Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Mini Baked Alaska-ish Dessert

Today is our 8th anniversary and I wanted to make a fun individual dessert so I came up with these mini baked Alaska desserts. I decided to go with a brownie bottom (chocolate cake would be terrific also) topped with vanilla ice cream. Then I added meringue and toasted it under the broiler. It was delicious!

For the brownie:
Suzanne's Best Brownies Recipe
adapted from simplyrecipes.com

10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or Dutch-process)
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1/2 cup all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 325°F with rack positioned in the lower third of the oven. Line the bottom and the sides of an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides to make it easier to lift the brownies out of the pan when they are done.
Combine the butter, cocoa, sugar, and salt in a medium heatproof bowl. Set the bowl in a wide saucepan of barely simmering water. Whisk the butter cocoa mixture until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth and hot enough that you want to remove your finger quickly after dipping it in to test. Remove the bowl from the pan and set aside briefly until the mixture is only warm, not hot.
Using a wooden spoon, stir in the vanilla extract. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring quickly after each one. When the batter looks shiny, thick, and well mixed, add the flour and stir until you cannot see it any longer, then beat for 40 strokes with the wooden spoon. Spread the batter evenly in the lined pan.
Bake until a tester inserted into the center comes out just slightly moist with batter, 20 to 25 minutes. Let the brownies cool completely on a rack. Lift up the ends of the parchment paper liner, and transfer the brownies to a cutting board. Cut into 16 squares.

1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
4 egg whites

In a small saucepan, combine 1 cup granulated sugar with ¼ cup water and cook, stirring, over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved. Boil until sugar is dissolved about 3 minutes. Using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites at medium speed until soft peaks form, 1 to 2 minutes. With the mixer on low, drizzle in the sugar syrup, then beat on high speed until the egg whites are stiff and glossy, about 8 minutes.

To assemble

Take one completely cooled brownie square and add one small scoop of vanilla or chocolate ice cream. Cover entire surface with meringue. You may freeze for up to an hour...much longer and the brownie will become hard. Preheat the broiler. Broil the cakes until lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Chicken and Okra Gumbo

A neighbor happened to give us some okra the other night so I decided to put it right to use in this delicious gumbo. I used this recipe courtesy of Nola Cuisine. It definitely hit the spot and was the best gumbo I've ever made. I'm eager to try a few other variations with seafood the next time I have a taste for gumbo. Although the gumbo recipe is terrific, what I really wanted to share was the recipe/technique used for cooking the rice. It was super tasty, not sticky, and the perfect accompaniment for the gumbo and would go great with so many other recipes. You actually boil the rice in a large pot filled with water much like you would cook pasta. Then you strain it and finish it in the oven which helps dry it out a little...but you could totally skip the oven step if you wanted to. Here is the actual recipe...try it out!

Creole Boiled Rice
1 quart of Boiling Water
1 Cup Basmati or Jasmine Rice
2 Bay Leaves
1 Tablespoon Kosher Salt
1 Tablespoon Unsalted Butter (Optional)
Bring the water to a boil with the Bay leaves. Add the salt. Add the rice, stir once and then do not stir again otherwise it will get sticky. When it comes back to a boil, partially cover it. Cook for about 11 minutes, but taste it, and make sure it is "al dente" with a little bite left to it. Next you need to drain it-I used a mesh strainer which was perfect. Take out the bay leaves, and if desired, place it into a 400 degree oven with the butter on top for about 15 minutes; this will help dry the rice out.

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