Sunday, May 27, 2012

Chocolate? Wine? Yes, Please!

I like chocolate. I like wine. It was only a matter of time until I would put the two together.

Red Wine Cupcakes (recipe courtesy of the ladies at We Are Not Martha)

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

5 oz. chocolate chips

1/2 cup boiling water (two to three minutes in microwave)

Combine these three until chips are completely melted. Set aside.

2 sticks butter, room temperature

1 1/2 C sugar

4 eggs

Cream the first two, and add one egg at a time, beating in completely.

1 1/4 C flour

1 1/2 t baking powder

1 t salt

Combine these dry ingredients and mix into egg mixture.

3/4 C red wine (I went with a local favorite)

Alternate melted chocolate and wine into flour-egg mixture. When all in combined, fill muffin cups to near full and bake for 20-27 minutes at 350 degrees. Let cupcakes cool slightly and remove to wire rack. lieu of the cream cheese frosting recipe posted at the website, I opted for a simpler one.

Red Wine Frosting

Beat together: 2 cups powdered sugar, 1/2 cup (one stick) softened butter, 1 tsp vanilla, 1/4 cup red wine. Frost cupcakes when they are cool.

And voila!

Additional notes: I used cake flour for the first time, and when I baked the first batch for 20 minutes, they seemed very underdone (sunken tops). The next went for 23 minutes, and the same thing occurred (to a lesser extent). The last batch cooked for 27 minutes, and that seemed to be the right amount of time. I don't know for sure if it was the cake flour usage or that the recipe's cook time was off. I should probably make these again to find out for sure (using all-purpose).

The garnishes were a spur of the moment thing. I had leftover maraschino cherries in the fridge, and I let them drain overnight in the fridge. However, this morning, the frosting had hardened (chilling in the fridge), and putting the cherries on top proved to be an exercise in futility. Enter the flamingo mini-skewers. Just laying there in my random kitchen gadget drawer!

My family (children included) did taste-test these. Yes, I know there is a full cup of wine in this recipe. Nobody got drunk. These aren't cupcakes I'd make for around the house - I'm taking them to a family gathering. Mostly adults. The kids get Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies - from a "Be Food" March post.

Friday, May 25, 2012

I Am Not Infallible

Infallible = incapable of being wrong or making mistakes

Some time ago, I procured a recipe for Lemon Lemon Cake from a friend.  I finally got the ambition last week to make it.  I just today have the courage to blog about the experience.

Only two things went wrong, really...but they were massive.  First (and the most dastardly), I attempted to remove the cake from the pan...pretty much immediately after it came out of the oven, which is why it looks like such:

The other (most minor) infraction occurred before this, as the cake was baking. As  I prepared the glaze (powdered sugar and lemon juice), I was struck by a bolt of inspiration (later: 'bolt of stupidity').  Adding a box of cherry-lemonade jello powder to the glaze woulf render a little extra flavor and color.  WRONG.  I wound up with a gritty mess.  Imagine mixing sand with water - that's the kind of texture I'm talking about.

So yeah, all-around epic failure here.  However, in the days since, I've done some nice Banana-Oatmeal cookies and a lovely strawberry crisp.  Perhaps I shall gain my self-confidence back soon...otherwise, I'm not going to last long in culinary school, am I?

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Food Stagnation

May is nuts.

With four kids in soccer - dinnertimes vary every night.  Sometimes we're eating at 4 pm, and sometimes we're eating at nearly 8 pm.  So, to maintain my sanity, I'm keeping mealtimes pretty simple.  Sandwiches, pasta, frozen pizzas, crockpot dishes, etc.  And I'm falling back on my easy dishes: chili, sloppy joes, etc.

So I apologize - with the exception of my pie crust adventures, things are rather unexciting right now. a shameless plug unrelated to food, I've been tackling my five-month-old To Do list.  And as of today, the novel I wrote in 2009 (My Father's Daughter) is finally available as an Ebook here at Smashwords.  Yay!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Suppose We Try...Pie?

Pie crusts scare me.  So do big fancy wedding cakes with spun sugar and fondant...

But, anyway, back to pie crust.  I dunno, it's hard to explain...I mean, it's just butter, flour, and difficult can that be?  But pie crusts are cagey...that's what.  Too much handling, kneading, and they don't turn out right.

About twice in my whole life, I've interacted with pie pastry - the store-bought kind.  Today, though, I felt empowered enough to try my own.

1/2 c. butter (entire stick)
1 1/4 c. flour
1/4 c. ice-cold water

Cut butter into flour (I used the paddle attachment on my mixer) until mixture looks like coarse meal.  Gradually trickle in the water, until clumps of dough form.  The less you handle the dough, the better.  Roll into a ball and press out into a six-inch circle.

At this point, the dough needs to be chilled in the fridge for at least an hour.  Beyond that, it can be chucked into the freezer for a later use, or rolled out on a floured surface to fit into a 9 inch pie pan (which is what I chose to do).

Then, five cups of fresh blueberries, 2/3 c. of sugar, and 1/4 tsp of nutmeg are mixed together, along with a premixed combination of three tbsp of cornstarch and 2.5 tbsp of water.  The fruit sits for 15 minutes (for sugar to dissolve).  The fruit goes into the pie shell.  Then, the crumb topping:

1/2 c. butter (entire stick), melted
1/2 c. packed brown sugar
1 1/2 c. flour

Mix it all up, and crumble it on top of the fruit.  Brush crust edge with beaten egg yolk.  And so, when I do all that, this is what it looks like:

The concoction bakes at 400 degrees for 45 minutes.  And looks like this:

At this point, it looks decent, right?  Nothing weird or strangely out of place, right?  After cooling it on the rack and in the fridge for a few hours, I finally cut into it, and...

And now you see my dilemma.  It definitely tasted like a pie....but it really didn't look the way I wanted it to.  I was hoping it would look more...well, "pie-like".  It didn't set up at all - too much liquid.

The bummer?  I don't have an accurate assessment of my First Pie Crust Ever (too soggy).  I suppose that means I'll have to try again.

So.  To avoid this catastrophe in the future, I will cook the fruit before I fill the pie shell.  You know, cook off the moisture and whatnot.

I shall not let this minor speed bump slow me down!!!

Friday, May 11, 2012

The New Journey Begins...

My iGoogle page has a fun countdown widget, and I've found myself using it frequently.  While I try not to live and die by the countdown, I like having the visual of time passing.

This past Monday, I took the next step on the path of major change.  I registered for my fall term classes at the local community college.  About two months ago, I'd been accepted in the school's culinary arts program, and a few days ago, I was able to secure the courses I need for the first term.

I'm 37 years old, and I feel a bit as if I'm starting all over again.  When I chose to go into education nearly fifteen years ago, I did think my choices (at that time) were limited.  And while I don't regret being in the classroom for the last decade+, I'm excited NOW at the prospect of choosing a career again - this time, with my eyes open.

Everyone wants to know if I'm going to be a if that's the only avenue open to an AAS in Culinary Arts.  I don't know the end game yet, I only know I've just begun.

Luckily, my Bachelor's degree knocked out two classes for fall term (a computer essentials and culture class).  I'm enrolled for eight credits, which I think is a nice number for a old dog like myself.  :)  Without further ado, here's my course load for this coming fall:

Safety and Sanitation: This course introduces the basic principles of safety and sanitation and their relationship to the foodservice industry. Topics include the sanitation challenge, the flow of food through the operation, clean and sanitary facilities and equipment, accident prevention and crisis management and sanitation management.

Food Service Technology: This course offers a broad overview of the food service industry with emphasis placed upon sanitation and safety, terminology, equipment, structure of the recipe, mise en place and basic principles of cooking. The student should become aware of what a foodservice career offers and what a successful foodservice career involves.

Culinary Skills (lab): This course will instruct students in basic culinary skills. Students will become familiar with the safe operation of food processing equipment, develop hand skills and practice proper sanitation techniques. Development of good work habits and effective use of time and work space will be emphasized.

Food Service Lab I: This course allows the student to learn the value of customer service along with the importance of portion control and suggestive selling techniques while applying sanitation and safety practices in a simulated work environment.

Math Principles: This course will use relevant math problems to provide the student with knowledge used in the foodservice industry. The student will develop math skills in solving problems using whole numbers, fractions, decimals, percents and measurement formulas.

Let the next 107 days come apace!   (Well, sort of....let's have a good, leisurely summer first.)