to kill a mockingbird with white mountain frosting

If you have been here before, thank you much for returning despite it being a good amount of time since I’ve posted last. Great-aunt Helen’s recipes are important to me and I want to continue putting them out there. That … Continue reading

v, vanilla bean

This gallery contains 6 photos.

T, Tofu. U, Udon. Welcome, my food for fun friends, to V! Today I join Shanna, Sofia, and Ngan as we continue to cook our way through the alphabet. My culinary colleagues smartly assigned V to vanilla bean and I’m … Continue reading

almost-there chocolate lava cake

My mother-in-law clipped a recipe from her local paper that grabbed my attention in a big way: Spiced Chocolate Whiskey Lava Cake. The spices in question were freshly cracked black pepper, ground ginger, and cayenne. A recent purchase of large blocks of chocolate as part of a wine tasting “kit” meant I had the 8-ounce block of 60% dark chocolate. Outside of the mandarin orange zest, all ingredients were on hand.

Expectations were high as I started melting the butter and chocolate. But here’s the thing: I was balancing the project with other Sunday evening tasks–laundry, picking up around the house, getting kids to bed–so ended up with a good but not great final product.

My first mistake was thinking I would sub lime zest for the orange zest. I had lime zest stored in the freezer, which would save me the step of zesting enough (regular as I didn’t have mandarin) oranges for the 2 tablespoons I’d need. As I emptied the small ziploc of what I thought was lime zest, it just didn’t look right. A little taste told me that I was putting frozen pesto (!) into the chocolate cake batter. Not about to give up on all the expensive ingredients I’d already stirred together, I removed the few clumps of pesto that had made it in to the chocolatey batter, rationalizing that this was how new recipes and flavor combinations are discovered. Maybe a hint of basil would make this cake even better? I forged ahead, deciding to use fresh orange zest instead of hunting down the frozen lime zest. Two oranges were freshly zested into the batter and I moved on.

Filling the four 6-ounce ramekins and one mini cheesecake pan, I baked the cakes for the 13 minutes given in the recipe. A quick peek in the oven showed butter bubbling up furiously and pudding-like cakes that looked decidedly undone. At each oven peek, the butter was still bubbling, so I’d leave it alone and come back a few minutes later. After 25 minutes, the cakes looked done (bad sign–only the sides should have looked done), so I removed them from the oven, bubbly butter and all. Out of the heat, the butter subsided and the cakes looked lovely as could be. I knew they had to be overbaked after all that time in the oven (no lava!), but turned one onto a plate and cut into it just the same. While the cake had a nice crumb, it released no river of chocolate.

this lava cake has no lava

this lava cake has no lava

Still delish, the chocolate cake was rich without being overly so. And the orange zest was bright and fresh–lime zest would be fun to try, but orange seems the better choice. There was not even a hint of whiskey, so I’d switch to a stronger tasting booze (bourbon!) when I give the recipe another try. I also wondered why I wasn’t being hit by the spices–where was the ginger, cayenne, black pepper? While the ginger and cayenne were (very) faint background notes, I realized I tasted no black pepper because I DIDN’T ADD ANY. That ingredient somehow slipped by me–shoot.

out of the oven

out of the oven

So I now have a game plan for the next round: Use orange zest–though a hint of basil wasn’t a horrible thing–or sub in lime zest if I must. But absolutely no pesto under any circumstances. Add 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper per recipe instructions and bump up the cayenne and ginger by a pinch or so each. Cut back on the butter just slightly–there’s too much butter if it’s still bubbling up 20+ minutes into baking. Don’t wait for said butter to stop bubbling to take the cakes from the oven. And sub in bourbon (maybe 4 tablespoons instead of 3 since I’m cutting the butter a bit) for the whiskey.

Even with all of the mistakes made, these cakes were still divine. But they could be and should be so much more. (Though the fact that they were not is due to my multitasking more so than any recipe faults.) An optimist by nature, I’m giving myself another chance with this dessert with the amazing name. Expect a report when I do!

spiced chocolate whiskey lava cakes

spiced chocolate whiskey lava cakes

a new kitchen toy and a whole lotta links

I’ve written before about my love of kitchen toys. While I try not to overload my countertops with small appliances that are only occasionally used, I love machines that aid and abet kitchen fun. You’ve seen posts on my grain grinder, soda maker, cotton candy maker, food dehydrator, and immersion blender. This week I added to the fun with a new ice cream maker.

What’s that you say? Didn’t I brag up my “soccer ball ice cream maker” last spring, noting that kicking the ball around for a half-hour was a better way to make ice cream than using a machine? Um, yes, yes I did. But since writing that, I’ve been inundated with ice cream recipes that I really had to try: maple-bacon crunch ice cream, bourbon and cornflake ice cream (It’s called Secret Breakfast and I had it at San Francisco’s Humphry Slocombe Ice Cream. Since purchasing their book, this flavor could be mine for breakfast if I only had an ice cream maker.), chocolate sorbet, popcorn ice cream (already made it once, but had to do it soccer-ball style), everything I’ve found on Frozen Socialism, and then some. If I had to kick that soccer ball around for each amazing batch, making ice cream would become my full-time pursuit. As much fun as that sounds, my family might think differently. Hence, I needed a machine.

For a mere $60, I bought what seemed to be a popular choice among reviewers. The Accidental Locavore had also recommended this model, so I went to her for my first recipe. Her ricotta ice cream was easy to make and lovely to eat. A drizzle of buckwheat honey and splash of 2 Gingers Whiskey made it crazy good. Also purchased with my ice cream maker was Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home, which I’d seen featured on food52. This pretty book has oodles of think-outside-the-carton ice cream recipes such as Gorgonzola Dolce with Candied Walnuts; Chamomile Chardonnay; and Roasted Strawberry & Buttermilk. I see myself being plenty busy with ice-cream making for a long time to come. This kitchen toy is a hit.


ricotta ice cream à la Accidental Locavore–thanks!

drizzles of whiskey and honey