Culinary Xanax

I’m not going to blame it on Friday the 13th, but I’ve had one hellacious day. The bathroom is getting a full remodel while I’m simultaneously having much-needed A/C installed before summer really gets its groove on.

Without giving you the hairy details, suffice it to say that customer service doesn’t appear to be a contractor’s forte – any contractor, I’m convinced. I’ve been waiting since 8 a.m. for the plumber and glass installers to arrive – only to find out neither are coming today – AND, icing on the cake, the newly-installed A/C is faulty. Grrr… My stress and anxiety are peaking – and my customary course of action, taking a nice long walk, isn’t available to me, least one of the workers arrive late.

I sit on the couch, watching Sherlock re-runs and planning my retribution. I’ll write the Licensing Board, send an email to the Better Business Bureau, call their mothers! Someone needs to feel my wrath! Even Benedict Cumberbatch’s cheekbones haven’t improved my disposition.

Breathe, missy, just breathe. Setbacks like these shouldn’t ignite an overreaction of this magnitude. House-bound with anxiety bubbling over, I have to find an outlet.   If not a walk, then into the kitchen I go. I am, by the way, not even hungry, but some sort of sweet treat will put me in a better frame of mind – my culinary Xanax.

I’ve secreted a recipe away just for a day like today. Ladies Home Journal entitled it “Try Some Insta-Cake and feel Insta-Better”, reprinted from the blog, A Farmgirl’s Dabbles. I thought it would make its debut after a breakup, but this seems to be a more apt occasion.  A recipe that can be mixed and cooked in under 10 minutes and result in two personal-sized goooey chocolate cakes. I’m beginning to feel restored already.

Gooey Chocolate Cake Cups for Two
¼ cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup cocoa powder
Pinch salt
¼ cup milk
¼ cup butter, melted
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla
¼ cup semisweet chocolate chips

  • Stir together flour, sugar, cocoa powder and salt. Add milk, butter, eggs and vanilla (I mixed these ingredients together first before adding them to the dry). Stir well to incorporate. Fold in chocolate chips.
  • Divide batter between two microwave-safe mugs and sprinkle extra chocolate chips on top.
  • Microwave both cups together on high for 2 minutes. The cakes should be very moist and gooey in the middle. Allow cakes to cool for 15 minutes before serving.
  • Curl up on the couch, breathe deeply, and enjoy guilt free – this is medicine; you need it.

One cake for today and the other for tomorrow – did I mention I have painters arriving at 7 a.m.?

The Dirty Harry

mintoreosI brought gelato to work– two flavors:  peanut butter cup and pistachio.  The pistachio needs work but the pb cup was perfect – dark chocolate gelato with a little pb in the base, dark chocolate chunks and pb swirls.  I’m really happy with this one – definitely a keeper for the “final menu” (whatever that means).

I also held a contest – I split the group into teams of two and made them come up with a gelato flavor.  Everyone voted on the best and the team that won will get their flavor “recreated’ next week.

“The Dirty Harry” was the winner –Oreo cookies, mint, dark chocolate and caramel.

The mint/caramel combination threw me off, but then I started doing a bit of online research and discovered that mint-caramel isn’t that strange and is commonly combined in desserts and candies.  Who knew?

For the final product, I’m imagining a dark chocolate gelato base with cool mint Oreo chunks and a liberal swirl of peppermint-caramel.

Chocolate Gelato with Candied Orange

OrangeI’ve decided to try to recreate the gelato flavor I had in Bologna – Dark Chocolate with candied orange peel (Cioccolato all’Arancio sounds so much sexier).  Challenge #1:  Outside of Culinary School, my attempts at making candied citrus result in a product that is both leathery and inedible.  So, I’m trying this recipe from Clotilde at Chocolate and Zucchini – which is supposed to produce sticky, chewy half-moons of orange peel with soft and juicy pulp. As the recipe requires heating up and completely cooling down the sugar mixture 4-5 times, I’m on day two,  will most likely need one if not two more rounds of heating/cooling and an overnight drying.  I haven’t even started on the chocolate mix yet.  This better be damn good gelato.

Lesson Learned

The preface to Culinary Artistry begins with the following quote from author Karen Page:

“In a childhood diary entry written when I was about eight, I confidently listed my five favorite foods on which I felt I could happily survive for the rest of my life: 1) bacon, 2) bananas, 3) chocolate, 4) peanut butter, and 5) Rice Krispies.”

She then goes on to discuss the glories of combining two or three of her favorites into synergistic combinations.  Hmmmm…if two or three combined are good, then FIVE must be better! I immediately began thinking about how I could combine all five ingredients into one glorious dessert – an homage, so to speak, to the eight year old in all of us.  I made my attempt last night.

I began with a Rice Krispie treat crust pressed into the bottom of a springform pan.  Over the crust, I smoothed a thick layer of milk-chocolate ganache.  On top of the ganache, I layered a fluffy peanut butter mousse and then topped the mousse with sliced bananas sautéed with brown sugar, a bit of orange juice, butter and flambéed them in dark rum similar to bananas foster.  I garnished the final dish with a savory/sweet peanut-bacon brittle. 

It was a valiant attempt that fell short.  The crust was a soggy, mushy mess.  I think the culprit was the ganache.  My cream to chocolate ratio was off and, my impatience winning out, I spread it over the crust before it was sufficiently cooled.  The crust absorbed the chocolate like a sponge.  My next attempted will be with ganache as thick a putty. 

A salvageable recipe?  Perhaps.  Oh well, that’s how we learn.

A Waste

Saturday was raining and cold once again.  I desired couch-potato status – just me, the remote, a fire and my kitty.  Instead, I was required to turn my kitchen into a laboratory.  I took the challenge from Big D and Poco del Chile to come up with a Valentine’s Day dessert.  This was my last weekend to experiment.

The final version, Raspberry Cappuccino Torte, was a very moist and dark mocha cake base filled with raspberry jam and cinnamon whipped cream, and topped with chocolate glaze and fresh raspberries.

Sunday, I carefully transported my samples to the Steakhouse.  I walked down the back hall (the lights were off, which was surprising), carrying my confectionary treats like gifts from the magi…only to realize the back door was locked (that’s odd!).  I made my way to the front of the store and came face to face with the big sign on the front door that read (gasp!):

“Closed February 7 for Super Bowl”

All I could say was, “Are you fucking kidding me???!!” for the next hour as I drove back home.

I’ve been thinking about this damn dessert for the last four or five weeks.  I spent a good portion of my Saturday (not to mention my own money) developing the right recipe.  I woke up on Sunday earlier than desired, got myself ready and drove to work – all for NOTHING???!!!

To say I was irked would be an understatement.  So, I took a picture for Big D and emailed it, explaining the “mix up” – and my neighbors got a special treat.

At this point, I don’t care if we make my dessert for Valentine’s Day or not.  I’m feeling “done” with the Steakhouse.  I don’t want to be a quitter, but this isn’t fun anymore.