Sunday, April 28, 2013

Vanilla and Chocolate Zebra Cake

So this was an experience. I found the zebra cake tutorial here:, however that site calls for cake mixes, which I wasn’t about to use. I took two cake recipes and halved them, but I ended up not quite having enough batter. I think part of the problem is that the chocolate cake batter I used wasn’t as liquid-y as the vanilla batter. I stuck them in the oven anyway, and everything turned out better than expected. Not that they look perfect - the stripes aren't as stripey as in the tutorial, but at least it wasn't a complete disaster.

Vanilla Cake:
1 cup (7 ounces/200 grams) sugar
6.875 ounces (195 grams) ap flour
1 ¼ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
3 ounces unsalted butter, soft
5 ounces milk, room temp
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs

Mix together the sugar, flour, baking powder and salt in the bowl of your mixer. Mix together with a fork/whisk. Add the butter and mix on low speed, until the butter is the size of pebbles. Combine the milk and vanilla extract, and add to the flour mixture. Mix at low speed for 30 seconds, then increase the speed to medium and beat for an additional 30 seconds. Scrape the bottom of the bowl.

Add the eggs, one at a time, with the mixer running on low speed, then increase to medium and beat for 30 seconds. Repeat with the second egg. After both eggs are added, beat at medium high heat for an additional 30 seconds. Transfer to a bowl.

Chocolate Cake:
0.875 cups (6 ounces) sugar (170 grams)
1 cup (4.4 ounces) ap flour (125 grams)
1/3 cup cocoa powder (27 grams)
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
¾ stick of butter (3 ounces)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
½ cup milk (4 oz)

Combine flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a bowl (not the mixer). In your mixer bowl, add the butter, sugar and vanilla extract and beat until creamy.  Add the egg, and beat well.

Add the flour mixture and milk, alternating, half of each at a time.

Butter and flour two 9 inch cake pans. Add ¼ cup of the vanilla batter to the center of a pan. Directly on top of the batter, add ¼ cup of the chocolate batter. Continue alternating vanilla and chocolate between the 2 pans. Bake in a 350°F oven for 25 to 30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.


Chocolate frosting:
3 cups powdered sugar (300 grams), sifted
2/3 cup baking cocoa (55 grams)
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
6 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Beat 1 cup/100 grams powdered sugar, all the cocoa, all the butter, 2 tablespoons milk and the vanilla extract in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment until creamy. Add the remaining powdered sugar and milk in 2 additional, beating until smooth. Beat on medium high until smooth and fluffy. Transfer to a piping bag fitted with a star tip.

Vanilla frosting:
3 sticks butter room temp
1 lb./4 cups/400 grams powdered sugar, sifted
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter on medium-high speed until pale and creamy. Add the confectioner’s sugar, ½ cup at a time, mixing on low to incorporate, then increasing the speed to high for 10 seconds, to incorporate air into the frosting. Repeat until all the sugar has been added. Add the vanilla extract and mix until smooth.

Spread a layer of chocolate frosting on the top of one of the cake rounds. Place the other half on top, and cover the top and sides of the cake with vanilla frosting. Pipe the remaining chocolate frosting along the top of the cake.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Cool Ranch Doritos Tacos

This week’s theme was fast food, so I decided to try and mimic Taco Bell’s Dorito Taco shells. This was my first time both making corn tortillas from scratch and deep frying tortillas. They’re a lot more prone to coming apart during the cooking process, and a lot pickier about pan temperature than flour tortillas – I lost 2 of my 8 during the initial cooking because of this. I was winging the whole frying process, and initially had the oil up to 375, which overcooked the tortillas way too easily. After adjusting the heat, I finally felt like I was getting the hang of it, and then I was all out of tortillas.

Dorito seasoning recipe slightly modified from:

Dorito Seasoning:
½ packet hidden valley ranch mix (0.5 ounces)
¼ packet cheese powder from white cheddar mac n cheese
½ teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 ¼ teaspoon onion powder
1/8 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/8 teaspoon sweet paprika
Pinch cayenne

Dorito Tortilla Shells (makes 8 shells):
1 cup loose packed masa harina (~4 oz)
2/3 cup (5 oz.) water
Dorito Seasoning

Mix the masa with the Dorito seasoning, then add in the water. Mix with your hands for two minutes, until a smooth dough forms. Add water, 1 tablespoon at a time if the dough is too dry.

Divide dough into 8 pieces, and cover with plastic wrap. Place each piece, one at a time, between two pieces of plastic wrap and flatten into a 5” circle using a tortilla press or heavy object (I used a dutch oven).

Set a skillet over medium-high heat (do not add oil). Cook the tortillas for about 40 seconds per side. Place on a plate covered with a towel to keep warm and pliable as you cook the remaining tortillas.

Once the tortillas are all cooked, add 1” of oil to a cast iron skillet, and heat it to 350-360°F. Place the tortillas in the oil one at a time, using tongs to hold the top and bending into a ‘U’ shape. Use a spatula to keep the bottom portion submerged in oil. After 10-15 seconds flip the shell and repeat on the other side, using the tongs and spatula to maintain the shape. Remove to a sheet pan lined with paper towels.

Taco Meat:
1 lb. ground beef
1 teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon coriander
½ teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon ancho chili powder
Salt and pepper
1 cup water

Brown the meat in a skillet over medium heat, breaking it up into small pieces and seasoning with salt. Remove from skillet and discard excess grease.  Return meat to skillet and add water and remaining seasonings. Bring to a simmer, and cook for 15 minutes, until the liquid is absorbed/evaporated.

To Finish:
Flour tortillas
Cheddar and Monterrey Jack Cheese
Tomatoes, diced
Hot sauce (I used El Yucateco)

Place the tortillas on a prepared baking sheet and sprinkle cheese on top. Cook at 350°F for 3 to 5 minutes, until cheese has melted. Nestle one Dorito taco shell into each flour tortilla, and fill with taco meat, additional cheese, lettuce, and tomato.  Top with hot sauce.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Chicken Korma

This week’s 52 weeks of cooking theme is Indian food, which I have literally never eaten before. Jamie Oliver has a section on curries in Jamie’s Food Revolution, so I figured that would be as good an entry point as any. I ended up really enjoying the dish, especially once you get a forkful of everything with a little bit of yogurt on it.

Serves 4 to 6
Total time: 50 minutes

1 ¾ lb. chicken breasts, diced into bit sized pieces
1 large yellow onion
2 fresno chili peppers
1 thumb sized piece of ginger
Small bunch of cilantro
15 oz. can garbanzo beans
½ cup korma paste
14 oz. can coconut milk
2 heaped tablespoons unsweetened shredded coconut
Sliced almonds
Salt and Pepper
Peanut Oil

Thinly slice the onion, finely dice the peppers and ginger, as well as the stalks from the cilantro (reserve the leaves for garnish).

Heat a large pan or dutch oven (this just barely fit a 12” sauté pan) over medium/medium high heat. Add peanut oil and a bit of butter, then add the onion, peppers, ginger and cilantro stalks and cook until golden, 5 to 10 minutes.

Add the curry paste, garbanzo beans, coconut milk, shredded coconut, chicken and half a handful of sliced almonds. Add 1 cup of water as well. Bring to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes, covered season with salt and pepper at the end of cooking. Serve with rice, and garnish with almonds, cilantro leaves and yogurt.

French Hot Dogs: Pate a Choux with Boudin Blanc, Sauteed Leeks and Homemade Mustard

Pate a Choux is the versatile French pastry dough usually used to make éclairs. This was my first attempt at making pate a choux, and I ended up kind of screwing it up. I followed Michael Ruhlman’s recipe from Ratio, which calls for 10 to 20 minutes of baking at the end. I took the éclairs/hot dog buns out of the oven at 13 minutes, only to realize they were definitely not cooked through and then they deflated. I put them back in to finish cooking, but they didn’t puff back up like I had hoped.

Pate a Choux:
8 ounces (1 cup) water
4 ounces butter (1 stick)
½ teaspoon salt
4 ounces flour (a scant cup)
4 large eggs (8 oz)

Cut the butter into pieces and add to a pan with water and salt. Bring to a simmer over high heat, reduce the heat to medium, and sift in the flour. Stir, cooking for a minute or two, until the dough forms a singular solid mass.

Remove the dough and place it in a bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat in the eggs one at a time, until incorporated.

Transfer to a pastry bag and pipe into 4 to 5 inch éclair shaped pieces on a prepared baking sheet. Bake at 425°F for 10 minutes, then drop the temperature to 350°F and bake for an additional 10 to 20 minutes.

3 tablespoons mustard seeds
¼ cup mustard powder
1.5 tablespoons white wine vinegar
¼ cup white wine (I used Vermouth)
1 teaspoon salt

Add all ingredients to a bowl, cover and refrigerate for at least 24 hours. Add to a food processor and blend until you reach the desired consistency.

To Finish:
2 large boudin blanc sausages (mine were ~1/3 lb. each)
1 leek, washed and cut into pieces (white and light green parts only)
2 tablespoons butter

Sautee the leeks in butter over medium heat until softened, 4 to 5 minutes. Season with salt. Cut the sausages into quarters and cook in a pan over medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes per side.

Slice open your pate a choux/éclair, and top with sausage, leeks and mustard. 

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Chicken Satay Tacos

These Thai meets Mexican tacos are inspired by the chicken satay tacos at Cucina Zapata, a local food truck that I believe got a nod on some food network show one time or another. These are definitely something different, especially since the curry flavor definitely comes through in the peanut sauce (something I don’t usually eat). This recipe could probably use some tweaking to make the components work together flawlessly, but the basic idea is certainly there.

Servings:  4
Total time: 1 hour

Pico de Gallo:
3 medium tomatoes (about 1 lb)
½ large cucumber (5.5 oz)
2 serranos
¼ cup cilantro
1 tbsp chopped fresh ginger
1 shallot, chopped
Lime juice

Chop everything into smallish pieces and add to a bowl. Let marinade and coalesce for at least half an hour in the fridge (covered), so the flavors can blend. You can also use a food processor to save you some time, or if you like a more liquid-y salsa.

Peanut Sauce:
5 oz unsalted roasted peanuts
4 cups coconut milk
2 tbsp red curry paste
2 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp lemon juice
3 tsp fish sauce
1 tsp cumin
½ tsp coriander
¼ tsp cayenne

Blend the peanuts into a fine meal. Reserve. Heat half of the coconut milk to a boil and stir in the red curry paste. Boil for 10 to 12 minutes, until the oil from the coconut milk has risen to the surface.

Lower the heat and add in the peanuts. Stir, and add in the rest of the coconut milk. Add the sugar, lemon juice, fish sauce, cumin coriander and cayenne. Bring to a boil, and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the oil is once again on the surface. The sauce should have the consistency of heavy cream. Let cool for half an hour. Stir to blend the oil that rises to the surface.

To Finish:
4 Chicken breasts (figure 1 breast for 2 tacos)
Salt and Pepper
Flour tortillas
Avocado slices (1 avocado for every 4 tacos)

Preheat oven to 420°F. Season chicken breasts with salt and pepper and roast for 30 to 35 minutes, until they reach an internal temperature of 165°F. Cut into bite-sized pieces.   Toss chicken with peanut sauce. Heat tortillas on hot skillet (no oil in the pan) for about 30 seconds per side. Add sauced chicken, pico de gallo, and avocado slices to finish.