Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Key (Lime) Party

After my red chile powder consumption in New Mexico (no, not by the tablespoon like stupid kids force feeding themselves cinnamon - but it does kind of sound like a new, old disease...) all I really want is a nice cold margarita. Or key lime pie. Totes, right? For some reason I had been thinking about making a key lime pie for WEEKS. I finally gave in and went out to buy the necessary ingredients. Where did all of the key limes go?!? There are usually a ton o' bags hanging around the produce section of Whole Foods, but unless my eyes were failing me, they didn't have any. Jerks. Fortunately for me Nellie & Joe's Famous Key West Lime Juice was in stock. It's just as well because squeezing enough juice out of a bunch of tiny key limes can get old real fast. Key limes (aka Mexican limes) the namesake of the Florida Keys, are the smaller, yellower, seedier cousin of the common Persian lime and make for a tangier pie filling, though I didn't conduct a proper experiment. I'm just making assumptions. But that gives me an idea...

Key Lime Pie
Adapted from Martha Stewart

1 1/2 cups graham-cracker crumbs
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
5 tablespoons sugar
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
4 large egg yolks
1/2 cup freshly squeezed key-lime juice
1 tablespoon grated Key lime zest, plus more for garnish
1 1/2 cups heavy cream, chilled

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1. Heat the oven to 375˚F. Combine the graham-cracker crumbs, butter, and 3 tablespoons sugar in a medium bowl. Mix well. Press into a 9-inch pie plate, and bake until lightly browned, about 12 minutes. Remove from the oven, and transfer to a wire rack until completely cooled.

2. Lower the oven to 325˚F. In a medium bowl, gently whisk together the condensed milk, egg yolks, Key lime juice, and zest. Pour into the prepared, cooled crust.

3. Return the pie to the oven, and bake until the center is set but still quivers when the pan is nudged, 15 to 17 minutes. Let cool completely on a wire rack.

4. Shortly before serving, combine the cream with the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Whisk on medium speed until soft peaks form, 2 to 3 minutes. Spoon over cooled pie and garnish with zest. Serve immediately.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Red Hot

Frijoles Canyon

You may have thought that I was (finally) finished posting about my New Mexico trip, but you'd be wrong! I will spare you the ton o' photos that I have and every last detail, but suffice it to say my final destination was Bandelier National Monument, 33,000 acres of canyon and mesa country that contains evidence of human presence (i.e. pueblo structures/kivas and petroglyphs) that dates back over 11,000 years. So, yeah. I'm still posting! 

Bandelier National Monument

Me in a Kiva

Before my departure, I stocked up on some local red chile powder so that I could try my hand at making the red chile sauce so prevalent in Santa Fe. There is some discussion about what is traditional (chile powder ONLY) and what isn't (the addition of cumin and oregano for instance). I say, just make it the way you like it. The red chile sauce police are probably out drinking margaritas, so do what you want!

Tina's New Mexico Red Chile Sauce

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon cumin (optional)
1/4 teaspoon oregano (optional)
1 tablespoon flour
1/2 cup pure red chili powder
3 cups low sodium broth (beef, chicken or vegetable)
1 teaspoon salt

1. Add the oil to a saucepan and cook the garlic for 1 minute over low heat. Add the cumin, oregano and flour and cook until the mixture bubbles and the flour begins to brown, stirring constantly, about 2 minutes.

2. Meanwhile in a medium bowl, whisk the chile powder and the broth until smooth. Add to the flour mixture along with the salt. Increase the heat to medium and bring to a low simmer, whisking frequently, and cook gently for 15 - 20 minutes, until the mixture has thickened slightly. (Chile can burn easily and impart a bitter flavor so cook slowly, stirring frequently.) The sauce will keep for one week refrigerated and can also be frozen. Use to make enchiladas or to drizzle over anything that needs an extra kick. Makes 3 cups of sauce.

Monday, June 3, 2013


With the crap weather that we (in the northeast) experienced over Memorial Day weekend, my activities were limitedshopping, movie watching, baking, cocktail making... And because my assistant bakers have grown tired of making regular old cookies (BOOORRRRING!), we invested our time and energy into a multi-layer cake recipe (after a lengthy process of elimination) that even called for cake flour, a very fine, low-protein flour that yields a more tender cake crumb. (Ignore the larger holes pictured–that is more likely the result of snacking than actual cake texture.) (Also please ignore my photo quality. Forgot my real camera yet again!) Personally I questioned the potential success of a frosting made entirely of chocolate and sour cream, but I kept those doubts to myself. I totally expected it to break and to be generally disgusting, but when you think about it, it's not unlike making a ganache. And the addition of the white chocolate chips was our improvisational approach to cake decorating. The results? Perfection. Nearly. The assistant bakers' mom has requested it as her annual birthday cake and another weekend guest immediately asked for the recipe. Success!

Golden Cake with Chocolate Sour Cream Frosting
Adapted from Gourmet

3 1/2 cups cake flour (not self-rising)
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups sour cream

1 1/4 pounds fine-quality milk chocolate, finely chopped
10 ounces fine-quality semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
3 cups sour cream
2 teaspoons vanilla

1. For the cakes: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter 2 (9- x 2-inch) round cake pans and line the bottoms of each with rounds of wax or parchment paper. Butter paper and dust pans with flour, knocking out excess. (Also works eliminating parchment, and buttering pans directly and dusting with flour.)

2. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

3. Beat together the butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition, then beat in vanilla. Add half of the flour mixture and mix at low speed until just blended. Add the sour cream, mixing until just combined, then add the remaining flour mixture, mixing at low speed until the batter is smooth.

4. Divide the batter between the pans, smoothing tops. Bake in the middle of the oven until the cake is springy to the touch and a tester comes out clean, 30 to 40 minutes. Cool in pans on racks 10 minutes, then invert onto racks, remove paper, and cool completely.

5. For the frosting: Melt the chocolates in a double boiler or a large metal bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring occasionally. Remove the bowl from heat, then whisk in the sour cream and vanilla. Cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally (frosting will become thick enough to spread). You must work quickly and spread the frosting before it becomes too thick. (If icing does become stiff, reheat over simmering water, then cool and try again.)

6. Trim the tops of cooled cake layers with a long serrated knife if necessary to make flat and level. Halve each layer horizontally with a serrated knife to make a total of 4 layers.

7. Put 1 cake layer on a cake plate and spread with 3/4 cup frosting. Layer remaining cake layers using 3/4 cup frosting between each layer. Frost top and sides of cake with remaining frosting.

This batter can be baked in a 13 x 9 x 2-inch pan 50 to 55 minutes; or in 30 (1/2-cup) muffin cups about 25 minutes.