Flourless Chocolate Cake & Buttermilk Icecream

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Another month, another Daring Baker’s challenge.  This month’s challenge was a flourless chocolate cake and they asked the Daring Baker’s to make an icecream to go along with it.  Since this is such a rich cake, I looked for an icecream that wouldn’t be too intense and found a recipe for Buttermilk Lemon Icecream in David Leibowitz’s book, The Perfect Scoop.  I didn’t have buttermilk, but I had some half and half and milk (I took some from a coffee establishment ending in a word that rhymes with tuck) and vinegar and created a fake buttermilk that worked out just fine.  The picture isn’t that great (our nice camera ran out of juice and we had quite a bit of champagne with friends while eating it), but the flavors of the icecream went perfectly with the cake.  The tanginess of the buttermilk and the sourness of the lemon complimented the dark chocolate in the cake.  Both are highly recommended.

The February 2009 challenge is hosted by Wendy of WMPE’s blog and Dharm of Dad ~ Baker & Chef.
We have chosen a Chocolate Valentino cake by Chef Wan; a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Dharm and a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Wendy as the challenge.

Flourless Chocolate Cake (Chocolate Valentino)

Ingredients:
16 ounces (1 pound) (454 grams) of semisweet chocolate, roughly chopped (use the BEST chocolate you can buy)
½ cup (1 stick) plus 2 tablespoons (146 grams total) of unsalted butter
5 large eggs separated (I actually used 4 eggs, didn’t have the 5th and it came out just fine)

To Do:
1. Put chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl and set over a pan of simmering water (the bottom of the bowl should not touch the water) and melt, stirring often.
2. While your chocolate butter mixture is cooling. Butter your pan (I used a 9″ tart pan) and line with a parchment circle then butter the parchment.
3. Separate the egg yolks from the egg whites and put into two medium/large bowls.
4. Whip the egg whites in a medium/large grease free bowl until stiff peaks are formed (do not over-whip or the cake will be dry).
5. With the same beater beat the egg yolks together.
6. Add the egg yolks to the cooled chocolate.
7. Fold in 1/3 of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture and follow with remaining 2/3rds. Fold until no white remains without deflating the batter.
8. Pour batter into prepared pan, the batter should fill the pan 3/4 of the way full, and bake at 375F/190C
9. Bake for 25 minutes until an instant read thermometer reads 140F/60C.
Note – If you do not have an instant read thermometer, the top of the cake will look similar to a brownie and a cake tester will appear wet.
10. Cool cake on a rack for 10 minutes then unmold.

Lemon-Buttermilk Icecream (adapted from “The Perfect Scoop” by David Lebovitz)
Makes about a quart

1 cup vanilla simple syrup (I steeped a vanilla pod in simple syrup. You can use regular)
1 lemon, prefer unsprayed
2 cups buttermilk (I used 2 cups of a mix of milk and half and half and added a tablespoon of cider vinegar, let it sit for 5 minutes).
zest and juice from one lemon (more if you want)

To Do:
Whisk buttermilk into syrup mixture, then mix in lemon juice and zest. Pour into icecream maker and churn according to directions.


When Things Don’t Work and When they Do

The other day I thought it would be great to have some aioli. Since we have a food processor I thought it would be a breeze. I didn’t want to use up 2 eggs to make it though because I didn’t think it would all be consumed within a week, so I just used one yolk and saved the white. I think that was the problem because it never emulsified properly. I thought, well I will just add some rice vinegar and make it into a weird Caesar salad type dressing. After adding the rice vinegar, it thickened up quickly and became more like mayo. I guess the acidity of the lemon juice I used (not fresh, I admit) just wasn’t enough. There is now a small jar of some very vinegary mayo/dressing in our fridge that needs to be poured over some vegetables before the week is over.

In an effort to be frugal, I made some meringues out of the lone egg white and they came out great! Meringues are great to satisfy a sweet craving, cheap to create and make great little gifts. You can also add all sorts of flavorings to them (mocha, chocolate, almond, pistachio, etc). Initially, I was going to follow Bittman’s recipe, but I only had one egg white, not two. While searching the internet to find the right ratio of sugar to egg white, I came across a page (can’t find it now) that said to bake the meringues for 18 minutes at 325F. Every other recipe I’ve read says to slow bake them (dehydrate really) at 250 or turning the oven to high heat, putting them in and then shutting the oven off and letting them sit overnight. I was intrigued and tried out baking the meringues at the higher temperature because the site said the centers would be a little more chewy. It worked! They definitely hit the sweet spot.

Meringues also make great “bowls.” When you pipe out your meringue mixture, form it in the shape of a little bowl – start in the middle and start swirling towards the outside and build the sides of the bowl. You can serve fresh fruit, mousse or even ice-cream (careful) in them.

1 Egg Meringues

Preheat oven to 325F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Let egg white get to room temperature and then whisk until soft peaks form. Add 4 tablespoons of sugar, a tiny pinch of cream of tartar and an even tinier pinch of salt. Whip mixture until egg whites are stiff and glossy (they should be able to stand up on their own almost). Put into a plastic bag, snip a corner off and make rounds on the lined baking sheet. You can make any shape you like really, but if they’re really small or thin, they will bake more quickly. Put in the oven for 15 minutes and take a peek when the time is up. When the tops are VERY light brown, take them out of the oven and let them cool. Eat.


Receipt Update

I spent 3 bucks today on 2 avocados and some nori. I am amazed at the avocados. There is a fruit/vegetable seller outside of my work who appears sometimes and his prices are ridiculous. I usually don’t get things from there, but avocados are alright – especially at 50 cents apiece.

Phil got some bread too, for $1.50.

Grand total: $4.50+$24.36=$28.86 for the week


Adventures in Bulk: Boston

While in Boston, we stopped in at a Middle Eastern food market and pita bakery in Jamaica Plain Roslindale to pick up some ingredients for dinner. It’s not a coop or a fancy health food market, so if you’re a stickler for local and organic, you’ll have trouble here, but if fresh food for cheap (and supporting independent buisnesses) is what you’re looking for, this is the place. Anyway, we got plenty of good deals on fresh pita, olives, dried fava beans and lentils, falafel spices, and Syrian cheese.

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If your tahini needs are significant, the price is right.

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Bulk spices for cheap cheap.

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Pick and mix olives to your heart’s content.

There are lots of little places like this in New York, too; the lady in Chinatown that sells massive containers of fresh tofu for a dollar, the Damascus bakery in Brooklyn, where you can get big bags of fresh pita for 75 cents – you’ve just got to look for them.


Greens, Grains, and Soy

We both had a very busy, stressful day today and were therefore in need of a good, hot, healthy meal, but didn’t have a whole lot of time to devote to cooking it. In the need to throw something together, we turned to an old stalwart: stir fry. First we marinated some tofu in soy sauce, sesame oil, fresh ginger and garlic. That was sauteed in olive oil until slightly brown, then we threw some broccoli on top, letting the steam escaping from the tofu tenderize the broccoli a bit before it really hit the pan.

After a couple minutes, we stirred the whole dish up, adding a handful of cashews and some black sesame seeds, and proceeded to stir fry. Toward the end, the dish seemed like it needed a little more acidity, so I added a splash of rice vinegar. We served the whole thing over a bowl of quinoa with a healthy dollop of sriracha.

We also had some leftover home-made red cabbage and carrot dumplings left over in the freezer, so we steamed those up to and had them alongside.

Maybe it’s my idealized memories of college coop meals, but I think that there’s something supremely rewarding about throwing together a healthy, unpretentious meal and then eating it somewhat sloppily out of an oversized bowl. If only we had some Bragg’s liquid aminos in the house, the nostalgia moment would have been complete.


This Week’s Receipt

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We still have a bunch of our staples left over, so this week’s shopping trip was just veggies and some eggs and tofu for protein. Tina also picked up some broccoli, celery, and nuts in Chinatown, totaling $8.50. All together, that’s $24.26 for the week.


Brussels Sprout Salad (goin’ raw)

This was taken almost lock stock and barrel from 101 Cookbooks, so I won’t post up the recipe here. I used a LOT of lemon juice though, and almonds instead of hazlenuts and omitted the cheese (whoops!). It was really good! Phil and I are going to try and go raw next week, so we’re incorporating more raw food into our diet this week. Receipt posting will have to wait a bit – left it at home.

Here is the Brussels Sprout Salad recipe. Try to find the smallest and best looking sprouts you can and if you don’t have a mandoline and don’t want to thinly slice all of those tiny sprouts, use a shredder slicer on a food processor. I think this recipe could benefit from sitting in the fridge for a while so that the flavors really get into the sprouts, but it was delicious just made.

If anyone has good tips/links for raw food, please let us know!!


Rosemary Simple Syrup

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It so happened that our friends up in Boston had a bottle of Averna Amaro, which is the key ingredient in one of our most favorite cocktails: the Sicilian Iced Tea. So we had some of those. This is not really a budget cocktail by nature, though you can sub in some inexpensive triple sec in place of the not inexpensive Cointreau with completely satisfactory result.

This drink also requires simple syrup, which is a product that nobody should buy for $3 per 12 oz. container at Trader Joe’s because it is made quickly and easily at home with nothing but sugar and water. Make a batch and use it to sweeten all sorts of hard and soft beverages. It’s especially useful for cold drinks where plain sugar doesn’t dissolve so easily.

In this case, we infused the syrup with fresh rosemary, which is another key ingredient in the Sicilian Iced Tea. I’m betting, however, that folks can come up with some other good uses for it. This barely requires a recipe, but:

Rosemary Simple Syrup

1 cup sugar
1 cup water
3 sprigs fresh rosemary

1. Put sugar and water in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring while the sugar dissolves. Once sugar is dissolved, add the rosemary, reduce heat, and leave to simmer for 15 minutes or so, allowing the syrup to thicken and infuse with the rosemary flavor.
2. Turn off heat and allow to cool in the pan for a bit before transferring, sprigs and all, to a glass jar for storage (in the fridge).


Lainey’s Vegetable Soup

30/W’s Boston weekend has gotten underway in earnest with some (largely bulk) shopping at a little Middle Eastern market and pita bakery in Jamaica Plain, where we have discovered the magic of pickled labneh. These little pickled yogurt balls are extremely tangy and salty and will turn your mouth inside out. Right now the kitchen is filled with the smells of caramelizing onions and mini baklavas. We’re going to have to wait until we get home to upload our pictures and post our recipes, but for now I wanted to pass on the recipe for the ribollita-inspired vegetable soup that our host made last night.

Rather than including a bunch of bread in the soup itself, as you would in a traditional ribollita, she topped the bean and veggie soup with herbed bread crumbs and grated Parmesan. Incredibly rich and perfect for a wicked cold Boston night.

Lainey’s Vegetable Soup

2 small onions, rough chopped
2 carrots, rough chopped
2 celery stalks, rough chopped
1/2 head green cabbage, cored and thin sliced (you could also use savoy cabbage)
1/2 bunch kale, stemmed and sliced
7 cloves of garlic, diced
1 20 oz. can diced tomatoes in juice
1 can of cannolini beans
dried oregano and basil (if you have fresh, obviously use that)
4 Tbsp olive oil
2 cups of bread
salt and pepper
grated Parmesan

1. Heat 2 Tbsp olive oil in stock pot. Add onion, carrots, celery and 4 cloves garlic and sautee for about five minutes, adding salt and pepper to taste. Add cabbage and kale, sautee for another 2 minutes.

2. Add tomatoes with juice, and then one tomato can worth of water. Throw in the drained beans, then add more water to cover all the ingredients by an inch. Cover and bring to boil, then uncover partially and leave to simmer for about half an hour.

3. Put remaining garlic in food processor, add the bread and process until you get small, rough crumbs. Heat a skillet with remaining olive oil, then add the bread mixture and stir constantly until toasted (you should be able to smell the garlic). If the crumbs aren’t fully coated with oil, add a little more. As the bread gets hot, they will be quick to burn, so watch them closely and remove from heat when the begin to look toasty. Add salt and pepper to taste, along with any other desired seasoning.

4 Serve the soup with the breadcrumbs on top and some Parmesan.


We Did it First…Sorta

Sometimes I regret not posting photos of all of the things we make and eat, because some of them are amazing. One time, we made a swiss chard tart (savory rosemary crust a la tomato tart) and had the idea to top it with some eggs and bake it. I feel like I must have written about it on the site, because it was SO GOOD, but I can’t find it anywhere. I have just been told that it has been languishing in draft mode. I believe I was too lazy to write out the recipe. It all becomes clear.

Anyways, checking out the Times today, Bittman has a post about “morning pizza”. I want to say that we did it first…sorta. Here’s a pic:

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Basically, you take the rosemary tart dough from the tomato tart recipe and press it in to a pan (a tart tin is nice). Sautee swiss chard or your favorite vegetable with lots of garlic and a bit of olive oil and perhaps you might like to brown some onions first? Whatever. Make what you like and then let the mixture cool. This is important! Put the vegetables in the pan and bake it at 350 for about 20 minutes or so (sorry this was a while ago). When the crust looks like it’s getting golden brown and good smells are coming from the oven, carefully crack some eggs open over the top. Season with salt and pepper and place in oven until eggs are cooked through, but the yolk is still runny (if you like that sort of thing). I want to say 10 minutes, but I have no idea. Eat with a salad for breakfast, lunch or dinner.