Another First

February 28, 2009

Chocolate Valentino

Chocolate Valentino

February is my first month as a member of an outstandling online community called Daring Bakers.

Each month, a baking challenge is issued and bakers across the world unite in producing the chosen treat and posting about their experience doing so.

The February 2009 challenge is hosted by Wendy of WMPE’s blog and Dharm of Dad ~ Baker & Chef. We have chosen a Chocolate Valentino cake by Chef Wan; a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Dharm and a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Wendy as the challenge.

A valentino is a flourless chocolate cake, to be served with baker’s choice of homemade ice cream.

The challenge stated that with only three ingredients, the valentino would come out tasting exactly like the (one pound of!) chocolate used,  so of course I wanted to find an interesting and tasty chocolate.  My first thought, of course, was bacon chocolate, which I would pair with eggnog ice cream, but I was serving my valentino as a Valentine’s Day dinner for four, including a pastry chef who teaches at Le Cordon Bleu and a connoisseur whom I love too much to subject to my silliness.*

I also considered and dismissed the idea of chocolate spiced with cayenne and various others available at the regular grocery store, in favor of my favorite chocolate as a kid, Ice Cube candies.  I wondered if the cold sensation would carry over to the Valentino.

Then, the night before my dinner and baking extravaganza, I tried one of the 42 Ice Cube candies I had to buy to make a pound, at $.50 apiece. Yeah, not so much happening. Despite what I paid for it, this was not $21.00/lb chocolate.

After spending about 45 minutes debating in front of the chocolate display at Whole Foods, I ended up with Dagoba organic Lemon Ginger bars and went home to try my luck.

It came out of the oven looking just like the showroom model:

Looks can be deceiving

Looks can be deceiving

But crumbled upon release. Plus, the 63% cacao, or whatever the Dagoba bars were, came out way too bitter, even this non-sweets-lover.

But I'm not bitter...

But I'm not bitter...

Luckily for me, with 3 hours until dinner guests arrived and no other options, I still had my Ice Cube candies, so I got to work on v2.0.

This cake is so easy, the hardest part may have been unwrapping 41 candies

This cake is so easy, the hardest part may have been unwrapping 41 candies

Plan B worked a lot better.

Upside down, but still heart shaped and all in one piece

Upside down, but still heart shaped and all in one piece

I served my valentino with two kinds of ice cream:  homemade chocolate butter almond, which I have been dying to try to replicate since I first tasted it circa 1986, and, in keeping with the childhood memories theme, Ovaltine ice cream, which came out malty, salty, and good.

Success!

Success!

Everyone loved this cake, and the ice cream was a perfect pairing. Having baked two, I think the cake comes out a little less sweet than whatever choclate is used, so the darker stuff is a bit of a risk if you don’t love it. I definitely still want to try it with bacon chocolate, and the ice cream maker I found ($24.99 Big Lots kismet, I like to call it) is already being used in almost weekly ice cream experiments. Help me.

Thanks again to the Daring Bakers for the opportunity to participate in this great group, and special thanks to Wendy at wmpesblog and Dharm at Dad – Baker and Chef for hosting this month’s Daring Bakers Challenge.

* Yes, I see the irony of serving my fancy friends candy bar and Ovaltine based desserts. They loved them.

Chocolate Valentino
Preparation Time:  20 minutes
16 ounces (1 pound) (454 grams) of semisweet chocolate, roughly chopped
½ cup (1 stick) plus 2 tablespoons (146 grams total) of unsalted butter
5 large eggs separated

1. Put chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl and set over a pan of simmering water (the bottom of the bowl should not touch the water) and melt, stirring often.
2. While your chocolate butter mixture is cooling. Butter your pan and line with a parchment circle then butter the parchment.
3. Separate the egg yolks from the egg whites and put into two medium/large bowls.
4. Whip the egg whites in a medium/large grease free bowl until stiff peaks are formed (do not over-whip or the cake will be dry).
5. With the same beater beat the egg yolks together.
6. Add the egg yolks to the cooled chocolate.
7. Fold in 1/3 of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture and follow with remaining 2/3rds. Fold until no white remains without deflating the batter. {link of folding demonstration}
8. Pour batter into prepared pan, the batter should fill the pan 3/4 of the way full, and bake at 375F/190C
9. Bake for 25 minutes until an instant read thermometer reads 140F/60C.
Note – If you do not have an instant read thermometer, the top of the cake will look similar to a brownie and a cake tester will appear wet.
10. Cool cake on a rack for 10 minutes then unmold.

Green Chicken Chili

February 22, 2009

Hearty, but still light and fresh tasting Green Chicken Chili

Hearty, but still light and fresh tasting Green Chicken Chili

Green Chicken Chili

2 T olive oil (divided)
1 bunch kale, stems removed, and chopped
1 1/2 t cumin, divided
1/2 c white wine, divided
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb dark and white meat chicken, cut into bite sized pieces
1 t coriander
4 tomatillos, diced
1 can diced green chiles
1 small jalapeno, seeds and ribs removed, finely chopped
1/2 c fresh cilantro, chopped, plus some for garnish
juice of one half lime
2 cups chicken stock
1/2 salt
1 15 oz can cannellini, drained and rinsed
1/3 c fresh or frozen white corn

1. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium high heat in a medium skillet. Add chopped kale and 1/2 teaspoon cumin, and saute for 3-5 minutes until dark green and wilted. Add 1/4 cup white wine, cover, and turn heat to low.

2. Season chicken pieces with salt and pepper. In a medium stockpot, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Add chopped onion and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add garlic and cook for one more minute. Add chicken pieces, coriander, and one teaspoon cumin, and saute for 4-5 minutes, stirring often, until chicken is cooked most of the way through. Add tomatillos, green chiles, jalapenos, cilantro, and lime juice and cook for 3-4 minutes, until tomatillos start to break down.

3. Add remaining 1/4 cup white wine, chicken stock, sauteed kale, salt, and cannellini; turn heat to low and simmer for 30-40 minutes, until slightly thickened and kale is tender.

4. Just before serving, add corn and cook for 1-2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

To serve, top with shredded monterey jack cheese, sour cream or creme fraiche, and tortilla chips. Garnish with fresh cilantro. Serves 4.

Realization

February 22, 2009

Perfect, beautiful tulips

Perfect, beautiful tulips

I think I might finally be learning that imperfect doen’t mean less beauty, just different beauty.

No less beautiful, just different beautifyl

65×365 #7 Amy

February 15, 2009

Such paradoxical, hypocritical, confusing feelings I have when it comes to you.   I know I’m a judgmental bitch. I freely admit I’m partly jealous. But I also know how impossible it is for me to reconcile what you did, that I think is so inherently wrong, with how much I love and miss you… not to mention how inherently right your result was. It kills me.

A Holiday For Two

February 15, 2009

2  men.  A couple. 

2 women.  Not.

2 tries to get dessert to come out.

2 flavors of homemade ice cream.

2 dollars each for pretty table setting materials.

2 bottles of champagne.  Ummmm plus wine.

2 sinkfuls of water to wash the dishes.

2 Excedrin.

See?  A holiday for two.

Grace

February 1, 2009

I’d like to give  my sincere thanks to Schmutzie, who has created a community that just plain makes my life better: Grace in Small Things.

My sixth grade history teacher used to review for tests with us, allowing us to go through our notes and ask which information would be covered. We’d ask, “Do we have to know [fill in fascinating history fact or theory]?” and he’d correct us, “Do we GET to know…?” Forcing ourselves to learn these things was a privilege, not a chore.

Grace in Small Things is kind of like that. Do we have to find five places, every day for a year, in which we found grace in this day or for that matter, at any time in our lives? We do, but the best part is, we GET to find grace. In small things, in big things, in struggle and strife and joy and despair and pleasure and peace.

But I’m learning that finding grace isn’t the reward, really. Just the search for it forces me examine my day, my life, myself from a different perspective. This steady daily exercise is a treat in itself. It is becoming habit to face the good things in every situation, whether I want to or not. This positive focus is seeping into all aspects of my life and not only making it easier to be happy, but making me want to be happy. That hasn’t always been the case.

So far, I haven’t had a crisis of grace. I’m sure it will come, but by then I hope that simply the search for grace, even in the darkness, will be my grace in that day. I’m so happy to learn that is enough.