Monday, May 31, 2010

Daring Bakers Challenge: Croquembouche

OK! This months Daring Bakers Challenge is croquembouche, submitted by Cat from Little Miss Cupcake in Paris, France. It should have been done already, but I've been working pretty much 7 days a week and today is my first day off. But, on the upside, I needed to make something for a friends birthday tomorrow. Granted, this thing should be made day of...but, this afternoon until tomorrow morning delivery...close enough. What do they want for free? Their money back? LOL She'll love it, if not, I'll eat it all myself! HA!

Croquembouche is a classic, cream puffs mounded high and glued together with caramel, usually wrapped in spun sugar. I've made these before, usually around Yuletide for parties. Guests can just grab one and go. I think that "monkey bread" was probably an attempt at making something similar without all the "work". I freely admit, this is NOT the prettiest one I have made. Nor the tallest. But, it's for a group of women who will say they cannot eat another bite and let it go to waste. So, we get cream puffs here at home and they can pick at this all day tomorrow. It was just too humid to work with the sugar, so no beautiful spun sugar surrounding it today. I probably should have used chocolate, but I did not have the day to ripen a chocolate, this is what it is today.

Although, it is not that much work. There are a lot of steps, true. Making the pate a choux (pat ah shoe), making the pastry cream, making the caramel, spinning the sugar, etc. But it worth it!

The challenge required using their choux recipe, which was a new one for me, but it is all pretty basic. In the past I have used Martha Stewart's recipe. (Oh gods, remember years ago when she had Julia on her Holiday Special and they made this? Martha's was all piled and perfect and poor thousand year old Julia's was a lop sided mess and Martha patted her hand and said, "I'm sure it tastes wonderful, dear". OMG I wanted to deck Martha at that point! Condescending cow...Grrrrrr)

So, let's make Croquembouche! WORD OF WARNING! Your pretty black anodized aluminum pans? DO NOT USE THEM for any of these recipes. Especially if you are on an electric stove top. They do not cook the same way, things will thicken before they boil, your pate a choux will thicken before it cooks, your pastry cream will thicken before it's cooked leaving you with the taste of raw flour in your cream. Yum. Don't use them! Dig out the old beaten up ones you don't want anyone to see!

Pate a Choux (Yield: About 28)

¾ cup (175 ml.) water 6 Tbsp. (85 g.) unsalted butter
¼ Tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 cup (125 g.) all-purpose flour
4 large eggs
For Egg Wash: 1 egg and pinch of salt

Pre-heat oven to 425◦F/220◦C degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Preparing batter:

1. Combine water, butter, salt and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil and stir occasionally. At boil, remove from heat and sift in the flour, stirring to combine completely.
2. Return to heat and cook, stirring constantly until the batter dries slightly and begins to pull away from the sides of the pan.
3. Transfer to a bowl and stir with a wooden spoon 1 minute to cool slightly.
4. Add 1 egg. The batter will appear loose and shiny.
5. As you stir, the batter will become dry-looking like lightly buttered mashed potatoes.

6. It is at this point that you will add in the next egg. Repeat until you have incorporated all the eggs.

Piping the Pate a Choux
1. Fill your pastry bag with the choux. Place a 1/2" tip into the bag and fold the top over, place into a glass and fold the bag outside the glass to hold it upright while you load the pate a choux. This is the second filling, so it is not as pretty. Deal.

2. Pipe into 1x1" balls 1" apart on a parchment lined baking sheet.

3. Wet your finger and gently round over any points without flattening the choux.
4. Beat the egg with a pinch of salt. (I also add just a bare splash of water) and whisk well until nice and smooth, no runny or stringy bits left.

5. Brush the piped choux with the egg wash. Tap your brush on the top, then from the sides upwards. This will help round out any that you accidentally made flat.
6. place in 425 oven for approcimately 10 minutes, until they puff up and become golden. Add another 5 minutes if you need, once it happens, it happens quick. At ten minutes, I was beginning to wonder if I needed to remake the choux. 2 minutes later POOF, nicely puffed and beginning to brown.
7. Drop the heat to about 350 and allow to cook another 15-20 minutes, until they are dry but not crunchy or brittle.
8. Cool on rack. OK, I admit it, I got 49 out of this batch. I always tend to make these smaller. I want them to be just one bite, not squishing cream all over in two, and, you get more and can make a higher Piece Montée. And, a croquembouche is as much show as it is eating.
Make your pastry cream. (OK, I diverged, she gave three recipes for pastry cream, but I love the one from Martha Stewart with 2 Tbls of Cognac for the flavoring. The flavor of the booze, the cream, the choux and the caramel...heavenly)

6 Egg Yolks
1/2 cup Sugar
1/2 cup All Purpose Flour, sifted
2 cups Milk, scalded
3 Tbls unsalted butter
1 tsp Vanilla extract
2 Tbls Cognac
pinch of salt

1. Beat egg yolks, gradually adding sugar. Beat until pale and fluffy.
2. Beat in 1/2 cup flour
3. Slowly add hot scalded milk, drizzling in while continuing to beat. Reserve 1/2 cup of the milk.

4. return all to pan in which you scalded the milk and bring to a boil. STIR constantly. It will become lumpy, but smooth out as you stir vigorously. I find using a whisk helps this step.
5. Once thickened, remove from heat. Stir in butter, 1 Tbls at a time. Stir in flavorings and salt.

6. Pour cooked cream through strainer into a bowl to cool. This is not required, but I don't care what I'm making, custard, creme brulee, if it has cooked eggs in it, I strain it. It just ensures smoothness and no egg membranes remain in your cooked custards or creams. Yes, it's thick. Yes, it's a pain in the ass. But if your arm hasn't fallen off yet from all the stirring of very thick stubstances, do it, this will finish it off. Let it cool and go have a drink! (Vodka tonic with a lemon, please)

Fill the puffs. (no pics here, it's pretty dull. Shove it in, squeeze, next one)
1. Fit your pastry bag with a 1/2" or large star tip. Fill with the cooled pastry cream.
2. Insert tip into puff and fill, gently.
3. Continue until all puffs are filled. Set aside until ready to assemble with the caramel. (I find chilling them will make the puffs soggy.)
4. Sort your puffs by height. This will make assembly easier. Separate the taller, fat ones from the smaller. use the larger towards the bottom and work your way down in size as you build up. This will help keep your rows even as you build.

Now, it's time for a caramel.

2 cups Sugar
2/3 cup water
2 Tbls Corn Syrup

1. Bring all to a boil in sauce pan, WITHOUT STIRRING.
2. Cover and allow to boil for 2-3 minutes, this will wash any sugar crystals down from the sides of the pan.
3. Remove cover and allow to continue to boil until thick and amber colored. I like to take it between hard ball and soft crack. Test to see if it will thread. Remove from heat. As this cools, keep JUST warm so it does not set.


Dip the puffs in caramel and begin arranging and building your tower/pyramid, using the caramel as glue.

Now, if it is NOT humid where you are, lay two wooden spoons, handles out on your stove or over the edge of your counter. Place newspaper on the floor. Grease the handles of the spoons. Drizzle the caramelized sugar back and forth between the two spoons. It should make brittle threads. Once you have amassed a nice amount, gather and use to decorate the croquembouche. I was HOPING the humidity was low enough to spin the sugar. Nope, too humid. Do this when it's DRY!This is why I generally only make this in winter time. Living here in Virginia Beach, it is just too humid to play with sugar except in winter. period. However, my mom's neighbor has her ginormous gardenias in bloom. The look and the smell of the gardenias around the plate...HEAVEN!

serve it! eat it! love it! Revel in the "ooh" and "ahh" from your friends.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Lumpia for the Bowling Alley

OK! Tonight is our bowling banquet. I always like to make something good, but not too much for the cheap b@stards we bowl with. The banquet at the end of the league is always fun, an 8 pin no tap for the rest of us while the top 2 teams roll for 1, 2 and 3rd place. This year...we have NO need to worry about it, even with having the BEST team name. Ever! "Sofa King Butch". EVERY team we bowled the last half of the season had, "the best night EVER!!!". One more team said that to us...they were going to be hurt! Seriously! I roll 3 games 30 pins over average, my team mates all roll within their average and we STILL lose all three games? FEH!

Anyway, everyone brings a pot luck dish. Several years ago...these were fun things, everyone brought something good. Of late...people are rolling in, WITH friends we've never seen on the freaking league before, and bring in 4 pieces of grocery store fried chicken or a bag of potato chips. So, yes, I'll cook for them, but it ain't going to be anything over the top. They are NOT getting cheesecakes, for instance! LOLZ

So, I decided to make lumpia. If you have never had lumpia, you don't know what you are missing. Lumpia is the Filipino version of spring rolls, or egg rolls. The wrappers are different, thin, flaky, crispy, light. The filling is meat, not cabbage with some meat in it, but meat with some cabbage in it. With some duck sauce...HEAVEN!

So, let's make some lumpia! I used this recipe from I doubled it to 30 servings, which I will cut in half. This saves a lot of time at a pot luck. A, the things are open so people can see what is in them, and B, it makes each lumpia two servings. HA!

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 pounds ground pork
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup minced carrots
1 cup chopped green onions
1 cup thinly sliced green cabbage
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons soy sauce
30 lumpia wrappers (from the Asian market or produce section of the grocery. NOT eggroll wrappers!)
4 cups vegetable oil for frying

Shred the cabbage and carrots finely. I use the 2mm slicing disk and ejection bowl in the food processor for the cabbage. Seriously, if you've got it, use it. Throwing the bowls in the dishwasher is one HELL of a lot easier than finely slicing up the cabbage. Plus, you get a much more even and fine chop than you will probably do with your knife and cutting board. Switch to the grater plate and do the carrots. Set this aside. Chop up your garlic and set it aside. Chop up the green onions and set aside. In a small cup, mix your dry spices and set to the side. Have the soy next to the stove as well. Mise en place, baby!

Clean down your counters and put the stuff you used for prep in the dishwasher. Look, you have all these lovely bowls of food ready to go and your kitchen is still clean!

Add the oil to your stir fry pan or wok and cook the ground pork. Remove the pork, drain and use a towel to quickly wipe down the pan, leaving a good sheen of oil.

Add the garlic and green onions and cook for two minutes.

Add the pork, cabbage and carrots back to the pan. Add the pepper, salt, galic powder, soy sauce and cook for a few minutes, stirring constantly, until the cabbage is wilted and the carrots are tender.

Remove from heat, dump it into a large bowl (you need the wok or stir fry pan again.) Take one wrapper at a time (keep the rest covered with plastic wrap to keep them from drying out, these things are THIN, but WAY tougher than they look).

Place a scant 3 tablespoons of filling at the bottom of the wrapper. Begin rolling up along the long side, pulling back to tighten the wrapper. Fold in the side and finish rolling up. When you get to the end, wet the fingers of the hand not holding the lumpia and wet the edge to seal and finish rolling. Set on a plate and cover with plastic wrap. Make the next one. These actually go really quickly once you catch the rhythm of it.

Add the oil to the pan and heat on med-hi for 5 minutes. Once the oil is hot, drop 2-4 lumpia into the hot oil and fry for 1-2 minutes. Don't crowd your pan. These only need to brown and crisp, the filling is already cooked. Remove from pan and drain on paper towels.

Once all are cooked, serve with duck sauce, or a soy/vinegar/mirin/green onion blend of sauce. Or hot chinese mustard. Or, whatever your heart fancies!


Saturday, May 15, 2010

A HULVAH WEEKEND! (And extrordinarily happy!)

OK! Doing the Mesopotamian Happy Dance. I. Found. Halvah. This is a major thing for me! I have been jonesing for some for MONTHS. Growing up Cashew, we ate lots of things. Cashew means Mom's side of the family was Catholic and Dad's side of the family was Jewish. Cashews. We were raised Catholic, but it was a bit odd at times. I came home from First Communion and had gefilte fish. With a big stripe of purple horseradish. Just not quite right somehow. But, oh, so good. (Followed by matzoh ball soup and one of Grandma's roast lamb dishes.) We were always a little confused about things growing up, I guess. Just a little twisted and a lot irreverant.

Remember those yarn paintings on burlap we used to do in the wee grade school days? Back when you could still say Christmas in school? We did yarn pictures for Christmas. My mother still has it. Mine was a red burlap background that said, "NOEL". With a lovely menorah as the center of the picture. Dad always calling the Christmas tree the Channakuh bush didn't help. (But then...knowing Dad...we still call the plant "Wandering Jew" what my Dad called it once when he could not remember the name. "Wandering Jew" will forever, in our family, be "Creeping Jesus".) Dad would snicker in church as mom sat horrified hoping no one in the pews around us could hear my sister and I singing, "Oy vey, oy vey, oy vey, Maria".

So, as I said, a bit odd, but great fun. And the food. Grandma's matzoh ball soup. Grandma's ruggelach or mandel bread. Sundays with a bagel, a smear, a THIN slice of onion and tomato, some nova lox. (Although, I still prefer belly lox, but a kid didn't get to voice an opinion on that. often. LOL) Such GOOD food! When Grandma died, all the relatives were there arguing and bickering who got this or that antique or painting. I went into the kitchen, quietly grabbed the recipe boxes and slipped out to my car. I have all her recipes.

I suppose I had odd tastes as a child as well. I loved (and STILL love) the pickled herring in cream sauce with onions. And from a very young age. RARE meat. I refused to eat it if it was not screamingly rare. I remember once, around age six, we were at a cook out with some friends on my parents. The guy knelt down to me and asked "How do you want your steak cooked?" I looked up at him and said, "Very, very, very rare". He said, "little boys don't eat steaks like that, how about we cook it medium well?" My dad told him, "Only if you want to waste the steak, he won't eat it if you do that" LOL!

Grandma always had "grandma candy". "Coffee Nips" in her candy dish, or candied orange peels she had made, or the sesame seed candy, and sometimes...just sometimes...she had marbled halvah. I still love "grandma candy".

For those who have never had's made from sesame seeds. Pasted, sugar, chocolate...the taste is sweet, nutty, very lightly chocolate. The hard to describe...dry but moist, flaky and crumbly but not really. It is just amazing. It melts in your mouth but still has some "tooth".

There are recipes out there for it, but I've yet to find one that I like as much as the horrible processed stuff LOL I think if I could ever get the sesame seeds pasted to just the EXACT consistency it would be OK. I had begun to think I was going to have to perfect a recipe myself and then...

I have searched EVERYWHERE for halvah. All the local haunts, the delis, even Wegman's in NY did not have any when I was there. Then, this weekend, as I was in the international section, I turned around and heaven had opened up...there it was. Halvah.

If you find some (usually with the kosher foods), TRY IT! It comes in a few flavors, the vanilla is OK too, but the chocolate or "marble" is just heaven in your mouth. It is one of those fond rememberances and indulgences from my childhood. I am SO happy to have found it.

Daring Cooks Challenge! Stacked Green Chile and Grilled Chicken Enchiladas

OK! My first Daring Cooks Challenge completed! W00T! This was a little time consuming, but not much, maybe two hours start to finish? This months challenge came from Barbara of Barbara Bakes and Bunnee of Anna+Food. Nicely hot, lovely rich flavor...YUM! This is going to be a little long, so...let's get started!

1½ pounds Fresh Anaheim chilies (about eight 6 to 8 inch chilies) - roasted, peeled,remove seeds, chop coarsely.
7-8 ounces Tomatillos (about 4-5 medium), remove stems
4 cups Chicken broth
1 clove Garlic, minced
2 teaspoons yellow onion, minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
½ tsp Kosher salt (to taste)
¼ tsp Black Pepper (to taste)
2 tablespoons Cornstarch (dissolved in 2 tablespoons water)
Hot sauce, your favorite, optional
2 Boneless chicken breasts (or thighs)
3 tablespoons Olive oil or other neutral vegetable oil (I prefer lard or solid shortening)
Kosher salt and pepper
12 Small Corn tortillas
6 ounces grated Monterrey Jack, (Or Mexican blend, any good melting cheese that will compliment the chilies)

First, roast the peppers. You can do this on your grill outdoors or use your broiler. Line the pan with foil, lightly coat the peppers with oil and place directly under the broiler. Turn them several times, until they are black, blistered and ugly as sin. Place into a bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap immediately on removing from broiler.

Once the peppers are cooled to room temperature again, pull the stems off, cut the peppers in half, use your thumb to push any seeds off the edge of the cutting board. Use your knife to scrape the "meat" from the skin. Discard the skins and roughly chop the pepper flesh. Never, EVER, rinse the pepper in water to get rid of seeds. One or two here and there will not hurt, and certainly hurt less than washing all the flavor down the drain!

While the peppers are cooling, bring a pot of water to the boil and chuck in the tomatillos from which you have removed the papery skins. Boil them 8-10 minutes until soft. Remove from the water, remove the stems. Place back in pot. Add the remaining sauce ingredients, oregano, onion, garlic, chicken stock, salt, peppers and black pepper to taste. Use your stick blender to blend all into a smooth sauce. Bring to a boil and reduce heat. Allow to simmer 10 minutes. Add the 2 Tbls corn starch dissolved in 2 Tbls water. Return to boil and boil another 10-15 minutes, until reduced to around 5 cups.

While the SAUCE boils...grill your chicken. Simply season with salt and pepper and grill on your stove top griddle. In a pinch, chuck them in a bowl and nuke them, but really, the grilling gives so much more flavor. Once cooked and allowed to rest, shred or chop your chicken.

In a pan, add your oil or shortening. When hot, cook the 12 tortillas, one at a time. Slide one in, let it cook 15-20 seconds, turn over. Cook another 15-20 seconds and remove with tongs. Blot on a paper towel and set to the side.

We're now ready to assemble. Place sauce thinly in 2 9x13 dishes. Add two tortillas, side by side, in each pan. Add another ladle of sauce over tortillas. Add 1/2 the chicken sprinkled evenly between the 4 tortillas. Add 1/3 the cheese, over the 4 tortillas. Ladle sauce over. Add the next tortilla on top of each of the four down. Repeat with remaining chicken, another 1/3 of the cheese and ladle sauce over. Top each stack with the last 4 tortillas, ladle over with remaining sauce and sprinkle with remaining cheese.

Slide dishes into 350 degree oven and bake for 15-20 minutes until hot and bubbly. Remove from oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes or so. Remove each stack to a plate, drizzle over with some of the sauce from pan. Sprinkle with fresh cheese, onion and/or cilantro if desired.

I chose red onion, as whatever gene it is that allows people to like cilantro, I compeltely lack. Might as well sprinkle Comet Cleanser over the dish for all (or the same) flavor it will add for me!

This was wonderful! Hot, filling, rich, spicy but not TOO spicy...give it a try!

OK...secondly, quick cooking lesson. Mincing Garlic

Grab your garlic clove. Cut the stem end off. Use the flat side of your knife blade and smash the clove of garlic. It will rupture and split and the skin will slide off. Hold the clove on your cutting board and slice it up.

Add about 1/2 tsp of salt. Push the cut garlic into a pile and chop through it again. Slide any stuck to your knife off and push the garlic back into a pile. Flatten it with the side of your knife.

Chop through it again, repeating cleaning and flattening the mass of garlic. You will find the salt causes the garlic to stick to itself nicely, making it much easier to chop and giving you a finer mince, rather than the garlic spreading all over your board.

Simply remember you added this 1/2 tsp of salt when continuing with your recipe!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Stupidly Simple Coke Zero Cup Cakes

OK! Not a lot of pics on this one. If you don't know how to make cupcakes...get outta here! LOL Mix em, stick papers in a pan, bake em. The frosting was the hardest part of this, and it's nothing. I wanted something snacky but didn't want to spend a lot of time. These things could NOT be faster to make! Great for when you need a bunch of cupcakes without notice! Start to finish on these is about an 20 minutes of work with some cooling time in between!

I LOVE this frosting. It's one my mom used to make, it goes perfectly on chocolate cake. It is like the old Suzie Q filling from when we were kids. I believe the recipe goes back to the depression and wars, when sugar was not cheap. This uses one cup of sugar.

For an extra special treat, fill cupcakes with this cream frosting. Cut a cone out of the top, fill with a spoon of frosting, place the cone back onto the cupcake. Frost these with a thick chocolate frosting and you've made your own filled cupcakes!

So, lets make stupidly simple and rather low fat cupcakes!

1 box cake mix (Devils Food, White, Cherry Chip...)
1 1/4 cup Coke Zero (or Sprite Zero, Cherry Coke Zero)
2 egg whites

Put all in a bowl and beat until there are no more lumps. 3-5 minutes. Place liners in cup cake pan. Fill wells 1/2 full and bake at 350 degrees for 18-20 minutes until toothpick comes out clean. Makes 24 cup cakes.

1 cup milk
4 Tbls flour
3/4 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 tsp Vanilla

Mix milk and flour in sauce pan. Whisk constantly over medium heat until it becomes a thick paste. This takes 5-7 minutes. It happens pretty quickly, just whisk so it doesn't stick to the bottom and get lumpy. Once it has become very thick (when you pull the whisk out, it doesn't level out any longer) push it through a mesh sieve into a bowl if you wish to remove any lumps of flour. If you whisked the whole time, this is less likely, but it you weren't diligent...LOL

Let the milk/flour mixture cool. Place butter and sugar into mixing bowl and cream. Add cooled flour/milk mixture and beat well until no grains of sugar can be felt. This can take up to 10 minutes, let it take what it takes. It beats up fluffy! Add the vanilla and beat in.

Frost your cup cakes. Either dip the tops of the cakes into the frosting, twist as you remove it for nice swirls, or slip a star tip into a pastry bag and be done with it in about 3 minutes like I did!

Try this! It is seriously good and if you look, other than the butter and milk in the frosting, there is almost NO FAT here!

Try different flavors, these are Diet Cherry Coke Zero and Devils Food. Or maybe white cake and Cherry Coke Zero, or White Cake and Sprite Zero, or...

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Chocolate Sponge Cake with Fruit

OK! We did dinner, what to do for dessert? It's hotter than hell right now and I need to get out tomorrow to check the capacitor on the AC again. It seems to blow the damned thing once a year. The fan to the condenser comes on, but the condenser doesn't seem to be kicking on. Thankfully, it's easy enough to replace and only costs about 19 bucks. But does get tiresome!'s now hot in the house. I need to cook dinner anyway, so something cool and fruity for dessert I think.

As you know, I've been loving the Dollar Tree frozen fruits. Today they had Organic Strawberries. 10 Oz bag of flash frozen organic strawberries for a buck. OK, they aren't going to be as pretty as fresh, but for the price...meh, I can live with it! Plus, I can put the leftovers on my cereal in the morning!

So, I went looking...normally when I do strawberry shortcakes I make a vanilla meringue dacquoise. Meringue disks flavored with vanilla bean and then baked until they are light and crunchy. It's wonderful and such a nice change from the sponge cakes. is way to humid and I am not keeping a low oven on THAT long to make these things. So, sponge cake it is. But what kind? I started searching for recipes.

I found this one for chocolate sponge cake recipe with fruit. Ok, I'm not going to do the strawberries and kiwi, but I do have frozen strawberries and blueberries. So, here we go...

Chocolate Sponge Cake

1 cup Powdered sugar
4 Eggs, room temp
1 Egg yolk, room temp
1 Tb Vanilla
1/2 cup All-purpose flour
1/4 cup Dutch process unsweetened cocoa
1/8 tsp Salt
2 Tb butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease and flour a 10" tart pan with a removable bottom. (Gods, Baker's Joy is the best stuff, ever!) Set aside.

Combine powdered sugar, eggs, egg yolk and vanilla in large mixer bowl. Beat at high speed until mixture is very thick and double in volume. In the Kitchen Aid with the balloon whip, this takes about 3 minutes. With a stand mixer with beaters, 5-8 minutes. Don't be afraid to really beat the snot out of it! It should be thick, pale, fluffy and about the consistency of whipped cream.

Stir together flour, cocoa and salt in medium bowl. Gently stir flour mixture into egg mixture by hand, 1/4 cup at a time, just until flour mixture disappears. Gently stir melted butter into batter.

Gently spoon batter into prepared pan. Bake until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 20-25 minutes. Check around 18 minutes. Mine was perfect in 20. Cool completely.

While cake is baking and cooling, slice the strawberries while still partially frozen. It is just easier! Sprinkle with 2 Tablespoons of sugar and set aside in bowl in the fridge to get chilled and macerate. Sprinkle the blueberries with about a Tablespoon of sugar and set in the fridge as well. Place a mixing bowl in the freezer. (I'll tell you in a minute)

When ready to serve...

Take your mixing bowl from the freezer, pour in a cup or so of heavy whipping cream into the bowl. Sprinkle in 2 Tablespoons of powdered sugar and a generous teaspoon of good vanilla extract. If you want to get REALLY fancy...take 1/2 vanilla bean, slice in half, seed it and scrape the seeds into a small sauce pan. Chuck in the bean as well. Heat about 1/2 cup of the whipping cream to just a simmer, do not let it boil. Let it sit and cool for 10-15 minutes, remove the bean and chill. Add this to the other half cup of cream when chilled, add the powdered sugar and beat it until it is thick, rich and creamy.

Cut a slice of the cake. Spoon over strawberries and a few blueberries. Add a dollop of whipped cream, sprinkle with a few more blueberries and serve.

This was REALLY good. The cake is light, the fruit is sweet, the cream is right and the chocolate of the sponge is a very nice surprise!


Garlic Smashed Potatoes

OK! Here goes. We were having steaks for dinner tonight. And while I do try to avoid white potatoes...sometimes... So, what to do with them? Mashed? No. Baked? Boring. I know. Smashed!

This is so simple and OMG, so garlicky good...So, what do we need?

One russet or baking potato per person. A few tablespoons of butter, a few cloves of garlic, kosher salt and black pepper. Here we go.

Boil the potatoes. Chuck 'em in a pan and stick 'em on the back of the stove. Boil them 15-20 minutes, until cooked through. A knife slid into them should meet only slight resistance. Not boiled to mush, but no longer hard in the middle.

Take them out of the water and sit them aside and let them dry for a moment. This will take about 30 seconds, unless it's boiling hot in your kitchen like it was in mine. Then, it might take a few.

Place the potatoes on a baking sheet and grab your potato masher. Give each potato one good smash. It will break open and flatten a bit.

Now, cut the root end off 2-3 cloves of garlic. Smash it on the counter with the flat of your knife and peel off the skins. Place the cloves on your cutting board, sprinkle with a pinch of salt and mince it fine. Adding the salt helps keep the garlic from sticking to your knife. Slide it off the side of the knife as it builds up. Then use the side of the knife to flatten the mass out and continue chopping until it is very fine.

Melt 2-4 Tablespoons of butter and mix in the garlic. Paint the garlic butter all over the smashed potatoes with a pastry brush. Make sure to get all the garlic out of the dish! Sprinkle with a little more kosher salt and black pepper.

Slide into 400 degree oven for 15-20 minutes, until they are browned, the garlic is crisped and the butter is sizzling all over them.

Use a spatula to slide one smashed potato per person onto the serving plate. Done! And OMG, so delicious, garlicky, crispy, gotta try these.