Thursday, March 11, 2010

Ultra-Health Special: Super Chocolate Death Tart Sandwich

Before you read any further, ask yourself this question:
What is better than a slice of chocolate tart?

Obviously, the only thing better than one slice of chocolate tart is two slices of chocolate tart. Hence, this recipe is based upon two philosophies. The first is that two is twice as good as one, and the second is that anything bland can be redeemed.

Yes, bland. The simple fact of the matter is that this tart is a tad dull by itself. It's practically pure chocolate, which some people will, no doubt, find pleasant enough. However, variety is often the spice of life and the quickener of death. Thus, daredevils and mad scientists may find that a few additions can take this tart from execrable to exciting.

I won't bore you with the recipe itself. The filling and glaze are taken precisely from Epicurious, and the crust can be lifted from my other tart recipe.

Now, the exciting bit.
You will need:

Lots of gastrointestinal fortitude
A selection of fresh fruits and vegetables
Meats, cheeses, and volcanic ash
Ice cream of several different various varieties
Anything else

I personally opted for the blackberry/vanilla ice cream tart sandwich, but you may do as you please. If you are wondering whether or not certain ingredients will clash with or compliment your tart sandwich, simply ask yourself "What is good with [insert ingredient here]?" If the answer is "everything", proceed.

For the BVICTS mentioned previously, simply cut two generous slices of tart. Slather one slice with vanilla ice cream and strategically place several blackberries on the ice cream. Next, smash the other slice on top, crushing the berries and allowing the juices and ice cream to intermingle freely. Garnish with an additional straag of ice cream with a berry on top.

Now, set aside a few hours for wallowing in a sugar-overloaded torpor and chow down. Next, follow this simple one-step process:

1. Mid-sandwich, ask yourself this question:
Is it good?

If the answer is positive, continue. If it is negative, start over with a different set of ingredients. I suggest the ginger/walnut/ peach sorbet chocolate tart sandwich, or GWPSCTS for short. Eat, and then re-proceed to step one.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Spiced Pear Upside Down Cake in a Skillet: a Go-Getter's Guide

So, you're being stalked. You've noticed that man in a hat and trench coat that coincidentally happens to frequent your laundromat, tailor, fishmonger, and bucket supply emporium. You can't see through his dark glasses, and you're scared. Not for yourself, of course, but for your most prized possession: the only extant copy of a certain pear cake recipe.

Why is it the only copy? Your mother wrote it down so you wouldn't forget the family's most valued secret. Why did she write it down? Well, you suffer from acute extreme memory loss.

Fortunately, you have a plan to rid yourself of the interloper. Actually, it is the eighteenth in a series of ingenious plans, but you forgot all the others. You walk to the kitchen window, gazing out upon your well-tended vegetable garden, and there he is, crouching behind the cabbages.

"Hmph!" You harrumph to yourself. "If he wants the recipe so bad, he can have it!"

Cackling gleefully, you gather your materials and set to work. The tattered recipe is written in your mother's stoic scrawl. It reads:

6 tablespoons of butter
3/4 cup of brown sugar
4 Bosc pears of moderate size
2 nectarines
1 and 1/3 cups of cake flour
3/4 cup of sugar
3 tablespoons of ground ginger
2 teaspoons of cinnamon
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1/2 teaspoon of salt
3 large eggs
1/2 cup of vegetable oil
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract

With a steely eye and a steady hand, you preheat your oven to 350 degrees and melt the butter over low heat in your mother's hand-me-down 10-inch cast iron skillet. Ever the multi-tasker, you peel and quarter the pears while the butter slowly degrades into a frothy golden mess.

The man is still outside, only he is now lurking in your begonias, the swine. He is taking photographs with a very undercover camera.

After removing your skillet from the heat, you sprinkle it with a ton of brown sugar and arrange the pears in an artistic, yet sinister design. You search for a very long time until you find where you store your mixing bowls. In a large bowl, you whisk together the flour, sugar, ginger, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt, making sure to switch hands every so often to insure even toning of your already muscular forearms. Gently, you chop the nectarines and mix them into the big bowl. In a smaller bowl, you whisk together the eggs, oil, and vanilla.

To confuse your stalker, who is now taking notes, you pretend to add coriander, thyme, nutmeg, and a hefty dose of white wine vinegar.

You chuckle at your own ingenuity as you add the egg mixture to the contents of the large bowl, stirring with firm hand to make sure everything is properly incorporated. Sneakily you reach into the secret compartment of your spice cabinet and feel around until you find your bottle of nitroglycerin. Just before you dump it into the batter, you reconsider.

"What if I had a heart attack while this cake was in the oven?" You ask yourself. "I had better save this... just in case."

You replace the bottle and grab the cyanide instead. Unfortunately, it is empty, but it has a note attached which reads:

Used this as insect repellent. Please replace at earliest convenience."

Grumbling, you look for something else, finally settling on chloroform. After dumping the contents of the bottle into your batter and disposing of the bottle, you pour the contents of your mixing bowl over the pears in your mother's skillet. Then, you put it in the oven and wait 40 minutes, or until a tester toothpick comes out clean.

There's a man in your garden. He's wearing a trench and sunglasses, and he seems to be very interested in you. Assuming him to be one of your many secret admirers, you open the window and hail him.

"Yoohoo!" You wave a handkerchief and smile. "I've just baked some cake. Would you like some?"

"Don't mind if I do! I've been sitting out here every day hoping that you might ask that. Sorry if I've been a bit of a pest."

Since your cake has now cooled for twenty minutes in the skillet, you invert it on a plate and cut the man a hearty slice. Like any man receiving free gourmet dessert, he ravenously devours the cake and collapses senseless beneath your window.

You find this a bit surprising, as your cooking seldom has this effect on people. Then, you see the bottle of cyanide sitting on your counter. You read the note in horror.

"Insect repellent," you mutter, "a bit of a pest!"

The cake smells lovely, but you resist the urge to splurge. Instead, you haul the body into your neighbor's yard and decide to see a doctor about your memory loss. Later, you are surprised to see the police at your neighbor's house. Crying, she comes to you for advice.

Consoling soul that you are, you offer her a slice of your mother's famous cake.

Adapted from Epicurious, as usual.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Ginger Scones for Hurried People

The sad fact of the matter is that many people do not cook because they simply do not have the time. Fortunately, this recipe is for everyone, even people with no time on their hands. To prove it, let us examine the case of someone who is very rushed: a man or woman attempting to escape a burning building.

Ginger Scones: Express Conflagration Version

You will need:

Two and a half cups of flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
One teaspoon chopped lemon zest
Six ounces of butter
2/3 cup candied ginger
1 tablespoon powdered ginger
3/4 cup heavy cream, plus some more cream for later

It has already been established that you are in a burning office building. First, take stock of your surroundings. Can you see the fire, or can you only smell it? If you are near the fire, how hot is it? For this recipe, you'll need it to be around 400 degrees Fahrenheit, so stoke the fire if necessary.

First of all, don't panic. People use fires to cook all the time.

Find a bowl-shaped object, such as a plant pot, and get as low to the ground as possible. Combine the flour, sugar, and baking powder in the bowl and crawl toward a window to get some fresh air. Next, add the lemon zest and butter, mixing until you have achieved the legendary "fine meal" consistency. As you mix, observe the structural integrity of your building. Will it hold for the next twenty minutes? If not, crawl under a desk and continue with your recipe.

Find some scissors or a paper cutter and cut your candied ginger into thin strips. Stir these into your mixture, and make a well in the middle. Pour the cream into the well and mix until your dough forms.

Have you called the Fire Department yet? If not, now would be a good time, as the fire fighters would arrive just in time to eat a fresh hot scone.

Knead your dough and gather it into one big sticky ball. Then, shape it into little triangles and brush the tops with the remaining cream. If your coworkers are trying to evacuate you, tell them to go on ahead because you're almost finished.

Ordinarily, you would bake these scones on a lined baking sheet, but in a hostile office environment, you may have no such luxury. Thus, grab your desk and place it directly over the fire. Empty your largest desk drawer and place the scones inside. If you have any pancake batter, you may also use the top of your desk as a griddle.

Depending on the size of the fire, you'll have to cook them around fifteen minutes. Check on them every so often, just in case.

Once your scones are finished, find a fly swatter and hold it in the fire. This will sterilize the fly swatter so you can use it as a spatula to retrieve your scones from the drawer. Arrange them artistically atop a three-ring binder and crawl toward the door.

If you timed it correctly, the fire department should chop the door into pieces with their fire axes just as you arrive. You will then be carried to safety and given a respirator while the firemen and survivors enjoy your scones and thank you for risking your life to make them. You may now congratulate yourself not only for triumphing over the fiery wrath of nature, but also for proving that anyone can cook, no matter how little time they have.

Thanks to Epicurious for the base recipe, as always.