Sunday, January 29, 2012

Oh, Oh, Oh It's Magic, Ya Know - Magic Shell

I have a guilty pleasure.  OK, I have several, but I am only going to talk about 1 of them right now.  I love Magic Shell.  You know, the chocolate sauce you squeeze over your ice cream and it hardens into a protective shell you have to crack open to reach the ice cream?   Like the "Dilly Bars" or the Dipped Cones they have at Dairy Queen?  (Though DQ doesn't taste the way it use to when I was a kid)   But it's true.  I love it over Vanilla Ice Cream... I love it over Chocolate Ice Cream.... I even love it over Coffee Ice Cream.

Did you know you can make it at home?  It's really easy, and only needs 2 ingredients.  Yes, there are more ingredients in the store versions; including,but not limited to-- cocoa powder, lecithin, and sunflower oil.  Honestly there isn't anything particularly BAD in it, per se, but I like the fact that I can whip it up at home for about 1/2 the cost.  The bonus of making your own is the possible flavor combinations.  White Chocolate and Mint oil?  Bittersweet Chocolate with a hint of Orange oil?  Maybe Milk Chocolate with Smoked Salt?  None of those strike your fancy?  How about spiking it with a little Brandy, Drambuie, Rum or Chambord? (only about 2 tsp)

Yep, the possibilities are pretty much endless.  They key is the Coconut oil, which solidifies at 76 degrees.  Don't panic about the coconut oil, it's actually better for you than you have been led to believe.  True, coconut oil contains saturated fats, but these are medium and small chained fatty acids that are processed by the liver and used immediately for energy, they will not end up around your middle nor do they necessarily contribute to high cholesterol levels.... In fact a couple of studies have shown that Virgin Coconut oil may actually help reduce serum cholesterol.

Don't have coconut oil?  I have not tried it, but I am sure you could use a NON-Hydrogenated Shortening.  I believe Spectrum Naturals makes one.  Though your ending syrup may be a little hard at room temperature, 30 seconds in the microwave  and a little shake of the bottle should correct that.

I suggest avoiding butter in this application.  True it would probably work, but it's a little iffy.  Coconut oil and Non-Hydrogenated shortening do not contain water.  Butter, on the other hand, is up to 15% water and could possibly cause the chocolate to seize or become grainy.  Another disadvantage to butter is that the saturated fat in butter is not as healthy for you as that of the coconut oil. Butter contains longer chained saturated fatty acids which WILL appear around your mid-section and contribute to higher serum cholesterol levels.  And, well, let's face it, you're already going to be eating Ice Cream.  I'm just sayin'

Which brings me to your chocolate choices.  In this case, use anything that you would eat out of your hand.  Whether Chocolate Chips or chopped Chocolate bars.  I used Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips mixed 1/2 & 1/2 with 63% Bittersweet Guittard chips.  Cause that's just the way I roll.  :)

Magic Shell

8 oz (227g) (1 1/3 cups) Chocolate, either chopped or in chips
2.4 oz (70g) (1/3 cup) Coconut Oil
optional 2 tsp Liqueur of your choice

Place all the ingredients in a sauce pan over low heat, and melt until smooth. (You don't have to heat it much, the Coconut oil melts at 85 degrees and the Chocolate melts at 100 degrees)

Pour into a squeeze bottle.

Adorn your Ice Cream and the Ice Cream of those around you....  

Consume with relish. (Not pickle relish, I mean relish as in"enjoy")  LOL

Thanks to my friend Aleta for pointing out the original blog post at Skip to my Lou on FB... !  I am lovin' it.  It really is "Crazy Good and Super Easy"!  Of course, it's also kind of dangerous... LOL


Sunday, January 22, 2012

Cutting the Mustard - Vermouth Mustard

Last year.... Wow, it still seems weird to say "Last Year" when it was only a couple weeks or so ago.

Anyway, last year I had toyed with the idea of making small jars of homemade mustard to pass around as little gifts for various persons, thus spreading Christmas cheer.  Then I realized the extent of the projects already filling my plate and decided that, as easy as mustard is to make, it would probably be that "final straw" that broke the proverbial camel's back and pushed me over the edge into insanity. LOL 

So now that the holidays are over.  Aside from the 8 birthdays occurring this month, including my own, everything has finally slowed down a little.  Thus I must, must, must revisit the mustard. After all, is there any single condiment that can go from Hot dog to Haute cuisine and still have time to dress a salad?  I think not...   Mayo?  Boring.  Ketchup?  I shudder to think.

Mustard is a wonder condiment.  Sporty, Rustic, Refined, Sweet, Sour, Bitter, Spicy Hot, or Mild - Mustard is all these things and more.  Though which qualities shine through greatly depends on HOW the mustard is prepared.

Of the 3 varieties of mustard seeds, being Black, Brown and "White" or "Yellow,  the Black seeds are the most potent and the smallest, while the White, or Yellow, seeds are the mildest and the largest.  Most great mustards use a mixture of the 3 to obtain a more varied flavor profile. 

Once a mustard seed is ground, it begins a chemical reaction, similar to an onion or garlic, that increases it's heat.  One of the ways to stop this reaction is to use Hot liquids, another is to add an acid, which seems to stop the reaction.  Thus assuring you of a more mild mustard.

This particular mustard is sort of inspired by Dijon which contains white wine and verjuice. (the grape juice prior to inoculation with the yeast that turns it into wine.) Since I don't have any of this acidic verjuice just lying around my kitchen, I decided to use Vermouth.  After all they both start with "VER", so it should be OK, right?  I kind of killed 2 birds with one stone as well, since Vermouth is doubling as the wine.  Awesome.  Yes, I am the king of shaky logic, but hey, it worked.  I was extremely pleased with the spicy hot outcome. This mustard is a little hotter than the "Spicy Brown" mustards such as Gulden's and has a sort of Horseradish quality to it.

Once word of warning....  And something I forgot until it was too late.  Making mustard releases A LOT of vapors into the air, so suggest making it in the summer when you can open the windows and ventilate your home fairly well.  When it's 29 degrees outside and your abode is well sealed against the winter elements, the fumes build up fast. And it's not only from the mustard seeds, but from the simmering vinegar as well. LOL

Spicy Vermouth Mustard

2 oz (60 g) Brown Mustard Seeds
1 cup Dry Vermouth
1 cup Shallot
1 TB Honey
1 Clove bud
1 tsp Black Peppercorns
1 1/2 cups White Wine Vinegar
2 oz (60 g)Yellow (white) Mustard Powder
2 tsp Kosher Salt

Place the Brown Mustard Seeds in a small bowl.

Douse them with 1 cup the Vermouth.

Cover with plastic wrap and allow to sit over night (at least 8 hour, but preferably 12 and up to 24) at room temperature.

While the the Seeds are soaking, go ahead and combine Shallot, Honey, Clove, Peppercorns, and White Wine Vinegar in a small saucepan.

Bring to a simmer over medium flame, and continue simmering for about 10 - 15 minutes, or until the liquid is reduced to 1 1/4 cups.

Pour into a clean container, cover and chill overnight in the refrigerator. (you need this to be cold)
After the Brown Mustard seeds are done soaking, place them in the blender (cause it works better than a food processor)

and blend until smooth. (about 10 minutes)

Press the paste through a fine mesh strainer to remove the thin shells

(this produces a finer textured mustard, skip this step if you prefer coarse rustic mustard)

Place the Yellow Mustard Powder in a small bowl.

Remove the cold shallot infused liquid from the refrigerator and strain out the shallot and spices.

Add the Liquid to the Yellow Mustard Powder and whisk until smooth.

Combine the Black/Brown Mustard paste with the Yellow mustard paste, stirring until well combined.

Pour back into the pan and whisk over medium heat until it thickens slightly.

(Kind of like a bechamel sauce)

Remove from the heat and season with Kosher salt.

Pour the hot mustard into your awaiting, sterilized containers.

Let the containers sit at room temperature for 5-7 days to allow it to mellow and age. (this removes some of the bitter back-bite)

Then refrigerate. 

Voile!  Mustard...

For another delicious Mustard Recipe, check out my friend Heather's Finnish Mustard post at Girlichef.

If you'll excuse me now, I have a very important date with a soft pretzel. :)

Oh yeah!  That's the stuff!


Monday, January 16, 2012

The Savage Chocolate Beast - Brownie Pudding Cake

Every once in a while, I am gripped by the Chocolate Beast.  There is no calming this terrifying manifestation of hunger. That is, except for Mom's Brownie Pudding Cake.  

It's quite the enigma, really.  From the top, it looks like a dense brownie-esque type chocolate cake, yet hidden underneath the deceptively cakey looking surface, is a raging sea of molten chocolate pudding.  OMG I love this thing!  And while I love Molten Chocolate cakes, I will always have a soft spot for the Pudding cake of my childhood.  Richly chocolatey, decadently moist and literally dripping with warm chocolate pudding sauce...  Yep, the ONLY thing that can stop the Chocolate Beast dead in it's tracks.

The recipe sounds a little odd, but trust me; as strange as it looks, it will be awesome in the end.

Brownie Pudding Cake
1 cup AP Flour
3/4 cup Granulated Sugar
6 TB natural Cocoa Powder (not Alkalized); divided
2 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Kosher Salt
1/2 cup Whole Milk
2 TB Light Olive Oil
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
3/4 cup Brown Sugar
2 cups Water

Preheat the oven to 350 F (175 C) degrees and butter a 8 x 8 x 2 baking dish.
Combine Flour, Granulated Sugar, 3 TB Cocoa Powder, Baking Powder, and Kosher Salt in a bowl, whisking to combine.

Add Milk, Olive Oil and Vanilla extract, then stir with a spatula until a smooth batter forms.

Pour this into your prepared baking dish.

In another small bowl place Brown Sugar and the remaining 3 TB Cocoa Powder; mix with a fork until the cocoa is completely dispersed through the Brown Sugar.

Sprinkle this mixture over the top of the cake batter in an even layer.

You can stop here and refrigerate this part for up to 24 hours, but bring it back to room temperature before continuing.
When ready to bake, gently pour the 2 cups of water over the crumb mixture. (the brown sugar, cocoa and water combine to form the pudding ----  Don't ask me how it exchanges places with the cake batter underneath... It's part of the magic)

Carefully move the pan to the oven and bake for 45 minutes.

Allow to cool on a rack for at least 20 minutes before serving... You want to serve it warm, but not too warm.
Using a spoon, cut chunks of the brownie cake and move them to a dish, but don't forget to spoon some of the delicious pudding over the top.

Serve with Ice Cream or Whipped Cream... Your choice... 

Ah!  At last....  the Chocolate Beast has been satiated!


Friday, January 13, 2012

It's Always Beddar With Cheddar - Cheddar Biscuits

I love biscuits...  Especially in the winter.  They just seem to be the kind of food that hugs you while your eating it.  Whether simple Baking Powder biscuits or Buttermilk Biscuits, Spelt or Whole Wheat they are little fluffy bundles of comfort wrapped in a towel at the table.  Which is another thing I love about fresh biscuits.  When they are swaddled beneath layers of cloth to stay warm, and you have to peel back the layers to reach the heavenly disks of warm fluffy goodness, it's almost like opening a Christmas present.   LOVE it!

Biscuits are, in and of themselves, VERY similar to pie crust...  In fact, the only real difference is the leavening; be it Baking Powder or Baking Soda.  Thus the same rules apply... "ALL THINGS MUST BE COLD"! This means, cold flour, cold butter, and cold milk... or buttermilk.  Follow the same steps as you would making pie crust... Work the butter into the flour, add milk (liquid) and stir until a dough forms... Be careful not to overwork the dough, or the biscuits will be tough.  Roll, cut and bake as fast as you can, and you will be rewarded of light fluffy and oh so delicious biscuits.

Cheddar is my favorite addition to baking powder biscuits.  I like to sneak a little Cayenne into them.  Not much, but just enough to lend some subtle heat and kind of warm you from the inside out.  ;) 

Cheddar Biscuits

9 oz (256 g) (2 cups) AP Flour
1 TB Baking Powder
1 tsp Kosher Salt
1/4 tsp Cayenne Pepper, ground
2 oz (56 g) (4 TB) Unsalted Butter, sliced thin
4 oz (113 g) (1 cup) Sharp Cheddar, shredded
6 oz (175 ml) (3/4 cup) Whole Milk

Preheat the oven to 450 F (230 C) degrees
Whisk the Flour, Baking Powder, Salt and Cayenne together in a bowl.

Add the Butter slices.

Work the butter into the flour with your fingers until the mixture looks kind of like coarse cornmeal.

Add the shredded Cheddar....

Work the Cheddar into the flour as well.

Add the cold Milk.

Stir with a fork until the dough comes together. (it may be a little sticky, but that is OK)

Turn out onto a well floured surface.

Roll to 1/2 inch thick.

Cut 3 inch rounds.

Gather scraps, roll and repeat. (You should end up with 8 - 10 biscuits.)
Place the biscuits on a baking sheet.

Bake for 12-14 minutes.

Swaddle them in a towel to keep them warm.

Consume with copious amounts of butter.