Monday, September 19, 2011

Oh Baby, Biscuits!

I have a dear friend who is having her first baby in November. She and I go all the way back to gymnastics classes when we were maybe five years old. My friends and I are currently planning her baby shower and have decided to have a brunch menu. I'm excited about all the items we've chosen for the menu and I am in charge of most them. In the name of friendship, I've started testing different recipes in search of the best ones for the big day. It's all in the name of what's best for the mommy to be.

That's where these tall and devilishly good biscuits come into play. Biscuits and scones will both be on the shower menu, neither of which I've made before. I looked through all the recipes I've saved and have stashed in my "To Try" email folder and found three different biscuit recipes. I looked over each one and decided to try one from Bobby Flay first, mainly because I had just watched the episode in which he made them. They turned out okay, but they weren't nearly as tall and melt in your mouth as I had envisioned.

Next I went with the recipe that created the specimen you see above, by none other than Alton Brown. Really, why didn't I just start with his? These were so easy I couldn't believe it. They came together in about 15 minutes, and after another 15 minutes in the oven, they were ready to hit our plates. Just enough time to get the sausage ready, set the table and fill everyone's glasses. Love when things come together like that! The ingredients are very basic and I would venture to guess that most people would have these items on hand.

Notes from the chef (me): The original recipe said you should get 12 biscuits from this recipe. I only got 6. Maybe that means I didn't press my dough thin enough during the initial press down. But I can tell you this. If biscuits this tall and delicious are wrong...I don't want to be right!

Southern Biscuits
from Alton Brown

2 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons chilled and cubed unsalted butter
1 tablespoon melted butter
2 tablespoons shortening
1 cup buttermilk, chilled*

*Don't have buttermilk on hand? Place 1 tablespoon white vinegar or lemon juice in a measuring cup and add just enough milk to raise liquid to the 1 cup line. Let stand for 5 minutes.

  • Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
  • In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Use a fork to combine the butter and shortening into the dry ingredients until the mixture looks like crumbs. You want to work fast with this step so the butter doesn't start to melt.
  • Make a well in the center and pour in the chilled buttermilk. Stir just until combined, dough will be very sticky.
  • Turn dough onto floured surface. Dust top with flour and fold the dough onto itself 5-6 times.
  • Press into a 1 inch thick round.
  • Cut out biscuits with a 2 inch round cutter. (I used a drink shaker since I don't have a biscuit cutter, and all my drinking classes are square at the opening. This worked perfectly.) Make sure not to twist the cutter as you cut biscuits, or they won't rise as high as they should.
  • Place biscuits on a baking sheet, making sure they are just touching.
  • Reform the scrap dough, working it as little as possible and continue cutting.
  • Bake until the biscuits are tall and light golden brown, 15-20 minutes.
  • And because I couldn't leave well enough alone, I brushed melted butter on the tops of the biscuits as they came out of the oven.
Linking to: Recipe sharing Monday, Mouth Watering Monday

      Friday, September 16, 2011

      Not Your Normal Chocolate Cake

      Some things were just meant to go together. PB & J, cookies and milk, chocolate and mayo.

      I know what you're thinking. Did she really just write chocolate and mayo? Has she lost her mind? Nick thought the same thing when I mentioned to him that apparently chocolate and mayo had this little fling that I had never heard of. I pride myself on thinking that chocolate and I have a close relationship. We go way back. But yet, I didn't know anything about chocolate hooking up with mayo.

      I stumbled upon this recipe by accident one day. I was browsing Bon Appetit's website looking for inspiration for our weekly menu when I saw the tab for cake recipes. The cakes made me click on the link, it was beyond my control. While perusing the scrumptious looking photos, the title Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake caught my eye. I did a double take. The picture looked so good, how could there be mayo in there? I clicked on the recipe. After reading through the ingredients I went on to read the reviews. Almost every single person was raving about how moist and delicious this odd combination of flavors was. I knew immediately that I would have to try this myself. Not because I wanted to, but for the sake of science. Or humanity. Or something else that was entirely out of my control.

      The plan: Make this chocolate wonder for an upcoming get together we were having at our house.
      The deception: Tell no one what was in it until after they had eaten it.

      I served the plates to my guests and anxiously waited to hear what they would have to say. A few bites in and one of our friends asked what kind of chocolate cake I had made. Do you like it? I asked. His response? Yes, it just has a different flavor.

      At this point I spilled the beans...or more fitting, the mayo. They were definitely surprised, but everyone agreed it was indeed a very moist chocolate cake.

      My overall review: This was a good chocolate cake. Not great, but good. I think more than anything it was the frosting that I wasn't thrilled with. It was almost too rich. While this wasn't my favorite dessert I've ever prepared, I'm glad I tried it. If for no other reason than to say that yes, I have mixed mayo and chocolate...and lived to tell the story.

      Notes from the chef (Me): As you'll see below, the recipe calls for 3, 8" pans. Since I didn't have 3 pans, I used 2, 9" pans instead. My bake time was a little longer because of that, probably closer to 40 minutes. But just be sure to keep a close eye after you hit the 30 minute mark so as not to over bake them.

      Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake
      from Bon Appetit



      • 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate (do not exceed 61% cacao), chopped
      • 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
      • 1 3/4 cups boiling water
      • 2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
      • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
      • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
      • 1 cup sugar
      • 1 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
      • 1 1/3 cups mayonnaise (do not use reduced-fat or fat-free)
      • 2 large eggs
      • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


      • 10 ounces bittersweet chocolate (do not exceed 61% cacao), chopped
      • 1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
      • 3 cups powdered sugar
      • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

      special equipment

      • Three 8-inch-diameter cake pans with 1 1/2-inch-high sides


      • Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour three 8-inch-diameter cake pans with 1 1/2-inch-high sides. Combine chopped chocolate and cocoa powder in medium metal bowl. Add 13/4 cups boiling water and whisk until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.
      • Sift flour, baking soda, and baking powder into another medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat both sugars and mayonnaise in large bowl until well blended, 2 to 3 minutes. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating until well blended after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Add flour mixture in 4 additions alternately with chocolate mixture in 3 additions, beating until blended after each addition and occasionally scraping down sides of bowl. Divide batter among prepared cake pans (about 2 1/3 cups for each).
      • Bake cakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, 30 to 32 minutes. Cool cakes in pans on racks 20 minutes.
      • Run small knife around sides of cakes to loosen. Carefully invert cakes onto racks and let cool completely.


      • Place chopped chocolate in medium metal bowl; set bowl over saucepan of simmering water and stir until chocolate is melted and smooth. Carefully remove bowl from over water; let melted chocolate cool until lukewarm, stirring occasionally.
      • Using electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl until smooth and creamy. Sift powdered sugar over butter and beat until well blended, about 2 minutes. Beat in vanilla. Add melted chocolate and beat until well blended and smooth, occasionally scraping down sides of bowl.
      • Place 1 cake layer on platter. Spread 3/4 cup frosting over top of cake layer to edges. Top with second cake layer; spread 3/4 cup frosting over. Top with third cake layer. Spread remaining frosting decoratively over top and sides of cake. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover with cake dome and let stand at room temperature.
      • Cut cake into wedges and serve.
      I'm linking up with:

      Monday, September 12, 2011

      Caramel Budino with Salted Caramel Sauce

      I consider myself a lucky girl, for several reasons. One of which just happens to be that my husband is a great cook. We both share a passion for all things food related, including having our friends over to share in our culinary adventures. I tend to be a little more conservative with my attempts in the kitchen, while Nick likes to push his limits and try new things. He typically sticks to savory dishes and leaves the baking to me, but this past weekend, while hosting some friends for dinner, he decided to try his hand at a fantastic looking dish he found in the latest publication of Bon Appetit. Caramel Budino with Salted Caramel Sauce. Don't worry, I had no idea what it was supposed to be either. Budino is Italian for pudding. Caramel pudding, with a caramel sauce? Yes, please!

      Yum, right? It was definitely a hit with everyone. Now, this isn't one of those dishes you can decide to make on the spur of the moment. It does take a little planning and preparation in advance since the pudding needs to set. And a little patience while you wait for the pudding to thicken. That being said, it's worth the extra effort for a show stopper dessert for your next dinner party.

      Tips from the chef (Nick): I couldn't find chocolate wafers in our grocery store and opted for Oreos. I just removed the cream filling and used just the chocolate cookies. If you have better options than our small town grocery offers, I think the wafers would be a better choice, but know that Oreos will work in a pinch. Also, next time I would reduce the salt amount called for in the caramel sauce. A little seemed to go a long way and it almost verged on being too salty.

      Caramel Budino with Salted Caramel Sauce
      from Bon Appetit


      Cookie Crust

      • 1 cup finely ground chocolate cookie crumbs (about 20 cookies)
      • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
      • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt


      • 3 cups whole milk, divided
      • 1/4 cup cornstarch
      • 3/4 cup(packed) dark brown sugar
      • 5 large egg yolks
      • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
      • 2 teaspoons dark rum
      • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

      Salted Caramel Sauce

      • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream, divided
      • 1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
      • 1/2 cup sugar
      • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
      • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2" cubes
      • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

      Cookie Crust

      • Mix cookie crumbs, butter, and salt in a medium bowl. Place 2 tablespoons in a small bowl; cover and chill for garnish. Press 2 tablespoons cookie mixture onto the bottom of each of eight 8-ounce mason jars or ramekins.


      • Whisk 1/2 cup milk and cornstarch in a small bowl; set aside. Heat remaining 2 1/2 cups milk in a small saucepan just to a simmer; set aside. To make caramel, stir sugar and 3/4 cup water in a heavy saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat; cook without stirring until an instant-read thermometer registers 210°–220°
      • Line a sieve with a double layer of cheesecloth and set over a large pitcher. Whisk egg yolks in a large bowl. Gradually whisk in hot milk, then cornstarch mixture. Slowly whisk in caramel. Return mixture to saucepan. Whisk constantly over medium heat until mixture thickens and a thermometer registers 175°, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat; whisk in butter, rum, and salt. Pour through prepared sieve.
      • Pour 1/2 cup budino over crust in each jar. Cover; chill until set, 4–5 hours. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 day ahead. Keep chilled.

      Salted Caramel Sauce

      • Place cream in a small pitcher. Scrape in seeds from vanilla bean; add bean. Set aside.
      • Stir sugar, corn syrup, and 2 tablespoons water in a heavy saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat to medium-high; boil, occasionally swirling pan and brushing down sides with a wet pastry brush, until deep amber color forms, 5–6 minutes. Remove from heat; gradually add vanilla cream (mixture will bubble vigorously). Whisk over medium heat until smooth and thick, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat; whisk in butter and salt. Strain into a heatproof bowl. Let cool slightly.
      • Spoon 2 tablespoons caramel sauce over each budino. Sprinkle some of reserved cookie crumbs over each.