oatmeal muffins, via vintage recipe

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Ready for the third installment in Helen’s Recipe Box? While I still haven’t decided on an official project name, you can read more about what I’m doing here. The quick version is that I’ve finally started going through the two … Continue reading

food geek chocolate cake

The hardest part of monthly guest posts at Blog of Funny Names is coming up with that funny name. Committing to a food-related name helps narrow the field, but I’m never sure where to look for a name that is fun, fresh, interesting, relevant, and unique enough to be considered “funny.”

Googling always saves the day, but I still need a direction in which to head. This month I got that direction from a small inner voice whispering, “molecular gastronomy.” [While hearing small voices might qualify me for professional help, your reading this might qualify you for the same so we’re in this together. Stay with me? Please?]

So. Searching “molecular gastronomy” was exactly what I needed to do and we all benefit because 1) I found an amazing man named Hervé This, whom I now admire greatly and 2) I thought I’d try a bit of kitcheny science over here as well.

Those kitcheny science results are as laughable as they are delicious and we’ll move on to them as soon as I can convince you to hop over and learn a bit more about Hervé. Click here, then please return for a doozy of a chocolate cake experiment.

***

Back for cake? Very good, then. Learning about Monsieur This inspired me to find a recipe I remembered seeing on Foodography, a favorite Cooking Channel show. Self-proclaimed food nerd Jeff Potter demonstrated a microwave chocolate cake leavened only by N2O gasses in the cream whipper that dispensed the batter.

Long a cream whipper fan, I’ve used mine only to whip cream and branching out sounded like fun. A cake leavened with nitrous oxide instead of chemicals–kitchen science indeed.

ready to rock

ready to rock

Though the recipe threw me a bit: Four ounces chocolate, four eggs, plus smaller amounts of flour and sugar. This sounded like multiple servings, but best I could understand, it all went into one glass. Mention of only filling the “pan” two-thirds full should have been my clue, but after studying the recipe closely, I saw no mention of anything more than one serving. I filled that mug to the top. (also added a dollop of marshmallow fluff after half-filling with batter per recipe suggestion)

batter in place

batter in place

halfway

halfway

fluff!

fluff!

ready for the microwave

ready for the microwave

The first 30 seconds in the microwave didn’t “bake” the batter through, so I added four more 30-second intervals. And by the first minute, the batter was up and over the side of the mug. For sure this recipe is meant to serve four and shame on me for not getting that.

no words for this

no words for this

Just the same, this offers opportunity to turn disaster into triumph. (It’s a game I often play called, “I meant to do it this way.”) The cake turned out nicely on a platter, a bit of gooeyness on the top (now the bottom) adding to its charm. Dusting with powdered sugar, as advised, crowned it in glory and it was happily ever after.

A side of ice cream or sweetened whipped cream and it's restaurant worthy.

Add a side of ice cream or sweetened whipped cream and it’s restaurant worthy.

No question the batter was meant to be divided evenly among four glasses. Though the numbers divide in half easily enough, making two servings an option as well.

While this was fun, and meeting Hervé was worth any amount of kitchen mess, my next microwave cake will be of the chemically leavened mug variety. Fortunately, another Liz–of Tip Top Shape–has me covered with her funfetti version.

I raise my future mug of Liz’s Funfetti Mug Cake to you all for spending time with me here and over at Blog of Funny Names. I look forward already to our next food adventure.

whip it, whip it good: cheese soufflé and chocolate mousse

Happy Chocolate Mousse Day! This greeting changed the course of my day and here’s how: I was minding my own business editing recipes just after lunch when Chocolate Mousse Day was announced via My Sweet Addiction‘s latest blog post. Easily distracted when it comes to such things as chocolate mousse, I clicked over and learned that April 3 was indeed officially National Chocolate Mousse Day. Brilliant! To celebrate a classic dessert like chocolate mousse with its own day just seemed right. After putting the thrilling news up on deLizious’s facebook page, I returned to work, reasoning that my client may not see National Chocolate Mousse Day as an excuse to extend my deadline.

Fast-forward to supper and I was thinking pork chops. A search for said chops turned up empty (they’re in the freezer somewhere, I’m sure of it), so eggs were next on my list. But how to prepare? The chocolate mousse I’d been envisioning all day became my cooking muse as I pictured whipping lots of air into eggs to make a soufflé. It was an unusual path for the cooking muse to take me as it’s been a decade since I’d made a soufflé. But the idea took hold and I gamely found a recipe (from Richard Sax and Marie Simmons’ most excellent Lighter, Quicker, Better) and hit the kitchen.

whipping egg whites for the soufflé with vintage rotary

whipping egg whites for the soufflé with vintage rotary

The recipe called for more steps than I usually take in evening meal prep, but I knew the steps were there for a reason so went ahead and made the wax-paper collar for the soufflé dish and boiled water for a water bath. I came up short in the ingredient department: my cream of tartar container was empty (yes, sadly I really do have a container for cream of tartar) and I messed up with the eggs using one yolk instead of two. In the end, I was happy with what went into the oven and looked forward to impressing my girls with a lofty soufflé.

broccoli florets sprinkled on top before baking

broccoli florets sprinkled on top before baking

Alas, the wax-paper collar was a waste of time as my soufflé did not reach the impressive heights I had hoped for. But it was still pretty, airy, savory, and made a fine entree. I’ll wait for a more successful attempt to share the recipe as the result couldn’t be what the authors intended.

this soufflé did not rise to great heights

not rising to great heights

soufflé plated up

soufflé plated up

After the soufflé had gone into the oven, that mousse was still on my mind. When googling National Chocolate Mousse Day (research was needed to establish credibility, yes?), I’d found Melissa Clark’s recipe, which called for just chocolate and water. Intrigued, I had to try. Twelve ounces of chocolate-rum melting wafers (purchased long ago at a bakery supply store and finally finding a use) melted down with 1 cup water. Next, the mixture was transferred to a bowl set in an ice bath, then beat 5ish minutes until achieving the chilled, light, and airy consistency that is chocolate mousse. I couldn’t resist adding a dash of vanilla and when I did, the mixture firmed up. Perhaps adding another liquid catalyzed the mousse making?

No matter the how and why, my mousse was everything I wanted it to be: rich but light, sweet but dark, dense but creamy. I’m still marveling that all that was needed was chocolate, water, an ice bath, and some muscle. (I’m partial to my grandma’s hand-me-down rotary egg beater, but an electric mixer would have made it effortless.) The recipe source had suggested folding in a whipped egg white for extra lightness, but I liked the denser consistency of using only chocolate and water. A sprinkle of fleur de sel added texture and flavor.

1-ingredient chocolate mousse

1-ingredient chocolate mousse

While I understand the value of meal planning, I also appreciate the opportunity to make it up on the fly. When I woke up this morning, I had no clue that learning of a foodie “holiday” would determine the course of my evening meal. But with an open mind (and a full pantry), anything is possible.

smokin’ eggs

Our Easter ham was amazing this year, and it’s because my husband has taken up smoking. It started with his finding a Brinkmann vertical water smoker in his parents’ garage a year or so ago. They’d collected it somehow, but had no use for it so he took it off their hands. He researched smoking online, found a website he liked, and a hobby was born.

This year’s holiday ham–bone-in and spiral-cut per website instructions–was first basted generously with a locally sourced maple syrup. Next step was a light coating of a cranberry maple rub I had picked up on a recent trip to Colorado. The ham then smoked over boubon-soaked barrel chips for three-ish hours. The final result was beyond amazing and I’m thrilled to have leftovers for sandwiches and the like.

Crazy-good ham aside, this post is really about everything else that was smoked that day. My girls and I joked that if we stayed in one place too long, my husband would have put us on the smoker. He threw all of the following (though not all at once) on the smoker that day: a handful of carrots and leeks (part of the roasted veggie side dish I was making), hazelnuts, peanuts, almonds, pork chops, corn-on-the-cob, and eggs.

My husband had read somewhere that peeled hard-cooked eggs could be smoked. Being the day before Easter, we had plenty of hard-cooked eggs around. We peeled a dozen and he put them directly on the smoking rack. They smoked for about 45 minutes, then came off the rack a mustard yellow with gorgeous grill marks. Cut in half, the inner whites were brilliantly white and the yolks golden. The layers of color were dramatic. Sprinkled with freshly ground pepper, the eggs made a great hors d’oeuvre while we waited for the ham to finish. The slight smokiness went well with the neutral, savory flavor of an egg. They’ll make fantastic deviled eggs and egg salad for sure.

Eggs are known for their versatility, and this discovery only adds to their repertoire. We’ll be playing this one again soon. And who knows what my husband will find to throw on the rack when he starts up the smoker again.

bowl of smoked eggs

ready to eat