Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Fog Filled Days and Baking

It's been fogged in on the coast for days - for me that means migraines and a general malaise of spirit that doesn't lend itself to the kitchen normally.  Yesterday DH (Statguy) was home and I needed to feed him something other than a bag of chips so I spent the day reading recipes and creating some of the best food I've had in a long time.  

I started by creating a Bacon and Cheese Souffle.  I found this recipe in a glorious cookbook called The Illustrated Good Housekeeping Cookbook given to me by my best girlfriend after I remarked to her that I couldn't find a decent gingerbread recipe.  This book has her favorite recipe which is truly a wonderful gingerbread but gingerbread wasn't what I wanted to make for breakfast so the Bacon and Cheese Souffle was chosen.  I made this choice based on the fact that I am a serious lover of souffles and happen to have dozens of eggs on hand due to a fantastic sale price, the ease of the recipe as written and a need to conquer my fear of making a souffle.  

I started making the base of the recipe on the stove which came together easily and consisted of butter, flour, evaporated milk, salt, pepper.  This thickened beautifully and I added the egg yolks after tempering them and cooking more, adding shredded cheddar.  The egg whites whipped up to nice stiff peaks and the bacon smelled great (I used a thick cut applewood smoked bacon free of nitrites from Whole Foods - expensive but great to eat).  I knew this dish was going to be a winner.  I carefully folded cheese mixture into whites, tossed bacon through and put in souffle dish.  Into the oven for 30 minutes and sadly it didn't not puff up into a glorious hat of perfection - it did rise but not to the heights that I expected and my only conclusion is that my souffle dish was much larger than the one called for causing the souffle to spread and not rise.  It tasted wonderful - glorious comfort food. 

In the afternoon after we had digested the egg/bacon/cheese manna I wandered into the kitchen to make some clam chowder - not as daunting a task as it seems to be and I love the recipe from Jasper White's book called 50 Chowders.  It's perfection in a pot and made a fantastic afternoon meal.  And I followed this up by whipping up Buttermilk Scones which I topped with Devonshire Clotted Cream and Crofters Organic Strawberry Jam - my version of heaven on earth. 

Dinner was late and relatively easy.  Roasted Chicken Breasts, Scalloped Potatoes and Zucchini cooked with onions, garlic, oregano and San Marzano Tomatoes.  I cooked the chicken at a seriously high temperature - 450* so the skin was crisp and perfectly golden.  A food processor, copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking for the Scalloped Potato (or Gratin Dauphinois if you prefer) recipe and that was together and in the oven in no time.  The zucchini is a side dish I grew up on - I am pretty sure Mom used a can of stewed tomatoes in hers - it's quick and easy. 

You would think that by this point I would finished with cooking for the day, stuffed and unable to move but this was one of those days where my soul cried out for something comforting, reminiscent of childhood and chocolate.  For that there can only be one recipe - Mom's Old Fashioned Chocolate Buttermilk Cake.  
This is the cake that my mom made for every birthday, usually topped with a fudge frosting that is a royal pain to make (30 minutes of stirring and corn syrup - no thank you) and for which I was just not up to last night so I made Ina Garten's Chocolate Frosting from her recipe for Beatty's Chocolate Cake.  

The cake recipe is as follows:

Melt together:
2 oz unsweetened chocolate - I used Callebaut
1/2 stick of butter (1/4 c)

then add:
1/2 cup of boiling water
Let cool and then add:
1 c sugar
1 egg, beaten

Mix together:
1 c plus 2 T flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt

1/4 c buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla

Add the flour and milk/vanilla to the chocolate egg mixture, mix until just combined - do not overmix this batter or you will get a tough cake.  Put in an 8x8 square pan which you have buttered and floured or lined with buttered parchment paper.  Bake at 350* for 30 minutes.  Cool completely and then frost with your frosting of choice.