Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Sprouts and Cake

This post is going to have to be five posts in one, there is just too much good stuff to be doing these days. One of my Rachels has come and gone, and that was mighty fabulous if I do say so myself. We walked and talked and sipped wine and chopped up some dinner and saw a film and ate some eggs and I got to make myself 100% certain that her man is not only smart and infinitely likable and - bonus - a Food Person but together they seem right as rain. I love that. Thanks for the visit you two.

The next Rachel has touched down here in the Tarheel state, but she and AV are spending a little time in the Durham/Chapel Hill area for a few days so it will be tomorrow when we see them. I am hoppy and squeaky as usual.

What the heck else? Oh. The garden. Well, as I mentioned a few posts back, it all of a sudden got blindingly cold around here. Right on the heels of days in the very high sixties. We were actually at my mum's when this happened, and from the carnage under the hoops I am guessing that one of them might have blown off (it was also mighty windy) and gotten tucked in my one of our fabulous neighbors. That or the plants under there just could not handle a sixty degree drop in less than a day. The usual troopers have not disappointed: kale, you are my best friend in the vegetable world. But the lettuces are on their last legs, broccoli long gone, chard a thing of the past. Ah well. We have actually been cooking up some plans for some cold boxes that will replace the hoops next year - big long plastic covered frames with tops that open for easy picking. The winter garden is a huge part of our diet (and what I think of to make myself feel better when I regret not getting to any canning this summer) but when it is freezing and windy it can be a real bear to get in there to pick.

Ok, I was all set to post something about bacon and brussel sprouts, but this girl just did it so just visit her. Brassica and bacon make the best of friends. We like to bake our bacon, a trick from one of my food loving uncles, and it makes a messy spattery chore into a snap - just remember to pour off the fat once or twice while it's baking. I sauté the brussel sprouts (sliced oh-so-thin) in just a bit of bacon fat with TONS of black pepper. Like way more than you might ever think was a good idea. Toss it all with some small pasta and some parmesan cheese and chopped up bacon and it's all good.

Ok, so cake and then I'm out of here. When I saw this recipe in the NYT I immediately knew that I needed to make it. Chocolate and whiskey? A lot of chocolate and a stupid amount of whiskey? I'm in. (Note: I distinctly remember the moment when someone first informed me that it was sexy for women to drink whiskey.)

A few notes on this: one, I had some leftover orange zest sitting on the counter so I threw that in and liked it immensely. Two, in the past when I have seen instant espresso powder on an ingredient list, I have just assumed that I would have to use the crap at the regular grocery store, Folgers or something ucky. This time, mind spinning on the cup! of whiskey that was about to go into this cake I checked the coffee section at our local health/gourmet food store and found some instant espresso that didn't look like a science experiment and smelled great. Worth it. Last two things: I think it needed to cool longer than 15 minutes before turning it out, but I did have a very deep bunt pan, and don't dust with confectioner's sugar before it's completely cooled like I did because then your pretty snowflake dusting will just melt away. Oh wait, also, I used a mix of good whiskey and cheaper burbon and it worked out just fine.

LAST THING: this f-ing cake will keep you up all night. Like really, all night. To the point where I would probably only ever make this for a huge party where it would all get eaten by people who want to stay up late. Because otherwise, there it is, and who doesn't like just a bite of something sweet after dinner when, well, something sweet it sitting right there??? People who know me well will be aghast to hear that after two nights of staring at the ceiling at 2 in the morning, I have not eaten any of this cake after 3 in the afternoon for several days in a row. My sweet tooth has been beaten. Sort of. Consider yourself warned.

Whiskey-Soaked Dark Chocolate Bunt Cake
From The New York Times.

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened, more for greasing pan
2 cups all-purpose flour, more for dusting pan
5 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1/4 cup instant espresso powder
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup bourbon, rye or other whiskey, more for sprinkling
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking soda
Confectioners’ sugar, for garnish (optional)
1 teaspoon orange zest (optional)

1. Grease and flour a 10-cup-capacity Bundt pan (or two 8- or 9-inch loaf pans). Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In microwave oven or double boiler over simmering water, melt chocolate. Let cool.

2. Put espresso and cocoa powders in a 2-cup (or larger) glass measuring cup. Add enough boiling water to come up to the 1 cup measuring line. Mix until powders dissolve. Add whiskey and salt, reflect on just how much a cup of whiskey really is; let cool.

3. Using an electric mixer, beat 1 cup butter until fluffy. Add sugar and beat until well combined. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, beating well between each addition. Beat in the vanilla extract, baking soda and melted chocolate, scraping down sides of bowl with a rubber spatula.

4. On low speed, beat in a third of the whiskey mixture. When liquid is absorbed, beat in 1 cup flour. Repeat additions, ending with whiskey mixture. Scrape batter into prepared pan and smooth top. Bake until a cake tester inserted into center of cake comes out clean, about 1 hour 10 minutes for Bundt pan (loaf pans will take less time, start checking them after 55 minutes).

5. Transfer cake to a rack. Unmold after 15+ minutes and sprinkle warm cake with more whiskey (do it, I know it seems insane but you must). Let cool before serving, garnished with confectioners’ sugar if you like.


dig this chick said...

That cake sounds fantastic. I always adore it when you have new posts.

And the bacon sprout thing is just strange because this was my very first try at the combo. And, yup, I am sold. Also, steaming the brussels sprouts in butter? yesssssss.

cake said...

i'll be interested to hear more about your cold frames.

the one i made this year might have worked well, had i placed it where winter sunlight would hit it! i did not consider the movement of the sun in different seasons. in the summer, this bed is almost full sun. in the winter time, our entire cold frame bed is in perfect shade all day long! brilliant! but, the broccoli is hanging in there, and so is the kale, and some cilantro and maybe lettuce. it is not growing, but it is alive.
i am impressed that you have been eating from your winter garden. so far, we have not.

www.wholelifegardening.com said...

We've made this chocolate cake twice, using Grand Marnier instead of whiskey, and it is fantastic. A keeper.

The other cake that will become a regular for me is a Clementine Cake

Happy New Year!

judith said...

yum & snicker: seems unfair that cooked alcohol can't buzz you down but cooked coffee buzzes you up. thanks for permission not to bundt. ( i always wonder). and yar bout the hard liquor. jo & i still charm the olives outta barkeeps when we drink in public.
waffles were and were grand and i get to keep the cleanness of the house as doorprize. i love that. and you.