks form and pour the syrup into the whites.
5. Add the vanilla and continue whipping until stiff.
6. Transfer to a pastry bag.

Chocolate glaze:
• 12 ounces semisweet chocolate
• 2 ounces cocoa butter or vegetable oil

1. Melt the 2 ingredients together in the top of a double boiler or a bowl set over barely simmering water.

Milan Cookies
Recipe courtesy Gale Gand, from Food Network website
Milan Cookies
Prep Time: 20 min
Inactive Prep Time: 0 min
Cook Time: 1 hr 0 min
Serves: about 3 dozen cookies

• 12 tablespoons (170grams/ 6 oz) unsalted butter, softened
• 2 1/2 cups (312.5 grams/ 11.02 oz) powdered sugar
• 7/8 cup egg whites (from about 6 eggs)
• 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
• 2 tablespoons lemon extract
• 1 1/2 cups (187.5grams/ 6.61 oz) all purpose flour
• Cookie filling, recipe follows

Cookie filling:
• 1/2 cup heavy cream
• 8 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
• 1 orange, zested

1. In a mixer with paddle attachment cream the butter and the sugar.
2. Add the egg whites gradually and then mix in the vanilla and lemon extracts.
3. Add the flour and mix until just well mixed.
4. With a small (1/4-inch) plain tip, pipe 1-inch sections of batter onto a parchment-lined sheet pan, spacing them 2 inches apart as they spread.
5. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 10 minutes or until light golden brown around the edges. Let cool on the pan.
6. While waiting for the cookies to cool, in a small saucepan over medium flame, scald cream.
7. Pour hot cream over chocolate in a bowl, whisk to melt chocolate, add zest and blend well.
8. Set aside to cool (the mixture will thicken as it cools).
9. Spread a thin amount of the filling onto the flat side of a cookie while the filling is still soft and press the flat side of a second cookie on top.
10. Repeat with the remainder of the cookies.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Daring Bakers: Strudel.

I'll get my pictures up, I promise. Annoy me if I don't.

The May Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Linda of make life sweeter! and Courtney of Coco Cooks. They chose Apple Strudel from the recipe book Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague by Rick Rodgers.

Wednesday when I should have gotten this up, I remembered about it whilst I was at a party Christopher was throwing to celebrate the start of summer and show off his new movie. Thursday I had a physical and got to pee in a cup for a job at Sac-N-Pac.

And then I went wandering with Will and Corbin through the outlet mall, trying on clothes I can't afford. I did buy a candle, though. Quickest decision of my life. They were only on sale if you bought two. Corbin said, "Quick, one of you find a second candle." I noticed a red candle, grabbed it, smelled it, "Okay, this one." Apparently it's Black Raspberry. Not bad.. but.. I used to always get only black cherry candles when I was little and have tried to get myself to branch out to othwer scents. -.- I guess it's branching out.

Friday... I found out how much effort I really put into that physical. Wow. When I was doing it, yeah, I knew I was working myself. But it wasn't -that- bad. And then I woke up Friday morning. Whoosh.

So. As for the strudel? It wasn't the greatest pleasure, either. Now, I'd never had strudel. Nor had I ever -seen- strudel. I'd heard of it, sure, but I'd no clue what it was.

I choose two different options. The first was a barbecued chicken strudel using leftover chicken, barbecue sauce, caramelised onions, bacon, and cheese. I liked the filling, but the crust part was rather gross. I had followed how much butter the recipe called for. Exactly. Blindly followed. When I poured my butter on my stretched out dough and smoothed it all out, I still had large puddles of excess butter. I figured, I don't know what I'm doing. Must be right. Yeah. That was -so- greasy. It tasted like the coating on fishsticks. My tastebuds were not amused.

So I went up for Round Two. This time? Chicken, mushrooms, broccoli, bechamel, and parmesan cheese. When I rolled out the dough, I used just enough butter to coat the dough. And I used my basic bristle pastry brush even though the instructions tell you not to use one. It woked fine for me. The crust was better this time, but I didn't fancy the filling as much. It all sort of melted into each other, so I didn't get any firm distinction between everything.

I might try again some other time, but at the moment... strudel doesn't seem all that enticing. I think part of my disappointment is that I was expecting it to taste like phyllo. Or be more like phyllo. I don't know. Maybe I should try it with all-purpose flour instead of white whole wheat...

Apple strudel
from “Kaffeehaus – Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague” by Rick Rodgers

2 tablespoons (30 ml) golden rum
3 tablespoons (45 ml) raisins
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon (80 g) sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick / 115 g) unsalted butter, melted, divided
1 1/2 cups (350 ml) fresh bread crumbs
strudel dough (recipe below)
1/2 cup (120 ml, about 60 g) coarsely chopped walnuts
2 pounds (900 g) tart cooking apples, peeled, cored and cut into ¼ inch-thick slices (use apples that hold their shape during baking)

1. Mix the rum and raisins in a bowl. Mix the cinnamon and sugar in another bowl.

2. Heat 3 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet over medium-high. Add the breadcrumbs and cook whilst stirring until golden and toasted. This will take about 3 minutes. Let it cool completely.

3. Put the rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Line a large baking sheet with baking paper (parchment paper). Make the strudel dough as described below. Spread about 3 tablespoons of the remaining melted butter over the dough using your hands (a bristle brush could tear the dough, you could use a special feather pastry brush instead of your hands). Sprinkle the buttered dough with the bread crumbs. Spread the walnuts about 3 inches (8 cm) from the short edge of the dough in a 6-inch-(15cm)-wide strip. Mix the apples with the raisins (including the rum), and the cinnamon sugar. Spread the mixture over the walnuts.

4. Fold the short end of the dough onto the filling. Lift the tablecloth at the short end of the dough so that the strudel rolls onto itself. Transfer the strudel to the prepared baking sheet by lifting it. Curve it into a horseshoe to fit. Tuck the ends under the strudel. Brush the top with the remaining melted butter.

5. Bake the strudel for about 30 minutes or until it is deep golden brown. Cool for at least 30 minutes before slicing. Use a serrated knife and serve either warm or at room temperature. It is best on the day it is baked.

Strudel dough
from “Kaffeehaus – Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague” by Rick Rodgers

1 1/3 cups (200 g) unbleached flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
7 tablespoons (105 ml) water, plus more if needed
2 tablespoons (30 ml) vegetable oil, plus additional for coating the dough
1/2 teaspoon cider vinegar

1. Combine the flour and salt in a stand-mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix the water, oil and vinegar in a measuring cup. Add the water/oil mixture to the flour with the mixer on low speed. You will get a soft dough. Make sure it is not too dry, add a little more water if necessary.
Take the dough out of the mixer. Change to the dough hook. Put the dough ball back in the mixer. Let the dough knead on medium until you get a soft dough ball with a somewhat rough surface.

2. Take the dough out of the mixer and continue kneading by hand on an unfloured work surface. Knead for about 2 minutes. Pick up the dough and throw it down hard onto your working surface occasionally.
Shape the dough into a ball and transfer it to a plate. Oil the top of the dough ball lightly. Cover the ball tightly with plastic wrap. Allow to stand for 30-90 minutes (longer is better).

3. It would be best if you have a work area that you can walk around on all sides like a 36 inch (90 cm) round table or a work surface of 23 x 38 inches (60 x 100 cm). Cover your working area with table cloth, dust it with flour and rub it into the fabric. Put your dough ball in the middle and roll it out as much as you can.
Pick the dough up by holding it by an edge. This way the weight of the dough and gravity can help stretching it as it hangs. Using the back of your hands to gently stretch and pull the dough. You can use your forearms to support it.

4. The dough will become too large to hold. Put it on your work surface. Leave the thicker edge of the dough to hang over the edge of the table. Place your hands underneath the dough and stretch and pull the dough thinner using the backs of your hands. Stretch and pull the dough until it's about 2 feet (60 cm) wide and 3 feet (90 cm) long, it will be tissue-thin by this time. Cut away the thick dough around the edges with scissors. The dough is now ready to be filled.

- Ingredients are cheap so we would recommend making a double batch of the dough, that way you can practice the pulling and stretching of the dough with the first batch and if it doesn't come out like it should you can use the second batch to give it another try;
- The tablecloth can be cotton or polyster;
- Before pulling and stretching the dough, remove your jewelry from hands and wrists, and wear short-sleeves;
- To make it easier to pull the dough, you can use your hip to secure the dough against the edge of the table;
- Few small holes in the dough is not a problem as the dough will be rolled, making (most of) the holes invisible.

Both Courtney and I did a trial run on making the strudel. Below are our notes:

Courtney's notes
- She could't get it to stretch to 2 feet by 3 feet, it turned out more like 2 feet by 2 feet. But the dough was tissue thin nevertheless;
- She got some serious holes, but after rolling it wasn't noticeable;
- She used a large cheese cloth which helped manipulate and stretch the dough more than a heavier cloth would have.

Someone Else's notes
- I made the dough by hand, just mixed the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients with a wooden spoon. Kneaded it for about 5 min like you would bread dough. This worked as well. Haven't tried using a standmixer so I don't know how it compares.
- Instead of cider vinegar I used red wine vinegar;
- I used bread flour;
- Picking up the dough to let it stretch didn't work well for me, holes appeared pretty much instantly. Instead I stretched the dough while it was lying on the tablecloth by putting my hands underneath and stretching it out further and further;

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Daring Cooks: Ricotta Gnocchi

So for the first Daring Cooks, they decided upon ricotta gnocchi.

Apparently a lot of people were surprised gnocchi could be made with something other than potatoes. I, however, had just never had gnocchi. I'd seen it and known what it was. But it was nothing that sounded that astounding.

But anyway. The recipe says it's best to use fresh ricotta if possible. Well. I could have looked for fresh. Or bought some pre-packaged. But instead, I decided to make my own "ricotta." (We all discussed it... it's not -true- ricotta... but it's close enough.) I had some milk that expired that day, some cream I needed to use up, and lemons. So I decided to do it.

It also suggests draining the ricotta for twenty-four hours at least. I didn't read that part. I drained it for.. an hour? I kept pushing on it and was unable to get more liquid. I suppose I could have drained it more because mine was -very- light. Like... it says if you don't drain it enough, it will disintegrate in the water. Mine didn't disintegrate. But the slightest wrong movement after it was done and it easily pulled apart. I didn't even have to chew. «shrugs» Oh, well.

My final thoughts were that it was okay. (I can't seem to love any of the recipes I've made in the Daring... Stuff except for the pizza dough and French yule log.) The part I loved best was my "sauce." I melted a bit of butter, splashed in some cream, and threw in freshly cracked black pepper along with freshly grated parmesan.

Zuni Ricotta Gnocchi

Source: From The Zuni Café Cookbook.

Yield: Makes 40 to 48 gnocchi (serves 4 to 6)

Prep time: Step 1 will take 24 hours. Steps 2 through 4 will take approximately 1 hour.


- If you can find it, use fresh ricotta. As Judy Rodgers advises in her recipe, there is no substitute for fresh ricotta. It may be a bit more expensive, but it's worth it.
- Do not skip the draining step. Even if the fresh ricotta doesn't look very wet, it is. Draining the ricotta will help your gnocchi tremendously.
- When shaping your gnocchi, resist the urge to over handle them. It's okay if they look a bit wrinkled or if they're not perfectly smooth.
- If you're not freezing the gnocchi for later, cook them as soon as you can. If you let them sit around too long they may become a bit sticky.
- For the variations to the challenge recipe, please see the end of the recipe.

Equipment required:

- Sieve
- Cheesecloth or paper towels
- Large mixing bowl
- Rubber spatula
- Tablespoon
- Baking dish or baking sheet
- Wax or parchment paper
- Small pot
- Large skillet
- Large pan or pot (very wide in diameter and at least 2 inches deep)

For the gnocchi:

1 pound (454 grams/16 ounces) fresh ricotta (2 cups)
2 large cold eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon (1/2 ounce) unsalted butter
2 or 3 fresh sage leaves, or a few pinches of freshly grated nutmeg, or a few pinches of chopped lemon zest (all optional)
½ ounce Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated (about ¼ cup very lightly packed)
about ¼ teaspoon salt (a little more if using kosher salt)
all-purpose flour for forming the gnocchi

For the gnocchi sauce:

8 tablespoons (227 grams/1/4 pound/4 ounces) butter, sliced
2 teaspoons water

Step 1 (the day before you make the gnocchi): Preparing the ricotta.

If the ricotta is too wet, your gnocchi will not form properly. In her cookbook, Judy Rodgers recommends checking the ricotta’s wetness. To test the ricotta, take a teaspoon or so and place it on a paper towel. If you notice a very large ring of dampness forming around the ricotta after a minute or so, then the ricotta is too wet. To remove some of the moisture, line a sieve with cheesecloth or paper towels and place the ricotta in the sieve. Cover it and let it drain for at least 8 hours and up to 24 hours in the refrigerator. Alternatively, you can wrap the ricotta carefully in cheesecloth (2 layers) and suspend it in your refrigerator for 8 to 24 hours with a bowl underneath to catch the water that’s released. Either way, it’s recommended that you do this step the day before you plan on making the gnocchi.

Step 2 (the day you plan on eating the gnocchi): Making the gnocchi dough.

To make great gnocchi, the ricotta has to be fairly smooth. Place the drained ricotta in a large bowl and mash it as best as you can with a rubber spatula or a large spoon (it’s best to use a utensil with some flexibility here). As you mash the ricotta, if you noticed that you can still see curds, then press the ricotta through a strainer to smooth it out as much as possible.

Add the lightly beaten eggs to the mashed ricotta.

Melt the tablespoon of butter. As it melts, add in the sage if you’re using it. If not, just melt the butter and add it to the ricotta mixture.

Add in any flavouring that you’re using (i.e., nutmeg, lemon zest, etc.). If you’re not using any particular flavouring, that’s fine.

Add the Parmigiano-Reggiano and the salt.

Beat all the ingredients together very well. You should end up with a soft and fluffy batter with no streaks (everything should be mixed in very well).

Step 3: Forming the gnocchi.

Fill a small pot with water and bring to a boil. When it boils, salt the water generously and keep it at a simmer. You will use this water to test the first gnocchi that you make to ensure that it holds together and that your gnocchi batter isn’t too damp.

In a large, shallow baking dish or on a sheet pan, make a bed of all-purpose flour that’s ½ an inch deep.

With a spatula, scrape the ricotta mixture away from the sides of the bowl and form a large mass in the centre of your bowl.

Using a tablespoon, scoop up about 2 to 3 teaspoons of batter and then holding the spoon at an angle, use your finger tip to gently push the ball of dough from the spoon into the bed of flour.

At this point you can either shake the dish or pan gently to ensure that the flour covers the gnocchi or use your fingers to very gently dust the gnocchi with flour. Gently pick up the gnocchi and cradle it in your hand rolling it to form it in an oval as best as you can, at no point should you squeeze it. What you’re looking for is an oval lump of sorts that’s dusted in flour and plump.

Gently place your gnocchi in the simmering water. It will sink and then bob to the top. From the time that it bobs to the surface, you want to cook the gnocchi until it’s just firm. This could take 3 to 5 minutes.

If your gnocchi begins to fall apart, this means that the ricotta cheese was probably still too wet. You can remedy this by beating a teaspoon of egg white into your gnocchi batter. If your gnocchi batter was fluffy but the sample comes out heavy, add a teaspoon of beaten egg to the batter and beat that in. Test a second gnocchi to ensure success.

Form the rest of your gnocchi. You can put 4 to 6 gnocchi in the bed of flour at a time. But don’t overcrowd your bed of flour or you may damage your gnocchi as you coat them.

Have a sheet pan ready to rest the formed gnocchi on. Line the sheet pan with wax or parchment paper and dust it with flour.

You can cook the gnocchi right away, however, Judy Rodgers recommends storing them in the refrigerator for an hour prior to cooking to allow them to firm up.

Step 4: Cooking the gnocchi.

Have a large skillet ready to go. Place the butter and water for the sauce in the skillet and set aside.

In the largest pan or pot that you have (make sure it’s wide), bring at least 2 quarts of water to a boil (you can use as much as 3 quarts of water if your pot permits). You need a wide pot or pan so that your gnocchi won’t bump into each other and damage each other.

Once the water is boiling, salt it generously.

Drop the gnocchi into the water one by one. Once they float to the top, cook them for 3 to 5 minutes (as in the case with the test gnocchi).

When the gnocchi float to the top, you can start your sauce while you wait for them to finish cooking.

Place the skillet over medium heat and melt the butter. Swirl it gently a few times as it melts. As soon as it melts and is incorporated with the water, turn off the heat. Your gnocchi should be cooked by now.

With a slotted spoon, remove the gnocchi from the boiling water and gently drop into the butter sauce. Carefully roll in the sauce until coated. Serve immediately.

Variations: For the gnocchi, you can flavour them however you wish. If you want to experiment by adding something to your gnocchi (i.e., caramelized onion, sundried tomato), feel free to do so. However, be forewarned, ricotta gnocchi are delicate and may not take well to elaborate additions. For the sauce, this is your chance to go nuts. Enjoy yourselves. Surprise us!!!

Freezing the gnocchi: If you don’t want to cook your gnocchi right away or if you don’t want to cook all of them, you can make them and freeze them. Once they are formed and resting on the flour-dusted, lined tray, place them uncovered in the freezer. Leave them for several hours to freeze. Once frozen, place them in a plastic bag. Remove the air and seal the bag. Return to the freezer. To cook frozen gnocchi, remove them from the bag and place individually on a plate or on a tray. Place in the refrigerator to thaw completely. Cook as directed for fresh gnocchi.


From Gourmet, April 2006

1 quart whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 tsp coarse salt (kosher or sea salt)
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice

Combine the milk, cream, and salt in a heavy saucepan. Separately, line a colander with cheesecloth and set it in a large bowl. Measure out the lemon juice and set it aside.

Bring the milk mixture to a simmer over medium high heat, stirring occasionally with a spatula to prevent scalding. Once the mixture has reached a steady simmer, add the lemon juice and stir gently with the spatula — quickly, just to blend. Let the mixture sit for about 1 minute, turning down the heat slightly so it stays at a simmer but doesn’t reach a hard, rolling boil. Stir with the spatula after about 1 minute, then let it sit another minute until it looks like most of the liquid has separated into curds and whey.

Drain the mixture into the cheesecloth-lined colander set over a bowl, and let it drain at room temperature for 1 hour. Transfer the ricotta to an airtight container and refrigerate.

Makes about 1 cup.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

I have a new appreciation for people who don't know much about a kitchen.

So. I recently took up sewing. Why did I take up sewing? Naturally because I want to be the next Stepford Wife. I figured, "I already know how to cook. And I can crochet. And I clean the house. The next step is learning to sew and knit." No, not really.

I have a weakness for pretty dresses. I think pretty dresses are swing dresses. You know. Fifties and forties. Known today as "rockabilly." I never understood why people felt the need to give new names to old clothes. It's like Victorian clothes. They are now referred to as "Lolita" clothes. Erm. They're Victorian clothes. Just call them what they are. But apparently people don't like to be reminded that the clothes they wear because they find it hip and trendy (though Michael let me know that nobody uses "hip" unless it's followed by "I broke my") were worn by their great great great grandparents. Because apparently that means it's no longer hip. (I'll say "hip" however much I want.)

But anyway. My point is that whilst I fancy these dresses and skirts... erm.. they cost money. Lots of money. And well. I have never had a job. That's not to say that I'm some spoiled little eighteen-year-old that's gotten everything and that's why I've never worked. It's that I'm a spoiled little eighteen-year-old that has gotten a lot of the things I've -really- wanted... and I have no job experience so nobody will hire me. And I haven't even been shooting high. The highest I aimed for so far has been Kohl's. Seriously? I'm not good enough for -Kohl's-? I wanted to work in the kitchen and housewares department. <3 You should know I ramble.

I also happened to keep some old sheet sets from when I had a twin bed. A heart sheet set, a yellow sheet set, and a Lion King sheet set. I was convinced I'd "do something with them eventually." Click! I want a swing skirt. A swing skirt costs a hundred dollars. Well. There are some on sale right now for ninety. But still. I've found swing dresses cheaper for forty dollars. Yet a basic skirt, I can't find for less than a hundred. So I decided I should sew my own. I have sheet sets (free fabric) and some thread and my mom has a sewing machine (she doesn't know how to use it.. she got it so my grandma could sew things for my mom).

I've sewn three things so far. None have been the swing skirt I originally started this sewing kick for. One was a recreation of this dress I saw at that I liked.

You see that dress? Yeah. It costs a hundred and forty dollars. Ha. That's funny. You really thought I'd pay that much for a dress? Psht. I went to Hobby Lobby and bought twenty dollars worth of heather grey jersey knit fabric. (Grey t-shirt fabric for those unaware.) And I made myself a dress I based on that. Now. Mine isn't as sleak and hip and perfectly upscale like that one. But it's comfortable and I think it's pretty. I used lime green thread on all the visible seams. I love it. Others might find it cheap looking and tacky, but I think it's neat.

But as I delve deeper into the magical world of sewing, I find all these new terms that I've never heard of.

"Basting stitches? What? The only basting I know is, you know, roasting a chicken or turkey or something els in the oven and basting it to keep it moist. And I'm pretty sure that's not what you mean."

Seriously. I'm sooooo confused with all this stuff. I love it, but I'll find tutorials on how to make something, but I'm just so completely lost as to what they're talking about.

"Well. You take that one strip I told you about five lines ago and you fold it in half under the second bridge past the green house on a cloudy day the third Thursday of the month."

I've tried Googling. It doesn't help. Nobody expects beginners. Because yes, most beginners would be content going to the small, "Look! I sewed a -square-." Maybe. I don't know. I was never like that, though. I don't care if I'm a beginner at something. Doing beginner work bores me. It makes me -not- want to do something, then. Because it's so -easy-.

That's why I took AP Calculus my senior year. I was told I needed an elective. Just to fill an empty space in my schedule. I could have picked some slow blow-off class. But I didn't want to bore myself. I knew if I were bored, I'd blow it off. Because that's what I do. When something bores me, I stop doing it. I wasn't going to fail my senior year. So I opted for AP Calculus. Math has always come easy to me, so it wouldn't be too difficult, but it wasn't going to be so easy I got bored. And that's why I jumped straight into actual sewing of real garments. I just... need someone to guide me to explain, "This is what this means. You do this." And once I'm told that, psht, I've got it. But until someone tells me, I don't know.

Which is why I have a newfound appreciation for beginner cooks. Well. The ones that listen and actually comprehend. When I was in my Culinary Arts class, there were people there who'd never made scrambled eggs before. I first made scrambled eggs on my own when I was six. (Oh. In addition to not liking to do simple things, I liked to do things on my own. If I wanted food, I wanted to get it myself. I wanted to make it myself. I didn't want other people making it for me. In contrast, my oldest younger sister figures, if others can do it for her, why should she do it herself? She's the lazy one.)

There were people who didn't understand what folding meant. They didn't understand what kneading meant. Well. They understood. But they just kind of rolled the bread dough around and poked at it instead of actually kneading it.

They would wonder why I'd yell at them for using a metal fork to scrape something out of a non-stick pan, then complain later that their food was sticking to the non-stick pan. They didn't get that "chop as you go" meant to keep their boards and knives at their station for later. Just because there isn't anything to do for the next five minutes doesn't mean I won't need more later. They were the ones who started using all the rubber spatulas with non-stick pans because I yelled at them for using the metal utensils. Then they'd complain to me that the rubber spatula was melting. And so I'd yell at them again because I had already told them to use the -plastic spoons- not my rubber spatulas (I was designated pastry chef of the class). And then I'd hide my good rubber spatulas (the ones that weren't melted) and they'd use the plastic spoons (which weren't heat resistant, either, but they were more heat resistant than the spatulas) and then they'd complain that -those- were melting because they'd have the burner up full blast (commercial ranges are -hot-) and then leave the spoon in the pan. So they'd go searching for a rubber spatula but all they could find were spatulas that were already half melted (really.. half of it was gone) and they'd complain and I'd tell them they shouldn't be leaving utensils in their pans and they'd say that Rachel Ray does it and I'd tell them they weren't Rachel Ray. They didn't like me too much.

I didn't really like them, either. I didn't believe that I needed to hold their hand through everything. That explaining it one way should have gotten through to them. And now with sewing... I need someone to hold my hand. Because this explaining one way thing? I don't get it. It's not making much sense to me. I'm sure they understand it. And I'm sure it does make sense. But I'm apparently a visual learner. That's not to say that it has to actually be in front of me. But if I can see the words playing out in my head, I understand it much more than just the words themselves. And so many of these things.. the words just aren't creating the visual they are supposed to. So I don't get it. And I still need someone to hold my hand.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Daring Bakers: Cheesecake.

Crap. I can never remember to get this thing up. I think the problem is that I'm not really graded like at school or something. I could always get stuff in on time at school. But on this thing? Psht. I'm bad.

The April 2009 challenge is hosted by Jenny from Jenny Bakes. She has chosen Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake as the challenge.

So. This month was cheesecake. I like cheesecake. But when I found out, I had just made cheesecake two weeks before. Sigh. Oh, well. I looked at the recipe and.. it didn't intrigue me all
that much. My normal recipe has more cream cheese -and- less sugar than that recipe. And I like it just fine. This recipe also called for a water bath. Sigh.

I did it anyway. I kept the sugar at the recipe's amount. I just made different additions like cocoa powder for some. More vanilla. Coffee. I even made a caramel one. Oh. I did cheesecake cupcakes. Because I wanted a variety of flavours.

How did they taste?

Well. The coffee, the caramel, and the German Chocolate, I made by caramelising the sugar in the recipe, then adding the cream. As is always the case, my sugar clumped up as soon as I added the cream. And no matter how long I sat there trying to melt it back into the cream, there
was still a big chunk that just wouldn't mix. So I gave up. And threw that chunk out. I continued on with what I had, though.

The chocolate and vanilla I just made basic. Cocoa powder and some chocolate for the chocolate. A lot of vanilla for the vanilla.

I had the Coffee, the Ca
ramel, the German Chocolate, and the Vanilla. The first three had the lower amount of sugar because of that chunk that wouldn't melt. I could handle the sweetness of those. The vanilla? Way too sweet for me. Oh. And the caramel didn't taste very caramel-y. Just vanilla-y.

As for the "creaminess." My normal cheesecakes don't use a water bath. This one did. Water baths are supposed to make a cheesecake creamier. Were these creamier? Yes. However. They also had a lot more cream. And I don't know about you... but I would think putting cream in something would make something creamy. I actually didn't like the creaminess. The feeling it gave my tongue was like.. drinking cream. Or eating cold fat. You get that greasy feeling in your mouth that doesn't go away.

Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake:

2 cups / 180 g graham cracker crumbs
1 stick / 4 oz butter, melted
2 tbsp. / 24 g sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract

3 sticks of cream cheese, 8 oz each (total of 24 oz) room temperature
1 cup / 210 g sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup / 8 oz heavy cream
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tbsp. vanilla extract (or the innards of a vanilla bean)
1 tbsp liqueur, optional, but choose what will work well with your cheesecake

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (Gas Mark 4 = 180C = Moderate heat). Begin to boil a large pot of water for the water bath.

2. Mix together the crust ingredients and press into your preferred pan. You can press the crust just into the bottom, or up the sides of the pan too - baker's choice. Set crust aside.

3. Combine cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of a stand-mixer (or in a large bowl if using a hand-mixer) and cream together until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, fully incorporating each before adding the next. Make sure to scrape down the bowl in between each egg. Add heavy cream, vanilla, lemon juice, and alcohol and blend until smooth and creamy.

4. Pour batter into prepared crust and tap the pan on the counter a few times to bring all air bubbles to the surface. Place pan into a larger pan and pour boiling water into the larger pan until halfway up the side of the cheesecake pan. If cheesecake pan is not airtight, cover bottom securely with foil before adding water.

5. Bake 45 to 55 minutes, until it is almost done - this can be hard to judge, but you're looking for the cake to hold together, but still have a lot of jiggle to it in the center. You don't want it to be completely firm at this stage. Close the oven door, turn the heat off, and let rest in the cooling oven for one hour. This lets the cake finish cooking and cool down gently enough so that it won't crack on the top. After one hour, remove cheesecake from oven and lift carefully out of water bath. Let it finish cooling on the counter, and then cover and put in the fridge to chill. Once fully chilled, it is ready to serve.

Pan note: The creator of this recipe used to use a springform pan, but no matter how well she wrapped the thing in tin foil, water would always seep in and make the crust soggy. Now she uses one of those 1-use foil "casserole" shaped pans from the grocery store. They're 8 or 9 inches wide and really deep, and best of all, water-tight. When it comes time to serve, just cut the foil away.

Prep notes: While the actual making of this cheesecake is a minimal time commitment, it does need to bake for almost an hour, cool in the oven for an hour, and chill overnight before it is served. Please plan accordingly!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

This was supposed to be a carrot cake.

It was. It really was. But something went wrong in the oven and a lemon cake came out.

No, not really.

But it -was- supposed to be carrot cake. I had a craving for carrot cake. And cream cheese frosting. I wanted a dense, moist, sticky spice cake full of shredded carrots, then topped with a slightly sweetened cream cheese frosting. It sounded soooo good. And then I looked at the grocery ads for Newflower. And there was a sale. On bundt cakes. Lemon bundt cakes. And there was a picture. And then I forgot about carrot cake and moved onto lemon.

But I'm not complaining. The cake was mouthgasmic. It was gone in about five days.

I took the lemon cake I used way back when for my Fourth of July Cupcake Hero thing. Except I didn't try dying it blue again. >.<
Lemon Bundt Cake with Lemon Curd Cream Cheese Frosting:

Lemon Cake

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup (one stick) salted butter, softened
3 eggs
1 cup buttermilk (I didn't have any, so I just used sour milk: 1 tablespoon lemon juice and enough milk to make one cup.)
2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Grease and flour a bundt pan. Or two eight- or nine-inch round cake pans. Or square pans. Or triangle pans! I want a triangle pan... I used my 12-cup bundt pan and sprayed it with Pam for Baking. That stuff works magic on bundt pans.

Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl and stir to combine.

In the bowl of your mixer, combine the butter and sugar and beat until well-blended on medium speed. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add flour mixture and buttermilk alternately to sugar mixture, beginning and ending with the flour. Beat in the lemon zest and juice.

Pour batter into prepared pan or pans. You want to get it poured into your pan(s) as quickly as possible because this batter starts reacting -quickly- and you don't want to lose too much air.

Bake in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. I set my timer for thirty minutes, checked on it, and it was -done-. I expected it to take longer.

Allow to cool in the pan for a few minutes before turning onto the serving plate. You can frost it warm. And I meant to do that with mine so that the frosting melted and oozed all over. But I had waited too long, so I just frosted all around.

Lemon Curd.

1/2 cup sugar
2 T cornstarch
3 egg yolks
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/3 cup water

In a small saucepan, combine the sugar and cornstarch. Then mix in the egg yolks, lemon juice, lemon zest, and water. Cook over medium to medium low heat, stirring constantly until bubbly. I usually start with a flat wooden spoon, then finish with a flat whisk. Cook and stir (or whisk) for 1-2 minutes more.

Remove from heat and pour into a separate bowl, cover with plastic wrap, pressing it to the surface, and cool. Refrigerate.

Lemon Curd Cream Cheese Frosting.

1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
2 T butter, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup plus 2-3 T lemon curd, recipe above (or you can use your own recipe or storebought probably. I just knew that I liked that recipe.)

Beat cream cheese and butter in mixer until smooth and creamy. Then beat in powdered sugar, making sure all lumps are gone. Finally, add in lemon curd and beat until completely mixed.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Daring Bakers: Lasagna.

Erm. First of all.. I really did make this challenge. (I finally put the pictures up for the other challenges.. I'm lazy.. sorry.) Anyway. My camera ate the lasagna it seems. Seriously. I had taken pictures of the lasagna. I remember making the lasagna. But I put all my pictures from my camera onto my laptop yesterday... and the lasagna pictures aren't there. Aren't anywhere. Erm... yeah. The just... disappeared. Sigh. But I have the pictures of the pasta dough and the fettuccine I made from my leftover dough. I don't understand why. So I figured I'd at least post those.

The March 2009 challenge is hosted by Mary of Beans and Caviar, Melinda of Melbourne Larder and Enza of Io Da Grande. They have chosen Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna from The Splendid Table by Lynne Rossetto Kasper as the challenge.

Anyway. The lasagna. Yeah... Lasagna is okay. And sometimes I'll get a craving for it.. but honestly... it's not that great of a meal. To me at least. Even when I get a craving. I'll make it. I'll eat it. And then I'm like.. "Why did I want that?" It's neat and all. Just not really worth all the effort to me. I'd much rather have stuffed shells. Continuing on.

This lasagna called for spinach pasta (I happened to have a package of frozen chopped spinach on hand... which I had gotten for a different lasagna and forgot to put in..), a ragú, a bechamel, and parmesan cheese.

I'd heard of true ragus before. I'd kind of skimmed over recipes, noting that they called for very little tomatoes and something I'd never put in a pasta sauce before: carrots and celery. I don't have a problem with carrots and celery. I have just never had that before. It's not what I grew up with. The sauce I grew up with consisted of my gram going out and finding whatever ground beef was the cheapest. Then she'd throw it into a pot and cook it. Drain the fat. Pour cans of tomato sauce and diced tomatoes. Then she'd season it up with onion powder, garlic powder, dried basil, oregano, and a bay leaf or two. And she'd add some salt and pepper. She'd also usually have a small jar of mushrooms which were just for her and I. Nobody else in the family likes mushrooms. There was no fresh garlic and onions. I've since graduated to fresh garlic and onions and mushrooms and occasionally fresh herbs. But at that time? Psht. There were eleven of us in one house at one point. Meals consisted of things that could be stretched over a large amount of people. And the ingredients had to be what could last a long time. Seriously. I've reviewed a lot of the "recipes" grew up with. Potato soup? Potatoes, a can of tomato sauce, a couple cans of chicken broth (if we had it.. if we didn't, just water), onion powder, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and monterey jack cheese. Zucchini in tomato sauce? Zucchini, tomato sauce, dried basil and oregano, salt, pepper, monterey jack cheese. Rice? Rice fried up in some vegetable oil, then chicken broth, tomato sauce, onion powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper were added. See the pattern? That's not to say we never had fresh foods in the house. We did. Bananas, oranges. We ate salads with dinners. Or we'd have a pot of beans. But I'm running away from the point. Carrots and celery were for soups. Not pasta sauces. But I figured I could try for this recipe. As for the other ingredients? Pancetta? Veal? Prosciutto? Erm... I can't even find veal in my grocery store. And if I could, I'd be making pan-fried veal cutlets. Because my mom has been going on about them for years. Only she's had them. But she wants them. So I've made it a mission to make them if I can ever find veal here. Pancetta is okay. Prosciutto I have a problem with. I don't like ham. What does prosciutto taste like? Ham. I explained the recipe to my mom. She gave me a look of disgust. So I used our basic "recipe" for the pasta sauce. I'll give it to you. But I don't have measurements. Even when I started to make it.. I asked, "How much do I put in?" I was told, "Until it tastes good." "Yes, but how much is that?" I didn't understand -not- measuring things at the time. I had to have precise measurements or it was doomed to fail. At least in my mind.

Then came the pasta. I'd been looking for a spinach pasta recipe, so I figured I'd try it. It was fine.. I just... something is off with the measurements. Now.. I know I didn't use jumbo eggs. I used extra-large. But still. It called for eggs that were two ounces each. An extra-large egg is about two ounces per egg. It varies. But it's usually two ounces or more. Two eggs did not cut it, though. So I started adding some of the water I squeezed from the spinach. But a few spoonfuls of that wasn't doing the trick. So I added another egg. And then I poured in some olive oil. How much? I don't know. I just poured little bits in until it looked good enough to me. Oh. I had a lot of leftover dough. I think half the recipe could have worked for me for the full lasagna. But maybe I just made my dough incredibly thin. I went to number 6 on my roller attachment to my KitchenAid.

Then there was the bechamel. I've made that before. I'd actually made one just the week before I did the lasagna. That was another one of our normal meals. Stuffed bell peppers. We top it with a jack cheese sauce. Which is just a bechamel with jack cheese mixed in. It's mouthgasmic. But yeah. I wound up needing more sauce toward the end. I had more room in my pan. More pasta. More tomato sauce. More cheese. But no more bechamel. So I made more.

Onto the cheese. I added in half a pound of mozzarella. Because we like cheese. And I wanted more than just parmesan.

So here's the recipes we were given. As for the measurements of parmesan? I just grated cheese as I needed it. The same with the mozzarella. I used a whole eight-ounce package of mozzarella. The parmesan I used from the left of one wedge and the beginnings of a new one, so I don't know how much of that I used.

With the leftover pasta dough, I cut fettuccine, dried it, and made my own garlic alfredo with more of the bechamel. Except I first cooked some minced garlic, then proceeded with the recipe for the bechamel, and mixed in parmesan cheese until it was as cheesy as I wanted it.

My Pasta Sauce. Woo.
1 lb ground beef. I don't know the fat content. Whatever you fancy. I use whatever we happen to have. That day, we had some 90/10. We've also made it with 80/20. Right now, we have about seven pounds of 85/15 in the freezer. This new grocery store opened up in Austin about a month ago. I went last week for the first time. They had 85/15 on sale for $1.77 a pound. So we got a bunch.
1/2 of a large onion. Or a whole large onion. Diced. I have to limit the onion to appease my family. So I use half.
8 cloves of garlic. More or less. Whatever you like. Minced. I like a lot and everyone else doesn't complain about garlic like they do onion. So I put as much as I want. Usually about eight cloves.
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes or tomato sauce. I prefer the crushed here.
1 14-ounce can crushed tomatoes or tomato sauce. Whatever I happen to have.
Dried oregano.
Dried basil.
Dried thyme. If I have it.
A bay leaf or two. If I have it.
Crushed red peppers.
Black pepper.
Onion powder.
Garlic powder.
Caper... juice?
Olive oil. Or vegetable oil.

So first, I heat a little oil in my pot. Then I throw in the diced onion and cook it until it's soft. I do the onion first, because sometimes when you mix raw onion with raw meat, once it's cooked, the meat will have the flavour of raw onion. To the rest of my family, that's repulsive. I don't mind it. But to get them to eat what I cook, I cook the onion a bit first. Then I throw in the ground beef and let it cook up. When it's almost done, I add in the garlic. Once the meat and the garlic is done cooking, I drain the fat and go at the meat with a potato masher if I want the meat in smaller pieces.

Then I turn the heat back on (oh.. usually about medium or so) and add in some crushed red pepper. Not too much. Because they'd also complain if it's too spicy. Yeah. My family is picky. Add more if you want spicy. I do. Do it for me? That wasn't a question. :]

Then I pour in the crushed tomatoes and/or tomato sauce. Then I add in dried herbs. For the proportions. I don't like the flavour of basil. At all. I like the flavour of thyme and oregano, though. (My favourite herb is rosemary. And then thyme.) So if I'm using thyme, I add equal portions of all three herbs. I don't measure. I just pour some into my hand. Crush it up with my hands and throw it in. If it looks like enough, I leave it. If I need more, I add more of each. If I'm not using thyme, I use two parts oregano to one part basil. But if you're on of the numerous people that likes basil you can add more. I'm just telling you what I do. And I don't like basil. Oh. You can also use fresh herbs. I'm making some spaghetti later this week with fresh herbs. It's my sister's favourite food. I'm sick of tomato-based sauces. And I don't like spaghetti.. the pasta shape. So I'm making it with fresh herbs to entice me.

Anyway. Then I add in black pepper. Lots of pepper. And some sea salt. Then I taste it. If I need more onion and garlic, then I add in some onion and garlic powder. And then I lower the heat.. to low.. and simmer for about half an hour or so. The "or so" is because I'll sometimes (a lot of the time) forget about it. So yeah. Eh. Then I taste it again. And I add more of whatever needs more. Then to brighten up the flavours, I pour in a touch of caper juice. I guess lemon juice or pickle juice could work. Maybe? I've never tried it. I just have a jar of capers. And I'll add the juice. It's not to make it taste like capers. But it adds some salt and brightens things. Nobody else likes capers. Oh. You can also cook up some sliced mushrooms with the meat. I would. If they'd eat mushrooms.

Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna (Lasagne Verdi al Forno)
(Serves 8 to 10 as a first course, 6 to 8 as a main dish)

Preparation Time: 15 minutes to assemble and 40 minutes cooking time

10 quarts (9 litres) salted water
1 recipe Spinach Pasta cut for lasagna (recipe follows)#1
1 recipe Bechamel Sauce (recipe follows)#2
1 recipe Country Style Ragu (recipe follows)#3
1 cup (4 ounces/125g) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Working Ahead:
The ragu and the béchamel sauce can be made up to three days ahead. The ragu can also be frozen for up to one month. The pasta can be rolled out, cut and dried up to 24 hours before cooking. The assembled lasagne can wait at room temperature (20 degrees Celsius/68 degrees Fahrenheit) about 1 hour before baking. Do not refrigerate it before baking, as the topping of béchamel and cheese will overcook by the time the center is hot.

Assembling the Ingredients:
Have all the sauces, rewarmed gently over a medium heat, and the pasta at hand. Have a large perforated skimmer and a large bowl of cold water next to the stove. Spread a double thickness of paper towels over a large counter space. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (180 degrees Celsius). Oil or butter a 3 quart (approx 3 litre) shallow baking dish.

Cooking the Pasta:
Bring the salted water to a boil. Drop about four pieces of pasta in the water at a time. Cook about 2 minutes. If you are using dried pasta, cook about 4 minutes, taste, and cook longer if necessary. The pasta will continue cooking during baking, so make sure it is only barely tender. Lift the lasagne from the water with a skimmer, drain, and then slip into the bowl of cold water to stop cooking. When cool, lift out and dry on the paper towels. Repeat until all the pasta is cooked.

Assembling the Lasagne:
Spread a thin layer of béchamel over the bottom of the baking dish. Arrange a layer of about four overlapping sheets of pasta over the béchamel. Spread a thin layer of béchamel (about 3 or 4 spoonfuls) over the pasta, and then an equally thin layer of the ragu. Sprinkle with about 1&1/2 tablespoons of the béchamel and about 1/3 cup of the cheese. Repeat the layers until all ingredients are used, finishing with béchamel sauce and topping with a generous dusting of cheese.

Baking and Serving the Lasagne:
Cover the baking dish lightly with foil, taking care not to let it touch the top of the lasagne. Bake 40 minutes, or until almost heated through. Remove the foil and bake another 10 minutes, or until hot in the center (test by inserting a knife – if it comes out very warm, the dish is ready). Take care not to brown the cheese topping. It should be melted, creamy looking and barely tinged with a little gold. Turn off the oven, leave the door ajar and let the lasagne rest for about 10 minutes. Then serve. This is not a solid lasagne, but a moist one that slips a bit when it is cut and served.

#1 Spinach Egg Pasta (Pasta Verde)

Preparation: 45 minutes

Makes enough for 6 to 8 first course servings or 4 to 6 main course servings, equivalent to 1 pound (450g) dried boxed pasta.

2 jumbo eggs (2 ounces/60g or more)
10 ounces (300g) fresh spinach, rinsed dry, and finely chopped; or 6 ounces (170g) frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
3&1/2 cups (14 ounces/400g) all purpose unbleached (plain) flour (organic stone ground preferred)

Working by Hand:


A roomy work surface, 24 to 30 inches deep by 30 to 36 inches (60cm to 77cm deep by 60cm to 92cm). Any smooth surface will do, but marble cools dough slightly, making it less flexible than desired.

A pastry scraper and a small wooden spoon for blending the dough.

A wooden dowel-style rolling pin. In Italy, pasta makers use one about 35 inches long and 2 inches thick (89cm long and 5cm thick). The shorter American-style pin with handles at either end can be used, but the longer it is, the easier it is to roll the pasta.
Note: although it is not traditional, Enza has successfully made pasta with a marble rolling pin, and this can be substituted for the wooden pin, if you have one.

Plastic wrap to wrap the resting dough and to cover rolled-out pasta waiting to be filled. It protects the pasta from drying out too quickly.

A sharp chef’s knife for cutting pasta sheets.

Cloth-covered chair backs, broom handles, or specially designed pasta racks found in cookware shops for draping the pasta.

Mixing the dough:
Mound the flour in the center of your work surface and make a well in the middle. Add the eggs and spinach. Use a wooden spoon to beat together the eggs and spinach. Then gradually start incorporating shallow scrapings of flour from the sides of the well into the liquid. As you work more and more flour into the liquid, the well’s sides may collapse. Use a pastry scraper to keep the liquids from running off and to incorporate the last bits of flour into the dough. Don’t worry if it looks like a hopelessly rough and messy lump.

With the aid of the scraper to scoop up unruly pieces, start kneading the dough. Once it becomes a cohesive mass, use the scraper to remove any bits of hard flour on the work surface – these will make the dough lumpy. Knead the dough for about 3 minutes. Its consistency should be elastic and a little sticky. If it is too sticky to move easily, knead in a few more tablespoons of flour. Continue kneading about 10 minutes, or until the dough has become satiny, smooth, and very elastic. It will feel alive under your hands. Do not shortcut this step. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap, and let it relax at room temperature 30 minutes to 3 hours.

Stretching and Thinning:
If using an extra-long rolling pin work with half the dough at a time. With a regular-length rolling pin, roll out a quarter of the dough at a time and keep the rest of the dough wrapped. Lightly sprinkle a large work surface with flour. The idea is to stretch the dough rather than press down and push it. Shape it into a ball and begin rolling out to form a circle, frequently turning the disc of dough a quarter turn. As it thins outs, start rolling the disc back on the pin a quarter of the way toward the center and stretching it gently sideways by running the palms of your hands over the rolled-up dough from the center of the pin outward. Unroll, turn the disc a quarter turn, and repeat. Do twice more.

Stretch and even out the center of the disc by rolling the dough a quarter of the way back on the pin. Then gently push the rolling pin away from you with one hand while holding the sheet in place on the work surface with the other hand. Repeat three more times, turning the dough a quarter turn each time.

Repeat the two processes as the disc becomes larger and thinner. The goal is a sheet of even thickness. For lasagne, the sheet should be so thin that you can clearly see your hand through it and see colours. Cut into rectangles about 4 by 8 inches (10 x 20 cm). Note: Enza says that transparency is a crucial element of lasagne pasta and the dough should be rolled as thinly as possible. She says this is why her housekeeper has such strong arms!

Dry the pasta at room temperature and store in a sealed container or bag.

#2 Bechamel

Preparation Time: 15 minutes

4 tablespoons (2 ounces/60g) unsalted butter
4 tablespoons (2 ounces/60g) all purpose unbleached (plain) flour, organic stone ground preferred
2&2/3 cups (approx 570ml) milk
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Freshly grated nutmeg to taste

Using a medium-sized saucepan, melt the butter over low to medium heat. Sift over the flour, whisk until smooth, and then stir (without stopping) for about 3 minutes. Whisk in the milk a little at a time and keep the mixture smooth. Bring to a slow simmer, and stir 3 to 4 minutes, or until the sauce thickens. Cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes, until the sauce thickens. Season with salt, pepper, and a hint of nutmeg.

#3 Country Style Ragu’ (Ragu alla Contadina)

Preparation Time: Ingredient Preparation Time 30 minutes and Cooking time 2 hours

Makes enough sauce for 1 recipe fresh pasta or 1 pound/450g dried pasta)

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (45 mL)
2 ounces/60g pancetta, finely chopped
1 medium onion, minced
1 medium stalk celery with leaves, minced
1 small carrot, minced
4 ounces/125g boneless veal shoulder or round
4 ounces/125g pork loin, trimmed of fat, or 4 ounces/125g mild Italian sausage (made without fennel)
8 ounces/250g beef skirt steak, hanging tender, or boneless chuck blade or chuck center cut (in order of preference)
1 ounce/30g thinly sliced Prosciutto di Parma
2/3 cup (5 ounces/160ml) dry red wine
1 &1/2 cups (12 ounces/375ml) chicken or beef stock (homemade if possible)
2 cups (16 ounces/500ml) milk
3 canned plum tomatoes, drained
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Working Ahead:
The ragu can be made 3 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate. It also freezes well for up to 1 month. Skim the fat from the ragu’ before using it.

Browning the Ragu Base:
Heat the olive oil in a 12 inch (30cm) skillet (frying pan) over medium-high heat. Have a large saucepan handy to use once browning is complete. Add the pancetta and minced vegetables and sauté, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, 10 minutes, or until the onions barely begin to color. Coarsely grind all the meats together, including the prosciutto, in a food processor or meat grinder. Stir into the pan and slowly brown over medium heat. First the meats will give off a liquid and turn dull grey but, as the liquid evaporates, browning will begin. Stir often, scooping under the meats with the wooden spatula. Protect the brown glaze forming on the bottom of the pan by turning the heat down. Cook 15 minutes, or until the meats are a deep brown. Turn the contents of the skillet into a strainer and shake out the fat. Turn them into the saucepan and set over medium heat.

Reducing and Simmering: Add the wine to the skillet, lowering the heat so the sauce bubbles quietly. Stir occasionally until the wine has reduced by half, about 3 minutes. Scrape up the brown glaze as the wine bubbles. Then pour the reduced wine into the saucepan and set the skillet aside.

Stir ½ cup stock into the saucepan and let it bubble slowly, 10 minutes, or until totally evaporated. Repeat with another ½ cup stock. Stir in the last 1/2 cup stock along with the milk. Adjust heat so the liquid bubbles very slowly. Partially cover the pot, and cook 1 hour. Stir frequently to check for sticking.

Add the tomatoes, crushing them as they go into the pot. Cook uncovered, at a very slow bubble for another 45 minutes, or until the sauce resembles a thick, meaty stew. Season with salt and pepper.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Mint Cheesecake with Chocolate Ganache.

Honestly, this was supposed to be just a basic mint cheesecake. No chocolate to compete for the taster's attention.

But if you want to mention what it was originally going to be....

I love Shamrock Shakes. I grew up eating (drinking?) them every year as soon as they came out. I ate a lot. I lived next door to McDonald's, so as soon as I had someone old enough (like.. eight) we'd walk over and buy some. Yes. An eight-year-old friend and I (who was five) were allowed to walk over to McDonald's by ourselves. I'm still alive obviously. Don't get too upset. Anyway. These days, I can not find Shamrock Shakes anywhere. Maybe it's because I had so many when I was young (seriously.. each time they came out, I had maybe five) so I don't get the pleasure of any now.

But St. Patrick's Day was coming up. And I lied. Way back in July I said I would never get celebratory about any holiday except for Halloween. Well. Green is my favourite colour. And Ireland is intriguing. So I fancy St. Patrick's Day as well. But I digress. A lot. So I decided I needed something minty to take the place of the Shamrock Shake. I thought of making mint 'n' chip ice cream, which I have made before. But I didn't feel like making ice cream. I had been wanting to make cheesecake, so I decided upon mint cheesecake. Why not? I like cheesecake. I like mint. And I can dye it green. Perfect. I also have a four-ounce bottle of peppermint extract that I need to use. Why such a big bottle? It's the only one we could find. I love how the bottle looks, though. It's pretty.

So I set about getting the bits I needed for the cheesecake. I didn't want to do a full cheesecake recipe, so I decided to do half. But then I didn't want to do half. But I didn't want to do a full one. So I settled on three-quarters of the recipe.

Sunday night, I set about making the cheesecake. I also decided upon an Oreo cookie crust. Just so you know. Anyway. I got everything mixed up, then I tasted the batter. It was... minty. Yes. Obviously it was minty. I was making a mint cheesecake. But it was... weird. I started having doubts. Everyone else I mentioned the cheesecake to voiced their doubts immediately. But I was convinced it had to be good. Even though my searches for a mint cheesecake recipe proved futile. (I had already figured I'd use my basic recipe, but use peppermint in place of vanilla. But I still wanted to see what else was out there.) I figured I found out why there are no mint cheesecake recipes. But I pressed on. I was going to bake it anyway. But I tasted the batter again. It was still... odd. So I added in a quarter teaspoon of vanilla. There. It wasn't so.. caustic. Though caustic is a bit too harsh. But the vanilla seemed to help.. smooth out the flavour.

I also overbaked it a bit. It didn't crack or anything. I just like to remove my cheesecakes when the centre is still a bit wet. It -will- set up as it sits. When I checked on it after one hour, I could make it jiggle, but it was not wet at all. I took it out. It's still good. Just letting you know, if you want it wet in the centre, cook it less.

Oh. And I never use a water bath. Too much hassle. I'd have to go out to the garage, find the roasting pan, wipe off the spider webs, hope I'm not bringing some monster spider in the house with it, or anything else. Yeah. I'll do that for a roasted chicken. Cheesecake? No.

Since I found the flavour to be... odd... I decided to make a chocolate ganache to put on top. Which ganache to do? The ganache from the December Daring Baker's. It was a nifty ganache. I'm going to use it as a frosting to vanilla cupcakes one day. I just need to find a vanilla cake recipe that isn't so dry. You should know that I ramble.

After the cheesecake cooled a bit, I topped it with the ganache and then put it in the fridge. It makes a fudgy chocolate layer on top.

The next day, I cut a slice. I tried just the cheesecake without the ganache layer. It was... odd. But with the ganache? 'Twas a minty, chocolatey, cheesecakey mouthgasm. Now I have to eat a whole cheesecake. By myself. Come help. Please? Really. My sisters don't like cheesecake. And my mom and dad keep saying, "I'll try it" just to humour me. I know they don't want to taste it.

Mint Cheesecake With Chocolate Ganache.

Oreo Crumb Crust:
2 cups Oreo Cookie crumbs ('twas about 30 normal Oreos for me. Creme and all.)
1/4 cup (half a stick) melted salted butter (I always use salted butter.)

3 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened (I actually use two packages cream cheese and one package neufchatel.. which could have result in the quicker cooking? Three normal cream cheese should work fine, though)
3/4 cup sugar
2 T 3/4 t flour
3 eggs
1 egg, beaten, 1 T of egg removed and discarded*
1/4 cup heavy cream
3/4 t peppermint extract
1/4 t vanilla extract
green food colouring, optional

67 g sugar
3/4 cup heavy cream, warm
180 g semisweet chocolate
60 g salted butter, room temperature

Pre-heat oven to 350ºF.

Mix Oreo Crumbs with melted butter. Add more melted butter if you need it. I was prepared to. But my crust worked with just half a stick. Press onto bottom and one inch up the sides of an 8.5 inch springform pan. An eight-inch pan works. And so does a nine-inch if those are what you have. I just opted for my smallest pan which happens to be that. Bake for 7-10 minutes. Set aside to cool.

In the bowl of a mixer, beat the cream cheese with the sugar and flour. Add the eggs one at a time, scraping well after each addition. You'll beat in the beaten egg here, too. Just so you know. Beat in the heavy cream, peppermint, and vanilla. Mix in green food colouring if you fancy to whatever colour you fancy. I used gel paste because my sister used up all the liquid colourings. I went for a mint green.

Oh. And while you're mixing up the cheesecake batter, bring a kettle of water to a boil. Or a pot. Or whatever you use to boil water. Place the cheesecake in the oven on the centre rack. On the rack below the cheesecake, place a 13 x 9 inch pan and fill two-thirds full of water. Or some other such pan. Bake for 15 minutes, then lower the temperature to 250ºF and bake for 45-60 minutes. You want the cheesecake to be set at the edges, but still a bit wet and wobbly in the centre. I went straight for sixty minutes and it was wobbly-ish, but not wet. Though it was not too far gone. So you can probably go for that long. I just suggested forty-five minutes so you don't get mad at me if 60 minutes results in too overbaked of a cheesecake for you. My own little disclaimer.

Allow to cool to room temperature.

Once the cheesecake is cool, put together the ganache.

Place the sugar in a small or medium saucepan. Try to get it into as smooth a layer as you can. Melt it over medium to medium low heat. Refrain from stirring. I know you want to, but you'll just create lumps that refuse to melt. What you want to do is let the sugar sit. You see the edges starting to melt and turn clear? Keep waiting. If one side of the pan is melting, and the other side isn't, then move the pan over so the other side melts, too. Refrain from stirring. Keep letting it melt. You see it traveling further in? You see the edges starting to turn a light golden? Keep waiting. When the edges are golden and the still-crystalline sugar easily floats on a pool of melted sugar and when you tilt the pan it moves with the waves of molten sugar and the melted sugar is a golden brown? -Then- you can stir. The sugar should easily melt into the rest. If it just creates lumps, you didn't wait long enough. Yes. I realise my run-on question thing repeats and changes and is an incredibly odd question. It got your attention didn't it?

Once the ugar is melted and caramelised, turn off the heat and pour in the cream. If the sugar solidifies, turn the stove back on and stir until the sugar melts back into the cream. Pour the hot mixtur over the chocolate and allow it to melt, then stir it together. Mix in the softened butter. Spread the ganache on the cheesecake.

Refrigerate four hours or overnight. Or however long you can wait until it's cold.

It makes me think of an Andes mint. The colouring. The flavour is different, though. But still good.

*The original recipe calls for five eggs. So I did three-quarters. Each quarter recipe would use one and a quarter eggs. One egg is about a quarter cup. A quarter cup is four tablespoon. So logically, three-quarters of the recipe would be three eggs and three tablespoons. That is why I beat the fourth egg and removed one tablespoon of beaten egg. I know I could have simply used four eggs, but I fear things being too eggy. So I removed the extra tablespoon.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Daring Baker's Flourless Chocolate Cake.

First, The Required Bit:
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.

Okay. So. I can never get these up on time. This month was flourless chocolate cake. 'Twas recommended that we use a heart-shaped pan. But I think that would be the most ridiculous thing. Who even celebrates Valentine's Day still? It's just a corporate holiday. I don't se it as anything special. If you want to give me chocolates, give me chocolates. But don't do it because society tells you to. Morons. Anyway. I used my nifty new eight-and-a-half-inch springform pan. It works fine.

The cake was pretty good. All it is is chocolate, eggs, and butter. It was neat. I baked mine perfectly. Which I didn't like. It was good, yes. But completely baked through, I didn't like it so much. I would have fancied it a bit more underbaked because, well, I like things underbaked. Brownies. Cookies. Cinnamon rolls. Yep. Oh well. We still ate the whole thing.

We were also required to make an ice cream to go with it. So I made strawberry ice cream. I decided to do half the recipe. It calls for five ounceds of egg yolks. Heh... Which, as it turns out, is about eight egg yolks. 'Twas a lot. My second ice cream (because I had leftover heavy cream) was a caramel ice cream with some cooked apples. I went searching for a "caramel apple ice cream." And I realised as I typed it in, that what I wanted was a caramel ice cream with some apples sauteed in butter, sugar, cinnamona and other such good things. Which isn't really what you think of when thinking of "caramel apples." But I actually found something that matched what I wanted anyway. Next time, though, I think I'll leave the apples out. Something about what I added to the apples, though, prevented the ice cream from freezing solid. The base was in my bowl churning, it was almost done... I added the apples... and it suddenly started to liquefy. So I gave up on it freezing up again, and just scraped it in a container and put it in the freezer. I thought, "Great, I'm going to have frozen ice cream." The next day, when I went to get a spoonful, it was incredibly soft. And has remained so.

Oh. And whereas the caramel apple ice cream is very soft.. it also melts incredibly quickly. The strawberry ice cream... it's not quite solid, but it is rather firm. But it melts veeeeery slowly. So that was neat.

Chocolate Valentino
Preparation Time: 20 minutes

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.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Mmm. Brussels sprouts.

No, I was not being sarcastic with my title. I truly love brussels sprouts. Though I wasn't aware there was an "S" at the end of "brussels" until about a year ago. They were.. "brussel sprouts." I also grew up thinking it was "blesh you" and "sherbert." Apparently I have problems with pronunciation. I also say "bowlth." But anyway.

I love brussels sprouts. So on Friday, when I was wandering Central Market with my friend Colin and happened upon a two-foot long stalk of brussels sprouts for just five dollars. Not five dollars a pound. Five dollars total. I couldn't pass it up. I couldn't think of what to have them with.. but I knew I wanted it. Especially since I haven't seen brussels sprouts on the stalk since I was.. maybe six? My aunt took me to the farmer's market one day when we lived back in California to get strawberries and pomegranates and I saw this large stock studded with little green balls. "-That's- how brussel sprouts grow?" "Apparently."

So far.. I have gotten through about four inches of the stalk. I made Heidi Swanson's Golden-Crusted Brussels Sprouts last night to go with some pork chops for dinner. I used fifteen... and it took three inches worth of brussels sprouts. Then today, I decided I wanted to make something with some brussels sprouts for lunch. So I cut off five and planned.

I was thinking of just cutting them in half, sautéing them, then tossing them with brown rice. But I wasn't in the mood for rice. So I considered quinoa. But I didn't want that either. I also had some barley! But I didn't want to wait forty minutes for it to cook. And then I remembered I had recently bought a pound of whole wheat linguine. So I decided that would work. Sautéed Brussels Sprouts Linguine. Hmm..

But then I decided to shred the brussels sprouts since I keep seeing people doing that. And and and! And I wanted herbs. And to make a cream sauce. And.... yeah. I started the idea.. but, erm, I don't use cornstarch for the reason that it always has a weird flavour. But I decided to use it. Bad news. As much parmesan and oregano I added, I could not get rid of that cornstarch taste. Luckily, I hadn't added the pasta or the sprouts to the sauce. So I just tossed that out and went back to my original plan. Pasta. Brussels Sprouts. Oil. Butter. Salt. Pepper. Parmesan. Leftover Tri-Tip. And it was delicious.

Now. I know apparently a lot of people think brussels sprouts are gross. What I've come to find out is that the longer the brussels sprouts are cooked, the more they break down, and the more... pungent.. they become. And this cabbage-ness is what people don't seem to like. If cooked properly, the sprouts will be tender, but still a vibrant green colour. I seem to be an anomaly, though, and I like brussels sprouts when they're way too overcooked. I like them cooked properly, too. But if you give me overcooked brussels sprouts, I'll still love them. I also like mushy pasta. And mushy peas. And stale Oreos.

But anyway. The pasta. You can also leave out the brussels sprouts completely and it would still be good if you really do not like brussels sprouts.

Sautéed Brussels Sprouts and Black Pepper Linguine
Serves 1-2, depending upon how hungry you are... I was reeeeeally hungry.

5 moderately sized brussels sprouts, thinly sliced (or however much you want)
olive oil
coarse sea salt (or whatever you have)
Pepper. Lots of pepper.
1.5 Tablespoons butter
Some kind of meat if you want. I had some leftover tri-tip in the fridge. So I threw it in.
whole wheat linguine, about a fifth of a one pound package (I never measure my pasta.. I just grab "what looks right.")
freshly grated parmesan cheese, sprinkled on at end

Bring a pot of water to a boil. Salt it and add a little oil and cook the linguine according to package directions. Or however you normally make your pasta.

Whilst that is going on, heat some oil in a skillet on high. (I used a basic metal pan. No non-stick for this.) Sprinkle in your shredded brussels sprouts and sprinkle with a bit of salt and pepper. Allow it to sit for a minute or two to get some caramelization, then toss with tongs a few times. Remove sprouts from pan and set off to the side.

Add a bit more oil to the pan and heat it up, lowering the heat to about medium-high. Add in the leftover meat, stirring continuously, and cook for about a minute. Throw in the butter and continue stirring. Lower the heat to medium, medium low. Grab your pasta with your tongs and just transfer it to the skillet, allow most o the water to drain of before you transfer it.. there will be some water that transfers, but it's fine. Toss the pasta with the meat and butter mixture. Season with a bit of salt and lots of pepper. I really like pepper. Add in the brussels sprouts and toss together, allowing the sprouts to heat back through. Transfer to a plate and sprinkle with parmesan. Devour with a fork.

Then groan, sit back and complain that you ate too much, and proceed to pick brussels sprouts out of your braces for twenty minutes. Well. If you're me. I got braces on Thursday. The brussels sprouts are the only things so far that have gotten stuck -every-where. But it was so worth it.

If you caught the inconsistency of the pictures, one was from the day I had leftover tri-tip, and then I made more the next day, but I no longer had any.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Amano Chocolate! Ta-da!

Yes, I suck at updating. I think it's because I'm pretty sure nobody really reads this. I only get the few courtesy reads from people whose blogs I've commented on. But beyond that.. I don't get much traffic.

Either way, I should work on this.

But for today, I'm here to talk about my recent BlakeMakes Sooper Heroes win: Amano Chocolate. Jembrana Premium Dark Chocolate. Seventy percent. It's -very- dark. But don't let those people who say "the darker the chocolate, the more bitter it is." This chocolate is not bitter at all. It's not incredibly sweet like milk chocolate, but it is in no way bitter.

When I first tasted it, though, I did have myself braced for the lack of sweetness I was expecting to come. The higher the cacao content, the more intense of a chocolate flavour you get... and the more risk of me sneezing. Really. Too intense of a chocolate, and I sneeze. I don't know why. I just always have. So I ate it slowly. I savoured it. I didn't chew. I simply broke off a piece, placed it on my tongue, closed my mouth, and let it melt.

Wow. The chocolate was actually sweeter than I had expected. Again, it still wasn't as sweet as, say, a milk chocolate. But it was not too dark at all. It was very appealing.

As for the flavour... maybe I'm just an odd taster. I tasted the chocolate, discerned a certain flavour to it. Then read the back of the box. And I laughed because of what my taste buds tasted. The box describes the chocolate as having a "nuttiness." Well. You know how so many people like to describe chocolate as "fruity"? I never could understand how a plain chocolate could taste fruity until I had this bar. There was something with the flavour that I could only describe as... fruity. I tried coming up with other descriptions, but all that stuck out.. was fruity.

I ate about a quarter of the bar. And then.... I commited culinary sacrilege. Or brilliance. Depending on how you look at it.

I took this seventy percent, high-quality, rare chocolate bar... and made a grilled cheese sandwich with it. Just a half sandwich. One slice of whole grain white bread. Thinly sliced extra sharp cheddar cheese. And three squares of this chocolate bar. Then I grilled it on my cast iron griddle, dry. No butter or oil to compete with the flavour of the chocolate and cheese.

I felt so sneaky making it. Like a little kid taking three cookies more than they were allowed.

It was the best grilled cheese ever.