Friday, 24 February 2012

Kitchen Bravery

I think there are a few things we are born with the instinct to avoid. The obvious thoughts, like face-plants or choking first come to mind...but I also think we have kitchen instincts. Mine are strong. Avoid caramel...and avoid anything which requires refrigeration to work (as in, chocolate truffles.)

I don't know what it is about those two instincts - some sort of safety mechanism I suppose, to prevent hot sugar burns and other mishaps. The problem is, of course, that I love caramel and truffles and there they dangle, just out of arm's reach.

Unless, I decide to take brave action against my instincts - and do my best to conquer them. Which I decided to do. And which I did. (Almost.)

And let me give you the recipes to do it too!

Caramel Popcorn

3 3/4 qts. popped popcorn
1 cup       brown sugar
1/2 cup    margarine
1/4 cup    light corn syrup
1/2 tsp     salt
1/2 tsp     baking soda
1/2 tsp     vanilla

Pour air popped popcorn into a large roaster

Mix sugar, margarine, corn syrup and salt in a pot and cook gently over medium heat, stirring constantly. When it begins to boil, cook for 5 minutes. Remove syrup from heat and stir in baking soda and vanilla. The mixture will foam and splutter a bit (dangerous!) so stand back a bit while you stir. Pour over the popcorn and stir and stir to coat it. This is very therapeutic. Bake for 1 hour @ 200 degrees, stirring every 15 minutes. Cool and crumble into pieces.

Black Chocolate Truffles

1 cup    heavy cream
9 ozs.    bittersweet chocolate, chopped
4 tbsp    butter, cut up
1 cup     icing sugar

1 cup of cocoa powder

In a saucepan set over medium heat, scald the cream (basically just get it hot-hot without boiling). Add the chocolate, turn down the heat and stir until melted and smooth. Remove from heat and stir in butter and icing sugar, a little at a time, until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and chill, covered for 1 hour or until firm. I would listen to the 'until firm' part, because I've yet to see 1 hour do the trick.
Measure the cocoa into a small bowl. Form the chocolate into 1 inch balls and roll them in the powder, placing them on a plate in one layer. This is messy!! But fun. Chill, covered, until ready to serve. They'll keep in the fridge for a week and the freezer for 2 months.

Yields about 2 dozen.

At this point, I feel it is only fair to tell the whole truth. Those of you who are particularly fond of 'real life' will be gleeful to know that halfway through the typing of this post, I hear the yell, "It's burning!" and jog up to the kitchen to see a layer of black on top of my popcorn. It had been so nicely baking just minutes before, I had been so confident. But that was when I thought it was supposed to be cooking at 400 degrees. Hmm.

However - the burnt layer was easily scraped off. And it really wasn't the caramel making step that went wacky. And hey, maybe Burnt Popcorn and Scraped Knees has a better ring to it.

So I'm still counting this as success. OK?


P.S. What are your cooking fears? If enough people share, I just might post a picture of my own little burnt popcorn disaster. Maybe.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Let them eat cake...and everything else.

ings"I can work for any kind of boss, but I only cook for people I really like."

I almost think it's true. No matter what you feel from meal time to meal time, doesn't it kind of boil down to that deep-running satisfaction of putting food in front of people you like?

It actually seems a lot like an act of love to me. And maybe I don't remember that enough.

Maybe I should share more...

...crack out the china and teacups...

...and go crazy wild on the good stuff.

The people you love might notice...or they might not. They might thank you ...but I wouldn't bank on it.

And that's not really what matters. It's for the sheer joy of loving. And so you can watch them lick their plates clean.

It's beautiful.