Sunday, July 28, 2013

Molten Lava Cake with Caramelized Bananas!

This doesn’t happen very often, I usually post a blog entry and leave it, however the first draft I published was just pitiful. You know when you get that writer’s block and nothing seems to come together…that’s exactly what happened. I tripped over so many words and thoughts even I got confused at what I was writing about! Unfortunately I published anyways… probably  because I wanted to post the pictures (these pictures came out really well! You can't really blame me for getting too excited...) but for those select few who actually read the blog as well as look at the pictures, I apologize, it was an awful, confusing entry. Today, I redeem myself, well more like cheatingly redeem myself because I’m going to completely replace my first draft with a new one and no one will have to know how awful that one was.

I do, however, want to keep it along the same topic: the pros and cons of today’s technological advances. Did I lose anyone yet? No. Good. I’m still here as well. If you read my old (now replaced) entry, you’d know what I mean: jibber jabber and going nowhere…my train of thought completely derailed. No fear, I have found the tracks and back on point (maybe)!

First point: technology is awesome! I don’t think I’d be able to live without technology, it’s like a drug! Unlimited resources at base of our finger tips, literally! It’s crazy how far we’ve come, 15 years ago common folk didn’t have laptop computers, tablets, or smart phones that we can carry around with us wherever we went and with a click of a button connect with the rest of the world. We were grounded- computers were the size of large boulders with memory the size of a pea, phones were connected to the walls of our houses and the only place you can travel with that is maybe (if you’re lucky) to your doorway and back, and the only type of tablets we knew of were made of stone!

Do you remember dial up internet?! How we use to have to share that with our land line phones - if you were online, whoever was trying to call your house would get the busy signal? Or how it’d take a good 5 minutes to connect to the internet? Now when my internet takes more than a second to load its like “what is this crap?!”

Oh what about VHS tapes?! Remember how we use to have to rewind tapes every time we finished watching a movie? My family use to have a separate machine just for that purpose. It rewound in 5 minutes instead of the normal 7-8 it’d take for the VCR to do it. Wow, were we patient back in the day!

Technology has definitely made things for the better. I, for one, am SO glad that there is an app for Google Maps. My record of getting lost has gone down significantly since I’ve gotten that!

Second point: technology is evil. Yup, I have a love-hate relationship with technology. Though it has brought us countless benefits, it has its downfalls. No, not because it sometimes fails (though when it does, you want nothing more than to smash it with a sludge hammer!) but it makes us less ….well interactive … where is the human contact? Do people even talk anymore? Write hand written letters?

Pure irony I know, we’re able to connect to the world but yet so disconnect. If you go into a restaurant and look at the people at the dinner tables, or if you’re in conference room with people waiting around for a meeting, what do you see? Are people talking to each other? No. Everyone is preoccupied with some sort of high tech gadget. I hate that. What is the point of meeting or coming together if all you do is come together to text/message other people? You mind as well just have stayed home and you can text me from there, saves me a trip from talking to the back of your cell phone/the wall. It’s funny how technology has allowed us to connect with people all over the world but somehow made us lose touch with the people who are right next door.  

At this point, we’re all going to end up looking like the people in the movie Wall-E, super-sized and completely enveloped into our own little worlds. Go outside! Go for a hike! Have a stroll down the block! Say hi to your neighbor! Have a meal with your friend and hold a conversation (don’t touch your phones!). Technology is a supplement to our lives, not become our lives.

So now that I’ve completed another one of my many rants in a more collected manner, its time for some recipe/food sharing life enrichment via over the internet. See, when used right, technology is our friend. This was a fun experiment: molten lava cakes! I never realized how easy lava cakes were to make. Basically it’s an under baked chocolate cake. Looked so complicated with all that gooey goodness in the center but don’t worry, it’s easy and still impressive enough to those who doesn't know the secret!

Combined recipes from: Food Network's Molten Lava Cake and Epicurious's Caramelized Banana with Rum Sauce.
For Cakes:
  • 6 (1-ounce) squares bittersweet chocolate
  • 2 (1-ounce) squares semisweet chocolate
  • 10 tablespoons (1 1/4 stick) butter
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons orange liqueur

For Caramelized Bananas
  • 4 teaspoons unsalted butter
  • 3 banana, halved lengthwise, then crosswise
  • 6 teaspoons packed brown sugar
  • 6 tablespoons rum (preferably dark)
  • 6 teaspoons water
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  •  tablespoons sliced or chopped nuts, toasted
For Cake:
1.       Preheat oven to 425 degrees
2.      Grease 6 (6-ounce) custard cups.
3.      Melt the chocolates and butter in the microwave, or in a double boiler.
4.      Add the flour and sugar to chocolate mixture. Stir in the eggs and yolks until smooth. Stir in the vanilla and orange liqueur.
5.      Divide the batter evenly among the custard cups. Place in the oven and bake for 14 minutes.
6.      The edges should be firm but the center will be runny. Run a knife around the edges to loosen and invert onto dessert plates.
For bananas:
  1. Melt butter in a 10-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat until foam subsides, then sauté banana, cut sides down, shaking skillet, 1 minute.
  2. Remove skillet from heat (away from flame) and sprinkle brown sugar around banana, then pour rum around banana.
  3. Return skillet to heat and continue to sauté, shaking skillet occasionally, until sugar begins to melt, about 30 seconds.
  4. Add water, nutmeg, cinnamon, and a pinch of salt and cook over moderate heat, shaking skillet occasionally, until sauce is slightly thickened, 1 to 2 minutes.
  5. Serve banana hot, sprinkled with nuts.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Halfmoons (aka Black & White Cookies)

These remind me of an open face whoopie pie but actually they are known as halfmoons or black & white cookies depending on which part of New York you were from... but since I'm from California, I'm going to stay out of that argument. If you wish to know about the difference between the two, here is a nice link to Wikipedia for more educational enlightenment: half moon cookies.

As for me, I rather just call them open face whoopie pies because that's what they look like. So how did I come across this recipe having never been to New York myself? Well, good question. This experiment originated as a challenge given to me by my New York native coworker. She ordered some famous halfmoon cookies all the way from Utica, NY to share and somewhere between stuffing our facing and chatting away at different topics, someone made the comment that I could probably whip up a batch of those, so I looked at them and said: " I probably could if I had a recipe to look at, they don't seem too difficult" Turns out there is a recipe and here I am. 

The recipe actually didn't seem so bad in terms of technique but I have to admit, looking at the ingredients scared me a little...okay A LOT. In all honesty, if this wasn't a challenge I decided to take on, I probably wouldn't have tried the recipe at all. The internal health nut I think died of a clogged artery with a side serving of diabetes while making these... I don't think I've ever used so much butter or sugar in a recipe...or is that normal..? Perhaps I'm the abnormal one? Regardless, my pride was on the line and I must complete what I was set out to do!

Overall, I think they came out a okay, a little dry but flavor is fine. After all that mess, you'd think it'll come out immaculate and would be worth every stick of butter I put in it right, not so much... and actually I'm not so sure this recipe is an original from the bakery in Utica or just someone's version of it. I probed online for a bit and it appears that it might be but seeing how mine turned out, hmm...maybe I am a little rusty in the kitchen?....nah! I'll be trying to make these again, but next time around, it's going to my way. Scrap the excessive butter and sugar and start from a clean slate. They'll be better (or at least I hope they will be).

Recipe taken from: Hemstrought Bakery Half Moon Cookies
3 3/4
cups flour
3/4 tsp.
baking powder
2 tsp. baking soda
2 1/4 cup sugar
16 tbsp. margarine, cut into pieces
3/4 cup cocoa, sifted
1/4 tsp. salt
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups milk

3 1/2 oz. bittersweet chocolate
3 1/2 oz. semisweet chocolate
1 tbsp. butter
4 1/3 cups confectioners sugar, sifted
2 tbsp. corn syrup
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Pinch salt
6 tbsp hot boiling water (up to 8 tbsp may be used)

7 cups confectioners
16 tbsp. room temperature butter, cut into pieces
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
7 tbsp. milk
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
Pinch salt

For Cookies:

  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Sift together flour, baking powder, and baking soda in a medium bowl and set aside.
  3. Put sugar, margarine, cocoa, and salt in bowl of standing mixer and beat on medium speed until fluffy.
  4. Add eggs and vanilla and continue to beat. Add half the milk, then half the flour mixture, beating after each addition until smooth; repeat with remaining milk and flour mixture.
  5. Spoon or pipe batter onto parchment-lined baking sheets, making 3'' rounds 2'' apart.
  6. Bake until cookies are set, about 12 minutes. Allow to cool, then remove from parchment.
For the fudge icing:
  1. Melt bittersweet and semisweet chocolates and butter in the top of a double boiler over simmering water over medium heat.
  2. Add confectioners sugar, corn syrup, vanilla, salt, and 6 tbsp. boiling water and mix to a smooth, stiff paste with a rubber spatula. Thin icing with up to 8 tbsp. more boiling water. Icing should fall from a spoon in thick ribbons.
  3. Keep icing warm in a double boiler over low heat.
For the buttercream icing:
  1. Put sugar, butter, shortening, milk, vanilla, and salt in the bowl of a standing mixer. Beat on low speed to mix, then increase to medium and beat until light and fluffy.

Using a metal spatula, spread about 1 tbsp. of warm fudge icing on half of the flat side of each cookie. Spread the other half of each cookie with 1 heaping tbsp. buttercream icing.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake Truffles!

I feel like I haven't been here for ages! The last few weeks have just been so crazy busy, my weekend cooking experiments had to get sacrificed out of the equation. Weddings, vacationing, catching up with people I haven't seen or spoken to for a while, this is one start of a summer! Then, of course, let's not forget those other not-so-fun things such as doctor check-ups, dental visits, oil changes, smog check, *ahem* traffic school, dry cleaning, etc...the list feels endless but finally dwindling down. 

So working in the wine industry, there are certain times during the year where things are peaceful, quiet, and calm. Then there are times during the year where things are crazy, busy, and insane. That last part I just described, well that's quickly approaching, actually too close for comfort at this point. Because I naturally like to procrastinate a little, I've spent the last few weeks catching up and making sure all the important things I need to take care of is taken care of before work consumes my life for the next few month, hence adding onto the busy. 

Well since I haven't really been in the kitchen experimenting for a while, it's taking a bit for me to warm back up, not in the sense that I've forgotten how to cook/bake, just that I've gotten slightly lazy. You know when you get into a certain mode of things, its hard to break out to break out of my baking drought, I thought I'd start with something simple, cake truffles. 

Granted I did mention I didn't want to see another cake pop/truffle for at least the next few months because I had to make over 140 of those things for my friend's wedding... they are a nice warm-up project. Minimal efforts now that the pressure is off. 

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake Truffles:
Makes approx 33 truffles
  • 1 box of chocolate cake mix (Duncan Hines recommended)
  • 1 18 oz container of peanut butter (approx 3/4 of the container will be used)
  • ingredients for box cake (i.e. eggs, oil, and water)
 follow this link for pictorial instructions: nutella cake pops