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Archive for May, 2011


Many people who know me are endlessly amused  by my penchant for putting poached eggs on things.   On food, to be specific.  I can’t help it: once I learned how to properly poach an egg, it became the perfect topper for almost anything.  Plus which, I don’t cook a ton of meat for just  myself, and a poached egg on top of anything — cooked greens like spinach or chard, grains like quinoa, beans and rice, or even spaghetti (uh huh, I did that) seems to turn it into an actual meal.  With protein and everything.  Plus, poached eggs are happy – their bright white and creamy yellow colors are like a sunny day on top of whatever left-overs you have in the fridge! 

Perfect Poached Eggs

1) Get your eggs to room temperature.  A cold-from-the-fridge egg is going to lower the temp of the simmering water and screw things up.

2) Bring a sauce pan of about 4 inches of water to a simmer.  What’s a simmer?  Think of lively club soda.  Bubbles on the bottom of the pan, but NOT a rolling boil.   RESIST the urge to put an egg into boiling water … again – disaster lurks.  I have heard that adding a tiny bit of vinegar helps.  I’ve tried it and seen no difference. Up to you.

3) Crack an egg into a small dish (like a ramekin)

4) Once your water is simmering, gently – but somewhat quickly – pour the egg into the water.

5) Set a digital timer for 2 minutes, 15 seconds.

6) Stand back.  Do not walk away.  Do not stir.  Just wait.  Have a sip of wine.  If you answer the phone, keep your eye on that timer.  Reminder: do not walk away!

7) When the timer goes off,  remove the egg with a slotted spoon. 

8) Set atop just about anything – asparagus (clearly a favie of mine), left-over beans and rice, a salad of any type, sauteed Swiss chard, spinach, toast, roasted potatoes, spaghetti (what the hell? it was pretty good … eggs, tomato sauce, pasta – what’s not to love?)

Here’s a little montage for you:

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When I first learned of these from the fabulous blog, Bakerella, I thought, “Cute! Fun!”  After I made them, I thought, “Cute! And messy!” And also: “Wow, this taking a long time!”  But in the end, they were worth it, because when I brought them to a First Friday open house night at Old Town School of Folk Music here in Chicago, people went crazy for them (how appropriate!)  And when I told my mom about them and gifted her with a very cute box on Mother’s Day, she went crazy, too! 

I was most curious about them because I do love cake, and I’m the kind of person who wants more cake than frosting, and these seemed to offer that.  But the texture of them is the most interesting thing, since you basically mix cake crumbs with frosting to get the cake, well, ball-able.  So they’re really moist, but you still get a nice “cake experience.”
(“Cake experience?” Did I really just write that?  Yep, I did.)  And then you just coat them in chocolate.  I used dark chocolate and I think that was a good call, because the cake bites are pretty sweet and rich, so the less-sweet dark chocolate is a nice complement. 

So, allow me to share my Thursday night, May 5th with you when I started this whole cake craziness.  Ready?  Let’s roll.

First, I will tell you right up front that I’m  not a boxed cake mix kind of girl.  Come on.  I’m the Crazy Cook – I make cake and frosting from scratch, because to me, it’s fun and worth it.  But time was on top of me.  It was a busy weeknight, I’d been up since 5 a.m., and I knew that the beauties of scratch cake particularly fine texture and honest flavor – were likely to be wasted by balling it all up with frosting.  So, Duncan Hines red velvet cake mix it was.  Yep, I used boxed mix AND canned frosting (Duncan Hines cream cheese, to be exact).   No judging.  Okay, here we go.

Red Velvet Cake Bites (makes about 35 bites)

Ingredients

One box of cake mix (oh, it still kind of hurts to write that) and the ingredients the box specifies (generally a few eggs, some vegetable oil, some water)

One can of frosting

12 ounces of dark chocolate.  (I used Tcho – 68% cacao chocolate drops. Good stuff.)

What You Do:

1) First make your cake, according to the package instructions.  ( This takes about 45 minutes from start to finish, including baking time.)   Since you’re going to be crumbling the whole damn thing, you can make one big rectangle (9″ by 13″) or rounds, whichever.  I used two 9″ inch round cake pans because that’s what was easiest to get out of my cupboard!  Look HOW RED IT IS!  AAAHHHHH!!!  Looks like cake-blood!

2) When your cake is baked, let it cool.  Then get a big bowl and crumble one cake at a time.  Why one at a time?  Because I tend to get kind of reckless and messy when I bake and I knew if I overloaded that bowl, there’d be red cake crumbs from here to my bedroom.  As it was, the sink already looked like a murderous mess, with the red dye from the cake batter bowl.  I didn’t over-crumble it in hopes of retaining at least some cake-like texture. Good call.

 3) Now, crack open your store-bought can of frosting.  Add a couple of big spoonfuls. I started stirring with a spoon, but soon realized I was just going to have to dive in with my hands.  And this is when things got REALLY messy.

4) So, once you’ve got the texture to a point where balls still stay together (just experiment – if it’s too dry, add a little more frosting), start rolling little balls.  I tried using one of those spring-loaded scoopers, but it was not as efficient – or frankly as satisfying – as using my hands.  Place your cute little cake balls onto a baking sheet lined with waxed paper.  When you’ve used all your cake/frosting glop, pop that tray into the freezer for about 30 minutes.  I tried the fridge, but figured out this: the reason for freezin’ is because you need the cake to harden so it doesn’t absorb the melted chocolate in which you will soon be drowning them.  You want the chocolate to coat them, and they need to be firm but not frozen through.

They look like meatballs, but they’re cake balls! I moved from fridge to freezer after realizing firmess was not to be achieved in the fridge

5) While your little cuties are freezing their crumbs off, melt your chocolate.  Handy Tip: Use a double boiler.  I just set up a small saucepan of water (a few inches’ orth) and place a heat-proof glass bowl full of chocolate over it, while it simmers.  When all your chocolate is melted, set the bowl off the heat and let it cool a bit – just so it doesn’t melt up all your chilled cake cuties.

6) Time to dippity-do! Take your cake bites from the freezer and dip each in chocolate, gently scraping the bottom to avoid messy pools of chocolate that threaten to glue your beauties to the waxed paper.  I will share an epic fail with you here: I tried to dip some into melted white chocolate (which isn’t chocolate at all, but cocoa butter, mixed with oil and sugar) – but it doesn’t melt well (too thick) and I realized red cake crumbs were going to make a monumental mess of the pristine white chocolate. So I ditched it, and did them all in dark chocolate.

Once you’ve got them all blanketed in comfy, cozy chocolate, they are ready to serve, or store in an air-tight container.You should definitely taste-test one so you know what everyone is going to rave about!  Next time, I might use yellow cake, and I might try to find some lollipop sticks to turn them into cake-pops.

Overall, I liked making these, despite the fact that my hands were coated with either scary-red cake batter, cake crumbs, sticky frosting or chocolate over the course of 3 hours on a Thursday night, but the end result — smiling faces and requests for more — were worth it!  Definitely a sort of crazy take on cake – thank you, Bakerella, and thank you, Duncan Hines!  Let ’em eat cake!

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