Thursday, September 18, 2008

the taco bell love affair

it's important for you to know how much disgust i had for taco bell for so many years.
and the rumors didn't help.

"i hear that people who work at taco bell won't even talk about it"
"i heard it was grade d meat and dog food is grade c"
"it's probably cats"
"it's not real food"
(and let's not even get into those awfully annoying chihuahua commercial bits)

unfortunately, in one late party night, my drunk boyfriend wanted some taco bell. and so we went through the drive thru and i suddenly found myself craving the crunch of a taco shell and the combination of the ground meat and cheese and taco sauce all partying in your mouth.

and so i ordered one.

tilting my head to eat a taco like you have to do....and realizing: "oh my god, this is delicious".
and at the end of the day (or perhaps bright and early in the morning?) alcohol and tacos seem to mix so fabulously. they are a match made in heaven.
just don't tell chef andy who would truly shudder at the thought of a culinary school grad loving taco bell and (yeah, wendy's cheeseburgers are greasy gooey bites of delight).

in all fairness: taco night with really good pico de gallo and fried taco shells and slowly-simmered-for-three-hours-taco meat is just as divine.

taco bell is just that cheap late night thrill.
and who doesn't love one of those?

Saturday, September 6, 2008

the birthday baking week: birthday cake

Last in the birthday week was my brother Alex. Whose birthday always seems to fall smack-dab in the middle of a hurricane. But not this year. Oh no, he got the sunshine and the clear blue skies and the two-tiered-but-you-can’t-really-tell cake. Good ol’ vanilla with a thin layer of dulce de leche (just about the best thing ever) and a good spread of white chocolate mousse. Frosted all around with an amaretto whipped cream and topped off with almonds, this one was the talk of the party.
Oh how I love a good birthday. And a good birthday dessert.

Alex's Birthday Cake
vanilla cake
(from The Magnolia Bakery Cookbook...with adjustments..)
1 c butter, softened
2 c sugar
4 eggs
2 3/4 c cake flour
1 t salt
1 t baking powder
1 c milk
2 t vanilla extract

dulce de leche*

white chocolate mousse:
6 oz white chocolate, chopped
12 oz cream
1/2 envelope of gelatin

amaretto whipped cream:
3 c cream
3/4 c sugar
2 T amaretto (or more. i do love amaretto..)

almonds, chopped, optional

1. For the cake: Preheat oven to 350ºF. Cream the butter and sugar together until, you know, "light and fluffy". Add in the eggs one at a time.
2. Sift together the dry ingredients and add to the batter alternating with the milk,1/4 at a time.
3. Pour into 3 lightly greased 9" cake pans and bake for about 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. (I made a deep 10" cake and an 8" one here").
4. Meanwhile: heat 6 oz of cream and gelatin in a small saucepan until just below boiling. Put chocolate into a bowl and pour hot cream over. Whisk until melted. Cool.
5. For the remaining 6 oz of cream, whisk until medium peaks and fold into the cool white chocolate ganache. Refrigerate to let set.
6. Once the cakes have cooled, cut each in half horizontally and let us begin to assemble!
7. Spread a thin layer of dulce de leche on the cake layer (an easy way to do this is to melt it down in the microwave for a couple of seconds). Next spread on a good bit of the white chocolate mousse. Continue through all cake layers.
8. Whip up the cream in a bowl until stiff peaks form. While whisking, gradually add in the sugar and amaretto.
When done, frost all around the cake and top off decoratively with the almonds.

*sorry, but this a point where caramel just won't do. dulce de leche is just rich and decadent and gooey and delicious. it's got so much more depth of flavor than caramel and i could eat jars of the stuff everyday. available in some supermarkets, but i pick mine up at the argentinian grocer down the street.

Oh, do enjoy this one.