Saturday, June 15, 2019

Rosie Reprises Her Favorite Cake - Chocolate Cake With Caramel Filling And Chocolate Icing.

I have a favorite cake I make.
This is it.
It's four chocolate layers with caramel filling
and a decadent chocolate icing.
And it's one of the best things EVER.
I made it for Mr. Hawthorne's birthday 
a few years ago
and now, whenever somebody's birthday
 is announced on Facebook,
I always post this picture of said cake,
with the birthday candle,
and say something very cavalier, like, "Ready for pickup."
Note that most of my FB "friends" are imaginary
and live at least 500 miles away.
So I always felt safe posting the picture.
Until now.
Imagine how I felt when I posted
this picture for a "real" friend
(I'll call her "Everly Ritz."
Name changed to protect the guilty.)
 who lives maybe 4 - 5 hours away
and when I went to my beach sunrise the next day
after posting for her birthday,
THERE SHE WAS!
Standing on the Lido deck at Avalon Pier.
Hands outstretched.
Ready for pick up.
HAH!
That'll teach me.

So, I'm making the cake again,
because it's soooo worth it
and I need to get a big slice to my friend, "Everly."

This cake is deceptively easy:
You mix the dry ingredients together.
You mix the wet ingredients together.
Then you combine the two.

But first, my mise en place.

I don't always do a mise en place,
but it comes in handy for something like a cake.
In case you don't chef-speak,
mise-en-place means "set in place."
All your ingredients are prepared, measured,
 set out, ready to go.
All you have to do is read the directions
and grab the ingredients which are right in front of you.
It's a time-saver and it's also a good culinary practice,
 particularly when you're first starting out.
How many times have you gotten half-way through a recipe
and go to get something, then realize, 
"Oh crap!  I don't have 4 newts' eyes!  Only 3!"
Or, "Damn!  Where did I put my frankincense tears?
I could've sworn it was right next to the ras el hanout!"
Or, "I'm freaking out because I can't find my freekeh!"
Basically, when you're looking for your baobab pods, 
your bergamot bitters, your green rooibos matcha,
your shark fin, your ortolan, whatever...
you want to be able to put your hands on it immediately.
Oh, if I only had a nickle for every time
 I've had to run next door for a cup of duck's blood!
Or even this:
 And I live at the beach!
Well, you get the picture.

Mise en place!
Mise en place!
Mise en place!
I can't emphasize it enough.

Where was I?
 Oh, yes...  The cake.
And the mise en place.
Are you still with me?

This is your end result.


Here's my mise en place:

Chocolate Cake
1 1/2 cups (7 1/2 oz.) flour
3/4 cup (2 1/4 oz.) unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups (10 1/2 oz.) sugar
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp kosher salt
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
Rosie Notes:  For flour, cocoa, and sugar amounts, I went by weight, not volume.
For eggs, I used room temperature.  I set them in warm water while I assembled my mise en place.
To prepare the cake pans, I buttered them and, instead of flouring them, I cocoa'd them.  No white flour showing, plus I have extra chocolate flavor!
For the cake:
Heat oven to 325°.
Butter 2 9-inch round cake pans, line with parchment paper, and butter the parchment. Sprinkle cocoa in the pans and shake to lightly coat.

In a large bowl, sift flour and cocoa.  Whisk in sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

In another bowl, whisk buttermilk, water, oil, eggs, and vanilla.

Whisk buttermilk mixture into flour mixture until smooth batter forms.  Don't overmix.

Divide batter evenly between prepared pans.

Rosie Note:  Whenever I have a cake batter, I always tap the pans on the counter top several times, to get the air bubbles up to the surface.

Bake about 20-25 minutes, rotating pans halfway through baking, until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Cool pans on wire rack for 15 minutes, then remove cakes and let cool completely.

Now, for the step-by-steps:
First, I buttered, parchment-papered, buttered, and cocoa'd my pans.

Then I mixed the dry ingredients (left) and the wet ingredients (right).

Add wet to dry.
And combine.

Pour into prepared pans.
Tap on surface to get air bubbles to the surface.
I set them on a baking sheet, then pop into the oven.

Remove from oven.  This was about 23 minutes.

 
Let cool in the pan a bit, then invert, peel off parchment, and let cool completely on the rack.

Now for the caramel filling:
Mise en place!

Caramel Filling
1 1/4 cups (8 3/4 oz. sugar)
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup water
1 cup heavy cream
8 TB unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 tsp kosher salt
Rosie Note:  Again, I measured the sugar by weight, not volume.  And once you start making caramel, you must stand over it and not be distracted. Caramel is not something you can just leave on top of the stove to take care of itself.  You have to stand there and watch the sugar change color until it's the proper shade of amber.  And if you don't have an instant-read laser thermometer, now is the time to get one.  Immediately if not sooner.
For the caramel filling:
Butter an 8-inch square baking pan. 
Combine sugar, corn syrup, and water in medium saucepan.  Bring the mixture to boil over medium heat and cook, without stirring, until mixture is amber colored.  8-10 minutes.  Reduce heat to low and continue to cook, swirling saucepan occasionally, until dark amber - about 375°.
Remove pan from heat and stir in cream, butter, vanilla, and salt.  Mixture will hiss and steam at you.  Return pan to medium heat and cook, stirring, until smooth and caramel registers 240°.  
Pour caramel into prepared pan and let cool about 30-40 minutes - until 100°.
Preparation of layers:
 Slice each cake layer in half.
Using an offset spatula, spread 1/3 of caramel on first layer to within 1/2 inch of edges.
Top with cake layer.
Repeat with remaining caramel and cake layers.  (Three cake layers should be topped with caramel.  Top layer has no caramel.)

Step-by-steps for the caramel:
Sugar, corn syrup, and water.
Add to the pan and leave it alone.
Bring to a simmer.
And wait...
Simmer and wait...
Simmer and wait...

That's about the right color.

Add in the butter and...
... the cream.
Hiss!  Spit!!  Sputter!!!

Stir to melt butter and combine.


Bring to simmer and up to temp.

Gettin' close.
Pour into prepared pan.  (Buttered 8 x 8.)

Let it cool down.

Slice the cakes in half and start assembling,
pouring caramel between layers.

Gotta lick the pan.

Now for the frosting.
And this is Killer Frosting.
Here's my mise en place:
Killer Chocolate Frosting
16 TB unsalted butter, softened (That's two sticks.)
3/4 cup (3 oz.) powdered sugar
1/2 cup (1 1/2 oz.) unsweetened cocoa powder
pinch kosher salt
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
6 oz. bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled
Rosie Note:  Again, I went by weight, not volume.
To make less of a mess when frosting, line edges of cake platter with 4 strips of wax or parchment paper, placing cake layers on top.  After frosting, carefully remove paper strips.
For frosting:
In food processor, process butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt until smooth, scraping down sides of bowl as needed.  Add corn syrup and vanilla and process about 10 more seconds.  Scrape down sides of bowl, then add chocolate and pulse until smooth and creamy.  Spread frosting over sides and top of cake.  Feel free to swirl with abandon.
Stand back and admire your handiwork.
Try not to drool.
 
 Process until smooth.

 
 


   Oh yeah!

And swirl.
Oh...  The caramel!
Ohhhhh...  The chocolate!!




Enjoy!



Monday, June 10, 2019

Mahi Tacos With Fruit Salsa And A Lime And Cumin Sour Cream Sauce.



On the menu today, we have seared mahi bites on a puffy taco with a fruit salsa.

 Youngest Hawthorne went deep-sea fishing last week and, being the Great White Hunter/Fisherman that he is, came home with LOTS of mahi mahi.


Photo and fish by
Youngest Hawthorne.
Truly, a beautiful fish.
 Previously, I made fried mahi bites.


Sweet, tender meat
with a crisp, light coating.
Doesn't get much better than this.

Oh wait...
It does!


Let's cook seared mahi mahi, tuck it inside a puffy taco,
and spoon on a fruit salsa and a seasoned sour cream sauce.

First, the puffy tacos.
I'm using regular flour tortillas here.
The secret is in the HEAT!

Pour about 1/8 - 1/4 inch of peanut oil in your pan
and crank it up to about 400° - 450°.
Yes.  You read that correctly.
The hotter the better.

Peanut oil is my go-to oil.  Neutral flavor and high smoke point.

Gently and ever-so-carefully, slide the tortilla into the hot oil.
And watch.
The air inside is trapped so it blows up like a balloon.


Turn over and brown the other side.
Then turn back over and brown any parts you might have missed.

 
You sort of roll the tortilla around in the hot oil.




And drain.

And there you have puffy tacos!

I'm going to lightly toss the mahi bites in seasoned flour,
then sear them in hot oil.

For the seasoned flour:
Mix together:
1/4 cup corn starch
1/2 tsp cayenne
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp onion powder
2 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper

Mix all ingredients in a container, add the mahi pieces (about 1-inch cuts),
and toss to evenly coat.

Film a skillet with oil and heat to 350° - 375°.
Working in batches, add in the pieces one at a time so as not to drastically decrease the oil temperature.
And don't crowd the pan!
Cook about 1 minute on each side.
Remove from pan and drain.

Sort of fold the puffy tacos, add the fish bits, drizzle with the sour cream sauce,
and spoon on the fruit salsa.
Don't forget the lemon!

Sour Cream Dipping Sauce
1/4 cup sour cream
1 inch cube ginger
juice and zest of 1/2 lime
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp chili powder
fresh chopped cilantro, to taste

For the ginger, I peel it, slice it, then run it through a garlic press, using all the juice, and the first scrapings of the fresh pulp.  The drier pulp I discard.
Mix all ingredients.

If you're not a fan of the cilantro, use parsley.
Mint would go nicely with this also.

Rosie's Fruit Salsa
2 kiwis, peeled and finely chopped
equal amount of fresh chopped pineapple (OK, you can use canned if you must.)
2 TB sweet red bell pepper, finely chopped
1 TB minced jalapeño
1 TB chopped red onion
juice and zest of 1/2 lime

Mix all ingredients.
As for the jalapeño heat factor, you can make this as hot as you like.
The heat is in the white ribs and seeds.  If you don't want it so hot, avoid these parts and just use the green. 

 Rosie Tip:  If you don't grow your own jalapeños and are picking them out of the produce department, here's a tip on finding hot peppers:  Don't get a smooth, solid green pepper.  Look for the white, wrinkly lines on the surface of the pepper.  That means it's HOT!

I love mahi!
Enjoy!