Jen's Kitchen Blog

Learning to cook the food I like to eat…

Charcutepalooza – The Salt Cure

Posted by jenskitchen on February 15, 2011




Bacon is amazing and one of my favorite low carb foods.

Too many of the pre-packaged bacons out there contain either gluten or other scary ingredients.

I can’t tell you how excited I am to make my own bacon. I also made some salt pork and preserved lemon while exploring the Charcuterie book that will have a regular place on my kitchen cookbook stand for at least the next year.

For now I have some pictures to share… With my favorite recipes to follow.

Edit: February 21, 2011 

Now that I’ve had a chance to try the bacon, I can say, “Homemade Bacon Rocks!” So far, other than just slicing off a few pieces and frying bacon, I’ve made pasta with creamy alfredo and bacon. Tonight we’re having baked beans with bacon. Yum. But, the recipe I can’t wait to share with you is… Buttermilk Biscuits with Bacon Gravy. Twenty years ago, a friend of mine (who, for whatever reason, doesn’t like sausage) taught me to make bacon gravy. Back then, it was store-bought bacon, wheat flour, and milk turned into very good gravy and spooned over those can-of-chemicals biscuits in a can. This week, I made homemade, gluten-free buttermilk biscuits and bacon gravy from my home-cured bacon, gluten-free flour, and milk. It was amazing! I’ll be fine-tuning the biscuit recipe and taking some better pics of the bacon gravy process before I share the final recipe.

My original post was sent from my phone (I kind of left the bacon curing to the last minute and therefore didn’t finish my bacon my bacon in the oven until about 2 hours before midnight on the posting date… sigh…) It’s been a busy month. So, I wanted to make sure to include a link for my favorite butcher in Phoenix… I’ve already told them that they’ll be my source for all things pork and beef for the Charcutepalooza challenges (and just about all of my meals, really…)

If you’re in the Phoenix area, take the time to check out The Meat Shop. The best days to go are on Friday and Saturday (Fresh Days). You can get your meat cut to your specificiations… They do it right there in front of you, well, through the big window where you can watch the process, anyway. While you wait, you are treated to that amazing butcher-shop smell. It reminds me of the butcher shop my mom used to take me to when I was little. Except that here, they’ll take the time to talk to you, swap recipes, make suggestions, and just be friendly.  They sold me a gorgeous pork belly to make my bacon, and even got the pink salt for me. And because I’m such a novice at all of this, they were able to give me some tips as well…

Next up for Charcutepalooza? Brines – The Salt Solution. Post coming March 15th… And this time, I’ve already started. Can’t wait to share next month’s challenge with you 🙂


Posted in Charcutepalooza | Leave a Comment »

Charcutepalooza January Challenge: Duck Prosciutto

Posted by jenskitchen on January 15, 2011

The Year of Meat. Those were the words that got me. I mean, it’s a whole year of meat! What could be better than that? And charcutepalooza? Absolutely adorable name for a blogging event 🙂 When I read the tweet from Mrs. Wheelbarrow, I was in. And since I had just been thinking that my New Year’s Resolution needed to be to get back to my blog, this was just the kind of commitment I needed to get the ball rolling. Did I mention that it is a whole year of meat projects?

And, just in case you have no idea what I’m talking about, you can check it out here for yourself. And, if you want to join in on the fun, you’ll find “the Ruhls” here. Ha. Ruhls.

The first challenge was Duck Prosciutto. Confession time. I’ve never actually eaten duck before. But, I’m the type of person who loves a challenge. I love trying new things. So, there I was… looking at the challenge details. Find a duck. Locally sourced and humanely raised if possible. This resulted in a series of humorous daydreams about me going duck hunting (I don’t have the shoes for it. Or the gun. Or the boat.) And the guy I get duck eggs from would have been hurt if I had asked for one of his ducks. They’re kind of like his pets. So, after several attempts to find local, humanely raised duck failed, I decided to go to a small, local specialty meat shop. The guy at the counter asked me if I knew of a recipe for duck breasts because there had been a rise in sales lately. I told him about Charcutepalooza.

So, duck found. Book borrowed from the library. (I’ll buy my own soon). Ready to make prosciutto.

Eight days later…

Yes. Eight days to make prosciutto. For seven of those days I had duck breasts, seasoned and wrapped in cheesecloth hanging in my garage. I had to park my car in the driveway so I didn’t end up with exhaust-seasoned duck prosciutto. Today I pulled them down, unwrapped them, and sliced a very thin slice for a first taste.

Rich. Amazingly rich taste. I’ve never actually eaten duck before, so I have no idea how this compares. I don’t know what I was expecting. But all I could think of was how perfect the taste was.

Ah, but making the Duck Prosciutto was only part of the challenge. Now, what to do with it? Saltimbocca, prosciutto-wrapped asparagus, pasta with prosciutto… All these things sounded amazing. In the end, I decided to go with Braciole. So here you go… My dinner tonight courtesy of Charutepalooza:


Disclaimer: I am not Italian. I have never made Braciole before in my life. I can’t even guarantee that what I made tonight IS Braciole. But every since I saw the Everybody Loves Raymond episode where Debra made Braciole, I’ve wanted to make it. From what I’ve read, Braciole is meat, pounded thin, filled with a variety of several fillings, browned, and then finished in tomato sauce. Which is what I made tonight…


Grass-fed Top Round Roast – from The Meat Shop in Phoenix, AZ

Duck prosciutto (recipe from Charcuterie by Michael Ruhlman and Michael Polcyn) – duck breast purchased from Hobe Meats, Phoenix

Parmesan cheese

Garlic – from the Farmer’s Market


Tomato sauce (made from fresh tomatoes) – from the Farmer’s Market

Carrots – from the Farmer’s Market

Onions – from the Farmer’s Market

Olive Oil – from Queen Creek Olive Mill

Here’s what I did:

Make tomato sauce: Heat olive oil in a sauce pan. Add chopped onions and cook until soft. Add cut tomatoes. Cook on low with pan partially covered until the tomatoes break down. Season to taste.

Make meat rolls: Butterfly the top roast and cut into individual servings. Pound thin. Pound thinner than I did. It would be helpful to have one of those meat pounding things for this. I didn’t have one, so I used my rolling pin. Layer each serving of beef with a layer of duck prosciutto followed by layers of any of the following: pesto, cheese, hard boiled egg slices, bread crumbs, ground beef. I used layers of ricotta cheese, garlic, parsley, and parmesan. Once layered, roll the beef and secure with a toothpick or tie with butcher’s twine. Brown the beef rolls in a hot pan on all sides. Remove from pan and set aside.

Make sauce: Add a bit of olive oil and cook chopped carrots and garlic until soft. Add tomato sauce. Taste and adjust seasonings. Return beef rolls to pan and cover to finish cooking through.

I served the braciole with gnocchi verde, a salad with freshly made vinagrette and the extra sauce on the side. I recommend this. I am absolutely in heaven right now.

The duck prosciutto added a rich, salty flavor to the beef that was perfect. The soft pillows of spinach and ricotta gnocchi were the perfect compliment. I felt really good that the majority of the ingredients for my meal were from local sources.

Want to join the fun? It’s not too late. Mrs. Wheelbarrow has extended the deadline to sign up for Charcutepalooza. Start in with the next challenge that was announced today: bacon and/or pancetta. Make the duck prosciutto at some point as well. Please visit the fabulous bloggers who have commited to a year of meat. You’ll find the current blogroll here.

Posted in Charcutepalooza, Low Carb | 5 Comments »

Sweet Potato Soufle

Posted by jenskitchen on November 22, 2010

My mom had 2 different sweet potato recipes & would alternate which dish we had each Thanksgiving. Neither of them had the classic marshmallow topping… in fact, I don’t know that I’ve ever had the classic version. Both were good… but honestly, sweet potatoes were not my favorite Thanksgiving side.

Several years ago, my mom made a third sweet potato dish. I fell in love & it has been on my Thanksgiving table ever since. Finally, I had a sweet potato dish that I could look forward to each year… and it still didn’t have the marshmallows. I really am not a fan of marshmallows since I’ve given up processed food and refined sugars. Last year, I stopped using canned food as much as possible, so here’s my moms recipe with my gluten-free, can-free twist…

1 1/2 lbs sweet potatoes, cooked & mashed (I like to roast them, sometimes I steam them in a bit of cream & butter)
1 C sweetener (my preference is agave nectar… The original recipe calls for sugar)
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
1/3 stick butter
1/2 C milk
1 tsp vanilla

Mix all ingredients well & pour into a buttered baking dish. Mix together the following & crumble over the top of the souffle:
1 C brown sugar
1/2 C Better Batter flour
1/3 C melted butter
1 C pecans

Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes, uncovered.


Posted in Better Batter substitution recipes, Thanksgiving | 3 Comments »

Blueberry Salad

Posted by jenskitchen on November 18, 2010

Many families have a dish that has to be on the table every year. That one dish that you have that says Thanksgiving. Oh sure, there’s turkey… but other than the main protein, what’s that one dish that has to be there? For my family, it’s this one… blueberries are a truly American food. And this salad features blueberries in a very tasty way.

I don’t know where the original recipe came from… I’ve searched the recipes on both the Knox website and the Jell-o website. This has been on our Thanksgiving table as long as I can remember.


It’s hard to see (and I can’t believe this is the only photo I have with blueberry salad in it)… but see that white dish in the center? That’s the Blueberry Salad. Here’s the thing… last year, my Mom said that she had started layering the Blueberry layer in first and then the Cream layer on top. Personally, I think it looks better the other way. This Thanksgiving, I’m going to try to make a point of getting some better pics of Blueberry Salad to add to this post! That is, if I can remember before it’s all gone… it’s usually one of the first dishes to disappear on Thanksgiving.

Cream Layer
1/2 pt whipping cream
1 C sugar
1/4 C water
1 pkg Knox gelatin
1 pt sour cream
1 tsp vanilla

Heat cream and sugar; stir until dissolved. Add gelatin, which has soaked in water. Add sour cream and vanilla. Stir until smooth. Pour into a mold or Pyrex oblong. Refrigerate for 45 to 50 minutes before continuing to next layer.

Blueberry Layer
1 pkg raspberry gelatin (small box)
1 C boiling water
1 15 ounce can blueberries

Mix ingredients together. Let cool before spooning over bottom layer and refrigerate until firm.

This can be made the day before (but then you have to try to keep everyone out of it until the Thanksgiving meal).

Posted in Thanksgiving | Tagged: | 3 Comments »

Buttermilk Pie

Posted by jenskitchen on November 16, 2010

This is a family favorite for Thanksgiving. My mom has made it every year for as long as I can remember.

2 cups buttermilk
4 eggs slightly beaten
Dash salt
1 T gluten free flour (I use Better Batter)
2 C sugar
1 tsp vanilla (gluten-free)
1/2 C butter, melted (I use Strauss Creamery)

Mix all ingredients.

Pour into an unbaked gluten-free pie shell.

Bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes (top should be slightly browned)

Cool completely. Keep in fridge until ready to serve.

This is one of the easiest pies I make… truly makes me appreciate the term “easy as pie” 🙂

It is also a pie that people either love or really don’t like. To me it’s the perfect combination of tangy and sweet. Nothing needed extra like whipped cream, etc… though I think it would be good with some blackberries.

This is pie 2 of 4 I’ll be making for Thanksgiving (I made 6 last year… I’m scaling back a little!) I plan on posting the rest of the recipes for my Thanksgiving menu in these next days before Thanksgiving. Pictures will come as I make things 🙂

As always, save room for pie!


Posted in Thanksgiving | 1 Comment »

Pumpkin Pie

Posted by jenskitchen on November 15, 2010

1/2 C brown sugar
1 T flour (I use Better Batter GF Flour)
1 1/2 C pumpkin puree (see below)
1 1/2 C heavy cream (I use Strauss Creamery)
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground clove
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
3 eggs, beaten
1 tsp vanilla (check to make sure GF)

To make Pumpkin Puree:
Bake a washed, halved (seeds & strings removed) sugar pie pumpkin, cut side down in a 350 degree oven. Rub the cut side with a bit of oil and add 1 C water to the baking dish. Bake 60 to 90 minutes. Cool until it can be handled. Scrape out the flesh and blend until pureed. Drain moisture in cheesecloth over a bowl for 2 hours or overnight.

To assemble pie:
Chill pie crust (gf, of course).
Combine flour and brown sugar.
Add puree and cream. Blend.
Stir in salt and spices. Add eggs and vanilla. Beat until well blended. Push through a sieve for finest texture (yeah, I know… but it’s worth it.)
Pour filling mixture into chilled crust.
Bake 50 to 60 minutes at 350 degrees, protecting crust edges if browning too quickly.
Check for doneness, remove & allow to cool.

Now, you just have to sit through all the turkey and beautiful side veggies while you wait for it to be time for pie. I do hope you save room. This pie is worth it 🙂

Posted in Thanksgiving | 1 Comment »

Thanksgiving menu

Posted by jenskitchen on November 11, 2010

Even though I don’t have all the recipes finished yet, I wanted to share my menu. Recipes to follow. Pics to follow that 🙂

Thanksgiving Menu 2010

Heritage Turkey stuffed with fruits, vegetables and herbs
Mashed Potatoes
Parker House Rolls
Sourdough Bread Dressing
Creamed Spinach
Green Bean Casserole
Sweet Potato Soufle
Blueberry Salad
Maxine’s Salad
Cranberry Sauce

And, don’t forget to save room for pie after dinner…
This year, I am planning four pies:
Buttermilk Pie
Pumpkin Pie
Pecan Pie
Fruit (TBD) Pie – probably apple, but may depend on my mood and what is available at the Farmer’s Market. Suggestions? Requests?

Posted in Thanksgiving | Leave a Comment »

Daring Bakers: Doughnuts

Posted by jenskitchen on October 28, 2010


The October 2010 Daring Bakers challenge was hosted by Lori of Butter Me Up. Lori chose to challenge DBers to make doughnuts. She used several sources for her recipes including Alton Brown, Nancy Silverton, Kate Neumann and Epicurious.

As much as the provided recipes certainly had me interested, I have to admit now that I didn’t use any of them. You can check out the full challenge information here.

Unfortunately, due to a series of strange and somewhat irritating (at times) events, I haven’t been able to post anything here lately. Yes, I know that’s an understatement, but I’ll explain more later. This post… well, it’s about doughnuts.

Lately I’ve been on a convert all my favorite family recipes to gluten-free kick. And, about a week before I finally decided I was ready to call myself a Daring Baker again, I decided that my next challenge from my Mom’s recipe box would be her doughnuts. She made these doughnuts every Halloween and as soon as my calendar said it was October, I started thinking about those little puffs of deliciousness that my Mom made once a year. So, I see it as kind of a sign that the Daring Baker’s challenge for this month was Doughnuts. Rather than use one of the given recipes, I combined the two challenges and converted my Mom’s recipe to Gluten-Free. And, oh my… I am so glad I did.

Gluten-Free Halloween Doughnuts

  • 1 beaten egg (I used farm fresh)
  • 1/2 Cups Applesauce (I used homemade)
  • 1/2 Cups Milk (I used Strauss Creamery Whole Milk)
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons Melted Butter (Again, I used Strauss Creamery – unsalted)

Beat the first 4 ingredients together until well mixed. My applesauce was a little chunky (thanks to a food processor that suddenly decided it didn’t want to work anymore… turns out this was a good thing in the doughnuts.)

To the above, add:

  • 2 Cups Flour (I used Better Batter Gluten-Free Flour – a little less than 2 Cups, though).
  • 1/2 Cup Agave Nectar
  • 2 tsp Baking Powder
  • 1/2 tsp Sea Salt (fine)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

Mix well and place in the fridge until chilled and ready to fry. The dough will be a bit wet – not quite able to make formed doughnuts… think drop biscuits, but drop doughnuts 🙂

Heat the oil to 360 degrees.

Drop by Tablespoons into the oil and fry until golden brown. Remove from oil carefully (use a slotted spoon).

The original recipe calls for rolling these in granulated sugar. I actually didn’t have any sugar in my house (big surprise), but I did have a bit of left over powdered sugar from when I made my son’s birthday cake in July, so… I rolled in a bit of powdered sugar.

These doughnuts were pretty darn awesome. The flavor I remember from my childhood gone gluten-free.

I have more pictures to share of the doughnuts and doughnut making process which I’ll share as soon as I can figure out how to get them from my phone to this post 🙂

Posted in Better Batter substitution recipes, Daring Baker's | 2 Comments »

Daring Bakers – Dobos Torta

Posted by jenskitchen on August 27, 2009

The August 2009 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Angela of A Spoonful of Sugar and Lorraine of Not Quite Nigella. They chose the spectacular Dobos Torte based on a recipe from Rick Rodgers’ cookbook Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Caffés of Vienna, Budapest, and Prague. 

When I was in college, I was often told to slow down and read directions better. I often missed test questions because I didn’t read the questions or directions completely. I suspect I had/have a bit of ADD – that would certainly explain a lot, however, I was completely sure that it was more important to know how to do something than to actually do it. I can almost hear my math teacher laughing as I realize the importance of reading directions carefully. What does reading math tests have to do with the Daring Baker’s? Well, for one thing, reading directions on cake is kind of like reading directions on a math test. You won’t quite get the right answer (or cake) if you miss part of the directions.

That being said, my cake was good, and I got parts of it right, so all in all, I think it was a success. Below is the recipe the Daring Bakers used:

The Dobos Torta is a five-layer sponge cake, filled with a rich chocolate buttercream and topped with thin wedges of caramel. (You may come across recipes which have anywhere between six and 12 layers of cake; there are numerous family variations!) It was invented in 1885 by József C. Dobos, a Hungarian baker, and it rapidly became famous throughout Europe for both its extraordinary taste and its keeping properties. The recipe was a secret until Dobos retired in 1906 and gave the recipe to the Budapest Confectioners’ and Gingerbread Makers’ Chamber of Industry, providing that every member of the chamber can use it freely.

Lorraine and I would like you to make this famous cake which we chose in the spirit of being Daring and Challenging us. Variations are discussed at the end of this post and as always, if you have to make substitutions for dietary or financial reasons, that is fine.


  • 2 baking sheets
  • 9” (23cm) springform tin and 8” cake tin, for templates
  • mixing bowls (1 medium, 1 large)
  • a sieve
  • a double boiler (a large saucepan plus a large heat-proof mixing bowl which fits snugly over the top of the pan)
  • a small saucepan
  • a whisk (you could use a balloon whisk for the entire cake, but an electric hand whisk or stand mixer will make life much easier)
  • metal offset spatula
  • sharp knife
  • a 7 1/2” cardboard cake round, or just build cake on the base of a sprinfrom tin.
  • piping bag and tip, optional

Prep times

  • Sponge layers 20 mins prep, 40 mins cooking total if baking each layer individually.
  • Buttercream: 20 mins cooking. Cooling time for buttercream: about 1 hour plus 10 minutes after this to beat and divide.
  • Caramel layer: 10-15 minutes.
  • Assembly of whole cake: 20 minutes

Sponge cake layers

  • 6 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
  • 1 1/3 cups (162g) confectioner’s (icing) sugar, divided
  • 1 teaspoon (5ml) vanilla extract
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (112g) sifted cake flour (SUBSTITUTE 95g plain flour + 17g cornflour (cornstarch) sifted together)
  • pinch of salt

Chocolate Buttercream

  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup (200g) caster sugar
  • 4oz (110g) bakers chocolate or your favourite dark chocolate, finely chopped
  • 2 sticks plus 2 tablespoons (250g) unsalted butter, at room temperature.

Caramel topping

  • 1 cup (200g) caster sugar
  • 12 tablespoons (180 ml) water
  • 8 teaspoons (40 ml) lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon neutral oil (e.g. grapeseed, rice bran, sunflower)

Finishing touches

  • a 7” cardboard round
  • 12 whole hazelnuts, peeled and toasted
  • ½ cup (50g) peeled and finely chopped hazelnuts

Directions for the sponge layers:
NB. The sponge layers can be prepared in advance and stored interleaved with parchment and well-wrapped in the fridge overnight.

  1. Position the racks in the top and centre thirds of the oven and heat to 400F (200C).
  2. Cut six pieces of parchment paper to fit the baking sheets. Using the bottom of a 9″ (23cm) springform tin as a template and a dark pencil or a pen, trace a circle on each of the papers, and turn them over (the circle should be visible from the other side, so that the graphite or ink doesn’t touch the cake batter.)
  3. Beat the egg yolks, 2/3 cup (81g) of the confectioner’s (icing) sugar, and the vanilla in a medium bowl with a mixer on high speed until the mixture is thick, pale yellow and forms a thick ribbon when the beaters are lifted a few inches above the batter, about 3 minutes. (You can do this step with a balloon whisk if you don’t have a mixer.)
  4. In another bowl, using clean beaters, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in the remaining 2/3 cup (81g) of confectioner’s (icing)sugar until the whites form stiff, shiny peaks. Using a large rubber spatula, stir about 1/4 of the beaten whites into the egg yolk mixture, then fold in the remainder, leaving a few wisps of white visible. Combine the flour and salt. Sift half the flour over the eggs, and fold in; repeat with the remaining flour.
  5. Line one of the baking sheets with a circle-marked paper. Using a small offset spatula, spread about 3/4cup of the batter in an even layer, filling in the traced circle on one baking sheet. Bake on the top rack for 5 minutes, until the cake springs back when pressed gently in the centre and the edges are lightly browned. While this cake bakes, repeat the process on the other baking sheet, placing it on the centre rack. When the first cake is done, move the second cake to the top rack. Invert the first cake onto a flat surface and carefully peel off the paper. Slide the cake layer back onto the paper and let stand until cool. Rinse the baking sheet under cold running water to cool, and dry it before lining with another parchment. Continue with the remaining papers and batter to make a total of six layers. Completely cool the layers. Using an 8″ springform pan bottom or plate as a template, trim each cake layer into a neat round. (A small serrated knife is best for this task.)

Directions for the chocolate buttercream:
NB. This can be prepared in advance and kept chilled until required.

  1. Prepare a double-boiler: quarter-fill a large saucepan with water and bring it to a boil.
  2. Meanwhile, whisk the eggs with the sugar until pale and thickened, about five minutes. You can use a balloon whisk or electric hand mixer for this.
  3. Fit bowl over the boiling water in the saucepan (water should not touch bowl) and lower the heat to a brisk simmer. Cook the egg mixture, whisking constantly, for 2-3 minutes until you see it starting to thicken a bit. Whisk in the finely chopped chocolate and cook, stirring, for a further 2-3 minutes.
  4. Scrape the chocolate mixture into a medium bowl and leave to cool to room temperature. It should be quite thick and sticky in consistency.
  5. When cool, beat in the soft butter, a small piece (about 2 tablespoons/30g) at a time. An electric hand mixer is great here, but it is possible to beat the butter in with a spatula if it is soft enough. You should end up with a thick, velvety chocolate buttercream. Chill while you make the caramel topping.

Lorraine’s note: If you’re in Winter just now your butter might not soften enough at room temperature, which leads to lumps forming in the buttercream. Male sure the butter is of a very soft texture I.e. running a knife through it will provide little resistance, before you try to beat it into the chocolate mixture. Also, if you beat the butter in while the chocolate mixture is hot you’ll end up with more of a ganache than a buttercream!

Directions for the caramel topping:

  1. Choose the best-looking cake layer for the caramel top. To make the caramel topping: Line a jellyroll pan with parchment paper and butter the paper. Place the reserved cake layer on the paper. Score the cake into 12 equal wedges. Lightly oil a thin, sharp knife and an offset metal spatula.
  2. Stir the sugar, water and lemon juice in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over a medium heat, stirring often to dissolve the sugar. Once dissolved into a smooth syrup, turn the heat up to high and boil without stirring, swirling the pan by the handle occasionally and washing down any sugar crystals on the sides of the pan with a wet brush until the syrup has turned into an amber-coloured caramel.
  3. The top layer is perhaps the hardest part of the whole cake so make sure you have a oiled, hot offset spatula ready. I also find it helps if the cake layer hasn’t just been taken out of the refrigerator. I made mine ahead of time and the cake layer was cold and the toffee set very, very quickly—too quickly for me to spread it. Immediately pour all of the hot caramel over the cake layer. You will have some leftover most probably but more is better than less and you can always make nice toffee pattern using the extra to decorate. Using the offset spatula, quickly spread the caramel evenly to the edge of the cake layer. Let cool until beginning to set, about 30 seconds. Using the tip of the hot oiled knife (keep re-oiling this with a pastry brush between cutting), cut through the scored marks to divide the caramel layer into 12 equal wedges. Cool another minute or so, then use the edge of the knife to completely cut and separate the wedges using one firm slice movement (rather than rocking back and forth which may produce toffee strands). Cool completely.

Angela’s note: I recommend cutting, rather than scoring, the cake layer into wedges before covering in caramel (reform them into a round). If you have an 8” silicon round form, then I highly recommend placing the wedges in that for easy removal later and it also ensures that the caramel stays on the cake layer. Once set, use a very sharp knife to separate the wedges.

Assembling the Dobos

  1. Divide the buttercream into six equal parts.
  2. Place a dab of chocolate buttercream on the middle of a 7 1/2” cardboard round and top with one cake layer. Spread the layer with one part of the chocolate icing. Repeat with 4 more cake layers. Spread the remaining icing on the sides of the cake.
  3. Optional: press the finely chopped hazelnuts onto the sides of the cake.
  4. Propping a hazelnut under each wedge so that it sits at an angle, arrange the wedges on top of the cake in a spoke pattern. If you have any leftover buttercream, you can pipe rosettes under each hazelnut or a large rosette in the centre of the cake. Refrigerate the cake under a cake dome until the icing is set, about 2 hours. Let slices come to room temperature for the best possible flavor

So, here’s my cake:


Now, because I didn’t completely read all the directions quite as well as I could have… my caramel cookies completely broke apart. So, I ended up whirling them in a food processor and used them as a decoration for the cake… It all tasted good, so I guess it worked out. But, if you want to see what the Dobos Torta was really supposed to look like, you may want to check out the original recipe.

The kids liked this and the cake itself looked kind of pretty. Here’s a picture of a slice:


Posted in Better Batter substitution recipes, Daring Baker's | 4 Comments »

Book Club: Hungry Monkey by Matthew Amster-Burton

Posted by jenskitchen on June 28, 2009

Noelle at simmer down! (a food lover’s blog) hosted the June book, Hungry Monkey by Matthew Amster-Burton. Make sure to check out her post and all the great discussion. And, if you love to read and eat and sometimes combine the two, why not join Chew on This! (A Food Lover’s Book Club).

I was excited to read this book for the June Book Club after reading Shauna James Ahern’s glowing review. I should probably preface this review by telling you that I’m not much a professional book reviewer, so don’t expect an in-depth analysis of the book and in-depth critique, etc… Nope, I just love to read and I love to eat food and I love anything that allows to explore both of these loves. So, my goal with this book club is to read some interesting books and then post my thoughts.

However, for those of you who haven’t read it – a quick summary. Amster-Burton has a great food blog and is a former food critic and a rock critic. His writing is quick and hip – you don’t even need to have kids to enjoy reading this book which documents the eating habits of his now four year old daughter, Iris.

I should probably also tell you that I have a two year old. You may not know this, but two-year olds are picky eaters. Amster-Burton knows this and has some great stories to tell about how his eat-everything one year old became his picky-eating two year old. I had actually forgotten about this for a while. My older son is fourteen. He’s not picky. He’ll eat everything and then some (want to see my grocery bill?) And, until this year, my two-year old was not picky. In fact, he insisted on eating everything that we were eating. Until this year of course. Now, he only wants vegetables and noodles and rice. I guess it could be worse.

I had plans about how my little one would be introduced to food. I had researched the best introduction times and orders for certain foods. I had made a calendar of how those foods would be introduced. I had his menus planned six months in advance. Turns out babies can’t read calendars – and mine didn’t seem to be too impressed with my schedule. There would be no solid food introduced until he was six months old. Um, until of course at five months old he sat at the table screaming during dinner one night. Even without words, he was able to communicate that he wanted our food. We caved. Don’t get me wrong, my little one had teeth start coming in at four months old. Even without teeth, babies have great gums for mushing up food. I was deathly afraid he would choke on the tiny piece of mushed up chicken his father finally gave him. He didn’t. And, he continued to ask for food. In fact, he wanted whatever we were eating. Until this year.

And, this is one of the points in Amster-Burton’s book. It doesn’t really matter what your plans are for your child’s eating habits. They’re going to eat the things you don’t want them to eat at age one. Then, they’re going to get picky and not eat the things you want them to eat starting somewhere around age two. I have to admit, I took great comfort in reading Hungry Monkey. Make sure to read this book and check out the other blogs participating in this Book Club.

By the way, I asked my little one what his favorite meal was… he said, “popcorn”.

Discussion Questions

1.  Both the author and myself had some pre-conceived notions about picky eaters.  Did the book change any views you may have had, or (for those of you who are parents) reinforce what you already knew to be true from experience?

Absolutely. It was actually great fun to get to read this while going through the picky eating phase. My little one often stands beside me as I cook. He’ll taste all the ingredients with me as they go into the meal. Then, when it’s time to eat, he’ll look at the food all cooked and say, “No, thank you.” I guess I should take comfort in the fact that in a way, he’s already eaten the meal – just not the way I intended. And, well, he’s polite.

2. The author confesses that he was, in fact, a very picky eater as a child, but turned out to be an avid food-lover.  Most of you reading this are probably adventurous eaters; is this something that you came to on your own, or did your parents nudge you in that direction? Do you think being a “food lover” is innate or learned?

I am definitely an adventurous eater. Now. For me, it was definitely learned. And, I started learning out of necessity. When I started cutting out whole categories of food, first with Atkins and then by going gluten-free, I learned to focus on what I could eat rather than what I couldn’t. That meant trying things I had never tried before. And, for me, revisiting some of those foods I didn’t think I liked. I made a new rule. To try each food at least 3 different ways. Turns out, that if cooked properly, there are many foods I like that I didn’t use to like. In a way, I taught myself to be adventurous and truly appreciate food.

3. The author describes being forced to try sushi as a kid and almost throwing up, but trying it again in college and loving it. He credits this to the fact that the second time he tried it, he expected to like it.  Do you agree?  Can you think of a food that you probably liked because you expected to like it, or anything you didn’t like in spite of thinking you would?

Honestly, there were a lot of foods I didn’t expect to like. And, once I challenged myself to try new foods, I found that I did like them. (I actually didn’t have high expectations for Brussels sprouts, but they’ve become one of my favorite veggies.) For me the experience was a little different.

4. Not every family can spend the time and money the author does to introduce his daughter to so many foods.  What can working parents or parents with less means do to bring cooking and diverse foods into their children’s lives?  Or do you feel this is even important?

I do feel this is important. My kids and I take a minimum of one night to cook together in the kitchen. We get to spend time together. We talk about food, ingredients, tastes, etc… and we have great opportunities to connect on other issues as well. Since I do work quite a bit, it is very important to me that I spend quality time with my kids. But, I haven’t translated that to get food on the table as quickly as possible so we have more time. I just brought the kids into the kitchen with me.

5. Food obviously plays a huge role in the Amster-Burton household.  What role does food have in your household?  Do you feel that kids need to know “where food comes from” and participate in food preparation, or is it enough just to make sure they’re eating reasonably healthy foods?

Food is pretty important in our house. I do think that it’s important for the kids to know about their food and participate. Nutrition and healthy eating is so important to me. Unfortunately, I never learned to cook growing up. My mom went into the kitchen and then some time later, we were called to the dinner table. Food was there. I never really thought about how it got there. So, when I was out on my own, I had no idea what to do in the kitchen. As I’m teaching myself now, I’m including the kids in the process. We discuss food preparation and techniques.

Thanks for hosting, Noelle! This was a great book.

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