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Monday, February 16, 2009

The Squinchies

So, lately Cindy Lou has been "smiling" for the camera. You can see it a little in the chocolatey pictures below, but it's getting worse:

She'll grow out of it, right?

Here's one of all three kids looking adorable, if I do say so myself. Cindy Lou is modeling Newton's new basketball shoes. She'll put on whichever pair is closest (though she gets frustrated at how quickly her brother's flip-flops fall off her feet).

Here's a closeup of Cindy Lou's rock n' roll tshirt (a handmedown from the Wizard):

Here's where you'll find me and Newton almost every night after the little kids are in bed. Right now we're in book 10 of Lemony Snicket. Wonder what we'll attack next? Possibly the rest of the Chronicles of Narnia. Or maybe it's time to start The Lord of the Rings (we've already read all the Harry Potters).

And finally, a long-ish video of what Cindy Lou acts like these days. You get to see her walk, babble, and even get a little bit upset, plus you get commentary and coughing from the ailing, feverish Wizard. She's the best baby ever. But I might be a little biased.


Sunday, February 8, 2009


Well, actually, the Wizard wouldn't try the fancy desserts. Cindy Lou, however, LOVED them, as she does everything else involving chocolate. This week we've had some leftover small discs of dark chocolate sitting in a bowl on the counter, and she asks for them by name. Something like "Tchalk-kot."

Here's what they looked like this morning in their Sunday best. Cindy Lou, in cashmere and velvet (I know, I know), felt as good as she looked.

Eating dessert with a few friends, she was in hog heaven (as you can tell by the chocolate all over her face, and her general posture and attitude). The Wizard was just loving mugging for the camera.


A Surfeit of Sugar

I've had a couple of banana-chocolate recipes in my queue, and this weekend provided an excuse to make them both--dinner at my brother's for them, us and another family. Even better, I discovered when I got out the recipes to plan and prep, one called for seven egg yolks, and the other for seven egg whites. You don't get that kind of synchronicity every day. So Saturday after dinner and bedtime, I started putting together a Ganache-Frosted Praline-Filled Banana Layer Cake and Banana Chocolate Bread Pudding.

The cake came from Lindsey over at Cafe Johnsonia. I skipped the white chocolate in the ganache in favor of the 61% Belgian Lever du Soleil I use for everything. Next time I'll use a different ganache recipe, because the straight-across substitution didn't work great--it was too stiff and didn't spread smoothly. Like Lindsey, I didn't deep-fry the sugared pecans. Too much work, too much mess. Instead, I used an easy candied pecan recipe that appeared in the newspaper as part of another recipe a while back. If I were to use them for this recipe again, I would leave out the nutmeg, which wasn't perfectly harmonious with the other flavors here. My only other complaint was that the cake was slightly dry. A minute or two less baking probably would have helped, but I think the batter would also have benefited from a yolk or two, not just egg whites.

Puréeing the banana and milk for the batter.

Adding the egg whites to the creamed butter and sugar.

The finished batter.

The baked cakes.

The pecans.

Spiced Candied Pecans

1/2 C granulated or superfine sugar
1 t ground cinnamon
1/4 t ground nutmeg (optional)
2 C pecan halves

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment. Stir together sugar and spices in a medium bowl. Rinse pecans with cold water in a colander, then shake off excess. Toss pecans in sugar-spice mixture to coat, then spread in a single layer on the baking sheet. Bake until sugar has melted and they're starting to smell a little toasty, 15-20 minutes. Let cool, then store in an airtight container for up to a couple of days.

The beginnings of the ganache, melted in the microwave for a minute, then 30 seconds, then 20 seconds on high, stirring in between until smooth.

After whipping in the rest of the cream.

The filling, with chopped candied pecans folded in.

The final product.

Now, what you've all been waiting for:
Banana Chocolate Bread Pudding
adapted from The Dessert Bible by Christopher Kimball

6 C 1-in cubes bread (rustic white or challah; I used 1/2 a Pearl Bakery Paesano)
4 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped (I used the Lever du Soleil, which comes in discs)
7 large egg yolks
3/4 C sugar
2 C heavy cream
2 t vanilla
2 C whole milk
2 ripe bananas

Put about two-thirds of the bread cubes into a baking dish with high sides, either a 8x11" rectangle or two 7.5" (interior diameter) souffle dishes (I did the math on these and they were just about exactly equivalent in terms of volume). Sprinkle chocolate on top, then cover with remaining bread.

Whisk egg yolks with sugar for one minute, then whisk in cream, vanilla and milk. Put chunks of peeled banana in food processor and pulse to mash. Add 1 C of the cream mixture and process until completely smooth, scraping sides as necessary.

Whisk banana mixture into bowl with remaining cream mixture, and then pour over bread and chocolate. Press down with a rubber spatula. Let soak for at least 10 minutes and up to 24 hours (I pressed plastic wrap directly onto the surface, weighted it down with discs of chilling cookie dough, and left it in the fridge overnight).

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 325 degrees. Press a piece of trimmed buttered parchment directly onto the surface of the pudding, then cover dish tightly with foil. Bake for 40 minutes, then remove foil and paper and bake for 40-45 minutes more, until slightly puffed and browned, and no more than the barest bit jiggly in the middle. Remove from oven and let stand 20 minutes before serving. If you really, really want to, you can serve it with caramel and/or chocolate sauce, but it is mouth-wateringly divine without any sauce at all.

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Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Making Life Simpler

So, I had these corn tortillas that had been in the freezer for who knows how long (seriously, well over a year--I can hear my sister gasping from here), and the last time I used them to make enchiladas they were kind of hard to deal with, and didn't roll up all pretty like they were supposed to. Hmmm, I thought, I wonder what would happen if I made all the ingredients for enchiladas, and then layered them in the dish à la lasagna? Last night I found out.

Deliciousness. And you can skip all that softening-of-the-tortillas nonsense. I followed the recipe for the sauce, but didn't strain out the solids, and mixed just the cheese (queso fresco) and cilantro together. I put a little of the sauce in the bottom of the pan, made an overlapping layer of six tortillas, topped it with half the cheese, then half the chicken (trying to leave most of the sauce in the pan), then repeated, scraping all the sauce out of the skillet with a silicone spatula. After 20 minutes in the oven at 300, it was perfect. Newton thought it was a bit too spicy (buying bulk chili powder is a bit of a crapshoot when it comes to the Scoville scale), but was able to finish his serving with a little sour cream. Cindy Lou liked it okay, but the Wizard switched to leftover pasta.

Stay tuned for more adventures with the technically-still-edible as I try to plan around things already on hand in the pantry.

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