November 28, 2009

All Thanks We Give

Thanksgiving was a little different for me this year. I didn't host dinner at my house, and I didn't do much cooking. Although, the Friday before Thanksgiving we had a potluck Thanksgiving meal at work, and I brought the turkey and gravy and a dessert.

United had a sweet deal going during November, where if you spent $100 in the store, they gave you a coupon for a free turkey (up to 22 pounds). Here's the part you won't believe, I never spent enough to get a coupon. I haven't spent $50 in a single visit to United in months. I don't buy groceries or cook anymore, and it's pretty pathetic. So Mom gave me one of her turkey coupons, and I picked up a free turkey.

Roasted Turkey

I rubbed butter all over the turkey's skin, then sprinkled it with salt and pepper. Under the skin, I put more salt and pepper, plus some rosemary and orange and lemon zest. I am much better at carving turkey than I was the first time I roasted a turkey. Via NYTimes, a video on how to carve a turkey.

Turkey Lurkey

For dessert, I made a really simple recipe, Paula Deen's Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cakes - so easy, I feel guilty admitting to it.

Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cake

This cake has legions of devoted fans. It was reviewed on by 2,141 people, with an average five-star review. Some of the reviews are a little morbid, though, with postings like "Pumpkin Pie is dead to me..." and "mom's favorite-before she died." Is that a recommendation or not?

Thanksgiving 2009

Lots of delicious food at Thanksgiving dinner with my family. I returned to my cake baking roots and made two desserts as my contribution:

Pumpkin Cheesecake Thanksgiving

Spiced Pumpkin Cheesecake and the Chocolate Blackout Cake with Coconut Buttercream

November 19, 2009

Five Guys Burgers and Fries

I have a standing weekly date at Five Guys Burgers and Fries, and if I'm not recovering from kidney stones, and he's not rebuilding schools in Puerto Rico, and I don't bail on him, and he doesn't have to drive to some tiny outlying town for work, it's on.

I order the Little Cheeseburger with mayo, grilled onions, and grilled mushrooms. He gets the same thing "man-sized," and we share an order of cajun style fries. Highly recommend it.

Five Guys Burger

November 16, 2009

Remember When I Cooked?

I haven't served a decent meal at my house since before the Frog Legs. I can count everything I've cooked or baked since August on my fingers. I've already told the story of the Red Ribbon Red Velvet and Chocolate Truffles, and now I'll recount the rest for you:
Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars with Streusel Topping

I find that Paula Deen's recipes are usually overkill in one aspect or another, and in this case it's probably butter. But if loving butter is wrong, I don't want to be right. This is a good recipe, very sweet, very rich and buttery. The improvements I would try: reduce the butter in the crust, halve the streusel recipe, bake it for 10 minutes longer than it specifies, and perhaps add pecans to the crust and/or streusel. This recipe did get lots of compliments, though, and I would definitely make it again.
  • A cake for Robert and Laura's wedding
Robert & Laura Wedding Cake

The cake's components: Kahlua Fudge Cake, Chocolate Ganache filling (basically this recipe, but use half semisweet chocolate and half bittersweet chocolate, and use 2 cups of cream per pound of chocolate instead of 2 1/2 cups), and Vanilla Buttercream frosting. On taste, this one ranks with the best, but I still haven't learned how to smooth frosting properly.

Robert & Laura's Wedding Cake

I got an invitation to attend a recipe exchange this weekend. The theme is desserts! Obviously, this is my kind of party, but which recipe should I take? The hostess said "easy to medium" level of difficulty, but it's a sliding scale, that is, what are we calling easy? Like Mystery Fruit Salad easy or Gianduia Cake easy?


Frankly, I'm feeling so busy these days that anything more taxing than the Mystery Fruit Salad sounds like too much work. Perhaps I can rise to the occasion, but I need suggestions. Help!

November 12, 2009

Bun in the Oven

Katie & Porter Baby Shower

Those crazy kids Katie and Porter are going to go and make an aunt out of me. I am very excited. I have a feeling I'll be one of those doting relatives that sees any mildly cute kid's outfit or toy and buys it immediately for which to gift the child. I'm determined to be this kid's favorite aunt, and since for now I'm the only one living in the same town, I think I can best the competition.

I'm also hoping that a new baby is a good excuse to buy a decent camera, with which to take thousands of pictures of said baby. I voiced this opinion to Katie a couple of weeks ago, and the baby seriously hiccuped or burped or made some kind of noise from the womb to affirm that it is indeed a good idea.

Katie's co-workers gave her a baby shower last week. I collected pictures of Katie and Porter as children for a slideshow:

The hard thing about not being the oldest child in the family is that there are precious few pictures without the older siblings in them. And Porter, being the third child, is lucky there are pictures of him at all! Abby watched the video and said, "Wow, you guys dressed up a lot." I didn't even notice. I suppose we did dress up a lot as kids, putting on plays and fashion shows and for Halloween.

I made chocolate truffles for the shower. This is one of my favorite recipes. This time I took three different flavors, raspberry, almond, and coffee (Chambord, Amaretto, and Kahlua).

Marmee's Birthday Party

Perfect Chocolate Truffles
Recipe from Cook's Illustrated
Makes 2 dozen 1-inch truffles.

9 ounces semisweet chocolate or bittersweet chocolate, chopped coarse
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
2 tablespoons Cognac , dark rum, Grand Marnier, Framboise, Kirsch, Frangelico, Amaretto, Kahlua, or port
Chocolate and Cocoa Coating
8 ounces semisweet chocolate or bittersweet chocolate
2 cups Dutch-processed cocoa powder , sifted


For the ganache:
1. Melt chocolate in medium heatproof bowl set over pan of almost simmering water, stirring once or twice, until smooth. Set bowl aside.

2. Bring cream, butter, and corn syrup to strong simmer (about 160 degrees) in non-reactive pan over low heat. Remove pan from heat, cool for 5 minutes, then whisk into chocolate. Whisk in liquor.

3. Refrigerate mixture until it cools to 80 degrees, 15 to 20 minutes.

4. Either in bowl of electric mixer fitted with whisk attachment or with handheld electric mixer, whip mixture at medium speed until slightly lightened and thickened to a texture like store-bought canned chocolate frosting, 25 to 30 seconds.

5. Spoon ganache into large pastry bag fitted with 1/2-inch plain tube. Hold bag perpendicular to pan and with tip about 3/4 inch above work surface, and pipe 3/4-inch mounds (pulling tube away to the side to avoid leaving points) onto parchment or wax paper-covered baking sheet. Alternatively, scoop mounds with tiny (less than 1 tablespoon) ice cream scoop or melon baller.

6. Refrigerate mounds until hardened, at least an hour.

For coating:
7. Following directions in step 1, melt coating chocolate, then cool to 90 degrees, making certain that no water comes into contact with chocolate.

8. Arrange chilled truffle mounds, bowl of melted chocolate, and cocoa-filled high-sided roasting pan on work surface. Working one mound at a time, dip palm of one hand about 1/4-inch deep into melted chocolate, pass one truffle mound with other hand to chocolate-covered hand and close hand around mound to coat, re-dipping hand into chocolate every third or fourth mound.

9. Drop coated truffle into cocoa; roll to coat using fork held in now empty clean hand, leaving truffles in cocoa until chocolate coating has set, about 1 minute. Repeat process until all mounds are in pan of cocoa.

10. Gently roll 5 to 6 truffles at a time in medium strainer to remove excess cocoa, then transfer to serving plate or tightly covered container. (Can be refrigerated for up to one week.)

Notes: These truffles are meant to look like the real thing—small, irregular mounds instead of perfectly spherical balls. If you decide to omit the liquor flavoring, reduce chocolate from 9 to 8 ounces. For microwave-oriented cooks, you can melt the chocolate at 50% power for about 3 minutes. The ganache mixture is quite forgiving. If it cools too much in step 1, place the bowl in a larger pan of warm water and stir the mixture until it has softened and warmed up. If this overwarms the mixture, cool it again as directed. The same flexibility applies if you overwhip the ganache by mistake. Simply warm it over the hot water, cool it, and whip it again. One person alone can dip and coat the truffles, but the process is simpler with a second person to roll coated truffles in cocoa and lift them onto a clean pan.

Katie & Porter Baby Shower

If the predictions are right, baby Rondella should arrive around Christmas.