Saturday, February 28, 2009

Feb 28: Daring Baker's Chocolate Valentino

It's Daring Baker Time!

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.

Many thanks to Wendy at wmpesblog (Arizona) and Dharm at Dad - Baker and Chef (Malaysia).

The Challenge Backstory:
Chocolate has many associations – godliness, health-giving, mood altering, and addicting. Bless the ancient Mayans and Aztecs for developing the cocoa bean into the delicious luxurious chocolate drink that the Spanish explorers brought back to Spain. How the Spanish kept chocolate a secret for 100 years is a mystery that perhaps can only be explained by the lack of the internet!

It is no wonder that February, the month for honoring love on St. Valentine’s Day, is best represented first by the heart and then by chocolate or better yet a chocolate heart. The potency and power of chocolate can only be rivaled by vanilla, and then they make a wonderful combination!

February’s challenge is a Flourless Chocolate Cake, Chocolate Valentino, inspired by Malaysia’s “most flamboyant food ambassador”, Chef Wan. Recipe comes from Sweet Treats by Chef Wan

Challenge Requirments:
1. Use the following recipe
2. Serve with your own homemade Ice Cream – You can choose any flavour you want

Challenge Advice:
- Use your favorite chocolate – the finished cake will taste exactly like the chocolate you use. Be creative with your chocolate, if you like a sweeter cake use milk chocolate or a combination of the semisweet and milk chocolate. If you like bittersweet chocolate use that and add sweetness by mixing the semi sweet with bittersweet. If you are daring, try white chocolate. (Dharm used all bittersweet and Wendy used a half bitter/half semi sweet chocolate).
- A higher cocoa percentage increases the bitterness of the chocolate.

Equipment -
Optional to use a heart shaped pan. For a real Valentino, bake it in a heart shaped pan or cut it out into a heart shape. You may use any shape pan that gives you an area of 50” - 6x8 or 7x7. An 8” spring form pan works with great results as do smaller pans or ramekins.
-An instant read thermometer highly recommended.

Note on recipe - the recipe consists of 3 simple ingredients and how you interpret them is part of the challenge. The simplicity of this recipe gives credit to the ingredients much in the same way of French baguette.
-This recipe comes together very quickly with a hand mixer.
-This is a very decadent cake that will sink a little as it cools but will still hold its shape.
-Very dense and fudgy cake that tastes divine.
-The top forms a light crust kind of like a brownie

One thing I learned is to prepare the pan before making the batter.
Grease the pan, line the bottom with parchment and grease that too.

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

Wow! A very simple recipe with no skinning hazelnuts! Three ingredients! Wooo!

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.

Can we just eat this as is?

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).

Stiff peaks - the peaks on the egg whites remain straight when the beater is removed.

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.

Baked for 25 minutes... Temperature was 165F

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

Now onto the ice cream.
For the ice cream, I wanted to move away from berries or fruit flavored ice cream.
I remembered a candied nut recipe I received from a former boss with cinnamon and salt. I felt the cinnamon and salt would complement the chocolate.

Also, the recipe can be made in the microwave rather quickly. Another bonus!

Cinnamon Candied Nuts
11/2 C nut halves (pecans and/or walnuts)
1/4 C water
1/2 C sugar
1/2 t cinnamon
1/2 t salt
1 t vanilla
1/2 t Golden Syrup (My addition and optional)
1 T Butter (another of my additions to the recipe)

Place nuts on a flat dish and cook on high 2-3 minutes.
Place sugar, water, cinnamon, and salt in a 1 qt. heat proof measure.
Cook mixture for 5 1/2 -- 6 minutes bringing to a soft ball stage (236 degrees).
Add vanilla and nuts and stir until nuts are well coated.
Turn out on wax paper and separate as nuts cool

I, also, added a little Golden Syrup to prevent premature crystalization.

I have a 1,200 W microwave. They sugar mixture was heated for a minute and stirred. After which, heating was done in 30 second increments until viscous like syrup.

Pecan halves added to the sugar syrup and stirred.

Layed out onto a sheet of parchment paper.

When cooled, chopped into large pieces for the ice cream.

I've always wanted to make ice cream, but I don't have an ice cream maker. I'm actually okay with that. I enjoy the challenge of doing something from scratch.

Vanilla Ice Cream using a Custard Base
1.5 C Milk (I used Lactose Free Low Fat milk)
1.5 C Heavy Cream
4 Egg yolks
3/4 C Sugar
1 t Vanilla Extract

Another "simple" recipe with few ingredients.

1/4 C Sugar was beated into the yolks. The milk was heated/scalded to 180F.
A little hot milk was used to temper the yolk mixture. Eventually, the mixture is combined with the rest of the milk and heated.

The mixture is at the proper consistency when it can coat the back of a spoon. Note a streak is made, but the mixture didn't fill in the streak.

Add the Vanilla and whisk in.

Strain, allow to cool a little. The mixture was placed into a ziplock for the freezing step.

Since I didn't have an ice cream maker, I used a zip loc, ice and rock salt.

The ice and salt mixture was placed over the liquid ice cream mixture.
You know the container is cold when your moist fingers stick to the outside of the container.

The mixture is allowed to solidify, but should be kneaded every few minutes.

After the mixture was frozen, I used a hand mix to break up any large ice crystals.

The nuts were added and mixed into the ice cream... The mixture was placed into the freezer to harden.

The Finished Challenge
I wasn't sure how to cut the heart shaped cakes, so I round ring to cut out each serving.

Served with Candied nuts and ice cream.

A side shot showing the curls of ice cream. Nice!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Feb 24: Gumbo for Mardi Gras

Today is Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras) where it's the day before Lent. Well... I'm not religious. However, I do enjoy the food and the celebration in New Orleans.

Another dish that's representative of southern Louisiana is Gumbo. Gumbo is essentially a roux based stew. However, that is an understatement to the complex flavors that a properly cooked roux imparts to the dish.

Chicken, Sausage and Shrimp Gumbo

1 C Onion, chopped
1/2 C Celery, chopped
1/2 C Bell Pepper, chopped
2 Clove Garlic, minced
3/4 lb Okra, cut into rounds
5 T Butter
5T Flour
1 Bay Leaf
1/4 t Tarragon
1/2 t Cayenne
1/4 t Thyme
1/2 t Cajun Seasoning
1/2 lb Smoked Sausage, cut into rounds
1 Chicken Breast, cooked and shredded
1/2 t Shrimp, shelled and deveined, sprinkled with Cajun seasoning
6 C Stock (I made a ham stock)

The trinity - Onion, bell pepper, celery... plus garlic, butter and flour.

The herbs and seasoning

The meat - sausage, cooked chicken and shrimp.

1. Cook the roux...melt the butter in a heavy pot before adding the flour. Cook over medium about 15 minutes. The flour mixture will darken. The darker the color the nuttier the flavor. Ideally, you want the roux dark... I mean dark like chocolate. I stopped when it was caramel colored. I chickened out... lol.

2. Add the celery, bell pepper, onion and garlic. Cook 10 minutes to sweat the vegs.

3. Add the okra. Okra is an interesting veg. When cut, there's a slimy ooze that comes out of the pod. However, when cooked the slime dissipates into the liquid. Add 7 C of stock.
Simmer about 1 hour or more with the lid off.

4. After an hour, add the meat and cook for another 15 minutews=

The Final Dish
Gumbo topped with rice and green onion.
Overall a good result. The ham broth provided a lot of flavor.

Ham Broth (A way to use the extra ham hock from last week)
1 C Onion, chopped
1/2 C Celery, chopped
1/2 C Carrot, chopped
2 Ham Hocks
8 Cups water
3 Buillion cubes, Chicken

Sweat the mirepoix (onion, celery and carrot.)
Add the rest of the ingredients and simmer for 3 hours.
I acutally used the oven set at 175F and cooked overnight.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Feb 22: Sunday Dinner - Jambalaya

Jambalaya is a rice dish that's synonymous with New Orleans. According to Wikipedia, the origins is based upon paella... makes sense to me.

Jambalaya - based upon what I have locally.
1 C Onion, chopped
1/2 C Celery, chopped
1/2 C Bell Pepper, chopped
2 Clove Garlic, minced
1 Bay leaf
1/2 t Thyme
1/4 t Basil
1/4 t Cayenne Pepper
7 oz Smoked Sausage, cut into rounds
7 oz Ham, cubed
1/2 lb Shrimp, peeled and deveined
14 oz Diced Tomato, I used Italian style.
1 1/2 C Rice (I used converted rice which is very popular in New Orleans)
2 C Stock (I added the shrimp shells to further flavor the stock)

The aromatics - bell pepper, garlic, celery, onion, thyme, bay, basil and cayenne.

Sausage, ham and peeled shrimp sprinkled with Cajun seasoning.

1. Saute the onion, bell pepper, garlic and celery in a little oil (about 5 minutes) to soften the veg.
Add the sausage and ham, plus the dried herb... Cook about 5 to 10 minutes.

2. Add the canned tomatoes and simmer for about 5 minutes so the flavors meld.

3. Add the rice and the stock.

3a. Added Stock. The stock was 2 cups of chicken bouillon and the shell from the shrimp. Brought to a boil and simmered for 5. Taken off the heat and allowed to steep. Strain before using.

4. The rice was cooked on medium for 2o minutes... After which the shrimp was added to the rice and allowed to steam for 10 minutes before mixing in.

The Finished Dish
Served on a platter and garnished with green onions.

Feb 22: Sunday Morning Beignet

Beignets (pronounced bein-yay... NOT "big-nets" as use Yankees would say. lol). In New Orleans, beignets are square pillows of deep fried dough, covered with powdered sugar...

When I relocated to New Orleans, the company had a list of relocation experts who were real estate agents. The relocation/real estate agent was kind enough to show me around the different portions of the metropolitan area. Their goal was to up the sale by encouraging me to buy. lol.

One of the first places she brought me was Cafe Du Monde. Cafe Du Monde is famous for it's beignets and cafe au lait (coffee and milk). The coffee is unique with the addition of chicory. Chicory was originally used as an extender, but also adds a little bitterness to coffee.

Okay... This is an easy no-fuss version of beignets. A group of us from work experimented with making beignets from refrigerated biscuits and found the results to be acceptable.

1. Refrigator biscuits. Shown are the small size, but Grands work even better.

2. Deep Fry 350F about 2 minutes per side.

3. Ready to eat... Coffee and Beignets covered with powdered sugar.

4. Yum!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Feb 21: BBQ Shrimp

Shrimp is very common in New Orleans being a Gulf state. I don't know how this dish came to be known as barbecued shrimp since there is no grilling or smoking.

I've tried different version of the dish. Some restaurants cooked shrimp in a Worcestershire sauce braise while other restaurants used lemon, garlic and a butter sauce. However, the Worcestershire flavored version is the most common.

Barbecue Shrimp
1/2 lb Shrimp, shell-on, deveined.
1/2 Onion, Chopped
4 T Butter
1/4 t Thyme
1/2 t Ground Black Pepper
2 Clove Garlic, grated
1/4 C Italian Dressing
2T Worcestershire Sauce

1. Shrimp sprinkled with Cajun seasoning and set aside.

The other ingredients....

Saute the onions, garlic and herbs in 2T butter until soft.

Add the shrimp and the liquids (Italian dressing and Worcestershire sauce)... Cook about 10 - 15 minutes.

Add the remaining 2T of butter a little at a time to form a sauce.

The finished dish... usually served with French bread to sop up the sauce.

The flavor was good. I should have added lemon to the dish, even better the next day after the flavors soaked into the shrimp.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Feb 19: Hot Sausage

I remember one of my first lunches with my coworkers. We went to a local poor boy joint where I ordered a hot sausage sandwich. My expectation was a hot link sandwich, but as I learned from my stay in NOLA. New Orleans has a unique cuisine different from the rest of the South.

The sandwich came with a flavorful spicy pork sausage patty.
This is my attempt to recreate the sausage.

Hot Sausage
1 lb Ground Pork
1 t Cajun Seasoning
1/2 t Garlic Powder
1/2 t Onion Powder
1/2 t Cayenne
1/2 t Chili Flakes
1/2 t Thyme

The secret ingredient? One of my favorite seasoned salts.

The rest of the ingredients...

Mixed in a ziploc bag... I'm too good to get my hands.
Refrigerate overnight so he flavors meld.

Next day... two 4 ounce patties.
Mashed using plates.

Cooked in the GFG for 7 minutes.

Ah... nicely browned.

For my sandwich, dressed with mayo, mustard, lettuce and tomato. With all the filling it was a 3" high sandwich.

The sausage was a little dense, but surprisingly spicy with only 1/2 t cayenne and 1/2 t chile flakes. The flavor was good, but seemed lacking from what I remember.

Notes for next time...
Try a coarser grind with a higher fat content.
Form the patty gentler.
For more flavor, use fresh garlic and onion.