Sunday, January 31, 2010

Ricotta Mousse with Strawberries

People want simple and delicious foods. They don't want to work too hard, but when they take a bite they want to feel like they did. Give the people what they want. The people want eight-minute desserts. They want cute polka dot place settings that match their desserts.

Ricotta over there in the dairy case? It is not some strange cross between the cousins cheese and milk. It has the best of both worlds: creamy and mild like milk or cream, but with a more substantial presence, like a cream cheese, quark or creme fraiche. It can go both ways, savory or sweet. As I am likely to do when given the option, I chose sweet (Savory, you had your turn with the broccoli rabe).

This ricotta mousse I have for you right here is fantastic. MAKE THIS. Make this now. Don't wait. It feels more decadent than a lot of things I've had lately (until I tell you about the butterscotch pudding I made, but that involved things like a stove and a whisk and many many more dirty dishes than this beautiful thing before you). Make dinner feel extra fancy tonight by taking approximately eight, yes eight minutes with your hand mixer.

You can get it done this morning before work. Let the flavors get to know each other while you're busy making that money. The ricotta is light and somehow still incredibly rich. You'll feel like a rock star when you figure out how easy it is-about ten minutes hands-on time. Honestly.

Ricotta Mousse with Strawberries

You need:
1 pound whole-milk ricotta
8 oz mascarpone
2/3 c sugar
1/4 cup (2 fl oz) rum or brandy (I used spiced rum)
1 c heavy cream
1 pound strawberries, hulled and quartered lengthwise for looks (or any other berry you can find that is decent this time of year, good luck)
2 tbsp confectioner's sugar
1 tsp white wine vinegar or champagne vinegar
fresh mint leaves for garnish (I left them out because I have a thing for monochromatic images)

If your ricotta is throwing off liquid, which is probably is if it is very fresh, spoon it into a colander or cheesecloth and suspend it over a bowl. Cover, leaving it to drain in the fridge until it is dry, up to 24h. For a smoother texture, remove it once it is strained and force it through a coarse mesh sieve over a bowl. If you prefer a more rustic texture (or you're just lazy like me), use it as is.

In a large bowl, combine ricotta, mascarpone, granulated sugar, and rum. Using a spoon or spatula, mix until well blended.

In another bowl, using a whisk or handheld mixer on med-high speed, beat the cream until soft peaks form. Using a spatula and a light hand, fold the whipped cream into the the ricotta mixture until blended.

Have ready 6 1-cup bowls or goblets. Spoon ricotta mixture into bowls, dividing evenly. Cover; refrigerate at least 2 hours or up to 24 to let the flavors meld.

About 1h before serving, place the strawberries in a bowl, stir in confectioner's sugar, and refrigerate until serving.

To serve, stir vinegar into strawberries. Top each serving with the berries and their juices. Garnish with mint leaves, serve immediately.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Orange-Grand Marnier Chiffon Cake

Those of you who know me in person, and not just on the internet - hey followers who aren't related to us! We love you! - know that I have a THING for baking cakes. Big cakes. Triple layer cakes. Cakes that serve 20 people. Cakes cakes cakes. The thing is, I can't really indulge in baking ginormo cakes all the time - there are only two of us in the Fierce household and it's not really healthy to keep layer cakes on hand.

When any birthday rolls around, I immediately head to my go-to-celebration-cake-bible: Sky High: Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes. This book is truly a stellar collection of beautiful, tasty, very-tall cakes. So yes, I did make my own birthday cake. Granted, I brought it to work to share with my fellow birthday colleagues. Apparently we're awash in Aquarians. (And yes, these photos were taken in my office conference room, so please, it's not my fault the lighting is so bad. Just pretend I am as good a photographer as J Fierce, okay?)

I followed the recipe word-for-word except for one wee thing: the white chocolate frosting. I personally cannot stand white chocolate. Might as well eat a crayon. I attempted it for this one, and did the filling and crumb-coat the night before, leaving the rest of the frosting overnight to set up. And set up it did NOT - I think, perhaps because I started this cake at eight pm and it was around midnight when I got to the frosting, and yes, this is what I do instead of go to happy hour. The nastypants white chocolate was too hot when I folded in the whipped cream, leaving the frosting grainy. There was no way I was covering the cake in three cups full o'nastiness (J Fierce notes that she has asked her sister to consult a thesaurus the next time she uses two variations on the word nasty so close together). So I just did a quick whipped cream with a couple of generous splashes of GM instead and topped the cake with white chocolate curls. Some people like eating crayons, I guess.

So - enough about baking it; how did it taste? I have to say. It was pretty darn delicious. This chiffon cake, with no butter and merely 1/4 cup of oil, has a delicate spongy-crumb texture which pairs perfectly with the orangey Grand Marnier syrup and orange zest. Baking the cake the night before serving really allows the syrup to sink in to the cake, getting everyone nicely acquainted in the flavor department. Please, take a moment to observe the diagram below to see the Flavor Distribution Departments. Happy Birthday to Me, Indeed.

Orange-Grand Marnier Cake: makes a 9-inch triple-layer cake; serves 16-20
1 3/4 c cake flour
1 1/2 c sugar (divided)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 c neutral vegetable oil, such as canola, soybean or vegetable blend
8 eggs, separated
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
1 tbsp grated orange zest
1/3 c water
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
Grand Mariner Syrup (recipe follows)
Orange-Grand Marnier Frosting (recipe follows, if you like eating crayons)
Candied orange peel and/or white chocolate shavings for decoration

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line the bottoms of three 9-inch round cake pans with parchment or waxed paper but do not grease the pans.

2. Sift the flour, 1 cup of the sugar, the baking soda and salt into a large bowl; stir to blend. Whisk in the oil, egg yolks, orange juice, orange zest and water under well blended.

3. Put the egg whites in a clean large mixer bowl with the cream of tartar and, using the whip attachment of an electric mixer, beat until frothy. Slowly add the remaining 1/2 cup sugar and whip until soft peaks form. Do not overbeat or the cake will be dry.

4. Add one-fourth of the beaten whites to the cake batter and fold them in to lighten the batter. Gently fold in the remaining whites just until no streams remain. Divide the batter among the 3 prepared pans.

5. Bake the cake layers for 16 - 18 minutes, or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool completely in the pans. Run a blunt knife around the rim of each cake to release the edges, invert onto a wire rack, and carefully peel off the paper liners.

6. To assemble your cake, place one layer of cake on a cake stand or serving plate, flat side up. Using a brush, generously moisten the top of the layer with 1/4 c of the Grand Marnier Syrup; then spread 1 cup of the Orange-Grand Marnier Frosting evenly over it. Repeat with the second layer and more syrup and frosting. Top off with the third layer, flat side up. Brush with the last of the syrup and frost the top and sides of the cake with the remaining frosting. Garnish with candied orange peel and white chocolate shavings.

Grand Marnier Syrup
1/4 c sugar
1/2 c water
1/4 c Grand Marnier

Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Continue to cook, without stirring, until the syrup is reduced to 1/2 cup. Remove from the heat. Let cool completely, then stir in the Grand Marnier.

Orange-Grand Marnier Frosting
6 oz fine-quality white chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 1/2 c heavy cream
2 tablespoons Grand Mariner
1 tbsp grated orange zest

1. In a medium heatproof bowl, melt the white chocolate with 1/2 cup of the heavy cream over barely simmering water. Stir until smooth. Remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature. Stir in the Grand Marnier and orange zest.

2. In a large chilled bowl with chilled beaters, whip the remaining 2 cups cream until almost completely stiff. Add the whipped cream to the white chocolate mixture and gently fold it in.

Alternate idea: don't waste your money on white chocolate and instead just get your bowl and beaters nice and cold (pop them in the freezer for ten minutes or so), and whip a pint of heavy cream with a few healthy tablespoons of sugar and a couple of glugs of GM. Trust me on this one.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Peanut Butter Cookies

If you're anything like The Sisters Fierce, you grew up with the belief that mixed nuts are a very important part of life.  "It's not a party unless there are mixed nuts!"  (Ten points to the first commenter who knows who said this, and Dad you can't play.)  Canisters upon canisters tucked away in cabinets, those little tins of scrumptious-ness were always on hand - cashews, macadamia, brazil nuts, almonds, maybe some hazelnuts - or heaven help us some pecans! - if you're feeling extra fancy.  And always, always always always, peanuts.  The lowly peanut, always the last remaining little nuts in those salty mixes.  They always get picked over, left alone after the more attractive nuts get gobbled up.

Be silent no more, little peanut!  You're the star of the Mixed Nut Brigade once we get you into these cookies.  Containing a double dose of peanutty punch, these cookies are heavenly.  The batter? Delicious.  The aroma as they're baking in the oven?  Perfumes your entire one-bedroom-apartment.  (If you have a Real House the delicious scent may be confined to your kitchen.)  The taste?  Crunchy on the outside and chewy in the middle.  In short, these cookies make the peanut shine.
The best way to make these cookies is to enjoy a federal holiday, watching hours of HGTV reruns, and experimenting with cookie sizes with a girlfriend who happens to be an excellent Crosshatcher Of Peanut Butter Cookies.  If you can't fit all that into your schedule ... sucks to be you, I guess.

Peanut Butter Cookies
Adapted ever-so-slightly from the America's Test Kitchen Monster Cookbook

2 ½ c. flour
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
½ lb. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened but still firm
1 c. packed brown sugar
1 c. granulated sugar
1 c. extra-crunchy peanut butter
2 large eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
1 c. roasted salted peanuts, finely ground in food processor

Adjust oven rack to low-center position. Heat oven to 350°. Line large cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Whisk flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt together in medium bowl, set aside.

Either by hand or with electric mixer, beat butter until creamy. Add sugars; beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes with electric mixer, stopping to scrape down bowl as necessary. Beat in peanut butter until fully incorporated, then eggs, one at a time, then vanilla. Gently stir dry ingredients into peanut butter mixture. Add ground peanuts, stir gently until just incorporated.  Resist the temptation to eat the batter by the spoonful.

Working with generous 2 tablespoons each time, roll dough into 2 inch balls. Place balls on parchment-lined cookie sheet, leaving 2 ½ inches between each ball. Press each dough ball twice with dinner fork dipped in cold water to make crosshatched design. Bake until cookies are puffed and slightly brown along the edges (but not on top--they will look slightly underbaked) about 10-12 minutes.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Meyer Lemon Rosemary Spritzer

It is not a big secret over here that I love the meyer lemon. Maybe too much. They were on sale again this week and I had to grab a bag. Having exhausted my previous recipes with lemons (lemons bars, shaker lemon pie, lemon cardamom ice cream, lemon cranberry scones, do you want me to keep going?), I was ready to throw up my arms, declare tragedy, and make a tart. I am just weary of having An Entire Tart in the house when we already have An Entire Cheesecake. Then, paging through the January Martha was my answer: meyer lemon rosemary spritzer.

What probably led me back to the lemon was the fact that I had some big failures this past week in the kitchen. Apparently my mojo is out of whack, or maybe I just don't like oyster sauce. I was super pumped to make some spring rolls (because I have been buying a bag of the Ling Ling ones from the freezer section just about every other night after work and figured if I am eating them this much maybe I can make them even better). I had been thinking about it for a few weeks and had done the obligatory read-every-recipe-on-epicurious-that somewhat-pertains-to-this. You know, after I go through my three shelves of cookbooks.

That is not the point of this tale, but we will get there eventually. I should have left the perfection that is Ling Ling alone. Have you ever tried them? I suggest you don't start. They are FANTASTIC and now I am kicking myself that I don't have any to get that bad oyster taste out of my mouth. Apparently I am not an asian cuisine master, because the stuff I put together- the cabbage, carrots, sprouts, bamboo, ginger-where did I go wrong? It was far from good and I will probably throw it all out after it sits in the back of the fridge for a week. I plan on spending the first week feeling guilty about not eating them and wasting food and the second they get to the "questionable" phase and I can safely, conscience free, toss them.

Back to the Lemon-Rosemary Spritzers. No, this is not lemonade. It is not super sweet, but a little tart, the rosemary balances it and lends itself just enough winter-feel to make this doable this time of year.

Meyer Lemon Rosemary Spritzers straight from Martha Stewart Living January 2010.
4 c water
1/2 c sugar
6 meyer lemons, thinly sliced
2 rosemary sprigs
4 1/2 c sparkling water, chilled (I only had seltzer)

Bring water and sugar to a boil in a large saucepan, stirring until sugar dissolves. Add lemons and rosemary. Reduce heat, and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Let stand for 20 minutes. Strain. Return to pan, and boil until reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Let cool completely. Fill each glass with 3/4 cup sparkling water and 1/4 cup syrup. For a nice little bonus, you could add your own alcohol. For a more summery treat, use basil instead of the rosemary. You can make this ahead of time, adding the fizzy water just before serving. The syrup will keep for about a week in the fridge.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Cheese Souffle for Two

If you’re like me, you’re not always cooking for a crowd - but you still want to eat delicious things and not have a fridge full of leftovers. Taking it with you the next day for lunch at work is one thing; eating it for four days straight is quite another. I found an awesome book from America’s Test Kitchen, Cooking For Two 2009, that has tons of great recipes scaled down to serve a pair. While its easy to buy a smaller cut of meat and chop fewer veggies for a roast, it is quite another to make a gorgeous cake that doesn't require a crowd to consume.

I was paging through for a satisfying meal with only a few ingredients: Voila! Souffle! I haven’t grocery shopped in days (and maybe you noticed by my lack of posts)and I’m down to the bare minimum: eggs, milk, cheese (okay, not even cheese, I stole some from my roommate for this). Perfect fit.
Souffle is a comfort food for me- I love my mom’s cheese rice soufflé… it melts in your mouth, and who doesn’t love cheese? It is in the top three of my "foods to add to other foods" list. I was always racing through my first serving it to make sure I’d get seconds. Mama Fierce, if you’re listening… email me that recipe, okay? We’ll get that on here.
This souffle was light, airy and simple. If you can melt butter, whisk flour, crack some eggs, you can do this. If you can't, I'm not sure why you're reading this. Go find a take out menu.

Cooks, gather your ingredients:
1/4 c grated parmesan
2 T unsalted butter
1 shallot, minced (I omitted this because I hate all things onion-like)
2 T all purpose flour
2/3 C whole milk (i mixed cream and skim because I didn't have whole milk.... I know, I know, I need to go grocery shopping! excuse me, I have puffy eyeballs that are embaressing!)
2 1/2 oz cheese (they reccommend gruyere, I used cheddar. You can also use swiss or something else delicious)
pinch dry mustard (i'm out, oh well)
pinch pepper
pinch ground nutmeg
2 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
1/8 t cream of tartar (non negotiable, go buy some if you don't have it. It will help your egg whites whip up easily and keep them holding the air you've whipped. You will also find it in some other recipes, used with baking soda as a leavening agent)

mixer to whip egg whites
2 12 oz ramekins or a 5x9 loaf pan (your souffle will not puff over the edges using this) or if you're me, a random assortment of oven safe pyrex dishes you have collected at garage sales over the post-college years

Start your ovens (set rack to the middle, temp at 350F)
Grease your bakeware, then sprinkle with 1T of the parmesan (or 2 if you're only using one dish). Shake to coat evenly, tap out the excess.

Melt butter in medium saucepan over medium heat. Add shallot and pinch of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, abut 2 minutes. Stir in the flour and cook until golden, about one minute. Slowly whisk in the milk, bring to a simmer, and cook, whisking constantly, until thickened and smooth, about one minute. Off the heat, whisk in the gruyere, a pinch of salt, mustard, pepper, and nutmeg. Scrape the mixture into a medium bowl, then whisk in the egg yolks until incorporated (this is your souffle base).

In large bowl, whip the egg whites and cream of tartar together with an electric mixer on medium-low speed until foamy, about one minute. Increase the mixer speed to medium-high and continue to whip until the whites are glossy and form stiff peaks, 1-2 minutes.

Fold one quarter of the whipped egg whites into the souffle base until almost no white streaks remain. Fold in the remaining egg whites until just incorporated. Gently pour the mixture evenly into the prepared dishes, wiping any mixture from the rims with a wet paper towel. With your finger, trace a circle on the surface of the souffle mixture about 1/2 inch from the side of the dish (this will help it rise evenly). Sprinkle the tops with the remaining parmesan.
Place the souffles on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until their surfaces are deep brown, the centers jiggle slightly when shaken, and then have rise 1-1 1/2 in above the rims of the dishes, 20-22 minutes. Serve immediately.

And I apologize about the photo - I mean, a soufflé can only stand tall for so long! It fell almost immediately as I tried to set up the shot-next time I will have my x’s marked for my soufflé placement, and the tripod already out and metered for. It’s a lot to do while you’re trying to overcome the worst case of eyeball puff ever (due to some mysterious allergic reaction, god only knows what from… just another occupational hazard, I guess I touch gross things).

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Rasberry "Breakfast" Bars

Santa was very good to me this year, leaving numerous cookbooks under the tree.  I'm so excited to try them all out, but it's a bit overwhelming.

There's the massive (it's in a binder! with tabs! I love it!) America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook: Heavy Duty Edition.  This bad boy has more than 1,200 recipes.  And photos and tips and tricks and it's just like watching the show ... except reading.  So I guess it's a little different than TV.  There's a subscription to Cook's Illustrated, which is mind-bogglingly smart.  There's a cupcakes/cakes/cookies/standard-issue-baking-porn book.  Including KFTF's haul, we now own copies of everything the fantastico Jose Andres has ever written, it seems.  And I'd be remiss not to mention volumes written by KFTF's original hero (the AB cookbook) and his latest hero (David Chang's Momofuku).  We are STACKED with cookbooks. 

And then.  There is a glorious new baking book from KFTF's sister - hey girl! - called Baked: New Frontiers in Baking.  Written by the duo behind their eponymous bakery in Brooklyn, this book is chock full of unusual recipes (a root beer float cake? with root beer chocolate ganache? yes please!) as well as riffs on the classics (Hostess Snoball cupcakes, without all the chemicals that make them, well, Hostess).  The guys even include some great drink recipes I'm looking forward to making.  Don't count on me to blog any of the drinks, though.  You read what happened with the salt-crusted-beef-tenderloin-and-one-too-many.  We will not be attempting that again.

While thumbing through all these glorious books, I had to decide which recipe would win the "first of the year" prize.  These rasberry bars were the surefire winner: quick to assemble, your house smells amazing when they're in the oven, and you can take all of them to the office to share (unlike cakes, pies, and crumbles, which disappear sliver by sliver in the fridge).  And ahem if you're reading this at work, HEY PUT THE BLOG DOWN.  GET BACK TO BUSINESS PEOPLE.  And YES I am OUT of the bars, you scavengers ate them all yesterday.

I should note that I was out of dark brown sugar.  Blasphemy, I know - what kind of a food blogger do I think I am?  HOWEVER!  Having recently picked up some honey powder during a trip to a Korean grocery store out in the suburbs, I decided to "pull an Elaine" (sorry Mama Fierce) and substitute the honey powder for the brown sugar.  It worked like a charm, and gave the bars a deeper, more mellow sweetness, than the superdupersweet brown sugar would have done.  It should be noted that the honey powder doesn't caramelize like a normal sugar.  If you don't have honey powder, you can buy it online at many "natural food" shops.  It's lumped in with the agave nectar/powder crowd as a sugar substitute.  If you are interested, TheKitchn has an interesting conversation about honey powder here.
Using a pizza cutter is my favorite way to slice brownies, bars, even pizza, oddly enough.  I line up my bench scraper which has a nifty ruler on the side, mark out my slices (this recipe yields 18 2x2 1/2" bars) and presto! Perfect!

Enough talk.  Get in your kitchen, please, and make these.  Enjoy your cookbooks and magazines and recipes and the New Year. 

C Fierce

Raspberry Crumb Breakfast Bars
Adapted from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking

For the crust and crumb:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar (or honey powder, if you are me)
1 1/4 cups rolled oats
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces

For the raspberry filling:
1/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 pound raspberries, fresh or frozen
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Make the crust and crumb: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9-by-13-inch glass or light-colored metal baking pan. Put a long piece of parchment paper in the bottom of the pan, letting the parchment extend up the two short sides of the pan and overhang slightly on both ends. (This will make it easy to remove the bars from the pan after they have baked.) Butter the parchment.

Put the flour, brown sugar, oats, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon in a food processor. Pulse in short bursts until combined. Add the butter and pulse until loose crumbs form.

Reserve 1 1/2 cup of the mixture and set aside. Pour the rest of the mixture into the prepared pan and use your hands or the back of a large wooden spoon to push the crust into an even layer at the bottom of the pan. The crust should touch the sides of the pan. Bake until golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes (it took almost 20 minutes for me - I think it had to do with using the honey powder as it didn't brown as quickly as normal brown sugar would). Transfer to a wire rack and let the crust cool. Keep the oven on while you make the raspberry filling.

Make the raspberry filling: In a medium bowl, whisk the sugar, lemon zest, cinnamon and flour together. Add the raspberries, lemon juice and butter and use your hands to toss gently until the raspberries are evenly coated.

Assemble and bake the bars: Spread the raspberry filling evenly on top of the cooled crust. Sprinkle the reserved crust mixture evenly on top of the filling.  Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, rotating the pan every 15 minutes, until the top is golden brown and the filling starts to bubble around the edges.

Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely, then cut into squares and serve. The bars can be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to two days (if you can make them last that long, that is).

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Some Food C Fierce Ate In California

Snakes alive! J Fierce has just been killing me on posting. That's what you get, I suppose, when Grandma Fierce, your 82-and-a-half-year-old grandmother, decides to take you to Los Angeles for a few days. I'm sorry I let down the blog a bit while I was attending the Rose Bowl (and watching the Buckeyes kick some duck butt, but this blog is about FOOD not sports so let me just say right here in the parentheses how freaking amazing it was to see your favorite sports team win an amazing game LIVE okay rant over).

I don't have any recipes for you here but I do have some Food I Ate In California. May I just present one caveat: Grandma Fierce does not possess the most discerning taste buds. Back in the day, she used to make a mean apple pie. These days she is more concerned with getting the early bird special at her local Bob Evans (and then introducing her granddaughters to any poor waitress who just happens to be in her line of fire). Our 4 1/2 days in LA consisted of 13 meals:
  • two were consumed on airplanes (which resulted in unspeakable acts of digesticide on Grandma Fierce, and woe unto the poor souls who had to hear about it for days afterwards);
  • five were consumed in the hotel and involved the Saddest Chicken Sandwich I Have Ever Eaten;
  • three were consumed on a tour bus (and two were breakfast and I'm not sure that "granola bars" and "the cheese Grandma found in her purse" really count as meals); and
  • three were actually consumed outside of any transportation vehicle and hotel. These are the three I can tell you about. Actually I'm only going to tell you about two, because one of them was at Johnny Rockets. (It was across the street from the hotel, but we only went there once when it was light enough out. Grandma Fierce was not into being outside at night "with the freaks in this town." Trust me. I could not make this up.) Could we take a taxi to an In-n-Out Burger? NO WAY JOSE. Johnny Rockets it was - and she had never heard of the place. "I feel like I'm eighteen again, they play the same songs!" Yes, Grandma Fierce, the french fries have also been frozen since you were eighteen. Oh well.
One afternoon we (along with the forty other retirees on our bus, oh my lord, did I really take that trip?!) stopped at the Los Angeles Farmers Market for lunch. In existence since 1934, the LA Farmers Market houses shops, merchants and purveyors offering a range of goodies from fresh fruit and flowers to touristy trinkets and postcards to sit-down eateries. Take a look at these babies! I would love to make some of J Fierce's shortbread cookies with some walnuts added, wouldn't you?

The weather wasn't fabulous, but the rain didn't dampen our spirits. Well, Grandma Fierce is kind of in a constant mood of dampened spirits, but she likes it that way, we think. I had one of my favorite foods of all time, grilled cheese with onions, from a little stand tucked under an awning:

On our way out, Grandma Fierce had to pick up some sweets. It's so fun finding out what your grandmother can and cannot eat depending on what type of denture adhesive she's using that day. For example the pecan gadgets (on the lower left) are probably not the best bet. BUT DELICIOUS they were.

Another afternoon we were in Santa Monica and had some amazing brats from a place called Let's Be Frank. (Irresistibly cute logo, right?!)

(Note: We also were in the same vicinity as Joe Germaine and the 12-year-old Buckeye fan in me almost peed her pants because the 1997 Rose Bowl was when I fell in looooooooooooove. Sorry KFTF, I was young and impressionable.)

All in all, it was a great trip. Had you followed my tweets, you'd know how much I love the crazy that is Grandma Fierce, and my Buckeyes. Stay tuned to the blog this week for more awesome baking from J Fierce, and hopefully I will unpack and get back in the kitchen!

In love and Buckeyes,

C Fierce

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Mrs. T's Buckeye Bars

This recipe comes to me via a good friend’s mother. I made these in college once for the both of us when we were missing the delicacies of our home state. For those of you who didn’t grow up in The Buckeye State, when something is labeled “buckeye” flavor, it means it is that wonderful combination of peanut butter and chocolate. The classic buckeye dessert is shaped like the nut of the same name, a peanut butter ball with a chocolate coating. This recipe is a foolproof alternative-nothing to shape or dip. If you move quickly you can get it all done in about ten minutes.

I wont lie: I felt a little like Sandra Lee when I began typing up this recipe. You know what I mean-it doesn’t feel like baking. Sure, Sandy is charming and has good ideas for quick evening meals (and mostly adult beverages if you’re really paying attention). Her recipes feel a little like cheating to me, too many shortcuts. Let me put it this way: No one would put her on Iron Chef America without a few boxes of cake mix being the “featured ingredient.” These bars are so ridiculously easy that it feels silly to post it-but they are so delicious, you'll be glad I did.

Mrs. T’s Buckeye Bars (slightly modified)
3 C creamy or crunchy peanut butter (28 oz)
2 C graham cracker crumbs
2 ½ C powdered sugar
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 C) butter, melted
2 C chocolate chips, melted (1-12 oz bag plus 2/3 C) (the orginial recipe calls for just one bag, but I like my chocolate-peanut butter ratio to be a little more even. If you only have one bag lying around I’m sure you wont be disappointed with the results)

Equipment Needed: 9x9” baking pan

Mix peanut butter and melted butter together, stirring in dry ingredients until smooth. Spread into buttered 9x9” pan, pouring the melted chocolate chips on top*. Spread melted chocolate so that it covers the entire pan. If you’re feeling cutesy, you can decorate the tops with peanuts. Cut into small bars and serve. I recommend 1”-1 ½” square bars because they are rich. Filthy rich. Plus, that way you can fit them into a cupcake liner.

*If you are using natural peanut butter straight from the unopened jar (the kind you have to stir before using) I recommend having it set in the fridge before spreading the melted chocolate chips on top. If you avoid that step your chocolate will be more difficult to spread proportionately.

Please note, C Fierce has been busy with her own buckeyes-leading them to victory in the Rose Bowl last week. She will be back soon, promise!