Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Recipe Request

I am in need of a good carne asada recipe. If you have one, please share it in the comment section and tell me why it is so good. Thanks!

Better-than-Sex Cake

I belong to an organization that meets twice a month to discuss the ins and outs of parenting. We take turns bringing food to share and I have been asked to bring my Better-than-Sex cake to the next meeting. I didn't name the cake; nor will I comment on my opinion of its name. Just understand that the cake is incredibly easy ... and incredibly good. After eating it, you will need to find a way to burn the calories (eh hem!) :)

Better-than-Sex Cake
1 box chocolate cake mix
1 jar caramel ice cream topping
1 tub Cool Whip or other whipped topping
1/2 to 3/4 cup crushed Heath bar or toffee bits

1. Bake chocolate cake according to box directions. Cool.
2. With the end of a wooden spoon, poke holes in the cake every inch to two inches. Pour caramel topping over top of the cake and allow to soak in.
3. Top with Cool Whip.
4. Sprinkle with crushed Heath bar. Cover and chill until ready to serve.

Lessons learned: This recipe really is as easy as it sounds. I've also heard this called Better-than-Anything cake, but I prefer the other title (as long as children aren't around). Any chocolate cake mix will do: chocolate, devil's food, German chocolate, etc.
If you don't have caramel ice cream topping (I prefer Smuckers in the jar), you can use a small can of condensed milk for the same effect. One version of the recipe calls for BOTH the condensed milk AND the caramel topping. That's too much sweetness for me. Contrary to the belief of some, you can have too much of a good thing -- cake and other things.
You can buy Heath bar precrushed. It's next to the chocolate chips in the baking aisle. If you can't find a toffee bar or candy, just use crushed chocolate chips. The result won't be as good, but it'll be close.
This is a great throw-it-together dish for a dessert potluck if you're more interested in getting it done than impressing everyone with your culinary abilities. Regardless, people will ask for the recipe.

PSA: The Not-So-Infallible Pyrex Dish

Pyrex is a great invention. It has contained more potluck casseroles than any other container invented. I recently learned that Pyrex can break when heated to high temperatures. And when it does, be prepared ... it shatters into a million little pieces. This is what the roasted tomato-balsamic soup looks like when violently blended with a splintered Pyrex dish:
Keep in mind that this was at 500 degrees for 40 minutes. There were no sudden temperature changes. It simply exploded. So, if your Pyrex (or Pyrex knock-off) has been compromised with ANY small nicks or scratches, do not use it (especially at high temperatures). From now on, I think I'll stick to ceramic. If it shatters, it won't splinter like this did.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Berry Chocolate Mascarpone Tart

There's a grocery store in the East that is my haven from the ho hum supermarkets that normally claim my hard-earned dollars. If you have never been to Wegmans, you must visit. I take all of my out-of-town guests there because it really is that good. Really! Anyhow, my local Wegmans, which opened up just before Thanksgiving 2008, has a fabulous cheese counter. Thanks to their generous sampling policies, I am now hooked on Comte (a French cow's milk cheese with a smooth finish) and Midnight Moon (a domestic goat cheese with caramel undertones). Every time I go, I try a new cheese. I bought mascarpone for the first time a few weeks ago. And then it sat in my fridge ... and sat ... and sat until the "Use By" date came. So, I was "forced" to use it or lose it last night. The following is an adaptation I found in one of my many magazines. Since it's enough different from the original recipe, I think I can call it my own. Enjoy!

Berry Chocolate Mascarpone Tart
1/2 cup unsalted almonds
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups all purpose flour
4 oz (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
1 teaspoon almond extract
ice cold water as needed
1 tsp. almond extract
1/8 tsp. salt
9 tbsp. cocoa
4 tbsp. butter
1 1/2 cup powdered sugar, divided
1/4 cup milk or half-and-half
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1 tsp vanilla
8 oz. mascarpone cheese

1. In food processor, process almonds and sugar until finely ground. (Do not turn into a butter!) Add butter, almond extract, salt and flour. Pulse until the mixture turns crumbly. Add enough water and pulse in processor until mixture forms a ball. Place in tart pan. (If using a pan that does not have a removable bottom, grease the pan for easier release. Or, use parchment paper.) Bake at 350 for 15 minutes or until edges begin to brown. Cool.
2. In small pan over very low heat, combine cocoa and butter. Stir until butter melts, then add 3/4 cup powdered sugar and dash of salt. Continue stirring. Add milk or half-and-half until the chocolate reaches a thick syrup consistency. Pour over almond crust and spread to within 1/2 in of the edge of the crust. Cool.
3. In medium bowl, whip heavy cream until stiff peaks form. Add 3/4 cup powdered sugar, vanilla and mascarpone. Whip until fully incorporated and the marscarpone lumps are gone. Spread on top of chocolate.
4. Top with fresh berries and serve immediately or cover and refrigerate overnight.

Lessons learned: This isn't the exact recipe that I made. I had to fudge some things (as usual). I was out of chocolate chips, so I pulled out the cocoa and did it the hard way. Otherwise, I would have used semi-sweet chips with a little butter and milk to create the chocolate ganache. That would have been much easier, but the result here was just as good; perhaps better. If you go this route, don't add all the sugar at once. Taste it as you go until you reach the desired sweetness. Because everything else is so sweet, this does need a little bitterness so you don't get a sugar rush.
The original recipe called for whipping cream, which is what I've stated here. I didn't have any on hand so I used a packet of Dream Whip and a 1/2 cup of whole milk. I omitted the sugar (Dream Whip has plenty in it already) and reduced the amount of vanilla. It worked like a charm! If you want a really white cream, use clear vanilla instead of the brown stuff.
I topped the dessert with thawed raspberries. Fresh would have been much better, but I liked the syrup run-off of the frozen ones.
It keeps well for a day, but probably not more than that. It shouldn't be a problem, though, because this is so good, I doubt you'll have leftovers.