9/30/11

3 Individual Ghiradelli Dark Chocolate Souffle (Make Ahead & Freeze!)


Come to the Dark Side...

with individual Ghiradelli Dark Chocolate Souffles!

Have an unexpected guest?

Pull one, two or more out from the freezer, pop them in the oven, and 20 minutes later, you'll have a hot, luscious, dark treat to serve AND impress your guest(s).

Me?

I wanted one.

I didn't need a reason or an occasion.

I was all alone in the house and felt like having chocolate.

And it was so good...


Thanks to  the FoodBuzz Tastemaker program and Ghiradelli, I was able to make these heavenly pots of deliciousness with chocolates they sent me.

See the middle one?  That one is my favorite ... Sea Salt Soiree ... roasted almonds, sea salt, all rolled into a luscious square ...




I have never made a souffle and thought they would be complicated to make... actually, it wasn't too hard.

Here's what you do:

Butter and sugar the ramekins and put in the fridge.




Melt chocolate and butter over simmering water in a double boiler.

I don't have a double boiler, so I use a Pyrex dish over a saucepan.


Beat egg whites till frothy, and add cream of tartar.


Continue beating eggs, adding confectioner's sugar till you reach glossy, stiff peaks.


Transfer egg whites to another bowl and beat the egg yolks, adding a hot simple syrup of sugar and water while mixer is running...


Gently fold 1/4 of the egg white mixture into cooled chocolate.


Fold in rest of egg whites, and fill ramekins 2/3-3/4 full.


Cover with plastic wrap ...


 and with foil.  Label and put the baking instructions on it, if you wish.


Whenever the mood strikes, pull one of these sweet things out from the freezer and pop it in the oven.  No thawing out needed!

This souffle deflated a little when it first came out, but still tasted great!  The dark chocolate flavor is intense, but there is just enough sugar in this recipe to balance it out.

It would be even better with some raspberry syrup or even a dollop of fresh cream put smack into the opened middle ... make sure you serve it immediately ~ souffle doesn't wait!


Mmmmmm....make sure you get a bite of the velvety middle with the crunchy exterior....

Make Ahead Chocolate Souffle
(4x6 recipe download)     (full page printable recipe)

Want great tips on making the perfect souffle?  Check out this post from Giverslog!

9/28/11

4 Caramel Crunch Soft Pretzels


I love a soft pretzel, but I'm not too crazy about all the chunks of salt on top.

Top a soft, pillowy, yet chewy pretzel with toasted almonds and dip it in Easy Caramel Sauce, and you've got my attention.  These pretzels are very similar to the ones at Pretzelmaker in the mall.

The basic pretzel dough is simple:  water, butter, flour, yeast and a touch of brown sugar and salt.  Vital wheat gluten is added to strengthen the dough and give it a chewy crust.

The dough is mixed until it reaches a "window pane," meaning you can gently stretch it and see through it without it tearing.  If your dough tears easily without a windowpane, you need to mix it a few minutes longer...


After the dough has risen to double, it is divided into 8 pieces for regular sized pretzels, or into 16 mini-pretzels.  I chose to make mini-pretzels.

Roll each ball of dough into a 15"-24" rope.


Make a letter "U," cross ends...

twist and fold over, pressing the ends into the bottom of the "U."


Preheat your oven, and bring large pot of water, mixed with 1 T. of baking soda, to a rolling boil.


You do NOT need to let the pretzels rise again.  How cool is that?  Just put the pretzel in the boiling soda water for 30 seconds...no need to flip it over. You can cook 2-3 pretzels at a time, being careful not to overcrowd the pan.


Put the boiled pretzel on a Silpat or lightly oiled parchment paper.  Brush on a mixture of eggwash and brown sugar.


I chopped some slivered almonds and discovered that they adhere to the pretzel if they are chopped finely....not to fine, though.  You don't want almond dust!


I toasted the almonds in a non-stick skillet they they were a light golden brown.

Dip the coated pretzel in the toasted almonds.


After some feedback from a wonderful neighbor, we decided that it was better to chop the almonds a little more finely than this and dip them in the chopped almonds instead of "sprinkling" them on.

This method gave us more almonds and more "crunch."



It was unanimous that the caramel sauce was the best part.  Do not leave it out!


Caramel Crunch Soft Pretzels
(4x6 recipe download)     (full page printable recipe)

9/26/11

6 Salad Cones!

Here's my cute friend with her daughter, enjoying a salad cone filled with my Asian Chicken Salad.

A salad cone?

Yes, you heard me.  A salad cone!

I first saw these cones on a river rafting trip in Moab ~ no plates needed.  Just your fingers and a hungry tummy!

Here's how you make 'em:

Start with burrito or extra large sized tortillas (10" or larger) and cut them in half with a pizza cutter or bread knife. 


Holding the cut side down, kinda loosely fold/roll the tortilla in thirds.


Your "cone" is ready to be filled with anything you want! 

I found this cone holds just as much filling or more than a whole tortilla would; and it is much easier to fill and eat.

Our cute Japanese teacher enjoying her salad cone!



9/23/11

6 Cool Kitchen Tool: Lettuce Knife ~ Does it Work?


I love having shredded lettuce for sandwiches, tacos, and salads.  When making sandwiches for a large group, I wanted to shred the lettuce ahead of time.

I've cut lettuce with my bread knife and over time, guess what happens?

Yeah, it goes brown and yucky.

Lettuce, when cut or torn, succumbs to oxidation.  Just like cut apples, green guacamole, or a ripe olive.

The age old question:  What causes more damage, cutting or tearing?
Actually, it doesn't seem to make much of a difference, according to the Dept. of Chemistry at McGill University. 

Well, what about cutting with a metal knife?  Does the metal make the lettuce oxidize faster?

I think so.

Let's see what a $3 plastic lettuce knife will do.  This is a Mainstays lettuce knife from Walmart.


The core is taken out by hitting it on a kitchen counter and twisting it out. 

Cutting the head into quarter sections and laying the flat side down on the cutting board makes it easier to slice the lettuce.

The cut lettuce is rinsed and spun dry in my Oxo Salad Spinner.  I believe getting your lettuce as dry as possible is another key element to keeping your lettuce from going brown more quickly.



I packed the dried lettuce into a food safe plastic bag and put it in the fridge.

The result? 

The lettuce stayed pretty and green for two days; then it started to brown.

As for the lettuce knife, it is a little flimsy (I would prefer a sturdier one), but it did the job.

I can live with that!


9/21/11

9 Browned Butter Myzithra Spaghetti


My very first date with my soon-to-be hubby was at the Old Spaghetti Factory in Salt Lake City.  It was there that I was introduced to the famous dish eaten by Homer while writing his epics ... you know, the Iliad and the Odyssey?  Oh, you want the name of the dish?

It's Spaghetti with Browned Butter and Mizithra Cheese.


Myzithra (also written as "mizithra") is a Greek cheese that can be fresh (soft, like a cottage cheese) or hard, similar in texture to a Parmesan cheese.  I found a small (quarter sized ball) of this cheese at Harmon's for $4.  You can find it at a better price at WINCO. You may be able to find it at similar specialty shops and I've even heard that the Old Spaghetti Factory will sell you some of this cheese.  Doesn't hurt to ask!

It is a dish that will please even the youngest and pickiest eaters.  You can also change it up by adding and of the following: sauteed mushrooms, bacon, lemon juice, spinach or pine nuts.

What makes this dish extra special is browned butter.  I have seen numerous recipes calling for browned butter, but I have never made it.  The process is similar to making clarified butter.  You cook it further, until you reach a rich, brown stage that has a nutty, caramel taste.

Browning butter is not difficult.  You do need to stay, watch and stir the pot.



Use a 3 quart stainless steel saucepan instead of a non-stick pan.  You will be able to see the subtle color changes more easily.  Put the pan on medium heat and bring the butter to a slow boil (about 5 minutes.)


Once the butter begins to boil, stir constantly to prevent residue from sticking to the bottom of the pan AND to keep the butter from foaming over the sides.


Once the butter stops foaming and rising (this is the clarified stage), cook till amber brown nut in color (1-2 minutes).  It will soon have this fantastic, caramel aroma...  Be careful to not let it burn!



Remove the pan from the burner and let it cool for about 15 minutes.  The residue will settle to the bottom of the pan.  Pour the butter through a fine mesh strainer, cheesecloth, or coffee filter. This process reduces the amount of salt, allowing you to add the salty Myzithra cheese to your dish.


The browned butter can be stored in the fridge and reheated as necessary. I like to break off a piece and toss it into the pasta and let it melt.

Boil the pasta of your choice.  Drain and divide onto serving plates.

This is probably $1.50 worth of shredded Myzithra ~ enough to serve 4 people! 


Sprinkle 1/4 c. of Myzithra cheese over each serving.  Top with up to 1/4 c. of hot browned butter.  Sprinkle with fresh chopped parsley.


Enjoy!

Browned Butter Myzithra Spaghetti
(4x6 recipe download)     (full page printable recipe)

9/19/11

5 Copycat Hostess Cupcakes


I love Hostess Cupcakes.  The chocolate ones.

Don't tell anyone, but my favorite part is the frosting.  I slowly and carefully peel it off .... and save it for last.  Last is best, right?

Topless Hostess Cupcake


That's when I noticed the little white dot of filling on top of the now topless cupcake.  So THAT'S how the filling got in ~ just like the three little dots of filling on the bottom of Twinkies ...

When ATK (or was it Cook's Country?)  re-created this childhood treat of mine, I immediately bookmarked the recipe ...   and forgot about it until now.

The cake batter comes together very easily: cocoa, semi sweet chocolate chips and hot water.  I chose to omit the espresso powder.


Next, sugar, sour cream, canola oil, eggs and vanilla are whipped together.  The chocolate mixture is poured in.


Dry ingredients are added:  all purpose flour, baking soda, and salt.  That's it!

ATK greases the muffin tins and dusts them with flour.  Welcome cupcake liners!

Oh, and a muffin/ice cream scoop comes in very handy (this one holds 1/4 cup)  ... I am never sure what "2/3 full" really means!


While they are baking in the oven, I get ready to make the filling.

Water and unflavored gelatin are put into a microwave for 30 seconds.  Butter, vanilla and a pinch of salt are added. 


After a five minute cool-down, marshmallow fluff or creme* is added...

*You MUST use marshmallow creme.  Regular marshmallows have a higher concentration of gelatin.  My neighbor made this recipe with regular marshmallows and ended up with a marshmallow inside her cupcake, instead of a creamy marshmallow-y center ...


This is whisked smooth and put into the fridge to set up.

Hmmmm.....marshmallow Jello, anyone??


I used an apple corer to make the hole in the cooled cupcakes.  You could use a small serrated knife or a grapefruit knife.


I used my fingertips to carefully remove the hole ...


and piped the marshmallow filling inside.


Only the top was put back on ~ not the entire "core" that was pulled out.  I had a pile of crumbs that were left over, which I promptly ate.  Mmmmmmmm....this is a very tender cake!

The frosting is simply semi sweet chocolate chips and unsalted butter, melted in the microwave.

Simple, isn't it?


The recipe says to use the remaining 1/3 cup of marshmallow fluff for the squiggle design.  I found it to be very runny and added powdered sugar until I got a piping consistency.


This is one of my earlier attempt to pipe with a runny filling.  Let's crack it open and see what's inside!

Ooooooh... I'm getting excited ... feeling like a kid again!


Verdict?

This is nothing like the Hostess cupcake that I remember.  This cupcake is lighter, more tender, and the ganache is fantastic!!

The filling became runny once I stirred it .... did it not "set" in the fridge long enough?  Did I not cook the gelatin long enough?

I checked the date on the marshmallow creme ... it had a "best by" date over two months ago.

That must be it.  Marshmallows change in texture and consistency over time, so NEXT time, I'm going to try a fresh batch of marshmallow creme.  Or try a different filling recipe from other bloggers listed below.  Did you know that you can freeze marshmallows?  Yup!

Yes, there is going to be a NEXT time ~ I got great reviews from the neighborhood taste testers!!

Hostess Copycat Cupcakes
(4x6 recipe download)     (full page printable recipe)


Other bloggers inspired by this Hostess Cupcake:

My Baking Addiction ~ she used 7 min. frosting for her filling
Heather Drive
17 and Baking ~ makes mini versions of these
Bake at 350 ~ You have to check out her ADORABLE squiggle lines and buttercream filling
The Sensitive Epicure has a GLUTEN free version....gotta check it out!
Sugar Derby made these into Cupcake BALLS!
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