January 29, 2006
Onion Party for a Grey Saturday

Yesterday morning we hit the Farmer's Market at the Ferry Building. They sky was overcast and the rain was drizzling, but the organic farmers were out in full force hawking the season's best. I picked up a huge bundle of leeks ($3!) and an assortment of monster green onions, then holed up in the kitchen for a while to concoct an onion-based veggie-only comfort food style dinner with my spoils.

My Festival of Onions for Grey Rainy Saturday Night Menu:
meriko's Green Garlic Soup (slightly modified for the lactose intolerant)
Ginger Basmati Pilaf with Cumin and Scallions
Fresh ciabatta from the Acme Bread Company

The result was simple and savory. The soup was stunning - definitely a recipe to keep on hand - and the ginger and cumin infused the pilaf with just enough warmth to complement the mellow soup well. I had never tried the pilaf recipe before, but I think it would be perfection paired with an asian-style fish the next time I try it. And oh yes, there will be a next time!

Posted by rebecca on January 29, 2006
January 28, 2006
chocolate & spice! cake

wedding cakes!....aka, Andi & Brian's other wedding cakes! I've had the pleasure of dining with Andrea many a time - and she's ALWAYS ready (and gunning!) to share "the chocolate thing" on the dessert menu with me - especially when it's cake. When she asked if I'd make her cakes, I knew that I needed to dream up an interesting and tasty chocolate thing. I had a few ideas (and was definitely inpsired by this chocolate that Robert gave me), and this was the one that grabbed her when we were reviewing the options. Their wedding cakes wound up built from two layers of chocolate cake which I stuffed with a whipped ganache spiced with ancho, chipotle and cinnamon, and then coated in that same gorgeous glaze that I used on Mo & P's wedding cakes. The cake, ganache, and glaze are all based on recipes from Rose Levy Beranbaum's The Cake Bible. So many congratulations to Andi & Brian!

Chocolate Butter Cake
This is Beranbaum's Perfect All-American Chocolate Butter Cake, with the cocoa and sugar quantities adjusted to suit my particular tastes and cocoas. This is technically a double batch - I wanted taller cakes in my 9" pans.
63 grams Scharffenberger unsweetened cocoa powder
63 grams Ghirardelli sweet ground chocolate & cocoa (this is the dutch process)
2 cup boiling water
6 large eggs
4.5 tsp vanilla
470 grams cake flour (I used Queen Guineviere's)
2 cup sugar
2 Tbsp baking powder
1.5 tsp salt
2 cups butter, softened

Preheat oven to 350F.
Grease 2 9" cake pans, line the bottoms with parchment, and grease & flour.

In a medium bowll, whisk together the cocoa and boiling water until smooth. Cool to room temperature.

In another bowl, lightly combine the eggs, 1/4 of the cocoa mixture, and vanilla.

In a large mixing bowl combine the remaning dry ingredients and mix on low speed for 30 seconds to blend. Add the butter and remaning cocoa mixture. Mix on low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened. Increase to medium speed and beat for 1.5 minutes to aerate and develop the cakes structure. Scrape down the sides, Gradually add the egg mixture in 3 batches, beating for 20 seconds after each addition to incorporate the ingredients and strengthen the structure. Scrap dwn the sides.,

Scrape the batter into the prepared pans and smooth the surface with a spatula. Bake 25-30 minutes or until a tester comes out clean and the cake spring sback with pressed lightly in the center. the cakes should start to shrink from the sides of the pans only after removal from the oven.

Let the cakes cool in the pans on racks for 10 minutes. Loosen the sides and invert onto greased wire racks. To prevent splitting, reinvert to that the tops are up and cool completely.

Whipped Spiced Ganache
Makes enough to fill a 9" 2 layer cake, with some left over.

8 oz bittersweet chocolate (I used 70% Scharffenberger.)
2 liquid cups heavy cream
1/2 tsp vanilla
1.25 tsp ancho chile powder
1.25 tsp chipotle chile powder
1.25 tsp cinnamon

Notes: This is Bernabaum's whipped chocolate ganache recipe - I just added the spices. I buy my chile powders at my local farmer's market from Tierra. Their peppers are fantastic, and very fresh. You may need to adjust to taste for your locally supplied products. If you're not in the Bay Area, you can order the chipotle online.

Mix your ancho and chipotle powder together, and put it aside in a small bowl.

Break the choclate into pieces and process in a food processer until very fine.

Heat the cream to the boiling point, and with the motor running, pour it through the feed tube in a steady stream. Process a few seconds until smooth.

Transfer mixture to a large bowl of an electric mixer. and refrigerate until cold, stirring once or twice. Don't let it get too cold, or it will be too stiff to incorporate air.

Add the vanilla and cinnamon. Add a quarter of your spice mix, and taste on the end of a spoon. Keep adding you chile mix until you get a heat level you like - I stopped when I could catch the edge of the flavor as I tasted the chocolate, and then figured out what the flavor was as a hint of warmth developed on the back of my throat.

Beat the mixture just until very soft peaks form when the beater is raised. It will continue to thicken after a few minutes at room temperature.

If the mixture gets overbeaten and grainy, it can be restored by remelting, chilling, and rebeating.

Chocolate Cream Glaze
Makes 2 full cups, enough to glaze a 1-layer 9" cake (with some leftover).
Note: I found I needed 1.5x the recipe to glaze a 2 layer 9" cake.

9oz bittersweet chocolate (I used 7oz 60% Scharffenberger with 2oz of Bernachon chocolate that was around 50%.)
1 liquid cup heavy cream

To prepare cake for glazing: brush all crumbs from the surface and place on a cardboard round the same size as the cake. Suspend the cake on a rack set on a baking sheet to catch the exceess glaze. It's best to have enough glaze to cover with one application: touch-ups don't produce as flawless a surface. (Trust her on this one.)

To prepare the glaze: Break the chocolate into pieces and process in a food processor until very fine. Remove the chocolate to a small heavy saucepan.

Heat the cream to the boiling point and pour three quarters of it over the chocolate. Cover for five minutes to allow chocolate to melt. Gently stir together until smooth, trying not to create air bubbles. Pass through a fine strainer, and allow to cool until just tepid.

Check for consistency: At a tepid temperature a small amount of glaze should mound a bit when dropped from a spoon before smoothly disappearing. If the glaze is too thick and the mound remains on the surface or if the glaze seems curdled, add some of the remaining warm cream by the teaspoon. If the glaze is too thin, gently stir in a small amount of melted chocolate. When the consistency is correct, use at once or store and reheat.

The glaze should be poured onto the center of the cake, allowing the excess to flow down the sides. Smooth quickly and evenly with a large metal spatula, moving it lightly back and forth across the top until smooth.

Allow the cake to set for at least 3 hours at room temperature. Don't refrigerate.

Posted by shock on January 28, 2006
Food blog awards: announced!

Congratulations to the good folks over at Too Many Chefs! We're honored to sit next door. And we're blushing mightily at your sweet words.

Posted by shock on January 28, 2006
January 08, 2006
food blog award: voting time!

Gracious! It's been a year, already? Kate from The Accidental Hedonist has done a splendid job putting together the 2005 edition of the Food Blog Awards. We're surprised and flattered to be in the running for Best Group Blog - and stunned at the number of gorgeous blogs we're discovering across all the categories. Grab a cup of coffee or a glass of wine and have yourself a tasty little surf - and then pop over and vote!

Posted by shock on January 08, 2006
January 07, 2006
rum butter cakes

rum butter cakes
...aka Andrea & Brian's wedding cakes, part one. (Yes, two kinds of cake. They're food people, and dear to me, afterall!) Brian asked specially for rum cake - like a rum baba. Having never made a rum cake, I turned to my favorite baker-of-ethanol-laced cakes for advice. Eric kindly gave me his family's old recipe for rum cakes - his favorite growing up, too! They were a big hit - but be careful. If you eat a few with your morning coffee, the sugarcrash aftermath is wicked.

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 cups butter
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 cup buttermilk (or soured milk)
2 tsp vanilla

Butter-Rum Sauce
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup butter
3 T dark, good quality, rum

Combine milk and vanilla. Sift dry ingredients together. Cream butter and sugar; blend in eggs one at a time, beat well. Alternate adding dry ingredients and milk/vanilla mixture with creamed butter/sugar/eggs, beginning and ending with dry, eg. add 1/3 dry, 1/2 liquid, 1/3 dry, etc.

Grease bottom of 10 inch tube or bundt pan, or you can use a mini bundt pan Bake at 325 for 55-65 minutes if using large pan, or 20-30 minutes if using mini bundt pan.

Combine sugar, butter & water over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat. Stir in rum. (Mko note: original calls for 2 Tbsp of rum - I upped this to 3 or 4. Weddings are for excess, no?)

While cake is still warm, prick throughout with bamboo skewer and drench with hot sauce. Remove from pan after cake has cooled.

Notes from Eric: The butter sauce can make the cake really stick to the pan, but if you use the Pam baking spray with flour to grease the pan it almost always come straight out. If you need to make a lot you can bake two mini bundt pans at the same time. We never seem to have buttermilk, but regular milk soured with vinegar or lemon works fine. Poke LOTS and LOTS of holes in the cake for the tastiest results.

Notes from meriko: I used 2 mini-bundt pans with quarter-cup capacity per cake. The recipe for cake fills 24 slots, and leaves enough leftover for 3-4 cupcakes to be baked off right after the cakes. Only fill the cups 2/3 full if you want flat bottoms so your cakes will stack. I didn't use Pam - don't have it around. Instead I used the old-fashioned butter & flour method. Melted butter & a pastry brush are the easiest way to butter the nooks of the crazy bundt pans. To get an easy release after the cakes have cooled, I inverted the pans, hit the bottom of a cake with a kitchen torch for a few seconds, and wiggled the cake until it dropped into my hand. (All hail the croquembouche trick!)

Posted by shock on January 07, 2006