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Category Archives: Baking in general

Behind the Kitchen Door

Behind the Kitchen Door

Live in the moment.  Experience now.  Be fully present.

These are concepts that have received a ton of press recently but which I’ve struggled greatly with.

In my work as a lawyer I’m not exactly allowed to live in the moment.  It’s my job to look forward, to anticipate what can go wrong, to strategize how to get from Point A to Point B, to plan, and to predict arguments and defenses.  On the flip side, I’m also expected to look backward at what went wrong and analyze the relevant facts that are foundation of the strategy I must employ to fix an existing problem or resolve a dispute.  Occasionally I get a writing or research project that will pull me in to “The Zone” where I can focus and tune out the world, but for some reason those have been rare this year.  At the end of each day I feel tired and my mind goes blank, but rarely have I felt like I’ve accomplished anything productive or created any positive change in the world.

In a soulful conversation this summer with my good friend Stephanie, a chef and event coordinator at Black Star Farms, I had a difficult time articulating my lack of contentment with the Now.  Instead of wallowing or trying to “fix it,” though, she impulsively invited me to join the Black Star chefs in the kitchen for the September harvest dinner.  Stephanie is one of those people who has the gift of eminent Presence in the Now.  She focuses on nothing but you when she is with you.  She makes each person she encounters feel as though they are the most important person in her world.  She also has the gift of working very well under pressure and being a creative problem-solver.  There are no unforeseen difficulties that she can’t handle.  This is what makes her such a shining success as an event coordinator and such an asset to Black Star Farms:  she is a Present person.

Squash1That also makes her a gifted chef.  Anyone who loves to cook knows that being in the kitchen is a great way to be consumed in the moment.  I mean, one can never really think too far ahead when making poached eggs, right?  Mealtimes have been the one time and place I have been able to be fully present in my life this year.  And this last week’s Summer Squash-themed Harvest Dinner was the epitome of presence of mind.Squash3After Stephanie clothed me in her black chef’s jacket and left me in the kitchen, Executive Chef Jonathan Dayton looked at me and with his quietly intense, good-humored grin asked, “you ready for this?”  And I said, “All I want is to NOT be in your way, and to be useful.  Put me to work.”

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Ask and you shall receive.

I was given a box of about two hundred of the tiniest baby patty pan squashes you’ve ever seen.  Many were no bigger than a blueberry, with their tiny, delicate blossoms still attached.  It was my glamourous and enviable job to wash them all under cool running water.  And I couldn’t figure out how to turn on the water.  Fail.  So embarrassing.  Until one of the veteran staffers came over to help me and took three turns on three different handles before getting the water to run himself.  Not so embarrassing after all.

After surviving the new-kid hazing that was washing the baby squashes, Street asked me to chop some toasted pine nuts.  I poured about ten ounces of them onto the cutting board and immediately laughed and asked Street if he would be annoyed if I chopped them one at a time.  I got a look that said, “you haven’t been here long enough to be funny.”  I mean, there were only fourteen other things on the first plate besides those pine nuts.  Hurry the eff up, newbie.

Squash4So for the next four hours I was completely, 100% consumed with helping plate up the most incredible six-course wine-paired meal I’ve ever experienced.  The first plate was an absolute work of art.  I was fascinated by Chef Dayton’s simple method of separating and poaching egg yolks and arranging them with paper-thin slices of zucchini and summer squash to create a dish he called squash carpaccio (or, as I thought of it “squashpaccio”) dressed in a beautiful basil oil and decorated with a dozen delicate little flavor accents that I would never have thought would be so explosive together.  Purple basil, red wine salt, ricotta cheese (which almost did not end up on the plates because we all forgot about it until one of the guests asked where it was; oops!  You’ve never seen 24 cups of ricotta cheese miraculously appear on a dinner table as quickly as those did.  Way to work In the Moment, Cathy, Katie & Brad!).  Paired with Black Star’s famous “BeDazzled” bubbly dry white wine, it was clearly the favorite course of the night.

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Until the goat was served.

The goat.  My Lord.  The “main course,” it was roasted and shredded, stuffed with chevre (goat’s cheese) inside a large delicate squash blossom, coated in a light breading and baked until crispy on the outside, served over a pool of creamed corn sauce – it was a comforting combination of savory, sweet, rich and creamy that involuntarily made one’s eyes drift to a close in order to fully appreciate that first bite.  Served with Black Star’s dark red Arcturos merlot, it quietly said, “winter is coming…” and with that, the September harvest dinner was complete.

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(PS, even as I type this I’m falling back into the blissful centered zone I felt when I was there.)

There was also a smoked course with smoked zucchini “steaks,” duck ham, smoked tomato and smoked butter.  That was amazing.

But wake up!  Yes, there was a squash dessert.

Dessert.  Ahh, yes.  Everyone knows dessert is my thing.  And Stephanie is the resident pastry chef at Black Star, so it’s no wonder that we initially bonded over buttercream.  Much earlier in the night, before the dinner guests arrived, Steph and Jon were discussing the delicate timing and logistics of service and plating, including making chocolate ganache to serve with her citrusy zucchini cake with cocoa buttercream filling and Street’s zucchini ice cream.  During a silence in their discussion as they weighed the who’s-doing-what-when, I grabbed the bowl of fancy chocolate chips out of Stephanie’s hands, looked at her with all the confidence in the world and said, “ganache and I are great friends, I got this one.”  She shrugged, looked at Jon, and said, “Cool!”

(No joke, I babysat that chocolate ganache over a double-boiler all night long and was TERRIFIED I would ruin it.  I have accidentally ruined chocolate ganache once or twice.  It’s possible.)

Anyway, the dessert turned out just as good as it looked.  I will even boast that it was my idea to top it with a little flaky sea salt – which I think took it to the next level.

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I did not want that night to end.

Being the gracious and entertaining hostess, Stephanie pulled us kitchen staff out to the dining room for introductions after the dinner was complete, and gave me a second to say a few words.  I was almost in tears as I told the restaurant guests that I wasn’t really a chef, but I was a lawyer and was just playing one on tv.  I told them that Stephanie and I met and became instant friends five years ago as I planned my own wedding at Black Star.  And Stephanie knew this summer I needed to do something different, something positive and creative with a team of talented and fun artists, so she invited me to participate in this event.  I thanked Don Coe, Black Star’s managing partner who was attending the dinner, for giving his staff a license to create experiences and memories like this for their guests, and told him that the reason his business is so successful is because of the people they have taking care of it.  I thanked Stephanie (at least I hope I did) for having the vision and insight into my life to know how greatly a night in their kitchen would inspire me.  I felt like the luckiest person in the room.

2015 UpNorth-132Pulling off a successful, artful meal certainly takes planning and strategy, but more than anything it takes a willingness to be flexible to take advantage of whatever ingredients look perfect in the moment.  Steph and Street shopped the farmer’s market that same morning for many of the items that ended up on our plates that night.  And it takes preparation, training and education, but also instinct and raw talent that no one can teach you.  In the end, getting a perfect plate to the table takes attention to detail, choreography, timing, and service that is a sensual experience that must be lived 100% in the moment.  The food should be savored and appreciated with four of the five senses: sight, smell, touch and taste.  With a little good conversation and music, all five of our senses are nourished and we are made truly whole, if only for a moment.  That moment, created by the talented team at Black Star, is something I wish everyone could experience. 2015 UpNorth-119Being involved in assembling that meal was a joy I can hardly describe.  Somehow, like Stephanie, I need to find a way to be more mindful of the creative opportunities and positive moments my own work can present.  Because when we focus our energy and effort on the people and tasks immediately before us, I honestly believe the recipients of those efforts feel more aptly served and the tasks get done more effectively.  Being present now allows us to be flexible and avoid disappointment.  And sometimes, serendipity results from a lack of planning.  So I’m going to try to stop looking for the key to the door in front of me and just enjoy being in this room for a while.  Maybe what I’m looking for is right here.

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Flavor A.D.D. – white chocolate mocha & blueberry-lemon cupcakes

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Today I took a sick day.  Haven’t had one of those in FOR. EVER.  I’ll spare ya the details, but suffice it to say it wasn’t one of those laid-up-all-day-on-the-couch-with-a-box-of-Kleenex-and-the-Hallmark-channel sick days, but just one where I had to stay home.  Had to.  No worries, though.  I’m all better now, thanks.  =) 

Anyway, I had a great cupcake order to fill for this weekend, so I used my time off pretty wisely.  The customer gave me full creative license with the flavor combos.  And I got two full batches of cupcakes baked, filled, frosted & decorated. 

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You probably think creative license is awesome, right?  Well, truly it is.  But inevitably I become paralyzed by the eleventy million ideas floating around in my head at any given time, like I have Flavor A.D.D.  I just don’t have enough opportunities to create all the great ideas I see on the blogs I follow.  Mocha, blueberry, roasted strawberry & basil are banging around in there against legal authorities on defamation, NCUA regulations, sub-chapter S of the internal revenue code, networking opportunities, blah blah blah…

Anyway, (sorry, A.D.D.) one of the flavors I’ve wanted to make for a while is a French vanilla latte or mocha cupcake.  So I did! 

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But before I did, just after I assembled all the ingredients, I had a minor freak-out. 

I had too many things goin’ on. 

White chocolate pudding, a great scratch vanilla cake recipe.  A box of French vanilla cake mix in the cupboard.  Cool whip.  White Baker’s chocolate.  Ghirardelli semi-sweet chocolate chips.  Coffee extract.  Maxwell house mocha powder….  On top of that, I bought a whole cache of ingredients for blueberry cake & lemon cream cheese frosting. 

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Gah.  Distracted. 

I finally understood how you could accidentally put the wrong frosting on the wrong cupcake on Cupcake Wars. 

Anyway, I had to call in reinforcements. 

Luckily I have a like-minded friend or two in my phone contacts.  Instant moral support via txt is sometimes necessary in the kitchen, and it was today.  Thanks to one Wilton-trained buddy, I was able to focus on a French vanilla /white chocolate pudding cake filled with mocha whipped cream.  And trusting my gut, I made an awesome mocha Swiss meringue buttercream.  Although I haven’t tasted the combination, they look amazing and smell even better. 

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 I’m dying a little inside, though.  I’m on Day 8 of a 10-day sugar detox.  Consequently I washed about 2/3 of a cup of silky smooth, gorgeous chocolate ganache and a 1/2 cup of mocha whipped cream DOWN. THE. DRAIN. 

That’s what I call super-human self-control.  I hope these cupcakes taste as good as they are in my mind.

Clear liquids and homemade dinner rolls

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Right now I’m lying on the couch with my head in a pretty white “ice helmet,” as my dad likes to call it, wearing hospital-issued grippy socks, watching some football and recovering from oral surgery.    Yesterday I finally had my wisdom teeth extracted – all SIX of them (I like to say: two of them were why I pretty much skipped the majority of my senior year of high school, two get credit for my honors Bachelors degree, and the other two got me a magna cum laude JD).  I probably would’ve left them in forever if I hadn’t developed a cyst in my lower right jaw that has been causing me some pain over the last few months.  Plus, I guess they’ve served their purpose.  That is, unless I ever actually go back to school again, which I think I’ve been talked out of. 

Anyway, I’ve been avoiding it because I’m a huge baby.  I HATE needles, blood, doctors offices, etc.  I knew over 15 years ago I had impacted wisdom teeth.  My dentist (now brother-in-law) just told me it was my choice whether to get them out or leave them in, and there are many people who leave them in without ever having an issue.  So of course I was NOT about to have elective surgery!  No Way Hozay.  Hospitals and I do NOT get along.  I’ve been super lucky in my life to have only had one other hospital experience, and that was a tonsillectomy at age 19, after spending my freshman year in college on an unlimited amoxicillin prescription and perpetual sore throat.  To this day I can tell when someone else has a sore throat just by the sound of their voice.  My mom used to know even before I did when I was getting sick.  Getting my tonsils out shouldn’t have been a big deal, but, man, I have horrible memories of the experience and not just the pain, which was deadly.  It was rather simple outpatient surgery but for some reason I was totally traumatized by it. 

This time I was in the hospital for a little over 14 hours because, according to the surgeon, I had some pretty severe surgery.  They wanted to monitor my pain & thought I might need a hit of morphine (or several) once the local anesthetic wore off.   When I woke up from the general anesthesia in the (thankfully empty!) recovery room, the first thing the surgeon told me was, “hey kiddo, we’re going to admit you & keep you overnight to manage your pain.”  It took all of thirteen seconds for me to wake up completely and start blubbering & crying.  The nurse asked what was wrong and I just garbled, discovering my mouth full of gauze, “Iwahwahohhommme.”  Yes.  I wanted. To Go. Home.  The nurse and surgeon both said that if I was doing okay later on, they thought I might be able to.  Hurray, I had hope!

I was conscious enough to know I had to collect myself before getting up to my hospital room so my parents & husband didn’t freak out because I was crying.  I wasn’t yet in pain and didn’t want them to worry about me.  As I was wheeled in the door I saw my dad join up with us behind my bed and I looked at him, flipped the bird, and mumbled “Uck.  Iss.”  and pointed to the room.  For a minute, he thought I was flipping him off, but soon enough I was able to clarify what I meant.  My text to my brother reiterated the point something along the lines of, “yeah, so they think they’re keeping me here overnight but they can SUCK IT!” 

I was told immediately that the local anesthetic was supposed to wear off in 6-8 hours.  I added that to the time I saw on the clock when I first woke up, 11:33, and planned my escape for 5:30. 

My parents went to lunch, then came back & let Rick go to lunch and check in at the office.  I chatted with my mom like everything was fine all afternoon.  When Rick got back I wanted to hear all about the flopped closing he was dealing with at work, and generally I kept up a great spirit.  I didn’t hit the morphine button even once (and at discharge totally tried to negotiate with my RN to unlock the machine & let me take the vial with me.  Afterall, I’m pretty sure I bought the damn thing and could at least try to get my money back on Craigslist or something.  She was sympathetic and I almost thought I had her!) 

Because I wasn’t feeling any real pain yet at 5:30 I decided to wait another couple hours, thinking I was probably still numb.  I mean, if I was supposed to need morphine then the pain was probably going to be epic, right?  Still, by 7:20, nothing.  On a scale of 1-10, a 2 or 3.  I’ve had migraine headaches that I’d categorize as a freakin 12, and I medicate those with OTC meds.  Finally, Rick & I decided we were ready to go.  It took the hospital staff about an hour & a half to administer my discharge papers and give me an initial shot of steroids & pain relievers through my IV.  During that time I’d removed the “ice helmet”, sat up, started to get organized, went to the loo, and unpacked the last round of gauze.  The IV came out smoothly & painlessly, much to my surprise (I told you I’m a baby) and I got dressed.  I had to wait another 15 minutes or so for a wheelchair driver to arrive, and then navigate the 3 floors down & out of the hospital.  By that time the pain had increased to about a 4 or 5, surprisingly.  I waited a bit for Rick to pull up the car and finally we were headed home. 

Pain – 6.  Uh oh, had I made a mistake in leaving the hospital too soon? 

We got home and I knew immediately I needed one of my prescription pain meds, but the dosage instructions said they could cause nausea so I was supposed to take them with food.  I hadn’t had anything other than a few “see, I’m fine, ready to go home” spoonfuls of green jello at the hospital, so Rick heated up some Kitchen Basics chicken broth I had conveniently opened the night before to make the most delicious chicken marsala EVER (is it just natural law that the last meal before a fast is the best meal EVER?  Because I might have to blog that recipe.). 

Anyway, I quick popped half a pain pill, then drank the warm, remarkably tasty broth, slid on the ice helmet and laid back on the couch.  Ahhh…. relief.  Within ten minutes the pain started going back down.  And I was SO glad to be home.

Rick ran to the store for jello and left me with my dad, who had come over to watch the dogs after he & my mom left the hospital around 5:30.  He chattered on excitedly about a bunch of random stuff, the dogs and their new stick, the two dinners he fed them, and the bottle of our great new Dreaming Tree wine he drank and LOVED, and I could tell he was feeling a huge anxiety release that I was finally home from the hospital and feeling okay.  He eventually told me how upset he was during my surgery that it took a lot longer than the surgical staff initially estimated.  But he kept laughing about my “Uck this” initial remark and I promised him I didn’t mean it at him.  I tried to tell him I couldn’t talk much because one of my stitches was irritating me and he told me, “I KNOW!  I tried to tell you to shut up all afternoon!”  LOL!  What a riot. 

My mom was nearly insistent that Rick call her to come over for my midnight dosage of pain meds and said she was going to stay up late putting up her Christmas decorations anyway, so we might as well call!  My parents can be crazy sometimes, but they’re the best under pressure.   

So despite the surgeon’s prediction that I’d need to stay overnight, I was lucky enough to sleep soundly in my own bed, next to my own personal nurse who fed me & kept me comfortable all night.  Rick doted on me like you wouldn’t believe.  He seemed to enjoy himself immensely – and so the “in sickness” vows have been met, and after only 3 months!  ❤  Swoon ❤ 

This morning I woke up fairly early to take my next dose of pain meds, slipping silently out of bed so as not to disturb Rick (I felt quite fine, actually).  Then I lied in bed thinking about – of all things – FOOD. 

OF COURSE!!!  I mean, it’s CHRISTMAS!  I have three parties to bake for in the next few weeks and each of them are different.  I was also thinking about different clear liquid things I could have Rick make for me today, and gradually-increasing solids.  More chicken stock, with a scrambled egg mixed in, a’la egg drop soup.  Banana-yogurt smoothies with nutritious Grade B maple syrup.  Mashed potatoes…  I must be feeling well if my appetite is this fierce less than 24 hours after surgery.

So, back to the dessert plans I have to make:  next week is Rick’s family’s big Christmas party.  I’m considering making a Yule log, but I don’t own a jelly roll pan and don’t have anywhere to store one if I were to buy one.  I also thought of gingerbread cupcakes with orange-zested cream cheese frosting like I made last year.  Or red velvet cupcakes with cool whip in lieu of frosting. 

The following weekend is my girlfriends’ dinner party.  That menu has me totally geeked:  beef tenderloin, greenbeans almondine, roasted root vegetables, homemade dinner rolls, and some amazing desserts. 

Oh, yeah, so what I wanted to show you today was this flub:

Failed dinner rolls.  And I was SO excited about this recipe from How Sweet it Is.  I mean, look at it, aren’t those pictures just amazing?!?! 

I cannot for the life of me figure out what I did wrong.  The dough mixed up perfectly, rose like a charm, (and if you try to tell me the cranberry-vanilla-orange martini had anything to do with the fail, try again)

came together in lovely little clover balls

but then plahhh. 

On the second rise, they stuck to the dish towel I had covering them and when I pulled it off they deflated.  I didn’t have time to let them rise again (and didn’t actually consider that as an option until a friend mentioned it later on), so I just put ‘em in the oven and though what the heck, they might turn out… 

Not.

While they actually tasted pretty decent, they were super hard.  We ended up eating a few, but then I crumbled them up to serve as a sort of dressing or biscuits with turkey & gravy on top as leftovers.  That wasn’t half bad. 

But I really want to impress my friends with these as a side dish in a couple weeks.  I WILL TAKE ANYONE’S SUGGESTIONS.  Ready, go:

Pumpkin Cream Pie (er, cake)

I have an issue with Boston Cream Pie. 

Don’t get me wrong – I LOVE Boston Cream Pie.

But it is NOT pie.

It is, unequivocally, cake.  Cake on the bottom, creamy vanilla custard in the middle, cake on the top, and chocolate ganache all over.  Right?  Where’s the question?  Why is this called PIE?  THIS is pie:

So maybe I’m a stickler for word choice.  This gets me in trouble with Rick a lot because I like to tell him to stop being so nit-picky about semantics and he’s all like “WHATEVER word freak!”  And I’m like, “but it’s different.”  And he’s like, “No, it’s the same!”  But it’s different.  Like Boston Cream Pie – it’s not pie, it’s cake.  Same difference?

Several times I’ve almost been compelled to petition my state rep to legislate the use of certain words.  See, “insurance” and “bank” can only be used by certain regulated entities.  Well, I’m not suggesting that the words “pie” and “cake” be legislated but the word “resort” should be.  Have you ever driven up the Lake Huron coast?  Srsly, there are “beach resorts” up and down the lake, and I. am. sorry. but none of them are even close to what I would call a “resort.”  No pool, no spa, no tiki bar, no concierge…  Three little cabins and a firepit do not a resort make. 

THIS is a resort:

Ahh… San Pedro, Belize…  resorts on resorts for miles…  Jeez, it’s not even December and I’m already delving back into my Caribbean photos from last spring?  Oh boy. 

Anyway, this weekend I made a Thanksgiving-inspired cake that’s a lot like Boston Cream Pie – cake, creamy filling, chocolate ganache. 

But because it uses pumpkin, I think it tends a tad bit more toward the pie end of the scale than straight-up Boston Cream Pie.  No?  Okay, whatever, it’s a cake.  A gorgeous 4-layer chocolate chip pumpkin cake filled with light & creamy autumn-spice Swiss meringue buttercream, drenched in semi-sweet chocolate ganache. 

Dee.  Lish. 

I made a 6″ cake and 6 cupcakes. 

Chocolate-chip Pumpkin Cake slightly adapted from this one from Allrecipes

1 boxed cake mix (white or yellow)

1 cup canned pumpkin puree

3 eggs

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1/2 cup water

1 tsp cinnamon

1/8 tsp each: cloves, nutmeg, powdered ginger

1 heaping cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Here’s my secret to creating the perfectly-textured cake from a boxed mix:  use room-temp eggs (sit in the shells for 10-15 minutes in warm water) and blend all the liquid ingredients for a minute or so with a hand mixer.  Then blend the wet ingredients (in this case, pumpkin included) into the dry mix (with the spices whisked in) for a minute & a half.  Fold in the chocolate chips at the end. 

Divide batter evenly between 2 – 8″ round pans (or 2-6″ pans and 6-7 cupcakes).  Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes or more until a toothpick comes out with a bit of melted chocolate & a few crumbs sticking to it, but no wet cake batter.  I check it frequently in the last 10 minutes so as not to overbake. 

Cool cakes in the pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes.  Run a thin, sharp knife (non-serrated) around the edge of the cake in the pan and then overturn to remove.  Cool completely on a wire rack.  Then slice the rounded top of one of the layers (eat the scraps as a means of quality control) and then carefully & evenly slice each layer in half to create 4 layers.  Stack with a thick layer of Autumn-spice Swiss Meringue Buttercream (already shared this one here) betwen the layers.  Save the one rounded top half  for the very top.  Chill for a few minutes before topping the whole stack with a thick coating of chocolate ganache & a few messy frosting stars (I don’t have the heart to throw good frosting down the drain). 

Here’s my fail-safe version of ganache:

Simple Microwave Chocolate Ganache

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1/4 cup milk (I always use skim because it’s the only milk we ever have)

1 tsp vegetable oil (to make up for the lack of fat in the milk)

dasha’ salt

Put all the ingredients into a heavy glass bowl or pyrex measuring cup.  Melt on high for 20 seconds, whisk lightly, and nuke for another 20 seconds if necessary – which it probably IS NOT.  The milk will heat up to a perfectly warm enough temp to slowly melt the chocolate with only20-30 seconds in the microwave.  Just be a little patient with it.  Then cool for a few minutes in the fridge to set up to a little thicker consistency.  Cool the stacked cake at the same time, and when you pour on the ganache it will set nicely and not run all over the counter. 

 This got rave reviews at the office, regardless of whether it’s cake or pie.  But maybe I’ll take it upon myself to create a scale or spectrum of desserts ranging from the classic pumpkin pie on one end and wedding cake on the other.  Input?  This might take a while…

Black Star Farms Chocolate Truffle Torte Recipe

I wish I had pictures.  For now, you’ll have to trust me, I can’t wait to share this: 

Toast the Season Chocolate Truffle Torte Recipe by Chef Stephanie Sheffer at Black Star Farms.  To DIE for!!!  (Or at least worthy of stalking the Chef 😉

French Toast Goes Cop: Bread Pudding Five-O.

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I think this might have been a huge mistake. 

You have to understand how this could happen, though.  You’ve been victim to the same irresistible impulse I caved in to yesterday at the grocery store, haven’t you? 

These:

Suckers.

They’re a fall thing, and someone always gets them once or twice for our football tailgates.

This year so far, we’ve gone without.  (I know, right???)

But we were out of town for the season opener and the first game we went to was a night game, so breakfast wasn’t in the plans.

Then Steve & Candace were in charge of donuts for the next game or two and they bought full size ones.  While those were good donuts, they’re not the same.

Then we skipped Purdue last week.

So my purchase yesterday was just a matter of fate.  It was a done deal before I even got to the store.  I was magnetically drawn to them in their cute little end-aisle display against my will.

Aren’t they stupid? 

I mean, I passed by an entire fresh bakery section full of lovely frosted goodies, pumpkin cake rolls, lemon poppyseed muffins, Italian crème cakes, giant chewy chocolate chip cookies, and big cinnamon cider donuts.  The bakery section didn’t even phase me.  But I was powerless against these dumb little powdered donuts. 

Makes no sense. 

Oh well.  It is what it is.

And today I woke up with this brilliant idea:

Coffee & donuts bread budding. 

French toast goes Cop. 

Bread Pudding Five-O.  I’m sorry but I can’t stop laughing at the stereotype.  It’s okay though because I love Cops!  Really, I’m real-life friends with a few good cops and they are some pretty cool women.  Tough, gorgeous, funny, talented, passionate, educated beyond belief – and even though one of them isn’t on the road anymore, I’d bet my socks she and the others are susceptible to the power of coffee & donuts.  Especially when turned into this mess.

I can’t take all the blame here.  Food bloggers, as a class, are just kind of bad people.  They do $#!* like this and then get me thinking about their crazy concoctions late at night.  And I hate to admit it but this was really delicious.  Go figure.    Don’t make it.  You’ll totally regret it. 

Coffee & Donuts Bread Pudding

Makes 4 servings. 

 16 mini donuts, broken in half & dried out a little (10 minutes in a warm oven then let sit to cool or set out overnight on the counter – good luck with that).  Arrange in a small ungreased baking dish.

3 eggs – beaten

1/2 cup milk

1/8 cup sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 tsp coffee extract

dasha’salt

Whisk the eggs, salt & other liquids until combined and pour over the donuts, making sure all pieces are covered.  Sprinkle cinnamon on top.

Bake at 350 for 25 minutes.  Let cool for 5-10 minutes, cut into quarters & serve with a dollop of whipped cream or Cool Whip and a drizzle of maple syrup. 

And coffee on the side, of course. 

This is a deceivingly small baking dish, like maybe 6” x 8”.  I wouldn’t use anything larger, but if you do, I’d scale up the quantities.

German Chocolate Cake – Beautiful on the Inside

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This morning I polled my Facebook friends thusly:

How many times can I use the phrase, “best ___________ ever” before I start losing credibility.

See, that “perfect” chocolate frosting I made a couple weeks ago?  Yeah, that was previously the “best” chocolate buttercream ever.  This one is even better than that.   Same recipe, only I used a 1/2 cup more chocolate and 1/3 cup heavy cream instead of 1/4 cup skim milk.  (No brainer, right?  More chocolate, heavy cream?  Yeah, just call me Dr. Obvious.)

Here’s the other thing.  This cake, each element on its own AND all together fully assembled, rivals the best cake ever.  Personally I think The Wedding Cake was hands down the best cake I’ve ever made, but this one comes AWFULLY close, and I see it becoming a go-to for a lot of future birthdays, even though it’s not the easiest on the eyes.  Great personality, but no super model.

This is a new, different German Chocolate Cake recipe than the one I’ve used before.  Last time I made it I thought the cake was too dry.  So when this recipe by the famed David Lebovitz was the first to pop up on Google, I knew implicitly it had to be the best. 

I was not deterred by the multi-step-separated-eggs method.  It sounded excellent.  Buttermilk, melted semi-sweet chocolate…  Considerably different than my go-to chocolate cake from the Pioneer Woman, but that’s why I wanted to try it.  My usual chocolate cake is not what I think of for German Chocolate.  Too dark, too dense.  

Not even kidding, though, my right forearm was killing me yesterday.  See, I thought I’d be cheffy Wednesday night & beat the egg whites by hand.  Seven minutes later I realized that was really stupid.  Thought somehow it’d be easier than getting out the hand mixer & beaters.  Lazy baker…  

Anyway, this batter was freaking incredible.  I wanted to give myself a facial with it.  Drink it with a big fat straw like a milkshake.  Hoarde it.  I didn’t want to share the bowl after I dumped most of the batter into cake pans.  I didn’t want to share the spatula.  But I had to.  It was that good.  Luckily, the recipe yields enough batter for a HUGE 9″ layer cake.  My client didn’t really need a cake that large so I made 8″ layers for her and had enough batter for two little 4″ layers to keep.  The little cake is perfect for breakfast us to share for 2 nights of dessert. 

And while it didn’t turn out as the prettiest cake, it sure was amazing and definitely worth the time & extra effort.  And besides, everyone knows that people love ugly food generally even more than pretty food, it’s a well-documented phenomemon.

Moist, sweet, salty, a tad crunchy (the toasted pecans, of course) and rich.  VERY chocolatey!  I can’t wait to make one of these to share with my family.