Nov 14, 2010

Daring Cooks, November 2010 - Blue Cheese Souffle with Grape Reduction Sauce


Blue cheese baked into a fluffy, walnut-encrusted souffle, drizzled with a sweet, all-natural sauce made from seedless black grapes...its like a wine and cheese tasting in one bite.

Well, hello again. Long time, no see. I don't know where my September and October went. I auditioned for a play in the beginning of September, was cast in a lead role, and a week later had begun rehearsing. The show was a total blast and a much needed return to acting, which I have been away from since starting law school in the Spring of '09. Still, when the curtain closed on Oct. 31, I was happy to say farewell. Nearly two months of daily rehearsals and set builds in addition to keeping up with school was enough for me [The final weekend of the show overlapped the first weekend of final exams...let's just say that when finals finally ended, curling up in bed never felt so good and so well deserved]. Left in the wake was any time to spend in the kitchen, much less write about it here. But, I'm back, baby.

While I was away, I committed to some big diet changes which I'll discuss in a later post since none of them affected this dish, but these changes are going to bring about more entrées on this blog and fewer desserts [Again, more on this later]. As a result I joined the Daring Cooks [The other half of The Daring Kitchen]. I'm still an active Daring Baker, though I took September off and didn't fully write on my attempts at the October Challenge.

My first Daring Cooks' Challenge was to create a souffle of some kind. As usual, a total first. What I gleaned from browsing recipes and tips, the big threat would be a collapsing top. Granted I chose a recipe that wasn't intended to result in a towering eggy fluff, but these souffles grew appropriately and held their shape. If you enjoy wine and cheese [or like your salty to come with a little sweet], your likely to enjoy this souffle. It's simple to prepare, and makes for a great appetizer or side [or a light meal]. Better yet, the grape reduction sauce is sweet enough using the grapes and water, adding a delicious touch to the souffles without the use of any table sugar. [Have you caught onto one of my diet changes?]

It's good to be back.

Dave and Linda from Monkeyshines in the Kitchen chose Soufflés as our November 2010 Daring Cooks’ Challenge! Dave and Linda provided two of their own delicious recipes plus a sinfully decadent chocolate soufflé recipe adapted from Gordon Ramsay’s recipe found at the BBC Good Food website.

Blue Cheese Souffle with Grape Reduction Sauce

<p>Like a wine and cheese tasting in one bite.</p> <p>The 4-serving yield is based on 1/2 c. size ramekins. The original recipe called for 6 1/4 c. size ramekins.</p>

See Blue Cheese Souffle with Grape Reduction Sauce on Key Ingredient.

Oct 28, 2010

Brief - October DB Challenge and a note

Ok, so this is really just a placeholder post, so this month doesn't slip by without getting credit for completing the DB challenge. We were to make donuts this month and while I found time to make a small batch, I didn't have the time to photograph and really make a good post out of them. But, I shall. The donuts were rather good - and I made them sugar free. The past two months have been uproariously busy and as I type this, I am doing so as quickly as possible so as to get back to doing what I need to do. This post is really just to earn my monthly credit over at DB and also to let anyone - or the one person - who happens to come by this blog...this blog IS NOT DEAD! I'm coming back in about a week and a half. Been a good two months, but I hate how this blog has fallen far, far, far down to the wayside.

So, come the first week in November, life dials down a bit and I'll be back in the kitchen...likely to start with the Sugar Free Chocolate Donuts.

Love to all - or just the one faithful person still receiving notices of my posts.


The October 2010 Daring Bakers challenge was hosted by Lori of Butter Me Up. Lori chose to challenge DBers to make doughnuts. She used several sources for her recipes including Alton Brown, Nancy Silverton, Kate Neumann and Epicurious.

Aug 31, 2010

Sweet Potato Whoopie Pies with Maple Marshmallow Creme

Fluffy sweet potato whoopie cakes sandwich light and airy maple creme, hitting all the right notes and then some.

The first weekend after the start of school is always a nice breather. Saturday, my sister came for a visit. We took my new camera, went to a gorgeous local park and took some head shots for an audition she has coming up. [Since I've gotten my camera, I've only photographed food, but want to diversify my areas of photography.] My sister is incredibly photogenic and I got some good shots, but I'm definitely seeing areas that I must get better at. Speaking of auditions, I just had one myself. I auditioned for the Waco Civic Theatre's production of Noises Off!. As of this posting, no casting decisions have been made but, I've been invited to attend callbacks tonight. I'll update in a later post...hopefully with good news.

As August concludes, I can't contain my excitement for the Fall. I know I've mentioned my love for the Fall in probably 50% of my posts, but it's my favorite Texas season. [I'm sure if my part of Texas actually had Winters like the ones you see in Norman Rockwell paintings Winter would win, but they're usually just slushy.] The changing weather, the rustic colors and flavors, the approaching holidays, life just becomes more pleasant when Fall's arrives. I'm a Fall fanatic.

Sweet potatoes are a comfort food for me and trump the other potato varieties. They're so versatile, but are completely underused. It saddens me that the best they're known for is being mashed and topped with melted marshmallows. Well, my friends, that might just stand to change. I found Sprinkle Bakes while blog surfing and was instantly sucked in by the latest recipe featured: Sweet Potato Whoopie Pies with Maple Marshmallow Creme. It may still be reaching high 90s outside, but I didn't care, the stunning pictures had me salivating - these creme-filled cakes headed straight to the front line.

I saw a special years back on a food channel that profiled a shop in the northeast that made and sold tons of whoopie pie varieties, but I hadn't tried one. Well, I suppose I could come close with those little chocolate rounds Little Debbie makes. [That makes mention three for Little Debbie on my blog.] They're way smaller, but essentially the same idea - a fluffy creme sandwiched between two equally fluffy cake rounds. In short, this is one serious dessert mama jama. The sweet potato and maple combo is truly divine, and I usually only reserve that descriptor for the Almighty. If you enjoy fall flavors even in the slightest, this is one dessert you must make. Be sure to see the original author's suggestions and a few of my own. Unsure of how the batter would rise in the oven, I made each cake too large. The hefty size of my whoopie pies made them nearly a meal in itself. FYI, the batter really only puffs up and doesn't really spread. So, pipe the width that you prefer and expect them to rise a little.

All us Fall lovers, let's band together and give the sweet potato a recipe it can be proud of.

Sweet Potato Whoopie Pies with Maple Marshmallow Creme

<p>Heather @ Sprinkle Bakes recommends using fresh sweet potatoes as opposed to canned. I concur. Bake two sweet potatoes at 375 F. for 45 minutes. Peel and mash.</p> <p>In attempt to cut calories and sugar, I replaced the 3/4 c. sugar with Smart ...

See Sweet Potato Whoopie Pies with Maple Marshmallow Creme on Key Ingredient.

For some time, I have been looking for an embeddable tool I could use to present the recipes for several reasons. One, the bulleted and numbered lists on Blogger are boring and I can't ever seem to get them to look how I want. Two, they are not conducive to printing - and what good is an online recipe if you can't print it. Heather @ Sprinkle Bakes also had a solution. This tool can be found at Key Ingredient.

Aug 27, 2010

Strawberry-Fudge Sundae Petit Fours

With these petit fours, a summer, all-American dessert classic is given a decadent spin.

I apologize for the backtrack in photo quality. I made and photographed these prior to getting my new camera.

Reading through the August's Daring Bakers Challenge, all I could think of were ice cream sundaes. I'm stuck in the dead heat of a Texas August where, even with the AC running full blast, I break a sweat by sitting in a chair. August heat in Texas reminds me of that old horror film, The Blob, where an amorphous goo swarms over streets and buildings, devouring all in its path. Like "the blob," Texas heat is just something you can't run from, it will find you. [If the Fall showed its face a little earlier this year, I wouldn't complain].

What was I talking about? Oh right, the August 2010 Daring Baker's Challenge. The challenge was to create either a Baked Alaska or Ice Cream Petit Fours using a browned-butter pound cake and homemade ice cream. I was a tad let down, at first, since this challenge was so similar to last month's challenge - both essentially were ice cream cakes made with a special cake recipe and homemade ice cream. My attitude changed when I realized this was an opportunity to get a little creative and make something totally original using familiar components. Out of this the Strawberry-Fudge Sundae Petit Four was born. [I say that as if I've just broken new ground in the petit four universe, I doubt this is a first.]

I didn't know much about petit fours going into this, and I'm sure I've only had them once or twice if I don't count the Little Debbie versions I ate as a kid. [So far I have managed to squeeze Little Debbie references into my first two Daring Baker's posts, perhaps a subconscious obsession is surfacing]. Though, I did know petit fours were supposed to be attractive and, despite their minute appearance, pack a flavor punch. I formed my vision.

Against my obnoxious desire to experiment with ice cream flavors, I thought it best to stick with the vanilla ice cream recipe provided by the challenge. A vanilla scoop topped with a fudge, caramel or strawberry sauce is the ice cream sundae poster child, after all. These toppings would appear in the form of a second layer to be sandwiched in between the layers of pound cake. After listing any possible topping I could think of, the choices were narrowed down to two: a caramel sauce and strawberry sauce. Each cake would be wrapped in a chocolate glaze and would be topped with a whirl of buttercream to look like whipped cream and a strawberry or caramel drizzle for some added color.

The idea for two distinct sundae cakes became one when my local store didn't have melting caramels, and I didn't feel it that important to hunt them down. [Reason #2 the Fall needs to get here...the best food and flavors come with it.] Plus, doubling-up on strawberry sundae cakes wasn't a bad back-up. Additionally, the cake recipe yielded a smaller cake than I expected, which is what I get for not adequately reading the instructions before making my plans. At 9 x 9, making two sundae cake flavors would have been excessive.

The recipe for this pound cake called for the butter to be browned, essentially melted and boiled until it turned a dark chocolate color and smelled nutty. I haven't revealed this yet, but I've had no sense of smell for the past five years or so, and I always forget about it until times like these. So, going on sight alone, I successfully browned the butter. This additional step simply added a slightly nutty [surprise] flavor to the cake. The cake was otherwise what you would expect out of a pound cake - sweet, dense, rich, and yummy.

Separately, making the ice cream was no issue, even without an ice cream maker. It was at the start of the assembly that I began to see signs of trouble. With the ice cream spread into about a half-inch thick layer over the pound cake, it began to soften rather quickly. Softening gave way to some melting which led to an assembly that was difficult to finish. Quickly, I spread the strawberry sauce over the ice cream, covered it with the top pound cake layer, wrapped it tightly in cling wrap, and threw it in the freezer. This would be the first of many thaw and freeze rotations that did slightly damage the results.

Making the chocolate glaze, it came to my attention I didn't buy enough heavy cream and again, not wanting to go to the store, I used whole milk as a substitution. The milk thinned the glaze, making it more of a sauce. After failing to coat two cakes with the "glauce," and watching the pound cake just soak it up, I thwarted what could have been these cakes' swan song, drizzled the sauce over the tops, just as you'd do with fudge sauce on a sundae. Got the chocolate on and the look down.

Practically, I don't think the petit four was ever intended to be made with ice cream. [Adamantly Agree, Slightly Agree, Don't Care, Disagree, Adamantly Disagree?] With such a small amount of ice cream filling, each cake is prone to quick melting. If I served these on a party table they would have lost their form in a matter of minutes. However, these were still fun to create and I didn't hear any complaints from those who ate them. The cake was slightly dried out from the constant freezing, but each flavor came together to create a sweet, refreshingly cool experience that truly put a decadent spin on a classic treat.

Vanilla Ice Cream
  • 1 c. whole milk
  • A pinch of salt
  • 3/4 c. sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise OR 2 t. pure vanilla extract
  • 2 c. heavy cream
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 1 t. pure vanilla extract
  1. Heat the milk, salt, and sugar in a medium saucepan until the liquid steams. Scrape out the seeds of the vanilla bean with a paring knife and add to the milk, along with the bean pod. Cover, remove from heat, and let infuse for an hour. If you do not have a vanilla bean, simply heat the milk, salt, and sugar in a medium saucepan until the liquid steams, then let cool to room temperature.
  2. Set up an ice bath by placing a 2-quart (2 litre) bowl inside a large bowl partially filled with water and ice. Put a strainer on top of the smaller bowl and pour in the cream.

  3. In another bowl, lightly beat the egg yolks together. Reheat the milk in the medium saucepan until warmed, and then gradually pour ¼ cup warmed milk into the yolks, constantly whisking to keep the eggs from scrambling. Once the yolks are warmed, scrape the yolk and milk mixture back into the saucepan of warmed milk and cook over low heat. Stir constantly and scrape the bottom with a spatula until the mixture thickens into a custard which thinly coats the back of the spatula.
  4. Strain the custard into the heavy cream and stir the mixture until cooled. Add the vanilla extract (1 teaspoon [5ml] if you are using a vanilla bean; 3 teaspoons [15ml] if you are not using a vanilla bean) and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, preferably overnight.
  5. Remove the vanilla bean and freeze in an ice cream maker. If you don’t have an ice cream maker, you can make it without a machine. See instructions from David Lebovitz:

Browned-Butter Pound Cake
  • 19 T. unsalted butter
  • 2 c. sifted cake flour (not self-rising; sift before measuring)
  • 1 t. baking powder
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1/2 c. light brown sugar, packed
  • 1/3 c. granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/2 t. pure vanilla extract
  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F/160°C and put a rack in the center. Butter and flour a 9”x9” (23cmx23cm) square pan.
  2. Place the butter in a 10” (25cm) skillet over medium heat. Brown the butter until the milk solids are a dark chocolate brown and the butter smells nutty. (Don’t take your eyes off the butter in case it burns.) Pour into a shallow bowl and chill in the freezer until just congealed, 15-30 minutes.
  3. Whisk together cake flour, baking powder, and salt.
  4. Beat the brown butter, light brown sugar, and granulated sugar in an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in the eggs one at a time, mixing well, and then the vanilla extract.
  5. Stir in the flour mixture at low speed until just combined.
  6. Scrape the batter into the greased and floured 9”x9” (23cmx23cm) square pan. Smooth the top with a rubber spatula and rap the pan on the counter. Bake until golden brown on top and when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 25 minutes.
  7. Cool in the pan 10 minutes. Run a knife along the edge and invert right-side-up onto a cooling rack to cool completely.

Chocolate Petit Four Glaze
  • 9 oz. dark chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1 c. heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 T. light corn syrup, Golden syrup, or agave nectar
  • 2 T. vanilla extract
  1. Stir the heavy cream and light corn syrup in a small saucepan over medium heat until it comes to a boil. Remove from heat and add the dark chocolate. Let sit 30 seconds, then stir to completely melt the chocolate.
  2. Stir in the vanilla and let cool until tepid before glazing the petit fours.

Strawberry Sundae Sauce
  • 1 c. water
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1 c. strawberries, diced
  • 2 t. lemon juice
  • 3 T. corn starch
  1. Dissolve sugar into the water over high heat, stirring frequently, making a simple syrup.
  2. Add strawberries to the boiling mixture and reduce heat to simmer. Simmer strawberries in the mixture for five minutes.Stir in lemon juice.
  3. Pour strawberry mixture through a sieve to and return the liquid only to the stove. Reserve simmered strawberries to add back to sauce later or throw away.
  4. Combine corn starch with 1/3 cup cold water and stir until dissolved. Add corn starch mixture to the strawberry liquid. Stir frequently, bringing mixture to a boil. Continue stirring until the mixture thickens to desired consistency. For a thinner sauce, use 2 T. of corn starch.
  5. Stir in reserved strawberries if desired.
The August 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Elissa of 17 and Baking. For the first time, The Daring Bakers partnered with Sugar High Fridays for a co-event and Elissa was the gracious hostess of both. Using the theme of beurre noisette, or browned butter, Elissa chose to challenge Daring Bakers to make a pound cake to be used in either a Baked Alaska or in Ice Cream Petit Fours. The sources for Elissa’s challenge were Gourmet magazine and David Lebovitz’s “The Perfect Scoop”.