Sweet and Savory New Adventures…and a Self Assessment…I Give Myself a D

When I started this blog about my food and running adventures I vowed to included the good and the bad, the flops and the victories.  Well this weekend was a series of flops :-(.  I probably should not have been lazy.  It was an absolutely beautiful weekend with sun and temps in the 60’s but did I get out and run????? No.  I was lazy.  I could have even gone to hit some golf balls or at least just take a walk and get some fresh air.  Nope.  Other than going to the library to study and a quick dinner date with the hubby, I was inside in PJ’s and baggy sweat pants all weekend.  And then to top it off I was not satisfied with any of the 3 new recipes I tried. But I am going to post about them anyway.

I have no formal training in baking what so eve, or cooking..  I get information online, cooking shows on TV and from cookbooks.  So I am completely self-taught.  So since I am teaching myself I felt it was time for an assessment to see what I have learned AND retained thus far.  For the 1 dinner and 2 desserts that I made I decided not to follow someone else’s recipe and to use what I know about baking and cooking to make my own recipes.  Sort of my own Food Network type challenge.  I like to try to make things that are a bit off the beaten path but still taste good.  So here is where I lament the fact that I have retained very little knowledge from high school chemistry.  Baking is a science.  It is all about how chemicals (ingredients) react to each other.  This is why precise measurements and timing are so important in baking.  Cooking, on the other hand, is much more forgiving in that you don’t have to have exact measurements of ingredients, most of the time.  You can go by taste and feel.  That is harder to do in baking.  So when you are trying to merge flavors that you have not merged before you have to think about the chemistry of it all.

Here are the three creations:

1. Dinner: Slow-Cooker Oxtail with Rice, Gravy and Salad

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2.  Vanilla Custard Pie with Graham Cracker Crust and Meringue Topping

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3. Rum & Coke Banana Cupcakes with Chocolate Rum & Coke Ganache

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Slow Cooker Oxtail:

First I heated a cast iron skillet.  Next I seasoned the meat (I should I trimmed some of the fat).  I seared the meat then put it in the crock pot along with onion, garlic, green pepper, chicken broth, Worcestershire sauce and A1 sauce.  Hubby liked it.  I am neutral.  I could eat it but  I am feeling kind of meh `\(‘_’)/`  My boys?  Well 1 made a hot dog and the other made a frozen dinner, so there’s that.

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Vanilla Custard Pie with Graham Cracker Crust and Meringue Topping:

So I decided to make my own graham cracker crust.  I had actually never done it before but I knew it had to be easy.  I vaguely recalled seeing a recipe that used crushed graham crackers melted butter and sugar.  I used way too much sugar for this.  It was way too sweet.  The custard and meringue turned out well but with the sweetness of the crust it just made the whole dessert way too sweet.

Crust:

about 2 cups of finely crushed graham cracker crumbs**A stick of melted butter** 1 cup sugar (Again, this is way too much.  I will use much less next time I make a graham cracker crust.

Mix all ingredients and press into a pie pan.  Bake at 350 for about 10 minutes.

Custard:

2 cups of whole milk**4 egg yolks(reserve whites at room temp for topping)**1 cup of sugar**1/4 cup of cornstarch**1/4 teaspoon of salt** 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract** 2 tablespoons of butter

Combine everything except butter in medium saucepan.  Heat over medium heat, stirring constantly until it thickens.  This could take 5-10 minutes.  Once it thickens  remove from heat and add butter a little at a time.  Pour into baked crust and set aside.

Meringue topping:

4 egg whites at room temperature**6 tablespoons of sugar (probably can use less sugar here as well)** 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla

Beat egg whites until they get foamy then gradually add sugar.  Beat until you get stiff peaks.  Add vanilla then gently spread on top of custard.  I also reserved a small amount of the graham cracker before baking to sprinkle on top.  Next bake at 325 degrees for about 10 minutes or until it browns.

Chill the pie in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours.

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Rum and Coke Banana Cupcakes with Chocolate  Rum and Coke Ganache:

So this recipe was inspired by a sip of rum and coke that I had Saturday, which I had not had in a very long time.  As I was drinking it I couldn’t help but think that those flavors would taste good in a chocolate cookie!  So I thought about making that.  There were actually many recipes for this online so one day I will try it.  But the goal of this challenge/assessment was to make something without a recipe.  Then I noticed the very ripe bananas sitting on the table that I needed to do something with.  So I thought Rum + +Coke+ Banana=Cupcake.  I know that is probably some fuzzy math :-).  Then I thought about the frosting.  I didn’t want a typical buttercream so I thought about the flavor combination of chocolate covered bananas.  So of course a chocolate ganache with rum and coke would pair well right?

Cupcake:

1 stick of butter(I usually start with 2 sticks of butter but with added wet ingredients I was afraid it would turn out soggy so I went with 1 stick)**2 cups of sugar** 4 eggs**3 mashed ripe bananas (that is how many I had so I used all 3)**1/4 cup of milk**1/4 cup of rum**1/2 cup of coke**2 teaspoons of vanilla extract**3 cups of sifted cake flour**3 tablespoons of baking powder**1/2 teaspoon of salt

I may or may not have put in 4 tablespoons of baking powder when I was distracted and had to yell at my kids converse with my children at a volume that they understand that I mean business.  This, along with the fact that I think there are just too many liquids in this, probably contributed to flat cupcakes with a sunken center.  So obviously this recipe needs some tweaking.

In a medium bowl whisk flour, baking powder and salt.  In your mixing bowl cream butter and sugar.  Add in banana.  I mixed all of the liquids in my Pyrex measuring cup then alternately added this mixture and flour mixture, beginning and ending with the flour.  Pour in to baking cups and bake at 350 for about 12-15 minutes.

Chocolate Rum and Coke Ganache:

1 cup of heavy cream**8 ounces of chopped chocolate (I used two bars of Baker’s semi-sweet chocolate)**  A couple of splashes of rum** a couple of splashes of coke

What I should have done:  Heat cream to a boil, then pour over chocolate in a bowl and stir well, then add the rum and coke.

What I did: I put the chocolate and cream in sauce pan and heated them together, then added the rum and coke.

Since I made these with rum the kiddos did not get to taste test these.  They did not turn out all that bad but I made some fundamental errors in the recipe that cause the cupcakes to flatten and sink in the middle.  The flavor was pretty good but I am not sure of the coke added to the flavor or not.  I think it was just a wasted ingredient that only contributed to the sunken middles.

Hubby said they are good but nowhere near as good as my Chocolate Chocolate Cake with Raspberry filling 🙂

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So, there you have it. 3 edible but not really satisfying dishes.  Time to tweak them for sharing later.

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