will work for cheese

- from my senses to your screen -

Friday, November 18, 2011

tears in the kitchen

Baking is my love language. If you ever get a chocolate cake, muffins or cookies from me, you just got a big fat hug and I just said I love you right  to your face. No pressure, all you have to say back to me it's how good you think my baking was.

Not too long ago, I decided to bake a whole bunch of brownies and take them to my church to say thank you (and I love you)  to all the unbelievable and selfless volunteers that serve there. I put my hair in a ponytail, took my kitchenaid out, played Kings of Leon as loud as I could and forgot to put the timer on the oven. Crap!:@!#@#@%$#%$!!! 30 minutes later, my gooey, extra-chocolaty brownies were as hard as a rock; no melted chocolate drops, no chewiness, no magic. 

Of course I cried. It was 10:30pm and I had just spent a Saturday night messing up my always perfect brownies. I sat down on the kitchen floor and cried like a baby and ask God...Why??? Why??? This was for you! (of course he was taking care of more important things at the time!)
I got up, and defeated I shared my frustrations with my husband, ALL of my life frustrations, starting with "This is the ONE day I'm glad I listened to my father and studied Architecture instead of Culinary Arts! THE ONE DAY!) He was busy watching Sports Center and could not care less about my horrible night.
Since either God or my husband was particularly concerned about my drama, I stood up and went back in to the kitchen. Staring at the trays and with a mixture of sadness, anger and frustration started tearing down the hard brownies in pieces. Slowly, I started feeling better and as a sign from heaven, two magical words appeared in my mind and filled my spirit with so much hope....Bread Pudding. Yes. What do you do when your bread goes stale? Bread pudding. So what do you do when your brownies are hard as a rock? OH God! You were listening!!! Brownie Pudding!!!

I played some Coldplay this time and started baking again. The results? I wish you could see the people's faces the next day! I'm not trying to brag (or maybe just a little) but I have never gotten this many compliments out of a disaster in the kitchen.
I’m going to try to give you a recipe but of course, you need to burn some brownies first! (or you can just use some good old stale bread, or stale chocolate cake -not that there any left, ever- but if you use bread you would need to add an extra cup of sugar)

1 cup granulated sugar
5 large eggs
1 cup of milk
3 cups of overcooked brownies baked into pieces (I cannot believe I’m writing this)
½ cup brown sugar
½  cup of rum (or brandy/cognac)
2 teaspoons of vanilla
¾  cup of dark chocolate broken in pieces
¾ cup of walnuts
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 13 by 9 by 2-inch pan.
Mix together granulated sugar, eggs and milk in a bowl; add vanilla and rum. Pour over brownies and let sit for 10 minutes. Mix in chocolate pieces and walnuts.
Pour brownie mixture into prepared pan. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until set. Remove from oven.

To top it all off, make a sauce and serve warm with your pudding. I’ll give you a quick recipe for a chocolate one or you can make a crème anglaise or brandy-butter based sauce.
The ingredients are:
1 can of condensed milk
1 can of table cream (light) 
3 Tbsp of cream cheese
1 small bag of chocolate chips -semisweet (I buy 60% cocoa from Ghirardelli)

I put all wet ingredients in a pot, slow heat and add the chocolate in after the milks and cream cheese have incorporated and they are warm,  never bubbly. Use a whisk to blend in and avoid clumps.
Bon Appétit!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

oh Lord. Here it comes: Thanksgiving.

Yes, Thanksgiving.
I remember my first one here in the United States. I was at my cousin's home in Orlando and his family had cooked their hearts out for days which resulted on a coma like state after eating for 8 hours straight. Every single dish was delicious and very traditional. I remember that first taste of sweet potato and marshmallows, piping hot, soft, sweet, slightly crunchy, it melted in my mouth and filled my soul, and even though I did not understand how that entered the "side-dish" category (it felt more like dessert to me) I loved it with a passion.
I have a lot of respect for tradition. I believe it should be guarded and loved like the oldest, most precious family member but somehow, Thanksgiving is not always so traditional at our home and I don't know why, I keep running in circles every year trying to reinvent it. I started thinking this year about the menu and about why can't I just buy the turkey, make some nice stuffing, sweet potato casserole, pumpkin pie... You all know the drill-why can't I just go that way? It's delicious!
Maybe it's because I need to build my own tradition. I need to find myself and my family inside that special meal that says: This is who we are. I really don't want my kids to say..."I have no stinkin' clue what my mom is gonna cook this year, maybe sweet potato gnocci, duck a l'orange, hallacas, sweet plantain mash, or maybe filet mignon with cranberry sauce or she'll just make some sushi with tempura turkey and crispy pumpkin over a banana leaf....wanna come? bring a side dish!"
For as long as he remembers, my husband knew exactly what to expect on that date. He, and his whole family, looked forward to the juiciest turkey in the planet made Cuban style. That is what his mom made every single year; consistent, perfect, delicious. I remember showing up there one time with cranberry sauce for the turkey and sweet potato mash. They all looked at me like I was completely out of my freaking mind, and kept eating black beans, yucca and mojo. Yes, I was crazy, I know it now but took me a while to realize it and say it out loud. That was their tradition and I was there to sabotage it.
But now it’s my turn, I have my own family and I desperately need to find my niche in the Thanksgiving table. I’m on a quest and I know it may take several years and I may have to send my kids to therapy but I must, must know how to bring it all together; for my family’s sake and my own inner peace. No more plan “B”, no more what if’s: there comes Thanksgiving and we know what to eat!