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Archive for December 31st, 2007

Pork? Sauerkraut? Black-eyed peas and greens? Cornbread? Pickled herring? What is your New Year’s Day guarantee of good luck?

For me growing up, it was a nice pork roast, cooked over and under a bed of sauerkraut. Lots of buttery mashed potatoes, and probably carrots, but the pork and sauerkraut were the biggies.

Lately, we have been having the pork and mashed potatoes, but as often as not, the sauerkraut is replaced with braised red cabbage, and the carrots with collard greens. Maybe some cornbread to sop up the nummy juices.

That’s what we’ll be having tomorrow, only no greens. Probably a tossed salad with lettuce and spinach will supply the green quotient for the meal.

I’d like to fix a dessert of some kind but am without inspiration as of 7:00 New Year’s Eve. So whatever it may be it will have to be made of something I have on hand, which gives it a lot of latitude, actually. I have a well stocked pantry. I should be able to come up with a dandy dessert.

Maybe we’ll have those trendy chocolate lava cakes. You know what I  mean, little cakes made of deep, dark chocolate and, when upended on a plate and you dig your spoon into them, the molten center of rich chocolate rolls out. Heaven.

I assume the cakes were initially a failure. Someone made these small individual servings of chocolate cake and the centers didn’t get quite done. The decision was made to serve them anyway. The name “Cakes with the not-quite-all-cooked-middles” didn’t sound right and the name “Lava Cakes” came to mind and it stuck.

Anyway, they are good, quite easy to prepare, and they can be started ahead of time, left in the frig and baked just before you want to serve them. Perfect.

MOLTEN LAVA CAKES

[You can prepare these ahead unbaked if necessary. Keep them covered 2-4 hours in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before baking.]

Serves 4.

4 T. butter, room temperature, plus 1 T. to butter the muffin tins

3 eggs

1/3 c. flour

8 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped finely, and melted in bowl over pan of simmering water

1/4 t. salt, if using unsalted butter

1/2c. sugar, plus some for dusting pan

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Generously butter 4 cups in a muffin tin. (I use a non-stick tin.) Dust with a little sugar.

2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each.

3. On low speed, beat in flour and salt just until combined. Don’t overmix.

4. Beat in chocolate.

5. Divide among cups. 

6. Bake on a baking sheet 8-10 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes.

7. To serve, turn out cakes and place on serving plates. Dust with confectioner’s sugar if desired or serve with whipped cream or ice cream.

To save leftovers, store covered in refrigerator. Reheat in microwave oven, 2 cakes for 1 minute at 60% power.

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Wow! My postings on “No-Knead Bread” are among the most popular sites here at Best Room in the House. There is tremendous interest in making the bread and a host of former non-bread bakers have taken up bread making because of the simplicity and near foolproof methods used for the bread. As a bonus, it costs about 85 cents, not counting the cost to heat your oven.

Did I mention the delicious taste and the wonderful crust? Once you try this bread, you won’t want to buy any more bread at the grocery store.I decided to provide a step-by-step photo guide to further tempt those of  you who have yet to give it a try. So, with the added proviso, “I am not a photographer”, let’s get started.

1. Here’s what you need:3 c. flour, 1-2 tsp. salt, 1/2 t. instant yeast, 1-1/2 cup water.ingredients

2. Mix the dry ingredients and stir just enough to make sure you get all the dry flour on the bottom of the bowl into the dough.

3. Add water.add water

4. Stir it up.stir in water

5. Now we’ll let the dough rise, covered with plastic wrap, for at least 12  hours. 6-cover.jpg 

6. Presto! Risen dough.                                             8-11hrslater.jpg 

 7. Prepare a floured surface.                                               9-floursurface3.jpg 

8. Dump it out.                                            10-pourout.jpg 

9. See?  Wet and sticky.   11.jpg

10. Sprinkle with a little flour.12-shakeflour.jpg

11. Fold over all 4 sides like an envelop.13-fold1.jpg 14-foldover.jpg 15refold.jpg 16fold.jpg

12. Re-cover with plastic wrap and let rest for fifteen minutes.

13. Now we’ll let it rise the second time, but first, refold the dough into a rough loaf shape (it’s very fluid dough and won’t stay in a perfect loaf shape; it will be a roundish blob) and place on a 12 x 18 inch piece of parchment paper. Sprinkle top of loaf with wheat bran if desired. Cover with a non-terry cloth dish towel. 16cparchment1.jpg    16dcovertowel.jpg

14. Now it’s time for the second rising. After the dough has risen for 1 and 1/2 hours, preheat the oven to 450 degrees with the baking pan and lid inside. Let the dough rise for another half hour while the oven heats for the full 3o minutes. You want the oven and the pot “blazing hot.” 

17-preheat.jpg  

15. Carefully remove the very hot pot from oven. Take the towel off the bread. Pick up the parchment paper with the dough on it and carefully lower both into the hot pot. Sprinkle with Kosher salt if desired.  

19-sprinklesalt.jpg 

 16. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes. (The parchment paper won’t burn.)

20-cover.jpg   21-bake2.jpg 

17. Remove the lid and bake another 15 minutes.

22-removelid.jpg

18. Remove the pot from the oven and carefully lift up the edges of paper and place it and the bread on a cooling rack. Pull the paper out from under the bread and let the bread cool before slicing… if you can resist the aroma of warm, fresh baked bread. (Sometimes, I brush butter over the top and sides.)

24-done.jpg 

19. Enjoy.             25-ummmgood.jpg

If you would like more information on No-Knead Bread, you can check my previous postings here, here, herehere and here

 There is also a veritable wealth of information on the internet on bread making in general and different methods of making the No-Knead Bread. I use a couple of different recipes, sometimes adding seeds to the topping, sometimes adding flavoring elements to the dough itself.

Be brave and go for it. Your waistline may suffer, but the rest of you won’t.

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