Monday, October 29, 2007

Make-up Cake

I think I sold my soul. Making a devilish deal of cake. Let me expand.
I'm graduating college in 5 weeks; I don't have a job lined up; I'm more than likely moving away from Austin, leaving a new relationship to possibly blow-up; I have tons of school work that I have no motivation to do; I'm been getting sick like crazy; I want to spend my days baking and experimenting, etc.
Yeah lifes hectic and I haven't exactly made it easy on myself. Of course my mom would say that I'm being melodramatic and I probably am, but it doesn't stop the fact that I'm freaking out. Daily, weekly. Sometimes its alone. Sometimes I freak out infront of others.
The person I'm most likely to freak out in from of is my boyfriend. My beau and I are serious about this relationship and I have my doubts with my upcoming stepping stone. This has led me into hysterics, heartbreak, and many tears. Not exactly me. Not exactly the image I'd like to exude as a friend or as a girlfriend.
I could blame my hormones, or the doctors. They haven't exactly diagnosed the extreme pain I had two weeks ago. But honestly, I'm just scared. Everyone knows this. I'm surprised that I'm not in tears more often. It happened with high school graduation. It is going to happen again. However, my boyfriend, bless his soul, has been very patient and supportive. He's supported me more than anyone in the past 2 months. He's comforted me through the tears and has reassured me more than I can count. Causing me to sell my soul. How?
So I've made a promise, a chocolate cake everytime I go into hysterics and he calmly walks me through it. I'm thinking I'm going to be going through a lot of cakes between now and January. But we'll make it through and I'll probably come out with a really great recipe. So here's my first Make-up Cake.

Make-up Cake (adapted from Barefoot Contessa)

  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee
  1. MAKE THE CAKE: Preheat the oven to 350°. Butter two 8-inch round cake pans and line them with parchment paper; butter the paper. Dust the pans with flour, tapping out any excess.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle, mix the flour with the sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt at low speed. In a medium bowl, whisk the buttermilk with the oil, eggs and vanilla. Slowly beat the buttermilk mixture into the dry ingredients until just incorporated, then slowly beat in the hot coffee until fully incorporated.
  3. Pour the batter into the prepared pans. Bake for 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of each cake comes out clean. Let the cakes cool in the pans for 30 minutes, then invert the cakes onto a rack to cool completely. Peel off the parchment paper.
  • 6 oz unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
  • 1 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  1. In a large bowl, beat butter until creamy. Add confectioners’ sugar and continue to beat until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add vanilla, beat 30 seconds. Add cooled chocolate and and beat 1-2 minutes. Icing should look glossy and smooth.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Cooking Lesson #2: Roasted Pork Tenderloin

I was suppose to make dinner and a cake. That was thrown out the window, when the pain started. I didn't want to say it then, but I knew I wasn't going to be able to make a birthday dinner.
So I spent most of the day on th couch with my boyfriend, mostly napping or watching Bizarre Foods. When I mentioned dinner, he said he'd make it. This coming from the man who two weeks ago wasn't cooking and didn't know how to mince. I looked at him and he was genuinely wanting to cook me dinner. So I sent him to the kitchen to find what he wanted to make.
What he found was the pork tenderloin originally planned for dinner. Well, I know a bacon-wrapped tenderloin might be a little too, much without my help. So with google in hand I found a roasted pork tenderloin with sage and garlic.
He immediately went to work. I laid on the couch watching in amusement, only to see him perfectly mincing garlic cloves. I was in shock, when did his knife skills get better than mine? But then he started whacking again, I warned against it and complimented his technique. "I got skills," was the comment made.
It was so hilarious, I fell off the couch and onto the floor. After I was able to breathe again, I watched him measure everything. He worries about venturing away from the recipe, explaining that he may screw it up. Haven't we all done that? I know I've thrown out a couple dinners before.
After measuring, I answered the simple questions. What do I do with the herbed olive oil? Rub it on the meat. How do I know when its done? I don't have thermometer, I'll do it by touch. What about a salad? Make the pecans.
Thirty minutes later, the tenderloin comes out of the oven, once again moist like the chicken parmesan. It was delicious. He confessed that he had added more garlic and a little more olive oil, he's starting to get the adaptation of recipes for your own taste. It was moist and it was seasoned well.
While enjoying the meal, he commented on how it needed a sauce and I agreed. What it needed was a red wine sauce. It would have paired well with the meat, but nevertheless I was impressed. He's learning quickly, next thing I know he'll be making better dishes than me.

I Got Skills Pork Tenderloin
(adapted from Rachael Ray)

3 cloves of garlic, minced
1.5 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon sage
.5 teaspoon coarse salt
1.5 tablespoons olive oil
1 pork tenderloin

Position rack near bottom and preheat oven to 500 degrees. Mix herbs, garlic, and oil in a bowl, then rub on pork tenderloin. Place tenderloin in baking dish, roast 10 minutes, flip cook another 10 minutes. Check temperature to see if it registers 155 degrees or feel by touch. Let rest 10 minutes, then slice.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Bar-b-Que Road Trip

As a Texan, it is a trip that all who love bar-b-que should make. You hear about the fights in Tennessee and Kentucky about wet versus dry, but you don’t hear in Texas. It does exist, however. At the Salt Lick, you’ll receive two different kinds of bar-b-que sauce: regular and habanero. At Kruetz, the giant sign on the wall says no bar-b-que sauce served or allowed in. It is like this several towns across the state. Like football, rivalries run deep.
I grew up with a grilling father, steaks, brisket, ribs, chicken, you name it, he can grill. But even better is he does bar-b-que. His brisket is my standard to every joint in Texas and no one has ever come close to it. Now I’ve never had his ribs because I started with Salt Lick ribs. Then again, I know they are spectacular because my dad is a great cook.
So I planned the destination, the small towns, the food that is renowned to see if it lives up to my standards as a foodie and bar-b-que connoisseur.
I warned my boyfriend and my colleague that we would be leaving early Saturday morning. Both were unhappy to hear this information because I’m an early riser and it breaks my Saturday routine for my boyfriend and I. Despite this I was very adamant about the time. Six thirty sharp or I leave without you. Of course I ran late.
First stop was Round Rock for donuts at where else but Round Rock Donuts. I remember watching Food Network one morning and seeing a spot on the donut establishment, knowing I should go. And after living in Austin three and half years, I got lost finding it. I followed 79 to the H-E-B and figured out I was lost. So we went back west and down what looked to be a main street called Mays street. Down the street we saw no Round Rock Donuts sign. I was becoming frustrated. I was hungry and defiantly craving donuts.
What else could I do, but ask for directions. With two men in the car, I decide to scrap my pride and go into the 7-11. I asked the dirty, balding manager where the building was. He told me I past it, “Go back up the street and when you see the Papa John’s take a left, its right after.” With these directions I found it easily. A friend warned me of a thirty minute wait she endured once, so I was awaiting that. However, there were open spots in the parking lot and the carline only had about 6 cars long. Where was everyone?
The woman informed me that usually by now the line is out the door, but at the time it was still within the building. Can you blame the OU/UT game? Maybe.
But there we were, a girl and two guys. Me with my three donuts, them with there three and 2 dozen donut holes. The first bite of my regular Round Rock Donut was so soft and delicate. You didn’t have to tear the donut for a bite, it just gently floated to your tongue, as my colleague, Chris put it, “It’s a little angel flying on my tongue.”
With our stomachs full, and murmurs of naps, we were back on the road. Back on to 79 to Taylor, for a walk and lunch. However, through Hutto, I saw the sign for Debbie’s Pies. Nothing special, but months ago, my Grandfather, who I also, take on bar-b-que trips with me, mentioned going to Hutto for pie and Taylor for bar-b-que. And here it was the pie place. But they didn’t open until 11 and it was only 9. So we skipped the pie.
We headed back on the road to Taylor, only to find it slightly deserted and empty. It wasn't a complete ghost town, but it sure wasn't Fredericksburg either. With time to kill we explored the town, discovering the cotton gin and warehouses, plus we met three guys taking pictures of the train. They recommended 2 bar-b-que joints besides the one we were going to visit. But we had come for Louie Mueller's and we stuck to it, although we probably should had listen to our new friends.Louie's is known for the brisket. It is suppose to be smoky, tender, and juicy. However, we found it dry and lacking any taste. There seemed to be a lack of rub. I found the same with the ribs. Dry. The only redeeming menu item was the pork butt that had the right rub, and perfectly tender. But still I didn't find a reason for a repeat visit.

A need for a Coke float propelled us toward our next destination. Brenham, Texas. Home of Blue Bell Ice Cream, but we some how missed it and we drove straight into the town square. Unlike Taylor, there were people shopping and enjoying their Saturday. We hit the Ice Cream parlor first, to satisfy the need for a Coke float, which I didn't get. I went my classic Mint Chocolate Chip milkshake, cause you can never go wrong there.
The sugar rush carried overto the rest of the afternoon until we hit Elgin. Then our stomachs rumbled. Last menu item, Southside Market sausage, the sausage that put Elgin on the map. Now Homesick Texan recommended that I go visit and eat there in June and I finally made it. And it wasn't disappointing. The sausage was mixed with the right amount of spices, not to peppery, just a hint. It wasn't burned, it was the way sausage should be. It was perfect.
So where to next, I don't know. Any suggestions for the next trip?

Monday, October 1, 2007

Cooking Lesson #1: Chicken Parmesan

So my relationship is new, brand spanking new. 5 weeks old and you can't tear us apart. I mean if you saw us, you'd gag, really honestly, I don't know why I don't. But until a week ago, the boy had no cookware. Look at me foodie extravaganza. Two polar opposites, but I bought him cookware and Sunday began the start of cooking lessons.
Now last week I asked him what he wanted to learn how to cook first. Chicken parmesan was his response. Well, can the boy choose well. Or I guess for me, not so well. It's something I've never made, practiced, and I usually don't eat it. But it is what he wanted to cook, and I said fine, let's do it.
So Sunday we go tothe grocery store, and I'm bombarded with questions. What is a good potato? What is good garlic? I need olive oil, salt, pepper, when we are only on aisle number 1. Now I am very OCD at the grocery store. A little chaotic yes, I have a tendency to forget things, but when I have a list, I'm very good about things. And I go in order. Nevertheless, I laughed off the questions and he looked at me like I was crazy, but we survived.
Four hours later, and after 100s of "I'm hungry," coming from my mouth did we finally start cooking. First came the tomato sauce, and all I could hear was the very sharp whacking of the knife, needless to say I taught him how to dice. Of course, I also, learned a lesson, don't leave the TV on, or it will suck out the concentration out of the room.
With the sauce simmering, he began on breading the chicken. I told him to read the recipe. "What does whisk mean?"
Startled from what I was doing, I looked over at him. He was genuinely asking me what whisking meant. Well, I'm not a chef, I don't know proper terminology. Then came, "What about the egg?"
"You've never cracked an egg?" squeaked out.
No was the reply. I cracked open the egg, shoved a fork in his hand, and said "Whisk."
"You mean break the yolk."
I nodded and went off to watch the sauce. An hour later, the chicken parmesan was on the table. And I couldn't have been prouder. The only thing burned was the garlic toast I made. His dish sat proud on each of our plates. And all I could do was smile.
He waited for me to cut into the chicken. It was perfectly moist and tender. A joy to bite into and a great dish. I couldn't stop smiling and can't wait to see what next Sunday's lesson might bring.
Chicken Parmesan (adapted from Everday Food)

2 chicken breasts
1 egg
1/4 cup parmesan
1/4 cup bread crumbs (fresh or premade)
2 cups tomato sauce (homemade or jarred)

Preheat oven to 450. Whisk egg in one bowl. Mix parmesan and breadcrumbs together. Salt and pepper chicken. Dip chicken in egg then parmesan mixture. Place on baking sheet. Broil for 2-4 minutes on each side until golden brown. Spread one cup tomato sauce in glass baking pan, add chicken breasts, top with more tomato sauce and cheese. Bake in oven for 15 to 20 minutes.

*Note: I add extra parmesan to top of chicken though recipe didn't call for it. After 15 minutes the chicken was moist and white.