Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Rosie Makes A Birthday Cake For Mr. Hawthorne.

 One of our favorite cooking shows is PBS's America's Test Kitchen.  There are no celebrity chefs here, thank goodness.  They don't travel to far-away places to eat stuff we'd never think of eating in the first place.  They're not into promoting a "life style" of eating high-end ingredients most of us can't afford.  Basically, they're into simple down-home cooking.  They teach you the basics, focusing as much on technique as on the recipe.  And they test each recipe relentlessly and meticulously to come up with the "best" possible version.  They tell you what works and what doesn't and why.  Their mission is to test recipes until they understand why and how they work and arrive at the best version of a dish.

Sooooo... when Mr. Hawthorne and I were watching ATK the other day, he saw a recipe for Chocolate Caramel Layer Cake and pronounced, "I WANT that cake for my birthday."

Consider it done.

This is a 4-layer cake with caramel filling between the layers and a glorious chocolate frosting.  It is decadent.

Whenever I'm baking anything or doing a stir fry, I have my mise-en-place.  Have all ingredients out there and measured so you don't have to run around looking for stuff.  Trust me.  It makes life easier.

 For the cake:
1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla

Heat oven to 325°.  Butter two 9-inch cake pans, line with parchment paper, butter the parchment, and coat with cocoa.  Whenever I'm baking chocolate cakes, instead of buttering and flouring the pan, I butter and cocoa powder my pans.  Sift flour and cocoa into large bowl.  Whisk in sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  Whisk buttermilk, water, oil, eggs, and vanilla together in another bowl.  Whisk buttermilk mixture into flour mixture until smooth better forms.  Divide batter evenly between prepared pans and smooth tops with rubber spatula.

Bake until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  22 minutes for me, rotating pans halfway through baking.  Let cakes cool in pans on wire rack for 15 minutes.  Remove cakes from pans, discarding parchment, and let cool completely on rack, at least 2 hours.
 Action shot!  Sifty sifty.
 I always tap the pans a few times to get the air bubbles out.
 Cakes came out perfectly even.

 Flip over on racks and remove parchment.  Let cool 2 hours.

Let's go on to the chocolate icing.
 Chocolate Frosting:
 2 stick unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
pinch kosher salt
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1 tsp vanilla
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled

Process butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt in food processor until smooth, scraping down sides of bowl as needed.  Add corn syrup and vanilla and process until just combined, 5-10 seconds.  Scrape down sides of bowl, then add chocolate and pulse until smooth and creamy.
Beautifully creamy chocolate icing.

Had to stop and shoot pictures of Junior trying to relax.

 Almost there...

 He's got it rough.  (ruff??)

 Now, the caramel.
 Caramel Filling:
 1 1/4 cups sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup water
1 cup heavy cream
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 tsp kosher salt

Lightly butter 8-inch square baking pan.  Combine sugar, corn syrup, and water in medium saucepan.  Bring to boil over medium-high 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 5 more minutes.  Caramel should register between 375° and 380°.

Remove from heat and carefully stir in cream, butter, vanilla, and salt.  Return saucepan to medium heat and cook, stirring frequently, until smooth and caramel reaches 240° to 245°, about 5 minutes.  Transfer caramel to prepared pan and let cool until just warm to touch, 100° to105°.

 Don't stir.  Let sugar melt.

 I swirled to keep the temperature even.
 Temperature and color are right.

 Add in rest of ingredients.  It will bubble and sputter.

 Keep on stirring.

 The nice thing about the caramel filling is it's soft enough to spread on the cake layers, but not so fluid that it soaks into the cake or drips down the sides.

To assemble:
With a serrated knife, halve each cake.  Using a large spatula, transfer caramel evenly to
3 of the layers, leaving 1/2-inch border around edge.  Line edges of cake platter with 4 strips of parchment to keep the platter clean.  Place a caramel-covered cake layer on platter. Top with next two caramel-covered layers.  Top with final layer.  Spread frosting evenly over sides and top of cake.  Let stand at room temperature for at least 5 hours before serving.

You NEED to make this.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Rosie Makes A Spicy Thai-Style Fish Soup.

Rosie had a good day today.  It started out breakfast with She-Who-Shall-Remain-Unnamed
at Nags Head Pier, one of my favorite breakfast venues.

It's breakfast and one of the waitresses is pouring a couple of vodka-based drinks.  Who drinks vodka at this hour?  Oh... that's right.  One of the waitresses mentioned, "They're on v.a.c.a.t.i.o.n."  But hey.  I've been on holiday before too.  And my day didn't start out with vodka.  I absolutely cannot drink before 9:27 in the morning.

Nice does matter!

This is our waitress.  She's juggling 5 platters.  And she's rockin' a most excellent French braid.
If I tried to balance those plates up my arm, it would be disastrous.

  It was a beautiful morning.
I wanted to walk out on the beach and shoot a few pics.

OK.  That's enough beach for today.

Rosie had a good morning.
Thank you to She-Who-Shall-Remain-Unnamed.

 I was dropped off at Home Sweet Home.
Took a stroll through the jardin.
 And then I started cogitating on the Hawthornes' lunch.

Mr. Hawthorne had cooked cod the day before, so we're not have leftovers.  We're having MOREOVERS.  That's what Rosie does.

Here's what I wrote years before describing my Moreovers:

Nothing goes to waste in the Hawthorne Household.  And I don't refer to the remnants as leftovers.
Immediately after writing the word "leftovers," I knew I needed another word that was more real, more definitive, and positive. First I thought of the word re-do's.  But that implies it wasn't done right
the first time around when it certainly was. Then I considered do-overs.  But, of course, that, too, has a negative connotation.  I've put a lot of thought into this trying to come up with just the right word which describes the process of what I do in the life chain of the produce and viande I prepare and serve and consume.

And my word is moreovers.

Think about it:
You've already produced and served a wonderful, satisfying, convivial repast. So, what's next?  MORE is next.  When you say "Moreover," you're likely going to top what you previously said,
put an exclamation point there, and/or put it in bold or italics. So, I have no leftovers.

Rosie is gathering ingredients for her spicy Thai-style fish soup.
Rosie's Thai-Style Fish Soup
about 6-7 oz. "leftover" cooked cod
1 TB peanut oil
1 large chunk frozen ginger - slightly bigger than a cubic inch
3 shallots, thinly sliced
1 large clove garlic, minced
zest and juice of 1 lime and 1 lemon
1 jalapeño
1/2 green pepper, chopped
handful of mushrooms, sliced
1 small carton of chicken stock
1 can of coconut milk
1-2 TB fish sauce, to taste
handful of water chestnuts, chopped
big handful of spinach, chopped
1 tomato, chopped
1 cayenne pepper, sliced
fresh basil leaves, chopped
1 scallion, sliced

I always have cubes of frozen ginger.  Peel and nuke the ginger cube for about 25 seconds, then squeeze the juice into a small bowl. Reserve.  Push the pulp through a garlic press and scrape off the first 2 or 3 three presses.  Reserve for soup.

In a soup pot, heat oil over medium heat and add shallots, jalapeño, mushrooms, and minced garlic.  Cook about 2 minutes to release the flavors.  Pour in coconut milk and broth and simmer about 15 minutes.  Add lemon and lime juice and zest, fish sauce, water chestnuts, green pepper, ginger juice, and spinach.  Simmer about 4-5 minutes, until spinach wilts.  Add in cod and tomato and heat through.

Serve with toppings of cayenne, basil, and scallions.

Sliced mushrooms and shallots.  Minced garlic and ginger.  Chopped jalapeño.

Sauté to release the aromas.

Add in coconut milk.

Add in chicken stock.  Simmer 15 minutes.

Green peppers in.

Lemon and lime juice.

Lemon and lime zest.

Ginger juice.

Fish sauce.

Spinach in.

Water chestnuts.

Finally the cod ...

... and tomato.  Heat through.

Serve with cayenne, scallions, and basil.