Not To Be Trusted With Knives

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Baked Alaska, The Dessert That Can See Russia From Its House

Hmmm… seems I didn’t post all weekend. As it turns out, I was having too much fun for such things as blogging! One such fun thing was having a few friends over on Saturday1 and I took the opportunity to attempt a Baked Alaska. It’s been something I’ve wanted to do for a long time – hence it being on the 101 list – but it’s the kind of thing that you need people around when you are making it, what with the whole putting ice cream in the stove and all.

For the uninitiated, Baked Alaska is basically cake with a dome of ice cream on top, covered in meringue. The part that is mind-blowing is that it’s ice cream, but you have to put it in a super hot over to brown the meringue2,

So step #1 is to bake a cake. Step #2 is that you fill a bowl up with ice cream – I used chocolate and vanilla, but you can use whatever kind you want3 – like so:

Ice cream in a bowl - for Baked Alaska

And then put it in the freezer for several hours to freeze it solid4:

Ice cream in a bowl - for Baked Alaska

Step #3 is that right before you are ready to serve it, you preheat the oven to 500 degrees F, and whip up a batch of meringue5. When it’s all ready, put the bowl of ice cream on top of the cake to form a dome6, and cover in the meringue, like so:

Baked Alaska - pre-cooking

And, finally, cook it for 5 minutes to brown the meringue – I had to turn mine half way through, as it was browning on one side but not the other side. And viola! Baked Alaska:

Baked Alaska

I have to say that I was very pleased with how it turned out! The ice cream stayed solid – it was actually difficult to cut through, since it was still so frozen. Apparently the meringue acts as an insulator to keep the ice cream cold despite the 500 degree oven. So it looked great and it tasted great – everyone seemed to like it. And overall, it wasn’t that difficult to make. I highly recommend it if you are trying to impress people!

  1. Martha and Loren – I had lots of fun! I’m pretty sure you two are the only people who read my footnotes, so I feel like I can just talk to the two of you here. So, how’s life? How are the lab fish, Loren? Also, thanks for bringing all the yummy food! []
  2. Apparently some people use a blow torch to brown the meringue, but my apartment is sadly devoid of blow torches. []
  3. My friend, Kim, who is a food scientist who works in quality assurance was able to take a tiny taste of the ice cream and identify the brand, which is completely crazy to me! I’m not nearly so discerning. The best I can do is tell you if tastes “good” or “bad”. []
  4. I froze mine for ~24 hours, but only because 24 hours prior happened to be a good time do it. []
  5. From room temperature egg whiles, cream of tartar, sugar, & vanilla. []
  6. I had to sit the bowl in hot water to melt the edges just enough to get it to come free from the bowl. []

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Belated Birthday Brownies

It just occurred to me that in all of my birthday festivities, I forgot to have any birthday cake! Birthday beer, birthday shots, birthday food, more birthday beer  - all of these things were covered, but somehow cake did not make it into the mix. But I figure +/- a week is within the period during which I can still reasonably say that I’m celebrating my birthday, so I decided to make some brownies tonight when I got home from yoga1!

The last time I baked brownies2, I thought I was using a recipe for fudgy brownies, but they turned out to be cake-y brownies and I hate cake-y brownies. So this time I used a recipe that was actually called “Fudgy Brownies.” It’s a pretty simple recipe – basically, just put everything that’s bad for you into a pan and bake.

Baking brownies

More specifically, the recipe goes something like this: Melt butter & chocolate. Add white sugar. Beat in some eggs. Add vanilla and white flour. Pray for your arteries. Pour it into a pan:

Baking brownies

Bake:

Baking brownies

Write blog posting about said brownies while you wait for them to cool.

OK, I just can’t complete this blog posting without actually doing a taste test to let you know how they turned out. Wait here a second, OK?

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OMG. Delicious!

  1. Brownies will so not help with my goal of losing weight, but I figure that since I did power yoga tonight, I’ll at least break even, calorie-wise []
  2. For Kalev’s housewarming party. []

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Why You Either Love or Hate Cilantro

Cilantro is one of those things that either you love or you hate. And thanks to my friend Dr. Jen, I now know why!

Cilantro

On our weekly Seawall walk on Saturday, Jen informed me that apparently there is a genetic difference between people like she and I, to whom cilantro tastes like pure freshness, and cilantro haters, to whom it tastes, apparently, like soap. My lazy attempt at finding the name of said gene1 came up empty, but apparently there is research that shows a high concordance rate for cilantro loving or hating between sets of identical twins compared to sets of fraternal twins, which suggests a genetic link.

So, the ongoing fight that Kalev and I have2  - me saying cilantro is pure deliciousness and him saying it is disgusting – should actually be reframed, since what we are arguing about is not the “taste of cilantro” but rather about two different tastes of cilantro. It’s almost like me saying, “Candy is delicious!” and him replying “No, soap tastes disgusting!”  Of course I wouldn’t like cilantro if it tasted like soap to me!  And so I’m really glad that it doesn’t! And I’m actually kind of sad for cilantro haters that they will never know the pure joy that is the taste of cilantro as I experience it!

Image Credit: Posted by Michael Lehet on Flickr.

  1. i.e., reading Wikipedia and then a Google search in which I read a couple of links, didn’t find the answer immediately, and then gave up []
  2. I have this argument with other cilantro haters too – I just have it more often with Kalev because I talk to him (and have meals with him) more often than other anti-cilantro peeps []

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Sin-Amen Buns

I have long wanted to try making cinnamon buns, but to be honest, I’ve been kind of scared that they’d be a disaster. I don’t know why – usually I’m confident in my cooking and baking – but cinnamon buns seemed like too big a mountain to climb.  However, after trying – and succeeding at – baking bread, I decided to give cinnamon buns a whirl.

The recipe I used was this one for “Ooey-Gooey Cinnamon Buns” – with a few adjustments: I halved the recipe, skipped the pecans1 and topped them off with the most delicious cream cheese icing2. After trying one of these beauties hot out of the oven, I declared them the best thing I’d ever eaten in all my 33+ years of eating.  Dr. Dan decided that they should be rechristened as “Sin-Amen Buns,” which, really, is the only possible name for a such a delicacy.

The basic procedure3 went like this:

1. Make a sweet dough and let it rise:

Dough for cinnamon buns before risingDough for cinnamon buns after rising

2. Make the ooey-gooey glaze (brown sugar, cinnamon & melted butter) and put it in the baking dish:

Caramel glaze for cinnamon buns

3. Roll out the dough in a rectangle, paint it with melted butter (leaving about 1/2 inch of unbuttered dough around the edges):

Painting melted butter onto cinnamon bun dough

4. Sprinkle a mix of brown sugar and cinnamon on the buttered dough (I used about twice as much cinnamon as the recipe called for):

Brown sugar & cinnamon sprinkled on top of melted butter

5. Roll it up!

Cinammon buns - all rolled up

6. If you follow the recipe and cut the rolls with a knife, you could end up with squished rolls. Instead, use a piece of dental floss – just slide it under the roll, cross it at the top (as shown in the photo), and pull both ends quickly in opposite directions. This cuts the rolls perfectly!

Cutting the perfect cinnamon buns

7. Put the rolls into the ooey-gooey glaze in the baking pan, paint with melted butter and then let rise again:


Cinnamon buns - pre-bakingPainted melted butter onto the cinnamon buns Cinnamon buns after rising

8. Bake:

Baking cinnamon buns

9. Check out how delicious these look:

Baked cinnamon buns

10. Let the buns cool in the pan for a few minutes, then flip them over into another pan or onto a tray for serving, so that the ooey gooey glaze is on top:

Cinnamon buns are flipped to reveal their glazy goodness

11. Frost with the delicious cream cheese icing.  I totally forgot to take a photo of a frosted bun because they smelled so good I just had to dive right in! And then I think I was in a sugar coma after that.

Seriously, I could not believe how amazing these tasted.  They were good the next day heated up, but that was nothing compared to fresh out of the oven4. OMG, so freaking good.

  1. pecans are for suckers []
  2. cinnamon buns without cream cheese icing – also for suckers []
  3. see the aforementioned recipe for specifics []
  4. Sorry, Kalev, that you only got a heated up one. But since we were leaving for Seattle the next morning at 10 a.m., I would have had to get up at around 5 a.m. to make these fresh. And you know how I feel about getting up early in the morning on my vacation! []

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On A Cooking Kick

For the couple of weeks, I’ve been in the mood to try out some new recipes.  And, you know, every time I cook something new, I’m reminded how much I love cooking!  It can be so easy just to cook up something from my usual repertoire1 – I know exactly what ingredients to buy and can whip up dinner in no time flat – so I’ve sort of fallen into that trap lately. But breaking out some of my cookbooks to look for new things to cook has got me all excited!  Here’s a sampling of things I’ve made recently:

Pizza

I already blogged about this pizza I made – pesto, veggies and goat cheese!  Recipe courtesy of my sister and her bf.  My friend Alicia gave me a recipe for homemade dough, so that’s on the list of things to try out!

Dal

I’m generally not very good at making Indian food and so I usually just rely on the Tikka Masala sauce in a jar from Superstore when I want to make Indian2.  But a long, long time ago some friends gave me this Indian cookbook:

IMGP0755

and so I figured I’d try something simple from it.  I made a dal and it actually turned out pretty tasty:

IMGP0743

But hot.  Probably not hot to an Indian person, but definitely white person hot.  Fortunately, while the dal was cooking I had tried my hand at making raita:

IMGP0744

This raita is chunkier than any raita I’ve ever seen before.  That might just be my fault.  It doesn’t look all that appetizing in this photo, but it tasted pretty good.

I was waiting for the dal to cook and realized that I happened to yogurt, cucumber and mint in the fridge, so I got a recipe for raita on the intertubes.  And it was a good thing I did, because that dal freaking needed it to cool it down!

Spinach and Cilantro Rice

My sister mentioned to me one day that she’s madesomething from the Rebar cookbook, which I just so happened to have in my possession:

IMGP0751

and I remembered this tasty spinach and cilantro rice that Tod and I made from that book a long, long time ago.  So I made it again:

IMGP0752

This is the blenderized spinach, cilantro and parsley that you use to cook the rice.  Mmm, blenderized.

Peanut Butter and Chocolate Bars:

Also from the Rebar cookbook:

IMGP0748

I took these to work last Friday.  They were something of a hit at work, if I do say so myself!

Stuffed Poblano Pepper:

I didn’t actually take a photo of this one and I kind of made up the recipe as I went along.  Basically, I cut the top of the pepper off, took out the seeds and membranes and filled it with a mixture of cooked rice (brown & wild), black beans, diced fresh tomatoes and cheese.  And then I cooked it at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.  Delish!

Chocolate Mousse:

Since I had leftover whipping cream from the aforementioned PB&C bars, I had to figure out what to do with it.  I mean, I couldn’t let perfectly good whipped cream go to waste, could I?  And what better to make than freaking chocolate mousse??  I just followed this recipe and it was to die for!  Thought next time I would definitely use a high quality chocolate – like, say, Callebaut.  I just used Chipits dark chocolate chips, which is what I had on hand and it was pretty spectacular, but just the thought of a Callebaut chocolate mousse makes my head explode!  I think I’m going to declare chocolate mousse my signature dessert!3.

OK, so that’s what I’ve been up to lately!  Anyone have any suggestions for other (vegetarian) recipes I could try out?

  1. my current staples are Spinach/Tofu/Chickpea Curry, wraps with refried beans and veggies, oven fries (or perogies)  with soy “chicken” breast and some kind of veg, grilled cheese sandwiches []
  2. it’s freaking delicious! []
  3. for the record, my signature meal is blue cheese risotto and my signature appy is bean & salsa phyllo triangles []