Friday, July 30, 2010

Sugared Cinema: Shrek (2001)

You know what else everybody likes?  Parfaits.  Have you ever met a person, you say, "Let's get some parfait," they say, "Hell no, I don't like no parfait"?  Parfaits are delicious.

No!  You dense, irritating, miniature beast of burden!  Ogres are like onions!  End of story.  Bye-bye.  See ya later.

Shrek will be required viewing for my hypothetical children.  To be honest, I don't even mind that Donkey says "hell no" and "damn" in the same scene.  I think it's perfectly acceptable since they are uttered in reference to something involving whipped cream.

There's this one part where Fiona has a change of heart after overhearing Shrek's lament about the world being against him.  The expression that Shrek and Donkey exchange with eachother as she saunters off to make breakfast is HYSTERICAL.  If you haven't seen it and I happen to run into you in person, I'll re-create it for you.  No really, it'll be just as funny.

To wrap up No Bake Week, we'll be making parfaits.  Strawberries tossed in balsamic vinegar then layered with pound cake and fresh whipped cream.  Simple, summery and bake-free.

This recipes refers to them as trifles but I prefer to call them parfaits because "trifles" makes me think of "triflin'".  "That triflin' beep-and-such is staring at my man's parfait."  That does nothing for my appetite.

Individual Strawberry Trifles Parfaits
Recipe by Giada De Laurentiis

Here's what you'll need:

1 quart strawberries, halved
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 cup confectioners sugar
1 pound cake
1/3 cup amaretto liquer

In a shallow dish or bowl, toss the strawberries and vinegar together and let marinate at room temperature for 15-20 minutes.

Using an electric mixer, whip the cream until soft peaks start to form.

 Add the vanilla and confectioners sugar and whip again until stiff peaks form.

 Slice the poundcake into 1/2-inch slices (cut lengthwise.)

If you want to get fancy, you can use a round cookie cutter for the pound cake or you can just cut it into cubes.

Place the first layer of cake at the bottom of the glass.  Lightly drizzle or brush amaretto over the cake.

Spoon a layer of strawberries on top of the cake.  Add a layer of whipped cream on top of the berries.  Repeat until you reach the top of the glass.

Ta da!

If you've ever had strawberries in a salad with balsamic vinegar, then you know the combo works well.  The zip from the balsamic is evened out by the whipped cream and really complements the strawberries.

The best thing about a parfait is its visual appeal.  You could trick a kid into eating just about anything if you serve it parfait-style.

Have a great weekend.  The oven will make his return next week.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Whatever floats your beer.

 My oven is on vacation this week.  Summer is a sad time for it because, while us human-types can seek refuge in a pool or in an A/C'ed room, there's no escaping the heat for the big guy.

This week's posts are 100% bake-free while the appliance is away on holiday.  Who knows, maybe he'll meet a nice young convection oven to take to the sock hop at the Old Firehouse.

Often times, when I'm about to start a blog post, it's difficult to decide if I want to focus on beer or sweets.

Today, I don't have to.  Not when I have this DELICIOUS beer float in my hand.

Beer float.  Sounds "interesting", huh?  It's okay, you can say sounds weird. Wretched, even.

The trick is pairing the ice cream with a complementary beer.  Obviously, a Miller High Life poured over Rocky Road is going to suck but a rich, coffee stout over vanilla or, better yet, dulce de leche ice cream?  Hoo boy.

Still not sold?  Try going with a lambic for your first venture.  I'll cover the style in more depth at a later time but there's ice cream melting as we speak and I don't like to keep it waiting. 

I went with Lindemans Framboise (raspberry) and classic vanilla bean ice cream.  I've had a lambic float using sherbet but wanted to give it some extra creaminess this time around.

Put a few scoops of vanilla ice cream into a glass.  It's even better if the ice cream has softened a little bit.

Slowly pour in the lambic.

You can stop with a little.

 Or just keep on pouring.

Before you even take your first sip, from a strictly visual aspect:  doesn't this look so darn festive?

 Give it a little stir to release all of the rich vanilla ice cream that is hiding in that fuschia-colored raspberry froth.


(I'm not trying to be dramatic for blog's sake.  I'm genuinely hyped about this!)

If you're curious about this unsuspecting combo, I wholeheartedly recommend a fruit lambic over vanilla ice cream.  Lindemans makes apple, peach and cherry lambics, as well.  You can find them at your local specialty Beer & Wine store and some grocery stores (Wegmans, Harris Teeter.)   

If you want a more adventurous (but at the same time, more traditional) float, try using Young's Double Chocolate Stout or any other creamy, not-too-roasty stout.

This one tastes like a fresh raspberry dreamsicle.  Tart, creamy, a tiny bit of effervescence on the back of the tongue.  SO. GOOD.

The buzz is just a bonus.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Sugared Cinema: The Wedding Singer

The point is, I woke up this morning and realized I'm about to get married to a wedding singer? I am never gonna leave Richfield!

Why do you need to leave Richfield? We grew up here. All our friends are here; it's the perfect place to raise a family.

Oh, yeah - sure! Living in your sister's basement with five kids while you're off every weekends doing wedding gigs at a whoppin' sixty bucks a pop?

Once again, things that could've been brought to my attention YESTERDAY! 

Definitely in my Top 3 list of Adam Sandler movies.  The Wedding Singer, contrary to its rom com synopsis, was a really smart comedy.  Great cast (Steve Buscemi!), non-bubble gum-y soundtrack (The Smiths, Elvis Costello, Psychedelic Furs) and a cameo from Billy Idol. 

Speaking of weddings (segue!), this past week I completed my first baking order:  170 monogrammed cookie wedding favors.  My freehand piping is still a bit shaky and since these were going to be given to the guests, I didn't trust myself to chance it, even with a lot of practice.

So I went the kindergarten route.  I traced them.

Want to try these out?  I'll try to make this tutorial as concise but thorough as possible, oxymoronically speaking.  If you have any questions, electronic mail me.

First, the monograms.  You can make these the night before you make the cookies. 

Pick a font you like, type out the letter you're using (try to fit as many as you can on one sheet) and print it out.  

Tape a piece of parchment paper onto a square cakeboard or a piece of cardboard.  Tape only the top and bottom so that the sides are left open.

Slide the sheet of printed letters underneath the parchment paper.

Prepare a batch of royal icing.  Pour it into a piping bag or bottle and fit it with a tip (I used Wilton #2.)  Trace over each letter with the icing.

Let them dry for a few hours or overnight.

If you transfer them to a container after drying, be gentle with the little guys.

I ended up with a few "F"s.

Make your sugar cookies.  I wanted a softer, more rounded cookie so I used this recipe for Bavarian-esque sugar cookies.

Once your cookies have had a chance to cool down, it's time to revisit the ol' Dam and Flood technique that I love so much.

1.  Dam the cookie.
2.  Flood the cookie.
3.  Place the monogram on the cookie while the flood is still wet.

You can make it all cutesy and pipe dots along the edge once the flood has dried a bit.

 Since these were being given as favors, I bagged each one individually.

You can even up the cuteness factor and tie on some coordinating ribbon. 

If you're going to try these out, I suggest starting with a smaller number (something less than, say, 170) to get a feel for it.

If you "accidentally" mess up on a cookie, promptly get rid of the evidence.

Have a great weekend, party people.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Beer Style Breakdown 101: Tripels

So far, we've covered two styles of European beer, hefeweizens and saisons.  Today, we'll learn about one more style of Belgian beer before diving into domestic brews next week.  I wanted to save today's class until the end of the summer but I couldn't wait any longer...tripels are my favorite.

(Fret not, hop heads.  There is malty, bitter, tastebud-annihilating goodness in your future.)

On that note, let's pour.

Style:  Tripel
Country of Origin:  Belgium, Netherlands

Tripels are commonly associated with Trappist monasteries.  There are six Trappist breweries in the world and one of them, Westmalle, was the first to introduce this style of beer to the industry.  The history behind Trappist monks and their breweries is fascinating...we'll revisit that another day.

The color of a tripel ranges from pale yellow (similar to a pilsner) to a deep, golden hue.  Common traits in a tripel are fruity notes (apple, pear, apricot), a distinct yeast character, hints of pepper and hops and a slight "warmth" from the high percentage of alcohol, with the ABV (alcohol by volume) ranging anywhere from 7%-11%.  

And I'm not just referring to the warmth in your face or chest as you work your way through the glass.  You can pick up on some heat in the aroma, especially as the beer returns to room temperature.

My personal favorites:  Weyerbacher Merry Monks Ale (PA), Westmalle Tripel (Belgium), The Bruery Tradewinds Tripel (CA)

Unibroue La Fin du Monde and Victory Golden Monkey are popular with tripel fans and widely available, as well.

(Sidenote:  the Bruery uses Thai basil in their tripel - a totally unique yet complementary ingredient.)

One of the beautiful things about a good tripel is that the high amount of alcohol is masked well so the beer doesn't come across as too boozy or overwhelming.  Of course, this could be dangerous if you're a chugger but come on now...why chug when you can sip and really taste?

Friday, July 16, 2010

Sugared Cinema: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)

Run for it, Charlie!  Run straight home and don't stop 'til you get there!

Or at least until creepy faux Slugworth steps out into your path.

I'm seriously dreading the day Mike says he won't watch Willy Wonka with me anymore because of my inability to shut up when it's on.  Believe me, I'm not a fan of talk-a-long movie watchers either but this film is my one exception to that rule.  

I've watched it no less than 150+ times in my life and I'll probably watch it again this weekend.  In fact, I just realized at this very moment that Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory may very well be my favorite movie.  Ever.  It's a bold statement but one that I feel confident making.

One of the most memorable things about this film is the soundtrack.  The glockenspiel in "Pure Imagination" is so whimsical yet haunting - the perfect prelude to what lies ahead in the factory once they enter The Chocolate Room.

This movie deserves a treat that appeals to sweets lovers of all ages, is simple to make (we don't want to cut into our viewing time) and is outrageously, unapologetically, scrumdiddlyumptiously chocolately.

Fellow blogger Susan Hawkins shared this incredible recipe for her grandma's chocolate cobbler on PW's Tasty Kitchen site.

Oh yes.  You heard right.  Chocolate cobbler.

Here's what you'll need:

1 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
7  Tablespoons cocoa powder, divided
1 1/4 cup granulated sugar, divided
1/2 cup milk
1/3 cup butter, melted
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 1/2 cups hot water

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, 3 Tablespoons of the cocoa powder and 3/4 cup of granulated sugar.  You'll need the remaining cocoa and sugar later.

Stir the milk, melted butter and vanilla into the flour mixture.  Mix well. 

Pour the batter into an ungreased 8-inch baking dish.  Sneak a bite in the process.

In a small bowl, mix together the brown sugar and remaining 1/2 cup sugar and 4 Tablespoons cocoa.

 Use a spoon and sprinkle evenly over the batter.

Your cobbler should look like a calming, cocoa-y beach by this point.

The final step:  pour the hot water all over the batter.

 Do not, I repeat, DO NOT stir.
I'm sorry to get all bossy on you but I'm only looking out for you and your cobbler.

Bake for 35-40 minutes until the center is set.

Then behold.

In that magic heat-emitting box, the batter, the sugary layer and the hot water joined forces and the result is this gooey, chocolate-y, cakey amalgamation of awesome.

'Cause I've got a Golden's ours, Charlie!

The cobbler pairs perfectly with vanilla ice cream, especially while it's still warm.  I cut back on some of the sugar (about 1/4 cup.)  I was feeling guilty about the extra beer I had after dinner.

Now, before you go off to make your own chocolate cobbler, you have to solemnly swear never to hide it in the secret areas of your home to keep others from eating it for as long as you all shall live. 



Monday, July 12, 2010

All the single lemons.

 If you liked it then you shoulda put a squeeze on it.

We were a few days away from our voyage to North Carolina so I didn't want to go out and buy groceries, only to have them sit in the fridge over the weekend.  I'm an expiration date freak.

I needed to be resourceful.

I had a bunch of the staples:  flour, sugar, eggs, unsalted butter, a couple bricks of cream cheese.

Then I saw it.  The lone lemon in the fruit drawer, staring at me through that gaping hole in the plastic bag where I had pulled the first one through a few days earlier.  It was pleading for some love.

I also had a container of leftover sugar cookies that weren't going to be eaten because they were a bit crunchy and frankly, I'm more of a softie.

The verdict?

Lemon Cheesecake Bars
Adapted from a recipe by Martha Stewart

Instead of using graham crackers, I used the sugar cookies to make the crust.

 Here's what you'll need:

8-10 sugar cookies (about 1 1/4 cups cookie crumbs)
1 Tablespoon sugar
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 (8 oz) packages cream cheese, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 lemon, juiced and zested

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Line an 8" square pan with foil or parchment paper, leaving enough to hang over the edges.

Using a food processor, pulverize the cookies and sugar until fine.  Add the melted butter and pulse until combined.

Pour the mixture into your pan and evenly press down the crumbs into the bottom of the pan.  

 Put it in the oven and let it bake for 10-12 minutes until it starts to brown.  While you're waiting for the crust to bake, you can prepare the filling.

Combine the cream cheese, sugar, eggs, lemon zest and lemon juice in the bowl of a food processor.

I was feeling adventurous (or too lazy to wash the food processor bowl) and decided to tackle this step with a whisk, a spatula and my nonexistent biceps.

 Blend until smooth.  Even if it takes 10 minutes by hand.

Pour the mixture over the crust and spread it out evenly.

Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the middle jiggles a little when you shake the pan.

Remove from the oven.  Once the cheesecake has cooled completely, cover the pan with plastic wrap and let it chill for a few hours in the fridge.  Cut into bars and serve. 

I am so into these, especially with the sugar cookie crust.  I've never made a regular cheesecake and honestly, it'll probably be awhile before I try.  Cheesecake bars are so ridiculously easy to make and taste just as delicious and creamy as the round version.

I feel like I'm in a commercial.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Holiday Road.

I found out long ago
(ohhhhh ohhhhh)
it's a long way down the holiday road
(ohhhhh ohhhhh)

Today, my very cool mom-in-law, Berry White and I are heading down to the grand old Tar Heel state.  North Carolina! 

I could have thrown together a Sugared Cinema post between packing breaks but I decided against it for three reasons:  

1.  I don't like to half-ass my posts.

2.  You, as a reader of this weekly mish mash of grammatical errors, failed pudding attempts and cat pics, deserve more than that.

3.  The most dangerous time in a husband's life is the 24 hour period prior to him and his wife leaving for vacation.  I didn't want to put Mike's life at risk by juggling another task that would require my full attention.

While I'm down south working on my sea legs, I invite you to take a peek at my good friend Liam's blog, My So-Called Knife.

Our friend, Hyun, is this week's guest poster and she's featuring three recipes that you'll definitely want to add to your binder or iPhone, depending on how advanced your organization system is.  Special shout out to our friend Bryan's photography skills.

(We're one big happy friendamily!)

I'll see you guys next week, revitalized, refreshed and hopefully with a tan similar to a gingerbread cookie.

Carpe weekend.