Thursday, October 16, 2008

Caramel-Peanut Topped Brownie Cake

Now that I've dropped a class, I'm thinking about hopping on the baking bandwagon. The weather is turning cooler, so baking is more reasonable now than in the summer when it is so hot (and I have no air conditioner). I also wanted to see if I could commit to what it takes to participate with the gals over at Tuesdays with Dorie. I bought the book, and gosh, there are so many delicious and beautiful things to bake. I made this too late to post on the required day, but gave the Oct. 7th recipe a try, and will try to pick up with next week's item (the Pumpkin Muffins, just in time for a fund raising bake sale at work!).

If I had not taken a Baking and Pastry class previously, this recipe would have been very challenging. Dorie Greenspan does a really super job with directions, so I could have worked through it, but the extra experience sure helped (I'm not very confident trying new things in the kitchen. I need the remedial class most of the time!). The trickiest part is the carmel for the topping. That stuff is like molten lava, and the last thing you want is to have some sort of an accident. Yikes! But truth be told, I'd rather cook with that than chocolate. That stuff gets everywhere!

Since one of the rules is to not post the recipes for TWD, I'll just include some steps and pictures below.

The batter was pretty quick and easy. You can see the bowl from melting chocolate and butter over a pan of water behind the bowl with the batter. Like I said, that stuff gets everywhere!

One thing I do like about baking, is while the cake is in the oven, and/or while it cools you can do the dishes. It's nice to have a tidy kitchen.

After letting the cake cool, and preferable right before you serve it, you make the topping. That's when the science experiment begins. Many of the folks who tried this said this stage took longer than the recipe advised, and I had the same experience. Besides being the temperature of the sun, carmel is one of those things you need to keep an eye on. It takes forever to turn a carmel color, but once it turns it doesn't take long for it to pass the point of no return (and burnt tasting carmel). Happily mine did not.

Once off the heat peanuts are added, and then the cake, back in its freshly cleaned springform pan, is topped. I don't have any pictures of the cake once "released" from the pan, as that happened at work, and my co-workers took care of this cake in record time.

It's very good, though very sweet and very rich. A little goes a long way. I would definitely make it again -- especially as a celebration cake, or to impress someone.

Latin America - Chiles Rellenos

First let me say this -- sheesh, this hasn't gone well so far!

The school thing combined with the work thing is grueling. Too much to do with a full time job. Something had to give, so it was with great sorrow that I gave up my International Cooking class. I really liked it and felt I learned a lot, but it was scheduled on Friday and it kicked my butt. I worked from home for 1 1/2 hours, went to school for 5 hours, then drove to the office and worked another 5-6 hours. A very long day to say the least!

When I was going to that class, I kept forgetting my camera. Plus, although I'm very capable of cooking things at home, for some reason I had a bad mojo in that class, and things didn't turn out so well (therefore, I was pretty happy not to have the camera!).

That all said, I tried some interesting food that I really enjoyed, and I plan on making some of it on my own. First up, from our Latin America class - Chiles Rellenos. They have a special spot in my heart as my dad would make them when I was a kid. They aren't very complicated, but they are a little labor intensive.

The first step is to roast the chiles.

In class we put them over the gas flame on the stove. At home (above) I chose to put them in the oven. I liked that better. It made the chiles easier to peal and and the seeds and veins easier to remove. It seemed like there was less "chile" there, however. If I were to do it again, I would put them in the oven, but with something on the pan. They popped and spattered all over my baking sheet -- but the house sure smelled good.

After roasting them, they need to sweat for a bit, and I took that time to prepare the rest of the ingredients.

In class we used gloves to remove the skin, seeds and veins of the chile, and stuff them with cheese. At home I had no problem with the oils from the chiles. I did have trouble getting the little buggers stuffed and back into their original shape. Again, it was easier at home than in class -- not sure if that's due to how the chiles were roasted, or the old "practice makes perfect" idea.

After reconstructing the chiles it was time to whip up the batter.

This worked out much better at home. It looked so pretty I didn't want to dip the chiles in it! But everybody ended up in the pool and in the frying pan. Try to keep track of where the slit is on each pepper and make sure that it is facing up when you put the chiles in the pan. Otherwise your cheese might melt and ooze out, which is neither pretty or tasty (well, fried cheese is tasty, but for this you'd rather have it in the chile -- or would you?)

After a quick fry and a quick turn, out they come to drain on a paper towel. You can eat them with salsa, but I enjoyed them just on their own.

Overall I was pleased with the results. They still had some chile heat, but not too much (I don't do well with spicy food). They probably could use a little bit more of a drain (perhaps a second set of paper towels to pick up some of the grease), but otherwise, they were very yummy. And happily I found all of the toothpicks! (be sure to count them as you put them in so you know how many you need to take out!).

Chiles Rellenos with Fresh Green Chiles
Adapted from: That's My Home 2000 - 2006

12 medium Anaheim or Poblano chiles (about 2 pounds), roasted and peeled (see notes) (I used Anaheim chiles which are easy to find in your grocery store produce section)

1 1/4 lbs. grated Monterey Jack cheese (5 cups)

3 eggs, separated

1/8 tsp salt

vegetable oil, for frying

2/3 cup all-purpose flour

2 cups prepared salsa

Slit each Chile open lengthwise along 1 side and gently remove seeds and vein. Spread about 1/4 cup cheese in center of each pepper and press closed. Secure with toothpicks if necessary (remember to count them!). Set aside.

Beat egg whites in large non-aluminum bowl until stiff. Beat in salt, then egg yolks, 1 at a time.

Pour 1/2 inch of oil into heavy skillet and heat until almost smoking.

Sprinkle flour on both sides of as many chiles as will fit into your skillet in a single, uncrowded layer, then dip each pepper in egg mixture (you definitely don't want to dip them all at once). Place in oil and fry until golden on bottom, turn, and fry until golden on other side, about 1 minute. Remove chiles to paper towels to drain. Continue until all peppers are fried. Keep in a warm oven until all chiles are fried.

Arrange chiles on platter or individual plates and top with salsa. Serve right away.

Note: Wear gloves when handling fresh chiles; the oils can cause a burning sensation on your skin.

Note: To roast chiles, place in a preheated 450 degree oven on cookie sheet, turning after 10 minutes, and continue roasting until skins blister and blacken in spots. Or, place on broiler pan and broil about 5-6 inches from the heat source, turning often, until skin is charred on all sides. Or, hold over gas burner, turning until all sides are charred. Place in a bag or covered bowl for about 10 minutes. Skin should peel right off.