Wednesday, May 30, 2012


Its true.  I have officially become Foodzilla.  I couldn't help it, I just snapped. Why?  Someone  said they were bringing a store-bought grocery store cake to an event where I was planning all of the food.  Uh-uh.  That ain't happenin' sister.  EVER.  Keep that crap as far away from me as you can, or I will go all crazy Kung fu Panda on your ass.  Not cool.

I was able to smooth things over after my initial reaction: pure rage.  We talked respectfully to each other, she heard my side of the story and promised me "no store-bought grocery store cake".

GAWD!  When did I turn into such a food snob?

In all fairness, I was jointly planning this event with someone who knew nothing of my skills in the kitchen, and in the end everyone was pleased.  The food was for a good friend's bridal shower and it all went off without a hitch.  The favorite of the day?  German Chocolate Cheesecake.  Uh huh.

Me and Ashley, the bride-to-be

It fills me with unreasonable amounts of joy to plan menus, cook for hours and then watch people devour my works of "art".  And this time I got to cook and create alongside my best girlfriend, her mom and our three amigos.  It was the most fun I've had in the kitchen in a long time.  If anyone else wants to get married  I'd be happy to throw you a shower...or at least make you a bunch of food!

German Chocolate Cheesecake
Adapted from Midwest Living
Serves 12-14

4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
9 graham cracker sheets
1/2 cup pecans
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup sweetened flaked coconut
24 ounces cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup full-fat sour cream
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 eggs

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
2 tablespoons cream
2 tablespoons corn syrup
1 cup sweetened flaked coconut
1/2 cup pecans, chopped
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped

To make the cheesecake: Preheat oven to 350F.

Melt the chocolate in a microwave safe bowl on high power for 1 minute.  Stir the chocolate and if it isn't melted continue to microwave in 20 seconds increments until chocolate is smooth and melted.  Set aside to cool.

Add graham crackers to the bowl of a food processor and process until finely ground crumbs are formed.  Pour crumbs into a medium sized bowl.  Add pecans to processor bowl and process until finely chopped (make sure not to over-process or you will end up with pecan butter!) and add to the bowl with the graham cracker crumbs.    Add coconut to bowl, stir until well combined and then pour melted butter over the top.  Stir with spoon or using your hands until butter is thoroughly incorporated.  Press into the bottom of a 10-inch springform pan.  Bake for 8-10 minutes or until slightly browned.  Set aside.

Increase oven temperature to 375F.

In the bowl of a stand mixer beat cream cheese, sugar, sour cream and vanilla on medium speed until thoroughly combined, about 2-3 minutes.  Add the flour, beat well.  Add the eggs and cooled chocolate and beat until just combined.

Pour cream cheese mixture on top of the crust and bake for 45-50 minutes, or until the center appears to be almost set when you jiggle it.  Cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes.

To make the Topping:  In a small saucepan, melt butter.  Add brown sugar, cream and corn syrup.  Cook over medium heat until bubbly, stirring constantly.  Stir in the coconut, pecans and vanilla.  Remove from heat and allow to cool 5 minutes.  Melt the chocolate in a microwave safe bowl and set aside to cool.

Using a knife, gently trace the inside of the pan to release the cheesecake from the sides, then loosen the side of the springform pan and remove it.  Spread the coconut topping over the cheesecake (the cheesecake will still be warm).  Using a spoon, drizzle the melted chocolate over the coconut.  Garnish with a few whole pecans if desired.

Put the springform ring back on the cheesecake, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours before serving and then...

Eat it!!!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Pecan and Cinnamon Rolls

I am something of a pecan fanatic.  I love them with a fervor not given to other nuts.  I do like other nuts, but I adore pecans.  They make me gush with foodie love, especially when inserted into an ooey-gooey caramely breakfast roll.  I could plunge head first into this plate of pecan rolls and eat them all up - oh wait, that actually happened.  Oops.  Don't tell anyone, ok? 

These rolls made an appearance in our kitchen after I picked up my darling Tassajara Bread Book to find something fun to make for breakfast last weekend.  Just before I started scattering nuts to and fro on the dough, I remembered that Anna can't eat nuts yet.  So, I made a quick decision and divided the dough in half (okay to be fair, maybe it was more of a 25/75 split) and made the other part into cinnamon rolls.  Phew, good save Momma!  I never would have forgiven myself for stuffing my face with pecan rolls while Anna watched empty handed.

These buns also gave me a really cheesy way to share some really exciting news with you all.  I promised you last week that I was going to fill you in on why my blog has been mostly silent for the past month.  So, here goes...I've got a bun in the oven...figuratively and literally!  Damn I'm funny.  I think the morning sickness has completely subsided now (obviously, or I probably wouldn't have been able to even look at these buns) and I am back in kitchen action!  Hooray! 

Our newest addition is due on November 18th and we are thrilled beyond belief that Anna is going to be a big sister.  And such a great big sister she will be.  She's become mildly obsessed with babies lately, which may be a coincidence, or else the fact that we talk about babies mildly obsessively lately. 

Our family is growing, and this Momma is gushing with love and excitement.  It will be a big change, but can it really be a bigger change than going from zero to one?  Umm...don't answer that. Let me live in ignorant bliss for just a few more months, ok?

So, back to the rolls.  Unless you are a very early riser, I'd recommend making these rolls in their entirety the night before and giving them their final rise in the refrigerator overnight.  This recipe calls for three rises, which calls for lots of time, which I don't have in the morning (unless we eat breakfast at 1pm).  I took them out of the refrigerator about a 45 minutes prior to baking to bring them to room temperature.  This whole process worked out beautifully, and my family was rewarded with a stunningly delicious breakfast and full happy tummies. 

Pecan and/or Cinnamon Rolls
Adapted from Tassajara Bread Book

Makes approx 10 rolls

1 cup warm water
1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast
3 tablespoons sugar
1/3 cup dry milk powder
1 egg
3 cups all-purpose flour 
3 tablespoons melted butter or canola oil
1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt

for both cinnamon and pecan rolls:
1/4 cup melted butter
1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
1 tablespoon cinnamon

additional ingredients for pecan rolls:
1 cup pecans, chopped
6 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed

Glaze for Cinnamon Rolls:
1 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup milk or cream

To make the dough: dissolve the yeast and sugar in the warm water and allow to sit for 5-10 minutes or until foamy.  Stir in dry milk and egg to combine.  Add 1 1/2 cups flour, forming a thick batter and then stir for about 30 seconds.  Allow to rise for 30 minutes.

Fold in the butter or oil and salt.  Add one cup flour and mix using a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, or a stir with stiff wooden spoon, until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl.  Knead in a stand mixer or with your hands, adding additional flour as necessary until the dough is smooth and elastic.  Allow to rise for 40 minutes. 

Preheat oven to 375F.

On a floured surface, roll the dough into a 10" x 15" rectangle.  Brush the melted butter on the dough, covering the entire surface.  Sprinkle brown sugar and cinnamon evenly across the dough.  If making pecan rolls, distribute 1/2 cup chopped pecans across the dough. 

Starting at the long edge closest to you, roll the dough away from you into a tight log.  Cut the dough log crosswise into 3/4" thick rounds.

For Cinnamon Rolls:
Place the rolls on a greased baking sheet about 2" apart.  Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.

Meanwhile make the powdered sugar glaze by stirring powdered sugar and milk together.  While the rolls are still warm, brush with the powdered sugar glaze.  Serve warm.

For Pecan Rolls:
Using two 8" square cake pans, dot the bottom of each pan with 3 tablespoons of butter and sprinkle with 1/4 cup brown sugar.  Sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup pecans over the butter and sugar.  Place the rolls in the pans, so they are snug against each other (this will the allow the rolls to rise up rather than out).  Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.

Turn the rolls upside down onto a serving platter, making sure to spoon any remaining caramel topping from the bottom of the pan onto the rolls.  Put the platter on the table and pull them apart, throw one (or two!) on your plate and then...

Eat it!!!