Chocolate Guinness Cake

The image for the article is licensed by robplusjessie under a Creative Commons By-NC-SA 2.0 license. If I need a relatively simple dessert, or if I feel that I have earned a reward, or if I think of it, I like to make Nigella Lawson's Chocolate Guinness Cake, from her cookbook Feast. It is the perfect cake, because not only is the cake itself rich and flavorful, but I actually enjoy the frosting as well. Generally, I despise frosting in more than trace amounts, and I will ditch the frosting from a cake without a second thought. This cake, though, is great with all of its frosting. Indeed, the frosting balances out the dark chocolatey, Guinnessey nature of the cake. It is a well-balanced cake. The problem for others has been that, as far as I knew, the recipe wasn't available online. However, Susie Nadler from The Kitchn showed me that it was in the New York Times all along. Hooray! So run, run, run, and make the Chocolate Guinness Cake. Serve it to people that you like, and notice how they like you just a little bit more now.

Chili Powder

Okay, this should be the final installment of my Chili saga, for a while, but it's an important one. This is your basic, all-purpose* chili powder. No fancy caraway, no dedicated mole to match with it. Just pure chili powder.

Ingredients

  • 6 oz. Dried Chiles, seeded and cut lengthwise into 1-inch wide strips

  • 2.5 oz. Cumin Seeds, whole

  • .25 oz. Garlic Powder

Directions
Toast the chiles over medium heat in a dry pan until they are warm. Set aside to cool. Toast the cumin seeds in a dry pain until the scent of cumin wafts into the kitchen. Put with the chiles to cool.

Put the chiles and cumin into a blender and blend for 2 minutes or until powdered. Let settle and mix with the garlic powder. Use immediately or store for, oh, six months or so.

Notes
If you store the chili powder longer than six months, it will lose flavor. On the other hand, if you find that you've had it for, oh, 8-12 months and it's use that or buy some chili powder, I think removing the cap and smelling what you have will prove to you that it's a better choice than buying in most instances.

The chile mix is really up to you. I tend to lean towards a milder spice combined with whatever happens to be available. I also tend to use between 3 and 6 different types of chile, depending. As a guide, if you dab a bit of the chili powder on your tongue and it's too hot for you, you've probably made it too hot.

In the case of overambitious heat, get another 6 ounces of a very mild chile, and similar proportions of cumin seeds and garlic powder, make a second batch, and combine it with the first. No sense wasting it, and you can always give it as a gift if you don't make enough chili for it to be worthwhile.

*- if your purpose is to make chili.

Vanilla Salt Cookies

vanilla_salt_cookies.jpg This entry is stolen… er, used under Creative Commons License from umami.com. I have made these cookies several times and love them ever so. They are my favorite cookies to make at Christmas, because they are easy and tasty and a bit more sophisticated than your average Christmas cookie. I have not made any alterations to the recipe because the license of the site does not allow for derivative works. And although, as a recipe, I could alter it and make it my own, it's a very good recipe without any change. Other than the salt on the top, as I have used fleur de sel instead of the pink Himalayan stuff.
These cookies were made using from the recipe for Vanilla Wafers in the "Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Baking". Instead of sugar crystals as suggested in the book, which I did not have on hand, I pressed some pink Himalayan salt crystals on the top just before baking. The salt accentuated the sweet vanila butteriness of the cookies, intriguing those who tasted with its familiar yet novel sensation. The recipe calls for one whole block of butter, and makes over 60 cookies. For a small household like mine it makes sense to freeze part of the dough. The ones above were from one of the frozen portions, slightly overbaked and crumbly, but still really rather scrumptious. Next time I might increase the quantity of flour. 250g butter 1/4 tsp salt (or if you are like me, omit this and use slightly salted butter) 125g sugar 2 large egg yolks 1 tbsp vanilla extract 315g plain flour Beat the butter, salt and sugar at medium speed untill smooth. Add egg yolks and vanilla and beat at low speed until blended. Add flour and mix until a dough forms. Divide dough into three or four equal portions. Roll each portion into logs about 1.5 inches in diameter. Wrap logs in plastic wrap and freeze or refridgerate till firm. Before baking, unwrap log and cut into 1/4 inch thick slices. At this point you can op to sprinkle crystal sugar, crystal salt or chopped nuts on the surface. Bake at 180 C for 12-15 minutes. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes then transfer them to wire racks to cool completely before storing in an airtight container.

Medieval recipe translations

From infodoodads' 12 sites for foody foodness (which, I should mention, featured me), comes Medieval Recipe Translations. I know, I know. "But they didn't even have sous vide back then! What kind of barbaric cooking do you expect us to do?" It's fair. I understand. Still, how can you pass up a recipe for a frothy wine/ale drink called Caudell which, apparently, gets its froth from the egg whites that you cook in it… with, uh, saffron… Okay, maybe that wasn't the best example. The thing was that they knew what was important: fried dough. That's right, Crispels, or dough fried in oil and covered with honey have been around since the 14th century. When you eat fried dough at a Medieval Fair, it's not because they think you're just the sort of unhealthy person to only eat fried food at a fair; no, it's because it's historically accurate. It's also interesting to see how things evolved. For example, you can see from this Milk Qualing recipe that in the 15th century they knew that flour would thicken milk, but the roux had not yet been invented. So, if you're looking for a little food history, or if you want to have some manner of historically accurate medieval feast for your holiday dinner party, then the Medieval Recipe Translation page is obviously for you.

Who owns that recipe?

In any field involving a creative endeavor, people who make things up have this dream of making money off of it. And ideas, once exposed to the world, are pretty easy to look at and recreate. Physical objects, by and large, require at least as much money to recreate as they did to make in the first place, so people aren't as worried about individuals copying those as people are about individuals copying ideas. This fear manifests itself in cooking in a couple of ways. The first is the "secret family recipe." Passed down from generation to generation, there's some trick that someone came up with that makes a better biscuit, a tastier tart, or a moister muffin, and the only time someone gets to experience it is when they visit you. They'll coo, "Wow, what's in this muffin? It' so moist! Like pudding!" and you'll smile and nod and say, "Secret family recipe." Your guests will nod knowingly and ply you with liquor until you talk or pass out, at which point they'll raid your recipe bin. The second way this manifests itself is when someone in the food creation profession comes up with an idea or a recipe and wants to ensure that they are the only one who does this. In the case of recipe makers, it is often that its copyrighted in a magazine or book, and if you try to republish it or make modifications of it, they threaten you with a lawsuit. In the case of a professional chef, they may come up with some ingredient combination or technique that they don't want other people to copy, so people will be forced to go to their restaurant. Personally, I think all of those manifestations are foolish. The least foolish is the secret family recipe, because you at least have some family traditions locked up in that, and there are potentially emotional issues or family obligations. Perhaps there is also the ability to win year after year at the county fair, and your great-gradmother's ghost would haunt you forever were a rival family to win with your recipe. I can understand that to a point. I don't follow it myself, but I can understand it. For commercial endeavors, it's entirely foolish. Nobody is going to go to your restaurant because you're the only person who is allowed to sous vide bananas and cloves into a pudding. They'll go to your restaurant because you are really good at what you do, and your banana clove pudding is merely a representation of that. For the recipe publishers, there are certain legal rights and limits that you get for recipes. The US Copyright Office has this to say about copyrighting recipes:
Mere listings of ingredients as in recipes, formulas, compounds, or prescriptions are not subject to copyright protection. However, when a recipe or formula is accompanied by substantial literary expression in the form of an explanation or directions, or when there is a combination of recipes, as in a cookbook, there may be a basis for copyright protection.
So: The recipe itself is not copyrightable. The words that you use to describe the recipe are. Therefore, if someone includes a little anecdote about how they came about this recipe, or a mnemonic to help you remember the order that the ingredients are put in, or just some Shakespearean phrasing that makes tears well up in the eye whenever you glance over ingredients list, then you can't just copy that and paste it into your web site and expect it to be okay. However, if you grab the ingredients, re-write the directions in your own words, and add your own value to the recipe, you can take from anywhere, as long as you don't take a significant portion of recipes from any given source.* Ideas are better shared than they are stored. Ideas like company. Ideas like new environments. Ideas like to frolic in new brains with other ideas. It's how baby ideas are made. Ideas can't reproduce well alone, so everyone wins if ideas are allowed to be promiscuous. Except maybe Mrs. Ideas, who is a little jealous. Still, it's for the greater good.** How firmly do I believe in this? I have released all of my original work for this site under a Creative Commons License. Specifically: Creative Commons License
The Food Geek by Brian J. Geiger is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at /about. If I have a recipe or an article you like, and you want to put it on your site or in your book or read it on your podcast or whatever, go for it. Just be sure to tell people where it came from. More details are on the about page. You might not want to take the pictures, though, as chances are better than even that they are stock and not my own. Sorry. You could ask, though, and I can tell you if they are stock. In any case, don't be afraid to re-purpose recipes. Even if you don't change the ingredients or preparation directions, you can still make them yours with a little work. Mind you, if you don't add any value, it's probably not worth re-purposing, but collecting best-of recipes together is its own value. Also, don't be afraid to give away your ideas. Please visit Creative Commons to learn how you can make a better life for ideas. It will help make a better world for everyone. *- Incidentally, I am not a lawyer. Don't whine at me if you get sued or try to sue me yourself. I'm merely telling you how I approach the idea of copyrighting recipes. **- The greater good.

Pork and Beef Stew

Prok and Beef Stew in a White BowlIngredients:
  • 3 Stalks Celery, Chopped
  • 3 Carrots, Chopped
  • 3 Small Onions, Chopped
  • 3 Tablespoon Butter
  • 2 Tablespoon Kosher Salt
  • 1.5 lb. Beef, Cubed
  • 1 lb. Pork, Cubed
  • ½ liter Red Wine, Merlot
  • 3 tablespoon Herbes du Provence
  • 2 tablespoon Garlic Powder
  • 2 tablespoon Onions
  • ¼ teaspoon Nutmeg, grated fine
  • 2 tablespoon peanut oil
  • 2 cup water
  • 1 sprig rosemary
  • 1 sprig thyme
  • 1 sprig sage
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 2 cups Wild Mushrooms, Whole
  • 4 clove Garlic, Chopped
  • 1 can Diced Tomatoes
Directions: 1. Melt the butter in your pressure cooker 2. Sweat the Celery, Onion, Carrots, and salt until the onion becomes translucent 3. In a heavy pan, brown the pork and beef cubes over high heat and in the peanut oil 4. Add pork and beef to the pressure cooker 5. Deglaze the heavy pan with part of the wine, then pour that and the rest of the wine into the pressure cooker 6. Add water to cover all ingredients in pressure cooker 7. Put Rosemary, Sage, Thyme, and Cumin Seeds into a tea ball and submerge in Pressure Cooker 8. Bring to a boil 9. Remove tea ball with tongs 10. Add Garlic Powder, Onion Powder, Herbes du Provence, Nutmeg, Garlic, Tomatoes, and Mushrooms to Pressure Cooker, and bring back to a boil 11. Cover and, following directions for your pressure cooker, cook for 25 minutes 12. Remove cover (following directions) and add Wondra Flour or Corn Starch to thicken. 13. Boil for one minute 14. Serve and enjoy (Serves 6)

Egg Nog

Nog. Right. They way I figure it, there are roughly 5 types who are reading this article. The first will be ready to read and make this recipe immediately, enjoying the nog and perhaps sharing with friends. Excellent. The second type already has a nog recipe, and may compare notes a bit, but there would be at most tweaking. The third through fifth do not like the nog. The third because of some manner of allergy, which is understandable. The fourth type, and perhaps most common, believes that it does not like nog because it has only had the carton stuff. I say fie on the carton stuff. It's like saying you don't like steak because you've had a McDonald's hamburger and you didn't like that. The fifth type doesn't like egg not because they are outcasts from society and, and I say this without any sort of judgement you understand, the fifth type doesn't like egg nog because it's a freak. No judgement, remember. We can still hang out and play cards together. I know all kinds of people from different walks of life. We're cool. Read on to find out how to make proper Egg Nog. Note: This recipe contains raw eggs. They are pasteurized eggs, so should be perfectly safe, but if you have an allergy, or if you have a somehow weakened immune system, it would be wise to go with another recipe that cooks the nog to kill the critters inside. Also, you'll end up with a bunch of egg yolks at the end of this, because I don't like to add whipped egg whites to my nog. You can either make a heart-healthy omelet, or you could pour the egg whites into an ice tray (an empty ice tray) and freeze them for later use. Equipment
1 large mixing bowl
1 mixer (stand or hand)
2-3 small bowls for separating egg yolks and whites
Ingredients
8 egg yolk, pasteurized
1 cup sugar
½ gallon whole milk
1 pint heavy cream
5 oz. bourbon, (Or to taste - I'll generally add a bit more) (Well, I say a bit...)
1 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated In the bowl of a stand mixer or hand mixer, beat together the egg yolks and sugar until the yolks lighten in color and the sugar is completely dissolved. Add the milk, cream, bourbon, and nutmeg. Stir to combine. Chill and serve. Or, as I generally do, just drink it right then and there.

Soup == Good food.

I made a vegetable soup yesterday, and it's tasty, so I'll share. No, not as a recipe, at least not yet. A vegetable soup is a pretty simple thing, as long as you follow some basic principles. There are two major parts to the soup: the liquids and the solids. Liquids should be about 75% vegetable broth or stock. You can use chicken broth/stock if you want, but the vegetable broth is tasty enough on its own. If you have lots of chicken broth around, it won't hurt the soup by any means, though it will make any vegetarians you might want to share with unhappy. There should be some tomato juices (see below), and the rest water. You do stock all the way instead of water, but it's not really necessary. However, please please please use low-sodium broth/stock. Otherwise you are doomed. Doomed! Well, at the very least you'll have little control over the saltiness of the soup, and that's pretty close to doom in my book. The second part of the vegetable soup are the solid vegetables. By and large, you are free to pick whatever you want for your soup. I recommend anything that you like, really, and nothing you don't. The only thing you should be sure to include, in my opinion, are tomatoes. Canned, whole tomatoes, unless it's tomato season and you have a good supplier, or maybe if the Flavr-Savr Tomatoes are available in your area, you could use those. I haven't seen them, and we can talk Genetically Modified food at another time, but I'm curious how they taste. I use about 2 cans of tomatoes, and their juice, and I chop the tomatoes to bite-sized chunks. Some people take the seeds out, because they're supposed to be bitter, but it's not something that hurt my soup. For the rest of the vegetables, I recommend broiling them in the oven if you have time, enough to get some browning going on. Chop the vegetables up into bite-sided chunks, throw some olive oil and salt over them, and broil them until they look tastier. Then you have to divvy up your vegetables into easily cooked and hardy vegetables. Corn and squashes are easily cooked, meaning that if they're roasted, they're probably pretty close to being as done as they should be, and will disintegrate if you cook them much longer. The rest, like broccoli, onion, carrots, and so on are hardy, so they can be cooked longer. Okay, really you want to divide the veggies up before you roast them, because it would be a pain to do after. To assemble the soup, you start by sweating a mirepoix, or combination of onions, celery, and carrots, in your soup pot for 10 minutes. It's a sweat, so do this over low heat, and salt it at the beginning so it'll draw out some juices. Once that's done (the onions will start going translucent), thow in your liquids, to about the halfway point of your soup pot. Bring to a simmer, then throw in your hearty vegetables, bring to a simmer again, and let that go about its simmering for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Then put in your easily cooked vegetables, do a little more simmering to heat, and you're done. If you'd like, go ahead and use an immersion blender to chop things up a bit, but make sure there are plenty of good chunks still. Throughout the process from adding stock on, occasionally taste the mixture and add salt and pepper as desired. The salt level and quality of your ingredients will make or break your soup, so make sure your stock/broth is good, your vegetables are fresh and tasty, and that you put enough salt in to bring out the flavors (but don't make it taste salty, otherwise you could have just used the salty broth and/or stock).

Coffee Time Part 1 - Introduction and History

Mmmm...coffee

Perhaps it's the fuel that drives your every being. Perhaps it's the nastiest liquid you've ever tasted. Maybe you like its smell, but would never drink it. Maybe it's the stuff that nobody can seem to make properly. However you feel about it, coffee is an important beverage from an economical standpoint, and awfully useful in a variety of culinary applications. How did we find it, and however did we do without it?

Frisky monks and friskier goats

You'll hardly come across a history or timeline of coffee that doesn't tell the following myth: Somewhere between 800 BCE and 500 CE, there was an Ethiopian goat herder named Kaldi. If you know only one Ethiopian goat herder, incidentally, make it Kaldi. Cause, frankly, most of you won't need to remember any other goat herders, and even fewer of you will have to remember Ethiopian goat herders, so go ahead and make the effort. Anyways, the life of a goat herder is not an exciting one, by and large. I imagine, presuming all the goats are in proper working order, your day-to-day actions are limited to making sure nobody wanders off or gets eaten. Granted, I'm sure it's more difficult than with sheep, but still, for the right herder, it's almost certainly a life of quiet contemplation and thinking of new ways of swearing at goats. So in the midst of the contemplating and swearing, a few of the goats are noticeably friskier than the others. At first, Kaldi was planning on expressing his disapproval of the goat's actions by explaining the rather improbable mating habits of the goat's mother, but after a bit he noticed that all the frisky goats were in the same area, and eating the same plant. Well, whatever is good for the goat is good for the goat herder, obviously, so Kaldi popped the bright red berry into his mouth, and lo and behold, he got a bit friskier himself. There's a second myth, or some say an extension to the first myth, that Monks thought perhaps the berries were Devil Berries, but realized that it couldn't possibly be so because consuming the coffee berries allowed them to stay up and finish their prayers. Some claim that Kaldi took the berries to the local monastery, but that would mean that the whole event likely happened between 330 and 500 CE, because before then no religions with monastic traditions were around in Ethiopia, but I suspect that the two myths were separate in any case. At this point, there was still no coffee. People generally took the beans, ground them up, and mixed it up with tasty, tasty fat, then ate that as energy food. Obviously, this is well before cardiologists roamed the earth. Sometimes the berries were eaten alone, but that's not nearly as good of a story as the whole "ground up and mixed into fat" bit. That's pure gold.

Actual coffee

Roundabouts 1100 CE, the Arabs boiled the beans in water, making the earliest known form of honest-to-goodness coffee. It's said that it wasn't until about 2 centuries later that the whole roasting thing caught on, which means that, as with most of the other food of the time, early coffee tasted nasty. They called it quahwa, but the idea is the same. The Turks called it kahveh, the Italians called it caffe, and it hit the English language as coffee. Coffee trade spread like wildfire but with less property damage, coffee plants were restricted from export, battles were fought over coffee, and coffee shops were opened. Pope Clemente VII was planning to forbid Catholics from drinking the Devil's Beverage, as it was known, until he drank some. Apparently, he declared, "This beverage is so delicious that it would be a sin to let only misbelievers drink it! Let's defeat Satan by blessing this beverage, which contains nothing objectionable to a Christian!" One wonders what the Pope had been drinking before his first taste of coffee, as it is rare for anyone to really think coffee is delicious the first time they drink it. Perhaps they slipped him chocolate or something instead, fearing the loss of their favorite beverage. Seriously, though, have you wondered about some of what people ate in the old days? By and large, anything that wasn't a basic recipe was pretty nasty, and then if you take into account how hard it was to get salt, well, it couldn't have been good. I'll probably do some historical food articles at some point, but if I don't get tasty recipes up first, people will never come back to the site.

The kooky Americans

My favorite coffee fact I've run across is that, in 1668, coffee replaced beer as New York City's breakfast drink of choice. Well, truth be told, that's my favorite beer fact I've run across researching the coffee story, but it's fun, nonetheless. As you can imagine, coffee has been traditional in America for some time. It was terribly unpatriotic to drink tea in revolutionary times, so coffee was the natural replacement. Well, coffee or beer, I suppose. People may make analogies between that and the recent foolishness with "Freedom Fries," but there are a few differences. First, tea itself was highly taxed, which was one of the rallying cries for the war, especially with the symbolic acts of the various tea parties (Boston's being the most famous). Second, we were actually at war with the British, not just having a disagreement over foreign policy. Finally, the tea was coming to us by way of British companies, whereas French Fries are neither imported from France, nor even a French invention. Anyways, political symbolism aside, what you want are recipes. Most of the historical coffee recipes are kinda nasty, and we'll get into making coffee proper in the next part of this article, but let's see if we can't make something analogous to the energy food of coffee mixed with fat. No, Really.

Recipe: Chocolate covered espresso beans.

Ah, not so scared any more, are you? Chocolate covered espresso beans are a delightful combination of bitter and sweet, crunchy and chewy, chocolate and coffee, and two sources of caffeine. And there's very little that people won't eat covered with chocolate, right?Chopped Chocolate For this, you'll need some coffee beans, some chocolate, some chile powder (not chili powder) or cayenne pepper, a small sauce pan, a metal bowl that fits in the sauce pan, and some water. The coffee beans should preferably be the darkest roast you can find, partially to stand up to the chocolate, but also to reduce the caffeine content. The longer the roast, the more the caffeine breaks down, so you can eat more beans without giving yourself a heart attack. Preferably, of course, you'll want to eat the same amount of beans without giving yourself a serious case of the jitters, but just try to control yourself. The basic idea is pretty easy. Though working with chocolate has its various difficulties, we won't worry much about them until I do a proper candy article. In short, you temper the chocolate, throw in the beans, scoop them out, and let them cool. Double BoilerFirst, tempering the chocolate. This is a two-step procedure, which you can either do the easy way or the hard way, and we're doing it the hard way this time so you can have some practice. However, that's a story for another time. Take the small sauce pan and put about an inch of water into it. Heat the water on medium heat until some water vapor starts coming off of it, but before it gets to a simmer. Place your metal bowl into the sauce pan (which, incidentally, should not touch the water), and put about 2/3 of your chocolate into the bowl. The chocolate should melt slowly over the course of a few minutes. After all the chocolate has melted, take the bowl off the double boiler and whisk in the rest of the chocolate and the cayenne pepper or chile poweder (Chile powder is a single pepper or blend of peppers with now other additives ground to a powder. Chili powder contains cumin, and would not work at all well with chocolate.). If you need to, you can add the bowl back to the double-boiler from time to time to add in some more heat, but by and large, residual heat should carry the bulk of the melting load. Espresso Beans Once the chocolate has all be incorporated, mixed, and molten, add in some beans. For coffee clusters, I recommend filling up about a 1:3 coffee bean to chocolate ratio. Next, spoon out the clusters using either a regular spoon or a small disher onto parchment paper, waxed paper, or a silicon baking mat, though I recommend a paper option from a clean-up perspective.. This will give you probably 5-10 beans per cluster. Let these cool in a reasonably chilly kitchen, or put in the fridge for 5 minutes or so to firm, but not much longer. After these have set, you can spoon some more chocolate over to your liking.