Sunday, 24 January 2010

Carmelized onion and rosemary muffins

Everything. Everything in the cupcake book. Needs to be doubled. That's what I'm learning.

Alas, not early enough to save these almost-tasty little morsels.

This recipe calls for 1 lb. of caramelized onions, chili powder and cornmeal. I'd never caramelized onions before so that was the first step. This is what I now know: 1.) Put in contacts. 2.) Use a sharp knife. We cry because the knife is smashing onion cells which release the gas to which our eyes react. A sharp knife slices through the cells more easily and avoids smashing them. 3.) Have a friend cut half the onion. Actually, Alton Brown suggests cutting onions underwater. This seems like a good idea but really? How does that work out logistically? 4.) Caramelizing onions takes a loooonnnnggggg time. 15-20 minutes. Here is a picture of my beautiful onions:

Aren't they beautiful!?

After caramelizing the onions, the rest of the recipe is straightforward. Chop the rosemary, mix with eggs, cornmeal, a little flour, some baking powder, the chili powder etc. etc. The muffins have a nice little kick of chili at the end but are otherwise very subtle.

Next time I make these muffins, I'm going to double the onions, throw in some extra chili and rosemary and see how that goes.

Mostly I'm just proud of my onions.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

4.) German's Chocolate Cake

German Chocolate Cake is not from Germany. It is actually a misnomer. It should be, I learned from my handy cake book, German's Chocolate Cake. Apparently, a Texan housewife submitted the first variation of this recipe to a newspaper some decades ago and German's Baker's Chocolate realized what a gold mine was before it. It started to publish the recipe and voila voila, German (and Germany?) has a chocolate cake.

The recipe for this cake is complicated, but worth the effort. The cake itself includes 6oz. of Baker's Sweet Chocolate and whipped egg whites and has no less than 14 different steps. The steps range from easy to what? for the new baker. Dry mixing the powdered ingredients, separating the eggs (use three bowls!), beating the eggs whites to stiff peaks (fast! is key to beating in enough air to make the peaks stiff) and melting the chocolate with exactly 1/2 c. of boiling water. The cake is fluffy, dense, chocolately, delicious and the addition of buttermilk gives it a not-too-sweet-just-right finish.

However, what really makes this cake tick - what makes it a German's Chocolate Cake and not just a chocolate cake is of course the icing. The chocolate icing on the side is completely optional. The recipe I used called for confectioner's sugar, vanilla, milk and 2 oz. Baker's Sweet Chocolate. It is too sweet and not chocolately enough. I think that next time I attempt this cake, I will either try leaving this icing off completely (one icing is sufficiant I think!) or reducing the amount of confectioner's sugar and substituting in some coca powder to tone down the icing's sweetness.

So what does make this cake tick? The coconut/pecan icing between the layers of course. This recipe called for sweetened condensed milk, egg yolks, vanilla, coconut and pecans. It's a fairly good icing but for me, this icing should have a slight tang to it and this one did not. Another recipe that I have used to make this icing calls for buttermilk in the icing and I think this is what makes the difference. Oh also, using a double boiler to heat the egg yolks and sweetened condensed milk does NOT insure that your egg yolks will not curdle a bit. But a quick pass through the strainer, back onto the heat and it's all good.

Overall, this was a very good cake with two icings that were slightly too sweet. A problem easily remedied and an excellent cake awaits us next time around.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

3.) Zucchini and Feta Muffins

Sorry kiddos, no picture this time. I made these odd little muffins just before running off for a New Year's party in France and let's just say, I didn't hide any in my handbag. These muffins shouldhave been good. They have nothing but good things in them. Zucchini. I have a love affair with zucchini - it alone kept me alive when I had to learn how to cook for myself in my first appartment. Feta. A beautiful tasty delicious cheese. Lemon zest. Adds a little Pow to anything. Right? All good things. But grate the zucchini, add the feta and lemon zest, mix with the normal suspects and wow. Disaster strikes. Too salty, too slimy, the feta gets chalky, the lemon zest doesn't taste at all . . . I don't know what else to say. I followed the recipe well this time, so I'm almost sure it's the recipe's fault and not mine.

One unwary taster was kind of enough to say that these muffins were, "Almost good." Another said that, "They aren't as bad as you think." Needless to say, these are not the glowing accolades which will someday propel this cyber boulangerie into a successful storefront.