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Chocolate Banana Icebox Cake
Test Kitchen: Icebox Cake /Research
Homemade Corned Beef on Homemade Rye
Simple Chocolate Mousse
Test Kitchen: Questions
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Experimenting: Butternut Squash Update
Experimenting: Butternut Squash Pancakes
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Dorie Greenspan
Chocolate Banana Icebox Cake
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
My friend Jesse talks about a lot of different kinds of food. One lazy evening, he brought up his ex-girlfriend's mom's icebox cake. He worked himself up so much, I figured, whatever, I'll make it. After consulting him on ingredients and my boyfriend got a little grilling, I think I had a handle on it. Some cookies, some pudding, some bananas, more pudding, some crumb topping. Of course, that's way too simple. Where was the upscale factor, particularly for a dinner party?

I'll make my own homemade pudding! And so I went. And here is the first of many icebox cakes that I will make. I already have ideas on how to play with it. Orange and cream icebox cake. Berry icebox cake. Double chocolate icebox cake. Oh, I'm going to have some fun.

Chocolate Banana Icebox Cake
Graham crackers
Chocolate wafer cookies
Vanilla pudding (about 2 cups) recipe follows
Chocolate pudding (about 4 cups) recipe follows
Sliced bananas (about 3 bananas-worth)

1. Spray a 13x9 pan, lay down the graham crackers in a single layer.

2. Spread warm chocolate pudding.

3. Layer the banana slices.

4. Layer the chocolate wafer cookies.

5. Spread in warm vanilla pudding.

6. Put about 5 chocolate wafer cookies and 2 graham crackers in a plastic zip storage bag. Bang on it with a rolling pin until crumbs. Press a layer of crumbs into the vanilla pudding.

7. Refrigerate at least one day. Add whipped cream if you'd like!

Vanilla Pudding
adapted from Homemade Vanilla Pudding at
(I added egg yolks--pudding needs egg yolk)

2 cups milk
1/2 cup white sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon butter

1. In a heat safe bowl, mix 1/2 cup milk, sugar, cornstarch, salt and egg yolks. Beat until smooth.

2. In a medium saucepan rinsed with cold water then shaken (this keeps milk from scalding, apparently), heat the remaining milk until just bubbling at the edges.

3. Pour a little milk into the milk and sugar mixture, whisking enthusiastically. Slowly at the rest of the milk as the mixture tempers.

4. Once smooth, return the mixture to the saucepan (now rinsed of milk skin bits) on a medium low flame. Whisk constantly until the mixture thickens.

5. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and butter until combined.

6. Serve warm, put in icebox cake or refrigerate. If you don't like pudding skin, cover with plastic wrap and press the wrap into the pudding surface, then refrigerate.

Chocolate Pudding
recipe slightly adapted from Joy of Baking's Chocolate Pudding Recipe, but it's mostly hers

3/4 cup granulated white sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch (corn flour)
1/3 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
4 large egg yolks
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (the original recipe calls for semi-sweet chocolate, so feel free to use that, but the bittersweet really adds a gourmet twist)
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, room temperature (cut into small pieces)

1. In a large stainless steel (heatproof) bowl whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, cocoa powder, and salt. Then whisk in 1/2 cup of the milk until you have a thick paste. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, whisking to blend into the cocoa paste mixture. Set aside while you heat the milk and cream.

2. First, rinse a medium-sized heavy saucepan with cold water and then shake out the excess water. Doing this step prevents the milk from scorching. Then pour in the remaining 2 cups milk with the cream.

3. Gradually pour the milk into the egg mixture, whisking constantly, until the mixture is smooth. Transfer the pudding mixture to a clean large, heavy bottomed saucepan and place over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens to the consistency of mayonnaise (about 3 - 5 minutes). At this point, in the original recipe, it asks that you strain the pudding to remove lumps. I found that whisking the crap out of the pudding while it cooks keeps it from lumping, but if you get lumps, strain the pudding after removing it from heat.

3. Add the finely chopped chocolate, vanilla extract, and butter, stirring gently with a rubber spatula until the mixture is smooth.

4. Serve warm, put in icebox cake or refrigerate. If you don't like pudding skin, cover with plastic wrap and press the wrap into the pudding surface, then refrigerate.
posted by Rose @ 7:03 AM   0 comments
Test Kitchen: Icebox Cake /Research
Sunday, March 16, 2008
So a friend of mine loves icebox cake and requested it for dessert at my next dinner party. What he described to me doesn't sound like cake, but I think I can figure it out, but clearly, Googling it first is a must.

Smitten Kitchen has a version that involved chocolate wafer cookies (apparently Nabisco does the original) and whipped cream here, but the one my friend described definitely had pudding. I remember Nilla wafers had a pie version with bananas (I think he said bananas were in his version) and vanilla pudding. I found something interesting sounding--this eclair icebox cake at, but I don't want to use instant pudding--not for a dinner party! I remember Dorie Greenspan talking about making your own pudding, so I think I'll swank it up that way. Plus a quick text just confirmed that the version my friend's craving has bananas in it. And chocolate. There's a recipe for chocolate pudding in that Dorie post...

Another text came in and a consult with the boyfriend and I think it's going to be layers of graham cracker, homemade vanilla and chocolate puddings, plus sliced bananas. Probably whipped cream, too, because I have heavy cream from the farmer's market, too. Mmmm...and honey...

Photos...I promise!
posted by Rose @ 7:14 PM   0 comments
Homemade Corned Beef on Homemade Rye
Monday, March 10, 2008
In honor of Parade Day, I set out to make my own sandwiches-- corned beef on rye, of course. I took a couple of recipes off the internet and made everything at home. No, I didn't "corn" the beef (I don't even know how that works, actually), but I did boil the 8 pounder myself and baked some fresh rye. I thought I would share because they were delicious!

A few notes on the recipes, first, though. I made the two loaves of rye, but I highly recommend at least doubling it. You end up with a nice dense bread, but not a whole lot of it. There were maybe 8 workable slices (I'm not counting the end pieces, because those are really more for chewing on yourself, right?) per loaf, so for two loaves, you may get 8 sandwiches. And trust me, depending on the size of your corned beef, you'll end up with enough meat for more than 8 sandwiches. I certainly did.

And as far as the corned beef is concerned, keep an eye on the water and the flame. You do not want to boil it! You want it to be at a very slow simmer. And seriously let it take 4 or 5 hours (or even a little more) to cook. That's what makes it beautiful. Taste it a little before you pull it out. Also, it doesn't get that red color on the outside until after it rests for a little while, so don't worry that you've ruined it (like I did).

Slow Cooked Corned Beef for Sandwiches
via this recipe at

6 pounds of corned beef (I ended up using an 8 pounder and this recipe worked fine)

1/4 cup of peppercorns (I used black, but would like to try to use white sometime)

2 12 oz beers (I used Bud Light because it's what we had in the house, but I bet Sam Adams would be fine, too)

2 bay leaves (I think I ended up using about 4, because they were a bit broken up)

1 bulb's worth of garlic cloves, peeled and separated

That seasoning packet that comes with the corned beef


1. Use a large pot and put everything in there, plus enough water to cover the corned beef and including the liquids that came with the meat.

2. Cover and crank up the heat. Don't let it boil! Turn down the heat once it starts to simmer and let it cook low for at least 4 hours, although mine went about 5 and a half hours, including the half an hour it took for the water to simmer.

3. Carefully take out the corned beef and let it rest for at least 10 minutes. Slice and serve on rye bread (see below) with a little mustard. You could add sauerkraut or coleslaw or cheese, too.

Country-Style Rye
via this recipe at

4 cups all-purpose flour (I used bread flour instead and only ended up using 3 cups)

1/3 cup packed light brown sugar

2 packages Active Dry or Rapid Rise Yeast

1 tablespoon caraway seed ( didn't use caraway seed because I didn't have it, but I'd like to try this again with the seeds)

1 1/2 teaspoon salt

2 cups very warm water (120 to 130 F)

2 tablespoons vegetable oil (I used olive oil because that's what I had and it tasted just fine)

2 cups rye flour

1 egg white lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon water

1. In large bowl, combine 2 cups all-purpose flour, sugar, caraway seed (if using) and salt.

2. In smaller bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the warm water (I find that a temperature of 110 degrees F is good for this). Cover and let sit for at least 5 minutes. The original recipe did not have you do this, but I've had bad yeast before and prefer to proof it this way before I add it to the dough. It should be a little foamy on the top if the yeast is good.

3. Add proofed yeast and oil to the dry ingredients. Mix until all is combined.

4. Sprinkle in the rye flour and mix.

5. Now add enough of the remaining flour to make a soft dough.

6. Knead until you have a smooth and elastic dough, about 6 to 8 minutes. It's a tough little sucker of a dough, so make sure you hands are ready for a workout.

7. Grease a bowl and turn the ball of dough around in it so it's greased all over. Cover and let rise until doubled, about an hour.

8. Punch down the dour and divide it into two balls. Shape these well and place on a slightly greased cookie sheet. Cover and let rise until doubled (probably another hour). I usually start pre-heating the oven at this stage of bread baking, just to give the loaves an extra oomph to rise.

9. Make slashes with a sharp knife to score the dough. I went with a diamond pattern. Brush the loaves with the egg white mixture.

10. Bake at 400 degrees F for about 35 minutes or until done. I found that it was browning fast, so I turned it down to 350 degrees F for about 20 minutes.

11. Remove from pan and let cool. And really do let them cool, because if not, you end up destroying the bread when you slice it. I live to cool my bread covered. I feel like it keeps it moist.
posted by Rose @ 7:39 AM   0 comments
Simple Chocolate Mousse
Wednesday, March 05, 2008
I use my Google Reader to keep track of all my RSS feeds for things I want to read on the web. One great feature is that I can "star" my favorites and I tend to star a lot of recipes. One Saturday I decided to try Simple Chocolate Mousse from Serious Eats, which was a Cook the Book feature there from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Herme, which Dorie Greenspan, my favorite baker ever, helped write. This was posted for Valentine's Day and I ended up making it shortly after.

It really is simple and delicious. I wish my photos were better, but I'm not going to let a couple lousy shots keep me from sharing with you. If you've never made mousse, this is the perfect beginner's recipe.

Simple Chocolate Mousse
blatantly stolen from Serious Eats
(to the left is my bad photo of the last mousse)

6 ounces (170 grams) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/3 cup (80 grams) whole milk
1 large egg yolk
4 large egg whites
2 tablespoons sugar

1. Melt the chocolate in a bowl over—not touching—simmering water or in the microwave oven. If necessary, transfer the chocolate to a bowl that is large enough to hold all of the ingredients. Keep the chocolate on the counter until needed. The chocolate should still feel warm to the touch when you’re ready to use it.

2. Bring the milk to the boil, then pour it over the chocolate. Using a small whisk, gently blend the milk into the chocolate. Add the egg yolk and whisk it into the chocolate, again working gently; stop when the yolk is incorporated.

3. In a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on medium speed just until they hold soft peaks. Increase the speed to medium-high and gradually add the sugar. Continue to beat the whites until they are firm but still glossy. Scoop one-third of the whites out of the bowl onto the chocolate mixture. Working with a whisk, beat the whites into the chocolate to lighten the mixture. Now, with either the whisk or a large flexible rubber spatula, delicately but thoroughly fold the rest of the beaten whites into the chocolate.

4. Turn the mousse into a large serving bowl—glass is very nice for this dessert—or into individual coupes or cups, and refrigerate for 1 hour to set.

Keeping: Although the texture of the mousse will be lighter if you serve it shortly after chilling it, it can be covered and kept in the refrigerator for up to 2 days – after which time it will be just as delicious, if a little denser.
posted by Rose @ 7:13 AM   0 comments
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