Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Candied Bacon Cake


            While enjoying one my cupcakes a few weeks back, a co-worker of mine named Andrew says to me: “You’re gonna make some guy really fat someday”.
To which I reply: “Probably”.
Truth is, happiness does make you fat. Someday I’ll make someone euphoric.


            In honor of Andrew, and two more co-workers of ours, who all share April 11th birthdays, I made something particularly decadent for them. I made a candied bacon cake. Can you think of a better diabetes-inducing-heart-attack-producing indulgence? No. It’s a three-layer maple and brown sugar cake, topped with maple vanilla frosting and filled/covered with homemade candied bacon. Thank me later, because you should try one for yourself ASAP.  Candied Bacon tastes a lot like love.
            This one is a bit time consuming, considering you have to cook the candied bacon (which can take up to two hours) before making the cake. Consider making the bacon a day in advance and store in the fridge until you’re ready to decorate. You can also cheat using a vanilla box cake recipe (just add ¼ tsp cinnamon, and 1 1/2 tsp maple flavor to the mix when adding the oil) and canned vanilla frosting (adding 1 tsp maple flavor to the can, mix well).

CANDIED BACON:
1 ½ cup light brown sugar
½ cup dark brown sugar
2 lb (16 strips) ¼ inch cut applewood-smoked* bacon
Two 12”x17”, lipped baking sheets. Or just two lipped baking sheets the same size.

*You can really use your personal favorite bacon. I recommend applewood smoked for the sweet meat flavor it already packs. I also recommend buying nitrate/nitrite free bacon.

1.     Carefully line one 12”x17” lipped baking sheet with tin foil.
2.     Cover the bottom of the cookie sheet with a single layer of parchment paper. Trust me on the double lining- if sugar leaks onto your pan and cooks or burns, it is a Martha-Faulkner-ing B*tch to clean up.
3.     Preheat the oven to 350°
4.     Mix the brown sugars in a large bowl.
5.     Carefully coat each strip of bacon with sugar. You may have a tablespoon or more leftover, reserve your leftover sugar. Lay the bacon in a single layer on the cookie sheet. I could only fit 8 strips at a time on mine- I ended up baking twice.
6.     Cover the bacon with another sheet of parchment paper.
7.     Place the second baking sheet on top of the sheet with the bacon in it, over the parchment paper. This helps the bacon cook flat, as well as prevent the sugar from burning before the meat is fully cooked.
8.     Bake in the oven for 25 minutes.
9.     At 25 minutes pull your top baking sheet and the top sheet of parchment paper off. Carefully drain the fat out of the pan without dumping the bacon. Flip the bacon over. If you had any reserve sugar, sprinkle it on. 
10. Recover with the same parchment paper and second baking sheet. Return to the oven for 20 minutes.
11. After 20 minutes. Remove the top baking sheet and parchment paper. Immediately return the now open-face bacon to the oven for final crisping.
12. Cook roughly 5 more minutes. DO NOT WALK AWAY. Without that top layer the bacon can go from perfect to burnt in 10 seconds! Believe me. Things can turn just that fast.
13. Let bacon cool on a plate. Refrigerate until you’re ready to decorate the cake.

MAPLE BROWN SUGAR CAKE:

3 cups all purpose flour
½ cup light brown sugar
1 1/4 cup white sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp cinnamon
1 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs
1¼ cup milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp maple flavor
Butter and flour to prepare the cake pans

1.     Sift together flour, baking soda, and baking powder.
2.     Add the brown sugar, white sugar, salt, and cinnamon. Whisk dry ingredients well.
3.     Using an electric or standing mixer on medium speed, add the wet ingredients one at a time in the following order: oil, eggs, milk, vanilla and maple, until everything is just combined. Do not over mix- as soon as all the lumps disappear you are ready to go.
4.     Coat three, 8” round cake pans with butter, then sprinkle the pans lightly with flour to create your stick-free surface. Discard excess flour. Pour batter equally between the three cake pans (about half-full).
5.     Bake at 325° for 30 min.
6.     Cool on a wire rack.

VANILLA MAPLE FROSTING:

2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted, softened butter
4 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp maple flavor
2 Tbsp milk

1.     Beat together butter, vanilla, and maple.
2.     Add the powdered sugar 1 cup at a time.
3.     Add the milk. Mix until smooth.

ASSEMBLY:

1.     Cut 6 strips of bacon into 1 inch square pieces. Set aside. These are for decorating the outside of the cake.
2.     Cut the other 10 strips of bacon into the smallest possible pieces you can. The smaller the better*. Set aside. These are for the inside of the cake.
3.     Trim the tops of your cakes to ensure they will sit level.
4.     Place your first layer of cake on your plate or platter of choice. It’ll stay in place if you smear a quarter-sized dollop of frosting underneath the cake on the plate itself.
5.     Generously frost the top of the first cake.
6.     Sprinkle 1/2 of the tiny bacon pieces onto the frosting.
7.     Top with the second layer of cake.
8.     Repeat steps 5 and 6.
9.     Cover with third layer of cake.
10. Frost the entire thing with a thin crumb coat.
11. Refrigerate for 20 minutes.
12. Frost another layer with the rest of the frosting. Reserve about 2 Tbsp of frosting for a center rosette if you’d prefer (as pictured).
13.  Use the larger bacon pieces to cover the outside of the cake.


*I stress the smallness of these pieces, because when I made this cake I cut all the bacon into 1” pieces. You can’t cut through the candied bacon pieces while cutting the cake. When I cut into the cake, trying to make very thin slices, without the sharpest of knives, the knife caught on the largest pieces of bacon, which subsequently tore through the super moist, soft cake. Notice the excess of crumbs on my platter. Some of the cake slices did not turn out pretty at all. Luckily it all tasted the same- as in crazy delicious!

See ya’ll at the cardiologist! Maybe we should go on a gym date!




Thursday, April 12, 2012

Peeta's Cheese Buns


            Katniss Everdeen never seemed like the type of woman who’d be overjoyed to receive a bouquet of flowers from a male suitor. In Catching Fire, Katniss describes Peeta regularly bringing her cheesy buns he’d made in his family’s bakery. I equated this to the gesture of bringing a girl a box of chocolates.
            After winning the Hunger Games, starvation is no longer an issue; both Peeta and Katniss are enjoying new homes and wealth. I imagined these cheesy buns to be extravagant compared to their former financial situations- a luxury to say the least. These buns are made to reflect that. They’re made with: all white flour (definitively not tesserae grain), refined white sugar, butter, and LOTS of cheese. For the cheese I would recommend medium cheddar. I used half medium cheddar, half Dubliner cheddar.


PEETA’S CHEESE BUNS

4 cups all-purpose flour (plus extra for kneading)
1 cup room-temperature buttermilk
½ cup + 1 tsp sugar
2 ½ tsp active dry yeast
¼ water
½ stick+ 2 Tbsp butter
2 eggs
½ tsp salt
1lb of your favorite cheese(s)

1.     Warm the water to 110 degrees, about 10 seconds in the microwave.
2.     Place your yeast and 1 tsp sugar in the warmed water, stir well, and allow it to rest for 10 minutes. Yeast is ready when it’s foamy.
3.     In a large bowl mix together the flour, sugar and salt.
4.     Melt the ½ stick of butter.
5.     Add the butter to the dry ingredients. Stir.
6.     Add the eggs one at a time. Mix well.
7.     Add the activated yeast. Add the buttermilk slowly as you stir. Stir with a spoon until the batter pulls away from the sides of the bowl, forming a ball in the center.
8.     Place the dough on a generously floured, flat surface. Knead the dough for 6-10 minutes.
9.     Take the kneaded dough and make a tight ball, place the ball in a lightly greased bowl. Cover the bowl and allow bread to rise for 1 ½ hours. Flip the dough over once at the halfway point.
10. Divide the dough into 12 equal parts. Roll each part into a ball.
11. Place newly formed dough balls on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Place them between 1-2 inches apart. It’s ok if the buns touch while baking- the closer they are squished together the taller they grow. Cover and let rise 15 minutes while the oven preheats.
12. Preheat your oven to 350°.
13. Brush the tops of your buns with melted unsalted butter. Bake for 25 minutes.
14. While those bake, shred your cheese.
15. Remove the buns from the oven. Coat them mile-high with the cheese.
16. Return the buns to the oven and bake for 10-12 more minutes.

If a man brought me a dozen of these, I might fall for him too. If you’ve seen the movie, ladies, I know you’re dying to get your hands on Peeta’s buns. Enjoy them!

Mockingjay

          The dramatic conclusion to The Hunger Games Trilogy does not disappoint. District 12 has been destroyed; a thick layer of rubble, ash, and decaying bodies are left in its place. The Capitol has captured Peeta. The war has begun.
The few survivors (including Katniss, her mother, sister, and best friend Gale) of District 12 have become refugees, taken in by District 13. The stories are true- District 13 was not decimated in the first uprising as previously believed. The small community has been living literally underground since the Dark Days, 75 years earlier, free from capitol control. Slowly District 13 has regained its strength through strict, regimented practices fulfilling only the basic needs for survival.
Surprised by the militaristic nature of District 13 as well as their intended plan to use Katniss as propaganda against the government, Katniss very reluctantly becomes a symbol of hope for the cause, the Mockingjay. Thirsty for revenge against President Snow, and well acquainted with violence, Katniss joins the fight. But what exactly is she fighting for?
Is this a political grab for the President of District 13? Is Katniss aiding in a shift from one militaristic dictatorship to another, or will she help build a republic? How will the war end? Where will that leave Katniss: will she even survive to make her choice between Gale and Peeta?    
            Mockingjay transports the readers from the proverbial arena and throws Katniss into an adult world where alliances and loyalties are as much manipulative, but twenty-times as deadly as her former child-on-child murder set-up. Katniss will have to learn to trust herself when the world around her is anything but trustworthy. She'll have to decided for herself what is real and was is not real. The pawn has an imperative role in the game of War.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

District 4 Bread


Who didn’t fall in love with Finnick while reading Catching Fire? I'm hoping Ryan Gosling plays him in the movie... what lady doesn't love him too? While reading I also became fixated on Collin’s description of District 4 bread. If you haven't read the second book, the bread is described as fish-shaped. Faintly green in color, the bread is littered with seaweed, which gives the bread a signature salty flavor reminiscent of the ocean. Why? District 4 is said to be mostly coastline- its main export fish. I would have never thought to pair seaweed with anything other than something like fish or rice. Never thought to put it into bread. I had to try.

District 4 Bread (Seaweed rolls)

2 ½ cups whole wheat flour
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour (plus extra for kneading)
1 oz of dried seaweed sheets*
 1 3/4 cups water (warm)
3 tsp active dry yeast
¼ cup + 1 tsp sugar
¼ cup vegetable oil
½ tsp salt
2 Tbsp melted butter

1.     Heat the water in the microwave to roughly 110. This is about 20 seconds in the microwave. When you insert your fingertip into the water it should feel warm than your body, like comfortable bath water- but NOT hot. Add your yeast to the water. Sprinkle 1 tsp of sugar into the yeast and stir well. Set aside for 10 minutes
2.     In a large bowl combine your wheat flour, all-purpose flour, sugar and salt.
3.     Take your sheets of dried seaweed and crumble over the flour. You want nice small pieces so that the seaweed not only distributes evenly, but also rehydrates a little during the baking process. Mix thoroughly.
4.     Add the oil to the dry ingredients
5.     Add the water/yeast to dry ingredients.
6.     Mix everything together until the dough forms a ball in the center of the bowl, pulling away from the sides.
7.     Place your dough on a generously floured, flat surface. Knead for 6-10 minutes.
8.     Form dough into a tight ball then place it in a lightly greased bowl. Cover the bowl. Dough needs to rise for 11/2-2 hours. For the best results flip the dough over in its bowl and gently pat the top down every 30 minutes.
9.     When the dough has finished rising divide it into 8 equal parts.
10. Roll the 8 parts into balls and then shape into fish. One trick to maintaining the shape once the bread is baked is to over exaggerate the fish’s features. Make the tail/fins/body a little longer and skinnier than you would like the finished product to look like- the shape swells as the dough bakes.
unbaked

baked

11. Place the fish on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Cover the fish and let them rise for 15 more minutes while the oven preheats.
12. Preheat the oven to 325.
13. Brush the tops of the fishes with melted butter. Bake for 20 minutes.

* I used two packages of Trader Joe’s Seaweed Snacks (.8 oz total weight) and they worked perfectly! But if you don’t have a Trader Joe’s near you, try the Asian section of your local grocery store or an Asian specialty grocer and use the seaweed sheets made for rolling sushi.


            These came out way better than I expected. After the fish came out of the oven I couldn’t stop playing with them. They were so cute! I was so excited with how well the shape came out! Flavor-wise I was worried this bread would come out overly salty- but they were really well balanced. Of course you’re not going to like them if you’re not into seaweed at all. The texture was soft and fluffy. They made wonderful toast, with just a little salted butter on them. They would make great tuna-salad sandwiches.
            

Catching Fire



The second book in the The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins, picks up 6 months after Katniss and Peeta’s victory in the arena, Catching Fire showcases that life has not, nor will it ever return to normal in District 12. Despite the rewards of a new home in the Victor’s Village, monetary wealth, and food never before accessible- winning is nothing it’s cracked up to be.
Displeased (to say the least) with the nightlock berries stunt, the Capitol seems more watchful than ever. President Snow himself has taken special interest in the growing unrest of the nation, mostly in Katniss’s power to influence public opinion. As threats of an uprising teeter closer to reality, the Capitol will do anything to quiet the spreading rumors.
It’s the 75th anniversary of the Hunger Games, a “Quarter Quell” year. Instead of selecting 1 boy, and 1 girl at the reaping, for a quarter quell year tributes are chosen from the pool of already existing victors. Katniss and Peeta are going back to the arena. Can they survive a second trip? The games have only just begun.
Katniss takes a vow to protect Peeta at all costs- as he did for her in the first games. If she has any doubt of her true feelings for Peeta, they are made perfectly clear in Catching Fire- at least for the reader. The fight for survival is on again, but the same strategy won’t work twice. This time Katniss will have to make alliances. More importantly she’ll have to decide who her true enemies are.
Catching Fire is a thrilling sequel, headed exactly in the right direction full-force. After reading Catching Fire I was thankful I didn’t discover the series before all three books had been published. If you don’t have the third book, Mockingjay in your possession the moment you finish Catching Fire you will freak out and speed to the bookstore. I couldn’t wait.

Monday, April 9, 2012

District 11 Bread


           One of the most touching and heartbreaking scenes in The Hunger Games is the death of Rue, the youngest tribute from District 11. My only disappointment in the film version was the absence of the sponsorship Katniss received from District 11 for her kindest act of humanity, holding and singing to Rue until her death, then covering her lifeless body in flowers. If you haven’t read the book I apologize for the spoiler. Katniss receives a loaf of District 11's signature bread in a parachute. It is described as crescent shaped and chalk-full of seeds.
            The book doesn’t specify which kind of seeds, but gives the impression of density, and does mention that it was probably made with tesserae grain. I wanted to create something authentic. I decided on crescent rolls. I imagined the tesserae grain is probably unprocessed whole wheat, leaving it dark in color. District 11 is the second poorest district so I assumed if they were using tesserae grain, one would use tesserae oil. There is no added sugar, because as Katniss described refined sugar is exorbitantly expensive. I chose honey as my sweetener, because given the fact Rue worked in an orchard; in order to pollinate crops, bees are an absolute necessity- so I assumed residents might have some access to honey. You could really use any seeds you desire; I chose pepitas for texture as well as for their nutty flavor; poppy seeds and sesame seeds for sweetness, and roasted flax seeds for their toasty flavor.

DISTRICT 11 BREAD, RUE’S SEEDED CRESCENTS

2 ½ tsp active dry yeast
¼ tsp sugar
¼ cup warm water
1 cup milk heated to 110 degrees
2 tsp salt
¼ cup oil
1/3 cup raw Honey
2 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour
1 cup all purpose flour (plus extra for kneading)
1/3 cup raw pepitas
2 Tbsp poppy seeds
2 Tbsp sesame seeds
3 Tbsp whole roasted flax seeds

1 egg beaten with a splash of milk

1.     In the ¼ cup water (for perfect yeast-activating temp, about 12 seconds in the microwave) add your yeast and sugar. Stir and let sit for 10 minutes. It’s ready when the liquid turns to oatmeal-colored foam.
2.     While the yeast is activating, mix your flour, salt and seeds in a bowl.
3.     Heat the milk (cold milk for about 20-30 seconds in the microwave), if you stick your finger in the milk the temperature should just be slightly warmer than your body- think mild bath water- comfortable.
4.     Add the milk, honey, oil, and yeast to the dry ingredients.
5.     Stir dough just until everything is evenly moist and pulls away from the edges into a ball in the center.
6.     Flour a clean flat surface.
7.     Place dough on floured surface, sprinkle with flour, flour your hands and knead the dough for 6-10 minutes. This dough is sticky at first so be liberal with the flour. Kneading dough is hard work- it was no wonder Peeta was so strong.
8.     After kneading form the dough into a tight ball.
9.     Place the kneaded ball into a lightly greased bowl. Cover the bowl and let the dough rise for 1½ hours. To ensure the highest rise possible, at the 45-minute mark flip the dough ball over in the bowl, gently pat the top down and re cover.
10. To make the crescents, first roll out the dough as if you’re making piecrust. You want about 12” diameter circle, about a ½ inch thick.
11. Cut the dough into 12 triangles, as if you were cutting a pizza.

12.  Take 1 triangle and roll it tightly from wide end to skinny point. Curl the edges inward to make a crescent.
13. Place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, cover and let rest for 15 minutes. Preheat your oven to 350.
14. Before baking brush the tops of the rolls with the egg wash (egg beaten with milk), then sprinkle the top with sesame seeds (or whichever seeds you like).
15. Bake for 24- 27 minutes. Bread is done when you poke it with your finger and it no longer bounces back.

These rolls are delicious on their own, warm with butter, but make awesome sandwiches. I made a grilled cheese and apple sandwich with mine, thinly sliced crisp pink lady apples with Dubliner cheddar cheese. Considering Rue worked in an orchard, I thought apples were appropriate.
What I love most about the gift of bread from District 11 is how the gesture conveys the message of gratitude. The bread may have been made with tessarae, the worst quality of ingredients, but was made with sincerity. I believe food is love, “it may not be much, but what little I have I will share with you”, is always a wonderful gift to receive. 

The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins is a novel set in the post-apocalyptic future, when the oceans have swallowed most of the world’s landmasses. What was once North America is now the militaristic dictatorship nation of Panem, which is divided into 12 districts. In service to the Capitol of Panem, as punishment for an attempted revolt against the government 74 years earlier, each district is responsible for sending one boy and one girl tribute between the ages of 12-18 to compete in the annual Hunger Games, a nationally televised competition to the death.
As I’m sure you’ve seen in the film previews, the novel’s heroine is Katniss Everdeen, who volunteers as District 12’s tribute to save her younger sister, 12-year-old Primrose. Of the 24 tributes in the games, the lone survivor is awarded with wealth, a new home, and celebrity status. The poorest of the districts, District 12 has had only 1 victor in all 73 previous games, Haymitch. Haymitch has earned a reputation as the town drunk and is also mentor to Katniss and her male tribute counterpart, the baker’s son, Peeta Mellark.
As if a fight for survival in a game in which teenage murder is expected isn’t enough for the 16-year-old Katniss to handle, during the pre-games televised interview young Peeta confesses to being in love with Katniss. Is it a media ploy to gain sponsors or are his feelings sincere?  Can Katniss keep up her half of the act? Could playing into a star-crossed-lovers scenario save her or possibly both of their lives?
The Hunger Games is more than a coming of age novel that touches on teenage melodrama in a realistic manner. Although there is a love triangle, involving an emotionally insecure female lead- the story branches further into themes of dystopian society, media manipulation, greed, murder, and political ethics. The Hunger Games is an accessible avenue for readers of all ages (but young women especially) to discuss important issues.
            On a final note, unlike the literary pandemic that was Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series, The Hungers Games is intelligent youth fiction that neither relentlessly steals reader’s IQ points, nor makes me personally want to shoot myself in the face with a nail gun.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Radbury Creme Eggs

Happy Easter. I hope you are enjoying/enjoyed your holiday; ate plenty of ham, had a wonderful Easter egg hunt, and that the Easter bunny brought you many Cadbury Crème Eggs. Those candies are almost as inescapable as marshmallow peeps, in a good way. Although, I’ve always had mixed feelings about them. I love them, but I definitely prefer the caramel eggs ten-fold, the “crème” ones taste a little too much like corn syrup for me. So this year I made my own version, in a cupcake. I call them Radbury Crème Cheese Cupcakes. They’re pretty rad- if I do say so myself. They’re milk chocolate cake, filled with cream cheese frosting, all coated in a milk chocolate ganache. 

MILK CHOCOLATE CAKE:

2½ cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup Dutch process cocoa powder
¼ tsp salt
2 cups sugar
½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 ½ sticks (3/4 cup) melted unsalted butter
3 eggs
½ cup buttermilk
1 cup milk
2oz milk chocolate
1 tsp vanilla

1.     Sift together flour, salt, cocoa powder, sugar, baking powder, and baking soda.
2.     Add the melted butter to dry ingredients.
3.     Add the eggs one at a time until thoroughly combined.
4.     In a bowl, melt the chocolate in the microwave. Microwave in 10 second intervals, stirring between each interval- to ensure everything melts evenly without burning.
5.     Add the chocolate slowly, simultaneously mixing so the eggs don’t curdle.
6.     Add the vanilla, milk and buttermilk. Mix until batter is smooth.
7.     Preheat oven to 350°.
8.     Makes 24 standard cupcakes, bake for about 18-20 minutes.

For this recipe I used a Wilton balloon-mold cake pan. Because this particular mold was the same volume as a standard cupcake (holding 3 Tbsp of batter) I didn’t have to adjust my baking time. Egg and balloon shaped cake molds are available from Michael’s Craft Stores, Wilton, and many specialty bake supply shops. Volumes will vary, so beware of your baking time! Watch those cupcakes diligently!
A small issue I encountered making these was that, as a result of the egg-shaped mold, the cupcakes don’t rise evenly. If you have a funny, uneven bulging surface after the cupcakes are cooked, let them cool completely on a wire rack, then use a serrated knife to gently even the edge.

CREAM CHEESE FROSTING:

1, 8oz package cream cheese
1 stick softened unsalted butter
2 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
Yellow food coloring

1.     Beat butter and cream cheese together until soft and fluffy.
2.     Add vanilla
3.     Mix in powdered sugar a ½ cup at a time.
4.     Reserve one third of the frosting.
5.     To the reserve frosting add yellow food coloring until you reach your desired yellowness.

FILLING:

1.     The cakes should be completely cool at this point. Using a melon baller (metal ones work best) scoop out roughly 1 “scoop”, “ball”, about a Tbsp, of cake from the center. Be careful not to dig too deep into the cake and go all the way through the egg.
2.      Once you’ve hollowed your 24 eggs, prepare your piping bag.
3.     Use a number 7, round tip.
4.     Fill your bag with the white colored frosting.
5.     Start at the center-bottom of the hollow, working in a circular motion pipe in a single coil to cover the bottom and up the sides of the hollow.
6.     You should have a marble sized-empty space left in the center of the white frosting.
7.     Frost a thin ribbon of the white frosting around the edge of the hollow; this will act as glue when the halves come together.
8.     Repeat steps 6-7 for all 24 eggs.
9.     Fill piping bag with yellow reserve frosting.
10. Fill the marble-sized leftover space of each egg with yellow frosting.
11. Once all the eggs are filled, sandwich together the eggs in pairs- frosting sides together.
12. Place the now 12 whole eggs in the freezer until the ganache is ready.

MILK CHOCOLATE GANACHE:

8 oz milk chocolate
¾ cup heavy whipping cream
2 Tbsp unsalted butter

1.     In a double boiler, heat the heavy cream to a simmer.
2.     Roughly chop the milk chocolate, then, add it to the warmed cream. Stir constantly until the chocolate has melted.
3.     Add the butter. Stir until the butter has completely melted and immediately remove the mixture from the heat.
4.     Cool the ganache to room temperature before coating the eggs.

When the ganache has cooled remove the eggs from the freezer. Now that the eggs are nearly frozen, they won’t fall apart while coating them in ganache. The easiest way to do this part is to get your hands dirty! Simply roll the eggs right in the bowl of ganache, shake free of excess chocolate and place the eggs sitting up on a sheet of wax paper. You can use a butter knife or the back of a regular spoon to smooth out any fingerprints. Eggs need to be refrigerated for about an hour before serving.




Sunday, April 1, 2012

Ceci N'est Pas Ravioli.

What does this look like to you?


As if you didn’t already know… that’s not ravioli! Happy April Fool’s Day! I wanted to make a traditionally savory dish into a dessert. I came up with mini pie pockets filled with a peanut butter filling, topped with simple raspberry sauce; aka Peanut Butter and Jelly Pie Bites.

PEANUT BUTTER FILLING:
1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
2/3 of one 8oz package of cream cheese
½ tsp vanilla
1 egg yolk
1 Tbsp flour
½ cup sugar

1.     Cream together peanut butter, cream cheese and sugar until it’s fluffy.
2.     Add vanilla, egg yolk, and flour. Mix until everything is thoroughly incorporated.
3.     Refrigerate until you are ready to fill the pastry dough.

PIE CRUST:
2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 cup cold unsalted butter
1 tsp salt
8 tsp vodka
2 tsp cold water
2 ice cubes

1.     Combine the salt and flour in a bowl.
2.     Cube the butter and add it to the flour.
3.     Using a pastry blender or fork, or food processor work the butter into the flour until it resembles fine breadcrumbs.
4.     Pour the vodka and water over the ice cubes in a glass.
5.     Add the chilled vodka/water to the butter/flour mix one tsp at a time until you can press a ball of dough in your hands and the ball retains its form. You want your dough to be slightly moister in this recipe than for a standard piecrust.
6.     Roll the dough between two sheets of wax paper to 1/8 an inch thick. Roll so that you have one long rectangle.
7.     Using a pizza cutter or knife cut the dough into equal sized, 1” x 1½ ” rectangles. That’s 30 individual rectangles, cut 6 columns and 5 rows. *Don’t worry if they’re not really uniform, they all taste the same in the end.

HOW TO FILL:

You’ll need a cup of water handy.

1.     Take one dough rectangle in your hand. Stretch it out in your fingers a little to make sure it’s warm enough/pliable. If it starts to crack it’s too cold. Let everything sit at room temperature for a few minutes.
2.     Take a small dollop of filling and place it in the center of your rectangle. Be cautious, DO NOT overfill these or face many-a-cracks in your top half of pastry.
3.     Take another rectangle; give it a little stretch in your hand. Gently cover the filled first rectangle. Wet the edges of the ravioli with water to make them stick.
4.     Press the edges together with your fingertips; use the end of fork to secure the closure just like the rim of a traditional pie.
5.     Repeat steps with the remaining 28 rectangles.
6.     Brushed finished raviolis with egg wash (one egg beaten with a splash of milk).
7.     Place on a cookie sheet and bake at 375° for 20-25 minutes until the crust turns golden brown.

RASPBERRY SAUCE:
12 oz either frozen or fresh raspberries
1 lemon
Sugar to taste (usually between 2 Tbsp- ¼ cup depending on the sweetness of the berries used)
¼ cup water

1.     Throw the raspberries, sugar, and water into a medium saucepan.
2.     Zest and juice the lemon, then add those to the saucepan as well.
3.     Heat the whole thing on medium heat until the fruit breaks down, stirring occasionally.
4.     Once the biggest chunks have fallen apart, reduce the heat to low. Let the sauce reduce for 10 minutes.
5.     Remove from heat and strain out the seeds if you desire.
6.     Ladle spoonfuls over warm pie raviolis and garnish with mint leaves