Malto Mario


The Lady & Sons

1,000 Italian Recipes

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

What Does A LOT of dough + A LOT of butter + 183 E-mails Make?

Why A LOT of fun & giggling, of course! Ohh and there was also a dash of panicking and then finally the outcome: Croissants!

Warning: Heavily photographed post ahead..

Croissant Day
Cute lil buttery soldiers aren't they?

Aww yes, kids - the five SEVEN of us kooky gals are back with this month's baking assignment cross-post. It all started when two gals were craving a good pretzel. After that a few other gals decided they'd like to join in on the fun so we had five gals craving a good biscotti, which was great! And what's happened since? Oh yeah, babies.. another two gals wanted in on the fun and we welcomed them with open arms!

Croissant Day
Ohh that flaky goodness!

This month's craving was slightly more involved than our past baking adventures. To say the very least. God. We had 1 gal who had made croissants once before in her baking class and two gals who use to make croissants for a living.. and then - well.. we had 4 gals who didn't know what they hell they were doing. har! And so we formed an e-mail support system - you know, a way to ask if the step you were working on was similar to their experiences.. or a way to share a tip or a blunder that you had experienced. Mmm hmm.. or it could or could not have went like this:

From: Lisa
To: Ivonne, Peabody, Helen, Brilynn, Veronica, Jenny

Subject: The bad juju is starting ALREADY!!


Last week when I made my preferment it was of batter like consistency -
tonight, it's like dough??? I double checked my measurements of 3/4 c. milk
1 TB yeast & 1 1/3 c. flour. How did this happen? Should I make new? I'm
panicking people!


From: Ivonne
To: Lisa, Peabody, Helen, Brilynn, Veronica, Jenny

Subject: The bad juju is starting ALREADY!!

"Hi Lisa,

I made my preferment earlier and mine was also like dough. I let it rise for
2 hours and it rose very nicely into a puffy sponge that smelled strongly of
yeast. It was very similar to the sponges that we made in baking class so
I'm thinking that this is okay.


Notice the difference in tone between the two? She was my pillar, that Ivonne.

Croissant Day

That was Friday night, and that was just 2 of the 16 replies for that thread. When it was all said and done (around 11 pm), we had all discovered that Ivonne was going to be waking back up at 4 am to start her dough as she had classes all day Saturday, and Helen was thinking about doing bad things to her husband when he announced surprise guests were coming the next night for a dinner party:

From: Helen
To: Lisa, Ivonne, Brilynn, Peabody, Veronica, Jenny

Subject: The bad juju is starting ALREADY!!

"I can't sleep....I debated getting up early and then form my dough and go run, but I'd be to obsessed with it while running and might lose focus. Then I have to train 3 clients in the afternoon and hubby just told me about a dinner party for tomorrow night. I could have killed him. "Hello! Croissant Freaking Weekend here!" I might do the dough between work and dinner and roll it at night. I might be the last one posting....
BTW, the day for our post is the 30th right?! "Courage" everybody!"


Croissant Day

But Saturday was a new day and we were all up early talking about what we had in store for the rest of the day. There was going to be a lot of dough in our small mixers and the possibility of mixer engines dying a painful death because of it. There was going to be a lot of rising time, a lot of folding time and a lot of time to sit and think and panic in between steps. Some of us were concentrating so hard on the steps to good croissant making that this soon came through the wire (cable?):

From: Jenny
To: Lisa, Ivonne, Peabody, Brilynn, Veronica, Helen

Subject: It's going to be a good juju day! Dammit!

"Just about to go pull my preferment out and get moving - also been
distracted trying to figure out where the regular milk disappeared to for
the kids cereal (seriously, the entire jug is missing!)"

Followed a few hours later with,

From: Jenny
To: Lisa, Ivonne, Peabody, Brilynn, Veronica, Helen

Subject: It's going to be a good juju day! Dammit!

"Well I just ran into my first problem - my mixer was definitely not big
enough for this - I thought I was going to kill it with that max of 4
minutes of mixing, even when I kept turning it off to pull apart the dough
(so I knew it was elastic because it kept springing back together!)

And fyi, the missing milk was found, in the kitchen cupboard where the mugs
are, probably sitting there since 4pm yesterday, where I probably put it.
I've never done that before, so I think I was very, very distracted with my
croissant prep at the time!"


Croissant Day

Veronica was holding her own so far, but soon we found out she was having a different problem all together:

From: Veronica
To: Brilynn, Jenny, Lisa, Helen, Ivonne, Peabody

Suject: Re: It's going to be a good juju day! Dammit!

"I just formed my rectangles and refrigerated them. Those are great notes Lisa. I'm going to write mine down too. My cat is playing a guest starring role in this. He has been driving me crazy since last night. I bought a new pastry brush yesterday and washed it and left it to dry. He got on the counter (which he isn't allowed) and ran away it . The hubby ran after him and carried him back and he still had the pastry brush in his mouth (kinda like a dog with a stick). Had to wash the pastry brush real good again. This morning he woke up with me and has been watching me make the dough. I'm guarding my ingredients and utensils like a hawk!"


After seeing Pashmi, I dissolved into a fit of giggles..


Later that morning, to my surprise, we received an update from Ivonne that went a lil something like this:

From: Ivonne
To: Helen, Brilynn, Veronica, Jenny, Peabody, Lisa

Subject: How I Learned to Hate Croissants!

"Good morning my friends!

I got up at 5:30 this morning to roll out the croissant dough. I finished about 10 minutes ago.

To begin with, I found the dough very difficult to roll out. While the butter was distributed nicely and didn’t really pop through or anything, it took some serious upper body strength to roll out this dough. (Note to self: visit gym.)

Once I rolled it out, I then divided it in half lengthwise, because I decided to make mini-croissants instead of regular sized ones.

When I rolled out my second batch of dough, I also divided it in half lengthwise and made croissants with one half and chocolate ones with the other. Mainly because I got tired of cutting and rolling croissants. In total I would say I got about 30 mini croissants and about 20 chocolate ones.

I’ve attached a few pictures.

While this was an interesting process, and I’m glad I did it, I honestly can’t see myself making croissants at home on a regular basis. To begin with, and perhaps this is a commentary on our hectic lives, my schedule just doesn’t fit the steps it takes to make croissants. Secondly, it’s damn hard! Thirdly, I’ve got some amazing pastry shops within driving distance that make kick-ass croissants.

But I’m glad we tried! Kisses to us!"

My pillar? Although not nearly fallen, was showing signs of crumbling. hahahaa!

Croissant Day

So you kind of get the idea of what we were going through, yes? THREE days of croissant making is a ride that I enjoyed immensely due to the constant chit-chatting through e-mail. It was also a ride I doubt I'll be taking again any time soon, even if my lil croissants turned out flakey, buttery and delicious (especially the pain au chocolat and pain au jambon, fancy French speak for croissants filled with chocolate and croissants filled with ham and gruyere cheese). As Ivonne stated above, croissant making just doesn't fit in with most of our lifestyles these days - personally, I had to pause the movie I was watching like 4 times! Sheesh! =)

Croissant Day Croissant Day

From: Lisa
To: Ivonne, Brilynn, Veronica, Helen, Jenny, Peabody

Subject: Re: I'm done!

"Okay well.. I don't know if I've done a foolish thing or not.. I did a very quick search on the net for advice.. got 1/2 that said you could freeze the dough after rolling but before proofing and got 1/2 that said you should freeze after proofing.

Knowing that pizza dough and croissant dough are not even remotely the same - I still decided to go the route of my pizza dough - which is, after it raises the first time, I freeze individual amounts before the 2nd rise. So that's what I did.. instead of proofing that first batch, I threw them into the deep freeze.

The 2nd batch is proofing now.. I did some mini plain, some mini chocolate and some slightly bigger than mini ham & cheese.

I'll send you pictures after I bake them later this afternoon.

I can't thank you gals enough for all the support and giggles and panic we've shared! Although I hope, nay PRAY, that next month's project is much more simple - I hope we all manage to bake again on the same day so we can "discuss" throughout the process. :D

Ivonne and I discussed briefly last night - about everyone submitting one suggestion for next month's project and then we'll hold a vote. After the vote we'll start a list of the "losers" for future projects so hopefully we'll get to make everyone's suggestions. How does that sound to you guys?


Yes, I froze some for enjoyment on a later date and yes, it appears that this monthly cross-post isn't nearing an end anytime soon.. HOORAY!! =)

Everyone, at this point, had agreed that next month's baking adventure will be less involved - some were a lil more than agreeable:

From: Jenny
To: Lisa, Helen, Peabody, Veronica, Ivonne, Brilynn

Subject: Re: I'm done!

"So next month we are doing something simple, right? Like micorwave popcorn? :-)"

From: Peabody
To: Ivonne, Helen, Lisa, Veronica, Brilynn, Jenny

Subject: Re: I'm done!

"Now you all know why I groaned when you said this is what we were doing. Next to cream puffs these are my least favorite...and I have made them a ton."

Thankfully, Peabody had made her croissant earlier in the week, as she had a mishap over the weekend and hurt her leg! Ugh! We're all hoping she's feeling better =)

Croissant Day

So, after 183 e-mails, roughly 12 pounds of butter, 389 pounds of dough (that might be a slight exaggeration) and aching shoulder, back and stomach muscles we were done, sated and very, very happy croissant bakers. :D

Croissant Day

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Monday, January 29, 2007

BPW - Valentine's Day!

Thanks go out again, to the lovely Meeta of What's For Lunch Honey? fame as she's decided that the stress and craziness of hosting the first Blogger Postcards Around the World wasn't enough! Yes, she's decided to give it another go and since Valentine's Day is right around the corner, what better theme to have for our postcards? =)

BPW - Valentine's Day

Okay everyone all at the same time... "Awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww!" Puppies!! With round chubby bellies! And they're twyin to go sweepers. Sorry.. cute-puppyspeak. ;)

Get ahold of yourselves!

Now.. as I was saying.. the 2nd BPW's mail-off is today, so check your favorite bloggers' blogs to see what cute lil postcards are travelling to other blogger's all around the world. :D


Sunday, January 28, 2007

Blog of the Week January 28, 2007

Okay I really need to change the name of this series of salutes to my favorite bloggers as I've clearly fell way behind in posting weekly. Sheesh.

But, the good news is I should be updating this series a lil more often in the upcoming future as I've found some great new blogs and have made some great new friends that I think ya'll will love to meet too. =)

Firstly, I can't quite control myself when gushing over this blog (but I'm going to).. it's not your average foodie blog where you'll find excellent recipes, but more of a food product review blog. I stumbled upon this blog about a month ago and I check every single day hoping he'll have updated.

The man I speak of is Marvo (short for Marvin) and his food product review blog is The Impulsive Buy. You MUST go read. You will be giggling from the beginning and belly laughing by the end. Marvo has taken upon himself the, not so easy at times, task of taste testing many food products out on the market. The best way to get an idea of what his blog is all about is to go here and read the "About" and FAQ - even that will crack you up.

I don't even want to say too much more about Marvo and his blog because I want you to go experience for yourself. Really. Go now.

And all I'm going to say to end this is: I heart Marvo. =)


Thursday, January 25, 2007

Crunchy Scallops with Citrus Sauce

We've started up the snow machine here in NE Ohio.. like I said before when we were having all that mild weather, when it starts to snow it's not going to stop! But I have to admit, grudgingly, that it is pretty - there's been a lot of it but it's been the big fluffy stuff. Normally when it's constantly snowing, I sink into cozy/hibernation mode when it comes to cooking. But since I've been on this "recreating" kick of late, I decided that the next restaurant recipe I wanted to try to figure out at home is a light, summery, scallop dish Hubbs had at that restaurant I told you about where I only ever ordered the pork tenderloin? Well he had this dish once and gave me a bite and I thought it had to be the best scallops I'd ever had. Unfortunately they were on special that night and never offered again after that. I've looked high and low for recipes that I could use as a platform to work off of but so far, nothing. And it's getting harder and harder for me because I'm trying to recreate something I had one bite of a good 4 years or so ago.

This is my 3rd attempt and I knew just from reading the recipe, which I found on the Whole Foods website, strangely, that it wasn't going to be close either - but it was interesting enough on it's own to give it a shot - who knew maybe we'd find a good citrusy scallop dish that was just as good?

These are breaded scallops, which I usually don't like at all - but I'd been having a craving for Panko so I subbed it for the regular breadcrumbs the recipe called for. Also I didn't have any baby bok choy on hand (imagine that!) so I served these with bite-sized chunks of roasted sweet potatoes with a lil drizzle of honey. Come to find out, they were the perfect side dish as the citrus sauce is quite tart. This dish was good - not one of my favorites - but Hubbs loved them. The scallops had a nice crunch and were tender on the inside. The sauce had a very good citrus flavor but ohhhh baby if you got a scallop with a lot of sauce on it you'd start to pucker! Not that that is a bad thing - for me the sauce really brought out the flavor of the scallop instead of over powering it, which was great.

Panko Crusted Scallops with Citrus Sauce
Crunchy Scallops with Citrus Sauce

1 1/2 c. freshly squeezed tangerine juice (3 to 4 tangerines)
1/4 c. freshly squeezed lemon juice (1 to 2 lemons)
1/4 c. freshly squeezed lime juice (1 to 2 limes)
1/4 c. chicken stock
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 TBS. honey or agave nectar (I used honey)
1 TBS. sugar

2 large egg whites
1 1/2 TBS. cornstarch or arrowroot
2 TBS. freshly squeezed lemon juice (I omitted this)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper, or to taste
30 large scallops, pat dry
1 1/2 c. sesame seeds (I used Panko)
1/4 c. canola oil (I used even less just enough to brown them without burning)
2 lbs. baby bok choy (Or 2 sweet potatoes chunked)

To prepare the sauce, combine the tangerine juice, lemon juice, lime juice, chicken stock, garlic, honey and sugar in a heavy saucepan over high heat. Boil until slightly syrupy and reduced to 1 cup, about 15 minutes. Set aside. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Rewarm before using.)

To prepare the scallops, in a large bowl, whisk together the egg whites, corn starch (or arrowroot), lemon, and cayenne pepper until blended. Add the scallops and toss to coat. Place the sesame seeds or Panko in a deep rimmed dish. One by one, dip the scallops in the coating, making sure to coat all sides. Place the coated scallops on a nonstick baking sheet, set aside.

Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until very hot. Carefully add half of the scallops to the hot skillet, and sear the scallops until golden, about 2 minutes. Turn the scallops over and continue to sear the other side for 2 minutes or more until golden on the outside and just opaque on the inside. Transfer to a plate. Repeat with remaining scallops.

If using the bok choy the recipe says to trim it and cut it in half lengthwise. In a large deep saute pan with a fitted lid, place 1/3 c. water and 1/4 c. citrus sauce, stir to blend. Bring the liquid to a boil, add the bok choy and cover. Reduce the heat to low and steam for 2 to 4 minutes or until the bok choy is just tender and bright green. Remove from heat, toss in the liquid to coat. Place the bok choy on individual plates, arrange the scallops on top of the greens and drizzle with the remaining sauce.

If using sweet potatoes, peel and chunk them into bite sized pieces. Lay them on a cookie sheet and drizzle olive oil and about a tsp. of sea salt over them then using your finger tips, toss to coat. Place sheet in a 425º F. oven and roast for about 25 - 30 minutes or until they are browned and tender. After plating, drizzle a small amount of honey over them.

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Monday, January 22, 2007

Deep, Dark Chocolate Cupcakes with Tangerine Honey Frosting

Oh Yeah Baby.

A couple weeks ago as I was reading one of my new favorite blogs, Vanilla Garlic, I saw a challenge set forth from both Garrett and Cheryl of Cupcake Bakeshop asking everyone to create their own cupcake in celebration of.. well.. cupcakes!

I'm not a huge cupcake fan.. well, that's not correct. Of course I'm a huge cupcake fan, what's not to like? Yummy cake and frosting! Hello? What I meant was, for the most part, I don't even think of my muffin pan that much - I go for the 2 layer cakes (and we all know how well they usually turn out) or the 9" x 13" cake. Cupcakes are quite cute and boy do they help with portion control, but yeah, I don't go there often.

So one day last week, I decided to make a beautiful dark chocolate cake with equally beautiful dark chocolate ganache frosting.. and from reading the recipe, I knew the batter would also provide a dozen cupcakes as well as the beautiful 2 layer cake. So I retrieved my muffin pan from the dark depths of my cupboard and searched for my cupcake liners in the pantry.. finding both, I went about making the batter. Happily, I saw that the recipe did not lie and there was just enough batter for a dozen cupcakes left over.

After baking the "Mother" cake, I was a bit worried about how the cupcakes would turn out and gave thought to just ending their young lives right then and there.. kinda like putting them outta their misery before they could be miserable, yanno? But after debating with myself and getting over my fear of the possible horrors that lurked just around the corner, I decided to be brave and shoved the muffin pan in the hot oven, closed the door quickly and said a prayer.

Twenty minutes later, I thanked the Cupcake Gods because the offspring *cough* I mean the cute lil cupcakes turned out just gorgeous. Not one had an extra terrestrial brain. *shudder* Woo Hoo!

Happily, I allowed the lil cuties to cool completely and then I plunged them into a deep freeze to enjoy another day - after all, I did have their Mother to deal with and that was enough excitement for one day.

Yesterday was that day and I spent most of the morning trying to think up a funky flavored frosting. I didn't want to go with plain jane and I sure as shit didn't want ganache.. I wanted fruity of some sort. And I started thinking about my favorite chocolates - yanno the kind, deep dark chocolate enrobing fruity cream centers? I heart them. My favorite cream centers are orange and lemon. So's I already had the deep dark chocolate, but no oranges and the lemons I had were for dinner that night.. and then I remembered we had just purchased some lovely tangerines at the market a few days ago! Tangerine frosting! Party on! I found some cream cheese in the fridge and the other ingredients I'd need and whipped up the frosting in no time. After a taste though, it just wasn't right. It needed something and I didn't want to use any extracts.. back to the fridge I went hoping something would catch my eye. And that it did.. my bottle of honey! Oranges and honey go so well together - perfect! So's I added some honey and tasted.. I had myself a delicious new funk'dified frosting - exactly what I was going for.

Again, I want to give Molly the credit for the closest to the Ultimate Chocolate Cake I've ever had and will direct you to her blog for the cake recipe.

Deep, Dark Chocolate Cupcakes with Tangerine Honey Frosting
Deep Dark Chocolate Cupcakes with Tangerine Honey Frosting

1 (8 oz.) pkg. cream cheese
1/4 c. butter (half a stick or 4 TBS.)
1/2 c. confectioners' sugar
1 tsp. tangerine juice, freshly squeezed
the zest of one tangerine
1/4 c. honey

In the bowl of a mixer, cream the cream cheese and butter together until fluffy. Add the sugar, juice, zest and honey and mix slowly until incorporated. If you find the frosting is a little thin, you can add more sugar or place in the fridge until it sets to the desired consistency you are looking for. I chilled mine for about 20 minutes.

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Friday, January 19, 2007

Pork Medallions with Port Wine & Mustard Sauce

I don't recall if I've ever mentioned my most favorite restaurant in alla world? It was a small place that looked like any other small restaurant/bar - I don't really recall anything that special about the atmosphere. But the food? Oh dear sweet Jebus. It was fantastic.

Unfortunately, the owner couldn't keep the place open - which shocked the hell outta me as it was ALWAYS packed. Rumors were the owners of the building upped his rent and he couldn't afford it.. other rumors were he got into a lil tax/money trouble.. whatever - the bottom line was I didn't have my favorite place to eat anymore and I was more than a lil sad. =(

Their signature dish was pork tenderloin medallions in a port wine & mustard sauce. not only did they give you TWO pork tenderloins (I ate for days!) but this sauce that was poured over them was amazing. So amazing that in all the years we went there - I never had anything but the pork medallions. I just couldn't imagine anything else being as good. Wayne, my Mom and some friends always ordered different items and never was there a complaint, but for me.. it was that damn sauce.

It's been a good 4 years or so since the restaurant closed. I've tried to recreate this sauce twice now. The first time was kind of close - but it called for pears. There were no pears in the original, but I thought what the hell and tried it. It was good.. very good. And then I lost the recipe. Mmm hmm.. so I tried again just this week. Not even close, quite frankly. I decided to just dump and pour and hope for the best. Well I didn't get the sauce I was hoping for, but I did get quite a fantastic sweet & tangy sauce that really went well with the pork.

The first thing you'll notice when you taste is it's sweetness, but then you'll taste the mustard's tang and the port wine is very nice in the background. I think the only thing I'll change the next time I make this is to cut down on the brown sugar a bit.

Hubbs didn't work that day so he wanted to contribute to the meal. I asked him to find a good side dish, preferably potatoes. He decided on an Onion and Potato Casserole that was quite nice, although probably not the best accompaniment for the medallions. Next time something lighter to offset the richness of the sauce might be better. But I'm including this recipe as it was very tasty and would be a fantastic side dish for just about any meat prepared a different way.

Port Wine & Mustard Sauce Simmering
Port Wine & Mustard Sauce

1 c. Port wine
1/4 c. dijon mustard
3/4 - 1 c. beef stock
1/4 c. brown sugar
1 TBS. butter
Pan drippings

After you've roasted your pork (I roasted mine in the same skillet I used to sear it in and then carefully made the sauce in the same skillet - keeping a thick kitchen towel over the handle at all times to remind my dork arse that it was searing hot) remove it to a dish and cover with foil to keep warm. In the skillet add the 1 c. of port wine sauce, stirring with a wooden spoon or spatula to lift off the lil brown bits of goodness. Simmer the wine until it reduces by half.

Add the mustard and about 1/2 c. of beef broth and continue to simmer until this has reduced by 1/2. Finally add the brown sugar and more broth depending on how thick you want the sauce to be. I don't think I added much more the second time - maybe a 1/4 cup or so? Anyhoo, simmer this slowly until you've reached the consistency you'd like then add the butter and stir until your sauce becomes silky. Drizzle over medallions and serve.

Potato Casserole
Onion and Potato Casserole

3 c. sliced onions (2 large onions)
2 TBS butter
1 (10.5 oz.) can condensed cream of celery soup
1/2 c. water
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 tsp. dried thyme
6 med. potatoes, sliced thin and parboiled
1 c. shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350º F.

In a skillet, cook onions in butter until lightly browned. Add soup and water, season with salt and pepper and thyme. Arrange potatoes and 1/2 c. of the cheese in a buttered 2 quart casserole. Pour onion mixture over potatoes & cheese and top with remaining cheese. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until heated through and lightly browned.

Serves 4

My Note: The only thing thing he did differently was cut the recipe in half.

Pork Medallions with Port Wine & Mustard Sauce

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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

It Is With Great Pleasure That I Bring To You...

Kitchen Disasters 2007 Pt. I !!

As always, I'm tickled to present to you the new year's first culinary disaster fresh outta my kitchen.. I think ONE of the lessons learned this time is, not to leave your layer cakes in their pans for more than 10 min. or so after taking them out of the oven. I greased and floured my pans well, the only thing I didn't do was line them with parchment paper as I usually do because I was out of the paper - but I've went without the paper in the past and this didn't happen. No.. I'm thinking it's because I left them in their pans for about 3 hours. Mmm hmm..

A little background - As some of you know, I'm on a quest to find the ultimate chocolate cake. I found this recipe while reading Orangette's lovely blog and knew I had to try it when she said, and I quote,

"I will be shocked and horrified if you don’t find this to be the most deeply-flavored, moist-yet-fluffy chocolate cake you’ve ever tried."

Well how could I pass this recipe up? I couldn't! Not even when the good angel and the bad angel who reside on opposite shoulders got into a brawl about not baking anything sweet, yummy and bad for my blood sugar. Alas, the bad angel won.. as she usually does. *sigh*

The funny thing is, Molly calls this cake, "Far-from-Disaster Cake". *giggle* Apparently the first time she made it, her ganache separated and she didn't notice it until she had poured it on the cake. A frosting problem though, it had nothing to do with the actual cake. So when she re-posted about the cake, she included a different ganache frosting recipe that worked quite well for her. Mmm hmm.. not so much for me...

Okay the other lesson learned? Stay away from heavy frostings at all costs. It's not like you like those heavier frostings anyway, you ass. Buttercream has always been your friend, be loyal to your friends!! Actually, in all honesty, I don't believe that this new ganache frosting that Molly offered was necessarily heavy - I think I made it heavy by leaving it in the fridge for so long. I didn't want a glaze type frosting so I left it to chill longer than normal to bring it to a thicker consistency. Which ended up being uhh.. a lil too thick.

Okay so what have we learned? Take the cakes out of their pans before they are completely cooled and allow them to cool on a rack. This will better your odds on not having half of your cake stick to the pan. Gah. And.. stick with lighter frostings, even though this was my fault and not the frosting's fault. Just stick with buttercream from now on, for crissakes.

And without further ado...

Kitchen Disaster 2007 Pt. I
Not-So-Far-from-Disaster Cake

Ain't she a thing of beauty? I was asked by a friend, after having seen a picture of this monstrosity, if smoke and flames erupted from the cracks to then be followed by demons. Actually, yes. That did happen. I think there was lava too.. I don't remember it all now - I ran for cover and covered my eyes through most of the ordeal. I did hear strange noises though and Nigel cowered behind me with a low growl in his throat. Chloe went running into the bedroom - the big chickenshit that she is.

Okay - maybe this was my first clue that impending disaster was on it's way...

My cakes have brains.

My cakes had brains. Quite possibly these were actually beings from another world, cleverly disguised as yummy chocolate cakes? Maybe outter-world beings who do not appreciate a nice ganache frosting? Or maybe this was just a sign of the apocalypse. I would not doubt it.

Anyhoo.. you can find the recipe on Orangette's blog - go there for it, kids.. I don't trust the bad juju that will certainly rub off on my blog if I were to include it here.

And seriously, don't let my unfortunate mishap dissuade you from trying this recipe - because Molly was right. This was the most deeply flavored, moist yet fluffy chocolate cake that I ever had the pleasure of massacring. And as with most really good chocolate cakes, it's just getting better and better with each passing day. The crumb is still off a bit - it's not quite there compared to the ultimate chocolate cake I had that day at the party.. but it's super close, I mean.. really, super close. I'd say that if I didn't actually find that ultimate recipe - that this cake is damn near close enough for me to be happy with for the rest of my days. Although frosted with buttercream from now on.. ;)

Okay well.. after having to go through the search procedure to find this recipe over and over again on Molly's blog (because I am a glutton for punishment and make this cake often! hee!) I've decided to slap it in this post - copied verbatim from Molly's Orangette:

Far From Disaster Cake
Courtesy of Molly and Epicurious

3 oz fine-quality semisweet chocolate
1 ½ cups hot brewed coffee
3 cups sugar
2 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 ½ cups unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process; I use Scharffen Berger)
2 tsp baking soda
¾ tsp baking powder
1 ¼ tsp salt
3 large eggs
¾ cup canola oil
1 ½ cups well-shaken buttermilk
¾ tsp pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. If you’re making cupcakes, line the wells of your pans with fluted paper liners, or grease and dust them with flour or cocoa. If you’re making larger cakes, grease pans and line bottoms with rounds of wax paper. Grease paper.

Finely chop chocolate and in a bowl combine with hot coffee. Let mixture stand, stirring occasionally, until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.

Into a large bowl sift together sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In another (very) large bowl, beat eggs with an electric mixer until thickened slightly and lemon-colored (about 3 minutes with a standing mixer or 5 minutes with a hand-held mixer). Slowly add oil, buttermilk, vanilla, and melted chocolate mixture to eggs, beating until combined well. Add sugar mixture and beat on medium speed, bracing yourself against puffs of cocoa-and-flour dust, until just combined well.

Divide batter between pans. Bake in middle of oven 20 to 25 minutes for cupcakes, or 50 to 70 minutes for larger cakes, until a tester inserted in center comes out clean.

Cool cakes completely in pans on racks. Run a thin knife around edges of pans and remove cupcakes, or invert larger cakes onto racks. If making larger cakes, carefully remove wax paper. Cakes may be made one day ahead and kept, wrapped well in plastic wrap, at room temperature.

Ganache Frosting
Again, adapted from Orangette and Epicurious

1 lb fine-quality semi-sweet chocolate
1 cup heavy cream
2 Tbs sugar
2 Tbs light corn syrup
½ stick (¼ cup) unsalted butter

Finely chop chocolate. In a 1 ½- to 2-quart saucepan, bring cream, sugar, and corn syrup to a boil over moderately low heat, whisking until sugar is dissolved. Remove pan from heat and add chocolate, whisking until chocolate is melted. Cut butter into pieces and add to frosting, whisking until smooth.

Transfer frosting to a bowl and cool, stirring occasionally, until spreadable. You may want to place the bowl in the fridge for a bit, but stir it now and then until it cools to your desired consistency. Spread.

One small note.. if you do try this recipe, don't be alarmed if it doesn't look like this one (ha ha no, not the cracks and craters - the color!) as mine is very dark due to the use of Hershey's dark cocoa powder that I wanted to use up. :P

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Monday, January 15, 2007

Steak Tips with Mushroom Sauce

Please forgive my lack of posting of late. It's been a strange beginning of the new year for me regarding my kitchen activities. Other than my submissions for a couple foodie events, I just have not cooked anything new that I haven't already blogged about until this past weekend! I really don't know what my problem is (hopefully was).

Thankfully this past Sunday morning, I woke with a huge desire to spend most of my day in the kitchen. It was cold and rainy outside and the only things that I wanted to do was cook and wash clothes. I know.. the clothes thing.. I'm weird.. but I love how my house smells in the winter while doing laundry, call me kooky. =)

And so I took out a very nice sirloin and made up my mind that I was going to do something different with it. I spent a good portion of my morning going through some of my cookbooks and then online - and as I'm finding more often than not, I found the recipe I wanted to make on Steak Tips with Mushroom Sauce - yum! I haven't had that in YEARS. This recipe was quite good and we've decided that I'll need to make this again. The mushroom sauce is dark, rich and hearty. The flavor is outstanding - beefy, mushroom-y & onion-y. It was a snap to pull together with hardly any prep and I had dinner on the table in less than an hour. I chose to serve these over buttered noodles, but rice or smashed potatoes would work nicely. A nice sized hunk of crusty bread is also recommended to sop up the last of the delicious sauce.

Steak Tips in Mushroom Sauce over Noodles
Steak Tips with Mushroom Sauce
Courtesy of and Amy

The recipe below includes the changes I made. To see the original recipe, click Amy's name.

l pound sirloin steak, cut into bite sized pieces
1 (10.5 ounce) can beef consomme
16 oz. of a good beef stock
1 small carton white button mushrooms, sliced
2-3 TBS. butter
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper, or to taste
1 shallot, finely chopped
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Preheat a medium skillet to medium-high heat and melt 1 TBS. butter. Add sirloin pieces and cook until desired doneness. Remove steak and keep warm under foil. In same skillet, melt another TBS. of butter and sautee the shallot until transparent, then add mushrooms, and cook, uncovered, until browned, about 10 minutes. Remove mushrooms from pan, and set aside. Deglaze the pan with the can of beef consomme and half the beef stock. Increase heat, and bring to a boil. Allow the mixture to boil until it has reduced by 1/3.

When the sauce is reduced, stir in the remaining beef broth, and garlic. Return to a boil, and continue to cook for another 5 to 10 minutes. Sauce will be thin like au jus. Whisk in flour, and cook until the sauce is the desired thickness. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Stir in the mushrooms and steak. Serve over buttered noodles, rice or smashed potatoes.

Steak Tips with Mushroom Sauce over Noodles

My Notes: I only used about a pound of sirloin steak for the 2 of us and substituted more beef broth and a can of consomme for the wine in the original recipe due to the fact that I was too lazy to run up to the store to buy a bottle. :P I also subbed button mushrooms for the portobello because they are what I had on hand - but next time I'll most definitely use portobello, as I'm sure they add so much more flavor.

A HUGE, GIANT THANK YOU!! To my dear, sweet friend Meeta who went above and beyond to teach me how to take a focused picture with my new camera. lol Seriously, I was ready to take the damn thing back and buy a disposable camera until she taught me the correct way to use it. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Now I heart my new lil camera. :) Ohh and someone asked.. it's a Canon PowerShot S2 SI, very different from my lil Olympus C150 that only had 2 bottons. heee!

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Thursday, January 11, 2007

What a Schmecking Week


Well I feel awful. I'm not going to make this post about my problems.. but, I'm so disappointed in what I'm about to bring to the table. You see, I was asked by the very talented and oh, so lovely, Jasmine of Confessions of a Cardamom Addict and The Sensual Gourmet to participate in celebrating a cookbook written by Edna Staebler.

I had such high hopes to make my little post worthy of such a delightful woman.. truly, I did not know her, but ohhh how I wish I did. Her writing is a pleasure to read - reading her written thoughts makes you long to have been in her kitchen just once while she was still with us.. just one time to watch how she cooked, to listen to her instructions and her stories about her childhood - and I suspect, to see the twinkle in her eye when she told her stories. Corny, I know - but her book is the first cookbook that I didn't read like a cookbook. I've read with envy about how many of you read your cookbooks as if they were novels. I've never done that. To me, a cookbook is a tome of recipes and pictures - with added text to fill in spaces. Yes, I know.. I'm one of those people. But when I started to read Edna's "Food That Really Schmecks" I was startled to realize that hours had passed and I was turning pages as if doing so would make the bad guy appear or bring the conclusion to some mystery, yanno? I couldn't put the book down!

Edna wrote many books in her lifetime, as well as winning many prestigious literary awards such as the Toronto Culinary Guild's Silver Ladle Award and Cuisine Canada's Lifetime Achievement Award (known as "The Edna" in perpetuity). She was a down to earth woman who celebrated her family and her life until the day she passed. And how envious I am of dear Jasmine - who was Edna's friend. How lucky you are J! She must have a very special place in your heart. =)

Okay so, this book, "Food That Really Schmecks", is a diary of Edna's Mennonite family recipes as well as quite a few recipes from her friend Bevvy, who appeared to teach Edna quite a bit in the kitchen. The recipes range from Mennonite dishes, to German fare, to Edna's own originals and modern favorites that she "had to share". When you read the recipes, especially the older ones, the first thing you notice is the instruction for measurement. I can't tell you how many I saw with butter's measurement listed as "a knob the size of a walnut." hee! And then you'll read her instructions, written as she was taught and you'll marvel over the fact that she is never precise. My feeling is that Edna didn't believe in strict recipes but moreso in those recipes that give you the basic idea and allow you to use your own ideas and knowledge to create your own dish. At least that is the way I've interpreted a good portion of this book.

And it's with that interpretation that I decided on making Edna's Beef Stew. Edna's only description of this recipe is, "Why stew should be said with a disparaging inflection I can't understand; it's a perfect meal if you put enough into it." I could not agree more, Edna.

And therefore I read her ingredients and I read through her instructions.. and then I set off to make stew the way Edna told me to. Not only was it delicious but it hit the spot on a very chilly Sunday afternoon.

the worst picture of a really good stew ever
Beef Stew
Adapted from Food That Really Schmecks by Edna Staebler, Wilfrid Laurier University Press, December 2006

2 1/2 lbs. of raw beef, cut into 1 to 2-inch cubes
1/2 c. flour
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
4 TBS. beef dripping or suet (I used butter - I had just ran out of suet.)
1 or 2 large onions
4 potatoes cut into quarters
1 c. sliced carrots
1 c. green beans in 1-inch pieces (I didn't have beans so I subbed bell pepper)
A few peas, cut-up celery and parsley and 1 cup of tomatoes -- or not

Dredge the meat with the flour, salt and pepper. Melt the dripping or suet, and when it is hot brown the meat on all its sides. Slightly brown the onion. Pour enough boiling water into the pot to completely cover the meat and boil it slowly till it is tender--at least 2 hours. Pour in all the vegetables--making sure there is plenty of water--but not enough to drown them, or all the flavour. Boil for another 20 minutes till the vegetables are done but not mushy. Remove all the solids from the broth with a draining spoon. Thicken the broth with 2 to 3 tablespoons of flour blended with water. If the stew doesn't look brown enough you may cheat as I sometimes do by adding a couple of bouillon cubes or beef-base powder. At the last minute add some fresh cut-up parsley and pour the broth over the vegetables and beef. If you want to make it even better you can drop dumplings on the stew for the last 15 minutes while the vegetables are boiling.

My Notes: I pretty much followed Edna's instructions but instead of dumplings, I cooked a pound of egg noodles to al dente and added them to the stew when it was finished cooking.

Getting back to my problem.. the feeling awful part.. I apologize for that most dreadful picture of stew. I recently purchased a new camera - and apparently it's much more of a camera that I'm use to.. I have no idea what the hell I'm doing. heheee! I've got a lot of learning to do.. especially in the "focus" department. *sigh* Ahh well.. don't let my horrible photography get in the way of my saying, "Thank you, Edna! Not only for some delicious recipes but for some fine reading that I enjoyed very much."

And Thank you! Jasmine.. for asking me to participate in this celebration of such a personable writer. =)

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Friday, January 05, 2007

Weekend Cookbook Challenge No. 12 - Stew!

Hi kids! My stars it feels like forever since I posted last. After the holidays, I took a few days rest from cooking anything new - and that few days lasted well.. much longer ;)

I'm happy that my first post back from my lil blogging vay-kay is my submission to this month's WCC No. 12. This month the challenge is being hosted by Shaun of Winter Skies, Kitchen Aglow - a very nice blog that's written quite well and is chock full of delicious recipes, pictures and stories. Shaun chose stew as this month's theme.. and what's better in winter than a warm, hearty stew?

When I was trying to figure out which stew I was going to make, I pulled out my old tried and true beef stew recipe. Although I think it is one of the most delicious stews I've ever had, I really wanted to make something different - hopefully another type of stew that I could add to my repertoire.

Well, I definitely found that new stew!

Perusing the usual online haunts, I came across a recipe for Kielbasa Stew on, I read the ingredients and thought it might be okay. Then I read the reviews - a few did not like this recipe, but most did. It was a general consensus that the original tomato soup listed in the ingredients gave the stew a sweet flavor. As some of you know, I'm all about the sweet/savory thing - but yeah, not so much in my stew, yanno? I took the advice of some reviewers and subbed tomato sauce for the soup. I also added a diced potato to the mix because I guess I can't do stew without a lil tater. =) Also, this "stew" comes out a little more on the soupy side, which was fine with us. A little slurry of cornstarch and water would thicken it up nicely if you'd prefer it that way.

Okay, seriously, this is one fabulous stew. It's quick to make, extremely flavorful and hearty. I was amazed. Tasting it as it cooked, I was thoroughly happy with my decision to try it - and then I added the sour cream at the end and it took an already yummy stew and put it right over the edge. That tang the sour cream has was just the right touch to make the cabbage taste sweeter and the kielbasa's smokey flavor shine through. You really have to try this recipe to believe that such simple ingredients can make such a delicious dinner - in under 60 minutes! =)

Ohh.. one more thing - I wouldn't make this if I didn't have warm crusty bread or rolls to sop up the sauce! ;)

Keilbasa Stew
Kielbasa Stew
Courtesy of Jo and

The above link for All Recipes will take you to the original recipe. Below is my take on it:

1 pound kielbasa sausage, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 TBS. butter
2 (10.75 ounce) cans beef consommé
1 (14 ounce) can tomato sauce
1 cup water
3 cups shredded cabbage (a small head of cabbage works)
1 vidalia onion, chopped
1/2 cup diced red or green bell pepper
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1/4 cup sour cream

In a large saucepan over medium heat, cook sausage in butter until brown. Pour consommé, tomato sauce and water into pan with sausage. Stir in cabbage, onion and bell pepper and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 45 minutes, or until flavors are well blended. Stir in sour cream and heat through before serving.

Keilbasa Stew

A big Thank You! to Shaun for picking a great theme and for hosting this month! And as always a big Thank You! to the lovely Sara of i like to cook for creating the Weekend Cookbook Challenge. :)

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