Thursday, March 25, 2010

Sitting, Waiting, Wishing...Cleaning, Sorting, Sifting

As life returns to normal, I'm preparing for it to go completely upside-down again. 

That's right, Passover is less than a week away. Unfortunately many of the things I had hoped to try out this year will have to be shelved. I hope to make a couple things at the end of the next week, but I don't really know if it will happen. In terms of a very short update on my life - hole remains in house.  

(For those of you without the detailed knowledge of the Jewish holiday of Passover and its rules - a great deal of cleaning and scrubbing precedes a week in which I cannot eat flour, rice, soy, corn, peanuts, various other legumes and all things made with or from these products. Makes for some interesting desserts.)

But just because I'm not baking...doesn't mean you can't! Here are a few of the Passover recipes I hope(d) to try out for this year' s holiday. Please let me know if you try any of them!

1. Coconut Macaroons  - I have to admit, to the dismay of the majority of my family and friends, I am completely addicted to the canned Manischewitz coconut macaroons. I just love them, and the nostalgia they evoke, and I would eat them year round if I could. But I really wanted to try them out this year - maybe even with the bottoms dipped in chocolate. 

2. Chocolate Cake - I've had some previous experience with flourless chocolate cakes, but been mostly disappointed. They're heavy and rich in a week that is already filled with dense and weighty foods. But this one claims to be otherwise! And with Smitten Kitchen behind the stove, I'm hopeful. 

3. Chocolate Mousse - the best things available this week are those that don't require changes from their original recipes. My (mother's) chocolate mousse recipe contains two ingredients - chocolate and eggs. Use a little over an ounce of chocolate for each egg - I generally do 8 eggs and 10 ounces of chocolate. Separate the eggs, beating the whites until they form stiff peaks. Beat the yolks and slowly add the melted chocolate until thick and combined.  Fold (do not stir!) the egg whites in, pour in to a bowl and let set in fridge. Done!

4. Chocolate Chip Meringues - following my theory above, I made these last year with much success. No substitutions, no adjustments, just a crispy, delightful cookies. (Excuse the painfully bad photography.)

5. Passover Cookies - this recipe caught my eye on Recipezaar, mostly because of the positive reviews. It calls for both matzah meal and matzah farfel - goes against my rules, but could be interesting!

Happy baking - let me know if you have any other recipe suggestions!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The tree the tempest with a crash of wood

Last time we took a detour here on Baking and Mistaking, it was for soup. This detour isn't quite as delicious.

If you're a regular here, you may notice I've been gone for a couple weeks. The first week, I was busy, and stressed, and midterms and papers galore. This week was spring break. I had thought I would relax, get some things done I'd been putting off and do some baking.
I thought wrong.

Over the weekend I was in my parents house. It was raining almost all Saturday, and there were pretty heavy winds. In the late afternoon, the storm intensified, and you could hear the winds whistling through trees and houses. There were branches littering the streets and lawns, and it poured and poured.

Then, around 5:30 p.m., we heard an enormous crash and sounds of things flying against our windows. Within a minute we realized that a tree about 20 feet from our house had fallen on to our den. It took another few minutes for the details to sink in: the roots had ripped an enormous hole in the lawn, pieces of the chimney were broken, the limbs of the tree reached to the other side of our house.

We were a little shocked, but unhurt, and the tree didn't seem to do any major damage. However we did lose power, and were congregated in the dark contemplating the rest of the evening. We were calling the electric company, our insurance company, and the fire department. We couldn't get through anywhere, since there were hundreds of trees down in the area, thousands of people without electricity and the storm continued to rage.

Around 8 that night, as the downpour continued, we were dispersed in different parts of the house. Suddenly, an enormous crash came from upstairs. It sounded like things were hitting the roof, crashing in. The noise continued for what felt like a minute. When the noise stopped we all ran towards the stairs, rushing up to the second floor. When I pulled open the door to my bedroom, I burst in to tears. It looked like a hurricane hit.

The events of the next hour were murky, but we ended up leaving the house, dispersing to various friends, none of whom had any power themselves. But they didn't have trees in them either.

The next day we came back to survey the damage.
One house, two trees.
The roots of the second tree had also pulled up a large section of our front walkway to an almost 90 degree angle.
And that second tree had also broken through the wall and window in my bedroom, as well as tore a hole in the roof, and broken the gutter. In fact the branches had even done damage to the gutter on the other side of the house. That's 100 feet of oak right there.
Though the dining room and basement had significant water damage, the destruction from the tree was 90% confined to my room. And it wasn't pretty.
These pictures were taken on Monday, when many of my belongings had already been dragged out in an attempt to save them.
Since then, we've been mostly watching the tree removal process. Which, were it not so personal, would be mighty entertaining. Ok, it might still be entertaining.

We begin with the biggest crane I've ever seen.
And then we dangle a man from it. Can you find him?
Then that man removes tree pieces bit by bit, until all that remains is the trunk.
The man takes a break, and has a cigarette, in the tree.
At this point we break for the night, which of course involves our friendly tree man rappelling down the side of the house with a chainsaw dangling next to his leg.
Now its time to remove that tarp. (Of course the flag is still attached.) 
And cut some more away.
Then of course you can change your shoes on the roof.
And cut the tree in half while dangling out of a broken window.
All in a days work. Brass balls man.
Unfortunately, at this point I had to go to work, but you can imagine how this continued.

Now, I get to redecorate when I had no plans to redecorate, and finish out my final semester of college, and move in to the real world.

Hopefully I'll get back to baking soon. And my next detour will be a little more kitchen-related. I'm not going to dwell on this in the coming weeks, although I will point out that I did miss Pi(e) Day. And I was hoping to have some Passover recipes this year but I'm not sure how that will work out.

Hey, maybe you'll even see an "after" picture of my room. Consider the above the "before."

Until next time,


Poem of the Day:
On A Tree Fallen Across the Road
(Robert Frost)

The tree the tempest with a crash of wood
Throws down in front of us is not to bar
Our passage to our journey's end for good
But just to ask us who we think we are

Insisting always on our own way so.
She likes to halt us in our runner tracks,
And make us get down in a foot of snow
Debating what to do without an ax.

And yet she knows obstruction is in vain:
We will not be put off the final goal
We have it hidden in us to attain,
Not though we have to seize earth by the pole

And, tired of aimless circling in one place,
Steer straight off after something into space

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Hot Molten Chocolate Cakes

Molten chocolate cakes - those with a warm, runny, chocolatey center, have always been the quintessential restaurant dessert. It arrives at the table perfectly formed, piping hot, with a scoop of just-beginning-to-melt vanilla ice cream and a drizzle of chocolate sauce. I can recreate that in my kitchen, right? Well surprisingly, I just about can.
I'd always assumed there was some difficult trick to making these - multiple batters, filling, flipping, hiding, running around in a circle three times - but it turns out there isn't. Here's the secret. They're just underbaked in the center.

If you cook these to just the right time, the outside will have baked into a soft chocolate cake, while the middles remain a glossy, chocolatey sauce, that oozes out when you dig in with a spoon.Though this recipe should make 12, I somehow managed to just squeak out 13 of them. Which is perfect, because I was having 12 people for lunch, but I definitely needed to taste test this.
I reheated these the next day, and they turned out better than I thought. I left them in the pan, and reheated them for a few minutes. However I should have waited a little bit after pulled them out before getting them out of the pan, to help them stay intact. Still, I didn't hear any complaints. Or see any uncleaned plates.

Tip of the Day: You could use just about any chocolate in these. Some people will want to spend the dough and get the super fancy chocolate, which will make super fancy cakes. I'm happy to melt some Trader Joes chocolate chips and have delicious cakes. You could probably try these with milk chocolate too - let me know if you do!

Recipe: (from Martha Stewart)
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter or margarine, softened
2/3 cup sugar
6 eggs
2/3 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
16 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted (I used semi-sweet)

Spray or butter a 12-cup muffin pan, then sprinkle with sugar, set aside.
Beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
Add in eggs, one at a time, until well combined.
Mix in the flour and salt until just combined.
Beat in the melted chocolate until just combined.
Divided between the 12 cups, bake at 400 F for 12 to 14 minutes.
When you pull them out, the outsides should be cooked and pulling away from the sides, and the insides should be shiny and slightly jiggly.
If serving immediately, let stand for 10 minutes before removing from pan and serving.