Three desserts and nearly 2 dozen eggs

Who knew that December was such an eggy month?  I certainly didn’t.  Since there were so many sweets this month, M,G, and I decided to split them evenly.  And somehow I ended up with the Orange Cream Pavlova (8 eggs), the Chocolate Soufflé (4 eggs), and the Tangerine Cake with Citrus Glaze (6 eggs).  Okay, so that’s only 1.5 dozen, but you have to admit those are some egg heavy desserts.

Let’s get started.  I decided to make the Chocolate Soufflé at my mom’s house over the holidays, almost entirely because she actually had a soufflé dish, but also partly because it’s better to share supremely decadent desserts right?

The dish I used was slightly too large so you can't tell how puffy the soufflé was here, but I promise you it was very fluffy… until I cut into it with a spoon...

The dish I used was slightly too large so you can’t tell how puffy the soufflé was here, but I promise you it was very fluffy… until I cut into it with a spoon…

I may have made one (minor?) mistake with this recipe.  Instead of whipping the sugar with the egg whites, I may have melted it with the chocolate… (I also may have had a few drinks before making this).  As a result, I think the texture was very slightly grainy, which I don’t think it would have been if I had done it right.  Oh well.  The sugar coating the dish made a nice crust on the outside of the soufflé so it was really easy to pull out 4 servings and not losing a ton of chocolatey goodness to the dish.

Mmm… fluffy chocolate.

Mmm… fluffy chocolate.

Looking back, I might recommend eating this with a side of ice cream just for the warm/cold contrast.  The outcome is basically like eating super rich, deeply chocolate fluff.  All you tastes is chocolate.  In a good way.  It’s not exactly creamy, but its not exactly caky either.  It’s enjoyable.  And its really, really, really chocolatey.  It’s a holiday win!

My next venture into whipping egg whites was the Orange Cream Pavlova.  I managed to make this one while completely sober, so I added the sugar at the appropriate time.

This was so thick I had a really hard time molding it into a circle.

This was so thick I had a really hard time molding it into a circle.

This lazy girl didn’t bother drawing the circle on the parchment and I think I managed a pretty decent circle on my own.  If I had been entertaining with it (which I totally should have been) I might have made the effort, but I really don’t think it would make a huge difference.  Word of warning, baking meringues is a little bit tricky.  The magazine didn’t mention that having higher humidity would prevent your meringue from drying.  So I baked for 2 hours as instructed and left in the oven (without opening it) for 5 hours.  When I went to check it, it was still quite smooshy.  So I turned the oven on for another hour.  Smooshy.  Another hour, smooshy.  At that point it was getting too late in the evening to let it go much longer so I cranked the oven to nearly 500 for maybe 10 minutes, turned it off, went to bed and kept my fingers crossed I would have a crisp meringue in the morning.

Thank goodness I did.  I may have just given up on the whole dessert if I hadn’t.  Once the meringue was secured, I worked on the curd.  It was my first curd making experience so I wasn’t sure what to expect.  It was really quick.  You definitely need to keep your eye on it, because before I knew it, it was nearly boiling.  I almost went really lazy again and wasn’t planning to strain the finished curd, but at the last minute I did.  And I’m glad.  There was a ton of zest that came out and some little eggs chunks as well.  I’m pretty certain that wouldn’t have made any major impact on the dessert but at this point I’d been working on it for a full 24 hours so I wanted it to be good (and pretty).

Orange curd might be even more delicious than lemon curd.  And look at that color!

Orange curd might be even more delicious than lemon curd. And look at that color!

So the final step was whipping some cream.  I’ll spare you the details.  And then layering the meringue, then curd, then cream.  Ta da!!

The dessert that nearly killed me.  Isn't it beautiful?!

The dessert that nearly killed me. Isn’t it beautiful?!

Oh, what’s that?  You want to know how it tasted?  It tasted good.  It tasted citrusy and light and New Yearsy.  Did it taste so glorious that I didn’t mind all the effort and struggle of the meringue?  No.  Honestly, I didn’t love how hard it was to chew the meringue.  It hurt my tongue a little bit.  However, the combination of the orange curd and the whipped cream was a win.  Next time I would skip the meringue and go straight to a store bought angel food cake.  Now that would be heavenly.

And finally, the Tangerine Cake.  This was a fairly easy recipe to follow.  It did, however, make me realize I need to upgrade to a Microplane.  My rasp happens to be one that Everyday Food sent as a gift with subscription many many moons ago. For the most part it works just fine.  Or it used to.  It might be getting a little dull.  Also, the skin on a tangerine is pretty thin and the combination of dull rasp and thin skin led to more pith in my cake than I hoped for.  It did not effect the taste.

The magazine would lead you to believe that the glaze is thicker than it actually is...

The magazine would lead you to believe that the glaze is thicker than it actually is…

Most of my glaze slid right off the cake and onto the plate.  As a result, when serving the cake I scooped “extra” glaze onto each piece.  So, the flavor.  It was really orangey and good.  It had a really nice texture.  It was moist yet pleasingly dense at the same time.  I sent the majority of the cake to work with the bear.  It was a hit.  I really need to make up some sort of business card that he can set next to the samples next time.  After two different people asked him for the recipe, I asked him if he gave them the blog address… And he said not only “no”, but “no, I don’t know what your blog is called.”  Sigh.

If I was one to make cakes on a whim, I would keep this one in mind.  As it stands, this blog keeps me busy enough with other sweets that I probably won’t return to this again soon.  I hope you give it a try.

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Tangerine reverie

Tangerine Marmalade

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

Sometimes working with your hands can be so tedious that it becomes a form of meditation.  Knitting can be like that.  If you’re just knitting row after row after row of a simple scarf, you start to disassociate just a touch.  It’s not necessarily a bad thing.  Slicing 15 tangerines is like that.  Not only were they sliced paper thin, but these had seeds, so those had to be picked out.  Please note that the good people at MSLO don’t even mention the seeds.  I was still fishing seeds out of the marmalade several steps in.  So what did I meditate on?  Florida.  The tangerines were from Florida, and I think that got me started.  I started imagining what Florida meant for people back when it was exotic, when people took long train rides there, or when they were selling off the first swamps and dredging mangroves to make Miami Beach.  I thought about a time when you couldn’t get oranges year round.  I thought about a picture of wholesome things for girls and boys from The Little Engine that Could.  I thought about Bob Wallace and Phil Davis going to see a sister act in Florida as a favor to a pal in the army.  It’s easy to forget all that now.  I can buy an orange whenever I like.  Florida is a not-to-long drive or a cheap flight away.  I don’t even like visiting Florida all that much.  But there’s something romantic about it, isn’t there?  D’s family has a tradition of putting oranges in their stockings that goes back generations to when it was a very special treat.  I think there’s still something special about a Florida orange at Christmastime.

What hypnotized me.

What hypnotized me.

All that aside, this stuff is delicious.  Let me give you a few hints:

The directions about freezing a plate and pushing jelly around with your finger to figure out when it’s done were confusing and aggravating. I wound up looking up some directions that had you boil the marmalade to 8-10 degrees above the boiling point for water at your altitude.  That’s 211 degrees in Chicago, fun fact.  The candy thermometer seemed to stall out at 215 degrees.  And this was after maybe an hour or more of boiling away.  At that point, the baby was up from his nap and I had to move on with my life.  It’s fine.  It’s maybe a little thinner than you’d expect for a marmalade or a jelly, but it’s still very thick and delicious.  I’m not a fan of marmalade normally (too bitter for my taste), but this is good.  The peels are softened and de-bittered enough that it’s just sweet.  I very much like that it’s flesh and peel.  Think that’s more interesting and tasty than just peel and jelly.

Also, this made a ton.  I didn’t actually weigh my tangerines at the outset, so my 15 or so tangerines (a couple rotted while I slacked off on making this stuff…that’s what the fridge is for, G) may have been far more than I needed, weight-wise.  This was supposed to yield 5 cups of marmalade.  It may have been nearly double that.  I gave some away as a gift.  Hence the pretty bow in the picture.

What did I do with the rest?  Well, some is in the freezer.  Some is in the fridge.  Some went on bagels.  Some went on a spoon.  Some became filling for linzer cookies (more about those later).  Some was served on toast with grainy mustard, cheese, and thinly sliced prosciutto.  Still more was made into…

Tangerine-pistachio sticky buns

Breakfast…and lunch...

Breakfast…and lunch…

These are very tasty.  The 1/3 cup of marmalade seemed like it wouldn’t be enough to give it much flavor.  It was plenty.  The buns were plenty sticky.  There was a good balance between nuts and marmalade.  They didn’t take too terribly long to make.  All in all, an excellent holiday recipe.

I made my own pizza dough.  Side rant: Everyday Food is obviously awesome and great and everything, otherwise why am I writing this?  Ok.  Right?  But.  I do not like the way they call for convenience foods as ingredients like the pizza dough in this recipe.  They call for a store-bought crust in the quiche recipe too.  I wish they would include a short recipe for making your own instead.  I think the average cook, when reading a recipe for quiche or sticky buns, would read the instructions for making your own crust or dough and think “I know I can buy that at the store.”  If the directions are there to make it yourself, you can still choose to buy the pre made one at the store.  But when the directions just call for the pre made one, that forces the do-it-yourselfer to go find another recipe.  Am I alone on this?  I mean, I don’t expect a recipe for potato salad to tell me how to make mayonnaise.  I recognize that there’s a line and that the line may be very different for different people.  I’m sure some home cooks think of a pre made crust as being the equivalent of buying a jar of mayonnaise.  Just a side rant.  I found a recipe for making pizza dough in the bread machine, so I’m probably a hypocrite for not kneading it by hand, aren’t it?  *Shrug*

Moving on from the dough to how to cut it, I must offer a quick tip from the Betty Crocker cookbook.  Cut the sticky buns using a piece of unscented dental floss.  I’ll be honest.  I’m not sure that a mint scent would actually make it through the baking process, but I’m not about to find out.  What you do is you slide a 12 inch piece of dental floss under the rolled up dough so there’s an even amount on either end.  Then wrap both ends up and over so they meet on top of the roll.  Then pull the ends.  The force of the floss will slice through the dough perfectly without sticking.  It’s the only way to go.  This blogger has some pictures that get the idea across.

Finally, just two steps need to be switched to make this recipe just exactly right.  The recipe has you sprinkle the cake pan with the sugar and nut mixture, then add melted butter, then add the rolls.  I would definitely try it with the butter first next time.  That’s the way I remember my Betty Crocker sticky bun recipe works, and it always pops out gooey rolls with not much left in the pan.  There was plenty of goop sticking to the pan here.  In fact, you can kinda tell by looking at the finished rolls, can’t you?

Taken after G frantically pulled topping out of the pan with a spatula and smeared it on top of the buns

Taken after G frantically pulled topping out of the pan with a spatula and smeared it on top of the buns

I say, leave no nut behind!  Speaking of nuts, this was breakfast (and lunch) for the 12th annual G and D Christmas celebration.  These made it just that much more special.

Winter (citrus) Wonderland

Roasted chicken with tangerines and olives

Sweet potatoes and pineapple

B is right, we do need to work on our photography.

B is right, we do need to work on our photography.

D made the chicken and I made the side.  He bought a whole chicken and cut it up for this purpose.  I’m always hesitant to do that.  I cut off the legs and wings, start feeling confident, then look at the football-shaped thing in front of me and start panicking.  What’s a breast look like?  Is that the chicken’s back?  Part of my worry stems from a long-running joke between D and his uncle about yella hammers (let’s just say “hillbillies”) liking to eat chicken backs.  I’ve always been worried I would serve D a chicken back, and he would die laughing and go call his uncle.  Alton Brown once had a show where he explained how to cut up a bird.  He said it was like a dinosaur.  That’s all I remember.  I don’t remember anything why being like a dinosaur is meaningful or helpful in any way.  So it’s a good thing D took care of it.  He said the only other prep was destuffing the green olives.  Also, “pro tip” from D: use the blunt end of a skewer to push the olive stuffing out.  He noted that if someone had a bird already cut up and pitted green olives, this would be an extremely easy recipe to prep.  It would just be cutting up those tangerines and tossing it.  Then you’d have thirty minutes of roast time to get a couple tablespoons of tangerine juice and some honey together.

The chicken was very tasty and moist.  The warm tangerines were very nice and sweet.  The olives were a little spicy, but that’s definitely because the former stuffing was spicy.  What kind of olives did we buy that had spicy stuffing?  Nowhere on the label does it say anything but “stuffed green olives.”  The whole thing is very nice leftover.  So when tangerines and other interesting citrus goes on sale in the winter, give this one a try.

The sweet potatoes and pineapple were good, but perhaps not as transcendent as I hoped.  You see, I love pineapple.  I love it the best of the best.  Sweet potatoes aren’t far down the list.  I think what actually kept this from being insanely good was the cayenne.  It was only 1/4 t for the entire pan, but it seemed like a little much.  It was a sharp spiciness and heat that I didn’t really want on my roasty pineapple and sweet potato, thank you.  I think a deeper, smokier taste like maybe cumin would have been better.  Or maybe chili powder, even.  Or just nothing.  Nothing would be good too.  My expectations may have been just a little high.  Or maybe I’m still obsessed with those twice-baked beauties…