Tuesday, February 10, 2009

5 Things

No, it didn't even cross my mind to take a picture before diving into it. What of it?

1. Sunday's yogurt marmalade cake was, as the Pioneer Woman put it, to. die. for. Oh man, is that one a keeper. Food geek tidbit: I've had three different cake recipes bookmarked for months now--this one from Ree at PW, a yogurt lemon cake from Deb at Smitten Kitchen, and a gateau au citron (French: lemon cake) from Molly at Orangette. What can I say? Aside from my addiction to food blogs, I also have a major thing for lemon in baked goods. This probably isn't making sense if you haven't looked at the recipe for the yogurt marmalade cake. . .aside from the marmalade that goes on top, this is actually a lemon cake because of the lemon rind in the batter. Anyway. After polishing off the y.m. cake on Sunday night (the whole family, silly, not just me), I started to wonder if it was very similar to those other cakes I'd bookmarked. Um, yep. They're more or less identical recipes, proportions and all. So I'm feeling an absurd sense of accomplishment from making that cake, because it's like I tried three recipes I've been wanting to test out, rather than just one.

2. When we woke up to snow again today, I figured it was another good day to spend in the kitchen. Especially with my embarrassingly long list of "favorites," a good number of them bookmarking recipes I've been itching to try. I figured I'd knock a few more off today. So today it was the roasted butternut squash and cheese pie from Luisa at The Wednesday Chef, hot chocolate puddings from Adrienne at Nosheteria, toasted coconut shortbread from Deb, and (finally) the ubiquitous "no-knead bread" from Jim Lahey, The New York Times, Smitten Kitchen, Wednesday Chef, and everyone else in the universe (uh, that one has been on my bookmark list for way. too. long.).
3. About that roasted butternut squash "pie." Meh. Ah, maybe that's being too hasty. Because this was actually a very tasty quiche. But therein lies the problem. See, I was expecting something not-quiche. From Luisa's pictures, I was expecting something with a texture almost like cheesecake--dense, substantial. And, a flavor almost like squash. You know, given the name and all. In reality, it was 100% the texture of a quiche, and I couldn't detect even the vaguest hint of squash in the flavor. What a shame to waste that butternut squash beautifully roasted with olive oil, sea salt, and freshly cracked pepper--should have just eaten it straight out of the oven by itself, as I was tempted to do. However. If someone served it to me as a quiche, I would have loved it. Caramelized onions, fresh rosemary, need I say more? That's enough to make a darn good quiche, for sure. But now I'm left craving something that actually does taste like butternut squash. Guess I'll just have to try another one of those bookmarks.

See? Looks like quiche.

4. Now, those hot chocolate puddings. Another recipe with a bit of a misleading name, but this one turned out to be more than I was led to believe. I see a recipe called hot chocolate pudding. . .is there any question that it's getting bookmarked? Given my love for hot chocolate and, uh, chocolate? Oh wait. A recipe with "hot chocolate" in the title and Nutella on the ingredient list? Forget the bookmarks, that baby is getting made, like now! I mean, really, are you going to say no to this?

Here's the thing, though. When these came out of the oven, looking like this:

I started to get suspicious. I mean, chocolate, whipped egg whites, a crusty, almost cakey exterior that you get to tap and crack with your spoon, and then a soft, fluffy-but-moist interior. . .I started wondering if the name of this recipe was trying to trick me. So I opened up the Fount of Cooking Knowledge (oh wait, maybe that's just my little pet name for it? I'm talking Joy of Cooking here, people), and followed the index to that most intimidating French classic, CHOCOLATE SOUFFLE. Yep, it's major, it deserves capital letters. Is this just me as well? Or are other cooks intimidated by those words? I don't know what it is. . .all that talk about fallen souffles, and getting everything just right! Don't under-whip the egg whites! Don't over-whip the egg whites! Is your oven's temperature really accurate? The temperature has to be perfect! It will fall! It will be runny! It will destroy your reputation as a hostess at your 70's-fab dinner party! Gah. Sorry, forgot where I was for a minute.

Anyway. I've looked at chocolate souffle recipes before, and never even considered trying something that delicate, that high maintenance, for heaven's sake. Yep, similar to my yeast bread phobia (wait a minute, we're getting to that one too). But chocolate souffle this was, chocolate souffle I made, chocolate souffle I conquered. That's right. Adrienne may have given it that cute, non-intimidating "hot chocolate" name, but it's a souffle, down to the minute proportions of egg whites to chocolate to butter. And am I ever glad that she did! I may never have attempted it otherwise! And yet, I whipped this thing up in 10 minutes or so (plus 20 in the oven), and people, it could not have been better, not to mention easy. I have to admit, it's a showstopper. I can understand why it's been the pinnacle of show-off desserts for generations of hostesses, because it's just that good. Way too good for a random Tuesday night at home with the family. But I stand by my excuse that I didn't know I was making chocolate souffle, I just thought I was making pudding!

Whatever. Mia liked it.

5. And finally, the toasted coconut shortbread and the no-knead bread. Alas, reviews on these will have to wait until tomorrow, because the shortbread was made for a little treat for my mom's birthday (60 tomorrow!) and it is currently chilling in the refrigerator, waiting to be sliced and baked. And the rustic bread is doing its 12-to-18-hours thing, sitting in a bowl under plastic wrap, waiting to be flopped into a pot at 10:00 tomorrow morning, baked, and sampled. Can it be as great as everyone raves? I ask you. But I'm sincerely hoping that it is, because oh how I would love to have a bread that is that simple, cheap, easy to make. It may have been perfect for Deb at Smitten Kitchen when she injured her arm and physically couldn't do any kneading, but it's also perfect for a mom of a 3 month old and 3 year old. Throwing together 3 ingredients plus water and then letting it sit for hours on end before tossing it in the oven? Even between nursing, rocking, holding, bathing, chasing, feeding, playing. . .this can be done. Not to mention helping me get over my fear of making yeast bread (warm water? What IS warm? Will I make it too hot? Too cold? Will I kill the yeast? Will it fail to rise? Knead until it's elastic or whatever? Is my definition of elastic the same as the recipe's? Let it rise until it doubles? I'm terrible at estimating sizes! What does double look like? I don't remember how it looked when it started!). Good heavens, I think I need an intervention. Deliver, no-knead bread, deliver!
Gratuitous baby pictures, just because she's awesome.


  1. I will second the fact that the yogurt lemon whatever cake was AWESOME!!! I'm not so sure about being a tester for these yummy things...there's my excuse for never losing weight, my sister is an AMAZING cook!

  2. I soooooooooo agree with your assessment of yeast-bread fears. Yeast just dies a slow death on my shelves b/c I forget you can freeze the beast - I mean the yeast. Or can you freeze it? Maybe you can only refrigerate it. Anyway, the chocolate cocoa pudding sounds yummy and easy.

    By the way, I made the Weight Watcher chocolate cream cake on Sunday, and it was delicious - tasting very much like the refrigerator cake, except it really thin and
    1/12 of the pie was quite skinny. Tim said it was more of a cracker than a pie, but he loved it, and so did Gar.

    I love your blog, and hope you post decorating ideas as well. Your writing voice is very fun, too, and the pictures are adorable! Evie does NOT look like the Stay-Puff Marshmellow Man! Oh, she's cute as is her big sister.

    Love ya! Your mom-in-law

  3. Kara, you are opening my mind to lots of delicious recipes and beautiful blogs! I love the PW blog, delightful and beautiful pics. Your girls are darling, beautiful eyes...same as their mama.