29 May 2010

Food to mend a bruised heart: Part Two: Choco-fudge Cake with peanut butter icing

I can't eat chocolate when I'm truly and utterly upset. At my most heartbroken, the mere thought of anything that resembled chocolate or cocoa makes my stomach turn.

When Michael died it took more than a year before I could enjoy a little square of dark chocolate. When I started eating it again...in small, sporadic doses...I knew I was climbing out of my deepest trenches of grief.

With my more recent emotional bruising chocolate was again off the menu, substituted instead by fast food and poutine.

I suppose it makes sense. Chocolate contains phenylethylamine and anandamide--two whozzits that can mimic love's chemistry. Why would I want to go through the (e)motions of love when there was no one to love...or even be fond of.

After a couple of weeks it hit me like one of Lennox Lewis' right hooks: Chocolate cake NOW.

Well...I guess my bruising is fading.

Like many of us, I have dozens, if not hundreds of chocolate cake recipes, of varying pedigrees. This one is inextricably linked to Alton Brown's Chocolate Fudge cake is, quite honestly, the only one that will do to sweep away as much hurt as possible in bad times, and flood my being with happiness in better times.

The batter is quite thin--pancake batter thin--but don't let that worry you. If you decide to portion it out into cupcakes, the easiest way to fill the muffin bowls is by using a ladle. When baked, the crumb is tight, moist and midnight-like.

You can top it any way you choose. I topped one batch of cupcakes with vanilla icing and slathered peanut butter icing on another cake.

Really, I think peanut butter icing is the way to go.

I normally don't suggest particular brands in my recipes, but if you can get an organic product, that's the way to go. It's peanuttier and not nearly as sweet as the giant tubs adorned with characters and colours that appeal to six year olds.

Together, the cake and the icing is a salve for a bruised heart and is a sure sign that things are getting better.

Choco-fudge Cake
adapted from an Alton Brown recipe

Yield 1 9"x13" (20cm x 29cm) cake or 24 cupcakes

45g (9Tbsp) cocoa powder
315g (2.25c) ap flour
1dspn (2tsp) bicarbonate of soda
1tsp salt (only if using unsalted butter)
110g (0.5c) butter
45ml (3Tbsp) flavourless oil
385g (2.25c) brown sugar
1dspn (2tsp) vanilla
3 eggs

250ml (1c) buttermilk
250ml (1c) boiling water

Preheat oven to 180C/350F; line two 12-bowl muffin tin with papers or butter and sugar a rectangular cake tin.

Sift together cocoa, flour, bicarb and salt (if using).

Cream together the butter, oil and sugar. Mix in vanilla. Beat in eggs, one at a time.

Mix in the buttermilk and sifted dry ingredients in the usual alternating fashion (dry-wet-dry-wet-dry). Mix in the boiling water.

Dose out into the papered bowls or pour into the prepared cake tin.

Bake for about 25-35 minutes (for cupcakes) 40-45 minutes (for the larger cake) or until an inserted skewer comes out mostly clean-ish. A bit of sticky crumb is fine.

Allow to cool completely before icing.

Peanut Butter Icing
Yield: 1.5-2c

110g (0.5c) butter, softened
250g (1c) peanut butter (not the kind with a load of sugar, preferably)
45ml (3Tbsp) milk or cream, (more or less, as required)
190g (1.5c) icing sugar, or to taste

Cream together butter and peanut butter until light. Beat in sugar about a quarter-cup at a time. Add enough milk or cream to achieve desired constistency. Beat for at least five minutes before using.

Related posts:

Food to mend a bruised heart part one: Poutine
Food to mend a bruised heart part three: Maple-glazed peppered bacon

I'm a quill for hire!

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

23 May 2010

Happy Victoria Day: Blueberry Scones

Happy Victoria Day to all my fellow Canadians.

Whether or not you call it the May Two-Four or The May Long Weekend, I hope you're having a lovely weekend, the weather cooperates and you've marked the unofficial beginning of summer in a delicious way.
There really isn't an official food to celebrate the Queen's birthday. Along with opening up their cottages, and giving serious thought to their gardens, many use this weekend to fire up their barbecues for the first time.
A couple of years ago I posted a Victoria Sponge as my foodish offering. This year I continue with the baking theme and offer Tamasin Day-Lewis' fruit scones, which happens to be my go-to scone recipe.
It's been a while since I last made them and quite frankly I'd probably not have done up a batch if our lovely Judy from No Fear Entertaining hadn't tweeted a sconish SOS, which she posted about here.
The recipe itself is quite easy and forgiving, allowing for variations based on what you have on hand--milk, soured milk etc. I usually make it with either sour cream (with a touch of vanilla) or vanilla yoghurt. The amount of sugar is low, but could (and I'll say should) be adjusted based on the sweetness of the fruit you're adding--a sour punnet of blueberries may require up to another 25g of sugar, for example.
Blueberry Scones
Adapted from Tamasin Day-Lewis' Fruit Scone Recipe, from Tamasin's Kitchen Bible

Yield 24

450g (1lb/ 3.25c-ish) ap flour
0.5 tsp salt
85g (approx 0.3c) butter (cold)

either :
2tsp bicarb + 2tsp cream of tartar + 300ml (1.25c) buttermilk, sour milk, yoghurt or sour cream (mixed together)

2tsp bicarb + 4.5tsp cream of tartar + 300ml (1.25c) homo milk (full fat) (mixed together)

50g (0.25c) sugar (+ more for sprinkling)
100g (0.5-0.66c) blueberries (or dried fruit)

Preheat oven to 220C/425F; line a baking tray with parchment.

Sift together flour, salt and sugar. Grate/rub in butter and quickly mix in liquid until spongey.
Lightly knead until smooth and roll to about 1-2 cm (0.5"-0.75") thickness.

Roll the dough into a rectangle and then scatter the fruit and then fold the dough over on itself into thirds. Depending upon how juicy the fruit is, you can roll it out or just press it out with your fingertips.

Cut out scones (5cm/2" round cutter, wedges, etc), set on prepared tray for 10 minutes. Lightly brush with egg/milk wash and sprinkle with sugar and let rise for about 10-15 minutes.

Bake for 10 minutes.
Serve warm with butter, clotted cream, honey or preserves.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

16 May 2010

Food to mend a bruised heart: Part One: Poutine

It doesn't matter if you're 16 or 36 or 56 a bruised heart is still a bruised heart. Those of you who know the story, know the story. For those of you who don't, all I'll say is that a cycle is complete, probably not to replay with the same cast. The full story is not yet known...and I suspect I'll never truly know...but hindsight offers interesting glimpses.

Like many, I choose to take my solace in food. Broken down into copious amounts of sugar, salt and fat (which some misguided souls believe to be unhealthy and even self-destructive), these three flavours bring comfort and relief.

The salty-strong craving was matched with hot and cheesey as well as beefy and mindless. Poutine satisfies.

For those of you in the dark, poutine is quite frankly one of the greatest foods on this planet.

French-Canadian in origin, it is at it's simplest a combination of french fries, and cheese curds made melty by bubbling hot gravy. While not quite ubiquitous, it's not that difficult to find as diners, chipwagons, roadhouses and well-known national fast food chains usually have their versions on offer. Even swanky restaurants gussy it up a bit with special cheeses, dusting their fries with spice mixes and slathering everything in unctious sauces.

My preference is to have medium to chunky chip-like fries, made with unpeeled potatoes and deep-fat fried until golden. Baked fries just don't have the same mouthfeel as proper chips, but will do in a pinch. Red wine-mushroom sauce (like the one I used for Julia Child's Oeufs à la Bourguignonne, and what I photographed) is gorgeous on hot fries and mild curds.

Variations could include spaghetti sauce and mozzerella, chili and cheddar, or adding bits of meat like roast chicken, bacon, sausage or ground beef. There are no real rules ... just as there are no real measurments (well, not according to me)...which makes it a non-recipe recipe.

French fries
Cheese curds
Gravy (beef, chicken, whatever)
Heat the gravy as the fries are cooking until wisps of steam rise from the pot.
When the fries are done, spoon some gravy onto the plate. Pile the fries on top. Sprinkle with cheese curd and top with more hot gravy.

Related posts:

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

09 May 2010

The Contraption: Pulled Pork Sandwiches - Redux

Last month's slow cooker cooking adventure was less than spectacular. It was also too good to be true.

A minimal amount of prep time, combined with soft drinks and a bit of this and that amounted to a sickly sweet and totally underwhelming mound of sandwiches.

My call for alternative recipes were heard. Between emails, conversations and comments, I had a number of options from which to seek vindication. Can the slow cooker redeem itself or will paperweight-dustcatcher take an early lead in search of optimal uses?

After some study I opted for Deb's recommendation of Epicurious' Barbecue Pork Shoulder. In as much as I'd have liked to try a fellow foodblogger's recipe, pantry staples, time and my inability to get organised won out the day.

I tweaked the recipe in minor ways (prepared mustard for dijon, totally left out the Tabasco, increased the cider vinegar) as well as strained out the sauce and reduced it down, adding a couple of good glugs of barbecue sauce. The result was so much more palatable than before.


Simple: Much more complex flavours brough about by actual (gasp!) cooking.

Even though I prepared this in a slow cooker, I don't see why this couldn't have been set in a slow oven for a few hours, encased by a Dutch Oven. Perhaps I'll try it that way next time and see what the difference is...

Slow Cooked Pulled Pork Sandwiches
adapted from Epicurious' Barbecued Pork Shoulder
Slow Cooked Pulled Pork Sandwiches
Yield approx 10 sandwiches.

20g (2 Tbsp) brown sugar
2 Tbsp tomato paste
2 Tbsp prepared mustard
3 Tbsp cider vinegar
2dspn (4tsp) powdered chilli pepper
1 tsp salt
olive oil for frying
1 onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 jalapeño pepper, chopped (with seeds)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1.5kg (approx 3lbs) pork shoulder, cut into 2-inch cubes
90g (approx 3oz) streaky bacon (3 rashers), chopped
4 plum tomatoes, chopped (approx 500ml/2c)
1 bay leaf
60ml (0.25c) barbecue sauce

Whisk together sugar, tomato paste, mustard, vinegar, chilli pepper and salt. Pour over cubed pork and set aside.

Sautée onions, chopped bell pepper, garlic and jalepeno until veggies are tender.

Tip onion mixture, pork, marinade, tomatoes and bay leaf into slow cooker.

Set cooker to low and cook for seven hours.

When done, remove pork cubes and shred with two forks. Strain out the veggies and bacon from the liquid and reduce to about 1/3 volume. Stir in barbecue sauce. Reserve about 0.25c.

Return the meat and the balance of the sauce to the slow cooker, and cook on low for about an hour.

Serve with reserved sauce.



I'm a quill for hire!

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

05 May 2010

Happy Birthday, Michael

Today would have been My Darling One's 43rd birthday.

Gone, but not forgotten.

Michael adored desserts and cheesecake was one of his favourite treats. He never had an opportunity to eat the April 2009 Daring Baker's version, but I can assure you that he would have whole-heartedly approved.

My time has not been mine own, and as such I don't have a new recipe to post, but instead am leaving you with the lavender-vanilla cheesecake I made last year. It's a fabulous and easy and has become my go-to cheesecake recipe.

Have a lovely few days y'all. I'll be back in a few days.


I'm a quill for hire!

AddThis Social Bookmark Button